Friday, 29 March 2013

A Tale of Two Pipelines Part II

Global media now consists of mutual partisanships where objective journalism is becoming increasingly more scarce. Simon Tisdall, the Guardian's "World Correspondent", seldom seems to break out of repeating what is Western government "Public Diplomacy" as opposed to working out what the contending sides interests are in global conflicts.

Today he opines,
"The US is urging alternative energy solutions on Islamabad, including a notional and, given the security issues involved, rather fanciful plan for a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to India via Afghanistan and Pakistan",

The name for it is the TAPI Pipeline and it has been consistently the option the US is trying to force Pakistan to accept over the rival IP Pipeline. Tisdall completely omits the centrality of this project in the determination of NATO to "stay the course" in Afghanistan.

The TAPI Pipeline was termed "The New Silk Route" by Hilary Clinton. It is a prime war objective in Afghanistan that is routinely omitted from Western media discussion , including The Guardian. As it seems to undermine the "Public Diplomacy" that the war is about "humanitarian intervention".

The problem with Western geostrategy in Afghanistan is that building this alternative to the IP Pipeline is obviously hampered by Taliban guerrilla activity in areas such as Helmland through which TAPI would have to pass ( it has to skirt around the Afghan mountain ranges).

The reason Zadari is resisting US pressure is due to the fact that gas from the IP pipeline is four times cheaper than via the TAPI Pipeline and he has to react to the reality that Pakistan has recently suffered from numerous energy blackouts several times a day.

This reality is the pressing one that Pakistan has to deal with, so it is not a reaction based on simple "Anti-Americanism". The hostility to the USA come from its energy interests taking second place to the US strategy of encircling and hemming in Iranian regional ambitions.

The idea that US and British troops will be "withdrawn" in 2014, which Tisdall repeats as if mere fact, is not factual. Public Diplomacy noe emphasises troop "drawdown", which means troops will remain in substantial numbers after 2014.

The British public has been routinely told half truths about the Afghanistan War. The major war objective was and always has been strongly about the benefits of the TAPI Pipeline. This was discussed in detail by Lutz Klevemann in his The New Great Game.

While the Taliban where prepared to host Al Qaida, the war in Afghanistan, which has now fanned across the porous borders with northern Pakistan, the war was about removing Bin Laden and his terrorists. But the recent move by the US to do a deal with the Taliban proves two things.

Firstly, the war was only partly about removing Al Qaida. Before that in the 1990s it was also US geostrategy to to a deal with the Taliban in order to facilitate the building of the pipeline. The attacks of 9/11 meant the Taliban were no longer regional allies ( they were also conveniently anti-Iranian )

Secondly, the Afghanistan War was only concerned with "humanitarian intervention" as part of a doctrine of "liberal interventionism" ( believed in by armchair advocates with no grasp of geopolitics ) as a secondary aim. It was a rationalisation for the "infrastructure projects" ( i.e the TAPI Pipeline ).

Anatol Lieven has commented in the Pakistani Times ( where information on what these wars are really about ) that NATO will not withdraw by 2014. So the war will continue apace, not least with this deal between Iran and Pakistan over the IP Pipeline.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Real Journalism on the Syrian Civil War

With those hapless mere politicians PM Cameron and William Hague playing at being global "statesmen" ,when really being little more than oily proponents of "Public Diplomacy" , they might wish to inform themselves of the real state of affairs on the ground in Syria beforeconsidering  lifting the arms embargo in the EU and uncritically backing the Washington line on Syria.

Patrick Cockburn's Independent article is instructive to those for who these civil wars are messy an complex.Cockburn writes,

'It is one of the most horrifying videos of the war in Syria. It shows two men being beheaded by Syrian rebels, one of them by a child. He hacks with a machete at the neck of a middle-aged man who has been forced to lie in the street with his head on a concrete block. At the end of the film, a soldier, apparently from the Free Syrian Army, holds up the severed heads by their hair in triumph.

The film is being widely watched on YouTube by Syrians, reinforcing their fears that Syria is imitating Iraq's descent into murderous warfare in the years after the US invasion in 2003. It fosters a belief among Syria's non-Sunni Muslim minorities, and Sunnis associated with the government as soldiers or civil servants, that there will be no safe future for them in Syria if the rebels win. In one version of the video, several of which are circulating, the men who are beheaded are identified as officers belonging to the 2.5 million-strong Alawite community. This is the Shia sect to which President Bashar al-Assad and core members of his regime belong. The beheadings, so proudly filmed by the perpetrators, may well convince them that they have no alternative but to fight to the end.

