Friday, 22 August 2014

Why Britain Wants to Arm Sunni Militants in Syria and Arms the Opposition to IS in Iraq.

"We may very well find that we are aligned against a common enemy. But that does not make us able to trust them, it does not make us able to work with them and it would poison what we are trying to achieve in separating moderate Sunni opinion from the poisonous ideology of Isil [Islamic State] if we were to align ourselves with President Assad."-Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond
The reason Hammond ruled out negotiations with Assad and stated plans to arm 'moderate' Sunni 'rebels' is that British foreign policy is dominated by energy concerns. In particular, Britain derives an important proportion of its domestic gas from Qatar which backs the Muslim Brotherhood.

Qatar has become a major supplier of liquefied natural gas to make good energy shortfalls as North Sea gas declines. Britain would have an interest in the proposed Qatar Turkey pipeline mooted in 2009 and dependent upon the Alawite Shia ruler Assad and his dynasty being removed.

One reason is that it would contain Iranian ambitions for a gas pipeline from the same South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf that it shares with Qatar and that would extend through Iraq and Syria towards the Eastern Mediterranean. Blocking Iranian gas exports westward is apiece with the sanctions policy.

Defending Qatar's regional interests against its competitor Iran is both big business and energy geopolitics. In April 2014 Hammond was, as Defence Secretary, asserting the benefits of having a permanent military base in Qatar and explicitly mentioned energy interests as the reason,
“The West is crucially dependent on a stable energy market above all else. Our economic recovery is fragile. Anything that calls for a spike in the oil price would derail it. The mostly likely scenario to cause that up spike is a surge in tension in this region, particularly in the Strait of Hormuz.
It is very much in our interest to have a stable situation in the Gulf. That is why Western countries are prepared to invest so much in this region and supporting the Gulf states to maintain that stability,”
The reason for retaining the failed and yet desperate and risky policy of backing the Free Syria Army in Syria, while supporting the Kurds in Iraq and courting Iran to defend Baghdad, is largely about Britain's dependence on Qatari gas, especially with the conflict in Ukraine potentially affecting supplies from Russia.

The other interest is in lucrative arms deals for Britain worth QR230mn and the colossal amount of investment Qatar's sovereign wealth fund puts into London to prop up the ailing and fragile rentier economy of the United Kingdom. These are all basic geostrategic facts about Britain's foreign policy.

Israel-Gaza and the Potential for Protracted War in 2014.

'The Palestine issue is separate from the problems in Iraq and Syria, which are making the headlines today, but it continues to spread its poison.Israel wants demilitarisation of Gaza; Hamas wants the blockade ended. Neither objective is realistic'. Oliver Miles
The Israel Gaza War of 2014 is part of an older continuity of conflict dating back to 1948. What has made in potentially intractable is the wrangle over the fate of the Gaza Marine offshore gas reserves and the threat Hamas could pose to Israel's national energy security.

Hamas today claims to have fired two rockets at Israel's gas rigs in the Noa field, one reason Israel is adamant the naval blockade would not be lifted until the Gaza Strip is demilitarised. Israel fears that not only rockets but boats could be used to try to attack its offshore gas infrastructure.

Israel and Egypt face an energy crisis and the defeat of Hamas is considered apiece with the coup in Egypt in 2013 and crushing of the Muslim Brotherhood so as to preserve the joint security nexus upon which 'stability' and economic growth could continue. Egypt is, at present, enduring regular power cuts.

Israeli gas from the Tamar gas field is due to be exported to Egypt but, as Simon Henderson points out, fears remain that Hamas operatives or rocket attacks could pose a threat. The US corporation Noble Energy signed a $60bn contract to pump gas to Egypt a few hours ago.

Egypt needs Israeli gas to avert continued power cuts, having used up much of its domestic gas through sales to Israel for under the market price, one reason for both the fuel crisis and the revolt against Mubarak in 2011. This is why Egyptian peace terms have offered Hamas little.

Hamas claimed in the ceasefire talks that giving up the armed jihad was 'inconceivable' but for Israel the time to get what Netanyahu terms 'sustainable peace' has never been better. Iran no longer supports Hamas due to tensions over the Syrian conflict and the fact Hizbollah is fighting the Muslim Brotherhood

So one reason Israel could pursue a military solution to Hamas is that Hamas only has Qatar as its sole ally when Qatar is also a Western ally and the Western Powers are embroiled in trying to stop the spread of IS. The Free Syria Army and Muslim Brotherhood are no longer much of a force in Syria.

From 2007, Israel had to take Hamas into account as regards Gaza gas. With Fatah and Hamas at war with each other because Hamas was resentful that 'their' gas was going to benefit Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, Israel could hope to detach the two areas of Palestine to impose its way.

One reason was that there was a view that Gazan gas could not be used to enrich Hamas because of its potential to fund terrorist activity against Israel. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon made the dilemma plain in a memorandum written in 2007,
"It is clear that without an overall military operation to uproot Hamas control of Gaza, no drilling work can take place without the consent of the radical Islamic movement.”
On top of that the struggle to control the gas reserves of the Eastern Mediterranean and energy routes explain why the international powers,-the US, Russia and the EU-and regional powers have not been able to come together and mediate effectively so as to provide a way out of crisis as it reaches an impasse.

The EU aligns with Israel because it would seek to benefit from Eastern Mediterranean gas in order to diversify supplies away from depending on Russia. With Libya in turmoil and Qatari supplies of LNG potentially menaced by Iranian control of the Straights of Hormuz, Israeli gas would be a boon.

With Russia vying for a stake in exploiting the Gaza Marine gas, the EU and US would prefer Israel to be in charge of exploiting the gas, so that it could help the EU reduce dependence upon Russia through importing gas via Cyprus, the PA has been trying to strike deals with Gazprom.

A European Parliament report in April made this clear,
“Global actors are ready to exploit the Eastern Mediterranean [gas field’s] strategic implications..Russia aims to safeguard its gas monopoly, the United States to support its business interest, and Europe to increase its energy security and reduced dependence on Russia in light of the Crimea crisis.”
The report states, that the EU should “back the strategic triangle of Israel, Cyprus and Turkey as a first step towards the construction of an Eastern Mediterranean energy corridor.” The reason for the lack of EU pressure on Israel or attempts to mediate is due to energy concerns.

A protracted war could be on its way.

Why Western Strategy in Syria and Iraq Appears Contradictory: Energy Interests and Realpolitik.

This is what passes for "informed" commentary in a British newspaper in 2014,
'Oh the fickleness of humanity and history! This time last year, the British parliament was recalled by the prime minister, who appeared confident that he would receive a mandate to join the US in air strikes on Syria – the immediate and urgent reason being the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad’s, use of sarin gas to crush the growing uprising against him. Of course, “we” had few illusions about either the unity or the ethics of those rebels, but the argument was that there were enough people we could do business with and the Assad regime was the greater evil.

Fast forward a year, and authoritative word has winged its way across the Atlantic from the Pentagon – in the shape of a joint press conference by the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the defence secretary, no less – that the only way to halt the advance of Islamic State (Isis) in northern Iraq is to bomb ... Syria. But this time not the forces – official and unofficial – of Assad, but the Syria of his enemies. Because, hey, we have revised our view of the lesser evil.'
There is no need for Mary Dejevsky to reveal to the public that Western strategy seems twisting, contradictory and even schizophrenic. Most observers can see that for themselves if they pay attention. What is needed is proper explanation as to why it is so or else too many words are wasted.

The reason the Western Powers wanted Assad to be removed in 2013 was due to energy geopolitics. Assad was in the way of the designs put forth by Turkey and Qatar for a gas pipeline that would provide energy to EU markets and turn Turkey into an East-West energy hub.

