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.

The Saudi-Yemen War Possibilities and Dangers of US-Russian Proxy Conflict in Syria.

'other branches of government seem to have outsourced British foreign policy to Saudi Arabia and other members of the coalition – allowing them, in effect, carte blanche to wage war in such a way that causes unnecessary civilian casualties and makes even more aid necessary'.
Written on October 8 2015. Britain seems to have outsourced foreign policy to Saudi Arabia. Andrew Mitchell, Guardian October 8 2015.

It is good that Andrew Mitchell is 'addressing these concerns'. But that is about all as the Cameron government he supports simply does not care that much. Cameron made plain this week it is a special relationship vital for 'national security' and this alleged benefit of the alliance means only 'raising' human rights issues.
'As honest friends of both Yemen’s government in exile and of Saudi Arabia, we should make clear that their method of waging this war has the potential to unleash chaos in an already turbulent region. End the attacks on civilians and get back to the negotiating table for peace talks..'
It could be Mitchell's criticism of Saudi Arabia might indicate a potential shift in British foreign policy. But it looks high probable British weapons and aircraft have been used to kill civilians in Yemen: that not a mere "possibility" or a "risk", and, even if it were only that, caution would err on the side of stopping arms.

Saudi Arabia has already unleashed chaos in the region by bankrolling Wahhabi teachings and directly sponsoring Sunni jihadists affiliated with Al Qaida. This is nothing new and the way the Saudis have waged war in Yemen has gone beyond a "potential" and is, in reality, very actual in having allowed ISIS to gain ground.
' an ally of Saudi Arabia we should be ensuring it takes immediate steps to reverse the fuel blockade, reopen Yemen’s Red Sea ports to humanitarian and commercial traffic, and ensure that vital supplies can reach desperate civilians in need throughout the country. The alternative is a famine
The problem ,though, is that it would appear Saudi Arabia with its oil wealth and huge investments and arms deals with BAE holds all the cards. Britain does not have the leverage over Saudi Arabia by being tied so closely to the Saudi establishment that proponents of this alliance claim it gives London.

The real and only question is what Britain would be prepared to do if the Saudis ignore Britain or indicate they might like to consider arms deals and investments with more constructive partners. Having said that, Russia is hostile to Riyadh and China has spent far more time courting Iran for oil and arms.

There is a real danger Saudi Arabia could collapse as a consequence of ISIS blowback from Yemen and the huge financial strain of the Yemen War as it draws the Saudis deeper into quagmire rather as the US was in Iraq after 2003 to 2011. Low oil prices and war have relentlessly eroded its currency reserves.

In early October 2015 there were rumours that a Saudi prince was calling for a palace coup against King Salman and his government including Prince Mohammed bin Salman who is blamed for launching a "reckless" war. Huge budget deficits and the prospect of downgraded credit ratings and capital flight loom larger.

The danger is of a "perfect storm". The rapidly expanding demand for domestic oil consumption through huge population growth with lower oil revenue earnings and lower production relative to it could mean diminishing social subsidies to buy off potential discontent.

In the context of the prevalence of intolerant forms of Salafi-Wahhabi Islam, Saudi Arabia could prove the most fertile territory for ISIS which is positioning itself as the real Islamic State' in rivalry with Riyadh. Saudis under 30 comprise two-thirds of the population and around 30 percent of them are without work.

The next time bomb would be the fact that growing sectarian fissures within Yemen and Bahrain could result in Saudi Shii'ites becoming radicalised. Iran and Hezbollah have been backing the Houthis and discontented Shi'ites live close to the main oil producing regions of the east towards the Persian Gulf.

The US since 2011 has sought to extricate itself from Middle East entanglements and balance Iranian regional interests with those of the Sunni Gulf states as a means to keep Iraq secure in the oil producing regions from militant Sunni Islamists and to keep combat troops out of Iraq, much to Saudi discomfort.

Britain usually follows the US position but what on earth it would do if Saudi Arabia collapsed, thus putting some of the most sophisticated weaponry in the world in the hands of ISIS, is a very real question. Leaving so much oil up for grabs would both be a colossal security threat and would send the global economy into chaos.

The prospect of Saudi collapse is the stuff of nightmares and could indeed trigger off a region wide conflagration that would invariably drag the Western Powers in militarily as well a huge wave of jihadi-terrorist blowback that would make the threats of Al Qaida look trivial by comparison.

With Russia trying out its attempt at an endgame in Syria, the time for an urgent regional political initiative and forceful diplomacy with the Gulf states no matter the risk to short term economic interests and arms deals. The consequences of not asserting an end to the proxy war with Iran, jihadi funding and the Yemen War are far graver.

The Saudi alliance could arguably have been justified during the Cold War and, of course, for the US and France as a source of oil. But with other sources coming on, most obviously in Shia and Kurdish Iraq and US shale oil, the benefits in allying with a major supporter of Sunni jihadism are diminishing.

The real danger is of the Saudis trying to divert internal discontent outwards by swinging ever greater and decisive military and financial support behind the newly proclaimed Sunni militia front in Syria against "the Russian occupation". This would be a replay of the mujahedeen in 1980s Afghanistan.

Even worse, if the US were foolish enough to align covertly with that strategy, as the $500 million support for training mythical "moderate rebels" has been dropped, the US would indeed be involved with what Obama has, at least, said he does not want-a proxy war with Russia.

