Friday, October 28, 2011


The Best of
Pepe Escobar

Oct 28, 2011

Real wimps go to Tehran via Baghdad
No matter how many "rightsized" United States boots remain on Iraqi ground after the purported withdrawal at the end of the year, the "how to nail Iran" gambit looms large. One neo-conservative plan - and is it that unlikely? - would have Americans used as bait for an Israeli attack. - Pepe Escobar (Oct 26, '11)

A peek at the new Libya
Welcome to the new Libya. Islamist militias will turn the lives of Libyan women into a living hell. Hundreds of thousands of Sub-Saharan Africans - those who could not escape - will be ruthlessly persecuted. Libya's natural wealth will be plundered. That collection of anti-aircraft missiles appropriated by Islamists will be a supremely convincing reason for the "war on terror" in northern Africa to become eternal. There will be blood. - Pepe Escobar (Oct 21, '11)

The US power grab in Africa
Libya - where United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a whistle-stop visit on Tuesday but didn't get to see the devastation in Sirte - is just one angle of a multi-vector US strategy in Africa. Washington's Uganda surge, where 100 "advisors" now have their boots on the ground, is a classic Pipelineistan gambit and it's not hard to fathom where that country's oil contracts will eventually land. - Pepe Escobar (Oct 20, '11)

Occupy World Street
Occupy World Street wants that forests won't be mowed down, the air won't be polluted, banks won't be double-crossing their clients, and citizens should be totally engaged in the running of public life. This implies sensible laws managed by honest and impartial people should be in place. It's not happening - thus the swelling ranks of the Indignados International. - Pepe Escobar (Oct 18, '11)

Obama, the king of Africa
The mineral rush in Africa is already one of the great resource wars of the 21st century. China is ahead, followed by companies from India, Australia, South Africa and Russia. The West is lagging. The name of the game for the United States and the Europeans is to pull no punches to undermine China. That's why Uganda is the perfect cover story for Barack Obama, the king of Africa, to plunge a dagger inside Islamic Africa.
- Pepe Escobar (Oct 17, '11)

The occupy Iran Fast and
Furious plot (extended

The storyline of the apparent plan to kill the ambassador of Saudi Arabia would be hurled into the garbage can in any self-respecting Hollywood script conference. Yet it is very handy to divert attention from the Saudis as the beneficiary of a multi-billionaire United States weapons sale. And it is also very handy for Attorney General Eric Holder - caught in a monstrous scandal over Operation Fast and the Furious, a franchise that is the entertainment weapon of choice across all levels of the US government. - Pepe Escobar (Oct 13, '11)

Liquid modernity, solid elites
The Occupy Wall Street campaign is flying the flag for the peaceful rejects of liquid modernity - all but the 1% solids, the fat-cat Masters of the Universe who take all the cream but still don't have a clue that 99% of Americans are as mad as hell and can't take it anymore. Derided as a bunch of nuts or criminals, the protesters are defying the elites and challenging their logic in a movement that could sow the seeds of a humanistic neo-Renaissance for the masses. - Pepe Escobar (Oct 11, '11)

Pentagon aims at target Pakistan
If - when - the Pentagon decides that United States Special Forces will violate Pakistani sovereignty by helicopter, a la the Abbottabad raid that killed Osama bin Laden, and go for the Haqqani network in the North Waziristan tribal area, it risks a direct clash with the Pakistani army. Yet Washington is desperate, feeling the urge to do something. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 29, '11)

Decline and fall of just about everyone
Let's pick the bones of a broken system: middle classes in the Atlantic world barely hang on in quiet desperation; in the Pacific, the middle class is giving global capitalism a reprieve, for how long, we don't know; over in the Arab world, the military machine tries to keep the US and Europe in the game, the BRICS out, and the "natives" in their places. And globally, the whole world is holding its breath for the next economic shoe to drop in the West. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 26, '11)

The age of the Reaper
For the MQ-9 Reaper drone that struts its stuff equipped with Hellfire missiles and rains death from above, the sky, literally, is the limit. It's expanding its footprint from AfPak to the whole of East Africa up to the Gulf of Aden. The Reaper, though, can also wear a business suit and incorporate the persona of the president of the United States. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 22, '11)

Why the BRICS won't 'save' Europe
As national egoism drags Western Europe into the financial mire, a cavalry of emerging economies made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa is mulling a bailout that could also accelerate the rise of the BRICS in global influence. However, while China is still smarting over the economic impact of the Libyan bombings, other BRICS say helping Europe would simply be a poor investment - Pepe Escobar (Sep 20, '11)

To King Sarkozy, the spoils
While Neo-Napoleonic French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his sidekick British Prime Minister "David of Arabia" Cameron were basking in the glow of their victory lap in Tripoli, the place was swarming with multilingual contractors. But nobody knows what's really going on in desert catfighting and bets are on Libya turning not into Afghanistan 2.0 or Iraq 2.0, but Somalia 2.0. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 16, '11)

Turkey takes over the Arab Spring
With the whole Arab world glued to his every word, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan used his Arab Spring tour to articulate what the whole world, except Washington and Tel Aviv, knows in its collective heart over the recognition of a Palestinian state. Erdogan's tour is a realpolitik master class and leaves Israel up against a wall it hasn't faced since the 1978 Camp David accords. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 14, '11)

Enduring freedom forever
Ten years after 9/11, facts on the ground spell out a world shocked and awed to endure war rather than justice, while freedom, shrinking by the minute, is just another word for everything left to lose. The road to war is a mission that goes on forever. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 8, '11)

Libya: The real war starts now
As the Libyan Transitional National Council already behaves like a lame duck and as the militias will simply not vanish, it's not hard to picture Libya as a new Lebanon, with regions carved up between numerous factions. This includes the deadly Islamic temptation - which is spreading like a virus across the Arab Spring. In this environment, Muammar Gaddafi can reveal himself to be even more dangerous than he was in power. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 6, '11)

It's a TOTAL war, monsieur
Call it the Friends of Libya war; the R2P war (as in "responsibility to protect" Western plunder); the Air France war; the Total war; anyway, the "friends" had a blast spinning their win in Libya, which magically is not in Africa anymore. It has been relocated (upgraded?) to Arabia. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 2, '11)

Why Gaddafi got a red card
The Sunni monarchical dictator in Bahrain stays; the House of Saud club of dictators stays; even the Syrian dictator is getting a break - so far. So, what was the crucial difference with Muammar Gaddafi that got him a red card? There are enough red lines crossed by The Big G to turn this whole computer screen blood red, but let's start with the French ... - Pepe Escobar (Aug 31, '11)

How al-Qaeda got to rule in Tripoli
Abdelhakim Belhaj, the top rebel military commander in still war-torn Libya, is an al-Qaeda asset. It doesn't require a crystal ball to picture that his group - being among the war "winners" - will not be interested in relinquishing control just to please the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Libya may now face the specter of Muammar Gaddafi forces against a weak transitional central government and NATO boots on the ground; and the Belhaj-led nebula in a jihad against NATO (if they are sidelined from power). - Pepe Escobar (Aug 29, '11)

R2P is now Right 2 Plunder
The United States establishment is now brazen about the true meaning of the humanitarian imperialist doctrine of the "right to protect" - or R2P - being "the right to plunder". With so much loot at stake and all signs pointing to Quagmire City, the Big G Muammar Gaddafi may literally be buying tribal allegiance in gold and gambling that Western/Arab ops will turn Libya into the new Iraq/Afghanistan. - Pepe Escobar (Aug 26, '11)

Sweet crude of mine
From the point of view of the real Libyan war "winners", it's bye-bye to "subversive" ideas such as dumping the US dollar and the euro to create a single currency for Arab and African nations and a big hello to ultra sweet oil contracts and an array of concessions. While nothing would be sweeter for the House of Saud than a friendly new emirate in northern Africa, real control is still an open game as no one yet knows what influence Islamists will be able to wield in post-Muammar Gaddafi Libya. - Pepe Escobar (Aug 25, '11)

Disaster capitalism swoops over Libya
North Atlantic Treaty Organization winners have eyes peeled on juicy opportunities to come; the House of Saud, in the shape of the Bin Laden Group, will likely swoop on Libya's post-Gaddafi business bonanza. It is the interests of BRIC nations - who saw through the United Nations-sanctioned arming of rebels as the latest chapter in the Disaster Capitalism series - that the victors want to gouge. - Pepe Escobar (Aug 24, '11)

Welcome to Libya's 'democracy'
The Big Gaddafi's impending departure as a result of Operation Siren means humanitarian imperialism wins. The Arab monarchies win, the Pentagon wins and the idealistic "rebels" win. As the Apache gunships and jets stop firing, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization can gleam over its Mediterranean lake, while in the background the wrangling over oil and gas - and the fratricidal bloodshed - can begin in earnest.
- Pepe Escobar (Aug 23, '11)

The Big Gaddafi
The Big Gaddafi takes another toke at prime Maghreb and stares in disbelief as the Western narrative predicting his demise unfolds - all because a bunch of barbarian Bedouins decided to pee on his carpet. That rug really tied the room together. It's just a game, man ... and The Dude minds. - Pepe Escobar (Aug 19, '11)

Blood on the Iraqi-Syrian tracks
As a bloody Monday for Iraq followed carnage on Friday in Syria, many in Baghdad are losing sleep about events across the border. As uneasy as Iraq may be with the exploits of Syria's vicious security apparatus, it is not applying any pressure. Like Tehran, Baghdad fears any hint of a Sunni Salafi takeover in Damascus. - Pepe Escobar (Aug 16, '11)

Why the regime won't fall
President Bashar al-Assad has done the math and realizes his regime won't fall as long as the protests don't convulse the urban middle classes. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu appeared of the same opinion during his visit to Damascus, implying there's no reason for Ankara to interfere as long as Assad stops killing people and introduces reforms. - Pepe Escobar (Aug 12, '11)

My minaret is bigger than yours
Saudi Arabia is to spend US$1.23 billion on a building over one kilometer in height. Yet the towering achievement of the House of Saud has got to be what it has in store in terms of criminalizing any possibility of dissent in the kingdom, while at the same time maneuvering to ensure that Sunnis get to monopolize power in Syria. - Pepe Escobar (Aug 10, '11)

US shocked and awed by the Taliban
It's tantalizing to indulge the conspiracy theories surrounding the downing of a Chinook that claimed the lives of 19 United States Navy SEALs from the same unit that killed Osama bin Laden. More constructive is to realize that the Taliban missile that brought down the helicopter underscores the harsh truth that the "new" war strategy in Afghanistan is a failure. - Pepe Escobar (Aug 9, '11)

Al-Qaeda's Christian mirror
"Al-Qaeda" - or the nebula of franchises and copycats commonly bundled as "al-Qaeda" - does not have the resources to attack Europe, and this is not the priority anyway; the priority is AfPak, Central Asia and India. But the priority of Christian fundamentalist terror is definitely Europe. And the attacks will come via loners such as Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik as well as organized groups. (Jul 25, '11)

Taliban deliver hammer blow to NATO
The assassination on Tuesday of Ahmad Wali Karzai, President Hamid Karzai's half-brother, smashes to bits the notion that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is winning the war in Afghanistan. The Taliban are now rid of the major pro-Washington actor not only in Kandahar province but in the whole south of Afghanistan - where NATO has been involved en masse to crush the Taliban in their spiritual home and favored grounds. - Pepe Escobar (Jul 13, '11)

Pakistan 'punished' in Pipelineistan
Pakistan has no need to be too concerned over the United States suspending payment of US$800 million in military assistance. The Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline is going ahead, with or without India's participation. The heart of the matter is that the pipeline will do more than any form of US "aid" (or outright interference) to stabilize the Pakistan half of Washington's AfPak theater of operations. - Pepe Escobar (Jul 12, '11)

The House of Saud paranoia
For Riyadh, the great Arab revolt is all an Iranian plot, another front for the House of Saud in the psy-ops war it is fighting against Tehran's "polytheists", directed by the Medieval Wahhabi clerical establishment. The Saudi message to Washington and London is clear - we hold the petrodollars and we're top dog in the Gulf, so forget silly ideas about "democracy". - Pepe Escobar (Jul 6, '11)

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Have lobby, will travel
The "rebel" government - which is now named, after numerous permutations, the Interim Transitional National Council of Libya - has hired Patton Boggs, one of Washington's leading (and one of the most profitable) public relations firms, to "advise and assist" them in, well, winning the war - and getting their hands on billions of dollars in frozen funds from the Muammar Gaddafi regime held in the United States. - Pepe Escobar (Jul 5, '11)
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The Karen rebel yell
The Karen National Liberation Army has been fighting for decades with the central government in Myanmar for the self-determination of the Karen people, via an independent state. The soldiers are commonly referred to as "thra" - "big uncle". Some of them took time off from the battlefield to face the camera. (Jul 1, '11)
Story by Pepe Escobar. Photos by Jason Florio

What's really at stake in Libya
Hypocrisy, newspeak - and opposing acronyms - rule the relentless disinformation war over Libya. Beyond the fog, however, facts emerge that civilians are being bombed, not protected, in Tripoli and there is a refugee crisis. The only feasible way out is a ceasefire, but expect the West to fight to the death - for obvious reasons. - Pepe Escobar (Jun 29, '11)

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On crimes against humanity
The banality and gall of evil are in full display as perhaps the last batch of senior Khmer Rouge face justice over the deaths of two million people in the killing fields of Cambodia. Hanging over the tribunal is the specter of an American Empire that back then put superpower "engagement" above concerns of despotic pathology. Its old chains still rattle today, in the Middle East. - Pepe Escobar (Jun 28, '11)

NATO, the ultimate transformer
As a global Robocop, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is on a roll. From southeastern Europe to the eastern Mediterranean, and from the Persian Gulf to South and Central Asia, the Pentagon-led war machine is taking military establishments under its wing. All very well, unless you happen to be a civilian destined for humanitarian liberation, NATO-style. - Pepe Escobar (Jun 20, '11)

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The cold hard cash counter-revolution
The House of Saud is showering billions of dollars on a "new Egypt", an imploding Yemen and a suddenly more useful Muslim Brotherhood as the great Arab revolt is smothered under a mountain of oil wealth. Washington has meanwhile granted its own loaded gifts to Cairo, while quietly working with Bahrain's crown prince on the Persian Gulf American satrapy. - Pepe Escobar (Jun 9, '11)

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The secret life of Arabia
What lurks in the shadows tells us more about what's to come as the Arab Spring turns into the Arab Summer. Qatar is maneuvering its soft power towards Syria, where the repression machine has turned its guns on youths and the urban bourgeoisie has yet to make a move. Egypt may boil over too as the Saudis turn up the heat, the Wahhabi way. - Pepe Escobar (Jun 2, '11)

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The counter-revolution club
The rest of the region might be teetering, but members of the Gulf Cooperation Council - Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman - are sleeping easy. Nothing will happen to them because the enlightened West - not Allah - is their supreme guardian. And for any extra muscle they might need to keep the order they desire, heavily bankrolled foreign mercenaries are just the ticket. - Pepe Escobar (May 27, '11)

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The Arab spring conquers Iberia
What's happening in Spain goes way beyond a student revolt and the economy. It's a movement that lays bare a profound ethical crisis convulsing a whole society. The los indignados - "the outraged" - are seriously inquiring over the place of human beings in turbo-capitalist nations. - Pepe Escobar (May 24, '11)

What Obama could not possibly say
The true intent of the dodgy "dignity versus dictator" rhetoric of Barack Obama's Middle East "reset" speech lies in a simple tally: Israel mentioned 28 times and a big zilch for Saudi Arabia. Don't watch this United States president's lips for the truth that a US-Saudi-Israeli counter-revolution is on to smash the Arab revolt, or that "It's all about the oil, stupid". - Pepe Escobar (May 20, '11)

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Sex, power and American justice
The downfall of Dominique Strauss-Khan, the head of the International Monetary Fund arrested in New York on sexual assault charges, possibly opens the door for his replacement to come from the developing world. What spectacular poetic justice, that it will be thanks to an African Muslim immigrant woman. - Pepe Escobar (May 18, '11)

Bin Laden out, Gaddafi next
"Our" bastards are left to do their dirty work in peace, but Gaddafi beware: international law has taken it in the head from a bullet stamped "R2P" (aka "Responsibility to Protect"), courtesy of war in Libya, drones and targeted assassinations, including of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. Luckily, R2P as a humanitarian imperialist concept, as the end of sovereignty as we know it, isn't fooling everyone. - Pepe Escobar (May 11, '11)

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Bahrain topples its own people
The crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Bahrain is really about a monarchy trying to get rid of its people, with tactics straight out of the collective punishment playbook as Shi'ite mosques are razed and medics incarcerated for treating demonstrators beaten up by police. No sanctions or no-fly zones for the ruling al-Khalifas, hosts of the US Navy's Fifth Fleet. - Pepe Escobar (May 10, '11)

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Welcome to the post-Osama world
Almost a decade after 9/11 - and with the "dead or alive" promise finally fulfilled - the answer to the magic bullet question on the timing of the Osama bin Laden hit is that United States psychoanalyst-in-chief Barack Obama deemed a symbolic kill of the "war on terror" necessary to purge America's desire for foreign misadventure. The post-Osama cure faces monstrous contradictions, and the Pentagon will fight on. - Pepe Escobar (May 5, '11)

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Show us the shooter
The biggest manhunt ever ended with two golden bullets administered to Osama bin Laden by a Navy SEALs shooter after the verdict of guilty as (not) charged. A body bag consigned the "mastermind'' of 9/11 to the sea rather than have the CIA's dirty laundry aired in the trial of the century. The system that arranged the hit will be happy; the rest of us left in the dark. - Pepe Escobar (May 4, '11)