The video underlines a startling contradiction in the policy of the US and its allies. In the past week, 130 countries have recognised the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people. But, at the same time, the US has denounced the al-Nusra Front, the most effective fighting force of the rebels, as being terrorists and an al-Qa'ida affiliate. Paradoxically, the US makes almost exactly same allegations of terrorism against al-Nusra as does the Syrian government. Even more bizarrely, though so many states now recognise the National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, it is unclear if the rebels inside Syria do so. Angry crowds in rebel-held areas of northern Syria on Friday chanted "we are all al-Nusra" as they demonstrated against the US decision.

The Syrian uprising, which began in March 2011, was not always so bloodthirsty or so dominated by the Sunnis who make up 70 per cent of the 23 million-strong Syrian population. At first, demonstrations were peaceful and the central demands of the protesters were for democratic rule and human rights as opposed to a violent, arbitrary and autocratic government. There are Syrians who claim that the people against the regime remains to this day the central feature of the uprising, but there is compelling evidence that the movement has slid towards sectarian Islamic fundamentalism intent on waging holy war.

Why there will be no Withdrawal of US and British troops from Afghanistan

Language is instructive. While politicians once, in the face of heavy British troop losses in Afghanistan, claimed there would be a "withdrawal" by 2014, the jargon term now being frequently used is a "drawdown" of troops. In fact, as Anatol Lieven has asserted, there will be no withdrawal from Afghanistan, the eastern front in the New Great Game to control Central Asia.

Lieven states,

“The US is not withdrawing from Afghanistan and 2014 is not really a cutoff date,” was the emphatic announcement with which Lieven began the 45-minute-long talk. “The US continues to feel threatened by Taliban because of which it will continue to retain bases and military advisors for the Afghan government. However, they have learnt to accept what is happening on the ground in Afghanistan as they were responsible for choosing the country’s administration.”

Without beating around the bush, Lieven summed up the main reason preventing the US from making a clean exit from Afghanistan – “America does not have an exit strategy.

They haven’t formulated any plan about how they will handle the next year’s presidential elections in Afghanistan either.” Lieven explained that at times, people express the fear of a civil war breaking out in Afghanistan if the Americans left. “What do you think is happening right now,” he asked. “Afghanistan has been in a state of civil war since long before the Soviets withdrew from it.”

So the War in Afghanistan will drag on for much longer. Lieven, however, tends not to emphasise the energy geopolitics behind the Fourth Afghan War-the benefits of getting the TAPI Pipeline constructed as a means of diverting Pakistan away from relying on the alternative IP Pipeline that is a popular option with a land subject to constant energy blackouts.

Evidence of the US Covertly Arming Insurgents in Syria.

'Anonymous American officials have told The Associated Press that there is an ongoing effort to train “secular Syrian fighters in Jordan” and aiding so-called “moderates” in the rebel forces trying to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“The training has been taking place since late last year at an unspecified location, concentrating largely on Sunnis and tribal Bedouins who formerly served as members of the Syrian army,” according to The Associated Press. The trainees are not current members of the Free Syrian Army, officials said, because the US “fear[s] the growing role of extremist militia groups in the rebel ranks, including some linked to al-Qaida.”

The military training has coincided with a sharp increase in the CIA’s effort to coordinate the delivery of weapons to Syria’s rebels from countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and others. This, despite the Obama administration’s continuing claims to stop short of directly arming the rebels.

While Washington claims its efforts are meant to stem the rise of Islamic extremists in the rebel forces, some with links to al-Qaeda, their ability to properly vet rebels is extremely limited and has failed in the past, according to intelligence officials.

In October, The New York Times published an article confirming that, “Most of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply Syrian rebel groups fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad are going to hard-line Islamic jihadists,” despite so-called vetting processes by the US'.

Writes John Glaser an AntiWar. The move by Cameron of Britain and Hollande of France to arm the insurgents in Syria could easily lead arms to fall into the wrong hands. i'e that of jihadists sponsored by Saudi Arabia in its attempt to remove it's rivel Iran's main ally in the Middle East. Read the rest of the piece here

Covert Arms Operations from Bosnia to Syria.

On Syria, radical journalist Neil Clark has commented back in 2012,

'The only way we can have a peaceful solution to this is if the Western powers and countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia say to the rebels “look, stop,” and stop supplying them with arms.

But unfortunately the stakes are so high here, because what happens in Syria is of enormous global importance, because the West wants this regime to go. They want a pro-Western regime that will come in, that will be more pro-Israel, that will be anti-Iranian, and that would prepare the way for an attack on Iran. So the stakes are incredibly high here. And unfortunately I don’t see the West backing down here. I think, unfortunately, we are going to get more and more aggressive behavior from the West, more and more backing the rebels

The continuities in Western foreign policy also lie in the use of CIA operatives to funnel arms to the "rebels", who would otherwise be termed "insurgents" or even, in the case of some of the militias, "terrorists" if they were fighting in Iraq on sectarian/ethnic lines ( against one another and not Saddam ).

