Thursday, 31 December 2015

Christopher Hitchens and Iraq War Polemics Revisited

 In a review of And Yet, Christopher Hitchen's posthumous collection of essays, Tim Adams writes
 'The essay Power Suits, which shows Hitchens at his most rigorous and obsessive, reveals how he became involved in the story that disclosed how only last-minute intervention from Tony Blair prevented US plans to blow up the al-Jazeera TV network headquarters in Qatar. 
It is a measure of Hitchens’s gift for triangulation that he could allow such revelations to exist alongside his qualified support for the “war on terror”. He backed himself into many corners with his arguments in favour of armed struggle against the “forces of al-Qaida, the Taliban and Saddam Hussein”'
Hitchens, contrary to misleading impressions suggesting otherwise, never became a neoconservative after 9/11 2001. He aligned himself with the Bush administration on both the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars fought thereafter for what he saw as the same reason George Orwell sided with the West against Hitler; to preserve civilisation.

Far from this representing Hitchens having 'sold out', it was the logical extension of his admiration for Trotsky's 'moral moments' in having warned Europe about the spectre of fascist barbarianism in the 1930s ( as outlined in his essay The Old Man ). For Hitchens'. politicised religion and fascism went together hand in glove.

Those who saw Islamic fundamentalism as a vital new form of totalitarian threat to the Middle East and the wider world in the early 2000s believed that a war for civilisation was needed against these recrudescent forces. State totalitarianism of Saddam Hussein's kind and Islamist fascism were two forms of terror.

This stance, allowed Hitchens to take on activists in the 'anti-war' left who did tend to see all attacks on the west as a 'mere reflex reaction' to 'Western Imperialism'. Hitchen's position was that, in the wake of the end of the Cold War, the West had an obligation to try to put right what callous realpolitik had created in the past.

Most obviously, that meant supporting a war on the Taliban in Afghanistan as part of the 'war on terror', both the terror imposed by Al Qaida and the Taliban, a group empowered by Pakistan's ISI and Saudi Arabia as part of their and US support for the mujahadeen in the proxy war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

Hitchens consistently opposed the alignment with Islamist forces as a cynical means to defeat secular democratic forces in the Middle East. He was an ally of Edward Said on the issue of Palestine and why he blamed religious extremism and the backing it got from the US for making resolution of the conflict more difficult.

There a number of traps Hitchens fell into through his 'triangulation'. it was almost as though he saw the 'anti-war' activists as effectively collaborating with Islamofascist forces just as Stalinists had with other totalitarian forces in the 1930s, most obviously fascism, as a means to destroy Western Civilisation.

In reality, the StWC in Britain was not actually that important as their 'arguments' relied on cliched propaganda tropes as opposed to informed analysis as to the very great dangers of invading Iraq from a practical and ethical perspective. It was as though arguments for the invasion were arguments against these moral pygmies.

This is quite obviously true because those 'anti-war' leaders who gained the most media attention, not least in Britain were self promoting defenders of totalitarian regimes and militant Islamist politics, frauds, fools and fanatics such as Lindsey German, John Rees, Tariq Ali, Inayat Bunglawala, Tamimi Azzam and Anas al-Tikriti.

It was these 'anti-war' figures who dominated in the run up to 2003, constantly offering the idea that the Western lands had terrorism coming to them because of their 'foreign policy', flirting as closely as possible to the idea terror was a mere and regrettable reflex response to it without positing direct links.

In the sense that Hitchens combatted them and their rationalisations of Islamist jihadi-terrorism, he did an excellent job. When, however, he started to see them as one reason why the Western Powers should go into Iraq and fight the global 'war on terror', at home and abroad, he went badly wrong-as did the war )

For the invasion of Iraq did unleash sectarian conflicts and assist in creating ISIS. Moreover, it was far more important in promoting regional and global terrorism than any of these creepy individuals could have dreamed would happen when they opposed the Iraq War on the basis they hated the the US and the West.

Some of the best arguments for the invasion of Iraq were, therefore, that they just must have validity because the StWC consisted of such repellent leaders who cared more about hating the West than they did about liberating, for example, the Kurds who had been consistently betrayed by cynical Western strategies.

The heated polemics of the early 2000s, both for and against the Afghanistan or Iraq Wars, seem very dated in 2015. The drivel of 'anti-war' icon Tariq Ali, extolling 'the Iraqi resistance' against US Imperialism, a motley array of Baathists and Sunni jihadists, has a grim irony with the stunning re-emergence of that force as ISIS in 2014

Likewise the ignorance of 'pro-liberation' leftists as regards the history of the Middle East is clearer. The idea that by removing secular dictators that pluralist and inclusive democracies would arise, seems increasingly naive with the passage of time, though it seems to have finally been recognised as regards the Syria conflict.

It is clear both sides  within Britain on the left, pro-liberationists' and 'anti-war' types, had as much in common with each other as they had differences; the inability to accept reality, the desire to fit facts to the ideological prescriptions of the fighting creed and militant utopian dreams about how what 'we' do can 'change the world'.

Some Brief Thoughts on Hitchens and Chomsky.

Hitchens was a contrarian who found himself aligned with the Bush administration after 9/11 if only because he saw the US and its great post-cold war hyperpower as the only force that could successfully defend democracy across the world from the ultimate blind conformity of all-'theocratic fascism'.

To an extent, his stance was designed to go against what he saw as the dangerous conformism of the 'anti-war' intellectuals and publicists who he saw as blind to the real dangers of 'theocratic fascism' and how it emerged out of the failure of secular democracy to take root in the Middle East.

On a whole number of issues, Hitchens was passionately ranged against George Bush but he was equally as scathing about those more obsessed with what was wrong with the US to the degree that they though defending and extending democracy was a form of 'US Imperialism'.

So it depends on what 'fashionable opinion' means. The forthright atheism resonated with liberal New York-Washington beltway opinion. but, equally as true, hostility to jihadi-islamism involved attacking the 'fashionable opinion' of 'anti-war' populists ( e.g Michael Moore ) and, of course, Noam Chomsky.

Hitchens had once been aligned with Chomsky on many issues from Vietnam to Palestine. It seems Hitchens ultimately gave in to the idea that US superpower could, as with World war Two, be used to liberate the Middle East from fascism whereas Chomsky sees every war as just yet more 'imperialism'.

This is just to outline the debate as it once was. Chomsky argued that Hitchens was a conformist and even followed a 'religion' in believing George Bush would liberate Iraq. Hitchens, on the other hand, saw Chomsky as a reflexive rationaliser of intransigent dogmatic leftist and Islamist stances.

On balance both of them were wrong about Iraq. Chomsky was wrong to think the Bush administration did not, in fact, take seriously the idea it was liberating it from Saddam Hussein. Iraq for them, and those such as Hitchens who went along with it, was about effecting 'democratic revolution'.

Hitchens was wrong in believing that the Bush administration could deliver that in the circumstances and in failing to question the WMD pretexts that were given ( here Chomsky was right in insisting that the burden of proof lay with those promoting the war, though he would have found other reasons to oppose it ).

Neither thinker was that impressive on Iraq or US foreign policy. Both tended to be more obsessed with being 'right' against other intellectuals. For Chomsky, those who do not see every conflict as caused mostly by 'US Imperial Power', or those in positions of power who fail to condemn it as such, are 'commissars'.

Hitchens, on the other hand, tended to set forth a worldview in which the failure to be 'anti-fascist', in opposing the overthrow of Saddam or in taking on the Taliban were spineless 'appeasers' who betrayed the 'internationalist' history of the Western Left. It was not the most sensible way to discuss one bigger issue-'will it work?'

Ignoring the Reality of Geopolitics in the Middle East.

The problem with Hitchens was that he tended to see what he wanted to see as regards Iraq and it followed on from this idea of a new war for civilisation against totalitarian theocratic regimes that had started after 9/11 and had, at the time in 2003, seen the US 'successfully' overthrow the Taliban.

Ideologically, Hitchens regarded totalitarianism as an religious phenomenon, and to thereby overestimate it as a global threat, the better to take it on both at home and abroad. So he unified very different regimes and terror movements as though essentially part of one challenge to the free world.

That has a certain dramatic appeal and, in a sense, it is true that dictatorships in the Middle East tend to nurture fanatical jihadi oppositionists based on conspiracist interpretations of the world. But they were not the same and in most senses opposed to each other.

One reason for that, especially since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Saudi Arabia and Iran have fought a proxy war in Iraq that has spread further afield. More more animus was directed towards Iran as part of an 'axis of evil' under Bush than it was towards the biggest sponsor of jihadism-Saudi Arabia.

