With two critical Iranian leaders assassinated — Qasem Soleimani and Mohsen Fakhrizadeh — and an American President determined to blunt the tip of the spear aimed against the west, the prospect for “fireworks” appears that much closer. Ever big on packing the Big Picture into a small space, I’ve done that here with ramble and signal but not chaos. Old Communist and Islamist politics persist in the latest states of affairs although the old Communists have produced breathtakingly wealthy elites and the chief among Islamists has been long known as a thief enriched by the plundering of ordinary Iranians.
From the Awesome Conversation
Beijing, Moscow, and Tehran represent an anti-western alliance committed to political absolutism by all and any means necessary. At least two of the three, Moscow and Tehran, represent also kleptocracy (see Reuters’ “Assets of the Ayatollah”) or mafia-type power (reference Ben Judah or Luke Harding), and together they keep the west bothered. Tehran, in malign narcissistic fashion, has covered its own crimes with deflections and dogma–it’s not strength that propels its fantasies of nuclear annihilation but regime weakness expressed through medieval fantasy. The clinical, dispassionate, and modern and prudent west may be building down Tehran’s capability, confidence, and coordination for aggression.
The old “Red-Green Alliance” is in the mix too with some persistent communist cant woven into the Houthi challenge in Yemen. The World Peace Council persists — as do graduates of Patrice Lamumba University — and the pack may view Tehran as an alley in thuggish political fashion. More important than political dogma: an heroic image to be created by marching forward into glorious past while holding each fantasy in place by main force.
Stated by Trita Parsi in 2017 (yes, just a quick look-see on my part): “Another emerging threat comes from Iran’s domestic politics. Presidential elections next month may put Iran’s foreign policy back into the hands of the country’s hard-liners, who, much like Mr. Trump, define their country in opposition to the world” (“The Coming Crisis With Iran”, The New York Times, April 20, 2017).
“Malignant Narcissism” begins with “Narcissistic Mortification”, i.e., the humiliation of the “Great Leader” (somewhere in childhood). Why everyone else has to be made a part of the compensation (measured by the Great One’s estimation of his own “Narcissistic Supply”), I’ve no idea but that the worst of the worst needs must have both an adoring audience and a horrified one.
This assassination campaign began in the aftermath of 9/11 when Pakistan allowed Taliban fighters and other allied fighters who were forced to flee Afghanistan to resettle in parts of former FATA. Over the years, these groups systematically eliminated tribal leaders and politicians who raised their voices against them. To this day, the Pakistani state has not solved any of these murders, perhaps because it has been tacitly using these unlawful groups to foment instability in Afghanistan and consolidate its influence over the region.
What follows are thoughts from the lengthiest of observations having to do with the Pashtun’s natural position between state forces and processes having to do with international development and war much, much larger than themselves.
When our President Nixon (a long time ago) initiated a new relationship with China, it was with hopes to offset Soviet Russian power and bring China closer to the normative behaviors of the modern world expressive of global compassion supported by international trade. On the topside, we do things for one another. Rather on the surface, well, we do things for money — and that makes “big picture” sense of Asian labor and western raw goods and Asian finished goods sold (for good profit — good markup — in western markets).
Mercantilism has been much the way of the world.
In the modern open democratic and liberal west, the abuses and excesses of business have been tempered through the actions of elected administrations, legislatures, and courts in the interests of electorates and justice. In the west, capitalists and wealthy have not gotten free rides from popularly elected governments even if seeding political careers and wins with their own money. There are just too many with too many differing motives for playing that game broadly.
In Asia, perhaps, money — and with China, now overwhelming wealth — does its work between elites and military behind closed door (“behind the curtains” goes the phrase fit to medieval politics) — and guess who’s in the way of the greater enrichment and glory of the disinterested or remote powerful?
It doesn’t help the Pashtun — and whoever and for whatever reason — to attack PakDef military posts (IF that is what has actually happened recently), for that gives the military excuse to bother or maraud the Pashtun community.
