Hi, I'm your new Axis of Evil

Pepe Escobar

I have argued that what has just happened in Egypt is a bloodbath that is not a bloodbath, conducted by a military junta responsible for a coup that is not a coup, under the guise of an Egyptian "war on terror". Yet this newspeak gambit - which easily could have been written at the White House - is just part of the picture.

Amid a thick fog of spin and competing agendas, a startling fact stands out. A poll only 10 days ago by the Egyptian Center for Media Studies and Public Opinion had already shown that 69% were against the July 3 military coup orchestrated by the Pinochet-esque Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

So the bloodbath that is not a bloodbath cannot possibly be considered legitimate - unless for a privileged coterie of Mubarakists (the so-called fulool), a bunch of corrupt oligarchs and the military-controlled Egyptian "deep state".

The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) government led by Mohamed Morsi may have been utterly incompetent - trying to rewrite the Egyptian constitution; inciting hardcore fundamentalists; and bowing in debasement in front of the International Monetary Fund. But it should not be forgotten this was coupled with permanent, all-out sabotage by the "deep state".

It's true that Egypt was - and remains - on the brink of total economic collapse; the bloodbath that is not a bloodbath only followed a change in the signature on the checks, from Qatar to Saudi Arabia (and the United Arab Emirates). As Spengler has demonstrated on this site (see Islam's civil war moves to Egypt, Asia Times Online, July 8, 2013), Egypt will remain a banana republic without the bananas and dependent on foreigners to eat any. The economic disaster won't go away - not to mention the MB's cosmic resentment.

The winners, as it stands, are the House of Saud/Israel/ Pentagon axis. How did they pull it off?

Al-Qaeda to the rescue

Pepe Escobar

When the going gets tough, count on the Ministry of Truth to get going.

The end of Ramadan was imminent. The jihadi chattering classes of that fuzzy entity, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), went on overdrive. It was jailbreak galore from Libya to Pakistan via Iraq. And all this in perfect synch with two successive fatwas issued by that perennial bogeyman, former Osama bin Laden sidekick Ayman "Doctor Evil" al-Zawahiri.

Imagine a rushed crisis meeting at the highest levels of the Orwellian/Panopticon complex:

"Gentlemen, we have a golden opportunity here. We are under siege by defector spy Edward Snowden - liberated by the Soviets - and that terrorist hack Greenwald. Snowden may be winning: even among US public opinion, there's a growing perception we may be more of a threat than al-Qaeda. So we must show we are vigilantly protecting our freedoms. Yes; we're gonna scream Terra, Terra, Terra!"

Instantly, we have the closing, with much fanfare, of plenty of US embassies and consulates in the "Muslim world" and a State Department "worldwide" travel alert - soon expanded by Interpol. Confusion ensues - with many trying to figure out whether backpacking in Thailand or eating fresh caviar in Baku is a surefire way of not being blown up. And right away we'll also have US and Western corporate media falling in love with the Terra Terra Terra meme all over again. And woe to those who think this has anything to do with Islamophobia. You thought that Terra was gone? No, Terra is omnipresent, omniscient, lurking everywhere. Terra Wants You. Trains and boats and planes - you're nowhere safe.

Yet the fabulous specific intel unearthed by the Ministry of Truth amounts to some lowlife jihadi boasting on the net that he and his buddies will be doing something nasty someday somewhere in multiple, unspecified locations all across Middle East-Northern Africa (MENA).

Our man in Moscow

Pepe Escobar

So what is the "extremely disappointed" Obama administration, the Orwellian/Panopticon complex and the discredited US Congress to do? Send a Navy Seal Team 6 to snatch him or to target assassinate him - turning Moscow into Abbottabad 2.0? Drone him? Poison his borscht? Shower his new house with depleted uranium? Install a no-fly zone over Russia?

Edward Snowden, under his new legal status in Russia, simply cannot be handed over to Bradley Manning's lynch mob. Legally, Washington is now as powerless as a tribal Pashtun girl facing an incoming Hellfire missile. A President of the United States (POTUS) so proud of his constitutional law pedigree - recent serial trampling of the US constitution notwithstanding, not to mention international law - seems not to have understood the message.

Barack Obama virtually screamed his lungs out telling Russian President Vladimir Putin he had to hand him Snowden "under international law". Putin repeatedly said this was not going to happen.

Obama even phoned Putin. Nothing. Washington even forced European poodles to down Bolivian President Evo Morales's plane. Worse. Moscow kept following the letter of Russian law and eventually granted temporary asylum to Snowden.

The Edward Snowden saga has turned the Pentagon's Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine on its Hydra-head. Not only because of the humbling of the whole US security state apparatus, but also for exploding the myth of Full Spectrum Dominance by POTUS.

Obama revealed himself once again as a mediocre politician and an incompetent negotiator. Putin devoured him as a succulent serving of eggs benedict. Glenn Greenwald will be inflicting death by a thousand leaks - because he is in charge of Snowden's digital treasure chest. And Snowden took a taxi and left the airport - on his own terms.

