Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi warned on Thursday of the consequences of any military intervention in Libya, stressing the need for the countries considering such action to consult with Tunisia and other neighbouring countries, a presidential statement said.
According to the statement, Essebsi made the remarks during a meeting with heads of diplomatic missions and representatives of regional and international organizations held in Tunis to celebrate the New Year.
“The President of the Republic has pointed to the uniqueness of Tunisia’s situation, being a neighbour with Libya, which has become the scene for terrorist cells and home to Islamic State [Daesh] threats,” the statement read.
President Essebsi stressed that the only way to bring an end to the Libyan conflict is through inter-Libyan political unity. The international community must support the efforts of the unity government, he said.
Despite the difficulties in Libya, Essebsi said that Tunisia “will not close its borders to its Libyan brothers”.
Media reports have suggested that military intervention in Libya by an international coalition could be imminent.
However, US Secretary of State John Kerry ruled out military intervention in Libya in the near future on Tuesday.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also said that his country has no intention in militarily intervening in Libya.
The New York Times has exposed a long-standing CIA partnership with Saudi Arabia, whose latest endeavor is a program to arm Syrian rebels authorized by President Obama in early 2013. Under the “Timber Sycamore” program the Saudis provide funding and purchase weapons for Syrian rebels, while the CIA trains them in secret camps in Jordan.
The Saudi-CIA partnership dates back many years, and involves the British secret service. During the years when Ronald Reagan was president of the United States, the Saudis poured money into the Afghan mujahedeen as it fought Soviet forces, matching U.S. funding dollar for dollar. The mujahedeen funding was run through CIA-managed bank accounts in Switzerland. Those accounts were said to be part of the “Al Yamamah” program, dating to 1985, in which the British and the Saudis used an oil-for-arms barter deal to create massive offshore “black” accounts, including in the Cayman Islands, to bankroll and arm a wide array of global insurgencies. These accounts provided a major source of funds in the Afghan war against the Soviets.
This revelation by NYT adds additional weight to the allegations made in a book by Mike Springmann, former head of the US visa section in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, from1987-1989. In Visas for al-Qaeda: CIA Handouts that Rocked the World, Springmann details how, “during the 1980s, the CIA recruited and trained Muslim operatives to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Later, the CIA would move those operatives from Afghanistan to the Balkans, and then to Iraq, Libya, and Syria, traveling on illegal US visas. These US-backed and trained fighters would morph into an organization that is synonymous with jihadist terrorism: al-Qaeda.”
In an exclusive interview with Sputnik News, Springmann shared his first-hand experience of issuing US visas to would-be terrorists, a flagrant violation of US law.
“I know. I was there. I issued the visas,” Springmann told Sputnik News.
Upon his arrival at Jeddah, Springmann found that, as a visa officer, he was expected to winnow over a hundred applications a day, separating them into “issuances,” “refusals,” and what he later termed, “free passes for CIA agents.”
“One day,” Springmann recalls, “Eric Qualkenbush, the [then] CIA Base Chief, stopped me while I was walking on the consulate’s huge compound. He had a request. Could I issue a visa to one of his agents, an Iranian whose family owned an Oriental rug store? Eric said, ‘Mike, make it look good (wink, wink). We want him in Washington for consultations.’”
Springmann told Sputnik News he had almost daily battles with Jay Freres, the Consul General, along with several other CIA officials, who would consistently demand visas for people that law and regulation would ordinarily require him to refuse. He also had running fights with applicants who told him to approve their visas or they would complain to Freres, and have him overruled.
Most of these that Springmann now considers ‘unsavory types’ did, in fact, receive visas to go to the USA for training, debriefing, and other purposes. In enabling their passage, American government officials violated the Immigration and Nationality Act, as well as many regulations codified in the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual, says Springmann. As a purported guardian of US immigration principles, he objected to the blatant violations of law and regulation. His objections fell on deaf ears.
Springmann details that eventually he came to realize that his Consular Section job duty in Jeddah was primarily to secure visas for CIA agents, i.e., foreigners recruited by American case officers.
“As I later learned to my dismay, the visa applicants were recruits for the war in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union’s armed forces. Further, as time went by, the fighters, trained in the United States, went on to other battlefields: Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, and Syria.”
But why would the CIA rely on a “genuine” state department visa employee when they could have easily planted one of their own into the Consular Section? According to Springmann, “at Jeddah, to the best of my knowledge, out of some twenty US citizens assigned to the consulate, only three people, including myself, worked for the Department of State. The rest were CIA or NSA officials or their spouses.”
The explanation to the above question was simple if cynical, Springmann told Sputnik News : it had to be an arms-length operation, to avoid exposure of the CIA program and to blame visa violations, if they became known, on “incompetent” office clerks, including himself.
The Department of State and the Central Intelligence Agency collaborated in sending innocent workers like Springmann to Jeddah, a location that handled some forty-five-thousand visa applications annually. If a visa officer processed the paperwork and didn’t ask awkward questions about the applicants, that officer would keep his job. If the visa officer strictly followed the law, resisting illegal pressure to overlook those who did not have a legitimate reason for traveling to the United States, that employee “wasn’t with the program” and could be exposed to dismissal as an incompetent, an occurrence that eventually happened to the author.
“My name was on the visa plate that stamped applications to enter the United States, making me personally responsible for my actions,” he said. “In our spook-ridden Jeddah consulate, I sometimes found it was a daily battle to do my job,” he remarked, offering examples of two such battles.
“Two Pakistanis came to me for a visa. According to their story, they were traveling on a Commerce Department– organized trade mission to an automotive parts exhibition in the United States. However, they couldn’t name the trade show or identify the city in which it would be held. I denied their visa request. Within sixty minutes, Paul Arvid Tveit called and demanded visas for these same Pakistanis. I explained the reasons for my refusal, citing § 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act and the Foreign Affairs Manual. Ignoring the law and regulation, Tveit went to Justice Stevens and the visas were issued.”
“Then, a political officer demanded a visa for a Sudanese who was a refugee from his own country and unemployed in Saudi Arabia. Following the letter and the spirit of the law, I refused. She immediately went to Justice, and a visa was issued. When I later asked Justice why he authorized a visa to someone with no ties to the Sudan or the kingdom, he replied simply ‘national security,’ a phrase without legal definition.”
