by Imran Khan (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 53, No. 8, Rabi' al-Awwal, 1445)
Given that the artificial schism between East-West has run its course, amid renewed hopes and expectations among what is now being referred to as “the Global South”, the role of BRICS on the world stage needs closer examination. Does BRICS really represents a serious challenge to the existing global order or it merely attempts to extend latter’s lifespan by trying to extract its share of benefits from it? If BRICS is not the savior it is being made out to be, how do the oppressed peoples move from the existing oppressive world order to a just world order?
In order to address the first question, we will focus on the following:
1: The expressed direction of BRICS;
2: Key players in BRICS;
3: Challenge to the dollar; and
4: The question of social justice vis-à-vis Palestine, Kashmir and other war hot-spots.
To begin with, BRIC(S) finds expression through the words of economist Jim O’Neill, at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., who in 2001 drew attention to strong growth rates in Brazil, Russia, India and China. What began as an economic shift has transformed into what is increasingly being described as a shift towards a multipolar world order. Multipolarity is a system in which more than two states have similar degree of power.
As early as 2013, Patrice Motsepe, chairman of BRICS Business Council, said “There’s a huge need for partnerships and a role for all financial institutions (BRICS bank, American and British interests) and I’ve no doubt they’ll continue to play that role. I’m on a board of JP Morgan which is chaired by Tony Blair and they are very excited by the opportunities in Africa.”
This directional course was reaffirmed in 2015, when then New Development Bank (NDB) President K.V. Kamath said NDB will change the way multilateral banks operate, but pointed out that he regards other international financial institutions such as the IMF, World Bank (WB) and Asian Development Bank as "partners, not rivals".
South Africa’s Ambassador to BRICS Anil Sooklal said a week before the 15th BRICS Summit, “There is no agenda item of de-dollarization on the BRICS agenda. BRICS is not calling for de-dollarization. The dollar will continue to be a major global currency—that’s a reality.” The BRICS Bank is not competing with existing financial institutions but complementing them, said the BRICS Bank Vice-President, Leslie Maasdorp. He said there is no intention of changing the BRICS Bank currency. “The intention was never there from day one to create a rivalry institution as such,” Maasdorp said. The newly expanded Brics bloc does not seek to be an opponent of western superpowers, said trade, industry & competition minister Ebrahim Patel.
This is further evidenced by the statement that “The emerging nations are set to raise their clout in the IMF through increasing their voting power in the IMF known as quotas. Russia wants the quotas to be calculated based on the size of the GDP and forex reserves. The leaders of BRICS members—Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—pledged at the Group of Twenty summit in Mexico to chip in $75 billion to boost the IMF’s lending power but had sought to tie the loans to voting reforms. The New Development Bank has authorized capital of US$100 billion and an initial subscribed capital of US$50 billion. The subscribed capital is equally distributed among the founding members. The BRICS bank will allow new members to join but the BRICS capital share cannot fall below 55%.”
Was this not exactly the problem with the UN Security Council, IMF and the World Bank that required reform as they had set up a club of more equals among equals? Why is 11% the reserve of the five BRICS founders? What happened to equality? What about the poor states?
The above admissions effectively abort the drive for the oft-repeated rhetoric about BRICS ushering in a new world order based on equality or proportional representation i.e., “one man one vote” and suggests that money should drive politics! This is an affront that basically states that the richer you are, the more entitled you are to say more or that the weight of your vote should be pegged to your wealth. The more money you have or the higher your GDP, the more influence you will enjoy!
Against this background, it is remarkable to note that the five founder members of BRICS are/were part of the G20. Even some of the potential member countries in an expanded BRICS were/are also in the G20. Within this new development, there is a curious hype about combined GDP, population size and land mass that is used as an indicator of power.