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Obama/Osama rock the casbah
It may have turned the boogie on United States President Barack Obama's re-election, but the assassination of Osama bin Laden heralds a new breed of hell. The West's self-fulfilling prophecy that al-Qaeda, made irrelevant by the Arab revolt, will react "with a vengeance" may come true, and the Arab world will revert to barbarism instead of dreaming of democracy. - Pepe Escobar (May 3, '11)

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Arab Pipelineistan's high stakes
Gas supplies from Egypt to Israel and Jordan were shut off this week when an "unknown armed gang" bombed the Arab Gas Pipeline. This is not the first time the star of Arab Pipelineistan has been disrupted, causing acute concern in capitals across the region. The discovery of massive natural gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean, however, has the potential to end any energy war. Or does it? - Pepe Escobar (Apr 29, '11)

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The Syrian chessboard
Syria matters on all fronts - from Iran to Iraq, from Turkey to Lebanon, from Palestine to Israel. But what the House of Saud intervention in Syria is inciting, above all, is tremendously destructive; a bloodthirsty sectarian epidemic spreading all across the Middle East (it started in Bahrain). (Apr 27, '11)

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AfPak comes to Africa
Why haven't they thought about this before; an army of drones (only five for the moment, based in southern Italy) instead of boots on the ground? Pentagon chief Robert Gates claims the drones will strike Libya for "humanitarian reasons". The "cubicle warriors" will certainly raise some hell by dragging a mouse, but there is only one way this is headed - stalemate (and "collateral damage") as in AfPak. - Pepe Escobar (Apr 26, '11)

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Fear and loathing in the House of Saud
That the United States has condoned Saudi Arabia's counter-revolution against the Great 2011 Arab Revolt and incendiary manipulation of sectarianism shatters America's ''credibility on democracy and reform''. For all its bluster, the House of Saud's actions are essentially moved by fear and may lead to a total radicalization of the Sunni-Shi'ite divide across the Arab world. - Pepe Escobar (Apr 20, '11)

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Mission regime change
By jointly announcing the bombs will fall until Muammar Gaddafi is gone for good, Washington, London and Paris have torn up the original UN mandate on Libya. There will be Western boots on the ground - sooner rather than later - and what comes next is even more messy: the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as the weaponized arm of the UN, roaming Africa for conquest and plunder. - Pepe Escobar (Apr 19, '11)

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Let me bomb you in peace
After learning the lesson of having his tanks bombed at will by the "coalition of the willing", Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is fighting light-armor guerrilla style against the "rebels" and the air war is now useless. If the "rebels" had their way and their own cities were carpet-bombed, collateral damage would be horrific. The last hope for sanity in all this mess is Turkey. - Pepe Escobar (Apr 8, '11)

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The sweet smell of counter-revolution
The House of Saud pulled its partner in the counter-revolution double act over from the right side to the wrong side of history. As United States Secretary of Defense Robert Gates meets Saudi King Abdullah to discuss the intricacies of "US outreach" and "regime alteration", the current juncture spells out Washington/House of Saud winning, hands down, against the great 2011 Arab revolt. - Pepe Escobar (Apr 7, '11)

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Turkey: The sultans of swing
While Turkey's "strategic depth" envisions an informal empire ranging from the Eastern Mediterranean to Western China, from the Balkans to the Middle East, Anatolia is the ultimate Pipelineistan crossroads for the export of Russian, Caspian-Central Asian, Iraqi and Iranian oil and gas to Europe. Much to Washington's dismay, the Arab revolt is opening a sublime portal to a new "global, political, economic and cultural order." - Pepe Escobar (Apr 6, '11)

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Billion-dollar Obama rocks Yemen
Protesters are being killed, a dictator refuses to step down, al-Qaeda is thriving, the CIA is on the ground, and civil war looms. Welcome to the curious case of Yemen, undeserving of Libyan-style humanitarian imperialism, yet where President Ali Abdullah Saleh has just been dropped from Washington's roster of "our bastards" as Barack Obama launches a US$1 billion re-election bid. - Pepe Escobar (Apr 5, '11)

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Tripoli, the new Troy
Muammar Gaddafi is "winning" like the king of besieged Troy did for 10 years. The problem with the Odyssey Dawn script is that a rebel Ulysses or a Helen is nowhere to be found and a cast of characters of infiltrated special forces including Central Intelligence Agency covert ops will be key. Many a Libyan will eventually have to acknowledge it's best to beware of Westerners bearing gifts. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 31, '11)

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Queen Hillary of Libya
Foreign intervention in Libya - "legitimized" by dodgy United Nations cover - is shaping up as a counter-revolutionary master coup to squash the momentum of the great 2011 Arab revolt, show who's boss, and present neo-colonialism with a facelift. And the new Libyan government kingmaker presiding over its balkanization is actually a queen: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 30, '11)

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There's no business like war business
It's easy to identify who profits from the war in Libya: The Pentagon, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the "rebels", the French and al-Qaeda. But that's only a short list of profiteers; control of an ocean of fresh water is crucial to the war mix, and nobody knows who'll end up getting the oil and the natural gas. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 29, '11)

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Welcome to the new NATO quagmire
The decision for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to run the show on Libya is a copy of the International Security and Assistance Force arrangement in Afghanistan. Libya is now an official victim of the endless war club and since it is on the ground in Central Asia, NATO is about to enter the era of the double quagmire. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 25, '11)

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Endgame: Divide, rule and get the oil
Western moral uprightness on Libya to coalition Gulf countries goes something like this: If you sell us a lot of oil, buy our weapons, and smash al-Qaeda, that's fine; you may even kill your own people, provided it's dozens, not thousands. That's how Saudi Arabia can get away with anything. The forces of counter-revolution are now joined at the hip with the West. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 24, '11)

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The Odyssey Dawn top 10
Gotta hand it to the Pentagon's ghost writers, allowing Homer's heroes to roam the Mediterranean in the aptly named Operation Odyssey Dawn. But with a nod to the top 10 plays in this tragedy, the operation is really House of Saud Takes Out Gaddafi. With the heavy lifting subcontracted to the West and the eastern Libya protesters posing as extras. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 21, '11)

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The Club Med war
The passage of resolution 1973 has put the ball (of fire) in Gaddafi's court. Every civilian and military target in the Mediterranean is now fair game as he threatens to "get crazy", and with the colonel willing to fight to the death, it's fair to assume the Security Council vote gives a mandate that only ends with regime change. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 18, '11)

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The Arab counter-revolution is winning
In the inextricable Saudi/Washington nexus, democracy may be acceptable for Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, but it's a very bad idea for Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other friendly Gulf dictatorships. The message of the Gulf kingdoms and sheikhdoms to Washington is unambiguous and effective; if we "fall", your strategic game is in pieces. Once more, "stability" trumps democracy. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 17, '11)

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Libyans and Bahrainis sheikh, rattle and roll
In both Libya and Bahrain, the great 2011 Arab revolt seems to have reached the red line. Regime change stops here - with the House of Saud at the top of the Arab dictatorial pyramid, followed by its Gulf minions. And as Muammar Gaddafi rolls out his forces to crush rebellion in Benghazi, the world will watch the killing like silent sheep. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 16, '11)

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House of Saud 'liberates' Bahrain
The House of Saud has rolled into Bahrain with armored carriers, tanks and troops to repress protests that have revealed the United States client state and its corrupt 200-year-old dynasty as the Gulf's weakest link. Media-fueled illusions of Iran as the bogeyman and Saudi Arabia as a "reluctant" regional policeman are as unreal the West's "support" for Libyan rebels. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 15, '11)

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Mummies and models
in the new Middle East

Egypt, previously a moribund land of "stability" and bosom buddy of whoever was in power in Washington, has been hurled into the Middle East's New Great Game. Possible models for transition range from Turkey's modern, Islamic ideal to Muslim-majority Indonesia's flourishing democracy and Latin America's path of total independence. Either way, it's enough to make Western diplomatic circles tremble. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 14, '11)

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The birth of Islamic modernity
Although the symptoms are the same - unemployment, poverty, corruption, absence of freedom - the great Arab revolt is actually diverse revolutions fought with diverse strategies. The crucial unifying theme is that Arab peoples are starting to build their own modernity. That, as Gilles Kepel was prescient to note, secures the victory of Islam as democracy over Islam as a "revolutionary" vanguard. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 11, '11)
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Why no-fly won't fly
As the countries known as BRICS build a wall around the plan for a no-fly zone in Libya, Muammar Gaddafi is skillfully reading the writing. No-fly, even if approved, would be useless and he knows those backing the idea can't invade Libya - that would be seen as one more chapter, after Afghanistan and Iraq, of the white man's crusade to destroy Islam (and get the oil). - Pepe Escobar (Mar 10, '11)

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Rage against the House of Saud
The US$36 billion question in Saudi Arabia concerns whether an ailing monarch can bribe his subjects into submission with oil money and escape the the furious freedom winds of the great 2011 Arab revolt. The world will be able to watch a preview this Friday, as a Facebook-organized "Day of Rage" hits the globe's largest gas station. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 9, '11)

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The perfect (desert) storm
The Arab revolt, North African yearnings for democracy, Western despair over oil prices, and the new American doctrine for regime alteration are kicking up a perfect storm, deploying devastating gusts of hypocritical winds such as the US request for Saudia Arabia to arm rebels, while turning a blind eye to the House of Saud's inconvenient truth. History yet again repeats itself as farce. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 8, '11)

To follow Pepe's articles on the Great Arab Revolt, please click here.

Fly me a Tuareg on time
With most of Libya's tribes united against Muammar Gaddafi, Algeria is reported instrumental in getting mercenaries from Niger and Chad to his side. After Gaddafi propped up their rebellions for decades, nomadic Tuaregs appear to be making the grueling trip overland, organized by a former rebel commander now in Libya and lured by petrodollar-fueled pay. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 7, '11)

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The lion wants his juice back
It's stalemate time in Libya. Like a lion resting under a tree, Muammar Gaddafi is surveying the odds of keeping power. He knows rebels have what it takes to defend Zawiya, Misrata and Brega, yet lack the means to attack. Having lost control of 80% of Libya's oil fields and refineries, he wants his juice back. Africa's ''king of kings'' knows Brega is key - and next time, he'll go for the kill. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 4, '11)

The end of the end of history
Western ideological categories have beenmummified. There's no "clash" of civilizations between parliamentary democracy and Islam. Secular, nationalist revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt have debunked Tehran's monopoly, and the fight is now on, against not only the tyrant of American choice but the whole US Treasury/IMF/World Bank-concocted architecture of "reality". - Pepe Escobar (Mar 3, '11)

War porn is back in Libya
The Libyan people who are risking their lives to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi have been saying for over a week that they don't want foreign intervention. But forget democracy; the world won't listen amid the hysteria of calls for a no-fly zone and demands for military boots to turn Libya into a North Atlantic Treaty Organization protectorate. "Shock and awe" is back and once again - it's the oil, stupid. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 2, '11)

Don't take your eyes off the Gulf
Lute-playing septuagenarian Sultan Qabus bin Sa'id of Oman cannot understand the discord in his Disneyland-perfect territory, but as protesters keep up the pressure for reform his time may be running out. Beware the humanitarian imperialism possibly rearing its ugly head in Libya. But all eyes should be on the Strait of Hormuz; on the Omani, not the Iranian, shore. Pepe Escobar (Mar 1, '11)

Don't cry for me, Suleiman
The Egyptian street revolution proves that the ghastly "Arab exception" concept - that dictatorship and hardcore repression are intrinsic to the Arab world - was always a manufactured consensus. It's a no-brainer, between Washington-supported Omar "Sheik al-Torture" Suleiman and the protesters, who's on the right side of history. - Pepe Escobar (Feb 9, '11)

'Sheik al-Torture' is now a democrat
If French philosopher Jean Baudrillard was alive, he would say revolution in Egypt never took place except on the world's television screens. The regime was never shaken to the core - because the army remains in charge and it is comfortable with "acting president" Omar Suleiman (aka "Sheik al-Torture") running the show. So are the democrats in Washington. (Feb 8, '11)

Dead men walking, with license to kill
Egypt's counter-revolution is on. And if President Hosni Mubarak is a "dead man walking", as opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei has coined it, what about his zombie army of machete-wielding thugs paid by his cronies? Masked goon squads encircling protesters in Cairo represent the ugly face of Mubarakism - and, with the army and police eerily gone, the ominous sign of state terror unleashed. (Feb 3, '11)

The brotherhood factor
Demands on the streets for a one-way ticket out for President Hosni Mubarak will forge a path to free and fair elections and a role in government for the Muslim Brotherhood. Contrary to alarmist rightwing sirens, no "Islamic fervor" envelopes the Middle East, and a Muslim Brotherhood refuting violence and bowing to secularist majority opinion in a post-revolutionary Egypt cannot possibly spook the West. (Feb 1, '11)

Davos, Dakar and a ton of BRICS
After the richest of the ruling classes schmooze in Davos, "the rest" will be left with the World Social Forum - to be held in Dakar, Senegal. There could hardly be a better place to discuss inequality and the current crisis in capitalism, never mind its plethora of emerging catchy-named conclaves, than Africa - where hard-baked talk is likely to produce better solutions than any "problem solving" session apres-ski. (Jan 26, '11)

The Google-GM summit
Chinese President Hu Jintao's state visit to the United States can best be seen as a summit between Google and General Motors. The US is the beleaguered car company, doggedly peddling yesterday's product to the world. China is the sexy search engine that nobody can live without. To understand this, all you need to do is watch the Wall Street head honchos fighting for a seat at the summit table. (Jan 19, '11)

Masters of hate locked and loaded
A right-wing gunman shoots a US congresswoman as part of a kill spree; the American gulag at Guantanamo Bay celebrates nine years of extra-legal repression; WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange prepares his legal defense amid calls for his assassination. There are connections here, and they aren't pretty. But in an America rushing headlong towards fascism, they are barely making a ripple. (Jan 12, '11)

For drone warriors, the future is murder
Seduced by visions of a "stabilizing" pipeline cutting through huge swathes of Afghanistan and Pakistan, US President Barack Obama now has a hot war on in both countries. This will keep his spooks busy remote-controlling mayhem from the air. Take cover - the Year of the Drone is upon us. (Dec 22, '10)

Emperor waits in wings with waterboard
Julian Assange is a free man for now, and the emperor's frustrated fury is a palpable thing. Washington is frantically seeking a way to put a legal veneer on its drive to strap Assange and WikiLeaks to the waterboard. If it succeeds, the tattered remnants of our press freedoms will be going under too. - Pepe Escobar (Dec 17, '10)

Hell hath no fury like an empire mocked
Despite being granted bail, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is still behind bars in Britain, the victim of a Swedish legal system that few believe is serving real justice. The empire has been humiliated, and will prove to be even more vindictive than a woman scorned as it fights to regain its information hegemony. - Pepe Escobar (Dec 15, '10)

What is al-Qaeda really up to?
Forget the old-school iconography of Osama bin Laden. In the new narrative of intelligence agencies on al-Qaeda, gone is the talk of a caliphate, Yemen is the name of the game, and the password is the online "re-Islamization" of Muslims living in the West, inspired by the likes of Anwar al-Awlaki. WikiLeaks shows the larger than life evil was an American construct - and the real al-Qaeda now lacks the means to hit strategic targets. - Pepe Escobar (Dec 7, '10)

The naked emperor
Using its house-trained corporate media as a mouthpiece, the Western establishment is having a collective hissy fit about recent diplomatic disclosures from WikiLeaks. But far from being a security risk, these leaked cables mostly just reveal the world of international politics as a tawdry reality show. - Pepe Escobar (Nov 30, '10)

Brazil’s street war not for resale abroad
An all-out war is being fought in the slums of Rio de Janeiro between the Brazilian government and drug gangs, a war that the state has a fair chance of winning. But envious Pentagon observers should note that there are no foreign armies of occupation in this fight. - Pepe Escobar (Nov 29, '10)

US a kid in a NATO candy store
At its Lisbon meeting last weekend, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization gave the American warfare state pretty much everything it wanted, including the green light on a Europe-wide missile shield and the promise of virtually endless war in Afghanistan. It was enough to warm the heart of the most jaded Pentagon praetorian. - Pepe Escobar (Nov 24, '10)

Welcome to NATOstan
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, with its scattershot of bases around Central Asia, navy patrols across strategic sealanes, and more allies than it knows what to do with, will try this weekend, under United States President Barack Obama's imperial gaze, to decide what all this is about. Turkey, for one, is watching carefully. - Pepe Escobar (Nov 19, '10)

Have (infinite) war, will travel
It's got night ops, air strikes, drone missions and special-forces skullduggery. It's horrendously expensive, as bloody as a slasher film and it keeps the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization busy in the strategic heartland of the world. Withdraw from Afghanistan? The fun is just getting started. - Pepe Escobar (Nov 17, '10)

Word up, G-20?
An animated rap video from a Taiwanese group sums up the Seoul Group of 20 meeting better than the weasel words of any official statement. To wit: the rest of the bloc takes a dim view of Washington flooding the world financial system with dollars it doesn’t have. - Pepe Escobar (Nov 12, '10)

All hail the decider-in-chief
Those on a metaphysical quest to explain former US president George W Bush's decisions to follow the September 11, 2001, attacks with an invasion of Iraq and authorize Spanish Inquisition-era torture techniques are unlikely to find answers in Decision Point. All the memoir proves is that "if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people eventually come to believe it". - Pepe Escobar (Nov 10, '10)

Sic transit gloria Obama
The US electorate has decided to reward a bunch of clowns and crooks responsible for America's political, economic and cultural debacle in the first place. Democrats sowed the seeds of their own doom by failing even to try to live up to 2008's collective rapture over "Change we can believe in". After taking a "shellacking", it's about time for President Barack Obama to start playing offense. - Pepe Escobar (Nov 4, '10)

