Sunday, 31 August 2014

Britain and Qatar: Why National Security is Energy Security.

'Take Qatar. There is evidence that, as the US magazine The Atlantic puts it, “Qatar’s military and economic largesse has made its way to Jabhat al-Nusra”, an al-Qaida group operating in Syria. Less than two weeks ago, Germany’s development minister, Gerd Mueller, was slapped down after pointing the finger at Qatar for funding Islamic State (Isis).

While there is no evidence to suggest Qatar’s regime is directly funding Isis, powerful private individuals within the state certainly are, and arms intended for other jihadi groups are likely to have fallen into their hands. According to a secret memo signed by Hillary Clinton, released by Wikileaks, Qatar has the worst record of counter-terrorism cooperation with the US.

And yet, where are the western demands for Qatar to stop funding international terrorism or being complicit in the rise of jihadi groups? Instead, Britain arms Qatar’s dictatorship, selling it millions of pounds worth of weaponry including “crowd-control ammunition” and missile parts. There are other reasons for Britain to keep stumm, too. Qatar owns lucrative chunks of Britain such as the Shard, a big portion of Sainsbury’s and a slice of the London Stock Exchange.To really combat terror, end support for Saudi Arabia, Owen Jones, Guardian, Sunday 31 August 2014
All true, but Jones omits that Britain gets 12% of its gas supply from Qatar in the form of liquefied natural gas. Without that it would have to get it from Russia or else fracking has to happen. If not, then nuclear power has to expanded because renewable sources would not be sufficient for a nation of 60million increasing.

The stock argument as regards the weapons sales would be that if they were not sold, Britain would lose both the money and also the special relationship which would enable it to exert at least some influence over Qatar, though there seems little evidence before 2014 that this had much effect.

The dependence upon Qatar increased following the decline of North Sea gas and the fact Britain became a net importer of gas in 2006. This trend is set to continue because Britain would prefer not to become more dependent upon Russian gas, not least given the Ukrainian crisis developing into a potential 'full war'.

The problem with Owen Jones' analysis is that it pretends the relationship is based on the idea of 'the Establishment' and the corporations putting profits from arms deals before Britain's security given Qatar's backing for Sunni militants in Syria, even those affiliated to Al Qaida.

The reality is more complicated and based upon a projection of energy needs and security. Britain’s dependence on gas imports will rise to 70% by 2020. In November 2013 the then Energy Minister Michael Fallon claimed Britain was already importing 50% of its energy.

Far from being only about corporate profits, energy analyst Graham Freedman made plain it that “until we get the next surge in LNG over the next three years we’ll see higher prices and of course utilities have to pass these on to consumers". Higher bills means less shopping and consumer driven 'growth'.

Energy security is set to become more problematic over time. Michael Fallon stated that by 2030, the UK would need to purchase three-quarters of its natural gas needs. So even if, unlike the US, Britain imports no oil from Saudi Arabia, Qatar is vital as a source of gas.

In November 2013, the Centrica corporation signed a GBP4 billion contract with Qatargas to import 3 million tonnes per year of LNG over a period of 4.5 years ( ending 2018 ), which adds up to equalling roughly some 13% of the UK’s annual residential gas demand.

The contract would not be connected to oil prices and Qatar has been prepared to divert LNG westwards, even though it could fetch a higher price in Asia. Fallon stated that “long-term deals of this kind with reliable suppliers like Qatar are vital for our future energy security.”

One reason Britain enjoys such a close relationship with Qatar is not only that it is a key energy and investment partner, thus recycling the petrocurrency into the London property market and the Stock Exchange, but also that Britain is committing itself to defending it.

Qatar is a major rival of Iran. One reason why Britain backed Qatar and Turkey in their support for the Muslim Brotherhood and the Free Syria Army, and failed to do anything when it was clear the Sunni jihadists were getting more ruthless, was to check Iranian influence in Syria.

Qatar in 2009 proposed a Qatar-Turkey pipeline that would transport gas from the South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf, which is shared with Iran, through Syria and Turkey, making Erdogan's country an east-west energy hub between the EU and the Middle East.

Not only was removing Assad vital to this geostrategy. Indeed, there were fears that Iran could build a rival 'Shi'ite Islamic pipeline' from the Gulf towards the Eastern Mediterranean via Iraq should the Shia Alawi ruler Assad not be removed as planned.

Hence Qatar is considered a vital geopolitical ally in containing Iran far more than with Saudi Arabia, which despises and fears Qatar's support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Syria, as well as Hamas, could radicalise radical Islamists in the oil rich kingdom just west.

Both Gulf states see in Iran the main threat and that's both why they turned a blind eye to private donors funding Sunni jihadists in Syria and were even in competition with each other to back the most ruthless factions so that they could win the right to control Syria after Assad.

Philip Hammond in April 2014 made plain that Britain is not simply interested only in arms deals in the Middle East but in committing Britain to Qatar's defence and that the strategic aim was quite forthrightly about the security of Britain's energy interests.
“As we draw down from the combat situation in Afghanistan, where we have for many years had an opportunity to provide training to our forces through the deployments they do to Afghanistan, we have to think through how we will train our forces in desert warfare, in hot-conditions’ combat in the future, and certainly one of the options is to establish a more permanent facility, somewhere in the Gulf,
The West is crucially dependent on a stable energy market above all else. Our economic recovery is fragile. Anything that calls for a spike in the oil price would derail it.

The mostly likely scenario to cause that up spike is a surge in tension in this region, particularly in the Strait of Hormuz. It is very much in our interest to have a stable situation in the Gulf. That is why Western countries are prepared to invest so much in this region and supporting the Gulf states to maintain that stability,”

Britain's Foreign Policy on IS: Building Towards Military Intervention.

'As Washington seeks to build a multi-national coalition to support an expansion of air strikes against the jihadists....the prime minister returned to work in Downing Street to intensify plans for an emergency action plan to be agreed at the Nato summit'. The Guardian
'We have been putting in humanitarian aid. I can confirm that last night I authorised two Hercules to participate in the big aid drop on Amerli, a town that has been under siege for nearly two months. The RAF dropped 14 tonnes of food and water there for a population that has been completely besieged'-Michael Fallon, British Defence Minister.
Since the US bombing of IS positions commenced a couple of weeks ago, there has been a growing feeling that Britain too could be dragged back into involvement in Iraq at a level beyond RAF Hercules aircraft dropping food supplies to Iraqis in need and surrounded by IS foot soldiers.

The emphasis has been, therefore, upon humanitarian intervention once more, something invariably leading to the suspicion of yet another 'western war' being planned or else that IS is a creation of the CIA acting in tangent with Israel and with the Caliph himself a Mossad plant.

Certainly, there is not much evidence of public support for any military intervention. Had there been, it is far more likely Cameron could have taken a Blair-style 'shoulder to shoulder' stance. If anything, Cameron was playing for time throughout August 2014, not wanting to be seen as rushing into another conflict.

Cameron claimed Britain's 'military prowess' and 'assets' would be deployed, that 'boots on the ground' were not an 'option on the table' nor air strikes-unless requested. The language of Cameron and his ministers is standard fare and so yawn inducingly banal that many people would feel like switching off the TV.

It looks likely that the British government does not know what could be done or else, far more likely,  it does but is putting out constant spin and managing the media to try and play down the imminent threat of military intervention until some sort of trump card, yet to be played, could be produced.

The task of Britain's politicians seems to consist in trying to anticipate what Washington is going to require its 'first ally' to do the better to position themselves and Britain's 'military assets' at the service of the US should they be requested and so pose as independent 'global players'.

The attempt by the government to ramp up the rhetoric about IS is about softening up public opinion ready for military intervention. Bombing IS positions is not going to defeat it, however, and there is not much sign of any shift away from the failed foreign policy towards Syria. So a 'generational struggle' is on.