The removal of Assad would, moreover, check Iranian ambitions for a 'Shi'ite Islamic' gas pipeline from the very same South Pars gas field it shares with Qatar, with Syria having signed up for it in 2010 and Iraq by 2013. Removing Assad was apiece with the strategy for containing Iran.

The idea of that the West's backing the Sunni militants was based on a moral calculus of it being the lesser evil than Assad is simply ignorant and naive. The decision by French President Sarkozy to create the Friends of Syria in 2012 to back the Free Syria Army was pure realpolitik from the outset.

It was only when that strategy backfired because Qatar and Saudi Arabia started funding the most effective ( i.e ruthless ) jihadists so as to control any post-Assad government that ISIS started to gain ground in Northern Syria and that the West started to grasp that 'blowback' was a consequence.

ISIS was not considered a danger to vital interests until it came within striking distance of Erbil and the copious oil reserves in the Kurdish region and captured the Mosul Dam. As soon as ISIS could threaten oil interests and the global oil price, it became essential to stop it militarily.

Until the geopolitics of energy is examined as a routine fact of international relations in the mainstream newspapers we are going to get obfuscation and an inability to understand how the world actually works. Western policy is contradictory because based on oil and gas imperatives.

Oil and gas are not the only factors ,of course. But omitting them entirely in any sensible discussion about Western strategy is rather like trying to explain where babies come from without mentioning the word 'sex'. Face facts : most contemporary conflicts are resource wars.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

The Gaza-Israel War, Energy Interests and the Potential Defeat of Hamas.

On August 20 2014 the war between Hamas in Gaza and Israel resumed after the ceasefire broke down. Three Hamas leaders were killed and the wife and child of Hamas' leader, Mohammed Deif. Rockets were being fired once more from out of the Gaza Strip.

The ceasefire talks broke down as an effective state of war exists. Hamas would not agree to demilitarise and Israel would not lift the blockade unless they did or unless the ending of the armed struggle could be arranged. Hamas negotiators made plain realising this Israeli demand was 'inconceivable'

With the war in Northern Iraq against the Islamic State going on since the ceasefire was tabled, the main global powers attention was focused elsewhere. Should hostilities develop into the same level of war seen previous to the ceasefire, powers such as Britain would need to make good promises to halt certain arms exports.

The reluctance of the British government to criticise Israel for its 'disproportionate' military response are said to be to do with different factors: the power of the Israeli lobby, the profits to be made from the sort of deals which created £185m worth of military exports to Israel in the period 2008-12 and the US backing for Israel.

However, government divisions, with the Liberal Democrats criticising Israel and Warsi resigning because of its “indefensible” policy on Gaza, are based not only on conscience or the need to be seen to be doing the right thing. There are divisions over Britain's foreign policy as it related to energy interests.

The fate of Gaza Marine gas is central to understanding why a conflict dating back 60 years has become more intractable and why the international powers,-the US, Russia and the EU-and regional powers have not been able to come together and mediate effectively.

On the whole, the EU and European states have aligned with Israel because it would seek to benefit from Eastern Mediterranean gas. Just as the reaction to General Sisi's coup in 2013 in Egypt was criticised as part of the "turbulence" by Foreign Secretary William Hague, so too Israel could feel it could deal a deadly blow to Hamas.

What links events in Egypt with Israel is the fact the BG Group, an offshoot of British gas, has the licence to drill for gas in both offshore fields off Egypt and Gaza. Britain has clear commercial interests in the eastern Mediterranean as well as an interest in preserving 'stability', one reason why peace envoy Blair supported Sisi.

With Russia vying for a stake in exploiting the Gaza Marine gas, the EU and US would prefer Israel to be in charge of exploiting the gas, so that it could help the EU reduce dependence upon Russia through importing gas via Cyprus. The PA has been trying to strike deals with Gazprom as part of its diplomacy to get a better deal with Israel.

The US would oppose than but especially the EU. A European Parliament report in April made this clear,
“Global actors are ready to exploit the Eastern Mediterranean [gas field’s] strategic implications....Russia aims to safeguard its gas monopoly, the United States to support its business interest, and Europe to increase its energy security and reduced dependence on Russia in light of the Crimea crisis.”
The report states, that the EU should “back the strategic triangle of Israel, Cyprus and Turkey as a first step towards the construction of an Eastern Mediterranean energy corridor.”. The reason for the empty rhetoric about Israel is not primarily about arms trade profits but about the EU's energy situation.

The only ally Hamas has is Qatar but Qatar is also an ally of the West as it supplies large amounts of liquefied natural gas to Europe. Michael Stevens, a security analyst, asserts, “Qatar is basically Hamas’s last ally. Given that Turkey is struggling and failing to insert itself into the process, Doha really is the only game in town.”

Qatar's regional strategy of supporting Sunni militants in Gaza and Syria is in disarray, however. IS's rise has effectively displaced the Free Syria Army as the main force in northern Syria and the Alawite Shia leader Assad is far stronger than in 2013, with the West also interested in engaging with its backer Iran to defeat IS.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has realised Hamas's weakness as a consequence of Iran no longer supporting it with the conflict in Syria after 2011 opening up sectarian divisions between Shi'te Hizbollah in Southern Lebanon and Hamas as a Sunni militant offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. 

With Egypt firmly back onside with Israel after the ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood backed President Morsi and the recent banning of the Muslim Brotherhood, Israel is in a position to dictate terms and insist that the demilitarisation of Gaza would happen with or without the 'international community' .

Israel and Hamas are locked into a 'war of attrition' in which Hamas could not win and only the Palestinians lose because there is no way in which the Palestinian Authority could benefit from the gas without Israel's approval and that would not be granted as Hamas is an officially designated 'terrorist organisation'.

So long as Hamas remains some form of geopolitical asset for Qatar as a means to prevent Israel developing its full regional energy potential in the Eastern Mediterranean, Qatar has interests in being a supporter of Gaza through investment and infrastructure projects. But this value is rapidly diminishing.

The attempts by Hamas to fire rockets into Israel are achieving nothing but Israeli air strikes in return. One threat that remains is not to the Israeli population, largely protected by Israeli early warning systems and the Iron Dome defence, but is one directed towards Israeli gas rigs in the largely depleted Noa gas field

On August 21th the Haaretz newspaper reported a rocket attack, the 'first of its kind' on gas rigs in the largely depleted Noa gas field 30 km northwest of the Gaza Strip in Yam Tethys. Security in the Gaza Marine fields closer to the Gazan coast might not be so easy to maintain should those reserves be tapped. 

As a consequence where there is a chance Hamas could be eliminated as a military force, Israel would be willing to take the opportunity to do so.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Resource War in Northern Iraq: Oil and the Anglo-American Military Intervention.

".. alongside the humanitarian crisis there is also a political and extremism crisis in Iraq that has a direct effect on us back here in the UK. We do have a fully worked through strategy for helping with allies to deal with this monstrous organisation – the Islamic State."-British Prime Minister David Cameron
The problem with Cameron's lame public diplomacy is that anyone who knows anything about the conflict in northern Iraq and Syria regards with complete contempt the cant about a 'monstrous organisation' and the impact it could have on our streets, a stock justification used for 'staying the course' in the Afghanistan.

It is about time British political leaders stopped treating the British public as some sort of infantile herd that can be fobbed off with condescending precision tooled up soundbites of the sort about  'military prowess', 'the terrorist organisation' and the possibility of 'mayhem in our streets'.

