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Pepe Escobar’s brilliant analysis of the Mali War – mega Afghanistan in Africa

Burn, burn – Africa’s Afghanistan
By Pepe Escobar
From Asia Times Online

LONDON – One’s got to love the sound of a Frenchman’s Mirage 2000 fighter jet in the morning. Smells like… a delicious neo-colonial breakfast in Hollandaise sauce. Make it quagmire sauce.

Apparently, it’s a no-brainer. Mali holds 15.8 million people – with a per capita gross domestic product of only around US$1,000 a year and average life expectancy of only 51 years – in a territory twice the size of France (per capital GDP $35,000 and upwards). Now almost two-thirds of this territory is occupied by heavily weaponized Islamist outfits. What next? Bomb, baby, bomb.

So welcome to the latest African war; Chad-based French Mirages and Gazelle helicopters, plus a smatter of France-based Rafales bombing evil Islamist jihadis in northern Mali.
Business is good; French president Francois Hollande spent this past Tuesday in Abu Dhabi clinching the sale of up to 60 Rafales to that Gulf paragon of democracy, the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The formerly wimpy Hollande – now enjoying his “resolute”, “determined”, tough guy image reconversion – has cleverly sold all this as incinerating Islamists in the savannah before they take a one-way Bamako-Paris flight to bomb the Eiffel Tower.

French Special Forces have been on the ground in Mali since early 2012.

The Tuareg-led NMLA (National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad), via one of its leaders, now says it’s “ready to help” the former colonial power, billing itself as more knowledgeable about the culture and the terrain than future intervening forces from the CEDEAO (the acronym in French for the Economic Community of Western African States).

Salafi-jihadis in Mali have got a huge problem: they chose the wrong battlefield. If this was Syria, they would have been showered by now with weapons, logistical bases, a London-based “observatory”, hours of YouTube videos and all-out diplomatic support by the usual suspects of US, Britain, Turkey, the Gulf petromonarchies and – oui, monsieur – France itself.

Instead, they were slammed by the UN Security Council – faster than a collection of Marvel heroes – duly authorizing a war against them. Their West African neighbors – part of the ECOWAS regional bloc – were given a deadline (late November) to come up with a war plan. This being Africa, nothing happened – and the Islamists kept advancing until a week ago Paris decided to apply some Hollandaise sauce.

Not even a football stadium filled with the best West African shamans can conjure a bunch of disparate – and impoverished – countries to organize an intervening army in short notice, even if the adventure will be fully paid by the West just like the Uganda-led army fighting al-Shabaab in Somalia.

To top it all, this is no cakewalk. The Salafi-jihadis are flush, courtesy of booming cocaine smuggling from South America to Europe via Mali, plus human trafficking. According to the UN Office of Drugs Control, 60% of Europe’s cocaine transits Mali. At Paris street prices, that is worth over $11 billion.

Turbulence ahead
General Carter Ham, the commander of the Pentagon’s AFRICOM, has been warning about a major crisis for months. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy. But what’s really going on in what the New York Times quaintly describes as those “vast and turbulent stretches of the Sahara”?

It all started with a military coup in March 2012, only one month before Mali would hold a presidential election, ousting then president Amadou Toumani Toure. The coup plotters justified it as a response to the government’s incompetence in fighting the Tuareg.

The coup leader was one Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo, who happened to have been very cozy with the Pentagon; that included his four-month infantry officer basic training course in Fort Benning, Georgia, in 2010.
Essentially, Sanogo was also groomed by AFRICOM, under a regional scheme mixing the State Department’s Trans Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership program and the Pentagon’s Operation Enduring Freedom. It goes without saying that in all this “freedom” business Mali has been the proverbial “steady ally” – as in counterterrorism partner – fighting (at least in thesis) al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Over the last few years, Washington’s game has elevated flip-flopping to high art. During the second George W Bush administration, Special Forces were very active side by side with the Tuaregs and the Algerians. During the first Obama administration, they started backing the Mali government against the Tuareg.

An unsuspecting public may pore over Rupert Murdoch’s papers – for instance, The Times of London – and its so-called defense correspondent will be pontificating at will on Mali without ever talking about blowback from the Libya war.

