Published on Strategic Culture on October 21, 2016
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There’s no question Baghdad needs to take back Mosul from ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. It could not do it before. In theory, the time is now.
The real question is the conflicting motivations of the large “who’s who” doing it; the Iraqi Army’s 9th Division; the Kurdish Peshmerga, under the baton of wily, corrupt opportunist Barzani; Sunni tribal lords; tens of thousands of Shi’ite militias from southern Iraq; operational “support” from US Special Forces; “targeted” bombing by the US Air Force; and lurking in the background, Turkish Special Forces and air power.
Now that’s a certified recipe for trouble.
Much like Aleppo, Mosul is – literally – the stuff of legend. The successor of ancient Nineveh, settled 8000 years ago; former capital of the Assyrian Empire under Sennacherib in the 7th century B.C.; conquered by Babylon in the 6th century B.C.; a thousand years later, annexed to the Muslim empire and ruled by the Umayyads and the Abbasids; the key hub, from the 11th to the 12th century, of the Atabegs medieval state; a key Ottoman hub in a 16th century post-Silk Road spanning the Indian Ocean all the way to the Persian Gulf, the Tigris valley, Aleppo and Tripoli in the Mediterranean.
After WWI, everyone craved Mosul – from Turkey to France. But it was the Brits who managed to dupe France into letting Mosul be annexed to the British Empire’s brand new colony: Iraq. Then came the long Arab nationalist Ba’ath party domination. And afterwards, Shock and Awe and hell; the US invasion and occupation; the tumultuous Shi’ite-majority government of Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad; and the ISIS/ISIL/Daesh takeover in the summer of 2014.
Mosul’s historic parallels could not but have a special flavor. That 11th/12th century medieval state happened to have roughly the same borders of Daesh’s phony “Caliphate” – incorporating both Aleppo and Mosul. In 2004, Mosul was de facto ruled by disgraced, failed “presidential material” Gen. David Petraeus. Ten years later, after Petraeus’s phony “surge”, Mosul was ruled by a phony Caliphate born in a US prison near the Kuwaiti border.
Since then, hundreds of thousands of residents fled Mosul. The population may be as much as halved compared to the original 2 million. That’s a mighty lot to be properly “liberated”.
The hegemonic narrative about the ongoing Battle of (East) Aleppo is that an “axis of evil” (as coined by Hillary Clinton) of Russia, Iran and “the Syrian regime” is relentlessly bombing innocent civilians and “moderate rebels” while causing a horrendous humanitarian crisis.
In fact, the absolute majority of these several thousand-strong “moderate rebels” is in fact incorporated and/or affiliated with Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (Conquest of Syria Front), which happens to be none other than Jabhat al-Nusra, a.k.a. al-Qaeda in Syria, alongside a smatter of other jihadi groups such as Ahrar al-Sham (Al-Nusra’s goals – and who supports them – are fully documented here).
Meanwhile, few civilians remain trapped in eastern Aleppo – arguably no more than 30,000 or 40,000 out of an initial population of 300,000.
And that brings us to the crux of the matter explaining the Pentagon sabotage of the Russia-US ceasefire; those fits of rage by Samantha Batshit Crazy Power; the non-stop spin that Russia is committing “war crimes”.
If Damascus controls, apart from the capital, Aleppo, Homs, Hama and Latakia, it controls the Syria that matters; 70% of the population and all the important industrial/business centers. It’s practically game over. The rest is a rural, nearly empty back of beyond.
For the headless chicken school of foreign policy currently practiced by the lame duck Obama administration, the ceasefire was a means to buy time and rearm what the Beltway describes as “moderate rebels”. Yet even that was too much for the Pentagon, which faces a determined Syria/Iran/Russia alliance fighting all declinations of demented Salafi-jihadis, whatever their terminology, and committed to keep a unitary Syria.
So reconquering the whole of Aleppo has to be the top priority for Damascus, Tehran and Moscow. The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) will never have enough military to reconquer the rural, ultra hardcore Sunni back of beyond. Damascus may also never reconquer the Kurdish northeast, the embryonic Rojava; after all the YPG is directly backed by the Pentagon. Whether an independent Rojava will ever see the light of day is an interminable future issue to be solved.
The SAA, once again, is tremendously overextended. Thus, the method to reconquer East Aleppo is indeed hardcore. There is a humanitarian crisis. There is collateral damage. And this is only the beginning. Because sooner or later the SAA, supported by Hezbollah and Iraqi Shi’ite militias, will have to reconquer East Aleppo with boots on the ground as well – supported by Russian fighter jets.
The heart of the matter is that the former “Free Syrian Army”, absorbed by al-Qaeda in Syria and other Salafi-jihadis, is about to lose East Aleppo. Regime change and/or “Assad must go” – the military way – in Damascus is now impossible. Thus the utter desperation exhibited by the Pentagon’s Ash “Empire of Whining” Carter, neocon cells implanted all across lame duck Team Obama, and their hordes of media shills.
Enter Plan B; the Battle of Mosul.
The Pentagon plan is deceptively simple; erase any signs of Damascus and the SAA east of Palmyra. And this is where the Battle of Mosul converges with the recent Pentagon attack on Deir Ezzor. Even if we have an offensive in the next few months against Raqqa – by the YPG Kurds or even by Turkish forces – we still have a “Salafist principality” from eastern Syria to western Iraq all mapped up, exactly as the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) was planning (dreaming?) in 2012.
London-based Syrian historian Nizar Nayouf, as well as unnamed diplomatic sources, have confirmed that Washington and Riyadh closed a deal to let thousands of phony Caliphate jihadis escape Mosul from the west, as long as they head straight to Syria. A look at the battle map tells us that Mosul is encircled from all directions, except west.
But what about Sultan Erdogan in all this? He’s been spinning that Turkish Special Forces will enter Mosul just as they entered Jarablus in the Turkish-Syrian border; without firing a shot, when the city will be cleaned of jihadis.
Meanwhile, Ankara is preparing its spectacular entrance in the battlefield, with Erdogan in full regalia shooting at random. For him, “Baghdad” is no more than “an administrator of an army composed of Shi’ites”; and the YPG Kurds “will be removed from the Syrian town of Manbij” after the Mosul operation. Not to mention that Ankara and Washington are actively discussing the offensive against Raqqa, as Erdogan has not abandoned his dream of a “safe zone” of 5,000 km in northern Syria.
In a nutshell; for Erdogan, Mosul is a sideshow. His priorities remain a fractured, fragmented Syria, “safe zone” included; and to smash the YPG Kurds (while working side by side with the Peshmerga in Iraq).
As far as the US Plan B is concerned, Hezbollah’s Sheikh Nasrallah has clearly seen through the whole scheme; “The Americans intend to repeat the Fallujah plot when they opened a way for ISIL to escape towards eastern Syria before the Iraqi warplanes targeted the terrorists’ convoy.” He added that “the Iraqi army and popular forces” must defeat ISIS/ISIL/Daesh in Mosul; otherwise, they will have to chase them out across eastern Syria.
It's also no wonder that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has also clearly seen The Big Picture: “As far as I know, the city is not fully encircled. I hope it’s because they simply couldn’t do it, not because they wouldn’t do it. But this corridor poses a risk that Islamic State fighters could flee from Mosul and go to Syria.”
It’s clear Moscow won’t sit idly by if that’s the case;“I hope the US-led coalition, which is actively engaged in the operation to take Mosul, will take it into account.”
Of course Mosul – even more than Aleppo – poses a serious humanitarian question.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) estimates as many as 1 million people may be affected. Lavrov goes straight to the point when he insists “neither Iraq nor its neighbors currently have the capacity to accommodate such a large number of refugees, and this should have been a factor in the planning of the Mosul operation.”
It may not have been. After all, for the “US-led” (from behind?) coalition, the number one priority is to ensure the phony Caliphate survives, somewhere in eastern Syria. Over 15 years after 9/11, the song remains the same, with the war on terra the perennial gift that keeps on giving.
Published on the Doomstead Diner on October 8, 2016
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Many commentators have sought explanations and solutions for the Syrian debacle. Only by accurately identifying the underlying cause(s) of a situation can we begin to craft workable solutions, if any solutions are possible at all.
To me, this is akin to making an accurate diagnosis when faced with a complex pathological condition, then trying to shape a management plan to achieve a cure (or at least to aim for symptomatic relief and palliation, if the situation is irredeemable). As I have stated before in my essay "How to cure Terrorism" 1 it is essential to identify not only the underlying cause(s) of a situation and any predisposing factors, but should also (in the case of sudden collapse), identify any proximate triggers.
How do we know a diagnosis is accurate? Because the correct paradigm bears all the hallmarks of Truth, viz:
It is supported by the best evidence
It is coherent (internally and externally consistent), with plausible underlying mechanisms operating within its framework
It offers the best explanation for the situation
It may have useful predictive value for future outcome(s) ie it can offer a prognosis
The elimination/resolution of properly identified underlying cause(s), predisposing factors(s) and proximate trigger(s) will offer the best prospect of a cure.
Again, I have used these principles in past essays when outlining the epidemiological truth that smoking causes lung cancer (even though it is impossible to demonstrate a one-to-one cause and effect relationship in any individual lung cancer case). I also used these principles to prove that the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 had nothing to do with WMDs or the pursuit of "freedom" or "democracy" nor was it about deposing a tyrant "for the sake of the Iraqi people". The truth was that the invasion of Iraq was about OIL: specifically about the US pursuit of oil related economic, political and military global power. The ideology of US neoconartist global dominance mediated by the control over the flow of oil and the enforced continuity of the petrodollar scheme.
I cannot delve into the Syrian situation in detail here, which would require a lengthy Phd type thesis. Instead I will simply outline various useful lenses through which the Syrian situation may be viewed. Lenses are meant to help us see better. They may help us see clearly various portions of a jigsaw puzzle which make up our "big picture" of Truth. However some lenses may be fabricated for political purposes and cause complete distortion. They are contrived propaganda, crafted to serve the agenda of the angloeurozionist "GIMME" (Government, Industrial, Military, Media & Economic) establishment. Intellectual Kool Aid to keep the masses brain dead (to mix several metaphors).
Let us first cast aside a couple of blatantly bogus paradigms:
The Syrian situation is a revolution against tyranny by the common Syrians who are clamouring for democracy and freedom, which was what the "Arab Spring" was all about.
This utterly bullshit paradigm was best demolished by Tom Lewis with his inimitable wry manner in a podcast I have referenced in the past. 2
The Syrian situation is a religious civil war, mainly a domestic Sunni versus Alawite/Shi'ite conflict. As I mentioned in a previous essay, Bashar Al-Assad, nominally an Alawite, was a member of the Baathist secular party and he himself married a Sunni lady. There are NO clearcut religious lines here. Nor is it a particularly domestic dispute. The so-called Syrian Sunni rebel groups include among their numbers many foreign intruders. ISIS is a foreign invasion force. The most effective fighters against ISIS are the Kurds and most of those in Syria are indeed Syrian. Kurds are nominally Sunni and may be genuinely religious, but their outlook is fairly progressive and they take pride in their courageous female soldiers who do not wear headscarves. ISIS claim to be pious Sunni Muslims, which is a complete lie. ISIS are fake Muslims, they are primarily terrorists, rapists and gangsters who hide behind the bogus banner of a religion to legitimise their anti-human activities in pursuit of their unrestrained lust for power. This is identical to how the US corporate owned politicians hide behind the bogus banner of "freedom" or "democracy" to legitimise their anti-human agenda of global ecocide, in pursuit of their unrestrained lust for power. ISIS was in fact the creation of the US GIMME establishment. The "religious civil war in Syria" paradigm ignores the numerous external operators who are major players. The so-called "moderate" Sunni rebels in Syria are deeply intertwined with many Salafist extremists including the notorious Jabhat Al Nusra (who are Al Qaeda in Syria). US State Department spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau admitted this fact at a press conference on 3 October, which was held to announce the breakdown of discussions between Russia and the US over Syria. Trudeau said the US had been unable to "demarble" (her word) the "moderate" Sunni rebels from entities such as Al Nusra, who she admits are Al Qaeda terrorists. Hence by their own admission, ongoing US support for these rebels represents support for terrorist criminals. I have provided other references for these facts in previous essays.
Evidence-based "lenses" with good explanatory power, which confer better understanding of the Syrian situation:
The events leading up to the collapse of Syria were manifestations of the Limits to Growth. In a previous essay I outlined the problem of declining Syrian petroleum production which intersected with their increased domestic oil consumption (Peak Oil combined with the ELM) which resulted in zero oil income and hence contributed to their economic demise. 3 A smaller Syrian population of the past could have been sustained by fewer resources, but the large population of 23 million by 2011 faced severe per capita shortfalls of everything. The worst drought in living memory from 2006 to 2010, which was aggravated by climate change, led to agricultural collapse, the mass migration of impoverished farmers to the cities, food shortages, conflicts and the breakdown of society.
The LtG re-ignited old tribal and sectarian conflicts which were greatly magnified by the post colonial legacy of egregious gerrymandering (Sykes-Picot "treaty") 3. Each sect is largely motivated by their own self interest, irrespective of whatever religious banner they may claim live under, whether they be the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood (who have a long history of striving to gain power in Syria), the Kurds (who are struggling for an independent homeland), the Alawites (who initially hoped to maintain control over Syria but are now engaged in an existential struggle for survival) and so forth.
Syria is a proxy war in the new Great Game. The US has more than 800 overseas military bases 4 around the world. In contrast, Syria is the last remaining foreign outpost of Russian military influence in the world, with the port of Tartus and the airfield at Latakia hosting Russian warships and planes. Since the end of the Cold War, the unbridled US hegemonic agenda of complete global dominance has been characterised by their mindless and destructive policy of foreign regime change to install puppet leaders under US control. This agenda was exemplified by the US / NATO covert regime change imposed on Ukraine with resultant civil war and the ongoing encirclement of Russia by US nuclear missles. Ukraine, formerly the bread basket of Europe, has now become the basket case of Europe. Let is not even delve into Iraq or Libya. In the case of Syria, the US have been trying to get rid of Russian ally Bashar Al-Assad and replace him with a US puppet. Why did Russia begin their foray into Syria by dramatically launching low flying, contour hugging "under the radar" cruise missiles from ships far, far away in the Caspian sea? Why not just use their bombers based in Latakia? ISIS may have copped the cruise missiles, but the Russians were primarily sending a message to Uncle Sam: your super expensive high tech US aircraft carrier fleets are now completely obsolete. Russia these days is able to deploy unstoppable massive conventional force from a distance which the US cannot possibly counter (the same capability is certainly true for China, who spend far more on their military than Russia). The USA is now railroading the entire world into a possible Hot War which can easily turn into a global thermonuclear war, for no reason other than their crazed hunger for power.
Apart from Russia and the US, there are other "lesser puppet masters" who have their own reasons for meddling in Syria. In the "Russian" camp there are Iran, Shi'ites from Iraq and Hezbollah. In the "US" camp there are Saudi Arabia and Qatar (and to a lesser extent other Gulf players such as Kuwait), who have also employed foreign mercenaries such as Chechens.
The schizophrenic involvement of a particular proxy player, Turkey: Turkey, as a NATO member, nominally claims to be on the US side and against ISIS. However under the wily maneuvering of the duplicitous Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the reality is much more complex. What Erdogan says and does are often contradictory and discordant. One fact is crystal clear however: Erdogan's actions are always in the service of his own self interest and in that sense he cannot be regarded as a true US puppet. Recent events in Turkey have been thoroughly fascinating and warrant detailed analysis far beyond the scope of this short essay. Some examples:
Erdogan had been buying cheap oil illegally from ISIS, oil which had been stolen from Iraq. This oil entered Turkey via road trains through the (intentionally) porous Turkish-Syrian border. Erdogan was therefore in fact financing ISIS, his nominal enemy. This fact was patently obvious to the USA from satellite images, which America chose to ignore, which adds credence to the view that the US actually supports ISIS while pretending to oppose it. This illegal oil trade was abruptly terminated by Russian bombing, in response to which Erdogan petulantly shot down a Russian plane, a reckless act of despicable bastardry which could have triggered wider scale war if not for Russian restraint.
