Tag Archives: Gulf States

‘Thinking Machiavelli, Acting Mussolini’, by Alastair Crooke

Iran may not have nuclear weapons, but it never the less has upended war and geopolitical strategy in important ways that the US ignores at its peril. From Alastair Crooke at strategic-culture.org:

Earlier this month, the Lebanese al-Manar TV aired footage of Israeli bases in Upper Galilee, which were filmed by a Hizbullah drone. An Israeli base in Brannite and a command centre in Rowaysat al-Alam in northern Israel can be seen in the footage. According to Southfront, whose military expertise is highly regarded, Hizbullah now operates a variety of drones, some with combat capabilities. Reports suggest that Hizbullah has established a formidable stealth drone and smart cruise missile force (with support from Iran). The Russia-linked, military site, Southfront, concludes that today, the movement is better trained and equipped than many armies around the world.

Israel is convinced that, for the first time, that the ‘next war’ will not be limited to Lebanese territory; that its own borders will be violated; and that offensive combat forces will enter settlements and homes and clash with Israeli troops.

This is giant ‘chess’ – where a combination of armed drones, suicide drones and ‘smart’ missiles likely will predominate (rather than tanks, as in the 2006 war). In its evolving thesis of a new war with Hizbullah, Israel believes that all its airfields will be bombed with precision missiles. (And is therefore trying to get from the U.S., a few squadrons of the new generation F-35B jets that do not need long runways, so as to try to secure its air superiority in the face of a possible swarm drone or missile attack on its air defences).

This represents just one component to Iran’s transmutation of any Israeli or American ‘military’ option against Iran into a suicide ‘Red Pill’ for whomsoever might launch it. Quietly, while all the world was focussed on the ‘Big One’ (putative nuclear weapons), over the last four years, Iran has built a conventional ‘swarm’ and ‘smart’ (and virtually undetectable by radar) ‘ant’s hive’ of ‘micro’ weapons circling across the region – from Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq to Yemen.

Although it is still to sink-in to European and American thinking (obsessed with the possibly now passé framework of the ‘Big One’ – the JCPOA), Iran quietly has inverted the calculus. It possesses the leverage now. And it has other trade options (through looking East) opening to it. Israel and its Gulf State ‘allies’, by contrast are on the defensive.

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Strategic Remix for the Middle East, by Alastair Crooke

Alastair Crooke tries to make sense of the always confusing Middle East. From Crooke at strategic-culture.org:

The End of an Era. When the first World War came to its end, intimations of an end to the European Era were already evident in symptoms: aching diplomatic joints, straitened perceptual political vision and the general financial health of the patient about to turn acute, as the constipated monetary policies of the Central Banks ushered in the Great Depression. But ‘life’ went on: European men and women wildly danced the Cancan throughout the 1920s; It was Cabaret, party time. No one wanted to acknowledge the omens of what lay afore them.

Last month, an Israeli academic opined that the future shape of the Middle East lies in the hands of three ‘insider’ states: Iran, Turkey and Israel. It was an interesting observation. None are Arab; and it implied an incremental US disengagement, and a modest ‘king-maker’ role for Russia.

What makes this statement intriguing is the focus on just three states and the downplay of external intervention as the key ‘shaper’ of the future strategic ‘map’. Implicit here is that all three are flexing their military muscles. But diplomats and political analysts usually prefer to stay at the plane of politics and national interests. They dislike the fact that the outcome of military contestation, per se, can determine political outcomes, and thus validate or negate national interests. It is offensive to diplomacy. But often, it is just so. The region at this time is not really susceptible to a direct conceptual approach: So, the focus on the outcome of military contestation, trials of strength, and then on the other – quite different dynamic – of Covid-19 and its economic effects, makes more sense than traditional purely political calculus of interests.

