Monday, 15 September 2014

The Causes of Third Iraq War and the Global Struggle Against IS

War against ISIS is becoming more imminent eaders and diplomats from more than 30 countries pledged to use "whatever means necessary" to defeat the 'global threat' of Islamic State ( ISIS ) with France set to join Americal air strikes and Britain, no doubt, waiting til after the Scottish referendum on September 18.

The Paris talks are mostly concerned about containing ISIS and protecting the oil producing zones of Kurdistan and those towards the south of Iraq around Basra and near the borders of Kuwait and towards Saudi Arabia. The terror threat to the West is useful mostly as 'public diplomacy' in democracies.

ISIS does pose a potential threat to the region and across its so-called caliphate because most of the lands it stakes a claim to are in regions with copious supplies of rare earth and minerals as well as oil that the world economy requires. So in that real sense it is a 'global threat'.

Public diplomacy requires that the population is given an simplistic narrative in which there are evil terrorist ready to attack Britain or France because a war to secure resources is seen as lacking the necessary heroic uplift that a cosmic battle between good and evil has.

In the US, statesmen and advocates of geopolitical strategies are usually more refreshingly more candid about the importance of strategic control over resources than in Britain where politicians think it's rather bad form to mention the grubby reality of oil needs in front on the electorate, that is, the children.

A surge in oil prices could damage the economies of the west such Britain's with its fragile and ailing rentier economy easily affected by the higher cost of oil, not least as it is dependent upon East Asian manufactured goods being produced cheaply to keep up consumer led recovery through shopping.

The threat to Qatar in particular is a threat to Britain's supply of liquified natural gas upon which it depends for 12-15% of its gas imports with the decline of North Sea gas reserves. Qatar is a vital market for French and British weapons system and billions of dollars of investment to prop up their ailing rentier economies.

Britain is one of many global powers with a developed economy that has an interest in that along with OPEC nations and East Asian countries such as Japan and China, even though the 'international core coalition' to defeat ISIS is primarily a US western led alliance.

Maintaining western influence by making its military capacity useful to Saudi Arabia and the GCC states is considered vital to fend off the prospect of China making inroads and muscling in to the lucrative arms market dominated by US, French and British companies.

The other aim is to try to bring together the Gulf states again over differences as regards Libya where Qatar is backing militant Islamists and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt which are backing ex-Gaddafi militias. The need to freeze Iran out of diplomacy is also thought necessary.

One reason is because the 'Friends of Syria' Group ( i.e the west and its allies ) want unity between Qatar and Saudi Arabia so as to be able to overthrow Assad and secure the Turkey-Qatar pipeline. That would thwart Iran's alternative plan for a Shi'ite pipeline through Iraq and Syria to the Mediterranean.

Resource wars and struggles for access to far flung supplies of oil and gas are set to be a recurrent feature of the 21st century. Jihadists, as in Syria, were used as part of a risky strategy to try to get rid of Assad just as they were in Libya, the better to try to gain control over oil.

The consequence was blowback. Wherever the US, France and Britain have considered military intervention the stakes have been fighting a 'global terror threat' which is portrayed as such because there is a need to justify intervening to secure oil supplies whether Boko Haram in Nigeria or jihadists in Yemen or Egypt.

ISIS has a base in Syria and Iraq but it is, like Al Qaida, becoming a franchise operation that is set to spread across the lands claimed as part of the caliphate because in such regions jihadi-Islamists are leading the disenfranchised poor in a war to seize oil or menace oil transit zones or vital pipeline routes.

Throughout all these lands climate change, drought, crop failure , overpopulation, the strain on water supplies and resource struggles are combining now in a lethal brew to spawn pyschopathological jihadi-movements that have nothing to lose in trying to deal crippling blows to the world economy.

ISIS and the Ideologies of Military Intervention and Non-Intervention.

The ideology of non-interventionists in Iraq against ISIS has become increasingly marginal because the so-called 'anti-war left' in Britain was always as simplistic in its approach to the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars as was the equally ideological 'pro-liberation' left championing selfless wars of  'humanitarian intervention'.

The Stop the War Coalition is a failure. It was probably more influential in the period between 2001 to 2003 in shaping the reaction of Tony Blair and those demanding a break from the old realpolitik as regards Iraq and overthrowing the Taliban and Saddam Hussein to put right previous wrongs caused by Britain.

The fact that Saddam Hussein had been backed by the US and Britain in the 1970s and 1980s as bulwark against a potentially more menacing Iran, with pictures of Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam, was flashed as proof that the US was now posing as offering the military solution to a problem it caused.

The Stop the War Coalition leadership consisted of the disgruntled dregs of the British Communist Party and Trotskyist sects that did not grasp that governments in a democracy are not always the same sorts of politicians always doing the same thing because they do not have much time for representative democracy.

As a consequence, the Second Gulf War tended to get support of intellectuals such as Christopher Hitchens who encapsulated the position of those for a war to liberate both Afghanistan and the Taliban when he argued Britain had a moral duty to do so precisely because of its previous failed foreign policies.

With ISIS now staging carefully choreographed executions of American and US hostages, the need to be seen to be doing something in Britain is conjuring up the memory of the way Bush and Blair used the 9/11 attacks back in 2001 to become a pretext for military intervention to be either backed or opposed.

As usual, there are those who point to the disaster of the last Iraq war and occupation as a reason both why ISIS was able to surge into Iraq and why it is not right to intervene militarily again and so the can phrase 'the liberation of Iraq has to be the work of the Iraqis themselves' is thrown out mechanically.

For those such as Richard Seymour, the concern is that this may well be putting people off the anti-war cause and so he has to concede that ISIS is evil in the sense of it being annoying and difficult to fit into a convenient formula that opposes any military intervention to prevent its exterminatory policies and beheadings
'Isis goes to your head and gets under your skin; it leaves you feeling infested. Back in the days when one didn’t know much about the jihadis carrying out beheadings, it was possible to think that they were just – as David Cameron has denounced them – “monsters”, savages, beasts. Or, if one were on the anti-war left, one could simply point out that there was, after all, a war on. A brutal occupation produces a brutal insurgency: case closed'.
The problem then, is not that ISIS is murdering people since Seymour believes that all wars are murder which are based on humanitarian intervention, as made clear in his The Liberal Defence of Murder. ISIS is, therefore, only a small time murderer compared to the US and Britain which are 'state terrorists'.

As a consequence, Seymour routinely downplays ISIS atrocities or rejects them as being the 'real reason' for intervention by the US and, potentially, by Britain in the near future. It was the Kurdish peshmerga which rolled back ISIS and not US airstrikes, though curiously the peshmerga leaders claimed they have helped.

None of that means Britain should involve itself with prsuing a strategy based on the belief that bombing ISIS positions is going to provide a teachological short cut to 'degrading and ultimately defeating' it. Then again, neither Obama nor Cameron have actually claimed that it would so Seymour's argument is a strawman one.

Clearly, Seymour is largely ignorant of the realities of the Middle East and his main aim is to manufacture the politically correct 'line' to be taken on the way the battle against IS is 'framed' for ideological purposes, albeit in more sophisticated way than the 'vulgar' propagandists of the StWC.

In Britain, the Stop the War Coalition and 'anti-war' groups are laregely dominated not by pacifists or by those who are against war on principle but by those who wish to seize upon discontent and unease at Britain's involvement in wars to propagate hatred and resentment against the British state.

Unfortunately, Seymour's interpretation is not much more nuanced than Lindsey German's "stance" that military intervention would only be a reaction to an insurgency wholly the product and 'caused' directly by British foreign policy and the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003.

Evidently, the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a disastrous decision that helped create the quasi-failed state Iraq is outside Baghdad and the fortified oil producing zones guarded by the peshmerga in Kurdistan and Shi'ites in the south around Basra. Only the discredited and loathed Tony Blair clings to his 'belief' it was 'right'.

So, given that this is no longer hardly 'subversive' knowledge but generally a generally recognised fact, radical 'anti-imperialists' such as Seymour needs to 'stand out' by developing a 'new stance' which is more 'nuanced' but ends up being based purely on ideology fitting the facts to suit it.

For a start, Seymour claims 'Isis would be nowhere if it weren’t for the generalised rejection by Sunni Iraqis of the sectarian political authority in Baghdad.' This is wholly nonsensical because ISIS would, in fact, still be somewhere if they had not surged into Iraq: they would, obviously, be in Syria.

Islamic State has its base in Syria and was created by jihadist groups that splintered off and broke away from the control of the Free Syria Army and joined a group that had its origins as ISI during the Sunni insurgency against the Shi'ites in Iraq, a rivalry that long predates the invasion of Iraq.

The collapse of a functioning government in northern Syria and the support given to the most Sunni jihadists by Saudi Arabia and Qatar as part of their proxy war against Iran, which backs Assad, is an important reason why jihadi-Islamists gained ground in Syria and why Hizbollah joined in the war.

