Saturday, 21 December 2013

Woolwich Attack: Rationalising Terror and Propagating Ideology.

There is a difference between journalists attempting to explain why terrorists or assassins believe they are justified in carrying out attacks and using those justifications as a means to rationalise them as a mere reflex action to foreign policies that are said to be bound to cause a response.

Senior Guardian journalist Seumas Milne is an example of the latter as clear from the headline accompanying his reactionto the verdict in sentencing soldier Lee Rigby's killer Michael Adebolajo-Woolwich attack: If the whole world's a battlefield, that holds in Woolwich as well as Waziristan.

Essentially, Milne's attitude towards to Adebolajo's assassination is to use it to hammer home hard propaganda points by quoting the words of terrorists and assassins as if their justifications were self evident and not to be 'condoned' because 'counter-productive'.

This Leninist approach to terrorism regards such violence as Adebolajo's as bad because bad for 'the cause', an 'infantile disorder' to use Lenin's words when criticising 'pointless' anarchist violence in Russia before the Revolution of 1917 that fails to yield results.

Milne opines,
'Quite apart from morality, the impact was violently counter-productive for the Muslims that Rigby's killers claimed to be defending, as Islamophobic attacks spiked across Britain.'
That is why Milne loftily writes off morality as something 'quite apart' from the 'counter-productive' nature of the attack. That, in any case, matters less because a soldier who had served in Afghanistan was hacked to death in the streets of London but because it led to a backlash against 'our side'.

The use of language to hint and insinuate that message is clear to anybody who knows anything about how propaganda works. Milne is claiming that what assassins such as Adebolajo must be taken at face value and not to even bother looking in detail at what he actually said.
"We swear by the Almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone. The only reason we have killed this man this is because Muslims are dying daily. This British soldier is an eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth ... We must fight them as they fight us. An eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth...I apologise that women had to see this today but in our lands our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your governments. They don't care about you. Do you think David Cameron is gonna get caught in the street when we start busting our guns? Do you think the politicians are gonna die? No, it's gonna be the average guy – like you, and your children. So get rid of them. Tell them to bring our troops back so you can all live in peace. Leave our lands and you will live in peace. That’s all I have to say. Allah’s peace and blessings be upon you. Salaam alaikum".
Milne completely discounts the nature of the threat was aimed at the British public, that if 'You people' failed to stop the war then 'You' would become next. The fact it was a soldier who was targeted was intended to give Adebolajo a sort of equivalent status as a foot soldier in a war.
'Rigby was a British soldier who had taken part in multiple combat operations in Afghanistan. So the attack wasn't terrorism in the normal sense of an indiscriminate attack on civilians'.
It was a discriminate attack on a soldier that was meant to get the public to think that they would be next because they have not prevented a war in Afghanistan being fought. Adebolajo was not even a born Muslim nor from Muslim lands ;attacked' but someone who converted in order to have a creed to fight for.

In that sense, Adebolajo's actions are quite in line with a tradition of political terrorism and assassination that has a pedigree going back to the Russian tradition that culminated in Lenin's bloodthirsty use of mass terror during the construction of the Soviet Union.

The idea that there are no innocent people in this world once the scale of the oppression is so clear means that either people are either for the right cause or against it. By failing to 'do' anything to change governments that carry out oppression in their name they are objectively supporting it and targets.

To mechanically write off all consideration of the psychopathology behind acts of terror and assassinations and killings for political and religions reasons is the gambit of those who have no problem with the idea of murdering their opponents so long as it gets the result they want.

If that means using outrages and atrocities for bolstering one's own propaganda, while affecting a distaste for that killing as 'counter productive', then that's simply the way it has to be in order to wake people up to the killing done in 'our name'. Sp Milne, as a prominent figure in the Stop the War Coalition claims,
'Only the wilfully blind or ignorant can be shocked when there is blowback from that onslaught at home. The surprise should be that there haven't been more such atrocities.'
'You People' had it coming in other words. The position is Stop the War or else expect more bloodshed. This is far from being a pacifist position. But then again, one problem with the 'anti-war' groups in Britain is that they are not led by well meaning people but, alas, cold blooded totalitarian ideologues.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Afghanistan: Mission Not Quite Accomplished

"You have to remember that Afghanistan is an extremely poor country with a very, very troubled history but I think the purpose of our mission was always to build an Afghanistan and Afghan security forces that were capable of maintaining a basic level of security so this country never again became a haven for terrorist training camps. That has been the most important part of the mission …That is the mission, that was the mission and I think we will have accomplished that mission and so our troops can be very proud of what they have done."
Cameron might well have declared that the mission has been accomplished. The fact it is it has not because the main strategic objective of the West in Afghanistan-securing the construction of the TAPI pipeline-has not been achieved. That is why British troops are being 'drawdown' and not withdrawn.

"Afghanistanisation" is a longer term project that underlies the geopolitical strategy of ensuring that Iran is excluded from being able to export its gas eastwards through Pakistan into India, one of the world's largest markets. Thousands of Western troops and private contractors will remain after 2014.

Despite the recent thaw in relations between Washington and Tehran over Iran's nuclear programme, the US was resolute in November 2013 in refusing to exempt the IPI pipeline from sanctions and instead pushing Pakistan towards accepting the future Trans-Afghan alternative.

With British troops being withdrawn from 'combat roles'. the military and private contractors are set to stay there in order to keep the Taliban in check from attacking the TAPI pipeline's construction because this has remained the paramount interest as the idea of 'nation building' was shelved.

The process of 'drawdown' of British troops has been paralleled by the US. Replaced by private contractors and with the conflict spilling over to the south in Pakistan with drone warfare, the strategy is to keep on with 'infrastructure projects' and the pipeline that is in the West's vital interest to protect.

The importance of the TAPI pipeline lies in the strategy of energy diversification. It means Turkmen gas could be exported south beyond Russian control, preventing China exerting too much leverage ( a pipeline now goes between Turkmenistan and China ) and hemming in Iranian influence.

Opponents of the war can scoff at Cameron's claim of 'mission accomplished' because they are in the dark as to what the true objectives were. Even if the war initially really did have women's liberation, the establishment of liberal democracy and the 'war on drugs' as aims, these are now less prominent.

The reality is that Afghanistan has always been an important part of a geopolitical jigsaw and valued as a potential prize for its copious resources, expecially of lithium ( used to make batteries for everything from the mobile phones to iPads that consumers demand ).

Afghanistan is a conflict zone and a cockpit in the New Great Game for control of energy flows and the minerals needed for high tech products being played out between the West, China and Russia. The facts are established on this. US State Department officials routinely mention 'the New Silk Road'.

If we are going to talk about whether it 'was worth it', it's first necessary to understand why Afghanistan was fought for so long. It's infantile to berate 'idiot politicians' because the politicians know they could never admit the real geopolitical reasons for the war that are too complex for the children to grasp.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Syria: The Potential for Terrorist Blowback"

Historian Mark Almond on how and why European Muslims are going to Syria to become battle hardened jihadists and on how certain groups funded by European governments have themselves forwarded Islamists 'along a pipeline' to Syria to fight against Assad. 

There is an element of collusion between the government in Britain and jihadists dating back to the 1980s in Afghanistan designed to further geopolitical and oil and gas interests, one that has and can and will lead to violent 'blowback' in the form of domestic terror attacks.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Syria's Geopolitical Significance,

A very good summary of Syria's geopolitical significance was written by Michael T Klare for The Nation in September.

'Although Syria is not itself a significant oil producer, it lies adjacent to many of the major suppliers and has long served as a host for pipelines connecting the Gulf to the Mediterranean. More importantly, in recent years, is has assumed strategic importance as an ally of Iran and a conduit for Iranian arms shipments to Hezbollah in Lebanon. “Syria has a geopolitical importance out of all proportion to its relatively small population, area, resource base, and economic wealth because of formidable military power…and its location at the heart of the Middle East,” Alasdair Drysdale of the Australian National University wrote in the Oxford Companion to World Politics. “As a result, it plays a central role in most of the Middle East’s key disputes.”

