Anyone trying to make sense of what is going on in the Middle East at the moment is going to have their work cut out. Trying to decipher the meaning of it is a bit like peeling an onion — in order to find out the central issues, you are going to have to keep on peeling away past the outside layers until you get to the heart of the matter.
On the surface of it all, it appears to be quite straightforward. A group of Islamic jihadists calling themselves ISIS or ISIL or IS (Islamic State) have arisen in Iraq and Syria and they pose a threat to “our way of life”. We know they pose a threat because they openly behead people, film themselves doing so (although the authenticity of some of these films is open to question) and post it on YouTube. The Western world, which hasn’t had a war for a long time — well since Libya anyway — reacts with horror and demands action.
Our brave leaders are on hand to oblige. In the UK Parliament last week, speaker after speaker arose to demand that something must be done, and our courageous Prime Minister, who loves to look tough when he’s calling for bombs to be dropped from very great heights, declared that ISIS has declared war on us. Meanwhile, that other wannabe “Churchill”, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott went further by declaring that ISIS has not merely declared war on “us”, but on the world itself. Wow!
So the UK Parliament voted by a staggering margin to drop bombs inside Iraq, because this will apparently help matters. In fact, only 43 MPs, who clearly must be closet ISIS supporters, voted against blowing things up. Over the other side of the Atlantic, President O’Bomber declared that he would bomb his 7th sovereign country in 6 years (well he didn’t put it quite like that) and he jolly well didn’t need to get Congressional approval to do so.
So on the first layer, everything is pretty straightforward. ISIS are the new Hitlers. O’Bomber, Cameron, Abbott and co are cast in the role of Churchill, and everyone with huge reservations and big questions surrounding the whole issue is cast in the role of that evergreen icon of appeasement, Neville Chamberlain. So far so simple.
Ah, but then we peel back a layer and we begin to find that things are not quite that simple. One might get the impression from the aforementioned narrative that ISIS are a deadly enemy that sprang from nowhere, caught us by surprise, and that we must blast them to death before they take over the world. Not so. Who are ISIS? The uncomfortable fact is that they are essentially the product of US foreign policy.
A few days ago, O’Bomber went to Congress to seek approval for $500million to fund what he calls “moderate” Syrian rebels. What is odd about this, is that to the uninitiated eye, it would appear that the US has, until now, not been funding “moderate” Syrian rebels at all. But this is not so. The New York Times – hardly the most strident critics of US foreign policy – admits that despite official policy to the contrary, the US has been covertly supporting Syrian rebels with “lethal aid” since 2012 at least.
Now of course the US have been at pains to say that they only support “moderate” rebels. But this begs the questions: How do they know who is and who isn’t moderate, and how could they stop the arms falling into the hands of the “non-moderates”? The answer is that they couldn’t know who is “moderate” and who is “fanatical”, much less stop the arms falling from the hands of the “moderates” into the hands of the “fanatics”. In fact, it is fairly clear that these weapons have, directly or indirectly, found their way into the hands of the far from moderate Jabhat al-Nusra, who have been by far the most successful of the rebel groups — if success is measured by their ability to do really bad stuff in Syria, that is. This piece and this piece make the connection between the US weapons finding their way into the hands of al-Nusra and indeed ISIS fairly explicit.
So whereas the first layer of all this looked like a simple case of the good guys in the West versus the bad guys in the Middle East, with the remedy being a good dose of shock and awe, looking at the layer underneath reveals that there is more to this than meets the eye, and in fact it is as a direct result of the US supporting and funding so-called “moderate” rebels in Syria which has essentially led to the creation and astonishing success of ISIS.
Let’s peel back another layer. Back in August last year, the clammer for war in Syria was great in Washington following a chemical attack just outside Damascus. Secretary of State, John Kerry, made a speech in which he repeatedly claimed that “we know” that the Syrian government was responsible. However, first the British Parliament refused to support David Cameron in his bid to get support for an attack on Syria, then a few days later, President O’Bomber, instead of just going ahead and bombing Syria, decided to ask Congress for approval. This was really odd, considering that he had bombed without Congressional approval before. So why did he do this?
The reason for it was that just as John Kerry was blazing a trail at his warmongering best, evidence began to emerge which suggested that the Sarin attack was not carried out by Assad, but by the rebels — possibly even some of those really nice “moderate” ones which the US was covertly supporting. And to add a little spice into the rice, the man who talked O’Bomber out of bombing Syria was none other than this year’s candidate for Hitler of the year, Vladimir Putin. But we’ll come back to him in another layer in a moment.
So America pulled back at the last moment from bombing Syria just over a year ago. This did not go down very well with certain neo-cons in Washington, and they have been looking for an opportunity to get things back on track — i.e. regime change in Syria — ever since. Now with the ISIS threat, they have their chance to go for it and I don’t think they intend to miss this time.
So according to Bloomberg News, the U.S. dropped “almost as many bombs and missiles on Islamic State positions in Syria in its first night of airstrikes there as it did in the first month of attacks on the extremist group in Iraq.” And they did so without — at least officially — approval from the Assad government. Why is this important? Because essentially the real purpose in attacking ISIS — which remember is partly made up of those very same Syrian rebels who have been covertly supported by the US — is to lay the ground for the real campaign, which is to oust Bashar Assad, who is another candidate for Hitler of the Year.
