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This week on SOTT Talk Radio we spoke with legendary Brazilian journalist, Pepe Escobar, roving correspondent for Asia Times, analyst for RT and frequent contributor to websites and radio shows from the U.S. to East Asia.

Escobar's extensive travels and reporting bring witty insights to Western audiences starved of real information to what is going on in the world. Since before 9/11, Escobar has specialized in covering Brzezinski's "arc" from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars.

He's the author of three books - Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War, Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad During the Surge, and Obama Does Globalistan. You can check out some of his recent articles on SOTT.net.

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Here's the transcript:

Niall: Hello everyone. Welcome back to SOTT Talk Radio. This is Niall Bradley, your host with Joe Quinn tonight.

Joe: Hi there.

Niall: And Pierre Lescaudron.

Pierre: Bonjour.

Niall: So, this week we are speaking with the legendary Brazilian journalist Pepe Escobar, roving correspondent for Asia Times, analyst for RT and a frequent contributor to many websites and radio shows across the world. He's travelled all over the world and is the author of three books: Globalistan: How the Globalised World is Dissolving Into Liquid War, Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Bagdad During the Surge and Obama Does Globalistan. Joining us from the People's Republic of Pipelinestan, welcome Pepe Escobar!

Pepe: Hi everybody. I hope we're going to have an interesting conversation. And I'm talking from a very different battlefield today. I'm actually in Brazil; four days before the beginning of the World Cup.

Niall: Yeah.

Pepe: For geopolitics, right? (laughing)

Niall: Oh yeah? Are you there to report on the big event of the year?

Pepe: No, I'm not reporting. I'm going to write a few articles for Asia Times and RT, but basically I wanted to see the World Cup here, which is once in a lifetime experience in fact.

Pierre: Where are you in Brazil?

Pepe: I was in Rio a few days ago. I'm in Sao Paulo. I'll be in Brasilia next weekend and then god only knows.

Pierre: There's been a lot of demonstrations in Sao Paulo against the World Cup. What's your take on the current popular movement?

Pepe: I spent an absolutely demented day on Thursday. There was a Metro strike. It was raining. It was complete chaos. Two hundred and nine kilometres of traffic jams in Sao Paulo. And I did an experiment. I tried to go from downtown Sao Paulo to the Itaquera Stadium where the World Cup is going to start in four days. Just speaking English. And it's just an absolute nightmare.

Joe: Why were you just speaking English? As an experiment?

Pepe: Because I was trying to impersonate a foreign tourist.

Joe: Ah. To see what happens.

Pepe: Exactly. And I knew it would be an absolute mess because people are wonderful. I got help from everybody you can imagine. But sign language, one or two words. So I would imagine a Croat tourist next week. The English contingent in fact, which is going to be here for England against Uruguay. And then in the finals, if there is a Metro strike and they are faced with the same situation, it's going to be an absolute nightmare for them. So this was my point.

And then I went, of course I was diversifying, and I got a crash course on urban mobility in Sao Paulo. People were lecturing me about corruption everywhere in the municipal government, federal government, you name it. So it was an outstanding experience in fact.

Joe: Here in Europe they've been given a lot of dire warnings to travellers about how to handle themselves when they're at the World Cup because they're going to be robbed left, right and centre; they're going to be held up at gunpoint.

Pepe: To an extent this is true, especially in Rio and Sao Paulo. I was in Europe until a few days ago. It's the same thing. I was travelling from Asia, then from Europe, and now I'm here in the thick of the action. It's true. Brazil is very monocultural. Everyone speaks Portuguese. For the bulk of the population, there's no second language. Even Spanish is complicated for them. So for a bad guy, if they hear a foreign accent in the street, you are a target. One that happened to me last week, I was walking on the beach and a guy was robbed behind me in fact, because he was speaking something... I think it was Italian.

Pierre: And the soccer authorities asked for a cease fire. They asked the Brazilian people to stop demonstrating during the World Cup. Do you think it will work?

Pepe: Oh yes. I was discussing this yesterday night in fact. A lot of the guys who run the drug business, in the favelas in Rio, for instance, a lot of money changed hands these past few weeks. There's no question. There is a truce. The problem is Sao Paulo's much more complicated because Sao Paulo is a sprawl. In Rio you have the favelas right in the middle of the city. In fact if they wanted to take over Rio, they could do it in a few hours. They don't. They want to stay in the favelas and they don't want the federal government or the state government to harass them. So as long as they are kept in their places, it's fine for them.

In Sao Paulo it's more complicated. The city is in fact much more violent than Rio and sprawled. People get mugged in downtown Sao Paulo. Parts of it, you could be in Chicago and New York and you get mugged, robbed, stabbed. It's completely crazy because there are different gangs operating all over the sprawl. Most of them are in the suburbs of Sao Paulo which is a sprawl that goes on for 50, 60, 70 kilometres in all directions. And the conditions are worse than in Sub-Saharan Africa, parts of it. At the same time you find people who are trying to get an education. They're trying to get better services. They try to be treated as citizens and not just as the 'excluded from the banquet'.
And ultimately they resort to violence because there's no political articulation yet among these groups; there's a lot of resentment in terms of the inequality. Everybody knows that Brazil, even though the seventh economy in the world, is one of the most unequal countries on earth. And this hasn't changed over the past 10 years, even with this new miracle of the new middle class in Brazil, which is the same as the new middle class in China and India and Russia, the BRICS.

But still the inequalities are terrible because the old money in Brazil has always been extremely corrupt. The new money in the Lula [Luis Inácio Lula da Silva] years and now the Dilma [Dilma Rousseff] years is even worse than the old money in fact, in terms of corruption, in terms of arrogance. It's a mix of ignorance and arrogance, which is absolutely horrible.

And part of the myth that Brazil is a racial paradise, is complete bullshit. There's a lot of prejudice against blacks in this country all over. You only succeed if you are a famous footballer, of course, or a famous musician. Otherwise you're going to be in deep trouble in terms of educational opportunities, in terms of social mobility especially, in terms of circulating in the posh areas, in the big cities. It's dreadful. Not much has changed in fact over the past few decades.

Joe: So in terms of the people protesting against the World Cup, where do you fall on that? Do you think the World Cup is a good thing or do you think it should have been kicked out long ago and the money given to the poor people?

Pepe: Look, I arrived here only a few days ago and I've been out of Brazil for a long time.

Joe: Oh yeah?

Pepe: For over 30 years. I left Brazil in '85 to do what I do.

Joe: And you never went back?

Pepe: Of course. I come back and I stay a few weeks or something.

Joe: Okay.

Pepe: But I don't follow the social reality in the country. So yesterday night, I was with a couple of friends and they were giving me a crash course on what's been happening here lately. Especially different leaderships in terms of protesting against the World Cup. The difference between, for instance, protests by the landless peasants movement and the homeless urban movement. Their articulations are completely different of course. Black leaderships in the slums of Sao Paulo or in the periphery of Sao Paulo, different articulations. Social workers, transport workers. So it's a mix of - they became let's say middle class these past few years, but the opportunities for most of these sectors are virtually nil, and in fact; some of them have resorted to violence, but this is a minority, absolutely. There is a black bloc, especially in Sao Paulo, very, very active, like the black blocs in Europe. But it's a minority of a few hundred they tell me. In fact during this week I plan to get in touch with them, to talk to them directly.

But in terms of the lower middle class, especially in the suburbs of the big, big cities in Sao Paulo, it's completely different from the U.S. In fact here the suburbs in Brazil means the lower middle class and the urban proletariat, unlike the U.S., for instance. Because the suburbs is where the wealthy classes are. Here it's the complete opposite. These people are still trying to organise themselves politically. So they are protesting against not the World Cup per se, but the corruption in-built in the FIFA/federal government arrangements. And the sectors that really profited from it especially were the big Brazilian construction companies.

So these are the people who made all the money these past seven years. You all know that Brazil was awarded the World Cup seven years ago, and nothing, absolutely nothing has been done. They left everything, Brazilians, down to the last minute. So I went to the Itaquera stadium on Thursday. I managed to get there in the end. And I took a picture that shows I would say at least 20-25% of the whole thing's not ready yet. They're running another test today on Sunday and it's still not ready. It's absolutely crazy. They spent I think $450 million for this stadium. You look at it, it looks like a stadium in Germany, in Bavaria. But when you look at the details and when you look at what's around it, it's Africa. It's ridiculous. And a few kilometres away from the stadium, there's an enormous building that is being squatted by the homeless urban movement in Sao Paulo, like 4,000 people. So within literally almost walking distance, you see the inequalities in Brazil in your face.

Niall: Bread and circuses. So there's definitely fertile ground for this widespread social protest movement. I wonder though, can you comment on something that the Turkish Prime Minister said recently. I'll just read it out here. So Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey says:
"The same game that's being played in Turkey is now being played over in Brazil. The symbols are the same. The posters are the same. Twitter, Facebook are the same. The international media is the same. They are being led from the same centre. They are doing their best to achieve in Brazil what they could not achieve in Turkey."

He further stated that the two protests were the same game, the same trap, with the same aim. What do you make of that?

Pepe: Look, there is an element of truth in what Erdogan said, but it's much more complicated than that. Of course the protests, the right-wingers in Brazil, essentially they co-opted the protests after a while. You remember the protests one year ago.

Niall: Yeah.

Pepe: We were talking hundreds of thousands of people in the streets. They were really, really serious. The thing that started the protests was straight to the point, what I saw this past Thursday was urban mobility and corruption in the transportation system, where people are stranded in the middle of nowhere for hours or they spend four or five hours every day just commuting. And obviously this is because of the transportation companies corruption. The way they function with every government; bribing every government, especially municipal and state government because of a 20 cent raise for people who make the minimum wage - the minimum wage here is around less than $300 - that's a lot of money. That's a lot of money.