The day Obama dreamed of being Lula
United States President Barack Obama must have fantasized about an alternative life after watching "the man", Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva - the outgoing Brazilian president and world's most popular political leader - not only win two elections in a row but see his chosen successor elected. Reality dawns for Obama in the mid-term firing squad, while the Brazilian dream could end soon too. - Pepe Escobar (Nov 2, '10)

Aziz's story will remain untold
Maliki and his Shi'ite Da'wa party had a score to settle with Aziz, and they will believe justice has now been done. Everyone else loses badly because Aziz is arguably the only person on Earth who could tell the real story, bit by juicy bit, about the rolling, decades-long American dirty game in Iraq. - Pepe Escobar (Oct 27, '10)

See you at the barricades, babe
The French October of 2010 is reducing French President Nicolas Sarkozy, a certified member of a global neoliberal gang still merrily slashing-and-burning the benefits of the welfare state, to some clone of Louis XVI on the way to the (political) guillotine. But instead of the May '68 mantra of "we want the world, and we want it now", the barricades chant "please, world, give us a break". - Pepe Escobar (Oct 26, '10)

And the winner is ... Muqtada
Iraq's next government will likely be Iran-friendly and Shi'ite-friendly, headed by incumbent Nuri al-Maliki, but crucially with the support of Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. At the same time, although Iraq has the third-largest proven oil reserves in the world, it will be exploited by Chinese, Russian and Asian companies, not US Big Oil - the final nail in the coffin of the neo-conservative fantasy of a Greater Middle East as an American lake. - Pepe Escobar (Oct 19, '10)

Betting and bluffing in the new Great Game
With natural gas flowing from Turkmenistan and the promise of Iraqi oil arriving in the next few years, China is methodically building up the energy supplies its voracious economy will need in the future. And unlike its rival the United States, Beijing is guaranteeing its future without deploying its military. - Pepe Escobar (Oct 13, '10)

An American dream made in Brazil
Brazil is touted as becoming the fifth-largest global economy. This American dream - as in an empowered lower-middle class consuming homes, cars, televisions and computers like there's no tomorrow - will be the inheritance of Dilma "Iron Lady" Rousseff, the most likely next president. She'll be aware that relying on the non-stop sale of commodities to China is not a recipe for sustainable growth. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 30, '10)

It's Obama vs infinite war
The key - one may say tragic - point of Bob Woodward’s latest court opus Obama's Wars is that the United States president not only cannot end the Afghan war, he cannot even downscale it without incurring blowback. Even if Barack Obama is seriously betting on his exit strategy, the Pentagon wants infinite war. The corporate media-orchestrated narrative will never tell us why. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 24, '10)

Barack and Mahmud back in the groove
There can be no better opportunity for Iran and the United States to talk than this week's United Nations General Assembly in New York. Against the wishes of the mullahtariat, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly said he's open for dialogue, and US President Barack Obama looks to be gearing up too. They might as well hit the groove before the dogs of war start barking. (Sep 22, '10)

Don't mess with my burqa, monsieur
So what if the Roving Eye turns up in Paris wearing a burqa, provided he can decide between the light blue used in Talibanistan or the ultra-chic green one from Peshawar. It's now the dilemma facing burqa-wearing women in France. With the government also mired in a row over deportations, one wonders whether President Nicolas Sarkozy is leading the republic down a road towards trashiness, intolerance and bling-bling. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 16, '10)

'Dude, you have no Koran'
The skateboarder who snatched a copy of the Koran from the grasp of an American self-styled paramilitary Christian leader before he could burn it is among the people of Amarillo, Texas, who demonstrated that most Americans refuse to be cowed by fear. At the center of their action is respect for the inalienable right to practice the religion of one's choice. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 14, '10)

Nobody expects the American inquisition
Earlier this century, as the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks approached and the land of the free was still enmeshed in two wars to combat the rising tide of Islamic world dominance, a coalition of Republican politicians, talk show hosts and assorted wackos moved without hindrance throughout the American land, in a reign of intolerance, bigotry and catchy sound bites. This was the American Inquisition ... (Sep 10, '10)

AfPak and the new great game
As much as Washington may think it's in command, wily Afghan President Hamid Karzai is playing an attacking game. He has seen the future as a power-sharing deal in Kabul with no Americans involved. And, as usual, there's never a mention of the key Pipelineistan game, Washington's real reason to spend US$100 billion a year (and counting) to fight a bunch of Arab jihadi instructors. (Sep 8, '10)

Married to the mob
Ten years ago, while the Taliban were filling their coffers with taxes from the world's largest smuggling ring, a reincarnation of the Queen of Sheba was playing her part in a sprawling west Afghan underground network of women refusing to be locked indoors. Today, the Afghan-Pakistan border is still porous, and the Taliban seem to believe they may even get their Talibanistan back. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 3, '10)
This is the conclusion of a three-part report.
PART 1: 'Throw these infidels in jail'
PART 2: The degree zero of culture

The degree zero of culture
A decade ago it was a sad sight at the University of Kabul to witness a group of eminent professors at what was once one of the best centers of learning in the world being subjected to the sermons of a mediocre madrassa student who never finished the equivalent of primary school. This was Baudrillard's degree zero of culture, remixed by the Taliban. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 2, '10)
PART 1: 'Throw these infidels in jail'
This is the second article in a three-part report.

Red alert! The Russians are coming!
Moscow's response to Washington's Russophobia, which manifests as humorless spy movies and plans for full spectrum dominance, has been to get down to business. While the West is bogged down in Afghanistan, links with Kabul forged in the 1980s ensure the Kremlin a slice of the mineral wealth, and while US neo-cons balk at Iranian nuclear plants coming online, Russian industry merrily cashes in. - Pepe Escobar (Aug 26, '10)

The end of the world is on sale
The great Patagonia-on-sale party is in full swing, though tough questions remain - and they apply to virtually all the developing world. How to "develop" Patagonia? How to preserve it from serious environmental contamination? There is a necessity for a clear policy setting serious targets for responsible tourism, and the need for a clear policy regarding industrial development. - Pepe Escobar (Aug 23, '10)

This is the conclusion of a two-part report.
PART 1: In Tierra del Fuego, Darwin still rocks

In Tierra del Fuego, Darwin still rocks
The Patagonian narrative has been spun for centuries by bold navigators and adventurers, hydrologists, mariners from Spain, Portugal and Britain, scientific bulletins, devoted settlers, fierce pirates. In the early 21st century, as the global South tries to reclaim its rights, this story can be blended with the wealthy North's take on how this "arid, desert, windy, abandoned" Patagonia has become "a sea of opportunities" for foreign occupation. - Pepe Escobar (Aug 20, '10)
This is the first article in a two-part report.

'Surge' smoke follows Petraeus to Afpak
As General David Petraeus, the mainstream US media's new armored Messiah, takes command in Afghanistan, the myth of his "successful surge" in Iraq could not but linger. Anyone who buys the Pentagon's spin and believes the same conquest will happen in the Pashtun south and southeast of Afghanistan must have smoked Hindu Kush's finest. - Pepe Escobar (Jul 2, '10)

Mistah McChrystal - he dead
The McChrystal goes rogue/McChrystal gets fired story is yet one more classic Pentagon non-event magnified to dementia. The "warrior-intellectual” never gave any sign he was engaging in specific, detailed criticism of the overall military strategy of the United States; after all, the Pentagon's "full-spectrum dominance" cannot be really sold for what it is. - Pepe Escobar (Jun 24, '10)

The World Cup war
The first kick in the World Cup in South Africa takes place on Friday, the start of the world's greatest sporting festival and the showcase for global entertainment's biggest industry - football, which is run with an iron fist by the mega-rich FIFA. Host countries - and the fans - might have to sell their souls to FIFA, but for a month of frenzied action, the only real question is who will be the next footballing god. - Pepe Escobar (Jun 11, '10)

The method in Israel's madness
Israel's heavy-handed attack on the Mavi Marmara carrying activists heading for Gaza was motivated by fear as the ultimate Israeli nightmare has come true. The new key axis in the Middle East is Turkey, Iran and Syria, and it has smashed the divide-and-rule logic Western colonialism has been imposing on the region for more than a century. - Pepe Escobar (Jun 8, '10)

The Israeli raid on a ship heading for Gaza has drawn international condemnation, yet in Israel the attackers are being spun not only as heroes, but as victims, writes Pepe Escobar, who argues the incident also leaves United States President Barack Obama emasculated. Spengler writes the flotilla caper should teach Israel that no matter how gingerly it approaches the threats on its borders, it ends up holding the bag for the region's problems and that it might as well get down to the business of war. (Jun 1, '10)

We are all Gazans now - Pepe Escobar

Iran: Obama's other oil spill
Nobody but washed up neo-conservatives, the Israel Lobby and full spectrum dominance fanatics can win from President Barack Obama's attempt to sink the emergence of non-United States-centric diplomacy that Brazil and Turkey's nuclear deal with Iran epitomizes. By drilling hard for United Nations sanctions on Iran, Obama has the political equivalent of another Gulf oil spill on his hands. - Pepe Escobar (May 27, '10)

Iran, Sun Tzu and the dominatrix
American allies Brazil and Turkey were fuming after a public slapping for defying the United States plan to punish Iran over its nuclear program. After Hillary Clinton lashed the United Nations Security Council into submission for another round of sanctions, Beijing and Moscow, well versed in the Art of War, aren't exactly licking the US secretary of state's unilateralist whip. Who should the real "international community" trust? - Pepe Escobar (May 21, '10)

Brazil-Turkey 1, sanctions 0
The groundbreaking nuclear fuel swap agreement brokered by Brazil between Iran and Turkey was a ''victory for diplomacy", according to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. It was most of all a win for the BRIC countries - the emerging global counter-power to US hegemony and Washington's continuing demands for crippling sanctions against Tehran. - Pepe Escobar
(May 18, '10)

The American Taliban are coming
The United States initially said that Faisal Shahzad, charged in connection with a failed car-bombing in New York, had no connection with the Pakistani Taliban. Washington now says he did. The Taliban have also reversed their position, saying he is not tied to them. Either way, the age of the virtual jihadi nomad is a go. - Pepe Escobar (May 11, '10)

Time for a nuclear samba
Iran has all but agreed with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's proposal for a nuclear fuel swap deal for Tehran's research reactor. This makes Brazil the mediator between Tehran and the United Nations - rather than the axis of the United States, Britain and France inside the UN Security Council, plus Germany - to finally settle the Iranian nuclear dossier. - Pepe Escobar (May 6, '10)

Iran, Brazil and the 'bomb'
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva visits Tehran next month and has offered to enrich uranium for Iran. For "full spectrum dominance" hawks this is anathema, and it matters little that there is no consensus among the so-called "international community" on isolating Iran. Lula for his part is adamant that more sanctions on Tehran will open the way for all-out war, not prevent it. - Pepe Escobar (Apr 29, '10)

The BRIC post-Washington consensus
Brazil, Russia, India and China, the engines of world economic growth over coming decades, are well on the way to defining how they shape the new geography of global power, even though the road to a formal trading bloc will be very long. As they move full-speed ahead towards the post-Washington consensus, the name of the game must be evolution, not revolution. - Pepe Escobar (Apr 16, '10)

Nuclear Obama
Talk about terrorist threats was thin cover for the real target of US President Barack Obama's 47-nation gabfest on nuclear security: the call for sanctions on Iran. And while there is no clarity on how much further the US will cut its formidable atomic arsenal, Obama's vision of a "completely nuclear-free world" is the stuff of dreams for the Pentagon and its growing strategic non-nuclear firepower. - Pepe Escobar (Apr 14, '10)

Collateral Pentagon
The leaked video of an apparent massacre of Iraqi civilians by United States gunships comes as the supreme US commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, says US checkpoint forces have shot an "amazing" number of innocent Afghans. The timing suggests that in both conflicts, the Pentagon has bent normal "rules of engagement" to breaking point. - Pepe Escobar
(Apr 6, '10)

The Black Widow riddle
If it was indeed the suicide bombs of Chechen widows that caused the death and carnage in the subway under the Moscow headquarters of Russia's security service, the women could have been avenging the killing of Chechen master ideologue, Said Buryatsky, rather than having any broader political or spiritual goal in mind. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 31, '10)

Iraq squeezed between US and Iran
Sectarianism is the only winner to emerge so far in post-election Iraq. As the struggle to form a ruling coalition pits United States-backed Iyad Allawi against Nuri al-Maliki, the Iran-aligned present prime minister, neither is likely to succeed. But one thing's certain: violence will erupt in the Sunni backlash if Allawi, whose coalition won the most seats for the National Assembly, fails to take power. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 30, '10)

Obama squeezed between Israel and Iran
Washington's schizophrenic reaction to the US-Israel "crisis" - a brief scolding followed by talk of an "unshakeable bond" and sanctions "that bite" for Iran, reveals the spat may be theater designed to obscure a not-so-subtle drive to attack Tehran. After all, Israel's powerful friends have determined the broad outlines of US policy in the Middle East for decades. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 25, '10)

Brazil steps between Israel and Iran
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva this week made the first official visit by a Brazilian president to Israel. Brazil is emerging as a potential "bridge" between Iran and those countries that seek to punish Tehran over its nuclear program. Lula stepping into this arena is a further instance of the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China) acting as a new rival power to an increasingly disoriented US, as well as to Washington's ally, Israel. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 17, '10)

Oscar night in Baghdad
Hollywood's take on the Iraq War, The Hurt Locker, swept Sunday's Oscars. Who will emerge victorious from Iraq's elections is less clear. Washington favors former premier Iyad Allawi - once an intelligence asset - over the Shi'ite incumbent aligned with Iran, Nuri al-Maliki. But ultimately it seems that as long as Maliki can hasten the Americans' exit, he will emerge triumphant. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 9, '10)

All aboard the juche train
On the train from Pyongyang to Beijing, the North Korean countryside displays an endless succession of bullock carts, rusty tractors and people carrying bags of rice or coal on their backs. Yet the North holds the solution for its own ecoomic success - a strong central state, vast natural resources and, not least, a disciplined workforce. In short - juche. - Pepe Escobar (Mat 1, '10)
This is the final article in a four-part series.
Part 1: Happy birthday, Comrade Kim
Part 2: Happiness rolls over us like a wave
Part 3: The last frontier of the Cold War

Yemen, the new Waziristan
The United States fighting machine is still hostage to the outdated notion of "territory". So it's automatic to have the Pentagon dispatch its might to fight "al-Qaeda" in Yemen and in the Waziristan tribal areas in Pakistan. All that is there, though, beyond some individualistic neo-jihadis, is ghosts. - Pepe Escobar (Feb 10, '10)

Staring at the abyss
On Indonesia's tropical island of Bali, everything is about sekala and niskala, ritual and the occult. In the United States, the Pentagon has its occult as it continues its descent into the ghostly abyss of its "long war". When President Obama visits Indonesia next month, he'd do well to do some soul-searching on Bali if he is to avoid being permanently engulfed by hungry ghosts. - Pepe Escobar (Feb 4, '10)

Empire reloaded
According to United States President Barack Obama, AfPak is still the epicenter of al-Qaeda, but the Yemen chapter is a more serious problem. Thus comes into play still one more rehash of the same old narrative: a fragile dictator, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, needs America to defeat the terrorists. - Pepe Escobar (Jan 12, '10)

China plays Pipelineistan
While China is at the forefront of moves toward green energy supplies, it is leaving nothing to chance. Imported oil and gas are still crucial - and will be for a long time - to its economic growth, and Central Asia is key to Beijing's wide-ranging energy strategy. - Pepe Escobar (Dec 23, '09)

Dancing the revolution away
The ballet Red Detachment of Women, popular with Mao Zedong during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, is now playing again in Beijing, complete with capitalist roaders, psychedelic cartoon sets and girls with guns. Given the way China's economy has progressed - and where it is heading - the dancing girls should be prancing around in Pradas, Guccis and Jimmy Choos, sipping champagne and juxtaposed against steel and glass sets. - Pepe Escobar (Dec 17, '09)

Iraq's oil auction hits the jackpot
Russia and China were the big winners in the latest auction of Iraq's oil rights, as was the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki; United States companies were conspicuous by their absence. If the oil starts to flow as now promised, the next few years should see the rise of a relatively wealthy, Shi'ite-controlled Iraq, friendly with Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah. Does this make Maliki the new Saddam Hussein? - Pepe Escobar (Dec 15, '09)

Hopenhagen's dirty secret
As developing countries accuse the industrialized North of trying to side-step cuts in carbon emissions, the real winners of the Copenhagen climate summit are emerging: Wall Street and Big Oil. While Wall Street banks will probably turn climate change into a new commodities market, marketing it as an investment product, Big Oil is likely to make a killing from a global carbon tax. (Dec 9, '09)

Vietnam-lite is unveiled
United States President Barack Obama took pains in his speech to distance his new Afghan policy from the traumas of the Vietnam War, but there are that signs his "war of necessity" is inviting history to repeat itself. Costing trillions of dollars, the surge will see occupation troops next year reach the peak level of the Soviet occupation. Still, it's great news for the Pentagon and its agenda of full spectrum dominance. (Dec 2, '09)

China bemused by flat Europe
In theory, Europe now has a unified voice. But while Europeans were expecting bubbly champagne, they were handed flat cola in the form of the new European Council president, Belgian Herman van Rompuy, and quasi-EU foreign affairs minister, Baroness Catherine Ashton. China might well ask the immortal 1970s Henry Kissinger question: "Which number do I dial when I want to talk to Europe?" (Dec 1, '09)

Welcome to the Luladinejad axis
Brazil President Luiz Inacio Lula's warm embrace of visiting Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said it all - this is how to make progress between countries. And as Lula made clear his support of Iran's stance over nuclear power, business leaders were adding depth to the warming relations. (Nov 25, '09)

Welcome, comrade Maobama
United States President Barack Obama visits Beijing as China is organizing a new world order based on economic independence and respecting cultural and political differences - a hierarchical change all nations can believe in. Beijing welcomes being classed as the US's "essential partner" and "competitor"; being competitive is second nature when you have been a major economic power for 18 of the past 20 centuries. (Nov 16, '09)

Breaking up is (not) hard to do
The Pentagon well knows that AfPak is the key land bridge between Iran to the west and China and India to the east; and that Iran has all the energy that both China and India need. The balkanization of AfPak would neutralize China's drive for land access from Xinjiang across Pakistan to the Arabian Sea, via the port of Gwadar in Balochistan province. (Nov 6, '09)
This is the concluding article in a two-part report.PART 1: Welcome to Pashtunistan

Welcome to Pashtunistan
A rough beast, its hour come at last, Pashtunistan is already being born across the strategic corridor straddling eastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan. If the Pakistani Taliban and their Pashtun allies manage to establish full control, with or without jihadi support, an Islamic emirate will for all practical purposes be constituted. (Nov 5, '09)
This is the first article in a two-part report.