This clash is embarrassing for revolutionary leftists in Britain who regarded Hamas and Hizbollah as guerrilla resistance united against Israel and US imperialism, so clearly the line has to be that the US encouraged a 'viscious sectarianism' that would not have otherwise existed.
'..whereas the jihadi ultras of the “war on terror” era were an unpopular, marginalised minority within the Iraqi resistance, always fought and opposed by the mainstream of the Sunni Arab insurgency, Isis succeeds because of the support it enjoys within much of the population it seeks to rule.'
ISIS 'succeeds' because Sunni Arab militias and their tribal leaders took the decision to join forces with ISIS. Any such popularity as they get is tied in to the fact ISIS uses revenues from organised crime and sales of oil to provide jobs, to sponsor children's festivals and even medical clinics'

Iran's backing for the Maliki government only further alienated the Sunni Arab tribes and ex-Baathists, which comprised what Seymour extols as the 'Iraqi resistance' against Baghdad. It is these forces which have aligned with IS in 2014 as a means to increase their strength against the government.

Britain would like to believe it has decisive leverage over Qatar as the US believes it has in Saudi Arabia in trying to pressure both to clamp down on the funding given to fanatical jihadists. But it is not the case, partly as it was not tried back in 2012 or for most of 2013 until ISIS turned against the FSA.

Britain's foreign policy is not made by 'Westminster spear-carriers for American empire' but by those with a shared interest in preventing the collapse of Iraq and any threat to the global oil price caused by ISIS attacks. Over the longer term, Iraq is set to a major oil producer needed to keep oil prices stable.

Britain is one of many global powers with a developed economy that has an interest in that along with OPEC nations and East Asian countries such as Japan and China, even though the 'international core coalition' to defeat ISIS is, in the military sense, primarily a US western-led alliance.

ISIS has a base in Syria and Iraq but it is, like Al Qaida, becoming a franchise operation that is set to spread across the lands claimed as part of the caliphate because in such regions jihadi-Islamists are leading the disenfranchised poor in a war to seize oil or menace oil transit zones.

Throughout all these lands climate change, drought, crop failure , overpopulation, the strain on water supplies and resource struggles are combining in a lethal brew to spawn vicious pyschopathological jihadi-movements that have nothing to lose in trying to deal crippling blows to the world economy.

The 21st century is going to see the response through drone warfare to eliminate and precision zap savage groups in these regions and to protect strategic resources and pipeline routes by creating fortified protection zones out of which the drones would patrol so as keep the threat of sabotage at bay.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Propaganda of the Name: The Meaning of 'Islamic State'.

'we believe the media, civic society and governments should refuse to legitimise these ludicrous caliphate fantasies by accepting or propagating this name. We propose that 'UnIslamic State' (UIS) could be an accurate and fair alternative name'-'Islamic State' is a slur on our faith, say leading Muslims. Observer, Saturday 13 September 2014
The complaint by British Muslim organisations and imams that the Prime Minister should stop using the words 'Islamic state' to describe the self-proclaimed Islamic State takes the absurd to new levels. For a start, Obama and Cameron have been at pains not to call it IS or ISIS or regard it as truly Islamic.

In countering the threat which is a threat to the US and Britain but not yet, it seems the threat does not even have the name is has as 'Islamic State' because President Obama, and so David Cameron, call it 'ISIL'. Cameron referred to a 'so-called Caliphate' and 'nihilists'.

It is understandable why British Muslims would not want to be associated with what they call the 'Unislamic State'. But by denying the neo-caliphate could be 'islamic' and demanding it is called the opposite of what it calls itself they run the risk of being ridiculed and giving more publicity to the idea of its being Islamic or not.

More than that, by acting childishly and petulantly by demanding the media calls Islamic State the 'Unislamic State', the Muslim organisations invite the sort of response which would delight in countering, with malicious glee, that Islamic State really is the 'real face' of Islam going back to its authentic and true 'medieval' origins.

The grotesque irony of all this is that IS would get exactly what they want in the aftermath of the first online public beheading of of a British hostage, captured aid worker David Haines, by reinforcing the attitudes of those who see that act at the hands of a British jihadist either as 'real' Islam' or as 'nothing to do with it'.

There are those who see the beheading as a warning that this is the sort of act that 'you have coming' from a British jihadist 'near you'. Then there are those denying that such an action could ever be committed by anyone professing to be Islamic, to which the answer is going to be like the panto refrain 'oh, yes it is !'.

IS knows that the beheadings are so gory and vile that the western media would whip up outrage of the sort media obsessed politicians such as Cameron thrive on when bigging up the terror threat, the better to increase their self important need to 'do' something as well as playing for votes and 'looking tough on terror'.

By talking up the 'global terror threat', IS gets precisely the necessary response. They are intelligent enough to know how useful their threat is in forcing politicians in media dominated democracies to make out the threat to be a unified one so as to better justify any military interventions they would need to take.

The reasons for that are that IS realises the western nations in Britain are bound to need to intervene militarily to protect oil and gas supplies from control or else sabotage by jihadists across the regions which is claimed as part of a new revived caliphate stretching from sub-Saharan Africa through to the Greater Middle East.

By portraying disparate jihadi-Islamist threats across these different nations as one seamless 'global threat', and using that to intervene militarily, with drones, air strikes or 'boots on the ground' IS would be able to spread its franchise operation out of its core base in Syria and into Iraq into Egypt, Libya, Yemen or Nigeria.

The ultimate ambition, of course, is to be the threat that Cameron is portraying IS as being, that is, one that reaches its sinister tentacles into the heartlands of Britain, something already played on by celebrity jihadists Anjem Choudary who are as media savvy as establishment politicians playing on fear. 

Though appearing a buffoon, Choudury is already knows how to play up to his useful media role in linking the outrage over the execution of hostages to the fact there is less outrage over the way western foreign policy means "hundreds of thousands of people have been beheaded by drones and daisy cutters".

IS online beheadings are meant to stir things up in Britain by opening up a discussion on British foreign policy why Britain is uncritically following the US as 'lapdog' and why it is condemning the execution of one British hostage claimed by ISIS to have been in the British army rather than the foreign policy for 'causing' it.

This gloating and gory propaganda of the deed which is intended by IS to be what Cameron calls 'pure evil' compared to the 'greater evil' against which ISIS is ranged: the Hypocrite Sunni Muslim regimes that made their state possible by bankrolling jihadi efforts against Assad's regime and their Infidel allies.

Islamic State is, in reality, the Islamist State of Syria and Iraq. This would be a far better designation which distinguishes between Islam and the ideologisation of Islam into a set of political tactics and doctrines adapted to the modern world which owes much in its ideas to thinkers such as Maududi and Nabhani.

Maududi used the word 'Islamic State' to mean one in which all aspects of public and private life in a perfect society would be determined by a select Godly elite who would slowly infiltrate their way into institutions and take them over from within and purge kuffars from positions of power.

Maududi put forward a non-violent path to create an utopia. Other thinkers such as Qutb, an influence on Al Qaida, stressed modernistic ideas such as a vanguard elite bent on destroying a decadent world and creating a new world through acts of apocalyptic violence and terrorism.

None of those ideas exist in the Qu'ran. Islamist ideas such as Al Qaida's at one extreme. Those groups such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir which have an ambiguous attitude towards violence demand a Caliphate as an Islamified version of the sort of utopia longed for by, for example, the Bolsheviks in Tsarist Russia.

Islamic State is no more necessarily Islamic than the the Soviet Union was a true union of republics based on the control of worker's councils or even truly socialist. However, few socialists in the west, even those who rejected the Soviet Union would have called it the 'fake union of unsocialist unfree pseudo-republics'.

Malise Ruthven puts it well when he refers to Islamism as,
'the ideologization of Islam at the political level, the construction of a political ideology using some symbols culled from the historical reperiore of Islam, to the exclusion of others. This ideology, sometimes refered to as 'Islamic fundamentalism', is better described as Islamism: the Latin suffix attached to the Arabic original more accurately expresses the relationship between the pre-existing reality ( in this case a religion ) and its translation into a political ideology, just as communism ideologizes the reality of the commune, socialism the social, and fascism the ancient symbol of Roman consular authority'.
The difference is that socialism or communism were not words with a necessary cultural resonance for those identifying with a religion and civilisation such as Islam does imply. This is why not colluding in the portrayal of Islamic State at face value is vital and why 'Islamist State' would be the right name.

One advantage, is that those following or tempted to identify with Islamist groups in Britain would see that the necessary outcome of trying to create a caliphate based on an enforced and extreme version of sharia law ends up creating a hell on earth for other Muslims first and foremost in the lands under its control.

On message politicians in Britain, however, insist on 'ISIL' for reasons of 'public diplomacy'. One reason is 'ISIL' sounds more pointedly sharp and sinister, far more deadly and dangerous than ISIS which is also the name of an Egyptian Goddess. It sounds more evil and vile like SPECTRE in James Bond.

Another handy use of ISIL, is it avoids serving to remind those who opposed air strikes against Syria in 2013 that the last 'S' in ISIS means 'Syria' which could be entered targets there bombed. ISIL sounds more like a bacteria or lethal virus, a truly 'poisonous ideology' that can seep unguarded into any 'community'.

ISIL could be borne back to 'the homeland'. Having said that, some criticised the use of ISIL because the 'L' means Levant, that is the power claim made over Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq , Southern Turkey, or even Israel. Yet that would serve to create a greater sense threat in the region too as well as the US.

The calculation could be that nobody actually knows that 'L' means Levant or what Levant means apart from sounding a bit fragrant. Of course, ISIL and ISIS are both better than IS which means 'Islamic State' and it could not be admitted that Islamic State is either a real state or that its really Islamic which is what IS wants.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

The War on the Islamic State and the Struggle for Hegemony and Resources in the Greater Middle East

President Obama chose the 13th anniversary of 9/11 to make the speech on degrading and destroying ISIL The aim is to exploit the media refracted outrage at the beheading of two US journalists the better to advance 'public diplomacy' preparing America for the long war for control over strategic resources.

