Pepe Escobar (born 1954) is a Brazilian journalist and geopolitical analyst. His column "The Roving Eye" for Asia Times regularly discusses the multi-national "competition for dominance over the Middle East and Central Asia."
In 2011, journalist Arnaud de Borchgrave described Escobar as "well known for breaking stories in the Arab and Muslim worlds." Escobar has reported extensively from Afghanistan and Pakistan. In August 2000, the Taliban arrested Escobar and two other journalists and confiscated their film, accusing them of taking photos at a soccer match. On August 30, 2001, his column in The Asia Times warned about the danger of Osama bin Laden in a piece that has been called "prophetic." Escobar's 2001 interview with Afghanistan's leading opposition commander against the Taliban Ahmad Shah Massoud was also widely quoted.
His October 26, 2001 piece for Asia Times, "Anatomy of a 'terrorist' NGO," described the history and methods of the Al Rashid Trust. This has been cited by researchers at the USAF Counterproliferation Center (2003), at Stanford University (2012), and in the 2006 book Alms for Jihad.
"Pipelineistan" is a term coined by Escobar to describe "the vast network of oil and gas pipelines that crisscross the potential imperial battlefields of the planet," particularly in Central Asia. Articles by Escobar about his "Pipelineistan" theory, many first published in TomDispatch, have been re-published in Al Jazeera, Grist, Mother Jones, The Nation, and elsewhere.
As Escobar argued in a 2009 article published by CBS News, running energy pipelines from the energy-rich nations near the Caspian Sea would let Europe be less dependent on the natural gas that it currently gets from Russia, and would potentially help the West rely less on OPEC. This situation results in an international conflict of interest over the region. Escobar has asserted that the West's war on terror is "always over energy."
Some writers have supported but others have criticized Escobar's "Pipelineistan" theory "that the bloodshed in Syria is simply another war over Middle Eastern energy resources." A recent (2021) scholarly critique of Escobar's theory that "oil and gas interests are central factors for understanding foreign intervention in Syria" concludes that Russia is more likely to be motivated by "regime consolidation." Others criticizing the theory state that "the timing is wrong" and that unless "Syria and Iraq stabilise, and political relations with Saudi Arabia and Iraq improve" any pipeline involving Syria remains a "pipe dream."
According to Arnaud De Borchgrave, during the 2011 Libyan Civil War Escobar wrote a piece "uncovering" the background of Abdelhakim Belhaj, whose military leadership against Gaddafi was being aided by NATO, had trained with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. According to Escobar's story, published by Asia Times on August 30, 2011, Belhaj's background was well-known to Western intelligence but had been concealed from the public.
Interviewed about his story by Radio New Zealand, Escobar warned that Belhaj and his close associates were fundamentalists whose goal was to impose Islamic law once they defeated Gaddafi. Escobar's story was further reported by others, including PBS and The New American.
The United States State Department's Global Engagement Center (GEC) has identified several outlets that publish or republish work by Escobar as being used by Russia for propaganda and disinformation. In 2020, the GEC stated that both the Strategic Culture Foundation (SCF) and Global Research, two online journals where Escobar's work has appeared, acted as Russian propaganda sites. According to the GEC, "Pepe Escobar began writing articles for Global Research in 2005 and ten years later became an SCF author.
Escobar has also been a commentator for RT and Sputnik News; both outlets were highlighted in a 2022 GEC report as members of "Russia's disinformation and propaganda ecosystem." Ukrainian journalist Volodymyr Yermolenko describes Escobar as an example of "anti-Western intellectuals" hosted by RT, adding that Escobar suggests "dividing Ukraine between Poland and Russia."
In 2012, Jesse Zwick at The New Republic asked Escobar why he was willing to work with RT; Escobar replied, "I knew the Kremlin involvement, but I said, why not use it? After a few months, I was very impressed by the American audience. There are dozens of thousands of viewers. A very simple story can get 20,000 hits on YouTube. The feedback was huge.”