The reasons were that the US had bases there to protect oil flows from the Persian Gulf and to contain Saddam or Iran. Saudi Arabia was a large supplier of oil at the time to the US and the Bush administration wanted to reduce that dependence by liberating Iraqi oil from Saddam's clutches.

By doing that it would be able to create a model US client state along democratic lines that would act as a regional beacon and trigger off demands for democracy across the borders of Iraq into Syria and Iran. But there was no way Saudi Arabia would allow Iran to extend its influence in this new democracy.

It was always highly likely that removing Saddam through a war would cause a sectarian war between Shi'ite and Sunni Arabs, not least as Iran and Saudi Arabia would try to extend their influence through backing militias and factions for geopolitical reasons.

Hitchens ignored that because one of his main concerns lay with the liberation of the Iraqi Kurds. Yet the 'no-fly zones' helped protect them from attacks by Saddam. He was effectively 'contained' in 2003. Yet the sanctions policy had created great suffering for ordinary Iraqis.

The war never appeared at the time as a straightfowardly 'imperialist' venture to liberals leftist supporters. They suspended their scepticism through the belief Saddam had caused enough humanitarian suffering; removing him would end both sanctions and offer an opportunity to rebuild Iraq.

There were less famous but more informed writers at the time than Hitchens who cautioned against it from John Gray to Malise Ruthven who, in A Fury for God, called the plans to invade Iraq 'incredibly risky' because of the geopolitical competition and threat of proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

The Battle for Sangin and the Pipeline of Peace : The New Great Game in Asia.

'The UK sent a modest contingent of British military advisers to Helmand at the weekend to support the overstretched forces. The 10 British troops, part of a 300-strong Nato force, are based at Camp Shorabak, about 50 miles from Sangin. The MoD said they would remain inside the camp to provide advice and infantry training'.
News that British troops are being redeployed once more in Helmland, to help the Afghan National Army repel the Taliban from the town of Sangin, proved that the vaunted 'drawdown' of troops never mean 'withdrawal'. The clue was in the wording, despite the official end to Britain's war in Afghanistan being trumpeted.

David Cameron's statement in 2014-'mission accomplished'- was a form of 'public diplomacy' to assure the British public that Britain had completed its job and that it was, to use Blair's old refrain, 'time to move on'. Only it was not and the central objective in 'staying the course' in Afghanistan remained unmentionable.

Helmland is strategically important because the TAPI gas pipeline finally started construction on December 13 2015 and will run via Kandahar. This pipeline is a very important part of the US-NATO war in Afghanistan and the Afghan government pledged 7000 troops to help defend and secure the pipeline route.
While the TAPI pipeline is routinely presented in Western 'public diplomacy' ( when it is mentioned at all ) as part of 'development economics', a project to help rebuild Afghanistan through providing energy and transit fees, it is disingenuous to pretend that it is not central to certain geopolitical ambitions in Central Asia.
'According to the Council of Foreign Relations, the pipeline has been a focus of US policy to contrast the influence of Russian and Chinese investments in the region. Dubbed as the ‘peace pipeline’ for bringing together rival countries like India and Pakistan, the project would also enable Turkmenistan to diversify its exports away from China.'
Turkmenistan has the world's second largest gas reserves. The US-NATO has largely given up on 'nation building' and has sought instead to pursue 'Afghanistanisation' whereby Western military experts, trainers and special-ops forces get native troops to protect and defend crucial resource interests.
TAPI is a rival to Iran's IP pipeline, all the more important now that the nuclear deal with Tehran means Iran will have sanctions lifted and be able to export gas to Pakistan. If the US does not want Iranian influence, in tandem with China, which is backing IP, to expand too far, then securing TAPI is vital to India's energy security
The US fears Iran and Pakistan aligning too closely and so threatening the relationship with Saudi Arabia just across the Persian Gulf. The nuclear deal was considered necessary to bring Iran out of the cold and to shore up the Shi'ite dominated Iraqi government against ISIS and its threat to global oil supplies.
Gaining Iran's cooperation is designed prevent the US being drawn back into Iraq after withdrawal in 2011 and the new focus on containing China (the 'pivot to Asia'). In that sense TAPI is vital to America's ability to project power and influence in Eurasia by getting India onside as part of a strategy to check Chinese influence.
TAPI has some role in that general strategy, of asserting US influence in rivalry with China and Russia, by diverting control over energy flows away from Russian control and not letting Turkmenistan become dominated by its main export partner in China ( after a pipeline was completed connecting the two in 2014 ).
This is the reality in the New Great Game. Afghanistan is regarded as the crucial 'land bridge' between Central Asia and the burgeoning energy hungry economies and demographically expanding societies of South Asia. It is also has copious quantities of mineral resources the Western powers wish to gain a stake in. 
' Since 2009, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Defense Department’s Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO) have provided $488 million toward the nation’s extractive industries supporting a variety of corporations like the accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers and the US-based contractors Expertech Solutions and Hickory Ground Solutions.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Britain Enters the War in Syria : Cameron's Vote on Military Intervention and Corbyn's Defeat.

'Jeremy Corbyn is to offer a free vote to MPs on David Cameron’s proposals for UK to bomb Isis in Syria but will make clear that Labour party policy is to oppose airstrikes'.
Corbyn really had little choice, otherwise he would have potentially lost authority by trying and failing to exercise authority over the party so full of those prepared to back air strikes, not least because this issue was one that both they and Cameron sought to use in order to oust Corbyn from leadership of Labour.

While British military intervention was something Cameron has wanted in order to reaffirm Britain as 'global player', the rapid movement to join in the battle against IS is primarily about Britain's credibility as a world power, one capable of shaping a post-Assad Syria and to sit at the 'top table' when this diplomacy is going on.

To that extent, Corbyn offered an obstable to that which was then turned into a 'national security threat'. The British national security state created during the latter part of the Cold War on the US model is not there to be challenged by anything as unpredicatable as democratic accountability and so 'Corbyn must go'.

Those Labour MPs opposed to Corbyn are so because 'Britain as global player', no matter the actual dangers of the Syria 'strategy', is a fundamental interest both for their own careerist ambitions and also from an understanding that military action in Syria reassures the Gulf States that Britain is pledged to their defence.

Saudi Arabia is a source of huge investments in London and arms deals. Qatar is set to be an ever more important supplier of LNG ( liquefied natural gas ) for EU markets as European sources deplete-including Britain's North Sea reserves-and the Western Powers look for energy diversification away from Russia.

The real reason Syria has become a strategic battleground and such a brutal cockpit for regional and global proxy wars, is its position between the South Pars Persian Gulf gas field and the Eastern Mediterranean. Both Iran and Qatar want to run a gas pipeline through Syria in rivalry with each other.

With sanctions set to lifted on Iran, as a consequence of the nuclear deal and Iran's vital role in shoring up a Shi'ite dominated Iraqi state based in Baghdad and rolling back IS, the stakes in Syria have been raised further. The US risked alienating Saudi Arabia by seemingly allowing Iran to sell oil freely again and ceding control in Iraq.

Hence in Syria, Washington and London have sought to maintain the geopolitical fiction of a 'moderate rebel' force that should have a stake in determining a post-Assad political settlement. This has become even more important to maintain the Gulf States onside and to check Russia's recent direct military support for Assad.

Russian military intervention on October 29 2015 was the last straw for an increasingly humilated Cameron whose defeat in Parliament in a vote for air strikes on Assad halted the momentum towards Western intervention back in September 2013. Reversing that verdict -and the humiliation-is in part a vanity project.

Moreover, the IS role in blowing up the Russian airliner over Sinai and the Paris Black Friday Attacks provided the 'public diplomacy' opportunities ( pathologically referred to in the media as 'game changers' ) for Cameron to use the IS global threat as a pretext to enter the power contest in Syria as a military player.

Cameron is not naive enough to believe his own verbose memo about Britain's ability to 'make a difference' against IS or the fiction of 70,000 'moderate rebels' waiting in the wings to rally behind Britain's air strike in a massive assualt on Raqqa. It is more about being a 'global player' in determining events in Syria.

That clearly means not allowing the collapse of the 'moderate rebels' or 'third force' capable of checking Assad and defeating IS ( in theory ). With news of US special ops forces already fighting IS and William Hague calling for British ground troops, there are shades of the early years before US involvement in Vietnam.

As Patrick Cockburn drily pointed out with regards Cameron's case, ' In Syria, we are to look to 70,000 “moderate” fighters whose existence Mr Cameron revealed to the House of Commons, but nobody in Syria has ever heard of. Isis is not going to be defeated by these phantom armies which are to be Britain’s allies in Iraq and Syria.'

Britain obviously wants IS defeated but it is not the only priority. If it were, then Britain would have waited to see whether the Vienna agreement and the ceasefire between Assad and the 'moderate rebels' would first be put into place and, then, wait to see if it would stick before contemplating military action.