The dubious games played by the CIA in the name of “national security” are common in many Foreign Service posts, Springmann contends. “In a subsequent conversation with Celerino Castillo, a former Drug Enforcement Agency official, I learned that the CIA’s involvement in the visa process was a successful program of long-standing in Latin America, he stated, adding that, it was also “I presume, a model for Saudi Arabia. South of the border the Agency would slip passports and applications from its contacts into packages sent to the local US consulate or embassy by travel agents. Sandwiched between legitimate applications, ‘Agency assets’ would not be carefully examined by consular officers and would thus get a free ride to the United States.”
A Visa for the Blind Sheikh
Likewise, Springmann says, it was a CIA “consular officer” at Khartoum in Sudan who issued a tourist visa to Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, later linked to the World Trade Center bombing in 1993. The “blind” Sheikh had been on a State Department terrorist watch list when he was issued the visa, entering the United States by way of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Sudan in 1990.
Springmann believes the sheikh attempted to obtain a US visa from him via a proxy. The author states that he turned the application down.
The former state department employee pointed out to his superiors that, according to US law, passport and visa crimes are federal offenses, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. The maximum prison sentence is increased to 15 years if the offense is connected to drug trafficking, and to 20 years if connected to terrorism.
In a chance meeting, Joe Trento, a journalist at the Public Education Center in Washington, DC, put into perspective for Sprigmann what had been really going on with the CIA in Jeddah.
“It wasn’t a garden variety visa fraud as I had once thought, but something much more serious: it was a ‘visas for terrorists program,’ set up to recruit and train (in the United States) murderers, war criminals, and human rights violators for combat in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. These men became the founding members of al-Qaeda, the Arab-Afghan Legion.”
“Former President Jimmy Carter and his National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski, began the campaign to assemble these goons to engage in blowing things up and shooting things down, preferably with Soviet soldiers inside.”
But the Saudis and other regional players in the “jihad” did not want those “saddle-tramps” on their soil, fearing that they would eventually use their newly acquired skills to promote “regime change” at home. That explains the reason many of these recruits were sent to the US, Springmann says, where there were up to 52 induction and training centers, the primary one in Brooklyn, New York City.
During his two years in Jeddah, Springmann says, he wrangled daily with intelligence officers who staffed and ran the US consulate.
“These were the people who arranged for recruiting and training what were then the mujahedeen, who later became al-Qaeda, who then transformed themselves into ISIS. I saw, but didn’t recognize, their start at Jeddah. We’ve all seen their later development and what happens when the intelligence services control foreign policy and diplomacy: the people they assembled aided the breakup of Yugoslavia, the destruction of Iraq, the collapse of Libya, and the savaging of Syria.”
Springmann attempted to protest the illegal visa practices at the highest levels of government for over 20 years, but was repeatedly stonewalled. During that time, he says, the Arab-Afghan Legion, created by the CIA to undermine the Soviet Union, has been marching from strength to strength.
While the Washington snowstorm dominated news coverage this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was operating behind the scenes to rush through the Senate what may be the most massive transfer of power from the Legislative to the Executive branch in our history. The senior Senator from Kentucky is scheming, along with Sen. Lindsey Graham, to bypass normal Senate procedure to fast-track legislation to grant the president the authority to wage unlimited war for as long as he or his successors may wish.
The legislation makes the unconstitutional Iraq War authorization of 2002 look like a walk in the park. It will allow this president and future presidents to wage war against ISIS without restrictions on time, geographic scope, or the use of ground troops. It is a completely open-ended authorization for the president to use the military as he wishes for as long as he (or she) wishes. Even President Obama has expressed concern over how willing Congress is to hand him unlimited power to wage war.
President Obama has already far surpassed even his predecessor, George W. Bush, in taking the country to war without even the fig leaf of an authorization. In 2011 the president invaded Libya, overthrew its government, and oversaw the assassination of its leader, without even bothering to ask for Congressional approval. Instead of impeachment, which he deserved for the disastrous Libya invasion, Congress said nothing. House Republicans only managed to bring the subject up when they thought they might gain political points exploiting the killing of US Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi.
It is becoming more clear that Washington plans to expand its war in the Middle East. Last week the media reported that the US military had taken over an air base in eastern Syria, and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said that the US would send in the 101st Airborne Division to retake Mosul in Iraq and to attack ISIS headquarters in Raqqa, Syria. Then on Saturday, Vice President Joe Biden said that if the upcoming peace talks in Geneva are not successful, the US is prepared for a massive military intervention in Syria. Such an action would likely place the US military face to face with the Russian military, whose assistance was requested by the Syrian government. In contrast, we must remember that the US military is operating in Syria in violation of international law.
The prospects of such an escalation are not all that far-fetched. At the insistence of Saudi Arabia and with US backing, the representatives of the Syrian opposition at the Geneva peace talks will include members of the Army of Islam, which has fought with al-Qaeda in Syria. Does anyone expect these kinds of people to compromise? Isn’t al-Qaeda supposed to be our enemy?
The purpose of the Legislative branch of our government is to restrict the Executive branch’s power. The Founders understood that an all-powerful king who could wage war at will was the greatest threat to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That is why they created a people’s branch, the Congress, to prevent the emergence of an all-powerful autocrat to drag the country to endless war. Sadly, Congress is surrendering its power to declare war.
Let’s be clear: If Senate Majority Leader McConnell succeeds in passing this open-ended war authorization, the US Constitution will be all but a dead letter.
Most normal people look at the smoldering cemetery that is post-“liberation” Libya, the gruesome graveyard of an almost-“liberated” Syria, the 14 year slow-motion failed regime change in Afghanistan, blood-drenched Iraq, and they are horrified. Washington Post’s neocon nag Jennifer Rubin looks across that bloody landscape and sees a beautiful work in progress.
She writes today in the online edition of the Post that despite what we might be hearing from some “libertarian/populist pols masquerading as conservatives,” the interventionist enterprise is chugging along just fine. Democracy promotion at the barrel of a gun is every American’s “white man’s burden” whether he likes it or not.
Never mind that Syria has been nearly leveled by almost five years of an Islamist insurgency that was but a few weeks from success when Russia stopped it in its tracks. The real villain is the secular Bashar al-Assad, writes Rubin. After all, he “is partnered with Iran and spurs support for Islamist rebels…”
Assad “spur[s] support for Islamist rebels” by waging war on them for six years? Or does she somehow deny that Assad is fighting the insurgents who seek to drive him from power? Both cannot be true.