Manning guilty; war criminals on the loose

Pepe Escobar

In a show trial/kangaroo court with an American twist, worthy of the Cultural Revolution in 1960s China, Bradley Manning was predictably found guilty of multiple counts of violating the Espionage Act.

If only Walter Benjamin were alive to see the Angel of History once again throwing one of his trademark lightning bolts of irony; Manning was pronounced guilty of being a spy - by a Pentagon judge - just next door to Spy Central, the NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland.

The prosecution, applying the full force of the US government, derided Manning as a "traitor" - not a whistleblower. Manning indeed betrayed the Pentagon's Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine - detailing how the imperial industrial-military-surveillance complex kills civilians with impunity (as in the "Collateral Murder" video); how the imperial wars on Afghanistan and Iraq were being (mis)conducted; what goes on in the Guantanamo gulag; and how the State Department bullies US satrapies. He betrayed the Imperial Masters of the Universe, and as this is not a Marvel Comics summer blockbuster he had to go down.

US corporate media went on overdrive emphasizing a "balance" narrative - as in imperial benevolence - because Manning was found not guilty of aiding the enemy. According to the circular logic of the US government, hammered over and over again during the show trial, to publish sensitive information on the Internet means spying (and Manning was found guilty of that).

So if the enemy accesses this information on the Internet, you are enabling the enemy. Manning being found not guilty of aiding the enemy but mostly guilty of everything else still delivers the chilling message - translated into decades of (military) jail time, possibly well into the 22nd century. As if 11 months in solitary confinement - often kept naked and sleepless - in a 6 x 12 foot windowless cell at Quantico, Virginia, was not torture enough. Ah yes; the United States does not do torture.

China: The Bo factor

Pepe Escobar

Mr Bo was removed from his post in March 2012

The larger-than-life geopolitical-economic question of our time, arguably, is not Syria, Iran, or even NSA spying. It's all about China; how on Earth the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will be successful in tweaking Beijing's economic growth model, and how China will manage its now slowed-down ascension.

But first there's no less than a "trial of the century" to get rid of.

Disgraced former Politburo superstar Bo Xilai - of the "Chongqing model" fame - was finally indicted this week, accused of relatively minor charges of accepting bribes of US$3.2 million and embezzling roughly $800,000.

The fascinating screenplay opens with how Chinese media reacted to it. Three minutes before Xinhua announced it, the People's Daily was already meticulously drawing a distinction between "Bo Xilai's personal issues" and "the successes in the economic and social development" of Chongqing.

Fifteen minutes later, Xinhua followed with a commentary essentially warning that Bo had fallen because a local "tiger" had become too powerful; and thus "the nation's long-term stability can only be secured by protecting the authority of the central leadership".

Also 15 minutes after, the Global Times sealed the deal, stressing that corrupt Party bigwigs like Bo were "a cancer" and should be dealt with by the letter of the law.

The problem is all this heavy artillery does not even begin to tell the story.

War against Iran, Iraq AND Syria?

Pepe Escobar

Amidst the incessant rumble in the (Washington) jungle about a possible Obama administration military adventure in Syria, new information has come to light. And what a piece of Pipelineistan information that is.

Picture Iraqi Oil Minister Abdelkarim al-Luaybi, Syrian Oil Minister Sufian Allaw, and the current Iranian caretaker Oil Minister Mohammad Aliabadi getting together in the port of Assalouyeh, southern Iran, to sign a memorandum of understanding for the construction of the Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline, no less.

At Asia Times Online and also elsewhere I have been arguing that this prospective Pipelinestan node is one of the fundamental reasons for the proxy war in Syria. Against the interests of Washington, for whom integrating Iran is anathema, the pipeline bypasses two crucial foreign actors in Syria - prime "rebel" weaponizer Qatar (as a gas producer) and logistical "rebel" supporter Turkey (as the self-described privileged energy crossroads between East and West).

The US$10 billion, 6,000 kilometer pipeline is set to start in Iran's South Pars gas field (the largest in the world, shared with Qatar), and run via Iraq, Syria and ultimately to Lebanon. Then it could go under the Mediterranean to Greece and beyond; be linked to the Arab gas pipeline; or both.

Before the end of August, three working groups will be discussing the complex technical, financial and legal aspects involved. Once finance is secured - and that's far from certain, considering the proxy war in Syria - the pipeline could be online by 2018. Tehran hopes that the final agreement will be signed before the end of the year.

Magic carpet ride

Pepe Escobar

Dashte Laili, Northern Afghanistan (Everything Afghanistan)

I've got to confess that Anna Badkhen beat me to it. Sometimes I have the feeling the world is a carpet. She went one up, writing a marvelously evocative book with the same title, centered on a village in Northern Afghanistan so remote that Google Maps cannot find it.