As it stand in the first week of December 2015, at least a month before the ceasefire was to have been acheived ( January 2016) , Britain's air strikes are about tilting the balance in Syria away from Assad back towards the 'moderate rebels' by backing unnamed militias first against ISIS.

Yet, unlike Assad's forces, the 'moderate rebels' consist of fissiparious militias that have proven incapable of working together. The Army of Conquest is dominated by militias whose ideology is not that dissimilar from IS. The real, more moderate secular forces, are concentrated in the south near Damascus.

The great danger is that, in contrast to Russia, the Western Powers would have to commit more ground troops in future to work along with rebel groups that have proven again and again incapable of being effective as a fighting force. Corbyn could have argued this, but reduced himself to platitudes.

Such is democracy. Corbyn will be defeated as communication and PR politics means that there are few who attempt to treat the British public as full of citizens capable of listening to or grasping coherent arguments as opposed to reacting to knee jerk policies designed to 'solve' the IS threat.

While Corbyn's arguments were not put as forceably as they might have been, his caution and arguments that the case has not been proven are far more convincing than Cameron's evasive and slimy spinning based on a media agenda and exploiting the fear of terrorism.

Monday, 23 November 2015

The Vienna Agreement and Cameron's Drive for British Intervention in Syria.

Cameron is already building up the 'public diplomacy' momentum behind winning a vote on air strikes in Syria for December 2015 without having first outlined any realistic strategy that would make them much more than part of his obsession with 'standing tall' and reaffirming Britain's status as a 'global player'.

This was clear after the downing of the Russian airliner over Sinai. Then Cameron muscled in to claim IS had been involved and that he was at the forefront of protecting British citizens through emergency measures and privy to intelligence about IS threats that the rest of the world was not. It was as much about getting the necessary headlines.

Then, in line with the media management strategies Cameron is expert at as 'heir to Blair, a few days later Fallon started on cue to big up the case for British air strikes in Syria lest anyone forget what the larger aim of the British response to the blowing up of the Russian jet. All of this was carefully choreographed.

The danger with this sort of 'public diplomacy' is that it is inherently manipulative and is directed at exploiting public fears into stampeding public opinion and so MPs into supporting a policy for which there has not been a rational debate about the merits of firs. In fact that is the very purpose of this political culture of spin.

The Labour opposition, with the exception of its leader Jeremy Corbyn, indicated that it would not be prepared to swing decisively behind air strikes unless a coherent strategy was outlined by the government. Corbyn would seem to think there is no need to press the government on what, if any, strategy the government has.

The reason is because he is opposed to any military action without a 'political settlement'. This statement of the obvious that has potentially been invalidated by the Vienna agreement and the prospect of a UN Security Council backed war against IS in the wake of the Black Friday the 13th terror attacks on Paris.

Corbyn needs to scrutinize Cameron's proposals for joining air strikes in Syria and start asking hard questions about whether the PM really has a strategy other than just bombing Raqqa. For example what guarantees there are that the ceasefire by January 2016 will hold ( not least as Cameron wants air strikes before Christmas ).

Corbyn has flopped as an alternative leader. He is the unexpected leader of a party in crisis across Britain as it struggles to find an identity after Blair and Brown's years and the failure of Miliband. Corbyn does not seem to have made much impact at a time of heightened fear as IS goes on the rampage across the Middle East and into Europe. 

As John Gray summarised it,
"In a performance reminiscent of Peter Sellers’s Chauncey Gardiner in the film Being There, the Labour leader has emerged from the walled garden of the hard left to wander around the country, dispensing gnomic observations about peace and kindness. It’s a surreal kind of theatre rather than a new type of politics. There is no risk to Cameron"
The timing of the vote of air strikes for December 2015 shows that Cameron is less interested in whether the political and diplomatic settlement agreed on in Vienna sticks first before wasting the 'game changing' usefulness of the Paris attacks to rush through to a vote on air strikes that would make any opposition appear as though 'soft on terror'.

The ceasefire agreed at Vienna is for January 2016. Timing a vote for December means that no problems with not having first halted the proxy war between Assad and the Sunni insurgents not aligned with IS could delay Britain entering the war in Syria. Saudi Arabia declared it would convene a meeting of all Sunni groups on December 15th 2015.

Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam were invited to this convention, however, in an act that seems to challenge Russia's intentions in a paragraph of the second Vienna meeting’s final statement on 14 November. After discussing which groups are to be designated as 'terrorist', the communique continues:
“All members of the ISSG also pledged as individual countries and supporters of various belligerents to take all possible steps to require adherence to the ceasefire by these groups or individuals they support, supply or influence. The ceasefire would not apply to offensive or defensive actions against Da’esh or Nusra or any other group the ISSG agrees to deem terrorist“.
Cameron's drive towards war in Syria would appear to be more principally concerned about power politics and making Britain a 'global player' on a par with Russia after it intervened militarily in Syria on September 29 and pushed the Great Powers into discussing a deal to focus more on IS once it was clear Assad would not go.

There is no indication Britain has a strategy apart from joining in as part of air strikes in the hope it is would be seen to be playing a part and showing the Gulf States how it is dedicated to their defence as well as testing out British military hardware and signalling its commitment to the Gulf States.

As Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond put it after announcing the new British military base in Bahrain 'your security is our security''. It was necessary for Britain to revive its old East of Suez role when the US was refocusing and shifting its military weight towards containing China ( the Pivot to Asia ).

To that end the Defence Secratary Michael Fallon has repeated the line that Assad has to go, despite the fact Russian intervention means he would not at least before elections are due to be held, as set out on paper at least in the Vienna agreement, by 2017. On November 23 2015 he made it plain, that despite Russia and Iran's backing for Assad,
“There is international agreement now that Assad has to go and there has to be a more comprehensive government.”
There has been no international agreement at all on Assad's status which was pointedly left out of the talks at Vienna because it would have made diplomatic progress impossible. Saudi Arabia would appear to have stepped in to take control over the Sunni opposition to Assad and has maintained that he should not stand in future elections.

As a consequence, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the case for British air strikes is not about defeating IS only so much as positioning Britain, in advance of any diplomatic settlement, in a better bargaining position in trying to ensure it can determine the fate of Syria for the benefit of its Gulf State clients.

In that sense, there is a similarity between this diplomacy and that which happened between 1812 and 1815 when all the powers sought those decisive victories that would give them the decisive influence in reshaping the map of Europe ( through the Congress of Vienna ). It is very old fashioned Great Power politics of the old style at a global level.

The problem with that is there is no guarantee the Gulf States would honour the peace process and stop ratcheting up the proxy war with Iran through backing Sunni jihadist groups in the Army of Conquest as it has since March 2015. There has been no let up in the proxy war to the south in Yemen for a start.

Without that happening, because Russia is already supporting Assad, there would be no joint effort or coherent strategy to focus Syrian ground troops on IS. It would that should Assad and Russia advance too quickly against IS, other Sunni jihadist groups could start attacking Assad to the west in order to 'tilt' the balance of power away from him.

There is no indication which ground forces Britain would work with in defeating IS. It could be the Kurdish peshmerga as with the US or Arab-Kurdish forces including the YGP militias. Yet Turkey is intent on air strikes against PKK militias fighting IS because of its fear of Kurdish irredentism spreading across the border.

Cameron seems to have decided on commiting  Britain to a larger security role in the Greater Middle East and to defending the interests of the Gulf States at a time when their policies are making it ever more likely that the war against IS would not succeed without a durable ceasefire with Assad. The dangers of this are clear.

Not only would British air strikes make London a target for IS terror reprisals, they would lock Britain further into a war with no firm diplomatic end game in sight now that the Gulf States have demonstrated, in word and deed, that they are not that concerned with IS but more with Iran and with Assad in Syria.

Given that the November 23rd Strategic Defence & Security Review involves increasing Britain's 'special ops' forces for dealing with IS, it is clear this would leave open the way for being dragged in directly into a ground war with the Caliphate with all the potential for "mission creep" that could well involve if the strategy is flawed.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Britain and Resource Wars in the 21st Century.

Norton Taylor has drawn attention to the fact the alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states would be a feature of the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) due to be unveiled on 23 November 2015. Yet it is vital to draw attention to the increased emphasis both NATO and the Britain has put on energy security.