Last year, Turkish media exposed the fact that the Erdogan government had been illegally supplying weapons to extremist insurgents across the (intentionally) porous Turkish-Syrian border. Such a domestic media expose will not happen again, not because Erdogan has changed his ways, but because he has now muzzled the Turkish media.
Erdogan regards his primary enemy as the Kurds because the Turkish Kurds threaten to secede from his neo-Ottoman aspirational empire to form an independent Kurdistan in conjuction with the Syrian and Iraqi Kurds. Therefore he does not hesitate to use a secondary enemy, ISIS, as a tool against his primary enemy. This explains his partial support for ISIS, even as he fights against ISIS at other times and in other places that suit him. Note that the Turks, Kurds and ISIS are all supposedly Sunni, hence none of this has anything to do with religion.
We do not know for sure who masterminded the recent "failed coup" in Turkey, but we do know who has benefited the most from it. Erdogan has since been able to cast aside any pretence of due process and has summarily purged more than a hundred thousand potential dissidents and opponents from all positions of influence in Turkey. He has thoroughly entrenched his power and is essentially now a totalitarian dictator. He embarrassed the US with the accusation that America was harbouring and supporting the purported coup organiser Fetullah Gulen. It is true that America will stand to gain by installing a more US compliant puppet leader in Turkey, hence this accusation is not one which can be easily dismissed by US propaganda, given America's well known repetitive policy of foreign regime change.
Being irate (or pretending to be irate) with the US, Erdogan then decided to kiss and make up with Putin, who then allowed the resumption of Russian tourism into Turkey, an extremely valuable source of income for Ankara. That, as well as the future possibility of a Russian gas pipeline through Turkey to Europe, another money spinner.
It is true that Turkey has taken on more than its fair share of Iraqi and Syrian refugees, now harbouring more than three million 5. On the other hand, Erdogan has cynically used the Syrian refugees as human bargaining chips to get what he wants from the EU. He has shown he is willing and able to open and close the floodgates of refugees from Turkey into Europe and thereby has been able to extort money from the EU and prise out freedom of movement privileges for Turks into the EU.
By offering Turkish citizenship to more than 2 million Syrian Sunni Muslims, Erdogan will be able to increase his support and power base in Turkey, as he is aligned with the Sunni fundamentalists. Erdogan opposes and is opposed by secular Turks (especially those in the military who had traditionally been faithful to the secular principles of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk).
The Machiavellian Erdogan has repeatedly demonstrated a nimble ability to have his cake and eat it (that is, until such future time when an jackal can find a way to penetrate his security detail and assassinate him). Any serious coup organiser worth their salt would have commenced their operation by assassinating the incumbent. The fact that Erdogan escaped such a fate indicates that either the coup planners were utterly incompetent or that it may indeed have been a false flag event engineered by Erdogan himself.
Syria is a proxy war over natural gas pipelines: In order to understand the geopolitical considerations about this proxy pipeline war, it is essential to understand the physical properties of natural gas, which render it a far inferior source of energy (and source of money) compared with petroleum. Nevertheless if sold in vast quantities to a vast market, the money to be made can be mind boggling. Key considerations:
If a natural gas field straddles a political border and is "shared" by two parties, the party which extracts the gas first and fastest will be able to harvest most, if not all the wealth from that field, because the gas will rapidly move through the field towards the extraction point. Contrast that characteristic with viscous crude oil, which can only sluggishly migrate at a maximum rate of 6% per year through porous rock.
Early gas extraction is of no value unless you have an immediate market to offload the gas. Natural gas is just too energy sparse to economically store above ground in significant quantities for any length of time.
The optimal market for the gas is one close to the gas field. The further away the market, the more expensive it is to transport the gas and hence the lower the profit margin. Even if the market is thousands of kilometers away however, profit margins can still be good, so long as the gas can be transported by pipeline in gaseous form. Export to far distant locations (eg another continent) is only feasible by liquefaction to render it far more energy dense. Making energy dense liquid natural gas requires refrigeration down to about minus 163 degrees Celsius, cryogenic storage and transportation in highly insulated, massive, purpose built LNG tankers which require continuous refrigeration. Refrigeration energy requirements are particularly high when the tankers sail through the tropics. Any power failure will be catastrophic. The LNG trade requires special facilities at the importing port which can accept and process this tricky commodity. All those factors amount to huge energy expenditure, huge capex, custom construction of port facilities and tankers and also requires a cashed up customer with advanced infrastructure. If the market price for natural gas falls, the whole system collapses financially, hence LNG schemes can be likened to unconventional oil scams. LNG export in lifecycle analysis has very poor EROEI compared with piped gas export.
The above considerations form the foundation for an understanding of the Syrian pipeline proxy war. The South Pars / North Dome gas field is the largest conventional natural gas field in the world. It is mostly located under the seabed of the Persian Gulf and straddles the borders of Iran to the NorthEast and Qatar to the SouthWest who are bitter enemies. Even though it has been in production for more than a decade, the party who accelerates their extraction will effectively steal most of that remaining resource away from the other party. However that gas cannot be quickly harvested without first ensuring there is a big market for it. A big market cannot be assured unless there are pipelines in place to supply that market. Qatar does export LNG (mainly to East Asia), but this is subject to the substantial constraints outlined above, with limited profit margins. The most prized gas market from the view of both Qatar and Iran, is Western Europe. The party that can establish a pipeline to Europe first will win that prize. The critical territory the pipeline must cross, determined by geography, is Syria. In 2009 Qatar, a Sunni client state of the US, approached Bashar Al Assad proposing such a pipeline through Aleppo province. Not surprisingly, Assad knocked back Qatar's proposal because it ran counter to his political alliances. A Qatari pipeline would undermine the price of Russian gas exported to Western Europe and would scuttle Iran's chance of benefiting from South Pars. When Iran subsequently approached Assad about such a pipeline, economic circumstances in Syria had by then greatly deteriorated. This new pipeline proposal from Iran, a Shi'ite state and ally of both Syria and Russia, came with the promise they would turn Syria into an energy processing, money making hub. Assad was therefore ready to proceed with Iran's deal. Shortly thereafter, the "civil war" in Syria broke out, instigated by so-called "Syrian" rebel groups which actually consisted of many foreign mercenaries funded largely by Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
At the time of writing of this essay in early October, Aleppo city is on the verge of being recaptured from ISIS by Syrian government forces with the help of Russia. That did not stop Turkey from moving troops into Aleppo province last month under operation "Euphrates shield", Turkey's proposal being to create and occupy a "neutral" buffer zone. Of course, it is nonsensical to regard such a zone in Northern Syria as neutral: if defacto occupied by Turkey, it is defacto neo-Ottoman empire annexed territory. Perhaps we should rename Erdogan's country "Vulture" rather than "Turkey", or perhaps Turkey Vulture. Of course such an occupation will also mean that Turkey Vulture may benefit financially in future by renting a gas pipeline corridor in Aleppo province to the highest bidder. No mention about that lucrative prospect from Turkey Vulture though, whose motives, so we are told, are purely altruistic, as is true for all Vultures.
Enter another player, Israel, into this sorry saga of greed. In December 2010 a gas field off the Levantine coast was discovered so massive that Israel called it "Leviathan". Whereas there is little risk of another country tapping into that field, there is a risk that either Qatari or Iranian gas piped through Syria to Europe will seriously undermine the price of gas exported to Western Europe. And what will be the natural market for gas from the Leviathan field? Why Western Europe of course. It is obvious that Israel will stand to benefit from ongoing chaos in Syria, chaos which will ensure that both Qatar and Iran cannot establish a pipeline to Europe, thus allowing Israel to develop its own Leviathan field for export to Europe at a premium price (expected start of production is 2017). America's failed agenda of "regime change" in Syria has resulted in nothing but chaos, however Israel is more than happy to support and maintain that chaos. Let us recall Netanyahu's squealing insistence that the US should bomb the crap out of Syria during his rabid rant to an insane Republican audience at the US congress in March last year. Who gives a shit about 23 million Syrian lives anyway if there is gas money to be made.
The gas story does not quite end there however. Get ready for an anticlimax. Only last year, an even larger offshore gas field, much bigger than Leviathan, possibly even larger than South Pars, was discovered off the coast of Egypt, the Zohr field 6. Due to Egypt's greater experience with the fossil fuel and gas industries, they have good prospects of fast tracking the gas production which will offer stiff competition with Israel's fledgling gas industry and severely blunt Israel's expected economic windfall. Oy vey, enough already!
Any astronomer will tell you that to properly study the true nature of a star, it is necessary to examine it using all the different electromagnetic spectra available to us, whether radiowave, microwave, infrared, visible light, UV, Xrays or gamma rays. That is the best way for us to build up a comprehensive and accurate overall picture of that star. Furthermore it is necessary to eliminate or compensate for other factors which may distort or falsify our interpretation, such as atmospheric interference or doppler shifts or gravity distortions by dense bodies (eg black holes) which may bend the incoming electromagnetic beams.
Similarly in order to properly understand Syria, we must view the situation through all evidenced based lenses available to us, while simultaneously discarding bent and bogus paradigms fabricated by the Murdoch/mainstream media and their fee-for-opinion prostitute talking heads, even though they may hold "impeccable" ivy league "qualifications".
US and Australian rightwing nuts will undoubtedly accuse me of being a greenie commie freedom hating eco-terrorist. Anyone who has read my articles will know I strongly support open, liberal democratic processes which must be guided by evidence, reason and fairness with particular emphasis on transparency and accountability. I strongly support responsible free speech based on facts and reason. I strongly oppose irresponsible deceitful speech based on blatant lies such as Holocaust denial or global warming denial. Opposing and suppressing such deceitful Neonazi or Orwellian speech does NOT contradict the principle of free speech, it removes noise and promotes the process of constructive dialogue and the transmission of useful information. I strongly support the original stated ideals of America; the ideals of Abraham Lincoln, of Franklin Roosevelt and of Martin Luther King. I view Americans (or Australians or any other nationality) with similar values as my natural allies, my friends. The America of Lincoln, FDR and MLK that I admired, with all the promise it held, no longer exists. It has been replaced by a perverse mockery of what might have been. The beacon on the hill has been extinguished, not from without, but from within.
The voices of ordinary Syrian people have been drowned out in all these proceedings. We can only imagine what they must want, be they Sunni, Alawite, Christian, Druze, Yazidi or any other group. Is it so difficult to imagine that they simply want peace, security, shelter, food, clean water, education for their children, health care? That they simply want what we, in more stable societies take for granted? Simple human requirements that the so-called "leaders of the free world", through their despicable foreign policy, have deprived them of? The best thing the USA can do, to allow any prospect of any beneficial outcome for the Syrian people, is for the USA and its client states to fuck off.
G. Chia, October 2016
Originally published in Strategic Culture on August 20, 2016
Russian Tu-22M3 Backfire bombers – as well as Sukhoi-34 fighter bombers – leave from the Iranian Hamadan airfield to bomb jihadis and assorted "moderate rebels" in Syria, and immediately we’ve got ourselves a major, unforeseen geopolitical game-changer.
The record shows that Russia has not been present militarily in Iran since 1946; and this is the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that Iran allowed another nation to use Iranian territory for a military operation.
Bets could be made the Pentagon would, predictably, freak out like a bunch of pampered, irate teens. They did not disappoint, complaining that Russia’s advance warning did not allow enough time to "prepare" – as in blaring all across the planet another episode of "Russian aggression", on top of it in cahoots with "the mullahs". Further desperation ensued, with Washington claiming Iran might have violated UN Security Council resolutions.
Moscow’s spin, in contrast, was a beauty; this was all about logistics and cost cutting. Admiral Vladimir Komoyedov, chair of the State Duma’s Defense Committee and a former commander of the Black Sea Fleet, gave a lovely explanation of the modus operandi:
"It is expensive and takes a long time to fly from bases in the European part of Russia. The issue of the cost of military combat activities is, at present, a priority. We must not go over the current Defense Ministry budget. Flying Tu-22s from Iran means using less fuel and carrying larger payloads… Russia won’t be able to find a friendlier and more suitable, from the point of view of security, country in that part of the world, and strikes must be carried out if we want to end this war… Airfields in Syria are not suitable because of the constant [need for] flying over areas of combat activities".
Don’t mess with the SCO
All fine and dandy then. The Pentagon will keep crying foul. Enraged Zionists in Israel and fanatic Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia will throw tantrums and turbo-charge the proverbial "Iranian existential threat" to apocalyptic levels. Whatever. These "facts in the skies" cannot be altered. Especially because if they open the way for a decisive victory in the battle for East Aleppo, the foreign-imposed Syrian civil war will be all but over.
Ali Shamkhani, head of Iran’s National Security Council, made no mistake this is all about Iran-Russia strategic cooperation in a – real – fight against ISIS/ISIL/Daesh terror, and not, as spun by Western corporate media, the return of Iran as a "military asset" of a great power.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, for his part, stressed, "I allowed the bombers to fly over because we received clear information about them. They make precise strikes, avoid casualties among civilians. So, we will consider all the requests concerning security of civilians in Syria".
This was code for Baghdad coolly allowing Russian access through Iraqi airspace for the TU-22M3 bombers. Next inevitable step would be the Russian Caspian fleet launching cruise missiles over Iranian and Iraqi airspace towards those Beltway-protected "rebels" in Syria.
And there’s more, much more.
A 2015 Moscow-Damascus agreement has now been ratified by Russia. That, in effect, turns the Russian air base at Khmeimim into a permanent military base in the eastern Mediterranean.
Beijing and Damascus, for their part, have just agreed on closer military ties on top of Chinese humanitarian aid. Syrian Arab Army personnel will eventually be trained by Chinese military instructors.
Beijing is now directly involved in Syria for a key national security reason; hundreds of Uyghurs have joined Daesh or follow al-Qaeda goon Abu Muhammad al-Julani, the much-appreciated-in-the Beltway leader of the Army of Syrian Conquest – and may eventually return to Xinjiang to wage jihad.
And then, there’s the absolutely delicious cherry in the cheesecake, as professor of Middle East Studies at Shanghai International Studies University, Zhao Weiming, told the Global Times; Beijing’s new power play in Syria is payback for Pentagon interference in the South China Sea.
So what will Hillary do?
All of the above points to the new look of what used to be a white elephant in the room; the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) now means serious business.
As the "4+1" (Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, plus Hezbollah) started to share intel and operation procedures last year, including a coordination center in Baghdad, analysts such as Alistair Cooke and myself saw it as an embryo of the SCO in action. This was definitely, already, an alternative to NATO’s "humanitarian" imperialism and regime change obsession. For the first time NATO was not free anymore to roam around the world like an out-of-control Robocop. Even though only Russia and China were SCO members, and Iran an observer, the cooperation involved – at the request of a government fighting jihadis and still a target for regime change – already qualified as a major, new geopolitical fact on the ground.
Now, this variant of the New Silk Roads – New Silk Airways? – involving Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria and precisely targeting Salafi-jihadism, qualifies once again as accelerated Eurasia integration. Both SCO heavyweights China and Russia will not only admit Iran as a full member as early as next year; they know Iran is a key strategic asset in a battle against NATO, and they will never let Syria become the new Libya. In parallel, Russia’s strategic moves in Crimea and Syria are set to be dissected in excruciating detail in Chinese military academies.
Eurasia integration is being progressively intertwined with the SCO.
Whatever Tel Aviv and Riyadh – with their massive Washington lobbies – may fear about Russian-Iranian security cooperation, it’s NATO that’s livid. And much more than NATO, Hillary "Queen of War" Clinton.
The record shows Hillary with a severe crush on Assad to be dispatched the Gaddafi way. In the event of a Hillary presidency, bets can be made she will force the Pentagon to impose a no-fly zone in northern Syria and weaponize assorted "rebel" remnants to Kingdom Come.
