Sunday, 2 June 2013

Syria: The Appalling Prospect of Widening Conflict.

Syria could quite potentially be one of the most dangerous flash points in global history. It occupies an important location in the Middle East and is the site now, as the conflict has developed into a bloody civil war along sectarian lines,for global power politics over the ultimate control of oil and gas to be played out.

The escalation of the violence and threats of greater violence have increased in recent weeks with Hizbollah entering decisively to attack Sunni insurgent strongholds and repel their militias. Hizbollah success in this, and growing Iranian influence, would decisively destroy the West's dominant role in the Middle East.

Indeed, it is a symbolic that even a small Gulf state such as Qatar has a hold on Britain and it has an impact on British foreign policy. It is important in the way it is acting as regards Syria that it is backed without question by the UK. Given that Qatar is active is already funnelling arms to the Sunni jihadists in Syria.
Neither the USA nor Britain will stand up to Saudi Arabia is about oil supplies. Britain also has highly lucrative British Aerospace contracts and armsdeals with Saudi Arabia to shore up the lynchpin of British and US interests in the Middle East and one as responsible as any for spreading and promoting terrorism.

Unfortunately, this foreign policy is not only about the enrichment of the elites or oil companies. It connects with the very facts of everyday existence in in the UK today. The 'right' to relatively cheap oil and a high octane lifestyle is not for negotiation in either the US or the UK.

Hence the absurd legacy of the Iraq War launched by the US and UK in 2003, a war to control its oil was that in imposing a democracy they eventually got a Shia dominated government under Maliki that looks favourably on Tehran. Three months ago Iraq agreed to the construction of an Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline.

This Iranian 'Islamic' pipeline project can only have ramped up the pressure for the West to retain the freedom to actively intervene by backing the Sunni insurgents as and when the US, UK and France decides it has less to lose than by doing so in order to prevent Shia dominance.

The conflict in Syria is now squarely between two oil and gas rich states, that is, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Due to the counter productive impact of sanctions on Iran, it is now all the more interested in checking Sunni insurgents and will be seen as a measure of vital measure of defence.

But the fact is that the West has no alternative supply of oil and gas that would allow it flexibility not to get dragged into this regional proxy war. Iran is a regional power that has the basis of a democracy already. Yet it has been encircled by the West through military force being used in Iraq and Afganistan.

Without any attempt at negotiation via diplomacy, Iran responded by supplying arms to Hizbollah. It was always going to be the way Iran would respond as the IAEA has been politicised by the USA to advance the idea it has the capacity to build nuclear weapons and justify any measures against itas it sees necessary.

This is what is so dangerous about the situation. Iran is a bulwark against Western hegemony in Central Asia as much as the Middle East. The war in Afghanistan cannot end in 2014  because the infrastructural projects in Afghanistan are not complete. Politicians only speak now of 'draw-down' not withdrawal.

The largest so-called 'infrastructural' project is the TAPI pipeline in Afghanistan, the reason ( yet seldom mentioned ) that the US and NATO forces are 'staying the course'. The calculation is not just to supply south east Asia with gas but to block off the rival IP pipeline and so entrench sanctions against Iran.

That's why Syria is important. Not only is it a proxy struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia, as well as a sectarian conflict that will potentially spread across the the Middle East. It is part of a wider geopolitical struggle for the control over resources in Central Asia and hegemony in world politics.

As I sit here in the year just preceding the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War the date '1914' is hanging heavy with those who can see parallels in how the Great Powers got dragged into a catastrophe. The stakes could not be higher this time: all developed and developing powers need oil as their lifeblood.

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