And on Planet Rubin, funding, training, and arming Islamist rebels, as the US and its allies have done, can in no way be seen as spurring them on.
“It has become fashionable in some circles to pooh-pooh support for democracy,” Rubin moans. Not so fast, she says. This is not a failed project. Her evidence? From all the countries destabilized by US democracy promotion schemes there is “one encouraging success story” — Tunisia!
Yes, after the destruction and killing in places like Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iraq, and the rest, it is the great success in little Tunisia that makes it all worthwhile!
Unfortunately for Rubin, even her little Tunisian success story looks to have an unhappy ending. As reported by BBC News, unrest is spreading throughout Tunisia as demonstrators are clashing with police. Tunisians are in far worse economic shape now than before the US-backed “Arab Spring” brought them their “liberation.” One-third of young people are unemployed in post-liberation Tunisia and 62 percent of recent college graduates cannot find work.
“We have been waiting for things to get better for five years and nothing has happened,” Yassine Kahlaoui, a 30-year-old jobseeker, told the AP as reported by the BBC.
Here is the ugly truth that regime change enthusiasts like Rubin will never admit: it is very easy to destabilize and destroy a country from abroad in the name of “promoting democracy,” but those recipients of America’s largesse in this area soon find that it is all but impossible to return a country to even pre-“liberation” economic levels. They are left missing their “dictator.”
What does Rubin care: she doesn’t have to live in these hellholes she helps create.
Canadians should be hanging their heads in shame.
Our government is guilty of the most egregious criminal acts as defined by Nuremberg Principles, and we are bona fide members of the State Sponsors of Terrorism club.
When our government bombs the sovereign state of Syria without the consent of President al-Assad and without United Nations Security Council approval, we are committing war crimes of the highest order.
When we support and fund foreign mercenary terrorists that are invading Syria, we are state sponsors of terrorism. There are no “moderate” terrorists. The mercenaries are all being paid and enabled by the West and its allies, including Turkey (a NATO member), Wahhabi Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan.
On all counts we are guilty. We are war criminals and state sponsors of terrorism.
The popular refrain that “Assad must go”, echoed by Canada’s Defense Minister, Harjit Sajjan, is in itself an endorsement of criminality. Regime change operations are criminal according to international law.
A soft power complex that disseminates lies and confusion is seemingly sufficient to make gullible western audiences accept criminality, even as the pretexts for previous illegal invasions invariably reveal themselves to be self-serving fabrications.
Hussein didn’t have WMD, but Western sanctions before the pre-meditated Iraq invasion willfully destroyed water treatment facilities and subsequently killed almost two million people, including about half a million children.
Gaddafi wasn’t “bombing his own people” or destroying Libya. The West and its proxies did the killing. The bombing in Libya – in support of al Qaeda ground troops – targeted and destroyed civilian infrastructure, including the Great Man-Made River Project. The bombs and the foreign terrorist ground troops killed Libyans, including Gadaffi, but Western propagandists and “confusion mongers” always portray an inverted version of reality to justify their atrocities.
Likewise for Assad – he is defending his country from foreign terrorists, not “killing his own people” – the Western invaders are killing Assad’s people.
Assad is not starving his own people either. Recently the discredited Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) fabricated a story alleging that Assad was starving people in Madaya. Evidence has recently emerged, however, that Western-supported rebels have been stockpiling food and selling it to civilians at exorbitant prices. Again, Western military forces target civilians – with a view to killing and/or demoralizing them—for “strategic” purposes. Vanessa Beeley decodes the intentional misrepresentation of the Madaya psy op. by listing investigative questions that should have been asked to find the truth, but were not.
War crimes perpetrated by the West are always dressed in mantles of respectability. MSM spokespeople, all of whom have conflicts of interest, paint civilian murders as “collateral damage”. Some commentators use the phrase “collateral murder”, but more accurately the military doctrine of slaughtering civilians is mass murder. The 9/11 wars are all pre-meditated, the false pretexts are carefully manufactured by State Departments, Public Relations agencies, and intelligence agencies, and the mass murder is intentional. The 9/11 wars generate unforeseen developments, but the invasions and occupations were not and are not “mistakes”, as some commentators would have us believe.
NATO destroys, loots, and creates chaos so that it can impose its hegemony. Again, it’s an inversion of the ridiculous lie of “spreading democracy”. The destruction also serves to create waves of refugees that serve to destabilize other countries — Europe is arguably being destabilized with a view to keeping the EU subservient to the U.S oligarch interests. Interestingly, countries not being “sacrificed” include Israel and Wahhabi Saudi Arabia – and neither country is accepting refugees/imperial crime victims either.
All of these pre-meditated invasions point to a larger picture. Humanity is being sacrificed for the illusory benefit of the criminal 1% transnational oligarch class. If Western populations were to awaken to the barbaric crimes being perpetrated in their names, they would rightly bow their heads in shame.
The shame would be a strong foundation for shaking off the shackles of lies and war propaganda, and for withdrawing our consent to these crimes against humanity.
Bret Stephens, the deputy editorial page editor who writes The Wall Street Journal’s weekly “Global View” column, is not really a bad prose stylist, and his logic is not always unsound. But his unexamined assumptions lead him astray.
His latest installment is typical. Entitled “Why the U.S. Should Stand by the Saudis Against Iran,” it begins with not one premise, but two. The first, as the title suggest, is that the U.S. should stand by Riyadh in its time of woes. The second is that if the kingdom stumbles, only one person is to blame – President Obama.
The article opens on a promising note: “There is so much to detest about Saudi Arabia,” Stephens writes. It bans women from driving, it shuts its doors to Syrian refugees, it promotes “a bigoted and brutal version of Sunni Islam,” and it has “increased tensions with Iran by executing … a prominent radical Shiite cleric,” i.e., Nimr al-Nimr.
So why continue siding with a kingdom “that Israeli diplomat Dore Gold once called ‘Hatred’s Kingdom,’” Stephens asks, “especially when the administration is also trying to pursue further opening [sic] with Tehran?”
It’s a question that a lot of people are asking especially now that the collapse in oil prices means that the Saudis are less economically important than they once were. But Stephens says it would be wrong to abandon the kingdom “especially when it is under increasing economic strain from falling oil prices.”