And then there’s Iran. During the 2008 US presidential campaign, I was on the floor as Hillary addressed the AIPAC conference in Washington, a truly frightening spectacle. Using the – false – premise of an Iranian attack on Israel, she said, "I want the Iranians to know that if I’m president, we will attack Iran. In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them."
Oh really? Over Russia-Iran strategic cooperation? Over a progressively integrated SCO? Bring it on, Queen of War.
Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of "Globalistan" (2007), "Red Zone Blues" (2007), "Obama does Globalistan" (2009) "Empire of Chaos" (2014),and "2030" (2015), all published by Nimble Books.
Published originally in williamblum.org August 12, 2016
For 50 years I’ve been painstakingly cataloguing the brutal militarism and human-rights violations of US foreign policy, building up in the process a very loyal audience.
To my great surprise, when I recently wrote about the brutal militarism and human-rights violations of the Islamic State, I received more criticism from my readers than I’ve gotten for anything I’ve ever written. Dozens of them asked to be removed from my mailing list, as many as I’d normally get in a full year. Others were convinced that it couldn’t actually be me who was the author of such words, that I must have been hacked. Some wondered whether my recent illness had affected my mind. Literally! And almost all of the Internet magazines which regularly print me did not do so with this article.
Now why should this be?
My crime was being politically incorrect. The Islamic State, you see, is composed of Muslims, and the United States and its Western allies have bombed many Muslim countries in the recent past killing thousands of Muslims and causing widespread horror. Therefore, whatever ISIS and its allies do is “revenge”, simple revenge, and should not be condemned by anyone calling himself a progressive; least of all should violence be carried out against these poor aggrieved jihadists.
Moreover, inasmuch as ISIS is the offspring of religion, this adds to my political incorrectness: I’m attacking religion, God forgive me.
Totally irrelevant to my critics is the fact that the religious teachings of ISIS embrace murderous jihad and the heavenly rewards for suicide bombings and martyrdom. This, they insist, is not the real Islam, a religion of peace and scholarly pursuits. Well, one can argue, Naziism was not the real Germany of Goethe and Schiller, of Bach and Brahms. Fortunately, that didn’t keep the world from destroying the Third Reich.
We should also consider this: From the 1950s to the 1980s the United States carried out atrocities against Latin America, including numerous bombings, without the natives ever resorting to the repulsive uncivilized kind of retaliation as employed by ISIS. Latin American leftists took their revenge out on concrete representatives of the American empire: diplomatic, military and corporate targets, not markets, theatres, nightclubs, hospitals, restaurants or churches. The ISIS victims have included many Muslims, perhaps even some friends of the terrorists, for all they knew or cared.
It doesn’t matter to my critics that in my writing I have regularly given clear recognition to the crimes against humanity carried out by the West against the Islamic world. I am still not allowed to criticize the armed forces of Islam, for all of the above stated reasons plus the claim that the United States “created” ISIS.
Regarding this last argument: It’s certainly true that US foreign policy played an indispensable role in the rise of ISIS. Without Washington’s overthrow of secular governments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and – now in process – Syria, there would today be no ISIS. It’s also true that many American weapons, intentionally and unintentionally, have wound up in the hands of terrorist groups. But the word “created” implies intention, that the United States wanted to purposely and consciously bring to life the Frankenstein monster that we know and love as ISIS.
So, you wonder, how do we rid the world of the Islamic State? I’m afraid it may already be too late. The barn door is wide open and all the horses have escaped. It’s not easy for an old anti-imperialist like myself, but I support Western military and economic power to crush the unspeakable evil of ISIS. The West has actually made good progress with seriously hampering ISIS oil sales and financial transactions. As a result, it appears that ISIS may well be running out of money, with defections of unpaid soldiers increasing.
The West should also forget about regime change in Syria and join forces with Russia against the terrorists.
And my readers, and many like them, have to learn to stop turning the other cheek when someone yelling “Allahu Akbar” drives a machete into their skull.
Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.
William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others.
Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.
Published on Peak Surfer on June 12, 2016
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|Foodlines in Soviet Union 1991 (photo by A. Bates)|
The story of Cuba’s Special Period has been told here before, but just to refresh. (light bongo beat) In 1992 the Soviet Union was undergoing great social upheaval at home and in the shifts that followed could no longer support its massive foreign aid dole-out to client states such as Cuba. Without Russian fuel and food aid — and more importantly without the Eastern European export market for its sugar and other commodities — and still under the 30-year-old embargo imposed by the United States, Cuba sank into catastrophic recession. The caloric intake of its population shrank by a third. Oxen replaced tractors and combines. Cuba teetered at the brink of collapse.
In the face of these challenges, the spirit of the 1953-59 student-led revolt revived and bolstered the willingness of the population to come together, tighten their belts and do what needed to be done. (light guitar comes in with the bongo beat) Urban gardens led by permaculture instructors arriving from Australia and South America sprung up along sidewalks, on balconies, and on rooftops. Bicycles, horse taxis and “camels” (massive 300-passenger buses) replaced the diesel classic car fleet. Ride share coops, farmers coops, barefoot doctors and street markets ignored the daily power blackouts and kept the country alive, even thriving. (conga beat picking up, maracas coming in) It was an historic moment, although if you ask the average Cuban, as we did four years ago, they would tell you they would never want to repeat the experience.
|Generalisimo Batista and his rival, medical student Ernesto "Che" Guevara|
When we visited in 2012 we noticed, and blogged here, that Cuba was doing some remarkable things but that much of their economic development came from and is planning to go forward on, their alliance with friends in the South, notably Venezuela and Bolivia. Instead of being addicted to Soviet fossil energy, they were becoming enslaved to Orinoco Heavy. (castanet roll) Cuba uses 80,000 barrels per day of Venezuelan oil, but when we visited they had ambitious plans for offshore fracking, a giant harbor that would handle oil supertankers and Chinese container ships too large to dock in Miami or Houston, and a revival of the sugar industry using Brazilian next-gen technology to make ethanol. In Havana, the neighborhood gardens were still there, but they were beginning to look a little seedy. (tambourine, cow bell)
|Following the student-led revolt, conditions improved markedly.|
Cuba’s economy minister told the Cuban Parliament last week, in a closed session, (drum roll) that the country would have to cut fuel consumption nearly a third in the second half of this year because the Venezuelan spigot was slowly squeezing shut. Venezuelan oil exports to Cuba have dropped 40% since January. As the news rippled out through Havana there was a universal sense of Déjà vu. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, won’t be fooled again (as George W. Bush said in his being-folksy mode, unable to recall where he was in the fool-me-twice-shame-on-me proverb and so reverting to a rock anthem lyric from his Yale fraternity days).
|Havana 2012 (photo by A. Bates)|
Venezuela is running dry, as is neighboring Mexico, and bargain basement crude sales to bolster Venezuela’s economy don’t help. Venezuela can no more supply the Citgo stations in Havana than it can keep the lights on in hospitals in Caracas.
Since we are not exactly getting the White House morning briefing we can only speculate on connections between the US military/intelligence community (triple oxymoron there)’s goals in Venezuela. We know that as the curtain comes down on the Pentagon-mesmermized Drone King Administration and up on an uncertain successor, it could be a chessboard moment. (bass drum and brushed cymbals)
|Havana 2012 (photo by A. Bates)|
We know, for instance, that the shortages in Venezuela are specific products, so other food and consumer goods remain available. Could it be that the crisis in Venezuela is less about the oil economy and more about black ops by opposition elements? Those elements would include domestic food companies controlled by long-standing opponents of the Bolivarian revolution of 1999. They control, for instance, 62% of every arrepa, a staple of Venezuelan cuisine.
The market distortion is curious. Venezuelans can purchase yogurt, cheese, teas, vegetables, chocolate and fruit, but not meat, corn flour, milk, coffee, and personal hygiene products like soap, toilet paper, sanitary napkins and diapers. In a managed socialist economy you’d think the reverse would be true. It is only when you look at the ownership of the companies where scarcity exists that it begins to make sense.
|V.P. candidate Mike Pence and actor Everett McGill – Under Siege 3?|
The Friday night military coup in Turkey is another one of those things that can be explained by other factors but the timing is curious. There is no love lost in either Washington or Moscow for the Erdogan regime. Russian press and other sources linked Turkey to the CIA-covert resupply chain for the Islamic State in Syria (ISIS), which the Syrian Army, supported by spectacular Russian air strikes, is in the process of decimating. Erdogan was a klutz, but he was Washington’s klutz. He made that very clear when he shot down a commercial Russian airliner and then okay’ed a new pipeline to take offshore oil and gas Israel was stealing from Gaza through Turkey to Europe. That will potentially square US accounts with kleptocrats in Kiev who keep siphoning gas meant for Europe and not paying for it.
|Havana 2012 (photo by A. Bates)|
As we penned this Friday night this we were watching the air battle over Ankara not knowing who was fighting for whom over what. That Russia Today is a more reliable witness than The New York Times is the new normal.
Cubans have been here before, and actually, this time it may not be as bad. The embargo is lifting. Although Donald Trump is out-polling Hillary Clinton in Florida, especially with Cuban-Americans, his war-chest is no match for hers and
|Havana 2012 (photo by A. Bates)|
nationwide, at this point in the election cycle, he is a diminishing threat to US-Cuba détente. (muted instruments, brushed cymbals, then just bongo) With air routes opening, tourist hotels being planned, and Havana’s notorious nightclubs a shorter hop than Las Vegas for half the population of the United States, Cubans only have to hold their breath while they turn off the fans 8 hours per day.
Published on The Doomstead Diner on March 23, 2016
Discuss this chat at the Diner TV Table inside the Diner
By Popular Request from the Collapse Fans 😀 , Steve and I got together to do a "Collapse Update" show on Sunday, modelled after the old Saturday Night Live "Weekend Update".
"RE, you Ignorant SLUT!"
In this episode, we discuss POLITICS, specifically the shenanigans going on in the POTUS election with The Donald, Shillary and the rest of the Clown Show running for Chief Marionnette. On an international level, we discuss Vlad the Impaler's unexpected withdrawal of his penis from the conflict in Syria.
Let us know in the commentary what subjects you wish us to discuss in future editions of the Collapse Update Show. 🙂
It’s spy thriller stuff; no one is talking. But there are indications Russia would not announce a partial withdrawal from Syria right before the Geneva negotiations ramp up unless a grand bargain with Washington had been struck.
Some sort of bargain is in play, of which we still don’t know the details; that's what the CIA itself is basically saying through their multiple US Think Tankland mouthpieces. And that's the real meaning hidden under a carefully timed Barack Obama interview that, although inviting suspension of disbelief, reads like a major policy change document.
Obama invests in proverbial whitewashing, now admitting US intel did not specifically identify the Bashar al-Assad government as responsible for the Ghouta chemical attack. And then there are nuggets, such as Ukraine seen as not a vital interest of the US – something that clashes head on with the Brzezinski doctrine. Or Saudi Arabia as freeloaders of US foreign policy – something that provoked a fierce response from former Osama bin Laden pal and Saudi intel supremo Prince Turki.
Tradeoffs seem to be imminent. And that would imply a power shift has taken place above Obama — who is essentially a messenger, a paperboy. Still that does not mean that the bellicose agendas of both the Pentagon and the CIA are now contained.
Russian intel cannot possibly trust a US administration infested with warmongering neocon cells. Moreover, the Brzezinski doctrine has failed – but it’s not dead. Part of the Brzezinski plan was to flood oil markets with shut-in capacity in OPEC to destroy Russia.
That caused damage, but the second part, which was to lure Russia into an war in Ukraine for which Ukrainians were to be the cannon fodder in the name of “democracy”, failed miserably. Then there was the wishful thinking that Syria would suck Russia into a quagmire of Dubya in Iraq proportions – but that also failed miserably with the current Russian time out.
The Kurdish factor
© AFP 2016/ DELIL SOULEIMAN
Convincing explanations for the (partial) Russian withdrawal from Syria are readily available. What matters is that the Khmeimim air base and the naval base in Tartus remain untouched. Key Russian military advisers/trainers remain in place. Air raids, ballistic missile launches from the Caspian or the Mediterranean – everything remains operational. Russian air power continues to protect the forces deployed by Damascus and Tehran.
As much as Russia may be downsizing, Iran (and Hezbollah) are not. Tehran has trained and weaponized key paramilitary forces – thousands of soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan fighting side by side with Hezbollah and the Syrian Arab Army (SAA). The SAA will keep advancing and establishing facts on the ground.
As the Geneva negotiations pick up, those facts are now relatively frozen. Which brings us to the key sticking point in Geneva – which has got to be included in the possible grand bargain.
The grand bargain is based on the current ceasefire (or "cessation of hostilities") holding, which is far from a given. Assuming all these positions hold, a federal Syria could emerge, what could be dubbed Break Up Light.
Essentially, we would have three major provinces: a Sunnistan, a Kurdistan and a Cosmopolistan.
Sunnistan would include Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa, assuming the whole province may be extensively purged of ISIS/ISIL/Daesh.
Kurdistan would be in place all along the Turkish border – something that would freak out Sultan Erdogan to Kingdom Come.
And Cosmopolistan would unite the Alawi/ Christian/ Druze/ secular Sunni heart of Syria, or the Syria that works, from Damascus up to Latakia and Aleppo.
© REUTERS/ RODI SAID
Syrian Kurds are already busy spinning that a federal Syria would be based on community spirit, not geographical confines.
Ankara’s response, predictably, has been harsh; any Kurdish federal system in northern Syria represents not only a red line but an “existential threat” to Turkey. Ankara may be falling under the illusion that Moscow, with its partial demobilizing, would look the other way if Erdogan orders a military invasion of northern Syria, as long as it does not touch Latakia province.
And yet, in the shadows, lurks the possibility that Russian intel may be ready to strike a deal with the Turkish military – with the corollary that a possible removal of Sultan Erdogan would pave the way for the reestablishment of the Russia-Turkey friendship, essential for Eurasia integration.
What the Syrian Kurds are planning has nothing to do with separatism. Syrian Kurds are 2.2 million out of a remaining Syrian population of roughly 18 million. Their cantons across the Syria-Turkey border —Jazeera, Kobani and Afrin – have been established since 2013. The YPG has already linked Jazeera to Kobani, and is on their way to link them to Afrin. This, in a nutshell, is Rojava province.
The Kurds across Rojava – heavily influenced by concepts developed by imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan — are deep into consultations with Arabs and Christians on how to implement federalism, privileging a horizontal self-ruled model, a sort of anarchist-style confederation. It’s a fascinating political vision that would even include the Kurdish communities in Damascus and Aleppo.
Moscow – and that is absolutely key – supports the Kurds. So they must be part of the Geneva negotiations. The Russian long game is complex; not be strictly aligned either with Damascus or with the discredited “opposition” supported and weaponized by Turkey and the GCC. Team Obama, as usual, is on the fence. There’s the “NATO ally” angle — but even Washington is losing patience with Erdogan.
The geopolitical winners and losers
Only the proverbially clueless Western corporate media was caught off-guard by Russia’s latest diplomatic coup in Syria. Consistency has been the norm.
Russia has been consistently upgrading the Russia-China strategic partnership. This has run in parallel to the hybrid warfare in Ukraine (asymmetric operations mixed with economic, political, military and technological support to the Donetsk and Lugansk republics); even NATO officials with a decent IQ had to admit that without Russian diplomacy there’s no solution to the war in Donbass.
In Syria, Moscow accomplished the outstanding feat of making Team Obama see the light beyond the fog of neo-con-instilled war, leading to a solution involving Syria’s chemical arsenal after Obama ensnared himself in his own red line. Obama owes it to Putin and Lavrov, who literally saved him not only from tremendous embarrassment but from yet another massive Middle East quagmire.
RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY
The Russian objectives in Syria already laid out in September 2015 have been fulfilled. Jihadists of all strands are on the run – including, crucially, the over 2,000 born in southern Caucasus republics. Damascus has been spared from regime change a la Saddam or Gaddafi. Russia’s presence in the Mediterranean is secure.
Russia will be closely monitoring the current “cessation of hostilities”; and if the War Party decides to ramp up “support” for ISIS/ISIL/Daesh or the “moderate rebel” front via any shadow war move, Russia will be back in a flash. As for Sultan Erdogan, he can brag what he wants about his “no-fly zone” pipe dream; but the fact is the northwestern Syria-Turkish border is now fully protected by the S-400 air defense system.
Moreover, the close collaboration of the “4+1” coalition – Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, plus Hezbollah – has broken more ground than a mere Russia-Shi’te alignment. It prefigures a major geopolitical shift, where NATO is not the only game in town anymore, dictating humanitarian imperialism; this “other” coalition could be seen as a prefiguration of a future, key, global role for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
As we stand, it may seem futile to talk about winners and losers in the five-year-long Syrian tragedy – especially with Syria destroyed by a vicious, imposed proxy war. But facts on the ground point, geopolitically, to a major victory for Russia, Iran and Syrian Kurds, and a major loss for Turkey and the GCC petrodollar gang, especially considering the huge geo-energy interests in play.
It’s always crucial to stress that Syria is an energy war – with the “prize” being who will be better positioned to supply Europe with natural gas; the proposed Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline, or the rival Qatar pipeline to Turkey that would imply a pliable Damascus.
Other serious geopolitical losers include the self-proclaimed humanitarianism of the UN and the EU. And most of all the Pentagon and the CIA and their gaggle of weaponized “moderate rebels”. It ain’t over till the last jihadi sings his Paradise song. Meanwhile, “time out” Russia is watching.
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).
Originally published in RT on February 18, 2016
Darkness dawns at the break of noon, sirens blare, red alerts convulse – and it feels like we’re 30 seconds from the 9th circle of hell. The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of demented intensity.
Is this the end, beautiful friend?
Well, not really. It’s a bluff. So let’s invoke Dada – the original internet – to put this hellhole in perspective. Dada was born a century ago at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich – smack in the middle of WWI. *Dada was not only a revolution in art; it’s a revolution still in progress.
Dada is a state of mind – pretty much the ideal antidote to manifestations of Cold War 2.0; it is all about destabilizing pomposity; search and destroy symbols; dislocation of language. So with multiple intimations of doom shaping the onset of (fake) WWIII, what’s best than to keep on truckin’ fueled by impertinence and fantasy? After all, “Life is a Cabaret”(Voltaire). Come to the cabaret.
Cut to a gaggle of rollicking Wahhabis making a cabaret entrance, complete with jets overflying Incirlik. They seem to be getting ready for…boo hoo! Ground operations in Syria! They desire it. Utterly. But, alas, there’s no plan. Listen to ringmaster Adel al-Jubeir in all his transgender glory; they may eventually add a “ground component”! But it all depends on ‘His Masters’ Voice’ issuing his permission. And the permission is not forthcoming.
“The timing is not up to us,” moan the Wahhabis. So, thirsty for the limelight, and adding to the suspense, enter… the Turks! “The best time to enter Syria is now,” howl the pro-AKP hordes from Ankara to Antalya. How can we possibly allow those seedy YPG Kurds to concoct a buffer state along our border and, moreover, one that is controlled by the Yankees and the Russkies?
Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) Terrorists! Off with their heads – like the Red Queen said, inspiring Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Our destiny is to set up a ‘secure’ refugee enclave 10 kilometers inside Syria. And forbid these refugees – by all means necessary – to cross into Turkey.
Onwards to the Jarablus pocket, north of the Azaz-Munbij line! It’s Kurd-shelling time!
Oops! They did it again. The neo-Ottomans forgot to register that ‘His Masters’ Voice’ does not regard the PYD and the YPG as “terrorists”. After all, they are gallantly battling ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. And they are not connected to “moderate rebel”Jabhat Al-Nusra, a.k.a. Al-Qaeda in Syria, while all the favorite Wahhabi/neo-Ottoman-linked goons are excited Nusra lovers. How Dada is that? And the Dada-o-meter spectacularly explodes into interstellar space as we add the seriouspossibility that no less than US Special Forces may be giving a little help to their Kurdish friends.
Say hello to my no-fly zone
While all hell is (moderately) breaking loose, everyone seems to have forgotten that Russia has (discreetly) imposed a de facto no-fly zone over virtually all of northern Syria. Not even squalid crows fly along the border, not to mention Turkish F-16s and copters. Turkish planes know that if they enter Syrian airspace, it’s an Ashes to Ashes scenario (Bowie dubbed in Cyrillic). So what is Washington to do? Provide “air support” to the neo-Ottomans and risk WWIII? Obviously not.
The Kremlin totally gets Dada but plays constructivism. The secret: to win against ISIS/ISIL/Daesh and assorted Salafi-jihadi terror gangs is impossible without sealing the same Syria-Turkish border the neo-Ottomans are itching to trespass. After all, that’s the highway from where the Jihadi/Weaponizing flows in and smuggled oil flows out. Russia, constructively, is willing to strike deals with anyone who’s not Salafi-jihadi. But there’s the rub. The Russian guest list does not match the American guest list.
So how do you get into the club? And once inside, whose tune will you be dancing to? Israel, Egypt, Jordan and even the Emirates – that profitable marriage between Abu Dhabi oil and Dubai smuggling rackets – are in close touch with the Russian game in Syria. They want closure. Not exactly the Wahhabi/neo-Ottoman game. But even if the double down desperadoes might be “supported” by Qatar and Bahrain in that notoriously elusive “ground operation”, the notion they would dare to confront both Russia and the US head to head is nothing but prime Dada.
So no wonder selected neo-Ottoman heads are doing more spinning than dervishes in Konya. We hate everybody! But we can’t declare war against ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, the PYD and that regime-unchanged ingrate Bashar Assad all at the same time!
To mollify their unspeakable chagrin, the neo-Ottomans dutifully persist in their offensive against… more Kurds – those of the PKK in Anatolia. But should they strike harder on the PYD in Syria, expect the PKK in Turkey to mastermind a lethal counterpunch.
And then, amidst such mayhem, whose head is held high as a portrait of moderation? The TSK (Turkish Armed Forces)! Picture proud Turkish generals resisting to play the (fake) prologue for a possible WWIII. How Dada is that?
White on white, anyone?
Common sense though has not prevailed – yet; that would have been so un-Dada. Re-enter ‘Northern Thunder’! Wahhabi General Ahmed Asseri continues to insist the notorious ground operation is “irreversible”. Sorry, eventually reversible if the green light from ‘The Masters’ never shines.
Still, never underestimate a frantically fearful Wahhabi for superior Dada effect. Jubeir, at the Munich Security Conference, said with a straight face that Assad is the “single most effective magnet for extremists and terrorists” in the whole Middle East. So it’s regime change or what, self-beheading en masse? Now that would be some performance art worthy of the Dadaist Manifesto.
Russia, meanwhile, behaves as placidly as Malevich’s White on White. Moscow certainly does not want to wallow into a Syrian swamp. And yet Russia is already firmly placed in Syria – and is not going anywhere apart from expanding its geopolitical footprint even further. That’s called Mediterranean projection. Everyone else, live with it.
We keep ragin’, ragin’ against the dying of the (Southwest Asian) light… And then, in a flash, we might even glimpse the possibility of the big powers, Russia and the US, reaching an ersatz of symbiosis in Syria, which may eventually translate into that “peace process” Kerry and Lavrov are so fond of. Who wants WWIII if not the mentally disabled? Oops, we Dada-it again. Tell it to ‘Sultan’ Erdogan and warrior Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
*Dada was an art movement that surfaced during World War I in Zurich in negative reaction to the war. The art, poetry and performances of the Dada artists is often nonsensical in order to convey their message.
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).
Published on The Economic Collapse on February 21, 2016
Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner
World War 3 Could Very Easily Turn Into The Very First Nuclear War In The Middle East
Saudi Arabia already has nukes, Iran probably does, and the Russians are one of the two great nuclear powers on the entire planet. So if Saudi Arabia, Turkey and their Sunni allies do decide to conduct a full-blown ground invasion of Syria, could someone ultimately decide to use nuclear weapons when their backs get pushed up against a wall? As you read this article, there are thousands of military vehicles and hundreds of thousands of troops massed along the southern border of Turkey and the northern border of Saudi Arabia. If the command is given and those forces start streaming toward Damascus, it is inevitable that the Syrians, the Iranians, Hezbollah and the Russians would fight back. It would literally be the start of World War 3, and the Saudis and the Turks are trying very hard to convince the United States to be involved. But the truth is that we don’t want any part of this conflict, because it could very easily become the very first nuclear war in the history of the Middle East.
Perhaps you didn’t know that the Saudis already have nukes. Of course the official position is that they don’t, but it is a fact that they were the ones that funded the development of Pakistan’s nuclear program. It is an open secret that the Saudis have the bomb, but nobody is really supposed to talk about it.
That is why it was so alarming what Saudi political analyst Dahham Al-‘Anzi told RT just recently…
Earlier this week a Saudi political analyst told RT’s Arab network the kingdom has a nuclear weapon.
Dahham Al-‘Anzi made the claim while saying Saudi Arabia is engaged in an effort to “minimize the Iranian threat in the Levant and Syria.”
Although Saudi Arabia has officially denied it has a nuclear weapons program and has publicly stated it opposes nuclear weapons in the Middle East, it has funded a military nuclear program and received scientific assistance from the United States and Pakistan.
You can watch video of this exchange right here…
If you don’t want to believe him, perhaps you will believe the former director of the CIA counter-terrorism operations center. He told Fox Business that everyone in the intelligence world knows the Saudis have nukes…
If the fur started flying in Syria and Russia and Iran decided to start bombing Saudi airbases, would Saudi Arabia resort to using their nukes?
Let’s hope not.
In the event of a massive ground invasion by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and their allies, it is actually more likely that Russia may decide to be the first one to use nukes. An invasion force of hundreds of thousands of troops would vastly outnumber the relatively small Russian force that is already inside Syria, and so the Russians may feel that the only way that they can keep the Sunni powers out of Damascus is to use tactical nukes.
Russia has more tactical nukes that anyone else in the world by far, and there are some reports that indicate that Russia may be prepared to use them in Syria. For example, former Associated Press reporter Robert Parry, the author of America’s Stolen Narrative, says that a source has told him that the Russians have already warned Turkey that this could potentially happen…
If Turkey (with hundreds of thousands of troops massed near the Syrian border) and Saudi Arabia (with its sophisticated air force) follow through on threats and intervene militarily to save their rebel clients, who include Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, from a powerful Russian-backed Syrian government offensive, then Russia will have to decide what to do to protect its 20,000 or so military personnel inside Syria.
A source close to Russian President Vladimir Putin told me that the Russians have warned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Moscow is prepared to use tactical nuclear weapons if necessary to save their troops in the face of a Turkish-Saudi onslaught. Since Turkey is a member of NATO, any such conflict could quickly escalate into a full-scale nuclear confrontation.
Given Erdogan’s megalomania or mental instability and the aggressiveness and inexperience of Saudi Prince Mohammad bin Salman (defense minister and son of King Salman), the only person who probably can stop a Turkish-Saudi invasion is President Obama. But I’m told that he has been unwilling to flatly prohibit such an intervention, though he has sought to calm Erdogan down and made clear that the U.S. military would not join the invasion.
Are you starting to understand how serious this is?
With all of the talk of a potential invasion in recent days, the Russians are on high alert and are rapidly preparing for a direct conflict with both Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The following comes from Infowars…
Still, the Russians are taking no chances and they have put all their forces into high alert. They have very publicly dispatched a Tu-214r – her most advanced ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) aircraft. You can think of the Tu-214R as an “AWACS for the ground”, the kind of aircraft you use to monitor a major ground battle (the regular Russian A-50Ms are already monitoring the Syrian airspace). In southern Russia, the Aerospace forces have organized large-scale exercises involving a large number of aircraft which would be used in a war against Turkey: SU-34s. The Airborne Forces are ready. The naval task forces off the Syrian coast is being augmented. The delivery of weapons has accelerated. The bottom line is simple and obvious: the Russians are not making any threats – they are preparing for war. In fact, by now they are ready.
In addition, it is important to remember that it is quite likely that the Iranians have nuclear weapons as well.
Of course the U.S. government and the Iranian government both insist that Iran does not have nukes, but many of those in the know insist otherwise.
For instance, you may want to consider what retired U.S. Army Major General Paul Vallely and U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Dennis B. Haney are saying. The following comes from an article that was authored by Jerome Corsi of WND…
In a joint statement, Vallely and Haney say an accumulation of available evidence shows a coalition of Russia, China and North Korea have assisted Iran since 1979 in achieving a nuclear weapon, despite sanctions, under the guise of a domestic nuclear energy program.
Vallely explained to WND that he and Haney have taken a systematic approach to evaluating each component needed to deliver a nuclear weapon, from the development and testing of a ballistic missile system, to the design of a nuclear weapons warhead, to the development of the weapons-grade uranium needed to produce a bomb.
“To come to our conclusion that Iran is a nuclear weapons power right now, we supplemented publicly available research, plus information from intelligence sources, including Iranian resistance groups such as the National Council of Resistance of IRAN, NCRI,” Vallely explained.
I happen to agree with Vallely and Haney. I cannot prove it, but all of the intel that I have received indicates that Iran already has nukes.
Hopefully I will not be proven accurate any time soon.
It had been hoped that a cease-fire could be negotiated that would at least temporarily defuse tensions in Syria. Unfortunately, it does not look like the shooting is going to stop, and this is going to put immense pressure on both Saudi Arabia and Turkey to do something to rescue the radical Sunni militants that are on the verge of defeat. The Saudis, the Turks and their allies have poured enormous amounts of money and resources into this war over the past five years, and now they are faced with the choice of either accepting defeat or directly intervening in this conflict themselves.
But in order to conduct a full-fledged ground invasion, they are going to need justification for doing so. There are some that are suggesting that we could soon see a false flag attack that would provide that justification, so that is something to watch out for.
I can’t remember a time when our planet has been so close to World War 3 potentially beginning.
And if it does break out, I believe that it is quite likely that nuclear weapons will be used.
So what do you think?
Do you agree with me?
Picture sleepless nights at ‘Sultan’ Erdogan’s palace in Ankara. Imagine him livid when he learns the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), backed by Russian air power, started a preemptive Battle of Aleppo – through the Bayirbucak region – cutting off Ankara’s top weaponizing corridor and Jihadi highway.
Who controls this corridor will control the final outcome of the war in Syria.
Meanwhile, in Geneva, the remote-controlled Syrian opposition, a.k.a. High Negotiations Committee, graphically demonstrated they never wanted to meet with the Damascus delegation in the first place – “proximity” talks or otherwise, even after Washington and Moscow roughly agreed on a two-year transition plan leading to a theoretically secular, nonsectarian Syria.
The Saudi front wanted no less than Ahrar al-Sham, Jaysh al-Islam and all Jabhat al-Nusra, a.k.a. al-Qaeda in Syria, collaborators at the table in Geneva. So the Geneva charade, quicker than one can say “Road to Aleppo!” was exposed for what it is.
And forget about NATO
Notorious Saudi intel mastermind Prince Turki, a former mentor of one Osama bin Laden, has been to Paris on a PR offensive; all he could muster was an avalanche of non-denial denials – and blaming the whole Syria tragedy on Bashar al-Assad.
The bulk of the Syrian ‘opposition’ used to be armchair warriors co-opted by the CIA for years, as well as CIA Muslim Brotherhood patsies/vassals. Many of these characters preferred the joys of Paris to a hard slog on Syrian ground. Now the ‘opposition’ is basically warlords answering to the House of Saud even for bottles of water – regardless of the suit-and-tie former Ba’ath Party ministers handpicked to be the face of the opposition for the gullible Western corporate media.