With the spread of the Internet and the 'information revolution', those even remotely interested in what is going on in northern Iraq could quickly discover that the reasons for intervention are not only concerned with saving the Yazidis from being killed by IS or about some more imminent terror threat being now a red alert.

The war in northern Iraq is not a simplistic conflict between forces of good versus evil, though IS is certainly evil and malign. It's a complicated many sided struggle over access to water as well as an ethnic/sectarian war between Kurds and Sunni Arabs over the oil wealth of Kirkuk amongst other things.

Unless the intention of the British involvement is to kill as many IS foot soldiers as possible and take out British born jihadists, then Cameron should refrain from trying to justify the war according to the idea it is primarily about protecting Britain from jihadists. It may actually increase that risk.

Cameron is, no doubt, aware that the cost of military intervention could be to lead to a spike in the threat of terrorism in Britain so he would need to manage risk and expectations by emphasising the ongoing nature of the threat the better to be able justify more intervention in future if attacked.

Britain would be better off tightening up borders and working with Turkey to prevent European jihadists crossing. Security measures are somewhat different to military campaigns to roll back what is, in reality, a potential threat to Iraq's stability and so global oil supplies and prices.

The crisis in Iraq has curtailed the supply of crude oil from OPEC's second largest producer and saw prices surge over $114 a barrel for the first time in nine months back in June 2014. Despite being less dependent on Middle East oil than in 2003, increased oil prices could affact the East Asian economies.

Energy analyst Anthony Cordesman argues "The United States, strategically, is a major trading power. It is particularly dependent on the import of manufactured goods from three countries which are extremely dependent on energy imports. Those happen to be China, South Korea, and Japan."

So while Sunni militants had been encroaching into Iraq months before the US and Britain decided to act, partly because of the Yazidis situation, but more due to the threat to Iraq as the world's 7th largest oil producer and the threat to Erbil and Kurdistan's oil boom regional state.

The Kurdish militias took Kirkuk in June 2014 and the threat to it from IS would set back British Petroleum's plans to reverse declining output at the oilfield discovered in 1927. Providing aid to the KRG could help remove opposition to BP's plans in Kirkuk, aswell as shoring yp the Iraqi government in Baghdad

Britain is among the many global players vying for oil contracts and the right to drill in Kurdish oil fields. The danger of that strategy is it could push Kurdistan further towards independence in a way that could anger Iran whose cooperation even Cameron has belatedly come to regard as essential to defeating IS.

Obama only gave the go-ahead for air strikes as soon as Erbil seemed in striking distance of the oil fields being drilled by Chevron and ExxonMobil. It is the involvement of such global oil majors that has put a strain on the relationship between Baghdad and Kurdistan that has helped destabilise Iraq.

Iraq is the cockpit of proxy struggles and resource wars and this vital fact in relation to both it and neighbouring Syria is routinely screened out from mainstream media accounts of the war when energy geopolitics should be getting a lot coverage and integrated into factual accounts of the conflict.

Monday, 18 August 2014

The Islamic State: Climate Change, Terror and the Making of a Caliphate.

The Caliphate ( Islamic State ), established and centred on Raqqa in Syria, does clearly have its origins on uneducated mosque imams contantly extolling the Caliphate as a symbol of a lost spritual and political realm towards which Sunni Muslims should aspire and realise through jihad.

Syrian writer Hassan Hassan cites the Syrian cleric Mohammed Habash claiming "Isis did not arrive from Mars; it is a natural product of our retrograde discourse." and while that is true, the sad reality is that it has caught on because of a civilisational crisis in this part of the Middle East that has induced it.

One thing that comes across from Vice News's report 'Spread of the Caliphate' is that the foot soldiers of IS are both brutal and banal, largely semi-educated men all the more dangerous for the indoctrinated certitude with which they assert their credo that they are on a roll and shall follow God until victory is assured.

The ISIS jihadists are in for the long game, indoctrinating and grooming the children to become future warriors as the only way for the Caliphate to survive and strive forth towards its destiny of creating some sort of pure community that is uncontaminated by enemy influences from without and within.

If they were not so deadly, their corny attempts at piety would be entirely laughable as opposed to merely contemptible. Hence the point of their headless corpses strewn across pavements and sticking heads on spikes is meant to give the impression that they are, in fact, very serious.

The aim is to spread the Caliphate out, kill or convert the Infidel ( or with Christians make them pay a tax ) and to be part of God's project as it unfolds and is realised. Women are to be nowhere seen on the streets of Raqqa. Jihadists previously living in Europe claimed they left the girls behind for the cause.

Women need to be properly concealed in order to thereby maintain the fundamental purity of the Caliphate from within, the better to make it more ferocious and formidable without against Indidels and Hypocrites ( secular Arabs). It says so, they claim, in the Qu'ran.

This myth of the return of the Caliphate is one held on to by the simple minded but it could only spread in the conditions of lawless chaos of the sort that existed in Afghanistan in the 1990s. ISIS is similar to both the Taliban and Al Qaida but this time rolled into one-and with control over lots of oil resources.

IS is selling crude oil on the international black market, something even reported to be reducing oil prices. It is making $1 million a day from the sale and the rush of adrenalin from that and the prospect of using revenues to expand their Caliphate is causing millennial style fervour.

The support among Sunni Arabs for this is based on a revolt of those living in lands where crop failure, desertification, drought and having been pushed out of ant prospect of adequate poliitical representation in either Syria or Iraq has led to the Caliphate as a "solution" to all earthly evils.

The Sunni Arab zone in northern Syria and Iraq is trapped between other regions with far more resources both as regards the vast majority of the oil wealth ( which lie in the Kurdish regions to the east ) and those absolutely vital to life such as water. Iraq is a resource war over oil and water.

The River Euphrates drying up as a consequence of climate change, decreasing precipitation and increasingly hot summers. Turkey was alleged to have reduced supplies along the Euphrates upstream. That makes the necessity to spread the war as far as possible even more 'vital'.

So many Sunni Arabs in Iraq have come to believe nothing to lose by aligning with a pyschopathological group that asserts their interests as against the Kurds, Turks, and Shi'ites. IS attempted to take the Mosul dam so as to have control over electricity and water: this is a resource war.

The cause of jihad is precisely what they have to sustain them both materially and in hope of regaining the dominance Sunni Muslims once had in the region more generally and in Iraq, in particular, under Saddam Hussein who used to use control over the water supply as a tool of control over the Shi'ite south.

Evidently, IS pursues policies that are evil and mad but there is, beyond evident sadistic cruelty and pleasure in murdering Infidels and Hypocrites, a method and motive to the madness and mayhem and the clear intention to instil terror and utter fear. They need to be taken seriously.

If Iraq and Syria were to break up, it is difficult to see how there could be a secure and viable state for Sunni Arabs as that would depend on the wars in both states having any prospect of ending. And so IS is taking the destiny of Sunni Muslims into its own hands, destroying the Sykes-Picot borders of 1916.

ISIS is an outgrowth of failed attempts to back Sunni forces by the Saudis as a check on Iranian influence in Syria, the idea of Sunni persecution and yet historical superiority, myths of the Caliphate and the collapse of Syrian and Iraqi Sunni regions especially through climate change and war.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Blood, Oil and Barbarism in Syria and Iraq.

'Isis can only be defeated by Sunnis. To gain their support, the new Iraqi government needs to be inclusive, address the legitimate Sunni grievances and allow the recruitment of local Sunni forces as part of the Iraqi security forces.' Iraq’s new prime minister must get Sunnis on side if he wants to defeat Isis, Guardian Agust 16, 2014 .
The Sunni tribes have aligned with ISIS as part of a tactical move to improve their bargaining position with a Shi'ite dominated Baghdad. The problem is that ISIS is growing into a state within two states, the new Caliphate in northern Syria and Iraq, and it has become self financing through its control of oil.

