Sunday, 25 January 2015

ISIS, Japan and Global Energy Geopolitics.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Egypt and Japan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Britain's Foreign Policy Dilemma-Israel, Qatar and Baroness Warsi.

Baroness Warsi has criticised the British government for its policy of not 'engaging' with Muslim groups in its 'counter-radicalisation' strategy. This she says has led to a sense of fear and suspicion which is not conducive in the British government's struggle against 'extremism'.

Then again, the dividing line in this pseudo-debate between 'extreme' Islamism and 'moderate' Islamism is seldom very clearly drawn: the very words used indicate there is a broader power game going on with not just domestic but also global ramifications among the political elites.

In practice 'extremist' means any Islamist radical force that is ranged in opposition to British interests in the Middle East. Throughout 2013, Sunni militants in Syria were considered 'moderate rebels' before they defected to ISIS and became 'extremists' in turning their terror towards the West.

While ISIS was fighting Assad in Damascus the threat of 'extremism' went unmentioned The Friends of Syria Group set up in 2012, including the US, Britain, France, Turkey and Qatar, had made it plain, as sententiously repeated by Foreign Secretary William Hague, that 'Assad must go'.

It was only when ISIS stormed into Iraq in 2014 and menaced global oil supplies that Western politicians started arguing over ISIS and the blame for what has created it and the danger of terrorist blowback from Western-born jihadists who had been allowed across the Turkish border for 3 years.

None of this bickering is ever much set within the context of geopolitics and divisions over whether Britain's energy security would be better served by aligning with Israel ( which discovered huge gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean in 2009) or Qatar which supplies it with LNG exports.

'Democracy Promotion'-The Geopolitics of Islamism, Israel and Turkey

The Conservative Party returned to power in coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Far from abandoning the failed policies of the previous New Labour government, most evident in Blair's backing for the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, it continued with "liberal" military interventionism.

The Arab Spring in 2011 promised to bring democracy to the Arab Muslim World and that was cautiously supported by the British government where it hoped that might assuage the resentment in the region that the Western powers backed dictators in the interests of 'stability' and energy supplies.

The arguments within Britain about whether democracy and Islam were compatible led to the idea that in decisively swinging support behind Sunni Arab democratic forces in Libya and Syria in 2011, Britain could prove that British values were also Muslim values in sharing democratic aspirations.

This policy, one supported by President Obama's Democratic administration in Washington, was not one shared in Israel by Netanyahu and Zionists insinuating that Arabs were incapable of democracy and where it was tried it would replace secular strongmen with totalitarian Islamist theocrats.

That is not the position of Baroness Warsi. She wanted the government to be more open in its condemnation of Israel for its callous policies towards Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and has been at conferences in the UK on Islam and democracy alongside the Islamist Tariq Ramadan.

Warsi, indeed, has shared Ramadan's view that the West has double standards towards Muslim lands in prating about democracy but not being willing to involve 'the Muslim community' in the West in having a voice in Britain's place in the world. Britain is, however, ready to defer to Jewish voices.

Critics of Ramadan's worldview accuse him of 'moral relativism' and doublespeak in comparing Islamist democratic ambitions to a sinister transnational plot to destabilise and subvert democracies by mobilising Muslims as a faith movement which wants to dictate state policies.

A more charitable view is that Ramadan wants the Arab states to be permitted to democratise and chart their own way to freedom from external intervention from Israel or Western states, though curiously he never takes into account the fact that Qatar and Turkey have meddled too.

In fact, in an interview with Qatar's Al Jazeera news channel, Ramadan tried to play politics with the Paris terror attacks in very much the same way that Zionists attempted to use the murders of Parisian Jews as definitive proof that an increasingly 'Islamised' West could provide no safe haven for them.

Ramadan mused "As much as we condemn the attacks, we need people throughout the world to give the same value to any human life... people are being killed by the same violent extremists in Syria and Iraq, it's as if this is normal?" Of course, there has never been any statement it is 'normal'

The difference is that the Western media might well emphasise the murder of Parisian journalists Islamist terrorists, more than those being killed by ISIS in Syria and Iraq, for two obvious reasons. Firstly, France is in the West and, secondly, it is allied with the US in a war on ISIS.

So are other Sunni Islamic states in a coalition to defeat ISIS. Unless Ramadan thinks it likely the war on ISIS should extend back into to France, it is hard to see what point he makes in saying.'So twelve [people] in France, [and] this is an international controversy and evokes a reaction, while the others are normal?"

Unfortunately, the deaths of other Muslims at the hands of ISIS is common in Syria and Iraq, especially where they are not Sunni Arab Muslims and are Shi'ites, Yazidis, Alawis, Christians and ethnic Kurds. If Ramadan were wholly logical he would be directing his outrage elsewhere.

For a start, Western based 'moderate' Islamists like Ramadan could redirect their ire towards Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar by mentioning the finance and recruits provided to those Sunni militant groups that ended up being incorporated into ISIS. Ramadan remained silent on that.

One reason for the silence could be that Ramadan has an academic post in Doha. But, of course, outraged indignation, phoney and worked up or otherwise, is very common in those who put the politics of power and ambition before their duty to speak out while claiming the moral high ground.

Ramadan would hardly be alone in having a very selective sense of outrage, accusing those who oppose his Islamist politics as 'Islamophobic', a handy catch all term that ascribe some sort of or morbid mental derangement and irrational fear to those opposing Islamist political movements.

Warsi tries too to invest 'Islamophobia' with the same sort of power agenda that makes defenders of Israel attack their critics as being all peddlers of anti-Semitism when they criticise the Middle East's 'only democracy'. Of course, that claim would be contested not only by Turkey but also Lebanon.

The problem ( or advantage ) with the term 'Islamophobia' is it can be used to conflate anti-Muslim bigotry with critics of Islam as a religion and, even more mendaciously, of criticism of Islamism as a political ideology. Israeli propagandists, in turn, conflate all Islamists with ISIS and Al Qaida.

The word 'Islamophobia' has been deployed by President Erdogan as a tool to discredit the West's policy towards Israel as well as the EU in not alleviating the refugee problem in Turkey caused by his stoking up of the war in Syria in funnelling finance into militias aiming to overthrow Assad.

As with other regional players in Middle Eastern geopolitics, Erdogan has wanted to overthrow Assad so he could check the expansion of Iranian power through Assad and Hizbollah while posing as the champion of Sunni Arab democratic forces from Syria down into Gaza and Egypt.

In essence 'Democratic Geopolitics' does not mean that the aim of a geopolitical strategy is to promote democracy: the main aim is to promote the brand of democracy that would serve resource interests of states advertised as democratic and so to hinder the power of regional competitors.

Where democracy collides with the geopolitical interests of states, or produces the wrong results, as in Egypt in 2012, having a democracy of the Islamist variety is considered less important than restoring the stability of the system and of a military leader capable of crushing and killing Islamists.

Brutal and ruthless geopolitical struggles within the Middle East have seen what were once both Cold War allies of the West diverge and become competitors. Turkey under Erdogan has attempted to Islamise Turkey's secular democratic state. Israel under Netanyahu has become more a 'Jewish State'.

The controversial role of religion and its connection to terrorism in the West is very much a debate in which the geopolitical factors that materially contribute towards creating the spread of jihadi networks are downplayed ( not least the funding provided by rich patrons in the Gulf states).

In fact, neither side in the this sordid power game have any interest in mentioning Gulf petro-currency fuelled jihadism. Israel depends on Saudi oil and its role as a bulwark of so-called 'stability' in allying with Cairo and funding General Sisi's state so as to contain radical Islamist forces.

Turkey, on the other hand, is trying to thwart Israel's potential plan to tap huge reserves of gas in the Eastern Mediterranean and to construct a pipeline that would run via Cyprus as the island also has large reserves in the Aphrodite field claimed by Greek Cyprus to the exclusion of Turkey.

Turkey aligns with Qatar which has an uneasy relationship with Saudi Arabia but shares the same equal enmity towards Iran as a large regional Shi'ite Muslim power which is reverting rather like Turkey into a foreign policy based on its past as a Persian empire ranged against its Ottoman rival.

