UPDATE JUNE 15: Within 24 hours of running this story on June 12, a major development occurred when two Japanese oil tankers experienced an explosion in the Gulf of Oman, simultaneous with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe’s arrival in Tehran. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was quick to blame Iran. Reuters reported “Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said two oil tanker incidents in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday were “suspicious” and called for regional dialogue to avoid tensions.” There are two ways to read this:
First, President Trump could be allowing Pompeo to burn off steam in front of a microphone so to throw the neocons in his Cabinet a bone before he continues to use Abē as a back channel in order to “make a deal,” to use his words.
Alternatively (and perhaps more likely), the Japanese are going off-script here with this trip to Iran. Remember, Tokyo plays a major role in Pacific regional sanction maintenance against Iran. For them to go against American imperial policies here would be a significant infraction. Reuters previously wrote in another story:
As a U.S. ally that also has good diplomatic relations with Iran, Japan could be in a unique position to mediate between the Islamic Republic and the United States. “Armed conflict needs to be prevented at all costs. Peace and stability in the Middle East is indispensable not only for this region but for global prosperity. No one is hoping for war,” the Japanese leader said.
Moving away from American unipolarity in order to build regional integration and independence via Iran would move Tokyo towards closer economic ties with Beijing, which would be a tremendous blow to the empire. It bears mentioning here that one of the larger parliamentary blocs is the Japanese Communist Party, a body that has established international links and solidarity with their Chinese contemporaries.
Meanwhile, American intelligence and military agencies in Eurasia have access to a network of anti-Iranian militia groups, so-called “Islamic fundamentalists,” that could have been responsible for the oil tanker attacks, not unlike the attacks on the USS Cole in the Yemeni Aden harbor in October 2000. One does not have to take a large leap of imagination to consider the possibility of such a development owing to the ongoing friction between the Saudi regime and Tehran.
Either way, both scenarios contain American acknowledgement of imperial decline. –AS
In the past several weeks, President Donald Trump’s Asian policy portfolio has taken twists and turns that seem at times contradictory if not batshit insane. One of the major actors generating significant concern in his cabinet remains emeritus neocon hawk/war criminal John Bolton, who is openly chomping at the bit to start a war with Iran.
One of the more coherent and contrarian analyses I came across this week was from Don DeBar of CPR Metro Radio, a broadcast out of New York that I highly recommend even when I disagree with some of their conclusions.
This got me intrigued enough to do a little digging. There are several stories developing in Asia that should be noted because of how they impact analysis of the Trump policy.
I’ll start with an interesting set of stories orbiting around China. The mainstream media liberals and neocons are harping these days on several topics, the attempted ignition of a trade war with Beijing, the anniversary of the Tienanmen Square events in 1989, and the ongoing mass protests in Hong Kong over a proposed law that would further integrate the former British colony’s legal system into the mainland’s jurisprudence. These three stories are not being deployed accidentally or without an underlying narrative logic, they carry a noteworthy geopolitical reasoning.
It bears mentioning here that the American response to the unrest in Hong Kong has been mild. Besides a State Department expression of “grave concern” by a lower-level functionary, little has been said by other cabinet members while the Tweeter-in-Chief is demonstrably-reticent (and he never shuts up). Voice of America, the US propaganda news channel, carried few stories about the anniversary and did not explicitly link the events of three decades ago to those contemporary ones in Hong Kong. This is a marked change from other VOA commemorations of 1989, which has a certain propaganda value that the US is usually hesitant not to exploit.
Simultaneous with all this, Japanese Prime Minister Abe has made the first state visit from his country to the Islamic Republic of Iran in decades, a story that seems innocuous but might carry far more significance.
Putting it politely, the continued American military presence in the archipelago nation since the end of World War II has effectively compromised the sovereignty of the Japanese state and made the country a neocolonial outpost for Washington in the Pacific. It would not be out of bounds to wonder whether Prime Minister Abe is serving as a third party intermediary and back channel to Tehran on behalf of the White House.