The covert policy of channelling arms, as well as tacitly allowing British born jihadists to go and fight our proxy war in Syria, is a pure example of Orwellian doublethink. Arms are being diverted by covert forces from the Balkans through Turkey into Syria. That was done in order to topple the regime in Baku in 1993 and jihadists were deployed by US in Bosnia and Serbia.

The catastrophic result may well not merely be the possibility for a conflagration of war across the Middle East but also the "blowback" of British born jihadists returning to Britain and with the potential to cause terrorist atrocities as emphasised by historian Michael Burleigh, though it's a pity he tends to overlook the evidence whereby jihadists are used to advance our geopolitcal interests.

As Burleigh wrote, Dewsbury to Damascus: The danger of young British Muslims learning to wage Jihad in Syria,

 'All it takes is a cheap air ticket to Turkey, and then a ride over the border into northern Syria. That is the route being taken by British-based jihadists from London and the Midlands, who are making their presence felt in the fight against Assad.

Mediocre politicians playing at being "global statemen" such as William Hague need to return to a more realistic and pragmatic foreign policy and stop uncritically following the top down revolutionary strategies that the world's remain superpower is trying to foist on the area.

If British foreign policy is riddled with contradictions it is between the post colonial guit over the condition of the Middle Eastern settlement created after 18 in the wake of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and the greedy for resources which, alas, our wasteful consumer economies depend upon

Why the the Stop the War Coalition is a Fraud: Thoughts on the Response to the Syrian Civil War.

Given that conflicts across the globe often have complex origins, one of the besetting mental vices of progressive politicians in the West has been the tendency to believe that "humanitarian intervention" ( military action ) in nations from Afghanistan to Iraq and Libya can make the situation better rather than worse.

The additionally unfortunate fact is that groups that are supposedly claim to be maintaining an organised opposition to such military adventures consist of a narrow coterie of propagandists and ideologues. The Stop the War Coalition is just such a group think a simplistically anti-Western line somehow adds up to a coherent opposition.

Of course, the StWC is not one coherent organisation. It is, as the name suggests, a "coalition" of people who claim to be anti-war. The main thing their leading lights and members all have in common is that they are broadly "anti-imperialist". But this has often not turned out to be quite the case in practice.

For some leading formerly associated with showing admiration and sympathy for the Soviet Union, the largest Land Empire in history until it collapsed in 1991. George Galloway, a current Vice President called the end of the Soviet Union "the saddest day of his life". Well, he must have had a limited experience of life beyond his bleak and emotive viseral political rants.

Andrew Murray, who was the Chairman until 2011, was a card carrying member of the British Communist Party. By advocating a "Stop the War" they believe they are halting Western Imperialism and by "the West" it is largely the USA, and any nations that side with it. But he seems to be a rather simple minded ideologue with a sense of overinflated self importance.

Consequently, in the light of the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War since October 2011, the StWC has had problems in trying to "take a position" or "a stance" on a situation where Arab revolutionary militias  have sought to overthrow President Assad's dictatorship because it was never backed by the West.

In a very botched and confused way the Guardian's Jonathan Freedland attempted to criticise the StWC on these lines. Freedland claimed that the STWC were only interested in Arab casualties when the West could be blamed but had nothing to offer on Assad's forces slaughtering civilians.This was because there was no Western intervention in Syria.

This led StWC's Lindsey German to opine,

"Contrary to Freedland's claims that western intervention is nigh on impossible, the west and its supporters – Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar – are already directly intervening, providing arms and other military support"

This is not quite factually correct. The USA and Britain ( which is not "the West"-is Germany part of this policy of intervention) is not directly providing arms. It is Saudi Arabia and Qatar that are doing that as part of their proxy struggle against Iran. Whilst the US and Britain does nothing to prevent that it is untrue that it directly supplies arms as tet.

So whilst that foreign policy entails a tacit backing for a Saudi regime which has an undoubtedly far worse human rights record than Iran, that Saudi policy reflects its own geopolitical enmity towards Iran and less something "directly" created by "the West". The conflicts have their own long standing historical origins.

German goes on to write,

'The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya were all portrayedas helping the peoples of those countries. They have caused untold misery and extremely high death tolls. Stop the War campaigns to prevent the people of Syria suffering the same fate'

The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq clearly made things worse. Yet if the STWC is to vaunt its "internationalist" stance, it can not ascribe the violence in Syria wholly to "Western intervention". For a start, the USA is not responsible for what Assad has done to his people: these conflicts have their own sectarian and ethnic origins prior to US involvement in the Middle East.