With regard to some Larger Forces — here, Chinese and Pakistani trade interests representing government, military, and private entities — “anomie” (worth the looking up) may be a real issue.
Don’t look to Russia for help — that state has minted defense sales using Syrians as targets for demonstration of its wares. In the AfPak region, its arms, however acquired, have helped sustain what looks to me an unfathomable misery borne of endless low-intensity conflict that has no end without financial, political, and religious insight plus political will and near immediate reconciliation.
The draconian nature of the FCR lies in the concept of “collective punishment”, where a whole tribe can be punished for the crime of one member of the tribe. It is telling that even after British India got its independence in 1947, the people of ex FATA were still facing the same colonial legal injustice till the year 2018. And while things definitely have changed on paper, there still is a long way to go before there is a change in the situation on the ground.These draconian punishments have always served a purpose, whether it was British India of the 20thcentury or the Pakistan of the 21stcentury. These laws are meant to subdue a population into giving up their rights, so that they can be sacrificed on the altar of “greater good”. Goes without saying that this greater good, has never been good for us, the people of ex FATA.
Launched in 2015, CPEC is a logical partnership for China and Pakistan—two close allies keen to cooperate on much-needed infrastructure projects in Pakistan, while contributing to China’s strategic goal of facilitating access to far-flung markets and expanding its global footprint.
Chinese Banking and Development Worldwide : flexes China’s financial muscle while leveraging infrastructure building expertise into a gateway for Chinese labor — which accompanies its projects — and through that mechanism Chinese cultural influence agents. As much would update the Cold War Era Soviet practice of sending thousands of Communist agents into the Middle East as embedded in the labor contingents attached to development contracts in targeted states.
PakDef | ISI –> Taliban encouragement : goad to Kabul : encouragement of “Islamism” within : further marginalizing of the Pashtun as a coherent and cohesive political force.
The above two paragraphs represent my thinking in cryptic fashion. If the world were practical and less inclined to fear and threat — as well as deeply dependent on international arms sales that support manufacturing bases and untold wealth in related Research & Development competitions — the promotion of dogma into violence — or “extremist dogma” — would be less attractive. As it is, “The Terrorists” (wherever “who” has become both ambiguous and ubiquitous) have turned out handy for some elites in the world’s more corrupt and cynical circles of military and political power.
With the authoritarian President Trump in the White House, it may be difficult to argue that the three “superpowers” have turned out other than feudal polities plundered by politically connected and wealthy elites. Nonetheless, and in the most simplified fashion, the following now comes to mind in relation to the quick assessment of China’s political character and culture.
China’s overseas lending, which was virtually zero before the turn of the century — well, about $500 billion in 2000 — stands today, ostensibly, at around $5 trillion. Indeed, they are now the world’s largest creditor, being twice as large as both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, combined.
Colagrossi, Mike. “New study uncovers China’s massive hidden lending to poor countries.” Big Think, July 18, 2019.
The low-hanging fruit may be plucked with the search string, “China, predatory lending” and, I’m sure, “China, debt trap” will do as well.
Difficult to beat for audacity, Chinese business, engineering acumen, and ethics have caused the more advanced and liberal world some concerns. The projects I have in mind are these: Three Gorges Dam; Coca Coda Sinclair Dam (Ecuador); oil extraction, South Sudan — while Sudan appears to be coming on to track with the west, the Sudanese of what is now South Sudan will have memories of a callous Chinese presence through the Darfur Genocide. The worst business and related ethical decisions and policies — or absence thereof — become always diminished the shoulder shrug accompanied by the dull observation, “it’s only business”.