Alternatively, because of China’s development of the One Belt One Road project and the Shanghai Cooperation Network, this might instead indicate that Japan is slowly but surely inching away from the diktats of Washington and towards a multi-polar Eurasian integration model that will exclude the United States.
While the US continues to implode into a festering cesspool of reactionary politics and suicidal domestic policies around ecology, economics, and the strip mining of our welfare state, China is moving into the passing lane and will soon have the largest economy on earth, one allowing them to take the reigns as a global leader and help other countries to extract themselves from American imperial hegemony.
Iran will be a key regional power player in that project and already has begun moving in that direction because of the crushing sanctions regime being imposed by the White House.
These developments are most explicitly on display with the continuing public meetings between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping, demonstrations of the fact that Moscow and Beijing are diplomatically closer now than at any other point in history, including during the Cold War when both states were governed by an allegedly-homogeneous Communist ideology.
This of course returns to the preliminary inquiry, what is Trump’s Asian policy?
Understanding his North Korean efforts are essential here. From the beginning (read: 1950, when the war on the Korean peninsula began), engagement with the DPRK has always been a kind of proxy confrontation between Washington and Beijing (something General Douglas MacArthur learned about the hard way on the shores of the Yalu River). With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the integration of the remaining Communist states into the globalized capitalist economy, several things that repudiate the conventional wisdom of the Cold War have been proven.
- The conflict between the East and West spanning 1945 until 1991 was never about Bolshevism or Marxism-Leninism. If that were the case, we wouldn’t still be talking about China and North Korea. Instead, it was always about two issues, geopolitical power dynamics and the economic independence of the de-colonized Global South.
- In terms of geopolitical power dynamics, the matter at hand has instead always been about whether the United States would abide to the distribution of power initiated first by the wartime Atlantic Charter and later by the founding principles of the United Nations. Financial elites in the West desired to maintain a stranglehold on the global economy and a unipolar system of the United States as the dominant world leader. The Atlantic Charter and United Nations were devised to upend that system.
- The continuation of rivalry between the United States against China, North Korea, Iran, and Russia is about whether these foreign powers have the right to economic self-determination or instead if they should be vassals of Wall Street. The implosion of post-Soviet Russian society under the auspices of Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s is a perfect illustration of what the West desires to do to these nations, transform them into neocolonial debt subjects.
- Despite the emphasis on ideology for decades, Trump’s blunder and bluster has stripped away the veneer and distilled matters into a simplistic yet honest economic exchange. The posturing and preening about his ability to “make a deal” is one of the most honest things not only said by him in his entire miserable life but also one of the most straight-up utterances said by the occupant of the Oval Office in perhaps a century or more.
- Furthermore, while his rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership was framed through the grimiest white nationalist and nativist lens possible, in fact that move on Day One of his presidency was a terrific step towards peace with China. The Obama administration had devised the TPP as a complex, multi-faceted project that was intended to exclude China from global commerce, a surefire step towards war, in a way that would have been far more damaging than these idiotically-formulated proposed tariffs.
The man is a loud-mouthed bigot and ass whose lifelong career as a sleazy landlord-cum-gambling magnate is the stuff of an Andy Warhol carnival ride dosed with some bad hallucinogens. I find his domestic policies not just appalling but requiring actual physical resistance to the point of civil disobedience.
Yet perhaps in the greatest contradiction of this century, he brings things to his foreign policy portfolio that have the potential to change the course of world affairs for the better if for no other reason than the fact he is so heavy-handed in these matters.
Furthermore, the reality is that modern imperial decline has always been a vicious and bloody affair at home and abroad. The recession of the British, French, Dutch, and German empires in the Global South soaked the pages of history in blood and birthed everything from the Bolshevik revolution to the Nazi Party and similar fascist governments to the partitions of Ireland, India, and Palestine.
In other words, things seem to be following a pattern that is quite common when it comes to the collapse of American hegemony…