Sunday, 23 July 2017

Britain's Humanitarian Mission in Somalia: Oil and Geopolitical Interests

More delicate questions of narrative and framing matter even less. So what if we stop talking about “aid” and start talking about “investment”? Doesn’t that just forge a more equal relationship between source nation and recipient?-Zoe Williams, The Guardian.
Aid,of course, is about Britain advancing its economic interests and, very often, gaining access to resources such as oil. This is clearly the case in Somalia. The UK pledged £100 million in 2016 and shortly later, Hassan Ali Khaire, a former director of British firm Soma Oil and Gas, was announced as the new prime minister.
Soma is also  directed by none other than Lord Michael Howard. Aid thus can help improve Britain's 'public diplomacy' in circumstances where British companies have been alleged to have provided kickbacks and bribes to government officials in order to lubricate the process of gaining oil drilling rights.
As with Serious Fraud Office investigations into allegations of corrupt arms deals made between BAE, British officials and Saudi establishment insiders, also bankrolled by taxpayer's money, all pursuit of the truth was dropped as Soma claimed investigations could cause a cash crisis as investors lost confidence.
The SFO has often found its work hampered when big oil and monied interests are at stake, as it's answerable to the Attorney General, himself often deeply interconnected to Britain's political establishment. Trying to find out if Soma bribed Somalian officials as it's the most corrupt state on earth, where Western aid often disappears.
The elections in February 2017 were actually funded by Western donors The annual London Conference, established in 2012, has been criticised as being neo-imperialist as 'the millions of dollars pledged either never arrived or were used as a slush fund by the previous political leaders and their international cronies.'
As Bashir Gith lamented 'instead of rebuilding Somalia’s national army, the friendly countries’ geopolitical goals had become detrimental not only to the need of Somalia to have its own army but also to the real sovereignty of the Somali nation.' It hastened Somalia's break up 'into bantustan-like enclaves'.
Abukar Arman, a former Somalian diplomat, was certainly not impressed by Britain's aid pledges and its ulterior motives. In a column on 'London Predatory Carnival On Somalia' in May 2017 he wrote the 'UK was far from being an honest broker, and it was the principle facilitator of a clandestine economic butchery and security dependency'.
As British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, and PM Theresa May advocated humanitarian intervention, Arman complained, 
'..the UK is anxiously readying herself for an immanent economic hurricane following Brexit and the Conservative Party lead by Theresa May is eager to duplicate David Cameron’s legacy and zero-sum triumph. The successful delivery of Soma Oil & Gas had international predatory capitalists salivating and marching to the orders of the gatekeeper of the chamber of exploitation.
One reason for this jaundiced view is that Britain's geopolitical goal is to act as advocate for the military bases of its Gulf client state, the UAE, which gained access to 'Berbera seaport in the unilaterally seceded (but unrecognized ) Somaliland. It also secured a deal in Puntland and is negotiating for more. All independent of the Somali federal government.'
Establishing control over the Horn of Africa is considered part of a strategy to control the sea lanes between Somalia and Yemen, where Britain is backing the Saudi war against the Houthi rebels as part of a regional proxy war against Iran, which is seen as vying for control in the Gulf of Aden and over the Bab el Mandeb straits.
Humanitarian largesse is very much interconnected with a neo-imperialist Great Game for strategic advantage and hegemony in resource rich regions. None of this tends to get much attention in the Western media which prefers to rehash the convenient fictions about 'our values' as a way to gain the moral high ground in these struggles.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Mosul: The Liberation that the Western Media Barely Covered

On the subject of propaganda, it might be worth pondering that Iraq's future is, perhaps, not best served by the way US and British use of air power in Mosul has become more lethal under President Trump. It could have contributed to around 5000 of the 40,000 civilian deaths in Mosul.

None of which has been widely reported in the 'MSM'. In fact, it would almost appear there has ben a media blanket on reporting the civilian casualties as it was when Russian air power and Syrian and Iranian backed forces took east Aleppo and defeated the Sunni jihadist rebels in December 2016.

The Guardian has  focused on the real problem of Iraqi force retaliations against the families of IS fighters. Its contribution to a 'cycle of violence' that could well lead to a return of ISIS 2.0 or another Sunni militant force to protect Sunni Arabs against the Shia dominated state, one heavily influenced by neighbouring Iran.

As Patrick Cockburn of The Independent reported today ,
The catastrophic number of civilian casualties in Mosul is receiving little attention internationally from politicians and journalists. This is in sharp contrast to the outrage expressed worldwide over the bombardment of east Aleppo by Syrian government and Russian forces at the end of 2016.
Hoshyar Zebari, the Kurdish leader and former Iraqi finance and foreign minister, told me in an interview last week: “Kurdish intelligence believes that over 40,000 civilians have been killed as a result of massive firepower used against them, especially by the Federal Police, air strikes and Isis itself.”
The real number of dead who are buried under the mounds of rubble in west Mosul is unknown, but their numbers are likely to be in the tens of thousands, rather than the much lower estimates previously given.
Cockburn, of course, correctly points out that ISIS was using civilians as human shields, a claim denied when it was made about jihadi groups in east Aleppo doing just that. The West has very little moral high ground over the wars in Syria and Iraq. If ISIS is going to be combated as 'an idea', this hardly helps.

Western strategies need drastic revision for if the Sunnis are going to be subjected to retaliation or sectarian dominance by the Shia again in Iraq, then the prospect of ISIS reviving or another jihadi organisation gaining ground once more would be quite probable, not least if the US and Iran clash in the region.
The figure given by Mr Zebari for the number of civilians killed in the nine-month siege is far higher than those previously reported, but the intelligence service of the Kurdistan Regional Government has a reputation for being extremely accurate and well-informed. Isis prevented any monitoring of casualties while outside groups have largely focused on air strikes rather than artillery and rocket fire as a cause of civilian deaths. Airwars, one such monitoring group, estimated that attacks may have killed 5,805 non-military personnel in the city between 19 February and 19 June. 
Cockburn also makes plain that Iraqi state force military action to take Mosul was indiscriminate too, rivalling Assad's forces for brutality. There were no open criticism in the Guardian as there had been over east Aleppo. In fact, the liberation of Mosul has barely featured that much in the mainstream Western media.
Much of the blame for the calamitous level of destruction in west Mosul has been put on air strikes, but it is evident at ground level that a lot of the damage was caused by artillery shells and rockets. This is confirmed by an Amnesty International report issued last week titled At Any Cost: The Civilian Catastrophe in West Mosul, Iraq, which points to a greater and more indiscriminate use of its firepower by pro-government forces in the final stages of the attack on east Mosul, starting in January 2017 and continuing over the following six months during the assault on west Mosul. It says that Iraqi government and US-led coalition forces “relied heavily upon explosive weapons with wide area effects such as IRAMs (Improvised Rocket Assisted Munitions). With their crude targeting abilities, these weapons wreaked havoc in densely populated west Mosul, where large groups of civilians were trapped in homes or makeshift shelters”.