Wednesday, 29 May 2013

William Hague's Neoconservative "Policy" on Syria.

William Hague is incompetent in his approach to the Syrian crisis.  Yet even if he is acting idiotically he is not an idiot who does not truly know what he is doing. The policy towards Syria is concerned with Iran as Syria is a Shia regime that promotes Iranian influence in the Middle East.

The policy as regards Iran is based essentially of the continuity of oil supplies to EU states ( including Britain ) and the US which is expected to carry the military burden for the EU while the EU makes token opposition to Hague's idea of being able to arm the insurgents.

Syria is not merely a proxy war war between Saudi Arabia and Qatar and their Shia enemy Iran. It is that, especially for Saudi Arabia as a way of diverting discontent towards an enemy when it and its regional allies are faced with discontented Shi'ite agitation.

Iran responded by stepping up support for Hizbollah and that then drew in Israel further who threatened aggression against Russian cargo ships bringing in anti-aircraft weapons to support the Assad regime against the insurgents who want him out without negotiation.

Britain under Hague is following a neoconservative policy. But neoconservatism itself is an ideology not an idiocy. That apparently sane people can follow such messianic policies as Hague and McCain is that they convince themselves of a certain view of reality.

Neoconservatism is a certain view of the world that is shaped by the nature of the world as it is and overlain by a messianic idea that intractable dilemmas can be surmounted by unity of purpose and will power over longer term objectives.

That means that anything that can be done to curtail and destroy Iranian influence in the Middle East will be tried, no matter what, and the greater objective of gaining hegemony and control over oil and gas there and in Central Asia is the New Great Game plan.

If that involves invading Iraq, dragging out the war in Afghanistan so as to complete a pipeline that will block off Iran's rival 'pipeline of peace', supporting Sunni insurgents in the sure knowledge that arms may fall into the hands of Al Qaida, then the answer is-so be it.

The Conflict in Syria as a War over Pipeline Routes.

One article that appears to make some sense of events in Syria is by Nafeez Ahmed in The Guardian.

'Although opposition fighters have been implicated in tremendous atrocities, international observers universally confirm the vast bulk of the increasingly sectarian violence to be the responsibility of Bashir al-Assad's regime. 

Yet the conflict is fast taking on international dimensions, with unconfirmed allegations that rebel forces might have used chemical weapons following hot on the heels of US-backed Israeli air strikes on Syrian military targets last weekend.

But the US, Israel and other external powers are hardly honest brokers. Behind the facade of humanitarian concern, familiar interests are at stake. Three months ago, Iraq gave the greenlight for the signing of a framework agreement for construction of pipelines to transport natural gas from Iran's South Pars field - which it shares with Qatar - across Iraq, to Syria. 

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the pipelines was signed in July last year - just as Syria's civil war was spreading to Damascus and Aleppo - but the negotiations go back further to 2010. The pipeline, which could be extended to Lebanon and Europe, would potentially solidify Iran's position as a formidable global player.

The Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline plan is a "direct slap in the face" to Qatar's plans for a countervailing pipeline running from Qatar's North field, contiguous with Iran's South Pars field, through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and on to Turkey, also with a view to supply European markets.
Read the rest here.

Why William Hague Must Go.

When I think Hague should resign and go now, the reason is not that this would mean that a new Foreign Secretary would necessarily be better. It could mean some fantasist and, worse, propagandist such as Michael Gove, a member of the neoconservative Henry Jackson 'Thinktank' assuming the position.

The need is to discredit his foreign policy 'position' and this no responsible politician has done yet by pointing out to its contradictions. Namely, that it can only facilitate the increase in violence in Syria, not affect the outcome and forestall the possibility of a negotiated peace.

The main insurgent groups have already rejected the National Coalition representing Syria politically, making the Geneva Conference all but pointless as Assad would have no group to negotiate with. He can then claim all the more that the insurgents are just 'terrorists' and the killing will go on at a more frenzied pace.

Either Hague knows this is the way the insurgent groups fighting against Assad work or he is incompetent. He's supposed to be a Conservative and yet he is prepared, in theory, to back The Revolutionary Movement in Syria if Assad does not cut a deal at Geneva in June ( which 'they' cannot or will not ).

The BBC reports,
'A statement issued by the Revolutionary Movement in Syria said the coalition had failed to represent the Syrian revolution.
The joint statement by four leading rebel groups inside Syria says the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SC) is unable to fulfil its obligations due to "ongoing discord".
A meeting of National Coalition members in Turkey has been marked by sharp divisions and a failure to agree on who should represent them at the June conference in Geneva. "This negativity," the statement goes on "has led to the blatant interference of international and regional parties without respect to the national will."'
Presumably, even Hague can work out what the meaning of 'revolution' actually is and it is not merely the removal of Assad but to for them to impose their national will on any new Syrian government. The revolutionary guerillas believe they can go it alone and overthrow Assad without comprimise.

The Revolutionary Movement have been encouraged in that by first the indication from the US and UK might send arms to Syria. The largest indication yet that both the US and Europe could do so came with Hague's so-called 'diplomacy'.

As Britain and France have not ruled out supplying them arms, the insurgents fight to the bitter end in the hope they alone will then de facto represent the national will. This, of course, was the claim by all those post colonial secular dictators such as Colonel Gaddafi in Libya and the Assad dynasty now ruling Syria.

The insurgent groups in Syria reject 'interference' by 'international' and 'regional' parties that are against 'the national will' ( i.e as defined by them ).That means Iran, Hizbollah and, perhaps, even Russia who is supposed to be sponsoring the Geneva Peace Conference along with the US.

All Hague has done is give more momentum rather than less to the ratcheting up the violence in Syria and now he has indicated he might be prepared to give weapons to the Syrian insurgents who are trying to scupper the possibility of a negotiated settlement with Assad.

This is what bad diplomacy does. It furthers and deepens the possibility of violence and war.

Why Britain's Foreign Policy on Syria is About Targeting Iran.

The main aim of US/UK foreign policy in Syria has been, and will remain, destroying Iran as an independent actor because it is the only regional player that can thwart Western geopolitical interests and the control over oil and gas both in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Israel is onside with that and has its own grudges against Hizbollah in Lebanon and Syria and Iran while having no great interest in seeing Assad replaced with a Sunni dominated regime with Muslim Brotherhood activists in it unless it can be co-opted to serve their interests.

Ultimately, the reason the USA and Britain do not want open negotiation over Syria is that the messianic policy of 'regime change' against Assad and, by extension, in its ally Iran is also being pursued elsewhere to the east in Afghanistan as Iran is hemmed in and encircled.

Hague's calculations are based on a callous realpolitik being the servant of Utopian expectations that the entire Middle East and Central Asia can be remodelled to fit 'Western' energy needs and interests and 'promoting' democracy and human rights into the bargain.

Iran is clearly targeted for 'regime change' less because of any potential nuclear threat to the West but because it would mean Iran could retain its independence and use its oil and gas revenue to fund forces opposed to the US quest for hegemony in Central Asia.

By destroying the Assad regime to the West, Hague's policy is mirroring US neoconservative thinking; that is, Iran's regional influence would be curtailed, its ability to use Hizbollah as a proxy force against Israel severely affected.

Hence, the support for the Sunni guerillas is a counter to the Shia guerrillas of Hizbollah. Hizbollah is Iran's proxy and the Sunni jihadists in Syria are to become the West's proxies if Hague gets his way. Such a policy will only ratchet up the death toll to potential Iraqi levels and spread the conflict across borders.

In the US, Secretary of State John Kerry is only different from the neoconservatives of the Bush II administration and Britain in thinking that the strategy of advancing US interests against Iran may backfire should McCain's forthright support for arming the Syrian insurgents be the choice.

Hague is a neoconservative. Though not a full member of the Henry Jackson Society, his speeches on 'counter-terrorism' has been lauded for unrepentant warmongers and cheerleaders for the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan such as Con Coughlin in The Telegraph.

Syria is the next 'domino' that needs to fall in the Axis Of Evil and the invasion of Iraq of 2003 was meant to demonstrate that democracy and freedom will work and radicalise opinion in its neighbour towards the same end. If much bloodshed was caused, that's the price of freedom on the march.

It must be remembered that the Foreign Secretary has delusions of grandeur. Hague's middle name is 'Jefferson' and he was groomed for politics only from an early age. The very 'statesman' act he tediously tries to present is not only nauseating but contrary to the effect his actions and words have had and will to continue to have.

"Half of you won't be here in 30 or 40 years' time" Hague once said when he was 16 at the 1977 Conservative Party national conference when warning of the long term impact of a Labour Government under Jim Callaghan. The messianic tone and immaturity are still there and this time he's responsible for British security and global peace.

Clearly, there need to be calls for Hague to resign or be sacked when the impact of his foreign policies could be as appalling as the consequences that Iraq had and still has for Britain. Even if neither political parties contain independent minded dissenters to 'the party line' because stuffed with mediocrities, other have to call for it.

Britain's Policy Towards the Syrian Conflict is Catastrophic Diplomacy.