Here is but one example of what has come out in the news in relation to the Thousand Talents espionage program:
Dr. Qing Wang, a professor of molecular genetics at the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western University, was arrested Wednesday on charges of lying to investigators and wire fraud related to more than $3.6 million in funding that he and his research group at the Cleveland Clinic received from the National Institutes of Health under false pretenses. At the same time that he was receiving millions of dollars in U.S. government grants, court documents reveal he concealed how he was also the Dean of the College of Life Sciences and Technology at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China. He was also receiving grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China and hid his participation in China’s Thousand Talents Program, a Chinese Communist Party effort to recruit academics to gain access to foreign technology and intellectual property.
It should go without saying that the recipients of large research grants may not care to think too much about their financial good luck when it comes to keeping their laboratories, themselves, other faculty, and students flush in research missions and means.
A modern question comes to mind: Are the world’s leaders obligated to reproducing the worst of the world’s potential for feudal, medieval, and tribal warfare — or may the same be obliged to accept a deeply interconnected modern (and democratic) variegated world capable of cooperative strong integration without supposed “exclusive” genetic, racial, or religious “winners”?
The world’s refusal of Islamic supremacist tenets has produced some medieval resurgence through parochial versions of “New Nationalism”, and the Chinese have been no less susceptible to that than White Europeans and North Americans expecting to wake up and see a world that looks (and thinks) just as they do.
Whatever the answers, add a classic “house of mirrors” complication:
January 1, 1979
The United States normalizes diplomatic relations with China. Three years later there are 10,000 Chinese students in the US, and the FBI begins directing field offices to recruit students for counterintelligence operations.
As long as machines, materials, and processes produce exchange, people (and states) will steal proprietary information to either remain at parity with competitors and threats or get an edge up on them.
What has changed throughout the world: online proximity x time.
Here, for example, is a 2020 U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) unclassified statement involving China’s commitment to suppressing illicit trade related to fentanyl:
Effective May 1, 2019, China officially controlled all forms of fentanyl as a class of drugs. This fulfilled the commitment that President Xi made during the G-20 Summit. The implementation of the new measure includes investigations of known fentanyl manufacturing areas, stricter control of internet sites advertising fentanyl, stricter enforcement of shipping regulations, and the creation of special teams to investigate leads on fentanyl trafficking. These new restrictions have the potential to severely limit fentanyl production and trafficking from China. This could alter China’s position as a supplier to both the United States and Mexico.
Truth to tell: as regards the transnational narcotics business, China may not stand out as more or less problematic or troublesome than other states saddled with similar issues. Aided by corruption, suppressed by shifting tides in law, politics, mercenary and military relationships, and the value of facets of reputations, the operations known to TCOs (Transnational Crime Organizations) shift always to the paths of least resistance and highest profit. As example: https://www.occrp.org/en/daily/10259-unodc-warns-of-rising-role-of-organized-crime-in-southeast-asia (July 19, 2019).
Giant China, however, appears able to field labor sufficient for cultural incursions and producing huge financial obligations via huge critical infrastructure projects in client states. It’s when it comes to cooperation involving funding or manning investigations into smuggling the trail goes — and perhaps appropriately — dim. The chemicals get through and course through the illicit manufacturing economies of Central and South America, and while the products move north — and the money moves south — political instability driven by practical insecurity help create the chaos that also drives migration north.
As a dimension for thought, none can help but notice the North American pull that draws the business from the south. One may excoriate suppliers only so much.
Today, Erdogan’s idea of a Turkish state appears to be involved in aggression or conflict on two fronts, at least, i.e., in the Azerbaijan conflict with Armenian in-holders in the Caucuses and in the Mediterranean Basin where energy appears to tempt the not-so-Ottoman wannabee.