NATO has become an organisation crucially concerned with energy security in the post-Cold War world. he pretence, of course, in its public diplomacy is that this is an additional auxiliary ambition as opposed to one which is bound to be core to it as an organisation protecting the power and wealth of western states.

IS is a threat primarily to the security of oil producing zones south of Baghdad and the Kurdish regions as well as to Turkey. Turkey, a NATO member, was at the forefront of arming, training and forwarding Sunni militants into Syria to overthrow Assad along with the US's regional partners and the CIA.

The 'game plan' is to try to 'degrade' IS, build up the Sunni militant forces capable of being controlled by Turkey and the Syria National Council. Then to Assad's government could be removed the better to check Iran, forestall a Shi'ite gas pipeline to the Eastern Mediterranean and Russian's interests.

Russia is feared because it has been active in backing Assad so as to gain the access to the gas reserves off the Syrian coast in the Levant Basin which was discovered in 2010. The Syrian National Council opposes that and so do France and Britain which want Eastern Mediterranean gas to be amenable to western control.

The US is focused on upholding the interests of the European powers in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Levant Basin offers the EU and Turkey the opportunity to find an alternative sources of gas to Russia and a chaotic war ravaged Libya after the NATO backed war ended up creating a failed state.

The Libyan military intervention of 2011 was a war designed to back Qatar's regional strategy of empowering "moderate" Sunni forces and democracy the better to secure oil and gas supplies against the encroaching influence of and energy hungry and rapidly industrialising China.

Unfortunately, Libya collapsed into further resource conflict over who controls the oil which has been sharpened by a proxy war between forces all aligned with the US. Qatar backs militant Islamists. UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt back ex-Gaddafi militias. Supplies of energy from Libya are not secure.

The conflict in Eastern Ukraine has made the search for energy diversification more urgent. The strategy of backing the overthrow of President Yanukovych and so better controlling the oil and gas flow from the, Black Sea the Caspian region and Central Asia backfired when it triggered off ethnic tension.

Putin was able to exploit the fears in the Russian speaking east to pursue a similar policy to that which Turkey pursued in Syria two years before in giving covert support to rebels in regions close to its border areas and so interfering in the internal politics of a sovereign state on the Turkish model.

Just as Russia was able to ignore the case for territorial integrity and sovereignty in Ukraine where resources interests and geopolitical interests were at stake when it annexed Crimea, so too is the US prepared to ignore those arguments over sovereignty when it comes to Syria.

Neither Assad IS nor Islamic State is considered legitimate by the US and the "international core coalition"   ( i.e NATO powers ) and so the existence of IS as a transnational terror threat could also provide an opportunity for the west to reshape Syria in accordance with its energy security needs.

Regime change in Syria would mean there would be less Russian influence over the geopolitical struggle for power in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey could not afford to antagonise Russia directly as it depends on it for energy and Russia sought to keep it so by developing Israeli's Tamar gas reserves.

By keeping Syria under Assad and thus maintaining the unity of the Shi'ite crescent from southern Iraq through to Syria and hence southern Lebanon where Hizbollah is dominant, Russia could prevent the realisation of a Israel-Turkish pipeline and help ship Israeli LNG towards lucrative East Asian markets.

So Israel and Russia have aligned closer. When the Syria conflict broke out, the US was pulling out of Iraq and Obama refocused the US towards Asia ( "The Pivot to Asia" ) Netanyahu despises Obama and distrusts Britain and France for moving too close to Qatar upon which they depend more and more for LNG.

Israel showed sensitivity towards Russian concerns over the Caucasus during the 2008 Russo-Gerorgian War, suspending arms supplies to Georgia, and made no criticism of Russia's annexation of Crimea because of the influence of Russian Jews in Israel and the fact Tel Aviv has designs on Gaza's offshore gas reserves.

The other reason for Israel's closer relations with Russia is that it has no interest in Assad being removed only for the Muslim Brotherhood to come to power in Damascus. Turkey and Qatar's regional policy includes recognising and backing Hamas in Gaza and potentially hampering Israel's exploitation of the offshore gas.

Assad, moreover, has largely protected the border with Israel in the Golan Heights. A Syria embroiled in conflict and neither dominated by Sunni forces or the Shia would suit Israel because it diverts Hizbollah into war with Sunni Arabs and serves to divide Hamas from Hizbollah while Israel develops the gas fields.

With ISIS, the US had to refocus on Syria and Iraq once more because it would not want either Russia or Iran to take advantage of the collapse of a Sunni Arab alternative to Assad the better to advance its strategies for the region, not least the possibility of a 'Sunni' Qatari-Turkey gas pipeline.

Erdogan's neo-Ottoman strategy is about recreating Turkey as an east-west gas hub rather as Ukraine would have been, one other reason Ankara was not outwardly hostile towards Putin's annexation of the Crimea as it upgrades the importance and status of Turkey in relation to the western powers.

Those who regard the causes of the growth of IS and its consequences as the only calculation in Washington's response to what Obama calls "ISIL' ( meaning 'threat to the Levant' ) are simply ignoring the wider geopolitical context the pathological power struggles over energy that begat the Islamic State.

The chaos that IS emerged out of was the product of a regional proxy war between Turkey and Qatar, which backed Sunni militias wanting Assad to go no matter what the risks would be, Saudi Arabia, which backed rival jihadists opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood, and Iran's backing Assad and the Shia.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Islamic State: Britain and the Call of the New Modern Caliphate

The savagery of Islamic State is plain for all to see when broadcast across the globe via Youtube, social media sites and reportage such as that on Vice News. The gory spectacle of online decapitations, mass executions and enemy corpses strewn on pavements of Raqqa have lead the Caliphate to be called 'medieval'.

The idea IS is a medieval throwback is convenient in trying to compare it with the values of the civilised world and to portray it as irreparably 'other'. IS, from such a perspective, consists of pyschopaths looking for an excuse for gloating cruelty or else it is the real face of purest Islam just as it was back in the seventh century.

Politicians in the West such as Britain's Prime Minister Cameron, concerned at the prospect of battle hardened jihadists returning from Syria to plot terror attacks, have tended to downplay the nature of the 'so-called Caliphate'. They refuse to call is 'Islamic State' ( IS ) and President Obama refers to it merely as  'ISIL'.

By speaking of the need to 'degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL' on the 13th anniversary of Al Qaida's 9/11 attacks on New York, Obama has made it clear he refused to recognise it as an Islamic State. ISIL sounds rather more like an acronym for a deadly virus as opposed to ISIS which sounds rather less menacing.

Referring to Islamic State as ISIL makes it appear a lethal threat to the security of the region without being a legitimate Islamic State and thereby colluding with the view of itself as the direct successor to Muhammad's seventh century Arabian state; this is precisely what the self-styled Caliph al-Baghdadi would want.

However, when Britain's Nick Clegg refers to Islamic State “this medieval and vile movement” he was indicating such atrocities belong firmly in the Dark Ages. In fact, Islamic State both in ideology, tactics and propaganda belongs firmly in the modern world for a number of reasons politicians would prefer not to admit.

One reason is Islamic State is a consequence of the support and backing given to radicalised jihadists by Britain and America's Gulf allies in Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Qatar, in particular, supported the al-Nusra brigades which, among many other jihadist groups, had members splinter off and joing ISIS throughout 2013-2014

Islamic State is a classic example of 'blowback'. It was only in April 2014 when ISIS became a threat to those who had backed Sunni jihadists in a proxy war against Assad's Alawite dominated regime, Hizbollah and its Iranian backers that Turkey, Qatar's main regional ally and NATO member, put al Nusra on the terrorist list.

Two years before Islamic State became Cameron called a 'deeper and graver threat than we have ever known', British jihadists were known to be flying into Turkey to cross the border to fight against Assad. Nothing was done as it is in September 2014 to fortify the borders because jihadi travellers were fighting the right enemy.

There is a history of MI6 andi the CIA having allowed jihadists from Britiain to go to Afghanistan and to fight in Bosnia and Kosovo so that they could be monitored and later 'turned' and deployed as intelligence assets that could provide information and act as informers on domestic Islamist groups operating within Britain.

A dark and shadowy power game has gone on with British jihadi-Islamists, one exploited by groups such as CagePrisoners, a front for Islamist agitation and anti-Western propaganda which has been able to exploit the very real fact of the CIA having imprisoned thousands of western Islamists and sympathisers without charge

A jihadi-Islamist sympathiser, Moazzam Begg, founded Cageprisoners after having been incarcerated in Bagram in Afganistan following his arrest in Islamabad in 2002 . He was subequently held in Guantanamo Bay until 2005 when he was 'rendered ' as part of America and Britain's so-called 'global war on terror'.

After having played on his role as a victim of Britain's foreign policy and been courted as a cause celebre on his return by the Respect Party and the Stop the War Coalition, Begg was re-arrested in March 2014 and charged with terrorism offences in July connected to his alleged role in training at a Syrian terrorist camp.

The flavour of Cageprisoner's propaganda could be seen in one advertised event scheduled for the 20th September 2014 entitled 'Is it a Crime to Care ? Syria-Gaza, Criminalisation of Islam'. The agenda is one of building up the image of a global Muslim community persecuted the better to propagate the ideology.