This is known as 'public diplomacy'. The basic fact is that the military intervention in northern Iraq is primarily about protecting the Kurdistan region and the oil producing regions from IS and to prevent the Iraqi state collapsing. This would trigger off a potential surge in global oil prices. 

The international development minister Alan Duncan "This is such a complicated conflict that any response needs to be a well co-ordinated international effort." John Kerry went on in a speech later to claim there was a need for a 'world coalition' to defeat a 'genocidal ISIS'.

By 'international', that means 'the west' taking action to ensure energy security as some 20% of Iraqi oil is exported to Europe. But more oil goes to East Asia which is heavily dependent upon imported oil. Higher oil prices would mean higher production costs in China and the cost passed on to Western consumers.

It is partly because the US and Britain back in 2003 caused the havoc in Iraq, still unfolding to such an extreme degree in 2014, that military intervention of some sort of a continued basis appears inevitable. But it also underlines the way the global economies have become dangerously overdependent upon oil.

This is a fact many in the West refuse to confront. It is one thing blaming the politicians as bungling and pursuing a contradictory strategy in Syria and Iraq. But, at a deeper level, the hyper-consumerism that those citizens enjoy requires that this sort of military intervention becomes more frequent.

So, in this sense, political double standards are necessary whereby the most obvious facts about British foreign policy, such as the energy interests ( i.e oil and gas ) are seldom talked about sensibly and reduced to cynical sneers by 'anti-war' activists about military intervention being 'all about the oil'.

This, in turn, means that the very serious problem of the most advanced global economies being fragile and dependent upon oil prices, and the continued access to easily available supples, is impossible to discuss without the accusation of peddling conspiracy theories being made by the defenders of the foreign policy.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

"A Greater and Deeper Threat to our Security than we have Known Before".

"It was clear evidence, not that any more was needed, that this is not some foreign conflict thousands of miles from home that we can hope to ignore. The ambition to create an extremist caliphate in the heart of Iraq and Syria is a threat to our own security here in the UK.
In Afghanistan the Taliban were prepared to play host to al Qaida, the terrorist organisation. With IS we are facing a terrorist organisation not being hosted in a country but seeking to establish and then violently expand its own terrorist state.
"With designs on expanding to Jordan, Lebanon, right up to the Turkish border, we could be facing a terrorist state on the shores of the Mediterranean and bordering a Nato member.
The ambition to create an extremist caliphate in the heart of Iraq and Syria is a threat to our own security here in the UK.
The terrorist threat was not created by the Iraq war 10 years ago. it existed even before the horrific attacks on 9/11, themselves some time before the war.
This threat cannot be solved simply by dealing with perceived grievances over Western foreign policy. Nor can it be dealt with by addressing poverty, dictatorship or instability in the region - as important as these things are.
The root cause of this threat to our security is quite clear. It is a poisonous ideology of Islamist extremism that is condemned by all faiths and faith leaders."-Prime Minister David Cameron.
The threat that Islamic State poses would most likely not have existed had it not been for Western foreign policy as it could not have exploited the chaos in northern Syria to gain power and declare the coming of the Caliphate both there and in Sunni parts of Iraq, a land destabilised by the 2003 US-UK invasion.

The tissue of untruths spun by Prime Minister Cameron, in reaction to the barbaric beheading of US journalist James Foley, shows how leading politicians are prepared to use the power of media images to put the case for unending and permanent intervention, even of a military kind, in the Middle East.

MI6 is there to advance geostrategies and manage the attendent risks. As Patrick Cockurn made plain, MI6 was involved, alongside the CIA, in channelling weapons to Sunni jihadists such as Jabhat al-Nusra from Libya and setting up a 'supply chain' of weapons provision across the Turkish borders into Syria.

Britain should never have backed the strategic policy of Qatar and Turkey in backing Sunni militants against Assad through groups such as 'Friends of Syria'. The reason why Britain's security has been comprimised is because this policy of backing regional powers in the Middle East who were prepared to back jihadists.

Britain should have been putting far more pressure on Turkey to tighten up the borders to prevent Western jihadists entering. Certainly, Turkey would need have to prevent IS militants crossing back into its territory so if it could acheive that, as Turkey is an IS target too, they could be detained there.

Ramping up the terror threat level to "highly likely", of course, is a way of preparing Britain for an attack if it happened. It also serves to deflect attention away from the fact that Britain's foreign policy helped empower IS by supposing that 'moderate' Sunni forces could be backed to oust Assad.

It was clear that both Qatar and Saudi Arabia were locked into a competition throughout 2012-2013 to back the most effective ( i.e ruthless ) jihadi groups so that they would be able to determine a post-Assad Syria. That and the chaos of the war created space for IS to gain ground and flourish.

In 2013 ISIS was fighting with the Free Syria Army against the Kurds which are now being supported by the US and Britain. Until late 2013 and 2014 little was done by London or Washington to put greater pressure on Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to stop the transfer of funds from private donors to Sunni militants.

All these prevention of terrorism policies are reflexes to to the consequence of a failed foreign policy strategy that was even more fundamentally foolish that the one in which the US and Britain backed the mujahadeen in Afghanistan in the 1980s, splinter factions of which went on to become Al Qaida.

Syria has become a failed state in the north as a consequence of the policy that 'Assad must go', a demand pushed for by Qatar and Turkey to check Iran and to expedite the possible construction of a gas pipeline from the South Pars gas field to Turkey and an energy hungry EU.

At the core of the West's problems and the terror threat is its energy dependency upon gas from unstable lands which makes it bound to look for energy diversification no matter what the consequences and risks could be. Qatar is a major supplier of LNG to Britain and France.

The foreign policy agenda was clearly set out by Philip Hammond in April 2014, when mulling the possibility of a British base being constructed in Qatar
“The West is crucially dependent on a stable energy market above all else, Our economic recovery is fragile. Anything that calls for a spike in the oil price would derail it. The mostly likely scenario to cause that up spike is a surge in tension in this region, particularly in the Strait of Hormuz. It is very much in our interest to have a stable situation in the Gulf. That is why Western countries are prepared to invest so much in this region and supporting the Gulf states to maintain that stability.”
With Russia and Ukraine almost in a state of war and Libya haven fallen to Islamist jihadists, Britain and Europe's energy security looks more fragile than ever before and this has been factored in to the need to take risky foreign policy decisions such as continuing to back Sunni militants in Syria.

Until Britain, and other European powers, find energy alternatives to oil and gas, the dependency dillemma is always going to drag Western powers into meddling in the Middle East and causing the sort of potentially very dangerous problem of terrorist 'blowback' on a permanent basis.

Postscript: A Note on Britain's Gas Imports.

It uses an increasing amount of LNG from Qatar which prevents it making up for declining North Sea gas reserves by having to purchase more gas directly from Russia, as was confirmed in a Reuters report in March 2014,  in accordance with an agreement dating back to 2012.
'Britain will begin this year to import gas from Russia under a formal contract for the first time, just as European calls to loosen Moscow's grip on energy supply mount because of the crisis over Ukraine.
The country's biggest utility Centrica signed a deal in 2012 with Russian state-controlled Gazprom to import 2.4 billion cubic metres of gas over a period of three years, and the supplies will begin flowing in October.
The next fact is that Britain and the EU's energy network is interconnected and, of course, a surge in oil or gas prices would affect the British economy if it were to have an impact upon the economies of its European partners. A report from the New Scientist made the energy dilemma clear,
The situation in the UK is less clear. Gas imports account for around 70 per cent of supply, but because of the complex European network of pipelines and interconnectors that we rely on, it's difficult to say exactly how much of that imported gas is Russian. Some reports claim that Russia supplies around 15 per cent of that total and others put this figure much lower. Russian energy giant Gazprom estimates that it sends 11 to 12 billion cubic metres to the UK each year, out of an overall UK consumption of around 84 billion cubic metres.
Whatever the figure, if Russia cuts gas supply to Europe, the knock-on effect would be felt as keenly in the UK as in many other parts of Europe. The crisis may also affect a deal made between Centrica (which owns British Gas) and Gazprom to begin importing 2.4 bn cubic metres of Russian gas via a pipeline from Holland in a couple of months' time.
Energy security is national security for high octane consumer societies which need dependable supplies of oil and gas to uphold the energy intensive lifestyles the great majority of citizens in Western nations have come to take for granted. The search for alternatives ought to be a matter of urgency.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

The Second Front in the Eastern Ukrainian Conflict.

