Sunday, 28 September 2014

Why Cameron is Prepared to Extend British Air Strikes into Syria.

“There is nothing token about this, quite the contrary. They need our help, not just with the Tornados flying daily from Cyprus, but also from the surveillance equipment overhead – to add to the operations of the Iraqi and Kurdish forces. We need to think about how we beat IS. IS is based in Syria and IS needs to be defeated in Syria as well as in Iraq.” -Defence Minister Michael Fallon
“If there was the need to take urgent action, for instance to prevent the massacre of a minority community or a Christian community, I would order that and come to the House to explain immediately afterwards.”
'I have said we support what the Americans and the five Arab nations have done in Syria. We have a Syria strategy which is to build up the Free Syrian Army [and] the Syrian National Coalition to achieve a political transition in Syria'-Prime Minister David Cameron
Cameron would prefer to extend British strikes into Syria to help overcome the humiliation of the summer of 2013 when Parliament rejected Cameron's desired war to take out Assad over the alleged chemical gas attack on Ghouta. The geopolitical strategy remained unchanged since then.

Cameron backed Qatar and Turkey's plan to train and back Sunni jihadists to overthrow Assad just as he had led with Hollande in pushing for the NATO intervention to back the insurgents in Libya and get rid of Gaddafi. The ambition was a democratic Libya amenable to French and British energy interests.

Syria after 2011 was no different with France and Britain supporting Qatari policy in backing the SNC and so turning a blind eye to Doha's support for Sunni jihadists as a means justifying the end of removing the 'brutal dictator' and thus securing western influence in the Levant.

Energy interests and the special relationship with Qatar were paramount no matter how risky the strategy was. In common with Turkey, both Britain and France want Assad to go so that the offshore gas reserves would not be conceded to Russia as they subsequently were in December 2013.

Russia upped the stakes after it concluded a 25 year deal with Assad to develop Syria's gas. These lie in an offshore field 850 square miles of Syria's Exclusive Economic Zone in an area called Block 2 which is positioned the coastal cities of Banias and Tartous where Russia has a naval base.

These reserves of the Levant were discovered in 2010. Turkey subsequently backed the opposition to Assad as part of its neo-Ottoman strategy as a means to increase its influence in Syria and benefit from the fossil fuel reserves it lacks in partnership with gas rich Qatar by backing Sunni militant forces.

With Putin copying Turkish tactics in backing insurgents across its borders in Ukraine to advance geopolitical ambitions in the Black Sea region and successfully gain control over energy transit routes, the need to knock out ISIS and then Assad to check Russian influence in the Eastern Mediterranean has intensified.

Cameron made plain that he support the Gulf states interests, no matter their support for terrorism, by accusing Iran and Assad of doing the same. Indeed, Cameron recycled SNC and Qatari propaganda in Parliament on Friday 26th about Assad being the main sponsor of ISIS through buying its oil.

In fact, the oil revenues accrued by ISIS are mostly from sales of oil via Turkey, Britain's stalwart NATO ally through channels and illegal pipelines set up for the export of black market oil dating back to the 1990s when Saddam was firmly in charge in Baghdad. Officials in Turkey's deep state are said to be profiting.

ISIS funds mostly come from Turkey and not from Damascus which has no interest in funding an organisation based in Syria in a nation where 60% of the population is Sunni, if not Sunni Arab, and his own government is dominated by Alawis and supported by minorities wanting protection from Sunni militants.

Cameron's insistence on supporting the SNC and FSA as an alternative to Assad and ISIS simply is not credible. Nor is it meant as anything other than a determination to continue with the foreign policy of backing Qatar and its strategies no matter the risks because the stakes are access to oil and gas.

Cameron's ambition is to see ISIS destroyed and to then use the renewed pretext for intervention in Syria to erase the humiliation of his thwarted quest to remove Assad in 2013. This is far more a vital interest for Britain ( and France ) than it is for the US for a number of reasons.

Firstly, Qatar and Turkey sought the removal of Assad to get a Qatar-Turkey gas pipeline from the south Pars gas field through to the Mediterranean where it would then by exported through to EU markets. Even before the Ukraine conflict, energy diversification away from Russia was a geopolitical goal.

Secondly, Qatar is set to become a major exporter of LNG to Britain as North Sea gas declines. This was made plain by energy minister Michael Fallon in 2013 when he lauded both that an the 10 billion pounds investment Qatar was due to make in upgrading the UK's infrastructure.

Cameron was prepared to engage diplomatically with Iran's Rouhahi over Iraq but he demonstrated repellent hypocrisy in emphasising Iran's support for terrorism as one reason it unlike Qatar which backs Sunni jihadists across the region ( including the Taliban ) could be no an ally. Assad is regarded as a pariah.

The reason has all to do with fawning on Qatar so as to strike up a special relationship whereby Britain assists in asserting its regional interests militarily and in being pledged to defend its interests so as to get LNG and lucative arms deals. Hammond has even talked up the possibility of a military base in Qatar.

With Libya having fallen into chaos and the conflict in Eastern Ukraine going on, the Eastern Mediterranean and Persian Gulf are regions where Britain and France could source extra supplies of energy. The spread and surge of ISIS and the need to fight them as a 'global threat' are a consequence of energy geopolitics.

The so called 'moderate rebels' are miniscule and the FSA in September 2014 is, as Patrick Cockburn points out, little more than a CIA led outfit awaiting funds and new recruits to make it some third force between Assad and ISIS ( which is absurdly unrealistic and futile ).

Cameron seems intent on persisting with this mythical moderate Sunni force because of energy interests. It's both ruthless and inept as a foreign policy strategy but, then again, those two adjectives define Cameron and his neoconservative government.

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