In this power contest, Turkey and Qatar are portraying both Iran and Israel as supporting terror while Israel accuses those prepared to work with Hamas in Gaza as essentially doing the same, including Iran which had scaled down its support to Hamas because of the sectarian warfare in Syria,

Hence Erdogan seized on the Paris terror attacks to compare them with Netanyahu's attack on Gaza after Netanyahu had compared the Paris attacks to Hamas's attacks on Israel. After the Paris rally in memory of the terrorist's victims, Erdogan claimed,
"The West's hypocrisy is obvious. As Muslims, we've never taken part in terrorist massacres. Behind these lie racism, hate speech and Islamophobia. Please, the administrations in those countries where our mosques are attacked need to take measures. Games are being played with the Islamic world, we need to be aware of this"
As far as the power games are concerned, Erdogan should be taken at his word, especially in Syria where his government along with Qatar was covertly backing Sunni jihadists read to murder and terrorise before joining ISIS-even if pointing that out would probably qualify as ''Islamophobia".

This is known as 'public diplomacy', the careful and supposedly subtle art of deploying words as rhetorical weapons that are aimed at embedding themselves in political discourse the better to draw attention to the double standards of the other while concealing one's own flagrant example of it.

The Power Agenda of Baroness Warsi. Enter Qatar into British Politics..

So concerns over the Conservative strategy to deal with the jihadi threat from Baroness Warsi are about pitching one form of 'identity politics' against another. Warsi has wanted to lobby for British foreign policy priorities being shifted away from its largely unconditional ties with Israel.

The dislike Warsi has towards Michael Gove is partly ideological. Gove is a fanatical neoconservative and member of the Henry Jackson Society, an influential lobby group for Israel in Britain. Warsi has wanted to boost Qatar's rival power lobby's claims to power in British politics.

Qatar and Israel have vied for support in the West using media soft power and slick public relations diplomacy to make them appear as bastions of 'democracy promotion'. Qatar uses Al Jazeera to promote Arab and Muslim democratic aspirations while Israel counts on political journalists.

These rival claims tend to be undermined by each state's actual behaviour: Qatar for promoting Arab democracy while remaining an absolutist monarch with a government not voted for: Israel by the fact it promotes democracy by obliterating swathes of the Gaza strip in trying to 'root out' Hamas.

Back in 2006 Warsi was prepared to give a sort of qualified endorsement to Hamas after it won elections. It then proceeded to fight a civil war against the PLO/Fatah and to try and ratchet up attacks on Israel which then obliged in return by disproportionate military strikes killing civilians.

Warsi, is a close defender of Qatar and aligned with certain policies and outlooks put forth by the gas rich state and appears at conferences in Doha alongside Al Jazeera journalists. When tensions between her and Prime Minister Cameron flared up over the use of the face veil in 2012 it was reported,
'Organisers say that Lady Warsi, who posed in traditional Islamic dress on the steps of 10 Downing Street after the general election in May, had been booked three months ago to speak at the Qatar Foundation Doha Debate on Oct 11.  
She was given free Qatar Airways business class tickets and had a complimentary room booked for two nights at the five-star Four Seasons beach hotel in Doha, the capital of the Gulf emirate of Qatar'.
Self interest has started to dovetail with a sense Israel acted too unilaterally and ruthlessly in its determination to use military force to impose its solution on Gaza. Politicians are divided on what position to take but it should not be thought voices criticising Israel are wholly about principle.

There is clearly a struggle within Cameron's government over whether to put primacy on its relationship with Israel or with Qatar. Warsi was highly critical of the Quilliam Foundation's Maajid Nawaz helping to write Cameron's speeches on counter-radicalisation and on Islamist 'extremism'.

It hardly surprising as Nawaz is scathing about Islamism and thinks it inherently opposed to democracy in the Muslim World. He criticises the Muslim Brotherhood and has even gone as far as to write of the need for a 'post-Islamist future. This is not an opinion Warsi shares.

Warsi rather likes the idea of an Islamic democracy of the kind increasingly found in Turkey and which is shared by Qatar; it supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 2011 until 2013 when the organisation was crushed and proscribed by Sisi.

Qatar has used its enormous gas wealth to promote radical Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood as well as Hamas and Sunni militants in Syria, a reason Warsi was banging the drum for military intervention against the Iranian backed leader Bashir Assad even as late as 2014.

Warsi has been at the forefront of Cameron's strategy to suck in capital from rich Gulf states through Islamic finance initiatives, especially those promoted by Qatar alongside those like Alderman Fiona Woolf of the City who in 2014 attended a conference convened by none other than Warsi.

Woolf spelt out in plain terms the reason why Britain was starting to align with Qatar and, indeed, these could well explain why there were limited moves in the summer of 2014 within Cameron's government to criticise Israel over the pounding of Gaza. In the Gulf Times she said,
“Qatar is a very steady provider to us and we would be lost without them. They supply significant supplies to us and I think Qatar is strategically placed to increase its presence in European markets. It’s probably all a question of price and what is available, as gas is traded in competitive wholesale markets.”
Even more intriguingly, Woolf  piped up with that nice and bright phrase "diversity" with regards to sourcing gas from alternative powers than Russia. This clearly means Iran's closest Gulf rival in Qatar which, curiously enough, wants a gas pipeline through Syria to Turkey.

Woolf alludes to this in the Gulf Times interview. Qatar has aligned closely with Erdogan in Turkey, a leader of a 'moderate' Islamist party which wants to recreate Turkey as a neo-Ottoman east to west gas and oil energy hub.
“We’ve been trying to create a single market within Europe in energy since the early 1990s. It is helpful because it creates a bigger market and competition drives efficiency and puts a downward pressure on prices. It also helps with security of supply if we can import across an interconnector or through a gas pipeline. The flexibility and competitiveness that the single market would create would I think be good for Europe as a whole.”
While is wrong to claim as does the Douglas Murray that Warsi is some sort of apologist for Hamas as an 'Islamic fascist' force, it is true that she aligns with the Turkish-Qatari position on Gaza against Israel's blockade for reasons as concerned with geopolitics as with 'democracy promotion'.

Warsi is very keen to promote the Qatari line on Egypt, Gaza and Syria and to promote Qatari business interests in Britain. This is despite the fact that Qatar has also been criticised-and not only by Israel-for bankrolling and supporting Sunni jihadists across the Greater Middle East.

Libya and Tony Blair: Lethal Double Standards in the New Great Game.

“Dear Muammar...you have led a genuine transformation in relations between our two countries in recent years, from which both our peoples stand to benefit.”-Prime Minister Tony Blair 2007.

It has been a bad week for Britain's ex-PM Tony Blair, the globe trotting charity fund raiser and apostle of global educational enlightenment. First he got challenged, at the Davos economic conference, on the issue of how the US and British invasion had been a force for instability.

Then damaging new information revealed how Blair sent a message thanking Gaddafi's spies for coming to Britain and arresting and kidnapping two Islamist opponents of his regime. Documents with hundreds of pages detailing the “excellent cooperation” between the two have surfaced.

This came out just after it was reported-and insinuated by leading politicians-that it was Blair who using his influence to try and delay the Chilcot Inquiry report into the decision to invade Iraq on the pretext of his having Weapons of Mass Destruction. So too did Gaddafi have these in 2003.

It was precisely in that same year that Blair suddenly enlisted Gaddafi as friend in the War on Terror. Blair would probably characterise this as one of his diplomatic interventions as opposed to the military version of his repeated insistence that Britain must 'engage' with 'reform' in the  Arab World.

 Norton Taylor writes in the Guardian that Blair's embrace of Gaddafi was,
.....an astonishing turnaround in relations between Britain and the Libyan dictator....The door was opened to huge and lucrative British deals with Libya: Shell signed a large gas exploration contract; and BP signed a £15bn oil drilling contract with Libya which became known as “the deal in the desert”.
It is interesting to compare Blair's approach to Gaddafi with that of Saddam Hussein because it reveals the blatant and flagrant double standards that define his foreign policy. Gaddafi had WMDs but was to be colluded with in 2003 because he was prepared to strike an oil deal with Britain.

So the facts regarding Blair's dealings with Gaddafi reveal the lie that his foreign policy was about promoting democracy and removing brutal dictators. Britain was willing, through MI5 and MI6 to collude with Gaddafi in the 'extraordinary rendition' and torture of opponents to his regime.

By contrast, Saddam Hussein was of no use and stood in the way of both the US and Britain diversifying their oil supplies away from depending too much on a Saudi regime which was giving increasing sign of potential instability. It is forgotten that in the run up to the invasion of Iraq petrol prices were high.