So this was the beginning of the protest. So in the beginning they were vandals. Then the so-called right-wing opposition here in Brazil, which is a bunch of extremely corrupt parties by the way, they said "Oh no, no, it's true. Because the government's horrible, they should provide better transportation. So yes, we support them." Because they notice as well, that most of the protestors were middle class. They were not only the excluded from the periphery. The middle class was protesting not only against this bus fare raise, but also against corruption in all echelons of government, which is true. With the workers' party, political corruption in Brazil has basically changed hands. That's the number one problem.
And in Turkey, when you look at Erdogan's ATP machines, it's not very much different. Erdogan, the protest in Gezi Park which you remember very well, was about turning Gezi Park into a shopping mall essentially, with a mosque and all that. And then the middle classes in Istanbul itself, which Erdogan was trying to turn into one of his fiefdoms, not only at Anatolia; he wanted to conquer Istanbul and be the sultan of Istanbul with his mega projects. They started protesting about why these mega projects were not discussed in public because obviously a lot of money changed hands in Istanbul. So the greater Istanbul is basically an enormous real estate racket. This is what one of my best friends in Istanbul, an outstanding historian, explained to me last year after the beginning of the protests.

So what Erdogan says, I see it as a kind of BRICS NATO narrative, which is true. A lot of the mainstream media in the U.S. and in Europe, they are framing the protests as: "This country's not serious, obviously they should never have been awarded the Olympics. It's not going to work. It should be here in the civilised first world", right? So of course, there's a lot of profiteering for the so-called established powers in the so-called northern hemisphere. But at the same time, the protests are absolutely legitimate in Brazil. Absolutely. From all these different social sectors we were talking about a few minutes ago.

Niall: Yeah. They are just about everywhere, really.

Pepe: Yeah.

Niall: We wouldn't want to let Erdogan off the hook either. You do wonder though, to what extent what he's saying is true. Assad claimed the same thing, with good reason, that this was something we projected onto his country.

Pepe: Exactly. The different thing here is that there is no civil war yet in Turkey or in Brazil, but in Syria it's a three-and-a-half year civil war. And it's crazy because this is something I had been writing about for months, in fact for over two years. Assad would never lose because the business classes in both Damascus and Aleppo, they never wanted regime change, period. So unless there was a coup, a western instigated coup in Damascus, just like it happened in Kiev, he will never lose that war.

Look, I've been to Syria a few times and it's an absolutely horrible police state. But there is no alternative. That's why it's so tragic for the Syrians themselves. And they admit it. They say "Look, the only thing we have here is Assad. If there's no Assad, it's total chaos." Or we're going to have these - used to be the Bandera/Bush gang, right? The beheaders Islamic state of Iraq and all that, which are now being armed. And now the U.S. recognises that they are sending lethal weapons to these people. We all knew that for what? Over a year?

Niall: Yeah.

Pepe: But now the U.S. is admitting on the record that they are sending lethal aid and not only "non-lethal", right?

Niall: Yeah, they always do that. They bring the narrative up to speed once conditions are right for it or it suits whatever the next stage in the game plan is.

Joe: Well what I can't get over in Syria, even now with this admission that this is what they're doing, the fact that they admit and everybody is supposed to know, that "Al Qaeda" are in Syria. I mean, seriously, if they're sending lethal aid to Syria and a major part of the so-called revolutionaries are officially Al Qaeda, how the American people aren't a little bit pissed off, the people that attacked them on 9/11 are now supposedly being funded by their own government? I think it's just evidence that the American people long ago just switched off and don't know what's going on at all and don't care.

Pepe: Exactly. It's a mix of both. It's a mix of extreme misinformation or disinformation, or apathy. They are like drones. In effect, we can say that the bulk of the American middle class, now their number one preoccupation is economic survival. They lose their job, in one month they become homeless, literally. Literally. I've seen that for myself when I was covering the elections in the U.S. a year-and-a-half ago. Around two or three blocks outside of Las Vegas Blvd., for instance, right in the middle of the consumer dream, let's put it this way. Or in New York. Downtown San Francisco. Places that I would never imagine. In parts of Hollywood in LA, the same thing. And the people are absolutely desperate. This is what you don't read in the LA Times and the New York Times, of course.

And it's the same thing in Europe. I go to Europe a lot from Asia and I have family in Europe, etc. In Spain, youth unemployment, it's over 50%. You can go to the best universities in Barcelona and Madrid, or to technical colleges, etc. - no jobs. In Italy, it's approaching 47% youth unemployment. Same thing. And in Paris it's crazy. Everywhere you go in Paris you see homeless people. Sometimes I think that I am in Sao Paulo in fact. It's absolutely tragic. And the austerity, every average western European - I'm not talking about the eastern Europeans because their wishful thinking is that there's going to be an economic miracle for them. Forget it. For Hungarians, Czechs, forget it.

But in western Europe or especially in the Club Med countries, everybody knows what austerity means. And they are absolutely desperate. You see the head of the family, they have a house. They've already paid their mortgage. You see sometimes three generations under one roof because it's the only way to make ends meet. Because 80% of the family is unemployed in fact.

Pierre: And the problem is that while the poor are getting more and more poor, the richest ones are getting more and more rich. The chasm, the inequality keeps growing. It's not so hard to be poor when everybody's poor. But when you see some billionaires, some elite are accumulating wealth on your back...

Joe: Or when you've had relative wealth and then it's taken away from you, that's when it's the hardest.

Pierre: True.

Joe: But just speaking about Spain; today in Spain there were a lot of protests in Madrid and Barcelona about the monarchy. A lot of people want rid of the monarchy because you know Juan Carlos abdicated a few days ago, last week and Felipe, the son, is going to be shunted into power there to keep the masses happy: "Well you're poor but at least you've got a king". And the Spanish people aren't too happy about it, at least some of them.

Pepe: Well I'm not sure the masses are going to be happy.

Joe: Yeah.

Pepe: I would say the monarchists of course, which is the substantial bulk of the population; we cannot forget that Spain is intrinsically an extremely conservative country. Also don't forget there are still a lot of Francistas in Spain. And they love the association between Franco and the monarchy that went on for decades there, who are nostalgic, who are still very dangerous. And they control some important levers of the economy as well. I would say young people in Spain, they are overwhelmingly against the monarchy. They want to be rid of it. But I'm not sure if they still have the numbers at the moment.

Joe: Yeah. We have a question here on our chat room. We have a chat room going with questions from a listener. She said "Have you heard about Snowden asking for asylum in Brazil?"

Pepe: Who?

Joe: Snowden.

Pepe: That's a very good question...

Joe: ...and what's your opinion on the whole Snowden issue? Because there's stuff come out recently about whether or not he's legitimate or not.

Pepe: The day I arrived here and the day before, I actually watched the interview that he gave to Brazilian TV. He talked to NBC, he talked to RT. And he gave an exclusive half hour interview to Brazilian TV where he was, for all practical purposes, begging the Brazilian government to give him asylum. I was startled in fact because all the information that we had before this interview is that he liked his routine in Russia.

Joe: Yeah.

Pepe: He would probably renew his visa application for another year, there would be no problems. He has no problems living in Moscow. And then we have this bombshell. So he rationalised it saying: "Look, from the beginning I wanted to come to South America. In fact I had booked a ticket to Ecuador via Cuba but at the airport my passport had been cancelled." Okay, it's true. And he requested asylum to Caracas, to Quito, and he told Brazil, but the Brazilian government said "No! We never received an application." So it's a very murky story in fact.

Joe: Yeah, I wonder why he's not happy with Russia anymore. Has he fallen out with Putin?

Pepe: That's a very good question. My conspiracy theory is: if you want to report on international relations, you have to try to speak to facts, even if the facts are very hard to find sometimes. But I have been discussing this with some people and some of my American friends in fact tell me "Look, he's still a CIA agent. He's a disinformation agent." I don't have facts to back that up. I consider their points of view of course. But we still cannot establish it. Certainly you cannot establish it because he worked for the CIA. He also worked for the NSA. We all know that the CIA and the NSA hate each other. So he could still be a CIA agent. He could still be an NSA agent. He could still be a double agent. Or he could be what he says he is: 'a conscientious objector'.

Joe: Well one way to find out would be to let the Americans get their hands on him and see if he goes to prison or not.

Pepe: (laughing) You saw what happened to Glen Greenwald. I was absolutely sure that he would be arrested when he went to...

Niall: America.

Pepe: ...the U.S. [ inaudible ] in the end. So the media or himself called the White House or the Justice Department. Leave my guy out of this.

Joe: Yeah, that's a little bit suspicious with Greenwald. Although it's kind of hard to reconcile it with the kind of stuff that he's done. But if you assume that he had some kind of government or spy agency connections and he is some kind of a deep cover agent selling plausible whistle-blowing details to the public, then that would suggest that there's a lot worse that they're trying to cover up.

Pepe: Absolutely. Facts, once again. What he revealed, everybody knew it already. What he revealed were operational details. In fact the documents themselves, they're not such a big deal. The revelation of the operational details of this Orwellian panoptical complex; deals that were really, really interesting of course. But it was not so damning. Even here in Brazil people joke "Hi, you've bought an iPhone. Everybody knows in Langley what you've been doing." People have much more of a sense of humour in the developing world, in BRICS countries when they're confronted with what the U.S.'s shenanigans. Don't forget that here for instance, there was a military coup in '64 that was completely remote controlled in D.C. So people don't forget these things in the developing world.

Joe: Yeah, the same to some extent as in Europe. That's what we were saying not so long ago, that the problem with the U.S. is that the U.S. has never known a war on its own soil, really in the past 200 years. So the people there have no history. There's no communal or collective cultural history of war and soldiers and what soldiers can do. So the American people are free to indulge a fantasy of: 'our wonderful freedom-giving troops going around the world freeing everybody'. They just have no cultural understanding of what war is like and what soldiers are forced to do and what they do.

Pepe: It's true. And the way the myth is propagated all over officially by official channels, by the media and by Hollywood; it's 24/7, it's a myth. I lived in the U.S. on both coasts and I travel a lot in the U.S. My fascination with U.S. is basically the outcasts. It's a very Bob Dylanish thing, the guys who are not in the official picture. I have a fascination with the geological beauty of the country itself. But officially of course, because I was raised in the shadow of a military coup and because I was always transiting between Brazil and Europe, your outlook is very, very cynical towards American foreign policy. In the case of a journalist - in fact it's a formative thing for a journalist. So you learn how to contest the official narrative in every aspect because you know they are lying. Deep down you know they are lying. Sometimes you can prove it, like during the run-up towards the Iraq war. It was very easy to prove it at the time. Sometimes you can't. It's a shadow war, it's covert operations, etc., destabilisations of governments in Indonesia for instance, or parts of Latin America. But you know they are lying. Of course all governments lie, but in terms of the empire, it's a 24/7 lie for the past 50 years.

