Sunday, 25 January 2015

ISIS, Japan and Global Energy Geopolitics.

"It goes without saying that the stability of the Middle East is the foundation for peace and prosperity for the world, and of course for Japan"-Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

“To the prime minister of Japan, although you are 8,500km from the Islamic State, you willingly have volunteered to take part in this crusade. You have proudly donated $100m to kill our women and children, to destroy the homes of the Muslims. So the life of this Japanese citizen will cost you $100m”-British-sounding jihadist.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently pledged $2.5bn in aid for the Middle East while on a six-day tour of the region, including Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories. ISIS retaliated for this non-military financial assistance by threatening two Japanese hostages with death..

ISIS propaganda is intended to capitalise on the 'double standards' of the developed nations in promoting counter-terrorism. In video propaganda, ISIS has accused rich nations of being more interested in securing the supply of oil from the region than with any real concern for people's lives

This is precisely the reason for the timing of the ISIS threat to kill the Japanese hostages so soon after the decision to grant aid. For ISIS, humanitarian gestures by the West or rich nations are everywhere and always based on a hypocritical design to conceal their brutal 'imperialist' designs.

Of course, the far bigger double standard comes from ISIS which affects to be a movement intent on creating a morally purified Caliphate. It does so while being obsessed with taking over oil producing regions in both Syria and Iraq while exterminating those who are not Sunni Muslim Arabs.

However, ISIS or 'ISIL'-as Obama refers to it, so as not to give it any semi-recognition as a state in Iraq or Syria-has shown it is trying to copy not only the advanced tactical propaganda but also the slick 'public diplomacy' used by officially recognised democratic states across the globe.

ISIS is wholly evil and brutally intelligent in trying to pitch its propaganda to semi-educated audiences globally who resent Western hypocrisy in backing Saudi Arabia but in damning ISIS which is not always that distinct from the Wahhabite warriors which created the regime in Riyadh.

The fact the Japanese aid is not being used directly to fight ISIS militarily and to help other Muslims in the region is considered irrelevant by ISIS because it effectively 'kills' Muslims by security regimes such as Sisi's in Egypt against jihadists and, in so doing, protects the Israel into the bargain.

It comes just after Abe's financial package because ISIS can use the video threats to make the brutal 'point' that if Japan can afford to pay millions of dollars to 'Hypocrite' regimes which oppress 'true Muslims' ( Jordan, Egypt, Shi'ite dominated Iraq ) it can pay for the release of its two hostages.

ISIS aims at trying to make the additionally ruthless point that the attempt by the Japanese government to help the region against ISIS, by giving $200m in non-military aid, must be 'equalised' by giving the same amount to release the Japanese hostages ( $100 each ) if they value their lives.

ISIS is trying to taunt developed nations with the leering accusation they do not 'really' value the lives of its own people before their greed for oil, a point made through John Cantlie in one of his forced propaganda videos when he claimed he had been "abandoned" by his own government.

This puts leaders of developed nations in quandary, though the US and Britain take a firm stance on never paying ransoms to terrorists.  The ransom sums could be compared to other sources such as revenues gained from taking the Mosul Central Bank ( $425m) or from crimes like extortion.

In 2014 ISIS was at times reported to be making $3m a day from oil sales so the amount demanded to spare the Japanese hostages is not a great deal when compared to the vastly larger revenue sources it had successfully tapped in capturing Syrian and then Iraqi oil well and refineries.

It might be that ISIS is desperate for finance because the oil price has plummeted or illicit sales have been reduced but that is not clear. But $2m is even a huge amount compared to the revenue it was getting from elsewhere and it would surely assist the IS war effort substantially.

ISIS is putting not just a price on giving aid. It is using the life or death of two humans beings to make for brutal propaganda proving that no matter how much developed nations value their attempts to prevent terrorism, ISIS can get show their governments to be complicit in the deaths they cause.

ISIS activists feed propaganda out via the Internet playing on the idea that the West has double standards and that their psychotic attitude towards executing hostages is somehow forced upon them by the scale of the injustice caused by the oppression of Muslims by the West's and its 'puppets'.