By blending a defence of jihadi-Islamist ideology with humanitarian missions to the Greater Middle East, a dark mirror is held up to British foreign policy and the contradictions between its stated policy of humanitarian intervention in Afghanistan to Iraq when compared to Britain's 'support' for Israel over Gaza.

Through projecting visceral aggression on to the enemy, which is the British state and society, the propaganda narrative is one that suggests that Islamist resistance in the Middle East and in Israel is apiece with the need to resist a British state which is pursuing a global war on the Muslim umma. Hence,
'..the attacks on Islamic concepts of war, political governance and the unity of Muslim lands are nothing new, they have now increased on an unprecedented scale in the wake of the rise of ISIS and its declaration of a Caliphate. The matter is not about supporting or opposing the version of a Caliphate as demonstrated by ISIS but rather the criminalisation of Islamic political thought and ideology.
The concepts of jihad, shariah and khilafah are not the exclusive possession of ISIS but core Islamic doctrines subscribed to by almost one third of the world's population. It is telling that the government's treatment of ISIS is similar to its treatment of Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hizb-ut Tahrir, and the Taliban, despite the enormous differences of belief and methodology between the groups.'
Islamism is not Islam and there are, of course, various trends within Islamism : ISIS is at the violent and bloody end of this political spectrum. But British Islamists, such as Jamal Harwood, head of Hizb-ut-Tahrir and Anas Altikriti of the MAB, hold to the idea that revolutionary Islamism is the one true political Islam.



The grim irony is that many British Islamist movements, front organisations and propaganda outfits such as the British Muslim Initiative are backed and bankrolled by Britain's foremost Middle Eastern ally in the Syrian conflict and commercial trading partner in the form of its Gulf partner Qatar.

The MAB is essentially an British version of the Muslim Brotherhood which Qatar and NATO member Turkey backed against Iran and Hizbollah with the full support of Britain, the US and France through such groups as the Friends of Syria created in 2012 by Nicolas Sarkozy, the then French President.

Qatar was prepared to back the most ruthless Sunni militants and jihadists in Syria and the most stalwart defender of Qatar has been the the British government. In April 2014, Philip Hammond was in Doha when he announced locating a British military base in the gas rich emirate and arms deals worth QR230.

The Muslim Brotherhood, of course, is a relatively 'moderate' Sunni militant group backed by Qatar in Egypt and in Syria. This is one reason Britain and the US was prepared to work with it and  identify with Qatar's regional strategy to back it until the Egyptian coup in 2013 and the emergence of Islamic State in Syria.

It is within this context that David Cameron in March 2014 ordered an enquiry into whether the Muslim Brotherhood should be branded a terrorist organisation. The reason, given that the group had been effectively given cautious backing in 2012, was the fear of Britain being caught up in any blowback from Egypt.

Despite the idea that the 9/11 Al Qaida attacks on New York 'changed everything', Britain continued being a haven for Islamist malcontents or 'Londonistan' and no terrorist charges were ever brought against those who had been advocating it such as Abu Hamza, who was extradited to the US, Omar Bakri and Abu Qatada.

London remains in 2014 a place where Islamist exiles from the Muslim Brotherhood are allowed to settle and act as influential lobbyists with a media apparatus supported by Qatar because of the scale of billions of pounds worth of gas wealth being invested in the Stock Market, prime real estate and buying influence.

Any decision to put the Muslim Brotherhood on the terrorist list would be a purely political decision based on realpolitik considerations and the need to please Britain's other regional allies such as Saudi Arabia and , of course, Israel which has its own influential lobby groups and detests Qatar for backing Hamas in Gaza.

It is in response to that threat that Anas Altikriti is ramping up the messianic propaganda offensive against the British State for being complicit in the oppression of Muslims both within Syria and Gaza and being "Islamophobic" in its attempt to criminalise legitimate Muslim aspirations for a Islamist political order.

In such circumstances, there is a danger of ever greater "radicalisation" within Britain as the Islamist emphasis upon the Caliphate, jihad and the imposition of sharia law, portrayed by Cageprisoners as "not the exclusive property of ISIS", could catch on as potent symbols of Muslim unity against 'western imperialism'.

After all, a prime component of IS propaganda is to provoke the west and grab media attention. Beheading journalists is a tactic to draw attention so that fellow jihadi travellers in the Middle East and the Britain can exploit the outrage to suggest these killings are only in revenge for the 'greater slaughter' of Western policies.

Such propaganda has been the consistent line from those ranged against the British government and prepared to rationalise terrorism to a point just short of justifying it ever since 9/11 when the 'war on terror' was first launched and groups such as the grotesquely named Stop the War Coalition were set up.

Though the StWC was created by disgruntled far leftist agitators indulging in toy town revolutionary politics as well as political has-beens from the 1980s dismayed by the collapse of British Communism and the Soviet Union in 1991, it rapidly became dominated by Islamist fronts such as the MAB.

What united the British hard left and Islamists was common opposition to the British state, the perceived global dominance of American Imperialism and the ideology which presented it and Israel as the two main determining reasons why the Greater Middle East was embroiled in conflict and wars.

As a consequence to this supposed 'anti-war' activism in Britain, Prime Minister Tony Blair and hack propagandists such as Denis MacShane started to step up the the rhetoric about Britain and 'the west' being menaced by an alignment of dictators such as Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Islamist terrorists.

Blair's manner of 'framing his response' to events in the Greater Middle East in the run up to the disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 ended up giving credence to the idea popular among opponents of the war that the US and Britain were engaged in a long 'civilisational war' with Islamism at home and abroad.

Of course, Saddam Hussein was a secular dictator whose overthrow led to chaos. The installing of a democracy by 2005 only widened and deepened Iraq's pre-existing sectarian tensions and led to an open warfare that had not abated by 2014 when ISIS stormed in from Syria and led a Sunni Arab insurgency.

What Blair's government did was to confirm the propaganda narrative of jihadi-Islamists that Britain's foreign policy was about destabilising and dividing and ruling oil rich lands for the exclusive benefit of its corporations and decadent western consumers whose repellent materialistic lifestyles were part of the problem.

The ideology of Hizb-ut-Tahrir and other Islamists identifying with a transnational Islamic State was that the false decadent existence of the westerner was inauthentic. The hypocrite Blair embodied this state and society which exploited Muslim disunity just in order to grab what was really Muslim people's oil.

Propaganda such as this had long found a receptive audience in the Middle East. That it found support in Britain was not surprising as it was the case bit forward by radical leftists who saw the Iraq War as an invasion to seize control of Iraq's oil and, in truth, that was an important reason behind it.

Radical Islamist and their leftist allies in the Stop the War Coalition were able to frame the 'war on terror' narrative in Britain as a 'war of terror' in which the victims were Muslims irrespective of Blair's proclaimed belief that the invasion of Iraq was a war of liberation from a dictator who murdered Muslims.

The irony is that both radical Islamists and pro-liberation radicals in Britain agreed that Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator: they were only at odds because Islamists regarded the western imperialists as the 'root cause' in creating the dictatorship and backing it in the first place whereas Blair saw it as an outgrowth of pure evil.

Blair saw Baathist dictatorships and Islamism as a consequence of a evil totalitarian ideology while Islamists saw Saddam Hussein wholly as a CIA backed stooge who had done the West's bidding in containing Iran and was kept in power after the First Gulf War of 1991 to protect other tyrannies such as Saudi Arabia.

The stated purpose of Blair's 'ethical foreign policy' in using British forces to protect civilians from brutal regimes by assisting in removing them. It was to make a break with previous Cold war realpolitik and the policies that had led to the ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims in the 1990s by paramilitary Serb militias.

Contrary to improving Britain's standing in the so-called 'Muslim World', Blair's decision to join in with the US in Iraq was portrayed in 'anti-war' propaganda as a war on Muslims for oil just as nothing had been done to save Bosnian Muslims because there was no oil in the former Yugoslavia at stake.

The War in Afghanistan in 2001, which was less than two years old when Iraq was invaded, was more difficult to portray as a cynical war for resources using a humanitarian pretext, though the interest the US government and UNOCAL had in building a gas pipeline was often mentioned as the 'real reason'.

It was the Iraq War that overshadowed the way Britain and its relationship with Muslims and political Islam was portrayed. Blair was adamant that Islamism was a the global threat after the fall of the Soviet Union just as global communism had been after 1945 when Britain and the US had defeated fascism in Europe.

The irony, once more, is that this messianic depiction of Islamism, called after the London Bombings of 2005 by the neoconservative politician, Michael Gove as 'seamless totalitarian movement ( Celsius 7/7 page 12 ), was one groups such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir and the MAB agreed with, except for Islamism meant 'liberation'.

Though Islamism was not one monolithic ideology uniting fanatics in power or else sleepercells waiting to be activated across the west, what happened in the decade after the Iraq invasion raised the stakes in that either the Arab nations would move towards democracy or stay under dictators said to be imposed by the west.

The daughter of the Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood movement Soumaya Ghannoushi, one of the many offspring of political exiles from Arab nationalist dictators who had been allowed to seek refuge in Britain, was a founder of the British Muslim Initiative designed to mobilise British Muslims as a political force.

Ghannoushi made it plain that is Britain and other Western nations did not stop their support for Arab dictators and Israel, then the threat of terrorism coming back to visit the West was going to be a regrettable consequence that they would have coming to them in the form of blowback.

