Iran at the center of the Eurasian riddle | The Vineyard of the Saker

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18-06-19 07:02:00,

By Pepe Escobar – posted with permission

With the dogs of war on full alert, something extraordinary happened at the 19th summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) late last week in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

Virtually unknown across the West, the SCO is the foremost Eurasian political, economic and security alliance. It’s not a Eurasian NATO. It’s not planning any humanitarian imperialist adventures. A single picture in Bishkek tells a quite significant story, as we see China’s Xi, Russia’s Putin, India’s Modi and Pakistan’s Imran Khan aligned with the leaders of four Central Asian “stans”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani walk as they attend a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Council of Heads of State in Bishkek on June 14, 2019. Photo: AFP / Vyacheslav Oseledko

These leaders represent the current eight members of the SCO. Then there are four observer states – Afghanistan, Belarus, Mongolia and, crucially, Iran – plus six dialogue partners: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and, crucially, Turkey.

The SCO is bound to significantly expand by 2020, with possible full membership for both Turkey and Iran. It will then feature all major players of Eurasia integration. Considering the current incandescence in the geopolitical chessboard, it’s hardly an accident a crucial protagonist in Bishkek was the ‘observer’ state Iran.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani played his cards masterfully. Rouhani speaking directly to Putin, Xi, Modi and Imran, at the same table, is something to be taken very seriously. He blasted the US under Trump as “a serious risk to stability in the region and the world”. Then he diplomatically offered preferential treatment for all companies and entrepreneurs from SCO member nations committed to investing in the Iranian market.

The Trump administration has claimed – without any hard evidence – that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which Washington brands as a “terrorist organization” – was behind the attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week. As the SCO summit developed, the narrative had already collapsed, as Yutaka Katada, president of Japanese cargo company Kokuka Sangyo, owner of one of the tankers, said: “The crew is saying that it was hit by a flying object.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif had accused the White House of “sabotage diplomacy” but that did not derail Rouhani’s actual diplomacy in Bishkek.

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Escobar: Eurasian Davos & The Rise Of The Global South

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28-01-19 09:14:00,

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

How Astana Is Leading The Way In Central Asia

Kazakhstan, which lies at the center of Eurasian integration, is a mix of privatization and protectionism, where the state welfare fund is trying to cut state domination in some industries and protect others

Kazakhstan sits at the heartland of the Great Game of the 21st century, which is all about Eurasia interconnectivity and integration. Astana is a member of both the China-driven New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative, and the Russia-led Eurasia Economic Union.

Kazakhstan, the “snow leopard economy” as branded by President Nursultan Nazarbayev over the past decade, could not be more quintessentially Eurasian, its landlocked steppes crisscrossed by 60% of China to Europe rail cargo.

The country also functions as a sort of massive power station for the New Silk Roads, overflowing with oil and gas but also significantly investing in solar, wind and nuclear power.

Astana happens to be the only financial hub between Moscow and Beijing, boasting the Astana International Financial Centre, where the Shanghai Stock Exchange is a major investor and Chinese banks and businesses are listed.

A fascinating mix of privatization and protectionism is also in play.

Samruk Kazyna, the Kazakh national welfare fund, is seeking to reduce the government’s share of the economy, which ranges from energy to banking, from 90% to 20%, even as Astana has made it clear that some strategic commodities and industries are closed to foreign, especially Chinese, investment.

With all that as background, it’s more than natural that Kazakhstan’s unique Eurasian crossroads status has been discussed in detail at the Astana Club.

Its 2018 report, ‘Toward a Greater Eurasia: How to Build a Common Future?’, focuses on everything from geoeconomics and the Central Asian renaissance to geopolitical and security risks. Of particular interest is a new report on the global risks ahead for Eurasia.

Kazakhstan and the ‘stans’ between Russia and China. Map: University of Texas

The Eurasian Davos

There’s near universal consensus across the Global South,

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