Just as the Kurdish regions have grown more autonomous because of their oil wealth , ISIS has gained control over Syria's major oil fields such as al-Omar and al-Tanak. In July 2014, it was reported that ISIS was selling oil on the black market abroad to raise funds for more weapons and ammunition.

Even if the new Iraqi Prime Minister, Haidar al-Abadi, is able to prove a less divisive figure in Iraq's politics, no 'unitary government' has any guarantee of being able to do very much about ISIS having a base in northern Syria nor is it going to be able to destroy the emerging Caliphate overnight.

The danger is that the decision to arm the Kurdish peshmerga would lead some to advocate doing the same with the FSA in Syria because ministers such as Fabius in France have already started to put forward the idea that ISIS has been able to develop due to Assad paying for their illicit oil exports.

Iran would see that as a threat to its regional interests and view with hostility attempts to draw Kurdistan into a Turkish led strategy of economic development through the development of the Kirkuk-Ceylan pipeline, related infrastructure developments and calls for Kurdish oil exports to be officialised.

Support for Assad in Syria and Hizbollah in Lebanon would be stepped up to prevent the dominance of the FSA and the Muslim Brotherhood, even if Iran has an interest in checking ISIS in Iraq. But any attempt to deal with ISIS by knocking out Assad would only entrench regional proxy conflicts.

Should Iran respond by increasing military support for Shi'ite militias, then it is possible its main Gulf rival in Saudi Arabia would continue its contradictory and lethally dangerous policy of turning a blind eye to the finance given to ISIS by private donors as part of a strategy to divert internal discontent outwards.

So reducing the power of ISIS would mean a negotiated settlement in Syria based on including Iran at any future Geneva Conference and not making Assad's departure a precondition. It would also mean a crackdown on shady black market oil exports from Tuz Khurmatu into Turkey.

The outlook, more generally, is relentlessly grim. There is much evidence that the Sunni uprisings and ISIS are outgrowths not only of resource struggles over oil but also of access to water induced by global heating from the Middle East through to Central and Northern Africa where ISIS could spread.

The winter of 2014 saw one of the worst droughts in decades, with rain and show in the mountains of Eastern Turkey at half their usual level. Crop failure and desertification in Syria and Iraq are processes no unity government in Baghdad could reverse but they contribute in driving the desperate towards ISIS.

There is a real probability whole parts of the Middle East are heading towards complete decivilisation, chaos and bloodshed that could last for decades and intensify. If the West is not going to be dragged in, it needs to make finding alternatives to oil and gas a matter of emergency.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Arming the Kurds and the Danger of Spreading Regional Conflict.

While the strategy of arming the Kurds and trying to draw the Sunnis into a unity government would appear to be one way to check the spread of IS in Iraq, one danger would be that it could give impetus to the cause of arming the Free Syrian Army across the border.

The FSA, in its propaganda, has already accused President Assad of secretly plotting with ISIS so that they could divert the FSA in northern Syria away from taking Damascus. The problem is that official Western policy is still the one framed by Hillary Clinton and William Hague-'Assad must go'.

When it comes down to it Western policy 'remains contradictory and self-defeating', to use veteran Middle East correspondent Patrick Cockburn's words, because of the seldom mentioned matrix of energy geopolitics that dominates Western policy ( and the regional powers ) with regards the Middle East.

The US and EU powers would like to tacitly work with Iran in Iraq so as to bolster Baghdad against IS. Yet in Syria the West wants to remove Assad so as to check the expansion of Iranian interests towards the Eastern Mediterranean and the possibility of a gas pipeline stretching there from the South Pars gas field.

As Qatar becomes a regional power and a major economic partner of Western powers, and a vital supplier of liquefied natural gas to stave off potential energy shortfalls in Britain and France, Western foreign policy has increasingly aligned itself to a Qatari-Turkish Sunni axis of influence.

Not only does Qatar host a US Gulf air base, Qatar’s al-Udeid air field, used for strikes against IS, Qatar has tried to extend its regional reach into energy and infrastructure projects, signing a Memorandum of Understand with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) back in 2009.

With Qatar and Turkey aligned in checking Iranian interests in Syria, having their own scheme for a gas pipeline between Qatar's part of the South Pars gas field and Turkey, Iran could get more concerned that both in Syria and Kurdistan, the West is plotting to contain and encircle it further.

The strategy of providing arms to the Kurdish peshmerga is being balanced with one of trying to shore up Iraq as a 'unitary state'. The problem would be if Kurdistan would then regard that as a signal that it could and should break from Baghdad, not least over rows over oil revenues and contracts.

Despite being regarded as opposed to Kurdish independence, Erdogan's government is prepared to see greater autonomy and, in May 2014, Turkey started officially to export Kurdish oil on to the international market as part of his grand design to position it as an east-west energy hub.

Turkey's geostrategy could only raise tensions with Baghdad and especially with Iran, historically its regional competitor in the Kurdish borderlands and, to the north, in the Caucasus where a shadowy New Great Game for pipeline routes also contains the potential for war and destabilisation.

Iran would fear what Norman Stone calls Erdogan's 'neo-Ottoman' strategy as it would act as a magnet in drawing the Kurds into a prosperous economic block driven by oil wealth and could lead to Kurdish irredentist tendencies and even uprisings within Iran as happened back in 1946.

Set against a background of continued sanctions on Iran, the attempt to block off Iranian gas exports to the east via Pakistan, through trying to cajole the latter into accepting gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan ( the proposed TAPI pipeline ), the failure to take Iranian interests into account could be dangerous.

One way to avoid the intensification of a regional proxy war, indeed of the escalation into a wider regional war in which even the global powers would be sucked in deeper towards a greater collision would be to involve Iran directly in diplomatic talks over Syria instead of ignoring them as as been hitherto the case.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

On ISIS and the Kurdish Region.

Though the purpose of the US air strikes was to contain ISIS and, in conjunction with humanitarian food drops to the Yazidis to save them from imminent death, the wider purpose of this military intervention seems to have been the need to protect the Kurdish region from attack and to protect the Mosul Dam.

The reason is that ISIS could use their control of the dam to deny electricity to Iraq as a means of increasing their strength against their enemies in Baghdad and Erbil. More catastrophically, if ISIS blew up the dam a 65m high wave would be created that would cause widespread flooding and 500,000 deaths.

The determination to arm the Kurdish peshmerga and send in US and UK special forces is connected to that. Evidently, oil interests are at stake as Kirkuk is a major oil producing zone in the Kurdish region and if it were to be taken by ISIS it would increase it's revenue to fund its operations further.

Apart from that, Erbil is a major oil prospecting boomtown with Western companies like Chevron and ExxonMobil leading the exploration and drilling for oil. Had the Kurdish region not been threatened, Obama would not have decided upon risking air strikes and arming the Kurds.

Whether ISIS would blow up the Mosul dam is not certain because it has not destroyed energy installations in the territory it occupies such as the Qayara refinery. ISIS is part of a resource war backed by Arab Sunnis who lost out to the Shi'ites and Kurds after Saddam's regime was removed.

The danger with that strategy is it would lead to Kurdish demands for independence from Baghdad, something that would sink plans to try to coalition a 'unity government' that would help to draw Sunni Arabs back into the fold and end the benefits of them aligning with ISIS.