On the Syrian conflict and British Foreign Secretary William Hague's push, along with France, to ease the supply of arms to Syrian insurgents trying to overthrow President Assad, Simon Jenkins in the Guardian writes,
'There could no more dreadful idea than to pour more armaments into the sectarian war now consuming Syria. Yet that is precisely what Britain's coalition government wants to do. The foreign secretary, William Hague, seemed on Monday to parody his hero Pitt the Younger by demanding "how long must we go on allowing … ?" and "what we want to see is …". Who is this we? But even Pitt would never be so stupid as to declare war on Syria, which is the only morally sound outcome of Hague's rhetorical mission creep'.
There is no dissent in Parliament as there was then against Pitt. In no other beriod of Britain's history have we been led into wars without a real Parliaentary debate as to the reasons and ideas behind foreign policy. Real Conservatives are just as angry about that as any who care for democracy.
The problem is that Hague is an immature parody of what he conceives diplomacy and statesmanship to be. This is one price to be paid in an increasingly complicated world for having mediocrities in positions of power and influence.

Wlliam Hague's foreign policy ( which simply tracks or seeks to track that of Washington ) has been from the outset that 'Assad Must Go'. That having failed, the next option is to try to counter the terms of any peace not being dominated by those London and Washington are backing.

Hague has gone even further than Washington as the Obama administration has, as yet, decided against sending arms to the insurgents and only putting CIA agents on the ground to funnel arms from the Gulf States more effectively into the hands of insurgent groups.

That the military leader of the FSA, Salam Idriss met John McCain and is leader of an organisation that basically wants to overthrown Assad, without there being the possibility of a negotiated and more peaceful settlement promised by the forthcoming Geneva Conference, bodes ill.

Hague may well not decide that British arms will go to Syria: in fact he is concerned only with trying to pre-empt and anticipate what the hawks in Washington are aiming at: a more neoconservative foreign policy which finishes off Syria as part of the 'axis of evil'. He is their model pupil.

This is catastrophic diplomacy because it depends not on the open possibilities presented by negotiation but simply trying to dictate the terms of the peace in advance in such a way that Russia has already responded to by the threat to deliver the S-300 anti-aircraft missiles.

Ultimately, the reason the USA and Britain do not want negotiations on is that the messianic policy of 'regime change' against Assad and, by extension in its ally Iran which is also being hemmed in and encircled to the east in Afghanistan. Jenkins tends to miss the bigger geopolitical objectives.

Even so, put simply, the decision to lift the EU arms embargo , even if Britain and France do not decide to directly supply arms, is bound to ratchet up the death rate of civilians in this savage civil war and expand it even further as Hizbollah in Lebanon backs the Shi'ites fighting against the Sunni dominated Free Syrian Army.

The aim of diplomacy needs to be containment of the Syrian civil war and to stop it becoming a far more destabilising regional civil warfare between rival sectarianisms: there are already indications that this is starting in Iraq, or is being provoked by terrorist actions as car bombs and attacks on Shi'ites in Baghdad.

Far from being a patriot, Hague is a traitor to Britain. He has finally sold Britain out entirely to US based 'think tanks' and 'neoconservative' ideological ideas on foreign policy as much as Blair was. This insane foreign policy is a continuation of Blair's on Iraq.

It is now the responsibility of those who wish to defend our democracy, whether real liberal, conservative or left; that is all those of integrity who care about our country and its future safety, to openly call for Hague to resign or be sacked and to call for a saner foreign policy.


Saturday, 25 May 2013

Afghanistan and the TAPI Pipeline : A Discussion.

There seems to be this myth that the West's military forces are withdrawing in 2014. They are not. They are being 'drawndown', the new weasel cant term for keeping the military, though not regular troops, on the ground as part of the 'Afghanistanisation' process

With news that thousands of Afghan interpreters for the British army being allowed to settle in the UK for fear of reprisals from the Taliban it has been said that, such escape route is on offer to the 325,000 members of Afghanistan's combined security forces, who are at vastly more risk. Most of Britain's interpreters don't live in places like Paktia. The Ministry of Defence says the majority are recruited in Kabul.
 The ANSF are still needed to protect Western geopolitical interests in Afghanistan such as the railroads and the construction of the TAPI Pipeline ( 'the new Silk Route').

A certain Mr Brownly objected stating the usual stock arguments whenever the TAPI pipeline is mentioned,
The ANSF is needed because the Taliban still exist - they always will to some extent. The point of COIN ops is to keep them at bay so that the Afghans can build a world that has no room for the Taliban in it. Where they're diminished to not much more than an Afghan equivalent of the EDL or somesuch.
Well, the ANSF is obviously needed because the Taliban still exists because they will do what they do with other infrastructure projects which is threaten to blow them up, unless they get some sort of financial remuneration.

The entire geopolitical ambition behind securing the construction of the TAPI pipeline is about 'nation building' and securing millions of dollars for reconstructing Afghanistan along with already built railroads and infrastructure projects.
A stable and more prosperous Afghanistan is in everyone's interest, especially the Afghans - they want to be a part of the wider world. If (and it's a bloody mahoosive if - for a decade, at least) TAPI ever emerges, it will bring much needed work, energy supplies and transit fees into the country.
The point is that the attempt to secure the TAPI Pipeline could very well destabilise Afghanistan even more while the Taliban continues to fight against it and because the TAPI pipeline could indeed , in theory, mean that Kabul would be able to build a state without it's involvement.

But this is precisely why the US has sought to negotiate with elements of the Taliban to try to bring them to heel and why "liberal interventionists" have gone rather cold on the war that is either not discussed properly in Parliament or else sold as being about anything other than what it has been primarily about-geopolitics.

"Public Diplomacy" , a pleasant euphemism for propaganda, has tended to emphasise that the Afghanistan War is "all about", human rights, women's rights or else other pretexts that were officially rejected by those such as David Miliband in 2009 ( i.e the "war on terror").

Then, as soon as casualties started to mount in 2010 and 2011, the new "Conservative" government started to resurrect this idea about Al Qaida or vaguely mentioned 'terrorists' being the reason to maintain troops in 2014.

This was quite simply a pretext to get public support and not debate the actual war objectives as the war dragged on.
TAPI isn't a secret or a conspiracy! It was first mooted about 20 years ago. No-one's stumped up the money for it yet though - there isn't a single metre of pipeline to protect in any of the four countries that would be involved.
It's fairly obvious to most who take an interest in the Afghanistan War, that TAPI is not a "secret or a conspiracy". Yet it a majort war objective that has barely been discussed either in importance or in it's centrality to the decision making of the USA and other NATO Powers.

The means to build the pipeline financially are already there. It is backed by the Asian Development Bank, a cousin of the World Bank and in which the majority of the financial interests are, curioisly, not in Asia but in the US, Canada, and Europe.

The fact of there not being a pipeline is to fail to understand that the gap is only between intentions and their realisation. The fact is that most British troop casualties are in Helmland where the TAPI pipeline is destined to run, should it ever get built.

It is deeply ironic that advocates of this futile war do not understand the difference between 'actual and intended consequences', to borrow Karl Popper's words, and if there is a 'conpiracy' it is the one of silence over the geopolitical significance of the TAPI pipeline beyond Afghan borders.

The most important is to complete the isolation and encirclement of Iran from the West, through curtailing Iranian influence by knocking out Assad even if it means quite obviously arming jihadists and overcoming the need for such annoyances as actual diplomacy.

From the East, the TAPI pipeline will finally be used to integrate Pakistan with India and, in so far as this geopolitical fantasy is believed to be acheivable, thus isolate Iran whose rival "peace pipeline" ( the IP ) is already being built on the Iranian side.

The TAPI pipeline is thus essential to the attempt to get "regime change" in Tehran as, the goal behind the Afghanistan conflict which will extend beyond 2014 anyway and, of course, Syria. The West's strategy is a messianic blend of Utopian wish thinking and shoddy realpolitik.

It is a convenient rationalisation that the TAPI pipeline is merely part of an enlightened policy of self interest when any mention of it as often denigrated as a "conspiracy theory" or that its only some form of infrastructure project disconnected from wider geopolitical war objectives.

A certain "Dr" Chris waded in,,
 Complete baloney. Nobody takes this pipeline seriously and the US is set to become self-sufficient in oil and gas. 
- Nobody ?
US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson has said that America wants to help Pakistan to overcome its energy crisis.

He said that they had clear a policy regarding Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project.
Pakistan and Iran have recently signed an agreement in Islamabad to complete the project while President Asif Ali Zardari has also paid a visit to the neighbouring country last week to discuss the pipeline and to extend relationships with Iranian leadership.
“We have a clear policy over Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline,” Olson said, addressing a gathering during his visit to Tarbela Dam on Tuesday.
He said that the US was in favour of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project, adding that it would also continue to help the country to reduce the energy crisis.
American’s State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell while commenting over the project on Wednesday said it is in Pakistan’s best interest to avoid any santionable activity.
Pakistan is facing a severe energy crisis which has damaged its industrial setup specially the textile industry.
“We will help Pakistan to complete Gomal Zam and Sadpara dams,” he said and added that the US wanted the Pakistanis to spend a better life.
Baloney ?
Turkmenistan, a post-Soviet Central Asian country of 5.5 million which borders Afghanistan and Iran, holds the world’s fourth-largest natural gas riches after Russia, Iran and Qatar.
British auditor Gaffney, Cline & Associates has estimated the reserves of Galkynysh, named after the Turkmen word for “renaissance,” at 13.1 trillion to 21.2 trillion cubic metres.
Li Xiaoning, deputy director general at China Petroleum Engineering & Construction Corporation, told the Ashgabat gas congress this volume would be achieved in 2020. Since the start-up of the China-bound pipeline in December 2009, Turkmen gas exports to China have totalled almost 50 bcm, he said. Turkmen data show 2012 gas exports to China stood at 20 bcm.
Turkmenistan, which also exports smaller amounts of gas to Iran, plans to build an alternative pipeline to Afghanistan and further to Pakistan and India, which is named TAPI after the countries it will eventually cross.
Daniel Stein, senior adviser to the Bureau of Energy Resources at the U.S. Department of State, told the Ashgabat gas congress Turkmenistan needed to move faster on its pipeline projects, because instead of its natural gas China and India could import liquefied natural gas from elsewhere.
What actual research have such people done on the New Great Game ?