The fear has to be that Russia and Assad's forces get bogged down with fighting a new Sunni mujahedeen supported by the Gulf states that lasts into the course of 2016. With US Republicans heavily involved with the Saudi lobby, a new president could be pushed towards the old Cold War option.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Russia Raises the Stakes in Syria Conflict: The Danger of a New Great War.

The Russian military build up, which started in late September 2015 and the subsequent air strikes that gathered momentum in the first week of October, have been condemned by the Western Powers and NATO for essentially stealing their thunder and exposing their supposed strategies for Syria as failures.

Naturally, this could not be admitted publicly but a series of contradictory statements reveals how Russia has wrong footed the West on Syria. Obama declared Syria 'is not some superpower chessboard', though US officials have, indeed, referred to a chessboard. It could be Obama meant Russia is not a superpower.

However, neither Britain nor the US, nor NATO, have any moral high ground left following two main developments. Firstly, the 'public diplomacy line' maintaining there was a "moderate rebel" force on the ground capable of defeating both ISIS and Assad in Damascus has conclusively been shown to be empty rhetoric divorced from reality.

Secondly, Washington's decision to gain Turkey's cooperation through a deal that gave the go ahead to bomb Kurdish PKK militias, an important part of the Kurdish coalition facing ISIS, demonstrated to the world that the Western Powers and their regional allies had contradictory objectives in Syria.

The Western Powers-primarily the US, Britain and France, as well as NATO, look increasingly hypocritical and petty in condemning Russia for taking on both ISIS and those Sunni jihadists aligned with its allies-Qatar and Saudi Arabia-who are no less ruthless and certainly more bloodthirsty that even Assad's state forces.

The euphemisms for the Syrian jihadists ranged against Assad's troops as they move northwards in an offensive against them, in tandem with Russian air strikes, have given the Western game away. Yet the liberal media continues to refer only to Putin's game while pretending the West is not playing war games.

Stoltenberg's comments about NATO having 'the response' to any air attack on Turkey by Russia were veiled threats of nuclear warfare. He said “We don’t have to deploy the NATO response force or the spearhead force to deliver deterrence”. But, of course, Russia is as unlikely to attack Turkey as Turkey would Russia.

That reality is ignored and used as a pretext to ramp up the rhetoric. The reason is to maintain the façade of "solidarity" and standing "shoulder to shoulder" with Turkey while it does exactly what Russia is doing in using the war against ISIS as a pretext to carry out air strikes to advance its geopolitical objectives.

The Guardian and BBC continue to recycle terms such as "moderate rebels", "rebel groups", "more moderate rebels" or "less extreme rebels" to a degree that insults the intelligence of the educated and informed public in Western nations who realise that these Orwellian terms are explicit propaganda.

Russia could only dare take the military initiative in September 2015 because Putin realised that he would win plaudits from Iran and, as it has turned out, also from the Baghdad government in Iraq as well as many aghast at the repellent double standards of the West and fearful of Saudi and Qatar support for 'terrorists'.

No doubt Russia's entrance has raised the stakes and 'escalated' the war in Syria should Saudi Arabia and Qatar ratchet up their support for the Sunni jihadists. Yet, unmentioned by Borger who goes on about Russia's economy shrinking by 4%, is how the Saudi economy and state is far more in danger of collapse.

Borger draws attention to Putin's use of the war as a means to rally Russian nationalist opinion around him. Yet he omits how an increasingly desperate and paranoid Saudi ally of the West was already pummelling civilians and militias in Yemen as a diversionary war and jihad against Shi'ites before Russia's intervention.

Britain Follows Turkey and Russia in Planning a War for Domestic Advantage.

More to the point, the entire drive by Cameron and Fallon and Hammond towards Britain joining in the air strikes on ISIS in Syria is also about shoring up patriotic support for the Conservative government and outmanoeuvring Jeremy Corbyn in Parliament, a leader pilloried as a 'national security threat'.

Britain's Prime Minister is angered by Russia's actions in Syria and, in a Lilliputian spasm of great outrage, 100 British soldiers are being sent to the Baltic Republics to show Britain means it is taking the threat of "Russian aggression" very seriously. Corbyn, by contrast, is being called a "terrorist sympathiser".

Cameron is waiting for the right time to strike politically and militarily through reasserting his authority over Parliament and getting not only his own MPs but those of Labour to vote for action against ISIS. By winning a vote he would avenge the humiliation of 2013 when he was defeated on a vote for strikes on Assad.

The military logic is less convincing than the domestic political need to get Labour MPs to vote against the new Labour leader so that he could be no longer seen to be at the head of his own party and so his position untenable. 11 nations are bombing ISIS at present and none of it has stemmed the spread of ISIS.

The danger is that the Western Powers become so humiliated and fuelled with a desire for revenge against Russia should Putin's gamble pay off, that they become tempted to support Saudi Arabia and Qatar in ratcheting up the arms supplies to the newly formed united Sunni jihadists militia front against "Russian occupation".

The Dangers of New Cold War Positions in the Middle East.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia would see a new mujahedeen style formation as existed in Afghanistan back in the 1980s as a chance to draw Russia into a conflict as deadly as the one that played a significant role in the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 just some two years after the war finished in defeat.