This is the dilemma facing Obama today. If the United States cannot extricate himself from the geopolitical imperatives posed by Iran’s continuing threat to Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the safety of Persian Gulf oil supplies, it cannot extricate itself from the turmoil in Syria. Because a failure to confront Assad’s excesses could be viewed as giving Iran and other outside powers a green light to meddle in the Syrian conflict, and could be seen by the Iranians as an indication that they can continue to stockpile enriched uranium with impunity, US leaders see no choice but to become involved in Syria.

Russian involvement in the Syrian imbroglio adds another dimension to America’s dilemma. Russia has long-established ties with the Syrian leadership, beginning with Assad’s predecessor, his father Hafiz, and retains a vital naval base at Tartous, on Syria’s Mediterranean coast. More important than these strategic interests, however, is Moscow’s desire to curb America’s global activism. From Russia’s perspective, then, Syria is less important as a strategic asset in itself than as an arena in which to gain geopolitical advantage over the West. By the same token, a failure to contest Russia’s spoiler in Syria role could be interpreted as an invitation for Moscow to undertake other obstructionist endeavors'.

Read the rest here.

Syria : The Danger of Energy Geopolitics.

Back in September military action by the US and France over the alleged chemical weapons attack by Assad's forces on a suburb of Damascus seemed inevitable. Dossiers were being produced and ministers were waxing indignant about the need to 'punish' Assad.

The rapid climbdown by the US was forced upon it by  Russia's brilliantly timed diplomatic intervention when they struck a deal in which Assad would allow both  Russia and the US to oversee the destruction of the chemical weapons arsenal. The US was thereby allowed  to save face and claim its coercive diplomacy had worked.

War was averted. Yet the issue, of course, was never completely about chemical weapons, though the hardline on 'weapons of mass destruction' was also designed to send out a message to Iran that their alleged programme to build a nuclear bomb was of a piece with the dangerous rogue state of Syria which is its stalwart ally.

The reason why the US and France were drawn to the brink of intervening with missile strikes and aircraft carriers had been sent to the Eastern Mediterranean was the dangerous New Great Game over gas resources and pipeline routes, one that explains Western double standards over Syria and Egypt.

After the Egyptian army had mown down protesters and their barricades with bullets and bulldozers  in the streets of Cairo who were against the military coup, Western diplomats made weasel comments about the need for dialogue. When Assad was alleged to have used poison gas in Syria, the call was to remove him.

From the US perspective, there was far less to gain in intervening to try and put pressure on Assad than certain EU powers such as Britain and France. The US felt it needed to act because it was tied to the rhetoric about Assad's use of chemical weapons being a 'red line' that once, when crossed, necessitated action.

True, the US still has energy interests in the Middle East better served by shoring up the regional powers that are backing the Sunni insurgents seeking to overthrow Assad's Shia regime, most obviously Saudi Arabia and Turkey. But the shale gas 'revolution' in the US reduced dependence upon the other enemy of Assad-Qatar.

All three external powers backing and funding the insurgents against Assad decided to do so in order to get a new regime that would not oppose their energy interests, in particular the plan to build more gas pipelines to EU states, to export Qatari liquefied natural gas ( LNG ) and reduce dependence on Iran and Russia.

Energy geopolitics is a prime determiner of  the relations between states in the early twenty first century as the race is on to control supplies that are not keeping pace with the burgeoning demand. States haunted by the prospect of their decline such as Britain and France have been the most aggressive in struggling to retain influence.

Part of this is post-imperial hubris but that ties together with both these states role as large arms providers to Middle Eastern states such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The BG group has major interests in exploiting Egyptian gas reserves ( hence the mealy mouthed denunciations of SCAF for their bloody coup d' etat ).

The problem with Syria, from France and Britain's perspective, is that he occupies a piece of strategic land through which Iran wants to extend its energy interests no less than Russia which has leased a naval port in Tarsous through which it can protect its energy interests in the Levant with new discoveries of undersea gas.

But Russia also seeks to guarantee the potential "Islamic pipeline' that would, in any post-civil war Syria, be built from the South Pars gas field that Iran shares with Qatar through Iraq and Syria to the Mediterranean. That would cut the power of Qatar and Turkey as energy providers to the EU.

Despite the immediate crisis having diminished since September 2013, the longer term potential for intractable conflict remains. More than that, there is evidence that radicalised Muslims are going to and fro from Western nations to Syria to become hardened jihadists and who might carry out attacks there.

There is evidence that the secret services have been prepared to use these jihadists as 'assets' in the past from Afghanistan, to Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Kosovo in order to further energy interests. The prospect of 'blowback' being visited upon Britain and France is a lethal consequence of this New Great Game.

Blair on Syria: Another Attempt to Secure His "Legacy"

Originally written in September 2013.

The repellent Blair has tried to appropriate the crisis, and the politicians reaction to it in the West, the better to bolster his own 'Legacy' in arguing for the tough need to follow up words with action. As usual, he's just trying to place himself ultimately on 'the right side of History' after the catastrophe of the Iraq invasion.
"After the long and painful campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, I understand every impulse to stay clear of the turmoil, to watch but not to intervene, to ratchet up language but not to engage in the hard, even harsh business of changing reality on the ground"
Almost every single statement Blair has made on 'events' in the Middle East is 'public diplomacy' designed to retrospectively justify Iraq by placing it within the context of the 'long war' that he, at least, had the courage to confront. It dovetails with his posture as set out in his autobiography ' Tony Blair A Journey'.

It's surprising that few commentators deal with the issue of whether Blair has a bad conscience or not ( as opposed to seeing him as a bare faced liar ). His attitude to the bloodshed unleashed by the Iraq invasion is to argue for the lowest estimate of deaths-around 100,000-and to try and persuade readers of A Journey how he agonised over the decision.

Yet politicians such as Blair no longer have careers. They have journeys in which they encourage the true believers to follow them through adversity and towards the ultimate triumph of what is just and right, with casualties on the way alas. Despite affecting to be a Christian, this attitude has more in common with twentieth century Utopian communists.

It's all retrospective pleading. At the time in 2003, Blair was supremely confident. He has rationalised the hundreds of thousands of deaths in Iraq by spinning it that the sort of interventions about to be undertaken against the 'Assad regime' in Syria show the need to stand tough against evil dictators.

One of the propaganda mechanisms inherent in the attempt to create an acceptable 'public doctrine' is to create fake binary choices, a simplistic framing device of the 'either-or' pose. All possible objections are reduced to an absurd muddleheaded reaction whereas his own 'resolve' rings clear, bright and true by comparison.
"in any event, why take sides since they're all as bad as each other? It is time we took a side: the side of the people who want what we want; who see our societies for all their faults as something to admire; who know that they should not be faced with a choice between tyranny and theocracy".
The fact that this 'analysis' bears no resemblance to the actual nature of the choices facing Syria is irrelevant. Blair is striding out to do what his job always was; to try to convince himself the better to convince the public that the 'choice' is as he only sees it ( even if you may politely  'disagree' with him ).

And this is what a Peace Envoy in the Middle East is there to do. The only peace Blair understands is pacifying the conscience before contemplating the large scale military actions he knows will create more deaths in the short term because they will die in order that future generations will live and learn to live better.

And so 'History' will absolve him or, at least he hopes, his actions in Iraq will be understood and 'contextualised'. Though the 'something must be done' pose from Blair is all to do with this, his professions about the path to peace, through just wars, are the effusions of the worst sort of sinister Creeping Jesus politician.

It seems incredible that so many were taken in by this fraud during his time in office and still seem to regard his "analysis" of the Middle East as providing "insight". It does but not in the way his craven and fawning admirers suppose. 