Thoughts on the Danger History as History as Propaganda.

Novelist AK Kennedy has written in relation to government plans to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War that she does not believe it will be free from being used to bolster current government policies,
One of the world's major arms exporters would find it tricky, for example, to really discuss the implications of basing one's economy on equipment that requires war. Meanwhile,the dead become Glorious, the Cenotaph a clean and noble monument. This happens with any war: initially those who can remember may not wish to, witnesses slowly die, politicians love to appropriate the bravery of others. I also know our political classes now take pride in being faith – and not reality-based. In the absence of those who served, they can appropriate a historical event during which (among many other things) under-educated public schoolboys led the suitably enthused masses into harm's way and rebrand it, at public expense, into a degrading force multiplier for armed forces still used as political and economic pawns.
....I have no reason to believe that my current leaders will not do the same next year. It's too late to give the veterans the £10m and they didn't get their land fit for heroes – something approaching that was finally won by the generation who came through the second world war. The last of that inheritance is being sold at bargain rates and citizens are increasingly being offered simplistic spectacle in the place of good governance and public service.
This is what disturbs those who fear this commemoration will become a way of creating some seamless continuity between World War One and Afghanistan with subliminal propaganda messages ( the heroism, dedication of "our boys", etc ) in the very year Britain stages a faked "withdrawal" from Afghanistan.

The fact is that in 2014, Britain is not withdrawing from Afghanistan. The new Orwellian cant term is "drawdown" used by Defence Minister Hammond and others 'on message'. The fact that this is going to be a government sponsored cultural event is also slightly sinister.

"Liberal interventionists" have a history of calling some wars , as World War Two 'the Good War' and comparing that to the Afghanistan War after 2001, at least before such voices advocating it suddenly fell peculiarly silent as the war has dragged on.

In so far as World War Two finished off Hitler it had to be good. Yet history-as-propaganda in an age of continued Blair-like spin and mendacity is something that all British citizens will need to be aware of as Cameron's regime is essentially the same as Blair's and Brown's regime.

The phrase the 'Good War' for World War Two came from A J P Taylor who distinguished it in that sense from the futility of the what was until the Second World War, termed , quite obviously, The Great War. This war could be repackaged to suggest that Afghanistan is in a great tradition of wars we won.

The Conservative columnist Peter Hitchens has already, correctly in my view spoken of the 'religion of World War Two' in British history as it is continually invoked by politicians who know that calling Saddam Hussein a "new Hitler" will resonate with those as a heroic battle of 'us' , that is the always Good, versus the forces of Evil.

Britain is taking from the USA all those aspects of it's imperial history that have been strongly spun into simplistic narratives ( this is one of the few parts of Noam Chomsky's thought that does have credence in regards to the USA and "noble causes", like Vietnam, and it is an important one that should be heeded ).

The rise of public relations and oily spin has now polluted every aspect of Britain's public life. Where once there were real debates over foreign policy in Parliament, Britain has three political parties with virtually no dissent on foreign policy within it's ranks.

A J P Taylor wrote of The Troublemakers who dissented on Britain's foreign policy. The British political system has virtually no dissent now either in Parliament, apart from those who cannot be taken that seriously such as George Galloway who trades on the fact he is not like them and so hardly bothers going in to Parliament.

Groups outside Parliament ( such as the so-called 'Stop The War Coalition' ) who dissent are often dominated by apologists for totalitarian systems and Jihadi Islamism. This means that many in the British public , especially the young, are getting not history lessons-or training in the ability to think independently-but propaganda.

It is a thouroughly depressing situation when events that we are not allowed to talk about this week may have something to do with the fact so many, including politicians in the New Establishment do not care for history or think that it's valuable in schools, are merely pumping out propaganda instead of objective information on wars past and present.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Syria: 'Regime Change' Revised by the Western Powers to Renewed Diplomacy.

A sensible assessment by a diplomat who knows what the stakes are in Syria has been produced by Jeremy Greenstock. Given Greenstock's role in the Iraq War, it's inevitable that anything he has to say on the potential for Syria developing sectarian bloodshed on the scale of Iraq is bound to be shot down with sarcasm.

Yet his analysis and calls for more diplomacy  dovetails with what I have been stating in the Guardian for the past two months. Hillary Clinton's "diplomacy" of demanding "Assad Must Go", a demand parroted by William Hague,  inflamed the situation. Realism and diplomacy does not equate to cynical realpolitik as 'humanitarian interventionists' found in regards to Iraq

That's not to say that there is anything remotely humanitarian in supporting insurgents who have been proved to commit atrocities from torture, summary executions, advocacy of the use of sarin gas, terror bomb explosions in Damascus and even cannibalism.  Apart from the fact Asssad isn't actually "going", this  led Cameron to reverse his strategy and fly to Moscow to try diplomacy with Russia.
Outside intervention offers no kind of a solution. The past 12 years have shown too many instances of unintended consequences, particularly when the intervener becomes the enemy. Even the delivery of more lethal weaponry to the opposition resolves nothing, because it could end up with the wrong people, and because it allows scope and pretext for the regime's supporters – notably Iran and Russia – to balance it on the other side. Iraq and Afghanistan have hammered home the lesson that without a workable political plan the use of force is a recipe for deep and prolonged trouble.
The problem does lie in the anachronistic set up of having a UN Security Council dominated by the victors of the Second World War plus China. But, given this situation is not likely to change, diplomatic engagement with Russia and China ( and Iran ) is the only way of minimising bloodshed.

The missing perspective here is that Democratic hawks who supported Iraq such as Hillary Clinton foolishly blustered that if Russia and China defended it's interests in Syria, "there would be consequences to pay" . Making rash statements without a coherent plan to effect change is stupid diplomacy.

Obama is far more sensible in resisting the pressure of the Democratic hawks and the insane John McCain who wants the FSA to be fully armed. But the great tension remains with the USA's refusal to put pressure on the Gulf states to stop arming the FSA.

The reason is the unholy nexus or oil supplies, the lucrative arms trade with Saudi Arabia and sunni minority states that rule over angry disenfranchised Shia populations. British diplomacy has proved a disaster and the "Assad Must Go" nonsense reflects antipathy towards Iran.

Iran needs to be engaged with diplomatically and not subjected to continued threats. "Regime change" in Syria is meant to further the domino effect predicted by messianic neoconservatives when they invaded Iraq unilaterally to install a secular democracy that would acts as an example to Syria too.

The only example now is that Syria could descend into the cockpit of sectarian violence seen in Iraq for a decade. The price of gaining a modicum of "stability" was for the US to turn a blind eye to the ethnic cleansing carried out by Shia militias.

The absurdity of supporting Sunni insurgents in Syria has led to the potential for an escalation of inter communal and sectarian violence. Only by hard diplomacy between the Great Powers ( such as Britain pretends to be ) is going to have any effect at all on dampening down the civil war.

The reasons for this lie in Syria's turbulent history, lessons that mediocre politicians playing at being 'statesmen' ( such as Tony Blair pretended to be ).

Syria was created as an artificial 'nation state out of the remnants of the collapsing Ottoman Empire. The difference between it and the post WW I states in Europe ( and not this did not cause enough frontiers of violence) is that these lands had no political culture.

Syria consisted of Ottoman millets, of creed communities from Druze, to Allawites to Syrian Orthodox Christians so the Sykes-Picot Accords of 1916 had to deal with a land with no tradition of secular law, territorial jurisdiction or division of powers.

Hence politics since the constitutional monarchies failed after World War Two led to secular dictatorships on the totalitarian Western model being grafted on to the tradition of the domination of these lands by one clan or tribal network.

It was only in Lebanon, a maritime power with a Christian political culture that developed a successful Arab constitutional democracy, a territorial claim and a European sense of jurisdiction. That was a product of Lebanon's evolution into a nation state in the mid nineteenth century

This is precisely why diplomacy by the Great Powers has to be attempted. It would be a tragedy if by openly or covertly arming Sunni insurgents in Syria that Iran stepped up its supply of weapons to the minority Allawite Shia regime of Assad.

Inevitably, this would mean more weapons being put into the hands of Hizbollah, a militant Shia organisation that acts as a state within a state in Lebanon and, if not dealt with pragmatically along with Iran, could destroy Lebanon, the last safe state for Arab Christians.