'Recent Russian actions clearly demonstrate that Moscow is bluntly drawing Ukraine and the entire world into a full-scale war"-Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko.
'Fighters of Azov, another volunteer Ukrainian battalion...The Azov ..mostly from Ukraine's Russian-speaking east, adhere to a far-right ideology. They claim they have some heavy weapons and anticipate receiving more from the Ukrainian government soon.'-
Thursday 28 August 2014. A Second Front was reported to have opened in the far south-east of Ukraine along the Sea of Azov in the towns of Novoazovsk and Mariupol. Tensions, however, had been simmering there in June when the Fighters of Azov tried to wrest Mariupol from 'pro-Russian' forces.

The Fighters of Azov are volunteer battalions which consist of the the sort far right paramilitaries that Andriy Parubiy intended to deploy east back in April 2014. With far right battalions said to have received weapons from the Ukrainian government, Kiev's policy is one of diverting nationalist discontent eastwards.

The Fighters of Azov, created in May 2014, have a recruitment base in Mariupol itself but were backed up by forces from the west of Ukraine led by brutal thugs such as Dmytro Korchnsky, a leader otherwise wanted in Kiev on riot charges, and his ultra-nationalist UNA-Unso party.

At the beginning of August, 2014, the Fighters of Azov were fighting alongside the Ukrainian army’s 51st Mechanised Brigade in the attempt to retake Donetsk from the control of the 'people’s republics', openly sporting neo-Nazi Wolfsangel (Wolf’s Hook) symbols on their banners.

The insignia are identical to those banners the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council head Andriy Parubiy stood before when he created the Social-National Party of Ukraine in 1991 based on ideas of white supremacy, anti-semitism and Moscow as a global centre of Muscovite-Jewish-mafia elites

Parubiy resigned on August 7th 2014 for reasons he was not prepared to clarify other than to state "I will continue to assist the front, primarily volunteer battalions". Most likely the reason is to allow Kiev to appear a government of staunch liberal democrats to the West while continuing to use neo-Nazis in the East

The barricades in Kiev on August 9 2014 were finally dismantled after fears the far right, which helped overthrow Yanukovych, could turn upon the government of Poroshenko as Ukraine's economy faces collapse. IMF 'reforms' led to greater hardships that can be explained away as being all Russia's fault.

As Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Arsen Avakov, the interior minister, made plain; “The most important thing is their spirit and their desire to make Ukraine free and independent. A person who takes a weapon in his hands and goes to defend his motherland is a hero. And his political views are his own affair.”

Gerashchenko, of course, had to deny the obvious use of foreign neo-Nazis in order to maintain the facade that the Ukrainian government and the nation it claims to represent even in the eastern regions is mere victim of Russian aggression and not, in fact, an aggressor prepared to fight against 'bandits' and 'terrorists'.

On speaking to a BBC reporter, Gerashenko stated , with regards the Fighters of Azov,
"It is a party of Ukrainian patriots who are giving their lives while the rich Europeans are only talking about supporting Ukraine. When, may I ask, will English people come here and help us fight terrorists sent by Russia's President [Vladimir] Putin, instead of lecturing us on our moral values or people's political affiliations?
There is no sign that European institutions and certain leading diplomats have become more cautious as the Kiev government lurches further towards the trajectory set in motion when the far right hijacked the Euromaidan Protests in March 2014.

The Western Powers representatives failed to grasp the influence of the Ukrainian far right or else, as with Poland's minister Radek Sikorski, they gambled recklessly in the geopolitical push to incorporate Ukraine into both western economic and military structures far rapidly once the Yanukovych government fell.

Sikorski was a main force in getting Kiev to snub the one diplomatic measure that would have prevented as opposed to made the conflict in Ukraine worse and even intractable, as is clear in interview he made in April 2014, when he saw decentralisation as something empowering the eastern regions at the expense of Kiev.

The Polish Foreign Minister's view of Russia as a neo-Soviet threat is understandable given the fate of Poland at the hands of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany in 1939 but he needs to be reined in by more cautious diplomats in Europe as his idea of Russia is based on a historically driven grudge match.

It was exactly decentralisation back in April 2014 that many rebels in the east of Ukraine would have been prepared to accept rather than separation, independence or annexation to Russia. It was an error to regard all those opposing Kiev simplistically as "pro-Russia separatists".

As Anatol Lieven pointed out the Lviv regional government, controlled by Ukrainian nationalists, was able to threaten independence and decide upon their own autonomy from Kiev when it appeared as though the Yanukovych government was going to reject the EU in favour of Putin's Customs Union.

The double standard from Sikorski reflects what he regards as the geopolitical tug of war between Poland and Russia and the fact Lviv, of course, was historically part of Poland until 1939 and that Western Ukraine was, long before the Soviet Union was created, part of the Polish Rzeczpospolita.

The tragedy of Ukraine is that is quite clear that Western Ukraine, historically Eastern Galicia, leans towards the West because it is the poorest part of Ukraine while the wealthier parts outside Kiev are in the east around Kharkhiv but also around Donetsk where the economy is being ravaged by conflict.

Given that the IMF 'reforms' forced through by Kiev would have created the economic conditions within which many manufacturing industries in the east would have gone under, it has become clearer that Ukraine could be heading towards some sort of disintegration as a unitary state or 'state-nation'.

The irony is Poland has ended up pursuing a foreign policy that could end up empowering the very neo-Nazi groups that base their ideology on the OUN and UPA, the ideas of Ukrainian fascist Stepan Bandera, which led to the ethnic cleansing of 200,000 Poles in Volnyhia and Eastern Galicia during World War Two.

Even worse, NATO has started indicate that Ukraine's military could receive training, which could entrench east-west divisions in Ukraine. Such a move could intensify the civil war by raising the stakes and forcing Ukrainians further to choose between the west and Russia in an ever more protracted and deadly conflict.

The decision to invite Poroshenko to a NATO summit when the Ukrainian government is involved in aiding and betting neo-Nazi militias was both foolish and irresponsible. Ukraine should get no assistance at all unless prepared to formally disassociate itself from backing such unsavoury paramilitary formations.

The presence of volunteer battalions motivated by an ethnocentric hatred of Russia and Russians ( or else Putin himself ) is one reciprocated by those in the Donetsk militias who saw the entire Euromaidan Protests as a "fascist coup", is going to set the region around Novoazovsk and Mariupol ablaze in violence and terror.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Tony Blair Continues to Instruct and Reform the World for the Better.

'In a letter to Nursultan Nazarbeyev, Blair told the autocratic ruler that the December 2011 deaths, "tragic though they were, should not obscure the enormous progress that Kazakhstan has made". Blair advised Nazarbeyev that when dealing with the western media, he should tackle the events in Zhanaozen, when police opened fire on protesters, including oil workers demanding higher wages, "head-on".