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Syria: The US, Kurdish Designs, Turkey, Iraq and Iran

No matter how President Obama and his team try to spin it a military intervention and 'upgrading' assistance to the insurgents against Assad backed by Qatar and Turkey would be tantamount to directly taking sides in the Syrian conflict. Up until now, Washington has only given CIA help to the Sunni dominated Free Syria Army;

Washington's foreign policy has consistently called for Assad to go. In refusing to engage with Iran diplomatically has made a slide into involvement in the civil war inevitable. There can be no political settlement if Washington demands that the precondition for peace is for Assad's Shia government to surrender.

The Alawites fear retribution from Sunni jihadists who have fought with the FSA including elements affiliated with Al Qaida such as the al Nusra Front who are fighting against Assad. They are not controlled by 'official' Sunni insurgents and the Syrian National Coalition and want to ethnically cleanse Alawi villages.

Turkey, moreover, is a NATO member threatened with the conflict between the Kurds and the radical Sunni jihadists of al Nusra. spilling over the border. Backing the FSA in Syria, Washington would face the prospect of Iran intervening more to back militant Kurdish separatists.
The danger of Kurdish separatist struggles with Sunni jihadists in northern Syria on the border with both Turkey and Iraq is that it threatens to destabilise border districts and towns in a way that could yet draw in other Western powers should it escalate. 

The Syrian government no longer has much control over the north east of the country and is content to see the al Nusra Front pinned down by Kurdish militias. Iran also gave support for those seeking Kurdish autonomy in northern Iraq in order to increase its regional influence.

The reason for move towards separatism that the West opposes, in order to show solidarity with Turkey as a NATO member, is opposition to a potential future for an oil and gas rich Kurdistan with its own ideas about its role in the world that elude the control of regional and global powers.

As part of a fractured Iraq, the relative autonomy of Kirkuk from the Shia dominated government in Baghdad has yielded benefits for Western oil concerns who are willing to invest. But the West does not want to drive Baghdad towards Iran by pushing for Kurdish autonomy too much.

Nor does Iran want to back Kurdish independence more than is needed in order to only cause problems for Turkey alone because it is backing the Muslim Brotherhood against Iran's Shia client Assad. Iran has its own large Kurdish minority.

When Obama states that Syria is not Iraq and not Afghanistan, because of the history the US had in its invasions of both countries, he only wishes to emphasise the distinction between limited military intervention and war.

Unfortunately, Syria is very much a similar case to its Iraq neighbour in being a country more opened up to the competing energy interests of global powers since the US invasion of 2003. Syria is also similar to Afghanistan in being a geopolitically vital pipeline transit zone.

The 21st century is set to be an epoch of intense and bloody struggles and conflicts over resources. Western nations are necessarily going to be involved in them due their overdependence upon oil and gas in those volatile lands where they lie. 

Libya: The Failure of the Last Western Military Intervention.

As President Obama attempts to work with Congress to get a unity of purpose behind military intervention in Syria with only France being a willing ally so far, the last military intervention back in 2011 has proved to be a complete failure and offers a lesson.

Patrick Cockburn's brilliant special report in The Independent shows Libya has moved towards becoming a failed state.
'As world attention focused on the coup in Egypt and the poison gas attack in Syria over the past two months, Libya has plunged unnoticed into its worst political and economic crisis since the defeat of Gaddafi two years ago. Government authority is disintegrating in all parts of the country putting in doubt claims by American, British and French politicians that Nato’s military action in Libya in 2011 was an outstanding example of a successful foreign military intervention which should be repeated in Syria.
In an escalating crisis little regarded hitherto outside the oil markets, output of Libya’s prized high-quality crude oil has plunged from 1.4 million barrels a day earlier this year to just 160,000 barrels a day now. Despite threats to use military force to retake the oil ports, the government in Tripoli has been unable to move effectively against striking guards and mutinous military units that are linked to secessionist forces in the east of the country.
Libyans are increasingly at the mercy of militias which act outside the law. Popular protests against militiamen have been met with gunfire; 31 demonstrators were shot dead and many others wounded as they protested outside the barracks of “the Libyan Shield Brigade” in the eastern capital Benghazi in June.

Though the Nato intervention against Gaddafi was justified as a humanitarian response to the threat that Gaddafi’s tanks would slaughter dissidents in Benghazi, the international community has ignored the escalating violence. The foreign media, which once filled the hotels of Benghazi and Tripoli, have likewise paid little attention to the near collapse of the central government.

The strikers in the eastern region Cyrenaica, which contains most of Libya’s oil, are part of a broader movement seeking more autonomy and blaming the government for spending oil revenues in the west of the country.
For the rest read it here.

Syria: The Geopolitical Constellation and the Move Towards Military Involvement in the Syrian civil War.

'While stressing that Washington's primary goal remained "limited and proportional" attacks, to degrade Syria's chemical weapons capabilities and deter their future use, the president hinted at a broader long-term mission that may ultimately bring about a change of regime.

"It also fits into a broader strategy that can bring about over time the kind of strengthening of the opposition and the diplomatic, economic and political pressure required – so that ultimately we have a transition that can bring peace and stability, not only to Syria but to the region"' 
President Barack Obama, Tuesday Sepember 3 2013 ( The Guardian, Obama hints at larger strategy to topple Assad in effort to win over Republicans )
Washington has always wanted regime change from the outset of the Syrian Civil War in April 2011. That Obama is now indicating that a policy of siding with the Syrian 'rebels'  is back 'on the table' in addition to missile strikes. one advocated staunchly by the neoconservative John McCain, reflects a continuity in policy.

The rationale is clear: the US, France and UK will not tolerate any extension of Iranian influence in Syria through Assad and Hizbollah while they are tacitly backing the attempt by Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia to extend their influence by backing the armed Sunni Islamist opponents of the government.

The bottom line is that Qatar is an ally with a strategic partnership with Britain in a variety of military and economic bilateral ties which is completely opposed to Iran's rival geopolitical designs for Syria in the future-if it has one-including proposed pipelines to pump gas west towards Europe.

Turkey is already has sections of gas pipeline to hook up to Qatar and that requires the potential Shi'ite axis of influence from Iran to the Eastern Mediterranean be broken and Assad removed in Syria. That requires the playing the role of a revived Ottoman Empire and extending greater friendship ties to other Arab states.

Turkey wants to stand with Qatar not only due to the desire to increase its prominence as an energy hub between Europe and Asia. Gas rich Qatar now provides most of Turkey's tourist revenue. As Professor Norman Stone emphasised, after the protests in Turkey back in June 2013,
'Arab money is behind the shopping malls and is underpinning the Turkish current-account deficit. The Saudis and Qatar seem to be mainly involved, and now they buy up land in Yalova, over the water from Istanbul, as well. This has delighted the foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu'.
The danger is that in pushing for the support for the Sunni insurgents aligned to the Muslim Brotherhood, Iran would step up its support for Kurdish militias who want autonomy in Syria and Turkey leading to the conflict spilling over into a NATO member. The al Nusra Front is already in conflict with the Kurds.

So Syria is the proxy war ground not only for external powers but also for ethnic and sectarian enmities that straddle borders and have created fault lines across the Middle East. It is a lethal theatre in the New Great Game being played by the world's largest powers for control over energy flows across the region and beyond.

The ultimate target is Iran. Hemmed in to the east by a government installed by the West through the Afghanistan war and occupation, Iran is also having its gas export routes west thwarted by the US and other allies who have opposed Iran as an independent geopolitical player since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

If the US embarks on military intervention through missile strikes, Assad could react in a dangerous way and Iran is not going to be prepared to see him removed or overthrown by pro-Washington opponents. Hizbollah will step up operations and Iraq under a Shia president leans towards Tehran as well.