Niall: Speaking of Hollywood myths, you wrote an article on August 30, 2001. I'm just going to read a little bit here:
"Osama bin Laden, number one target of the CIA's counter-terrorism centre is now a superstar playing the bad guy in some sort of planetary Hollywood fiction. Yet inside Afghanistan today, where the Saudi Arabian lives in exile, Osama is a minor character. He is ill and always in hiding somewhere near Kabul. Once in a while he travels incognito to Peshawar. His organisation, Al Qaeda, is split and in tatters. The Taliban owe him a lot for his past deeds towards the movement and in putting them power in Afghanistan, contributing with a stack of his own personal fortune of millions of dollars, but no longer an asset, he has become a liability."
Ten days later, 9/11.

Joe: Yeah, how could such a guy carry out 9/11?

Pepe: Exactly. Look, it doesn't make sense. It's strange to hear you reading that story. I would say 90% of what I wrote still stands shenanigans. Essentially the bulk of the information in the story, I got it in Pakistan from the Pakistanis themselves, from people in the tribal areas. And then from Massoud himself when I interviewed him. Massoud told me the same thing: "Osama is dangerous. Al Qaeda is not such a big deal but depending on the connections they have, they could do something." This was only a few days before he was killed, which was two days before 9/11. He was framing the whole thing as a regional fight between his forces and Al Qaeda's forces in Afghanistan. He said "Look, that's it. They're not going to take over central Asia or the Middle East. It's a very small group. It's a fringe thing. It's not such a big deal."
So how could they pull off 9/11? It still doesn't make sense. It still doesn't make sense, at all.

Niall: Yeah. You go on to write that the news you were breaking, that you were hearing from people in Pakistan, that they were expecting any day now, a U.S. military operation of some sort, probably a covert operation, to come in and deal with this Osama bin Laden character. It's just so strange that people there were actually expecting something coming but they had no idea in what for it would come. In the end it was a full scale war.

Pepe: Exactly. You know there's something very important which I don't think I wrote in that particular article. Musharraf vetoed the plan himself. This is something that I learned later on in Islamabad. There was a plan for an infiltration. It would go on in late summer. This means a few days before 9/11 or perhaps in the early weeks in September. And Musharraf vetoed because he said "Look, if I do this - I like the Americans - and come through here and infiltrate Pakistan, I'm going to have a civil war in my own country." And he was right because the whole Pashtun belt would start a civil war against him. There's absolutely no question. And even other regions in Pakistan. He knew it, he knew it.

So it's very interesting because at the same time there was vetoing this covert operation, 9/11 happened and Massoud was killed. Massoud being killed was very important for Hamid Karzai which was already the hand-picked American leader. I remember when I was there, all the Afghans were absolutely sure that the King would be back, King Zahir Shah, who was in exile in Rome for decades as well. They were absolutely sure because after a while they were saying "Massoud was our nationalist leader. He was killed. There's nobody else to replace. So the king will come back and he will be a unifying force."

But the Americans already had the Karzai brothers. And in fact they had Abdul Haq. I don't know if you remember Abdul Haq, later killed by the Taliban in fact, in a dodgy operation in eastern Afghanistan. This I think was a month or so after 9/11. This was in mid-October I think. Abdul Haq was the number one; Plan A for the Americans. So he was killed. Okay, Plan B was the Karzai brothers. So they convinced everybody else, the Europeans. They set up that sham conference in Bonn when they already had the results in hand. "Okay, we want Karzai." So Karzai was forced on the Afghans.

So basically people knew him. You know how they called Karzai in Kabul in fact? I remember: The kabob seller. Because he ran a chain of restaurants. (laughter)

Pierre: One question Pepe.

Pepe: Yes.

Pierre: If Osama bin Laden is not the one who committed 9/11, if the U.S. authorities framed bin Laden and by extension Afghanistan, it means therefore that Afghanistan was a target. So why was Afghanistan at this time a target of U.S. imperialism?

Pepe: Oh my god! I would need days to answer your question because most of it would be speculative. I would hate to go in that direction in fact.

Pierre: Maybe I can help you with it.

Joe: Has it got anything to do with the one trillion dollars in rare earth materials that they actually announced that they found this few years ago, but it was in the news again recently, about one trillion dollars worth of stuff for computer parts.

Pepe: Yeah, it has to do with resource wars. There's no question. One angle is the mineral wars of course. The other angle is oil. The famous, it will never happen in fact, pipeline TAPI: Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India. Then it became TAP. India pulled out. And now it's less than T because nobody wants to invest ten billion dollars in a war zone. It's completely ridiculous.

And on top of it, I think this is one of the craziest stories in international relations this past 20 years in fact because the original idea for the Clinton administration was okay, let's go there. We're going to buy off the Taliban and we'll build a pipeline to India, which is one of our allies. But the Taliban wanted a commission. The commission at the time was $50 million a year, which is totally ridiculous, And the Americans said "No, this is too much". So they were haggling from '90, '97 to 2001 actually, a few days before 9/11; they were still haggling about this commission. And the Americans were losing patience. They said "let's go over there and bomb these people." So they were going to bomb the Taliban, even before 9/11 because of TAPI (Turkmenistan - Afghanistan - Pakistan - India Pipeline), because of the TAPI negotiations. They wanted to build that pipeline, which was another way to bypass once again the same story: Russia and Iran and have a lot of gas for India, very close allies of the United States.

So yes, there are two angles; resource wars and energy wars and geopolitically they were not thinking of taking over Afghanistan because they thought that the Taliban would keep that country as a whole. They didn't. In fact the Taliban, at the time of 9/11, they were controlling 85% of the country, roughly. But all the deep north and the northeast, north of the Panjshir Valley, was still controlled by Massoud, where Tajiks allied with Massoud. The Taliban would never control the whole of Afghanistan. The Americans thought they could and that's why the Americans supported the takeover of Kabul in 1996. You should remember that, it's very important.

Can you imagine the U.S. covertly supporting a regime that was only supported all over the world by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. So it was basically a greasy Wahabi-style 7th Century Islam kind of so-called government. I had, I would say the "chance", to travel Talibanistan from one border to another. I started in the Pakistan/Afghanistan border in Dewar and I finished in Islam Qila, the border with Iraq. So I saw for myself what that was. In fact every nightmare that you may have about the 7th century was actually playing live in Afghanistan. And obviously Washington said "Cool. As long as we can get our pipeline."

Joe: So okay, let me suggest a kind of a broader answer and it brings it back to Russia. You mentioned resource war and energy war and this has all happened obviously, since the collapse of the Soviet Union and I suppose from the American point of view, an opportunity for plunder and resource war and resource grab. But they also had or have this plan to do something about Russia because of its size, because of its resources, because of its historical power and role in the world as the other major world power.

And it actually just brings up something that I read in your book, Obama Does Globalistan, where you give the answer for why NATO bombed Yugoslavia. And that was basically to break up Yugoslavia so they could spread NATO closer to Russia's borders which is kind of what the big problem is today, the new Russia versus the west; the renewed kind of cold war has that at the centre of it, NATO pushing towards Russia's borders. But you say that Yugoslavia in the late '90s was bombed by NATO apparently with this plan in mind. So it seems that you're saying that back in '90s, not long after the Soviet Union fell, the Americans had this plan ultimately to deal with Russia and to get as much energy as possible.

Pepe: Yes, absolutely. I think the first chapter of NATO's expansion in the Balkans and eastern Europe and all the way to Russia's western borderlands, in fact Georgia, Ukraine, etc., was Yugoslavia. There's absolutely no question. Remember that at the time it was Clinton and Yeltsin in power. Yeltsin was absolutely powerless to contradict what the U.S. was doing. And Clinton was an expansionist as well, an expansionist with a smile of course, but still very, very dangerous.

And then during the 2000s; Putin was elected in 2000. I was covering Putin's first election in 2000 in Moscow. And the Russians were telling me at the time: "Look, it's going to change. This guys' not going to be a Yeltsin II. He's a nationalist and Russia has been broken during the '90s. There's going to be a resurgence. It's going to take a while." It took only a decade. That's not much, uh? Putin, Medvedev and now another Putin term. He's probably going to have a second term after that. And that's why NATO started freaking out because they said no, now with Yugoslavia we expand through the former Yugoslavia, Hungary, Romania and one day or another we're going to be in Ukraine.

So Putin was exactly the counterpunch that they were never expecting in Washington and in Brussels. Absolutely no question. The Georgia mini-war in 2008 was a first - okay, they tried: "Maybe we can have an opening with Georgia here." And you remember the Russian response... So they tried again in Ukraine with an orange revolution which is the same thing as a war but through NED, Freedom House, NGOs, you name it. It also didn't work. And now they're trying the hard-core stuff which is: "Okay, we provoke a coup, we install our puppet over there. Poroshenko is another oligarch. He's as corrupt as Yanukovych but the only difference is from a different oligarchic clan. That's the only difference. And the difference of course that Yanukovych was corrupt, especially in his dealings with the Russians, just like Timoshenko, but he was trying some dialogue with the west. But he was not convinced. In fact he refused the political association agreement for two reasons. Number one: there was a chapter that imposed subscribing to NATO military protocol. He said "No, I simply cannot sign that because I know what the Russian are doing". And number two: it was inbuilt in it the destruction of Ukrainian industry because Europeans would go there and take over everything. Not to mention invade Ukraine with cheap, probably eastern European-made [produce].