Jundallah versus the mullahtariat
Sunday's suicide bombing in Iran has set off a war: it's the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps against Pakistani Balochistan-based Jundallah and the massive drug trafficking network in the area. In terms of the turbulent, internal political equation in Iran, the show of force against a key element of the mullahtariat could not be more devastating. (Oct 20, '09)

Putin lays down law for Clinton
United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's appeal in Moscow for Russia to embrace "diversity" and her belief that the Kremlin will approve more sanctions on Iran got short shrift from Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as he busied himself elsewhere, stitching together crucial energy deals in China. (Oct 16, '09)

Stuck in Kabul, with Saigon blues again
What is now being preformed for Washington galleries is the spectacle of the dance of the generals - Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, National Security Adviser retired General Jim Jones and top man in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal. The Pentagon and its experts argue the US should "Afghanize" the war - but the staggering financial black hole is just getting bigger as the US slouches towards "Chaos-istan". (Oct 7, '09)

Jumpin' Jack Verdi, it's a gas, gas, gas
Washington wants reluctant Europeans to wean themselves off Russian gas and do more to protect Pipelineistan - that network of real and virtual routes intended to channel from the planet's most fractured political landscape the lifeblood of the world's richest industrial area. It's a new great game, and it's still the Cold War. It's pure opera, on a grand, grand scale. - Pepe Escobar (Oct 2, '09)

It's bomb, bomb, bomb Iran time
Israel, sundry Sunni Arab puppet rulers and dictators, the American right and the European right, these all fear Iran's regional clout and want to castigate Tehran in Thursday's nuclear talks. Iran's nuclear dossier - and new revelations about a second, not-so-secret enrichment plant - could not be a more convenient cover story for regime change. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 30, '09)

The president is in the trunk
The June 28 oligarch-directed military coup in Honduras has exposed the fallacy of the Barack Obama administration's pledge to uphold democratic values around the world. It unveils how helpless he is facing his subordinates at the Pentagon and the State Department. If Obama can't even control his own militarist backyard in Washington, not to mention Latin America, how will he face up to Russia and China? - Pepe Escobar (Sep 24, '09)

More questions on 9/11
Last week, on the eighth anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington, Asia Times Online posed 50 unanswered questions about the immense, mysterious 9/11 riddle. Due to overwhelming reader response, here's a follow-up with 20 more questions - with a hat-tip to all readers who joined the debate. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 17, '09)

Fifty questions on 9/11
It's eight years since the fateful day that terror struck at the heart of the United States. The rebranded "global war on terror" still rages, with the epicenter now back where it began, in Afghanistan. After all these years, unanswered questions remain over both the events of September 11, and what followed; they're food for serious reflection. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 10, '09)

Enduring Freedom until 2050
In only 450 days, the number of troops in Afghanistan has swelled from 67,000 to 118,000. Since 2001, the United States has spent $179 billion in the country, while its European allies have burned $102 billion. The tragicomedy is clear: the US and its allies will do - and spend - whatever it takes to implant military bases on the doorstep of Russia and China, and to get their gas pipeline on track. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 8, '09)

US's 'arc of instability' just gets bigger
In 2007, a former US ambassador to Colombia was sent to Afghanistan to implement a counter-insurgency disguised as a war on drugs. It makes some sense: Afghanistan is to opium what Colombia is to cocaine. And inevitably that's where the North Atlantic Treaty Organization comes in. The only part of the world where NATO is still not active is ... South America. The New Great Game will soon stretch from AfPak to Mexico. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 2, '09)

The glitzy face of Eurabia
Qatar's Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani enjoys his French connection - and the feeling is mutual. The emir has big plans for his tiny emirate and its huge oil and gas reserves, while France's president enjoys cozying up with a key Persian Gulf actor. Expect Qatar to buy more Paris real estate, as more French arms and passenger jets go in the opposite direction. - Pepe Escobar
(Aug 27, '09)

The Afghan pipe dream
Washington says success in Afghanistan involves "diplomacy, development and good governance" - but all that the world sees is the 96,500 - and counting - coalition troops now on the ground to "fight the Taliban". As for the election, who cares who's the winner - President Hamid Karzai, Abdullah Abdullah or anyone else? Afghanistan will be ruled by Barack Hussein Obama anyway. - Pepe Escobar (Aug 19, '09)

Jihad bling bling
The toned and tanned of St Tropez - sipping chilled wine aboard multimillion-euro yachts anchored at this mythic Mediterranean port - don't do drones. Especially not the kind that took out Pakistani warlord Baitullah Mehsud last week. And for them, an economic "crisis" is not landing the best five-star table in town. Welcome to the gauche and gleaming epicenter of hypercapitalism. - Pepe Escobar (Aug 13, '09)

Iran, China and the New Silk Road
China's denial of Iran into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization last year might signal that a Beijing-Tehran axis doesn't exist, yet a strategic alliance between the pair is essential to counter Western influence in their domain. For China, Iran is all about Pipelineistan, the Asian Energy Security Grid and the New Silk Road. - Pepe Escobar (Jul 24, '09)
This article concludes a two-part report.
Part 1: Iran and Russia, scorpions in a bottle

Iran and Russia, scorpions in a bottle
A nuclear Iran would inevitably turbo-charge a new, emerging multipolar world - one that does not rely on the United States to subjugate the bulk of oil in the Arab Middle East. But the Iranian nuclear dossier cannot be solved without Russia, leaving Moscow with a key moderating role between Iran and the West. No matter how nasty the overtones, the Iran-Russia dynamic is the pacemaker for the heart of the New Great Game. - Pepe Escobar(Jul 23, '09)
This is the first article in a two-part report.

Supreme Leader Marcello Mastroianni
Forget Iran's Ali Khamenei. Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni is the real supreme leader. Just watch him in Pietro Germi's 1961 black-and-white masterpiece, Divorzio all'italiana, or Federico Fellini's iconic La Dolce Vita. They don't make movies like that anymore. But how about a Divorce - Italian-style set in the Pashtun tribal areas, with a US Marine eloping with a local girl? Or better yet, in Barbarella fashion, with a sexy drone. - Pepe Escobar (Jul 21, '09)

Kashmir: Ground zero of global jihad
The jihad waged by Pakistani militants in divided Kashmir and the Taliban-backed jihad in Afghanistan against foreign troops have always been two sides of the same coin. The Taliban have established roots in Pakistan's Swat Valley, which lies between the borders of Afghanistan and Kashmir. If they become entrenched, Jihad International Inc will have a vital corridor linking these areas. - Pepe Escobar (Jul 16,'09)

Go ahead Bibi - drop the bomb
As unclenched fists go, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu's government and that of the newly empowered administration of the "mullahtariat" in Iran now seem to be locked in a free-for-all cage match - regardless of United States President Barack Obama's self-styled "refereeing" positioning. - Pepe Escobar (Jul 7,'09)

Superfat hits Asia
In 2007, diabetes affected 46.5 million adults in Southeast Asia. By 2025, it will strike more than 80 million. At the same time, Asia is getting fat - leading to the specter of "diabesity" - the deadly coupling of diabetes and obesity. Now, a group of global specialists has gathered in Thailand to spread the alarm to doctors all over Asia. - Pepe Escobar (Jul 1,'09)

Requiem for a revolution
In the end, the sound and fury of the "Tehran spring" led to neither reform nor revolution. The army didn't support the people, and the merchants and workers didn't go on strike. Still, to believe that Iran's national interest and the aspirations of its disenchanted masses will be defended by the new dictatorship of the mullahtariat is to completely miss the point. (Jun 29,'09)

Iran's streets are lost, but hope returns
People power may have lost in the streets against a massive repression machine, but Iranians are not afraid anymore. They believe another Iran is possible. All hopes lie on a protracted, creative, subversive, underground and parallel movement of civil disobedience, with strikes and mourning ceremonies held up and down the country. The seeds of the next revolution have already been planted. (Jun 24,'09)

Meet Shah Ali Khamenei
Iranian protest leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, hurled despite himself into the eye of an historic hurricane, now follows the human flow of people power claiming that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's title is illegitimate; that his credibility as a religious scholar was and remains shaky. All the same, Khamenei's power remains complete. (Jun 22,'09)

Divine assessment vs people power
It was like a bossa nova song playing on an elevator on fire: while people power was still driving events in Tehran, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad showed up at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization proclaiming "the international capitalist order is retreating" and that the age of empires has ended. That's entirely possible - but maybe some other old orders are ending as well. (Jun 18,'09)

The meaning of the Tehran spring
Iran's President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has made his power play against challengers Mir Hossein Mousavi and Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei fully supported him. As the aftermath unwinds, Mousavi and Rafsanjani need an urgent counterpunch, and their only possible play - given that no pacifying solution can be found within the institutional framework of the Islamic Republic - is to go after Khamenei. (Jun 15,'09)

Poetic justice of a green revolution
President Mahmud Ahmadinejad was never more dangerous then when lying about inflation and unemployment in TV debates to lure the votes of Iran's poor. But this may not come close to the green power he is up against. Psychedelic green. The color of Islam, the color of presidential challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi and, for many, the color of hope. (Jun 11,'09)

The shadow war in Balochistan
With or without using Jundallah for its own Iran-destabilizing agenda, Washington's "other" war is about to hit Balochistan in Pakistan full speed ahead. By mid-summer, the US's Afghan surge in troops will be in position. A new American mega-base in Helmand province's "desert of death" will be operational. Assassination teams, drone attacks and Hellfire missiles will boil this tense tri-border area. Shadowplay rules. (Jun 3,'09)

Pipelineistan goes Iran-Pak
A deal was finally signed this week in Tehran by which Iran will sell gas from its South Pars mega-fields to Pakistan by way of the 2,100-kilometer, US$7.5 billion Iran-Pakistan pipeline. For the moment, Iran, Pakistan, China and Russia win. Washington and NATO lose, not to mention Afghanistan. But will Balochistan province also win? If not, all hell will break loose, creating an even greater, regional, ball of fire. (May 28,'09)

Slouching towards balkanization
Washington is focused on the Pakistani province of Balochistan like a laser. In an evolving strategy of balkanization of the country - increasingly popular in Washington foreign-policy circles - Balochistan has very attractive assets: natural wealth, scarce population and a port, which is key for Pipelineistan plans. (May 21,'09)

Pipelineistan goes Af-Pak
From the "Las Vegas of Central Asia" to the backlands of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and Pakistan to Beijing, Moscow and Washington, the politics of "blue gold" (natural gas) and great-power politics are playing out in a lethal liquid war. (May 13,'09)

Balochistan is the ultimate prize
Strategically, the Pakistani province of Balochistan is mouth-watering: east of Iran, south of Afghanistan, and boasting three Arabian sea ports, including Gwadar - a harbor built by China - which is the absolute key. The only acceptable scenario for the Pentagon is to take over Gwadar, gaining a prime confluence of Pipelineistan and the US empire of bases. The die has been cast. (May 8,'09)
This is the concluding article in a two-part report.

PART 1: Obama does his Bush impression

Obama does his Bush impression
This week's summit between United States President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai and President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan was less about saving lives than it was about rhetorically re-inventing - and physically relocating - the past administration's "global war on terror". The question is: how far will the three leaders go to wipe out al-Qaeda in Afghanistan or halt the Predator drone war against Pashtun peasants in Pakistan? (May 7,'09)

The myth of Talibanistan
The Taliban's activities in Buner in Pakistan - which prompted a sharp response from the military - have raised concern over the country to the level of hysteria; that it is about to fall to an army of turbans. This is not going to happen. What is happening is that the United States, to legitimize the next stage in the Af-Pak war, is creating a new uber-bogeyman - Pakistan Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud. (Apr 30,'09)

Torture whitewash from The Dark Side
The drama of torture memos released last week is shaping up as a case of American exceptionalism one cannot believe in. Without accepting full responsibility for torture - and illegal, pre-emptive wars - there can be no catharsis in America. President Barack Obama is smart enough to know that if he looks the other way, this whole mess could come back to haunt, and even destroy, his presidency. (Apr 23,'09)

The mother of all cockfights
What President Barack Obama won't do - and the Pentagon won't allow - is to do a full Vietnam and go down as the president who lost the American empire of bases and the dream of prevailing in the New Great Game in Eurasia. Meanwhile, it will be Predator hell from above raining over angry Pashtun tribals in Pakistan. Make no mistake: there will be blood - a lot of blood. (Apr 16,'09)

The president makes a victory lap
President Obama's arrival in Baghdad for a gated-community photo op - without so much as a glimpse of real-life, messy, dangerous Red Zone Baghdad - made it shockingly clear that Obama, for all his charisma, is still the president of an occupying power. He says his presence can help resolve issues. His rhetorical change is more than welcome. But actions do speak louder than words. (Apr 8,'09)

Globocop versus the TermiNATO
No one will actually admit it - but many in Washington and Brussels would love the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to really be a borderless international sheriff, bypassing the United Nations to perform humanitarian imperialism all over the globe, taking out al-Qaeda and "terrorists" anywhere, and protecting energy pipelines for Western interests in all directions. (Apr 3,'09)

The secrets of Obama's surge
President Barack Obama is selling the US's military surge in Afghanistan and Pakistan as nation-building based on trust. A hard sell if there ever was one - as Washington cannot trust the Pakistani government or security forces, while the Pakistanis don't trust Washington. Can nation-building be done by Predator drones? Will this become Obama's Vietnam? Whatever it is, it's not about "terrorists". Not really. (Apr 1,'09)

Obama's Afghan Spaghetti Western
To sum up the acronym-infested situation in western Afghanistan, the whole picture looks like a version of the Sergio Leone-directed film The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The area's most important military base is Italian, where 3,000 men are charged with controlling a Mafia-run territory with Taliban Godfathers aplenty. The Italians are encircled, and even a "pizza surge" from Rome might not save them. (Mar 27,'09)

Liquid war: Welcome to Pipelineistan
The new Silk Road of energy sees Washington, Beijing, Moscow and Tehran fight for control of Caspian oil lines on a global energy battlefield on which the fate of humankind could well be settled. Pepe Escobar enters the Space Odyssey-style map room of Russian energy giant Gazprom, spends a rainy "night" in Georgia, and discovers the thrill of following energy around the "arc of instability". (Mar 25,'09)

Burn, Balochistan, burn
Somebody needs to tell United States President Barack Obama that a strong government in Kabul capable of overseeing its provinces and porous borders is a pipe dream, and that Western allies have no interest in participating in the US's new front in the Pakistani province of Balochistan. The best solution for Afghanistan remains China's: a UN peacekeeping force, largely composed of Muslim soldiers. (Mar 19,'09)

Another round of Ahmadineboom
With the reformist bloc split ahead of Iran's presidential elections on June 12, the road to victory now seems clear for incumbent Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who has just launched a charm offensive to calm the hardcore ayatollahs in Qom and upstage his only likely rival. The word in Tehran is that an Ahmadinejad second term would solidify all of Iran's fundamentalist factions. Hawks in Israel are already polishing their bombs. (Mar 18,'09)

Taliban set to burn the Reichstag?
The united Pakistani Taliban are helping to prepare a massive spring offensive directed by Mullah Omar against the surging United States-led coalition in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, cynics in Brussels bet that some weaponized arm of Western arrogance doesn't stand a chance against built-for-war mujahideen who have defeated everyone from Alexander the Great onwards. (Mar 12,'09)

The Obama-Medvedev turbo shuffle
US President Barack Obama won't ever play chess like the Russian masters, but a solid knowledge of Francis Coppola's Godfather flicks could carry the day with his Kremlin counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev. If Washington intends to lure Russia to the anti-Iran train, Obama had better leave the gun at home and call on Moscow with some cannoli. (Mar 4,'09)

Backstage at the theater of 'terror'
United States President Barack Obama - even without being an expert on the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater - has got to be clever enough to see the surge there as a suicidal gambit. The problem is that he still seems to believe the war is "winnable", and his newest definition for victory is "to defeat al-Qaeda". Well, if that is the mission he must pursue, the key is Pakistan, not Afghanistan. (Feb 26,'09)

Obama, Osama and Medvedev
The 1,600-kilometer Karachi-Khyber-Kabul supply line envisioned by the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is for all practical purposes dead - thanks to neo-Taliban guerrillas in Pakistan's tribal areas. If Washington and Moscow can't hash out a new route, the only other realistic possibility for the coalition is courting Iran, which is already deeply connected to Russia, and China. (Feb 19,'09)

Will Obama say 'we're sorry'?
Former ruler the shah and revolutionary leader ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini have been described as the two juxtaposed Irans: imperial Iran and the painful Iran of the blood of the martyr, "a juxtaposition that symbolizes an unreal dream ... a dementia of the inaccessible". For US President Barack Obama, the "inaccessible" can become more than accessible with just a simple "we're sorry". (Feb 12,'09)
This is the second article in a two-part report.