If this is an accurate indicator, then the G20 would even surpass BRICS on the basis of combined GDP, population size and land mass. Yet the G20 achieved nothing substantial as far as reducing global economic inequality in the world. In fact, one may go further back to a review of the history of formation of institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank, their purpose for formation, the founder member countries, as well as the similarities between the IMF, the WB and BRICS at inception and conclude how starkly they resemble each other.
This forces one to ask whether BRICS is substantially different and to consider whether despite the hype around GDP, population size and land mass if there is sufficient basis for even an expanded BRICS to achieve anything different from its predecessors.
This question is especially relevant when one recalls how UN Security Council Resolution 1973, that imposed the NATO no-fly zone over Libya, was not opposed by countries that became BRICS. The original four BRIC members shamelessly abstained from voting against UNSCR 1973 while South Africa that joined BRICS later, shamefully supported it. There was no opposition to UNSCR 1973 from BRICS.
BRICS even bowed to the threat of arrest issued by the International Criminal Court against Vladimir Putin and subsequently settled on continuing with the latest summit by excluding the Russian president. Putin is wanted for alleged war crimes in Ukraine. As a signatory of the Rome Statute that established the ICC, South Africa was obliged to arrest Putin upon landing in South Africa. This further indicates that had BRICS been serious about challenging the existing zionist-imperialist-Wahhabi world order this was the time to defy the ICC. So far, the ICC has only showed resolve to arrest and prosecute leaders who are not integrated into the zionist-imperialist-Wahhabi world order.
Yet BRICS bowed to pressure and de-escalated the tension despite broad claims about combined GDP, population size and land mass. These are set to increase further as BRICS membership expands.
Let us now turn to some of the decision-makers within the New Development Bank (NDB). The NDB is a multilateral development bank established by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) with the purpose of mobilizing resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in emerging markets and developing countries (EMDCs). According to NDB, the Vice president and CFO, Leslie Maasdorp, was MD and president of Bank of America Merrill Lynch for Southern Africa, Vice chairman of Barclays Capital and Absa Capital, International advisor to Goldman Sachs International, Special advisor to the Minister of Labour, Deputy director-general of the Department of Public Enterprises, and led the restructuring and privatization of state-owned enterprises for the South African government, former chairman and CEO of Advtech, a leading provider of private education in South Africa and a Young global leader of the World Economic Forum.
Patrice Motsepe is a member of the Board of Trustees of the World Economic Forum (WEF), the Global Network Advisory Board of the WEF Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the WEF International Business Council (IBC), World Economic Forum Global Leader of Tomorrow, member of the Giving Pledge which was started by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates and acknowledged by the South African Jewish Report, Special Board Members Award for Outstanding Achievement.
One of the strongest indicators that BRICS poses no challenge to the US dollar is illustrated in the manner the authorized and issued share capital of BRICS bank, NDB, is set-out. The initial authorized capital of the bank is $100 billion divided into one million shares having a par value of $100,000 each. This indicates that even at this basic level they would not offend the existing order that renders the US dollar sacrosanct. It gets really weird when one finds that the BRICS Bank/NDB boastfully states that it received AA+ credit ratings from S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings in August 2018 to offer full suite of financial products to its public and private sector clients. Such a statement had to be read a few times to register. How can a trans-national inter-governmental institution like BRICS which is supposedly representing the hopes and aspirations of the marginalized billions of the world rely on the ratings from S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings to offer financial products? These are the same rating agencies that move countries between junk; that softly interfere in the democratic processes of countries, topple governments that step out of line and manipulate currencies from behind the scenes.
Additionally, and despite clear statements from BRICS regarding its not being a challenger to the dollar, it is interesting to note the movement of currencies of the BRICS since its inception against the dollar. When BRIC was formed on September 20, 2006, US$1 fetched ruble 26.77, Indian rupee 45.90, Brazil real 2.16 and Chinese yuan 7.91. By the end of the 15th BRICS Summit, the $ exchange rate was: ruble 94.50, Indian rupee 82.65, Brazil real 4.88 and yuan 7.29.