At this point in our layers, the whole thing looks like a gigantic mess. The US and its allies are essentially bombing a group which they helped to create when they funded “moderate” rebels to destroy the government of Syria. But far from ISIS being the target — if that were the case, we would be supporting the Syrian government in their fight against ISIS and other jihadist groups — the real target is regime change in Syria.
So we come to another layer. Why is the US so keen on regime change in Syria? One explanation is that Syria is hostile to Israel. Possibly, but then I’m not entirely sure that Israel has ever been especially troubled by the Assad government. I think that the real reason has more to do with the US’s other allies in the region. And boy they are a motley crew.
When O’Bomber first announced that he had authorised airstrikes, he spoke proudly about the coalition of countries he had assembled to support the US. At that time, the likes of the UK hadn’t committed, so who did he have in his lineup? None other than Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. You know, all the nice countries. So this group of enlightened, free and tolerant countries lined up to take on the evil of ISIS, and so all well and good? Not exactly! The problem being that it is not exactly a well kept secret that at least some of these countries appear to have been funding ISIS all along.
Which gives the lie to this being all about the evil jihadists in the Middle East who need to be stopped by the good guys in the West. If that really were the case, we would hardly be building a coalition of countries who are
a) not especially dissimilar to the character of ISIS and
b) appear to have been funding the people who we are fighting
Which is where I get the title of this piece from: It is no longer just “My Enemy’s Enemy is my Friend”, but more like “My Enemy’s Enemy is my Friend’s Enemy’s Enemy’s Friend.” Something like that — it’s difficult to tell with Western foreign policy these days!
Before I come on to the final layer, there is one more that needs to be considered. US foreign policy over the last decade or so seems very much to be based on the idea that any government which is deemed hostile to the US, or which won’t play along with the US government’s game, must be overthrown. Thus we saw how Saddam was toppled on dodgy pretexts, followed by Mubarak, Gadaffi and Yanukovych. The idea is to protect US hegemony and create what Donald Rumsfeld called “Full Spectrum Dominance.”
Now this can be done in various ways. The current favoured way is regime change, brought about by funding and supporting opposition groups and working in the country to destabilise the government. The benefit of this is that when the protests come, it looks in the eyes of the masses in the West as though the peoples of a nation have spontaneously arisen to shake off the yoke of a tyrannical government. Democracy in action. Except in many cases — such as Yanukovych in Ukraine and Morsi in Egypt — it isn’t democracy but anti democracy which occurs, since it is the democratically elected governments which are ousted.
If a leader cannot be toppled in an outpouring of “people power”, then there is always war — outright in the case of Saddam and bombing in the case of Gaddafi. If this fails, then the aim appears to be destabilisation.
It seems to be that the US tried to topple Assad using all three tactics. Firstly, there was an attempt to force him out through “people power”. When this failed, they armed rebels (only moderate ones of course) to attempt an overthrow by force. Ideally, I’m sure they would have gone for a war, but the US public was scarcely ready for that so soon after Afghanistan and Iraq. So having failed to oust him through Plan A or Plan B, they are attempting to do the job through Plan C — destabilisation of the region — which has now been so successful that they can go back to plan B, and bomb the living daylights out of Syria until Assad suffers the same fate as Saddam and Gaddafi.
Just as an aside, I hold no affection for Assad whatsoever, anymore than I did for Saddam and Gaddafi. These are evil men who love power and rule with an iron fist. Having said that, as a Christian, I would far rather have lived in these countries under the rule of these men before the US decided to apparently bring democracy to them.
And so we come to the final layer. I admit I am shooting in the dark here a little, since the whole situation appears to be utterly chaotic and without meaning, and I have to try to find some meaning in it all. I think that beyond simple regime change and destabilisation of Syria and Iraq, there may be an even greater purpose lurking at the very heart of all this. It is all tied up with Russia.
At the moment, Russia supplies most of Europe’s gas, and is also the second biggest oil producer in the world. This situation is intolerable to the neocons in Washington who view the two biggest threats to “Full Spectrum Dominance” as being Russia and China. They clearly have their sights set on regime change in Russia, as evidenced by this piece written last year by one of their number, National Endowment for Democracy president Carl Gershman. He claimed — and mark it well if you think that the crisis in Ukraine is down to Russian aggression — that Ukraine represented “the biggest prize” and that it represented an opportunity to put Putin “on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”
What has this to do with ISIS? Nothing as such, but it does have a lot to do with Syria. Do away with the Syrian regime, install a US-friendly government in Damascus, and what do you have? Assuming you also have US-friendly governments in Iraq and Turkey, essentially you would have free access to build oil and gas pipelines all the way from Qatar and Saudi to Europe. Why? To take away the need for Europe to use Russian gas and oil and therefore to effectively destroy the Russian economy. Such a situation would effectively prevent Russia from being a major world player, and so establish US hegemony for years to come. Just as the arch neocon, Zbiegniew Brzezinski has been planning for years.
Then again, maybe I’m reading too much into it and perhaps US and UK foreign policy is exactly what it appears to be on the surface: utterly clueless.