Muammar Gaddafi always supported the Tuaregs’ independence drive; since the 1960s the NMLA agenda has been to liberate Azawad (North Mali) from the central government in Bamako.

After the March 2012 coup, the NMLA seemed to be on top. They planted their own flag on quite a few government buildings, and on April 5 announced the creation of a new, independent Tuareg country. The “international community” spurned them, only for a few months later to have the NMLA for all practical purposes marginalized, even in their own region, by three other – Islamist – groups; Ansar ed-Dine (“Defenders of the Faith”); the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO); and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Meet the players
The NMLA is a secular Tuareg movement, created in October 2011. It claims that the liberation of Azawad will allow better integration – and development – for all the peoples in the region. Its hardcore fighters are Tuaregs who were former members of Gaddafi’s army.
But there are also rebels who had not laid down their arms after the 2007-2008 Tuareg rebellion, and some that defected from the Malian army. Those who came back to Mali after Gaddafi was executed by the NATO rebels in Libya carried plenty of weapons. Yet most heavy weapons actually ended up with the NATO rebels themselves, the Islamists supported by the West.

AQIM is the Northern African branch of al-Qaeda, pledging allegiance to “The Doctor”, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Its two crucial characters are Abu Zaid and Mokhtar Belmokhtar, former members of the ultra-hardcore Algerian Islamist outfit Salafist Group for Predication and Combat (SGPC). Belmokhtar was already a jihadi in 1980s Afghanistan.

Abu Zaid poses as a sort of North African “Geronimo”, aka Osama bin Laden, with the requisite black flag and a strategically positioned Kalashnikov featuring prominently in his videos. The historical leader, though, is Belmokhtar. The problem is that Belmokhtar, known by French intelligence as “The Uncatchable”, has recently joined MUJAO.

MUJAO fighters are all former AQIM. In June 2012, MUJAO expelled the NMLA and took over the city of Gao, when it immediately applied the worst aspects of Sharia law. It’s the MUJAO base that has been bombed by the French Rafales this week. One of its spokesmen has duly threatened, “in the name of Allah”, to respond by attacking “the heart of France”.

Finally, Ansar ed-Dine is an Islamist Tuareg outfit, set up last year and directed by Iyad ag Ghali, a former leader of the NMLA who exiled himself in Libya. He turned to Salafism because of – inevitably – Pakistani proselytizers let loose in Northern Africa, then engaged in valuable face time with plenty of AQIM emirs. It’s interesting to note in 2007 Mali President Toure appointed Ghali as consul in Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia. He was then duly expelled in 2010 because he got too close to radical Islamists.

Gimme ‘a little more terrorism’
No one in the West is asking why the Pentagon-friendly Sanogo’s military coup in the capital ended up with almost two-thirds of Mali in the hands of Islamists who imposed hardcore Sharia law in Azawad – especially in Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal, a gruesome catalogue of summary executions, amputations, stonings and the destruction of holy shrines in Timbuktu.
How come the latest Tuareg rebellion ended up hijacked by a few hundred hardcore Islamists? It’s useless to ask the question to US drones.

The official “leading from behind” Obama 2.0 administration rhetoric is, in a sense, futuristic; the French bombing “could rally jihadis” around the world and lead to – what else – attacks on the West. Once again the good ol’ Global War on Terror (GWOT) remains the serpent biting its own tail.

There’s no way to understand Mali without examining what Algeria has been up to.
The Algerian newspaper El Khabar only scratched the surface, noting that “from categorically refusing an intervention – saying to the people in the region it would be dangerous”, Algiers went to “open Algerian skies to the French Mirages”.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Algeria last October, trying to organize some semblance of an intervening West African army. Hollande was there in December. Oh yes, this gets juicier by the month.

So let’s turn to Professor Jeremy Keenan, from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at London University, and author of The Dark Sahara (Pluto Press, 2009) and the upcoming The Dying Sahara (Pluto Press, 2013).

Writing in the January edition of New African, Keenan stresses, “Libya was the catalyst of the Azawad rebellion, not its underlying cause. Rather, the catastrophe now being played out in Mali is the inevitable outcome of the way in which the ‘Global War on Terror’ has been inserted into the Sahara-Sahel by the US, in concert with Algerian intelligence operatives, since 2002.”