The last SDSR in 2010 made plain that real threats to Britain's security are considered to be rising
'due to ourgrowing dependence on imports of fossil fuels at  the same time that global demand and competition for energy is increasing. Falling UK production of oil and gas, coupled with sustained demand, will make us increasingly reliant on fossil fuel imports'.
While Britain gets on a fraction of its oil from Saudi Arabia, with most coming from Norway or Russia or African OPEC nations -mostly Nigeria and Algeria-it imports an increasingly significant amount of LNG from Gulf States such as Qatar. Indeed Michael Fallon in 2013, as Energy Secratary, made this reliance clear.
"We are looking for more long-term gas supply contracts with Qatar – they have proved a very reliable partner...It's very important we strengthen our relationship with them. Already over half our gas comes from abroad and by 2030, it'll be three-quarters" LNG accounted for 28pc of the UK's gas imports last year, 98pc of those from Qatar.
In respect to Britain's geopolitical strategy, which involves building the base in Bahrain, supporting the Saudi war effort in Yemen and supporting "moderate rebels" in Syria, in alignment with the Saudis and Qatar, the ambition is to secure crucial strategic chokepoints in the Persian Gulf and between the Red Sea and Indian Ocean.

This is precisely why Philip Hammond is not that interested in the humanitarian consequences of Saudi Arabia bombing civilian targets in Houthi rebel held urban areas. The threat to the flow of oil tankers through the Bab al-Mandab Strait and Red Sea trade was a major concern for Saudi Arabia fearing Iranian proxy influence.

Even if Iran would be unlikely to cut off oil flows from Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf, the pathological competition for influence and power in Syria is about the competition between Iran and Qatar for two rival gas pipelines between the Persian Gulf and the Eastern Mediterranean and hence EU energy markets.

The construction of Britain's Bahrain base is about reassuring Britain's Gulf allies that they are pledged to their defence in the event of any threat, not least that of terrorist attacks from within, Iranian backing for Shi'ite rebels or the looming spectre of ISIS As Hammond put it '“Your security is our security.”

By pledging Britain so unconditionally to the defence of the increasingly unstable Gulf states, Hammond has determined that Britain would be pulled into a regionwide conflagration should this happen, as appears increasingly probable rentier regimes incapable of diversifying from oil faced with Islamist militancy.

The Saudi oil price war with Russia, one spurred on by the US shale oil 'revolution', was intended as a means to reconfigure global geopolitics and use galling oil revenues to cripple those powers opposing US world domination such as Venezuela, Iran and, most obviously, Russia itself.

Far from promoting 'stability', the strategy could end up destabilising Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies which have blamed Riyadh for plummeting oil revenues. The Saudis have been drawn into a Yemen quagmire and costs have escalated as revenues to buy off discontent fallen drastically.

ISIS has made repeated incursions into Saudi oil producing regions and in the Bastra region of Iraq as well as Al Qaida into Algeria. An oil price shock would boost their as yet relatively meagre oil revenues greatly and send the global economy into a tailspin as the East Asian economies are dependent upon Middle East oil.

The Russian Factor.

The next cause of global instability is that sanctions have helped drive Putin into entering Syria in order to combat both ISIS, a threat to the Russian Caucasus and its oil and gas pipelines in the region, as well as to decisively back Assad's state army against Qatari and Saudi-backed "moderate rebels".

Russia sought to tilt the balance away from their prospective gains because of the threat a Qatar-Turkey gas pipeline would pose to Russia's control over energy supplies into the EU, its oil revenues and its global power projection. This was threatened in March 2015 by the Army of Conquest militia formation being created.

The Russian intervention would seem to be a ploy to increase oil prices and shore up Putin's oil revenues. It is more probable the move was about blocking off the Qatar-Turkey pipeline and retaining a strategic position in the Eastern Mediterranean so that it could gain a stake in offshore Syrian and Israeli gas projects

This had been threatened by Army of Conquest gains in north-west Syria as the Gulf States and Turkey upped their supply of weapons to it, a formation that includes Al Qaida affiliated militias such as al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham, militant Sunni jihadists wanting a Caliphate not so dissilimar from that of IS in Raqqa.

Western propaganda, via a pliant media, replicates the untruth that Assad faces 'moderate rebels' Yet it is unclear how far either the West would go in defending their interests should Russia succeed in 'degrading' the military capacity of the Army of Conquest, backed by a NATO member in the form of Erdogan's Turkey.

The Gulf States have put pressure on the Western Powers to back them in Syria. Meanwhile Saudi-Russian relations have continued to deteriorate amidst suspicions that Riyadh is covertly backing jihadists against Russia in Chechnya and Dagestan, as well as NGO groups in other strategic transit states in the Caucasus.

So Britain is pledged to defending the Gulf States. Even if the US is more focused the rise of China in 2015, the Saudi lobby and Republicans are staunchly for the alliance and a direct proxy war with Russia over both Syria and Ukraine.This could stimulate tensions in a region the SDSR cited as crucial to energy security-the Caspian.

There are all sorts of dangers that are being created by the adherence to a Cold War era alliance system in the Middle East. There needs to be a change in strategic thinking and a greater emphasis on energy independence through nuclear power and in energy saving measures.

These are the chilling realities of the world in the 21st century. 

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Britain Uses the Sinai Air Crash to Advance Power Political Ambitions.

“I’ll obviously discuss all of this with President Putin and explain to him why we’ve taken the action we’ve taken. But obviously the action he takes about Russian tourists, that will be a matter for him.”
“It’s obviously a matter for the Russians about whether they continue to fly,” the prime minister said. “If you look at what other countries have done, the Americans have changed their travel advice to Sharm el-Sheikh – they did that after seeing particular intelligence and concerns that they had.
Earlier, the foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, said there was a “significant possibility” that a bomb brought down the Russian plane, in the light of the claim of responsibility by IS Sinai.'
Flights have been suspended from Sharm el-Sheikh. An emergency meeting of COBRA convened. Cameron emerged from 10 Downing Street, his face contorted in the usual rictus of 'concern' claiming that he had a piece of 'sensitive intelligence' that the rest of the world, other than the US, did not presumably have access.

Britain's ramping up of the terrorist threat in response to the downing of the Russian airliner serves a number of political aims. It insinuates that Russia was responsible for endangering the security of civilian airliners in Egypt and that Britain too, as a consequence, faces the threat of its holidaymakers being threatened.

The other useful part of Cameron and Hammond's 'public diplomacy' is that it diverts attention away from the criticism of the government for welcoming General Sisi to London for clinching lucrative trade deals, despite the murder and imprisonment of political opponents of the regime in Cairo.

The emergency measures being taken to protect British holidaymakers also serves as a way of building up the momentum to push for air strikes against ISIS in Syria and to thereby, in the process, trying to discredit Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as a 'national security threat' and, of course, 'soft' or sympathetic to terrorists.

So Cameron could use the terror attack to insinuate how his alliances with dictatorships are about the need to keep British civilians safe, launch those aircraft and drone strikes on ISIS and stand tall in the region and on the global stage. Basically, this is the sort of 'public diplomacy' on the 9/11 model he took from Blair.

No other national government other than Ireland has suspended flights from the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. Britain, of course, has no respresentatives in the official crash investigation and so is trying to make the best of spinning the air crash in ways that would benefit the governments national security state agenda.

Civilian deaths and the threat of ISIS terror plots on the Al Qaida model are too good an opportunity to miss if revving up for military intervention in Syria, one reason Britain, as opposed to all other countries, is seizing on the catastrophe to score political points about how it and not Russia, is dedicated to protecting civilians.

It's a power game.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Syria :The Energy Stakes and the Vienna Peace Talks

Crispin Blunt has written in the Guardian, 
“There should be no extension of British military action into Syria unless there is a coherent international strategy that has a realistic chance of defeating Isis and of ending the civil war in Syria.”..Doing something to make ourselves feel better is beside the real point of defeating Isis and ending the Syrian civil war.
True but it would appear to have been part of the drive towards intervention in Iraq on Blair's part in 2003 and, certainly, Cameron's over Libya and Syria back in 2011. Yet, there are other rationales left out by Blunt such as the determination of Britain to align with the Gulf States over Syria due to energy interests and arms deals.

When it comes down to it, there are major geopolitical ambitions and interests at stake that are interconnected with the egos of politicians who have staked their 'credibility' on removing Assad both in France and Britain. In fact, the US is actually more pragmatic than either of the two European military powers.

For the US has shale oil reserves and the EU has valued the overthrow of Assad as a mean to expedite the construction of a Qatar-Turkey gas pipeline. Even if the scale of the conflict, chaos and carnage has set back this ambition, allowing the Russian blocking strategy to prevail is anathema to Britain and France.

Turkey under a re-elected and more authoritarian Erdogan has no reason to climb down over his grand plan to re-ottomanise northern Syria; he has proved able to use Syrian migrants, by allowing and encouraging them to move into Europe, as a a diplomatic bargaining lever with Germany and other EU powers.