The growth of the surveillance state is accepted by Britain's political elites. It is the price to be paid for this lethal great game for securing access to resources and the probability of their being terrorist blowback as a consequence of these foreign policies, whether collusion with secular dictators or else military intervention.

Blair's deals with Gaddafi and Cameron's and Sarkozy's decisive military intervention in Libya in 2011 are not two wholly different foreign policies. What both had in common was a determination to advance oil interests and what is know referred to by NATO as a prime goal-energy security.

It is this singular underlying agenda that has driven British foreign policy ( even more so than the US since the tapping of vast domestic shale oil reserves ).. It is not merely a question of corporate greed or BP's interests in Libya's sweet crude oil. Energy security is regarded as inextricably bound to national security.

This is shown by the fact that 'intelligence chief Moussa Koussa (who became a close colleague of Sir Mark Allen, the head of counter terrorism at MI6, was later appointed a BP director. There is a whole series of interlocking networks within Britain dedicated to ruthless geopolitical pursuit of energy goals.

This is shown by the fact the Islamist leaders Belhaj and Saadi were abducted and tortured with the alleged collusion of the British security services only then subsequently to be effectively redeployed as jihadist 'assets' in overthrowing Gaddafi when Britain wanted to take control of the Libyan Revolution.

There is a longer continuity in recent history from the 1980s and the dying days of the Cold War in covertly supporting jihadists as a way to undermine secular dictatorships and regimes that stand in the way of geopolitical strategies and in opening up oil reserves to western influence.

During the Cold War dirty tricks could, at least, be partly justified as a morally ambiguous necessity in combatting the rival power strategies of the USSR. Unfortunately, this habit of thinking has been carried over into a cynical and deadly great game with regional powers over energy routes and oil access.

The one consistent factor in creating terrorist blowback is having a foreign policy that shores up dictators only to want them overthrown when they outlive their use and then having to deal with a protracted jihadist threat that has grown up in the absence of any non-violent outlet for political opposition.

Where the West has backed 'democratic forces', the tendency is to effectively align with jihadists and corrupt politicians backed by regional powers that have rival and opposed interests. That is clear in Libya where Qatar has backed Islamists and Saudi Arabia and Egypt are backing former Gaddafi supporters.

Blair's repellent prating about the need for spreading education and enlightenment to the Middle East is simply a distraction from the real and substantive reasons for the jihadist threat and that is the shoddy geopolitical strategies used to secure the abundant oil supplies the West is wholly addicted to.

Blair's lethal double standards stand out far more than his political successors. However, much on the vilification of Blair by those such as Cameron is itself deeply hypocritical given the fact the self styled 'heir to Blair' was himself agitating for 'regime change' In Libya and Syria after 2011.

Whether the invasion of Iraq in 2003 or the near war with Syria decade later in 2013, the underlying agenda is very much on oil, gas and geopolitics. If Saudi Arabia is ranged against its enemies the Middle East and  backs jihadism, it's considered a 'concern' as opposed to a key cause of 'extremism'.

Most foreign policies towards the Maghreb and the Middle East are going to be a complete mess if Saudi Arabia is not reined in and the West reduces its dependence upon Saudi oil. Even when this has occurred , as with the US, the geopolitical strategy involves arming and backing it against Iran.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

The Chilcot Report. Tony Blair and The Political Blame Game over Iraq.

Politicians from all the main three established political parties in Britain have claimed they want the Chilcot Report, which has investigated the decision to go to war in Iraq, to be published before the 2015 General Election. The reason is that they know it will not be and so can play political games.

There is a certain irony in the claim that 'we cannot wait any longer' for the Chilcot Report because, even if it were published before the May election it would stand only to benefit a few political parties committed to non-intervention abroad while only damaging the two with a chance of winning.

This is the reason the report is not going to be published because neither Cameron's Conservatives not Miliband's Labour Party or even Clegg's Liberal Democrats have any advantage in doing so and consequently they need to generate phoney outrage over the delay that benefits them all.

In that sense, the anti-war activists agitating for it to be published before an election were always likely to be thwarted. None of the parties and few of the MPs in Parliament have any particular interest in being diverted during an election on an issue that otherwise would not get much attention.

What most mainstream politicians have no interest having is a spat over whose foreign policy has been worse and who backed Blair, one reason those who are more than only just interested in Blair's decision to go to war in Iraq are afraid the Chilcot Report will not be published during an election.

Those who hate the entire political class think it would make a difference if it were published. In the sense that it would not prevent either the Conservatives or Labour win an election it would not. But it could do both parties some damage when both want unity on foreign policy in the war against ISIS.

The need to shore up public support in the war against ISIS is not going be served by rows over the invasion of Iraq in 2003. In fact, it is possible that Cameron wants to use the findings of the Chilcot report and the content to be published as a bargaining chip to co-opt Blair in criticising Miliband.

Just before New Year, Blair criticised his successor for moving too far away from the centre ground of New Labour, in being too radical in economics and attacking the City. He said he thought it unlikely Miliband would win the election. Miliband has also condemned Blair on Iraq.

Blair has nothing to lose as he cannot be more detested than he is at present. The idea he might have had a role in trying to register complaints about the way the Chilcot report has represented him and so delay the publication is useful in diverting all the blame and hatred on to him as the sole culprit.

As for Blair himself he has every reason to pretend, through his 'spokespeople' that the accusation that he is delaying it is a partisan political snipe because it flatters his insane and deranged mind to believe he is still a domestic 'political player' and a 'real force' for 'change'.

Blair would prefer the report came out later rather than sooner because of his absurd role as  UN Peace Envoy in the Middle East. But he is ready to keep repeating the same tired lines about him believing the war was 'the right thing to do' and he did not intentionally mislead Parliament or people.

As the report is delayed till after the election, the pretence most Westminster politicians push is to insinuate that there 'might' be a 'political' reason why the report is being held back. They are playing politics with the politics of the timing in releasing it while maintaining Chilcot is independent.

Rather than a cover up (as opposed to a whitewash ), it is far more likely that there is a gentleman's agreement that it would not be in the 'national interest' for it to be put out at the wrong time. Few politicians have much to gain from a foreign policy debate in the media glare of election time.

The Conservatives mostly voted for the war back in 2003 and so did New Labour. So the Conservatives fell for Blair's dossier of deceits and did little to pick out the flaws in his case or point to the obvious dangers of invading Iraq. They did not offer effective opposition in 2003.

The obvious riposte to that is that New Labour would be far more damaged by being tainted by association with Blair as their former PM. But that underestimates the extent to which Miliband has been trying to position himself at a distance from 'New' Labour and Blair, not least on foreign policy.

Edward Miliband defeated Cameron on the vote for war with Assad in Syria 2013. Had that happened, ISIS could well have become far more powerful by now, not only in Iraq, but also across much more of Syria. Miliband could claim he stopped 'another Iraq' from happening.

Of course, the decision not to intervene in Syria only ensured the aftermath of the war in Iraq was not even more devastating than it had proved already. The Islamic State is a knock on product of both the Iraq war and the support that western political elites gave to those backing Sunni insurgents in Syria.

While Miliband has disassociated himself with Blair and New Labour on Iraq, the last thing either party would want would be an open point scoring debate on which party is more to blame for the complete chaos in Iraq and Syria in 2015. After all, Cameron has styled himself 'heir to Blair'.

If the Chilcot report were published both parties would look bad: Miliband would be associated with Blair and Cameron would be seen as not having learnt from Blair in so far he nearly took Britain into another disastrous war as recently as 2013 which would have made the job in 2015 more difficult.

As for the Deputy PM and Liberal Democrat leader Clegg, his stance is no less pathetic and self serving. Though the Lib Dems did not back the 2003 Iraq War, Clegg backed the botched and failed military intervention in Libya in 2011 and the near catastrophe of an attack on Syria in 2013.

In fact, Cleggs' position is that Chilcot should be published in good time so as to make plain the mistakes made by Blair the better to restore the credibility of Britain in making the case for 'liberal' military interventionism elsewhere such as in Libya ( which is now in a state of full on civil war ).

So the only possible beneficiary is the one party that gains votes from being outside the establishment and which has an anti-interventionist foreign policy which is different-UKIP. So all the three 'mainstream parties' have their reasons for not wanting Iraq or military intervention in the spotlight.

There is reason to think 'the establishment' has no interest in publishing it at a time when it would get maximum publicity and media attention. The timing of the release of the report is bound to be 'politicised'. In the interests of 'objectivity' it will be delayed until it can be released with less at stake.

