Tag: turkey

Endless war, Everlasting peace

By Daniel Margrain

The downing by NATO member, Turkey, of a Russian aircraft on the Syrian-Turkish border in November 2015 – the first of its kind since 1952 – brought into sharp focus the complex patchwork of contending geopolitical and strategic allegiances against what is ostensibly a unified military response to ISIS. Turkey’s role in supporting the Al-Qaeda affiliate, the Al Nusra Front, starkly emphasises the risk of a military escalation to the crisis and the undermining of the current ceasefire.

Turkey’s seemingly schizophrenic relationship to the United States and NATO underscores the former’s reluctance in allowing the latter to use it’s military bases in the east of the country to attack ISIS. Instead, the Turkish government under president Erdogan have used these bases to target the Kurdish PKK. According to the United Nations, 30,000 terrorists from one hundred countries that have landed in Syria have arrived through Turkey and the CIA are overseeing the supply of arms to some of them. Meanwhile, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are also supporting Jihadi extremists to the tune of billions of dollars in arms and funds which are being funneled through Turkey.

Since both Russia and Iran are geo-strategically aligned to Syria, it’s in the interests of both countries to ensure that a Russian-friendly regime in Syria remains in power to act as a bullwark against undue US influence in the region. Clearly, given the competing interests of the major powers, and the potential risks of a major resource war between them, it’s an obvious truism that there can be no long-term solution to the conflict that involves a massive escalation of violence. Therefore, the only viable solution to the crisis is a negotiated settlement which the current ceasefire is a potential prelude to.

In addition to the tensions described, is the duplicitous role played by Turkey which has its own narrow anti-Kurdish agenda in the region. The problems are further compounded in that both the Syrian YPG and the Kurdish KPP have mounted effective ground offensives against ISIS while paradoxically both groups remain on the U.S terrorist list. In addition, Hezzbollah and Iran, backed by Russian air power, have also been effective in countering ISIS. But rather than backing these various factions, UK-US policy is predicated – ostensibly at least – on maintaining support for their two partners on the ground – the Iraqi army (which is weak) and the so-called moderate Syrian opposition to Assad and ISIS (which barely exists).

If the allies led by the US government were serious in their intent to obliterate the existential threat they claim ISIS represents, they would be aligning themselves with the first set of fighters mentioned above instead of their powerless and ineffectual “partners”. So given this anomaly, one has to wonder what the key motivating factor guiding US policy in relation to Syria is. The country sits in a region of the world where the US-UK government’s hypocritically covertly support the oppressive actions of some of the most brutal and authoritarian regimes on earth.

The rational answer is that the principle motivation lies not in eradicating ISIS but rather in toppling one of the more relatively tolerant and secular regimes in the region. Indeed, Assad who, just over a decade ago, was wined and dined in the company of British royalty, is currently on the U.S rogue state list primed for regime change. This overriding factor guiding Western policy is the ‘elephant in the room’ to which journalists and commentators within the liberal corporate media, who focus their critique on Assad, tend to overlook.

The widely accepted narrative is that the catalyst for the “civil war” in Syria is one in which Assad is said to have massacred peaceful demonstrators. This is equated with the events that characterized the Arab Spring in countries like Tunisia and Egypt. Both interpretations amount to a serious misreading of the situation. Following the initial outbreak of violence in Daraa, a small border town with Jordan on March 17-18, 2011, professor Michel Chossudovsky recounted the events:

“The protest movement had all the appearances of a staged event involving covert support to Islamic terrorists by Mossad and/or Western intelligence….Government sources pointed to the role of radical Salafist groups (supported by Israel)…In chorus, the Western media described the events in Daraa as a protest movement against Bashar Al Assad.”

Chossudovsky cited Israeli and Lebanese sources in support of his claims. These sources reported on the killing of seven police officers and at least four demonstrators in addition to the torching of the Baath Party Headquarters and courthouse. Chossudovsky commented:

“These news reports of the events in Daraa confirmed that from the very outset this was not a ‘peaceful protest’ as claimed by the Western media….What was clear… is that many of the demonstrators were not demonstrators but terrorists involved in premeditated acts of killing and arson…The title of the Israeli news report summarized what happened: Syria: Seven Police Killed, Buildings Torched in Protest.”