Meanwhile, the ‘4+1’ – Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, plus Hezbollah – is now winning decisive facts on the ground. The break down; there won’t be regime change in Damascus. Yet no one broke the news to the Turks and Saudis.
‘Sultan’ Erdogan is wallowing in a sea of desperation. He continues to divert the gravely serious issues at stake to his own war against the PYD – the umbrella organization of the Syrian Kurds – and the YPG (People's Protection Units, their military wing). Erdogan and Prime Minister Davutoglu wanted the PYD not only banned from Geneva but they want it smashed on the ground, as they see the PYD/YPG as “terrorists” allied to the PKK.
Yet what is ‘Sultan’ Erdogan going to do? Defy the recently arrived 4G++ Sukhoi Su-35S fighters – which are scaring the hell out of every NATO Dr. Strangelove? The Turkish Air Force putting its bases on “orange alert” may scare the odd vagrant dog at best. The same applies to NATO Secretary-General, figurehead Jens Stoltenberg, pleading to Russia “to act responsibly and fully respect NATO airspace.”
Moscow is going after the Turkmen with a vengeance and at the same time providing air support to the PYD west of the Euphrates. That hits the ‘Sultan’ in his heart of hearts; after all Erdogan has threatened multiple times that a PYD/YPG advance west of the Euphrates is the ultimate red line.
An already scared NATO won’t support the folly of an Erdogan war against Russia – as much as US and UK neocons may crave it; as NATO decisions must be unanimous, the last thing EU powers Germany and France want is yet another Southwest Asia war. NATO may deploy the odd Patriot missiles in southern Anatolia and the odd AWACs to support the Turkish Air Force. But that’s it.
Pick your favorite regime change
ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, meanwhile, continues to profit from its own Jihadi highway across a 98 kilometer stretch of Turkish/Syrian border, especially in Jarablus and Al Rai across from Gaziantep and Kilis in Turkey.
Taking a cue from Israel, Ankara is building a wall – 3.6 meters high, 2.5 meters wide – covering the stretch between Elbeyli and Kilis, essentially for propaganda purposes. Because the Jihadi Highway, for all practical purposes, remains open – even as Turkish Armed Forces may apprehend the odd trespasser (always released). We're talking about a monster smuggler/soldier scam; as much as $300 change hands for each night crossing and a noncommissioned Turkish officer may earn as much as $2,500 to look the other way for a few minutes.
The real question is why Gaziantep is not under a curfew imposed from Ankara, with thousands of Turkish Special Forces actually fighting a “war on terra” on the spot. That’s because Ankara and provincial authorities couldn’t give a damn; the real priority is Erdogan’s war on the Kurds.
This brings us to the only leverage the ‘Sultan’ may enjoy at the moment. From Brussels to Berlin, sound minds are terrified that the EU is now actually hostage to Erdogan’s Kurd “priority”, while Ankara is doing next to nothing to fight massive migrant smuggling.
When Davutoglu went to Berlin recently not only did he make no promises; he re-stressed Erdogan’s vow to "annihilate" the Syrian Kurds.
And that explains German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s own desperation. How could the alleged most powerful politician in Europe falls for such a crude extortion racket? The ‘Sultan’ wants a lot of cash, a lot of concessions, and even a further shot at entering the EU. Otherwise, he won’t turn off the tap on the grim refugee flood.
No wonder the regime change rumor mill is frantic. In Ankara? No; in Berlin.
Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. He is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).
Smoke rises after what activists said were airstrikes by forces loyal to Syria's President Assad in Raqqa, which is controlled by the Islamic State
Originally published in RT on December 14, 2015
The FSB, SVR and GRU in Russia, while drawing all the right connections, cannot help but conclude that Washington is letting Cold War 2.0 escalate to the boiling point.
Imagine Russian intel surveying the geopolitical chessboard.
A Russian passenger jet is bombed by an affiliate of ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. A Russian fighter jet is ambushed and downed by Turkey; here is a partial yet credible scenario of how it may have happened.
Ukrainian right-wing goons sabotage the Crimean electricity supply. A Syrian army base near Deir Ezzor – an important outpost against ISIS/ISIL/Daesh in eastern Syria – is hit by the US-led Coalition of the Dodgy Opportunists (CDO). The IMF “pardons” Ukraine’s debt to Russia as it joins, de facto, Cold War 2.0.
And this is just a shortlist.
This is a logical progression. The NATO-GCC compound in Syria is devoured by angst. Russia’s entry into the Syrian war theater – a proxy war, not a civil war – threw all elaborate, downright criminal regime change plans into disarray.
If the US-led CDO were really committed to fighting ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, they would be working side by side with the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), not bombing it or trying to stall it.
And they would be actively trying to shut down the key Turkey-Syria crossroads – the Jarablus corridor which is in fact a 24/7 Jihadi Highway.
NATO’s game in Syria wallows in slippery ambiguity. Discussions with dissident EU diplomats in Brussels, not necessarily NATO vassals, reveal a counter-narrative of how the Pentagon clearly mapped out the Russian strategy; how they interpreted Russian forces to be relatively isolated; and how they decided to allow Ankara under Sultan Erdogan to go wild – a perfect tool offering plausible deniability.
Which brings us back to the downing of the Su-24. Venturing one step further, Russian expert Alexei Leonkov maintains that not only did NATO follow the whole operation with an AWACS, but another AWACS from Saudi Arabia actually guided the Turkish F-16s.
The F-16s are incapable of launching air-to-air missiles without guidance from AWACS. Both Russian and Syrian data – which can be independently verified – place the American and the Saudi AWACS in the area at the time. And to top it off, the detailed US-Turkey deal on the F-16s stipulates permission is mandatory for deploying the jets against a third country.
All this suggests an extremely serious possibility; a direct NATO-GCC op against Russia, which may be further clarified by the Su-24’s recovered black box.
As if this was not enough to raise multiple eyebrows, it could mean just the first move in an expanding chessboard. The final target: to keep Russia away from the Turkish-Syrian border.
But that won’t happen for a number of reasons – not least the Russian deployment of the ultra-lethal S-400s. The Turkish Air Force is so scared that everything – even owls and vultures – is grounded across the border.
Meanwhile, the Humint component is being boosted; more Western boots on the ground, Germans included, branded as mere “advisers” – which, if deployed to the battlefield, may inevitably clash with the SAA. To mold public opinion, the humanitarian bombing faction of German neoliberalcons is already spinning the tale that Assad is the real enemy, not ISISI/SIL/Daesh. Finally, the Germans have made it clear they won’t work alongside Russia and the SAA, but responding to Centcom in Florida and the CDO HQ in Kuwait.
The NATO master plan for northern Syria in the next few weeks and months essentially features US, UK and Turkey fighter jets, with the French still in the balance (are we de facto collaborating with the Russians, or is it just posture?) This is being sold to global public opinion as a “coalition” effort – with Russia barely mentioned.
The master plan, under the cover of bombing the fake “Caliphate” lair in Raqqa, would ideally open the way to a de facto, Erdogan-concocted “safe zone” across the Jarablus corridor, which in reality is a no-fly zone able to harbor a gaggle of“moderate rebels”, a.k.a. hardcore Salafi-jihadis of the al-Nusra kind.
In parallel, expect a torrent of Turkish spin centered on “protecting” the Turkmen minority in northern Syria, actually Turkey’s fifth column, heavily infiltrated by Islamo-fascists of the Grey Wolves kind. It started with Ankara accusing Moscow of “ethnic cleansing”. Erdogan will go no holds barred appealing even for R2P (“responsibility to protect” NATO liberation, Libyan-style.)
And here’s where NATO is totally in sync with Ankara; after all, a “safe zone” protected by NATO crammed with “moderate rebels” is the perfect tool to turbo-charge the breakup of the Syrian state.
It’s not legal but we don’t care
NATO’s Syria intervention is of course absolutely illegal.
UN Security Council resolution 2249 does not fall under Chapter 7 of the UN charter. Yet once again creative language – French-style rhetorical artifice – blurs the non-justification of military might by conveying the impression the UNSC approves it.
And that’s exactly how David of Arabia Cameron interpreted it. Obfuscation is inbuilt in the process, with London pledging to work side by side with Moscow.
Resolution 2249 is yet another case of international law reduced to rubble. For these – sporadic – UK and French air strikes, covered by the pretext of hitting ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, were never authorized by Damascus, and the UNSC was not even consulted. Russia, on the other hand, has been fully authorized by Damascus.
On top of this, the CDO is no coalition of 60 or 65 countries, as the Obama administration is frantically spinning. They are actually a gang of seven: Germany, France, UK, US, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. In a nutshell; a pared-down-to-the-bone NATO-GCC compound.
Who’s actually fighting the fake “Caliphate” on the ground are the SAA; Hezbollah; Iraqi Shi’ites under Iranian advisers; and outside of the “4+1” alliance (Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq plus Hezbollah) a coalition of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and smaller Arab and Christian militias, now united under a political umbrella, the Syrian Democratic Council, which Ankara predictably abhors.
Ankara provocations won’t stop – including “creative” ways of denying the passage of “Syrian Express” Russian ships through the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles without violating the Montreux Convention.
So NATO’s “new” master plan, twisting and turning, still slouches towards the prime objective: “liberating”, Libya-style, northern Syria and allow it to be occupied either by “moderate rebels” or in the worst case scenario Syrian Kurds, which in theory would be easily manipulated.
ISIS/ISIL/Daesh would be in this case “contained” (Obama administration lingo) not in eastern Syria but actually expelled to the Iraqi western desert, where they would solidify a Sunnistan. Erdogan also badly wants a Sunnistan, but his version is even more ambitious, including Mosul.
This is all happening while a gaggle of Syrian “moderate” rebels met – of all places – in Wahhabi/Salafi-Jihadi Central Riyadh to choose a delegation of 42 people to “select the negotiators” of future Syrian peace talks.
Once again they agreed “Assad must go” even during the transition process. And that “foreign forces” must leave Syria. Obviously that excludes the tsunami of mercenaries paid and weaponized by Riyadh alongside Doha and Ankara.
Any sound mind would ask how the House of Saud gets away with it: choosing who is a “moderate” in a nation they are heavily involved in destabilizing. Simple: because Riyadh owns a gaggle of US lobbyists and handsomely rewards PR gurus such as Edelman, the largest privately owned PR agency on the planet.
The die is cast. Whatever Ankara – under the cover of NATO – may be concocting to prevent the “4+1” from advancing on the ground in Syria, the writing is on the (lethal) wall. It may come embedded in cruise missiles delivered by the Caspian Fleet or delivered by submarines. And it will follow to the letter what President Putin himself told the Defense Ministry's collegium: And not by accident, the Syrian Democratic Council was not invited to go to Riyadh.
"I order you to act extremely tough. Any targets that threaten Russian forces or our infrastructure on the ground should be immediately destroyed."
Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).
Aired on the Doomstead Diner on December 15, 2015
Discuss this conversation at the Diner TV Table inside the Diner
Main topics for this discussion were the outcomes of the COP21 Climate Conference in Paris, the escalating warfare between NATO, Russia, Syria and Turkey in MENA and the collapse of a few Hedge Funds in the last week.
Another very enlightening discussion overall, although WARNING here, Ugo had technical issues which garbled his contributions in the first half of the vidcast. It got fixed later, but his early contributions are hard to make out. Everyone else rendered fine however.
We'll be BACK in 2016 with more Collapse Jawboning, assuming the Internet does not Go Dark on New Year's Eve.
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year to all you Doomers out there!
Audio Only, Download on Diner Soundcloud to listen on your phone or mp3 player
Also, don't miss this Blast from the Past Rant!!!
Kurrency Kollapse: To Print or not to Print
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As much as Daesh – at least up to now – Barzani mob in Iraqi Kurdistan was never under Washington’s watch. The oil operation the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) runs to Turkey is virtually illegal; stolen state-owned oil as far as Baghdad is concerned.
Daesh stolen oil can’t flow through Damascus-controlled territory. Can’t flow though Shiite-dominated Iraq. Can't go east to Iran. It’s Turkey or nothing. Turkey is the easternmost arm of NATO. The US and NATO “support” Turkey. So a case can be made that the US and NATO ultimately support Daesh.
What’s certain is that illegal Daesh oil and illegal KRG oil fit the same pattern; energy interests by the usual suspects playing a very long game.
What these interests are focused on is to control every possible oil asset in Iraqi Kurdistan and then in “liberated” Syria. It’s crucial to know that Tony "Deepwater Horizon" Hayward is running Genel, whose top priority is to control oil fields that were first stolen from Baghdad, and will eventually be stolen from the Iraqi Kurds.
And then, there’s the Turkmen powder keg.
The key reason why Washington always solemnly ignored Ankara’s array of shady deals in Syria, through its fifth column Turkmen jihadis, is because a key CIA “rat line” runs exactly through the region known as Turkmen Mountain.
These Turkmen, supplied by Ankara’s “humanitarian” convoys, got American TOW-2As for their role in preserving prime weaponizing/ smuggling routes. Their advisers, predictably, are Xe/Academi types, formerly Blackwater. Russia happened to identify the whole scam and started bombing the jihadis. Thus the downing of the Su-24.
— RT (@RT_com) December 2, 2015
The Turkmen fifth column
Now the CIA is on a mission from God – frantically trying to prevent the “rat line” from being definitely smashed by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) on the ground and Russia in the air.
The same desperation applies to the Aleppo-Azez-Killis route, which is also essential for Turkey for all kinds of smuggling.
The advanced arm of the “4+1” alliance – Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, plus Hezbollah – is taking no prisoners trying to re-conquer these two key corridors.
And that explains Ankara’s desperation – with a little help from ‘His Masters’ Voice’ – to come up with an entirely new rat line/corridor through Afrin, currently under Syrian Kurd control, before Damascus forces and Russia air power get there.
Once again it’s important to remember that a gaggle of Turkmen outfits are Ankara’s fifth column in northern Syria.
Most Turkmen live in Kurdish territories. And here’s the ultimate complicating factor; the majority happen to live in the Jarablus region, currently controlled by ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. It’s exactly this area that is cutting the geographic connection between the two Kurdish cantons, Kobani and Afrin.
So imagine a continuous Syrian Kurd control/autonomy/corridor all across the Turkish-Syrian border. For Ankara this is the ultimate nightmare. Ankara’s strategy is to move its Turkmen pawns, with added “moderate rebels”, all across the Jarablus region. The pretext: wipe Daesh off the map. The real reason: prevent the two Kurdish cantons – Afrin and Kobani – from merging.
And once again Ankara will be directly pitted against Moscow.
The Russian strategy rests on very good relations with Syrian Kurds. Moscow not only supports the Syrian Kurd canton merger, but qualifies it as an important step on the way to a new Syria rid of takfiris. Russia will even officially recognize the PYD (Democratic Union Party) and allow them a representative office in Russia.
Ankara regards the PYD and its paramilitary arm, the YPG (People’s Protection Units) as branches of the PKK. It gets curioser and curioser when we know that both Moscow and Washington are cooperating with the YPG against ISIS/ISIL/Daesh.
The predictable All-Out Ankara Freak Out came in the form of ‘Sultan’ Erdogan declaring the Euphrates a “red line” for the YPG. If they try to move westward to fight Daesh, sending them out of the Jarablus area, the Turkish Army will strike.
It’s absolutely key for Turkey to control this area between Jarablus and Afrin because here is the site of the would-be “safe zone”, actually a no-fly zone, which Ankara dreams of implementing using the three billion just extorted from the EU to house refugees but also control northern Syria. Turkmen would be in charge of the area – as well as the Azez-Aleppo line, assuming the SAA does not clear it for good.
— RT (@RT_com) November 28, 2015
The case for UEBA
So Ankara is looking at two very unpleasant Turkmen-filled scenarios to say the least.