Journalist and political analyst Seth J. Frantzman posted this recap recently:
Turkey has been threatening Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, the UAE, Libya, Greece, France, Armenia, Syria, Iraq and other countries in recent months. Turkey has also bombed Iraq, sent extremists into Syria to ethnically-cleanse Kurds, Yazidis and Christians, encouraged Azerbaijan to attack Armenia, sent Syrian extremists to Azerbaijan to attack Armenia, claimed that Jerusalem belongs to Ankara and that Turkish-backed Islamists will “liberate” Jerusalem, hosted Hamas terrorists, exported Syrian rebels to Libya, threatened a French warship, flown drones near Greek islands, used a Russian S-400 system to threaten Greek planes, harassed a Greek F-16, and also sought to involve itself in the US election.
Of course, Putin has put Erdogan right where he wants him, i.e., deeply rooted in the medieval world, its familial and tribal habits, its disingenuous methods, and its unbridled lusts for aggrandizement, power, and wealth without bounds, not that Putin’s own approaches and practices differ all that much.
If there is such a thing as a medieval world and worldview, may there be another idea and spirit that is democratic, modern, multicultural, responsible, and responsive to its humanity?
Five to ten years ago, the question would have been superfluous — of course there’s a modern world (and a hyper-modern west) and the economic and social engines of Europe and North America happily reside in it.
Today, however, with an autocrat in America’s White House and such European states as Hungary, Italy, and Poland given to fascination with resurgent nationalism or narcissistic singular leadership (and the partial return of the idea of the state as a family-run business), the path toward a greater modernity would seem questionable. On the other side of Azerbaijan’s moan — and Azerbaijan appears a culturally modern and multicultural state beneath the sway of feudal family power — resides a part of Putin’s world characterized by absolutism plus centralized control not only of government and politics but of family and associated mafia-style power as well. His has become a world devoid of conscience (well demonstrated in Syria) and happy to manipulate other malign narcissists (one should count President Erdogan among the world’s complement of dictators at the disposal of the greater power) for the purpose of turning a few extra dollars in defense sales and perhaps obtaining some favors as well.
Armenia appears no less modern a European culture, but it may have an issue with land-gobbling and Azerbaijani-sovereignty-challenging Armenian separatists and settlers that have persisted in sustaining the Nagorno-Karabakh region as a bloody — and bloody feudal “nationalist” — frontier. Instead of pursuing a modern cooperative multicultural course in development, the retrograde Russian and Turkish presidents have chosen to urge the reinvention of the 19th Century zeitgeist (or that of earlier centuries) in the 21st far at the expense of Armenian and Azerbaijani civilians now paying twice for the privilege, i.e., first as taxed for the purchasing of arms and again — as conflict escalates — as each becomes the receiver of the dark fruits thrown (and forces advanced) by the other.
For the less sophisticated, a frontier is a place between places; for the more cognizant, a frontier is a region in time between two ways of living.
Medieval v Modern
Shall Nagorno-Karabakh remain medieval in its character in total or might it become modern, tolerant, and resilient against the fears, forces, and powers dominant in what should have been a rapidly receding past?
The belligerents would do well to turn around and fight the past while fighting for an updated (modern!) cultural and politically progressing future.
Of course there’s plenty “related online” but I’ve thought here to relay just two quotations and URLs in a manner suited to somewhat impatient blogging. 🙂
In recent months, Azerbaijan’s and Armenia’s foreign ministers met several times and pledged to prepare their populations for peace. Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani community of Nagorno-Karabakh has repeatedly reached out to the region’s Armenian community for peaceful reconciliation, while Azerbaijan’s government pledged to ensure the security of Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians and recognize their right to the highest level of self-determination within Azerbaijan’s international borders. The Armenian government, however, disregards very idea of negotiations on the de-occupation of Azerbaijan’s occupied territories, which constitutes the cornerstone of the entire process. The process was aggravated by a controversial statement from Armenia’s National Security Director Arthur Vanetsian that “none [in Armenia] will surrender even an inch of land.” In Azerbaijan, this was received as clear evidence of Armenia’s direct participation in the annexation of Azerbaijani territories.