So obviously he didn't sign for these two reasons. But he never said "Look, I will never sign it." He wanted to renegotiate it. As corrupt and incompetent as he was, he was trying for Ukraine to become a bridge between Brussels and Moscow. In the meantime, obviously there was the pooch. After that then we have Yats (Arseniy "Yats" Yatsenyuk), the king of Nulandistan in fact, the lacky of the Americans. And surrounded by this boatload of people, an extremely nasty bunch, and they recently formed a right sector which is basically a neo-Nazi militia. There's no other way to describe it.

When that happened - this is the best info that we got from Moscow and I bought it because I think the facts speak for themselves. It's not a diversionist tactic. They explained that Putin's counterpunch in Crimea which was very, very fast, because Russian intelligence, they had excellent info that there would be a replica of the Kiev coup in Crimea, in Simferopol. And this was a matter of a few days only, probably two or three days. When they had this information, "Look, they're going to try to take over Simferopol and the first thing they're going to do of course is to take over the bay in Sevastopol."

So Putin decided "Okay, we don't invade. We're not going to bomb anything." He sent the famous pleasant green men. They took over most of the military installations that really mattered. They protected the base which after all there were Russian troops already there protecting the base. And obviously most of the parliament in Crimea, they were pro-Russians or they were Russian speakers, Russophones or linked to Russia by cultural, political, sentimental, gastronomics, you name it. And the referendum was legal. The people who were there supervising it, a lot of journalists and others - it was absolutely legal because the absolute majority of the population, they wanted to go back to Russia. We all know the story eh? Khrushchev in '64. Everybody were Russian citizens, part of the Russian motherlandl. So obviously it was no-brainer, the final result.

The thing is that because Plan A for the Americans worked, which was the pooch itself, the sequence to Plan A didn't work, which was the takeover of the base in Sevastopol and obviously turn it to NATO in the short run, medium term or the long run. So Plan B was to blame Russia for acts in Crimea and Russian aggression, which is the official narrative for the past three months at least. It's the same thing that is being repeated over and over again, not only by the Americans but by Hollande, Cameron, Renzi in Italy, you name it. Same thing. But still they want the sequence to Plan A which is to isolate Russia from Europe. For the Americans, this Eurasian integration which is basically Russia and China integrating closer and closer with Europe, through central Asia, Turkey is very important, it's an absolute no-no. This is the number one priority: "We cannot allow Europe to become more independent from us and have closer trading commercial relations with both Russia and China."

It happens that both Russia and China have their own integration strategies. The Russian strategy is the Eurasian Economic Unit. Three countries already signed the agreement. They would like Ukraine to be part of it as well and from now on forget it. But they want to integrate the Eurasian economic Unit with the EU in terms of more trade and commerce between these two blocks, which makes perfect sense. And at the same time the Chinese have the new Silk Roads project which is not only one Silk Road. It's all sorts of Silk Roads; one through central Asia, one through Siberia, one through Southeast Asia, Thailand, Myanmar and one through the Indian Ocean as well.

And for them the number one, let's say the Silk Road of all Silk Roads which is what President Xi Jinping when he went to Germany in April and announced, in German. It's fascinating because most of the railway is already there. There's only a few hundred kilometres to be built. From Guangyuan in Sichuan Province, centre of China, to Duisburg in the Ruhr Valley in Germany. It's absolutely fascinating because this could develop in a matter of two years or so. So then instead of taking the maritime routes, commerce between the heart of the EU; Germany and China, can be over land. And in fact they save at least five to seven days in terms of railway being faster than the maritime route.

So in terms of Eurasian integration, the way I see it, this is the Holy Grail. For the Americans it's an absolute nightmare because this means Eurasia will be really integrated in trading the commercial way and there's no way this is going to be worse than the two free trade deals the Americans have tried to ram up against the Europeans and Asians at the same time. Opposition in some European countries against this Trans-Atlantic agreement is enormous, as I'm sure you know about. And in Asia, this Obama tour was an absolute flop in fact because the Japanese, they will never sign the Trans-Pacific agreement because they know American big business is going to destroy their auto industry and their agriculture. Absolutely paranoid about it. And even smaller countries like in Malaysia, they didn't say anything positive about the DPP either.

So the American's so-called trade strategy of their pivoting to both Russia and Asia, it's an absolute disaster for them. So what? The militaristic approach, right? The expansion of NATO forever. So they still think that they can sell this to European public opinion, I think that the results in the last European parliamentary elections show that a significant - I wouldn't say a majority yet, but soon it's going to be a majority of Europeans. With austerity all over the continent and economic crisis in most European countries, you're going to spend money on a militaristic approach against Russia and China at the same time? This is beyond stupid, right?

Pierre: While reading your book it was very interesting this part about pipelines and obviously one of the objectives of the U.S. is to shunt Russia and militarily speaking, to encircle and maybe destroy Russia but at the same time, those pipeline strategies put Europe as dependent to the U.S. because the U.S. will control the oil fields and the pipelines. And I was wondering if beyond this attempt to destroy Russia there is also an attempt to keep Europe as a slave and in the end the U.S. might fail to destroy Russia but in addition they might lose their current allies/slaves, Europe. So in the future, how do you see the position of Europe and the choice that Europe is facing now: Russia or U.S.?

Pepe: Exactly. It depends on the political classes in Europe. But just take a look at the roster that we have at the moment in each individual western European country; not to mention the bureaucrats in Brussels, the European Commission, the people who are managing the EU, the commissioners inside Europe. It's an absolute disaster. Simply, you cannot trust any of these people. I used to do Brussels a lot in the '90s. And I still have some good friends who work in the EU and the EC, so they're always feeding me very good information. They're always complaining. They say "Look, we are hostages of Gazprom. Obviously we're hostages of Gazprom because you cannot buy oil and gas from Iran."

And they say "Of course, we cannot do anything because the Americans won't let us." - "So why don't you try something different?" Obviously, because they have been discussing a unified European energy policy as long as I can remember, for 10 years now. They still don't have one. And they won't have one because each country wants the best thing for themselves. They are haggling about the south stream now, the south stream pipeline. Some people want to cancel it and some countries say "No, we need that gas. And the only one who's going to provide it, is Russia. It's not going to be through Turkmenistan. It's not going to be Azerbaijan. And Iran is going to take years. Even if we have a deal clinched this year about the Iran nuclear dossier."

So don't expect coherence from European politicians, from Brussels. They're still haggling about everything and it's still a very nationalistic approach. They don't have a unified European approach. And they don't have a unified European foreign policy, right? Who runs Europe? Nobody knows. The famous Henry Kissinger song "Who do I call in Europe?" Nobody's going to call Herman von Rompuy. (laughter)

Niall: Indeed. The Europeans and incoherence is best summed up by something this week, a statement from commission president - can we call him that? He wasn't even elected. Initially I was a little excited because Barroso said "It's absurd" - or something along those lines - "that the EU is going to be able to rely on fracked natural gas from the U.S. That's a pipe dream" - pun not intended - "But we have enough resources in Poland and Ukraine. We're going to frack Europe ourselves and that'll be our future." It's not going to be enough, as far as I know and it's insane anyway. We know what's happening in the U.S. with fracking.

Pepe: It's completely insane and the thing is, they think they can get away with it. And there are no well-informed journalists - or the average citizen - that's going to say: "look, you're talking bullshit". In terms of the fracking "miracle" in the U.S., there was a California report a few days ago that was proving that the fracking myth in California has already been shattered, completely. And then we have the White House, almost on a weekly basis "We're going to start selling shale gas to Europe so they won't depend on Gazprom anymore".

Even if the U.S. started exporting natural gas to Europe, and it's a major if, because first of all they have to build the port terminals for these huge cargo ships, so the L&G can flow from American shores to Europe. This would take 10 years actually. So if everything went according to plan and they have excess shale gas in the U.S., and they built the terminals and they would start exporting; this wouldn't happen before 2022/2025. It's not going to happen. And this latest Californian report was very instructive, showing that it's a disaster. Not only is it an ecological disaster as we all know, but it's not working. It's not working.

And the people in Europe, they read these things and they have access to facts as well, so they know it. There are two possible extra suppliers apart from Gazprom. One is Iran which is another extremely complex story. If there is and I'm not very sure there's going to be a deal this year because the Americans themselves are trying to derail; they've introduced a military angle in terms of Iranian missiles in the middle of the discussion. This has nothing to do with the nuclear dossier. So it's going to be a very dodgy negotiation from now on.

Even if there was an agreement, the next day we're going to have one - Total, BP, Shell - everybody goes to Tehran, 'okay, let's strike a lot of deals', they can't because the Iranian energy infrastructure is not up to date. The last figure - this is something I keep repeating because it's the last figure that I got from the Iranians themselves, the National Iranian Oil Company. They said a few years ago already, this was, if I'm not mistaken, 2007, 2008; they needed $200 billion to upgrade their installations. So first of all this is a lot of money and second, it's going to take quite a while. Then they can start exporting natural gas to Europe, replacing some of the market share of Gazprom. It's a very long-term project but it's the only other feasible source that the European Union has.

Turkmenistan is not going to happen. Remember when there was a lot of speculation about building trans-Caspian pipeline: "We could have Turkman gas exported to Europe", no! Most of the excess Turkman gas they're selling to China. They built the pipeline to Turkmenistan through Uzbekistan. This pipeline was in operation in late 2009. They plan to expand this pipeline as well. So it's Turkmenistan/China. The Chinese got there first. They invested. They paid for the whole infrastructure and they're getting the gas they need. So forget about Turkmenistan for Europe.
And the last resort would be - and then it's very interesting because we get inside the Syrian War with this one - Qatar. You remember the controversy about Qatar or the Iran/Iraq/Syria pipeline as future pipelines to supply Europe? We have a major difference. If we have Iran/Iraq/Syria pipeline, we would have what in Washington is absolute anathema, right? An alliance of Baghdad, Tehran and Damascus selling energy to American allies in Europe. So this is an absolute no-no from the start, right? So this is one of the reasons for the war in Syria. There are many but this is a very important one.

The alternative would be a pipeline from Qatar which is the other side of the south Pars gas fields; which are shared between Iran and Qatar, going through Jordan, Syria controlled obviously by western governments and then eastern Mediterranean to Europe. So that's why Qatar played such a major role in the first two-and-a-half years of the Syrian civil war. Qatar fell out with Saudi Arabia. We all remember that.

