Friday, 13 June 2014

Back to Iraq: The Syrian Conflict and Jihadist Blowback.

The capture of Mosul and Tikrit by ISIS-and the potential military intervention of the US in Iraq once more being considered-is a consequence of the 'blowback' created by Western geostrategy in Syria and the continued chaotic aftermath of the US and British invasion of Iraq in 2003.

One of the unintended consequences of Bush and Blair's invasion was that it has empowered the Shi'ites whose militias were needed to defeat the threat of Sunni militias and the remnants of Saddam's army which are now clearly involved in the retaking of the old Iraqi dictator's home city.

The US and Britain have been concerned since the Syrian Civil War broke out in 2011 that should President Assad and his Alawite Shia government not be overthrown, that Maliki's Iraq would form a land bridge between Syria and Iran through which weapons and men could be sent to Lebanon's Hizbollah.

ISIS has been gaining ground throughout 2014 and so brutal and successful has it proved in battle, that both Saudi Arabia and Qatar,along with their ally the US, have been secretly backing jihadist groups in Syria in their opposition to ISIS which was considered 'al-Qaeda's most extreme wing'.

However, it is a fact that one of the jihadist groups fighting ISIS is the Jabhat Al Nusra Front. This organisation is funded and supplied with arms by Saudi Arabia as a means to bolster the power of Salafists against the Shia and also as a rival to the power of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood ( backed by Qatar).

Saudi Arabia and Qatar are aligned in opposition to the power of Assad in Syria and Maliki in Iran as both are Shi'ite administrations. However, the Sunni insurgents in Syria are divided between those backed by either regional power and that has weakened the military opposition to Assad.

Saudi Arabia opposes the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and went as far as labelling it 'a terrorist organisation' recently because Saudi Arabia has always feared Muslim Brotherhood ideas as subversive and because it Qatar is trying to assert its leadership over the Free Syrian Army.

With ISIS being rejected by Al Qaida for being 'too extreme', the absurdity is that Saudi Arabia , and by extension the US, are going to be effectively backing groups such as the Al Nusra Front, an Al Qaida affiliate, to fight against ISIS and bring the jihadist movement back 'under control'.

Moreover, ISIS's success in northern Syria threatens to destroy the military opposition to Assad from the Free Syrian Army that the US and Britain have tacitly backed through supporting Saudi Arabia and Qatar as well as Turkey which had intitially allowed ISIS to operate along its borders.

This colossal mess is a consequence of Qatar and Saudi Arabia using Syria as a proxy war battleground against both Iran and Iraq, a strategy aided and abetted by the US and Britain. Baghdad has remained close to its Shia neighbour to the east as has, of course, Assad.

Both Qatar and Saudi Arabia fear a Shi'ite axis stretching from the Gulf to the Eastern Mediterranean.Qatar has been allowed to 'play with fire' because it is a major supplier of liquified natural gas to Britain and France and a huge source of investment in both London and Paris.

In addition, Qatar and its allies in Britain and France has wanted Assad to go because they fear Iran could use its influence in Iraq and Syria, should the Free Syria Army be defeated, to construct an 'Islamic pipeline' which would allow gas from the South Pars field ( shared with Qatar) to flow west.

With ISIS poised to strike at Baghdad, the US would be clearly wary of Iraq being taken over by fanatical jihadists, even if both it and Saudi Arabia could see it as a chance to use the potential threat  as a means of getting a less militantly Shia and pro-Iranian government in Iraq.

Even so, ISIS would be poised to capture important oil installations in Kirkuk and threaten the Kurdish regions of Iraq, where the US and Britain have been at the forefront of vying for oil exploration contracts, and so affect global oil prices which are already running at a three month high.

More ominously, ISIS is believed to contain at least 20 British nationals in it as well as jihadists from across the world being trained in the art of terror and machine gunning and beheading civilians at random. The threat of terrorists coming back to Western capitals could increase.

Western foreign policy has clearly failed as far as the publicly declared aim of 'countering extremism'. The reason is that it has been too closely associated with backing the irresponsible policies of Qatar and Saudi Arabia because of the hold they have over the US, France and Britain as regards energy and finance.

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