Should Qatar and Saudi Arabia go for that strategy, it would be the height of folly for the Western Powers, Britain and France-those with very large financial ties and lucrative arms deals with the Gulf states, vital for their ailing economies-to try a repeat of launching into a direct and deadly proxy war with Russia over Syria.

Carter's words at a NATO meeting could be interpreted as a threat rather than a prediction, though the brutal power game requires they could be thought of as either and a dark intimation that Russia the country would be attacked by terrorists as opposed to just Russian military personnel present in Syria being targeted.
“They have initiated a joint ground offensive with the Syrian regime, shattering the facade that they are there to fight Isil. This will have consequences for Russia itself, which is rightly fearful of attacks. In coming days, the Russians will begin to suffer from casualties.”
Carter's warnings about a reprisal from could well mean 'blowback' from Southern Russia should the Saudis threaten to assist Chechen jihadists via Turkey and Georgia. There Sunni militants have been allowed to recruit so as to be redirected as 'assets' by the security services in Tbilisi against their neighbour if needed.

Though these sorts of statements by US officials could well be chiding remarks, there exists the chance the Gulf states would act irrespective of what Washington or London would want and thus put them under pressure either to back the Sunni powers or use the opportunity to push diplomacy to the hilt.

While Western leaders are intimating the need now for diplomacy rather than war as a means to contrast themselves favourably with Putin, there are some, such as Cameron in particular, who live in a fossilised Cold War time warp where they still think they can win another in line with their heroine, Lady Thatcher.

If the Western Powers, especially the stubborn old colonial powers in the Levant, France and Britain, try to pull Washington towards a reckless and impulsive policy on Syria, as was quite evident in Libya back in 2011, the real possibility of the war in Syria spinning even further out of control is present.

Geopolitical and energy interests are an essential part of the growing hostility between Russia and the Western Powers. Yet the personal egos of vain and arrogant statesmen such as PM Cameron and President Hollande as "Global Players" increase the chance of miscalculations of the sort that happened in 1914.

The stakes in Syria are growing by the day and will continue to in the closing months of 2015. If Russia's military actions demonstrate anything, it is the need to start peace negotiations immediately even if it would mean a slight loss of face for Western leaders in the circumstances of Russian and Assad battle victories

Given the level of effort put into absurd spin and 'public diplomacy' used to convince Western publics about "moderate rebels" and "less extreme groups", none of it believable it would surely be not beyond them to try and start diplomatic moves to end the proxy war and claim credit and triumph for that.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

The Bombing at Kunduz: The Afghanistan War and the Geopolitics of the TAPI Pipeline Continued.

It is a common misconception of radical journalists that the Afghanistan War is just another meaningless war that reflects militarism or machismo. The trend towards using drone missile strikes and aerial bombing as part of a military-industrial complex which has its own pathological momentum.

To an extent, it is true. Wars using air power have become offered by vain politicians in Western democracies demanding 'something must be done' about the evil of ISIS or the Taliban to keep them and the world more secure. The though seldom occurs that the Afghanistan War is a militant progressive cause.

The conception of Afghanistan, as one advocated and defended by liberals who became more conservative or warmongers and capitulated to the appeals of power, is a myth. Those who backed it back in 2001 and thereafter were left liberals who saw the West as having a duty to save the Afghan people.

This position was best stated by Christopher Hitchens. He criticised 'anti-war' protesters who drew attention to the West's Cold war support for the mujahedeen as a reason not to intervene by arguing that the wrongs created by cynical Cold War power politics made it all the more a reason to put them right.

Many anti-war protesters in Britain oppose Western Power because it makes them feel good and virtuous as well as more intelligent than the silly warmongering elites who keep bombing and believing they can defeat terrorists. On the accidental NATO bombing of a hospital, run by Médecins Sans Frontières, Monbiot writes,
'The lies and euphemisms add insult to the crime. Nato’s apparent indifference to life and truth could not fail to infuriate – perhaps to radicalise – people who are currently uninvolved in conflict in Afghanistan. There are no clear objectives in these wars, or if there are, they shift from month to month...14 years into the fighting in Afghanistan, after repeated announcements of victory or withdrawal, military action appears only to have replaced the old forms of brutality and chaos with new ones. And yet it continues. War appears to have become an end in itself..
What Monbiot means is that the Orwellian language of 'collateral damage' makes him more outraged than if NATO spokesmen had used words such as 'bombed' and 'killed' and, being so annoyed by this use of callous language, he could understand why people not involved with the Taliban or ISIS may join them.

NATO's robotic language makes no difference to most Afghans. Constant drone strikes and "collateral damage", as well as the shady geopolitical games played by regional and global players as regards Afghanistan, ensure the Taliban, and increasingly ISIS, have their uses in brutal power struggles. Death is a way of life there.

The Afghanistan War's official aims have shifted but that hardly means that there are no real underlying objectives. For a start it was officially supposed to have ended at the end of 2014. The Western media has recycled that official line, even though the US and NATO maintain a huge military presence based at Bagram.

After 14 years the NATO involvement in Afghanistan has made little difference to the warring land and things have barely improved. The reason the war in Afghanistan drags on, for all the official propaganda about "drawdown" , a word that does not mean withdrawal, is the geopolitical benefits of the TAPI pipeline and access to rare earths.