Ghannoushi was considerably more sophisticated is presenting British leaders such as Tony Blair with a choice: either continuing to back corrupt secular dictators and rentier elites in the Maghreb and Near East and face an aggressive fanatical response or else back democratic Islamist reformers.

Ghannoushi, who benefitted from a wealthy background and private education, was a regular orator at anti-war movements in London in the first decade of the new century who had a fondness for incendiary rhetoric and yoking together the predicament of all Arab Muslims in different lands into one suffering umma.
 'In our globalised world, crises can no longer be kept far away, left to rage in distant lands and devour obscure nations. The troubles of Kabul, Jenin and Falluja now spill over on to our shores, towns and cities, lay bare our fundamental vulnerability, and put an end to our sense of immunity....London and Washington must decide which Islam they want: a peaceful, democratic Islam, crucial to any pursuit of global stability, or the anarchical and destructive Islam of al-Qaida and its ilk'.
Ghannoushi's stance was clear: the most ferocious and violent jihadist movements were wholly a reaction to colonialism and western imperialism, a form of resistance that was the outgrowth not of any real or imagined shorcomings within Islam as a 'religion of peace' but a pathological response to oppression.

What Ghannoushi was revealing was a veiled threat on behalf of the British umma whereby if Britain sided or was seen to be siding with regimes that oppressed the democratic aspiration of Arabs, through aligning with Islamist movements that were not aligned with Al Qaida, then they would become terrorist targets.

Ghannoushi's was power claim, a judgement of what 'ought' to happen concealed within a discourse that masqueraded as a mere statement of the facts. Clearly it had little time for minorities that were non-Islamic in the Middle East by conflating Arabs with Muslims and the quest for an Islamic dominated state.

Democratic Islamists such as Ghannoushi rejected Al Qaida and Hizb-ut-Tahrir. Yet they retained the idea that Islam's lack of any clear distinction between the realm of the political and of the religious contained the true liberatory potential that those with the correct view of Islam would apply if free from western meddling

One problem with the vision of Islamism as the source of true freedom and diversity-within-unity is that in practice is would always cause chaos and have a ready excuse in the context of Arabic politics that the failure to realise democracy was less to do with the flaws in the doctrines but western policy.

By 2011 with the revolt against Ben Ali in Tunisia was replicated in Egypt. Arab uprisings across the region had created new hopes of a democratic order but within two years by 2013 the result had been chaos and either the restoration of authoritarian regimes or the collase into conflict, violence and terrorism.

The only exception to this bleak scenario was Tunisia where the Rachid Ghannoushi's Ennada Party won an election in October 2011, a result that was accepted and created a regional partner the western states were prepared to work with. Needless to say, firebrand daughter Soumaya Ghannouchi has been quiet ever since.

Elsewhere in the Maghreb and Near East the prophecy of an end to secular nationalist dictatorships and its replacement either by reformist Islamised democracies or else Sunni militancy, jihadi insurrections and blowback has actually happened as a consequence of events in Libya, Egypt, Syria and Iraq.

The collapse of the old order of nationalist dictatorships after 2011 came without western interference, laying bare the futility of the decision to invade Iraq a decade before. It came too late as the effects of years of corruption, mismanagement and struggles over resources as oil and water caused intractable conflicts.

Blair continued to stand by his idea that Middle Eastern dictators and Islamist terrorism were both part and parcel of the same disorder, except where those dictators were amenable to western interests. That proved evident when as a UN special "peace" envoy he praised Sisi's crushing of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

Though Blair seemed alone in being the most vociferous western public figure lauding the use of military force to overthrow an elected but shaky government in Cairo, machine gun demonstrators, ban opposition parties, and pass the death sentence of its leaders, Britain ended up giving de facto recognition to Sisi's regime.

With the disintegration of the borders drawn up between Syria and Iraq by Britain and France in 1916, the Sykes-Picot 'line in the sand', the collapse and disintegration of Libya following the western backed overthrow of Gaddafi and the rise of jihadi-Islamists there, the stage was clearly set for the new Caliphate.

In northern Syria, the failure of all political systems since the Turkish government abolished the Caliphate in 1924 after three years of war against Assad had failed to remove him and the brutality of war has laid waste to vast parts of the country, made the new Caliphate the only political 'solution'

In Iraq, the Sunni Arabs had been marginalised and pushed out of Iraqi national life by the dominance of Iranian backed Shi'ites in Baghdad and the growing autonomy of the Kurdish region: both regions where Sunni Arabs were not diminant had the vast majority of Iraq's oil wealth.

Within Britain, the call of the IS Caliphate has been confined to a few who went to fight against Assad but numbers also of jihadi-travellers who sympathise with it even if they have not wanted to join in as combatants They serve in other capacities as making good jihadi wives or executioners of journalists such as James Foley.

The response to these atrocities and British born jihadists by Cameron repeated similar mistakes of the sort made by Tony Blair. Having done nothing to stop the jihadists going to Syria when they were fighting on the 'right side' against Assad, Islamists are pointing now towards their criminalisation as a double standard.

Cameron started to use similar language as Blair about a 'generational struggle' with ISIS when Britain and the US had supported Saudi and Qatari policy throughout 2012 and 2013 and did little or nothing to put pressure on Riyadh or Doha to stop the flow of funding jihadists in Syria.

The phrase 'generational struggle' was in any case deployed by Cameron during the Algerian hostage crisis of January 2013 as a means by which disparate threats against western resource interests such as Algeria's oil and gas could be welded together as a united threat to Britain's way of life and security.

The reason for these rhetoric sleights of hand and precision tooled media soundbites is to provide the impression that there is a one global movement of jihadists that stretch from otherwise exotic far off Muslim lands directly right into the heart of Britain with the same intention of causing terror and mayhem.

This rhetoric is useful as 'public diplomacy' because it softens up the public mood for military intervention when it is needed. It also serves to conceal the facts that those violent jihadi-Islamist threats have emerged and surged out of the blowback created by the support given to such jihadist forces by Britain's allies.

Terrorism expert Michael Clarke claimed, 'The danger of the prime minister's rhetoric.. is that it can serve to unite forces that might otherwise be fractious and ineffective. The most obvious strategic mistake would be to unite forces which will otherwise become more disparate in the natural course of events."

However, the dangers in that were factored in to the 'business as usual' approach that Britain has taken towards jihadi-terrorists as useful as assets when fighting against forces such as Assad's which stand in the way of its geopolitical ambitions and its oil and gas interests in the Middle East.

Jihadi-Islamists in Syria and Iraq no less than powers such as the US and Britain are playing the long game in vying for control over resources. In calling itself 'Islamic State', the new caliphate has attempted a propaganda coup which aims to unite jihadists across Africa and the Middle East against 'western imperialism'.

The rationale is to trap Western politicians within their own rhetoric about a 'unified threat' and drawing them into war with any one jihadi-Islamist group where oil and gas or strategic interests are at stake: from Boko Haram in Nigeria, al Shabaab in Somalia, AQAP in Yemen and jihadi-Islamists in Libya and Sinai in Egypt.

So would appear that IS could spread as a 'franchise' operation and global brand throughout these lands.With East Ukraine in conflict and the Libyan capital haven fallen to jihadi-Islamists, the EU powers are far more than the US, with its shale oil and gas, increasingly concerned for energy security at all costs.

In Britain's case, it is Qatar that is courted as the long term supplier need to step in and up the export level of liquified natural gas to Britain as North Sea gas depletes It is also Qatar which is responsible for backing not only Muslim Brotherhood forces in the Middle East but also militias in Libya and also the Taliban.

While Qatar did not directly fund or back Islamic State it is a direct consequence of its rivalry with Saudi Arabia in trying to back the jihadists most effective in advancing their interests and to install its government in Damascus. Saudi Arabia backed factions opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood which it now calls 'terrorists'.

The danger is that such regional rivalries among those Gulf state powers which are allied with Britain could be fought as proxy wars just as they are at present in Libya between Qatar which backs militant Islamists and the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia that are all backing forces previously loyal to Colonel Gaddafi.

Across many of the lands to which a stake has been claimed by the new Caliphate of Raqqa, whole parts of states have collapsed in part or completely where a combination of climate change, drought and overpopulation has put pressure upon society and  thrown up jihadist movements against corrupt regimes.

Within Britain, the British Muslim Initiative and the Cordoba Foundation are promoting a vision of the Muslim World that Britain ought to be bound to uphold, that of the Muslim Brotherhood, unless it would want to be condemned to being an oppressor of the Muslim umma as seen in the recent Gaza-Israel War.

The danger is where the British State is portrayed as not having upheld the interests of Muslims, it is held to be hostile and putting itself in the camp of the enemies of the Muslim Brotherhood abroad and so of the freedom of Muslims everywhere including within Britain.

So when Cameron made a speech playing up the 'ISIL' as 'a greater and deeper threat to our security than we have known before' he reacted in precisely the way IS would have wanted by conflating Islamic States threat in the Middle East with as yet unrealised and abstract threat within Britain.

The publicly made avowal of 'depriving people of their citizenship' and prosecuting people for terrorist activity abroad taps in to the idea promoted by groups like Hizb-ut Tahrir and Cageprisoners that British Muslims everywhere are second class citizens and so the 'extremism' the government condemns feeds on.

By converting the entire regions where British jihadists could head into one seamless global battleground, the British government is acting in a manner more likely to make that become a reality by doing little to have put pressure on Saudi Arabia or Qatar to stop backing 'extremists' only to change when blowback beckons.