Get that? It would be wrong to abandon the kingdom when oil is scarce and prices are high — because that’s when we need the Saudis the most — and it’s wrong to abandon the monarchy when oil is plentiful and prices are low when we need them the least. Oil, in other words, has nothing to do with it. It’s wrong because it’s wrong.
But Stephens thinks it’s wrong for another reason as well: because Saudi Arabia “feels acutely threatened by a resurgent Iran.” Why is Iran resurgent? Because the nuclear deal that it recently concluded with the U.S. has set it free from punishing economic sanctions.
He then goes on to list all the bad things Iran has done thanks to the power that the Obama administration has just handed it on a silver platter. “Despite fond White House hopes that the nuclear deal would moderate Iran’s behavior,” Stephens says, “Tehran hard-liners wasted no time this week disqualifying thousands of moderate candidates from running in next month’s parliamentary elections, and an Iranian-backed militia appears to be responsible for the recent kidnapping of three Americans in Iraq.”
Scary, eh? Yes – until one considers how Stephens has loaded the dice. His statement about Iran’s hardliners is accurate as far as it goes. But he might have pointed out that while Iran’s theocratic rulers certainly hobble democracy, they at least allow some sort of parliamentary elections to take place whereas Saudi Arabia, the regime he is now leaping to defend, allows exactly none. (Sorry, but last month’s meaningless municipal-council elections don’t count.)
In the Saudi kingdom, political parties, protests, even seminars in which intellectuals get to sound off are all verboten. Since March 2014, Saudis have been expressly forbidden to do anything that might undermine the status quo, including advocating atheism, criticizing Islam, participating in any form of political protest, or even joining a political party.
Stephens’s statement about the three kidnapped Americans is equally misleading. While Iran does indeed back such militias, Reuters cited U.S. government sources saying that “Washington had no reason to believe Tehran was involved in the kidnapping and did not believe the trio were being held in Iran.”
Plus, to follow Stephens’s logic, if Iran is responsible for specific actions like these, then Saudi Arabia is responsible for specific actions of the Sunni Salafist forces that it funds in Syria, which include lopping off the heads of Shi‘ites and committing many other such atrocities.
Stephens says that the U.S.-Iranian accord “guarantees Iran a $100 billion sanctions windfall,” a figure that the Council on Foreign Relations, no slouch when it comes to Iran bashing, describes as roughly double the true amount. He says Iran now enjoys “the protection of a major nuclear power” thanks to Russia’s intervention in Syria and agreement to supply Tehran with high-tech weaponry.
As a result, “Iranian proxies are active in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen, and dominate much of southern Iraq. Restive Shiite populations in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province and neighboring Bahrain provide further openings for Iranian subversion on the Arabian peninsula.”
Possibly so – except that Stephens might have noted that Saudi proxies, up to and including Al Qaeda, are active in the same countries and that Shi‘ites in Bahrain and the Eastern Province might be a little less restive if Saudi repression were a little less savage.
Then Stephens gets to his main point, which is the nefarious role of Obama:
“Add to this an American president who is ambivalent about the House of Saud the way Jimmy Carter was about the Shah of Iran, and no wonder Riyadh is acting the way it is. If the administration is now unhappy about the Saudi war in Yemen or its execution of Shiite radicals, it has only itself to blame.
“All this means that the right U.S. policy toward the Saudis is to hold them close and demonstrate serious support, lest they be tempted to continue freelancing their foreign policy in ways we might not like. It won’t happen in this administration, but a serious commitment to overthrow the Assad regime would be the place to start.”
In other words, if the Saudi monarchy chops off the heads of dissident Shi‘ites and sentences liberal blogger Raif Badawi to a thousand lashes, it’s because Obama doesn’t show enough love. Ditto Yemen. If Saudi air raids have killed some 2,800 civilians according to the latest UN estimates, including more than 500 children, it’s because Obama has allowed his affections to flag for the Saudi royals. If only he would hug the Saudi princes a little closer, they wouldn’t feel so lonely and bereft and would therefore respond more gently to their neighbors in the south. No blame should be cast on the Saudi leaders. Their behavior can’t be blamed on the contradictions between their playboy lifestyles and the ascetic extremes of Wahhabism or the baleful effects of raking in untold oil riches while doing no work in return. No, everything’s the fault of Obama and his yuppie ways.
What can one say about reasoning like this? Only that it makes Donald Trump and Ted Cruz seem like paragons of mental stability. But given that The Wall Street Journal has long filled its editorial pages with such swamp gas, why dwell on the feverish exhalations of just one right-wing columnist?
The answer is that Stephens speaks not just for himself, but for an entire neocon establishment that is beside itself over the mess in the Persian Gulf and desperate to avoid blame for the chaos (which is now spreading into Europe). So, talking points must be developed to shift responsibility.
The Lost Saudi Cause
But the Saudis may be beyond saving. With Iran preparing to put a million more barrels on the world oil market per day, prices – down better than 75 percent since mid-2014 – can only go lower. The Saudis, hemorrhaging money at the rate of $100 billion a year, know that when the foreign currency runs out, their power runs out too. Hence, they fear winding up as yet another failed Middle Eastern state like Syria.
“Islamic State and other jihadist groups would flourish,” Stephens observes, this time correctly. “Iran would seek to extend its reach in the Arabian peninsula. The kingdom’s plentiful stores of advanced Western military equipment would also fall into dangerous hands.”
It’s not a pretty picture, which is why the neocons are pointing the fingers at others, Obama first and foremost. As Jim Lobe recently observed, all the usual suspects are pitching in in behalf of their Saudi friends – Elliott Abrams, Bill Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, and so on. All are furious at what Obama administration has done to their beloved petro-sheiks.
As neocon theorist Max Book put it at the Commentary Magazine website: “The American policy should be clear: We should stand with the Saudis – and the Egyptians, and the Jordanians, and the Emiratis, and the Turks, and the Israels [sic], and all of our other allies – to stop the new Persian Empire. But the Obama administration, morally and strategically confused, is instead coddling Iran in the vain hope that it will somehow turn Tehran from enemy into friend.”
Something else is also at work, however – the I-word. As Lobe notes, neocons have done an about-face with regard to the Saudis. Where Richard Perle once called on the Bush administration to include Riyadh on his post-9/11 hit list, the neocons are now firmly on the Saudis’ side.
