Wednesday, 18 June 2014

ISIS and an 'Extreme Islamist Regime'

'I'd disagree with those people who think this is nothing to do with us and if they want to have some sort of extreme Islamist regime in the middle of Iraq that won't affect us – it will"
ISIS is very much 'to do' with Britain and the US having backed its Gulf allies and their foreign policy. The bulk of past funding for ISIS came from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar both when ISIS was a force fighting the Shi'ite militias in Iraq but also when it was aligned with the Free Syria Army.

As recently as 2013 ISIS was fighting with ISIS against the Kurdish militias. Al Qaida broke with ISIS because its interests were better served by remaining with affiliated groups that both Britain and the US have assisted in their struggle against Assad by backing Saudi and Qatari policy.

Cameron's use of the word 'extreme Islamist' is a slight improvement on Tony Blair's use of the soundbite 'jihadi extremist' which implies there may well be 'jihadi moderates'. If 'extremist' is taken to mean ISIS, then Al Qaida affilated groups such as Al Nusra brigades could be correspondingly 'moderate'.
"The people in that regime, as well as trying to take territory, are also planning to attack us here at home in the United Kingdom. So the right answer is to be long term, hard-headed, patient and intelligent with the interventions that we make'
When Cameron uses the words 'that regime' it could be taken to imply that there could be a military intervention not only against ISIS but also against Assad of the sort he was itching for in the summer of 2013. ISIS is a jihadi group but it is not a government nor a 'regime' in any conventional sense
'..the most important intervention of all is to make sure that these governments are fully representative of the people who live in their countries, that they close down the ungoverned space, and they remove the support for the extremists.
If that were British foreign policy, then the emphasis would have to be upon being more forceful with Qatar and Saudi Arabia which have been at the forefront of backing militant Sunni jihadists in Syria. But , on the whole, both Britain and the US have tended to turn a blind eye to this.
"our engagement with the Saudi Arabians, with Qataris, with Emiratis and others is all on the basis that none of us should be supporting those violent terrorists or extremists'
This means that London and Washington have tried to dissuade Qatar and Saudi Arabia from backing Sunni jihadists through fear of 'blowback'. But Qatar has actually made it plain it does not care. The Qatari foreign minister stated in March 2014 ;"The independence of Qatar's foreign policy is simply non-negotiable".

The reason Britain's 'engagement' with Qatar has not meant preventing them from supporting Al Qaida affiliated groups is that Cameron's government has been forthright in courting Qatar as a major source of investment in Britain, important to prop up its ailing rentier economy, and of gas.

With instability in Ukraine and the need to diversify sources of gas away from dependence upon Russia, notable both Cameron and Johnson have been banging the drum for increased bilateral ties with Qatar, a power lauded by Johnson as a "dynamic friend'.

Britain has grovelled before Qatar because its domestic supplies of North Sea gas have been depleting in recent years. An essential reason for Britain supporting Qatar's policy of backing jihadists in Syria is to get rid of Assad and secure the contruction of the Qatar-Tukey gas pipeline.

Britain has been prepared to align with Qatar in such as way as to provide the space within which groups such as ISIS can flourish because it wanted to remove Assad and prevent a 'Shi'ite gas pipeline' running from Iran's part of the South pars gasfield through Iraq and Syria to the Easterm Mediterranean.

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