The regional realities of the Middle East have a dynamic of their own that exists independently of Britain and the USA.This is not something that comes out in what can only be termed the crude propaganda of the StWC which comes across as the ourpouring of those sorts of anorak clad neurotics who have most like frustrating jobs in high schools.

There are plenty of intelligent criticisms of the futility of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq that do not dovetail with the hard left totalitarian school of cliched agitprop positions advocated by Murray and German. The most formibible comes from writers and intellectuals such as John Gray in his Black Mass

German moans "Freedland is wrong to say that Stop the War is "not active on Syria". We have held a number of public meetings and demonstrations on Syria and Iran, including a well attended fringe meeting at the Labour party conference which he seems to have overlooked". Well since they know little about the conflict who cares about what one hack thinks of another hack propagandist?

Anyway, hat does not add up to any position on Syria that takes into account the dynamics of the conflict as it is in Syria. The standard reflex of fitting the facts to fit a position already decided upon. That we shall go against any faction or movement in Syria that the USA could see as serving its interests ( i.e removing Assad ) if it benefits the USA

It is clear that Clinton and Hague's foreign policy is both messianic and bungling, calling for "Assad to go" ( effectively meaning "regime change" ) whilst threatening Russia and China that they will "pay a price" for not backing a policy of removing Assad, as is presumed to be the 'democratic will of the Syrian people'.

Yet the StWC offer nothing but platitudes and slogans on Syria as it is simply not interested in the fate of Syrians. That is fine if an isolationist stance is being taken in the way some anti-war conservatives do on the principle that it is a matter of indifference whether one group of foreigners slaughters another in a far off place.

But German does not take that line. She was at pains to deny that the StWC had been "active on Syria".

But the StWC theme is against western intervention in those countries, rather than taking a position about what is happening domestically. We take the view that it is for Syrians to decide what happens in Syria.

Yet if a military intervention is purely hypothetical, then the claim that Syrians can decide what happens in Syria amounts only amount to copping out of actually having any opinion on the crisis in Syria. In which case, until Britain does actively intervene, they should just be quit and try to learn some history.

The problem that SWP ideologues such as German are going to have with trying to "take a position" on Syria is that President Assad and his regime is Allawite and against the sunni Muslim Brotherhood. Yet the Muslim Brotherhood has been anti-imperialist elsewhere and supported by the SWP.

In turn, the SWP via the StWC and Respect ( at least until 2007 when it split from Galloway ) have all aligned themselves in solidarity with Hizbollah's struggle against Israel. Unfortunately for the Party Line, it gets complicated as Hizbollah is an ally of Iran which is supported by Assad's Syria.The absurdity is manifest in these muddled headed diatribes.

The Galloway line was always tripe anyway. For the Leader of the "Bradford Spring" is a great admirer of Colonel Nasser of Egypt and yet courted British Islamists ( including the MAB ) who were favourable to the Muslim Brotherhood which Nasser had crushed in 1966 having executed leading members.

If British foreign policy is going to be criticised ( as it must for the follies, errors and bungling idiocy of it as regards Afghanista, the "War on Terror" and Iraq ) it should come, at least, come from organised groups of intelligent critics as opposed ot cranks, pinheads, fanatics, zealots and platform demagogues.

German writes 'Their interests are hardly humanitarian...' This is hypocritical coming from someone who lauds the liberating role played by Leon Trotsky in the Russian Revolution. and who himself condemned the "slug humanitarianism' of Western liberals and those who rejected the possibility that any Workers Opposition in Russia could now remove Stalin's consolidated dictatorship.

So can German fails to explain how criticising the Western Powers for their lack of humanitarianism dovetails with the SWP venerating Leon Trotsky, a commissar responsible for mass bloodshed, eulogising terror, savagely crushing independent bloodshed, eulogising terror, savagely crushing independent workers organisations and helping to found the world's first totalitarian state.

When the StWC jettisons ideologues and cranks who are terminally incapable of admitting the Bolshevik Revolution was a a total catastrophe, and drops this doublethink version of "imperialism" in looking at the world simplistically in accordance with whether rebellions are 'objectively' pro-US or not, more might listen.

Britain stands in need of what AJP Taylor once termed The Troublemakers, those who challenged Establishment Foreign policy. But the opposition has to be based not on a one dimensional hatred of the USA as if that alone were the only basis for forming any sort of opinion about international relations.