PART 1: Obama's Persian double

Obama's Persian double
Speaking on the 30th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad stressed that any United States changes in attitude towards Tehran had to be "fundamental and not tactical". It is now up to US President Barack Obama to differentiate between the two. Obama may, however, be saved from having to make a choice should Mohammad "dialogue of civilizations" Khatami return to power. (Feb 11,'09)
This is the first article of a two-part report

Obama's arc of instability
Announcing his new State Department, United States President Barack Obama stressed "America's commitment to lead". But lead where? Where's the boldness, the real change of mindset? The Pentagon's "arc of instability" hovers over Obama's "Clinton-3" State Department like a ghostly self-fulfilling prophecy. Unless, of course, the Obama White House really kicks out ideology and steers the US back to politics. (Jan 29,'09)

Fade out on George W Bush
What a record: stolen elections, corporate greed, fraud and corruption, unlimited spending, wealth redistribution (to the top), no checks and balances, rampant militarization, the destruction of Iraq, permanent war, and unquantifiable, unrepayable national debt. Not many world emperors are able to create a vast wasteland, call it a government, and then retire. (Jan 16,'09)

Obama and the new Latin America
Delegates to this week's groundbreaking, wide-ranging, 33-country Latin American and Caribbean summit in Brazil understandably devoted much time to Cuba, and its testy relations with the United States. This is just one of the challenges facing US president-elect Barack Obama in a fast-integrating Latin America in which China, Russia and Iran are increasingly active. (Dec 18,'08)

The emperor gets the boot
Call it poetic justice, but in the end President George W Bush found his weapons of mass destruction - in the form of two size 10 shoes hurled at his head. Bush may have dodged them with his "cat-like" reflexes, but metaphorically they managed to strike the huge army of assorted profiteers that made the Iraqi tragedy possible, while putting US public opinion to shame. The thrower, meanwhile, is being hailed across the Arab world. (Dec 17,'08)

Bush comfortable on the SOFA
When Iraqi parliamentarians vote on Wednesday on whether or not to endorse a security pact with the United States, many of them will not have had the opportunity to study the finer points. Perhaps all they need to know is that the Pentagon and President George W Bush are very comfortable with it. (Nov 25,'08)

A pact with the devil
Influential Shi'ite leader Muqtada al-Sadr is already threatening fire and brimstone over the Iraqi cabinet's approval of a draft security agreement with the United States. But Muqtada, currently studying in Iran, is in a difficult position: he has to confront the problem that in strategic terms, Tehran subscribes to not attacking US troops as the best way for the Americans to eventually leave. (Nov 17,'08)

The keys to the country
Politically, the long George W Bush night of the soul ends in some 70 days. Historically, led by a cool black man with a weapon of mass seduction, this passage of time could be the prelude to a new day. It's up to an engaged, tirelessly mobilized American society - and the whole planet - to turn hope into reality, and help this man "change America, and change the world". (Nov 7,'08)

The $55 trillion question
With a third presidential debate victory and a tottering American economy, conditions are in place for a Barack Obama landslide. But what will he win, exactly? Answer: A country $55 trillion in the hole (that's $480,000 per household), embroiled in unpopular wars and set to endure unemployment not seen since the 1930s. Perhaps conditions are also in place for Obama to ditch the "war on terror" - and launch a war on poverty. (Oct 16, '08)

A bailout and a new world
While the US is trying to implement its US$700 billion financial bail-out plan, French President Nicolas Sarkozy talks of "rebuilding" capitalism. In the corridors of the United Nations, there is talk of another kind of rebuilding, of a new multipolar world that would get rid of imperialism and colonialism. Call it the revenge of the developing world. (Sep 25, '08)

Iran-bashing from al-Qaeda's corner
Al-Qaeda's leadership, in a battle to seduce Muslim hearts and minds, says its top strategic enemy is Shi'ites - be it Tehran or Hezbollah - and not the United States. Winning over Shi'ites will fuel al-Qaeda's objective of a "long war" in which the only winner will be the US military-industrial complex. That's the sorry legacy of 9/11, seven years on. (Sep 11,'08)

All square
It's more than possible that within the next few months a pro-gun, pro-Big Oil, mooseburger-eating PR stunt named Sarah Palin, whose foreign policy credentials are burnished by a visit to Canada, will have her finger on America's nuclear button if anything untoward should happen to a septuagenarian president. But fear not: Palin will have a plan, just as she has/will have (it's not at all clear) a plan for Iraq: "[T]hat is what we have to make sure, [that] there is a plan and that plan is God's plan." (Sep 5, '08)

Paris Obama for president
American voters can abandon any hope for serious political debate in the race for the White House. The "swift-boating" campaign of Republican Senator John McCain paints Democratic rival Senator Barack Obama as too young, too arrogant and just too rock star to be president. The race is now all about Obama, and his campaign will have to change the rules, and do it quick. (Aug 7, '08)

Al-Qaeda's got a brand new bag
United States Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama has got it right - Afghanistan, and not Iraq, is "the central front in the war on terror". Al-Qaeda couldn't agree more. That is exactly where they want the war to be fought, and then extended into Pakistan. (Jul 23, '08)

Obama's brave (new?) world
At first glance, Democratic Senator Barack Obama's "new overarching strategy" for Iraq and Afghanistan is streets ahead of the approach proposed by his US presidential rival, Republican Senator John McCain. But from the planned withdrawal of troops from Iraq to dealing with the Taliban, Obama's vision, when it comes to implementation, will likely founder on the harsh realities that have so frustrated the George W Bush administration. (Jul 16, '08)

Iran's missiles are just for show
As a political statement to world leaders gathered in Japan, Iran's test-firing on Wednesday of nine long-and-medium range missiles was impeccable. But even if Iran had the physical means to deliver the nuclear warheads it does not possess, these tests do not mean it has mastered the capability to do so. Iran's real deterrence against an attack comes from the reorganization of its military, giving it effectively 30 armies spread across the country. (Jul 10, '08)

Big Oil's 'secret' out of Iraq's closet
The Iraqi war's worst-kept secret saw daylight this week with a report on the role US government-led advisers played in drawing up contracts for Western oil companies to develop Iraqi oil fields. The big prize is still being pursued, as is the White House's other dream - a US$7.6 billion, 1,600-kilometer pipeline through Afghanistan. (Jul 3, '08)

Why Iraq won't be South Korea
President George W Bush's last call in Iraq is an agreement that would create a US-style consumer society in the Mesopotamian sands, a demilitarized client state under benign US protection. Better yet, it could be like a 21st century version of the South Korean "tiger" miracle. The problem is, Iraqis aren't buying into it. And without an agreement, and a new US-friendly Iraqi oil law, Bush's US$3 trillion Iraq adventure will have been for nothing. (Jun 19, '08)

Gaza: Mogadishu or Dubai?
Battered Gaza, a new line of thinking goes, could be turned from a war-ravaged "Mogadishu" into a prosperous hub such as Dubai. First, though, the "terrorists" Hamas have to be smashed into oblivion. Anyway, that's not the real issue: Gaza goes way beyond Hamas: it is directly connected to the larger Israel and United States-Iran confrontation. (Jun 13, '08)

And the winner is ... the Israel lobby
For many decades, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee has helped shape the United States' ties with Israel, to the extent it maintains a virtual stranglehold over the US Congress and powerful think-tanks. This week, Washington's political elite, including all three presidential hopefuls, will address the committee's annual meeting. Beyond the US-Israel relationship, expect sharp pointers to "the Iran problem". (Jun 2, '08)

The Mosul riddle
While most attention in Iraq is focused on Baghdad and the troubles in Sadr City, under the global radar an invisible war in Mosul drags on, officially against al-Qaeda in Iraq jihadis but in fact a barely disguised anti-Sunni mini-pogrom conducted by government-embedded militias. (May 23, '08)

The US-Iran sound bite showdown
Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's latest comments on Israel have been variously translated in the Western media, the most ominous saying Israel will not save itself from "death and destruction". This will inevitably be seized on by the George W Bush administration as more evidence that Tehran wants to "destroy" Israel, muscling up the case for a preemptive US attack. Maybe that is what Ahmadinejad intends.  (May 15, '08)

How under-the-gun Iran plays it cool
What Iranian leaders dream of is an Iran respected as a major power. To this end, they have little choice, faced with the enmity of the globe's "sole superpower" - its sanctions and its ring of military bases - but to employ a sophisticated counter-encirclement foreign policy. And given President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's place in the country's politico-religious politics, he might be betting on the usefulness of an American air assault.  (May 2, '08)

Hillary, the war chick
It was a silly question to begin with, but Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton jumped in boots and all, saying if she were US president and Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons, she would "obliterate" Iran. Clinton's positioning spells Imperial Washington in all its glory - and hubris. (Apr 25, '08)

My militia is more untouchable than yours
Iraq, transfixed by no less than 28 militias, is burning - again. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has made a lot of noise about an ongoing government crackdown on these groups. But some militias are more untouchable than others: the Kurdish Peshmergas fall under the radar, while Muqtada al-Sadr's are bang in the line of fire. (Apr 17, '08)

Evil Iran, the new al-Qaeda
The recent opinion piece by senators Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham was soothing for George W Bush administration supporters in its assurances that the "surge" in Iraq is successful as well as noble. It also served as a convenient demonizing of Iran. As for the majority of the American public, which has had enough of an endless war, it's nothing but an insult to their collective intelligence. (Apr 9, '08)

The other Iraqi civil war
Even under George W Bush logic, "the terrorists" won and Iran won, this time in the battle of Basra. In the north of Iraq, though, the pieces are falling into place for an alliance between the United States, Israel and a "greater Kurdistan". If only the pesky Iraqi nationalist Sunnis and Shi'ites don't get in the way. (Apr 2, '08)

Shocked, awed and left to rot
US Vice President Dick Cheney is spot on when he talks of "phenomenal changes" in Iraq. Millions of Iraqis have lost their homes, their jobs, their families, their dreams and in countless cases their own lives because of a pre-emptive war. And all the while, anti-American Muqtada al-Sadr will ultimately be the lord of what remains of Iraq. (Mar 19, '08)

Relax and float south stream
The decision by three Central Asian energy exporters to charge Gazprom a higher rate for gas it then channels to Europe looks like a severe blow to the Russian company. But US and European hopes that they might secure some independence from Russia at the other end of the supply chain increasingly look like wishful thinking. (Mar 13, '08)

As alliances shift, Iran wins. Again
The George W Bush administration promoted a Turkey-Israel axis, a Sunni Arab "axis of fear" and then a Saudi-Israeli nexus, always trying to isolate Iran. None of these concoctions has worked, and there are even hints that Washington and Tehran have concluded a secret deal brokered by Saudi Arabia to hammer out contentious issues. This might be fanciful, but the bottom line is that Iran sees itself as the ultimate victor of the US war on Iraq.  (Mar 6, '08)

A long road from Kosovo to Kurdistan
The embrace by Washington of Kosovo's declaration of independence has less to do with democracy than with hard-nosed pragmatism. The US's biggest foreign military base - Camp Bondsteel - since the Vietnam War lies in Kosovo, and the region will be home to a US$1.1 billion pipeline that will get oil from the Caspian Sea ultimately to refineries in the US. Kurds in Iraq, believing Kosovo to be a precedent for an independent Kurdistan, will be disappointed: the US-sanctioned Turkish invasion of northern Iraq has seen to that. - (Feb 28, '08)

Iran-Russia: Strategically on message
A deal that will expand Gazprom's interest in Iran's South Pars gas field and involve daughter company Gazpromneft in an oil project in the country underlines Tehran's expanding role in the region's energy sector and the immunity of Russian gas companies from sanctions emanating from the United States. -(Feb 26, '08)

Slouching towards Petroeurostan
The Iranian International Petroleum Exchange started business this week. It was a low-key affair, yet it could mark a key point in the decline of the US dollar as a world currency while offering oil producers a vital option to using existing middlemen and exchanges that at present control the global oil market. -  (Feb 20, '08)

The state of the (Iraqi) union
It's more a state of disunion in Iraq, where George W Bush's invasion has left a divided nation in anger, sorrow and shambles. Whether his successor is Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton - or anyone else - they are not willing to defend progressive ideas and detail how they realistically plan to confront the quagmire. - (Jan 29, '08)

'Our' dictator gets away with it
The embrace of President George W Bush and President General Pervez Musharraf endures. Pakistan and its people caught in the middle are left to watch their country burn, and contemplate the worst-case scenario of partition. (Nov 27, '07)

Iraq: Call an air strike
There might be less violence in Baghdad, but that's because sectarian clashes have died down as there are virtually no more neighborhoods to be ethnically cleansed. And US engagements are declining, but only because troops are spending more time in the bases. Now, whenever there is a mission in Baghdad, it inevitably means an air strike. (Nov 9, '07)

Bush's Turkey shoot
The astute Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, knew before he set foot in Washington that a sound bite would be about all President George W Bush would have to offer on the explosive Turkey vs Kurdistan Workers' Party crisis. Now Erdogan will wait - for just a little while - and if nothing moves, Turkey will strike northern Iraq, hard, without consulting Washington. (Nov 6, '07)

Double-crossing in Kurdistan
The United States plan for Iraq all along has been no less than a "soft" partition, including an autonomous Kurdish mini-state and Shi'ite and Sunni regions. Even Turkey had signed on to this, provided the Iraqi Kurds cracked down on Kurdish militants striking into Turkey. With the militants running wild, though, Ankara has to take care of matters itself - and risk throwing the whole grand scheme into jeopardy, including the US's designs on Iran. (Nov 1, '07)

The Turks are coming
The United States military commander in northern Iraq has made it clear that he will do "absolutely nothing" about reining in Kurdish rebels in the area. This leaves Turkey with no option but to take matters into its own hands. The major plot, though, is the future of Iraq, or more precisely, the partition of Iraq. (Oct 29, '07)

'War on terror' is now war on Iran
In the face of new United States sanctions, the Iranian companies and individuals affiliated with the now "terrorist" Revolutionary Guards Corps will have plenty of opportunities for doing business with Russia, China or Arab monarchies, or they may resort to the black market. But given the pervasive business and national security influence of the Guards, by branding them as terrorists Washington has declared war on the Iranian power elite. (Oct 26, '07)

Attack Iran and you attack Russia
On the international front, Iran and Russia appear to have agreed on a plan to nullify the George W Bush administration's relentless drive towards launching a preemptive strike against Iran. On the home front, though, differences between President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei widen. There can only be one winner.
(Oct 25, '07)

Iran jails its conscience
Iran's leading human rights activist is in solitary confinement in Tehran's sinister Evin prison. Tehran is in need of a new public relations strategy. Just when it most needs friends, it sends Emadeddin Baghi to jail - not exactly a brilliant move. (Oct 17, '07)

It's the resistance, stupid
Coalitions Washington didn't count on are growing in Iraq with formerly unlikely alliances between Sunnis and Shi'ites being made, with all opposed to US super-bases, a federalized Iraq and oil thirsty occupiers in general.  (Oct 16, '07)

General Petraeus in his labyrinth
The US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, continues to build an ever growing heart of darkness in Baghdad and, eventually he hopes, in Tehran. The latest addition to his arsenal in the plan to attack the "terrorist" Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps inside Iran is a former small terrorist group once sheltered by Saddam Hussein and now by the US, and the Kurdish PKK and PJAK groups now stirring trouble in Iran, as well as Turkey, from Iraqi Kurdistan. (Oct 12, '07)

Che lives
Forty years after he was executed at the behest of the CIA after failing miserably to incite revolution in Bolivia, Ernesto "Che" Guevera's image and inspiration both eclipse anything he accomplished in life. From Bengal to Brazil and all points in between the myth has overtaken the man. (Oct 9, '07)

A divided Iraq just doesn't add up
Although the United States Senate's vote to split Iraq into a loose, three-region sectarian federation is non-binding, it reflects sentiment both in the US and in sections of Iraq about what might be in store. Yet it would be an unmitigated disaster, at best leading to partition, at worst to ethnic cleansing. (Oct 3, '07)

The southern axis of evil
After Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's frosty reception in New York, the red carpets were rolled out for him in Bolivia and Venezuela, Iran's key strategic allies in South America. The trade deals Ahmadinejad signed are significant, as is his realization of which way the winds are blowing in a new world order. (Oct 2, '07)

Buddha vs the barrel of a gun
With the United Nations as his stage, US President George W Bush announced to the world his decision to slap new economic sanctions on Myanmar. This is just for internal American consumption. The outcome of the showdown between thousands of Buddhist monks and the military rulers in Myanmar will in all likelihood be decided in China. (Sep 26, '07)

'Hitler' does New York
Despite his demonization by the White House, US media and his Columbia University host, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's skillful and manipulative Big Apple blitz has wowed the audience that really matters: worldwide Muslim public opinion. For those who listened, unlike the many who simply brand the man as too evil to speak, Ahmadinejad coolly turned American disinformation on its head to his own advantage. (Sep 25, '07)

Welcome to Planet Gaza
The Israeli cabinet's edict to declare the Gaza Strip a "hostile territory" and slowly grind its population even further down is only the latest strategy to sabotage any attempt by Hamas to govern the Strip properly. It's also a template for US logic in Iraq. (Sep 21, '07)

French-kissing the war on Iran
Mohamed ElBaradei, the chief of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, has dropped his diplomatic demeanor in an attempt to defuse French comments over "preparing for the worst" - war on Iran. ElBaradei has already upset Western powers led by the United States by brokering an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program. Now he is up against a France playing messenger to big (energy) business. (Sep 18, '07)

Mr Bush, your sheikh is dead
Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq on Thursday, was the congenial face of the United States' efforts to engage Sunnis in the reconciliation process with the Shi'ite-led government. The prime suspect is al-Qaeda, which the sheikh's alliance was fighting with weapons and money supplied by the US. But Abu Risha had other enemies, especially among Sunnis whose main goal remains ending the occupation, not befriending it. (Sep 14, '07)