On February 25, 2022, the Spanish newspaper ABC criticized Escobar's Sputnik comments concerning Ukraine and other topics, calling them "the usual ones of Russian disinformation: 'Yankee' imperialism, NATO excesses, Russian victimization."
- Pepe Escobar (2007), Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War, Nimble Books.
- Pepe Escobar (2007), Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad During the Surge, Nimble Books.
- Pepe Escobar (2009), Obama Does Globalistan, Nimble Books.
- Pepe Escobar (2014), Empire of Chaos, Nimble Books.
- Pepe Escobar (2015), 2030, Nimble Books.
- Pepe Escobar (2016), 2030, suivi de Dialogues inactuels (Jorge Luis Borges), Éditions du Cercle.
- "Obama's Asia summit no-show: How it looks from over there". Mercury News. October 8, 2013. Retrieved August 30, 2021.
Most colorfully, Brazilian analyst Pepe Escobar compared China's 'offensive' in Southeast Asia to 'an accelerating Lamborghini Aventador,' in contrast to America's 'creaking Chevrolet.'
- "Bernie Has Called to Free Lula. Why Won't the Rest of the Democratic Field?". Jacobin. October 22, 2019. Retrieved August 30, 2021.
The fact remains that, in the words of journalist and international relations analyst Pepe Escobar, 'Lula is Brazil's only possible factor of stability.'
- Rosenthal, Steven J. (2010). "The US Foreign Policy and the Middle East". Policy Perspectives. 7 (1): 11–14. JSTOR 42909249. Retrieved August 29, 2021.
Brazilian journalist Pepe Escobar, who writes regularly for 'Asia Times Online,' has published highly informative articles and books on the global battles over what he has described as 'Pipelinestan.' With a wry and cynical sense of humor, his 'Roving Eye' has described the competition for dominance over the Middle East and Central Asia.
- Borchgrave, Arnaud (September 2, 2011). "Commentary: Global Con?". United Press International. Retrieved February 16, 2022.
The investigative reporter behind uncovering the gigantic Libyan con is Brazilian-born Emilio (Pepe) Escobar, a reporter for the online Asia Times. From North Africa to the Middle East to Pakistan, he is well known for breaking stories in the Arab and Muslim worlds.
- "Pepe Escobar about Afghanistan". KBOO. March 16, 2009. Retrieved August 29, 2021.
He was in Afghanistan and interviewed the military leader of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, Ahmad Shah Masoud, a couple of weeks before his assassination (Masoud: From warrior to statesman, Sept 11, 2001). Two weeks before September 11, while Pepe was in the tribal areas of Pakistan, The Asia Times published his prophetic piece, Get Osama! Now! Or else. (Aug 30, 2001). Pepe was one of the first journalists to reach Kabul after the Taliban's retreat
- Dartnell, Michael York (2006). Insurgency Online: Web Activism and Global Conflict. University of Toronto Press. p. 56. ISBN 9780802085535.
operating [in Kabul] under the Taliban was dangerous. In August 2000, Pakistani Khawar Mehdi, American Jason Florio, and Brazilian Pepe Escobar were arrested, questioned, accused of photographing a soccer match, and had their film confiscated.
- Escobar, Pepe (September 9, 2019). "From the archives: 'Get Osama now'". Asia Times. Retrieved February 20, 2022.
On August 30, 2001, less than two weeks before the event that was to become known as 9/11, Asia Times Online (as this website was called at the time) published an article by this writer titled 'Get Osama! Now! Or else …' Back then, hardly anyone in the West had heard of Osama bin Laden. The original article, which burned up the search engines after the Twin Towers came down, is reproduced here in its entirety.
- "Asia Times". Real Clear Politics. October 16, 2006. Retrieved February 20, 2022.