Regrettably, only the cranks have a prominent platform to criticise British foreign policy, at least as far as organised protest movements are concerned. It is to be hoped a new generation of principled opponents to foreign misdaventures can emerge. These people, to borrow their hero's phrase, should be dumped in the "dustbin of history"

On Syria and Western Military Intervention

Despite the appalling loss of 70,000 lives in the Syrain Civil War, it is important to eschew the rhetoric of humanitarian intervention  in explaining how the the causes of the conflict have been escalated by the Great Powers. No external Power comes out of this civil war with clean hands. Yet the US, Britain and France are set to make things worse.

The decision by Britain under PM Cameron and President Hollande to advocate lifting the EU embargo on arms to support the Free Syria Army is yet another bungled and incompetent foreign policy initiative. But there is a longer term messianic logic behind it as with the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

If, as is claimed, Russia and Iran are arming Assad (and where is the concrete evidence of Russia currently arming the Syrian leader ? ) , then Britain and France, by arming the "rebels" officially would, logically, only justify the other backers of Assad arming him more effectively. China and Russia are simply not going to be sidelined on Syria

Arming the Free Syrian Army will only lead to even more civilian casualties as predicted by Amnesty International. This is all about geopolitics and tilting the balance of power in the Middle East away from Iran. It has nothing to do with "humanitarian intervention". Broader Great Power interests are being calculated.

Syria is one of the 'dominos' that was meant to fall on the removal of Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime in 2003. The notion, supported by neoconservative politicians and 'think tanks', would be that a successful restoration of a oil producing state adjacent to Syria would stimulate reform in its neighbour.

The removal of the Assad regime is a foreign policy continuation of the remodeling of the Middle East to accord with Western oil concerns are control of strategic resources. As the Iraq War backfired and empowered the Shia and led to Chinese control over oil fields, Iran is the target now as it controls one third of the globes gas.

The Great Power game being played by the West in Syria is designed to break the arc of power exercised by Iran through Iraq, Syria and thence to Hezbollah into Lebanon. To take out Assad would diminish Hezbollah's power and supplies of arms from Iran via Syria. As well as buttressing the power of Israel in the Middle East.

From the east, the pressure being put on Pakistan by US diplomats such as Richard Olsen not to go ahead with co-operating with Iran on the IP pipeline dovetails with the protracted NATO effort in Afghanistan to secure the route for the rival TAPI Pipeline route. Which is the unstated, yet factual basis, for the war there.

The overarching strategy to encircle and degrade the Iranian economy to the point where domestic discontent provided the material for a revolution against what is crudely referred to as a theocratic dictatorship when it is a "theodemocracy", an illiberal democracy but not a totalitarian state and with the capacity to reform into a more benign power.

The drive to arm the Free Syria Army is about destroying Iran in its having any regional interests in the Middle East and, ultimately, prizing it open for "regime change" and privatisation control of its resources by the West. This is the ultimate geopolitical game plan for Washington, London and Paris.Already former Iranian terrorist organisations are being rebranded as US backed freedom fighters.

Yet, as Lutz Kleveman emphasised in The New Great Game, even moderate Iranians opposing the rule of the mullahs, do not want US meddling in their internal affairs as they remember the 1953 coup against a democratically elected government organised by the USA. Iranians have a proud history of independence as Persians as opposed to artificially carved out Aran statelets.

For Iran, greater freedom is bound up with sovereignty and its national interests. With it's history as Persia, a regional Great Power, not even the removal of the Islamist government would change it's fundamental interests that are at odd with the West's overdependence upon oil and gas. With or without the Ayatollah's in power, it will not surrender control over strategic resources.

Since Hillary Clinton claimed Russia was arming the Assad regime, there has been a creeping propaganda towards supposedly matching this supposed regular supply of arms ( where is the evidence Russia is currently arming the Assad regime ?) . It has done since the Cold War but no arms have been shipped to Assad's regime during the Civil War.

By arming the insurgents, that could actually ignite a greater conflict of interests with Russia and China which oppose the strategy of tilting the balance of power in the Middle East away from Iran and leaving the gateway open for Western domination of Central Asia-which is what the New Great Game is all about

This has been a foreign policy continuity in the USA since the Carter Doctrine of 1980 and was influenced by Zbigniew Brzezinski who believed that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1978 and the Iranian Revolution were a direct threat to US control over the oil supply routes from the Persian Gulf.

