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.

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