This account was subsequently confirmed five months later by Israeli intelligence sources who claimed that from the outset Islamist “freedom fighters” were supported, trained and equipped by NATO and Turkey’s high command (DEBKAfile, NATO to give rebels anti-tank weapons, August 14, 2011). Media Lens quoted Jeremy Salt, associate professor in Middle Eastern History and Politics at Bilkent University, Ankara, who added some background:

“Since the Soviet-Afghan war, Western intelligence agencies as well as Israel’s Mossad have consistently used various Islamic terrorist organizations as “intelligence assets”. Both Washington and its indefectible British ally have provided covert support to “Islamic terrorists” in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo and Libya, etc. as a means to triggering ethnic strife, sectarian violence and political instability… The ultimate objective of the Syria protest movement, through media lies and fabrications, is to create divisions within Syrian society as well as justify an eventual “humanitarian intervention”.’

In another article, journalist John Pilger quoted the former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas who last year revealed that “two years before the Arab spring”, he was told in London that a war on Syria was planned. “I am going to tell you something,” he said in an interview with the French TV channel LPC,“I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business. I met top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria… Britain was organising an invasion of rebels into Syria. They even asked me, although I was no longer Minister for Foreign Affairs, if I would like to participate… This operation goes way back. It was prepared, preconceived and planned.”

The cementing of US hegemony in the region (and beyond), with the backing of its principle European ally, is hardly a secret. In fact, it dates back to at least the the Clinton era when the concept of American supremicism and exceptionalism were coined as the prelude to the setting up by the neoconservative pressure group of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). This document provided the ideological justification for the bolstering of America’s nuclear first strike capability.

Leading neoconservatives have conceded that the perpetuation of American supremacy, as opposed to defending the country, is what this capability is designed to achieve. Lawrence Kaplan, for example, admitted that missile defence is a tool for global US dominance. The purpose of the PNAC is to provide an overview of US defence strategy from a world-historical perspective within the context of a decade of supposed US neglect.

This perspective led the neoconservatives within the Bush, and later Obama regimes, to conclude the opening, and subsequent extension, of windows of opportunity with which to demonstrate America’s military superiority. In the same vein as the PNAC, the accompanying war manifesto, The National Security Strategy begins with the affirmation,“The United States possesses unprecedented- and unequalled – strength and influence in the world.” It concludes with the warning,“Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in the hopes of surpassing, or equalling, the power of the United States.”

A key section warns:

“We are attentive to the possible renewal of old patterns of great power competition. Several potential great powers are now in the midst of internal transition – most importantly Russia, India and China.” 

Reaffirming that the war on terror was just the beginning for the United States, George Bush in his State of Union address on 29 January, 2002, named Iran, Iraq and North Korea as “an axis of evil”. Secretary of State, John Bolton, subsequently extended the net to include Libya, Cuba and Syria. The ‘war on terrorism’ also provided the US with an opportunity to establish a string of military bases in Central Asia.

The reality is that regime change in Syria and elsewhere is predicated on the paradoxical concept of eternal warfare as the precursor to the creation of an everlasting peace borne out of a wilderness wrought of chaos and destruction. Specifically, the definitive article, the New American Century, is about shaping the world for the next hundred years according to the interests and values of American capitalism.

In 2001 when George Bush declared the ‘war on terror’, Al-Qaeda was confined to a small tribal area in north west Afghanistan. Now, thanks largely to the attempt at the imposition of American capitalist democracy delivered at the point of gun, so-called Islamist terrorism has spread worldwide.

Is Western corruption & duplicity fanning the flames of ISIS?

By Daniel Margrain

On October 23 the mainstream media reported the obliteration by both Russian and US coalition forces of an ISIS oilfield and supply routes in the heart of Islamic State territory in Syria. Following the UK government’s decision to extend its military campaign from Iraq into Syria, a subsequent BBC report highlighted an additional bombing raid on December 5 in that country. But it has since transpired that this second raid targeted the precise location hit by the Russian and US coalition forces.