That is why measures towards what  David Cameron  called the need to 'tilt the balance', in the rebel's favour is now back' on the table' in Washington. No doubt Britain will be a willing partner in funnelling aid to the Sunni militias in order to put Assad in the position of negotiating his exit at a second Geneva Conference.

Washington's foreign policy and the insistence that 'Assad must go' exacerbated the problems in Syria to the point where any political settlement looks unlikely and yet where military intervention could intensify the level of killing and instability as well as committing the West to the Sunni side in a complex conflict.

Syria: Patrick Cockburn on the Impact of Air Strikes

Patrick Cockburn of The Independent is no doubt the best journalist writing on the Syrian Crisis at present. His analysis here is well worth the read. How Syria action risks unsettling fragile Middle East balance of power Wednesday 28 August 2013
'Will air strikes help spread the Syrian conflict to other countries in the region? The important point here is to take on board how far it has already spread and the degree to which it already destabilising Syria’s neighbours. The al-Qa’ida-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, which fights in both Iraq and Syria, has already become stronger thanks to Syria, and is responsible for bombings in Iraq more intense than anything seen since 2008. The same organisation is responsible for ethnically cleansing Syrian Kurds in north-east Syria, 40,000 of whom have already fled to the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq. If the Assad government becomes weaker then the Islamic State, al-Nusra Front and other jihadists, the most effective rebel fighting forces, will be strengthened.
Turkey is likely to support US actions, its importance depending on whether or not the US air base at Incirlik in south-east Turkey is used. Turkey has a 560-mile long frontier with Syria but it is vulnerable to Syria and Iran acting through Turkey’s Kurdish minority. Turkish government support for the rebels in Syria is also strongly opposed by the Turkish opposition who have been reinvigorated by mass street protests this summer.

Syrian Crisis: France's Stance and Its Strategic Partnerships.

“I am struck by how eager Great Britain and France appear to be in favour of military action. And I am also mindful of the fact that both of these two powers are former imperialist, colonialist powers in the region.” -former US National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski
France has been more hawkish over Syria throughout the conflict there than either Britain or even the US. When news of the alleged chemical weapons strike on East Ghouta broke on 21 August, the French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, was first out calling for a 'reaction with force'.

A continuous stream of the most belligerent rhetoric has emanated from Paris since then, with calls from President Hollande that France was 'ready to punish' Assad to Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault claiming the attack involved a "massive use of chemical agents".

France's knowledge about Syria's chemical weapons stock may come from the fact that in the 1980s it was French pharmaceuticals that were imported for 'dual use purposes'. The French dossier is technically specific about Syrian CW capabilities but adds nothing towards exact responsibility for the attacks.

The 'public diplomacy' behind the dossier is to back up Washington's version on Saturday and John Kerry's rhetoric about 'we know' everything and 'we have assessed'. Indeed France has been more persistent in backing the Syrian opposition than the US as it was responsible for setting up 'Friends of Syria'.

The 'Friends of Syria Group' or 'Friends of the Syrian People Group' was set up in June 2012 by Sarkozy to bolster support for the Syrian National Council and to prepare for a post-Assad government. The aim is 'revolution' but the reality from the French perspective is its national interests.

France is a staunch ally and strategic partner of Saudi Arabia and Qatar both in the Friends of Syria Group and which support militias with arms and money against Assad. French military ties with the oil rich kingdom have put it at the forefront of the push to directly provide weapons to the Syria rebels.

The FT reported on June 21 2013 an analyst close to ruling circles, Jamal Khashoggi, revealing that Saudi Arabia would never let its Persian Gulf rival Iran 'win a victory in Syria' because Assad had had the upper hand until the alleged chemical weapons attack by his regime occurred.
'”Saudi Arabia has to do something now, even if it will do it alone. The goal now must be toppling Bashar, even if the US is not involved. If Saudi Arabia leads the way, Sunni tribes and o ther countries, including France, will eventually join.
France, concerned that Syrian opposition forces are losing ground, has suggested it is ready to push ahead with increasing the scale of equipment it supplies to the rebels, but it remains coy on what weapons it may be prepared to include.
Officials said this week that Paris had already “ticked the boxes” of materiel it was willing to deliver on a list presented to the Friends of Syria members by the Free Syrian Army. But they declined to say what these included.'
France's defence of Saudi Arabia's policy in Syria so as to check Iran, its main regional geopolitical rival and Shia enemy, is a lucrative and mutually beneficial partnership. On the August 30 news broke of 'a billion euro defence contract with Saudi Arabia to overhaul four frigates and two refuelling ships'.

France's bilateral ties with Qatar, the other main funder of the Islamist militias, brings numerous benefits from Total's stake in the liquefied natural gas ( LNG ) market and the supply of it as an increasing part of the gas energy portfolio for north west Europe via France's EDF group.

France's energy policy is interconnected to geopolitical strategy and competition with Russia and Gazprom for control over the global market for LNG. The volume of Qatari LNG threatens to displace the importance of Russian gas. The proposed Qatar-Turkey pipeline would rival Russian imports and so it backs Assad.

France's interest in energy diversification coincides with many EU states. However, only France ( apart from Britain ) is a military power that can assert those energy security interests in the Middle East. More than that, Qatar invests billions of petrodollars in French real estate and grand projets.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Syria : Why Britain's Political Elites Want Military Intervention

There is much delusion in Britain over the reprieve from military intervention. The proposed missile strikes are a bad idea. However, that does not mean that they are merely 'stupid' or 'senseless'. Evidently, they are designed as part of a policy of showing Assad that he can never win in the civil war.

The aim of a missile strike is in continuity with the policy Washington and London have had since 2011 that 'Assad must go'. By a demonstration of strength, the US wants to make it plain that Assad will negotiate his exit at the postponed Geneva Conference and make way for the opposition.

The Syrian National Council is backed by the Friends of Syria group which meets in Doha and Istanbul and regularly receives Western diplomats. Turkey and Qatar are backing the opposition and want Assad to go with the support of the West due to its strategic partnerships with them and energy interests.

Britain's position is not merely about neoimperial hubris, 'saving Syria', the vanity of politicians wanting to strut on the world state though these are important. It is due to the fact that the enemies of Assad, especially Qatar, are vital partners in shoring up the continued prosperity of the Britain's rentier economy.

With the decline of North Sea Oil, Qatar has made up an increasing proportion of Britain's supply of LNG. Britain and France want 'energy diversification' and to depend less upon Russian gas for geopolitical reasons that are evident enough over Syria and also in wars such as Afghanistan.

Qatar proposed a gas pipeline to Turkey in 2009. Assad stands in the way of such a project as does Iran, the Gulf rival of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which wants to export gas to the Eastern Mediterranean via Iraq and Syria. This would be a major setback after Britain went to war to control Iraq's oil and gas.

Just as there was a complete cross political party consensus on the value of the Afghanistan War, so too is there on Syria. The Labour amendment to the defeated government motion, also rejected, was only about caution over rushing in to intervention when the case had not yet been clearly formulated.

The reason the British government's attempt to join the US in a missile strike on Syria was defeated in Parliament was not so much about public opinion. Nor did Cameron take the vote to Parliament because he was genuflecting to public opinion. He did it because he believed it would vote for him.

True, Miliband wanted to exploit the anti-interventionist mood after his 'lack of leadership' had been subject to criticism over the summer. Yet Labour was for military intervention and just not the way that Cameron had proceeded which seemed similar to Blair's demand to trust his 'call of judgement' on Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons

Already, there are strong voices calling for a second vote on military intervention on Syria now that Obama has played for time and delayed military action until Congress reconvenes .Members of the government are blaming Miliband for making military action no longer an option in case new 'compelling evidence' turns up.

The reasoning is that if Washington gets more regional support, as it already has with the Arab League now demanding action *and a legal pretext could be used for missile strikes, then the British government would be able to put another vote before Parliament in light of changed circumstances.