It could well lead to both sides arming their proxy forces and ,along with the protracted break up of Syria along ethnic and sectarian lines, create a "Balkanisation" effect in the Middle East, After all, the cockpit of conflict lies in the southernmost lands of the Ottoman Empire carved out after the end of World War One in 1918

Comparisons with the Spanish Civil War are simply fallacious, though they appeal to those wanting an ideological battleground between liberation fighters and a national sococialt ( Baathist ) dictatorship. That suits to sort of delusional remoulding of reality that often accompanies that slipper concept of "Democratic Geopolitics"

The contemporary crisis in Syria and the will to contend battle over control of the oil and gas supply routes is more reminiscent of the run up to war in 1914.And it is worrying for those who know their history. Should Syria descend into greater violence and foreign involvement, the result could be catastrophic.

Western Foreign Policy on Syria-Continuity over "Contradictions"

Journalist Clare Ridley has written The Guardian

..."the tragedy of Syria lies as much in the fragility of the coalition supporting the rebels as in the inconclusiveness of the rebels' own political and military battles. Since the Russian and Chinese vetoes at the UN in early 2011, there has been no single "international community" voice on Syria"

First, in response to this, many of the rag bag militias are actually better termed 'insurgents' just as they were in Iraq were they were fighting the US installed Iraqi government or, as the country descended into chaos, other rival sectarian militias, either sunni or shia.

The secondly,  "the international community" has operated as a term for the USA, Britain and France whose Great Power ambitions for the Middle East have from the outset included demanding "regime change" in Syria as opposed to a negotiated settlement.

The foreign policy of the US and Britain may appear to be "riddled with contradictions". Yet , in fact, it is the continuities in foreign polict strecthing back to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 that are more apparent than the idea the West is now dithering over Syria.

so called "diplomacy" regarding Syria is all about about a broader geopolitical strategy and tilting the balance of power in the Middle East away from Iran. It has nothing to do with "humanitarian intervention". Broader Power interests are being calculated.

Syria is one of the dominos that was meant to fall on the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003. The notion, supported by neoconservative politicians and think tank "experts". would be that a succesful resoration of a oil producing state adjacent to Syria would ramp up reform there.

The removal of the Assad regime is foreign policy continuation designed to break the arc of power exercised by Iran through a Shia dominated Iraq, its ally Syria and through Hezbollah into Lebanon. To take out Assad would diminish Hizbollah's power and supplies of arms from Iran via Syria.

Even before the push to life the EU arms embargo on supply of lethal weapons to Syria, the US had granted $60 of "non lethal aid" to promote the "rebel" cause to make it popular amongst ordinary civilians who are not necessarily more supportive of the "rebels" than the Assad regime.

As John Laughland has written,

'the ordinary Syrian population is suffering very greatly from this opposition, from this so-called liberation. These paramilitary groups cannot provide any basic services, they are not the state. They don’t run hospitals, they don’t run the police, they don’t run the water supply and so on. People are fleeing from the areas where these rebels are located. So as I say, this is an attempt to prop an opposition which is failing on its own terms. It’s an attempt to make it popular among the civilian population. And I am sure that many Syrians who watched the meeting in Rome, and who have seen al-Khatib and many others hobnobbing with John Kerry will draw the conclusion that the opposition is a Western puppet, and that will surely not be good for its image back home in Syria'
Far from "hand wringing" the policy towards Syria fits into a remodelling the Middle East according to Western energy security. For by removing Assad, Iran's regional ambitions would be severely curtailed to the West. And the strategy fits in with the policy to the east of Iran too.

From the east, the pressure being put on Pakistan by US diplomats not to go ahead with co-operating with Iran on the IP pipeline dovetails with the protracted NATO effort in Afghanistan to secure the route for the rival TAPI Pipeline route ( the unstated war aim of the US & Britain in Afghanistan )

By installing a pro-US Syrian government no matter what the humanitarian cost, Iran will be effecively encircled on both sides by US military presence, an aim that goes back to the Carter Doctrine of 1980s about removing potential threats to the supply of oil through the Persian Gulf.

By blocking off lucrative Iranian gas exports east to Pakistan, the overarching strategy to encircle and degrade the Iran economy to the point where domestic discontent provide the material for a a revolution against what is simplistically referred to as a 'theocratic dictatorship' .

The drive to arm the Free Syria Army is about destroying Iran as having any regional interests in the Middle Est and, ultimately, prizing it open for regime change. This is the ultimate geopolitical game plan from Washington, London and Paris-control of the oil and gas supply routes in Central Asia.

The West's foreign policy is hence not "riddled with inconsistencies" when the broader geostrategical context is understood. This is part of the New Great Game for the oil and gas resources of Central Asia. And it's a messianic strategy that could ignite and trigger off even more war and carnage.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

A Tale of Two Pipelines and Pakistan's Geopolitical Significance

A report for The Australian ( Pakistan risks wrath of US in pipeline push ) contains much illuminating information on the geopolitical stakes in the New Great Game over pipeline routes and the contest for the oil and gas of Eurasia.