So the question arises, why would RAF warplanes hit a target that had already been obliterated five weeks prior to the second raid? A possible explanation is that the oilfield and supply routes described were in the process of being hastily reconstructed. However, this seems highly unlikely given that the BBC report cites Ministry of Defense claims that the RAFs Tornado and Typhoon warplanes were involved in eight attacks in which Paveway IV bombs were offloaded resulting in the destruction of wellheads….“thus cutting off the terrorists’ oil revenue at the very source”.

The impression given that the UK government had actively engaged in degrading the infrastructural and financial capability of their latest bogeyman, ISIS, appears therefore, to be a deception. In any event, one of David Cameron’s major justifications for his case for more war, was that Brimstone missiles, as opposed to Paveway bombs, were to be deployed against ISIS targets in Syria on account of their greater level of accuracy, thus limiting the possibility of civilian casualties.

It follows that in the unlikely event that what was being bombed was actually a site in the process of reconstruction, as opposed to an already existing obliterated terrain, the use of Paveway bombs would have greatly increased the risk of death to the civilian construction workers working on the site. This totally undermines Cameron’s claim that the UK would not attack civilians.

Whatever the truth of the situation, the fact that the RAF attacked a civilian target rather than a military base, would suggest that the government’s alleged intention to bring closure to this conflict at the earliest opportunity is bogus. The prospect of lengthy war provides a boost to the profits of the arms and weapons companies’. ISIS have gained access to weapons allegedly exported by the UK to the Middle East in the wake of 2003 invasion.

But gaining access to weapons is not possible without the access to money to purchase them. Tackling the flow and source of criminal money which helps sustain the lifeblood of ISIS, is the most effective strategy in dealing with the root cause of the terrorist organization. A second consideration, is ascertaining what the overriding medium to long-term motivation of the great imperial powers and their allies that underpins the strategy for war is. The answers to these questions are most likely to be found within the belly of the beast of the political establishment who, to a large extent, appear to be pulling the financial strings that determine the control, flow and maintaining of oil revenues.

One of the leading figures who allegedly plays a pivotal role in this regard is the British politician Nadhim Zahawi whose financial interests in Genel Energy suggests he is vulnerable to lobbying. As a member of David Cameron’s government, it is alleged that the Conservative MP for Stratford-upon-Avon has traded black market oil derived from ISIS controlled fields in Iraq prior to the black stuff being transported and sold, in part, to European markets through Turkey and the Mediterranean Sea, with the main purchaser said to be Israel.

The allegations against Zahawi come against the backdrop of evidence which indicates that ISIS sell oil emanating from nearly a dozen oil fields in northern Iraq and Syria’s Raqqa province that they control. It then passes through Turkey and Iraq’s Kurdistan region. Back in 2014, David Cohen, US Treasury under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, claimed that middlemen from Turkey and Iraq’s Kurdistan region buy black market oil from ISIS that earns the terror group some $1 million a day.

In September last year, in a briefing to the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee, EU Ambassador to Iraq Jana Hybaskova, conceded that some European countries have purchased crude from ISIS from the areas in northern Iraq and Syria they have captured. Given that the most effective way of countering ISIS is to attack the source of their funding rather than using bombs to attack civilians, it was unsurprising that Shadow Foreign Secretary, Hilary Benn’s initial position was to oppose military intervention in Syria. However, inexplicably, two weeks later, he changed his mind and voted in favour of bombing.

Something appeared to have happened in the two week period up to December 2 which influenced Benn’s decision to change his mind. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that war is good for boosting the profits of those connected to the military-industrial complex and that he had been lobbied by those who stood to gain financially from any change of heart.

Although share prices in the manufacturers of British WMD, BAE Systems, were depressed in late October they subsequently jumped after the announcement to bomb was made. Being in the pocket of the arms industry is concomitant to the notion of being favourable to war, which clearly explains his careful positioning to usurp the anti-war Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership.

