Russia, China mock divide and rule

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BLOOD & OIL

By Pepe Escobar

 

ROME and BEIJING — The Roman Empire did it. The British Empire copied it in style. The Empire of Chaos has always done it. They all do it. Divide et impera. Divide and rule — or divide and conquer. It’s nasty, brutish and effective. Not forever though, like diamonds, because empires do crumble.

A room with a view to the Pantheon may be a celebration of Venus — but also a glimpse on the works of Mars. I had been in Rome essentially for a symposium — Global WARning — organized by a very committed, talented group led by a former member of European Parliament, Giulietto Chiesa. Three days later, as the run on the rouble was unleashed, Chiesa was arrested and expelled from Estonia as persona non grata, yet another graphic illustration of the anti-Russia hysteria gripping the Baltic nations and the Orwellian grip NATO has on Europe’s weak links.[1] Dissent is simply not allowed.

At the symposium, held in a divinely frescoed former 15th century Dominican refectory now part of the Italian parliament’s library, Sergey Glazyev, on the phone from Moscow, gave a stark reading of Cold War 2.0. There’s no real “government” in Kiev; the US ambassador is in charge. An anti-Russia doctrine has been hatched in Washington to foment war in Europe — and European politicians are its collaborators. Washington wants a war in Europe because it is losing the competition with China.

Glazyev addressed the sanctions dementia: Russia is trying simultaneously to reorganize the politics of the International Monetary Fund, fight capital flight and minimize the effect of banks closing credit lines for many businessmen. Yet the end result of sanctions, he says, is that Europe will be the ultimate losers economically; bureaucracy in Europe has lost economic focus as American geopoliticians have taken over.

Only three days before the run on the rouble, I asked Rosneft’s Mikhail Leontyev (Press-Secretary — Director of the Information and Advertisement Department) about the growing rumors of the Russian government getting ready to apply currency controls. At the time, no one knew an attack on the rouble would be so swift, and conceived as a checkmate to destroy the Russian economy. After sublime espressos at the Tazza d’Oro, right by the Pantheon, Leontyev told me that currency controls were indeed a possibility. But not yet.

What he did emphasize was this was outright financial war, helped by a fifth column in the Russian establishment. The only equal component in this asymmetrical war was nuclear forces. And yet Russia would not surrender. Leontyev characterized Europe not as an historical subject but as an object: “The European project is an American project.” And “democracy” had become fiction.

The run on the rouble came and went like a devastating economic hurricane. Yet you don’t threat a checkmate against a skilled chess player unless your firepower is stronger than Jupiter’s lightning bolt. Moscow survived. Gazprom heeded the request of President Vladimir Putin and will sell its US dollar reserves on the domestic market. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier went on the record against the EU further “turning the screw” as in more counter-productive sanctions against Moscow. And at his annual press conference, Putin emphasized how Russia would weather the storm. Yet I was especially intrigued by what he did not say.[2]

As Mars took over, in a frenetic acceleration of history, I retreated to my Pantheon room trying to channel Seneca; from euthymia — interior serenity – to that state of imperturbability the Stoics defined as aponia. Still, it’s hard to cultivate euthymia when Cold War 2.0 rages.

Show me your imperturbable missile

Russia could always deploy an economic “nuclear” option, declaring a moratorium on its foreign debt. Then, if Western banks seized Russian assets, Moscow could seize every Western investment in Russia. In any event, the Pentagon and NATO’s aim of a shooting war in the European theater would not happen; unless Washington was foolish enough to start it.

Still, that remains a serious possibility, with the Empire of Chaos accusing Russia of violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) even as it prepares to force Europe in 2015 to accept the deployment of US nuclear cruise missiles.

Russia could outmaneuver Western financial markets by cutting them off from its wealth of oil and natural gas. The markets would inevitably collapse — uncontrolled chaos for the Empire of Chaos (or “controlled chaos,” in Putin’s own words). Imagine the crumbling of the quadrillion-plus of derivatives. It would take years for the “West” to replace Russian oil and natural gas, but the EU’s economy would be instantly devastated.