Afghanistan is a strategic land bridge between Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent and a gas pipeline between Turkmenistan and Pakistan and India would bring these nations together and freeze out Iran's rival IP pipeline which would draw an energy hungry increasingly populated Pakistan into Iran's orbit.

US State Department officials have gone quieter about the TAPI pipeline and the New Silk Route, a shift that may well have been confirmed by the rapprochement with Iran over the nuclear deal. The persistence of the Taliban and China's influence in Turkmenistan and SE Asia have made it more difficult to realise.

The upsurge in NATO activity against the Taliban in Kunduz that led to the bombing of the hospital reflects not only the obvious need to defend the Kabul government but also not to have the TAPI pipeline's construction taken off an urgent agenda while Russia's Gazprom and China get behind the IP pipeline.

As sanctions on Iran are set to be lifted, Pakistan and India's energy shortages have became critical. As Washington needed Tehran to help the Iraqi government roll back ISIS, so the US and NATO are all the more determined to thwart Russia which opposes the TAPI pipeline as a threat to its control over the Central Asian energy market.

With Iran planning to press on with the pipeline eastwards, the US has been trying to drum up support along with India for the TAPI pipeline construction to be expedited. Rohullah Osmani, a  former Director General in the Afghan Government and International Security scholar at John Hopkins University writes,
'Modi’s visit to Turkmenistan followed by Berdimuhamedov’s trip to Kabul to discuss economic cooperation, specifically the TAPI project, suggests that the pipeline project is again moving – this time with a firm commitment from all parties including a seller commitment, buyer’s readiness, and a contractor with the right financing. 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.' ( my italics )
So Russia has sought to tilt away from its historical ally India towards Pakistan. Delhi and Washington have recently grown closer as part of a US strategy of countering Chinese influence in Asia and trying to gain greater control over energy routes to the Middle Kingdom so as to contain its power political ambitions.

As China invests in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), as it would enable China to receive Iranian oil and natural gas through Iran and Pakistan via the port of Gwadar, so Iran has aligned with its old enemy of the 1990s in the Taliban to check ISIS and also hamper progress on TAPI.

So in 2015 Iran is providing funding for the Taliban and has also supplied the Taliban directly with AK-47 rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and materials for roadside bombs or the IED's that were once so lethal against British and Canadian troops fighting them in Helmland ( which is on the pipeline route).

The TAPI pipeline remains a key US war aim in Afghanistan that seldom gets any mention in Western newspapers because it contradicts the shifting public diplomacy narrative given as combat operations dragged on long after Al Qaida had fled their base. The US terms it "a transformative project for the entire region".

The reason NATO officials refuse to comment on the national make up of the special forces fighting the Taliban around Kunduz is that the combat mission of Western troops is officially over and the Afghans fled. The Afghanistan War, a geopolitical struggle over energy flows and security ambitions, is set to go on.

Britain's Support for Saudi War Effort in Yemen

Amnesty International has condemned the “appalling disregard” for civilian lives by the Saudi-led coalition in a report into 13 air strikes in north-eastern Saada in Yemen during the summer of 2015 in which 100 civilians were killed. The document made it clear that civilian were targeted in what are called war crimes.

“In at least four of the airstrikes investigated … homes attacked were struck more than once, suggesting that they had been the intended targets despite no evidence they were being used for military purposes”. Amnesty demanded that Britain should halt the supply of weapons to the Saudi Arabia.

Yet it is unlikely David Cameron's government is going to stop exporting arms and giving intelligence assistance to Saudi Arabia. The reason is geopolitics; Iranian influence through the Houthi militias threatens to potentially extend Tehran's control over the strategic chokepoint of the Bab al-Mandab Strait.

The sea passage is considered a vital one between the Mediterranean US Navy Fifth Fleet and the Sixth Fleet that contains aircraft carriers that protect US interests and can be deployed in launching air strikes and cruise missiles against both Al Qaida in Somalia and Yemen as well as against ISIS. As Norman Schwarzkopf put it,
“The Red Sea, with the Suez Canal in the north and the Bab el-Mandeb in the south, is one of the most vital sea lines of communication and a critical shipping link between our Pacific and European allies … Since a significant part of US CENTCOM’s forces would deploy by sea, ensuring these waterways remain open to free world shipping must be a key objective.”
The US and Britain fear that either Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) or the Houthis could gain control of this area to menace or stop the flow of oil via tankers from the Persian Gulf around the Horn of Africa through to the Red Sea, the SUMED pipeline and the Suez Canal onwards towards the West.

The failure to decisively overthrow Assad in Syria, because it has scuppered the possibility of a Qatar-Turkey pipeline, means that it is feared Iran would be in the position not only of being able to control the flow of oil via the Straits of Hormuz, another major global chokepoint, but also the second just off south Western Yemen.

The question about the use of Western made aircraft and bombs to kill civilians through use of airpower is considered less significant than the strategic imperative of shoring up Saudi control in the region, even though it is apparent that air strikes to tilt the balance away from the Houthis has ended up benefitting Sunni jihadists.

For Britain's support for the Saudi military intervention against the Houthi rebels in Yemen has only helped to make a terrible civil war and regional proxy conflict worse. Even US generals are on record making explicitly clear they thought the Saudi ground troop invasion in August 2015 really was a 'bad idea'.