In a nutshell, Bush and the regime in Algiers both needed, as Keenan points out, “a little more terrorism” in the region. Algiers wanted it as the means to get more high-tech weapons. And Bush – or the neo-cons behind him – wanted it to launch the Saharan front of the GWOT, as in the militarization of Africa as the top strategy to control more energy resources, especially oil, thus wining the competition against massive Chinese investment. This is the underlying logic that led to the creation of AFRICOM in 2008.

Algerian intelligence, Washington and the Europeans duly used AQIM, infiltrating its leadership to extract that “little more terrorism”. Meanwhile, Algerian intelligence effectively configured the Tuaregs as “terrorists”; the perfect pretext for Bush’s Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Initiative, as well as the Pentagon’s Operation Flintlock – a trans-Sahara military exercise.

The Tuaregs always scared the hell out of Algerians, who could not even imagine the success of a Tuareg nationalist movement in northern Mali. After all, Algeria always viewed the whole region as its own backyard.

The Tuaregs – the indigenous population of the central Sahara and the Sahel – number up to 3 million. Over 800,000 live in Mali, followed by Niger, with smaller concentrations in Algeria, Burkina Faso and Libya. There have been no less than five Tuareg rebellions in Mali since independence in 1960, plus three others in Niger, and a lot of turbulence in Algeria.

Keenan’s analysis is absolutely correct in identifying what happened all along 2012 as the Algerians meticulously destroying the credibility and the political drive of the NMLA. Follow the money: both Ansar ed-Dine’s Iyad ag Ghaly and MUJAO’s Sultan Ould Badi are very cozy with the DRS, the Algerian intelligence agency. Both groups in the beginning had only a few members.

Then came a tsunami of AQIM fighters. That’s the only explanation for why the NMLA was, after only a few months, neutralized both politically and militarily in their own backyard.

Round up the usual freedom fighters
Washington’s “leading from behind” position is illustrated by this State Department press conference. Essentially, the government in Bamako asked for the French to get down and dirty.

And that’s it.

Not really. Anyone who thinks “bomb al-Qaeda” is all there is to Mali must be living in Oz. To start with, using hardcore Islamists to suffocate an indigenous independence movement comes straight from the historic CIA/Pentagon playbook.

Moreover, Mali is crucial to AFRICOM and to the Pentagon’s overall MENA (Middle East-Northern Africa) outlook. Months before 9/11 I had the privilege to crisscross Mali on the road – and by the (Niger) river – and hang out, especially in Mopti and Timbuktu, with the awesome Tuaregs, who gave me a crash course in Northwest Africa.
I saw Wahhabi and Pakistani preachers all over the place. I saw the Tuaregs progressively squeezed out. I saw an Afghanistan in the making. And it was not very hard to follow the money sipping tea in the Sahara. Mali borders Algeria, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Senegal, the Ivory Coast and Guinea. The spectacular Inner Niger delta is in central Mali – just south of the Sahara.
Mali overflows with gold, uranium, bauxite, iron, manganese, tin and copper. And – Pipelineistan beckons! – there’s plenty of unexplored oil in northern Mali.

As early as February 2008, Vice Admiral Robert T Moeller was saying that AFRICOM’s mission was to protect “the free flow of natural resources from Africa to the global market”; yes, he did make the crucial connection to China, pronounced guilty of ” challenging US interests”.

AFRICOM’s spy planes have been “observing” Mali, Mauritania and the Sahara for months, in thesis looking for AQIM fighters; the whole thing is overseen by US Special Forces, part of the classified, code-named Creek Sand operation, based in next-door Burkina Faso. Forget about spotting any Americans; these are – what else – contractors who do not wear military uniforms.

Last month, at Brown University, General Carter Ham, AFRICOM’s commander, once more gave a big push to the “mission to advance US security interests across Africa”. Now it’s all about the – updated – US National Security Strategy in Africa, signed by Obama in June 2012. The (conveniently vague) objectives of this strategy are to “strengthen democratic institutions”; encourage “economic growth, trade and investment”; “advance peace and security”; and “promote opportunity and development.”

In practice, it’s Western militarization (with Washington “leading from behind”) versus the ongoing Chinese seduction/investment drive in Africa.