Erdogan's cynical tactics have clearly worked spectacularly in goading feeble and guilt ridden Western politicians such as Merkel into further concessions over EU membership and visa reforms. He can be sure that his policy on Syria will be supported as the EU powers prove incapable of managing their borders.

Then Saudi Arabia simply also refuses to budge on not making the overthrow of Assad its main foreign policy goal along with other Gulf states. So it is difficult to see how Cameron would take any diplomatic initiative whatsoever over Syria in order not to affect preferential British trade ties, investments and Qatari LNG supplies.

Cameron is more intent on using Britain's role as a 'Global Player' to tout its firm support for the war against ISIS in such a way as to ingratiate himself with the Gulf states and demonstrate how it is pledged to their defence. Using drones and air power tests out the technology and upgrades Britain's profile as an ally.

As a consequence Cameron need only spout soundbites about the "butcher Assad" and maintain the position he has to go at some hypothetical stage rather than outline a coherent strategy for ending the Syrian Civil War. Syrian lives are balanced off with lucrative interests and the geopolitics of energy flows.

Such interests are seldom mentioned in public because the Syrian war is only portrayed as 'crisis management' and not in terms of old fashioned Great Power politics. The same 'liberal interventionist' tropes are rehashed because 'public diplomacy' in democracies requires that Western ambitions are portrayed as humanitarian.

To an extent this is true, but it means Western policy over Syria is based on selfish greed at one level and on geopolitical wish thinking about there being a third force between Assad and ISIS at another. Greed mixed with guilt is a lethally weak basis for a foreign policy and Erdogan knows how to exploit this.

The European powers have far less influence than is supposed: the idea they have decisive influence over Turkey and other regional players in the Greater Middle East is farcical. EU nations are far too dependent upon energy from outside the EU and the Ukraine crisis has led to a frantic quest for diversification.

The failed geopolitical lunge to drag Ukraine towards both EU and NATO membership, so as to secure Black Sea resources and control over pipeline routes has been matched by Russian determination to block the Qatar-Turkey pipeline and secure Russian influence over Eastern Mediterranean gas flows to the EU.

Ultimately, what happens to bring peace to Syria is going to be decided by Russia, the US, Iran, Turkey and the Gulf States. Britain is unlikely to go too far in opposing Washington but the US itself seems incapable of pursuing a coherent strategy other than containing ISIS thus safeguarding Iraqi oil producing zones.

Ultimately, what happens to bring peace to Syria is going to be decided by Russia, the US, Iran, Turkey and the Gulf States. Britain is unlikely to go too far in opposing Washington and the US itself seems incapable of pursuing a coherent strategy other than containing ISIS, thus safeguarding Iraqi oil producing zones.

While the nuclear deal has given the opportunity for Iran to be involved in peace talks over Syria, it has made Saudi Arabia even more determined to prevent it extending its influence both in Baghdad and Damascus. It is becoming more unstable as it gets dragged further into the Yemen War.

Time is short as if a new Republican administration were to enter the White House in 2016, then it is highly likely it would reaffirm its steadfast alliance with Saudi arabia and even be tempted into a revertion to a 1980s style attempt to back a mujahadeen in Syria against Russia and Assad.

Britain's position in this is more than hopeless: Cameron's government is attached to obsolete geopolitical calculations and ways of thinking and acting that also date back to the 1980s and Cold War stances regarding the supposed benefits of the Saudi alliance and the innate evil of Russia as a Great Power

Unless there is a decicive change with this foreign policy and emphasis on the need for diplomacy, in which the Western states does not treat the Greater Middle East as a theatre in which they alone is the decisive actors, then the stage is set for a potential proxy conflict and widening war of catastrophic proportions.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Enter the US: Washington Commits to Rivalling Russia in Syria.

'The Obama administration is expected to announce on Friday a decision to deploy a small number of special operations forces in an advisory role to Syria... a wider strategy of strengthening moderate rebels in Syria even as Washington intensifies its efforts to find a diplomatic solution to end to the Syrian civil war.'
Barack Obama has ordered up to 50 special operations troops to northern Syria, a senior administration official told the Guardian on Friday, in an apparent breach of his promise not to put US “boots on the ground” to fight Islamic State militants in the country.
The Pentagon has also been “consulting” with Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi to establish a special operations task force, with an unspecified number of US forces aiming “to further enhance [US] ability to target Isil leaders and networks” across the Syria border in Iraq.
Washington officials insist that the new deployments do not amount to admission of failure in its existing efforts to combat Isis from the air and support so-called “moderate” rebels with training. ( Guardian October 30th 2015 )
Unless the "moderate rebels" are named there is no reason to suppose these rebels are not Sunni jihadists or a militaritly irrelevant group of non-jihadi Sunni democrats. Yet if 'special ops' forces are going, the emphasis would be on directing forces that presumably are not going to be those under fire from Russian aircraft.

The strategy of bolstering mythical "moderate rebels" has had much similarity with the backing the US gave to a Third Force in South Vietnam in the 1950s, one memorably seen as presaging deeper US involvement there in Greene's The Quiet American. It is pure geopolitical wish fantasy.

The backing for the "moderate rebels" has foundered on the facts there has not existed one since 2012: by 2013 militant Sunni jihadists backed by the Gulf States and Turkey, as part of its plan to 're-ottomanise" northern Syria, had led the Free Syria Army to become effectively dominated by them.

The last futile attempt that preceded Putin's decision to commit Russia to military intervention was the farcical Division 30, trained by special forces and the CIA, which lasted a short time and mostly ended up going over to Al Nusra leaving a handful of fighters left. It is hard to see what the US aims to acheive.

Even the absurd acronym 'ISIL' is a form of denial: it terms Syria 'The Levant' because the official doctrine refuses to hold that an official Syrian state is menaced by ISIS because the only legitimate state is represented by the so-called 'moderate rebels' as the official government in waiting.

The danger is that if Russian attacks on the Sunni jihadists other than ISIS ends up bolstering the choice between ISIS and Assad, the US would swing towards supporting the move by the Gulf states in recreating a new form of mujahadeen as in 1980s Afghanistan against the Soviet Union.

This would be an extremely dangerous move that could see Saudi support for Sunni jihadists in Chechnya and Dagestan as a counter to Russian moves in Syria. That could well lead to greater Russian and Chinese support for the Kurds, not least as Erdogan has been trying to stir up Islamist opposition in Xinjiang.

Erdogan has since 2009 stepped up support to seperatists, though in a way that could be plausibly denied, accusing the Chinese of 'genocide' in what he and other Pan-Turkic thinkers have provocatively termed East Turkestan. Separatism would forestall China's plans for it as a safe energy corridor in rivalry with Turkey.

The Turkish backed Army of Conquest in Syria contains the Chinese Uyghur-led terrorist group, Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), a target for Russian air strikes. China has warned any use of Turkic jihadists as 'assets' in Xinjiang would result in military aid to radical Kurdish separatists- “if you touch the Uyghurs, we will touch the PKK.”

Syria is a war and crisis that is helping to fracture further fissure lines spreading from the Greater Middle East into the Eastern Mediterranean right through into the Caucasus and through to the Western parts of China. It has all the possibility of developing from a regional into a full global conflict.

Low Prospects for Peace in Syria: The Vienna Talks, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

'US attempts to re-enfranchise Iran as a good faith neighbour after the successfully negotiated nuclear deal have been roundly rebuffed by Riyadh, Qatar and the Gulf states..“They are inviting the vultures to the banquet table. And they expect them to wear napkins and be nice to the waiters.” ( Guardian 30th October 2015 )
The Vienna Peace Talks appear doomed unless the Western Powers were to put pressure on Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states to desist from backing Sunni jihadist insurgents, not least militias affiliated to Al Qaida. However, the Russian military intervention has only led the Saudis to scale up their support for Al Nusra.

As a consequence ISIS and Saudi clerics have vied with each other in the ferocity of their condemnations of Russia as the oil price war between Riyadh and Moscow has had a far more severe and potentially destabilising impact on the Saudis as their oil export revenue earnings have depleted at rapid speed.

Diverting jihadist discontent outwards from Saudi Arabia on to Gulf rival Iran has been a desperate domestic expedient to stave off internal rebellions as well as to position itself as head of the Sunni jihad against the rival claims of ISIS. This has been given further impetus by the invasion of Yemen.

The Western Powers have been prepared to align with Saudi Arabia over its invasion of Yemen as a way to preserve the regional balance of power given Washington's need to coopt Iran in shoring up the Shi'ite dominated government in Baghdad militarily and so preventing the need for US troops to re-enter Iraq.

The Syria War is but one war in a general conflation speading across the MENA region. The fact that Assad is no longer going 'to go', because of decisive Russian intervention, means the Western Powers have the appalling option of either losing face over having demanded Assad go or else to align firmly with Saudi Arabia.