Turkmen becoming instruments of Ankara and gatekeepers against the Kurdish YPG; that means a nasty sectarian divide, orchestrated by Turkey, whose greatest loser is the unity of the Syrian nation.
Meanwhile, the SAA and Russian air power are on the verge of total control of Turkmen Mountain.
This will allow the “4+1” to go much deeper fighting against the so-called Army of Conquest and its twin-headed reptile, Jabhat al-Nusra (a.k.a. al-Qaeda in Syria) and Ahrar al-Sham, the whole lot “supported” and weaponized by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
The “4+1” inexorable advance comes with extra benefits; the end of all rat lines in the region, and no more possible threats to Russia’s air base in Hmeimim.
Make no mistake that Moscow will inflict as much pain on ‘Sultan’ Erdogan as possible.
As Turkish newspaper Radikal quoted him, Prof. Abbas Vali of Bogazici University confirmed, “The PYD was pleased about Russia’s intervention in Syria. An alliance between the PYD and Russia is inevitable. Russia’s bombardment of the radical Islamist groups on the ground will have a huge impact on the PYD operations.”
So no matter which way we look, Turkey and Russia are on a serious collision course in Syria. Moscow will support Syrian Kurds no holds barred as they push to link the three major Kurdish cantons in northern Syria into a unified Rojava.
As for Washington’s “strategy”, it now boils down to the CIA need for a new “rat line”. That could imply sitting on the – weaponizing – sidelines watching Turkmen and Kurds slug it out, thus creating an opening for the Turkish Army to intervene, and the Russian Air Force to prevent it, with all hell guaranteed to break loose.
‘Sultan’ Erdogan badly needs a new CIA-secured “rat line” to weaponize not only his fifth column Turkmen but also Chechens, Uzbeks and Uyghurs. And Bilal Erdogan, a.k.a. Erdogan Mini Me, desperately needs new oil smuggling routes and a couple of new tankers; Russia is watching their every move. The latest news from Russia’s Defense Ministry has struck like a volcanic eruption; the Erdogan family mob was branded as “criminals”, with Moscow presenting only an appetizer of the all the evidence it has in store.
So we have the Afghan heroin rat line. The Libyan oil racket (now over). The Ukraine fascist rat line. The Libya to Syria weapon rat line. The stolen Syrian oil trade. The northern Syrian rat lines. Let’s call them UEBA: Unregulated Exceptionalist Business Activities. What’s not to like? There’s no business like war business.
Publishes on Cassandra's Legacy on November 22, 2015
Here, I argue that the origins of the Syrian collapse are to be found in the economic downturn generated by the gradual depletion of the Syrian oil reserves. Crude oil had created modern Syria, crude oil has destroyed it. This phenomenon can be termed the "Syrian Sickness" and the question is: "which country will be affected next?"
Discuss this article at the Energy Table inside the Diner
The "Syrian Sickness": What Crude Oil Gives, Crude Oil Can Take Back.
Crude oil is a great source of wealth for the countries that possess it. But it is also a wealth that comes as a cycle. Normally, the cycle spans several decades, even more than a century, so that those who live through it may completely miss the fact that they are heading to an end of their wealth. But the cycle is faster and especially visible in those areas where the amount of oil is modest; there, wealth and misery appear one after the other in a dramatic series of events.
One of these rapid cycles of growth and decline is that of Syria. It is a country that never became a major world producer, its maximum output was less than 1% of the world's total production when it peaked, around 1995. (graph below, from Gail Tverberg's blog). For the small Syrian economy, however, even this limited amount was important.
The Syrian oil production went through its cycle over little more than three decades. Depletion generated progressively higher production costs and that led to a scarcity of capital investments to keep production increasing, eventually forcing it to decline. The result was the "bell shaped" production curve that is often called the "Hubbert curve". Around 2011, the internal consumption curve crossed the production curve and that transformed the country from an oil exporter to an oil importer. The cross-over point corresponded to the start of the civil war.
The IMF data show that the Syrian government's budget was still 25% dependent on oil in 2010. Data on what it was earlier on are hard to find, but it is clear that it must have been much larger. It may well be that, at the time of the peak, most of the government's revenues came from oil. Seen in this light, it is not surprising that the complete loss of these revenues generated a big turmoil.
So, we can build up a narrative of what happened in Syria after the peak. With progressively lower oil revenues, the government was less and less able to afford the bureaucracy and the social services it used to provide. Gradually, it became also unable to afford an efficient police force and a functioning army. The middle class, that had been strongly dependent on the government's handouts, was badly hit. The most educated and wealthy ones left the country or, at least, moved their financial assets abroad. Those who were forced to remain saw their assets destroyed by hyperinflation and became an impoverished urban proletariat. At the same time, the countryside also went through an economic disaster, enhanced by the droughts created by climate change. At this point, a large number of young men, unemployed and without hope for the future, become cannon fodder for religious fanatics and for local warlords, often paid by foreign powers interested in carving out the country in pieces to be distributed among themselves. The destruction of whatever was left was also helped by economic sanction and aerial bombardments. The final result is what we see: the "Syrian Sickness." A nearly terminal form of social sickness; it is hard to imagine when and how Syria will be able to recover even a shade of its former wealth and stability.
The factors that led to the Syrian disaster are by no means limited to Syria alone. Yemen went through a nearly identical cycle; going through the peak its oil production in 2002 at levels smaller than those of Syria, but probably even more important for the local economy. The cross-over point of the production and consumption curves took place in 2013 and, like Syria, the country is at present being destroyed by civil war and aerial bombardments. (image from "crudeoilpeak")
There are several other examples of minor oil producers that went through similar cycles. Egypt, for instance, experienced the cross-over of production and consumption in 2010, experiencing a phase of dramatic civil unrest. Egypt, however, did not collapse; most likely because the importance of oil in its economy was not as large as it was for Syria. Other examples of countries that experienced the cross-over are Malaysia and Indonesia, also undergoing internal troubles, but no generalized collapse. No country is completely immune to the Syrian sickness, but some are less sensitive to it.
At this point, the question is obvious: given the known cases of Syrian Sickness, given that depletion is unavoidable, which country is next in line?
There are several candidates for a future crossover of production and consumption, but none seems to be very close to it. Venezuela, Iran, and Mexico may be the producers most at risk; but the critical moment may still be several years away in the future. But the most interesting and worrisome case is that of Saudi Arabia. The data shown below are from Mazamascience. Most producers of the Arabian peninsula (with the exception of Yemen) show a similar pattern.
You see that, despite the rapid increase in internal consumption, Saudi Arabia is still able to export about two thirds of its production. But how about the future? Of course, extrapolations are always dangerous, but it doesn't seem that the production and consumption curves are destined to cross each other very soon. Hence, the country might still have at least a couple of decades of substantial oil export revenues. The problem is that the Saudi economy is heavily dependent on oil: 90% of the government revenues come from oil. So, Saudi Arabia may not need to go through the cross-over point to start experiencing troubles. Consider that it is nearly completely dependent on imports for the food its population consumes, and that the trend is worsening because of the depletion of local aquifers. You can imagine what the problem could become in case of a substantial loss of financial resources coming from crude oil. If Saudi Arabia starts suffering of the Syrian Sickness, the result disaster may make the Syrian collapse pale in comparison.
Is there any hope for Saudi Arabia or any other producing country to avoid the Syrian Sickness? There are several ways to postpone or reverse the decline of oil production if sufficient financial resources are available. However, these are just stopgap measures: depletion is an irreversible process. A country can only prepare for it by building an alternative economic infrastructure while it is still possible; an opportunity that was missed in Syria. Today, Saudi Arabia doesn't lack the financial resource for massive investments in renewable energy, that would provide an alternative to the collapse created by depletion. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that these investments are being made, with the Saudi government preferring to engage in expensive military power games. That's a bad idea not only for Saudi Arabia, but for the whole world: with more than 10% of the world's oil consumption provided by producers in the Arabian Peninsula, you can imagine what might happen if the region falls victim of the Syrian Sickness.
Crude oil has given a lot to Saudi Arabia, crude oil can take back a lot from it. But there is something that crude oil can never provide, and it is wisdom necessary to manage it well.
Publishes on the Economic Undertow on November 17, 2015
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When reports of gunmen shooting up nightclubs and cafés in Paris emerged late Friday, the immediate thought was, “What are they going to take away from us now? What remaining liberty will we be forced to surrender … to make us safe?”
The second immediate thought was, “false flag’: what did the intelligence services have to do with this attack? Did they know the plot in advance and did they look the other way? Did they go farther and provide planning, target lists, information, money and supplies? Did they offer safe-houses, transportation or false papers? Who were the attackers? Were they what the media loudly trumpets them to be, Islamic State militants, or were they something else; common criminals or government operatives posing as militants?
These are questions not being asked, instead, there is the non-stop, televised fear mongering, the demand for retribution and the promise of more military action by otherwise inept bosses.
At some level, the agencies had to know of this attack in advance, they could not be so incompetent as to be unaware. Friday’s attack was the latest in a long series of militant strikes against civilians. In Europe as in the US, spy agencies have surveillance over everyone’s computers and smartphones twenty-four hours a day. Like the rest of the modern world’s children, jihadis cannot function without credit cards, Facebook and Twitter … online porn and ‘Candy Crush’. France is thick on the ground with informants and stool pigeons. Many of these are racketeers and hardened criminals who have no fear of jihadi violence and much to gain by trading information about competing gangs to the police. In the poor areas of Belgium; in Molenbeek and the grimy high-rise slums of suburban Paris and Lyon, in Marseilles and elsewhere, everyone knows what everyone else is doing. There are no secrets. Since Friday, the French and Belgian police have conducted 160 raids against terror suspects, they did not come up with names and addresses over the weekend … They knew.
France did not find targets in Raqqa, Syria and send jet aircraft and the other supporting infrastructure to strike them in 72 hours. All of the forces involved were set into motion long ago, the entire operation including the recent attacks appears to have been staged: French military preparations, pre-positioning of hardware and command structure in Jordan and UAE since early in 2015; the French air attacks on Syria; the tit-for-tat massacres in France, the media saturation and hysteria followed by the next level of military response and the urging on by the US and others in a vicious, self-reinforcing cycle. “The game is afoot,” cries Sherlock Holmes; the question is, what sort of game is it?
Militarism is a factor. War is a form of economic stimulus, a self- referential or self- advertising scam; a bastardized Keynesianism directed toward arms manufacturers and ‘service providers’. War has also historically been a way to seize and exploit resources. Western governments tend to avoid the blitz- and conquest approach because of costs. Instead, governments colonize indirectly by exporting political and social instability to targeted countries — particularly the petro-states — then importing consumption capacity along with the crude. This strategy aims to offset the decline in net petroleum exports as described by Jeffrey Brown, (Peak Prosperity):
“I started wondering in late 2005 what happens to oil exports from an exporting country, given a production decline and rising consumption. And, so I just started, I just constructed a simple little model. I assumed a production of about two million barrels a day or so at peak, consumption of one, and assumed production falls about 5% per year, basically what the North Sea did, and assumed consumption increases to 2.5% per year. What the model showed was that exports, net exports would go to zero in only nine years, even though a roughly modest production decline. So, the easy way to state it is giving an ongoing, inevitable decline in production, unless an exporting country cuts their domestic oil consumption at the same rate as the rate of decline in production, or at a faster rate, it’s a mathematical certainty that the net export decline rate, what they actually ship out to consumers will exceed the rate of decline in production. And, furthermore, it accelerates … “
Always pay close attention to what the bosses do and ignore what they say: targeted ‘destability’ is by itself evidence for the presumably defunct ‘peak oil theory’ as well as the establishment’s understanding and appreciation of it. Because fuel constraints are destabilizing by themselves; little additional prodding is required to unhinge vulnerable countries. When Syrians, Ukraines, Libyans, Iraqis, Yemenis, Afghans and others are unable to drive because they are car-less, road-less, dead, penniless or refugees, Americans drive in their place. “The American way of life is non-negotiable,” proclaimed George HW Bush in 1992; the inch-by-inch demolition of countries … including Greece, Spain, Portugal and France … is what ‘non-negotiable’ looks like.
The amounts of fuel to be had by way of ‘consumption switching’ from the destitute countries of the global south is trivial, no more than a few hundred-thousand barrels per day; unraveling these countries is overture/practice for the larger game. The prizes are Europe, with its crude daily consumption of 12.5 million barrels; also China and Russia, with their daily output of 15+ million barrels per day. Should Europe be wrenched into consuming half of that current total, Americans will gain the balance. As China- and Russia’s economies collapse oil prices will crash even lower than they are now as more desperate barrels are dumped onto the world market.
The ongoing ‘crude oil glut’ is not the result of fracking technology or Saudi marketing strategy but a result of war and economic distress, purposefully applied wherever there are vulnerabilities. A devastated country with no government or business activity to speak of will continue to pump as much oil as it can, for as long as it can, to provide logistical support to meet increasingly urgent military needs … and to provide ‘safe spaces’ for antsy bosses, whomever they might happen to be, whomever they might happen to be, whomever they might happen to be!
Figure 1: Iraq no longer exists as a unified country but the fragments nevertheless extract 4 million barrels of light crude per day (Ron Patterson/Peak Oil Barrel). The appearance of excess supply glut has occurred during a period when gross crude production has been relatively flat. In the face of unlimited demand (not to be confused with consumption) there must be triage: to accommodate some users, other users have to levered out of the market … by hook or by crook.
Figure 2: Hook vs. crook: French petroleum consumption has been declining steadily for economic reasons, chart by Mazama Science (click for big). French drivers guzzle 1.5 million barrels of MENA (Middle East, North Africa) crude per day. Paris has an interest in destabilizing these areas to absorb their consumption and make them more dependent upon French euros; the US has an interest in ruining France so that it’s millions of barrels of daily consumption might flow into American gas tanks.
The foregoing leaves out the fact that customers in France and elsewhere around the world are broke and becoming less able to afford fuel at any price.
Islamic State is the New Black.
ISIS and other, similar groups are the future revealing itself. Instead of science fiction-y high technology and ‘innovation’, singularities and robot immortality, there is 17th century barbarism. Along with Ukraine and Iraq, Syria is one more fiercely ugly place-of-the-moment where fantasy of unlimited material ‘progress’ and the reality of resource constraints collide. The West and the United States have caught themselves in a trap of their own making. The West requires resources from the Middle East and elsewhere to produce GDP expansion. The West’s (borrowed) fuel payments provide funding for messianic non-state actors that threaten the West itself. If you drive a car you must buy fuel, when you buy fuel you are funding ISIS and growing constellation of similar groups.
To buy fuel we borrow because using fuel is non-remunerative: it’s recreational like sitting in a café in the 11th arrondissement. We are ironically borrowing ourselves into bankruptcy so that we might support individuals whose intent is to murder us all in our nightclubs.
Because the West’s fuel payments are borrowed; the cost threatens the West ‘through the back door’. More expensive credit makes it increasingly difficult to destroy the militants: failing to destroy makes them more ‘efficient’. Our waste + borrowing + warfare cycle has created a Frankenstein monster that nobody can get rid of or control.
The same monster becomes the rationalization for governments to do whatever they will to control their own citizens with the citizens’ blessing. ISIS & Co. has become the end that justifies all means but one … what would fatally undermine the group … to give up the precious automobiles and all the high-cost, money/resource guzzling crap that goes with them.
It’s important to view what is underway in the world right now in both developed and developing countries through a petroleum prism. Economic distress in the OECD and elsewhere is a consequence of the high cost of- and lack of return on fuel consumption. Political ineptitude and social distress is a product of declining economic fortunes. The rise of militancy in developing countries is a consequence of consumption switching and military meddling by the West. Islamic militancy, like climate change has become another ‘wicked problem’, where proposed solutions are simply new problems in drag, with costs that cannot be discovered until the solutions are deployed and found wanting.