In Mali, the ideal Washington scenario would be a Sudan remix; just like the recent partition of North and South Sudan, which created an extra logistical headache for Beijing, why not a partition of Mali to better exploit its natural wealth? By the way, Mali was known as Western Sudan until independence in 1960.

Already in early December a “multinational” war in Mali was on the Pentagon cards.

The beauty of it is that even with a Western-financed, Pentagon-supported, “multinational” proxy army about to get into the action, it’s the French who are pouring the lethal Hollandaise sauce (nothing like an ex-colony “in trouble” to whet the appetite of its former masters). The Pentagon can always keep using its discreet P-3 spy planes and Global Hawk drones based in Europe, and later on transport West African troops and give them aerial cover. But all secret, and very hush hush.

Mr Quagmire has already reared its ugly head in record time, even before the 1,400 (and counting) French boots on the ground went into offense.

A MUJAO commando team (and not AQIM, as it’s been reported), led by who else but the “uncatchable” Belmokhtar, hit a gas field in the middle of the Algerian Sahara desert, over 1,000 km south of Algiers but only 100 km from the Libyan border, where they captured a bunch of Western (and some Japanese) hostages; a rescue operation launched on Wednesday by Algerian Special Forces was, to put it mildly, a giant mess, with at least seven foreign hostages and 23 Algerians so far confirmed killed.

The gas field is being exploited by BP, Statoil and Sonatrach. MUJAO has denounced – what else – the new French “crusade” and the fact that French fighter jets now own Algerian airspace.

As blowback goes, this is just the hors d’oeuvres. And it won’t be confined to Mali. It will convulse Algeria and soon Niger, the source of over a third of the uranium in French nuclear power plants, and the whole Sahara-Sahel.

So this new, brewing mega-Afghanistan in Africa will be good for French neoloconial interests (even though Hollande insists this is all about “peace”); good for AFRICOM; a boost for those Jihadis Formerly Known as NATO Rebels; and certainly good for the never-ending Global War on Terror (GWOT), duly renamed “kinetic military operations”.

Django, unchained, would be totally at home. As for the Oscar for Best Song, it goes to the Bush-Obama continuum: There’s no business like terror business. With French subtitles, bien sur.

Ever so quietly, the screws are being tightened on Iran. Happy New Year 2013.

British PM David Cameron may not only be selling arms to corrupt despots in the Gulf. The troops from Afghanistan may not necessarily be coming home. They may be redeployed in the Persian Gulf to tighten the noose around Iran.

Israel looks to re-elect Ben Netanyahu which he could take as a mandate for attack?

The next US President is already allowing the Pentagon to ratchet up tensions with aircraft carriers.

The Iranian currency is in freefall and the hapless “leader” is being forced to explain himself to the Majlis Parliament.

The Europeans are dutifully tightening sanctions and playing their ‘supportive” role within NATO.

It seems highly immaterial which President is elected tonight in the US because the geopolitical moves are being made in the anticipation of “business as usual”.

Basques – to the left or the right?

The Basque elections yesterday resulted in the Nationalists winning almost two-thirds of the total vote.
The unionist parties were routed.
Out of 75 seats, the right-wing nationalists (PNV) won 27 while the left-wing pro-independence coalition (EH Bildu)won 21 with 25% of the total votes.

PNV now have to make a decision.
Do they rule in a coalition with fellow nationalists, the EH Bildu?
Or do they go with the so-called Socialists of PSOE (a kind of PASOK)?

Given that PNV sees Bildu as the ultimate threat to their monopoly on nationalism (as the left wing nationalists were disenfranchised for years), realpolitik would suggest that PNV will opt for PSOE.

If they did, it would be a strategic error in the medium term.
The austerity cuts will bite even deeper the next 24 months and if PNV don’t challenge Madrid effectively, it could see support ebb away to EH Bildu.
The left nationalists are a very young grouping with only one way to go: UP.
As Paul Mason says, they are a cross between Sein Fenn and Syriza.
In the long game, they are likely to gather strength (as their name implies).
They have won legitimacy.

The two highest items on the Basque agenda will be:

a) end of the Basque conflict, starting with prisoner repatriation to the Basque country and a formal agreement for peace
b) a rejection of Austerity

The right wing nationalists of PNV will struggle and thus lose support steadily in 2013 and 2014 to the Left.