Those British jihadists who went abroad were not stopped by the British security services in 2011. Nor were plans made then to work with Turkish security because it was policy back then to funnel jihadists towards fighting Assad. Jihadi sympathisers are aware of those double standards and ready for revenge attacks.

The irony of jihadi-Islamists invoking Western foreign policy as a justification for terror attacks is as absurd as the botched and shoddy realpolitik strategy of that foreign policy in having facilitated the very rise of the Islamic State to which they would owe allegiance over that of a Britain to which they feel no primary loyalty.

That there are those who feel the call of loyalty to a caliphate in Britain has long been apparent, even if not quite the one being created by al-Baghdadi in Syria and Iraq. But that the British government would effectively play a part in creating one through the consequences its own policy strategies is a black farce.

From Ukraine and Syria and Afghanistan: Energy Security and The New Great Global Game.

“I am not going to excuse what Qatar has done: It has been grossly irresponsible when it comes to the Syrian conflict, like many other countries...But to say that Qatar is behind ISIS is just rhetoric; it is politics getting in the way of things, and it blinds people to real solutions.”-

Michael Stephens for the British Royal United Services Institute in Doha, Qatar

With President Obama deciding on a policy of broadening out and deepening air strikes against Islamic State ( what he refers to as "ISIL") , it was always clear Cameron would maintain the stance that 'nothing would be ruled out' and for him to continue playing for time.

It could be that Cameron is waiting for the Scottish referendum to be over with before making a decision to commit Britain to joining in on air strikes. Given the humiliating defeat in the Parliamentary vote on launching air strikes on Syria in the summer of 2013, this is not a public debate he wants at present.

Cameron is going to play down military involvement until after September 18 2014 but Hammond seems to have been 'off message' in claiming that there could be no British air strikes in Syria against IS. Now Obama has made clear that there could be, so the government is going to have to backtrack.

Air strikes on IS in Syria would be technically a violation of Syria's territorial integrity and sovereignty. Meanwhile, Obama and other leaders in NATO nations have condemned Russia's military incursions into Ukraine. This is something both Iran and Russia, with interests in Syria as well, were bound to consider.

Russia was always likely to regard US air strikes in Syria this way as a US double standard given that US officials and, of course, Cameron had accused Russia of an 'act of aggression' in violating the sovereignty of Ukraine. Prior to the Ukraine conflict Turkey, a NATO member, had trained jihadists rebels for use within Syria.

One reason Russia has felt entitled to give backing for the 'pro-Russia rebels' in Ukraine is because Turkey was doing precisely the same in Syria, in alliance with Saudi and Qatari financial support, long before the foolish western-backed overthrow of President Yanukovych in Kiev.

The claim that the western powers can do what they do and Russia should not hinges on the idea that when the west violates sovereignty that's legitimate because 'our values', as prated forth at the NATO summit in Wales are better so the means justifies the end.

Only the means, in backing fanatical jihadists while pretending Turkey could control them and deploy them as assets, was a self serving fiction that helped create ISIS. Stating that it is legitimate to enter Syrian air space without any diplomatic engagement with Assad because he is not legitimate is purest doublethink.

For a start there is as yet no conclusive proof that the chemical attack in Ghouta was not carried out by Turkish backed insurgents as a pretext to get Obama to take out Assad's military assets the better to overthrow the regime, an act of aggression that would have made the threat of ISIS in 2014 far worse.

The game plan is to use the threat of ISIS to destroy the 'extreme rebels' and to empower the 'moderate' Sunni forces, now that the division is clearer, as part of a regional plan to check Iranian influence and certain infrastructure projects such as the construction of a gas pipeline from the Persian Gulf.

The so-called 'Shi'ite pipeline' would connect the South Pars gas field with the Eastern Mediterranean through an Assad-led Syria where Russia has a naval port and the permission to explore and develop gas in Syria's offshore part of the Levant basin.

Cameron backs Britain's closest Gulf ally and major LNG supplier Qatar in its rival bid to build a Qatar-Turkish pipeline that would also go through Syria which is precisely why both powers are committed to the removing Assad and empowering the a Muslim Brotherhood government in Damascus.

Both Cameron and Johnson have courted Qatari finance and bilateral trade and lucrative arms deals. Moreover, Hammond was in Doha in April 2014 giving a speech in which he talked up the possibility of Britain having a permanent base in Qatar in order to defence Britain's oil and gas interests.

Hammonds speech in Doha was interesting as it revealed the extent to which Britain is committed to defending Qatar and also why a permanent military presence is wanted by Cameron's government following what is not quite a 'withdrawal' from Afghanistan.
“As we draw down from Afghanistan, where we have for many years had an opportunity to provide training to our forces through deployment in Afghanistan, we have to think how to train our forces in desert warfare and hot condition combat in future and certainly one of the options is to establish more permanent facility somewhere in the Gulf. So it is a possibility we are looking at.
Our economic recovery is fragile, anything which causes spike in oil price would derail it and the most likely thing to cause spike is some upsurge in tension in this region. So it is very much in our interest to have a stable situation in the Gulf.”
Military intervention is likely from Britain because of the threat IS poses to the oil supply in Kurdistan and in the south of Iraq. However, it cannot be completely detached from the wider geopolitical game plan which involves containing and checking Iranian influence and hence its gas exports.

In Syria, the attempt to contain Iran by backing the Free Syria Army is clear. But it was also true in Afghanistan to the east where the game plan was to block the construction of the Iran-Pakistan ( IP ) Pipeline as an alternative to the TAPI, despite the fact the gas would be four times cheaper.

The strategy in dealing with IS in Syria and Iraq is has certain similarities with Afghanistan in using the Northern Alliance to destroy the Taliban regime on the ground while using air power to strike from above: the difference is that this time there would be no  US or NATO ground troops.

As with Syria, Afghanistan was also crucially prolonged, not due to the threat of Al Qaida terrorism ( the pretext for "staying the course ") but more to gain the geopolitical benefits of having the TAPI pipeline constructed, an ambition never openly mentioned in Britain ( as it was in the US),
...as many as 30,000 troops will remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014, stationed along a key planned pipeline route – the $7.6-billion Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan- India (TAPI) pipeline project – though the success of this endeavor is increasingly under question.
As Robert Kaplan put it concisely in his Monsoon ;“Stabilizing Afghanistan is about more than just the anti-terror war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban; it is about securing the future prosperity of the whole of southern Eurasia.”Of course, Al Qaida was long ago not a threat in Afghanistan.

Moreover, the US has wanted peace with the Taliban because it does not regard it as a prime threat. The problem remains its obstinate resistance against Kabul because it has no stake in government and the TAPI pipeline would run directly through its stronghold in the Pashtun regions of south-east Afghanistan.

In October 2013 Obama gave express backing to the TAPI project and for US firms to contruct it. Hilary Clinton referred to the "New Silk route' and is considered essential as a means to maintain sanctions on Iran the better to try to discredit the government and get 'regime change'.

In Syria, the game plan remains the same as a Qatar-Turkish gas pipeline would avoid tankers containing LNG to European markets having to go through the Iranian controlled Straits of Hormuz and then through the Suez Canal in Egypt where Sisi's regime is quite hostile to Qatar's regional ambitions.

The strategy of containing Iran and cutting off its gas exports to the west is apiece with US and British strategy towards pushing for the TAPI pipeline in Afghanistan which also would have the advantage of diverting Turkmen gas from having to flow through Russia.

Russia, in turn, has no interest in either Iran or Syria coming under the dominance of Western supported allies as part of the EU's continued quest for energy diversification. EU powers want move away from any prospect of greater dependence upon its gas, not least with instability in Libya and the threat of it in Algeria.

This is where Qatar comes in as a vital supplier and why the TAPI pipeline would be useful in transporting gas from Turkmenistan down to the port of Gwadar to meet Pakistan's energy needs. The grotesque irony is that Qatar has no interest in the TAPI pipeline because it would rival of its own LNG Gulf exports.

Gwadar would have the capacity to handle either gas from TAPI or from the IP pipeline, one reason China has aligned with both Iran and invested heavily in the LNG terminal. However, China also showed interest in participating and benefitting from the TAPI project as well in order to hedge its bets either way.

Qatar, for its part, would oppose both the IP and TAPI pipelines which is why Qatar has supported, funded and armed the Taliban in Afghanistan and  allowed an office representing it to open up in Doha despite it being an insurgent force opposed to the US and Britain.

This is the reality of 2014: the increasingly desperate search for energy security, a key ambition raised at the NATO summit, is creating a more volatile world where the interests of regional and global powers are colliding and clashing in regions where there are weak states, sectarian conflicts and ethnic tensions.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Battle Against IS: Why Iran and Assad's Syria are not part of a Diplomatic Initiative.

'A rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran would help to ease conflicts and tension across the Middle East. The US and UK are now tentatively reaching out to Iran, and should use their influence to facilitate Saudi-Iranian co-operation', The Guardian.
Drawing in Iran into diplomatic negotiations on Syria is vital. It's unlikely though as both Saudi Arabia and Qatar are rivalling each other for influence in any post-Assad future and the US and Britain have backed them because of lucrative arms deals and the fact Saudi Arabia provides 10% of US crude oil imports.

The two main European military powers, Britain and France, increasingly rely upon liquefied natural gas imports from Qatar and have strong bilateral trade relations with the gas rich emirate. If Qatar decides Iran and Assad would not be part of negotiations for a political settlement, then it would not happen.