The situation in Iraq is a bloody chaos with no easy means to resolve it. It's a proxy ground, as is Syria, for regional powers vying and contending for influence. Turkey has interests in shoring up the Kurdish region as relations have warmed in recent years as oil imports have increased.

Iran would want to block moves towards Kurdish independence and autonomy as it would check their plans to have a Shi'ite dominated Iraq amenable to the promotion of its energy interests and struggle for a regional Shi'ite 'axis of resistance' to Turkish and Qatari plans to remove Assad in Syria.

Washington's policy has been vacillating and contradictory. Having made the mistake of backing the Turkish and Qatari move to remove Assad to check Iranian influence, it effectively guaranteed the space would be created that would enable a group such as ISIS to gain ground.

Whatever, the Western powers attempt through military intervention or backing the Kurds in Iraq in bound to have unforeseen consequences. Whole swathes of norther Syria and Iraq could descend into barbarism for decades due to resource struggles, global warming. crop failure and religious fanaticism.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Why the Stop the War Coalition in Britain is Orwellian.

'The terrible plight of the Yazidis, trapped by Isis and fearing a terrible fate if captured, is heart-rending but will not be helped by further military intervention in Iraq. The occupation of Iraq broke the infrastructure of Iraqi society. Sectarian tensions were encouraged and exacerbated by the occupying forces, and some of those now supporting Isis formed the opposition to this occupation'.
So opines Lindsey German, head and chief propagandist of Britain's Stop the War Coalition. Of course, if the war being waged by ISIS in Iraq at present is considered a continuation of the war the US and Britain started in 2003 by invading Iraq then there is not really much more to say on it. Only there is.

Some of those now aligning with ISIS were indeed part of the 'opposition' to the US and UK occupation. Former Baathists and Sunni jihadists whose 'opposition' was not called so but termed 'the resistance' by luminaries of the Stop the War Coalition such as Tariq Ali and John Pilger.

The hypocrisy of this is not surprising but it is no less fundamentally repellent to the deepest core possible. Back in 2003, the 'Stop the War Coalition' continually ( and artificially ) yoked the fate of Palestine to Iraq when the line was the witless placard slogan 'Don't Attack Iraq: Freedom for Palestine'. 

Now after eleven years when a pyschotic jihadist movement called ISIS is murdering Christians and the Yazidis in northern Iraq, Lindsey German merely claims that is the fault of 'the west' for having invaded Iraq in the first place ( as if this was radical subversive knowledge we did not know ).

But German bemoans the fact too that 'the west' and Turkey and Saudi Arabia 'armed the rebels'. The 'rebels', in any case, are not one homogenous group and the failure of the Western powers to try to strongly advise Saudi Arabia and Qatar enough not to fund Sunni fundamentalist fanatics is an abject failure.

The Free Syria Army is connected with the Muslim Brotherhood backed by Qatar and which also supports and gives funds to that noble 'resistance' movement known as Hamas which is extolled by leading members of the absurdly entitled 'Stop the War Coalition'.

But, of course, German knows that, which is why, in accordance with doublethink, she omits to mention Qatar at all as a factor in the regional power politics of the Middle East. It's obvious that the US and Britain's 'intervention' in the Middle East has largely had negative consequences in Syria and Iraq.

However, to say there is plenty that could be 'done' to 'stop' Israel committing war crimes in Gaza while insinuating absolutely nothing could be 'done' to stop ISIS killing thousands of Christians and Yazidis does not add up. Any truly humane 'anti-war' activist would, at least try to outline what could be done.

Adding to that the sneering and embittered comment that if the 'Stop the War' movement is to be accused of double standards for not having anything to say about that then those concerned are 'Tory bloggers, shock jocks and neocons', it could be made plain that the leadership of the StWC is actually little better.

The STWC leadership consists of a miserable array of failed Trotskyist revolutionaries and sour malcontents whose insistence in hijacking the cause of being 'anti-war' is a total fraud and a con. If Galloway could not be described as a ranting shock jock , then it would be difficult to see who else could be.

There is a need for a principled opposition to Britain's foreign policy that is seldom there in Parliament any more. Unfortunately, the StWC cannot provide it because it sits there as a sort of established anti-establishment consisting of the same dreary faces and self important hack propaganists.

Maybe it's time for an alternative alternative ? One based on true principles and, above all, a real knowledge of the Middle East and not the same empahasis on pure political expediency and hypocrisy that defined Tony Blair's approach and that has, in part, been carried on by the British government since.




Isis and Crisis in Iraq: Plots, Paranoia and Radical Conspiracies.

As I write this, the US is launching air strikes against the Islamic State group in northern Iraq and dropping humanitarian relief parcels to the Yezidis who have been foreced from their villages and towns by the militant group who regard them as "Devil worshippers' fit for conversion or extermination.

ISIS have killed and slaughtered civilans in their attempt to carve out their Caliphate in Syria and Iraq, decapitating Iraqi state soldiers and policemen, crucifying Christians, and surging deep into Iraq to within striking distance of the capital, Baghdad.

They have attracted Sunni allies and even jihadists from the West to join in attacking a fragile state created by the US and Britain after the invasion 2003 and prone to sectarian and ethnic conflicts ever since, a consequence Blair was warned about prior to the invasion but ignored because 'Saddam is evil'.

No matter whether one was opposed to the invasion, not even the most ferocious 'anti-imperialist' could regard ISIS as anything other than barbaric and as a force that had better be defeated. The question, of course, is how and for some, more importantly, by whom.

Even so, despite the need for scepticism about whether air strikes could actually prove to make a bad situation worse, the usual and predictable armchair 'anti-war' ideologues have been out in force trying to oppose anything that could be termed 'intervention', even of a non-military sort.

The worst example comes from Sami Ramadai, an 'anti-war' sociologist based in London, who claims the intervention is neither humanitarian nor would it protect 'the people of Iraq'. The fact that the air strikes are specifically mean to protect some Iraqis such as the Yezidis and the Christians is considered largely unimportant,

Ramadani bats off with this weary set of claims about how hypocritical US foreign policy appears to be,
'Here we go again, the US is using a humanitarian catastrophe to implement imperialist objectives and pour petrol on fire.

It is sickening to see Obama and the Western media shedding crocodile tears for the Iraqi people, after the US-led occupation pulverised Iraq as a society and killed a million of its people. It is obscene to now suggest that the US will fight terrorism and protect the Iraqi people, when the rise of terrorism was the direct result of the US-led invasion of the country. 

Emergency humanitarian help to Yezidi, Christian, Shia communities and all victims of ISIS is essential. But this has to be done through genuine humanitarian organisations and the UN (like in Gaza)'
The first thing to notice about the propaganda is that it does not even start off with mentioning the fact there is a humanitarian crisis. Ramadani's main gripe, put forth in sulky adolescent language, is that the effort, even in fact as regards dropping humanitarian supplies by aircraft , is that it is 'imperialist'.

In fact the entire polemic and many others like it could be translated according to the following translation:

'The first thing to remember in any situation where the US is involved is to hate the US unconditionally while affecting decent scepticism about previous interventions. However, no matter what case could ever be made and for whatever reasons for humanitarian intervention, we would oppose it anyway. 

So this intervention is not humanitarian but, just in case it could be intended as such, it won't be effective ( just in case you had illusions about that ).In order to pretend I care about those Yezidi, Christian, Shia communities who could be slaughtered by ISIS, I need to make windy comments about the UN intervening in a 'genuine' humanitarian way. 

Then , I will explain why the Kurds are stupid to accept US help because of their the superpower's sinister imperial motives. Then, in the safety of my cocoon here in Western Europe I can feel satisfied I have taken the correct line. The important thing is to use the crisis to ramp up the resistance to imperialism. Nothing much else matters.'

