ISIS: the Game of Thrones continues

I have long since despaired of the ability or willingness of the mainstream media to give a full and in depth analysis of almost anything, but foreign policy in particular.   With the exception of a few writers, I rely on the MSM to tell me only what has happened, but I don’t expect any in depth analysis of why it is happening.

Take for example, today’s Guardian editorial, which praised yesterday’s ‘thoughtful and reasoned’ parliamentary debate on the UK’s decision to carry out air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq.   In the Guardian’s verdict ‘ this was the vote of a nation, Britain, that is gradually, sometimes painfully, but increasingly emphatically, adjusting to its post-2003 limitations, while at the same time trying not to lose sight of genuine international and humanitarian responsibilities.’

Now I’m sorry, but this is real drivel.   Perhaps some of the career politicians and hapless stooges who voted for war yesterday really believe that they are trying to live up to Britain’s ‘genuine international and humanitarian responsibilities’, but if so, they, like the Guardian, are ignoring a number of ‘inconvenient facts’, as Orwell used to call them, that blatantly contradict the idea that the war against Islamic State is a war against ‘evil.’

Take for example the Wall Street Journal’s report on the secret deal between John Kerry and Saudi Arabia which was agreed on September 11, in which the Saudis agreed to participate in the forthcoming bombing campaign, on condition that the US followed up with its regime change project in Syria.  According to the WSJ:

‘When Mr. Kerry touched down in Jeddah to meet with King Abdullah on Sept. 11, he didn’t know for sure what else the Saudis were prepared to do. The Saudis had informed their American counterparts before the visit that they would be ready to commit air power—but only if they were convinced the Americans were serious about a sustained effort in Syria. The Saudis, for their part, weren’t sure how far Mr. Obama would be willing to go, according to diplomats.’

The WSJ also noted that:

‘Arab participation in the strikes is of more symbolic than military value. The Americans have taken the lead and have dropped far more bombs than their Arab counterparts. But the show of support from a major Sunni state for a campaign against a Sunni militant group, U.S. officials said, made Mr. Obama comfortable with authorizing a campaign he had previously resisted.’

At the risk of sounding like a ‘conspiracy theorist’ this sounds an awful lot like a conspiracy to me.  And how grotesquely appropriate that on  the thirteenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks – an atrocity, in which Saudi Arabia, perhaps more than any other single country bears responsibility -  the US should strike a deal with the House of Saud, in order to launch another war in the Middle East  with another war attached to it.

This is why the British have already been warning that they may have to participate in air strikes against Syria.   That’s why the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani explicitly linked IS to Syria, told CNN on Thursday:

‘We have to counter terrorism, yes. But I believe that the main cause of all this is the regime in Syria, and this regime should be punished …If we think that we’re going to get through the terrorist movements and leave those regimes doing what they — this regime especially, doing what he is doing — then terrorist movements will come back again.’

As the ever-reliable and astute Moon of Alabama blog observes:

‘Obama’s part of the deal is supposed come only later. It will take a year to train the “moderate, vetted” insurgents in Saudi Arabia and only when those are ready, and Obama a lame duck, may such action start (or not)’

The groundwork for this is already being laid, even as the ‘coalition’ bombs Iraq and Syria.  Last week Reuters reported that US Ambassador to the United Nations  Samantha ‘ a problem from hell’ Power wrote to UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon invoking the UN Charter as a justification for carrying airstrikes against IS safe havens in Syria.

In her letter Power declared that ‘The Syrian regime has shown that it cannot and will not confront these safe havens effectively itself.’  Because Iraq was being attacked by ISIS, she argued, action against Syria was justified under Article 51, which authorizes the UN to act collectively when one of its member states is attacked. Power went on to say that

‘States must be able to defend themselves … when, as is the case here, the government of the state where the threat is located is unwilling or unable to prevent the use of its territory for such attacks. Accordingly, the United States has initiated necessary and proportionate military actions in Syria in order to eliminate the ongoing (Islamic State) threat to Iraq.’

It takes incredible gall to accuse Syria of failing to attack Islamic State,  an organization which is, at least in part, a creation of the US and its allies.  Even when the Syrian army has made gains in rebel territory, the record of the last three years shows that it does not have the resources to launch multiple offensives simultaneously.

Yet here is Power suggesting that Syria is deliberately not fighting ISIS, and then using that ‘failure’ as a justification for defending Iraq – an argument that a) ignores the interaction between Islamic State and the Iraqi Sunni rebellion against the sectarian Maliki government and b) the devastating impact of the Anglo-American occupation on Iraq that paved the way for such a government in the first place.

Power’s logic is the logic of an imperial power that doesn’t have to be coherent in its explanations or justifications, because, contrary to Obama’s sanctimonious condemnation of Russia last week, it is the US which acts on the principle that ‘might is right’.  And the US and the Gulf States want a compliant regime in Syria, with a neat gas pipe to transport Qatari gas to Europe via Turkey.   And if they get that they will move on to Iran and anyone else who they regard as competitors or challengers.

They will try do whatever it takes to do this, even if they tear up the entire region, destroying states and killing and destroying the lives of millions in the process, and sucking the entire international system into a vortex of violence.

All that has nothing to do with Britain’s ‘genuine international and humanitarian responsibilities’ or fighting the ‘evil’ and ‘barbaric’ IS.

Islamic State, as disgusting and horrendous as it is, is only one piece in a vicious and terrifying game of power, resources and domination in which humanity and morality are totally absent – game that has far more in common with the Lannisters and the Tyrels than the feeble-minded ‘obligations’ debated yesterday.  IS is both a target and a pretext for a new projection of military power, which ultimately aims to reshape the Middle East in the geopolitical interests of the US and its allies in Europe and the Gulf.

So please, let’s not congratulate our politicians on their infinite wisdom for going along with this, whether they do so knowingly or simply because they believe they are jolly good chaps doing the right thing.

Because we need better.  We need an educated public that understands the full horror of what is taking place, and can mobilize to prevent it.   And that education is not likely to come from yesterday’s handwringing debate – nor, it seems, will we get it from the Guardian.





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