Why? The reason is Israel, which has decided since tangling with Hezbollah in the 2006 Lebanon War that the Shi‘ites are its chief enemy and the Sunni petro-monarchies, comparatively speaking, its friend. Like Communists responding to the latest directive from Moscow, the neocons have turned on a dime as a consequence, churning out reams of propaganda in support of Arab countries they once loathed.
A Saudi Makeover
In the neocon domain, Saudi Arabia has undergone a wondrous makeover, transformed from a bastion of reaction and anti-Semitism to a country that is somehow peace-loving and progressive. Formerly an enemy of Washington – or at best a distasteful gang of business associates supplying lots of oil and buying lots of guns – Saudi Arabia has been re-invented as America’s dearest friend in the Arab world.
People like Bret Stephens have done their bit in behalf of the cause, turning out article after article whose real purpose is hidden from view. Where neocons formerly scorned anyone who spoke well of the Saudis, they now denounce anyone who speaks ill.
The funny thing is that Obama is to blame for the disaster in the Middle East, not because he disregarded the latest diktat from the Washington neocon-dominated foreign-policy establishment, but because he has accepted its priorities all too dutifully. He stood by as Qatar steered hundreds of millions of dollars to Salafist jihadis in Libya and while the Saudis, Qataris, and other Gulf states did the same to Sunni fundamentalists in Syria.
Obama’s response to Saudi Arabia’s repression of Arab Spring protests in Bahrain was muted, he refused to condemn the beheading of al-Nimr — the best the State Department could come up with was a statement declaring that the execution risked “exacerbating sectarian tensions at a time when they urgently need to be reduced” — and Obama has even given military support to the kingdom’s air assault on Yemen.
Yet now the neocons blame him for not doing enough to keep the Saudis happy.
Almost 13 years on from the so-called ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’, a new UN report has documented the continuing ‘staggering’ violence suffered by civilians in Iraq.
According to the report, at least 18,802 civilians were killed and another 36,245 wounded between January 2014 and October 2015, while another 3.2 million people were internally displaced due to violence.
The UN Commissioner for Human Rights has said the death toll in Iraq may even be considerably higher.
It is hard to get one’s head round the suffering the people of Iraq have endured since Bush and Blair’s illegal invasion of 2003. Hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians have been killed in the carnage that engulfed the country after Saddam Hussein was toppled.
“We’ve moved on from the Iraq war, but Iraqis don’t have that choice,” wrote the great John Pilger in 2013.
Yet the very obvious link between the invasion of 2003 and the ongoing violence in Iraq today is something we’re not really supposed to mention.
The reality is that Iraq did not see hundreds of thousands of people killed in the years before 2003, but it did in the years following. So it does seem quite reasonable to infer that something quite important happened in 2003 which led to the huge increase in violence. And that ‘something’ is unlikely to have been Arsenal’s 1-0 FA Cup Final win against Southampton.
John Pilger writes how three years before the invasion of Iraq he drove the length of the country ‘without fear’. “On the way I met people proud, above all, to be Iraqis, the heirs of a civilization that seemed, for them, a presence. Bush and Blair blew all this to bits. Iraq is now a nest of jihadism. Al-Qaeda – like Pol Pot’s “jihadists” – seized the opportunity provided by the onslaught of ‘Shock and Awe’ and the civil war that followed.”
It’s not only in Iraq that ‘staggering’ violence has been unleashed by the US and its allies’ regime change ops.
Libya six years ago enjoyed the highest standard of living in Africa. Education and medical treatment were free for all citizens. Electricity was free too. A bursary, worth $5,000 was given to all mums with new born babies. It was also a very safe country for tourists to visit. In 2005, with UN sanctions lifted, it returned to cruise ship itineraries.
In 2007, it received one million ‘same-day’ visitors.
In 2010, cruises along the coast of Libya were listed in the Daily Telegraph’s ‘Six of the Best’ Exotic Cruises feature.
A year later though, the NATO bombs started to fall in pursuit of ‘regime change’ and Libya’s days as a safe place to live, work and visit were over. Muammar Gaddafi’s warning that many of the so-called anti-government rebels were extremists linked to al-Qaeda was dismissed as the ravings of a madman.
But it wasn’t the ’mad’ Gaddafi who was telling lies in 2011, but the regime changers in suits.
Like Iraq, Libya post-regime change, is a country where violence has become a part of daily life.
Earlier this month, around 60 people were killed and over 200 injured in a bomb attack on a police training centre in Zliten. In November, UNICEF expressed concern over the impact that armed-conflict related violence was having on Libyan children- saying that 270,000 children in Benghazi alone needed some form of support.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) now advises British citizens against all travel to the country which was listed as one of the ‘Six of the Best’ places to cruise just six years ago.
“The situation throughout the country remains dangerous and unpredictable,” the FCO says. “Fighting continues in many parts of Libya. It can be unclear in some areas which faction has control….. There is a high threat from terrorism. There are continued attacks across Libya including in major cities, leaving significant numbers of people dead or injured. There is a high threat of kidnapping throughout Libya. There have been a number of kidnappings, including of British nationals….”
What a truly great job of ‘liberating’ Libya David Cameron and William Hague did!
Syria was also a safe place to live, work and visit before the West’s regime changers got going.
“Despite being depicted in the Western media as a land full of terrorists and similar nasties, Syria is really a safe country to travel in. It is quite safe to walk around at any time of the day or night, which is more than can be said for most Western countries”- these words come not from a SANA press release – but the Lonely Planet ‘travel survival kit’ to Jordan and Syria of 1987. As for being worried about crime, the guide told us “Theft, or more precisely the lack of it, has got to be one of the most refreshing things about travelling in Syria… Your bags will be quite safe left unattended virtually everywhere.”
I travelled around Syria in 1999 and never once felt threatened or in danger. I met some incredibly kind and hospitable people – but no terrorists. As for the lack of theft, I left a bag full of valuables on a table in a canteen at Tishreen University in Latakia, and as my friends assured me, it was still there, with all its contents intact, when I came back.
In 2006, Mary Wakefield, deputy editor of the Spectator magazine, travelled to Syria and like so many others, was pleasantly surprised with what she found. “Assad’s Ba’ath party is a long way from Saddam’s. It has lifted the ban on internet access and mobile phones, and ordinary Syrians seem free not just from fear, but from regular Western misanthropy as well,” she noted.