The omission from Greenstock's analysis of the UK's depressing dependency upon Saudi oil, as well as it's immoral arms trade with this despotism and Saudi investment in London, means that the UK will not stand up to a land far more repressive than Iran.

For all Iran's limitations, Iran needs to be engaged via Russia which can exert some influence over it in the way the USA, with its messianic rhetoric of universalist 'regime change' cannot without threatening Tehran with the overthrow of the government.

Unlike Saudi Arabia, Iran is actually a semi-constitutional 'theodemocracy' as Malise Ruthven terms it in A Fury for God. From 1905 it was developing a constitution and it was only after the Second World War that it's democratic development was curtailed.

The reason was that the CIA in 1953 engineered a coup to remove the democratically elected Mossadeq government because it threatened to nationalise Western oil concerns in a rather hasty and clumsy manner which was met by an extreme response.

Yet even under the Ayatollah Khomeini after 1979, the basis system of constitutionalism remained and most Iranians hostile to the regime in power since then are as equally hostile as 'Persians' to any attempt to encircle and destroy the regime from outside.

All roads to peace lead through Tehran and in trying to get actual 'regime change' in Iran's leading opponent in the struggle for hegemony and influence in the Middle East-Saudi Arabia-which absurdly is funding the very jihadists killing and murdering in Syria.

The reason that the UK and USA is wary of engaging with Iran is less to do with any supposed nuclear weapons programme but because it has an active strategy and has since 1979 of 'regime change' in Iran. That's why Assad, as an ally "must go".

In a world of relatively diminishing supplies of oil compared to the demand for fossil fuels in India and China, Iran as the third largest producer of gas is a target for the US before any deal can be reached between it and its neighbours to the east.

The policy of overthrowing Assad by supporting sunni insurgents is apiece with the strategy of blocking off the IP pipeline by staying the course in Afghanistan by forestalling Iranian gas exports and securing the construction of the TAPI pipeline.

What Greenstock will never admit is how tied up with energy geopolitics the struggle over Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan is. The UK needs to stave off threats of terrorism and withdraw from overdependence upon oil and shoddy realpolitik in the Middle East.

Afghanistan and the Myths of Humanitarian Intervention.A Debate on the 'War on Drugs' and the TAPI Pipeline.

Bamiyan was a safe haven in Afghanistan – but what now? A response to Emma Harrison 

'....the insurgency has spread and violence lapped steadily closer to this virtual island of calm, isolated by mountain peaks rather than water. First one, then both roads to Kabul became a dangerous lottery. The head of the provincial council, a popular man who had done much to help development in a desperately poor area, was abducted and slaughtered in 2011. A US engineer is among the many others killed on the roads since'

The hard reality is that the US is trying to extricate itself from Afghanistan by putting out peace feelers precisely to more 'moderate' elements of the Taliban. The reason ,after the mission to drive out Al Qaida was achieved after 2001 in the early stages of the war, was old style realpolitik,

The West wants the construction of the TAPI pipeline and remaining NATO and US forces after 2014 will remain to secure this geopolitical strategy designed to offer an alternative to the rival Iranian-Pakistan pipeline. The fate of Afghans was always somewhat secondary.

Humanitarians in Afghanistan have attempted much noble work, But the war is unwinnable because of the dirty realpolitik of energy geopolitics and the 'war on drugs' which impoverished opium farmers when the US burnt their poppy fields in Helmland and drove them into the control of the Taliban.

Afghanistan was lauded by siren voices largely now silent as 'humanitarian intervention'. It was more 'enlightened self interest' and as the war failed it became more and more about what it had been a lot about from the outset-getting the flow of Turkmen gas to Pakistan and India.

The problem with that strategy is that the various tribal factions in Kabul are vying over the potential lucrative transit fees. And the Taliban have no interest in peace as their power base, though it exists in pockets outside Helmland, is about derailing Hillary Clinton's 'New Silk Route' concept.

The New Great Game is a revised version of the Old Great Game played between Russia and the British Empire in the mid nineteenth century. This time the main contestation is over energy supply routes from the 'stans' , rich in oil and gas, that re-appeared after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

The future of Afghanistan may well not exactly be a reversion to total chaos. Yet reasons for pessimism are well founded. The various factions will fight over control of Afghanistan to be able to profit from selling this lands space as a pipeline transit space and supplier of resources such as lithium.

The West intended to try and combine self interest with humanitarian objectives but this can seldom be achieved via war and occupation, not least when the US aligned itself with the Northern Alliance who 'humanitarian credentials are scarcely better than the Taliban.

Some sort of less anarchic situation could be cobbled together after 2014 and the ""drawdown" ( note NOT "withdrawal') of US/NATO troops. Yet the futile 'war on drugs' only increases the profit to be made from opium production and the constant demand for heroin in the consumerist West.

Challlenges to the Taliban Drug Trade in Oium has comf from Mr GM Potts and Mr Gamecock. I quote their responses in The Guardian without alteration and as they stand.

GM Potts

More importantly you've also asserted without any supporting evidence that the Taliban finance themselves through heroin production. Got any?


Yes I have from the Washington Post by Misha Glenny in 2007
In the past two years, the drug war has become the Taliban's most effective recruiter in Afghanistan. Afghanistan's Muslim extremists have reinvigorated themselves by supporting and taxing the countless peasants who are dependent one way or another on the opium trade, their only reliable source of income. The Taliban is becoming richer and stronger by the day, especially in the east and south of the country. The "War on Drugs" is defeating the "war on terror."
 GM Potts

That's Misha Glenny's assertion without evidence. I've taken the time to search through your blog and while calling for the legalisation of heroin, a position I agree with fwiw, you include the quote "according to the UN drugs tsar, Antonio Maria Costa, the Taliban is earning hundreds of millions of dollars a year from opium".

That doesn't equate to proof of a Taliban policy or even a large amount of their funding, simply opportunistic taxation. I say that because if they were actually producing it and controlling the export as Brownly asserts then the profits would be in the billions each year. When the Russian Federal Service for the Control of Narcotics were allowed to participate in just one drugs raid then they were able to destroy $250 million worth of heroin and opium.


M Potts - Um, no,it's Misha Glenny's actual research. What reseach have you really done ?

What evidence do you have that in such an impoverished land as Afghanistan that opium revenue has not actually contributed to its ability both a) To gain the support of opium farmers and b ) That this does not constutute a large source of income ?

The answer is you don't. Glenny's article explains in detail why the Taliban does derive revenue from opium. Something that flatly contradicts the stupid idea the Taliban "at least" kept drugs under control.

Switching the subject to 'whattaboutery' as regards Russia doesn't invalidate the case nor the evidence and you full well know it. The Taliban doesn't keep record for the central Kabul government on its exact opium revenue.

There may well be reasons for that. But if it's earning hundreds of millions of dollars from opium that means they are able to continue the insurrection in a land awash with weapons within Afghanistan and across porous borders.

The phrase 'opportunistic taxation' is simply bizarre in the context of Afghanistan. As is the phrase 'Taliban policy'. They don't work according to the taxation system of functioning states. That should not be so hard to grasp.

GM Potts

I read the article and it doesn't. ( give evidence ) No where in your blog does either. You shouldn't be abusive simply because you are asked for evidence. I'm perfectly happy to accept that the Taliban gain hundreds of millions of dollars from taxation of the drugs lords and farmers under their control, but that actually "does not constutute a large source of [their] income", nor does it indicate they control or tax much of the $4 billion yearly Afghan drug trade.

Instead at least half of their funding comes from taxing the local contractors who work for the ISAF and US forces.

Reuters: Who is funding the Afghan Taliban? You don’t want to know
'Up until quite recently, most experts thought that drug money accounted for the bulk of Taliban funding. But even here opinion was divided on actual amounts. Some reports gauged the total annual income at about $100 million, while others placed the figure as high as $300 million — still a small fraction of the $4 billion poppy industry.
Now administration officials have launched a search for Taliban sponsors. Richard Holbrooke, U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told a press conference in Islamabad last month that drugs accounted for less of a share of Taliban coffers than was previously thought.
“In the past there was a kind of feeling that the money all came from drugs in Afghanistan,” said Holbrooke, according to media reports. “That is simply not true.”
The new feeling is that less than half of the Taliban’s war chest comes from poppy, with a variety of sources, including private contributions from Persian Gulf states, accounting for much of the rest. Holbrooke told reporters that he would add a member of the Treasury Department to his staff to pursue the question of Taliban funding.
But perhaps U.S. officials need look no further than their own backyard.
Anecdotal evidence is mounting that the Taliban are taking a hefty portion of assistance money coming into Afghanistan from the outside.
This goes beyond mere protection money or extortion of “taxes” at the local level — very high-level negotiations take place between the Taliban and major contractors, according to sources close to the process'

Half of their revenue according to the Reuters source. But remember the status of the source. Richard Holbrooke had every reason to downplay the role of heroin in financing the Taliban because his brief was justify US policy in Afghanistan.