Boris Johnson in particular has been putting pressure on Cameron to do so. In the Daily Telegraph Johnson claimed  "If there is new and better evidence that inculpates Assad, I see no reason why the government should not lay a new motion before parliament, inviting British participation".

The Mayor of London has every reason to be forthright as he is close to the rich elites in Qatar and has been relentlessly banging the drum for it as a major investor in London. In fact, Britain has strong developed strong bilateral trade ties with Qatar in energy,education and 'culture'.

Unfortunately, Britain's dysfunctional rentier economy has become increasingly interconnected with Qatar's in the wake of the 2008 crash and the need for Qatari petrodollars to boost investment in British real estate (especially in London ) and lure shoppers to spend more.

Whether the British public likes it or not, Syria and its geopolitical position is very much about Britain's business, keeping gas bills down and giving shots of investment to prop up an ailing and failing neoliberal economy too overdependent upon oil and gas from unstable regions.

* Correction- The Arab League Secretary General has decided the UN route must be pursued and "military action is out of the question". Saudi Arabia wanted US military action.
'Saudi Arabia and the Syrian opposition pleaded with League members to back a US military strike on the regime.
 Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal told the meeting that "opposition to international action only encourages the regime to pursue its crimes".

"It is time to ask the international community to assume its responsibilities and to take deterrent measures" against the Syrian regime," al-Faisal said.'

Syria: Same Issue, Different Question.

"I cannot foresee any circumstances in which we would go back to parliament again on the same question and the same issue," he said. "We can't go back asking the same question over and over. So no, I can't foresee such circumstances."
So opines Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister. Now he is blaming the 'cynical' and 'point scoring' Ed Miliband for having Labour vote against the government on the motion to involve Britain militarily in a US led missile strike against the Syrian regime.

I predicted yesterday that there would be a clamour for a second vote and that the new tack in 'public diplomacy' on Syria would take the form of the government blaming Miliband for diminishing Britain's global standing the better to box him into a position of having to support a new vote on a different question.

It doesn't seem as though that could include only chemical weapons. The question is what other pretexts could be cooked up to justify a military intervention that is wanted for geopolitical advantages and to advance strategic interests irrespective of whether Assad has chemical weapons or has actually used them,

For that is what Hague and Clegg are insinuating about another vote. Already Shadow Defence minister Jim Murphy and Ben Bradshaw are said to be voices in favour of a second vote according to the Daily Telegraph. They are positioning themselves for that should  more 'compelling evidence' come from Washington.

The 'public diplomacy' offensive now is to portray Miliband for having prevented the chance for Britain to have supported military intervention under any changed circumstances so that, if and when circumstances change, they can try to pressurise Miliband to get the party to vote for it the second time around.

It is both predictable and pathetic.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Syria : The USA's Coercive Diplomacy on Syria.

'Obama's draft resolution has a short paragraph on the need for a political settlement in Syria and even calls on the Geneva talks process to be resumed urgently. Is it cynical or just naive? Syrian rebels' intransigence and their unwillingness to attend without preconditions are the main reason for the failure of Geneva so far.' ( Jonathan Steele, Syria: the US public faces a grim reality TV choice  Guardian September 1 2013 )

Washington never wanted a political settlement on any other terms other than that of the US and the Syrian opposition it supported along with the Friends of Syria group. It continually made Assad's removal or agreement to 'go' the precondition of any negotiations. The foreign policy was and remains 'Assad must go'

That has been the aim of of US and its strategic partners in the Middle east such as Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The US and Britain does not want any Iranian influence in Syria because there are fears it was using that to plan a pipeline to the Eastern Mediterranean in rivalry to Qatar's proposed one to Turkey.

Syria is geopolitically the cockpit for rival energy interests. The US, France and UK support Saudi Arabia and Qatar because they rely on these countries for oil or gas. France has become increasingly reliant on Qatar for LNG and Total has a stake in it. Britain likewise in order to diversify supplies away from Russia.

Iran is seen as a threat because it is a rival to both these countries and feared as a source of sponsorship for disgruntled Shia populations in Saudi Arabia who live near the main oil producing zones of Saudi Arabia not to mention backing Assad's Alawite regime in Syria.

Engaging with Iran is the most sensible diplomatic option to bring about a political settlement but the US and Britain have continually rejected that because of the energy interests at stake and because Qatar and Saudi Arabia are going to pursue their interests no matter what the Wests wants.

The problem comes down to the fact that though US foreign policy on Syria is one of choice it is also dictated by the necessity of it depending on Saudi Arabia for 12% of its oil still and the more general overarching strategy of containing Iran and getting 'regime change' there.

Obama started talking more straightforwardly of 'national security interests' after the British Parliament decided the UK would not take military action alongside the US. These interests are crucially interconnected with energy interests and energy security no less than they were with Britain and more so France.

Evidently, Obama is attempting to drum up wider support for a missile strike against Syria designed to add greater pressure along with Kerry's statement that there would be assistance to 'the rebels'. The UN security council is dismissed as 'completely paralysed'. In reality, the US is asserting coercive diplomacy.

Syrian Crisis: The "Right" to Launch Missile Strikes.

'The Obama administration indicated on Sunday that it would launch military strikes against Syria even if it failed to get the backing of the US Congress, claiming evidence that sarin gas had been used in chemical attacks outside Damascus last month.
Less than a day the president vowed to put an attack to a congressional vote, secretary of state John Kerry said the administration was determined to act against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and did not need the backing of Congress to do so.
President Obama "has the right to do this no matter what Congress does", said secretary of state John Kerry, one of the leading advocates of a military assault on dictator Bashar al-Assad for allegedly using chemical weapons on 12 neighborhoods outside Damascus on 21 August.
Giving the vote to Congress was a mere formality. The next eight days will see a 'public diplomacy' offensive by Washington on a vast scale to marshal the US and other willing participants towards military intervention. The impression has to be of an irresistable momentum. As Kerry put it,
 "We have a coalition of more than a few but this is a situation that's going to grow as the evidence comes out."
The decision to put the matter to Congress was merely a ploy to buy more time. There is no absolute guararantee that with 'new evidence' and Washington pressurising it allies for a for or against us position that the British government and opposition might not strike up a new found unity of purpose.

It it looks unlikely given the political situation in Britain but the reality is that both the government and opposition are trying to use Britain's non- involvement in any future military intervention as the fault of each other, the better to present themselves as the best guardians of Britain's role as a 'global player'.

If Washington starts finding new and more reliable allies, a new vote might be put to Parliament to get it to vote the right way with the connivance of both political parties. Clearly, Kerry's message is that, unlike Britain, the US is not hamstrung by indecisive partisan politicians, a message that may be heeded....

Syrian Crisis : Politicking and Positioning Over Britain's Role in Syria.

Get ready for a week of intense 'public diplomacy' from Washington as it steps up a gear with the accusations of Assad's use of chemical weapons, now said to have contained sarin gas, and siren voices in Britain clamouring for the case for military intervention to be framed in a new light by the government.

In Britain, William Hague said: "We were saying in our parliament that there would be a second vote at a later stage if we wanted to go ahead with military action. So that, of course, would have been rather similar to President Obama setting out this timetable in Congress now"

The hawks are already regathering for a second swooping attempt to drag Britain towards military intervention in Syria. Osborne is clearly trying to blame Labour for humiliating not only the government but also Britain because its diminished role as a 'global player'.

The 'public diplomacy' being put forth by Hague is that if Congress votes for military action they would be able to portray the Labour opposition in a bad light if Washington spins out a new line on Syria other than the specific one on chemical weapons which was defeated in the Parliamentary vote.

If Washington cobbled together some sort of pretext for intervention based on 'humanitarian intervention' , or if other evidence of atrocities committed by the 'Assad regime' could be exploited to press the case in a 'new light', there could be noises about second vote, something Miliband has not ruled out.