The entrance of Saudi troops followed the commencing of air strikes in March 2015 that both aim at restoring Hadi to power after he fled in the face of the Houthi insurgency. Hadi was a Saudi client installed to prevent the 2011 'Arab Spring' uprising leading to a democracy and so helped polarise Yemen along sectarian lines.

The collapse of the Yemeni state and Saleh's government, as well as the exclusion of the Houthis, ensured Saudi Arabia and Iran would exploit the vacuum of power to advance their rival geopolitical interests. So ISIS has used suicide attacks and bombings to try to widen and worsen sectarian divisions.

The ISIS suicide attacks on October 6th 2015 , both on the rival Yemeni government of Hadi in Aden and a Houthi Mosque in Sanaa, were intended as part of ratcheting up a strategy of tension. By posing as the real champions of a Sunni Islamic State in the jihad against Shia apostates, ISIS seeks to outdo Saudi zeal in this direction.

By drawing out the Saudi backed government against it and taking on the Houthis, ISIS could take advantage of the chaos to engage two enemies simultaneously who are as much concerned to destroy the other as they are ISIS. This, of course, means it has an opportunity to expand and recruit ready for attacking Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi-Yemen War is not the forgotten war; it is the inconvenient war that undermines the Western Powers claim to have any moral high ground in Syria. As Putin is condemned for supporting the 'butcher Assad', the Saudis go forth and slaughter civilians in air strikes with planes or missiles probably supplied by Britain and the US.

The two wars in Syria and Yemen are interconnected on the geopolitical chessboard. Britain objects to Russia striking Sunni jihadists backed by Qatar and the Saudis not because it is the 'wrong strategy' but because it sets back and shows up the absurdity of their own failed efforts to align with the Gulf states in Syria.

While Iran is tacitly supported and embraced as a partner in rolling back ISIS and Sunni jihadists in Iraq, it is to be balanced by support for the Gulf states in Syria and Yemen. Assad's administration is a big obstacle for them as he blocks the way for a gas pipeline between the Persian Gulf and Eastern Mediterranean.

Another problem for Britain is that as Saudi oil revenues plummet due to depressed global oil prices, the costs of war in Yemen and cuts in expenditure, at a time of rising internal discontent, could well destabilise the country. If that happens the question is if Britain and the US would be drawn in militarily.

Given that the Bab al-Mandab Strait was wrested from the Houthis on October 1 2015 by Saudi and UAE troops taking Perim Island, in conjunction with Saudi and Egyptian warships, it remains to be seen whether the US and Britain would put pressure on the Gulf states and Iran to end their proxy war.

Lethal Embrace: Britain's Special Relationship with Saudi Arabia.

"We have a relationship with Saudi Arabia and if you want to know why I’ll tell you why. It’s because we receive from them important intelligence and security information that keeps us safe. The reason we have the relationship is our own national security...For me, Britain’s national security and our people’s security comes first.”-PM David Cameron.

David Cameron's claim that Britain has a special relationship with Saudi Arabia because it provides intelligence that assists in anti-terrorism came out in an interview with Channel 4's Jon Snow in which he was pressed on his reaction to the forthcoming execution of a Shia activist, Ali Mohammed al-Nimr.

By just raising evident human rights abuses, Snow allowed Cameron to portray the Saudi-British relationship as one of 'constructive engagement', that without the close ties there would be no possibility of even trying to influence Riyadh on such matters as flogging bloggers and executing dissidents.

Cameron's claim that Britain's alliance with Saudi Arabia keeps it safe is utter mendacious nonsense. It is clear Saudi Arabia has funded and backed intolerant Wahhabi Islam within the region and across the globe and that this has assisted in generating the spread of ideas that forged groups such as Al Qaida.

Even if the Saudis had given intelligence on a specific attack, the scale of Riyadh's financing of Sunni jihadist militias from Iraq into Syria, as part of its proxy war with Iran, was a major factor in creating ISIS. This is not a matter of opinion but of fact: even Hilary Clinton in 2009 complained about it in a Wikileaked cable.

The real reason Cameron and others in the British establishment turn a blind eye to the world's largest backer of Sunni jihadi-terrorism is because of the lucrative BAE arms deals and the amount of petrodollars Saudi sheikhs have pumped into London's property and banks since the oil price spike of the 1970s.

Since Thatcher's destruction of British manufacturing in the 1980s, the only big successful sector of manufacturing left in Britain has been the arms industry. The sales of jet aircraft and weapons, as well as training and the sort of intelligence help being used in 2015 to help Saudi jets pummel towns in Yemen, are very lucrative.

As Richard Norton Taylor pointed out,
'It has sold 72 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft to the country in a contract worth an estimated £4.4bn, upgraded Saudi Tornado aircraft (part of the controversial £40bn al-Yamamah contract signed by Margaret Thatcher) in a contract worth an estimated £2.5bn, and upgraded 70 US F15 combat jets in the Saudi air force....The UK Ministry of Defence has gone out its way to help the Saudis by diverting 500 lb Paveway IV guided bombs originally earmarked for the RAF to Saudi Arabia to enable it to continue striking targets in Yemen and Syria. Paveway bombs are produced by Raytheon UK'.
Apart from the evident inhumanity of the Saudi kingdom, with more beheadings per week than ISIS and the indiscriminate use of air power in killing civilians in Yemen, ISIS is poised to exploit the chaos there to gain ground and start targeting Saudi oil production plants. This is an even worse form of blowback than Al Qaida.