If heroin had not been considered a major source of income for the Taliban, Holbrooke wouldn't have been considering winning over farmers by plans to substitute opium growing with pomegranates.The plans to revive the wine trade seem curiously bizarre in such a land.
..that actually "does not constutute a large source of [their] income", nor does it indicate they control or tax much of the $4 billion yearly Afghan drug trade.
If opium consists of "just" under half their income, that could still amount to a hefty amount of income ( even if a US State official is to be trusted to be wholly candid given his attempts to defend Obama's 'surge'.

It could be well true that a hefty amount of finance came from Gulf States and that backs up my original case that the Afganistan War eas based on cofused and contradictory efforts, a bungled mixture of shoddy realpolitik and "humanintarian intervention rhetoric".

GM Potts

My problem is with the false, but sadly widely believed, idea that the Taliban are evil drug dealers and the US and ISAF troops are doing their best to stem this trade. My contention is that the war itself is the major source of funding for the Taliban, and that taxing opium is secondary, therefore extending the war is simply making the problem worse. 

I have read other articles that inform that, such as How U.S. Taxpayers Are Funding the Taliban
Some experts have estimated that close to $1 billion a year of foreign assistance has fallen into the hands of the enemy as a result of poorly-run counterinsurgency programs, ill-devised USAID projects and countless logistics and security extortion rings. In addition, a free-market ideologue outsourcing craze has led to a wholesale lack of oversight while the prioritization of private greed over the public good has fostered unprecedented levels of corruption. Afghanistan is a case study in paradox, of how development aid can actually destabilize a war-torn country. But development does not reduce violence in a war zone when a large portion of it goes to the enemy -- which makes sense. It also makes for an absurd cycle which has served to prolong the conflict to the sole benefit of war profiteers, warlords and corrupt Afghan officials.
I think this occupation of Afghanistan is making Afghanistan more dangerous to 'the west', much like the interlinked 'war on drugs' and 'war on terror' are self-defeating.

Mr Gamecock replied against the idea that the TAPI Pipeline is a central war objective with this,

The TAPI pipeline is nowhere nearer getting built now than it was when it was first thought of.

The Iran-Pakistan pipeline on the other hand has been started (Iranian section completed, construction of the Pakistani section commenced 11th March 2013) and will be (according to schedule) completed and fully operational by January 2015.

This means that the Pakistanis will get sufficient gas to meet their immediate needs before India does (Unless of course India rejoins the Iranian-Pakistani Pipeline Project) which means that Pakistan can drive a harder bargain related to transportation royalties for gas crossing their territory on its way to India

"Afghanistan was lauded by siren voices largely now silent as 'humanitarian intervention'
Of course the intervention in Afghanistan was driven by humanitarian concerns - Between April 1978 and October 2001 the population of Afghanistan had dropped by one third killed or displaced. According to the UNHCR two refugees out of every three in the world was an Afghan. Most of the population were suffering from serious malnutrition and on the point of starvation.

The "Northern Alliance" that the US aligned itself with constituted the remnants of the last internationally recognised Government of the Republic of Afghanistan, while the Taliban Government that "ruled" it's part of Afghanistan so disastrously between 1996 and 2001 was only ever recognised by Pakistan (Their backers) and by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - Not by the United Nations


Mr Gamebird -
The TAPI pipeline is nowhere nearer getting built now than it was when it was first thought of.
Aha ! So it exists as a plan then ? Weeks before Gamecock et al were mechanically writing it off as a 'conspiracy theory'. Now, having realised the erroneous nature of that position, they seek to backtrack by stating but 'it won't be a reality anyway'.

That does not still mean it is not a central war objective, given all the more urgency by the fact that the Iranians have already built significant parts of their pipeline towards Pakistan and why State Department officials such as Olsen have warned Zardawi in Pakistan about violating sanctions on Iran.

So the IP or potential IPI pipeline is itself far from assured by being finished by 2015. It is hampered by US intimidation of Pakistan precisely because the strategy is to isolate and hem in Iran and destabilise the political elite in Tehran.

Futhermore, India has rejected the IPI project now that the US has stepped in to aid it's energy sector development with the provision of nuclear technology. Also the very factors that hamper the TAPI pipeline are as true of the IP with Balochistanis ready to attack it.

The war was advocated by 'humanitarian interventionists' back in 2001. The points about their silence now is they have no strategy for rebuilding Afghanistan. These were 'public intellectuals'. Humanitarians are not 'humanitarian interventionists'.

( I should have made that distinction clearer than I did. Humanitarian intervention is a public policy doctrine whereas humanitarians are those such as the Red cross, UNICEF and other great organisations dedicated to saving lives-I'm not cynical about their efforts and intentions )
The "Northern Alliance" that the US aligned itself with constituted the remnants of the last internationally recognised Government of the Republic of Afghanistan, while the Taliban Government that "ruled" it's part of Afghanistan so disastrously between 1996 and 2001
This is the Northern Alliance that consisted of warlords such as General Dostum who had the charming habit during the civil war or executing enemy soldiers by crushing them under tanks. The factions in Parliament are often benefitting from opium too.

It seems that certain individuals simply have a penchant for what Freud knew was 'wish thining' and 'rationalisation' The facts contrary to the prescriptions of the creed, that Afghanistan was a 'humanitarian intervention' are screened from perception.

The reality is often too hard to bear: the TAPI pipeline ( euphemised by State Department officials as mere "infrastructure projects" are an essential part of what Lutz Klevemann termed The New Great Game. The pipeline race between Iran and the West is a geopolitical fact.

Mr Gamecock acheives little by trying to confuse actual with the intended consequences of Western war objectives as states by State Department officials ( I recommend that Gamecock read the transcripts-they lay down what is at stake clearly )

Monday, 13 May 2013

Pakistan: A Tale of Two Pipelines and the Energy Crisis

The British public is seldom informed about the realities of politics in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is absurd given the fact there is a sizeable Pakistani diaspora in certain cities in the United Kingdom and we ought to know what is at stake as regards the conflicts and tensions there. Yet Simon Tisdall is a dismal so-called journalist who writes in The Guardian today
With one eye on Nato's 2014 withdrawal from Afghanistan, Nawaz's conservative Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) says the new government will seek to rebuild harmonious relations with the US, damaged by drone attacks, cross-border incidents and spying rows.
It seems unlikely Pakistan's volatile politics is going to be helped by Nawaz attempting to build 'harmonious' relations with the US when it's increasingly despised by a large number of Pakistani's for the drone attacks which frequently miss their intended targets and blow up Pakistani civilians-unless he's going to demand and end to them.
As in the past, the pragmatic Nawaz will not want to jeopardise $2bn in annual US aid. But he has vowed to review Pakistan's support for America's "war on terror" and says he will seek peace with the Pakistani Taliban, allies of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
What is the chance Nawaz is going to oppose the US policy of Drone attacks when RPakistan is being bribed in $2bn in aid to essentially remain onside and accept the TAPI pipeline as opposed to President Zardari's desire to accept the rival IP pipeline.

NATO's withdrawal in 2014 is mostly in the field of troop reduction. The new Orwellian phrase is 'troop drawdown'. That means reduction. Not withdrawal from Afghanistan because the IP pipeline has already started on the Iranian side while the Taliban are preventing the security necessary for the TAPI one

Much instability is being caused in Pakistan because the USA remains so fixated on getting the TAPI pipeline constructed, the date now being pushed back to 2017. Pakistan is being told by the USA to wait a full three years for a TAPI pipeline amidst power black outs and Drone attacks.

The IP pipeline would deliver gas to Pakistan four times cheaper than the TAPI pipeline and many Pakistani factions are for it. Yet US State Department officials such as Richard Olsen keep threatening Pakistan should it take the Iranian gas imports for violating the sanctions policy.

Simon Tisdall never gives us the full context to these conflicts and struggles over pipeline routes yet its a matter of urgent political debate amongst Pakistani politicians, academics and the media in Karachi and Lahore.If a Westerner wants to know what's really happening read the Pakistani papers.

To fill in the omissions in the British media Pakistan Today carried an interesting piece in March 2013 that backs up what I have said about the reality of the New Great Game and the way Pakistan is being dictated to by the US due to it's aggressive stance against Iran.
ISLAMABAD - US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson on Tuesday said that although America wants to help Pakistan to overcome its energy crisis, however, the US that pursuing of Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project by Pakistan is breach of trust between Pakistan and the United States. Pakistan and Iran have recently signed an agreement in Islamabad to complete the project while President Asif Ali Zardari also paid a visit to the neighboring country last week to discuss the pipeline and to extend relationships with the Iranian leadership. 
Olson said “we have a clear policy over Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline,” while addressing a gathering during his visit to Tarbela Dam on Tuesday.

 He said that the US is in favor of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project, adding that US would also help Pakistan reduce its energy crisis if understandings with Iran are called off.

 American’s State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell commenting on the project on said that “it is in Pakistan’s best interest to avoid any sanction inducing activity.

Pakistan is facing a severe energy crisis which has damaged its industrial setup specially the textile sector. “We will help Pakistan to complete Gomal Zam and Sadpara dams,” Olson concluded.

Meanwhile on Monday, Highlighting Pakistan’s growing energy needs and defending its right to explore low-cost solutions on immediate basis, President Asif Ali Zardari told the world that the gas pipeline agreement with Iran is not against any other country.