“Throughout Syria, passers-by paused to say ‘welcome’ and invite me in for mint tea – no furtive looks, no soviet-style reluctance to be singled out.”
A fascinating glimpse of everyday life in pre-war Syria was provided by the BBC/Open University series ‘Syrian School,’ which screened in 2010. “Syria is a country where, from poetry to politics, you can have an intellectual debate. You can re-imagine the world there in a way that we seem to have lost in the West, where even the credit crunch hasn’t dented the orthodoxy of Liberal Capitalism, where “The X-Factor” seems now to have become the cultural pinnacle,” wrote the BBC‘s Max Baring.
With its secular government Syria – like Iraq and Libya – was a bulwark against al-Qaeda and similar terrorist groups. In 2006 the Syrian authorities foiled an attack by Islamist militants on the US Embassy in Damascus.
The US expressed gratitude, but we know from WikiLeaks that secret plans for regime change in Syria were already being hatched.
Under the guise of the ’Arab Spring’, regime change in Damascus would be pursued by funding and arming violent rebels hell-bent on overthrowing President Assad.
The Syrian government did put forward a new constitution in 2012 which ended the Baath party’s forty year monopoly on political rule and genuine moderates embraced the political reform process. But the regime changers continued to pour petrol onto the fire. In 2013, Britain and France pushed other EU members to lift the arms embargo on the so-called Syrian ’rebels‘.
In 2015 the UN estimated that 250,000 people had died in Syria’s war – with more than 11 million people forced from their homes.
Today, travelling around Syria simply isn’t an option for Western tourists. The country where you could walk around safely ‘at any time of the day or night’, is now far too dangerous.
The FCO advises against ‘all travel’ to the country.
Meanwhile the Department of State “continues to warn US citizens against all travel to Syria and strongly recommends that US citizens remaining in Syria depart immediately.”
Syria, like Iraq and Libya, has been engulfed by ‘staggering’ violence directly attributable to the actions of the Western regime changers, and their regional allies.
If these countries had been left alone, it is inconceivable that violence of the scale we have witnessed would have occurred. The governments might have been authoritarian ones which were intolerant of dissent, but the reality is that daily life for the majority of the citizens in the countries concerned was better than it is today. Acknowledging that doesn’t make one an ‘apologist for dictatorship’- just someone who doesn’t try to spin chaos and carnage as ‘success’. In any case, there’s no doubt that some of the crimes of the governments that were targeted for ‘regime change’ were exaggerated, or in some cases even made up by the neocon war lobby. Amnesty International and other human rights organizations found no evidence to back up the NATO claims that Gaddafi ordered his forces to commit mass rapes in 2011.
Saddam’s notorious ’people shredder’ was never found and of course those WMDs which we were told could be assembled in 45 minutes didn’t show up either.
And here is Amnesty’s annual report on Syria from 2010.
It’s hardly impressive, but it’s interesting to compare it to the Amnesty report from the same year on Saudi Arabia, a strong western ally.
If you supported ‘regime change’ in Syria on human rights grounds then logically you would have to support the same in Saudi Arabia, whose record on human rights was worse. But the Western regime changers and ’democracy promoters’ weren’t calling for the toppling of the government in Riyadh, showing the hypocrisy of their position.
The foundation of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), which we’re now told is the biggest threat to Western civilization, was a direct consequence of the invasion of Iraq, and its growth was a direct result of the regime change plans for Syria.
In the words of John Pilger: “ISIS is the progeny of those in Washington and London who, in destroying Iraq as both a state and a society, conspired to commit an epic crime against humanity.”
WikiLeaks revealed how in 2010, the US rejected an offer from the secular Syrian government to work together against extremist groups like IS.
Far from wanting to defeat IS, the regime changers welcomed its rise.
In August 2012, a declassified secret US intelligence report discussed the “possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria”, saying that “this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.”
The refugee crisis which hit Europe in 2015 was directly attributable to regime change ops too. If Iraq, Libya and Syria hadn’t been targeted, we’d still be able to visit those countries safely as tourists. Most important of all, the people in those countries would still be able to go about their everyday lives without the fear of being blown to kingdom come, or beheaded, for having the ‘wrong’ faith.
All things considered, the regime changers have an awful lot to answer for. So it’s hardly surprising, given the blood that’s on their hands, that the warmongers try and maintain the deceit that the ’staggering’ violence in Iraq, Libya and Syria is nothing to do with them.
Neil Clark tweets on politics and world affairs @NeilClark66
Why are we “over there?”
I had expected that there would be little in last week’s State of the Union address about foreign policy as it is not an Administration strength, but, to my surprise, President Barack Obama gave it about eight minutes, a little over 1000 words. Governor Nikki Haley was, however, more detached from the issue in her rebuttal speech, stating only that “… we are facing the most dangerous terrorist threat our nation has seen since September 11th, and this president appears either unwilling or unable to deal with it.”
Obama made a number of points which illustrate his own inclinations regarding how to deal with the rest of the world. He emphasized that America, the “most powerful nation on earth,” must be the global leader, “… when it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead. They call us.”
Regarding the major conflict zones, he observed that “In today’s world, we’re threatened less by evil empires and more by failing states. The Middle East is going through a transformation that will play out for a generation, rooted in conflicts that date back millennia. Russia is pouring resources in to prop up Ukraine and Syria, client states that they saw slipping away from their orbit.”
Obama added that “Both Al Qaida and now ISIL pose a direct threat to our people… Our foreign policy has to be focused on the threat from ISIL and Al Qaida. We have to take them out. For more than a year, America has led a coalition of more than 60 countries… If this Congress is serious about winning this war and wants to send a message to our troops and the world, authorize the use of military force against ISIL.”
Concerning nation building, Obama opined that “We also can’t try to take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis…even if it’s done with the best of intentions. That’s not leadership; that’s a recipe for quagmire, spilling American blood and treasure that ultimately will weaken us. It’s the lesson of Vietnam. It’s the lesson of Iraq, and we should have learned it by now.”
And how to lead effectively? “On issues of global concern, we will mobilize the world to work with us, and make sure other countries pull their own weight. That’s our approach to conflicts like Syria, where we’re partnering with local forces and leading international efforts to help that broken society pursue a lasting peace.”