It is difficult to think how dropping humanitarian parcels, as the British RAF is doing at present, could make things worse. How the UN would be able to get near the conflict zone without being themselves exterminated is not something Ramadani has given much thought to and for a simple reason: he does not care.

Instead, Ramadani is not even prepared to accept that the Kurdish region is autonomous because the Pashmerga have decided to cooperate with the US in order to drive ISIS back and accept US arms and assistance. As a consequence, they are in league with the imperialists and that's more damning that fighting ISIS.

'The actions of the Kurdish leaders run against the interests of the Kurdish people.' Says Ramadani. Why ? Because he says so. Note he wants to tell the Kurdish leaders what they should do while criticising 'imperialism'.If the Kurdish leaders are prepared to align with the US for whatever tactical reasons they are mere 'tools'.
The actions of the Kurdish leaders run against the interests of the Kurdish people. A similar policy was followed by the Kurdish leaders in the 1960's and 1970's. They, like today, relied heavily on US and Israeli backing. They became so dependent on the US, and its ally the Shah of Iran, that they had to abandon the Kurdish people when the US decided to ditch them. 
Only this is not the 1960s and 1970s. Back then there was a strong state, albeit one lead by the tyrant Saddam Hussein by the 1970s. No doubt there are realpolitik strategies at work with the US. But the Kurdish region is strong, relatively safe and autonomous at present and would have an interest in checking ISIS.

But ISIS is also serving Israel and US interests, apparently. Only this genius has the visionary ability to glean patterns and trends not nearly always associated with other more humble mortals,
'It is clear to me that ISIS is serving Israeli and US economic, political and military objectives in the region. The US is also using ISIS terrorism as a stick to impose conditions on Baghdad, i.e. to cut links with Iran and Syria'.
So not only the Kurdish leaders but also ISIS are 'objectively' in the grand scheme of things 'tools of imperial dominance'. Evidently, that Washington aims at defeating and rolling back ISIS as a means to save the Iraqi state ( the one Ramadani wants preserved ) and trying to put pressure on Baghdad to create a 'unity government'.

Ramadani, however, then put foward the paranoid idea that ISIS serves both the US and Israeli interests. This is despite the fact Israel and the US have been at odds over Israel having wanted to see Kurdistan as an independent republic and the US insistence that the Iraqi state should stay together and not fragment. He opines,
It was noticeable that the ISIS "Caliph" and Israeli war criminal Netanyahu declared the death of Sykes-Picot borders between Iraq and Syria on almost the same day. The Caliph did not mention Israel or its war crimes in Palestine and the region, while Netanyahu declared that the Jordan river will be where Israel will "defend" itself. He also declared his support for an independent Kurdish state. 
There is no 'plot'. Ramadani is paranoid. The fact that the Sykes-Picot borders are breaking down is simply a standard observation of fact with regards northern Syria and Iraq, not some sort of sinister statement of the intent to 'detabilise' the region. Moreover, it is flat out untrue that the Caliph has not condemned Israel.

On July 31st 2014, some eight days before Ramadani's miserable and feeble polemic appeared on the 'Stop the War Coalition' site, it was reported that the Caliph declared it was "only a matter of time" before they got to Palestine to join the fight against "barbaric Jews".
"As for the massacres taking place in Gaza against the Muslim men, women and children, then the Islamic State will do everything within its means to continue striking down every apostate who stands as an obstacle on its paths towards Palestine".
This sort of statement would tend to deflate Ramadani's assertion-'It is clear to me that ISIS is serving Israeli and US economic, political and military objectives in the region.' By aiming to murder everyone in the Middle East, including the Jews, it is difficult to see how that advances Israeli strategy.

In fact, Israel under PM Netanyahu was again at odds with President Obama because he supported Assad in Syria as a lesser evil than having a Muslim Brotherhood government backed by Turkey and Qatar in its place or, perhaps, even more radical Sunni fundamentalists in power in Damascus.

That makes Ramadani's next claim even more bizarre,
 'Similarly, the US is using ISIS terrorism to make Iran halt supplies to the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance movements and to cut its aid to Syria. Generally, the aim is to make Iran more amenable to US objectives in the region.'...
That is why ISIS started fighting the Free Syria Army backed by Qatar and Turkey-and the West and against Assad, Iran's main ally in Syria along with the Shi'ite Lebanese Hizbollah. If this is a plot, then it would be a plot by the the US and Western powers against themelves for some bizarre reason yet to be revealed.

And this is what is supposed to be 'cutting edge' commentary revealing the true yet 'concealed' reasons for US intervention in northern Iraq.

Gaza, Stop the War Protests, George Galloway and Anti-Semitism.

Owen Jones means well but he comes across as a studenty sort who is trying to stake out the politically correct position in such a way that would ensure the anti-war protests remain nice and inclusive instead of polarising Muslims and Jews on the issue of opposition to Israel's conduct of the war in Gaza.

As a consequence, Jones produces a series of high sounding generalisations which do not address the specific content of the utterances made by those opposing Israel or why they could be construed as veering towards a dislike of Israelis because of who and what they are.
'..antisemitism needs to be treated very seriously indeed. Attempts to belittle it are dangerous, allowing the tumour to spread unchecked. But...Israel’s assault on Gaza has highlighted another danger too  It has often been debated whether the charge of antisemitism is concocted against anyone who supports Palestinian justice or criticises the actions of the Israeli state'.
Evidently, there are vested interests at stake in defending Israel no matter what it does. There are arms contracts, large volumes of trade and Britain and Israel cooperate on security projects whereby they can learn how to use sophisticated technology to contain the threat of terrorism.

As a consequence, it is convenient to accuse those criticising Israel as 'anti-semtitic'. But, then again, the word 'Islamophobia' is deployed in a similar way to mean a critic of an Islamist political movement, a person critical of Islam as a religion, or somebody who does not like Muslims.

Words and their meanings matter. To be against Israel's policy is to be anti-Israeli or, better, against Israel's policy on Gaza'. The danger of using words such as 'anti-Zionist' is that they could be taken to mean being against far right Israeli nationalism or against the existence of a Israel as a country.

The fact is that it is sometimes difficult to work out whether those 'taking a stance' against Israel are not rationalising darker motives not necessarily related to the actual situation in Gaza: a brutal but regional conflict but not the site of some cosmic battle between world historical forces.

Leaders of the Stop the War Coalition themselves are hardly paragons of peace. George Galloway's rhetoric is often violent and intemperate. His defence of Gaza and refusal to 'accept Israel' is not about anti-semitism but he likes to give his Bradford West electors the impression he rejects its right to existence.

With Galloway ( whom Jones never criticises due to the need to retain 'solidarity' no doubt ) the Gaza conflict provides an opportunity to advance a career in the doldrums after the Soviet Union fell and his attachment to Hamas and Hizbollah comes from their opposition to the US Imperialists.

This is a form of solidarity that works negatively. Hamas and Hizbollah are only aligned in opposition to Israel and so is Galloway. In fact, neither movement has much time for each other in the context of the Sunni-Shia sectarian division that have opened up over the conflict in Syria.