Just this lightning-bolt Western attack on the rouble — and oil prices — using the crushing power of Wall Street firms had already shaken European banks exposed to Russia to the core; their credit default swaps soared. Imagine those banks collapsing in a Lehman Brothers-style house of cards if Russia decided to default — thus unleashing a chain reaction. Think about a non-nuclear MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) — in fact warless. Still, Russia is self-sufficient in all kinds of energy, mineral wealth and agriculture. Europe isn’t. This could become the lethal result of war by sanctions.

Essentially, the Empire of Chaos is bluffing, using Europe as pawns. The Empire of Chaos is as lousy at chess as it is at history. What it excels in is in upping the ante to force Russia to back down. Russia won’t back down.

Darkness dawns at the break of chaos

Paraphrasing Bob Dylan in When I Paint My Masterpiece, I left Rome and landed in Beijing. Today’s Marco Polos travel Air China; in 10 years, they will be zooming up in reverse, taking high-speed rail from Shanghai to Berlin.[3]

From a room in imperial Rome to a room in a peaceful hutong — a lateral reminiscence of imperial China. In Rome, the barbarians swarm inside the gates, softly pillaging the crumbs of such a rich heritage, and that includes the local Mafia. In Beijing, the barbarians are kept under strict surveillance; of course there’s a Panopticon element to it, essential to assure internal social peace. The leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) — ever since the earth-shattering reforms by the Little Helmsman Deng Xiaoping — is perfectly conscious that its Mandate of Heaven is directly conditioned by the perfect fine-tuning of nationalism and what we could term “neoliberalism with Chinese characteristics.”

In a different vein of the “soft beds of the East” seducing Marcus Aurelius, the silky splendors of chic Beijing offer a glimpse of an extremely self-assured emerging power. After all, Europe is nothing but a catalogue of multiple sclerosis and Japan is under its sixth recession in 20 years.

To top it off, in 2014 President Xi Jinping has deployed unprecedented diplomatic/geostrategic frenzy — ultimately tied to the long-term project of slowly but surely keeping on erasing US supremacy in Asia and rearranging the global chessboard. What Xi said in Shanghai in May encapsulates the project; “It’s time for Asians to manage the affairs of Asia.” At the APEC meeting in November, he doubled down, promoting an “Asia-Pacific dream.”

Meanwhile, frenzy is the norm. Apart from the two monster, US$725 billion gas deals — Power of Siberia and Altai pipeline — and a recent New Silk Road-related offensive in Eastern Europe,[4] virtually no one in the West remembers that in September Chinese Prime Minister Li Keiqiang signed no fewer than 38 trade deals with the Russians, including a swap deal and a fiscal deal, which imply total economic interplay.

A case can be made that the geopolitical shift towards Russia-China integration is arguably the greatest strategic maneuver of the last 100 years. Xi’s ultimate master plan is unambiguous: a Russia-China-Germany trade/commerce alliance. German business/industry wants it badly, although German politicians still haven’t got the message. Xi — and Putin — are building a new economic reality on the Eurasian ground, crammed with crucial political, economic and strategic ramifications.

Of course, this will be an extremely rocky road. It has not leaked to Western corporate media yet, but independent-minded academics in Europe (yes, they do exist, almost like a secret society) are increasingly alarmed there is no alternative model to the chaotic, entropic hardcore neoliberalism/casino capitalism racket promoted by the Masters of the Universe.

Even if Eurasian integration prevails in the long run, and Wall Street becomes a sort of local stock exchange, the Chinese and the emerging multipolar world still seem to be locked into the existing neoliberal model.

And yet, as much as Lao Tzu, already an octogenarian, gave the young Confucius an intellectual slap on the face, the “West” could do with a wake-up call. Divide et impera? It’s not working. And it’s bound to fail miserably.

As it stands, what we do know is that 2015 will be a hair-raising year in myriad aspects. Because from Europe to Asia, from the ruins of the Roman empire to the re-emerging Middle Kingdom, we all still remain under the sign of a fearful, dangerous, rampantly irrational Empire of Chaos.

What Putin is not telling us?

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin – Reprinted from RT

 
 

By Pepe Escobar

 
 

Russian President Vladimir Putin holds his annual press conference, addressing the economy, ruble and impact of sanctions from the U.S. and Europe.

 
 

Even facing what under any circumstances is a perfect storm; President Putin delivered an extremely measured performance at his annual press conference and Q&A marathon.