Nationalism threatens the European status quo

I am not saying that it’s a bad thing.
What I am concerned about is the position or non-position among the more progressive and green parts of the spectrum in England.
Many activists might be unaware that the European Greens work together with the European Free Alliance, a group of Nationalist parties, including Plaid & SNP to EA in the Basque country and beyond.

Yesterday, Belgium via its Antwerp election took a giant step to a split.
On Sunday, 21st October, the Basques go to polls where it looks like the nationalists will win two thirds of the vote.
Catalonia has a referendum on independence on November 25th.

But I have yet to witness any debate within the Green movement on what happens if Europe splinters into new states. Wallonia anyone? Catalunya?
The EU can forget about basking in the halo of a Nobel Prize (!). The position of Brussels would need to be resolved if Belgium split.

2014 looks to be a pivotal year..

a) Scottish referendum on Independence
b) 200th anniversary of Catalan subjugation into a Spanish state & elections
c) Belgian general elections
d) European elections

Europe is changing before our very eyes. We had better recognise this and adapt or state our position.
The fight against austerity is very much linked to rising nationalism. The English question may not be being asked right now, but it will. Much sooner than we think.
What I am very afraid of is that we leave those questions to be asked by the right wing who then go on to frame a debate which focuses on exclusivity, a barely-veiled racism and an immoral economic system which unites all three mainstream Unionist parties.

Farid Erkizia Bakht

P.S>
AFP reports the Belgian bombshell election this way:
Flemish nationalist leader Bart De Wever scored a breakthrough election win Sunday and immediately urged Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo to radically re-shape the federal state.

Hailing a “historic” victory for himself in Antwerp with big gains right across Dutch-speaking Flanders in local polls, De Wever said Di Rupo and his coalition partners should “assume your responsibility.”

With results from Antwerp almost all in, De Wever’s New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) bagged 37.7 percent and Socialist incumbent mayor Patrick Janssens 28.6 percent, and the win was underpinned by scores of 20-30 percent across the territory of six million people.

With backers readying for a party in City Hall, De Wever demanded negotiations “to enable both Flanders and Wallonia to look after their own affairs.”

In the run-up to tense 2014 general elections, he wants to turn Belgium into a “confederation,” effectively seeking fiscal independence for the Dutch-speaking north and French-speaking south although sharing areas like defence.

Only this, De Wever said, would allow Belgium as a whole to “find a path of solidarity,” which could also affect the future of Brussels, the largely Francophone EU, Belgian and Flemish capital.

China and India at war October 20th

Fifty years ago this month, China defeated India in a short war in the Eastern Himalayan region, including South Tibet/Arunachal Pradesh and near Assam.
Today, both have almost half a million soldiers in the area and are upgrading their capabilities.
With Myanmar “open for business” and the US egging on India to “contain” China, this backwater is set to become a flashpoint this decade.
To complicate matters, a quarter of a billion Bengalis (in Bangladesh and West Bengal) are next door and will increasingly have a say in what happens in this region.

What should be a New Economic Frontier of peace, prosperity and progress could easily turn into a US-induced arena of conflict between two still poor countries (billing themselves as superpowers).
Let us never forget there are more poor people in India than in the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa.
The West of China especially rural areas still has grinding poverty. i.e. a poor population the size of Europe..

If Mao and Zhou en Lai had wanted, they could have sent their troops into the Ganges-Brahmaputra valleys and cut off eastern India & (then)East Pakistan.
History would have re-written. Nehru’s administration was a shambles and would not have put up a fight.
Today, the region needs to think ahead and look at Kashmir and Tibet through the same lens.
Delhi needs to admit it has misruled Assam and the rest of North East and must very quickly come up with a new Settlement and allow economic, social and environmental progress.
It won’t, of course.
So the scene is set for a short burst of ‘investment’ proposals to capture the fossil fuel reserves, build infrastructure into Myanmar and then watch as social and political turmoil put those aspirations on hold.
Very soon, this region will become the centre of the world’s attention, for all the wrong reasons

