by Pepe Escobar
China's President Xi Jinping,
Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa
Russia's President Vladimir Putin
for a group picture during the 10th BRICS summit
26, 2018 in Johannesburg.
potential economic slump
The key take away from
the BRICS summit in Johannesburg is that
Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - important Global
South players - strongly condemn unilateralism and protectionism.
The Johannesburg Declaration is unmistakable:
"We recognize that
the multilateral trading system is facing unprecedented
challenges. We underscore the importance of an open world
Closer examination of
Chinese President Xi Jinping's speech unlocks some poignant details.
Xi, crucially, emphasizes delving further into "our strategic
partnership." That implies increased BRICS and Beyond BRICS
multilateral trade, investment and economic and financial
And that also implies reaching to the next level:
"It is important that
we continue to pursue innovation-driven development and build
the BRICS Partnership on New Industrial Revolution (PartNIR) to
strengthen coordination on macroeconomic policies, find more
complementarities in our development strategies, and reinforce
the competitiveness of the BRICS countries, emerging market
economies and developing countries."
If PartNIR sounds like
the basis for an overall Global South platform, that's because it
In a not too veiled allusion to the Trump administration's
unilateral pullout from the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA), Xi called all
international law and basic norms governing international
relations and to settle disputes through dialogue and
differences through consultation," adding that the BRICS are
inevitably working for "a new type of international relations."
Relations such as these
certainly do not include a superpower unilaterally imposing an
energy export blockade - an act of economic war - on an emerging
market and key actor of the
Xi is keen to extol a,
"network of closer
That's where the concept
BRICS Plus fits in.
BRICS Plus last year at the Xiamen summit, it refers to closer
integration between the five BRICS members and other
emerging markets/developing nations...
Argentina, Turkey and
Jamaica are guests of honor in Johannesburg.
Xi sees BRICS Plus
interacting with the UN, the G20 "and other frameworks" to amplify
the margin of maneuver not only of emerging markets but the whole
So how does Iran fit into
An absurd game
Immediately after President Trump's Tweet of Mass Destruction
the rhetorical war between Washington and Tehran has skyrocketed to
extremely dangerous levels.
Major General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Islamic
Revolutionary Guard Corps' (IRGC) Quds Force - and a true rock
star in Iran - issued a blistering response to Trump:
"You may begin the
war, but it is us who will end it."
The IRGC yields massive
economic power in Iran and is in total symbiosis with Supreme Leader
It's no secret the IRGC
never trusted President Rouhani's strategy of relying on
the JCPOA as the path to improve
Iran's economy. After the unilateral Trump administration pullout,
the IRGC feels totally vindicated.
The mere threat of a U.S. attack on Iran has engineered a rise in
U.S. reliance on Middle
East Oil is going down while fracking - boosted by higher prices -
is ramping up. The threat of war increases with Tehran now overtly
referring to its power to cripple global energy supplies literally
the Houthis, by forcing the
Yemen-bombing House of Saud to stop oil shipments via the Bab
al-Mandeb port, are configuring the Strait of Hormuz and scores of
easily targeted pipelines as even more crucial to the flow of energy
that makes the West tick.
If there ever was a U.S. attack on Iran,
Persian Gulf analysts stress only Russia, Nigeria and Venezuela
might be able to provide enough oil and gas to make up for lost
supplies to the West.
That's not exactly what the Trump
administration is looking for.
Iranian "nuclear weapons" was always a bogus issue. Tehran did not
have them - and was not pursuing them. Yet now the highly volatile
rhetorical war introduces the hair-raising possibility of Tehran
perceiving there is a clear danger of a U.S. nuclear attack or an
attack whose purpose is to destroy the nation's infrastructure.
cornered, there's no question the IRGC would buy nuclear weapons on
the black market and use them to defend the nation.
This is the "secret" hidden in Soleimani's message. Besides, Russia
could easily - and secretly - supply Iran with state-of-the-art
defensive missiles and the most advanced offensive missiles.
This absurd game of chicken is absolutely unnecessary for Washington
from an oil strategy point of view - apart from the intent to break
a key node of Eurasia integration.
Assuming the Trump administration
is playing chess, it's imperative to think 20 moves ahead if
"winning" is on the cards.
If a U.S. oil blockade on Iran is coming, Iran could answer with its
own Strait of Hormuz blockade, producing economic turmoil for the
West. If this leads to a massive depression, it's unlikely the
industrial-military-security complex will blame itself.
There's no question that Russia and China - the two key BRICS
players - will have Iran's back.
First there's Russia's
participation in Iran's nuclear and aerospace industries and then
the Russia-Iran collaboration in the Astana process to solve the
With China, Iran as one of the country's top energy
suppliers and plays a crucial role in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
red, Members of the AIIB in orange, the six corridors in black.
Russia and China have an outsize presence in the Iranian market and
similar ambitions to bypass the U.S. dollar and third-party U.S.
Beam me up, Global South
The true importance of the BRICS Johannesburg summit is how it is
solidifying a Global South plan of action that would have Iran as
one of its key nodes.
Iran, although not named in an excellent
analysis by Yaroslav Lissovolik at the
Valdai Club, is the
quintessential BRICS Plus nation.
Once again, BRICS Plus is all about constituting a "unified platform
of regional integration arrangements," going way beyond regional
deals to reach other developing nations in a transcontinental scope.
This means a platform integrating,
the African Union (AU)
Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU)
the Shanghai Cooperation
the South Asian Bay of Bengal
Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC)
Iran is a future member of the SCO and has already struck a deal
with the EAEU.
It's also an important node of the BRI and is a key
member, along BRICS members India and Russia, of the International
North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC), essential for deeper
Lissovolik uses BEAMS as the acronym to designate,
of regional integration groups, with BRICS Plus being a broader
concept that incorporates other forms of BRICS' interaction with
China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi has defined BRICS Plus and
"most extensive platform for South-South cooperation with a
The Global South now does have an integration road
If it ever happened, an attack on Iran would be not only an
attack on BRICS Plus and BEAMS but on the whole Global South...