While inaugurating three different energy projects from the Governor’s House on Monday, Zardari said the energy projects, as well as the gas pipeline with Iran, should be seen as measures to overcome the power shortfall prevailing in the country. -

Sunday, 12 May 2013

"Transitional Relief" in Afghanistan

Western newspapers are still failing to grasp the realities of the Fourth Afghanistan War. A Guardian op-ed claimed today,
More effort is being put into crafting a face-saving narrative or keeping the country out of the news altogether. The policy is called "transition" but there is little to be in transit to.
There is a lot the West and the Karzai regime want in regard to 'transit to.

The transition, in reality, is from a more full scale military presence to the strategy of retaining special advisers from NATO nations in in order to secure the route and maintain the security of the TAPI pipeline which is due to be finished in 2017.

The usual reaction to these facts is to suggest that the war is not about a pipeline and that this is a 'conspiracy theory', a sincere reaction given credence by the fact that leftists tend to think all wars are only about oil or , as in 2001, UNOCAL, Halliburton and Bush's cronies grabbing profit from war.

Unfortunately, this infantile view of the world, which indeed, is a conspiracy theory in the manner of Michael Moore's populist 'journalism', has tended to lead otherwise intelligent people from accepting what Orwell termed the 'power of facing' with regards the real war objectives in Afghanistan.

The TAPI Pipeline is an energy project that is backed by the Western powers as part of the New Great Game to control energy supplies in Central Asia following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the opening up of the ex-Soviet 'stans', rich in oil and gas, to global competition.

By successfully securing the construction of the TAPI Pipeline, gas from Turkmenistan is diverted away from too much Russian control over the pipelines heading West. More importantly, the TAPI is vigorously backed by the USA as an alternative to Iran's rival IP pipeline project.

The siren voices about Afghanistan being a 'humanitarian intervention', as opposed to what the invasion back in 2001 actually was-realpolitik, have gone curiously silent. Understanding that the invasion was about-removing Al Qaida and advancing longer term geopolitical interests-is seldom stated.

That n the West journalists and 'experts' are queasy about mentioning that the war in Afghanistan is crucucially concerned about the TAPI pipeline's strategic benefits is due what Freud knew as the power of 'wish thinking'. Liberals want to believe that Afghanistan was and is about the Afghan people.

Unfortunately, despite the sincere efforts of some Western aid agencies, at least the ones not tied to corporate donors, the Fourth Afghan War was always about the unpleasant business of forestalling Iranian influence in the Indian subcontinent by ensuring that the TAPI pipeline gets built.

The fact that work on the TAPI pipeline has not yet begun does not mean that the obsession with getting it constructed has not been a continuity in Western foreign policy since 2001. In short, the TAPI pipeline is central war aim.

By blocking off lucrative Iranian gas exports to the east to a Pakistan that is in danger of political instability due to constant energy shortages and blackouts, the USA ( the most powerful Western Power ) is pursuing its policy of putting the screws on Iran's economy and politicians.

By comparison, the TAPI Pipeline would unite Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India in a community of interest that would isolate Iran. As such it has now dovetailed with the sanctions policy of the Obama administration. This is why Pakistan has been threatened over the IP deal.

That Afghanistan is about the hard realities of geopolitics seldom gets any mention in mainstream Western media. Yet a cursory glance at US 'think thank' papers, the Indian and Pakistani newspapers, reveals that discussions over the merits of the TAPI project are accepted as routine facts.

The former World Bank energy economist John Foster writes in detail about it in his Pipeline Through a Troubled Land. Lutz Klevemann, a journalist of high reputation and integrity, interviewd the Afghan energy minister in 2003 who admitted that the war was centrally concerned with the pipeline.

Reference to 'Western interests' never mention the TAPI Pipeline as it is considered bad form to mention this as it contradicts the 'humanitarian narrative' about NATO's involvement. Enlightened self-interest in Afghanistan has been far more about self interest than 'enlightened' policy.

For it's a cruel fact that states dependent upon lucrative transit fees are liable to political infighting and corruption as politicians vie for power to control the $3 trillion in transit fees the TAPI pipeline would generate in a land as poor as Afghanistan.

Moreover, the instability in Pakistan is exacerbated by the squabbles over accepting, as Zadari did, the IP pipeline deal as it provides gas four times cheaper than the TAPI which has not yet even begun construction. Not least as it threatens Western aid packages.

These are the hard facts.

More hard evidence that the Fourth Afghan War is about energy geopolitics can be read in John Foster's Afghanistan, The TAPI Pipeline and Energy Geopolitics
In January 2009, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, then NATO Secretary General, said, “Protecting pipelines is first and foremost a national responsibility. And it should stay like that. NATO is not in the business of protecting pipelines. But when there's a crisis, or if a certain nation asks for assistance, NATO could, I think, be instrumental in protecting pipelines on land.”
Obviously, there has been a 'crisis' in Afghanistan for a long time. Whilst obviously, the Bush II administration's immediate concern was to remove Al Qaida from it's base in Afghanistan, the relationship between Al Qaida and the Taliban was never an easy one as they distrusted the 'Afghan Arabs'.

The significance of the 9/11 attacks in 2001 is that it definitively put an end to any illusion that the Taliban would be reliable clients in promoting what was then known as the UNOCAL pipeline before 2006 when it was renamed the TAPI Pipeline.

The irony is that, for all the rhetoric of 'humanitarian intervention', the US administration has been trying to negotiate with more 'moderate' elements of the Taliban as part of the 'transition'. This is consistent with the continuity with US negotitions with the Taliban in the 1990s over the pipeline.

As Jason Burke pointed out in his Al Qaeda, the Bush II administration made an error after 9/11 in thinking of it as a terrorist 'group' with a rigid chain of command and hierachy that could be eliminated by thinking of it as a permanent ally of the Taliban.

There was evidence that the Taliban often detested Al Qaida's presence, a legacy of the mujahadeen struggles against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. After the Soviet Union was defeated, with US and UK assistance, the mujahadeen broke up into squabbling factions and rival militias.

US policy has always been opportunistic in Afghanistan. The invasion of 2001 was about destroying 'the base' of Al Qaida. Yet it was also about the pipeline and remains so to this day. Not to mention the flawed 'war on drugs' and destruction of the opium crops and export of heroin to the West.

The only impact in such a poor war ravaged land as Afghanistan of doing that was to drive opium farmers into the hands of the Taliban who then reversed its policy of suppressing the opium trade into wholeheatedly promoting it and profiting from it in order to continue fighting NATO.

The fact is that the 'war on drugs' and destroying opium crops reduced supply for a time whilst not reducing the massive demand in the bored consumer societies of the US and Western Europe for the mind numbing qualities of heroin.

The majority of opium comes from Helmland, a Taliban stronghold, through which the TAPI pipeline route goes. This is where the vast majority of British troop deaths have happened since around 2007. Without any stake in the politicking in far off Kabul, the Taliban were bound to keep the war going.

The embarassment of having waged a war with contradictory objectives has led Western politicians to concentrate on trying to omit all mention of this war and to cynically concentrate on lauding the heroism of the soldiers whom they sent to their deaths for nothing.

Why Glenn Greenwald Rationalises Jihadist Terrorism.

A certain Mr Gunnison has challenged my view that Glen Greenwald is responsible for rationalising terrorism. He states bluntly
Can you put your finger on, and link to, a statement he's made which justifies the suggestion that he holds US foreign policy alone to be the sole causative agent for "jihadist violence" against the US?
Yes, it is possible to quote Greenwald's position in this sense exactly. As here,
In the last several years, there have been four other serious attempted or successful attacks on US soil by Muslims, and in every case, they emphatically all say the same thing: that they were motivated by the continuous, horrific violence brought by the US and its allies to the Muslim world - violence which routinely kills and oppresses innocent men, women and children..
The claim that Mr Greenwald has rationalised terrorism stands. The claim they are acting "rationally" is a rationalisation, as if they were involved in a form of asymetric warfare with attainable goals. And no ideology or aims of their of their own.

The fact is that jihadists suscribe to ideologies. There is almost no mention of their ideology in what Mr Greenwald writes At the moment, nobody knows exactly what the motivations of the Boston Bombers is. Do you ? Or is it a predictable response ?

Just because they claim that US foreign policy made them resort to terrorism is to take at face value the legitimacy of their seething rage and anger. It does nothing to understand that with the Boston Bombings were carried out by deracinated Chechens.

If anything, most Chechen terrorism has been aimed at Russia. For the obvious reason that it was Russia that fought a war with Chechnya and not the USA. But Greenwald merely accepts that US foreign policy in Afghanistan would lead Chechens to bomb Boston.

As regards Mr Greenwald rationalising of terrorism as a rational response ( it's never justified but merely "explained" etc etc ) it is true it's a conscious choice to resort to terrorism.

But terrorism is the method by which jihadists wish to punish the civilians in a democracy for not doing enough to stop their governments pursuing foreign policies they do not like. Other Muslims who are angry do not murder civilians.

Yet a conscious choice can be a reflexive reaction based on nihilistic anger and hatred. This is precisely why the idea of intentionality is important in this debate.