Britain, by aligning so closely with the Saudi establishment, could well find itself pulled into a region wide war should Saudi Arabia become destabilised by falling oil revenues, caused by global slump in oil prices, and the sheer costs of its invasion of Yemen that has already been compared to its version of a 'Vietnam quagmire'.

The Yemen military intervention itself was part of a paranoid fear that Iranian backed Shi'ites are ready to encircle the oil rich kingdom and rise up within it in those oil producing regions towards the border with Bahrain that Saudi tanks crossed in 2012 to brutally crush the protests that followed the 'Arab Spring'.

By tacitly backing Saudi Arabia and its corrupt and repressive regime, Britain has only stored up a greater potential for anti-Western resentment and terrorism. This would be directed against it should the kingdom collapse and descend into Syrian-style religious and tribal warfare in the near future as seems probable.

ISIS is gaining ground both within Yemen because of the Saudi's use of Tornado and Typhoon jets to destroy towns and targets there. ISIS strategy is based on exploiting the Sunni-Shia clash as a means to position it as the real 'Islamic State' and so force the Saudis to co-opt support within the kingdom by a relentless war on Shi'ites.

When Cameron or Blair makes plain that what happens in the Middle East necessarily has an impact on the domestic security of Britain, they should be taken at their word. The danger of terrorist blowback has been factored in to geopolitical calculations and the determination is that Britain shall do 'business as usual'.

Clearly, the corrupt lethal embrace of the Saudi establishment goes far beyond partisan party politics within Britain. New Labour's Mandelson and, of course, Blair touted 'aerospace' as one of Britain's great strengths that it inherited back in the 1990s and that made it a great "global player".

Domestic opposition to the British government need to make these interconnections between Saudi Arabia and the promotion of global jihadism plain. Corbyn needs to stress that the jolly "prosperity agenda" that the Saudis fund actually puts short term economic gains before Britain enduring security needs.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Tony Blair : Extremists, "Mainstream Populations" and Conspiracy Theories.

“The conspiracy theories which illuminate much of the jihadi writings have significant support even amongst parts of the mainstream population of some Muslim countries... 
There are millions of schoolchildren every day in countries round the world – not just in the Middle East – who are taught a view of the world and of their religion which is narrow-minded, prejudicial and therefore, in the context of a globalised world, dangerous. 
“If large numbers of people really do believe that the desire of the USA or the west is to disrespect or oppress Islam then it is not surprising that some find recourse to violence acceptable in order to reassert the ‘dignity’ of the oppressed.. 
If young people are educated that Jews are evil or that anyone who holds a different view of religion is an enemy, it is obvious that this prejudice will give rise, in certain circumstances, to action in accordance with it.

The reality is that in parts of the Muslim community a discourse has grown up which is profoundly hostile to peaceful coexistence. Countering this is an essential part of fighting extremism.”-Tony Blair in a 9/11 Memorial Speech, New York, October 6 2015

Blair comments that there is prejudice and bigotry in certain parts of the Muslim community and 'even' in 'the mainstream population of some Muslim countries. In reaction he is either  just lambasted for the invasion of Iraq or he's seen as 'right on this'. Few seem able to interpret Blairspeak.

Every utterance Blair emits is calculated to position himself politically in relation to his audience. This speech is one designed to revive Blair as a figure prepared to tell unwelcome truths about the way 'extremist' Islam is vaguely connected to the 'mainstream population'.

There is no such thing as a 'mainstream population' unless 'mainstream opinions' are quantifiably connected to 'mainstream people' who exist in relation to 'mainstream leaders', such as Blair, who has mainstream ideas that are wholly normal and so consequently never 'extreme'.

That comes in handy also when trying to explain why the invasion of Iraq in 2003 failed: it was because those who came to liberate Iraq in good faith, led by Tony Blair, were doomed to be opposed by those who had bought into a 'discourse' in which the West wanted to 'oppress Islam'.

Clearly, that reaction was 'extreme' and not normal but 'mainstream' enough once 'extremists' had poisoned enough minds. Evil presumably floats free once bad ideas have been able to germinate in so many minds once the evil genie is let out of the bottle to spread and nestle itself in mainstream minds.

Nothing he has said about conspiracy theories about the West trying to destroy Islam or the fact there is a 'discourse' that bolsters violent jihadi Islamism is particular new. The fact remains though that for such ideas to spread as virulently as they have, it is global power politics that is largely to blame.

The two most obvious examples of that are both the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent attempt to overthrow Assad in Syria after 2011 by backing Sunni jihadists, many of whom have moved back and forth across the region into neighbouring Iraq and other lands such as Libya, Yemen and Sinai in Egypt.

A Note on Moderates and Extremists

As the Syrian conflict has shown, in practice 'extremist' means an Islamist opposed to the Western Powers while a 'moderate' is one that works in its interests and is funded by their allies Saudi Arabia or Qatar. It is unclear how far from being 'moderate' an 'extremist' has to be before he becomes 'extreme'.

The term 'extremist' is conveniently vague whereas violent jihadi-Islamist or militant Wahhabi Islamist is concrete enough to understand. But that, of course, would mean that Blair's friends in the Saudi establishment would be classified as such and so 'extremist' is preferred.