The perfect storm evolves in two fronts; an overt economic war — as in siege by sanctions — and a concerted, covert, shadow attack to the heart of the Russian economy. Washington’s endgame is clear: impoverish and defang the adversary and force him to meekly bow to the “Empire of Chaos’ s” whims. And bragging about it all the way to “victory.”

The problem is Moscow happens to have impeccably deciphered the game — even before Putin, at the Valdai Club in October, pinned down the Obama doctrine as “our Western partners” working as practitioners of the “theory of controlled chaos.”

So Putin neatly understood this week’s monster-controlled chaos attack. The Empire has massive money power; a great deal of influence over the world’s GDP at $85 trillion, and the banking power behind that. So nothing easier than using that power through the private banking systems that actually controls central banks to create a run on the ruble. Think about the “Empire of Chaos” dreaming of driving the ruble down by 99% or so — thus wrecking the Russian economy. What better way to impose imperial discipline on Russia?

The “nuclear” optionRussia sells oil in US dollars to the West. Lukoil, for instance, would have a deposit in US dollars in an American bank for the oil they sell. If Lukoil has to pay wages in rubles in Russia, then they will have to sell the US dollar deposits and buy in Russia a ruble deposit for their bank account. This in effect supports the ruble. The question is whether Lukoil, Rosneft and Gazprom are hoarding US dollars overseas — and holding back. The answer is no. And the same applies to other Russian businesses.

Russia is not “losing their savings,” as Western corporate media gloats. Russia can always require foreign companies to relocate to Russia. Apple, for instance, may open a manufacturing plant in Russia. The recent Russia-China deals include the Chinese building factories in Russia. With a depreciated ruble, Russia is able to force manufacturing that might have been located in the EU to be located in Russia; otherwise these companies lose the market. Putin somewhat admitted that Russia should have been demanding this much earlier. The — positive — process is now inevitable.

And then there’s a “nuclear” option — which Putin didn’t even have to mention. If Russia decides to impose capital controls and/or imposes a “holiday” on repayment of larger debt tranches coming due in early 2015, the European financial system will be bombed — Shock and Awe-style; after all, much of the Russian bank and corporate funding was underwritten in Europe.

Exposure to Russia per se is not the issue; what matters is the linkage to European banks. As an American investment banker told me, Lehman Brothers, for instance, brought down Europe just as much as New York City – based on inter-linkages. And yet Lehman was based in New York. It’s the domino effect that counts.

Were Russia to deploy this “nuclear” financial option, the Western financial system would not be able to absorb a shock of default. And that would demonstrate — once and for all – that Wall Street speculators have built a “House of Cards” so fragile and corrupt that the first real storm turns it to dust.

It’s just a shot away

And what if Russia defaults — creating a holy mess out of the country’s $600 billion debt? This scenario reads as the Masters of the Universe telling Janet Yellen and Mario Draghi to create credits in the banking systems to prevent “undue damage” — as in 2008.

But then Russia decides to cut off natural gas and oil from the West (while keeping the flow to the East). Russian intel may wreak non-stop havoc in pumping stations from the Maghreb to the Middle East. Russia may block all the oil and natural gas pumped in the Central Asian “stans.” The result: the greatest financial collapse in history. And the end of the “Empire of Chaos’ s” exceptionalist panacea.

Of course this is a doomsday scenario. But don’t provoke the bear, because the bear could pull that off in a flash.

Putin was so cool, calm, collected — and eager to delve into details — at his press conference because he knows Moscow is able to move in total autonomy. This is — of course — an asymmetrical war — against a crumbling, dangerous empire. What those intellectual midgets swarming the lame duck Obama administration are thinking? That they can sell American — and world — public opinion the notion Washington (European poodles, actually) will brave nuclear war, in the European theater, in the name of failed state Ukraine?

This is a chess game. The raid on the ruble was supposed to be a checkmate. It’s not. Not when deployed by amateur scrabble players. And don’t forget the Russia-China strategic partnership. The storm may be abating, but the match continues.

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times. His regular column, “The Roving Eye,” is widely read. He is an analyst for the online news channel Real News, the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT and (more…)

Who profits from killing Charlie?

 

THE ROVING EYE
Who profits from killing Charlie?
By Pepe Escobar

Putin did it. Sorry, he didn’t. In the end, it was not Russia “aggression” that attacked the heart of Europe. It was a pro-style jihadi commando. Cui bono?