Farid Erkizia Bakht

Click below for an article from the Asia Times for reference (though with a health warning that it is skewed towards Delhi and thereby Washington)

http://atimes.com/atimes/China/NJ11Ad03.html

Si la izquierda egipcia se presentase unida arrasaría

olga rodríguez | periodista, autora de «yo muero hoy»

«Si la izquierda egipcia se presentase unida arrasaría»

Nacida en León (Estado español) en 1975, la periodista Olga Rodríguez lleva casi una década relatando las visicitudes de Oriente Medio. Recientemente ha publicado «Yo muero hoy» (Debate, 2012), una mirada a la primavera árabe desde el punto de vista de sus principales actores.
p015_f04.jpg

Alberto PRADILLA |

Rainad es una bloguera de Bahrein detenida en innumerables ocasiones por su labor frente al régimen colaboracionista con Arabia Saudí y Estados Unidos. Muna Saif, una activista egipcia que ha peleado contra los juicios militares a civiles. Ellas son algunos de los personajes que presenta Olga Rodríguez en su obra «Yo muero hoy», un recorrido por la primavera árabe escrito bajo el prisma clásico del reporterismo: salir a la calle y contar historias.

¿Revueltas o revoluciones? ¿Manifestaciones espontáneas o una mano oculta?

En mi opinión, estas revueltas han sido genuinas. Decir que los millones de personas que salieron a la calle lo hicieron empujadas por un plan conspiratorio de servicios secretos occidentales es dar la espalda a la ciudadanía que se ha jugado la vida exigiendo demandas revolucionarias como «pan, libertad y justicia social». Millones de personas en el mundo árabe han decidido dejar de ser esa mayoría en el sofá e intentarlo, conscientes de que Oriente Medio es una de las zonas más intervenidas política y económicamente.

¿No se ha producido un giro que ha terminado manteniendo el estatus quo?

Eso es lo que están intentando todos los enemigos de las demandas de las revueltas. Lamentablemente, en algunos casos lo están consiguiendo. Tratar de limitar la importancia de una rebelión me parece muy peligroso. La mentalidad de millones de personas ha cambiado para siempre. Se ha perdido el miedo. Hay un tejido social de protesta sin el cual la impunidad y la represión estarían siendo mayores. Y esto es muy importante. Tratar de reducir todo y extraer la conclusión de que no ha servido de nada es dar la espalda a realidad. La libertad no cae del cielo, se conquista.

La victoria de los islamistas en Egipto y Túnez ha cargado de razones a quienes rechazan los logros de la primavera árabe.

En Egipto, la suma de los dos candidatos a presidente presentados por la izquierda era superior a los votos obtenidos por Mursi o Safiq. De nuevo, si la izquierda se hubiese presentado unida, hubiese arrasado. Además, la Hermandad Musulmana es algo muy amplio. Sus líderes, en general, son personas adineradas, conservadoras en lo político y neoliberales en lo económico. Pero entre sus bases hay mucho trabajador que lleva años participando en protestas. También hay fricciones con los jóvenes. De todos modos, las demandas de tanta gente que ha salido a la calle no se corresponden con los planes políticos anunciados por organizaciones islámicas. Creo que a la larga la insatisfacción se perpetuará. Y es probable que dentro de meses o años vuelva a ser representada a través de nuevas manifestaciones y huelgas.

No se puede obviar que han existido unas intervenciones extranjeras que no obedecían al interés de las poblaciones autóctonas, como en los casos de Libia o Siria, y que han marcado las revueltas.

En Libia las revueltas estallaron de forma genuina, con unas demandas legítimas pero deformadas en el momento en el que se produce la intervención militar extranjera. En el caso de Siria, las revueltas contra el régimen de Al Assad se ven cada vez más secuestradas. Ahora es un tablero de ajedrez donde determinadas potencias internacionales están echando un pulso. La represión brutal del régimen está amparada por Rusia. Y, al margen de esa oposición genuina, se está viendo cómo entran en territorio sirio grupos extranjeros armados, algunos que se autodenominan yihadistas. Como dice una de las protagonistas del libro, «¿quién les ha llamado?». Cada vez se reciben más informaciones que hablan sobre intervenciones encubiertas lanzadas por vecinos como Irán y Turquía. También de países como EEUU, con presencia de la CIA en la frontera turca, o Arabia Saudí. Quien sale perdiendo es la población que se levantó contra el régimen.