This is known as 'public diplomacy'. It is not certain the report would be published in full and the really interesting correspondence between Bush and Blair is being redacted from public view anyway. With Britain at war with ISIS in Iraq at present, the full truth is even less likely to come out

The truth about Iraq War is unlikely to come out for another two decades under the thirty year rule for releasing documents, that is, 2033. By then, many of the main actors and decision makers will be old or dead. Iraq will probably not exist as a nation anymore and it will then be a matter of history.

Complaining in the Guardian, Haifa Zangana wrote that Iraqis deserve to have the truth out on Blair's deceit about invading to disarm Saddam Hussein of non-existent WMD's. The Iraqi Communist party exile raged 'the Chilcot inquiry is becoming like a mirage for people seeking water in a desert'.

Zangana writes 'Iraq is a nation with a long memory'; she should have added it is also one with a short history as a creation of Britain and France that is now disintegrating. The formal entity of Iraq will go on for some time but its already a state fractured between Kurdish, Sunni and Shia regions.

The secular Iraqi nation state Zangari wanted to preserve is finished. Greed for control over the oil and ethnic-sectarian cleansing of Sunnis by Shi'ite militias ( tacitly allowed by the US occupation forces ) resulted in Sunnis retreating to West Baghdad and into aligning with ISIS in the north west.

There is no doubt going to be a lot of covering up and whitewashing from the British political elites. But the Iraq War is widely recognised as a catastrophe and many of the facts and deceptions are mostly known. Analysis the released documents in a few decades will be mainly a job for historians.

Likewise by 2033 many of those who protested against the Iraq War will have died and Britain is likely to be a fully developed surveillance state integrated into an embattled EU buffeted by the wars and attacks from collapsed states and zones of anarchy on its Near Eastern periphery.

Zangari goes on to write 'The British government’s decision to stand shoulder to shoulder with the US in the invasion and occupation of Iraq has been engraved in our collective memory and to certain extent in the Arab-Muslim memory more generally.'

It will, of course, haunt Britain and the West too. Blair himself has progressively looked more haunted as the controversy over the war drags on the scale of the madness and mayhem he unleashed mounts in such as way that the nightmare of Iraq has only intensified without an end in sight.

Blair is only looking to History to be his judge: but his own grasp of history in the Middle East is weak and it will damn him in ways he either cannot or does not want to comprehend outside the framework he has created for himself and others to try and see the invasion as part of a longer war.

For Blair, vanquishing dictatorship in Iraq was about being on the right side of history, of modernity against the 'forces of reaction' whether secular dictatorships or religious based fundamentalism. Blair regards them as interconnected: only the creation of modern states based on neither are the future.

With Iraq that was meant to be a secular democracy and Blair has hardly been alone in believing these could come about through using decisive military force. Cameron believed it in Libya too and the result is similar chaos and civil war. So the new default position is a 'War on Extremists'.

The vague word 'extremist' is useful because it means any force which stands in the way of western geopolitical interests whether secular dictators or religious fundamentalists or anything in between. Some jihadists fighting against Assad were 'moderates' until ISIS turned against the West in 2014.

The other handy use of the new war on Extremism is that is explains why the invasion of Iraq did not work. Saddam was extreme in his dictatorship. So on liberation lots of extremists who did not want moderate forces of modernity and progress to win out turned up to spoil Blair's triumph.

Blair know blames the lack of education in war wracked lands such as Syria and the rise of jihadists not on brutal geopolitical proxy wars but on lack of education. He seems to think education worked in states like UAE and so there is not any reason why it would not work globally, even in Britain.

As with Gordon Brown, another complete political failure and idiot progressive thinking that education is a panacea to global problems such as the instability in Afghanistan and Nigeria, Blair seems to think better education would have prevented the worldwide 'culture of hatred' .

Blair clearly understand nothing about the nature of Islamism and is in complete denial about the connection to geopolitics, Saudi and Qatari funding for Sunni militants Iraq and Syria to contain Iranian backed militias and his own obvious role in having made that contest clash in Iraq.

Iraq's collapse and the rise of ISIS has created a Caliphate and a base for jihadists that is going to make the dangers emanating from Afghanistan in the 1990s look relatively minor by comparison. On the shores of the Eastern Mediterranean, there are jihadists itching to be agents of terrorist blowback.

The Iraqi Sunnis were the main losers whereas they had once prominence under Saddam with his base in Tikrit. It is certainly something ISIS is ready to exploit as the value of life, especially in Sunni regions of Iraq and, after 2011 in Syria, has collapsed and violence became normalised.

While the US has indicated this year in 2015 it is moving towards a position of negotiating with Assad-and involving the regional players backing rival sectarian militias in Syria in diplomacy to end the war-this has come two years too late to have prevented Syria's descent into barbarism.

With the Euphrates and Tigris drying up due to the impact of declining precipitation in the Turkish mountains, global heating is die to exacerbate water shortages and to drive Sunnis into the hands of those forces which can best guarantee survival at the expense of others in the lands held by IS.

There is little reason to believe the West is going to be able to extricate itself from the Middle East, not least as the threat to global oil supplies, caused by the rise of the ISIS threat drawn them into a protracted conflict with a paramilitary jihadi state intent and interest in fighting to the bitter end.

This is the course of contemporary history. The Iraq War was the major opening salvo in what is going to be a series of brutalising and barbarous resource struggles. One thing is very certain; Tony Blair's place in history is assured and his feeble attempts to spin a positive legacy around Iraq are futile.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

A World War of Freedom Against Terror.

Ever since the 9/11 attacks on New York in 2001, the western world has seen a rise in the level of public discussion over the concepts of freedom and liberty in the face of what is often still rather depicted forthrightly as a sinister and psychopathological death cult intent on mass murdering us all.

The reaction by some on the 'anti-imperialist' left in the US and Britain depicted these terror threats rather sniffily as a sort of mere reflex action to the history of 'Western' imperialism in the Middle East where Islam was the majority religion and where Muslims were said to be poor and oppressed.

Unfortunately, such simplistic responses, in trying to rationalise away all evidence to the contrary, ended up stimulating yet another form of stupidity in the shape of those proclaiming themselves 'pro-liberationists' defending liberal democracy at home and abroad in the face of weak liberals.

Part of the reason for that was an understandable sense of horror at the growth of Islamist terror atrocities mingled with a sense that liberals had 'lost their way' in defending 'our values' and so assisted, either unwittingly or by design, the rise of an 'Islamofascist threat' from the 'religious right'.

This was pretty much the standard fare from a number of noted writers and journalists who started to labour under the strange delusion that their polemical spats with equally stupid leftist opponents could then be mapped onto the world stage as a whole as part of some cosmic battle against evil.

Such was the thrust, if it could be called that, of Nick Cohen's What's Left : How Liberals Lost Their Way, a tract which blasted off a sort a scattergun attacks on those 'making excuses' for Islamofascist terrorists and committing such follies and idiocies as opposing 'the liberation of Iraq' in 2003.

With the Paris terror attacks and the murder of 12 Charlie Hebdo journalists being described as an obvious threat to freedom of speech as well as a French '9/11', Cohen has been quick to reposition himself as a stalwart Voice of Reason, though maybe hoping his position on Iraq is forgotten.

Journalists, including hacks like Cohen, tend to want to please their readership and audience by staking out a position that will rally the readership towards them on 'big issues'. In this sense, bad journalistic windbags such as Cohen are not unlike politicians with their 'framing' mechanisms.

Cohen's version of liberal politics and freedom of speech pits it as a sort of liberation theology in direct confrontation with religious tyranny and absolutism everywhere. He makes the same mistake as Christopher Hitchens in conflating the resurgence of religion in politics with totalitarian power claims.

This ideology is itself an outgrowth of a style of secularised religious thinking whereby the power of Western states ought to be invested with a world historical mission in promoting universal values through their right to intervene militarily everywhere on battlefield earth in beating back 'reactionary' forces.

Britain and France thus find themselves beset from within and without by these forces. Just as in the Cold War there were crypto-Communist subversives trying to weaken the west's willpower to stand up to totalitarian states, so too there are those 'objectively' aiding the 'existential enemy'.

Such people include Will Self. Cohen accuses him, rather baselessly, of 'claiming moral equivalence' between terrorists and those defending free speech. Self claimed there are in fact limits to free speech in any society, a factual observation as opposed to a statement on what ought to be the case.