The Qatari position is that Iran has a 'role to play' but still that 'Assad must go', as if it was only the leader alonne and not the coalition of interests that back him and the degree of support he is bound to have from minorities in the south in and around Damascus as a bulwark against IS.

Iran, on its part, maintains that it is through Assad that democratic reforms could be put forwards as part of a transition process and this had been scuppered by mistakes made by Assad's police back in 2011 and Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Israel for trying to make Syria’s government collapse.

The rivalry between Iran and Qatar is not merely about sectarian differences or regional influence out of insecurity and misunderstandings but about the geopolitics of economics and energy. These were factors of vital importance in the continuation of the Afghanistan War and in the Syrian Conflict.

Put simply, Iran and Qatar share the South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf and have sought the possibility of constructing a gas pipeline westwards towards Europe as part of a geostrategic attempt to consolidate regional influence; in Iran's case it would increase its diplomatic bargaining power.

Qatar wanted a Qatar-Turkey pipeline as early as 2009 via Syria but Iran has sought a pipeline via a Shi'ite dominated Iraq towards the Eastern Mediterranean where Russia has both a naval presence and Gazprom has sought to develop Syrian offshore gas fields with Assad's permission.

The West is hostile to Iranian ambitions for a 'Shi'ite pipeline running through a Shi'ite dominated government in Baghdad and a Syria run by Assad, who signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2012 with regards realising the construction of the pipeline with Iran which was joined in early 2013 by Iraq.

Britain, France and the US, 'Friends of Syria' since 2012, regard that strategy as hostile to its interests in the Middle East. Qatari gas is regarded as essential to make up an important and growing part of the EU's gas imports so as to diversify suppplies away from Russia as made clear during Kerry's visit to Doha in April 2014.

The geopolitics of energy, not least in light of the collapse of Libya and the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, has raised the stakes over Syria. With sanctions on Iran and the attempt to thwart the export of Iranian gas east through the IP pipeline, Iran has a vital interest in Syria that the Gulf states oppose completely.

From the perspective of both Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran, it is better that the proxy war goes on in Syria and Iraq than either side gets the upper hand: the only reason both resource rich Sunni states have started to regard IS as a threat is the fear of blowback affecting their own lands.

From Saudi Arabia's perspective, it has no interest in peace in Syria if it means either Qatar or Iran gains a dominant influence because it fears Qatar and its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, though not quite as much as it fears Iran and its backing for Shi'ites, many of whom live in the kingdom's oil producing zones.

The New US 'Game Plan' in Iraq and the Middle East.

President Obama made plain at the NATO summit in Wales last week that when confronting the Islamic State, 'We haven't got a strategy yet'. As regards what to do about IS militarily counter-insurgency strategies are being formulated but why a US President would admit having no strategy in public is intriguing.

One reason for this 'public diplomacy' is, quite obviously, that the US is reacting to rapidly changing circumstances on the ground in northern Iraq. The US is responding to events over which it does not have that much control given that since August, when bombing of IS position began, it has only contained IS.

Certain immediate threats as IS posed to the Mosul Dam and Iraq's electricity production and water supply have been staved off. At present, The US has bombed ISIS patrols menacing the Haditha Dam, Iraq's second largest hydroelectric power plant.

In fact, neither Obama nor British Prime Minister David Cameron even refer to 'the Islamic State' or even 'ISIS' in their speeches but to 'ISIL'. To refer to an 'Islamic State' would be giving legitimacy to a self proclaimed Caliphate state. To call it ISIS could imply action in Iraq and Syria.

Refering to 'ISIL' is the handiest acronym because it narrows it down to the Islamic State in Iraq while keeping the 'L' which stands for Levant and hence the plans to expand the Islamic State from Iraq towards the Eastern Medierranean, indeed, to the entire region- Lebanon, Palestine Jordan, Southern Turkey and Israel.

The other reason for referring to 'ISIL' is the Islamic State was once a Sunni insurgent group in Iraq called ISI fighting in Iraq's sectarian wars against Shi'ite militias during the bloody aftermath created by the 2003 US-British invasion with only mere ambitions to spread it out further to the Levant to create a Caliphate.

By refusing to call the Islamic State by the name 'IS' or 'ISIS', the US and Britain would hope to play down the fact it claims to be 'Islamic' as opposed to a straighforwardly terrorist organisation. This would also impress upon its Saudi and Qatari allies the fact it is not really truly Islamic, a sore point in the region.

So when Obama states there is 'no strategy' and that its a direct terror threat to the world he is trying to get opinion in the US and in regional states behind him because he is aware how unpopular the US became at home and abroad, especially in the Middle East, after Bush's invasion and the 'war on terror'.

Obama is trying a low key form of approach and also trying to make it easier for Arab League states to realise they have far more to lose if they were not to join in and assist the 'international core coalition' of states that have agreed to take the necessary measures to asssist Iraqi and Kurdish troops fight IS.

To that end, it is important that Obama's public diplomacy downplays any possibility that Assad has a role in Syria and to stress a Sunni coalition of states in checking IS. That's designed to make potential Arab League cooperation go down easier with the public or in the so-called 'Arab streets'.

If threats to the US 'homeland' are no a clear and present danger but could be due to the number of foreign fighters ( i.e jihadists ) with European visas later going on to the US to threaten it ( as Obama has claimed is rationale for 'going on the offense' ), this calls into question what the 'game plan' actually is in fact.

While claiming that "this is not the equivalent of the Iraq war", the rationale is, as it was back in 2003, connected to the quest for energy security: only this time the very threats to regional security said to have been posed by Saddam Hussein are far more so a decade on.

Iraqi oil remains a vital component of OPEC's total oil production needed to keep global oil prices stable or falling at between $110 to $100 per barrel so as to ensure the recovery of the world's major developed and developing economies. The global economy is very sensitive to oil price surges at present.

Julian Jessop, chief global economist of Capital Economics made this plain in June 2014 "We suggest that, as a rule of thumb, the net impact of a $10 rise in oil prices is to cut global growth by around 0.2-0.3 percentage points". Over the last decade there have been some changes, however,

The 'shale revolution' in the US allowed the US to withdraw from Iraq by 2011 and refocus upon the challenges posed by China's economic ascendancy, one largely unhindered by the financial crash and subsequent economic slowdown of 2007-2008.

Yet the North America's rising oil production is not sufficient to meet the rise in global demand caused by accelerating industrialisation and economic growth in China. The IEA, the US authority on energy, made plain future increases in the Middle Eastern oil production are vital.

As the IEA report forecast makes quite clear. 60 percent of expected growth in OPEC's crude production capacity in 2019 would come from Iraq. Iraq does, after all, hold the world's fifth largest oil reserves and had been unable to meet full capacity under Saddam and after 2003.

So the reasons the US is ready to intervene militarily in Iraq ( and even Syria if necessary ) are fourfold; energy security, the prospect of regional instability posed by IS, containing China's growing power and checking Iran's and Russia's geopolitical designs in the Great Middle East from the Mediterranean to the Gulf.

Firstly, the US and the 'international' core alliance needs to protect and secure the oil producing regions of southern Iraq and Kurdistan from attack and sabotage by IS operatives. These regions accounted for the largest jumps in oil production and exports in 2014.

With oil exports from Libya having declined following the outbreak of conflict in 2011, the collapse of a functioning state after Gaddafi was toppled and with Tripoli haven fall to Islamist jihadists, Iraq's oil fields are being tapped to make up the shortfall in production.

Secondly, the US needs to shore up and protect the GCC nations from potential blowback from Syria. Having allowed funds to be transfered to Sunni jihadists in Syria and backed groups such as al Nusra, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are in the sights of IS as a potential terror target.

Thirdly, the 'international coalition' is a western one which aims at preserving and enhancing US global leadership and influence in the Middle East against potential Chinese inroads within the Middle East, especially in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Iran and Egypt where China has been vying for arms deals and influence

Defending Qatar and Saudi Arabia is considered a vital US and British interest no matter how risky, bungling and even opposed the Gulf Powers strategies have been in Syria where both powers backed the most fanatical jihadists as a means to determine a post-Assad future against each other and Iran.

The US still depends on Saudi Arabia for around 10% of its crude oil imports but Saudi Arabia has the West 'over the barrel' because its a vital ally, just as Qatar is too, because both are opposed to Iran which is a major oil and gas rival that is more friendly towards China.

To maintain a US army and naval presence in the Persian Gulf is considered essential as a check not only on Iran but also as a potential means to control the sea lanes between the Middle East and China and so to contain any threat posed by rival alliances.

That's where Afghanistan is important. By threatening an energy deprived Pakistan with sanctions if it accepted gas from an Iranian-Pakistan pipeline, the US and other Western powers could back the TAPI pipeline alternative without alienating China too much.

Fourthly, President Obama's continued stress on not dealing with Assad until IS is either destroyed or its power broken down in Iraq and on the alliance with the Arab League is about ensuring Iranian amitions to unite Iraq and Syria under its Shi'ite leadership is prevented.

The US, France and Britain would prefer a predominant Sunni government in Damascus or one amenable to Western influence, to block off the possibility of an Iranian gas pipeline from the Persian Gulf stretching through to the Eastern Mediterranean where Russian firms are being allowed to explore Syria's offshore gas.