The politicking going on in Britain now reflects both sides attempt to prove themselves better to lead Britain's role as a 'global player' and accusing each other of the failure to maintain its 'credibility' on the world stage. Hague knows Labour were not against military intervention in principle.

Hague is now insinuating that Miliband and Labour have played partisan politics and would destroy Britain's position if further evidence is found "Parliament has spoken. I don't think it is realistic to think that we can go back to parliament every week with the same question having received no for an answer'.

Of course, the government could go back to Parliament wit a differently worded question on the same issue should they be able to portray Labour as cynical should a blitz of propaganda come forth on Syria and the UN inspectors find 'something' that could be spun as part of a 'new' decisive case for military intervention.

Hague is already shifting tack to that position,
 "Parliament has spoken. I don't think it is realistic to think that we can go back to parliament every week with the same question having received no for an answer.
"Anybody looking objectively at this would see that, in order for parliament in any circumstances to come to a different conclusion, people would have to be more persuaded by the evidence. There is a great deal of evidence there but I'm not sure that the extra evidence that the United States presented would have made a difference to those doubting the evidence in the House of Commons.
"The Labour leadership would have to play a less partisan and less opportunistic role and be prepared to take yes for an answer in terms of the motions that we present to the House of Commons. We had taken on board all the points that they had made before the debate on Thursday. All those things would have to happen to get a different result in the House of Commons and I can't see any immediate possibility of that."
Moreover, Labour's position is not against Washington's on intervention. They were not against military intervention per se but against the case being made by Cameron for it. That is why Jim Fitzpatrick resigned from the shadow front bench because he was against intervention 'full stop'.

Labour have only learnt that there is a need for the case to be seen to be better and for the mistakes that it made in Iraq not to be repeated. But though Cameron used Iraq style techniques to spin Britain into intervention, Syria is not, in fact, the same as Iraq as military invasion was never on the cards.

Miliband is clever enough to know that and has tried to use the Syria Crisis to exorcise the spectre of Blair and pose as 'responsible'. Yet neither Miliband nor Alexander are against military intervention at some stage should the conditions they laid down on Thursday be subsequently met. Alexander stated today,
" The conditions we set down on Thursday apply on Sunday morning. But since then, of course, the prime minister has given his word to the British people that the UK will not participate in military action in Syria."
The implication is that the conditions for military intervention still apply but for the position of Cameron. It is a political manoeuvre to make his leadership look as though it could damage Britain's standing as a global player, the very basis for Osborne's attack on Labour.

Alexander is not stating that military intervention was conclusively ruled out. He is stating that the conditions for participation were not met and still have not by Sunday morning. This leaves the question open while boxing Cameron into a corner for having botched the case on Thursday.

Labour can now have both ways. If new 'compelling evidence' is provided ( as their condition two requested) and if the UN finds some evidence of chemical weapons use, then Miliband and Alexander could spin about and support military intervention with Washington later while criticising government incompetence.

This does not mean that Britain will definitely join the US in any operation against Assad's regime without another vote. But it means that if Washington and 'the international community' demands Assad be held to account for war crimes, Labour could vote for it if another vote were held.

Labour could then have it both ways, that it was Miliband who showed leadership and the best way to preserve the 'special relationship' while Cameron's irresponsible recklessness damaged Britain's credibility as a 'global player'. Alexander himself is a staunch and unquestioning Atlanticist.

Is nobody listening carefully to what these politicians are actually saying ?

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Syria Crisis: The Hawks Will Return.

'Cameron supported intervention without being sure he could secure the necessary parliamentary backing. For him the situation was a daunting one, but it did not require a political genius to see what resistance to force lay within his party'
Ironically, it was Cameron's determination to recall Parliament and use the sort of 'public diplomacy' used by Tony Blair that ensured there would be no British military involvement on Syria based on the government's motion on August 30. So he acheived far more than Miliband in preventing war.

If Cameron had accepted the sort of approach favoured by Miliband then it is quite possible that British military involvement based upon the case against Assad for having allegedly used chemical weapons on August 21 may well have gone ahead should the UN inspectors have found 'some' evidence.

With news of President Obama now playing for time and putting the matter of US military involvement to Congress, a combination of Cameron and Hague's blundering and bluster and Miiband's opportunism could well mean that if Congress votes for it another vote could be sought in Parliament.

Milband was not against military action in principle but judged the public mood and that of Parliament better. If Obama now starts building up the 'compelling evidence' he has referred to and that was stated as the second condition Labour tabled in its amendment, then another vote could happen.

This, unfortunately, is not out of the question as Liam Fox indicated. The spin machine is in full motion now trying to portray the imperative for a missile strike against Assad's regime and military assets. Moreover, there is a new emerging consensus about the value of the delay to making the case firmer.Fox stated
"I think it is reasonable to wait until we have had the report of the UN inspectors but ultimately we will still have to make a response as an international community. We may have put it off for a few days from the British perspective but we still have to make a response."
"It is against international law, it is a war crime. We have a duty as an international community to make a response to that. 
"I think it is reasonable to wait until we have had the report of the UN inspectors but ultimately we will still have to make a response as an international community. We may have put it off for a few days from the British perspective but we still have to make a response." 
Lord Reid, defence secretary under Tony Blair, said Labour leader Ed Miliband was right to force a delay, insisting it would "maximise the legitimacy" of the use of force.
He told Today: "I can't speak for Ed or for the party officially but I do think that his decision was a wise one and I do think that the Prime Minister David Cameron's decision to heed Ed Miliband's call to await the UN inspectors report was also a right one and a wise one.
"I say that especially because we are less than a week or so away from their conclusion, it's not a matter of months or years, and because waiting maximises the legitimacy of the use of force if it proves to be necessary.
"It also increases the prospect of greater international support for any action whereas jumping the gun, taking military action before the United Nations inspectors have had a chance to report, over a matter of 10 days, not 10 years or 10 months, jumping the gun on that would diminish both of those chances of legitimacy and support"
What these seasoned and wily political manipulators are saying is that even if the case for military intervention was lost by Cameron on the basis of the motion and manner and timing of its presentation, then there is no reason why a 'different' case could not be re-presented later somehow.

Those celebrating prematurely that military intervention has been avoided for good need to understand that a lot of politicians firmly wedded to the US and the special relationship and the 'power' that gives are not going to let something such as democracy get in the way of making the 'right decision'.


Ashdown can be satisfied that Britain may yet get involved.There is a distinct possibility of a second vote. The Spectator columnist Isabel Hardman has argued it may well happen. The idea Miliband was truly defying Washington is almost certainly a 'triumph of hope over experience'.

If Congress does not debate and vote on action until 9 September, there is time for the UN weapons inspectors to report and the UN Security Council to vote. This assumes Congress does approve action (and Obama said he was confident he would get the support, hopefully based on better intelligence than that which led Cameron to be equally confident at the start of this week). But if all of those conditions are met, would the Labour party support action? If they would – and it would be foolish for Cameron to return to the Commons without absolute certainty of Miliband’s support – then the Commons could plausibly see another vote on whether the UK should be involved in the international response to the chemical attacks.
It is worth noting the wording of Ed Miliband’s point of order in the Commons on Thursday night once the defeat had been announced:
‘On a point of order, Mr Speaker. There having been no motion passed by this House tonight, will the Prime Minister confirm to the House that, given the will of the House that has been expressed tonight, he will not use the royal prerogative to order the UK to be part of military action before there has been another vote in the House of Commons?’
Cameron won’t return to Parliament unless he is sure of victory on this issue. But Miliband hasn’t ruled out another vote either
Cameron is going to be hell bent on getting his way and forcing intervention on Britain whether it likes it or not.

Syrian Crisis: On the Usless British 'Stop the War Coalition'.