In the letter, obtained by the Sunday Telegraph he also suggested passages to be inserted into a speech the president was giving at the University of Cambridge aimed at counteracting any bad publicity. One read: "By all means make your points and I assure you we're listening. But give us credit for the huge change of a positive nature we have brought about".

The former Labour leader's consultancy, Tony Blair Associates, set up in the capital, Astana, in October 2011, signing a multi- million pound deal to advise Kazakhstan's leadership on good governance, just months after Nazarbeyev was controversially re-elected with 96% of the vote and weeks before the massacre' .Tony Blair advises Kazakh president on publicity after killing of protesters, The Guardian August 26 2014
Blair means well. Platforms for stability must be built first, even by dictatorship if necessary. That's realism. In Iraq, it was realism to invade and depose the dictator because he posed a threat. Other dictators do not pose threats. They promise reforms and Blair wants to facilitate them and mutually beneficial partnerships.

To be frank, people in Britain need to realise it's time to move on from the Iraq war. There is a vital need to engage in global reform processes that create wealth that raise the people up, not to destroy wealth and create horrendous uprisings from the bottom. There is a need to focus on the bigger picture.

The idea Blair is advising strong leaderships across the world for financial gain is absurd. Those who strive to succeed, those who were chosen by the people for the people are, so to speak, the chosen ones who accrue to themselves wealth through the grace of God.

The TonyBlairFaithFoundation has noble goals of stressing what true faiths, like Tony Blair's, have in common with one another. From Gaza to Glasgow, from Accrington to Afghanistan we are more together than ever before and, frankly, its perverted religion that thwarts noble causes such as democratic reform in Iraq.

Take Kazakhstan. It could be said that doing nothing is an option. It would be. But not engaging with Nursultan Nazarbeyev is a choice too that could result in people misunderstanding the real benefits of reforms that yield wealth in a widening cricle, not just for a few but for many other dynamic individuals too.

Blair is a gifted communicator who understands what it is like to be a reformer beset with carping critics who focus on the style rather than the substance. Blair's natural gift of empathy allows him to get strong leaders to think about how events in Zhanaozen could affect his image before the people.

Now where it is possible to get the strong leader to understands and identify in part with the audience, it is possible too to get the leadership and the state apparatus to start to empathise with those in the firing line and start to identify with them. So there would be far fewer tragedies in future.

Blair grasps that a blend of empathy and psychopathy could enable dictators across the globe understand that you've just got to focus on the sort of bad PR image you are going to give if the people are going to view on television those unpleasant signs of instability.

From Islamist protests in Cairo to the striking oil workers of Zhanaozen, the images those associated with being machine gunned down dead in the streets are going to be found to be offensive. Those associated with being crushed under tanks, for example, could well find these images somewhat oppressive.

What Blair could bring to regions where instability is a real media management problem is that he could advise strong leaders on how to make the people understand its difficult to take bold decisions and carry the people along with the reform process, as some, no doubt, shall fall by the wayside....

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Immediate Reflections on News of the Fall of Tripoli in Libya

'The weekend's developments threaten to tilt the country across the line from troubled post-Arab spring democracy to outright failed state.
Egypt and Sudan are known to be watching developments closely, and last week the French president, François Hollande, said that despite the crises in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine and Gaza, his "biggest concern at the moment is Libya".' Guardian report August 24 2014
The fall of Tripoli an, perhaps, Libya to militant Islamists is the consequence of the foolish conviction that democracy could heal all divisions with a society long under a secular dictatorship and lead to increased oil and gas security for the Western nations.

As with Iraq, the removal of Gaddafi has led to an increased war over who is going to dominate Libya and its copious oil reserves and the stage in set for an unrelenting civil war, decivilisation and barbarity of the kind now playing itself out in Syria and Iraq.

An Islamist controlled Libya could lead to a cut off of gas and oil supplies to Italy and other European nations that receive Libyan gas at a time when Russia and Ukraine are on the potential brink of conflict. Dependence upon Russian gas could only increase as a result of events in Libya.

The attempt to sabotage and blow up gas installations in Algeria in 2013 was aided by Islamist militants from Libya. Islamists in control in Libya could use gas as a tool to threaten Western economies just as they tried to blow up gas installations in Algeria controlled by British Petroleum

The fragile economic recovery of Mediterranean countries such as Italy could be affected should the chaos or deliberate policy lead to Libyan gas being shut off as it accounts for around 15% of consumption and has been increasing due to the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

At any rate, fuel prices would rise in Italy and other Eurozone nations as they compete for Norwegian and Dutch gas and supplies from elsewhere such as Qatar, one reason why the Western Powers, whether Britain or France or Italy, are bound to continue to support Qatar's demands that Assad in Syria must go.

Unless, it is understood that energy geopolitics determines foreign policy, then all these decisions about 'humanitarian intervention' are bound to seem inexplicable and destined to repeat the same failures because the political elites are foolish. But its European energy dependence that is the cause.

The demand for military intervention in the Middle East and Maghreb since the US withdrew from Iraq has come mostly from energy dependent European states. Unlike the US which has shale oil and gas to fall back on, energy intensive consumerist societies such as Spain and Italy and France do not.

Italy depends on Libyan oil for as much as 22 per cent of crude oil consumption. Spain for 13%. As Herman Franssen, former chief economist of the International Energy Agency put in 2011 “Europe has to choose between becoming more dependent on Russia or the Middle East, or both”.

With Russia and Ukraine at odds and Syria and Iraq being in chaos the time is way overdue for a serious condideration for energy alternatives such as nuclear power as well as trying to restructure the economy away from the heavy over reliance on oil and gas.

The alternative is the Western nations being dragged in to further wars that result in terrorist blowback and multiple evils.The alternative to making the search for alternatives to oil and gas to underpin consumer lifestyles is, quite frankly, an epoch in which European nations endure economic slumps and political instability.

Why the Caliphate could be Established in the Middle East.

'The declaration by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of this new entity, that he is the supreme authority of a new "caliphate" makes it easy to portray the Islamic State as a reactionary throwback. But this is an error. Baghdadi's vision is profoundly contemporary.

It is also a radical break with the strategic vision of previous militant leaders. Political Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood and their offshoots have long talked of appropriating institutions and power, by a variety of means ranging from peaceful social activism to a violent coup d'etat, but never about creating a new state.
What Baghdadi has done is fuse the political Islamists' aim of seizing state power with the neo-traditionalists' more global vision to create a recognisable if rough-edged state that is simultaneously supposed to be a launchpad for greater expansion. This unprecedented combination is a powerful one' The Isis leader's vision of the state is a profoundly contemporary one, Jason Burke, The Observer, August 24 2014.
Jason Burke is the most able of all those writing on Al Qaida and ISIS. The new Caliphate is dynamic and modern, a combination of Al Qaida's emphasis on the purifying potential of spectacular violence to remake and reimagine the world and the 'charitable' state functions of the Taliban of Afghanistan.

The difference between Afghanistan in the 1990s and the new Caliphate in northern Syria and Iraq is the way IS has captured major oil installations and selling oil to gain up to $1m a day in revenues. As such it can put the wealth towards benefitting alienated Sunni Arabs in both Syria and Iraq.

The other long term factor favouring an expansionist warlike Caliphate, apart from the supply of money from shadowy Gulf donors and men identifying with jihadism from around the globe, is climate change. Put bluntly and bleakly, the Fertile Crescent which long sustained life in the region is dying.

One reason for the outbreak of the Syrian conflict in 2011 was a combination of higher food and fuel prices and several failed harvests which affected the Sunni Muslim communities the worst. With the collapse of state authority and the chaos created by war, the most ruthless jihadists of IS could flourish.

Assad tried to use control over water as a means to quell Sunni unrest. IS is copying that tactic in trying to control the Mosul Dam in Iraq. The 2003 invasion made an appalling system that was collapsing in Iraq even worse than it was and, combined with drought and crop failure, exacerbated Sunni militancy.