'Extremists' threaten the stability of vested interests and power while 'moderates' are those who can be worked with, even if both may have similar ideas and ideologies. Jihadi groups in Syria working with Western allies are, if not 'moderate', then 'less extreme' than the really real 'extremists' such as ISIS.

It is about time journalists devoted to truth started examining this sort of rhetoric forensically instead of simply recycling it as if it had self evident meaning. Otherwise we enter the world of Humpty Dumpty-'When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'

Blair makes a bid to revive his former status as a cutting edge politician.

Blair is trying to sell his pitch on Islamism as a way of ingratiating himself with those concerned with the spread of fanatical ideas in the UK and US. But Blair is a politician whose grasp of 'reality' has been very shaky and mostly related to his ability to intuit the British public mood back in the late 1990s.

It's clear Blair has always attempted to use rhetoric tricks and 'triangulation' strategies, better used in domestic policies within Britain, to apply to the 'big' global 'picture' where these efforts to 'frame' the debate, and position the leader as opposed to two extremes to either side, are even more stupid.

The idea dictatorship and terrorist chaos were two interconnected extremes, that appeared opposites but were united through their 'extremism', is one reason why Blair saw them as necessary partners in crime in the Middle East so that in removing the dictator there would be less terror and more freedom.

As far as the politics and religion of the Greater Middle East is concerned, Blair's idea of 'reality' was conditioned by a geopolitical wish fantasy in which secular democracy could extend seamlessly into the region in the aftermath of the Cold War no less than it had in Central Europe, though force would be needed.

To be fair to Blair, this delusion has been inherited by Cameron and others in Britain and France who maintain that the Western Powers could 'deliver' democracy through military action, whether in Libya in 2011 or in Syria by supporting some mythical "moderate" rebel force that has not existed at least since 2012.

ISIS exists not because of a lack of education: its propagandists and its leaders are techno savvy with social media. ISIS operatives have a very clever knowledge of using it as part of their tactics and strategy of drawing in the Western Powers by making its leaders react to its atrocities as they would want.

The reality is that jihadism has spread and ISIS has grown because of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 which Blair enthusiastically promoted, though it would have gone ahead anyway as the US was intent on an invasion with or without Blair. Removing Saddam through military action was bound to release sectarian enmities.

Militant jihadi-Islamism is part of a 'discourse'. Yet it is also one that has practically spread due to the fact Arab nations have been kept beneath secular dictatorships and repressive religious based despotisms such as Saudi Arabia or else autocratic governments such as those in Qatar or Bahrain.

Trying to remove the secular dictatorships of Syria and Iraq while enlisting the help of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states has only led to a proxy war between Sunnis and Shi'ites: it had no realistic chance of working where the aim of "regime change" by force of arms was promoted and no functioning state survived.

Conspiracy theories are rife in the Middle East and among uneducated Muslims in the West, where there is far less excuse for pig headed ignorance for sure. But the practical advance of jihadism as a global force is one spurred on by dysfunctional regimes such as Saudi Arabia that depend on diverting internal discontent outwards.

But conspiracy theories are hardly only unique to Muslims, though they simplify terrifying and seemingly incomprehensible events for simple minds or offer a way for politicians to blame the evil plots of other groups and sets of politicians, especially Israel and the Jews, for general misfortune and chaos.

Conspiracy theories are very popular in the USA; in fact they have become an important part of sections of the media as testified by the success and popularity of theories about 9/11 being an inside job, ISIS as an express tool of the US and 'Zionist lobby' etc as spread by numerous shock jocks and pundits.

The reality is that Britain's close regional ally in the Middle East-Saudi Arabia-uses its petrodollars to spread Wahhabi Islam across the region and the wider world. Blair, no less than Cameron, has proved willing to genuflect before the Saudis because of greedy commercial interests and arms deals.

The spread and popularity of jihadism against the regional and global powers, the "near" and "far" enemies is primarily about geopolitical clashes and the chaos they have wrought, allowing the space for brutal fanatics to emerge and dominate lands in which the state has collapsed.

Russia's Great Game Plan for Syria.

Given that since 2012 the Western Powers-the US, France and Britain-have been firmly aligned with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey as supposed 'Friends of Syria' demanding 'Assad Must Go', Russia's decisive military intervention and air strikes are firmly about ensuring 'Assad Will Stay' as a matter of fact.

The reason for Putin's 'escalation' of the conflict concern multiple objectives all tied up with a reassertion of Russia's Great Power status on the regional and global stage. Despite the Obama administration's denials, the differences between the US and Russia over Syria are part of a Great Game of geopolitical chess.

The "moderate" rebels in Syria are, in reality, Sunni jihadist groups backed by America and Britain's Gulf state allies. Some of them, such as al-Nusra, are affiliated to Al Qaida and in conflict with ISIS as the many fragmented 'rebel' groups compete for funding and arms by proving how effective they are against Assad.

The 'extremists' are ISIS because they are not only against Assad but also ranged against the Iraqi Shia dominated government in Baghdad that the US depends upon, along with Iran, to keep Iraq together and prevent it having to re-enter the country militarily after it withdrew combat troops in 2011.

ISIS are also 'extremists' because in 2014 they threatened Erbil and the Kurdish autonomous region and to surge southwards towards Baghdad and Basra: all are major oil producing areas regarded as essential to the present and future supply of oil to the global economy and hence bound up with energy security.