A final State of the Union Address is more than most a political document, intended to establish a loose framework of success that will enable the president’s party to prevail in the next presidential election. This is why Obama, instead of addressing substantive issues in a serious way, gave time to the warm and fuzzy perspectives that will define the Democratic Party in national elections later this year. He touched on gay marriage, education reform, job growth, Obamacare, and on guns legislation, all of which are core issues for those who align with the Democrats. The reality of each of those alleged “successes” can, of course, be challenged as failures or even unconstitutional, but the highly structured and almost ritualistic annual presidential speech does not exactly present much of a debating society opportunity for the opposition party.
I have long thought that President Obama is basically a moderate politically speaking who is extremely cautious and disinclined to take any risks. He was, admittedly, elected president in spite of his having had no experience that qualified him for the office. His electoral success was due to a number of factors coming together, most notably a scary GOP candidate coupled with growing antiwar sentiment that was a reaction to the Bush regime’s muscular nationalism. Understanding that, Obama made some gestures that miscategorized him as a “peace” candidate and eventually earned him a Nobel Prize but he quickly surrendered his independence to the consensus driven advisers who were products of the groupthink that drives foreign policy in Washington. In short, he has received some very bad advice and the State of the Union Address inadvertently identifies just what is wrong with the way the Administration views itself within the context of the international community.
It is particularly odd to note the Obama contention that the United States must be the leader, which he cites several times. To a certain extent the claim is little more than self-satisfied preening, but it also goes along with the oft-stated contention that the U.S. President is “leader of the free world,” an expression that Obama frequently uses. Unfortunately, there is no such mandate and it is likely that if an election were held many so-called allies would be reluctant to concede leadership to Washington. The claim that other nations clamor for American leadership is hokum. Germans, in fact, believe that the United States role in world affairs is essentially negative.
And the assertion that Washington is leading a coalition of 60 countries to fight ISIS is clueless, as the coalition is basically inert and toothless, having only acquired some momentum after the Russians intervened on behalf of Syria. Leading coalition partners, to include Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, have all along been playing a double game, supporting ISIS more often than not while many other nominal allies have done little or nothing. And the moderate rebels that White House expects to one day raise the liberty cap over Damascus? They have disappeared.
Indeed, Obama’s view of the conflict zones appears to derive more from a cold war style Manichean mentality than from current realities. Russia is incorrectly seen as having “client states” while the ongoing violence in the Middle East is regarded as a process of going through “transformations” that are “rooted in conflicts that date back millennia.” That is a comment that could have been coined by George W. Bush’s Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice but it is self-serving misreading of reality intended to shift the blame for the anarchy in the region.
Ancient history does not explain the contemporary Middle East. Including the festering Israel and Palestine conflict, which has taken on its current form due to the connivance of Washington as Israel’s patron, all of the unrest in the region is quite plausibly a direct or indirect result of American missteps, starting with the invasion of Iraq in 2003 coupled with the attempts to destabilize and change regime in Syria that started in the same year, followed by the overthrow of the Libyan government in 2011.
And Obama in his speech appears to want to up the ante, asking congress for war powers to get more deeply into the Syrian civil war. It contradicts his call for learning from past mistakes in Vietnam and Iraq and makes clear that the White House has not benefitted from hindsight as it intends to again repeat using military intervention as a foreign policy tool. It is also telling that Obama did not mention learning anything from the disastrous intervention in Libya, which, of course, occurred on his watch and that of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The fact is that the Arab world was relatively stable even if it was not very free before the U.S. sought fit to intervene in serial fashion after 9/11 and it would be nice if the president would just give that a nod, particularly as he went on to say that the United States should not seek to “take over and rebuild” every country that falls into “crisis.” As Obama has not hesitated to continue to do exactly that in Afghanistan with intentions to do likewise in Syria one has to question his perception of where the problem lies.
And finally, there is the question of what to do about terrorism. Describing ISIS and al Qaeda as major threats and the “focus” of U.S. foreign policy gives the groups way too much credit and also enhances their appeal to young Muslim men who will no doubt be volunteering in droves as a response to the Obama message. The reality is that they are not a major threat and never have been and if U.S. foreign policy is focused on them it is a bad misreading of what is important and what is not. Maintaining good working relations with adversaries Russia and China is far more important, as is increasing multilateral cooperation with friendly Asian rim nations and allies in Europe. Diplomacy is not just engaged in repressing bad guys, it is more so about building positive relations with friends and potential allies as well as bridges to opponents.
Foreign policy does not win or lose national elections but the diminished status of diplomacy over the past twenty years coupled with a basic incomprehension of what to do about the development of a multipolar world should be troubling for many Americans because the United States no longer operates in a vacuum. The perpetuation of myths that the U.S. must lead and should take steps to correct the policies of other nations, to include engineering regime change, must be once and for all explicitly discarded. Obama could have called for something like that but he didn’t.
The United States of America does just fine when it minds its own business and seeks friendship with everyone, as President George Washington recommended in his Farewell Address. Even the so-called terrorist problem would be much diminished because, as Ron Paul has correctly observed, “they are over here because we are over there.” Unfortunately, an undoubtedly intelligent and seemingly well-intentioned man like Barack Obama has chosen to go with the Washington consensus rather than heed his own instincts, which is something of a tragedy as whoever succeeds him in office is not likely to possess either of those virtues and will no doubt double down on “America the exceptional.”
Coercive Engineered Migration: Zionism’s War on Europe (Part 2 of an 11 Part Series)
During the 1920s General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Josef Stalin formulated what he considered to be the essential contribution of Lenin to Marxist political economy. Leninism, he wrote, is Marxism in the era of proletarian revolution. Since 1989 proletarian and national liberation revolutions throughout the world have been overturned by a general, global counter-revolutionary upsurge. It is a counter-revolutionary upsurge that has seen the onslaught of US colour revolutions, which seek to do away with the bourgeois nation-state itself, the last barrier to the total exploitation of the world by the global corporate and financial elite.
In this essay we have argued that the contemporary form of this counter-revolutionary ideology, of this imperial drive for global domination, is Zionism. One could therefore assert that Zionism is imperialism in the age of capitalist counter-revolution. In other words, Zionism is the very form of contemporary Western imperialism. Therefore, unlike Russian and Chinese imperialism, Western imperialism or Zionism has both a religious and ethnic dimension. Zionism is a Messianic and racist ideology based on Talmudic Judaism.