An article in Slate Magazine made plain the longer term factors destabilising both Syria and Iraq,
'The United Nations lists Iraq as “one of the Arab region’s most vulnerable countries to climate change.” In 2004, just after the American-led regime change, a Congressional Research Service report cited “rapid population growth coupled with limited arable land” and “a general stagnation of agricultural productivity” after decades of conflict and mismanagement during the final Saddam years as the main reasons Iraq grew more reliant on imports of food amid international sanctions and the oil-for-food program. A major drought from 1999-2001 also hampered the country’s ability to feed itself. Since then, conflict has raged and the climate has grown even more extreme, with alternating severe droughts and heavy rainstorms'.
The River Euphrates and the Tigris are drying up. Overpopulation relative to resources, and large numbers of unemployed young males, necessarily means the temptation towards violent jihad of IS as a means towards salvation and survival against the rival claims to diminishing water, land and, of course, oil.

IS is an expansionist Caliphate by nature or it is going to be nothing. With the shadowy proxy wars between the regional powers going on, IS could be useful to those wanting to check Iranian ambitions so long as it does not threaten to much to break out and menace Saudi Arabia.

With the Kurdish region, with its better organised government oil and water from the mountains headed towards independence, the battle for Baghdad would intensify and go on for coming decades ahead in a new epoch of semi-permanent chaos and technological barbarism.

The Call of the Caliphate in Britain: Why British Jihadists Fight in Syria.

The rise of IS in Syria and Iraq and the evident barbarity it revels in, from social media depictions of  enemies being machine gunned into open death pits, the beheading American journalists and threatening to exterminate or convert Christians and killing Yazidis, has caused some to be 'bewildered'.

Yvonne Ridley certainly claims to be 'baffled'. When asked about ISIS, Respect Party member and Islamist propaganda hack opined, as if knowing her exact stance was going to be a matter of pressing public importance in Britain,
'There are many reasons why I've not spoken out against ISIS. For a start, I'm not sure who it is, where it came from or how it is funded. I've not seen such a militarily- and strategically-savvy fighting force emerge in the Middle East before, other than the highly disciplined and much feared Hezbollah. I, like many others, want to know a little bit more about ISIS before making public comments'
So Ridley wasted hundreds of words 'taking her stance' and switching the topic to Israel half way through when IS has nothing to do with Israel. For someone who, like George Galloway, is a champion of Hizbollah it's odd that she so clearly wants President Assad removed when Hizbollah is a staunch ally of Assad.

The laughable thing about Ridley is that Galloway, the Respect MP for Bradford West, is actually a strong backer of Assad against the Sunni jihadists ranged against him, mostly because of the idea that the US created ISIS by supporting Sunni militant fighters against the Alawite Shia dynasty Assad belongs to.

Ridley cannot resist a conspiracy theory though. One of the most popular is that ISIS is part of a devious plot by the US and Israel to 'destabilise' Iraq ( as if it was not unstable enough without the US intervening once more in Iraq ), part of a CIA/ Mossad scheme to divide and rule Iraq against Iran.

Ridley has an alternatibe plot scenario 'The former head of the British Army says that the West should sit down and negotiate with Assad to get rid of ISIS, but what if ISIS was created by Assad and his ally Iran, which has members of the elite Republican Guard in parts of Syria?'
'As crazy as it sounds, that would explain why Nouri Al-Maliki's Iraqi army fell away so easily in the face of ISIS leaving behind a massive arsenal of weapons for the militia to use. It is virtually inconceivable for a trained fighting force to leave all of its kit behind before doing a runner, just as it's virtually inconceivable that a crack fighting force like ISIS could emerge from a rag tag bunch of ill-disciplined rebel fighters buoyed-up by disaffected youngsters from Europe and beyond'.
It sounds insane because it is insane and has no basis in reality. However, if the task is to try to rationalise away the depth and extent to which the Islamic State is a direct reflection of a strand of Islamist thinking and practice, then it is clear that Ridley would want to pretend ISIS has no basis in the world view she holds.

Mona Siddiqui, a professor of Islamic studies and public understanding at the University of Glasgow, writes on British jihadists in Syria that 'we in the west feel bewildered by their ferocity and brutality' and then goes on to write, a very uneasy way, the following,
'In the UK, the fear that Isis have attracted hundreds of British men to fight in the region has reignited the question of integration and radicalisation among younger British Muslims. But perhaps what is more chilling this time is the way many of these men, who have gone over to fight, have unflinchingly assumed the role of thug and tyrant given the first opportunity....Their narrative may well be wrapped up in the familiar language of jihad and "fighting in the cause of Allah", but it amounts to little more than destruction of anything and anyone who doesn't agree with them'.
This is obfuscation again. The barbarism of British jihadists comes from the ideology and is reinforced by the barbarism of war. This experience leads them towards enacting a  greater depravity that was within them as a consequence of the ideology that firstly allowed them to rationalise the impulse towards killing and death.

The fact 'John the Jihadist' beheaded the American journalist is hardly surprising: it is meant to be shocking but it's not if the purpose of the murder is understood, that there is a 'method to the madness' and that it lies within the need to use a maximum of terror to instill submission or awe in the enemy.

The demonstration of ISIS savagery is meant to show that this is a form of revenge for the war that the US and the West started against the Muslim World, to make plain that these sorts of killings are an inevitable consequence of Western foreign policy just as much as Lee Rigby's murder in London was.

So Siddiqui has ignored the deep emotional appeal of ISIS's ideology to obfuscate the role of Islamist discourse within Britain, a form of 'political religion' that indeed does pit a "purified" and purifying version of Islam against both the West and its legacy through secular leaders and the West's allies in the region.

The irony is that IS has gained ground because of its finance came from private donors in Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia as part of a quest to defeat the Shia Alawite Syrian leader Assad. Now they make money from illegal oil sales and robbing banks. It's a combination of gangsterism and deranged ideology.

But the West and anything associated with it in the Middle East are thus Infidels ( e.g the Christians being subjected or slaughtered ) and or else Hypocrites and both are targets for the foot soldiers of IS. This appeals to young British Islamists who regard the West as the root cause of all global problems.

To a certain extent, this idea is propagated by non-Islamist organisations that eschew the complexity of world politics and reduce complicated problems down to the idea the West is the Big Evil , the demonic 'system' that needs to be fought against until its power is destroyed.

The so called 'anti-war' movement in the form of the Stop the War Coalition is actually a front for revolutionary activists who would regard IS as wholly a product and reaction to Western Imperialism: whether Al Qaida operatives or IS foot soldiers all are denied an agency of their own.

It is this denial of moral responsibility that enables radicalised militant Islamists to regard themselves romantically as dark avenging angels, committed to kill not because they have bloodlust but because the sheer iniquity of the Western dominated world order evil made them do it.

There's a need to face facts. IS reflects a 'retrograde discourse' within Islam as regards the Caliphate, an idea that acts as a sort of ideological utopia for alienated Sunni Muslims and that in Syria and Iraq has gained ground because of the weakness of state authority in the northern parts of both lands.

ISIS has realised a Caliphate that has transcended the boundaries created by the France and Britain back in 1916. The reason semi-educated Islamists without ego security went to Syria to fight is because it offers a strength of purpose and certainty, freedom from the meaningless freedom of the West.

In the large cities and conurbations of Western Europe, there is no formative experience and no experience of membership beyond consumerism and the identification with consumer branded goods. With a mediocre education system, Islamists gain knowledge and membership from radical groups.

'Islam is the solution' is a regular placard slogan: the Caliphate is a standard part of Islamist discourse. The appeal of this is similar to those of the secular utopias of communism in the 1960s, whether Castro's Cuba or some Trotskyist alternative to the disappointing reality of 'actually existing socialism'.