ISIS also poses a threat to Saudi Arabia, especially given its disastrous military intervention in Yemen. This has raised costs to the Saudi state at a time of low oil prices and threatens to destabilise both its finances and ability to use oil revenues to buy off internal discontent. Leading a war against Assad is part of its war against the Shi'ites.

Saudi Arabia has threatened Russia before that it would use jihadists to attack Southern Russia and the Sochi games. It was a terrorist threat that the Western Powers are willing to ignore, partly as France and the US still depend partly on Saudi oil but also due to huge lucrative arms deals with Riyadh.

The other reason Britain ignores Saudi sponsoring of terrorism and an intolerant Wahhabi Islam globally, while claiming to be at the vanguard of fighting terrorism, is that since the 1970s and oil price shock, London has become increasingly a place where Saudi petrodollars have been heavily invested.

There is a clear double standard in condemning Putin for shoring up Assad's state in Syria with arms, air power and military equipment. Britain and the US preceded Putin's move by moving in to support Saudi Arabia's onslaught in Yemen in which Saudi air power has been used indiscriminately to kill civilians.

As regards the absurdity of the Western "public diplomacy" line, Robert Fisk put it accurately when he wrote,
'...within hours of Russia’s air assaults last weekend, Washington, The New York Times, CNN, the poor old BBC and just about every newspaper in the Western world resurrected these ghosts and told us that the Russkies were bombing the brave “moderates” fighting Bashar’s army in Syria – the very “moderates” who, according to the same storyline from the very same sources a few weeks earlier, no longer existed. Our finest commentators and experts – always a dodgy phrase – joined in the same chorus line. '
Putin's move is no mere 'mistake' in his being overzealous to take on ISIS along with the rest of the 'international community' but adding "moderate" groups as targets. Putin aims at wrong footing the western powers tactically by bringing out the contradiction inherent in being against ISIS terrorism but not that of other jihadists.

Groups that were barely mentioned in British newspapers, until Russian fighter jets started bombing them, have suddenly come under the spotlight and are, in fact, not greatly 'less extreme' than ISIS: they are bloodthirsty jihadist movements that still depend upon the Gulf States for finance and weapons.

Western leaders must know this. Yet the underlying geopolitics of energy and influence within the Greater Middle East ensure that the Cameron's sort of moralising drivel about the 'butcher Assad' takes precedence over the fact his opponents are no less ruthless and massacring Alawis and Christians across Syria.

Russia has been able to exploit the absurdity and hypocrisy of Western foreign policy on Syria to lead the way in defending Assad, making the retention of the Syrian state the counterpoint to the sort of chaos unleashed by the West after NATO bombed Gaddafi's forces in 2011 and enabled jihadists to gain ground.

Putin's policy of shadowing Western policy and, in coordinating Russian air power with Assad's forces and Hezbollah on the ground, against 'terrorists' is designed to do three things other that preserve Assad's power base and show Putin as being a strong leader who is effectively 'tough on terror'.

1) Restore Russia as a Global Power that has to be taken into account in the Greater Middle East and as a balancing force to the Western led alliance in the struggle over Syria. By proving Assad is not going to be overthrown, Putin aims at showing that Russia could do a better job of preserving global security against jihadists.

2) Preserve Russia's military presence in the Eastern Mediterranean and its naval base at Tarsous. With the discovery of huge reserves of oil and gas in the Eastern Mediterranean in 2010, Putin wants to position Russia as a power that can protect and be involved in the supply of oil and gas from the region to EU markets.

3) Prevent the possibility of Syria becoming an east-west transit route for Qatari gas pumped from the Persian Gulf towards Turkey and on to EU markets. This would provide a land based energy route that would reduce dependence on Russian gas and hence Russian power in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

4) Enhance Russia's global standing as a reliable partner in a renewed 'war on terrorism' both in the Middle East, in the Caucasus and Central Asia. When the US started to criticise General Sisi too much after the 2013 coup, Putin was first to try to exploit this to offer Russian technological aid over energy as well as arms deals.

5) Protecting Russia's southern flank against Chechen Jihadists. ISIS has recruited many Chechens spoiling for revenge after Putin crushed the Chechen insurgency in a brutal war which, by the turn of the twenty first century,established Putin as an authoritarian leader who could protect Russia against terrorism.

The presence of Chechens in the jihadist forces surging towards Latakia and towards Russia's military bases would appear to show that they have been able to cross from the Caucasus through Turkey into Syria where they have been deployed as jihadist 'assets' against Assad by Sunni forces there.

One additional factor in the decision to bolster Assad's Alawite dominated home base territory, other than the claim Russia is defending fellow Orthodox Christians too in Syria, is that Russia's SoyuzNefteGas began prospecting for oil in Latakia’s Qenenas district just a week before air strikes started.

6) Countering Georgia's Proxy War. It is thought jihadists from Georgia's Pankisi Gorge have been allowed to spread and recruit by Georgia's security services to be used as assets should Russia threaten the Caucasian state as it did in the 2008 war. Hence the flow of Russian paramilitary forces to Syria.

7) Syria is another front, along with Eastern Ukraine, where Russia is fighting Chechen jihadist paramilitaries to advance its geopolitical reach and wrest control over strategic regions where the Western Powers too are also vying pathologically for access to and control over oil and gas flows between east and west.