This is a book for those who love the Silk Road; who love Afghanistan; who love carpets; and all of the above. The Roving Eye fits all these descriptions; no wonder Badkhen's delicate tale projected me on a magic carpet ride down memory lane, as I retraced my own steps over the years in bits and pieces of the Silk Road, from Balkh to Bukhara, from Herat to Hamadan; and all these roads, of course, were paved with carpets.

Historic Khorasan - which includes Northern Afghanistan - is quite special. Around Balkh, Turkomen have been spinning wool for 7,000 years. People are born on carpets. They pray on carpets. They sleep on carpets. They even adorn their tombs with carpets.

When Alexander the Great conquered Khorasan in 327 BC he sent his mum, Olympias, a carpet as a souvenir of his victory in Balkh. Balkh is the fabled feudal capital, now in ruins (blame the Mongols) about 36 kilometers southwest of Oqa - the beyond-the-reach-of-the-NSA village in the salt-frosted Afghan desert where Badkhen chose to follow one year in the life of Thawra's mud-and-dung loom room as she weaves a yusufi, a magnificent carpet.

Meet a moderate Syrian insurgent

Pepe Escobar

Hi, my name is Mostafa and I'll be your moderate insurgent today. I'm addressing you all because we badly need your help. We could have started a Facebook page, like We Need Your Weapons or something, or ask the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights to make a YouTube video, but I prefer to speak straight to your heart.

Our Supreme Commander, the blessed General Salim Idriss, has acknowledged we are now receiving many new weapons from many friendly Arab countries, which helped us "destroy more than 90 armored vehicles" of the Syrian regime. And Amrika helped us to get the guns, of course. But we need more.

Your President Mr Obama told the Blessed King of Saudi Arabia last Friday that he is committed to providing more support for us. Your Secretary of State Mr Kerry said on Saturday there must be more support for us "in order to have an impact on the ground". Your CIA said they will make sure only moderate insurgents get the weapons, and not the bad guys.

But your Congress is blocking our weapons. Oh people from Congress!

Don't be such a spoiler! We have such a brotherhood of nations here. People from 29 different countries! OK, there are a lot of Salafis, a bit hot headed. But for us they are all brothers. In fact most of us are moderate insurgents.

Don't you like moderates? Remember when you wanted to talk to the moderate Taliban? Now you're talking to the moderate Taliban! And the Pakistani Taliban, they are now even sending their people here to help us! The other day they raised a big, white Taliban flag somewhere in the Turkish-Syrian border. That was a blessed moment.

Snowden: towards an endgame

Pepe Escobar

The working title of the Edward Snowden movie is still The Spy Who Remains in the Cold. Here's where we stand:

Snowden could only fly out of Hong Kong because China allowed it.
Snowden could only arrive in Moscow because Russia knew it - in co-operation with China. This is part of their strategic relationship, which includes the BRICS group (along with Brazil, India and South Africa) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. No official source though would ever confirm it.
With the Latin American offers of asylum (Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua; even Uruguay would consider it), we're approaching the clincher: Moscow is now calculating whether - and how - to help Snowden reach his final destination while extracting maximum political capital out of Washington.

Into this script comes roaring the coup-that-is-not-a-coup sub-plot in Egypt. Cynics' eyebrows will be raised that just as the Barack Obama administration was going mental over the National Security Agency (NSA) spy scandal a revo-coup-o-lution explodes in Egypt. New revelations about the extent of the NSA-centric Orwellian Panopticon keep on coming, but they have been totally downgraded by US corporate media; it's all Egypt all the time. After all, the Pentagon - to which the NSA is attached - owns the Egyptian military, something that even the New York Times had to acknowledge. [1] Yet they don't own Snowden. - [And] this has nothing to do with "terra".


William Blum

I have written on more than one occasion about the value of preaching and repeating to the choir on a regular basis. One of my readers agreed with this, saying: “How else has Christianity survived 2,000 years except by weekly reinforcement?”

Well, dear choir, beloved parishioners, for this week’s sermon we once again turn to Afghanistan. As US officials often make statements giving the impression that the American military presence in that sad land is definitely winding down – soon to be all gone except for the standard few thousand American servicemen which almost every country in the world needs stationed on their territory – one regularly sees articles in the mainstream media and government releases trying to explain what it was all about. For what good reason did thousands of young Americans breathe their last breath in that backward country and why were tens of thousands of Afghans dispatched by the United States to go meet Allah (amidst widespread American torture and other violations of human rights)?

The Washington Post recently cited a Defense Department report that states: The United States “has wound up with a reasonable ‘Plan B’ for achieving its core objective of preventing Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for al-Qaeda and its affiliates.”

“Preventing a safe haven for terrorists” – that was the original reason given back in 2001 for the invasion of Afghanistan, a consistency in sharp contrast to the ever-changing explanations for Iraq.

However, it appears that the best and the brightest in our government and media do not remember, if they ever knew, that Afghanistan was not really about 9-11 or fighting terrorists (except the many the US has created by its invasion and occupation), but was about pipelines.

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