Behind the Anbar myth
One of the key arguments in General David Petraeus' presentation to the US Congress this week was the close collaboration between the occupation and Sunni tribal leaders in al-Anbar province. Nothing could be further from the truth: what success there is in Anbar is not due to the general's wily ways, but to an Iraqi sheikh. And even then, US occupation forces remain the main enemy. (Sep 13, '07)

Sheikh Osama and the iPod general
Both Osama bin Laden and General David Petraeus aim to seduce multiple layers of constituencies, but above all US public opinion. The al-Qaeda leader revels in what he views as the United States' failed imperial project and promotes a global "protest movement". Washington's top man in Iraq still sees success in the "surge". How different things might have been had Petraeus been set loose on bin Laden's trail six years ago. (Sep 11, '07)

From al-Qaeda to al-Quds
The only guiding logic of the US far right in power is permanent war and any excuse will do for President George W Bush to attack Iran. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps will retaliate and all of Iran, out of Persian national pride, will rally behind the supreme leader, President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and the theocratic police state. So much for regime change. (Sep 6, '07)

Bush's brand-new poodle
With former British prime minister Tony Blair put out to new pastures, US President George W Bush has a newer, leaner, meaner, adrenaline-packed "Made in France" version of his favorite ally in all things "war on terror". President Nicolas Sarkozy has wasted no time in joining the demonize-Iran campaign, and is taking trans-Atlantic entente to new levels. (Aug 29, '07)

Welcome to Hillary's wars
With her eye on the US presidency, Hillary Clinton is jockeying for a macho political position. Whether she means it or not, the reality if she becomes president is that she knows the US powers-that-be, even if they are in decline, will never accept a majority-Shi'ite Iraqi government aligned with an Islamic Republic of Iran. (Aug 23, '07)

Highlights of the (not so) silly season
All is not well in France, even though its new president is the best-loved Frenchman in the US since Lafayette, its newspapers have simply erased the Iraq war from their pages, and mini-Eiffel Towers made in China for 10 cents each and sold by immigrant Africans in front of the real thing (which itself is surrounded by Chinese-owned real estate) can be had for a mere US$5. Meanwhile in Iran, things are even sillier - and nastier. (Aug 15, '07)

We all live in an Antonioni world
Decades before mobile phones connected us with everything except the dry cleaners, Michelangelo Antonioni, the great Italian film director who died this week at 94, was focused on what is worth being communicated. He was not only the great painter of the cataclysmic 1960s, he was the painter of the world we now live in. Pepe Escobar bids him buona notte. (Aug 2, '07)

Fun and games on the Arab Riviera
What better place than the French Riviera for President George W Bush to hold his proposed Middle East peace summit? The region's movers and shakers own villas in the quaintly named "California" estate, where they escape the scorching summers of the Middle Eastern desert. Pepe Escobar explores a corner of Europe divided not by Christian vs Muslim, but by ultra-haves and aspiring have-somethings. (Jul 20, '07)

Iraq, the new Israel
While US President George W Bush fiddles, Baghdad continues to burn, fueled by divide-and-conquer tactics inspired by Israel's occupation of Palestine.  (Jul 5, '07)

Hamastan and Red Zoneistan
Gaza is a gulag. The West Bank is a series of unconnected ghettoes. Baghdad is now a gulag. Iraq has been reduced to a series of unconnectable ghettoes. "Terrorist" Gaza has been already downgraded to Hamastan. The Red Zone - that is, real Baghdad - is actually Red Zoneistan. (Jun 28, '07)

Levitate the Pentagon
The year was 1967, and Americans were advised to turn on, tune in and drop out. Forty years later, the slogan might as well be turn off, tune out and drop dead. They missed an opportunity then to levitate the Pentagon, and so the only way to stop the insanity of Iraq, and probably soon Iran, is a thorough mobilization of public opinion, as in Vietnam. Alas, there are no second acts in this drama.  (Jun 18, '07)

Welcome to the summer of hate
Forty years ago, when The Beatles released their Sgt Pepper's album, the world seemed to be singing in tune. It marked the beginning of the Summer of Love, even if it included Vietnam War escalation. Today, we have Patti Smith singing covers of The Beatles, Iraq instead of Vietnam, and a possible attack on Iran. Call it the summer of hate. (Jun 1, '07)

The second coming of Saladin
Political repression, social inequality and economic disaster across the Middle East are the consequences of decades of "divide and rule" imperialist meddling followed by  rapacious rule by local elites. Yet the potential for unity in the Muslim world is not a chimera. Who will be the 21st century equivalent of Saladin, the greatest warrior of Islam? Such a one is needed to reunite the ummah.
(May 17, '07)

The true heart of darkness
Iraq is and will remain for years to come the real heart of darkness of the early 21st century. Forget about Russia or China; now, finally, the Bush administration, the military-industrial complex and assorted armchair warriors can finally be assured that the US has found an enemy for life. (May 16, '07)

The 'dirty thieves' of Sadr City
Once the jewel of the Middle East, al-Mustansariya University struggles on amid the chaos of Baghdad. Students hold out for a mostly worthless degree in hopes it will help them find jobs outside of Iraq. Once the meeting place of wealthy Arabs, it is now mostly made up of lower-class Shi'ites, which the former elite looked down on as "dirty thieves" of Sadr City. (May 15, '07)

'The cultivation of life'
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, despite what many believe, does not have the "privilege" to issue a religious decree that could bring the US occupation in Iraq to an abrupt end. Rather, leading Shi'ite cleric Sheikh Mohammed al-Roubaie tells Pepe Escobar, people should be more spiritual. It's as simple as that. (May 11, '07)

Leave, or we will behead you
Dora was a prosperous middle-class neighborhood of Baghdad by the Tigris, rich in fruit and with a large Christian population. Now it's a favorite stomping ground of al-Qaeda in Iraq, and a vortex of ethnic and confessional cleansing. The few remaining Christians have a simple choice: either convert to Islam or pay a US$1,600 fee. Even then, the chances of being killed are high. (May 10, '07)

Inside Sadr City
The almost 3 million people in Sadr City, an immense Shi'ite slum in eastern Baghdad of ramshackle one-story buildings covered with dust, exude a resignation born of sadness. But at least they feel safe, Hussein al-Motery of the municipality tells Pepe Escobar. Unless, of course, Amrika attempts the Pentagon dream of smashing the place into submission. (May 9, '07)

Back to 'Saddam without a mustache'
The true measure of the overwhelming Iraqi tragedy is that people in Baghdad are now yearning for an ersatz Saddam Hussein. For many, former premier Iyad Allawi is just such a man. "We have cooperation with all national groups," Allawi's spokesman tells Pepe Escobar. What he does not say is that he also has the support of the US. (May 8, '07)

The man who might save Iraq
Sheikh Abdul Satter Abu Risha doesn't mince his words. Al-Qaeda in Iraq, now his bitter enemy, "has abused our traditions and generosity" and, he alleges, they even "take drugs". The Sunni leader tells Pepe Escobar about the powerful coalition of tribes in al-Anbar province he heads, with visions even of a Sunni coalition fighting alongside a predominantly Shi'ite Iraqi government against Salafi jihadi terror. (May 4, '07)

What Muqtada wants
All that the Sadrists want is a timetable for the US withdrawal from Iraq, Nasr al-Roubaie, Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's top man in government, tells Pepe Escobar. This struggle is both "peaceful and armed", he admits, and there is a possibility of an Iraqi shadow cabinet being formed uniting Sadrists and Sunni nationalists. But whatever happens, Muqtada remains the kingmaker. (May 3, '07)

Masri: Dead or alive, the terror continues
News that Abu al-Masri, the Egyptian-born leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, had been killed was ecstatically greeted in the 3-million-strong Shi'ite slum of Sadr City in Baghdad. The joy might be premature, as the death has not been confirmed. But true or not, the killing of Masri will make no difference. One, two, a thousand Masris are waiting in the wings, and al-Qaeda's strategy of non-stop bloody bombings to keep inciting Sunnis to attack Shi'ites won't change.  (May 2, '07)

ATol's "Roving Eye", Pepe Escobar, is back in Iraq and in the Red Zone - that is, everything outside "Fortress USA", the Green Zone. This is the first of his unembedded, non-Kevlar-protected, bodyguardless reports.
Baghdad up close and personal
Having dodged a bullet but not arrest by the Mehdi Army militia, Escobar witnesses the grand-scale mayhem and the minutiae of misery of Baghdad. In the deadly daily embrace of the Red Zone, the surreal overlaps Hollywood-style special effects while ethnic cleansing proceeds neighborhood by neighborhood and the bereaved are told to visit the market to find the missing limbs of their dead. (May 1, '07)

'All life is waiting'
For one attractive young Iraqi war widow, life these days is waiting, waiting, waiting in the consular section of the Iraqi Embassy in Damascus, where she and other desperate people seek that lucky piece of paper that might allow them to go to Portugal, or Spain, or anywhere. Anywhere except the living hell of Baghdad. "They destroyed our country. Why, why?" asks another. (Apr 26, '07)

We build walls, not nations
The 5-kilometer-long, 3.7-meter-high concrete wall being built to contain the Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiyah in Baghdad will fail, even if Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki doesn't manage to get it stopped. The US cannot cut off the head of the resistance in Iraq - simply because there is no head. Although talking to the nine recently united leading Sunni Arab resistance groups would be a start. (Apr 23, '07)

Hezbollah's big challenge
In Iraq, the US pits its own Shi'ite collaborators against "other" Shi'ites and assorted Sunnis in Iraq. In Lebanon, meanwhile, the US places its Sunni clients against Shi'ites, with help from jihadis linked to al-Qaeda. Hezbollah's challenge is to prevent this from developing into a regional Sunni-Shi'ite war. (Apr 18, '07)

The Baghdad gulag
The million-man Shi'ite march in Najaf coupled with the spectacular bombing of the Iraqi Parliament in the Green Zone truly spells the end of the US in Iraq. The only thing left is to turn Baghdad into a cluster of self-contained gated communities - a gulag - where the few can feel safe from the chaos around them. But isn't the Green Zone a gated community? (Apr 13, '07)

Night bus from Baghdad
In the mythology of US neo-cons, Syria is a sanctuary where jihadis rest and regroup before heading into Iraq on another bombing run. The reality is quite the opposite, as one can see at the Syria-Iraq border. The traffic is all one-way - in the direction of Syria, where tens of thousands of ordinary Iraqis now live a precarious, but safe, life far from the hell of Baghdad. (Apr 12, '07)

Who profits from a 'gas OPEC'?
A meeting in the tiny Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar may be signaling the birth of a new cartel grouping countries controlling 73% of the world's gas and 42% of production. The prospect is shaking the wealthy, gas-dependent countries of the West to the core. (Apr 10, '07)

In the heart of Little Fallujah
The hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees in Syria have created their own enclaves, from Little Fallujah to Little Mosul, where many have set up businesses. They pay in US dollars, dance to the tune of their own music and share one desire: to return to an Iraq free of occupying forces. Madam Speaker Nancy Pelosi would have learned a lot if she had taken a stroll in Little Fallujah. (Apr 5, '07)

British pawns in an Iranian game
The Iranian seizure of 15 British sailors may be much cleverer than it appears. Oil has moved above US$60 a barrel as a result of the incident. And if Tehran drags out proceedings, the Shi'ites in southern Iraq may take the hint and accelerate a confrontation, and even start merging with strands of the Sunni resistance. (Mar 28, '07) 

The man who would be king
Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall and Catastrophic Legacy by Andrew Cockburn
A fitting way to "celebrate" shock and awe, the bombastic opening of the most astonishing blunder in recent military/geopolitical history, would be to read this book about the life of Donald Rumsfeld, a life spent pursuing personal grandeur at enormous cost to entire nations, including his own. (Mar 20, '07)

The waterboarded evildoer
Just how much of Khalid Shaikh Mohammad's confession of terror attacks is true is a moot point. What does matter is the number of jihadis al-Qaeda's former operations chief taught. Probably dozens, and they are lurking in the shadows, ready to inflict blowback to kingdom come. (Mar 16, '07)

What drives biofuel Bush?
The prospect of a Green Saudi Arabia in America's "back yard" has US President George W Bush and Brazilian President Lula da Silva rubbing their hands together with glee after the signing of a potentially very lucrative biofuels agreement that could lead to a new form of colonialism in Latin America and the Caribbean.(Mar 13, '07)

The fall guy in Iraq
Even as the "surge" proceeds in Baghdad, the US is quietly moving to implement "Plan B", which would be nothing less than a coup d'etat pushing the hapless Nuri al-Maliki aside and installing former CIA asset and neo-con favorite Iyad Allawi back in as a dictator. Nothing less than a return to strongman rule will restore order, Washington believes. (Mar 12, '07)

Bush down south
US President George W Bush is headed Brasilia way to try to counter the growing influence of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez. He might as well stay home. Chavez is the king of Latin America, and the number of potential US allies among the pseudo-populist regimes, such as in Brazil, is diminishing by the day. (Mar 7, '07)

An ill wind in Iran
All is not well in Iran, specifically the health of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. One proposed succession plan involves the appointment of a triumvirate, rather than turn to the next in line, former president Hashemi Rafsanjani. Such a move, though, would lead to the isolation of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.(Mar 1, '07)

US's Iraq oil grab is a done deal
Under draft oil legislation approved by the Iraqi cabinet, the country's oil wealth will, in theory, be distributed directly to Kurds in the north, Shi'ites in the south and Sunnis in the center. In effect, the massive reserves will be under the iron rule of a fuzzy council boasting "a panel of oil experts from inside and outside Iraq". That is, nothing less than predominantly US Big Oil executives. -  (Feb 27, '07)

The hottest party in the galaxy
They're on patrol on the hot streets of Rio, where the only heat-seeking missiles around are the curvaceous Brazilian bombshells, and they are not to be dodged. Forget the Sambadrome and head for the supercharged blocos, full of pickpockets and chambermaids dressed up as Nordic goddesses. The Green Zone was never like this. (Feb 21, '07)

Iran, the EU and the Swiss way out
The Swiss propose that Iran stops feeding its centrifuges with processed uranium hexafluoride gas so that negotiations over Tehran's nuclear program can resume. Iran has indicated a willingness to talk, yet all the heavily disunited European Union appears capable of doing is shooting itself in the foot. (Feb 14, '07)

Slouching toward D-day
The battle for Baghdad has officially begun. It's a double bill involving suppression of Sunni militants and defanging Sadr City, the vast Shi'ite enclave that staunchly backs cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mehdi Army. This counterinsurgency against classic guerrilla tactics with popular support is doomed. Inevitably, Iran will be blamed. (Feb 8, '07)

A massacre and a new civil war
The massacre at Najaf points to a Baghdad-concocted operation designed to torpedo an increasingly popular, non-sectarian Sunni and Shi'ite Iraqi nationalist alliance that is anti-US and anti-Iran. In the process, yet another civil war could emerge - "Arab" Shi'ites against "Persian" Shi'ites. (Feb 2, '07)

The 'axis of fear' is born
Given the disaster of occupied Iraq, the Bush administration has a new scapegoat: exit al-Qaeda, enter Iran. The Sunni Arab "axis of fear" is merrily playing along, stoking the chaos on which the US underpins its plans for a "new Middle East" - internal sectarianism and state-to-state sectarianism. (Feb 1, '07)

The state of the (dis)union
While US President George W Bush's State of the Union address was a non-event in terms of a new strategy for the Middle East, what the "enemy" is thinking has been personified by al-Qaeda's No 2, Sunni Arab Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Iraqi Shi'ite nationalist leader Muqtada al-Sadr. But it is unclear who will be the ultimate winner of the escalated conflict in Iraq, only that the losers will be the Iraqi poor - especially as the Pentagon is on course to launch an air war over Baghdad. (Jan 24, '07)

Ahmadinejad be damned
While Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has been traipsing around South America hatching energy plots, all is not well on the home front. Ahmadinejad is subject to crossfire from conservatives and reformers alike, with the former particularly upset over his handling of the nuclear dossier and wanting to rein him in. Washington might need to start manufacturing another "new Hitler". (Jan 18, '07)

Somalia: Afghanistan remixed
Ethiopia's US-backed invasion of Somalia gives the US a client regime in the highly strategic Horn of Africa. But it will also generate a whirlwind of blowback, making Somalia the new Afghanistan and also the new Iraq - just one more battlefront in the lands of Islam. (Jan 12, '07)

Surging toward the holy oil grail
If a new oil law friendly to Western business is passed in Iraq, the chances of Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army joining the Sunni resistance will increase dramatically. Thus the preemptive, two-pronged escalation by President George W Bush on the war front - against both Muqtada and nationalist Sunnis. (Jan 11, '07)

Iran's crocodile rocked
Moderates, with unexpected gains in the weekend's elections for the influential Council of Experts, have dealt Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and his extreme-right mentor, Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi (also known as "the crocodile"), a hard blow. But the real winner is Supreme Leader Ali al-Khamenei, whose vast powers remain undiluted. (Dec 18, '06)

US staying the course for Big Oil in Iraq
One solution to the Iraqi tragedy would be for the Bush administration to give up its quest for the country's oil, with no preconditions. This is not going to happen, which is why there can be no firm timeline for a complete US withdrawal. A new Iraqi oil law being drafted will open the industry to foreigners, and US troops will be needed to defend Big Oil's investment. (Dec 13, '06) 

Bush, OPEC and Chavez of Arabia
The Bolivarian Revolution of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, recently re-elected in a landslide, is all about building an egalitarian society - and snubbing a nose at the US. No wonder Washington is apprehensive. South America is the only region in the world where progressive ideas are flourishing. (Dec 6, '06)