The new Caliphate has the appeal of the communist utopia promised by the Russian Revolution of 1917. The paradise was postponed only by the hideous plots to destabilise it by the Western imperialists. So too the Caliphate was abolished after the Ottoman Empire collapsed and the Arab lands partitioned.

The Caliphate is posited as a mythological entity that would unite all Sunni Muslims once more and its rise is seen as the death knell for secularism, Godlessness and the Western imperialism that brought it all about. Fighting in Syria or within the belly of the beast are apiece with the same jihad.

The nihilism of those supposedly educated at British universities and going to fight in Syria has not seen them transform from naive idealists into brutalised psychopaths by the war alone. It was inherent within the ideology that posits the Caliphate as a realisable Utopia here on earth and that demands blood must be shed.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Why Britain Wants to Arm Sunni Militants in Syria and Arms the Opposition to IS in Iraq.

"We may very well find that we are aligned against a common enemy. But that does not make us able to trust them, it does not make us able to work with them and it would poison what we are trying to achieve in separating moderate Sunni opinion from the poisonous ideology of Isil [Islamic State] if we were to align ourselves with President Assad."-Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond
The reason Hammond ruled out negotiations with Assad and stated plans to arm 'moderate' Sunni 'rebels' is that British foreign policy is dominated by energy concerns. In particular, Britain derives an important proportion of its domestic gas from Qatar which backs the Muslim Brotherhood.

Qatar has become a major supplier of liquefied natural gas to make good energy shortfalls as North Sea gas declines. Britain would have an interest in the proposed Qatar Turkey pipeline mooted in 2009 and dependent upon the Alawite Shia ruler Assad and his dynasty being removed.

One reason is that it would contain Iranian ambitions for a gas pipeline from the same South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf that it shares with Qatar and that would extend through Iraq and Syria towards the Eastern Mediterranean. Blocking Iranian gas exports westward is apiece with the sanctions policy.

Defending Qatar's regional interests against its competitor Iran is both big business and energy geopolitics. In April 2014 Hammond was, as Defence Secretary, asserting the benefits of having a permanent military base in Qatar and explicitly mentioned energy interests as the reason,
“The West is crucially dependent on a stable energy market above all else. Our economic recovery is fragile. Anything that calls for a spike in the oil price would derail it. The mostly likely scenario to cause that up spike is a surge in tension in this region, particularly in the Strait of Hormuz.
It is very much in our interest to have a stable situation in the Gulf. That is why Western countries are prepared to invest so much in this region and supporting the Gulf states to maintain that stability,”
The reason for retaining the failed and yet desperate and risky policy of backing the Free Syria Army in Syria, while supporting the Kurds in Iraq and courting Iran to defend Baghdad, is largely about Britain's dependence on Qatari gas, especially with the conflict in Ukraine potentially affecting supplies from Russia.

The other interest is in lucrative arms deals for Britain worth QR230mn and the colossal amount of investment Qatar's sovereign wealth fund puts into London to prop up the ailing and fragile rentier economy of the United Kingdom. These are all basic geostrategic facts about Britain's foreign policy.

Israel-Gaza and the Potential for Protracted War in 2014.

'The Palestine issue is separate from the problems in Iraq and Syria, which are making the headlines today, but it continues to spread its poison.Israel wants demilitarisation of Gaza; Hamas wants the blockade ended. Neither objective is realistic'. Oliver Miles
The Israel Gaza War of 2014 is part of an older continuity of conflict dating back to 1948. What has made in potentially intractable is the wrangle over the fate of the Gaza Marine offshore gas reserves and the threat Hamas could pose to Israel's national energy security.

Hamas today claims to have fired two rockets at Israel's gas rigs in the Noa field, one reason Israel is adamant the naval blockade would not be lifted until the Gaza Strip is demilitarised. Israel fears that not only rockets but boats could be used to try to attack its offshore gas infrastructure.

Israel and Egypt face an energy crisis and the defeat of Hamas is considered apiece with the coup in Egypt in 2013 and crushing of the Muslim Brotherhood so as to preserve the joint security nexus upon which 'stability' and economic growth could continue. Egypt is, at present, enduring regular power cuts.

Israeli gas from the Tamar gas field is due to be exported to Egypt but, as Simon Henderson points out, fears remain that Hamas operatives or rocket attacks could pose a threat. The US corporation Noble Energy signed a $60bn contract to pump gas to Egypt a few hours ago.

Egypt needs Israeli gas to avert continued power cuts, having used up much of its domestic gas through sales to Israel for under the market price, one reason for both the fuel crisis and the revolt against Mubarak in 2011. This is why Egyptian peace terms have offered Hamas little.

Hamas claimed in the ceasefire talks that giving up the armed jihad was 'inconceivable' but for Israel the time to get what Netanyahu terms 'sustainable peace' has never been better. Iran no longer supports Hamas due to tensions over the Syrian conflict and the fact Hizbollah is fighting the Muslim Brotherhood

So one reason Israel could pursue a military solution to Hamas is that Hamas only has Qatar as its sole ally when Qatar is also a Western ally and the Western Powers are embroiled in trying to stop the spread of IS. The Free Syria Army and Muslim Brotherhood are no longer much of a force in Syria.

From 2007, Israel had to take Hamas into account as regards Gaza gas. With Fatah and Hamas at war with each other because Hamas was resentful that 'their' gas was going to benefit Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, Israel could hope to detach the two areas of Palestine to impose its way.

One reason was that there was a view that Gazan gas could not be used to enrich Hamas because of its potential to fund terrorist activity against Israel. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon made the dilemma plain in a memorandum written in 2007,
"It is clear that without an overall military operation to uproot Hamas control of Gaza, no drilling work can take place without the consent of the radical Islamic movement.”
On top of that the struggle to control the gas reserves of the Eastern Mediterranean and energy routes explain why the international powers,-the US, Russia and the EU-and regional powers have not been able to come together and mediate effectively so as to provide a way out of crisis as it reaches an impasse.

The EU aligns with Israel because it would seek to benefit from Eastern Mediterranean gas in order to diversify supplies away from depending on Russia. With Libya in turmoil and Qatari supplies of LNG potentially menaced by Iranian control of the Straights of Hormuz, Israeli gas would be a boon.

With Russia vying for a stake in exploiting the Gaza Marine gas, the EU and US would prefer Israel to be in charge of exploiting the gas, so that it could help the EU reduce dependence upon Russia through importing gas via Cyprus, the PA has been trying to strike deals with Gazprom.

A European Parliament report in April made this clear,
“Global actors are ready to exploit the Eastern Mediterranean [gas field’s] strategic implications..Russia aims to safeguard its gas monopoly, the United States to support its business interest, and Europe to increase its energy security and reduced dependence on Russia in light of the Crimea crisis.”
The report states, that the EU should “back the strategic triangle of Israel, Cyprus and Turkey as a first step towards the construction of an Eastern Mediterranean energy corridor.” The reason for the lack of EU pressure on Israel or attempts to mediate is due to energy concerns.

A protracted war could be on its way.

Why Western Strategy in Syria and Iraq Appears Contradictory: Energy Interests and Realpolitik.

This is what passes for "informed" commentary in a British newspaper in 2014,
'Oh the fickleness of humanity and history! This time last year, the British parliament was recalled by the prime minister, who appeared confident that he would receive a mandate to join the US in air strikes on Syria – the immediate and urgent reason being the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad’s, use of sarin gas to crush the growing uprising against him. Of course, “we” had few illusions about either the unity or the ethics of those rebels, but the argument was that there were enough people we could do business with and the Assad regime was the greater evil.