The reason NATO has "stayed the course" in neighbouring Afghanistan, and why western special forces and advisers will remain after what is now called in public diplomacy troop "drawdown" as opposed to withdrawal, is that it needs to ensure the potential viability of the TAPI pipeline.

Pakistan is facing several energy blackouts per day and is heavily dependent upon gas. As demand grows on the Indian subcontinent, the supply has to come either from Iran via the IP pipeline or Turkmenistan via TAPI.

Consequently, President Asif Ali Zardari has decided to finalise an agreement with Iran that has annoyed the US which has consistently put pressure on Pakistan to only accept future gas supplies via Afghanistan.

The report states,

'Nobody has the power to halt this project,” President Zardari said this week, adding Pakistan had a sovereign right to tackle its energy crisis however it saw fit.

It was a terse - and no doubt electorally popular - response to the latest round of warnings from the US State Department that the pipeline violated US sanctions against Iran (designed to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons development) and could bring punishing consequences for Pakistan.

Four days after Monday’s ceremony Zardari is tipped to dissolve parliament and appoint a caretaker government in preparation for national polls, thereby absolving his administration of responsibility for ensuring pipeline work continues.

Yet Pakistan’s energy crisis is real and the Iran gas project has widespread public and political support, notwithstanding Washington’s threats of economic sanctions.

The US seems oddly bemused by Pakistan’s pursuit of the pipeline, despite the political and economic crisis the country faces as a result of its critical energy shortfall.

Residents suffer an average six hours of power cuts a day, often more during Pakistan’s bitter winters and searing summers. The shortages routinely drive thousands of protestors onto the streets.
US ambassador to Islamabad Richard Olson did his best this week to put a positive spin on the intense pressure Washington is putting on Pakistan to pull out of the so-called Peace Pipeline, so named because it was originally to extend into India.

New Delhi quit the project in 2009, a sacrifice sweetened by the US civilian nuclear materials supply deal with India that violated a previously strictly-observed ban on the sale of nuclear materials to nations outside the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. (India continues to buy oil from Iran).

A similar nuclear deal with Pakistan is not an option for the US, which is still seeking access to Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan over the sale of nuclear technology and materials during the 1990s to Libya and, it is strongly suspected, Iran, which is believed to be close to developing its own nuclear arsenal.

At a press conference this week Ambassador Olsen pointed to the millions of US dollars being spent to rehabilitate hydroelectric power projects in Pakistan, which he said would add an extra 900 megawatts of power by the end of this year and plug 20 per cent of existing energy shortfalls.

But the US projects cannot compete with the Peace Pipeline which is expected to deliver 21.5 million cubic metres of natural gas to Pakistan every day by mid-2015.

Pakistan relies heavily on natural gas not just for energy but also motor vehicles, and the Iran project would go a lot further towards meeting its massive energy shortfall and turning around its moribund economy.

The US has also been working hard to lure Pakistani into an alternative Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, bypassing Iran. But even the most optimistic observers put its completion date at around 2018.

And TAPI will be every bit as vulnerable to security issues as the Peace Pipeline which will run through Balochistan, a province plagued with rising sectarian and separatist violence.

Many in Pakistan believe recent, large-scale attacks on Shiite Muslims, particularly in Balochistan’s Quetta City, are sponsored by Wahabist Sunni Muslim elements in Saudia Arabia that hope to derail the pipeline and prevent Shiite Iran from profiting from the deal.

But Iran has already completed its side of the pipeline and, if work goes as planned, Pakistan’s section is scheduled for completion in just 15 months.

Despite Pakistan’s defiant tone, not everyone believes the pipeline will go ahead.

British think tank Chatham House’s senior energy research fellow Paul Stephens, who has tracked the proposed project’s shifting fortunes over almost two decades, rates its likely completion as “extremely low”.

“The Pakistanis are under huge pressure not to go ahead with this. I find it inconceivable in the current circumstances the pipeline would go ahead,” he told The Weekend Australian, citing supply problems in sanction-hit Iran as an extra obstacle.

Many regional analysts disagree and say the US will cannot risk upsetting Pakistan, which provides the US and Nato’s main military supply route into Afghanistan and, more crucially, a key exit path for equipment ahead of the December 2014 withdrawal.

“It would be inconceivable (the US will impose sanctions on Pakistan) and that’s the calculation Mr Zardari has made,” says Imran Ahmad Khan, a British Pakistani strategist and director of the Transnational Crisis Group.