Careful planning and preparation; Kalashnikovs; rocket-propelled grenade launcher; balaclavas; sand-colored ammunition vest stuffed with spare magazines; army boots; piece of cake escape in a black Citroen. And the icing on the lethal cake; faultless Paris-based logistical support to pull that off. A former top French military commander, Frederic Gallois, has stressed the perfect application of “urban guerrilla technique” (where are those notorious Western counter-terrorism “experts” when one needs them?)

They might have spoken perfect French; others said it was broken.

French. Anyway, what matters is that they uttered the magic word; “We’re al-Qaeda.” Better yet; they told a man in the street, “Tell the media that this is al-Qaeda in Yemen”, which means, in American terror terminology, al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP), which had Charlie Hebdo’s editor/cartoonist Stephane Charbonnier (“Charb”) on a hit list duly promoted by AQAP’s glossy magazine Inspire. Accusation: “Insulting the Prophet Mohammed.”

And just to make sure everyone had the perpetrators implanted on their brain, the killers also said, “Allahu Akbar”; “We have killed Charlie Hebdo”; and “We have avenged the Prophet.”

Case closed? Well, it took only a few hours for French police to identify the (usual?) suspects; French-Algerian brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi. The third man – the driver of the black Citroen, 18-year-old Hamyd Mourad – then turned himself in with an ironclad alibi. So the third man remains a cipher.

They all wore balaclavas. The Kouachi brothers have not been captured. But the police seem to know very well who they are. Because they found an abandoned ID in the black Citroen (oh, the troubles of being a command in a rush …) How come they didn’t know anything before the carnage?

Right on cue, Cherif Kouachi’s bio was splattered all over. He was on a global watch list. Along with six others, he was sentenced in May 2008 to 3 years in prison for “terrorism”; in fact unloading a dozen young Frenchmen via madrassas in Egypt and Syria to none other than Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the killed-by-an-American-missile former head of Al-Qaeda in Iraq and the spiritual father of Daesh/ISIS/ISIL.

Also right on clue, a full narrative was ready for mass consumption. The key point; French police privileges the hypothesis of “Islamic terrorism”. According to their “experts”, this could be an attack “ordered from abroad and executed by jihadis coming back from Syria that have escaped us”, or it could be “suburban idiots that radicalized themselves and concocted this military attack in the name of al-Qaeda.”

Scrap option two, please; this was a pro job. And staying with option one, this points right at – what else – blowback. Yes, they could be Daesh/ISIS/ISIL mercenaries trained by NATO (crucially, France included) in Turkey and/or Jordan. But it might get even false-flag nastier. They could also be former or current French special forces.

Blast Islam, will travel
Predictably, Islamofascism peddlers are already having a field day/week/month/year. For simpletons/trolls/hordes exhibiting an IQ worthy of sub-zoology, when in doubt, demonize Islam. It’s so convenient to forget that untold millions from Pakistan’s tribal areas to street markets across Iraq continue to feel pain devastating their hearts and lives as they are expendable victims of the jihadi mindset – or “Kalashnikov culture”, as it is known in Pakistan – profiting the “West”, directly or indirectly, for decades now. Think ritual droning of Pakistani, Yemeni, Syrian, Iraqi or Libyan civilians. Think Sadr City witnessing carnages over 10 times worse than Paris.

What French President Francois Hollande defined as “an act of exceptional barbarism” – and it is – does not apply when the “West”, France in the front line, from King Sarko to General Hollande himself, weaponizes, trains and remote-controls assorted mercenaries/beheaders from Libya to Syria. Oh yeah; killing civilians in Tripoli or Aleppo is perfectly all right. But don’t do that in Paris.

So this, in the heart of Europe, is what blowback feels like. This is what people feel in the Waziristans when a wedding party is incinerated by a Hellfire missile. In parallel, it’s absolutely impossible that the oh so sophisticated Western intel network had not seen blowback coming – and was impotent to prevent it (how come the scapegoats du jour, the Kouachi brothers, were not in the gallows?)

Of course the ultra-elaborate Western counter-terrorism expert network – so proficient at strip-teasing us all at every airport – saw it coming; but in shadow warland, portmanteau “al-Qaeda” and its myriad declinations, including “renegade” Daesh/ISIS/ISIL, are used as much as a mercenary army as a convenient domestic threat “against our freedoms”.