Across the Atlantic, major defense contractors Raytheon, Oshkosh, and Lockheed Martin assured investors that they stand to gain from the escalating conflicts in the Middle East. Lockheed Martin Executive Vice President Bruce Tanner said his company will see “indirect benefits” from the war in Syria, citing the Turkish military’s recent decision to shoot down a Russian warplane.

Meanwhile, a deal that authorized $607 billion in defense spending brokered by the U.S Congress, was described as a “treat” for the industry. What better way to benefit from this “treat” than for the major powers to secure the “hydrocarbon potential” of Syria’s offshore resources with the aim of reducing European dependence on Russian gas and boosting the potential for an energy independence.

Israel is part of a broader strategy to dismember Syria with a view to toppling Syrian president Bashar al – Assad leading to the annexation of the Golan Heights, captured from Syria during the 1967 war. This is being aided by one of the most concerted media propaganda offensives since the Iraq debacle. At the forefront of this offensive is the Murdoch printed press.

But what are Murdoch’s reasons for pushing so hard for war? The answer is Genie Energy. Israel has granted oil exploration rights inside Syria, in the occupied Golan Heights, to this multinational corporation. Major shareholders of the company – which also has interests in shale gas in the United States and shale oil in Israel – include Rupert Murdoch and Lord Jacob Rothschild. The following is from a 2010 Genie Energy press release

Claude Pupkin, CEO of Genie Oil and Gas, commented, “Genie’s success will ultimately depend, in part, on access to the expertise of the oil and gas industry and to the financial markets. Jacob Rothschild and Rupert Murdoch are extremely well regarded by and connected to leaders in these sectors. Their guidance and participation will prove invaluable.”

“I am grateful to Howard Jonas and IDT for the opportunity to invest in this important initiative,” Lord Rothschild said. “Rupert Murdoch’s extraordinary achievements speak for themselves and we are very pleased he has agreed to be our partner. Genie Energy is making good technological progress to tap the world’s substantial oil shale deposits which could transform the future prospects of Israel, the Middle East and our allies around the world.”

Other players involved include the Israeli subsidiary, Afek Oil and Gas,  American Shale, French Total and BP. Thus there exists a broad and powerful nexus of US, British, French and Israeli interests, encompassing defense, security, energy and media sectors, at the forefront of pushing for the break-up of Syria and the control of what is believed to be potentially vast untapped oil and gas resources in the country, as well as reining in Russian and Iranian influence in the region.

The West’s intention to augment its geopolitical and economic strategic influence in Syria and the region more widely is premised primarily on a militaristic, as opposed to, a political solution. This gives rise to conflicting attitudes to the Assad regime in terms of ascertaining who are, and who are not, terrorists. In this complex web, some players are more motivated to destroy ISIS than others.

NATO member Turkey’s geo-strategic motivation, for instance, is the obliteration by Turkish forces of the Kurdish YPG who conversely happen to be one of the key fighting forces opposed to ISIS on the ground. The YPG are ostensibly supported by the British and American’s who in turn desire the overthrow of Assad whose forces are the only real credible presence on the ground.

On the other hand, it’s in both Russia’s and Iran’s interest to keep Assad in power – the latter on the basis of maintaining a link to Hezbollah in Lebanon. If ever there was an illustration for the need for a properly coordinated and multi-pronged diplomatic approach to solve a complex problem that transcends narrow self interest, then Syria and the wider Middle East is it. But instead the world powers’ are blundering from one major crisis to another with no apparent end point in sight.

 

 

Brimstone & bloodied hands

 

By Daniel Margrain

The decision of the UK government yesterday evening (December 2) to extend its war on terror into Syria with no coordinated strategy in place to defeat ISIS, will almost certainly be as catastrophic as Tony Blair’s decision in 2003 to commit British troops to Iraq. The notion that MPs could have genuinely been persuaded by Cameron’s line of reasoning for another illegal war is as inconceivable as MPs during Blair’s reign being unaware of either Scott Ritter’s findings stating that by 1998 Saddam had effectively been disarmed, or the subsequent public pronouncements of Colin Powell and Condaleeza Rice that were made on the back of them that preceded the infamous 45 minute claim.