Then Mr Greenwald sententiously lectured me after I challenged him on his rationalisation thus,'s natural for people to want to view their own side as good and noble and the designated enemy as evil and savage: every population in every war is trained to think in such tribalistic terms. No war could be sustained without this propaganda: Our violence is noble and Theirs is evil.
It is simply not natural for Chechens to want to mass murder citizens in Boston when the USA has not even attacked Chechnya. If the premises of Greenwald were taken seriously, then the USA could just as well retaliate by intentionally murdering Muslims everywhere.

It would just be, well, retaliation, would it not? Another form of mass murder that they might as well indulge themselves in without any attempt at all to minimise civilian casualties. The outcome of such logic is universal pyschopathology.

But of course such considerations were of no consequence to Greenwald who then argued against my position with an tone of airy condescension,
...none of this is relevant to the discussion. Regardless of its motives, the US is continuously killing innocent people in multiple countries around the world, and the results of that behavior (returned violence) are both predictable and rational.
To Greenwald it is central to the discussion even if you want to frame the debate only in ways that suit the 'Chomskyite' propaganda that wish to peddle. There is nothing "predictable" about terror attacks ( um, did he predict the Boston Bombings ? ).

The random psychopathological nature of terrorist attacks is part of the reason they call it terrorism. It is meant to instill terror. Al Qaida's original demand was US troops out of Saudi Arabia. The US is in Afghanistan not to kill Muslims but for geopolitical reasons.

To suggest that jihadist terrorism is merely a form of retaliation ( both predictable and rational ) is a rationalisation based on not taking Islamist terrorism seriously on its own terms and comes close to remaining aloof from the violence with a certain callous indifference.

Which contradicts his very real concerns about the futility and bloodshed caused by Drone Bombing. Even so, if jihadist violence were mere retaliation, then that would not explain why irate Serbian nationalists after the Kosovo War in 1999 did not try to bomb Britain.

Nor why there have been no terrorist attacks in Poland, a staunch ally of the USA in Afghanistan and Iraq. And the reason is that there virtually no Muslim minorities in such countries of whom a minority have been taught to detest Western Civilisation entirely

On Islam and Islamism: The Essential Difference

US journalist, writing in The Guardian, about the way Islam is regarded as an inherently violent religion has written
( Maher )..has become one of the most vocal and extreme advocates of the view that - while he religion generally should be criticized - Islam is a uniquely threatening and destructive force and that Muslims are uniquely oppressive and violent, and that mentality has infected many of his policy views.
The problem is with conflating Islam as a religion with Islamism which is a political doctrine. Even then Islamism is not one monolithic ideology because , in reality, there are numerous forms of Islamisms. Some are relatively moderate, as in Turkey and some violent and militantly jihadist as with Al Qaida.

Mr Greenwald himself doesn't seem to make such distinctions because he tends to think that US foreign policy alone is responsible for 'causing' violent jihadist terror threats to the USA and rationalises jihadist violence as a mere 'response' to that foreign policy.

This is not to state that US foreign policy has not exacerbated the recruitment basis for anti-Western terrorism. Yet it is a convenient myth, shared by Utopian thinkers such as Chomsky, that if only the US changed its foreign policy, then the terrorist threat would merely not exist or have come into being.

The reason for this, paradoxically, lies in the assumption shared by neoconservatives that the world could be remade anew if democracy activists had their way. For the Chomsky brigade, the difference is that If 'we' changed our foreign policy entirely, then the threat would go away.

Such parochial perspectives tend to ignore the fact that the USA being dragged into foreign wars is precisely less due to imperialism but because the USA's high octane consumer economy and it's democratic capitalist system is legitimised by maintaining that oil fuelled lifestyle.

The next problem is that the word 'Islamophobia' conflates critism of Islamisms with Islam, and by extension, Muslims. Anti-Muslim sentiments exist and should be better called Anti-Muslim hatred which is not as catchy as 'Islamophobia' but gets at what is really being described.

Words matter as George Orwell knew in Politics and the English Language. Othwerwise, mutual misunderstandings and poisoned debates on both sides of this supposed 'civilisational' conflict averted. Greenwald completely ignores these nuances while basing his whole critique on the nature of public discourse.

Islam is a global religion and many forms are benign and peaceful such as that practiced by those in the Sufi Islam tradition as Malise Ruthven points out in his Islam: An Introduction. The current tensions are not 'civilisational' but about politics, in particular geopolitical issues in the Middle East.

If Western commentators could learn more about Islam and various Islamist political ideas and differentiate them from more militant and violent Islamist ideologies and form of Islam such as Salafi and Wahhabi Islam a lot of misunderstandings could be diminished.

Islam is not responsible for wars in the Middle East that are caused by political factors that stand in need of careful and pragmatic policies that are designed to lesson conflict. As in the Israel-Palestine conflict, fundamentalist dogmas, as Ruthven suggests in A Fury for God, only 'up the ante'.

There are dangers in using Islamism because it connects a religion which is often just that with militant political doctrines that, ironically, are based on taking the revolutionary ideas of European origin and blending them with an Islamic gloss.

Violence committed in the name of Islam has to called something as it exists. Salafism could be called just that. Salafi terrorism or Al Qaida terrorism. But during the Lebanese Civil War, the Phalange were referred to a Christian militias.

Should Christian fundamentalists commit atrocities, then they should be referred to as Christian fundamentalist terrorists as opposed to merely Christians or some stupid term such as' Christianofascism just  as in 'Islamofascism'.

That would not by implication impugn all Christians. It would just point to the fact that fanatics using religion as a pretext to murder will do so. Other nad terms include 'militant Islam' , as if only strong believers in Islam want to murder ( as if it were the essence of the religion ).

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Designer Revolutionary Frauds: From Marxist Utopianism to Neoconservatism in Foreign Policy

A brilliant piece from John Laughland in The Spectator in 2005 goes a long way to explain the messianic policies of "regime change" pursued by even supposedly "Conservative" government's in Britain and liberals in the USA and the "socialist" government of Hollande in France. The sentences in bold are mine.

....the way in which the West has itself adopted many of the old nostrums of communism, and especially the twin doctrines of revolution and internationalism. 

Revolution has now become a completely positive word in the Western political lexicon. Fifteen years ago it still carried — at least for conservatives — the negative connotations of ‘Bolshevik’, ‘sexual’ and ‘French’. Not any more.

The myth of revolution now wields such a strong hold over our collective consciousness that, with the compulsiveness of children who beg to be retold the same story, we regularly accept at face value fairy tales about revolutions in a faraway country of which we know nothing. Being tabula rasa for us, these countries are the perfect backdrop on which to project our own fantasies: these tales invariably follow the same formulaic sequence, in which a dishonest or authoritarian or brutal regime is overthrown by ‘people power’, and everyone lives happily ever after. 

Recent years have seen a spate of such ‘revolutions’. The overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic on 5 October 2000 in Belgrade; the overthrow of the Georgian president, Eduard Shevardnadze, in the ‘rose revolution’ of November 2003; the ‘orange revolution’ in Ukraine last Christmas; the violent overthrow of the president of Kyrgyzstan in March; the uprising in the Uzbek city of Andijan in May — all these are presented as spontaneous outbursts of righteous popular indignation.

Perhaps authoritarian regimes, rather like the walls of Jericho, really are brought tumbling down by the chanting of a John Lennon song. But before the fall of communism, ‘revolution’ and ‘people power’ were considered just leftish propaganda. We dismissed the Soviet regime’s appeal to its own founding event as grotesque political kitsch, masking the sinister reality of power machinations behind the scenes. Now we seem to have become more naive, and have started to take these same two-dimensional archetypes seriously.

It often happens that, after the event, reports reveal that things were not as spontaneous as was believed at the time. In the case of Ukraine, for instance, it is now a matter of public record that the Americans poured huge sums into the campaign of Viktor Yushchenko, and that the Ukrainian KGB was also heavily involved on the Americans’ side, playing a key role in stagemanaging the whole charade.

To be sure, the fact that secret services may be involved does not mean that the people on the streets themselves do not believe in the rightness of their cause, or that the events are the result of manipulation alone. But the simplistic terms in which these ‘revolutions’ are presented by our media, and believed by us at the time, are so strong that they reveal more about our own inner fantasies and desires, and about the true nature of our own political culture, than they do about the countries themselves.

In particular, they reveal that the West has fallen in love with the myth of revolution. If Chairman Mao once said that ‘Marxism consists of a thousand truths but they all boil down to one sentence: “It is right to rebel”’, that sentiment now forms a central tenet of Western political orthodoxy. One of the key catchphrases of George Bush’s presidency has been the eminently Trotskyite concept of world revolution: on 6 November 2003 the American President specifically said, ‘The establishment of a free Iraq in the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution.’ In his second inaugural speech, on 20 January, Bush announced nothing less than a programme of political emancipation for the whole planet — he said that America was pursuing ‘the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world’.

George Bush is not, of course, a closet Marxist. But many of his closest advisers, especially the neoconservatives, come from what can only be described as a post-Trostkyite background. The original Marxist plan was for the socialist revolution to engulf the whole planet, and this plan was embraced by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. It famously came up against the buffers of Stalin’s alternative proposal to build socialism in one country first. In exile, Trotsky kept the idea of world revolution going by setting up the Fourth International in 1938. Within two years, Irving Kristol — the man who was later to be the founding father of the neoconservative movement which so dominates the Bush administration — joined it. Kristol’s own influence has been immense and his son, William, is now one of America’s most influential neocons. But Irving Kristol never renounced or condemned his Trotskyite past: in 1983 he wrote that he was still proud of it.

