Friday, 22 August 2014

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.

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