Self was wrong to have asserted in the Channel 4 interview that satire should be aimed at those with power only; he said it should essentially punch up against those with real power rather than down at Muslims who in the West who do not. However, he was on the right lines about what it ought to do.

Self got that wrong less because of 'moral equivalence' but because he does not take the threat of Islamist militancy tin Britain that seriously. Yet that threat is real even if it is manipulated to generate a fear which can be exploited to justify military intervention abroad in Afghanistan or Iraq.

The issue of terrorists murdering journalists is less a free speech one than an issue of practical counter-terrorism prevention as two hate fuelled gunmen were never going to be able to ensure the French media simply did what the murderers apparently were demanding-no satirising of Islam.

Whatever the limits of free speech are and should be are is something different to the reality. This was quite evidently proven in factual terms by the arrest of French 'comedian' Dieudonne for putting a moronic comment on Facebook-"Tonight, as far as I'm concerned, I feel like Charlie Coulibaly."

In a language similar to that used by staunch defenders of free speech against barbaric 'reactionary' and 'radical Islam', Dieudonne is going to stand trial for 'apologising for terrorism'. Clearly, freedom of speech is freedom to agree with the version of freedom defined by those defending freedom.

Dieudonne is a sort of Islamist Bernard Manning. The purpose of his statement, made after attending the Paris unity and free speech rally was to hint that he might well feel like Amedy Coulibaly after being on the march or else maybe that like both the Charlie Hebdo staff and Coulibaly he feels 'dead'.

Either way it is largely unimportant. There is nothing in that statement which suggests Dieudonne is plotting a terrorist attack or signalling to other Islamist malcontents that he thinks they ought to feel like the Jew-hating gunman who brutally murdered shoppers in a kosher market in eastern Paris.

Then again, in the world of those advocating a universal crusade for imposing liberal democracy by force, liberalism is itself a sort of religion. As Cohen made plain last week 'My friend and comrade Maajid Nawaz was a jihadi before he converted to liberalism and understands the totalitarian mind.'

So liberalism is an ideology that minds shall and must be converted towards once they have been made to see the light. Liberalism must be 'muscular' and in conflict with totalitarian religious death cults everywhere. Those who disagree are spineless pathetic 'appeasers': they are 'craven' and stunted.

That Islamism is not a global totalitarian threat on a par with either Nazi Germany nor with Soviet Communism or is not one monolithic ideology uniting foot soldiers of God, waiting to rise up and overthrow liberal democracies across the globe, is seldom remarked upon by these 'free thinkers'.

It was surprising that for all the posturing of a section of the liberal-left on the need to roll back 'clerical fascism' in the Greater Middle East and the need to impose secular democracies, very few seemed to have bothered studying the history of the region and its complexities that much.

Scholars such as Malise Ruthven in a Fury for God emphasised that even if Iraqis hated Saddam Hussein there was a tradition too of being very suspicious of the western powers because of the colonial past. Invading Iraq was risky and threatened to reignite sectarian-ethnic enmities.

Of course, far-right Islamist ideology does attempt to rationalise terrorism as being a mere 'extreme response' to the 'extreme' circumstances Muslims face across the world and which is believed wholly to be the fault of 'the West' and the 'Zionist entity' in destabilising 'the Muslim World'.

However, this inherently paranoid creed does not about to an ideology that is held by those with the ability to do much more than go off cretinous rants. The danger only lies in the a willingness and ability of a fraction of 'radicalised' Islamists to gain access to weapons and terrorist training.

The absurdity of the jihadi-Islamist terror threat is that the ideology is bigged up by those in power who have an interest in doing so the better to have pretexts for the very foreign policies of military intervention that have helped in creating the failing and collapsed states where Al Qaida have thrived.

Replace Communism with Islamism and it is clear the idea being propagated by Tony Blair through to David Cameron is that Al Qaida is one 'seamless global threat' that 'we all' have to be on our guard against as individuals and as part of a 'community' both worldwide and at local level.

Such propaganda, which posits some sort of oblique threat lurking everywhere, is also potentially a threat to freedom of speech because it induces paranoia and the idea of either being for or against freedom in the way defined by the state. The irony of this seems to pass by liberals such as Cohen.

Of course, it is questionable whether so many of those liberals defending freedom by advocating wars abroad to export democratic revolution throughout the 2000s were really ever that liberal. Many were former Trotskyists who had given up on communist revolution but not the idea of enforcing freedom.

So it was inevitable that this sort of credo was bound to tie itself up in perverted contortions and knots of its own making. Cohen writes,
'Dr Klug can play with his thought games for as long as he likes, but as he must know, no one has been murdered for criticising free speech. The supposed “free-speech fundamentalists” are not the killing type. '
The fact nobody has been killed for criticising free speech does not mean people have not been arrested or killed for exercising it: it is in the exercise of free speech that the principle itself as such is tested and not in prating about believing in a principle as opposed to a practice.

This becomes more readily apparent when it is understood that Cohen is on record as giving a certain endorsement to the idea that torturing barbarians in extreme cases might be needed order to save people from being blown to bits in some sensationalised Hollywood style ticking time bomb scenario.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Geopolitics and Terror: Global Power Politics and the Uses of the Jihadi Threat.

'One is the default insistence that western foreign policy is at the root of all this evil. It’s reassuring, offering the comforting hope that what we are up against is not a fanatic death cult but rather the armed wing of the Stop the War Coalition, a movement that will be placated as soon as our governments make the right moves on the geopolitical chessboard. But that assumes the likes of the Paris murderers have the same analysis of international affairs as the anti-imperialist left – and they don’t.

They are not against all western intervention, always. On the contrary, the animating jihadist grievance in the mid-1990s was western non-intervention, in that case to save Bosnia’s Muslims. Similarly, for every jihadist enraged by western bombing of Islamic State (Isis) in Syria there was another furious that there was no western bombing to stop Bashar al-Assad killing his own people. It’s soothing to imagine that the blame, and therefore the solution, lies in our own hands. But it’s hardly convincing'. -Jonathan Freedland 'Fear is the factor that dare not speak its name'

Nothing is more predictable than politicians and journalists trying to present the 'real meaning' of Islamist terror attacks in such a way as to make it useful in bolstering their pre-set power agendas or ideologies. In this sense, 'establishment' politicians are little different from many anti-war activists.

"Western foreign policy" does not "cause" French born citizens of Algerian descent to carry out terrorist attacks because they are somehow venting an anti-war position to an extreme, as though terror was merely an extreme "cry of despair" at the injustice of Muslims dying abroad.

This tiresome line is routinely peddled by anti-war propagandists. Some try to impersonate the sort of clich├ęd sympathisers with terror or supporters of it depicted in crummy action films such as Who Dares Wins. In it the group wants peace through ordering a nuclear bomb to de dropped on Scotland.

This was a parody of the anti-war movement of the 1980s which was believed to be infiltrated by crypto-communist subversives trying to weaken the West's willpower to stand up to totalitarian terror states. That claim is made by those like Nick Cohen against the so-called Stop the War Coalition.

Replace Communism with Islamism and the idea, being propagated by Tony Blair through to David Cameron, is that Al Qaida is one seamless global threat that 'we all' have to be on our guard against as individuals and as part of a 'community' both worldwide and at local level.

Such 'public diplomacy' is handy if the idea is to instil fear and terror at an imminent terror attack the better to co-opt support for foreign military interventions. These are as concerned with geopolitical strategies as with maintaining 'energy security' and preventing attacks on supplies of oil or gas.

Wars and pathological power contests over energy flows and pipeline routes lack the edifying moralistic narrative that is considered necessary to get public opinion behind the state in democracies. A great many fail to grasp why western states need to meddle in far off lands at all.

So the terror threat since September 11 2001 has tended to be presented in 'public diplomacy' as a major reason for wars from Afghanistan to Iraq when it has not been mad dictators such as Saddam or Assad being new Hitler's prepared to use weapons of mass destruction.

These official reasons for wars and interventions are, of course, as preposterous as the radical 'anti-imperialist' line that the terror threat is caused by upsetting radicalised Muslims who think blowing themselves to bits on the London Underground as on 7/7 is the best way to 'stop the wars'.

If foreign policy is to be invoked as being responsible for the terrorist threat, then it needs to be made clear that it did not create nor cause it alone. The reality is that Western foreign policy has facilitated terrorism through botched interventions which made bad situations even worse.