Looking beyond the 'axis of evil'
With President Mahmud Ahmadinejad hosting his Iraqi counterpart in Iran (minus Syria) and President George W Bush due to meet Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the scramble for solutions to the Iraqi debacle continues. In the meantime, all options remain open - from a return of the Ba'athists to an attack on the US heart in Iraq, the Green Zone. (Nov 28, '06)

Following the yellow BRIC road
After his re-election on Sunday, Brazilian President Lula da Silva has some tough choices to make. His country has been identified along with Russia, India and China as one of the great emerging economic powers of the 21st century. But the path to prosperity has many forks in the road. (Oct 31, '06)

'Stability first': Newspeak for rape of Iraq
It's not the first time Baghdad has been sacked. Genghis Khan's grandson did it, and so did Tamerlan. In the good old days, they built pyramids of skulls. This time around, they coin nice names, like "Stability First" and "Redeploy and Contain". "Staying the Course" is out of favor, but no matter, they all amount to the same thing: rape. (Oct 26, '06)

The other September 11
In 1973, South America had its own September 11 when Salvador Allende was overthrown in a US-inspired coup by Augusto Pinochet. This set the stage for the transcontinental Operation Condor, a Latino war "of" terror that eliminated thousands of people who were or might have become political adversaries. (Sep 11, '06)

Part 2: Lost paraguayos: Yankees are coming In fact, they're already there - in the heart of the Amazon, US Special Forces welcomed last year by Paraguay's Bush-friendly president, and eyed with suspicion by the region's populist governments. It all comes back once again to the 21st-century energy wars. This is the concluding article in a two-part report. (Aug 3, '06)

Part 1: Hezbollah south of the borderThe Pentagon insists that South America's Triple Border region, where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet near the spectacular Iguacu Falls, is crammed with terrorists funneling cash to the likes of Hezbollah and al-Qaeda. The place is a dizzying black void of contraband, narco-trafficking, weapons smuggling, money laundering, car theft, piracy and corruption - but where, oh where, are the terrorists? (Aug 2, '06)

The spirit of resistance
Hezbollah's asymmetrical war effort is absorbing everything thrown at it. Resistance is fueled by a mix of beggar's banquet anger, creative military solutions and Shi'ite martyr spirit. The practical result is that Hezbollah is even more popular all over the Arab street. (Jul 25, '06)

Lebanon left for dead
Events in Lebanon fall into the pattern of a master plan drawn up by US neo-conservatives for Israel 10 years ago. The "getting rid of Saddam Hussein" part has already been accomplished. The degradation of the Palestinians is ongoing. The "destabilizing of Syria in Lebanon" took place last year. The next step would be hitting at both Syria and Iran via Lebanon. (Jul 20, '06)

Leviathan run amok
Israel's tactic of trying to turn the Lebanese as a whole against Hezbollah seems to be doomed. Hezbollah is betting that Lebanon will be able to absorb the extreme limits of collective punishment it is receiving - and the resistance movement will come out stronger than ever. (Jul 18, '06)

Russia and Iran lead the new energy game
This weekend's G8 summit in Russia is ostensibly about energy security. But Russian President Vladimir Putin's announcement a month ago of support for a pipeline from Iran to Pakistan and India means that Moscow and Tehran have already positioned themselves as the key geopolitical players in the Pipelineistan game, and thus the guarantors of energy security to Asia. (Jul 13, '06)

And all for a little round ball ... For a month, billions of people, regardless of the color of their skin, where they come from, their political ideology or religion, can forget about the "war on terror", Iran's nuclear threat, or anything else that bothers them. It's time for the football World Cup, a celebration of the biggest and most profitable show on Earth. (Jun 8, '06)

Dubai lives the post-oil Arab dream
Dubai will soon boast the world's tallest building, the largest hotel, the largest this and the largest that. It's well on its way to becoming the first modern Arab metropolis, but in this triumph for globalization, the whole glittering facade is supported by an underclass of "invisible" foreign workers with no rights.(Jun 6, '06)

The Gazprom nation
Russia has an auspicious confluence of factors: its fabulous energy reserves, on which Europe is largely dependent, and strong Asian interest in these reserves. This is the era of pipeline power, where geopolitical turmoil is intimately linked to gas pipeline routes. Russia and its giant Gazprom company are sitting pretty. (May 25, '06)

The accumulation of the wretched
Planet of Slums by Mike Davis
Urbanologist Mike Davis has painted a portrait of the future, and it isn't pretty: "a grim world largely cut off from the subsistence and solidarity of the countryside ... disconnected from the cultural and political life of the traditional city". What Davis describes is today's reality in Baghdad and Sao Paulo; tomorrow, it is likely, Dhaka, Jakarta and Mumbai. (May 19, '06)

Iran impasse: Make gas, not bombs
Iran's national interests are best served by selling portions of its huge natural gas reserves to energy-starved Europe, not in building an atomic bomb. Europe's best interests are served by lessening dependence on Russian gas. The mullahs in Tehran seem to understand this; now it's a matter of pounding some sense into other factions. (May 8, '06)

The axis of gas
Three South American countries are leading the drive for a South American energy grid similar to what's proposed in Asia. Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez sees the US$23 billion project as more than an energy source, it's about jobs and eliminating poverty - and not being pushed around by the US. (May 2, '06)

What's really happening in Tehran
Smiling and articulate, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad locked horns with the international media on Monday, showing a face somewhat different from that of a suicidal nut bent on confronting the US, as he is often portrayed. Yet the president leads just one of four key factions in a do-or-die power play, and he is following his own agenda, which is not the same as the Iranian theocratic leadership's. (Apr 25, '06)

The war on Iran
Iranians know that if the US bombs the country's nuclear sites, they are maintained by Russians; that in effect would mean a declaration of war against Moscow. Iranians also know that Shi'ites in Iraq would turn extreme heat on the occupation forces. And Iran has the power to halt all oil supplies from the shores of the Persian Gulf via the Strait of Hormuz. (Apr 12, '06)

Real men go to Khuzestan
Even as the tanks were rolling into Baghdad, a hard core in the Bush administration believed that the real target should have been Iran or, more precisely, its restive Arab-dominated Khuzestan region. Tehran charges that, indeed, US and British special forces are stirring up trouble there. If so, they have made a serious miscalculation. (Apr 5, '06)

Iran reacts to the UN
Iranians of all stripes agree that their nation is a victim of Western propaganda and double standards. They're adamant about their right to a civilian nuclear program. (Mar 31, '06)

The ultimate martyr
In the Islamic Revolution scale of values, to die as a martyr is an even greater honor than to live as a good, practicing Muslim. Yet the last thing Iran's clerical-political establishment needs at this moment is for President Mahmud Ahmadinejad to martyr the nation into the status of ultimate global outcast. It might be time for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step in. (Mar 30, '06)

Messages of hope from Iran
Persians pride themselves on molding Islam from the Arabs into a much more refined faith. While Arab governments are basically mum, Iran has taken the initiative to counteract what is perceived as Islam and religion under fire, and to remedy the fact that Islam is not getting its message across to the West. (Mar 27, '06)

A frenzied Persian new year
Even though Iran is slowing down for New Year celebrations, the political temperature remains high. Tehran is closely watching as the UN Security Council debates its nuclear program, while proposed Iran-US talks on Iraq have done nothing to erase suspicions on both sides. And Iran has its own terror problem to deal with. (Mar 21, '06)

Irreversible Iranians
The US strategy of trying to separate the Iranian people from the regime seems doomed to failure. Nationalist fervor regarding Tehran's nuclear rights is at a peak - and cannily manipulated by the government. What the rest of the world thinks, too bad. (Mar 17, '06)

In the heart of Pipelineistan
Oil and gas executives gathered in Tehran for a major conference see the international row over Iran's nuclear program as a passing phase. There are much bigger issues: the total energy interdependence of the Middle East and East Asia, in which Iran will play a pivotal role. (Mar 16, '06)

The old lovers' nuclear tango
The diplomatic dancing over Iran's nuclear program has expanded to a tango for two couples: the US plus the European Three on one side, and Russia and the head of the UN nuclear watchdog on the other. Tehran waits transfixed in the middle. (Mar 7, '06)

'Get out' ringing in Thaksin's ears
Students, trade unionists and teachers are mingling with peasants, Buddhist fundamentalists and middle-class families with their portable kitchens at rallies calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. "Thaksin! - Get out!" is their mantra. But it's falling on deaf ears, for now. (Feb 27, '06)

Goodbye Iraq, hello Afghanistan
With Ibrahim Jaafari being given another shot at the premiership, Iraq will have a fractious and weak central government, and go the same way as Afghanistan. Warlords, religious or secular, and tribal sheikhs will defend their mini-states armed to their teeth, and criminal gangs will run parallel to death squads. Which suits Washington fine. (Feb 14, '06)

Thailand's spreading yellow tide
They massed in Bangkok in their tens of thousands and they draped themselves in yellow to hear media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul's latest allegations against Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. And they were not disappointed, even if their countrymen were kept in the dark.  (Feb 6, '06)

But it's so cold in Alaska
Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's verbal assaults on Israel are most likely aimed at an internal audience and are a part of a broader progression toward self-chosen isolation. But this does not remove the fact that billions of dollars of public relations could not have landed such a prize to Israel's hardliners. 
(Dec 15, '05)

We vote, then we throw you out
Iraq may well be on its way to extinction after Thursday's elections. Partition is already de facto in the four provinces of Kurdistan, and the nine Shi'ite provinces are earmarked for the same. The US would be left with little more than the Green Zone - which is not exactly an oil lake - and a lot of empty desert. (Dec 14, '05)

The politics of shopping
It was people power "lite" as media entrepreneur Sondhi Limthongkul's weekly talk show in a Bangkok park - in which he once again focused on corruption - had stiff competition from the opening nearby of a megamall. People power "heavy" won't happen until they discover their purchasing power only allows them to window-shop. (Dec 12, '05)

The king steps in
Following some wise words from the king of Thailand, much of the heat has been taken out of the bitter row between Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his most vocal critic, media entrepreneur Sondhi Limthongkul. The premier is dropping a slew of lawsuits amounting to US$50 million against Sondhi, who, nevertheless, still has some causes to fight.
(Dec 6, '05)

Full power on the Arabian Sea 
Wily taxi drivers in Mumbai, demented, horn-honking buses on the roads of Kerala, computer whizzes in the backs of shacks, commuters hanging from train windows dodging lethal poles, they're all on "full power", living out India's new mantra.
(Dec 2, '05)

An appeal to the Thai masses
Ever since the political talk show of Thai media tycoon, Sondhi Limthongkul, went mobile after being run off the air by the government, it has snowballed into a political protest movement. Sondhi wants the constitution rewritten to curb the abuse of state power. Now the matter is in the hands of the people. (Nov 28, '05)

The occupiers' trial

With Saddam Hussein finally due in court, his defense team will argue that the trial has no jurisdiction because it has been created by an occupying power which has no right to change the legal system of an occupied country. In many ways, it's the occupation itself that is in the dock.  (Oct 19, '05)

How to constitute a civil war
If the draft Iraqi constitution is rejected on Saturday, the different strands of the Sunni Arab resistance - as well as al-Qaeda in Iraq - will be encouraged, because, for them, this is the occupiers' piece of paper. But even if the constitution is approved, the same thing will happen. There couldn't have been a more constitutional way to civil war. (Oct 14, '05)

Fear and loathing in militia hell
The law of the jungle rules in Baghdad, coupled with the collapse of social life, as rival militias control the city, day and night, often dressed up as police. This is the visible legacy of the occupation on the eve of a popular vote on a constitution.
(Oct 11, '05)

The conquest of Southwest Asia
Even before Katrina showed the emperor to have no clothes, there was growing unease that the Bush administration was subsidizing al-Qaeda to the tune of $300 billion and counting, in American taxpayers' money, by transforming Iraq into a preferred training ground for terrorists. So forget about "war on terror"; the war is mutating into what it was always meant to be - the conquest of Southwest Asia first, and Eurasia second. -  (Oct 7, '05)

Who's in charge, Qom or Najaf?
The renaissance of the holy Iraqi city of Najaf - home of the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani - is problematic. If the center of gravity of Shi'ism goes back from Qom in Iran to where it was before - in Iraq - Iran's influence will be tremendously reduced. (Sep 30, '05)

The myth of the Shi'ite crescent
Shi'ites believe that the nation-state is just a stage on the road to the final triumph of Shi'ism. But to go beyond this stage to establish a vast Shi'ite crescent spanning the region it's necessary to reinforce the nation-state and its Shi'ite sanctuary, which happens to be Iran. But not all Shi'ites are in a position, or are willing, to help realize this goal. (Sep 29, '05)

Welcome to civil war
While US and Iraqi army troops were chasing shadows in the town of Tal Afar, Salafi jihadis mounted deadly and highly visible attacks against Shi'ites in Baghdad to coincide with a call by al-Qaeda's Musab al-Zarqawi for all-out war on Shi'ites in Iraq. (Sep 15, '05)

Travels in Ahmadinejadland
He is honest, a simple man who looks after the poor and is a regular visitor to the mosque. Without fail, these are the attributes that the mass of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's supporters in the lower working-class areas of Tehran pinpoint. In other, more affluent areas, praise is harder to find. (Sep 14, '05)

Why Iran can't become the new China
Iran as an emerging Muslim China? Forget it, says Ibrahim Yazdi, a veteran dissident politician in Iran, who sees stark differences between what he calls the repressive Islamic republic and a more enlightened leadership in Beijing. Yet Yazdi could be wrong. (Sep 13, '05)

 Iran takes over Pipelineistan
As a key energy supplier to China as well as India's major supplier, Iran is in an enviable position. Further, its trans-Caspian alliance with Russia is iron-clad, and Tehran is well poised as a key supplier to Western Europe. Iran has the foundation to become a major economic power.
(Sep 9, '05)
The humanist reformer
The reform movement has all but been beaten at the polls in Iran, with its place taken by a kind of "compassionate conservatism". The voices of reform, however, are as strident as ever, personified by Emadeddin Baghi, even if Iranians are not listening.
(Sep 7, '05)

Iran knocks Europe out
Tehran has called the EU's bluff, and international opinion faces a split. (Sep 6, '05)
A nuclear (mis)adventure in Isfahan
The focus of Tehran's nuclear standoff with Europe and the US is centered on Isfahan, where Iran has resumed uranium conversion activities, which it claims is its right. With a flurry of diplomatic maneuvers planned, matters are coming to a head, and Pepe Escobar is the first casualty. (Sep 1, '05)

A vision or a waking dream?

The Shi'ite tradition in Qom teaches that when the world has become psychologically ready to accept the government of God and when worldly conditions are ready for truth to prevail, God will then allow Imam Mahdi to launch his final revolution. In the meantime, fertile minds are educated in preparation for this worldwide revolution.  
(Aug 31, '05)

Sistani.Qom: In the wired heart of Shi'ism
The issue of supremacy among top Shi'ite religious leaders has profound implications for Iran and Iraq. Is it the almost recluse Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf in Iraq, who forced the American superpower to bow to his wishes? Or is it the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei? The Shi'ite communications center in Qom provides some clues, as Pepe Escobar reports in the first of two articles from the Iranian holy city. (Aug 30, '05)

The nuclear rap
It's summer holidays, so what better way for university students to spend a hot afternoon than protesting outside the French, German and British embassies in Tehran. Pepe Escobar joins in. (Aug 25, '05)

Iran: Tough talk and temptresses
The contrasts could not be sharper: an army of Angelina Jolie clones cruising north Tehran's streets and malls, to the thousands gathered at Tehran University, including the president, to hear the country's Supreme Leader at Friday prayers laying into the US. Pepe Escobar hits the road in Iran. (Aug 24, '05)

The Algerian connection
It is one thing to mouth opposition to the US-led occupation of Iraq, it is another to allow the US military to use your country as a playground in the "war on terror". Two Algerian diplomats have paid with their lives at the hands of an al-Qaeda-linked group for their government adopting such a position. 
(Jul 28, '05)

Fighting the uncivil fight
European Union officials, not to mention Europe-wide public opinion, are starting to confront a very serious question: how to fight jihad inside the EU without infringing on civil liberties. This is exactly what Salafi-jihadis want. (Jul 21, '05)

Self-service jihad
More and more so-called "white Moors" - white Muslims carrying European Union passports - are taking jihad training in Chechnya, while "individual jihadis", without contact with al-Qaeda, are learning the trade of terror on their own before joining or starting sleeper cells in Europe. (Jul 19, '05)

War comes to the heart of Europe
A new, deadly generation of internationalist jihadis is making Europe its battleground. It's not only a war against the Western occupiers of Muslim lands; it's a war for the future of global Islam as the al-Qaeda "nebula" strives to impose Wahhabi values on the faith. (Jul 14, '05)

For the new generation of jihadis, the Anglo-American coalition - as well as civilians - must live in fear, just as people live in fear in Iraq and Palestine. Only the US leaving Iraq and an internationally-accepted agreement between Israelis and Palestinians will end the cycle. (Jul 11, '05)

Pop music won't change this world
Billions of people clapping their hands at "the biggest musical event in history" will not save us from greenhouse gases or rescue Africa from the guillotine of foreign debt. The G8 is calling the tune, and it appears to be tone deaf. (Jul 5, '05)

Twelve more years
Conceding that the "throes" of the Iraqi insurgency could go on for another 12 years, Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld admits that the US is talking with insurgent leaders. What the leaders have to say, though, is not what Washington wants to hear. (Jun 27, '05)

The first, not the last throes
The heated hearings in Washington in which Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld came under withering attack may be just the tip of the iceberg that the Bush administration's doggedly optimistic line on Iraq is simply not tenable. In Baghdad, quite literally, the writing is on the wall. (Jun 24, '05)

Iraq, the new Afghanistan
There was blowback in Afghanistan after the US financed a jihad there against the Soviet invasion. There is now blowback in Iraq following the US occupation. And the comparisons between Iraq and basket-case Afghanistan don't end there.
(Jun 23, '05)