Ryan Lissa @ New Yorker observes that none of the Democratic candidates for president have a plan for removing #ISIS. The Republicans don’t have a plan, either. Nobody does because we don’t want to give up anything. We are desperate for pleasant outcomes, managers are satisfied to make minuscule adjustments on the margins which cannot ‘scale up’ resulting in failure.
Militancy cannot be removed from its context of neo-colonial exploitation of global south’s resources. We need to actually change our lifestyles, to make sacrifices, to give somethings up, our useless, costly toys. #ISIS is a consequence, an externality of our squandrous waste of irreplaceable capital. Sending in the air force fails because doing so wastes more capital even as prior interventions are what birthed and nurtured groups like #ISIS in the first place.
We have created a world where we must drive fifteen miles from the living room to the bathroom. We look to shift the costs of this folly onto others far away … which becomes too close for comfort when the refugees and militants arrive onto our doorsteps, begging for handouts or spraying bullets. Instability feeds on itself, whether it is in Raqqa, Somalia or Paris, South Sudan or Afghanistan = ‘Conservation by Other Means™’
Islamic State’ is an idea, not a country, it has little in the way of precious infrastructure to destroy. Bombing it is a waste of time and resources. The only way to get rid of the militants is to bankrupt them. That happens when the West and its imitators stop using fuel.
The fighting in the Middle East would end instantly if the US government instructed the petro-states Saudi Arabia and Iran to stand down or else … The Navy would halt the flow of tankers to- and from the Persian Gulf. It can do so safely from 200 miles away, out of range of (Iranian) aircraft or missiles. Without tanker traffic => no oil sales => no dollars or euros or pounds-sterling => no cash flow for hobby wars or other nonsense. Simply starting a public discussion about this option on television would cause the Middle Eastern oil powers and their proxies to make a run for the negotiating table. To do otherwise would be too risky: if consumers around the world were to free themselves from Middle Eastern crude for even a little while … there is no reason why they could not do so permanently.
The US should also embargo military hardware sales to combatants, it should freeze the combatants’ dollar funds held in the West’s banking system, including funds belonging to the Islamic State. The US leadership could get on TV and instruct the Americans in no uncertain terms to cut energy use in half in two years … to do so or else. Doing so would rid us of useless, bankrupting automobiles, for which so much blood is being shed.
Source: UNHCR (2015)
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There are around 20 million refugees in the world out of 60 million displaced persons, according to UNHCR. During the period January-November 2015 some 820,318 refugees has arrived to Europe by sea and 3,485 have died or are missing. A full 65% of arrivals are men, mostly from Syria and Afghanistan. Most refugees have arrived in Greece to later make their way towards Germany and Sweden, through Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, and Austria.
What we see in the Mediterranean is a humanitarian crisis of huge proportions and need to be treated as such. Telling refugees they can have a permanent residentship while not establishing boundaries (domestic capacity and which people to prioritize) or approving visas for safe travel is not a humane policy. Countries like Germany and Sweden have had to revise their policies because it’s creating so much confusion and encouraging the growth in human trafficking and thus increasing the death toll on the sea.
We have to understand that many refugees trying to reach Europe over the Mediterranean are often men with some money searching for better opportunities than they currently can find in e.g. Turkey or Lebanon. One reason for this is because the world’s rich countries have not funded the UN’s humanitarian agencies which are now on the verge of financial bankruptcy (The Guardian, 2015). This year the World Food Programme had to cut food rations to 1.6 million Syrian refugees, warning that this leaves many vulnerable to recruitment by extremist groups (The Guardian, 2015). Less humanitarian help in places of conflict has in turn lead to larger migration flows. Deteriorating conditions in Lebanon and Jordan have become intolerable for many of the 4 million people who has fled Syria, driving the latest waves of immigration towards north-west Europe.
A humane policy would not reward only young men with the money to cross the sea. Instead it would determine the right to asylum based on needs, e.g. the sick or orphans, and give them a visa to safely travel into Europe. A more humane policy with increased funding to UN’s humanitarian agencies will also safeguard that social tensions don’t spin out of control in Europe, so that the refugees that get to come feel safe and welcome while people that want to stay in the region can do so without starving or turning to violence.
A more humane policy by the rich EU is to provide resources (food, water, healthcare, family planning service, ecological restoration etc.) to vulnerable countries in the MENA region, not to accept only some rich ones that manage to cross the sea. Europe has long been a centre that has sucked in natural resources from the world's poor in exchange for worthless fiat currency and unpayable debts. Now it’s time to repay some of those resources, in the interest of peace and stability in the region.
According to the Guardian article, quote: “The Syria regional refugee response plan is only funded to 35% of the $1.3bn needed to support refugees, both in the camps and by providing resilience funding for the countries hosting them” which is a disgrace, wealthy countries complaining about a refugee crisis but being unwilling to fund the response in the region. The article goes on to state: “In August, a multi-million dollar shortfall forced the World Health Organisation to close down 184 health clinics across 10 of Iraq’s 18 districts, in an area that has seen severe fighting and massive internal displacement. The cuts have left 3 million people without access to healthcare. The World Health Organisation is trying to raise $60m to fund healthcare in Iraq but so far only $5.1m has been given by donors. Dr Michelle Gayer is director for emergency risk management at the WHO. She told the Guardian that the gap between the desperate need in countries such as Iraq and current funding levels risked permanent damage to public health across whole populations” (The Guardian, 2015)
There are plenty of young unemployed people in Europe that wants a job so why don't governments fund UN's programs that could make use of young talents at the same time as it helps vulnerable communities in the MENA region. That could actually help lower the risk of extremism spreading, as opposed to military intervention which only creates extremism. Better yet, take money from defence budgets and put it into aid if there "isn't enough funding" at the moment. Have we learned nothing from our previous failures?
Fresh from its thunderous humiliation by the Taliban; its “liberation” of Libya for the benefit of militia hell; and while Russia was bombing the hell out of a Salafi-jihadi/”moderate rebel” constellation in Syria, NATO – in search for a “360-degree” response to Russia – resorted to invading… Spain.
And Portugal. And Italy. The whole “central Mediterranean” for that matter. Trident Juncture – the heroic denomination of NATO’s war games – is supposed to last a very long five weeks, involving 36,000 troops, 230 military units, 140 fighter aircraft, more than 60 ships, and Humvees spectacularly bogged down on Portuguese beaches.
NATO secretary-general, Norwegian figurehead Jens Stoltenberg, ceremonially landed in Zaragoza to “observe” Trident Juncture in person, spinning there were now “many threats to the South of the alliance”. No, he was not talking about himself.
Stoltenberg was evidently oblivious to pan-European civil society protesting his weaponized Big Brother en masse. In Zaragoza. In Rome. In Sofia. In Montenegro.
Instead, he advanced that in early December NATO will come up with a new “southern strategy”. Essentially more patrols in the Club Med; deployment of NATO troops in “advisory” roles across Middle East-Northern Africa (MENA); and reinforced, permanent NATO military deployments all over Europe.
Trident Juncture involves what NATO calls “spearhead force”. So may the force be fit to invade not only PIGS but all points Africa as well.
Maybe we should copy DHL?
With Trident Juncture, we have a NATO invasion of some of the PIGS (Portugal, Italy and Spain) – all nasty, pejorative connotations included – essentially designed to reassure NATO’s “eastern allies” that Russia will not be able to invade them.
After all, Admiral John Richardson, the new chief of US Navy operations, had already confirmed the Pentagon is sending extra ships and submarines to deter “Russian adventurism”.
He was echoed by Gen. Adrian Bradshaw, NATO’s deputy supreme allied commander, who invoked perennial “freedom of navigation” to justify an escalation; “As we observe the deployment of more sophisticated [Russian] capabilities with considerable reach it becomes more and more important that we refresh our deterrence.”
So from now on expect a NATO “continuum of deterrence” all across southern Europe. That includes five Global Hawk surveillance drones based in Sicily that will allow non-stop spying across the Mediterranean to MENA.
Predictably, to justify Trident Juncture, Western corporate media turned up the excuse bullhorn to ear-splitting levels – from “wrong-footed US-led alliance” to “tactical surprises” by Russia – while praising NATO’s “biggest modernization since the Cold War”. Gen. Denis Mercier from France spun NATO’s new, multi-layered “deterrence” effort as, "We need to develop a strategy for all kinds of crises, at 360 degrees." Well, a few extra degrees towards the Eastern Mediterranean would pit NATO against Russia – but that’s too risky. Better try to find those tapas.
Proverbially unnamed NATO officials were kept busy anyway spinning that Russia could deploy warships from the Eastern Mediterranean to Libya to “hamper” a NATO “effort” to support a future government of national unity. As if NATO’s “strategy” of creating a wasteland in northern Africa and calling it “victory” would qualify it for nation building.
Trident Juncture is just about – well — tapas. The full dinner takes place at a NATO summit in July 2016 in Russia-demonizing Poland. Europeans are advised to expect lots of brilliant ideas lifted from DHL and Amazon. As NATO’s Mercier indelibly put it, “We should look at what the civilian world does, to DHL and Amazon. How do they improve their logistics?"
Oh, those mysterious Russians
NATO’s cluelessness is a direct consequence of American military perplexity, as reflected in this priceless briefing by Dr. Strangelove, sorry, NATO supremo Gen. Philip Breedlove himself.
In his own words; “We cannot be fully certain of what Russia will do next. We still cannot fully discern Mr. Putin’s intent.”
And that perplexity in itself reflects the Pentagon’s deadly mix of ire and impotence. Take US Army Chief of Staff General Mike Milley, blasting at the Defense One summit in Washington that Russia is “aggressive”; “adversarial to the interests of the United States”; a violator of “the Westphalian order” since 2008 by “invading sovereign nations”; and in sum – fully subscribing to the latest US military doctrine — an existential threat.
Breedlove/hate at least admitted the Pentagon’s perennial obsession with (supposed) Full Spectrum Dominance, projected way beyond Europe towards MENA and deep into Africa; “Most of the forces we have in Europe are also dual-hatted to Africa Command. While they are stationed in Europe, their focus is on AFRICOM missions on the continent. In this way, EUCOM is supporting across that seam into AFRICOM.”
And yet the number one issue in MENA remains Syria.
The Pentagon is deploying a dozen F-15C Eagle fighters to Turkey’s Incirlik base. The official spin is to “ensure the safety” of “NATO allies”, which should be translated as “protecting” US and other Coalition of the Dodgy Opportunists (CDO) allied jet fighters from… Russian jet fighters.
Theoretically the F-15Cs will be “escorting” the odd CDO attack planes that bomb ISIS/ISIL/Daesh once in a blue moon. Rubbish; the F-15Cs carry only air-to-air weapons. And their pilots are trained to only shoot down enemy aircraft.
The notion that the Pentagon would dare declaring its own no-fly zone over northern Syria to protect a gaggle of “moderate rebels” from Russian and Syrian Arab Army (SAA) bombing is preposterous. What next? “Red” fighters against “Blue” fighters on air-to-air combat? As much as he’s cornered by a neocon-infested Pentagon, Obama is not suicidal. Still, the wondrous plot of two divergent coalitions in Syria – the CDO versus the “4+1” (Russia-Syria-Iran-Iraq plus Hezbollah) — keeps thickening.
Adding to Pentagon freak out, Russia has sent missile systems to Syria, on top of fighter jets, bombers and helicopters, as Col. Gen. Viktor Bondarev told the Komsomolskaya Pravda. As Bondarev and other Russian military officials have kept mum on what sort of missiles, the Pentagon assumes they are the deadly accurate S-300 surface-to-air missile systems. Oh dear. Better scrap that Pentagon no-fly zone.
So it’s easy to see why the Pentagon and NATO are so dejected. It’s so much safer to keep looking for those elusive tapas of mass destruction (TMDs). And then go for a deterrence siesta.
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).
© Russian Su-30 aircraft at the Khmeimim airbase in Syria. © Dmitriy Vinogradov / RIA Novosti
So a Su-30 enters a few hundred meters into Turkish airspace for only two minutes over Hatay province, and returns to Syrian airspace after being warned by a couple of Turkish F-16s.
Then all hell breaks loose as if this was the ultimate pretext for a NATO-Russia war.
NATO, predictably, went out all rhetorical guns blazing. Russia is causing“extreme danger” and should immediately stop bombing those cute“moderate rebels” the coalition of the dodgy opportunists refuses to bomb.
But wait; NATO is actually too busy to go to war. The priority, until at least November, is the epic Trident Juncture 2015; 36,000 troops from 30 states, more than 60 warships, around 200 aircraft, all are seriously practicing how to defend from the proverbial “The Russians are Coming!”
Still, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu – he of the former “zero problems with our neighbors” doctrine – actually“warned” Moscow that next time Ankara would respond “militarily”.
Until, of course, he backed down; “What we have received from Russia …is that this was a mistake and that they respect Turkey's borders and this will not happen again.”
The incident could have been easily defused – via military to military communication – without the posturing.
But Ankara – NATO’s eastern flank – is under immense pressure from ‘Exceptionalistan’. It’s no accident Pentagon supremo and notorious neocon Ash Carter “conferred” with Ankara about the incident. Carter of course is the most stellar practitioner of the official Beltway diktat; “By taking military action in Syria against moderate groups’ targets, Russia has escalated the civil war.”
‘Sultan’ Erdogan, right on cue, and straight from Strasbourg (no, he was not campaigning for the European Parliament) doubled down: “Assad has committed state terrorism, and unfortunately you find Russia and Iran defending (him).”
And yet ‘Sultan’ Erdogan won’t go down in history as the catalyst for the much-awaited NATO-Russia Hot War 2.0. At least not yet.
Only bomb if we say so
Enter Dr. Zbigniew “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski, growling in a FT Op-Ed that Washington should “retaliate” if Moscow does not stop attacking US assets in Syria. “US assets” means CIA-trained “moderate rebels”. And after all, “American credibility” is at stake.
Dr. Zbig – Obama’s prime foreign policy mentor – insists bombing CIA-trained “rebels” accounts for “Russian military incompetence”. And the American counter-attack should be to “disarm” the “Russian naval and air presence.” Now that’s how you go for a NATO-Russia Hot War 2.0.
Dr. Zbig admitted though that “regional chaos could easily spread northeastward,” and then “both Russia and then China could be adversely affected.” Who cares? What matters is that “American interests and America’s friends…would also suffer.”
This is what passes for prime geopolitical analysis in the ‘Empire of Chaos’.
‘Sultan’ Erdogan, for his part, remains restless. Moscow has already evaporated his so cherished three-year-old dream of a no-fly zone over northern Syria. There is an actual no-fly zone all over Syria now in effect. But it’s managed by Russia.
And that explains why there’s already full spectrum hysteria for more US Congress sanctions on Russia. How can a no-fly zone be imposed over Syria when Russia got there first?
And it was all going so swimmingly for the ‘Sultan’. Ankara – at the insistence of Washington – had finally thrown open its air bases to fight ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, but as long as this was part of a regime change operation in Damascus. And for that, Ankara would get its no-fly zone.
Enter ‘The Sultan’s’ recurrent nightmare; the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its sister organization, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
‘The Sultan’ simply cannot accept the PYD advancing to the western bank of the Euphrates to help in the fight against ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. ‘The Sultan’ wants to “contain” the PYD in Kobani.
The problem is the PYD – supported by the PKK – is the only reliable ‘Empire of Chaos’ ally in Syria. Yet ‘the Sultan’ could not help himself; he got into a war – again – against the PKK. Washington was not exactly amused.
And then there’s the key corridor from the Bab al-Salam border crossing down to Aleppo – controlled by Ankara-supported goon squads. That’s Ankara’s bridge to Aleppo; without it, not the slightest chance of regime change, ever. The fake“Caliphate” was threatening to take over the corridor. So action was imperative.
Russia’s spectacular entry into the war theatre threw all these elaborate plans into disarray. Imagine a complete liberation of northeast Syria as soon as the PYD – with help from PKK fighters – is weaponized enough to smash the ISIS/ISIL/Daesh goons. And imagine the Russian Air Force providing air cover for such an operation, with extra coordination by the Russia-Syria-Iraq-Iran central in Baghdad.