The Prime Minister’s justification for sending more of our troops into harms way – which, significantly, was rejected by the Foreign Affairs Committee – was predicated on the dubious and frankly laughable claim of the existence of 70,000 “moderate rebels”. On Sunday’s (November 29) edition of the BBCs Marr programme, Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, when pressed by presenter Andrew Marr to clarify who these rebels were, replied that were comprised solely of anti-Assad, Free Syrian Army forces.

However, early on December 1, Lt Gen Gordon Messenger, the deputy chief of the defence staff, appeared to have contradicted Fallon by refusing to confirm whether any of the alleged 70,000 fighters were members of more extremist groups such as the Islamic Front and Ahrar al-Sham. The fact that no clarification by Cameron was given to MPs regarding the source for the 70,000 figure or its composition, is not a sufficient enough basis for MPs to be able to make an informed decision about such an important life and death issue.

A major argument of those who defend the decision to extend the war, is premised on the claim that the attacks against ISIS in Iraq have not resulted in a single civilian casualty. Numerous conservative MPs have been afforded air time in the media to pontificate such an absurd claim without, to my knowledge, any serious challenge from journalists contradicting it. In under ten minutes of researching credible civilian casualty figures in Iraq resulting from coalition bombs, I learned that eight named children and two women had been killed in just one strike on Fallujah in a single day on November 26.

The public are being denied critical information by the mainstream media in order for them to be able to counter government propaganda and thus to challenge their MPs about their decisions for the case for war. But the same cannot be said of these MPs who themselves ought to be seeking to challenge such fundamental misconceptions and misinformation. Feigned ignorance is not a defence against complicit hands metaphorically covered in the blood of innocent victims.

The use of the government’s “precision” Brimstone missiles that will kill many more innocent men, women and children than the tragedy of Paris that gave rise to their use in Iraq and now Syria, will be the direct consequence of the deceptions of politicians’ and the shortcomings of journalists who failed to challenge their rationale for war.

If the government were serious about obliterating the existential threat they claim ISIS represents, then they would not be aligning themselves with allegedly 70,000 unidentified “moderates” who, as Patrick Cockburn contends “are weak or barely exist”. On the contrary, they would be aligning themselves with the forces on the ground that are resisting ISIS most effectively. These groups, as Peter Hitchens acknowledges, are the Syrian Kurds, the Syrian National Army, Hezzbollah and Iran – all of whom are being backed by Russian air power. However, this sensible coordinated strategy is being usurped by Cameron’s non-existent one, upon which, in their infinite wisdom, the majority of MPs voted.

The second explanation as to why the government’s decision to extend the bombing into Syria is not motivated by the need to destroy ISIS, is the duplicitous approach they have adopted in respect to their dictatorial regional allies in the Gulf peninsula who are among their biggest recipients of weapon deals. There is evidence that powerful actors within Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who are among the most brutal regimes on earth, have been facilitating funds and arms to ISIS and their affiliates that result from these deals.

Consequently, figures suggest ISIS alone has at least 80,000 fighters up from last year’s estimates of around 20,000 to 31,500. No matter how this is spun, the situation can only be interpreted as being an example of state sponsored terrorism that has had serious blow-back consequences. A former US military chief goes as far as to admit that the Iraq invasion had spawned ISIS.

Nafeez Ahmed notes that in his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in September 2014, General Martin Dempsey, then chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked by Senator Lindsay Graham whether he knew of “any major Arab ally that embraces ISIL”? Dempsey replied: “I know major Arab allies who fund them.” In other words, the most senior US military official at the time had confirmed that ISIS was being funded by the very same “major Arab allies” that had just joined the US-led anti-ISIS coalition.