Over the last decade, Asia Times Online has become one of the most popular - and authoritative - site when it comes to covering Asia's news and politics... A number of top journalists and commentators write weekly on the Asia Times site, including .. Pepe Escobar, who famously wrote a piece titled 'Get Osama! Now! Or Else...' two weeks before the 9/11 terrorist attack masterminded by Osama bin Laden.
- Escobar, Pepe (September 12, 2001). "Masoud: From warrior to statesman". Asia Times. Retrieved February 21, 2022.
The most striking contrast between Masoud's Islam and the Taliban's ultra-hardcore version regards the situation of women.
- Marcela Grad (2009). Massoud: An Intimate Portrait of the Legendary Afghan Leader. Webster University Press. p. 310. ISBN 9780982161500.
- Thomas, Courtney I P; Weisband, Edward (2015). Political Culture and the Making of Modern Nation-States. United Kingdom: Taylor & Francis. p. 255. ISBN 9781317254102.
As Pepe Escobar wrote, 'Massoud is adamant that in Afghanistan, woman have suffered oppression for generations..the cultural environment of the country suffocates women. But the Taliban exacerbates this with oppression.'
- Escobar, Pepe (October 26, 2001). "Anatomy of a 'terrorist' NGO". Asia Times. Retrieved February 22, 2022.
The Pakistani-based Al-Rashid Trust is one of the key organizations included in America's black book of terrorist groups...Pakistani banks, after President General Pervez Musharraf's spectacular pro-US realignment, froze Al-Rashid's bank accounts, but this does not seem to pose a problem: the trust opened new accounts in the names of individuals
- Know Thy Enemy: Profiles of Adversary Leaders and Their Strategic Cultures. USA: USAF Counterproliferation Center. 2003. pp. 81–82. ISBN 9780974740300.
Publications it controls have also been promoting and directly praising the Arab suicide bombers who attacked the twin towers and the Pentagon.
- "Mapping Militant Organizations: Al Rashid Trust". Stanford University. July 19, 2012. Retrieved February 22, 2022.
In 1996, ART started charity and welfare projects in Afghanistan and Pakistan to provide financial and legal support to Muslim militants around the world...After 9/11, Pakistan froze all bank accounts of ART. [cited to PE "Anatomy of a 'Terrorist' NGO"]
- Collins, Robert O.; Burr, Millard (2006). Alms for jihad: charity and terrorism in the Islamic world. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521673952.
Before being banned by the Pakistan government after 9/11 the Al Rashid Trust, during its short life, had provided financial and legal assistance to Islamists in jail, established a network of madrasas and mosques in Afghanistan, and coordinated its activity with the Wafa Khairia, an Afghan charity 'largely funded by bin Laden.'[cited to PE "Anatomy of a 'Terrorist' NGO"]
- Hallinan, Conn (July 30, 2009). "Dispatches From the Edge: Oil and Blood: The Looming Battle for Energy". Berkeley Daily Planet. Retrieved February 20, 2022.
Escobar, who has coined the term 'Pipelineistan' to describe the vast network of oil and gas pipelines that 'crisscross the potential imperial battlefields of the planet,' sees Afghanistan 'at the core of Pipelineistan,' strategically placed between the Middle East, Central and South Asia.'
- Englehardt, Tom (December 1, 2015). "The new great game between China and the US". Open Democracy. Retrieved February 20, 2022.
That's why TomDispatch's peripatetic reporter Pepe Escobar, who roams Eurasia, especially the region he long ago dubbed Pipelineistan, is like a breath of fresh air. He reminds us that there are still places where people are talking about – gasp! – building up infrastructure in a big way
- Escobar, Pepe (June 8, 2012). "Syria's Pipelineistan war". Al Jazeera. Retrieved February 23, 2022.
Beyond the tragedy and grief of civil war, Syria is also a Pipelineistan power play. More than a year ago, a $10 billion Pipelineistan deal was clinched between Iran, Iraq and Syria for a natural gas pipeline to be built by 2016 from Iran's giant South Pars field, traversing Iraq and Syria, with a possible extension to Lebanon. Key export target market: Europe... The Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline would be essential to diversify Europe's energy supplies away from Russia.