Turkey’s active involvement on the side of Azerbaijan adds a new complicating factor. Presidents Erdoğan and Putin may try to impose a new settlement on Armenians and Azerbaijanis that suits their own interests but is careless of humanitarian principles and the claims of both countries to be part of Europe. Lenin and Ataturk did this in the Caucasus exactly a century ago in 1920-1.
Or else Europeans, and perhaps a post-Trump United States, may try to convene a multilateral peace conference, first mooted in 1992, to resolve the conflict, seeking to respect people’s needs and the differing claims of international law.
That looks distant now. At the moment the only people who are celebrating are extreme nationalists, Erdoğan’s Turkey – and Russia’s defence industry which has supplied both sides with arms and will be ready to give them more as soon as they start to run out of weapons of death.
One giant chunk of asphalt landed on the roof of Sergei’s block of flats. He accuses Azerbaijan’s closest ally, Turkey, of fuelling the war and encouraging the violence. To counter that, many in Nagorno-Karabakh want Russia to side openly with Armenia and provide military support. Sergei doesn’t believe that will happen.
“I used to respect [President Vladimir] Putin,” he says, “but he betrayed us long ago.
“He does business with Turkey. He’s building them a nuclear power station. What Putin needs to realise is that if we’re destroyed, the whole of the Caucasus and southern Russia will end up under Turkish rule. If we die, so will Russia.”
China has indeed produced an astounding track record in the regions of human rights abuses, growth through the theft of proprietary processes and technologies developed elsewhere, biological and space weapons development (to knock out western satellites), etc. China’s quiet assault on the west and against dependent states (state predatory lending) has been as broad and complete as can be.
Doing business with Beijing — from anywhere in the world — has turned into bad business worldwide.
Imagine a society in which you are rated by the government on your trustworthiness. Your “citizen score” follows you wherever you go. A high score allows you access to faster internet service or a fast-tracked visa to Europe. If you make political posts online without a permit, or question or contradict the government’s official narrative on current events, however, your score decreases. To calculate the score, private companies working with your government constantly trawl through vast amounts of your social media and online shopping data.
When you step outside your door, your actions in the physical world are also swept into the dragnet: The government gathers an enormous collection of information through the video cameras placed on your street and all over your city. If you commit a crime—or simply jaywalk—facial recognition algorithms will match video footage of your face to your photo in a national ID database. It won’t be long before the police show up at your door.
Most generally speaking, about 99.5 percent of C19 cases do not result in death. Those that do remain associated with age-related vitality and latent and preexisting conditions. Life’s not fair, especially around 55/65-85. The oldest of America’s “Baby Boom” generation has reached a healthy but nervous 75 years. The average age of death in the United States is 78.5 according to the CDC.
On China as an Aggressive, Criminal, and Totalitarian Threat to Liberal Democracy
The United States, at least, loses billions annually in relation to China’s industrial and scientific espionage and the adaptation of proprietary processes and technologies (and not infrequently knock-offs) to grow its markets. It has been also a key and major supplier of precursor chemicals for the manufacturing of narcotics throughout the western hemisphere. Debacles involving computer, radio, and telephony technologies, much underscored by the Huawei’s global issues (e.g., https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/15/tech/huawei-fallout-5g-hnk-intl/index.html – 7/15/2020) involving consumer and defense issues (spying and incursions involving defense-related wavelengths) are real and now part of the western challenge involving the nominally “communist” regime (another issue for another post).
Biological weapons and space weapons (intended to kill western satellites, if and when necessary) appear no longer on the far horizon in defense matters.
Altogether, Sino-American cooperation in place of war would seem to require both a steadfast defense and law enforcement effort as well as some new discussion about political absolutism and totalitarian philosophy. At the moment, as China may be seeking revenge for the humiliations of the Opium Wars — so it doesn’t apply too much manpower to policing the narcotics precursor trade — and for what it may perceive as the intimidation of civilizational ambitions. “Sino-American Relations” are not looking very good.