Thursday's vote by MPs to bar the way to British involvement in a war against Syria is a vindication of the mass anti-war movement in this country over the last decade. Parliamentarians of all parties claimed that they had "learned the lessons of Iraq". Better late than never, of course.
The problem with the Stop the War Coalition is that it is led by the dregs of the hard left who have rigid ideological motives for opposing any war other than those which are against 'imperialism'. The very term 'anti-war' is deeply Orwellian as nobody wants to to be 'pro-war'.

Official dissimulation and spin from governments is as inimical to a democracy as the depressing fact the StWC leadership is less interested in war because it means 'more death' but because it is a great propaganda opportunity to harness in support of its underlying hard left agenda.

Andrew Murray remains a supporter of one of the world's most lethal totalitarian regimes in history the USSR which throughout its brutal and democidal existence brought militarism, the one party state, labour camps, political repression to an apogee and an unwanted empire to Eastern Europe after 1945.

If that had no bearing on the leadership of the StWC or the desire to channel 'outrage' at wars branded as 'liberal intervention' by those for the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars towards 'anti-imperialist' agitation, then the propaganda of the StWC could just be seen as mere populist annoyance at 'warmongering'.

But the fact is that those pursuing wars of 'humanitarian intervention' are not pantomime style villains 'concealing' their 'imperialism' with pleasant sounding words. All Murray has done as a leader in the StWC is demonstrate the spin doctors obsession with framing and fixing the debate.

Take this,
'The "special relationship" and "liberal interventionism" have alike been exposed as preoccupations of the establishment – indeed, only a section of it now – with no democratic mandate underpinning them. The possibility is now open for Britain playing a different role in the world, breaking with the policies and preoccupations of imperialism'.
The US is an imperial power but Britain is not. Moreover, many nations participated in the 'liberal intervention' in Afghanistan for reasons that have never been completely understood. No war is ever only about one thing but much evidence points to most wars since 1990 being resource wars.

Murray hypocritically condemns wars as being only a product of establishment preoccupations and 'imperialism'. But it seems clear most of the liberal interventions were partly about bringing democracy to countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq. These were wars advocated according to enlightened self interest.

No foreign policy ever has an exact 'democratic mandate' as if all people should be given a direct vote on whether war should happen or not. It is also difficult to understand why that is so important to Murray in any case given the StWC leaders have a history of supporting dictatorships.

Yet foreign policies based on 'democracy promotion' are intended to promote democracy and open access to the resources that enable the vast majority of consumers in the West to enjoy their high octane lifestyles. In order to criticise foreign policy one first has to understand what is really at stake.

The myth that military interventions are only 'all about oil' and corporate profit is a comforting one because in means the political elites-or Them-are wholly responsible and those who are not members of an elite would not benefit from stable or falling oil prices and gas.

Many people probably really value the economy more than morality. Where do you think the gas is going to come from ? As North Sea gas depletes, Qatar has become a main supplier to Western economies of LNG. Qatar backs the anti-Assad insurgents as do Saudi Arabia so the West supports them.

If they at least knew the facts, they might change their mind. But that the geopolitics of energy resources and pipeline routes are a major factor in the calculations of the main regional and global players in the Middle East is just not mentionable in front of the children.

The StWC also has no interest in an intelligent consideration of what military interventions are about. It had no clear 'position' on Syria and did not even care much until it seemed possible that Britain might join the US in intervening. As such the StWC had zero influence in the Parliamentary vote on Syria.

That is why Murray is attempting to take the credit for 'stopping the war'. As usual, self important StWC leaders are trying to justify their usefulness as any careerist politician, spin doctor or hack journalist does. There is no chance of averting future conflicts unless people understand how the world actually works.

That means going beyond rant filled embittered diatribes about 'warmongering' and 'hypocrisy' because in some sense unless a person is prepared to live without a car, not fly Easy Jet, never buy out of season fruit or advocate nuclear power then the possibility of conflicts over access to oil and gas resources is set to stay.

As Tolstoy wrote “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” The constant finger jabbing accusations about the 'hypocrisy' on the political elites' as opposed to 'ordinary people' is a common populist one made by those outside the established political system

Anyone can oppose wars whose origins are, in fact, not all identical or reducible to 'our imperialism'. The StWC was set up to 'stop' the 2001 Afghanistan War and, in fact, any war, But the proposed missile strikes, whatever one thinks of them would not amount to a war in themselves.

Murray does not understand the nature of the Syrian Crisis. That becomes quite obvious when
'This is the case in Syria, too, where the crying need is not for more bombing by anybody, but for a concerted drive for a Syrian-based political solution. The starting points have to include the west abandoning its cynical policy of basically prolonging a civil war which it wants neither side to win.'
This is not the situation.

The entire foreign policy of Washington on Syria has been and is about taking sides in the civil war and supporting its allies in Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia who are backing the militias fighting against Assad. The only reason it does not want Assad 'to go' is that Washington fears chaos and Al Qaida.

The intention behind the threat of missile strikes is to convince Assad that he will never win the civil war and to compel him to negotiate from the position of weakness at any forthcoming Geneva Conference. That would ensure, so the idea goes, that more pro-Western members of the SNC take power.

The reason is that the Western powers, primarily the US, France and Britain are strong allies and 'strategic partners' of Qatar and Saudi Arabia who support anti-Assad insurgents absurdly referred to as 'the rebels' against 'the regime'. Qatar supplies a large proportion of LNG to the West.

Iran, of which there is no mention here, is the regional enemy of Saudi Arabia and supports Assad and Hizbollah in the civil war. Washington does not want Iran to extend its influence through Iraq and Syria towards the Mediterranean, not least by building a gas pipeline from the South Pars gas field in the Gulf.

Ultimately, the geopolitical wrangle is crucially about the oil and gas supplies and regional influence. Qatar wants to build a gas pipeline between the same gas field that it shares with Iran. The US does not want Iraq moving towards Tehran through the proposed construction of its pipeline.

It is not possible to have a credible organisation that opposes the drive towards military intervention unless its leading figures understand the nature of these geopolitical struggles. If Britain cannot produce better and more sensible opponents to the drift towards a future of resource wars they will go ahead regardless.

It is lamentable that Murray is the deputy leader of a 'Stop the War' movement with a 'stance' on Syria does not even mention the alleged chemical weapons attack which, if it were proven to have been used by Assad, is the justification being used by Washington for why it should intervene militarily.

The suspicion that Cameron was leading Britain into 'Another Iraq' by preempting the findings of the UN inspectors does not, thereby, mean that the situation is directly the same as Murray is trying to pretend. The spin was similar but the actual situation is hardly 'the same'.
'It is now clear, as indeed it was in 2003, that most people have no wish to embroil Britain militarily in the Middle East, that they want the government to abide by international law and the authority of the UN, and that standing "shoulder to shoulder" with the US come what may has no purchase on their views or feelings.'
Obviously, 'most people' did not want Britain to invade Iraq or to by dragged in to a potential region wide conflict. Nor did they seem to want even the idea of a 'limited' and 'proportionate' response using cruise missiles. But, most of all, neither they nor many MPs thought the evidence was there.

However, the Labour amendment was about, among other considerations and conditions, about waiting for the findings of the UN inspectors. 'Most people' were not convinced of Cameron's case for war and the same id true of Labour, except Miliband did not actually rule out military intervention if CWs were used.

The fact is Murray would have opposed any military strike irrespective of the specific issue of chemical weapons but he does not want to draw attention to that. Even so, unless a person is a complete pacifist ( and nobody who supports the ex-USSR or dictatorship is ) then his stance on CWs is needed.

The reason for this is that no organisation can be a 'Stop the War' coalition' unless it understands what the case for the war they actually want to stop is. Murray nowhere engages in whether the case for intervention is valid or invalid, justified or unjustified. Other leading figures he works with, though, do have views on CWs.

