The several hundred Republicans who have thrown their hats into the ring for the 2016 presidential race and the war hawks in Congress (mainly but hardly only Republicans) have already been in full howl about the Vienna nuclear deal with Iran. Jeb Bush took about two seconds to label it "appeasement," instantly summoning up the image of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain giving in to Hitler before World War II; former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee spared no metaphor in labeling the agreement "a deal that empowers an evil Iranian regime to carry out its threat to 'wipe Israel off the map' and bring 'death to America'"; Senator Lindsey Graham called it a "possible death sentence for Israel"; this year's leading billionaire candidate, Donald Trump, summed up his opinion of the deal in one you're-fired-style word, "ridiculous"; Senator John McCain described Secretary of State John Kerry, who negotiated the deal, as "delusional"; and Senator... I mean, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mockingly turned Chamberlain's infamous "peace in our time" into "peace at any price," dismissed the deal as a catastrophe filled with "absurdities," and then appeared on every American media venue imaginable to denounce it. And that's just to start down the usual list of suspects. Even Senator Rand Paul swore he would vote against the agreement (though his father called it "to the benefit of world peace"), while Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was typical of Republican presidential candidates in swearing that he would personally scuttle the deal on his first day in the Oval Office.
This, in short, is the mad version of international policy that makes Washington a claustrophobic echo chamber. After all, the choice isn't actually between Iran having no nuclear "breakout" capacity or regaining that capacity 15 years from now (as the present deal seems to offer); the choice is between an agreement for 15 verifiably non-weaponized years and a guarantee of nothing whatsoever. And if you've just checked off that nothing-whatsoever column, the alternative is to somehow crush the Iranians, to force them into submission. It is, in other words, some version of war. Two questions on that: How successful has war in the Greater Middle East been as an American policy weapon these last 13 years? And what makes anyone think that, when even Dick Cheney and crew couldn't bring themselves to pull the trigger on Iran, Jeb B. or any of the other candidates will be likely to do so in an ISIS-enriched world in 2017?
When you've satisfied yourself on those two questions, consider the seldom-discussed larger context within which twenty-first-century nuclear politics has taken place. In these last years, the Pakistanis, the Indians, the Russians, and the Americans, to name just four nuclear powers, have either been expanding or "modernizing" their nuclear stockpiles in significant ways. And god knows what the Israelis were doing with their super-secret, never officially acknowledged, but potentially civilization-busting atomic arsenal of 80 or more weapons, while the North Koreans were turning themselves into a nuclear mini-power. Nonetheless, the focus of nuclear attention and the question of "disarmament" has remained almost exclusively on a country that had no such weapons, has officially disavowed them, and at this point, at least, doesn't even have a weapons program. And note that no one who is anyone in Washington considers any of this the least bit strange.
In this context, that irrepressible TomDispatch regular Pepe Escobar offers another kind of lens-widening exercise when it comes to the Iranian deal. He focuses on a subject that Washington has yet to fully absorb: changing relations in Eurasia. Few here have noticed, but while the Vienna deal was being negotiated, Russia and China, countries the Pentagon has just officially labeled as "threats," have been moving mountains (quite literally in some cases) to integrate ever larger parts of that crucial land mass, that "world island," into a vast economic zone that, if all goes as they wish, will be beyond Washington's power and control. This is a remarkable development that, despite the coming two months of sound and fury about Iran, won't be at the top of any news report, which is why you need a website like TomDispatch to keep up with the times. Tom
The Eurasian Big Bang
How China and Russia Are Running Rings Around Washington
By Pepe Escobar
Let's start with the geopolitical Big Bang you know nothing about, the one that occurred just two weeks ago. Here are its results: from now on, any possible future attack on Iran threatened by the Pentagon (in conjunction with NATO) would essentially be an assault on the planning of an interlocking set of organizations -- the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), the EEU (Eurasian Economic Union), the AIIB (the new Chinese-founded Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank), and the NDB (the BRICS' New Development Bank) -- whose acronyms you're unlikely to recognize either. Still, they represent an emerging new order in Eurasia.