Who profits?
US Think Tankland, also predictably, is busy spinning the drama of an “intra-Muslim” split which provides jihadis a lot of geopolitical space to exploit – all this sucking the Western world into a Muslim civil war. This is absolutely ridiculous. The Empire of Chaos, already during the 70s, was busy cultivating jihadi/Kalashnikov culture to fight anything from the USSR to nationalist movements all across the Global South. Divide and Rule has always been used to fan the flames “intra-Islam”, from the Clinton administration getting cozy with the Taliban to the Cheney regime – helped by Persian Gulf vassals – advancing the sectarian Sunni/Shi’ite schism.

Cui bono, then, with killing Charlie? Only those whose agenda is to demonize Islam. Not even a bunch of brainwashed fanatics would pull off the Charlie carnage to show people who accuse them of being barbarians that they are, in fact, barbarians. French intel at least has concluded that this is no underwear bomber stunt. This is a pro job. That happens to take place just a few days after France recognizes Palestinian statehood. And just a few days after General Hollande demanded the lifting of sanctions against the Russian “threat”.

The Masters of the Universe who pull the real levers of the Empire of Chaos are freaking out with the systemic chaos in the racket they so far had the illusion of controlling. Make no mistake – the Empire of Chaos will do what it can to exploit the post-Charlie environment – be it blowback or false flag.

The Obama administration is already mobilizing the UN Security Council. The FBI is “helping” with the French investigation. And as an Italian analyst memorably put it, jihadis don’t attack a vulture hedge fund; they attack a satirical rag. This is not religion; this is hardcore geopolitics. Reminds me of David Bowie: “This is not rock’n roll. This is suicide.”

The Obama administration is already mobilized to offer “protection” – Mob-style – to a Western Europe that is just, only just, starting to be diffident of the pre-fabricated Russian “threat”. And just as it happens, when the Empire of Chaos mostly needs it, evil “terra” once again rears its ugly head.

And yes, I am Charlie. Not only because they made us laugh; but because they were sacrificial lambs in a much nastier, gruesome, never-ending shadowplay.

Pepe Escobar’s latest book is Empire of Chaos. Follow him on Facebook. He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.

(Copyright 2015 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

 

What’s Known About The Suspects In The Paris Shooting

Breaking News From NPR

French authorities are on the hunt today for two brothers: Said and Chérif Kouachi, 34 and 32. Police say those two men are the main suspects in an attack on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris that left 12 people dead.

Here’s a roundup of what is known about the two men:

— NPR’s Dina Temple-Raston says counterterrorism officials she has talked to have been careful not to link the two men to particular terrorist groups.

— Chérif was known to authorities prior to Wednesday’s attack, because he was convicted on terrorism charges in 2008. He served 18 months for helping to funnel fighters from France to Iraq.

Since Western powers began a war against the Islamic State, governments have expressed worries about their citizens traveling to Syria, becoming radicalized and then carrying out attacks at home.

Dina says authorities aren’t sure yet what happened to Kouachi after his arrest in 2008. It’s unclear whether he has ever traveled to Syria and it’s unclear whether he has developed any links to terrorist groups — including the Islamic State — since 2008.

— Judging by the shot patterns left on a police cruiser yesterday, what is clear is that the two gunmen were very comfortable using high-powered weapons. It’s likely, Dina says, that they received some military training. The question is where.

— Quoting French media, The New York Times paints this early portrait of Cherif:

“Libération, a French newspaper, described Chérif Kouachi as an orphan whose parents were Algerian immigrants. It said he was raised in foster care in Rennes, in western France, and trained as a fitness instructor before moving to Paris, where he lived with his brother Said in the home of a convert to Islam. He held menial jobs, working at times as a pizza delivery man, shop assistant and fishmonger.

“He was first arrested in 2005 in connection with a case centered on Farid Benyettou, a 26-year-old janitor-turned-preacher who gave sermons calling for jihad in Iraq and justifying suicide bombings. Among Mr. Benyettou’s would-be recruits was Chérif Kouachi, then 22, who was detained as he prepared to leave for Syria, the first leg of a trip he hoped would take him to Iraq.”