“It would be monumentally stupid of the US to take any action that would further inflame anti-US feeling.”

Beyond Pakistan’s immediate need for energy, the obvious geostrategic benefits from the Iran deal, which will cement regional alliances with China, Russia and Iran at a time when the US is preparing to exit the region, is an undeniable motivator.

Pakistan wants its Gwadar Port to become a regional hydrocarbon transit hub and the proposed gas pipeline and oil refinery will help realise that ambition.

The deal offers an energy and trade corridor that would connect China to the Arabian Sea and Strait of Hormuz, a gateway for a third of the world’s traded oil, and significantly reduce the distance oil and gas imports must travel from Africa and the Middle East to China.

Announcing China’s lease agreement for the Gwadar port last month President Zardari said the port “gives new impetus to Pakistan-China relations”.

“I have a strong feeling it will be very, very difficult to take Pakistan out of this deal,” says Islamabad-based energy expert Abdul Hameed Nayyar.

“Pakistan sees sanctions as something that come and go but if it doesn’t pursue this deal it stands to lose a lot more.”

Iraq and Blair Ten Years On

On the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, Tony Blair is still trying to justify his decision to join George W Bush in what proved to be the most disastrous foreign policy decision in recent British history.

More concerned with his place in History than the Blair's spurious grasp of events merely seems to be a concocted series of 'what ifs' and prely hypothetical conjecture. He stated on Iraq,

“If we hadn’t removed Saddam from power just think, for example, what would be happening if these Arab revolutions were continuing now and Saddam, who’s probably 20 times as bad as Assad in Syria, was trying to suppress an uprising in Iraq. Think of the consequences of leaving that regime in power".

It's amazing how Blair has a clairvoyant talent to know what "would have" happened if he "hadn't" invaded. It may help him to sleep a bit better at night but it is not persuasive as an argument to anyone who isn't Blair or a fanatic acolyte of this deranged creature.

Not least if you lie to yourself about the sum total of dead being 100,000 as opposed to the real figure which is about 600,000 or even over 1 million dead according to the peer reviewed Lancet Report. And then ignore real statistical facts by conjuring up one about Saddam being '20 times' worse than Assad.

'I’ve long since given up in trying to persuade people it was the right decision. In a sense what I try to persuade people of now is to understand how complex and difficult a decision it was...Because I think if we don’t understand that, we won’t take the right decision about what I think will be a series of these types of problems that will arise over the next few years....You’ve got one in Syria right now, you’ve got one in Iran to come. The issue is how do you make the world a safer place?"

How can Blair claim it was a "complex decision" when it was quite clear from the evidence he had already made up his mind to join the US invasion of Iraq as far back as 2002 when he met Bush at Crawford and looked at maps of Iraq's oil wealth  ? ( see Strachan's The Last Oil Shock )

Blair kept repeating he invaded because "it was the right thing to do" when quite clearly the decision has led to more deaths than otherwise would have happened. So he has had to give up justifying the war and shifted to an attempt to justify being in the position of having to make a decision.

Instead of being asked to look at evidence and facts, the public, even presuming many even bother listening to this has-been, are being asked to empathise with his anxiety over the war, even if one "disagrees" with it, an attempt to accrue to himself a form of integrity he never had at any time in his wretched failed career.  

Blairs words are not the words of a leader with a grasp of complexity nor even any substantial knowledge of the history of Iraq and the sectarian and ethnic tensions that were always likely to emerge on getting rid of this dictator and, as it turned out, having no coherent plan for a post-Saddam Iraq.

If the decision was so "complex" you would have though he'd have taken consideration of that. Yet, as with everything Blair says, the point is all about how he would be able to put the point across because he would be bound to be misunderstood.

Yet Blair, who now in 2013 wants to portray the decision as agonising and complex, presented the decision back in 2003 to invade Iraq as a stark binary choice: "either" we get rid of Saddam Hussein "or" he poses a real threat to us and his peopl ( hence the misinformation about WMD's, the 45 minute warning ).

Blair's career is entirely one of bad acting and wish thinking. His political line tends to shift and change according to the message he wishes to convey. A decade on, and he has learnt nothing. As is clear from the threat to Iran embedded in the line it is a 'problem' that is to 'come'.

Blair's entire "career" since he left office has been one long post ex-facto rationalisation for his role in unleashing carnage in Iraq. His hyperactive fidgety inability to clear off the global stage is possibly due to his colossal vanity.

The interesting question is whether Blair has a conscience over Iraq or whether he's even faking that in order to preserve his public image as a 'statesman'. From the contrived speech after Princess Diana's death in 1997 and his use of 'the people', from the outset Blair was a dangerous fraud.