One reason Israelis and their Jewish supporters feel 'picked on' is that while Muslims across the Middle East are in the process of murdering one another on a large scale, there is a perception that most Muslims in the West unite on loathing Israel and that there must be a sinister agenda against them in Europe.
'One retort repeatedly offered is that Israel is itself the source of antisemitism; that its brutality towards the Palestinian people encourages hatred against the Jewish people. This is a nonsense, like rationalising anti-Muslim prejudice as the inevitable consequence of Islamist fundamentalist terror; responsibility for prejudice lies with the prejudiced. Most of us are quite capable of opposing brutality without turning into bigots. Racism needs to be eliminated, not excused'
It may well be a nonsense but it is nevertheless a rationalisation that is implicit in the sort of placard that is often held up by Islamists on anti-war marches. Jones refers to the infinite world of idealistic 'oughts' without looking at the grubby reality of what 'is' to be found on the 'anti-war left'.

One example would be the placard that reads 'Stop the Genocide of Gazan children'. The implication could be ( beyond mere hyperbole ) that if Israel is committing the genocide of the children, then maybe some genocides are better than others because they do not target only children.

Genocide talk as regards Israel, as opposed to the more obvious and provable accusation of war crimes, tends to have a sinister edge to it. If Israel is held to committing genocide, especially of children ( forget the adults then ), then, perhaps, Hitler should have finished off all Jews.

So there are no grounds for the assertion 'most of us' are able to oppose brutality without turning to racial hatred. The historical record nowhere bears that out as an absolute certainty. And if racism is considered a form of evil, then evil is an ineradicable part of human existence.

Wherever, one group so defined on the basis of ethnicity, creed, religion or race has leaders playing on unique victimhood the better to advance one set of power claims against an 'existential' rival or enemy, then aggressive instincts of hatred can, indeed, be rationalised.

So there is little purpose in mentioning the real effects of anti-semitism by pointing to the Jobbik in Hungary and by ignoring the sort of irresponsible propaganda that does inflame feelings against Israelis in Britain as opposed to their government ( not least as a great majority support it over Gaza )

So Jones focuses ( rightly) on the need of a British anti-war movement over Gaza to put pressure on the British government on arms exports and so on. But he goes on to provide his own form of deflecting attention away from intolerant forms of activism within Britain by pointing to anti-semitism elsewhere.

Hungary is a convenient choice because Jones knows that there are very few Muslims living in this Central European nation. So he can position himself as anti anti-semitic without needing to deal with its existence within Britain, even if it is bound to be exaggerated by uncritical apologists for the Israeli state

So Douglas Murray was no doubt trying to smear the entire protest march against Israel's war on Gaza as being 'anti-semitic'. The problem is unless the anti-war movement ( such as it is ) rejects intemperate demagogues such as Galloway, amongst others, it is always going to play into the hands of established interests.

The problem is that 'anti-war protest' really often means an ideological siding with Islamist forces as opposed to the more obvious point of a protest which should be focused on trying to advocate Britain is not complicit in what Israel is doing in pursuing war not diplomacy.

The 'anti-war movement' contains leading figures who, even if they may not peddle anti-semitism, do come out with absurd conspiracist ideas on geopolitics and the Middle East whether on Gaza ( or even on ISIS as being backed by Israel ) that feed a paranoid world view.

The existing 'Stop the War Coalition' is simply headed by a coterie consisting of the dregs of the communist left whose tendency to rationalise totalitarianism ( Galloway and journalist Seumas Milne being the supreme examples ) discredits anti-war causes and puts off sane conscientious people.

It is possible to be against the war crimes committed by Israel and against the insane suicidal strategy of Hamas. But in the 'Stop the War Coalition' this sort of nuance is not permitted and only those propaganda slogans that boost outrage and hatred are promoted.

It's depressing but the reality is that there is never going to be a sensible open discussion of Israel and Palestine that does not lurch into accusations of complete collective guilt and innocence on one side and counter accusations, spiralling paranoia, outrage and pyschopathological venom :i.e. pure hatred.

The real question is :Who benefits ? Clearly, those making a career from demagogy such as Galloway on Iranian funded Press TV, neurotic ex-revolutionary leftists who need a cause to glom on to in order to raise them from otherwise wholly deserved obscurity as leaders of sectarian revolutionary utopian cults.

Yet the impossibility of a sensible debate without platform posturing and soundbites from the self appointed 'anti-war' types benefits those defending Israel unconditionally as they can point to the opposition to Israel as Hamas supporting maniacs and 'extremists'.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Israel, The Gaza War and the West

'Global revulsion at the mind-numbing carnage of Israel’s onslaught on Gaza seems finally to have spurred some of the western political class to speak out'. Seumas Milne, Gaza is a crime made in Washington as well as Jerusalem, The Guardian, Wednesday 6 August 2014
The reason why British politicians are hastening to position themselves against Israel's ruthless attack on Gaza has as much to do with dormant principles being awoken as with the fact, contrary to Milne's assertion, that Israel is acting completely in defiance of Washington and London.

That is a thought Seumas Milne never has been prepared to entertain. For him, it's quite clear Israel's assault on Gaza is one done with the connivance of 'the West' because he wants to claim only world opinion and outrage, as represented in and through him and his 'journalism' has led to an attitude shift.

However, Israel, has never, followed Washington's line nor was it ever a puppet of 'US Imperial Power', even during the Cold War. But its foreign policy has become increasingly independent in recent years, especially under Netanyahu who detests Obama and his administration for being 'soft' and pro-Arab.

The rise of Qatar as a major trade partner and gas rich oil emirate prepared to back the Muslim Brotherhood accounted for a gradual shift in the foreign policy of the Western Powers which preceded the 2014 War. Qatar was also prepared to back Gaza by supplying aid for infrastructure projects.

Evidently, the value of the arms deals remained a factor in the reluctance of British and US politicians to say anything condemnatory at the outset of current crisis this summer. But the point is that arms deals are usually tied to perceived strategical objectives and often energy interests.

With the collapse of Syria and the ongoing chaos in Iraq and Libya, the states carved out of the remains of the Ottoman Empire during and after the First world War 1914-1918 are coming unravelled. Across the Eastern Mediterranean and Greater Middle East, a new constellation of alignments have emerged.

The important year was 2011. Though Qatar is not a democracy, it used its gas wealth to support its regional policy of promoting Arab democracy in Egypt and Syria. The Obama administration was, in fact, not for the Egyptian coup in 2013 that restored the old order after the revolution of 2011 ( the 'Arab Spring ').

Nor was Britain. The reason was parly an admission that the old order of the secular dictator dating back to the post-1945 era and Cold War realpolitik was over. But it was also a recognition that Arab democracy was necessary is resentments at the old order were not to boil over into support for terrorism.

The Egyptian coup ended that and had to be accepted as an a fait accompli because of two things. Firstly, Russia was vying for influence in the Eastern Mediterranean with the discovery of the large gas reserves of the Levant Basin and was prepared to step in to supply arms to Sisi's military regime.

Secondly, despite an identification with some of Qatar's regional ambitions in tangent with Turkey, especially as part of the Friends of Syria Group-one dedicated to overthrowing Assad-the better to check Iran and advance a Qatar-pipeline, Egypt remained important as a geopolitical bulwark of stability.

Once Washington overcame its intitial hostility to the coup, it hastened to restore full military aid but it had not expected Israel to have taken that as a green light to impose its own 'solution' to its own problem with the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza, that is Hamas, with such exemplary brutality.

The Western Powers have been distinctly cool towards Netanyahu's revival of the 'war on terror' pose put forth under the Bush presidency and, as its diplomats and politicians have pointed out, the killing in Gaza is bad in itself but also makes it harder to assert US and British interests in the Middle East.

Israel, it should be remembered, was hostile to the West's backing for Sunni forces in Syria, brokered by Qatar and Turkey and designed to removed Assad. That's why Netanyahu praised Putin's Russia for negotiating the deal to remove Assad's chemical weapons without a military strike.