Niall: Actually no. Can you remind us? That happened recently but it was kind of below the radar. Tell us what happened there.

Pepe: Okay, no problem. Qatar was supporting the so-called Free Syrian Army, which at the time was - Washington's policy was aligned with Doha, because "Okay, let's support the Free Syrian Army. Assad must go. This is going to happen in the next few weeks." We all remember that. This was in 2011, still early 2012.

Niall: Yeah.

Pepe: Then obviously nothing happened because the Free Syrian Army were beyond incompetent, not only in the field but also the so-called leaders. Most of them were hanging out in Paris hotels all the time. Ridiculous, right? And then last year we had the famous cat fight between Doha and Riyadh. Qatar and Saudi Arabia. And that's when Bandar Bush became so important because Bandar Bush told the Americans "Look, these idiots from Qatar, it's not going to work. You're not going to bring down Assad. I know how to do it, after all I ran part of the Jihad in the 80's in Afghanistan. I have my connections. Trust me. I'm the director of national intelligence in Saudi Arabia. The king gave me carte blanche. I can do anything I want." And he - in Washington - and others, they bought it.

The problem is that Bandar Bushs' tactics did not work. And that included a lot of operations which I and other independent analysts consider false flag operations, including gas attacks from all over the place. And the Russians in fact, they had intelligence on one of these operations that they brought to the UN proving that the Ghouta gas attack was a false flag. Obviously this was never examined at the UN because the U.S. vetoed it. So the Bandar Bush tactic was to arm not only the so-called moderates, which are in fact are being resurrected nowadays by the Americans, but also the connection with the hard core people: the Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant and Jabhat al-Nusra. They had connections with Jabhat. And Bandar Bush was the overall architect of the so-called resistance for many months, for almost a year in fact. It also did not work, as we know.

And then Bandar Bush was side-lined because the Americans themselves were fed up with the fact that nothing was working and they had nothing to show for in terms of: 'Assad must go tomorrow'. Now it's back to more or less the original plan, but only with more weapons, what we were discussing a while ago.

Joe: Yeah.

Pepe: They're supplying lethal weapons to this extremely disorganised bunch of fighters who are remnants of the Free Syrian Army, some are hard-core Jihadists, some are not. Some were trained in Turkey and in Jordan. You name it. Everybody knows they can't control parts of Syria which are basically desert, in the northeast for instance. Suburbs of Aleppo which are not important because they're too far away from Aleppo itself. They lost the military corridor to Homs as well.

So it's a matter of time before the Assad government says "Okay, we won the civil war", which is a very sorry state of affairs for the Syrians themselves because it's not going to solve anything. But the original American plan which was regime change is not going to happen, period. And they know it. So this also means that in terms of the Europeans, the alternative scenario of having this Qatar funded pipeline through Jordan and Muslim Brotherhood controlled Syria, let's put it this way, also is not going to happen.

So coming back to our original story, the best option for Europe is still Gazprom. And in the long run, Iran. But we're talking a long run of at least 10, 12, 15 years.

Joe: One of the interesting things on the, as you call it cat fight between Qatar and Saudi Arabia a few months ago, is that Saudi Arabia demanded that the Qatar government boot out the Brookings Institute and the Rand Corporation from Qatar and said...

Pepe: Exactly.

Joe: And they said also that any Jihadists returning from Syria basically were not allowed to return to Saudi Arabia. To me that kind of said that the Saudis were getting bit spooked with what was going on between Qatar and the Americans or something.

Pepe: Oh yes. The level of mistrust between these GCC players is absolutely unbelievable. Both lobbies are very strong. The Riyadh lobby's more powerful and stronger, but Doha they have a very, very strong soft power lobby in the U.S. Plus the fact that they invite a lot of American institutions; the fact that they are sponsoring Barcelona. So in terms of soft power, the fact that they bought a lot of real estate in Barcelona and in Paris, English companies, French companies. They carry a lot of weight. And the Saudis totally freaked out because they always thought that they were the top of the heap and 'we run the GCC' and it's not the case. Remember a few months ago when they were practically trying to kick Qatar out of the GCC. They pulled out ambassadors. They were threatening sanctions against them. It's ridiculous.

Joe: It's a farce, the whole thing just gives you the impression that - a cat fight is really a good way to describe it.

Pierre: Maybe another question, Pepe. Back to Russia. From what you describe at an energetic level at least, basic common sense, is that Russia and Europe should work together. Europe needs oil and gas. Russia's oil and gas is nearby. Infrastructures are easy to make. Going through safe territory. But even beyond the energetic chapter, obviously on a geographic level, cultural level, historic level; Europe and Asia being together makes sense too. So it seems that the U.S. is fighting against the most natural and fundamental law, against common sense.

Pepe: Yes. I agree with you. The way I frame it is Washington's trying to do everything they can to prevent Eurasian integration. And that's what historically in trading terms and commerce terms, even in cultural terms. And the Chinese had forever to resurrect the notion of the Silk Road. What the Silk Road did historically, before it was passed by the great discoveries, Columbus, etc. was integrating China, India, central Asia, Venice. We don't have to go back to re-reading Marco Polo to see how it worked. It worked both ways of course, between especially Italy and China.

So the fact that they are resurrecting the concept nowadays, I think it's fascinating. Once again it shows that the Chinese have a very long historical memory and they knew what worked for centuries, in terms of integrating, exchanging ideas. You had Buddhist monks doing pilgrimages all over the Silk Road. You had very strong commercial links between Asia and Europe. And they want to redo it now with the fibre optics, with the high speed train and it makes total sense of course. Because there is less American control over Europe, whichever way we look at it, basically for the ruling elites in Washington, Europe is still a bunch of colonists because that's what it is. When you go to Italy and you see all those military bases in Italy, like every time I go there I see graffiti in Italy all over protesting about the huge base in Vicenza near Venice. Those bases, Ramstein in Germany, you name it. It's still a colony, just like South Korea with 36,000 troops. Okay, but it's still viewed by Washington as a colony, not to mention Japan, Okinawa, you name it.

So the state of affairs are changing little by little with more Eurasian integration, China reaching all over Eurasia, Southeast Asia, doing deals, now better relations hopefully - in fact both sides want a better India-China relationship. Russia and China, there is strategic partnership and everything is a direct consequence of this, like bypassing the petroldollars. The Americans are completely paranoid about the BRICS, especially bypassing the petrodollars within their own economies of the BRICS, but also expanding other developing world economies as well. And obviously, when the petrodollar is going to become a minority in energy transactions, that's the real game changer. People would say "No, this is never going to happen. Maybe by 2050." No! It could happen by 2020, if not earlier. People were not betting that the Chinese economy would become the largest economy in the world by GDP in 2014, which is what happened this year. They were saying "No, after 2020."

So all these accelerations all over the place. There's going to be a BRICS meeting in Brazil next month. I'm very curious about this meeting because what I've heard here is that they plan to go and step up the integration and step up big, big time. Putin is coming to Brazil. [Narendra] Modi, the new Indian leader is coming to Brazil. Xi Jinping; Dilma are absolutely furious with the Americans, especially because of the NSA scandal. So at the Sherpa administerial level, the integration is fast paced now. So pay attention to what's going to happen next month at the BRICS summit.

Joe: Yeah, just in relation to that idea of it being historically practical or a part of Eurasian history, that that part of the world works together. I notice that the only thing that the Americans can do, apart from what you said, was just basically expand NATO and try and bomb people into submission and that they try to incite or excite amongst western Europeans, at least, the kind of cold war, even about communist China; basically the American history goes back only so far. It only goes back to maybe the second world war. So the European leaders and people are encouraged by the U.S. to remember their ties. And there's maybe kind of a racial tie as well in the sense that essentially Europeans and Americans, at least the whites anyway, are the same people. They have a shared recent history. I'm thinking of just the D-Day celebrations the other day where there was a lot of focus by Obama on the French and the Germans. Putin was kind of there on the side-lines but it was very much a U.S. and Europe together...

Niall: "Together forever."

Joe: "Together forever. We have a shared history." And maybe that's what's going on. Maybe there's some pressure being put on at least at an ideological level with the Europeans, pressure being put on the by the U.S. to say: "Listen, you're not Chinese. And remember Russia was the commies, right? They're the enemy and they still are the enemy. And it's Europe. America saved Europe, so remember who your friends are." But like you said, Pepe, especially the Chinese and the Russians have a longer history going back and the Europeans are going to be faced with the question, of: 'Well let's leave ideology aside here for a minute and look at practicalities.'

Pepe: Absolutely. And the way they were trying to practically isolate Russia from the D-Day [ceremony], everybody who knows history in Europe knows that without the Red Army winning in the eastern front, there would never have been a D-Day. Everybody knows this. But obviously, don't expect Le Monde or the Corriere della Sera to bring that on the page, right?

Joe: No.

Pepe: But the average well-informed European citizen; I'm sure people know the facts. And once again, this groundswell against the way the European Union is run nowadays, which manifested in the latest European elections, this is going on all over Europe. They don't want the EU. It's not even a project, the EU racket the way it's being run today and the way the Troika is run in Europe today, especially with the strong collaboration with the IMF. The IMF is essentially an American controlled racket, right? I happen to have a very close friend who was part of the three guys under DSK [Dominique Strauss-Kahn] in the IMF. So he told me some juicy stories.

Joe: I can imagine.

Pepe: I'm not talking about sex.

Joe: Oh no?

Pepe: Just as an aside, this guy said that DSK had all the tapes from the Sofitel, that story, proving that he was framed.

Pierre: Yeah.

Pepe: Apparently he showed those tapes in U.S. and that's why they had to drop the case because if they went to court and these tapes surfaced, it would be blatant that this woman in fact was willing. What happened in that room is not that she was raped or he was trying to rape her. She was willing. Then when she left, she concocted a story and the security went there and organised everything with her. So he was framed after the fact, but still he was framed. So that's the best explanation to why the Americans had to drop the case.

Joe: But why was he framed?