If the major imperial powers were serious about undermining the terrorists, they would start by ensuring that their regional allies stop providing monetary, military and logistical support to them and their affiliates. Often overlooked is the fact that NATO member Turkey has also played a pivotal role in funneling arms to the various extremist factions as well as actively facilitating ISIS oil sales through the country. The reason Turkey shot down the Russian jet was to deter the Russian bombing in the Nusra Front-controlled border region. All this, as Nafeez Ahmed points out:

“….. begs the question as to why Hollande and other Western leaders expressing their determination to “destroy” ISIS using all means necessary, would prefer to avoid the most significant factor of all: the material infrastructure of ISIS’ emergence in the context of ongoing Gulf and Turkish state support for Islamist militancy in the region. There are many explanations, but one perhaps stands out: the West’s abject dependence on terror-toting Muslim regimes, largely to maintain access to Middle East, Mediterranean and Central Asian oil and gas resources.”

Naturally, both Russia and its allies on the one hand, and the U.S and its allies on the other, have geopolitical interests’ diametrically opposed to one another. But the point is, Russia’s principle motivation leads them to destroying ISIS with the view to maintaining Assad’s grip on power, whereas the West’s motivation lies elsewhere.

The West have spent well over $5 trillion on waging their “war on terror”. Over that period, US State Department data shows that terror attacks have skyrocketed by 6,500 percent, while the number of casualties from terror attacks has increased by 4,500 percent.

*2004 terrorism estimates from CIA figures.

As Nafeez Ahmed pointed out, journalist Paul Gottinger, who analysed the data, noted that spikes in these figures coincided with military intervention: “…. from 2007 to 2011 almost half of all the world’s terror took place in Iraq or Afghanistan – two countries being occupied by the US at the time.” And in 2014, he found, “74 percent of all terror-related casualties occurred in Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Syria. Of these five, only Nigeria did not experience either US air strikes or a military occupation in that year.”

This would appear to be consistent with Ken Livingston’s contention, for which he was much maligned, that our military intervention in Iraq in 2003 had a direct bearing on the attacks in London on July 7, 2005. Moreover, it would also tend to support his view that the forthcoming air strikes in Syria will increase the threat of terrorist attacks here. Former British ambassador, Oliver Miles recently commented:

The [current] government seems to be following the example of Tony Blair, who ignored consistent advice from the Foreign Office, MI5 and MI6 that our Middle East policy – and in particular our Middle East wars – had been a principal driver in the recruitment of Muslims in Britain for terrorism here.”

Under such circumstances, it might well be reasonably argued, as former UK ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford has, that Cameron’s warmongering deceit is criminally negligent. It’s absurd to argue that the way to thwart transnational terrorism committed by organised groups of individuals on European soil is to bomb innocent people in nation states’ in the middle east.

Warmongering Blairites like Hilary Benn are incredulous that anybody should oppose the bombing of the 600,000 population of Raqqa, in the hope, as Craig Murray put it“of hitting 8,000 ISIS personnel carefully dispersed among them.” Conservative MP John Baron’s reasoned arguments and appeal to colleagues, below, ended up being futile but at least he and the minority of other MPs who opposed more war for the benefit of the arms industry who lobby Cameron, appear to have a conscience:

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Philip Hammond’s commendation to his opposite number, Hilary Benn, that his pro-war speech was “one of the greatest in parliamentary history”, is illustrative of how democracy is little more than lip service to power underpinned by a self-serving Red-Tory opposition. Craig Murray hit the nail on the head when he said“the odious Blairites are the most self-centred, selfish and indeed sociopathic group ever to have a serious presence in the UK parliament.”

The truth is, the general public are, as was the case with Iraq, being systematically lied to. After numerous hours of debate in parliament, it is clear that Cameron’s case for bombing that will now begin within hours of this article being published, had not been made. The decision by the British parliament to ostensibly bomb ISIS by an overwhelming parliamentary majority of 174, is not supported by the majority of the British people and is based on a charade whose real purpose is illegal regime change.

In a recent article, journalist John Pilger quoted the former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas who last year revealed that “two years before the Arab spring”, he was told in London that a war on Syria was planned. “I am going to tell you something,” he said in an interview with the French TV channel LPC, “I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business. I met top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria… Britain was organising an invasion of rebels into Syria. They even asked me, although I was no longer Minister for Foreign Affairs, if I would like to participate… This operation goes way back. It was prepared, preconceived and planned.”