The temptation to swing behind a newly formed mujahadeen in Syria similar to the one that fought the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s would be resisted by Obama's administration. After all, it would raise the spectre of an uncontrollable and ever escalating proxy war on the border with Turkey-a NATO state.

The third option the US has would be to make plain to Riyadh that if it continues to escale the proxy war with Iran in Syria by backing Al Nusra, then that may well have consequences for the strength of the alliance with Washington and its military commitments in the Persian Gulf region.

While the Obama administration might try to put diplomatic presure on the Saudis, who are increasingly paranoid about being abandoned by the West in preference to renewed oil deals with Iran for the first time since 1979, there are powerful Saudi lobby groups in Washington that would back opposition to this in the US.

US shale oil and the Pivot to Asia strategy pursued by Obama since 2010-11 have mean Washington does not put such a premium on the old Cold War alliance system and the anti-Iranian stance that was embodied in the Carter Doctrine of 1980, that any threat to the Persian Gulf is a direct threat to the US.

That was directed at the Islamic Revolutionary regime in Iran and the Soviet Union which had invaded Afghanistan in the same year 1979. However the destabilising effects of the legacy of the proxy war in Afghanistan helped create the global jihadi threat of Al Qaida and the US being drawn into a war after 2001.

The last thing the West would want is a new Afghanistan in Syria. Avoiding that would depend on being prepared to exert pressure on the Gulf states instead of cravenly backing their proxy war strategies uncritically. Britain could well be opposed to anything that would affect trade with Qatar or the Saudis.

Britain's PM Cameron is stuck in a 1980s timewarp where 'business as usual' with the Saudis and Qatar means nothing should upset 'national interests', meaning lucrative arms deals and the inward investment its ailing finance and service sector economy needs. Short term economics could trump long term security.

So the probability of their being a breakthrough in the Vienna peace talks looks very low. Even more ominous is the real likelihood that the Syria conflict will continue through 2016 and a new Republican administration enters the White House. The chances of global conflict would then become much increased.

Monday, 26 October 2015

On the Victory of PiS In Poland 2015: Rearmament and the Nationalist Struggle.

Beata Szydlo won the Polish elections of October 25th 2015 for PiS.

Beata Szydlo may as well be 'the puppet of Jaroslaw Kaczynski' as she sounds curiously like him with the nasally mock sententious drone that is pitched at a would-be priest like level of maudlin and plaintive whining. As with most political players, this is part of the stage act needed to win over disaffected provincial voters.

Despite the 3.5% economic growth figures for 2015, much of provincial Poland has languished; small towns such as Chrzanow or Trzebinia retain high youth unemployment. The young have migrated West or to the larger Polish cities. They have never recovered from the callous neoliberal shock therapy of Balcerowicz.

Desolate post industrial wastelands abound in towns such as Trzebinia that virtually died overnight in the 1990s. The oil refinery is the only business that employs substantial numbers: in Chrzanow, just across the motorway, the Fablok locomotive worksdeclined and closed for ever a couple of years ago.

This side of Poland is seldom mentioned in the Western media nor the appallingly low wages workers still recieve on new factory production lines. It goes against the heroic story that Poland defeated communism and Solidarity won: it did but the principles it stood for were sold out by the new post-communist technocrats.

The Defeat of Solidarity in the 1990s through the top down and doctrinaire neoliberal reforms meant that anger at the disappointment at its effects has been repeatedly channelled into populist-nationalist political formations of which PiS has proved the most effective and enduring version.

As opposed to challenging the failed economic policies of the PO, PiS tends to ascribe blame for Poland's ills on nefarious enemies within much as did the Polish Communist Party against which Solidarity was once ranged in opposition. Apart from 'the Jews' targeted by Radio Maryja, the Russians are another grand loathing.

When the underlying economic failures are not addressed, beyond vague promises of 'reindustrialisation', PiS offers the oldest trick in the book of 'look over there' at the Russians as the reason why Poland is 'in danger'. This comes as the reported membership of Polish paramilitary organisations has increased.

As Vice News reported 'Since Russia moved into Ukraine, these groups have seen membership triple to about 80,000—by comparison, the Polish Armed Forces are 120,000 soldiers strong.' Given the level of war hysteria ramped up by the media, as if Russia really would invade Poland, this is hardly surprising.

Nor is the drive to reindustrialise by slavishly copying the US model in pursuing rearmament and promising to spend billions on weapons against the Russian 'threat'. This was clear in PiS President Andrzej Duda's proclamation in February 2015 that a new belligerent policy was needed.

There was a need to deter an 'potential aggressor ( i.e. Russia ). "The second topic is the question of its armament. I have a deep conviction that the reconstruction of the military potential of the Polish military ... should be based on Polish production. This is also an element of my concept, the economic reconstruction of Poland."

Oddly, the fact that the Ukrainian government in Kiev since 2014 has been intent on rehabilitating UPA and Bandera, responsible for murdering 200,000 Poles in the the Second World War in Eastern Galicia and Volhynia, had no impact on its stance over supporting more aggressive nationalists as Yatsenyuk.

Given that Polish meddling in Ukraine helped precipitate the crisis, by yoking Ukraine's EU ambitions towards fast-tracking it into NATO, it bodes ill that a more viscerally anti-Russian government in Warsaw is set to try and push military solutions over diplomatic ones in reaction to the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

If Szydlo is a puppet of Jarek Kaczynski, there would be reason to be concerned for global security given how he claims to think Putin was behind downing his brother in the Smolensk Air Crash. The most insane conspiracy theories are still peddled over what was a clear accident.

The idea the Russians used a huge magnet, created a deliberate fog around Smolensk using a machine, rigged the plane with explosives; all have been given credence as 'explanations'. A number of top players in PiS such as Vice President Antoni Macierewicz see Smolensk as the start of the road to 'the assassination of Donetsk'.

The underlying reason for these conpiracy thories is to ramp up nationalistic outrage against Russia by using Kremlin style politics because it serves the game plan of rallying the Polish populace behind strategies to expand Polish influence and hence NATO power into post Soviet space outside of the Russian federation.

To an extent this is just a more radical and dangerous form of the PO governments plans to bolster the Eastern Partnership and draw in Ukraine and Georgia towards NATO so as to expand and protect rival oil and gas pipeline routes from the South Casucasus and the Black Sea region from Russian control or influence.

PiS ideologues, however,would be prepared to drastically up the threat level and prospect of conflict with Russia as a means to force the US to commit militarily to the rolling back of Russian influence in Eastern Ukraine, even by directly sending lethal armaments and making Poland a more 'frontline' state in the struggle.

Tony Blair: Blood and Oil-The Drive Towards War in Iraq in 2003

“I apologise for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong".
Tony Blair has long ceased to try and convince global opinion about whether the Iraq War was one of history's Good Things. The consequences of the 2003 invasion have been so catastrophic, the equivalent of a having detonated a geopolitical earthquake across the Greater Middle East, that they are undeniable.

Blair has instead taken upon himself the ham act of posing as the grave statesman entrusted with having had to make a terrible decision, one where the consequences of not acting would have been as potentially disastrous as his actual decision in light of the defective intelligence criticised in a new CNN interview.

Of course, as Blair wants to be judged in the ligh of posterity for this decision , the timing of his interview with Zakaria is about putting a positive spin on his actions. Of course, as historian Michael Burleigh points out 'he had committed Britain to war in Iraq at least a month before he met Bush at his ranch in Texas in April 2002'.

Burleigh writes, 
 'Blair was privately committed to war, which belied his public position that he was going down the diplomatic route to try to avoid it, with the efforts of UN inspectors under Hans Blix to neutralise the supposed ‘weapons of mass destruction’ threat from Saddam. The fact is – as we have subsequently learnt – that those ‘weapons of mass destruction did not exist.

Blair’s ingrained ability for media manipulation was also praised in the Powell memo. The Secretary of State told Bush that the British Prime Minister would ‘present to you the strategic, tactical and public affairs lines that he believes will strengthen global support for our common cause’. Close examination of Blair’s supposed mea culpa to CNN shows that, essentially, he is only ‘apologising’ for the mistakes of others.'
It is unlikely the Chilcot Report would detail the exact discussion Blair and Bush had. Yet it is known at Crawford both had discussed the carve up of Iraq's oil wealth as, in the period before shale oil, seizing control of the oil was a major ambition of the US-British invasion through fear Saudi Arabia was becoming unstable.

Blair opines “We have stood back and we, in the west, bear responsibility for this – Europe most of all. We’ve done nothing. That’s a judgment of history I’m prepared to have.” Blair is trying to shift moral responsibility for his fateful decision on to others who have succeeded him and made 'his legacy' worse.