Similarly, when South Africa was admitted into BRIC on December 24, 2010, US$1 equalled rand 6.73. by the end of the 15th BRICS Summit, the rand had dropped to 18.73. This movement of currencies shows that with the exception of the Chinese Yuan that has improved marginally, all the other BRICS currency have crashed against the US$ despite the aforementioned hype about combined GDP, population size and land mass that is used as an indicator of power.
Second issue is the almost inconsequential BRICS statement pertaining to expansion of trade with other countries in local currency or in non-dollar denominated currency. In this regard, it should be stated that this is nothing new. There are already numerous trade agreements in existence which make reference to settlement in local currency (or in non-dollar denominated currency), such as between Japan and China since 2011; between Brazil and China since 2013; between Brazil and Argentina since Oct 2008; 4. between Uruguay and Paraguay since 2015; between China/Nepal/Vietnam and Mongolia since 2018; between South Africa/Lesotho/Swaziland and Namibia since 1986.
Russia and China interlinked their banking systems in June 2019; Russia and India in February 2021 and the EU since (at least) January 1999. This is a non-exhaustive list and there are many more agreements and transactions concluded between neighboring countries in which settlement is in local currency (or in non-dollar denominated currency).
The question that needs to be asked insofar as the challenge to the dollar is concerned is: what makes BRICS different? Or is it merely consolidating the status quo?
The BRICS’s New Development Bank, proposed disbursements in local currencies in 2015. By April 2019, a quarter of the US$15 billion of financial assistance was in local currencies. At that time BRICS Chief said “BRICS had no intention of destabilizing the dollar but “50% of projects should be financed in local currency”. This was re-affirmed during the 15th BRICS Summit.
Let us recall some of the geostrategic positions of the BRICS countries. Russia’s strategic positions and its entire political doctrine revolves around the nation-state—the Russian motherland. Russia is involved in Syria because of the strategic warm water port in Tartous. It is fighting criminal ISIS in Syria because it doesn’t want to have to fight them in Russia. Russia sells 2nd and 3rd grade weapons to its allies. Russia’s intervention in Ukraine has done nothing other than expedite the plans of the deep-state hegemonic elements. Had the Russian motherland not been threatened due to NATO incursion to its borders it would not be bothered by what plans NATO has afoot. Thus, Russia’s decisions are not strategic; rather it is reacting to threats which are forcing it to adjust.
We wish to continue our cooperation in the UN Security Council on Libya, said the BRICS communique in 2011. We are of the view that all the parties should resolve their differences through peaceful means and dialogue in which the UN and regional organizations should as appropriate play their role. We also express support for the African Union High-Level Panel Initiative on Libya. This, notwithstanding the fact that UNSCR 1973, which made way for the NATO no-fly zone in Libya, was un-opposed by BRICS. It shamelessly abstained from voting against the UNSCR 1973 and Pretoria shamefully supported it. There was no opposition to UNSCR 1973 from BRICS just a month earlier.
The depth of the South African integration into the existing zionist-Imperialist-Wahhabi world order is so deep that the ruling party, the African National Congress, has the US Ambassador attend its National Executive Committee induction program. Not only did South Africa vote in favor of UNSCR 1973 which imposed a no fly zone over Libya but it also voted in favor of UNSCR 1929 and UNSCR 1747 which imposed economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic in Iran. South Africa has a track record of treachery, especially against the Islamic Iran. Yet it makes broad claims about being non-aligned.
In a direct way, three of the five founders of BRICS (Russia, India and China) have blood of the Muslims on their hands. The fourth (South Africa), has the blood of the oppressed bread winners from the mines of Marikana on its hands. Indirectly, all the BRICS have the blood of Libyans on their hands.