The same goes for numerous leading lights in the neoconservative movement. In 1996 Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute, one of the leading ideologues of the war on terror, coined the phrase ‘global democratic revolution’ — in the subtitle of a book in which he attacked Bill Clinton for being a ‘counter-revolutionary’. The book’s title, Freedom Betrayed, is an obvious allusion to Trostky’s own 1937 account of his break with Stalin, The Revolution Betrayed. Another leading neocon, David Horowitz, himself a former communist, published The Art of Political War and Other Radical Pursuits in 2000: the book was given a warm write-up by Karl Rove, George Bush’s chief of staff, as ‘a perfect pocket guide to winning on the political battlefield from an experienced warrior’ even though Horowitz quotes Lenin approvingly in it: ‘You cannot cripple an opponent by outwitting him in a political debate. You can only do it by following Lenin’s injunction: “In political conflicts, the goal is not to refute your opponent’s argument, but to wipe him from the face of the earth.”’

 In the same vein Eric Hobsbawm, the veteran Marxist historian, wrote at the end of June that ‘At least one passionate ex-Marxist supporter of Bush has told me, only half in jest: “After all, this is the only chance of supporting world revolution that looks like coming my way.”’

If such comparisons seem outlandish, it is precisely because we in the West have failed to grasp the true nature of Marxism-Leninism. We think of communism as being all about state ownership of the means of production and central planning: in fact, Karl Marx advocated neither. Instead, according to Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the ‘soul of Marxism’ lies in something called dialectical materialism. Derived from Hegel and ultimately Heraclitus, this doctrine holds that the world is in a constant state of flux, that nothing is absolutely true or false, and that everything is connected to everything else. Permanent revolution is consequently the natural state of reality, and hence of politics. Because flux is the natural state, Marx, Engels and Lenin all reasoned that all fixed forms of political association, i.e., the state, were oppressive, and that men would not be free until the state itself had ‘withered away’. 

How was this withering away of the state to occur? For Marx and Engels the answer was clear: world capitalism would do the trick. The two authors of The Communist Manifesto eulogised the unstoppable revolutionary force of world capitalism — what we now call ‘globalisation’. They were convinced that capitalism was an unstoppable revolutionary force; that it would overthrow all the existing structures of nation, state and family; and that it would usher in a politically and economically united world. ‘The bourgeoisie,’ they enthused, ‘cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into the air, all that is holy is profaned.’

For Marx and Engels, indeed, the key to the revolutionary power of the bourgeoisie lay precisely in its international and cosmopolitan nature. ‘To the great chagrin of Reactionists,’ they wrote, ‘the bourgeoisie has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. In place of the old local and national self-seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations.’

Globalisation, in other words. Engels argued explicitly that the atomisation and deracination caused by international capitalism was the necessary precursor to worldwide emancipation. ‘The disintegration of mankind into a mass of isolated, mutually repelling atoms,’ he wrote, ‘means the destruction of all corporate, national and indeed of any particular interests and is the last necessary step towards the free and spontaneous association of men.’

It is well known that Marxists believe political arrangements to be a mere ‘superstructure’ determined by the underlying economic reality. ‘The hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord,’ Marx wrote, ‘the steam-mill, society with the industrial capitalist.’ After the fall of the Berlin Wall, when the division between East and West was overcome, Western ideologues of globalisation used this same Marxist argument to claim that things like the internet and the fax machine meant that the sovereign state belonged in the dustbin of history. They then used this alleged withering away of the state to argue in favour of a one-world political regime, in which statehood would have to give way to the superior claims of universal human rights. Tony Blair justified Nato’s attack on Yugoslavia in 1999 by saying that the right to bomb a country for alleged human rights abuses derived from globalisation. ‘People are recognising that if there is a serious problem with the Brazilian economy, it develops into a serious problem for the British economy,’ he said. ‘It is similar with security problems.’ 

The neocons hated Bill Clinton for his pragmatic refusal to follow Tony Blair’s logic through to its conclusion — for instance, when he withdrew from chaotic Somalia rather than carry the burden of nation-building. George Bush has done the opposite. He seldom allows reason of state, or any other practical consideration, to befog his own ideological clarity. In his second inauguration speech, Bush pronounced the word ‘freedom’ 28 times, the word ‘free’ seven times and the word ‘liberty’ 15 times: he sounded as if he was singing the Internationale.

Bush makes a highly moralistic appeal to universal values, which he says America embodies and which he insists ‘are right and true for all people everywhere’. ‘Freedom,’ he has said, ‘is the non-negotiable demand of human dignity; the birthright of every person — in every civilisation.’ Laced as it is with religious (often esoteric and even apocalyptic) vocabulary — the American President frequently says that freedom is God’s plan for mankind — Bush’s messianic political discourse recalls the Marxist movement which swept through Latin America in the 1970s, conjugating God and politics, and which was known as ‘liberation theology’.

It is this promise to emancipate the whole of mankind which so endears George Bush to a phalanx of former Marxist ideologues like Christopher Hitchens, Nick Cohen, John Lloyd, Julie Burchill and David Aaronovitch. People who in their youth idolised the worker ‘who has no country’ have little difficulty identifying with today’s cosmopolitan ideology of globalisation, or with George Bush’s internationalism. Hitchens has defended his own surprising work with the neoconservatives by saying, ‘I feel much more like I used to in the 1960s, working with revolutionaries’, and he understands that George Bush’s policy of regime change is by definition going to be supported by revolutionaries. As he pointed out, with his customary clarity, in a recent debate on the Today programme with his brother, Peter, ‘It is right, I think, that conservatives oppose regime change: that is what conservatives do.’

Support for the programme of world revolution also explains the support given by ten Eastern European heads of government, nearly all of them former communist apparatchiks who, almost alone in the world, lined up obediently to sign an open letter of support for the impending Iraq war in February 2003

. ‘Dissidents’ in Eastern Europe — broadly speaking, the people who are now in power — were not anti-communists at all, but instead ‘critical’ Marxists who worked within the communist system to reform it, not destroy it. Bush’s announced fight ‘against tyranny’ is of obvious appeal to those who used to rally around the old communist cry of ‘anti-fascism’, which in turn was largely a slogan expressing leftist hostility to the nation and the state, both of which are now deeply unpopular concepts in the West.

Indeed, it is a striking indication of the dominance of left-wing modes of thought in the West that the supreme political insult in the new world order is ‘authoritarian’. Authority is, by definition, a conservative notion — and that is why it is universally reviled in the West today. Without exception, every single political leader whom the West has removed, or tried to remove, in the last decade and a half has been labelled ‘authoritarian’ or ‘nationalist’, as if these right-wing vices were the only political sin. This malediction is bandied about even when the leaders so attacked are in fact old lefties like Slobodan Milosevic, Alexander Lukashenko or Saddam Hussein.

In short, any state which pursues a policy of national independence will soon find itself in the West’s cross-hairs. The Clintonite doctrine that there are such things as ‘rogue states’, which has been effortlessly adopted by George W. Bush, means precisely this. There is an international and a domestic aspect to this hostility to the state: internationally, George Bush’s ‘forward strategy of freedom’ — predicated as it is on the assumption that states have a right to enjoy their national sovereignty only under certain conditions — entails support for the anti-sovereignist dictates of punitive supranational law. In internal politics, the anti-state Marxist-Hegelian doctrine of ‘civil society’ has become a central plank of Western thinking, at least for states it wishes to control.

 In Eastern Europe, for instance, supposed ‘non-governmental organisations’ are invariably presented as being more authentic and objective representatives of popular opinion than the established, public, law-based structures of the state. This applies even when the so-called NGOs are in fact front organisations funded by Western governments, as is often the case. Indeed, the mere activity of ‘opposition’; is, by itself, often elevated to a sort of political sainthood, as if the exercise of authority and power were intrinsically sinful. In one egregious case, in Georgia, the task of counting the votes in the January 2004 presidential election was given to just such a private NGO, with the established state authorities simply sidelined. 

Like Marxists, indeed, and like many of his European friends, George Bush appears to believe both that freedom is an ineluctable ‘force of history’ and also that it requires constant struggle to achieve it. He argues, like Hegel, Marx’s precursor, that humanity is one, and that a free state like the USA is not really free if other states live under tyranny. In his mind, old-fashioned American Puritan millenarianism marries easily with the missionary mentality of world revolutionists. ‘The survival of liberty in our land,’ he said in January, ‘increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.’ A true conservative, by contrast, would say that there is much evil in the outside world — and that the duty of a statesman is to hold it at bay. 

George Orwell is rightly credited with predicting a great deal, yet it is an indication of how far leftwards the West has travelled that his key prediction is often overlooked. Orwell saw that the Cold War would end on the basis of a convergence between communism and capitalism — the very predicament in which we now find ourselves. At the end of Animal Farm the farmer, who symbolises the capitalist West, returns to the farm and plays cards with the pigs, who symbolise communism. The shivering creatures outside ‘looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which’.