Esta opinión no es compartida por sectores de la izquierda, que han defendido a los gobiernos de Libia o Siria.

Es curioso cómo la mayor parte de la izquierda árabe tuvo clara su postura respecto a Libia o Siria desde el principio: no a Gadafi, no a la intervención militar extranjera. No a Al Assad, no a la intervención extranjera que pretende secuestrar la libertad que demanda la ciudadanía. Esas voces se han escuchado muy poco. Y solo a través de ellas y de lo que hacen se puede entender la esencia de estas revueltas o revoluciones, que han consistido en tratar de dejar de ser súbditos para conquistar el derecho a ser ciudadanas.

¿Los intereses geoestratégicos se han impuesto frente a las reivindicaciones de los manifestantes?

Por encima de los intereses geostratégicos y macroeconómicos están los de la ciudadanía. Siempre. Y no podemos olvidarlo desde la izquierda. No digo esto desde la ingenuidad, ya que hay que tener en cuenta el poder de las grandes potencias. Pero, al menos para mí, por encima están los intereses de las poblaciones. Solo escuchando a los protagonistas se puede creer que se pueden cambiar las cosas y darte cuenta del carácter genuino de estas revueltas.

¿Los periodistas han vendido una imagen excesivamente amable de las revueltas? El papel de medios como Al Jazeera ha sido muy cuestionado.

No creo que se haya contado una historia bonita. Los medios de comunicación más convencionales sí que han ofrecido una historia absolutamente romántica de la primavera árabe, apostando, cada vez más, por el show y el espectáculo. Evidentemente, Al Jazeera ha jugado un papel fundamental y si no hubiese difundido esas primeras protestas en Túnez quizás no se hubiesen extendido. Sin embargo, pertenece al emirato de Qatar y se ha visto atrapada por sus propios intereses.

GARA

This is the Indo-China of the 21st Century (1)

WIkipedia “Indo-China” and it will refer to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia and then onto the defeat of the French colonialists (so much for liberte, egalite e fraternite) and the ‘American anguish’ over defeat even though they killed 2 million Vietnamese, opened the path for Pol Pot and destroyed the jungles with Dow Chemical Agent Orange (soon to be seen at the London Olympics).

Geographically, it makes more sense to see Indo-China to the north west of this region.

Myanmar, Yunnan, the Seven Sister states, Bangladesh, West Bengal, Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet and Kashmir.

And this area is the new fault line in much of our lifetime. A Venn Diagram of states, provinces and regions in a Nuclear Neighbourhood.

The great prize for Washington is the ‘containment’ of China by building up India, making inroads into Myanmar and sowing discontent in Tibet and Western China up to Chongking.

The great prize for Delhi? (I don’t say India as like I never subscribed to the idea of ‘whats good for General Motors is good for America’ I also don’t believe that the neo-imperial tendencies of South Block and neo-liberal ideologies of Mumbai-Delhi are any good for the state of India)…….. a fulfilment of the urge to be the Asian superpower (piggy-backing the US) putting China back in its cage.

A necessary condition for Delhi is therefore economic, political and military domination of South Asia, a version of the ‘Near Abroad’ to use post Soviet terminology.

This 21st century Indo-China is the next frontline. The ‘re-opening’ of Myanmar should be seen in this context.

Essentially, this has the makings of the ‘Balkan Question’ of the 1800s up to the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and the onset of an epoch changing World War. This time it moves east, out of Europe into Forgotten Asia.

Minerals, Natural Gas, hydro-energy, cheap labour, a half a billion consumers, the gateway to the potential riches of Northern Indian gangetic plain and to South-east Asia up to Singapore and Hanoi as well as the untapped potential of Western China (a continent away from Shanghai and the Pacific Coast)…. added to the vital rare earths of Tibet and the perennial impasse (and half a million Indian troops) over Kashmir…… the armed national liberation movements in the Seven Sisters and the inexorable rise of the Maoist rebellion in the Strategic Corridor cutting the sub-continent in half from Nepal down to the Bay of Bengal.

In the next post in this series, we turn to a country in the middle of all this.. a population with a history of volatile politicisation, with a youth bulge and a desperate need for jobs, economic uplift to offset a looming environmental catastrophe…..