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The Khashoggi Effect: Erdogan Inverts the Paradigm, whilst Gulf & Allies Sink in Quagmire, by Alastair Crooke

Turkish leader Erdogan is capitalizing on Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. From Alastair Crooke at strategic-culture.org:

It seems that the quartet (US, Israel, UAE and MbS himself, naturally), acting in the cause of ‘exonerating MbS’, think they have got their ‘coup’ with Trump’s “maybe he did, but maybe he didn’t”, exculpation. They are probably quite pleased with themselves. MbS may stay for now, and embarrass everyone at the G20, by ostentatiously trying to shake hands with leaders, in front a phalanx of photographers, as leaders try to dodge the tainted hand. But if MbS does weather the crisis, what it shows more than anything else is how well MbS has succeeded in destroying the al-Saud family as a joint leadership ‘enterprise’, and in undercutting Saudi Arabia’s Islamic credentials. President Trump and Jared Kushner – quite oblivious – colluded in this outcome.

And the outcome: Yes, as Pepe Escobar, lately was being told in Istanbul: “The Erdogan machine has sensed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity [i.e. l’affaire Khashoggi], to simultaneously bury the House of Saud’s shaky Islamic credibility, while solidifying Turkish neo-Ottomanism, but with an Ikhwan [i.e. with a Muslim Brotherhood – style] framework”. This is heady stuff – maybe the Arab world is not so anxious to welcome back, with open arms, either the Ottomans or the Muslim Brotherhood. But nonetheless, with the Gulf so discredited in terms of its legitimacy, Erdogan is probably right to think that he is pushing at an ‘open door’.

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With Friends Like These… by Robert Gore

This is part 1. Part 2, “Who Needs Enemies?“, will be posted tomorrow.

The US government is engaged in an epic, generational battle; its very survival might be at stake. That would be its battle against the truth. What it has never been engaged in is a war against terrorism, in particular, a war against state-sponsored terrorism. That would be because its allies are prime sponsors, and the biggest sponsor of all has been…the US government! The world owes an incalculable debt to Vladimir Putin for deftly illustrating both facts.

The US government’s battle against the truth kicked into high gear after 9/11. Wars were launched against Afghanistan and Iraq. The Patriot Act launched a nonstop expansion of the surveillance state. Echoes of that famous Vietnamese village: freedom could only be saved by destroying it. Edward Snowden briefly interrupted America’s television and gadget viewing (but not the march of the surveillance state), with his disclosures in 2013.

Had Americans looked up from their screens earlier, they might have noticed a few things that weren’t exactly classified information: the government was mired in quagmires of its own making in Afghanistan and Iraq; it was creating more, not less, terrorism across the Middle East and northern Africa; and the pinnacle of perversity had been reached  in Syria, where the US and its allies were aiding and abetting an offshoot, ISIS, of the group, al Qaeda, behind the 9/11 attacks.

ISIS was the love child between the government’s military intervention in Iraq and its support of Syrian rebels seeking to depose Bashar al-Assad (see “A Perfect Time to Leave the Middle East”). Iraq ISIS obtained much of its weaponry from American-trained Iraqi soldiers, who ran at the first sign of trouble and left their weapons behind, while Syria ISIS got much of its supply from “moderate” Syrian rebels who volunteered themselves and their US-supplied armaments to their fellow moderates.

Thanks to a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, it came out earlier this year that the Defense Intelligence Agency contemplated the formation of an extremist Sunni, or “Salafist,” group back in 2012, which it felt would be useful in the government’s long quest to rid Syria of Assad. ISIS fit the bill, so while ostensibly waging one of those “limited” wars so beloved by presidents since Truman (you have to look like you’re doing something against a group linked to al Qaeda that beheads people on YouTube) the Obama brainless trust (also bereft of integrity) looked the other way while ISIS received funding and tactical support from the US’s Sunni allies Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States, and while the US’s “moderate” Syrian rebels flocked to ISIS like freshmen flock to fraternities during Rush Week. The loyal opposition stayed loyal. Republicans have long wanted to get rid of Assad, too, so they did nothing to expose the administration’s perfidy.