The Palestinian question—the litmus test for the veracity of any claims to change the global order—needs some comment. The Durban Declaration after the 5th BRICS Summit “calls on the international community to assist both Israel and Palestine to work towards a two-state solution with a contiguous and economically viable Palestinian state, existing side by side in peace with Israel, within internationally recognized borders, based on those existing on 4 June 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital.” Subsequently, the Xiamen Declaration after the 9th BRICS Summit calls “for a just, lasting and comprehensive solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict... the creation of “an independent, viable, territorially contiguous Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security with Israel.” And most recently, the Johannesburg Declaration after the 15th BRICS Summit calls “on the international community to support direct negotiations based on international law including relevant UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative, towards a two-state solution, leading to the establishment of a sovereign, independent and viable State of Palestine.”
Ever since the Palestinian question surfaced at the 5th BRICS Summit, BRICS has consistently affirmed the right of the colonizer, viz. Israel, to exist. What is remarkable is the noticeable shift in the language and wording from mentioning East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine in the Durban Declaration (5th BRICS Summit) to omitting it since the Xiamen Declaration (9th BRICS Summit) to the recent Johannesburg Declaration at the 15th BRICS Summit. And what is the international community?
At the 11th BRICS Summit it was declared, “we express our concern over the situation in Yemen and urge all parties to cease hostilities and to resume negotiations supported by the United Nations. Notwithstanding, South African arms companies have cashed in on the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates two central parties to the Yemeni conflict. Arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE during the period of heightened hostilities in Yemen were also at record high levels with China and Russia playing a role in the supply of arms to the states in the Saudi-led coalition with the US and its allies remaining the biggest culprit over the period 2015-2017.
Based on the above, as far as arms trade, diplomacy and international trade, it is clear that BRICS does not represent an alternative to the existing world order. It is an alternate service provider but not really a game changer.
It will make finances available at a more competitive rate, at less strenuous terms and conditions and perhaps facilitate easier access to funding for poorer nation-states, ie, its customers. This is NOT a fundamental problem of the global economic system. It may be more realistic to expect that it will end in disaster as soon as the petro-dollar kingdoms like Saudi Arabia and the UAE enter BRICS. Over the years, the foreign ministry of the Islamic Republic in Iran has seen an increase in the number of nationalist opportunists. In pursuing Iranian national interests, they have shown to be over-looking key information and even misleading the revolutionary leadership of the Islamic Republic. The revolutionary leadership in Tehran should be on high alert and on guard against infiltrators who consider previous back-stabbings by South Africa against the Islamic Republic as immaterial.
Behind BRICS is the yahudi hand that operates ever so subtley through a myriad of intergovernmental organizations. The yahudi trademark style since time immemorial has always been to split the conflict and remain the ultimate beneficiaries on both/all sides. Just like they were not all with the Aws or all with the Khazraj in Al Madinah, so too are they not all with the Democrats or Republicans, nor Labor and Likud, nor the right or the left; similarly, yahud are not all with BRICS. They are on all sides—the IMF, WBG, BRICS, G7, G8, G20, WEF, EU, BRICS—pulling the strings from behind the scenes. All of the BRICS countries have strong zionist-Israeli lobbies within their countries that enjoy strong ties with zionist Israel be it diplomatic, trade or military.
One last question remains: how do the oppressed peoples move from the existing world order to a just world order? As mentioned above, BRICS poses no serious challenge to the existing world order. Those who espouse that view may be unintentionally misreading developments. This is disastrous if the advocacy for joining BRICS comes from quarters who are supposed to know better yet they are passing through this phase as if Islam presents no alternative.
We therefore ask: why did Allah’s Prophet not participate at Dar Al Nadwa? Instead, he opted to set up a rival power structure in Dar Al Arqam. Did not the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Imam Khomeini, say “We shall confront the world with our Ideology”? Did he not say “It is our duty to stand up to the superpowers and we have the ability to stand up against them, provided that our intellectuals give up their fascination with Westernization or Easternization and follow the straight path of Islam”? Did the late Imam not say “We should try hard to export our revolution to the world, and should set aside the thought that we do not export our revolution, because Islam does not regard various Islamic countries differently and is the supporter of all the oppressed people of the world? On the other hand, all the superpowers and all the powers have risen to destroy us. If we remain in an enclosed environment, we shall definitely face defeat. We should clearly settle our accounts with the powers and superpowers and should demonstrate to them that, despite all the grave difficulties that we have, we shall confront the world with our ideology.”