Tehran, Beijing, Moscow, Islamabad, and New Delhi have been actively establishing interlocking security guarantees. They have been simultaneously calling the Atlanticist bluff when it comes to the endless drumbeat of attention given to the flimsy meme of Iran's "nuclear weapons program." And a few days before the Vienna nuclear negotiations finally culminated in an agreement, all of this came together at a twin BRICS/SCO summit in Ufa, Russia -- a place you've undoubtedly never heard of and a meeting that got next to no attention in the U.S. And yet sooner or later, these developments will ensure that the War Party in Washington and assorted neocons (as well as neoliberalcons) already breathing hard over the Iran deal will sweat bullets as their narratives about how the world works crumble.- Advertisement -
The Eurasian Silk Road
With the Vienna deal, whose interminable build-up I had the dubious pleasure of following closely, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and his diplomatic team have pulled the near-impossible out of an extremely crumpled magician's hat: an agreement that might actually end sanctions against their country from an asymmetric, largely manufactured conflict.
Think of that meeting in Ufa, the capital of Russia's Bashkortostan, as a preamble to the long-delayed agreement in Vienna. It caught the new dynamics of the Eurasian continent and signaled the future geopolitical Big Bangness of it all. At Ufa, from July 8th to 10th, the 7th BRICS summit and the 15th Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit overlapped just as a possible Vienna deal was devouring one deadline after another.
Consider it a diplomatic masterstroke of Vladmir Putin's Russia to have merged those two summits with an informal meeting of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). Call it a soft power declaration of war against Washington's imperial logic, one that would highlight the breadth and depth of an evolving Sino-Russian strategic partnership. Putting all those heads of state attending each of the meetings under one roof, Moscow offered a vision of an emerging, coordinated geopolitical structure anchored in Eurasian integration. Thus, the importance of Iran: no matter what happens post-Vienna, Iran will be a vital hub/node/crossroads in Eurasia for this new structure.
If you read the declaration that came out of the BRICS summit, one detail should strike you: the austerity-ridden European Union (EU) is barely mentioned. And that's not an oversight. From the point of view of the leaders of key BRICS nations, they are offering a new approach to Eurasia, the very opposite of the language of sanctions.- Advertisement -
Here are just a few examples of the dizzying activity that took place at Ufa, all of it ignored by the American mainstream media. In their meetings, President Putin, China's President Xi Jinping, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi worked in a practical way to advance what is essentially a Chinese vision of a future Eurasia knit together by a series of interlocking "new Silk Roads." Modi approved more Chinese investment in his country, while Xi and Modi together pledged to work to solve the joint border issues that have dogged their countries and, in at least one case, led to war.
The NDB, the BRICS' response to the World Bank, was officially launched with $50 billion in start-up capital. Focused on funding major infrastructure projects in the BRICS nations, it is capable of accumulating as much as $400 billion in capital, according to its president, Kundapur Vaman Kamath. Later, it plans to focus on funding such ventures in other developing nations across the Global South -- all in their own currencies, which means bypassing the U.S. dollar. Given its membership, the NDB's money will clearly be closely linked to the new Silk Roads. As Brazilian Development Bank President Luciano Coutinho stressed, in the near future it may also assist European non-EU member states like Serbia and Macedonia. Think of this as the NDB's attempt to break a Brussels monopoly on Greater Europe. Kamath even advanced the possibility of someday aiding in the reconstruction of Syria.
You won't be surprised to learn that both the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the NDB are headquartered in China and will work to complement each other's efforts. At the same time, Russia's foreign investment arm, the Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), signed a memorandum of understanding with funds from other BRICS countries and so launched an informal investment consortium in which China's Silk Road Fund and India's Infrastructure Development Finance Company will be key partners.
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