On Sanctions Involving Select Moscow and Tehran Elites
Let’s not forget how Ali Khamenei made his first big bucks: https://www.reuters.com/investigates/iran/#article/part1 (“Khamenei controls massive financial empire built on property seizures,” Reuters, November 11, 2013. These days, the post-Communist and post-Soviet alliances support Big Rocket Man (trying to reach Israel) and Little Rocket Man (the one making Japan nervous) and Trump has been on it but with perhaps amateur enthusiasm (reference John Bolton’s book, The Room Where It Happened. For post-Soviet Moscow and Tehran, both apparently longing for more barbaric days, sanctions and “maximum pressure” campaigns may not work in a decisive manner, but that doesn’t mean we should drop them (and if Trump should move to ease Putin’s pain, then this blog shift away from any such a fawning, pandering, and placating a move.
Trumps character and character in diplomacy may undermine America’s efforts to defend its own liberal democracy and promote the same worldwide. As much has been America’s mission from its earliest days, days in which the Founding Fathers wrote far out ahead of their own age and its circumstances, and remains its mission in this day when it finds itself sorely tested by dogma, Far Out Left and (predominantly) Far White Right. To have in the President a personality that tends to go its own way — or have its own way — regardless of the advice of the experienced as well as the memory of national lessons learned — seems to represent an unwitting self-sabotage.
The report, written by the Chemical and Biological Intelligence Unit of the FBI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate (WMDD), does not give the name of the Chinese scientist carrying the suspected SARS and MERS samples, or the intended recipient in the U.S. But the FBI concluded that the incident, and two other cases cited in the report, were part of an alarming pattern.
As Dr. Antilla proceeded with his academic career, United States officials changed their view of China’s recruitment programs, which they say have been used to steal sensitive technology from American laboratories.
Casually going somewhere with a load of infectious material or toxins in pockets? Well, it’s not the kind of thing staff would do, but spies?
BackChannels will not cover the waterfront on Chinese espionage in America. Walk in anywhere and the subject expands. From the recruitment of scholars through the Thousand Lights Program through serious computer hacking and human infiltration into every potentially strategic walk in America’s operations, civilian and defense, the threats posed by China’s theft of industrial, scientific, and state secrets looms large. Examples may be found in a few proper nouns easily searched up on the web —
Candace Marie Claiborne (CIA mole) Charles M. Lieber (Alleged Concealment of Chinese Funding) Honjin Tan (Energy Storage) Jerry Chung Shing Lee (CIA mole) Kevin Patrick Mallory (CIA mole) Qingshan Li, Military Radio Equipment Xudong Yao (Industrial Infrastructure) Xueha Peng (State Secrets) Xudong Yao (Industrial Infrastructure) Yanqing Ye (Foreign Agent, Boston University, Physics, Chemistry, Biomedical Engineering) Zaosong Zheng (Cancer Research)
Much of the reference section has been lifted from a previous post — “Note: COVID-19, Biological Warfare, and the Odds and Ambiguities” (March 19, 2020), but a few cogent others have been added to this growing collection of tributes to the theft of industrial, scientific, and state secrets by the People’s Republic of China on the world’s Internet-connected international stage.
Of course, where would any state’s security — or international agenda — be without its spies?
The trade is a fact of life also worldwide.
Nonetheless, this from Reuters provides a glimpse at the lucrative and powerful payoffs so far enjoyed by China given perhaps allowances for its investments (and recruitment) through the Thousand Light programs as well as an apparent absence of sufficient resistance to being intellectually tapped for the nation’s most sensitive scientific secrets.
China’s efforts to steal unclassified American technology, ranging from military secrets to medical research, have long been thought to be extensive and aggressive, but U.S. officials only launched a broad effort to stop alleged Chinese espionage in the United States in 2018.
“The theft of American trade secrets by China costs our nation anywhere from $300 to $600 billion in a year,” Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said in advance of Thursday’s conference.