ISIS hates hypocrisy. Their own 'standard' is a singularly psychopathological one. It posits the idea that, since the lives of "true Muslims" have no value anyway in the West's struggle to divide and rule their lands (and plunder their oil ) only life and death in the cause of the Caliphate has meaning.

One theme the Islamic State is trying to convey in its crude propaganda is that just as the West 'plays God' with the lives of Muslims and metes out death and destruction according to a ruthless pursuit of its interests, it too can do the same but in a way close up and personal by playing with hostage lives.

As a consequence, the Japanese hostages have use value not only as sources of potential income. Alternatively, they have value as a sacrifice to prove that foreign policies which have lethal effects on Sunni Muslims in Syria and Iraq require upping the blood price for the powers backing its enemies.

If the Japanese government pays out the money, ISIS can gloat that the cash they gave in assistance to states involved in the war against them has been cancelled out. If the money is not given, then the two hostages are going to be killed online to make for a big impact on the world media.

Japan's Interest in the Middle East: Global Energy Geopolitics

Japan has clear interests in involving itself in the geopolitical struggles of the Middle East. But Simon Tisdall claims "Abe’s main foreign policy priority is not terrorism or Middle East stability. The perceived future threat posed to Japan by an increasingly assertive and heavily-armed China".

However, the rise of China as a great global power is not confined merely to East Asia and Japan wants to keep onside with Washington. As Obama refocuses on his 'Pivot to Asia' and away from the military involvement in the Middle East, the region itself remains vital for global oil supplies.

Japan's main foreign policy aim in backing the US led coalition of states, including undemocratic regional powers such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar which have a history of funding Sunni jihadists in Syria and Iraq, is to protect oil supplies from the Middle East and shore up Western influence.

The obvious reason for this, omitted by Simon Tisdall, is that the US and China are in geopolitical contest for access to and control over energy supply routes from the Greater Middle East through to the inner Eurasian Heartland of Central Asia and the Asia-Pacific maritime rim of East Asia.

Japan and China have quarrelled over islands in the East China Sea that hold large oil reserves. The ramping up of spending on Japan's military and resurgence of nationalism under Abe is deeply interconnected with the supposed economic 'threat' posed by China and over rival energy claims.

Egypt and Japan

Japan's determination to shore up western hegemony in the Middle East is concerned with preventing China making inroads into Iraq and in Egypt. The decision to accept Sisi's coup in 2013-and the massacre of Muslim Brotherhood supporters as part of that-is likewise about retaining favour.

China and Russia had been vying for influence with the US in Egypt and ready to step in to secure lucrative arms contracts with Cairo should they prove unwilling allies in its war with the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist insurgents in Sinai. They believe in stability too.

So after token complaints about the coup, the US unfroze its military. William Hague referred to the problem of "turbulence" in Egypt as though the bloody end to what had been referred to as a 'democratic transition' could be compared to a rather bumpy spell on a passenger aircraft flight.

Abe's bilateral aid to Cairo is intended to strengthen the security architecture which locks it in with Israel as the cornerstone of stability in the region and hence ensuring the sea routes between the West and East Asia continue to be free from Islamist sabotage from the Red Sea

The price for Sisi's crackdown is, however, ISIS spreading its influence in Sinai, even potentially from there into Israel's Negev Desert and into the Gaza Strip. It is very hard to see how in the long term the security of the Suez Canal, a major east-west tanker cargo corridor, is going to hold.

While Japan's role in assisting the US led international collation against ISIS is about keeping onside with the US, the determination to defeat ISIS is obviously interconnected with the broader geopolitical strategies the West is asserting in trying to tap and control energy flows across the globe.

The dangers of such strategies have been apparent for a long time. The overdependence of the world economy on Middle Eastern oil, and the determination to prop up unaccountable rentier regimes or depose unwanted secular dictators in the region, is one of the main reasons for the rise of ISIS.

It is time the geopolitics of energy was accepted as both factual and vital tool for our understanding global events and discussed in the mainstream media. The failure to do this means the public in the west just not going to grasp how dangerous the world will get if dependence on oil is not reduced.

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