The invasion of Iraq in 2003 created a fractured state, ethnic-sectarian cleansing of Sunnis from Baghdad and wars over control of the resources. The backing for Sunni jihadists by regional allies such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar in their proxy war with Iran in Iraq and Syria has created more chaos.

Al Qaida and ISIS have flourished in failed states. Having spent 13 years trying to put right the one created in Afghanistan in the 1990s after the withdrawal of the Soviet Union and the collapse of that state in Central Asia, the west has helped create one on the shores of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Given these facts about western foreign policy-and the fact that it is Saudi Arabia which has funded and backed so much jihadism-it is clear that the price to be paid for that alliance is having one hand tied behind the back when trying to deal with global jihadist terror threats.

So evidently, the west is not 'the cause' of global jihadism: the west's allies are. The fact of being aligned with them in the region is precisely the reason jihad it projected westwards into the heartlands of those outside powers such as France or the UK backing the enemies of ISIS and Al Qaida.

Britain and France are going to be affected by jihadist blowback because both powers were prepared to turn a blind eye to  Al Qaida and ISIS in Syria throughout 2012-2013. For, as Hague kept sententiously insisting, 'Assad must go'. This was the repeated insistence of the 'Friends of Syria'.

The exact causal link in the Paris terror attacks may never be found with any absolute certainty. It looks highly likely the French security services turned a blind eye to French jihadists going to Syria. It was better to have jihadists diverted into a war against Assad where they be useful or else die there.

One claim about intervention, being damned for not intervening against Assad and damned for intervening against ISIS in 2014, entirely obfuscates the reality. The west was intervening after 2012 through covert operations to assist the Sunni insurgents against Assad in a proxy war against Iran.

Instead of pursuing patient diplomacy with the regional powers, involving Iran, the western powers wanted to knock out Assad's military as recently as 2013. It was only Russian diplomacy which prevented a war that would have dragged the West in further and strengthened ISIS on the ground.

The delusion about terrorism comes less from the so-called anti-war left : they are largely irrelevant. It comes from politicians believing that the use of air power and drones is going to effect the outcome of protracted sectarian-ethnic conflicts and proxy war while incurring hostility from jihadists.

Obviously this does not mean that foreign policy should in any way to defer to the threat of jihadists. However, trying to fight a 'Global War on Extremism' while aligning with the two largest sponsors of Sunni militants in the Middle east and Maghreb is going to be largely futile and self defeating.

As the repeated attacks on the west indicate, trying to promote energy interests abroad while prating about bringing freedom and democracy and, at the same time, being staunch allies with absolutist monarchies such as Saudi Arabia or of undemocratic Qatar, is bound to be resented in the region.

The only strategy to protect the west against recurrent threats of terror is to promote a diplomatic regional settlement to the war in Syria and to refrain from interventionist wars abroad that cannot be fought by western states without drawing in Al Qaida affiliated militias.

In addition to that, alternative to oil and gas are needed: sadly all the indications are that Britain and France are all the more eager for military intervention because of the increasing proportion of their gas imports are made up with Qatari liquefied natural gas ( LNG ).

Unless questions of geopolitics and  energy security are interconnected with the western powers seemingly insane folly of repeating the same foreign policy errors over and over again, the jihadist threat the west confronts is simply not going to be put in its true perspective nor understood.

Given that the establishment has no interest in mentioning these key factors in foreign policy decision making and, given they are seldom connected by critics beyond crude 'it's all about oil' or 'capitalism', the absurd blame game is set to continue without the real nub of the problem being confronted.

Those lacking wisdom and knowledge are going to blame the terror threat wholly on the 'reactionary' and 'backward' religion of Islam. Critics of foreign policy will rationalise their fears in response by claiming it has 'nothing to do with Islam' and point to 'foreign policy' as the only 'explanation'.

The appalling danger of this supposed 'debate' or 'dialogue' within the politics and media within the west is there are those representing the minority Muslim populations and pointing to the effects of foreign policy and those suggesting that gives no right for 'home grown' Islamists to use terror.

The tragedy is that both sides have every reason to believe they are right and for mutual suspicions and mutual misunderstandings to accumulate and build up, not least because politicians keep playing shoddy and ineffectual power games that hint at 'enemies within' while repeating 'Islam is peaceful'.

To proclaim 'Islam is a religion of peace' is detested by many as 'craven' by those pointing to the fact of so much religious based violence in the name of Islam. So that then leads to the opposite oversimplification that Islam is a 'barbaric religion of war' and so there is no common ground.

Evidently, the purpose of Al Qaida or ISIS terrorism is to polarise western societies into intractable opposing sides. When western governments dignify attacks as tantamount to being 'at war', numbers of people are going to be confused as to the difference between Islam as peace and Islamism.

In fact, declaring a war or claiming the West is already at war with 'radical Islam' or 'jihadism' or a 'pervertion of Islam' is unlikely to assuage doubts that politicians are not being mealy mouthed simply in order to 'appease' a threat they are, in reality, afraid of confronting within Western societies

Part of the blame for that really comes down to the cynical use politicians have wanted to make of the terror threat to shore up support for foreign policies in which they think are somehow going to conclusively defeat Al Qaida terrorism by military force and by promoting 'regime change'.

In so doing, leader like Tony Blair are responsible for setting the template for 'public diplomacy' and sowing great confusion and tumult. For certain, there are Western Muslims who sympathise with violent Islamists and that is often a question of 'identity politics' than Islam as a religion per se.

Yet the actual explanation for terrorist attacks lies ultimately with the evil of those committing the atrocities and with their ability and willingness to carry it out. If the security services claim not to be able to prevent all of them because of its global scale, then foreign policy requires examination.

What is quite clear is simplistic arguments blaming 'foreign policy' are easily rebuked by the showing that Islamists operate where there hasn't been any western intervention. It is true that there is an ideology of global jihad that exists independently of military intervention and the Middle East.

There is a violent jihadism which does exist across the world. Al Qaida is a franchise operation and usually emerges in response to localised circumstances and wants confrontation firstly with the government it hates and then with the west. ISIS is trying to rival them in this as a global brand.

Yet the threat the west faces primarily comes from the Maghreb and Middle East:the Near East.  ISIS has mainly regional aims , though Al Qaida is more global in ambition. Sadly, the existence of corrupt governments, fights over resources and global heating are bound to increase its support base.

A dark and bleak period of history is coming and all the signs are of an intractable set of conflicts. The western states need to understand that the reality is that there are circumstances in which they will have to learn that doing nothing, or non-intervention, is the only course worthy of consideration.

Interventionism is driven by post-colonial guilt and greed for access to minerals and oil from Sub-Saharan Africa to the Middle East and Central Asia. New military technologies to protect access to strategic resource interests such as drones need to be tried and tested: this will be resented there.

The rise of the new Global Great Game for resources with China is another factor drawing in the western states to regions with ethnic-sectarian conflicts and jihadist militancy. There is little room for much other than pessimism. The conflicts look intractable already. A new era of barbarity is ahead.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Shock and Blowback: Geopolitics and the Global Jihad.

"If you topple dictators, you release other forces that have to be dealt with"-Tony Blair

After the Paris attacks it was inevitable the Tony Blair creature would begin to emit his usual sinister power jargon about “generational” struggle and a “global alliance to teach tolerance”. This might be the same 'Global Alliance Against Islamic Extremism' former Senator Lieberman has advocated.

Blair made a speech at an meeting of Republicans who are already assembling to condemn Obama for being too cautious and not taking the fight more forthrightly to ISIL and Al Qaida across the globe. War is nothing less than a planetary battle by the forces of good to eradicate evil.

Blair appears to think the US, with him at the forefront, must impose peace, tolerance and good faith on the Middle East by further and deepening military confrontation. This could be a geopolitical version of 'tough love'. He advocates force while wearing the face of peace and 'understanding'.

Blair is lapping up the applause and reliving the days when he gave his speech in Congress in the immediate run up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Back then he duly prated too on the duty to use Allied power to promote democracy and freedom by defeating dictators and so destroying terrorism

It all went downhill thereafter. No WMDs were found in Iraq, discrediting a main pretext. Iraq collapsed into sectarian warfare. The state fragmented. Then, two years later on 7/7 2005, London was targeted by jihadists said to have been so 'radicalised' by the Iraq War that they just had to kill.