The Imam also said “I announce my support for all movements, fronts, and groups which are fighting in order to escape from the claws of the Eastern or Western superpowers”? Further, “The noble Ummah should know that the entire victory was achieved through the will of almighty Allah and by means of transformation which came about throughout the country, and through the spirit of faith and a spirit of self-sacrifice? Turning toward Allah and the unity of expression was the basis of our victory.” He also said “I see that the plots of the anti-revolutionary Satans aimed at providing opportunities for the East or the West are increasing. It is the divine and human duty of our government and Ummah to prevent these plots, with all of our ability.”
Have the Islamic revolutionaries run out of gas? It seems like they are no longer inspired by a struggling Prophet to lead. Instead of Muslims devoted to a Divine paradigm for justice why else do we see Muslims seeing an alternative that is driven by war criminals as workable? As BRICS begins to take shape, it is a moment to reflect upon and the Muslims’ need to assess what is their commitment to.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has been trading with local currency as follows: Since July 2012 with India; since Sept 2018 Iran-Turkey-Russia agreed to local payments; since August 2022 in rubles; since May 2012, China is buying oil in yuan and not using US$ since March 2007. This poses the question: if the Islamic Republic of Iran has already been trading internationally with the major BRICS members in local currency what is the relevance of BRICS making the statement that trade will be conducted in local currency? More importantly, what is going to be the benefit in trading in local currency for the Islamic Republic? The answer to this question is left to be seen in the future.
Imam Khamene’i had previously issued warnings and conditions regarding the pursuit of the JCPOA and the global roll-out of COVID. The career diplomats and functionaries in the foreign ministry of the Islamic Republic did their own thing. And by the way, even on Imam Khamene’i’s website(s) where you will find opinion pieces of others that will end with the disclaimer “the views expressed are not necessarily the views of Imam Khamene’i” the issue of BRICS is one such issue. As this writer recalls - there is one article that speaks about economic cooperation to overcome the sanctions. It doesn't speak about BRICS. Further, the Imam didn’t write it and hence it has a disclaimer as well. The Imam doesn’t play politics and neither is he a micro manager or a baby-sitter. He provides the directional course. "We should be striving for the new Islamic civilization for the sake of humanity."
However, for a new world order that poses a serious challenge to the existing world order, what out of necessity needs to be done is indeed very straight-forward; all that is required is the will-power and determination. As the vanguard of the oppressed peoples of the world, the committed Muslims should continue to lead the building of a political bloc that is completely independent. The issue of allegiance and alliance based on the Qur’an and the Prophet must protect the clarity and integrity of that political bloc. The alternative to BRICS, G7, G8, G20, WEF, WBG, IMF, EU, etc. is an Islamic Commonwealth.
What is required of the Muslims as the vanguard of the oppressed peoples of the world is a shift away from advocating for joining the structures of kufr, shirk and dhulm like BRICS, G7, G8, G20, WEF, WBG, IMF, EU, etc. and to rather advocate for its alternative i.e., an Islamic Commonwealth. But we cannot make the mental leap as long as we suffer from a crisis of confidence that renders us the froth that floats on running waters, having no substance and no weight with the result that we just go with the flow from one structure of kufr, shirk and dhulm to the next. Imagine if the Muslims were thinking Islamically... an Islamic Commonwealth. These member states of the structures of kufr, shirk and dhulm like BRICS, G7, G8, G20, WEF, WB, IMF, etc. would not be killing the Muslims and the oppressed peoples at will.
Imran Khan is an Associate of the ICIT based in Johannesburg, South Africa.