Blair's 'vision' of what went wrong in Syria and Iraq is fiction. The Western Powers have not 'done nothing'. Cameron has pursued a Blairite approach to Syria in demanding 'Assad must go', just as Saddam had to go, through aligning with Sunni jihadist forces against Assad despite evidence they were not "moderates".

The opprobrium heaped upon Blair for Iraq is justified but much of it from his political opponents in Parliament deeply hypocritical as most supported the Iraq War. They have continied to pursue policies firmly in the neo-Cold War style of Blair in the Greater Middle East-wars of 'liberation' against evil dictators.

This form of messianic liberal geopolitics was based on wish thinking and an ignorance of the complicated history of the region, one where the gains of 1989 in Central Eastern Europe would roll next across the Middle East with military force being used as the midwife of a new liberal democratic order.

The consequence has been to trigger off a Saudi-Iranian proxy war from Syria to Yemen and Iraq that could end up destabilising Saudi Arabia itself as it gets dragged in to the Yemeni quagmire. This was the nightmare scenario Bush and Blair had wished to offset by the securing of Iraqi oil back in 2003.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Germany : The Migrant Crisis and Angela Merkel's Folly To the End.

Chancellor Merkel is finished as a credible politician, one prepared to act impulsively to exploit her credo as a humanitarian actor without having first discussed with other European leaders a concerted and logical way to deal with Turkey's decision to allow refugees to become migrants heading West.

Germany acted as a pacifist version of the liberal interventionists in France and Britain demanding solutions to complex foreign policy problems in the Middle East using air strikes and military force to vanquish dictators. Knee jerk reactions through government by media and image have had destabilising consequences.

As the Syria crisis is still nowhere near an end, Turkey's Erdogan has an interest in allowing more migrants west. It is intended to pressure the West into countering Russia's support for Assad, though it appears Russia's intervention was intended to prevent Turkey pushing the West into greater intervention against Assad and ISIS.

The sudden huge surge of migrants into Europe was Turkish policy based on political calculations in which refugees have become counters in a geopolitical great game. Turkey could relieve itself of a refugee burden while applying guilt and victim politics to EU leaders lambasted as "Islamophobic".

Hungary's Viktor Orban, himself very much into the Turkish political model of using identity politics but with a Christian twist, pretty obviously saw this strategy for what it was, while Merkel, in a Germany with a large Turkish and Kurdish diaspora population, completely walked into the trap laid by Erdogan.

Germany faces the prospect of being responsible for migrants from Syria and other war torn lands such as Iraq and guilty if it does not step up to provide for people who will make claims on EU nations to act to end the war in Syria: others could well condemn those foreign policy actions and become radicalised.

There is only one certainty in this "globalised world". It that if western nations continually go out of their way to make the world's problems their own, and to claim they have the duty to put an end to the world's ills as though decisive salvationist actions, the probability is quite simply that they will import them.

In any realistic political sense, Central European governments are not going to take in their 'fair share' of migrants because of fear and hostility towards the idea of having Muslim diaspora populations and the chance of having to deal with jihadist radicals and militancy. People look West and see a threat they could avoid.

The noble idea of 'solidarity' in Poland has long been effectively reduced to a soundbite meaning it needs to share in assisting other Western nations which helped it during the Cold War against the USSR, including the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the response to which was supine or else apathetic.

Poland's politics has been polarised by 'culture wars' and paranoia throughout the 2000s and to impose quotas for migrants would be seen as an imposition and could even lead to some serious and nasty violent reactions. Kopacz is certainly fated to be defeated in elections on October 25 against the populist-nationalist PiS.

Managing the crisis has become incredibly difficult due to Merkel's astounding error of judgement which has created fear and alarm across Central Europe. There is no doubt that this has effectively ended her as a stateswoman for a good number in Germany and in the East would respect or wish to work with any more.

The Geopolitics of the Syrian Migrant Crisis

'Angela Merkel appears determined to prevail, as she grapples with a crisis that will likely define her political legacy. The German chancellor is said to be angry with the governments of eastern and central Europe which are strongly opposed to being forced to take in refugees'
Angela Merkel certainly is destined to determine her political legacy over the migrant crisis as did Tony Blair over the Iraq War. Merkel is a pacifist version of the liberal interventionists who helped create the migrant crisis in the first place and has sought to make the problems of the Greater Middle East Germany's to 'solve'.

Germany under Merkel has aimed at playing a more active role in defining its powerful centre stage role in the EU. However, in having pursued an open door policy to Syrian migrants, only to find hundreds of thousands determined to take advantage of the offer before winter set in, Merkel could end up fracturing the EU.

Merkel's intent on the politics derided by Barbara Tuchman in her The March of Folly. As opposed to changing tack, the very resistance against both her insistence on imposing austerity on Greece to prop up the euro and her attempt to enforce migrant quotas on recalcitrant EU states is regarded as proof of her being 'right'.

As in Greece, the far right would be resurgent should migrant quotas be enforced. In fact, as Berlin plan to impose them incrementally, the Central Eastern European states, led by Hungary's Orban, will attempt delaying strategies until the German elections are held before 22 October 2017.

This would give enough time for domestic discontent in Germany to result in Merkel's removal from office. The idea of compulsory quotas could only be enforced by withdrawing develpment funds from Central Eastern European governments. There would be no other way of enforcing quotas if they continued to refuse.

The reason Merkel is becoming more dogmatic and pushy is not just because of her attempt to survive politically. If Germany alone bears the cost of the migrant influx, there is a real danger of German far right reaction and even terrorism against the 'liberal eite' who have colluded in the 'Islamisation' of Europe.

Despite the oppobrium heaped upon Viktor Orban, if he had not come out against Merkel over migrant quotas and the open door, then its likely the far right Jobbik Party would have moved centre stage as it is already Hungary's second largest party. Merkel seems to have been oblivious to that.

More likely, however, is the geopolitical strategy behind Merkel's attempt to recreate Germany as a Eurasian rival to Russia. Erdogan decided to allow Syrian migrants to go West in large numbers because he intended to use them to panic EU governments into recommitting to the demand that Assad must go.

Erdogan himself is struggling for political survival in Turkey. This is a consequence of his disastrous neo-Ottoman strategy in Syria and the reignition of the civil war between the Kurdish PKK and the Ankara after he used the 'war on terror' as a pretext to take out Kurdish targets and effectively shore up ISIS.

Putin saw that and decicively moved in to back up Assad against the Sunni jihadists backed by the Gulf States and Turkey. So as a reward for helping ISIS murder its way across Syria, Merkel promises visa free travel for Turks and to put EU membership back on the agenda so as to help make Erdogan more popular.

Yet Erdogan is a real part of the problem driving conflict in the region. His migrant strategy is part of a geopolitical plan to re-extend the Ottoman Empire in Europe. The influx of migrants is accepted by Germany as the price to be paid to keep Turkey onside as a transit route for gas from the Middle East and Central Asia.

Orban can afford to thumb his nose at Merkel. Hungary wants to strengthen energy ties with Putin. Poland's opposition is more muted due to old antagonisms against Russia. Hence Merkel's comment about Poland needing to show more "solidarity" with Germany as it shows "solidarity" with Poland over Ukraine against Russia.

As world economic crises and an oil price shock, caused by Saudi collapse, grow closer, there could well be a global situation like the 1930s  Only possibly far more protracted. There is less and less chance the crisis will end well as the war in Syria escalates and the prospects for a global conflict over the Middle East grows closer.

The vast majority of Syrian migrants from Turkey are Sunnis. They have every reason to feel they have the human right to migrate and to blame the Western powers for all the misfortunes endured since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. If the West were to then accomodate to Assad's remaining in power, resentment could well surface.

The Western Powers, therefore, should be fortifying borders and threatening to expel Turkey from NATO as a response. It's a big 'should'. The useless politicians who run Western democracies are essentially pusillanimous; greedy for resources and yet guilty at the outcome of their contradictory geopolitical strategies.

The privileging of Erdogan's Turkey, as opposed to mending relations with Putin's Russia on a realist basis. is a terrible mistake being made by Euro elites who have inherited liberal progressive illusions of the immediate post-Cold War period as opposed to steeling themselves to the new era of global great power politics.

A rapprochement with Moscow over the Ukraine crisis and threats to Turkey's continued membership of NATO-plus a determination top permanently end EU accession for Turkey-should be the sticks being used to coerce Erdogan to stop. The Turkish military would certainly have a view on expulsion from NATO too.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Why Kate Hudson is Not a Credible Leader of CND.