Since then sterile arguments in the media have consisted in bland statements proving that Islamist terrorists murder because of western foreign policy. Invariably that is met by the predictable response proving this is a craven form of appeasing and rationalising terrorism so as to allow them to win.

Foreign policy obviously had an effect in spurring on jihadists for the very obvious reason that globalisation and greater movements of people through migration and easy jetting off to lands peripheral to the EU across the Maghreb and through Turkey has never been so easy or cheap.

Moreover, foreign policy decisions by western governments had only ended up creating fractured and failed states and so evidently provided the opportunity for Al Qaida and ISIS to take advantage of the chaos to nestle and base itself just as it had originally in Afghanistan in the 1990s.

One problem was that 'liberal interventionist' doctrines were very much based on an ethos of post-colonial and post-cold war guilt about the presumed consequences of cynical realpolitik strategies that made it all the more imperative for the west to intervene and put right for the mutual benefit.

These arguments provided the 'public intellectual' basis for military intervention in both Afghanistan and Iraq, though politicians tended to use the rhetoric of the 'War on Terror', women's rights and humanitarian concern. Fewer public arguments for were ever made on geopolitical grounds.

The obvious reason for that,whether in Afghanistan or Iraq, was that politicians tend to think the public is not intelligent enough to grasp the argument which combines self interest in gaining access to resources such as oil or constructing pipelines, with building nations and securing them from terror

In 'public diplomacy', the moment a critic of war mentioned the world 'oil' in relation to Iraq the response would be to smear it as a 'conspiracy theory'. Blair did just that for the reason that no war is only ever about only one cynical motive which is 'concealed' by flowery rhetoric.

At one level, of course, there is no doubt Blair meant what he said about WMDs as a reason for removing Saddam based on what he and his team was prepared to believe could conceivably be the case if the evidence was twisted to cherry pick intelligence data to fit the creed of intervention.

The ultimate reason to remove Saddam for Blair was that he was 'evil' and that, according to the geopolitical grand plan, overthrowing him quickly by decisive military force and installing a democracy would end with the west and Iraq mutually benefitting from the oil wealth flowing freely.

Had that happened, then Blair would have been acclaimed a global hero and a successful Iraq would have triggered a democratising domino effect on its neighbours Syria and Iran. This ideological fantasy is still held to by Blair who blames the 'set backs' in Iraq on evil jihadists wrecking it.

It is hardly a surprise that Blair remains fixated on defeating global jihadism by whatever means necessary. He realises it is a slower process to be attained by education and 'intervening' by getting other Middle Eastern states to copy the sort of progress on display in a model state as the UAE.

Given Blair's complete lack of knowledge of the history of the Middle East, it is probable he thought a state similar to the UAE or Bahrain would arise out of the ashes of Saddam's regime, one with oil wealth going into cutting edge architecture and shopping malls complete with Marks and Spencers.

Using the Jihad vs McWorld sort of analysis, it is clear Blair thought Iraq could be fast-tracked into modernity and consumerism. With new construction sites and new oil reserves being tapped both the US and Britain would enhance their energy security and hegemonic global position.

Energy security was a major concern back in 2003 in the days before the shale oil revolution in the US. It is easy to forget in 2015 that the high price of oil in 2000 led to the road hauliers strike and for Blair the nightmare of being seen to be another weak Labour PM facing empty shelves in shops.

Iraq was a war for oil and 'progress' and modernity against what Blair thought of 'forces or reaction'. It unleashed more 'forces or reaction' and so the war is going to be a long struggle as Blair has shifted from the act of trying to pose as a statesman to being a tragically outcast prophetic visionary.

Even so, the argument for ousting Assad, who was still not affected by any democratic domino effect, was not that dissimilar or less deluded than the one made for Saddam: remove the dictator and democracy would develop. The same delusion was clear in removing Gaddafi in 2011.

The idea in Syria or Iraq ( or Libya ) that in the circumstances the choice was between chaos and jihadist terror or a dictatorship and a state that was not collapsed was one western politicians refused to countenance. To do so would be seen as 'hypocritical' :democracy for us but not the Arabs.

The problem was-and remains so today-that the west is bound to be seen as holding to double standards when it intervenes militarily to promote democracy in states beset by challenges that threatened to destroy them while their allies were regional powers such as Saudi Arabia.

The arguments made to get rid of Saddam Hussein's secular Baathist regime in Iraq were essentially rehashed once more in 2013 as an excuse to get rid of Bashar Assad, another secular dictator who was accused (without proof)of having WMDs and using chemical weapons against civilians in 2013.

Almost ten years on, the US and France along with Britain had been prepared to take out Assad using air strikes using the same pretext as before. What is certain is that had this been done, Assad's collapse would have ensured the victory of the Sunni jihadists of ISIS the west is now bombing.

Blair is the object of an almost cosmic loathing within Britain for the deception that surrounded the case for the invasion of Iraq. Unable and unwilling to come to terms with the catastrophic aftermath, Blair lingers on haunting the public media as a recurring spectral presence after each new disaster.

However, most politicians opposed to Blair, for the most part, hardly have any reason to be smug in lambasting Blair for the invasion of Iraq given they had barely learnt anything a decade later when pressing for a war in Syria which would have had a similar impact to Iraq.

As Cameron is meeting Obama today, Blair clearly has 'timed' his visit to coincide with it. He thinks he is ( unofficially ) the rightful Prime Minister of Britain because he is, after all, an unhinged and fanatical lunatic. He's still packing in the crowds and replaying the past while pointing to the future.

In fact, despite Parliamentary opposition to the war over Syria in 2013, the reaction to terror attacks remains much the same as it did back on September 11 2001 when the attack on the Twin Towers spectacularly detonated the world into a new epoch of warfare that is still going on in 2015.

The way in which the global war against 'radical Islam' and jihad rhetoric is ratcheted up every time a major terror atrocity happens to justify 'emergency' measures and the growth of the surveillance state has often been regarded as a form of what Naomi Klein terms the 'shock doctrine'

It is interesting in this respect that one of the main proponents of the 'shock therapy' in the former Soviet bloc in the 1990s, economist Jeffrey D Sachs, argued on January 15 2015, in contrast to Blair, that the Paris attacks are indeed an outgrowth of the war in the Middle East and in the Maghreb.

'....in most cases, terrorism is not rooted in insanity. It is more often an act of war, albeit war by the weak rather than by organized states and their armies. Islamist terrorism is a reflection, indeed an extension, of today’s wars in the Middle East. And with the meddling of outside powers, those wars are becoming a single regional war – one that is continually morphing, expanding, and becoming increasingly violent. '
 
The Paris attacks were in the minds of the perpetrators an act of war: it is not the task of statesmen to dignify them with the status of foot soldiers of God but they politicians had their own treasons for doing so, not least to justify continuing what Hollande called the war against Al Qaida and ISIS.
 
Sachs has the perspective of a developmental economist, of course as opposed to being an expert on terrorism. Even so, the 'War on Terror' seems to have been dropped around 2008-9 as the official title in favour on the new rebranded version-the 'War against Extremism'. It amounts to the same.
 
As Sachs points out
 
'From the jihadist perspective – the one that American or French Muslims, for example, may pick up in training camps in Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen – daily life is ultra-violent. Death is pervasive, coming as often as not from the bombs, drones, and troops of the United States, France, and other Western powers. And the victims are often the innocent “collateral damage” of Western strikes that hit homes, weddings, funerals, and community meetings.'
 
The fact most Muslim deaths are caused by jihadists and sectarian militias is irrelevant. The war in Syria and Iraq is a factual consequence of the west's allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar bankrolling and backing rival groups of Sunni militant jihadists as a way to check Iranian backed Shi'ite militias.
 
On Iraq, Sachs comments,
 
We in the West hate to acknowledge – and most refuse to believe – that our leaders have been flagrantly wasteful of Muslim lives for a century now, in countless wars and military encounters instigated by overwhelming Western power. What is the message to Muslims of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003? More than 100,000 Iraqi civilians – a very conservative estimate – died in a war that was based on utterly false pretenses. The US has never apologized, much less even recognized the civilian slaughter.

Then he goes on,

'Or consider Syria, where an estimated 200,000 Syrians have recently died, 3.7 million have fled the country, and 7.6 million have been internally displaced in a civil war that was stoked in no small part by the US, Saudi Arabia, and other allied powers. Since 2011, the CIA and US allies have poured in weapons, finance, and training in an attempt to topple President Bashar al-Assad. For the US and its allies, the war is little more than a proxy battle to weaken Assad’s patrons, Iran and Russia. Yet Syrian civilians are the cannon fodder.'