The StWC also has George Galloway MP as a prominent member of a group absurdly termed a 'broad coalition' by Murray. On Iran's Press, TV George Galloway claims 'his theory' is that Israel gave Al Qaida the chemical weapons so that they would use them and bring in the West to destroy Syria.
"If there has been use of chemical weapons, it was al-Qaida. Who gave al-Qaida chemical weapons?...Here's my theory. Israel gave them the chemical weapons..If there has been any use of nerve gas, it is the rebels that used it."
Now this sort of conspiracy theory mongering may well advance Galloway's media career as a left wing shock jock but it discredits sensible opposition to wars that need to be based on evidence and making a strong case against wars on the rationales being given for them.

This includes countering official 'public diplomacy' with another form of misleading propaganda that relies upon distortion, a vision of the US as representing some cosmic power of Evil that can manipulate events to its exclusive and malign will, where protests to 'Stop an Iraq' War have 'stopped' it in Syria.

I have dealt already with this distortion of fact with regards what Washington's foreign policy is and it certainly is not about deliberately and intentionally prolonging a civil war that it has not a great deal of control over. To pretend the US does have control over it is, ironically, to accept the idea the US is omniscient.

This is the basis for the line about 'the West' which is said to be 'basically prolonging' the Syrian Civil War because it 'cynically' wants neither side to win. As this is factually untrue, the cynicism is Murray's because he is simply not interested in the Syrian Civil War for any other reason than to blame the West for it happening.

The reason for this crude propaganda line is that Murray just must 'prove' that the Syrian Civil War is not about sectarian enmities between Shia and Sunni Muslims or ethnic tensions that are present in Syria itself because that might upset the supporters in the Muslim Association of Britain.

So in order to formulate the Correct Public Doctrine, Murray spins the line that the civil war can only be solved politically if 'the West' stops trying to 'prolong' as if that were, in fact, 'Western' policy' without mentioning the fact that it is Saudi Arabia and Qatar and Iran who are backing the rival sides directly.

Using casual phrases such as the West 'basically prolonging' the civil war is a propaganda assumption designed to pathetically keep up the 'Islamophobic West' line ( despite a number of Syrians wanting Western intervention ) and to give the false hope that if protest can stop intervention it stops the problem.

Yet the entire way a very serious matter of war has been hijacked by the same well organised dreary fanatics in the StWC is one obvious reason why there is no intelligent alternative to the ever greater move towards military engagement in volatile oil rich lands or those strategically adjacent to them over the past decade.

Syria: Washington Officially Puts the Case for Military Intervention.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has set forth the case for military intervention. Much of it was based on the assertion that 'we know' Assad carried out a chemical weapon attack on East Ghouta near Damascus and the case for responding has been compiled in a dossier the day before UN inspectors left Syria early

While it seems clear Kerry asserts 'we know' what Assad has done, the actual language of Washington's Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013 does not necessarily bear that out.
'The United States Government assesses with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013'
To 'assess with high confidence' is not the same as to 'support with evidence'. The line is immediately followed with 'We further assess that the regime used a nerve agent in the attack', The agent is not defined. It is repeatedly referred to as 'nerve agent' only.

The next chunk of jargon drenched absurdity comes with the assertion 'These all-source assessments are based on human, signals, and geospatial intelligence as well as a significant body of open source reporting'. It's an amalgam of all the unproven 'evidence' amassed in a mendacious manner.

The test has to come with who provided the sources and who would benefit from them. There is no mention of the sources or where they came from which would suggest that the US does not want a UN discussion on who was exactly responsible because the assumption it is Assad is politically convenient.
'To protect sources and methods, we cannot publicly release all available intelligence – but what follows is an unclassified summary of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s analysis of what took place.'
In which case, the repeated use of the word 'assess' is irrelevant. It really means that the US is judging rather than assessing because any objective assessment would depend on evidence beyond social media videos and accepting the initial casualty figure of 1,400 deaths put forth by the opposition.

This is confirmed by the following statement,
'In addition to U.S. intelligence information, there are accounts from international and Syrian medical personnel; videos; witness accounts; thousands of social media reports from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area; journalist accounts'.
The US government needs to footnote the sources so that they can be investigated by objective observers. Without this the 'assessment' could be that this is disparate evidence rolled into a seamless unity in order to act as a pretext for an intervention that the US and 'rebels' wanted.

The 'assessment' goes on,
'A preliminary U.S. government assessment determined that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical weapons attack, including at least 426 children, though this assessment will certainly evolve as we obtain more information'.
The 'assessment' is preliminary and tends towards the conclusion that the US has assumed the initial total of deaths is the same as that offered by the FSA estimates when news of the attack was first released into the international media. The rest of the 'assessment' is not conclusive sourced evidence.

It reads as though US government has determined what the assessment shall be in the manner that 'public diplomacy' does in framing the assessment to fit in with a policy of coercion that is deemed by Washington to be in the USA's national interests.

Syrian Crisis: Labour Was Not Opposed In Principle to Military Intervention.

A sense of reality is needed by those understandably praising Ed Miliband. The opposition leader  was not against military intervention but saw that Cameron and Hague were indeed evidently rushing Britain towards war and played the game he had to play well should the government reject his call to pursue diplomacy further

Jack Straw, the former British Foreign Secretary at the time of Blair's decision to 'stand shoulder to shoulder' with GW Bush and his invasion of Iraq, is now trying to spin the line that Labour's opposition to the government motion, defeated in Parliament, was not about rejecting the "Special Relationship" with the USA.
'That a legislative assembly occasionally rejects a recommendation from the executive will come as no surprise, least of all in Washington. That's almost the norm in US politics – even when the president and the congressional majorities are from the same party.'
But this has not happened on a foreign policy issue such as a decision to go to war for a long time, some historians have said since the mid-nineteenth century or even as far back as 1782. To downplay the significance of this in order to try remain onside with Washington is Straw's gambit.
'Labour's amendment last night was designed to fill that void, to set out a process for taking a clear decision on military action, on evidence. The government could, and should, have accepted it, and Cameron would have enjoyed a brighter morning if he had.'
So accepting the amendment which would have made the case for military intervention proceed more smoothly and still without any definite guarantee that if the UN inspectors did not find sufficient evidence, then there could be 'compelling evidence' provided from elsewhere, such as Washington.

As it happens, the rejection of both the government motion and the amendment is good because it prevents any decision being taken on the issue of chemical weapons alone irrespective of what the UN inspectors find. Both political party leaderships were confronting each other over the framing of the case for military intervention.

If missile strikes from the US and France take place with Arab League backing  ( which is unlikely ) and diplomatic support from Britain in trying to get the legal pretext organised after the UN inspectors present their findings, there is no certainty that a new way of advocating British involvement could not be found.

However, Straw touched on one apparent difference between the opposition and the government
'To achieve such a ( political ) settlement we need greater engagement with both Russia and – especially given the opportunity presented by the election of the new president, Hassan Rouhani – with Iran. Diplomatic endeavours are afoot to set out a political roadmap for peace in Syria.'
Yet greater diplomatic engagement was needed with Russia and Iran long ago in order to bring about a political settlement. But that was made on the precondition at any Geneva Conference that Assad and his supporters would step down in favour of a new regime with the 'rebel' leaders.

This precondition was a continuity in Washington's foreign policy from the time of Hillary Clinton and the demand 'Assad must go' through to June 2013 when the leaders of the Syrian National Council scuppered talks because they would not negotiate with Assad unless he agreed to capitulate.

The coercive measures being put forth now in the form of missile strikes from the US and France are in continuity with the policy of pressurising Assad that he must step down on their and the Syrian National Council's terms only. That basically means Labour is either for Washington's policy or it is not.

In reality, Miliband was against the specific case being made by Cameron and not against Washington's policy on Syria so far. In the coming days we shall see whether he is prepared to criticise US policy should the missile strikes cause dangerous consequences.