- "China antes up, bets, and bluffs in the new world oil game" by Pepe Escobar (Grist, August 13, 2010
- Englehardt, Tom; Escobar, Pepe (March 24, 2009). "Postcard from Pipelineistan". Mother Jones. Retrieved February 21, 2022.
Knowing his [Escobar's] proclivity for following energy flows the way normal tourists might follow the sun, I asked him if he might offer TomDispatch readers periodic 'postcards' from the energy heartlands of the planet.
- Escobar, Pepe (October 1, 2009). "Iran and the 'Pipelineistan' Opera". CBS. Retrieved February 20, 2022.
The New Great Game of the twenty-first century is always over energy and it's taking place on an immense chessboard called Eurasia. Its squares are defined by the networks of pipelines being laid across the oil heartlands of the planet. Call it Pipelineistan.
- Hollander, Nancy Caro (2014). Uprooted Minds: Surviving the Politics of Terror in the Americas. Taylor and Francis. p. 316. ISBN 9781135468743.
...the oil-rich area of the globe, which investigative journalist Pepe Escobar (2009a) fallaciously calls "Pipelineistan," where much of the political and military tension is related to the struggle to control regional energy supplies. Escobar (2009b) warns us to 'forget the mainstream media's obsession with al-Qaeda, Osama 'dead or alive' bin Laden, the Taliban..or that 'war on terror,' whatever name it goes by. These are diversions compared to the high-stakes, hardcord geopolitical game that follows what flows along the pipelines of the planet.'
- Cochrane, Paul (April 16, 2018). "The 'Pipelineistan' conspiracy: The war in Syria has never been about gas". Middle East Eye. Retrieved February 23, 2022.
Six years into a conflict that has killed at least 400,000 people, there is a widely held belief that the bloodshed in Syria is simply another war over Middle Eastern energy resources...the Qatari-based Al Jazeera first floated the concept of a 'Pipelineistan war' in 2012. Even US establishment journal Foreign Affairs and the Guardian newspaper picked up on the theory
- Ahmed, Nafeez (August 30, 2013). "Syria intervention plan fueled by oil interests, not chemical weapon concern". The Guardian. Retrieved February 23, 2022.
According to retired NATO Secretary General Wesley Clark, a memo from the Office of the US Secretary of Defense just a few weeks after 9/11 revealed plans to 'attack and destroy the governments in 7 countries in five years', starting with Iraq and moving on to 'Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.' In a subsequent interview, Clark argues that this strategy is fundamentally about control of the region's vast oil and gas resources.
- Maher, David; Pieper, Moritz (November 1, 2021). "Russian Intervention in Syria: Exploring the Nexus between Regime Consolidation and Energy Transnationalisation". Political Studies. 69 (4): 944–964. doi:10.1177/0032321720934637. S2CID 221665772.
An emerging narrative has instead focussed on the issue of proposed gas pipelines in Syria as a way of understanding foreign intervention in the country...News outlets such as Al Jazeera and the UK Guardian have carried stories that oil and gas interests are central factors for understanding foreign intervention in Syria (Ahmed, 2013; Escobar, 2012). Similarly, think tanks, including the Washington Institute, as well as opinion pieces from outlets such as Foreign Affairs, Politico and The Globe and Mail, have foregrounded the centrality of natural resources and the related infrastructure to understanding Russian policy and intervention in Syria (Gordon, 2017; Kennedy, 2016; Koduvayur and Everett, 2019; Orenstein and Romer, 2015; Sogoloff, 2017).
- Escobar, Pepe (August 30, 2011). "How al-Qaeda got to rule in Tripoli". Asia Times. Retrieved February 22, 2022.
the story of how an al-Qaeda asset turned out to be the top Libyan military commander in still war-torn Tripoli...[even though] Every intelligence agency in the US, Europe and the Arab world knows where he's coming from.