Fast forward a year, and authoritative word has winged its way across the Atlantic from the Pentagon – in the shape of a joint press conference by the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the defence secretary, no less – that the only way to halt the advance of Islamic State (Isis) in northern Iraq is to bomb ... Syria. But this time not the forces – official and unofficial – of Assad, but the Syria of his enemies. Because, hey, we have revised our view of the lesser evil.'
There is no need for Mary Dejevsky to reveal to the public that Western strategy seems twisting, contradictory and even schizophrenic. Most observers can see that for themselves if they pay attention. What is needed is proper explanation as to why it is so or else too many words are wasted.

The reason the Western Powers wanted Assad to be removed in 2013 was due to energy geopolitics. Assad was in the way of the designs put forth by Turkey and Qatar for a gas pipeline that would provide energy to EU markets and turn Turkey into an East-West energy hub.

The removal of Assad would, moreover, check Iranian ambitions for a 'Shi'ite Islamic' gas pipeline from the very same South Pars gas field it shares with Qatar, with Syria having signed up for it in 2010 and Iraq by 2013. Removing Assad was apiece with the strategy for containing Iran.

The idea of that the West's backing the Sunni militants was based on a moral calculus of it being the lesser evil than Assad is simply ignorant and naive. The decision by French President Sarkozy to create the Friends of Syria in 2012 to back the Free Syria Army was pure realpolitik from the outset.

It was only when that strategy backfired because Qatar and Saudi Arabia started funding the most effective ( i.e ruthless ) jihadists so as to control any post-Assad government that ISIS started to gain ground in Northern Syria and that the West started to grasp that 'blowback' was a consequence.

ISIS was not considered a danger to vital interests until it came within striking distance of Erbil and the copious oil reserves in the Kurdish region and captured the Mosul Dam. As soon as ISIS could threaten oil interests and the global oil price, it became essential to stop it militarily.

Until the geopolitics of energy is examined as a routine fact of international relations in the mainstream newspapers we are going to get obfuscation and an inability to understand how the world actually works. Western policy is contradictory because based on oil and gas imperatives.

Oil and gas are not the only factors ,of course. But omitting them entirely in any sensible discussion about Western strategy is rather like trying to explain where babies come from without mentioning the word 'sex'. Face facts : most contemporary conflicts are resource wars.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

The Gaza-Israel War, Energy Interests and the Potential Defeat of Hamas.

On August 20 2014 the war between Hamas in Gaza and Israel resumed after the ceasefire broke down. Three Hamas leaders were killed and the wife and child of Hamas' leader, Mohammed Deif. Rockets were being fired once more from out of the Gaza Strip.

The ceasefire talks broke down as an effective state of war exists. Hamas would not agree to demilitarise and Israel would not lift the blockade unless they did or unless the ending of the armed struggle could be arranged. Hamas negotiators made plain realising this Israeli demand was 'inconceivable'

With the war in Northern Iraq against the Islamic State going on since the ceasefire was tabled, the main global powers attention was focused elsewhere. Should hostilities develop into the same level of war seen previous to the ceasefire, powers such as Britain would need to make good promises to halt certain arms exports.

The reluctance of the British government to criticise Israel for its 'disproportionate' military response are said to be to do with different factors: the power of the Israeli lobby, the profits to be made from the sort of deals which created £185m worth of military exports to Israel in the period 2008-12 and the US backing for Israel.

However, government divisions, with the Liberal Democrats criticising Israel and Warsi resigning because of its “indefensible” policy on Gaza, are based not only on conscience or the need to be seen to be doing the right thing. There are divisions over Britain's foreign policy as it related to energy interests.

The fate of Gaza Marine gas is central to understanding why a conflict dating back 60 years has become more intractable and why the international powers,-the US, Russia and the EU-and regional powers have not been able to come together and mediate effectively.

On the whole, the EU and European states have aligned with Israel because it would seek to benefit from Eastern Mediterranean gas. Just as the reaction to General Sisi's coup in 2013 in Egypt was criticised as part of the "turbulence" by Foreign Secretary William Hague, so too Israel could feel it could deal a deadly blow to Hamas.

What links events in Egypt with Israel is the fact the BG Group, an offshoot of British gas, has the licence to drill for gas in both offshore fields off Egypt and Gaza. Britain has clear commercial interests in the eastern Mediterranean as well as an interest in preserving 'stability', one reason why peace envoy Blair supported Sisi.

With Russia vying for a stake in exploiting the Gaza Marine gas, the EU and US would prefer Israel to be in charge of exploiting the gas, so that it could help the EU reduce dependence upon Russia through importing gas via Cyprus. The PA has been trying to strike deals with Gazprom as part of its diplomacy to get a better deal with Israel.

The US would oppose than but especially the EU. A European Parliament report in April made this clear,
“Global actors are ready to exploit the Eastern Mediterranean [gas field’s] strategic implications....Russia aims to safeguard its gas monopoly, the United States to support its business interest, and Europe to increase its energy security and reduced dependence on Russia in light of the Crimea crisis.”
The report states, that the EU should “back the strategic triangle of Israel, Cyprus and Turkey as a first step towards the construction of an Eastern Mediterranean energy corridor.”. The reason for the empty rhetoric about Israel is not primarily about arms trade profits but about the EU's energy situation.

The only ally Hamas has is Qatar but Qatar is also an ally of the West as it supplies large amounts of liquefied natural gas to Europe. Michael Stevens, a security analyst, asserts, “Qatar is basically Hamas’s last ally. Given that Turkey is struggling and failing to insert itself into the process, Doha really is the only game in town.”

Qatar's regional strategy of supporting Sunni militants in Gaza and Syria is in disarray, however. IS's rise has effectively displaced the Free Syria Army as the main force in northern Syria and the Alawite Shia leader Assad is far stronger than in 2013, with the West also interested in engaging with its backer Iran to defeat IS.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has realised Hamas's weakness as a consequence of Iran no longer supporting it with the conflict in Syria after 2011 opening up sectarian divisions between Shi'te Hizbollah in Southern Lebanon and Hamas as a Sunni militant offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. 

With Egypt firmly back onside with Israel after the ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood backed President Morsi and the recent banning of the Muslim Brotherhood, Israel is in a position to dictate terms and insist that the demilitarisation of Gaza would happen with or without the 'international community' .

Israel and Hamas are locked into a 'war of attrition' in which Hamas could not win and only the Palestinians lose because there is no way in which the Palestinian Authority could benefit from the gas without Israel's approval and that would not be granted as Hamas is an officially designated 'terrorist organisation'.

So long as Hamas remains some form of geopolitical asset for Qatar as a means to prevent Israel developing its full regional energy potential in the Eastern Mediterranean, Qatar has interests in being a supporter of Gaza through investment and infrastructure projects. But this value is rapidly diminishing.

The attempts by Hamas to fire rockets into Israel are achieving nothing but Israeli air strikes in return. One threat that remains is not to the Israeli population, largely protected by Israeli early warning systems and the Iron Dome defence, but is one directed towards Israeli gas rigs in the largely depleted Noa gas field

On August 21th the Haaretz newspaper reported a rocket attack, the 'first of its kind' on gas rigs in the largely depleted Noa gas field 30 km northwest of the Gaza Strip in Yam Tethys. Security in the Gaza Marine fields closer to the Gazan coast might not be so easy to maintain should those reserves be tapped. 

As a consequence where there is a chance Hamas could be eliminated as a military force, Israel would be willing to take the opportunity to do so.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Resource War in Northern Iraq: Oil and the Anglo-American Military Intervention.