Pepe: Hoa! First of all: Sarkozian interests. Second: he was actually trying to reform the IMF from the inside. This is what some of my IMF sources told me. He was very well regarded by many people in the developing countries, which were not board members but they had important positions inside the IMF. Because he was trying to basically wrest more control away from the Europeans and especially going to India, China and Brazil. And obviously the Europeans resented him a lot and not to mention the Americans. So there are a number of reasons. And a lot of people didn't want him to become President of France because for all his personal faults, he wanted a more redistributed system, not only in the IMF, but even inside France and the European Union itself. So he had to go.

Pierre: And he was number one in the polls in the survey about the Presidential election in France when he got framed. And a few months before the Sophitel scandal there was some news about Strauss-Khan dragging his feet about the plan to destroy Greece financially. So despite all these weaknesses, his political ideology and his womaniser trends, he was maybe not as evil as the PTB wanted.

Pepe: That's a good way of putting it. And he was not an austerity guy essentially.

Niall: I'd like to hone in on a specific crisis. Feel free to bring it out into a broader context, but you've been there and I've been wondering which way the wind blows in this case. It's about Thailand.

Pepe: Yeah.

Niall: What's going on there? This tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra, he seems to be Washington's guy.

Pepe: Yeah. Wow! This is one of those answers that could go on forever because it involves a lot of cultural elements as well. It involves the notion of the Thai's hating to lose face. It's a Buddhist culture with a veneer of democracy. It's a feudal system with a veneer of redistribution. It's extremely complicated, but okay, I'll try to do it the Hollywood way, right?

Niall: Okay.

Pepe: Good guys and bad guys to start with. Everybody, the way I see it, is corrupt, tainted and their motives are extremely dodgy. And by this I mean the Thaksin clan including obviously his sister who was just Prime Minister until a few weeks ago. I live in Thailand on and off, so when I'm there I tend to follow the everyday life in Bangkok and politically as well. Extremely corrupt government. They came up with the rice pledge scheme, then the money disappeared. They didn't even have the money to pay back the rice farmers. Ridiculous! They came up with an idea of spend two trillion bahts. I don't even know how much that is in dollars [$61.6 billion]. But anyway, a few billion dollars. In terms of infrastructure, always in connection with the corrupt construction companies links to the Shinawatra clan.

On the other hand, we have the so-called yellow shirts which is not a monolithic movement. You have monarchists. You have the urban middle classes. You have business leaders. You have the parts of the democratic party which was the opposition to Thaksin until a while ago. Then you have a bunch of apportionists, including the leader of the protest movement against Yingluck. In the end he got what he wanted but when the military coup came, everybody was arrested including himself. It's a comedy of errors and corruption, but with an Asian spice. For foreigners, it's practically incomprehensible because obviously the Thai language is an extremely complicated language so a lot gets lost in translation. A lot of people are playing both sides, of course, including the military until a while ago.

An overarching problem, the king's succession, which is the number one drama for Thailand. Because King Bhumibol has been in power since the '60s. He's revered by the whole nation. He's considered a living god, etc. But he's ill and he's going to die soon. And then we're going to have a major problem because nobody, and I run the risk of being arrested for saying so, nobody likes the crown prince. Period. This is a blunt fact. They love the princess, but she's the second in the line of succession so something has to happen with the crown prince. And nobody knows what that should be. So this is the trickiest of the trickiest subjects in Thailand.

And at the same time, the relations between Thaksin and the crown prince, they are very, very close. So when the military analysed this in the long run, when they look at the health of the king, which is deteriorating fast in fact, okay, and obviously the business leaders were saying "Look, Thailand is being marginalised in Southeast Asia, in broader Asian terms we are losing business. We are losing competitivity. We are losing even tourism. People don't want to travel to Thailand anymore. They are going to our competitors, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc. The only way to restore order is a military coup." Because democracy Thai style didn't work. The democrats are corrupt then they were replaced by the Thaksin clan which is also corrupt;, a populist corrupt school. Both sides never did anything really substantial for the good of the whole country in fact. The country's divided between roughly urban elites, which "urban elites" means Bangkok because it's the only big city in fact. And vast sectors of the countryside in the north and northeast, the northeast is very poor, but they were entitled by Thaksin: food schemes, free healthcare, a little bit of investment in education, etc. So they will always vote for Thaksin or for the Thaksin clan.

So the military looked at all this and said "Okay, we'll launch another military coup. It will last for a year or so. We'll restore order. We'll see what's going to happen with succession. We pick our candidate and things go back to normal." I'm not sure it's going to be the way things will go. It's going to be an absolute mess in Thailand, especially if the king dies and it's not arbitrated or resolved. So this is my minute explanation.

Niall: Thank you. That's a lot clearer. Well, clearer might not be the right word. It's clearer that it's a mess.

Pepe: It's much, much more complicated than that. Trust me.

Joe: Pepe, I just want to swing back over to Iraq. The U.S. got the hell out of there in 2011, supposedly, but things haven't been going well since then although the figures I have for U.S. presence in Iraq still today is: a U.S. embassy in Bagdad with 17,000 personnel, 5,000 U.S. hired mercenaries in the country and consulates in Basra, Mosul and Kirkuk with a thousand people each. So has the U.S. left and why is there so much violence going on with people being killed every week?

Pepe: Well the west has more or less left but even the ones who are still there, they're not going to get anything out of Iraq period. Because of all the big, big problems in Iraq. The way the system was concocted by the Americans is very similar to Lebanon where you're going to have all three factions in Lebanon fighting themselves to death forever. In Iraq it's the same thing with the Sunnis, the Shias and the Kurds. The problem is, the Shia and the Kurds, they have an understanding, at least in terms of forming governments or a majority. So the Sunnis from now on, every election that you have, and because they are not the majority in terms of the population, they're going to lose. And they're starting to feel extremely pissed with this state of affairs. And some tribal leaders - we should not forget that Iraq is a very tribal society, clannish society - they're trying to resort to violence. And some of them are actually supporting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Remember the former triangle of death: Ramadi, Anbar Province. It happened this week. They took over the university of Ramadi, these Jihadists. This is completely crazy.

So the government in Bagdad, they had to send special forces to fight the Jihadists. I still don't know what happened. This is an ongoing battle as far as I can tell. And this is going to go on for quite a while. The Sunni parties know that they won't get enough political power. Maliki is a very clever man but also very obtuse because he's unwilling to share power, especially with some Sunnis, like giving them at least some important ministry, something like that. Forget it. And the Kurds, they only care about Kurdistan, northern Iraq. They want to do deals and export their gas and their oil. They want to buy [ inaudible ], in terms of receiving the royalties. They only care about a semi-independent northern Iraq Kurdistan.
So I don't see any solution for this in the medium and long-term. And as for American interests, the fact that the strategic relationship - considering the current arrangement stays with a majority Shiite/Kurdish government with Maliki as Prime Minister - is with Iran. They have a very good understanding. It's not a hard core militaristic alliance, no. But they have very strong commercial ties. Tourism works both ways. You have millions of Iranian pilgrims going every year to Najaf and Karbala, which is an enormous source of revenue for Iraq. Iraq, little by little they're going to reconstitute their oil production. They're always saying every month "We're going to start exporting 5 million barrels of oil a day soon." This soon is going to take years, but they're getting there.

The standard of living for most Iraqis at least could be slightly better than it is, like 5, 6, 7 years from now. But we still cannot forget the way the Americans destroyed the whole country. It's simply horrendous. I haven't been to Iraq in a few years now, but the people I know, they tell me that nothing has changed much these past few years. You still have roadblocks everywhere, destroyed buildings and the sewage systems that don't work, telephone exchanges that were destroyed and never rebuilt. You name it. The country completely devastated by the American bombing. It's mind-boggling and an extremely sad story not fully documented in fact; the extent that a country was practically back to year zero, like Cambodia under Pol Pot, but in this case under bombing. And they have to rebuild from scratch. But because Iraq is, as a whole, whatever their religious persuasion, they are very enterprising, they had very good universities so their universities are back on track at least. Some of the Iraq exiles came back with good entrepreneurial skills that they developed in the west or in Scandinavia, you name it. So they will rebuild themselves, but it's a long project and in terms of the political impact, it's going to last for the foreseeable future.

Pierre: Pepe, another question about Iraq. Did U.S. corporations manage to take control of the Iraqi oil fields?

Pepe: No because in fact you have to go back to the auctions in 2009. The last one I think was in late 2009. The best contracts were: Petronus from Malaysia, Gazprom they got some very good deals, CNBC from China. I think Total had a decent deal. And lots of partnerships. I think Exxon-Mobile got a partnership in one of the largest fields. But the original Dick Cheney plan, which was for American big oil to take over the whole thing, you remember, it was going to be the deal. Oh-ho! This thing died in the 2009 auctions. It's very simple. If you do a Google search it's all there, with the numbers, the partnerships, etc. And the guy who wrote a very good book about it, Greg Moffat - I don't remember the name of his book - most of it is there in fact.

Niall: Yeah, the net result was just a destroyed country. They didn't actually get anything from it.

Pepe: The destruction of a very important Arab nation. The Arabs are always bickering among themselves, we know that. But this is something that any Arab will carry forever in the subconscious, that the former seat of the Caliphate, former star of the Islamic world, was totally destroyed and it's going to take decades, or at least a century for them to rebuild.

Pierre: I would like to go back to Europe facing this choice between...

Niall: While we're in the Middle East for a second, just this paradox of American foreign policy destroying Iraq, antagonising the entire Muslim world and yet it was substantially an American project to create these Jihadists. They're the same guys who pop up in country after country. You get Chechens in Syria, you get Libyans in Syria also. The Americans don't know what they're doing it seems. Or do they?

Pepe: No, I would say the overall picture in terms of financing or at least supporting hard core religious movements is something they have been doing for decades. Most of the time according to their designs, it worked. And in fact the number one example is the Jihad in Afghanistan in the 1980s. They thought that they could replicate that later on, like in Libya. Libya also worked but it was a NATO bombing war to start with, right? And it was replicated in Syria. In fact I wrote about Syria as a remix of the Jihad in Afghanistan in the '80s, which it was until a while ago and maybe it will continue to be if we have this lethal weaponising of the so-called moderates, the way Washington is spinning nowadays.
Look, it's one of the basic strategies of the empire. If you are confronted with a secular government or a government you don't like or a communist government, which is even worse, let's release the bats, which is basically those whacko religious nuts.

