Sunday, 28 September 2014

Britain and the Third Iraq War: Strategy and Geopolitical Ambitions and Interests.

Richard Williams, a former commanding officer of the SAS who served in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan, wrote in the Independent on Sunday the deployment of RAF bombers was a “military sugar rush” that “risks looking fearful and half-cocked”.The Observer, Sunday 28 2014
Cameron's decision to deploy air strikes against ISIS is largely a political decision to make the Prime Minister look 'tough on terror'. ISIS realises that Cameron is a media obsessed politicians intent on grabbing the right headlines as opposed to the wily and shrewd diplomat that could defeat them.

The use of six Tornados and Britain's 'military prowess' is designed to send the message that Britain values the US led war against ISIS and wants to retain 'credibility' as a 'global player' leading at the forefront of a war on terror. All that despite the fact Britain did nothing while the Scottish referendum was going on.

Cameron prioritised domestic politics instead of the war against ISIS because it was more important for his government and as the US was leading the war anyhow. These air strikes would not make any difference apart from exploiting the fears of an ignorant populace about ISIS posing a direct threat to them.

ISIS is predominantly a regional threat and global in the sense it could use its power base in Syria to surge through Iraq and menace the present and future security of oil supplies of the Kurdistan and southern Iraq. These supplies are vital to ensure stable or falling oil prices and global economic recovery after the 2008 crash.

Britain has an interest in protecting both regions in Iraq because of the oil exploration and the interests BP have there. Qatar is a major Gulf ally partner which has been brought back into aligning with Saudi Arabia under western leadership in fighting ISIS whereas before there had been enmity between them.

Britain's role in bombing ISIS is firmly concerned with protecting resources far more than it is about protecting Britons from terrorist attacks at home. Had that been the main concern, Britain would not have been prepared to turn a blind eye towards Saudi Arabia and Qatar backing Sunni jihadists in Syria

ISIS would pose a threat to Qatar should it entrench itself in Iraq and launch attacks on the rest of Iraq and the Gulf States. In July 2014, ISIS made plain its intention of bombing the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the power which bore responsibility for creating the ISIS threat in its proxy war against Iran.

Britain is bound to regard any threat to Qatar as a threat to its interests. Qatar is a major supplier of liquefied natural gas to the domestic gas market. Michael Fallon, who last week predicted a 'new Battle of Britain' against ISIS, was energy minister before being shifted into the MoD.

Fallon made plain the increased dependency on Qatari gas was going to be part of a mutually beneficial partnership. Qatar would step up its LNG exports to Britain as imports increased. In return, Qatar would invest 10bn pounds in Britain's infrastructure as well as London's real estate and other projects.

The need to protect Qatar and energy supplies as North Sea gas depletes rapidly is one interests as is being bound to support geopolitical strategies that would check Iranian influence in the region such as holding out for the eventual removal of Assad once ISIS is 'degraded and destroyed'.

This is one reason Philip Hammond made clear Britain wanted to establish a permanent military base in one of the Gulf states, either Bahrain or most likely Qatar because ' we have to think through how we will train our forces in desert warfare, in hot-conditions’ combat in the future'.

While Cameron has sought to engage Iran in diplomacy to maintain a stable Iraq, he has made it clear that there is going to be no change in the failed and risky strategy that created ISIS in the first place. Assad is not to be drawn into a peace process in Syria because the aim is still to overthrow him.

Cameron claimed that ISIS' made profit from oil sold to Assad, so yoking together the threat of terror with the secular dictator. In fact, the evidence shows the oil from ISIS is coming via Turkey and was supported until ISIS turned its guns against Turkey.  Cameron repeated Gulf state propaganda.

So, apart from being dishonest about where ISIS had been selling its oil, Cameron is insistent upon continuing the strategy of backing the foreign policy of Qatar which played a major role in causing the chaos that allowed ISIS to gain ground in Syria and become the 'global' threat they would become.

ISIS poses a threat but the current determination of Britain to participate in air strikes is primarily about a policy determined by the geopolitics of energy. The attempt to insinuate Assad in in league with ISIS by buying their oil suggests he could never be negotiated with because he is effectively backing terrorists.

Yet it would only be through a ceasefire between Damascus and the Free Syria army and SNC that ISIS could be decisively defeated and a political solution to ISIS found in Syria other than continued war and the possibility and risks of external military intervention over the longer term.

The reason for Cameron's intransigence is partly ideological. Neoconservative ideology holds that dictatorship and terrorism are two peas from the same pod: remove the dictator and democracy and freedom and the rule of law shall flourish and terrorism would be curtailed and defeated.

Apart from the gross oversimplification of the complex realities of the Middle East that Cameron, following Blair, seems to understand little, this worldview comes in handy when demanding dictators from Saddam to Gaddafi and Assad are removed who are not favourable to Britain and its Gulf allies interests.

Despite the benefits of a negotiated truce between Assad and the FSA, Cameron is intent upon fawning upon Qatar because of the business interests and to the detriment of Britain's security and any real chance of peace in Syria. Qatar wants Assad gone and a Sunni government amenable to its designs.

Both Qatar and Turkey want a Qatar-Turkey pipeline which would avoid Qatari LNG having to be exported through the Persian Gulf and the strategic and Iranian held chokepoint of the Straits of Hormuz. It would also contain and offset rival plans for an Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline to the Eastern Mediterranean.

When Cameron uses luring language to depict a 'terrorist caliphate' on the Mediterranean built by ISIL, he is not just conjuring up an image of 'terrorist' with a sea coast popularly associated in the British mind with continental beach holidays in places from Spain to Cyprus and Turkey.

On the contrary, the very use of the acronym 'ISIL' reflects the fact Cameron regards Islamic State as a threat to geostrategic interests in the Eastern Mediterranean, not least the prospect of the gas in the Levant being taken out of Assad and Russia's clutches and put back into the hands of the SNC and 'the rebels'.

Far from being a mere global terror threat, the spectre of "ISIL' provides the opportunity not just to bolster the security of the oil supplies from Kurdistan and Shi'ite regions but also to establish the precedent to bomb Syria, knock out ISIL and then move on to those considered to be backing it.

Given that Cameron is portraying the Assad regime as being in league with ISIS ( one of the most preposterous propaganda claims given that Assad is one its main enemies and targets in the region ), it would appear he has learnt nothing from recent failed 'humanitarian interventions' elsewhere after 2003.

British and French leaders are not that stupid that they would fulfil the definition of insanity in trying to repeat the same policies again and againwhile expecting a different result to the chaos that has been the consequence of the overthrow of Saddam and then Gaddafi after the NATO backed war of 2011.

On the contrary, it is far more disturbing because it is a sign of the strategic deperation over the security of future supplies of oil and gas in regions lying those regions affected by the crumbling of states through sectarian and ethnic enmities heightened and sharpened by political anarchy and resource struggles

In preparing for the 'long war' or 'generational struggle', Cameron means not only the fact ISIS would take a long time to defeat. It is also part of a campaign of 'public diplomacy' softening up British opinion for a continued war over energy transit routes lying within regions where there are ample oil and gas reserves.

It's about time people woke up to this and fast.

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