‘The Sultan’, in desperation, would have to maneuver his F-16s against such an offensive. And then we might really have a NATO-Russia five seconds to midnight scenario – with terrifying consequences. ‘The Sultan’ would blink first. And NATO would collapse into the ignominy it never left – back to its elaborate “Russia is invading” drills.
Say hello to my geopolitical jihadi tool
Next steps for the Russian campaign would be to pay close attention to the road linking ISIS/ISIL/Daesh’s capital, Al-Raqqah, around which jihadis are fighting for the control of oil and gas in Sha’ir and Jazal. And then there are pockets east of both Homs and Hama, and in al-Qaryatayn. Moscow – slowly, surely, methodically – is getting there.
What the Russian air campaign has already graphically exposed is the whole rotten core myth of the new Jihad International.
ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, Jabhat al-Nusra and assorted Salafi-jihadi goon squads have been kept up and running by a massive financial/logistical/weaponizing “effort” – which includes all sorts of key nodes, from arms factories in Bulgaria and Croatia to transportation routes via Turkey and Jordan.
As for those Syrian “moderate rebels” – and most of them are not even Syrian, they’re mercenaries – every pebble in the ravaged Sykes-Picot desert sands knows they were trained by the CIA in Jordan. The desert pebbles are also aware that ISIS/ISIL/Daesh goons have been infiltrated into Syria from Turkey – once again, across Hatay province; and vast swathes of ‘the Sultan’s’ Army and police were into the game.
As for who pays the bills for the lavish weaponizing, talk to the proverbial “pious wealthy donors” – incited by their clerics – in the GCC, the petrodollar arm of NATO. None of these goon squads could possibly thrive for so long without full, multidisciplinary “support” from the usual suspects.
So the hysterical/apoplectic/paroxystic rage enveloping the ‘Empire of Chaos’ betrays the utter failure, once again, of the same old “policy” (remember Afghanistan) of using jihadis as geopolitical tools. Fake “Caliphate” or “rebels”, they are all NATO-GCC’s bitches.
To add insult to injury, a frustrated ‘Sultan’ has also been forced to annex himself to a slightly changing Washington position – which now rules that “Assad must go,” yes, but it may take some time, as part of a yet to be defined “transition”.
‘The Sultan’ will remain a pile of nerves. He does not give a damn about ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. Washington now does – sort of. He wants to smash the PYD and the PKK. For Washington, the PYD is a helpful ally. As for Moscow, ‘the Sultan’ better watch his neo-Ottoman step.
‘The Sultan’ simply cannot afford to antagonize ‘The Bear’. Gazprom will expand the Blue Stream pipeline into Turkey. It would be by 3 billion cubic meters; instead it will be by 1 billion cubic meters. According to Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, it’s due to technical capabilities.
Yet Ankara better get its act together, because even that extension may evaporate if there’s no agreement on the commercial terms of TurkStream, the former Turkish Stream. Ankara is under tremendous pressure from the Obama administration. And ‘the Sultan’ knows very well that without Russia all his elaborate plans to position Turkey as the key energy transit hub from East to West will vanish in Anatolian scrub. In the end, he may even get regime-changed himself.
Published on Economic Undertow on October 5, 2015
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Nietzsche once said, “when you gaze long into a computer screen the screen also gazes into you.” Maybe he didn’t put it quite that way, but he would have if his timing was better. Attempts to deflect the screen’s unrelenting gaze by deploying ranks of gray squiggles from one side to the other seems hardly worth the effort. They march, nothing changes; the screen is too stupid to reason with … If this is the end, it is boring.
The world’s product at the dawn of the millennium, at the apogee of human development and economic power is banality. “Take it to the limit … ” croons the singer, “one more time.” You have to wonder how ridiculously low that limit is? Whatever minimum is required to gain each of us that fraction of a second’s worth of notoriety the screen has allotted for all but a select few. Democracy in the Modern World gives each man the same right as every other to be a guest on Springer.
What happens when nobody watches? The Russian military just bombed targets in Syria claiming to destroy terrorist bases, instead they murdered unlucky Syrian civilians.
People ask, “Isn’t Syria a long way from the Russia?” The answer is that the Americans are even farther away and that Russians must follow the Americans closely or risk being left behind. “Behind what?” Nobody has a good answer other than Moscow wishes to be a ‘Great Power’ and Great Powers attack other countries, the farther away the better. Because the Americans are engaged in ‘humanitarian bombing’, the Russian are compelled by Christian charity to offer humanitarian assistance as well.
Russia is an ally of the Syrian government, or rather, Syria has been a long-time client- and purchaser of Russian military hardware, all of it paid for with hard-currency proceeds from oil sales. The Russians don’t want to surrender their Syrian trade so they’ve set out to out-bomb the Americans, to murder their own clients and hope for the best.
“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
— Sun Tzu
Looked at from the Russian perspective, bombing appears to be a low-cost activity for everyone except the Syrians, whom nobody cares about. There is little to lose by bombing and potentially some gains. In today’s bereft political economy, any (potential) gain is a good one. Bombing Syria = gambling with house money!
The Russians bomb the Syrians as so many others have bombed before; ‘dehousing them’ as Lord Cherwell, Winston Churchill’s mad-science adviser liked to say. There is never any end to it; today’s bombs is followed by bombings tomorrow and the next day and the next, nothing changes except the death toll. One side wins for a minute then the other side catches up. It never ends, this maddened war of all vs. all.
At least Churchill had a plan. Such things are unfashionable these days, what matters more than anything is attitude and that we have plenty. Americans bomb because we are exceptional, we falter elsewhere but bombing is what we do better than anyone else. The Americans will bomb their mothers if there is a dollar in it. There are British bombing, Canadians, also French … the Turks have bombed and bombed and bombed some more; the Jordanians have bombed, and lost a pilot; so have the Israelis along with Qataris, Bahrainis, Emiratis and Saudis, who in addition, are bombing Yemenis. Those without bombers but with excess populations to squander such as the Iranians and Lebanese are seeding Syrian graveyards with foot soldiers. This is on top of the Syrian government which has been bombing, gassing, torturing and shooting its own citizens for years. Almost at no time since the Vietnam war has there been so much bombing — at such an exorbitant cost — to so little effect.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
— Sun Tzu
Causes of Middle Eastern conflicts are complex and structural; they include galloping overpopulation, resource draw, drought and peak oil, the unquestioned belief in efficacy of mechanical military and reformist ideologies that have taken on lives of their own. Much of this is excluded of the conversation, instead there is purposeful ignorance: the bombing process is an end in itself, ratcheting up the violence will solve everything.
Four years of ratcheting the violence have reduced Syria to a ruin with mangy, louse-infested extremists scurrying like rats over the countryside. Assad long ago dribbled away whatever writ or political reach he might have had outside of a shrinking circus of deluded/self-interested cronies. Nobody has any idea how to win the war or how to stop it … how or even whom to negotiate with. Assad has become too weak to gain a victory, his exit would only reduce by one … the number of competing gangs of robbers and murderers who have papered themselves over with religion … who are absent any organic political capital.
The governments supplying funds and arms to the contestants — the US, Russia, Europe, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran — have so- far kept themselves clear of consequences to their recklessness. So-far … yet, the Syria war spreads to Turkey and to the doorstep of Saudi Arabia; where does it stop? The warrior’s impulse is to expand the scope of the destruction until something important breaks; but everything that matters within Syria is broken already. The absence of strategy taken to its logical conclusion reduces Syria and its neighbors to uninhabitable wasteland; this isn’t policy it is insanity.
Russia Cannot Save Assad.
Russia enters with its handful of airplanes and mercenaries, bluster and threats, as if the problem is a shortage of these things. Moscow accuses the Saudis of waging a price war against the Russian oil business; the real war is to be laid at the Saudis’ feet! According to theory, magic will take place: the Russians will bomb, oil prices will rise and Western Europe will again be dependent upon high-priced Moscow fuel supplies. With the flow of fresh funds, the dilapidated Putin regime will gain a new lease on life.
What the Russian government does not understand is that prices of petroleum have declined because customers everywhere are broke, not because of the Saudis. Broke includes the Europeans, they cannot afford to borrow, as such they cannot afford to buy fuel. There is no rescue for Russia or for Putin either. Killing Syrians does nothing to solve the price problem; bankruptcy propagates stealthily in the background while Russia is on the road to becoming another scummy militant group.
The Russians can die in Syria and spirit Assad out of the country and nothing else. Russia will not win because they do not know themselves; they believe in fairies, in the demeanor of the their dictator, in the efficacy of Sukhoi 24s and vacuum bombs. They do not understand an enemy they dehumanized before they even arrived, reduced them to spots on a map. They cannot win because there is almost nothing left to win … perhaps a neighborhood or two in Damascus and resorts on the coast. Russian outrages cannot exceed what the Syrian army- and security forces have already inflicted on a far greater scale. If nothing else, Assad has been the Kremlin’s most assiduous student in cruelty. Four years of unrelenting combat have bled out Assad’s army; casualties are replaced by Hezbollah militiamen, Shiite Iraqis and Iranians. These mercenaries have nothing in common with Syrians; nor can they can gain anything from whatever transitory success they might win. Despite Hezbollah’s formidable reputation, the group has been modestly effective against their irregular adversaries and only in the territory immediately adjacent to their home bases in Lebanon. The Iranians are despised as carpetbaggers by Assad’s officers. The Russians are riding on the coattails of the Iranians; Like the Americans, British and the rest, the Iranians do not know much about either their allies or enemies and cannot be bothered to care.
The war is of a piece with decline and collapse. Syria’s demise is little different from that of an Alzheimer’s patient, the end is a matter of time. The agony is one unwinding among many others, with more to come; the refugees are the first of many more to come; the counterpoints of the droughts and floods with more to come, the unwinding of foreign exchange- and credit marketplaces … the decay of politics into factionalism, of ‘liberty’ becoming license; all of this and more to come. Syria is what collapse looks like, what our post- Peak Oil ‘World of Less’ will be unless we wake up right away and become lucky.
In a sensible world, the fighting would end with negotiations and power sharing. Patrons would withdraw and exiled Syrians would return to rebuild their homes. This is not a sensible world: ending this war requires facing reality about limits and jettisoning defective geopolitical narratives and outdated, malfunctioning ideology. The likely outcome is for fighting to continue to a logical conclusion and impose its own reality. The danger is that nobody can outline the absolute limits to the conflict, there could end in a nuclear exchange or decades of grinding cruelty and destruction spreading from Syria-Middle East to the rest of Asia including Russia, then China, Africa and the rest of the world.
Wars and militants are externalities of our Western lifestyle, no different from air pollution and credit exhaustion: costs are shifted to ‘others’ such as Syrians who have their own costs to shift. Westerers refuse to connect the dots between our toys, our resource waste and our conflicts. When you drive a car, you are funding Islamic militants by way of the agents such as Saudi Arabia that support them. Wars are expensive, combatants need funds, cutting them off by using less fuel puts militants out of business. A ray of hope is the ongoing collapse of oil prices. The price decline since last summer has slashed combatants’ budgets in half. As prices decline further the ability of countries to engage in expensive ‘hobby wars’ will fade. Both Russia and America wobble at the lip of economic ruin, not much more is needed to send them over the edge.
Countries today are saddled with obsolete economic ideology that intends to manage the costs of surpluses. The industrial-capitalist economic system cannot manage shortages: in our new world of less, industrial governments have become obsolete because they are disconnected from reality. Like the militaries they command they do not know themselves. Actual work is left to technicians making use of fossil fuels providing the service platform upon which the ideologues dance. They deny fuel- and other resource constraints; deny climate change, deny the effects of pollution, the contamination of food supply, they deny the loss of habitat and the extinction of millions of plants and animals; the effects of overpopulation on resource provender, credit costs and more. Managers insist that the hair-brained ideas of long dead economists can pull value out of thin air like rabbits out of a hat … out of borrowed money or from the barrel of a gun. Citizens look to the governments with fluttering upward-turned hearts … they see malfunction, murder, incompetence, lies and corruption. Governments repeat errors because they succeeded once upon a time. Fast forward to the present and nobody knows what to do.
We have less in the way of resources, we must learn how to cope. The Syrians are teaching us the consequences of denial. Syria’s cupboard has been stripped bare. The survivors are left to cobble together the political arrangements needed to make do = ‘Conservation by Other Means™’. One way or the other our politics must change, the question is how difficult the transition will be. From here on out there is no growth to allow recovery from wars or other disasters, destroyed countries will remain so, it is important to not destroy in the first place.
Senior administration officials say the new offensive holds promise and may change the dynamics on the ground.
— The New York Times
Whew…. That’s reassuring. Finally, a Middle East policy you can believe in.
It’s apparently based on a joint Kurdish-Arab army that our side (the USA) is pretending to assemble around the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, near the Turkish border. We’re informed also that American military officials have screened the leaders of the Arab groups to ensure that they meet standards set by Congress when it approved $500 million last year for the Defense Department to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels. Thank God we have a functioning HR department over there.
Is it safe to say that the table is now set for World War Three? King Salman of Saudi Arabia is itching to mix it up. Of course, the moment he sends official KSA ground troops in there, he will be eligible to have his oil terminal at Ras Tanura in the Persian Gulf blown up. Imagine what that would do to the S & P index. The Turks, too, are none too happy with their currency imploding and their economy falling apart, and perhaps view a widened war as politically refreshing. And let’s not forget Iran — having concluded the long, torturous negotiations to make America feel better about their nuke program, Iran is eager to put an end to this barbaric (Sunni-flavored) ISIS nonsense. Oh, did I leave out Israel. Probably a good idea since so many people just want to hate on it if the subject even comes up. But suffice it to say they are in the mix, too, with the ability to turn their adversaries into ashtrays, should it come to that.
As the old song goes: someone left the cake out in the rain.
You had to at least admire the forthrightness of Mr. Putin. His economy of motion is breathtaking. He goes to the UN and says: “The situation in Syria is intolerable and we’re going to do something about it,” and a few days later they did. Russia commenced bombing groups that the US had labeled “the moderate opposition” to Bashar al-Assad. The quandary for the US, of course, as Mr. Putin pointed out at the UN, is that we keep on arming and training “moderate oppositions” to this regime and that regime and abracadabra (to use an old Middle Eastern term-of-art) they break bad on us. They use the Humvee’s we give them to control the landscape and they blow stuff up with the ordnance we give them, and cut off the heads of Americans on video in the rudest and cruelest manner imaginable. So, might we ask ourselves: is there anything to the US’s complaint that Russia is not bombing the right ISIS?
I suspect world opinion is not buying our claim that Bashar al-Assad has to go because he bombed his own citizens and used gas on them. I mean, we say that a lot, but is it actually true? US officials say a lot of things a lot that happen not to be true (e.g. the Federal Reserve’s claim that the US economy is humming.) In fact, we’re in this predicament precisely because we have squandered our credibility. We go into one country after another and destroy the institutions that held these places together, and leave a train of death and chaos behind. Iraq, Libya, Somalia, now Syria.
Maybe we just ought to step aside for a while and see what happens. The Russians could shoot themselves in the foot over there, of course. They did it before in Afghanistan. But that was back in Soviet times, with its clunky leadership. Mr. Putin proved pretty nimble in Georgia. Whatever else you can say about that little war, the region has been stable for years now. They’re not cutting off people’s heads on TV there. Similarly, you don’t hear much about Chechnyans perpetrating terrorist acts anymore.
Ukraine, for all its faults and troubles, was a stable country until the US decided to pull off regime change there. The deposed president Yanukovych was pressed into choosing between NATO and the Russian-backed Eurasian Custom’s Union and he chose wrong. The US pulled a few levers and abracadabra: civil war.
So, Assad still heads a government in Syria. We don’t like him because he is cozy with Iran, and their proxy war machine, Hezbollah. But will eliminating him make the situation any better?
James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.