- Robie, David (August 27, 2011). "Welcome to Libya's Quagmire City". Pacific Media Centre. Retrieved February 22, 2022.
Today on Radio New Zealand's Saturday interview slot with Kim Hill, he [Pepe Escobar] exposed the realities of post-Gaddafi Libya. He warned that an Al Qaeda extremist (Abdel Hakim Belhaj) was now rebel military commander in Tripoli and the country could now slide into a protracted conflict with two guerrilla forces warring with a weak new central regime - Gaddafi loyalists and Jihadist fundamentalists.
- Sahimi, Muhammed (September 3, 2011). "Leaked UN and NATO Plans for Libya: Lessons for Iranians". PBS. Retrieved February 22, 2022.
Asia Times correspondent Pepe Escobar has reported that Abdel Hakim Belhadj, now the military commander of Tripoli, is a former al-Qaeda fighter. According to Escobar, Belhadj was trained in Afghanistan by a "very hardcore Islamist Libyan group," reportedly al-Jama al-Islamiyyah al-Muqatilah bi Libya -- known as the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, it was declared a terrorist organization affiliated with al-Qaeda.
- "GEC Special Report: August 2020: Pillars of Russia's Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem" (PDF). United States Department of State. 2020. Retrieved February 23, 2022.
this report draws on publicly available reporting to provide an overview of Russia's disinformation and propaganda ecosystem...[which] is the collection of official, proxy, and unattributed communication channels and platforms that Russia uses to create and amplify false narratives.
- "Kremlin-Funded Media: RT and Sputnik's Role in Russia's Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem" (PDF). United States Department of State. 2022. Retrieved February 23, 2022.
A proxy site is an unofficial mouthpiece promoting disinformation and propaganda. In the context of Russian disinformation and propaganda, some proxy sites have direct links to the Russian state, some are enmeshed in Russia's disinformation and propaganda ecosystem, and others are more loosely connected via the narratives they promote... RT and Sputnik have mutually beneficial relationships with writers for proxy sites, including... Pepe Escobar
- Barnes, Julian E. (August 5, 2020). "State Dept. Traces Russian Disinformation Links". New York Times. Retrieved February 23, 2022.
Russia continues to use a network of proxy websites to spread pro-Kremlin disinformation and propaganda.
- "Russia, zoopolitics, and information bombs" (Volodymyr Yermolenko, 2014) published in "What does Ukraine think?" by the European Council on Foreign Relations
- Zwick, Jesse (March 14, 2012). "Pravda Lite". New Republic. Retrieved August 30, 2021.
Pepe Escobar, a left-wing writer for Asia Times and frequent guest on RT, was happy to pile on, making the case that, in the United States, 'we had a stolen election in 2000 [and] we had a semi-stolen election in 2004.'
- Alandete, David (February 25, 2022). "El momento decisivo de la desinformación rusa (A decisive moment of Russian disinformation)". ABC (in Spanish). Retrieved February 26, 2022.
Escobar fue entrevistado por Sputnik el 22 de febrero, y allí acusó a Biden de ser «una marioneta» de los poderes fácticos americanos, incluida Hillary Clinton, a los que mueve «la rusofobia»... con un objetivo, que es cortar a Rusia de la economía europea»... Por lo demás, los lamentos de Escobar, en inglés, español o portugués, son los habituales de la desinformación rusa: imperialismo 'yanqui', excesos de la OTAN, victimismo ruso. (Escobar was interviewed by Sputnik on February 22, and there he accused Biden of being 'a puppet' of the American de facto powers, including Hillary Clinton, who are moved by 'Russophobia'... with one goal, which is to cut off Russia from the European economy... For the rest, Escobar's lamentations, in English, Spanish or Portuguese, are the usual ones of Russian disinformation: 'Yankee' imperialism, NATO excesses, Russian victimization.)