That role was filled by Putin, after Assad publicly admitted that the ISIS-led rebels were getting the best of his army. Assad is Russia’s ally, and Russia has its only naval base on the Mediterranean at Tartus, Syria. While Syria is not a next door neighbor, it’s a cruise missile’s throw away, and Russia has its own Muslim extremist problems that might be exacerbated by an ISIS takeover. At Assad’s invitation, Russia began moving troops, planes, and ships into Syria and Syrian waters. In a memorable and important speech to the UN General Assembly on September 28, Putin also launched a massive counterattack against the US government’s war on truth.

***

We should all remember the lessons of the past. For example, we remember examples from our Soviet past, when the Soviet Union exported social experiments, pushing for changes in other countries for ideological reasons, and this often led to tragic consequences and caused degradation instead of progress.

It seems, however, that instead of learning from other people’s mistakes, some prefer to repeat them and continue to export revolutions, only now these are “democratic” revolutions. Just look at the situation in the Middle East and Northern Africa already mentioned by the previous speaker. Of course, political and social problems have been piling up for a long time in this region, and people there wanted change. But what was the actual outcome? Instead of bringing about reforms, aggressive intervention rashly destroyed government institutions and the local way of life. Instead of democracy and progress, there is now violence, poverty, social disasters and total disregard for human rights, including even the right to life.

I’m urged to ask those who created this situation: do you at least realize now what you’ve done? But I’m afraid that this question will remain unanswered, because they have never abandoned their policy, which is based on arrogance, exceptionalism and impunity.

Power vacuum in some countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa obviously resulted in the emergence of areas of anarchy, which were quickly filled with extremists and terrorists. The so-called Islamic State has tens of thousands of militants fighting for it, including former Iraqi soldiers who were left on the street after the 2003 invasion. Many recruits come from Libya whose statehood was destroyed as a result of a gross violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1973. And now radical groups are joined by members of the so-called “moderate” Syrian opposition backed by the West. They get weapons and training, and then they defect and join the so-called Islamic State.

In fact, the Islamic State itself did not come out of nowhere. It was initially developed as a weapon against undesirable secular regimes. Having established control over parts of Syria and Iraq, Islamic State now aggressively expands into other regions. It seeks dominance in the Muslim world and beyond. Their plans go further.

The situation is extremely dangerous. In these circumstances, it is hypocritical and irresponsible to make declarations about the threat of terrorism and at the same time turn a blind eye to the channels used to finance and support terrorists, including revenues from drug trafficking, the illegal oil trade and the arms trade.

It is equally irresponsible to manipulate extremist groups and use them to achieve your political goals, hoping that later you’ll find a way to get rid of them or somehow eliminate them.

I’d like to tell those who engage in this: Gentlemen, the people you are dealing with are cruel but they are not dumb. They are as smart as you are. So, it’s a big question: who’s playing who here?

The recent incident where the most “moderate” opposition group handed over their weapons to terrorists is a vivid example of that. We consider that any attempts to flirt with terrorists, let alone arm them, are short-sighted and extremely dangerous. This may make the global terrorist threat much worse, spreading it to new regions around the globe, especially since there are fighters from many different countries, including European ones, gaining combat experience with Islamic State. Unfortunately, Russia is no exception.

***

From that speech alone it is obvious why the US government has tried so hard to hamper, harass, and, were its dream to come true, depose Putin. The Russians and their allies—the Syrian army, Iranian-led Shiite militias from Iraq and Iran, and Shiite Hezbollah units from Lebanon—have taken the fight to ISIS, exposing the US’s sham war. Nothing is more telling than the US refusing Putin’s invitation to join them. That the Russian alliance is drawing blood may be inferred from the recent ISIS terrorist bombing of a Russian civilian plane, and bombs and shootings in Beirut, Paris, and San Bernardino.

Part 2, “Who Needs Enemies?”, tomorrow

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