Qatar and Turkey prefer a pipeline that runs between the Qatari part of the South Pars gas field it shares with Iran to run via Syria towards Turkey as part of a regional energy strategy that further contains Iran and averts the export of LNG via an Iranian controlled strategic 'chokepoint' in the Straits of Hormuz,

These are the real factors underlying the geopolitics of the conflict in the Middle East.

Monday, 8 September 2014

The Third Iraq War: Continuity and Change between 2004-2014

“This is a galvanizing moment for NATO and our partners”-US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel

President Obama is finalising plan to 'degrade and destroy' the Islamic State which he and other leaders refer to as ISIL in Iraq. However, there are hawkish voices demanding that air strikes should be broadened out into Syria and that would not mean involving Assad's permission though he is still officially head of state.

The call to go in and bomb IS in Syria where it has its base in and around Raqqa reflects the fact that despite the emergence of IS out of the Sunni militant groups, which were being backed until late 2013, the aim of US strategy in the longer term is to remove Assad in continuity with the demand made by early 2012.

The goals of the Second Iraq War in 2003, launched by the Bush administration, were energy security and to create a domino effect of democratisation across the region from Iraq into Syria so as to reduce US dependence upon Saudi Arabian oil in the period before the shale oil revolution in North America. 

Needless to say, the democratisation of Iraq by 2005 had got under way but in the context of a collapsed state. Sectarian and ethnic tensions shattered Iraq and the created chaos and conflicts that have gone on ever since: IS in Iraq could only gain ground in 2014 as Sunni Arabs were prepared to align with it.

Sunni Arabs were marginalised by the dominance of the Iraqi Shi'ites in Baghdad, who lean towards Iran, and the development of an ever more autonomous Kurdish region prepared to sell oil and strike oil contract deals with global energy giants ( such as ExxonMobil ) without the permission of the central government.

Yet the energy security issue remained unsolved because IS has gained what Obama euphemistically termed 'resources'. That means, of course, oil. From oil revenues IS could sustain attacks on the Kurdish oil rich region or even to surge south towards Baghdad or around it down further.

Such a disruption to the oil supply would create a severe increase in global oil prices at a time when the US and especially other NATO nations are experiencing very slow economic growth or have had stagnating economies in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

One reason the US is going in with air strikes, and is due to step them up with NATO nations playing a possible auxiliary role, is to give NATO nations a new sense of mission against a threat to the southern border and to gear it towards the main challenge of the 21st century: resource wars.

Such air strikes would be partly about showing NATO 'credibility' on the borders of southern Turkey and starting to recreate NATO definitively into an organisation that could use military power to defend energy interests and uphold its alliances in the Middle East by protecting Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Even though both these energy rich Gulf states could defend themselves with the state-of-the-art military equipment sold to them by the US, Britain and France, these powers are reluctant to be seen attacking other Sunni Muslims in lands not so far away lest it cause resentment among the people. 

Islamic State is a primarily a regional threat. Though the gory spectacles, mass killings of minorities and ambition to expand the Caliphate is real, the US and other western powers only started to act when it was clear IS posed a threat to the oil producing regions of Kurdistan, hitherto thought of as relatively secure.

That strategy against Islamic State mean rolling back IS in Iraq and broadening strikes into Syria too if necessary because the 'game plan' as regards it is still as it was before to impose a 'moderate' Muslim Brotherhood government on Damascus, overthrow Assad and check Iranian and Russian influence.

The last thing the US, Britain and France would want is to destroy IS only to empower and embolden Assad and Iran so they could realise the plan to build the 'Shi'ite Islamic' gas pipeline from the South Pars gas field to the Eastern Mediterranean.

Already Russia has a naval presence at the Syrian port of Tarsaus and permission to drill and exploit the gas reserves in the Syrian part of the Levant Basin. A gas pipeline linking Iranian gas through Syria as an alternative to the Qatari -Turkish one to the EU is this to be blocked off and thwarted at all costs.

In this sense there is a certain connection between the conflict in Ukraine and in Syria. If the US or NATO were to bomb positions in Syria, even if held by IS, this would be a violation of sovereignty by NATO far more than Russia's incursions into Eastern Ukraine and the backing given to "pro-Russia rebels".

Yet Syria's territorial sovereignty was effectively violated when Turkey started arming and training Sunni jihadists to go across the border to overthrow Assad and there is evidence Turkish forces in March 2014 had planned military incursions into northern Syria to protect the tomb of Shah Suleiman.

The protection of the site where the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire was under threat by ISIS was important to Erdogan who has pursued a neo-Ottoman strategy towards both Syria and Kurdistan, both former provinces before World War One and valuable for recreating Turkey as an east-west energy hub.

It is is clear, therefore, that energy security and control over oil and gas transit routes are the predominant factor in  contemporary geopolitical struggles in the Greater Middle East and the quest for both regional and global hegemony. Any account which omits mention of these factors ignores reality.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Do you Support Military Action against ISIS ?

The Guardian has held an online opinion poll on the prospect for military intervention in Iraq and Syria against IS. 42% of those stated they supported military action against the Caliphate, 31% said only if it was 'legal and invited' and only 22 % were against it. 46 % said they supported the use of ground troops.

My own response is largely sceptical about military intervention as a substitute for politics and a regional diplomatic effort to contain the Islamic State. The British government is already using public diplomacy to prepare the people for a long and many sided struggle against this new enemy.

The reason for this and, indeed, the refusal by PM David Cameron even to use the words 'Islamic State' instead of ISIL, the name of an insurgent group rather than a self-proclaimed Caliphate State, is that Western leaders, politicians, dilomats and generals are themselves divided on how to deal with the problem.

Do you support military action against Isis? Not sure.

Military intervention would need to be the last resort if the state of Iraq where threatened with total collapse. Arms, intelligence and equipment to bolster the Kurdish peshmerga could stave off IS as well as help from special forces. Yet it is useless without a new regional political and diplomatic initiative.

That means involving Iran and changing the absurd policy of continuing to back Sunni militants as both an alternative to Assad in Damascus and IS. The reality is that is only an abstract choice based on wish thinking that is in continuity with the failed policy of backing 'moderate' Sunni rebels.

There was no indication from Obama or Cameron that cooperation and engagement with Iran or Assad. Without that, military intervention could only bolster Sunni militancy because the conflict in Syria is a proxy war between Qatar and Saudi Arabia against each other and against Iran.

Would you support the use of ground troops? No.

Apart from having special forces on the ground to assist the Kurds, putting troops into Iraq would not acheive anything apart from granting IS a propaganda victory and the chance to whip up jihad against the Infidel. It would mean loss of British lives for geopolitical goals not related to the defence of Britain.

True, the fall of Kurdish regions and Baghdad or attacks on oil producing zones would create an oil price shock and severely affect developed global economies such as Britain. But Iraqi troops could be trained and supplies by all global players interested in energy security, then there is no need for ground troops.

Have you changed your view to in favour of military action following the beheadings of James Foley and Steven Sotloff ? No.

The purpose of the executions to instill terror and the idea that there is a pyschopathological threat that stretches from Syria to Britain in continuity with the murder of the soldier Lee Rigby in Greenwich; these attacks are, then, a mere reflex consequence of Western foreign policy.

Despite the fact propaganda this agenda is amplified and echoed by Stop the War ideologues such as Lindsey German, reacting to these atrocities by blundering back into Iraq or using messianic rhetoric like PM Cameron's about a 'generational struggle' only makes for a conflict mentality to take root.

It's the idea of 'generational struggle' and a 'global war on terror' that IS would have wanted as a response to their beheadings as they too want to implant the same idea of a struggle between the 'Muslim World' and both the Hypocrites ( other states in the region ) and Infidels, i.e. the West, also by nature hypocritical .

The beheadings are propaganda of the deed. If the West attacks the Caliphate ( the purest and most unhypocritical of Muslim states in that it has only a single standard-join the jihad, be converted or be killed ) then clearly it would kill Muslims as Christians and other non-Muslims are of no consequence.

The pyschopathology behind it is one identified with many in the West who are semi-educated : the beheadings are nothing compared to the 'real' terror which is Western foreign policy, a propaganda trope pounded out uncritically by radical leftists, no less than Islamists, who contrast 'state terror' with 'individual terror'.

How successful do you think military intervention will be in combatting Isis? Somewhat.

Military intervention by the 'International community' i.e. the West could be futile because the foreign policy basis has been so disastrously based on shoddy realpolitik dressed up as humanitarian concern in Syria. Only a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Syria is possible, if at all.

The security of Britain could have been improved had the government not been prepared to back Sunni militants in Syria to get onside with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in their regional proxy struggle with Iran over energy pipeline routes and as means to divert internal discontent outwards.

Only towards the end of 2013 and into 2014 did the US and Britain start to put pressure on the Gulf states to clamp down on private donors when it was clear the support for Sunni jihadists was leading many to abandon the Free Syria Army to join ISIS instead: as with Afghanistan in the 1990s it is blowback.

Over the longer term, Britain needs to avert being dragged further into conflict in the Middle East by finding alternatives to importing LNG from Qatar to make up for the decline of North Sea gas reserves. That means greater energy conservation and investing in renewables energy, such as tidal power, and also in nuclear power.

Other global powers would also be needed to preserve the security of energy supplies such as China and the East Asian economies by footing the bill instead of the West. Borders such as that with Turkey need to be fortified and strengthened and risky geopolitical power games in Syria dropped.