Since Jeremy Corbyn's election as Labour Party leader in Britain, there has been a reported increase in the membership of CND and hostility to the forthcoming renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system. The Guardian reported today ( October 15th 2015 ),,
'Kate Hudson, general secretary of the CND, said: “[The] conference takes place at a moment when, for the first time in a generation, the opportunity not to replace Trident collides with a massive popular upsurge against the criminal waste and sheer anachronism of nuclear weapons."'
The upsurge of opposition comes at a time when many young idealists will have forgotten Kate Hudson was a member of the Communist Party of Britain during the 1980s when the threat of Soviet nuclear weapons during the Cold War was very real as was its support for revolutionary proxies abroad.

The hypocrisy implicit in having a leader of CND who supported the Soviet Union and Soviet politics for twenty years even after 1991 and the dissolution of the totalitarian state is one that needs to be dealt with. CND would be better off under a new leader genuinely committed to peace not this repellant careerist.

In 2015 a real debate needs to be had over whether Trident ought to be renewed as Russian under Putin is not the same beast as the USSR that Hudson supported and not attached to the Marxist-Leninist politics of that era and that has an afterlife in the tawdry careers of Hudson and Andrew Murray ( who lauds North Korea ).

Britain would be best off trying to offset nuclear proliferation and stop pretending it is some sort of Global Player any more. It has inherited an old Cold War posture that has made less and less sense after 1991. The nature of the security threats Britain faces have changed, though Hudson did not care much for that back in the 1980s.

The problem with having these relicts of the Cold War such as Hudson is high positions is that it will make Corbyn's attempt to challenge the inertia of long established orthodoxies and make policy change harder. His role in CND will then be seen as part of an 'alliance' with those such as Hudson who really do despise Britain in its entirety.

Orwell somewhere said that the problem with the left is that it draws in the cranks and careerists at the expense of the genuine idealists to the detriment of real ideas on how best to reform Britain and make it a better place for people. With the same dreary 1980s crowd in Left Unity it is difficult to be optimistic.

The Radical Left in Britain needs a big cull. Tariq Ali, Kate Hudson etc etc all need to be purged from the top ranks and newer faces and names need promoting. These people are tainted by their involvement in political cults lauding the sadistic intellectual gangster and mass murderer that was Leon Trotsky.

Normalising Terror and 'Af-Pak' : The War and Western Media Drones On.

Stan Grant is serious. Really serious. He has been there himself and seen with his own eyes the effects of 'extremism'. Lived in danger. Been on the edge while close to the camera as a presence there. He's bound to relate the truth of what he saw of brainwashed Taliban child suicide bombers in Pakistan.
'They were kept awake for days on end. They were forced to recite the Qur’an – Islam’s holy text – over and over. Hour after hour they would rock back and forth chanting the verses until in a trance.
Broken down, the boys would then be poisoned against the west.

Every sin proclaimed in the Qur’an was ascribed to the Americans.In their eyes this is what we were, all of us infidels, we were Americans. This is how the Taliban created suicide bombers. When I met them their eyes were empty.

I am reminded of this now when I hear that the Islamic community doesn’t do enough to fight extremism. The overwhelming number of victims of terrorism are Muslims. I have seen what extremism can do. I can see how hate can fester in the minds of people.'

More than 30,000 Pakistanis have been killed in terrorist attacks since 9/11. Muslims lose their children, their husbands, mothers and sisters to terrorism. And still they are told they don’t do enough.'
This news report, recycled in the Guardian newspaper, pretends to deal with what really causes 'radicalisation' and 'extremism' in Pakistan without mentioning the fact the Western Powers are still conducting continued air and drone strikes against the Taliban in various parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Of course, Grant seems to have been oblivious to the fact the Taliban showing him those radicalised children were doing so precisely because they want to send the message that they control the future Even if the older Taliban get killed off, there are always new members ready to stand in as their replacements.

Grant is a CNN telejournalist so the style matches the form of snappy soundbite style media outlet he ivariably represents even in print. CNN reported, as thought it were a major news revelation, that the US is still fighting a war in Afghanistan since it declared combat operations officially over in December 2014.
'So, you thought the U.S. military pulled out of Afghanistan? In fact, about 9,800 U.S. troops provide training and support in Afghanistan. They are to remain until the end of the year -- a change from the Obama administration's initial plan to reduce the number to 5,500".
There is, of course, no real surprise at all in this and it has only briefly become put back in the glare of the Western media spotlight because of the NATO bombing of the MSF hospital near Kunduz where the Taliban and Afghan and Western troops battling it out once more to defend the capital city Kabul.

Just as the BBC and Guardian passively and uncritically recycled claims that NATO and the US were ending their combat role through "drawdown", few Western media outlets have challenged this or even examined the wording of public diplomacy statements that stress drawdown rather than withdrawal.

As a consequence the propaganda line has to shift back to the evil Taliban narrative and the inhumanity of violent 'extremism' from out of the 'Af-Pak' borderlands. Consequently, the public would be able to make the correct connection between them and the need for NATO bombing and drone strikes.

As terrible as the MSF hospital bombing was, the mistake only goes to highlight the fact that air power used in Afghanistan has played as much of a role in 'radicalising' people, especially children, in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is entirely omitted as by Grant and CNN's reporting generally..

To be fair, Grant does attempt to proffer scientific explanations for the phenomenon of suicide bombing and how it works,
'Science can explain part of how is happens. When we listen to charismatic speakers – preachers, politicians, generals and warlords – or when we are under severe stress, our prefrontal cortex shuts down. This controls abstract thought. We surrender our disbelief. We give them our minds.'  
Far from suicide bombings arising wholly in vacuo, as though out of some mysterious sinister force of evil, in which children are brainwashed by a cult version of Islam, the Taliban is able to recruit and indoctrinate because of the stress in regions of Pakistan on the border with Afghanistan ( North and South Waziristan ).

Where civilians in the mountainous tribal regions separating Kabul and Peshawar live in terror of sudden death, from drones known to kill civilians in numbers that could be far higher than current figures estimate, death in suicide blasts against Pakistan government targets certainly becomes normalised.

The Bureau of Investigate Journalism, which has done some real journalism based on real investigation, breaks down the date for drone strikes in Pakistan as follows on their website : "Total strikes: 421. Obama strikes: 370. Total killed: 2,476-3,989. Civilians killed: 423-965. Children killed: 172-20. Injured: 1,158-1,738."

The war against the Taliban is claimed to be part of the struggle against terrorism and "extremism". However, the fact Vice President Joe Biden and Western allies have attempted to broker peace talks and negotiations with the Taliban proves it cannot quite be the war to end evil as has been long supposed.

The usual response to mentioning facts about the drone wars further radicalising people in the Af-Pak region, or elsewhere in Afghanistan, is this 'makes excuses' for the terrorists who 'started' the war on 9/11, that the Taliban are evil and so not fighting them with drones effectively allows evildoers to flourish.

In fact, the Taliban is mostly a regional threat as Grant himself points out, the majority of victims are other Muslims, 30,000 in Pakistan. That statement is handy when trying to claim the war against the Taliban really is about the global struggle against terrorism at home and abroad i.e 'extremism'. Doing nothing means more deaths on balance.

But the reality is that Afghanistan War is not over and shows no signs of ending because of resource interests ( rare earths and precious minerals ) and certain geopolitical objectives which include the renewed effort to secure the way for the construction of the TAPI pipeline, a project vital for US strategy in the region.

The war is about rolling back the Taliban, now covertly backed by Iran, so as to hasten the TAPI pipeline project as part of the New Silk route Initiative. US strategists and ideologists such as Robert Kaplan, husband of US State Dapartment's Victoria Nuland, routinely factor TAPI in as an established war objective.

An article makes this clear in a geopolitical journal by Rohullah Osmani. He is an an international security scholar at John Hopkins University and former adviser to the Afghan government. The piece entiteled,  TAPI pipeline – is the Iran nuclear deal a threat or an opportunity? makes the real stakes clearly apparent.

'On August 6, 2015, the 22nd TAPI Steering Committee approved Turkmenistan’s Turkmengaz as the consortium leader to oversee efforts in constructing, financing and operating the 1,600 kilometer natural gas pipeline.

Although an agreement over Iran’s nuclear program has been reached, it will take time for the sanctions to be lifted and for Iranian gas to flood back onto the market. Nevertheless, the Iran deal has created a sense of urgency and a breakthrough for the TAPI project. As Robert Kaplan urges in his book “Monsoon,” “… stabilizing Afghanistan is about more than just the anti-terror war against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban; it is about securing the future prosperity of the whole of Southern Eurasia.” The U.S. needs to play a more active role in the process by engaging participating states like India and Pakistan to cooperate and Pakistan to support a successful Afghan peace process.