That, and the fact Israel has sought cooperation with Russia on arms developments and developing the offshore gas fields discovered in its territorial waters in 2010, hardly shows Israel to be a mere tool of the West just as vulgar propagandists such as Milne blithely assume.

Israel, has never, followed Washington's line nor was it ever a puppet or 'a satrapy' of Us Imperial Power, even during the Cold War. But it's foreign policy has become increasingly independent in recent years, especially under Netanyahu who detests Obama and his administration.

Washington, London and Paris have been gravitating towards Qatar because of energy interests and no longer regard the Israeli-Egypt-Saudi block as the main or important player in the Middle East. The growing consternation at the Israeli onslaught is a product of this changed reality.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Resource Wars: Israel, Egypt and the Dim Prospects for Peace Over Gaza

The prospects for peace between Israel and Gaza were bad enough and have grown dimmer due to the 2014 war. Both sides are predictably trying claim victory already. Actually, neither have won. The difference is the balance of terror lies decisively in Israel's favour in this brutal pyschopathological struggle.

From Netanyahu's perspective, the strategy is about forcing Hamas to surrender by whatever means (no matter the civilian casualties ) so they agree to demilitarise. But to get to that point he was ready to use a clearly 'disproportionate' amount of military force instead of one other thing-diplomacy.

From his perspective Israel cannot get a sustainable peace without war. As in Orwell's novel 1984, 'war is peace'. Hamas has to pretend that all the civilian dead are glorious martyrs to their cause in a jihad in which all the deaths and massacres could bring about a moral victory over the oppressor.

Hamas would not agree to demilitarise and have demanded the blockade to end. However, Israel would not agree to as it part of their strategy for national security. There is evidence that the wrangle over Gaza is being made more protracted by the fate of the Gaza Marine gas reserves.

Israel fought this war with ferocity because it wanted to crush Hamas and eliminate it as a potential proxy force while Hizbollah had been drawn deeply into the Syrian conflict by 2013. Despite Netanyahu's claims, Iran's backing for Hamas had declined dramatically due to sectarian enmities coming to the fore.

With Iran distracted and the Egyptian authoritarian regime of Sisi having destroyed the Muslim Brotherhood in the 2013 coup, Netanyahu went for Hamas while the time was right. One aim is to secure Israel's southern flank from rocket attacks because this would set back setting up gas rigs.

As Forbes magazine reported in January 2014,
'The rigs required to lift the gas from the sea floor are a target that some commentators have referred to as a “sitting duck” for terrorists. The gas platforms are to be situated outside of Israeli territorial waters, but inside Israel’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), an area roughly twice the size of Israel itself'
One reason for the divided and vacillating response from the Western Powers was that major energy corporations have a stake in aiding Israel in tapping these reserves. Whether the US group Noble Energy or else Britain's BG Group in regards to Gaza Marine. 

That backing for Israel and Egypt in the Eastern Mediterranean, however, has been complicated by the fact that Britain and the US's other regional partners in the region, Turkey and Qatar, are backing Hamas as part of a strategy to check Israel's dominance of the offshore reserves.

Increasingly, Britain and France draw much of their import of liquefied natural gas from Qatar and have formed bilateral trade ties to the gas rich emirate. This accounts for the start of a shift away from the position of backing Israel to criticism of its conduct of this war as much as humanitarian principles.

The problem is that Israel is acting unilaterally over Gaza so as to be able to tap the reserves as quickly as possible as a vital 'existential' interest that would put it in such as position to guarantee both its independence and importance for the West against Qatar and Turkey's rival ambitions.

Israel is going to be intransigent on the demilitarisation of Gaza and maintaining the blockade as it is regarded as necessary to ensure the energy security both of it and Egypt which, under Morsi in 2012, cut off its gas supply as it faced, and still does, a fuel crisis and economic deterioration.

The prospect for peace is low as Egypt is confronted with collapse if it were not able to import energy from Israel as agreed in in June 2014. As Egypt is seen as a key partner in defeating a jihadist insurgency raging on the Sinai Peninsula, Israel regards destroying Hamas as part of that wider battle.

Israeli national security involves energy both as a nationalist goal as a Gift from God. So Hamas is regarded as one of the threats to the exploitation of their gas reserves ( even those in Israel's territorial waters ) through rocket attacks and sabotage just as Hizbollah could from the north.

Such reasons for the blockade of Gaza not being emphasised in the Western media very much at all. Without the gas the regional security nexus with Egypt would be under threat. Since the 1970s has depended on Egypt to maintain the security of the borders with Israel in Sinai.

Even worse, there is a jihadist insurgency in Sinai at present and pipelines from Egypt to Israel were targeted and blown up in the past . Making the need to exploit the gas more and more important. Compromise could be difficult as Israel fears Hamas being used by Qatar to disrupt its regional energy strategy.

So the ceasefire could well not lead to a durable peace. Israel is not going to trust Hamas 'perhaps ever' as Tony Blair sinisterly intimated at the outset of the conflict on July 15 . Blair is hopeless as UN Quartet's Special Envoy to the region and has sided too obviously with Egypt and Israel against Turkey and Qatar.

Blair's bias and Netanyahu's nationalism means Israel has no interest in offering a Hamas controlled Gaza anything that would affect its energy security or enable Qatar and Turkey in alliance to use Hamas as a bargaining chip in what are increasingly dangerous geopolitical struggles for control over the gas fields and energy routes.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Why the UK, US and France Would Not End its Arms Trade with Israel.

'Whereas Hamas is constrained by the continuing blockade and allegedly relies on neighbouring countries, such as Iran , for its arms, Israel has an advanced arms industry. There are more than 200 arms companies in Israel'  'The UK must end its arms trade with Israel' Andrew Smith, The Guardian Tuesday 5 August 2014
The US and UK would most likely review its selling of arms so as to use it as a tool of diplomacy to try to push Israel away from attempting to impose a military solution as regards Gaza. One reason is that they ( and especially France ) already have a flourishing arms trade with energy rich Qatar.

Arms deals are connected not only to profit. They tend to be a means to forge regional alliances and evermore closer relations with Qatar which, in turn, supports Gaza and ( in effect ) Hamas against the air, land and sea blockade. It is vying with Israel for influence in the Eastern Mediterranean along with Turkey.

The regional alliance with Israel has become less important with the Syrian conflict as a consequence and because, oddly enough, Israel has tended to look towards Russia and Gazprom as a potential regional partner to exploit energy reserves and as a client for arms ties.

That is why Israel has, under threat of an arms embargo, suspended an arms deal with Russia which would have seen the export of drones in the wake of the Ukrainian crisis, another conflict as in Syria involving the use of proxies and a ruthless power pathological struggle over energy transit routes.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond was, in his previous capacity as Defence Secretary, an advocate of closer military ties with Qatar. As North Sea gas runs down and Britain is searching more for ways to diversify its gas supply away from the prospect of depending too much on Russia.

Yet arms sales to Egypt and Israel are not going to stop for the reason that this strategic connection remains a vital interest for two reasons. Firstly, Israel is set to tap its gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean and it would potentially offset the dependence of Britain's EU partners have on gas from North Africa and Russia.

Secondly, Russia has sought to muscle into the market for exporting that gas and to increase its connections with both Egypt and Israel through arms sales. Even if the Egyptian coup of 2013 was not backed by the US or UK, it was accepted as an a fait accompli to protect arms sales and strategic interests.

Arms deals are increasingly bound up with energy geopolitics as gas rich powers try to compete for export routes and to assert their interests with or against those dependent upon buying that gas. Moralistic outrage at arms deals is neither here nor there unless the geopolitics of energy is understood.