Saturday, 16 August 2014

Blood, Oil and Barbarism in Syria and Iraq.

'Isis can only be defeated by Sunnis. To gain their support, the new Iraqi government needs to be inclusive, address the legitimate Sunni grievances and allow the recruitment of local Sunni forces as part of the Iraqi security forces.' Iraq’s new prime minister must get Sunnis on side if he wants to defeat Isis, Guardian Agust 16, 2014 .
The Sunni tribes have aligned with ISIS as part of a tactical move to improve their bargaining position with a Shi'ite dominated Baghdad. The problem is that ISIS is growing into a state within two states, the new Caliphate in northern Syria and Iraq, and it has become self financing through its control of oil.

Just as the Kurdish regions have grown more autonomous because of their oil wealth , ISIS has gained control over Syria's major oil fields such as al-Omar and al-Tanak. In July 2014, it was reported that ISIS was selling oil on the black market abroad to raise funds for more weapons and ammunition.

Even if the new Iraqi Prime Minister, Haidar al-Abadi, is able to prove a less divisive figure in Iraq's politics, no 'unitary government' has any guarantee of being able to do very much about ISIS having a base in northern Syria nor is it going to be able to destroy the emerging Caliphate overnight.

The danger is that the decision to arm the Kurdish peshmerga would lead some to advocate doing the same with the FSA in Syria because ministers such as Fabius in France have already started to put forward the idea that ISIS has been able to develop due to Assad paying for their illicit oil exports.

Iran would see that as a threat to its regional interests and view with hostility attempts to draw Kurdistan into a Turkish led strategy of economic development through the development of the Kirkuk-Ceylan pipeline, related infrastructure developments and calls for Kurdish oil exports to be officialised.

Support for Assad in Syria and Hizbollah in Lebanon would be stepped up to prevent the dominance of the FSA and the Muslim Brotherhood, even if Iran has an interest in checking ISIS in Iraq. But any attempt to deal with ISIS by knocking out Assad would only entrench regional proxy conflicts.

Should Iran respond by increasing military support for Shi'ite militias, then it is possible its main Gulf rival in Saudi Arabia would continue its contradictory and lethally dangerous policy of turning a blind eye to the finance given to ISIS by private donors as part of a strategy to divert internal discontent outwards.

So reducing the power of ISIS would mean a negotiated settlement in Syria based on including Iran at any future Geneva Conference and not making Assad's departure a precondition. It would also mean a crackdown on shady black market oil exports from Tuz Khurmatu into Turkey.

The outlook, more generally, is relentlessly grim. There is much evidence that the Sunni uprisings and ISIS are outgrowths not only of resource struggles over oil but also of access to water induced by global heating from the Middle East through to Central and Northern Africa where ISIS could spread.

The winter of 2014 saw one of the worst droughts in decades, with rain and show in the mountains of Eastern Turkey at half their usual level. Crop failure and desertification in Syria and Iraq are processes no unity government in Baghdad could reverse but they contribute in driving the desperate towards ISIS.

There is a real probability whole parts of the Middle East are heading towards complete decivilisation, chaos and bloodshed that could last for decades and intensify. If the West is not going to be dragged in, it needs to make finding alternatives to oil and gas a matter of emergency.

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