Niall: Yeah.

Pepe: Essentially Middle Eastern, but they could come somewhere else as well. They happen to be the easiest to manipulate, especially after the Afghan war. We all know how the Afghan war was concocted. They needed a counterpunch against the Soviet Union for Vietnam. So the only people that they could easily manipulate was religious sentiments in Afghanistan. And the Saudis, who are not idiots, in terms of expanding Wahabi ideology they saw the perfect opening. "Okay, we're going to export all our religious nuts to Pakistan. We build a lot of madrassas over there, we finance these madrassas with these people and they may go fight in Afghanistan and they stay away from here, Saudi Arabia." So it worked for the U.S. and it worked for Saudi Arabia. And for Pakistan, they got a lot of money. They got a lot of weapons, support from the U.S., etc. so it also worked. But the price that Pakistan had to pay was what used to defined Pakistan as the Kalashnikov culture which started in the late '70s, through the '80s and it's still there. But this is collateral damage in terms of the empire, right? For the empire it's always like this. "Okay, let's use the religious whackos." And they happen to be Muslim all the time.

Niall: I will not shed a tear if and when they return to Saudi Arabia and set things alight there. Obviously the U.S. is primarily to blame here, but Saudi Arabia has got it coming, I hope.

Pepe: Oh yes! And they are absolutely freaking out with that.

You remember a few months ago there was the new counter-terrorism law in Saudi Arabia. It's something extremely draconian. And they are trying to prevent it by all means, the return of these Jihadist. If you are a Jihadist in Syria or if you come back, you have to register with the government. Otherwise, they're going to kill you. As simple as that. They are absolutely terrified because they also have a succession problem. They have a lot of youth unemployment. They know that a lot of young Saudis are trying to resort to global Jihadism all over the world. So obviously they are freaking out.

So Saudi Arabia will be, in the long run, another collateral damage of this empire policy, just like Pakistan was and still is.

Pierre: I would like to go back to Europe. We described this choice that Europe would face between the U.S. on one side and the east, Russia, China on the other side. We pretty much know the U.S. ideology, the neocon ideology: ruthless, imperialistic, expanding, unipolar. Could you describe on the other side the eastern ideology? The Russian one and the Chinese one?

Pepe: Yes. It's not expansionist. What the Russians want - I was in St. Petersburg two weeks ago so I had the opportunity to talk to Russian business leaders as well, Russian journalists, independent analysts. They want more trade and commerce. That's the spirit of the Eurasian Economic Union. So the previous Soviet sphere, they want more business with Central Asia, obviously. They want more trade ties with China and India at the same time of course. And more integration in Europe, which is the basis of the Germany/Russia strategic partnership. Russia sells energy and Germany invests in the Russian economy. And obviously they have market opportunities for big German companies in Russia; a market of 145 million people roughly. Like the Chinese say, it's a win/win situation.

And the Chinese, it's still a defensive strategy. In fact they are rattled by the notion of the pivoting because the way they interpret pivoting to Asia, is the encirclement of China. They look at the pivoting and they see Iran surrounded by American bases. And they are absolutely terrified that this is what's going to happen to China. It's happening already in northeast Asia, Japan and South Korea. It could happen in southeast Asia as well, Singapore, which is a kind of aircraft carrier of the Americans in southeast Asia. It's not very far from China - if the Vietnamese start buying a lot of American military equipment. And the most important thing: American interference in the South China Sea and in the Indian Ocean.
So the way they look at the big picture is "They are trying to encircle us. How can we break out?" So that's why they are investing heavily in ports, especially in the South China Sea and in terms of military equipment, the best that they can manufacture or eventually buy from the Russians, which is basically submarines. For instance, they are building an enormous submarine base in Hainan Island with missiles that can sink an American aircraft carrier in a few minutes. And the Americans are not stupid. They know that this is going to happen and sooner or later they would have to de-escalate.

So it's not an expansionist strategy. What the Chinese want to do is: "We want to do business with everybody." That's the only thing that matters to them. So India, of course we have hegemony problems in Asia but if we do good business with India, it's fine. Everything else is a detail. Russia, now they have, after this latest Russia/China gas deal, the famous $400 billion deal, now there is a strategic partnership including energy. And it tends to grow from now on. Inside the BRICS they take it very, very seriously. They want more integration with all the BRICS. With Brazil, because now Brazil's number export destination, is China. And vice versa.

And they are complimentary countries. They are far away. They don't have a hegemonic global ambition. So the Chinese are very fond of the Brazilian leadership, especially with Dilma. They got along very well with Lula. They also get along very well with Dilma. And with Europe, like we said before. They want integration with high speed rail from the heart of China to the heart of Europe so they can increase their trade tenfold in the next ten years or so.

So nothing of this implies an expansionist strategy. Taiwan is an internal Chinese problem. Taiwan was always part of China until recently so obviously they want to get Taiwan back. If they don't, it's still not a problem for them because the economies are already totally interconnected. Most - a lot - of Taiwanese investment in China. And obviously if they have a one country three systems, it is with Hong Kong. One country, three systems with Taiwan; it's fine with them as long as Taiwan doesn't have independent ideas, which is not going to happen, whatever the rhetoric coming from Taipei, it's not going to happen.

And obviously they still have to solve the democracy equation inside China of course, and with Hong Kong. In 2017 they're going to have, what would theoretically be, the first direct elections to have the CEO of Hong Kong. And this is a huge thing over there; huge. I lived there on and off as well and I've been following this these past few months. And most Hong Kongers, they want to vote for their CEO because the past ones and the current guy were absolute failures. And obviously Beijing's man, all of them. So they want to vote for a local; probably not a tycoon that would represent the interests of the bulk of the Hong Kong population and not the construction industry, the tycoons, or the six families who control Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is basically run by a cartel of six families. They control, I would say, almost 70% of the economy of Hong Kong. It's absolutely crazy. And the majority of the population, their standard of living is not as high as we think it is - higher than most of Europe - not really. The standards are not very high. Transportation system is good, infrastructure is great, but the cost of living is absurd. To own a home in Hong Kong now is practically impossible. So you have a rentier class which profits from the highest rent on the whole planet, for anything, for a Starbucks corner shop to a one bedroom flat. You name it.

So they want to change this. They want more economic opportunities. They know that Hong Kong needs to diversify, get away from being a port and everything based on real estate, to be a scientific pole as well. They tried that a few years ago but it didn't work. And obviously they want to elect their own CEO, let's put it this way, Taiwan has already solved that problem. But the Chinese are still very wary. The Chinese communist party, they still don't know how to deal with this inside China. Can you imagine dealing with Taiwan and Hong Kong at the same time, right?
So in the long run, this push towards more democracy in China is a head-on clash with the leadership of the Chinese communist party. And this is the number one issue in China in the long-term. When are we going to have the communist party delegating a little more power? This is not going to happen. So when are we going to have an alternative political party springing up in China? If we depend on the CCP, this is also not going to happen because even an embryonic movement would be the Chinese equivalent of the homeless movement in Brazil or the peasants' movement in Brazil. If that happened in China it would be suppressed immediately.

So for the moment we don't have any other political organisation capable of competing with the communist party. So what they are doing is recycling the same slogans over and over again. It's either us or Luan as they say: chaos. And when you talk about Luan to the Chinese, you have 5,000 years of history in their subconscious. "Oh my god! We're not going to go back to our warring dynasty periods or the provinces fighting Beijing. We don't want this. We want stability because we want to make money." So Deng Xiaoping was a real genius because he went to the heart of the whole matter. To get rich is glorious means: "Okay, you can do anything you want, get rich, but we run the country politically."
So I don't see any way of this being changed. In the next decade I would say, perhaps by 2030 we're going to have a different situation, different movements brewing. The younger generations which are interconnected and obviously the CCP's terrified of the internet. But this is going to take a while.

Niall: Are the terrorist attacks and the unrest in western China a possible early manifestation of this social unrest?

Pepe: Yes. This is also an extremely complex and fascinating problem as well. A lot of people in the west are saying "Oh, the CIA's there." Okay, they are. They are in Zhejiang. They are in Tibet. They've always been in Tibet in fact. But these are legitimate grievances because the Uyghurs in western Zhejiang - western Zhejiang is almost the size of western Europe, to give you an idea. It's basically desert. It's a beautiful place, desert basically everywhere with a few villages. You have the southern and the northern Silk Road from Jiayuguan, the capital to Kashgar. In the middle is another huge desert. So it's very scattered and there's only one big city, Urumqi, the provincial capital. Where you find a Uyghur theme park in one of the suburbs. This is completely crazy. It's their own land and even in the capital they are being treated as a Disneyland minority. And in Kashgar, even worse, which used to be their capital and nowadays they destroyed the old town centre in Kashgar and they're going to build another Disneyland-style, so-called ethnic minority Disneyland town, for tourists from the east to visit. It's very, very sad.

So when the Uyghurs look at what's been done to them and to their cultural traditions, to their villages, their towns, etc., there's a lot of revolt about it. So the revolt is legitimate because if you are a Uyghur, you are a second-class citizen in China, not only in Zhejiang. Everywhere else in China. I saw a lot of Uyghur workers working at two in the morning in Beijing, doing ultra-heavy manual work that any Han Chinese worker would refuse to do. So the guys from the west, which for the average Chinese is not even China; when you travel in China and you go beyond the end of the Great Wall, which is in Gansu Province, everywhere west of that they consider beyond the pale. They really don't consider it part of China. It's too far away and it's not China. But now it is because there is an official program which started in 1999 called the "Go West Campaign" which is to get people from other provinces, especially central provinces that are very poor; if they relocate to Zhejiang they get benefits, tax exemptions, get work, you name it. And the local Uyghurs, they get nothing.