The sectarian/ ethnic dimension to these wars is fuelled by the regional powers. The Libyan and Syrian civil wars are connected to geopolitical struggles for hegemony in the Middle east between the Sunni Muslim powers ( as it clear in Libya ) and between them and Iran in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

The 'west', by which is meant the US, France and Britain ( and, in Libya, NATO ) have aligned with precisely those Sunni Islamic powers such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar which are proven backers and funders of jihadists in the region.

The western powers are beholden to these regimes, in fact, France and Britain far more so in the case of Qatar because of its huge gas reserves in the Persian Gulf which it shares with Iran: both powers want to pipe gas west through Syria which lies between them and the Eastern Mediterranean.

True, the sectarian divide within Islam dates back to the eighth century and both Saudi Arabia and Iran are competing for the allegiance of the regions Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims respectively. The west did not 'cause' this schism and radical Islamism has proved to be a defective guide to ruling a state

That was clear in Egypt. However, the reality is power politics because for Saudi Arabia the funding of Sunni jihadists is a way to divert discontent outwards and advance geopolitical strategies against rival Qatar which wanted to undermine the old regimes pre-2011.

The sectarian divisions and Islamist ideology merely 'ups the ante' in what are really geopolitical struggles for energy supply routes to world markets. France and Britain backed Qatar because they wanted 'Assad to go'. Assad is backed by Russia which has a naval base at Tarsous.

Both Britain and France import an increasing proportion of their total imported gas as liquefied natural gas ( LNG ) via tanker ship from Qatar. They have lucrative bilateral business partnerships with Doha ( including the sale of state-of-the-art military hardware tried and tested in the region ).

In fact, it is more accurate to say there is an unfortunate  tendency within the west for certain commentators to regard the Middle East as descending into barbarity because of a 'reactionary' and 'backward' religion because it diverts attention away from examining the geopolitical factors.

The record of western intervention and power politics in the region is not so impressive, It spanned the time from the decline of the Ottoman Empire in the nineteenth century through the relatively short period of western imperialism in most of it between the 1880s and the end of World War Two.

Sachs gives a good enough outline of it and how it would be seen to those living in the region with a sense of history sharpened by the continued crisis the region endures. Moreover, unlike Bernard Lewis with The Crisis of Islam, Sachs at least includes mention of the oil factor.

'The Western powers have sought to control the Middle East for a variety of reasons, including claims on oil, access to international sea routes, Israel’s security, and geopolitical competition with Russia in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. The US now has more than 20 military bases in six countries in the region (Afghanistan, Bahrain, Djibouti, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Turkey) and large-scale military deployments in many others, including Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. It has funded violence for decades, arming and training the mujahedeen (in effect building the precursor of Al Qaeda) in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets; stoking the Iraq-Iran War in the 1980s; invading Iraq in 2003; trying to topple Assad since 2011; and waging relentless drone attacks in recent years.
 
Sachs made plain that objective understanding is in no way the same as the tendency among some in the west to rationalise terrorism as a mere reflex or some sort of extreme 'cry of despair' or 'protest against the west that means 'it had the blowback coming'. Terror is extension of the war westwards.
 
'The fact that jihadist terrorist attacks in the West are relatively new, occurring only in the last generation or so, indicates that they are a blowback – or at least an extension – of the Middle East wars. With very few exceptions, the countries that have been attacked are those that have been engaged in the post-1990 Western-led military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria.'
 
The terrorists themselves cast their actions in political terms, even though we rarely listen; indeed, the terrorists’ words are typically reported only briefly, if at all. But the fact is that almost every terrorist attack in the West or against Western embassies and personnel has been accompanied by the message that it is in retaliation for Western meddling in the Middle East. The Paris terrorists pointed to France’s operations in Syria.
 
The argument of those such as Blair is that 'we' are 'at war' whether it is liked or not become; even if the west were to say it was not at war with the terrorists they would still be at war with 'us' anyway. If anything is a rationalisation of terrorism it is that given most jihadists are funded by western allies.
 
Observers of Middle East and the relations with the Western Powers could argue that in profiting from the sales of weapons systems to regimes that back terror or, in the case of Saudi Arabia, behead its subjects for sorcery and witchcraft, is not in the promoting democracy or civilisation.
 
The reality is that this 'war' is nothing much to do with civilisation but to do with oil, geopolitics and energy supply routes. Sachs is a prominent economist and a well known figure for his work with Bono on relieving poverty in developing lands. He can see how the war reflects economic factors
 
Sachs realises the conflict potential which is inherent in an age of rapidly developing global economic growth and worldwide industrialisation and the way the demand for oil is increasing the quest of contending outside powers for access to security of supplies and making the west vulnerable.
 
'Western actions do not provide Islamist terrorism with a scintilla of justification. The reason to point out these actions is to make clear what Islamist terrorism in the West represents to the terrorists: Middle East violence on an expanded front. The West has done much to create that front, arming favored actors, launching proxy wars, and taking the lives of civilians in unconscionable numbers. Ending the terror of radical Islam will require ending the West’s wars for control in the Middle East.'
 
However, Sachs is too much of a liberal optimism to confront the fact that oil dependency is by no means going to end any time soon, even though the US has bought itself time and some freedom of manoeuvre through shale oil discoveries and the stream coming forth in the years since the Iraq War.
 
'Fortunately, the Age of Oil is gradually coming to an end. We should make that end come faster: climate safety will require that we leave most fossil-fuel resources in the ground. Nor do the other ancient motives for Western interference apply any longer. The UK no longer needs to protect its trade routes to colonial India, and the US no longer needs a ring of military bases to contain the Soviet Union.'
 
Sachs has not realised the Age of Oil is nowhere near at an end yet. The US bases dotted around the Eurasian Heartland are not primarily based there  to contain a post-Soviet Russia. They are required to ensure global hegemony through controlling energy flows between Central Asia and Europe.
 
Bases are needed too to contain China as it attempts its 'March West' strategy through railroads and pipelines to connect it with the Central Asian states and with lands reaching down through to the Indian Ocean. The US is intent on checking Chinese inroads in the Greater Middle East: hence the continued military presence in Afghanistan
 
Apart from Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean, that means a continued policy of trying to isolate and block off Iranian energy ambitions in the region in tandem with partnerships forged with China. Retaining the naval capacity to block off energy routes to China is considered a coercive tool.
 
The US has been concerned with China's rise to become an economic superpower within just two decades, a position achieved partly by the fact the Bush administration spent trillions of dollars on wasteful and damaging wars in the Middle East while China advanced its trading power globally.
 
Sachs does not seem to realise that the ring of military bases the US had to contain the Soviet Union are going to be redeployed eastwards in strategic locations the better to be able to cut off China's oil supply from the Middle East or Africa as China increasingly rivals the US militarily.

Control of strategic resources is not, therefore, only a question only of a foreign policy to continuing to keep feeding the fuel hungry consumer economies of the West and East Asia; it is a crucial component in global power politics and economic warfare between contending Great Powers.
 
So the retention of influence in Saudi Arabia is considered vital for the US even as it reduces its oil dependence upon the kingdom and China's increases. China wants arms deals with the KSA and was ready to step in to supply arms to Egypt after the 2013 coup if the US had kept its sanctions in place.

It was hardly surprising that the terrorist blowback in Paris was connected with Syria. It is set to become rather like Afghanistan was in the 1990s when Al Qaida established itself there in the chaos following the western backed mujahedeen against the Soviet invasion and occupation.
 
Given that it was from out of Afghanistan that Al Qaida originally disseminated its global jihad with the deadly consequences on September 11 2001, it is an ominous thought that Syria is set to be as war torn and chaotic as that far off land was with the difference it is on the shores o the Mediterranean.
 
The western elites from Blair to Cameron and Hollande would argue that it is precisely that danger which compels them to join in the bombing of ISIS in Iraq as Washington sends in planes to Syria to try and destroy 'ISIL' Yet as with Afghanistan, military measures alone are ultimately futile.
 
Only diplomacy involving all the concerned regional players could possibly bring about a lasting and durable settlement. Yet this is what is rejected by the west, though that could change if Iran were successfully persuaded to abandon its purported nuclear weapons programme.