The axis of lesser evil
Iran's reformist movement is enthusiastically backing pragmatist Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as the next president, over his hawkish rival. Neo-conservatives in the US will be disappointed. (Jun 21, '05)

How much is a hostage worth?
The six-month hostage ordeal of a French journalist and her Iraqi fixer received little publicity on Islamist websites, and their kidnappers made no political demands for their release. Which leaves just the "financial" motive. The French government, though, is respecting an implacable law of silence. (Jun 15, '05)

Exit strategy: Civil war
Against all odds, a national liberation front is emerging in Iraq comprising politicians, religious leaders, clan and tribal sheikhs, with a single-minded agenda: the end of the US-led occupation. Simultaneously, the US is pushing on with its policy of divide and rule - sectarian fever translated into civil war. (Jun 9, '05)

Europe's disaster movie
Europe's political elites are in a deep, existential funk. The monumental crisis created by France and the Netherlands rejecting a proposed European constitution may spell catharsis or catastrophe. It all hinges on political will. And visionaries. (Jun 2, '05)

French-fried Europe
The Dutch look set to complete a double blow on Wednesday, following France's rejection of the proposed European constitution. One might assume the document, a compromise reached after five years of hard-fought negotiation, is already six feet under. But there is a plan B - sort of.  (May 31, '05)

Pipelineistan's biggest game begins
It's a law unto itself, a sovereign state 44 meters wide and 1,767 kilometers long. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, after 10 years of hard work and $4 billion in funding, is finally open for business. (May 25, '05)

The US's gift to al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda has recently managed to capitalize on major blunders in the United States's "war on terror", strengthening the anti-US impulse among global, moderate Muslims and winning legitimacy from leading Islamic scholars. Pepe Escobar explains how it happened. (May 20, '05)

'We are a banana republic'
Paul Krugman, the Mick Jagger of political/economic punditry, has an opinion on everything, sweeping across China's rise (and fall?), the "banana republic" status of the US, Iraq, petrodollars and much more. And, as he tells Pepe Escobar, a penchant for Thai food. (May 18, '05)

The US and its 'special' dictator
Even though his US-funded soldiers have killed hundreds of protestors, Uzbek President Islam Karimov is an essential piece in Washington's great oil and gas chessboard, as is Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan. So you won't see the White House hammering Karimov, or calling for free elections. (May 16, '05)

From Baghdad to Brasilia
South America is avidly cultivating much stronger ties with China, Russia and the Arab world, as seen in this week's Arab-South American summit in Brazil. The emerging axis is non-aligned, and it's swimming in oil. Washington is watching closely.  (May 11, '05)

Bilderberg strikes again
Over 100 Western movers and shakers - politicians, tycoons, bankers, captains of industry - have just concluded their secret annual gathering as members of the exclusive Bilderberg club. Previously they have been known to shape world affairs. This time is likely to have been no different. (May 9, '05) 

Iraq's hostage cabinet
The fatal flaw of Iraq's cabinet is that it is hostage to a big picture it won't be able to control - the foundations for a new Iraq simply do not exist. There's anarchy in much of the country, there's little work, and at least six militias armed, trained and funded by the Pentagon are on the rampage. All the elements for civil war are in place. (Apr 29, '05)

They shoot journalists, don't they?
Italian secret intelligence agent Nicola Calipari was killed by US fire in Iraq, while Giuliana Sgrena, an unembedded correspondent, was injured in the same incident. No one is denying this. Where the
problem arises is over culpability. The US indicates its soldiers followed standard procedures. Others disagree. (Apr 27, '05)

It's terror when we say so
Last year in its annual report, the US National Counterterrorism Center listed 175 "significant" terrorist attacks in 2003. This year, the report found a sharp increase to 624 such attacks for 2004. However, this figure will not be included when the report is officially released at the end of the month. Why? Ask Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. (Apr 22, '05)

The shadow Iraqi government
The only way Iraq's transitional government can garner any measure of popular credibility is to demand a firm deadline for total American withdrawal. This is what the Shi'ite masses voted for. Yet this is the last thing on the minds of the White House/Pentagon/Green Zone axis that controls - or will control - the country. (Apr 20, '05)

What's behind the new Iraq
The balance of power between Iraq's three main sectarian groups - Shi'ites, Kurds and Sunnis - has been the biggest stumbling block in forming a new government. A deal has finally emerged, but this is not the end of the matter, not by a long way: as before, the stark choice remains - politics or civil war. (Apr 7, '05)

Looking South for a pope
The Vatican voting South for the next Pope will be interpreted as a Church privileging social justice and globalization with a human face. But there are a number of other compelling options. (Apr 4, '05)

What kind of revolution is this?
The strange events in Kyrgyzstan do not exactly constitute a classic revolution. One order has fallen, but a new one has yet to be born - it was rather "meet the new boss, same as the old boss". For a real revolution, look elsewhere in the region. (Apr 1, '05)

The Tulip Revolution takes root
Compared to its hardcore neighbors, Kyrgyzstan was a paradigm of democracy. But this will not make the task of the disparate bunch of new leaders any easier to bring stability and economic order to the country. One thing is clear, though: the Tulip Revolution will be propagated by the Bush administration as the first "spread of freedom and democracy" success story in Central Asia. (Mar 25, '05)

Shocked and awed into 'freedom'
Two years on, there's no government in Iraq because of the Kirkuk tinderbox, where the Kurds want it all. Sectarianism is on the rise, security is a joke. But from a strategic Washington viewpoint, these issues are all minor.(Mar 21, '05)

Iraq, IRA-style
Influential echelons of the resistance in Iraq are actively engaged in the political unification of an array of disparate groups to solidify their support among the Sunni population: this is like an Iraqi version of the Irish Republican Army polishing a Mesopotamian Sinn Fein. Unaddressed, though, is the Kurdish problem. (Mar 10, '05)

Bush does Brussels
President George W Bush's visit to Brussels was carefully coordinated to convey the impression that he needs Europe to fulfill his mission for the world. But the European Union was not falling for that sucker punch. (Feb 23, '05)

The trip goes on forever
Even in his final days, when he described himself as "an elderly dope fiend living out in the wilderness", Hunter Thompson kept his extreme conceptual coherence, his certitude that Power cannot, could never be trusted. The self-described proud patriot's life-long quest for the American Dream ended in suicide on Sunday, but the good Dr Gonzo remains, to many, "strong like a river". (Feb 22, '05)

From Baghdad to Beirut
What many had feared - the "Lebanonization" of Iraq, bringing back the tragic memories of the Lebanese civil war of 1975-1990 - might be forced, with the assassination of Rafik Hariri, to happen in reverse: the Iraqification of Lebanon. (Feb 16, '05)

Before the breakup, the breakdown
The Iraqi election results don't really illustrate who are the real winners and losers: there are currently too many variables and competing interests to give an accurate picture. One thing, though, is crystal-clear - the Sunni Iraqi resistance vs US occupation will continue. (Feb 14, '05)

The Shi'ite's Faustian pact
Shi'ite leaders don't want the American military to leave, just yet, for fear of a bloodbath. This suits the US, which will consolidate military bases, and do something about the country's oil riches, possibly even privatize the industry. Yet the Shi'ite leadership will find it almost impossible to maintain public support for any length of time without telling the Americans to leave. (Feb 10, '05)

Why the US will not leave Iraq
Iraq's elections will see Shi'ites taking power in the Arab world for the first time in 14 centuries. The Shi'ites' premier electoral promise - later reneged - was to negotiate a total American withdrawal, so the US will be in no hurry for a swift pullout. But as long as the US stays, the resistance will become even bloodier.  (Jan 31, '05)

It's celebration time
Shi'ites, the Pentagon, the Sunni Iraqi resistance, the rest of the world, even Henry Kissinger; they all have reason to celebrate Sunday's elections in Iraq, and all of their reasons are different. But there can only be one winner - and it won't be democracy. (Jan 28, '05)

Vote or no vote, we will kill you
The key issue after the Iraqi elections will be how to kick out the Americans. It's also the only window of opportunity for the future Shi'ite government to woo moderate Sunnis, and the only way to isolate the guerrilla resistance. But the resistance has time. It has loads of weapons, plenty of financing and thousands of members, and any new government will be seen as a mortal enemy. (Jan 26, '05)

The hottest label: China chic
Forget the shopworn "made in China" label - make way for China chic. High-quality textiles are now designed by hip Chinese designers, produced by skilled artisans and sold by China, with profits repatriated to the Middle Kingdom. The message: just give us a little time, and we will also swamp you with our cool new designs.  (Jan 18, '05)

First we vote, then we kick you out
As the January 30 elections near, the majority of Iraqis have one thing on their minds: get the US occupiers out - and get them out fast. At the moment, however, the risk of post-election civil war is stronger than ever, with various factions refusing to sit back and let the Shi'ites take control of the country. (Dec 23, '04)

Evildoers, here we come
The road to Syria is the key node in the George W Bush/neo-conservative roadmap for a new Middle East. Along this road there are likely to be several detours, with Iran, Saudi Arabia and North Korea singled out for special treatment. (Dec 16, '04)

The grand elector Sistani
When Iraq was fighting British colonialism in 1920, the vanguard of the armed resistance was Shi'ite. So the British installed the Sunnis in power - where they have remained ever since. Now the situation is reversed, and the Shi'ites, guided by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, want to get their hands on the power.  (Dec 9, '04)

From Guernica to Fallujah
The counterinsurgency blueprint for Iraq is a 182-page field manual distributed to each and every soldier by the Pentagon. Many of the soldiers appear not to have read the instructions. And now the resistance in Fallujah bears strong resemblance to that of the people of Guernica, the Basque capital, who opposed the Spanish dictator Franco in 1937. (Dec 1, '04)

The Sunni-Shi'ite power play
Under the current US-imposed timetable for Iraq, the Shi'ites will be in power following elections scheduled for next January. This will leave a Shi'ite-dominated government to deal with a widespread Sunni resistance movement with only a ragged bunch of guerrilla-infiltrated Iraqi security forces. (Nov 19, '04)

Counterinsurgency run amok
In counterinsurgency, success means destroying the environment, physical and social, that supports the enemy. Take away the "water" and the "fish" will die. This strategy led to indiscriminate bombings in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. This is what's happening in Fallujah. But it won't work, because the "fish" are developing more complex, distributed network structures. (Nov 17, '04)

Masters of war
The US has declared that Fallujah has been "liberated". But the city is celebrating with no cries of joy - with no cries at all: only with the stench of tons of explosives, and the stench of decomposing bodies.(Nov 15, '04)

Collective punishment, regrettable necessity
Fallujah was always defiant towards Saddam Hussein. Now the US has reduced its civilian population to a bunch of "insurgents". The rationale invoked is "regrettable necessity". What is never mentioned is the real objective: collective punishment. (Nov 12, '04)

A thousand Fallujahs
Five years ago the Russians totally destroyed Grozny, the Chechen capital, yet today Chechen guerrillas are still trapping Russian troops in a living hell there. The same scenario will be replayed in Fallujah - and countless towns and cities across Iraq. (Nov 11, '04)

Satan hides in a hospital
One of the first targets of the US offensive into Fallujah was the general hospital, which has been secured. Other targets include those used to spread information, such as telephones. But the resistance fighters have been preparing for this onslaught for months. They have a battle plan, and it doesn't end in Fallujah. (Nov 10, '04)

The real fury of Fallujah
The Pentagon is selling Operation Phantom Fury as a battle of good against evil to root out "terrorists" in the "militant stronghold" of Fallujah. Yet there could not be a more tragic exercise in futility - to destroy Fallujah in order to "save" it. This is the road for civil war.  (Nov 9, '04)

Value-added victory
It was a remarkable feat to convince the poor working class and the struggling lower middle class to vote for tax breaks for billionaires. How to fool them? By promoting "moral values". (Nov 4, '04)

Damn politics, let's dance
Among many surprises, the widely sung-and-danced-to youth vote never materialized. And President George W Bush won the popular vote by a handsome margin. This is a neo-conservative dream turned reality: four more years, and possibly four more wars.  (Nov 3, '04)

In God - or reality - we trust
Because the stakes are so high, this is a world election by any means: if George W Bush is re-elected, it will send a strong signal that Americans support the neo-conservative agenda, and all that it entails, a la Iraq. (Nov 2, '04)

Bush or Kerry, Osama's unmoved
By re-establishing his preeminence, and changing his rhetoric, Osama bin Laden makes it clear that the target is not America per se, but recruiting the Muslim masses for jihad. A George W Bush victory will not change this. Nor will a John Kerry victory. (Nov 1, '04)

American rebel vs American al-Qaeda
Unleashed only one week before the US presidential election, Eminem's "Mosh" is a stunning piece of political hip-hop. But even as this millionaire white-trash rapper does his bit toward regime change in the White House, another video emerges, this one featuring an alleged al-Qaeda operative vowing, in English, that "the streets of America will run red with blood". (Oct 29, '04)

How Bush blew it in Tora Bora
The US presidential election is less than a week away and still no October surprise named Osama bin Laden. Yet even if bin Laden does surface - captured and exhibited "Saddam-in-chains" style - the real surprise took place in Tora Bora way back in November 2001, when the Bush administration let him slip through its fingers. (Oct 26, '04)

Precision-strike democracy
People cannot believe that precision strikes against civilian neighborhoods are a persuasive weapon conducive to winning hearts and minds in Iraq and establishing democracy. The resistance, meanwhile, is succeeding in mobilizing the urban masses, Sunni and Shi'ite, against the occupation. (Oct 21, '04)

Zarqawi and al-Qaeda, unlikely bedfellows
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's reported swearing of his jihadi group's allegiance to al-Qaeda is mystifying. The al-Qaeda nucleus is a mix of hardcore Saudi Wahhabis and the Egyptians of Islamic Jihad. Zarqawi's group contains Jordanians, Palestinians and Syrians, and they are Salafis, Islamic purists. True or false, though, the effects will be felt in Fallujah. (Oct 19, '04)

Zarqawi - Bush's man for all seasons
From a two-bit thug into an overnight international terrorist with a finger in every pie, Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has been thrust into the limelight through the many emails, threats, communiques and grisly videos attributed to him, especially in Iraq. The "Zarqawi" myth is certainly bigger than the man. But this suits the Bush administration just fine. (Oct 14, '04)

Deconstructing the war on terror
Jacques Derrida, the last survivor of the fabulous generation of 1960s French thinkers, was the master of the concept of "deconstruction", which can be defined as a guerrilla attack on a dominant system of thought. Before he died last week, Derrida deconstructed "the war on terror", a concept that obscures current reality and hobbles our ability to fend off the next "September 11". (Oct 13, '04) 

Hand it to the warlords
Hamid Karzai, with his US backing and Pashtun roots, is favored to win Saturday's presidential elections in Afghanistan. Local warlords, though, with the immense power they wield over their fiefdoms and voters, cannot be overlooked. Deals, therefore, are already being made, even though such arrangements tend to backfire, with disastrous results. (Oct 8, '04)

That split screen
In a "debate" designed to stifle any real debate of any real issues, some US networks decided to brighten things up a split screen. And there they were: one candidate playing to one camera, while his opponent let his true persona show on the other. So we saw the choice facing American voters: do they want to live in reality, or seek refuge in a reality show? (Oct 1, '04)

Why al-Qaeda is winning
As nihilistic as it may be, al-Qaeda is a major success: three years after September 11, it is a global brand and a global movement. This brand does not have much to do with Islam, but it has everything to do with the globalization of the fight against imperialism. And imperialism is widely seen as having its center in Washington. (Sep 10, '04)

In God, and terror, we trust
Be afraid. Be very afraid. That is the essence of the Republican platform for "four more years" of the president of permanent war. Oh, but don't ask how the "war on terra" is actually going, with the 1,000th US soldier about to die in Iraq, which along with Afghanistan is in chaos; because God, and Karl Rove's dirty tricks, are on George Bush's side.  (Aug 31, '04)

Oil in troubled waters
As oil's price slides towards $50 a barrel, it is now 136% more expensive than before September 11, 2001. Yet demand, especially in the US, China and India, surges. OPEC - controlling about half of the world's oil exports - has promised to do something, as has Saudi Arabia, but they can't deliver. Neither can Iraq, where US plans for a world of cheap oil started to go all wrong. (Aug 23, '04)

A unifying factor across Iraq
Inside Iraq, Sunni and Shi'ite alike condemn the United States offensive in Najaf as a "bloodbath", but the longer the fighting continues, "the image of [Muqtada] being the only one capable of unifying the country beyond communal divisions" will grow even stronger. 
(Aug 17, '04)

Barack Obama rules, OK
Barack Obama, an Illinois state legislator, stole the show on the second night of the Democratic National Convention in Boston with a speech of rare brilliance. He's not a uniter, not a divider, he's the ultimate transcender. He is also black, and exactly what the Republicans don't need right now. (Jul 29, '04)

Clinton clinches the deal
He's still The Big Dog: in his inimitable style, former US president Bill Clinton managed to sell to Democratic Party faithful the stiff senator from Massachusetts, John Kerry, as a strong leader worthy of the White House. But missing from the Clinton pitch was Iraq, because, unlike the Iraqi resistance, Democrats - including Kerry - don't have any more idea what to do about it than George W Bush. (Jul 28, '04)

The new Saddam, without a moustache
In Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, dubbed "Saddam without a moustache", Washington has exactly the man it wants in Iraq. But such 19th century-style colonialism gambits are doomed - just as they were in the past. (Jul 15, '04)

The Islamic emirate of Fallujah
By intimidation, by force of arms and with full support of the mosques, Fallujah is now a haven of order and security in Iraq. Americans troops are out, as are foreigners. Strict Islamic law is in, and the gun-toting leaders see their city as a model for the rest of the country. (Jul 14, '04)

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