".. alongside the humanitarian crisis there is also a political and extremism crisis in Iraq that has a direct effect on us back here in the UK. We do have a fully worked through strategy for helping with allies to deal with this monstrous organisation – the Islamic State."-British Prime Minister David Cameron
The problem with Cameron's lame public diplomacy is that anyone who knows anything about the conflict in northern Iraq and Syria regards with complete contempt the cant about a 'monstrous organisation' and the impact it could have on our streets, a stock justification used for 'staying the course' in the Afghanistan.

It is about time British political leaders stopped treating the British public as some sort of infantile herd that can be fobbed off with condescending precision tooled up soundbites of the sort about  'military prowess', 'the terrorist organisation' and the possibility of 'mayhem in our streets'.

With the spread of the Internet and the 'information revolution', those even remotely interested in what is going on in northern Iraq could quickly discover that the reasons for intervention are not only concerned with saving the Yazidis from being killed by IS or about some more imminent terror threat being now a red alert.

The war in northern Iraq is not a simplistic conflict between forces of good versus evil, though IS is certainly evil and malign. It's a complicated many sided struggle over access to water as well as an ethnic/sectarian war between Kurds and Sunni Arabs over the oil wealth of Kirkuk amongst other things.

Unless the intention of the British involvement is to kill as many IS foot soldiers as possible and take out British born jihadists, then Cameron should refrain from trying to justify the war according to the idea it is primarily about protecting Britain from jihadists. It may actually increase that risk.

Cameron is, no doubt, aware that the cost of military intervention could be to lead to a spike in the threat of terrorism in Britain so he would need to manage risk and expectations by emphasising the ongoing nature of the threat the better to be able justify more intervention in future if attacked.

Britain would be better off tightening up borders and working with Turkey to prevent European jihadists crossing. Security measures are somewhat different to military campaigns to roll back what is, in reality, a potential threat to Iraq's stability and so global oil supplies and prices.

The crisis in Iraq has curtailed the supply of crude oil from OPEC's second largest producer and saw prices surge over $114 a barrel for the first time in nine months back in June 2014. Despite being less dependent on Middle East oil than in 2003, increased oil prices could affact the East Asian economies.

Energy analyst Anthony Cordesman argues "The United States, strategically, is a major trading power. It is particularly dependent on the import of manufactured goods from three countries which are extremely dependent on energy imports. Those happen to be China, South Korea, and Japan."

So while Sunni militants had been encroaching into Iraq months before the US and Britain decided to act, partly because of the Yazidis situation, but more due to the threat to Iraq as the world's 7th largest oil producer and the threat to Erbil and Kurdistan's oil boom regional state.

The Kurdish militias took Kirkuk in June 2014 and the threat to it from IS would set back British Petroleum's plans to reverse declining output at the oilfield discovered in 1927. Providing aid to the KRG could help remove opposition to BP's plans in Kirkuk, aswell as shoring yp the Iraqi government in Baghdad

Britain is among the many global players vying for oil contracts and the right to drill in Kurdish oil fields. The danger of that strategy is it could push Kurdistan further towards independence in a way that could anger Iran whose cooperation even Cameron has belatedly come to regard as essential to defeating IS.

Obama only gave the go-ahead for air strikes as soon as Erbil seemed in striking distance of the oil fields being drilled by Chevron and ExxonMobil. It is the involvement of such global oil majors that has put a strain on the relationship between Baghdad and Kurdistan that has helped destabilise Iraq.

Iraq is the cockpit of proxy struggles and resource wars and this vital fact in relation to both it and neighbouring Syria is routinely screened out from mainstream media accounts of the war when energy geopolitics should be getting a lot coverage and integrated into factual accounts of the conflict.

Monday, 18 August 2014

The Islamic State: Climate Change, Terror and the Making of a Caliphate.

The Caliphate ( Islamic State ), established and centred on Raqqa in Syria, does clearly have its origins on uneducated mosque imams contantly extolling the Caliphate as a symbol of a lost spritual and political realm towards which Sunni Muslims should aspire and realise through jihad.

Syrian writer Hassan Hassan cites the Syrian cleric Mohammed Habash claiming "Isis did not arrive from Mars; it is a natural product of our retrograde discourse." and while that is true, the sad reality is that it has caught on because of a civilisational crisis in this part of the Middle East that has induced it.

One thing that comes across from Vice News's report 'Spread of the Caliphate' is that the foot soldiers of IS are both brutal and banal, largely semi-educated men all the more dangerous for the indoctrinated certitude with which they assert their credo that they are on a roll and shall follow God until victory is assured.

The ISIS jihadists are in for the long game, indoctrinating and grooming the children to become future warriors as the only way for the Caliphate to survive and strive forth towards its destiny of creating some sort of pure community that is uncontaminated by enemy influences from without and within.

If they were not so deadly, their corny attempts at piety would be entirely laughable as opposed to merely contemptible. Hence the point of their headless corpses strewn across pavements and sticking heads on spikes is meant to give the impression that they are, in fact, very serious.

The aim is to spread the Caliphate out, kill or convert the Infidel ( or with Christians make them pay a tax ) and to be part of God's project as it unfolds and is realised. Women are to be nowhere seen on the streets of Raqqa. Jihadists previously living in Europe claimed they left the girls behind for the cause.

Women need to be properly concealed in order to thereby maintain the fundamental purity of the Caliphate from within, the better to make it more ferocious and formidable without against Indidels and Hypocrites ( secular Arabs). It says so, they claim, in the Qu'ran.

This myth of the return of the Caliphate is one held on to by the simple minded but it could only spread in the conditions of lawless chaos of the sort that existed in Afghanistan in the 1990s. ISIS is similar to both the Taliban and Al Qaida but this time rolled into one-and with control over lots of oil resources.

IS is selling crude oil on the international black market, something even reported to be reducing oil prices. It is making $1 million a day from the sale and the rush of adrenalin from that and the prospect of using revenues to expand their Caliphate is causing millennial style fervour.

The support among Sunni Arabs for this is based on a revolt of those living in lands where crop failure, desertification, drought and having been pushed out of ant prospect of adequate poliitical representation in either Syria or Iraq has led to the Caliphate as a "solution" to all earthly evils.

The Sunni Arab zone in northern Syria and Iraq is trapped between other regions with far more resources both as regards the vast majority of the oil wealth ( which lie in the Kurdish regions to the east ) and those absolutely vital to life such as water. Iraq is a resource war over oil and water.

The River Euphrates drying up as a consequence of climate change, decreasing precipitation and increasingly hot summers. Turkey was alleged to have reduced supplies along the Euphrates upstream. That makes the necessity to spread the war as far as possible even more 'vital'.

So many Sunni Arabs in Iraq have come to believe nothing to lose by aligning with a pyschopathological group that asserts their interests as against the Kurds, Turks, and Shi'ites. IS attempted to take the Mosul dam so as to have control over electricity and water: this is a resource war.

The cause of jihad is precisely what they have to sustain them both materially and in hope of regaining the dominance Sunni Muslims once had in the region more generally and in Iraq, in particular, under Saddam Hussein who used to use control over the water supply as a tool of control over the Shi'ite south.

Evidently, IS pursues policies that are evil and mad but there is, beyond evident sadistic cruelty and pleasure in murdering Infidels and Hypocrites, a method and motive to the madness and mayhem and the clear intention to instil terror and utter fear. They need to be taken seriously.

If Iraq and Syria were to break up, it is difficult to see how there could be a secure and viable state for Sunni Arabs as that would depend on the wars in both states having any prospect of ending. And so IS is taking the destiny of Sunni Muslims into its own hands, destroying the Sykes-Picot borders of 1916.

ISIS is an outgrowth of failed attempts to back Sunni forces by the Saudis as a check on Iranian influence in Syria, the idea of Sunni persecution and yet historical superiority, myths of the Caliphate and the collapse of Syrian and Iraqi Sunni regions especially through climate change and war.