Bloomberg reports that Chérif was arrested in 2010 for “suspected involvement in plotting the escape of one of the masterminds of bombings and terrorist attacks in 1995 that killed eight people and injured more than 200, according to police reports.”

Citing Le Monde, Bloomberg adds that prosecutors decided to drop the case after holding Chérif for about four months.

— Agence France-Presse and other news agencies reported that authorities found Said’s identification card in the getaway car.

Update at 1:46 p.m. ET. What We Know About Said:

Bernard Cazeneuve, the French Interior Minister, said during a press conference that Said Kouachi did not have a criminal record.

Young shooting suspect no Islamist: schoolmates

 

 

He said Said was unemployed and had emerged on the fringes of the investigations.

Update at 9:59 p.m. ET. The Third Suspect:

As we’ve reported, another suspect, identified by French media as 18-year-old Mourad Hamyd, turned himself in to police overnight.

The AFP just moved a video talking to his schoolmates, who said Hamyd was no Islamist. One of them told the wire service that Hamyd was at school at the time of the attack and so could not have been in Paris.

Society hangs in unsecured equilibrium after Paris Attack

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According to NPR, French authorities are still on the hunt for two brothers suspected in an attack against the headquarters of a satirical magazine in Paris that left 12 people dead.

NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley reports that the French capital is on its highest alert level, and 800 soldiers and riot police have been called on to guard the city. Schoolchildren, Eleanor said, are being kept inside for recess.

To add to the tension, there was a shooting on Paris’ southern edge that killed a police officer and wounded a street sweeper. Bernard Cazeneuve, France’s Interior Minister, said those shootings had not been linked to the attack on Charlie Hebdo.

Overnight, one of the three suspects, identified by French media as 18-year-old Mourad Hamyd, was reported to have turned himself in.

Overnight, one of the three suspects, identified by French media as 18-year-old Mourad Hamyd, was reported to have turned himself in.

Cazeneuve said nine people had been detained in connection to the attack. The two chief suspects, named as Said and Chérif Kouachi, 34 and 32, remain at large‘Dangerous Moment’ for Europe, as Fear and Resentment GrowJAN. 7, 2015

The precautionary measures are on top of those already in place since Dec. 20, when Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were killed in their patrol car by a lone gunman targeting officers. They were disseminated two days after two other officers were shot and wounded in the Bronx.

For more than two weeks, the department has increased security at precinct houses and ordered a suspension of solo foot patrols.

William J. Bratton, the police commissioner, said earlier on Wednesday that there was no “direct threat” to New York related to the attacks in Paris on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which had lampooned Islam in the past.

The internal memo drew attention to the victims of the Paris attacks. “Among the dead were two police officers, one of whom was assigned to guard the office after it had been threatened and firebombed by terrorists,” the memo began, before urging vigilance.

“Pay attention to your surroundings, not your cellphone,” it read.

Local officials say mosques were targeted across the country late Wednesday and early today. There were no reports of injuries, and it’s unclear if they are linked to the attack on Charlie Hebdo. But Cazeneuve said the country would not tolerate any attacks on places of worship.

This is a breaking news story. As often happens in situations like these, some information reported early may turn out to be inaccurate. We’ll move quickly to correct the record and we’ll only point to the best information we have at the time.

Update at 3:15 p.m. ET. Eiffel Tower Goes Dark

B62kmYEIMAAI693.jpg small

Update at 7:19 a.m. ET. Not Linking Suspects To Terrorist Groups:

Counterterrorism officials have been careful not to link the two main suspects to terrorist groups, NPR’s Dina Temple-Raston tells our Newscast Unit.

One of the men, Chérif Kouachi, was convicted on terrorism charges in 2008. He served 18 months for helping to funnel fighters from France to Iraq.

What’s unclear, said Dina, is what happened to Kouachi after that. It’s unclear whether he has ever traveled to Syria and it’s unclear whether he has developed links to terrorist groups — including the Islamic State — since 2008.

Judging by the shot patterns left on a police cruiser yesterday, what is clear is that the two suspects were very comfortable using high-powered weapons. It’s likely, Dina said, that they received some military training. The question is where.

Update at 6:44 a.m. ET. Roads Shut Down:

NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley reports that police have shut down all roads in and out of Paris.