So this explains 90% of the protestors being seen, especially this past year. There are people attacking Han Chinese with knives. Why knives? Because the Uyghur knife is part of their culture for millennia. I happen to have a very beautiful one with me. (laughing) So it's what's left of them to - these "knife revolts", let's put it this way, it's a very, very sad story because they are not being integrated. The Han Chinese control everything and the Uyghurs are tolerated as a small troublesome minority. Same thing with the Tibetans essentially. So this is another problem. If the Chinese communist party don't find a way to integrate these people, soon, I would say in a few years, they're going to have a substantial young population both in Tibet and Zhejiang that's going to resort to hard core methods. And obviously our friends in Langley...

Niall: Yeah.

Pepe: ...will infiltrate and weaponise these people.

Niall: They'll only be too happy to do it. It sounds like China has within its own borders, the problems of empire.

Pepe: Yes!

Niall: Where you try to homogenise the whole society based on one system but you see the whole world reacting to the United States trying to do it. And inevitably it's going to happen in larger countries too.

Pepe: Yes. The thing is it depends on which sector of the American elites we're talking about in fact. My conservative friends in the U.S. in fact, they tell me "Look, the neocons are so stupid, they're not running anything anymore and everything they did was a failure." Not really because the pooch in Kiev basically was a neocon cell inside the state department. It was part of the Kagan family, right? The current Victoria Nulandistan is a Kagan family invention in fact. And it was inside the Obama administration. And we cannot forget she was NATO Ambassador before she was absorbed into the Obama administration. So they are still very, very powerful. If you read the opinion pages of the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, it's prime neocon material still. And they're still very influential.

So I don't agree with conservatives, especially in Washington or New York who say they are dead. No. I see them as the return of the living dead, as I wrote in one of my pieces. (laughing)

Niall: They can't be killed.

Pepe: As for the Obama administration, I tend to agree that in terms of competence, it's the most incompetent American administration that we can remember of the past 50 years maybe. And even some progressives in the U.S. are starting to see which way the wind is blowing in fact because it's one blunder after another and no foreign policy success to speak of, except of course the pooch in Ukraine. But we still don't know how this is going to develop. I tend to see that after a few months we could even have a Maidan in reverse. Because when they have control in the Ukraine and [ inaudible ]. The fact that they don't have money to pay their bills, period. The fact that if Poroshenko does not negotiate a modus operandi with Russia in terms of trade, commerce; industries in eastern Ukraine which are very closely linked to the Russian industrial/military complex, etc., it's going to be a major disaster. And people obviously are going to be freezing to death in Ukraine in winter with no money at all, not even to pay their gas bills. So guess what's going to happen later on.

So the plot in Ukraine is still a developing story, right?

Joe: Yeah, absolutely.

Pepe: You know what they did in Libya? In Libya they did an Iraq 2.0 in fact. They destroyed a whole country and there's nothing replacing it. It's a country run by militias nowadays. It's an absolute disaster. It's an American war and a NATO war. So NATO, they saw that they had won. They did a [ inaudible ]. I would say in Libya. They created a wasteland, called it peace and now they have a failed state. In Afghanistan what happened with NATO after 12 years? They lost. Period. And they lost this war years ago. It's not that they lost in 2014 before the withdrawal later this year. They lost that war right, I would say, in early 2002 when the Taliban was reorganising themselves at the time. Because the population, when they saw another army of white people arriving in Afghanistan said "Oh shit! Not again! We're going to have to kick them out."

Joe: Although I'd say the military/industrial complex, the defence contractors, all got pretty rich from these wars even if they don't have any real point.

Pepe: You mean the Americans industrial/military complex?

Joe: Yeah. And the Europeans I suppose.

Pepe: Well some sectors are betting on a war sooner or later involving NATO. For them that will be perfect. That's why they're pushing against the Russian aggression or trying to entice Russia between commas to "invade". One of the proponents of this strategy, apart from the neocons of course, is some sectors of the industrial/military complex. War is good for business. The same thing. And Africom is basically a racket for selling more weapons to the Pentagon to be deployed in Africa. Remember how Vietnam started, yes? With a few advisors... Africa is starting with a few advisors, a few special forces here and there. In a few years we could have a new Vietnam all over Africa because the only strategy the Americans have with Africom in Africa is a military strategy. They don't have a commercial strategy. They don't have a strategy of more trade within individual African countries. No way! When they discovered that China had deals with virtually everybody, over 30 African countries, their response was to create Africom, still with the Bush administration, Bush II, 2007. So for the military/industrial complex, Africa is a fabulous battleground for the future. Ukraine perhaps in the near future. And the Middle East is a huge problem because in Syria it didn't work. It won't work. In terms of global opinion, I don't see the Obama administration inundating Syria with heavy weapons. Forget it. We're going have more Kalashnikovs, maybe a few anti-tank grenades, you name it, but not more than that.

Niall: Yeah, the battle's already lost there. Pepe, we've reached the end of our show time. It's been a real pleasure. You've been a star guest. Thanks very much for coming on.

Pepe: My pleasure. I hope this was helpful.

Joe: Absolutely. I just want to give a shout to our listeners to check you out. You're on Asia Times and RT very often and you've got three books. Do you have a website Pepe?

Pepe: No I don't. I don't have time to organise all these things. I should have. And in fact, this is for our listeners: Asia Times, we are in a very, very complicated juncture at the moment. We may be a victim of a hostile takeover. And if that happens, then I'll start considering other options, with other writers as well. Maybe we will start our own different website, something like that. But as all of you know, it's very hard to do journalism on the net. It costs money. If we try to do investigative journalism it's impossible because we don't have the resources. Even to keep our writers is complicated because sometimes we're not able to pay them. We cannot afford to pay them the way they should be paid. So it's a struggle. But at least a few of us are still there.

Joe: Yeah, absolutely. And more power to you. Keep going, whatever you're doing. Whatever drugs you're taking, keep taking them.

Pierre: In any case, it was a fascinating geopolitical journey all around the world and thank you very much for bringing us on this journey.

Pepe: And good luck to you guys.

Joe: Alright Pepe.

Pierre: Thank you.

Niall: Thank you. Bye-bye.

Pepe: Bye-bye. Cheers, bye-bye.

Joe: So folks, there you go. That was Pepe Escobar.

Niall: The one and only. His books are very funny. Obviously rich in detail. He's not just travelled through countries. He's usually lived for a sustained amount of time in the places where he's reporting, all over central Asia, places you've probably never heard of. But you just take out a map and he guides you to it with some very funny stories. More importantly though, very good insight of how complicated it is.

Joe: And how senseless the whole thing is.

Niall: And at the same time...

Joe: How idiotic and feckless the whole thing is in terms of the way that the U.S. is pursuing a policy that ultimately you come down to that they have an idea, but it's completely inane and stupid, but behind it all is that they don't care really. They'll just go with it because they're reality creators, right? As Turdblossom said. What's his name?

Niall: Karl Rove.

Joe: Back in 2004. He creates reality and it's a steaming pile of reality for the rest of the world. But the problem is, they just go ahead and do it anyway because they know that especially if it involves some kind of a war or some kind of a NATO attack, then they're going to get rich no matter what. Even if they just have a mindless, pointless war, that's money in the bank for them. So it's meaningless.

Niall: It also knocks out the competition. There was a report recently, an analysis really, of the data that says if you look at the ten biggest oil exporting countries in the world, six of those ten have either been decimated by the U.S. by direct warfare, covert warfare or sanctions. And it keeps the competition down. It means that they can keep their one or two allies like Saudi Arabia sweet and therefore controlled.

Joe: But that's the whole point. And that's what Pepe was saying and what we've said in the past. I think we had this kind of discussion with Eric Draitser last week, that Russia and China basically want to do business because they haven't been doing enough business and they've got stuff to sell. America has pretty much not a lot to sell and they're coming from a position of complete dominance. So when they see Russia or China wanting to do business, as Pepe was saying, then that means less business for the U.S. So the U.S. is on a loser because they have demanded and manipulated themselves into a position of complete dominance and keeping others down. And now that others are resurging, that means by definition, the U.S. is going to lose. And that's what they don't like and that's what they're trying to stop. And it's a completely untenable position. It's not rational. And even like we were saying last week with Eric Draitser, it's totally against the basic theory of capitalism. America's the greatest capitalist country in the world right? What's the most healthy thing for capitalism? Competition. Russia and China want to provide some competition. But America wants to be a complete monopoly.

Pierre: And it's difficult to be a monopoly when you don't hold big shares of...

Joe: Resources

Pierre: ...production, mining, oil, resources, fishing, food. It's as if the empire of the U.S. is a house of cards.

Joe: Yup. And it's going to fall.

Pierre: Built on the foundation that is the illusion of dollars. When the dollar goes down, there is nothing more. There are only the military left in the U.S.

Joe: Well that's why they're ramping up. That's why they've set themselves on a militaristic foreign and economic policy which is: "Do it or else". And that's what they want to force the world to submit to. And it's impractical and this whole reality creation thing isn't working out so well because there is an objective reality there and it's in the face of the American empire builders increasingly so. And they don't like it but you know what? Tough shit.

Niall: Yeah. If there was a modicum of common sense they'd realise "You know what? If we can just have basic normal economic relations with everyone else, we could still come out of this okay." But their worst nightmare, as Pepe said, is no, no, no, they cannot allow this to happen because it will be not Russia that will end up isolated, it will be the U.S. Geographically, literally, it's over there in another ocean. It's on its own. Everyone else is all together, more or less and the U.S., is out there.

Joe: Any partners it could have on most of the American content, as in South America, they've alienated largely and so they've just put themselves in a bind over the past 20th century basically, by trying to rule the world. And it's coming back to bite them in the ass and it's going to hurt. Anyway folks, we'll leave it there for this week. We hope you enjoyed the show. We'll be back next week with...

Niall: Next week we're interviewing - da-di-da-laaaa - Pierre Lescaudron. We're going to be talking about Pierre's new book recently published by Red Pill Press.

Joe: Pierre. So that'll be good.

Niall: Tell us the name of the book.

Pierre: Earth Changes and the Human-Cosmic Connection.

Joe: You can tune in next week to find out all about it.