Zionism, through its control of Western finance capitalism, is striving for global governance. Lenin, writing in 1915, described as ‘indisputable’ the fact that ‘development is proceeding towards monopolies, hence, towards a single world monopoly, towards a single world trust’. But Lenin also pointed out that this drive towards unipolar global power would also intensify the contradictions in the global economy. A cogent example of this today is the low-intensity covert war currently being waged by the United States/Israel against Germany: The Western imperial alliance is turning on itself.
However, no people’s resistance to Zionism can be mounted if the empire continues to outsmart its opponents. The aforementioned General Barnett understands his enemies well. He used to teach Marxism in Harvard university and has written a book comparing the African policies of the German Democratic Republic and the Socialist Republic of Romania. In his book Blueprint For Action, he points out that the father of Fourth Generation Warfare is Mao Tse Tung. Imperial grand strategy is now waging war using techniques developed during the Chinese revolution, one of the greatest anti-colonial struggles in history. The key for anti-imperialist resistance today is, therefore, to understand how to turn the tools of imperialism against imperialism.
Marxism is a useful and indispensable tool but is insufficient for an full understanding of the complexities of the information age in the context of imperial strategy and tactics. Barnett and many other US and Israeli military strategists are keen students of social psychology, and in particular General Boyd’s OODA Loop Theory. The OODA stands for observation, orientation, decision, action. According to Boyd, decision-making occurs in a recurring cycle of observe-orient-decide-act. An entity (whether an individual or an organization) that can process this cycle quickly, observing and reacting to unfolding events more rapidly than an opponent, can thereby “get inside” the opponent’s decision cycle and gain the advantage.
One could see this psychology at work during the Arab Spring. The rigid ideological orientation of the average ‘leftist’ saw the uprisings in Tunisia as proof that people were rebelling against a US-backed dictator and his ‘neo-liberal’ regime. This interpretation was reinforced by strategically placed ‘critics’ of US-foreign policy in the news station of Zionism’s ancillary regime, Qatar, while the initial indifference of the Western press confirmed the interpretation of the Tunisian revolt as a genuine, grass roots uprising against US imperialism.
US and Israeli strategists were capable of doing this through their deep understanding of ‘leftist’ discourse. They also understood that the ‘anti-globalisation’ form of the protest movement would fool genuine critics of US imperialism, thereby impeding their ability to react to the US-orchestrated revolutions in a rational manner.
In the Arab Spring, inverted Marxian dialectics, Systems Theory, Psychology, Military Science and Utility Theory were waged against a feckless and discombobulated anti-war movement who would repeat the sound bites of ‘popular uprising’ and the ‘defeat of US imperialism in the Middle East’ implanted in their minds by one of the most impressive and successful US/Israeli geostrategic operations in modern history.
On the eve of NATO’s bombing of Libya, the BBC predictably called upon an old reliable ‘critic of US foreign-policy’ Noam Chomsky. The veteran American philosopher agreed that the West had a “duty” to “stop the massacres” in Libya thus ensuring there would be no moral outrage among the so-called anti-war movement. The invitation of Noam Chomsky by the Zionist-controlled BBC shows the importance for British intelligence of ideologically disarming potential ‘leftist’ opponents in the run-up to meticulously planned wars of aggression, disguised as ‘humanitarian interventions’.
Given Chomsky’s anarchist ideology, the very ideology instrumentalised by the CIA in colour revolutions, the BBC knew he would go along with their fake ‘popular uprising’ in Benghazi, thus providing justification to wage ‘humanitarian’ warfare in support of the ‘revolution’.
In 2013, a massive military destablisation of Brazil was undertaken by US NGOs, operating under the guidance of the CIA, in order to weaken the popularity of a government moving far too close to Russia and China in the eyes of Washington. Again, the CIA’s ‘Vinegar revolution‘ received full support from most ‘leftist’ quarters. Once again, military geostrategy had triumphed over anti-imperialist analysis.
The current refugee crisis proves that US/Israeli military geostrategy is running circles around its opponents, who, instead of identifying the culprits who are using human beings as weapons, are unwittingly collaborating with Zionism’s plan to inundate Europe with migrants for the purposes of fomenting civil war in the European peninsula, in a desperate effort to prevent Eurasian integration, a prospect inimical to what the Pentagon refers to as ‘full spectrum dominance’, US/Zionist global hegemony.
Those who have joined in the chorus of welcoming the refugees/migrants are unwitting participants in an extension of Zionism’s neo-colonial wars in Africa and the Middle East. They are also complicit in the endorsement and cover-up of a modern slave trade. Opposing imperialism requires study of the logic of its geostrategic operations. Imperialism’s deliberate flooding of Europe with a Wahhabised lumpen-proletariat from a war-torn Southern Hemisphere will not help the cause of labour, the cause of human freedom. Rather, it will contribute to prevent the unification of the European-peninsula with Russia and Asia. It will contribute towards the further colonisation and destruction of independent African and Middle Eastern nations such as Eritrea and Syria.
An example of Marxist Leninist parties’ inability to deal with imperialism’s weaponization of migrants comes from the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist Leninist). Their argument in favour of immigration is sound under normal circumstances but they fail to address the problem of when immigration becomes a tool of imperialism, a specific geopolitical strategy aimed at destabilizing both the country of origin and the destination of the migrant.
The recent resolution of the CPGBML is worth reproducing here in full:
This party firmly believes that immigration is not the cause of the ills of the working class in Britain, which are solely the result of the failings of the capitalist system.
Immigration and asylum legislation and controls under capitalism have only one real goal: the division of the working class along racial lines, thus fatally weakening that class’s ability to organise itself and to wage a revolutionary struggle for the overthrow of imperialism.
These controls have the further effect of creating an army of ‘illegal’ immigrant workers, prey to super exploitation and living in dire conditions as an underclass, outside the system, afraid to organise and exercising a downward pull on the wages and conditions of all workers.
The scourge of racism, along with all other ills of capitalism, will only be finally abolished after the successful overthrow of imperialism. But since immigration can no more be abolished under capitalism than can wage slavery, our call should not be for the further control and scapegoating of immigrants, but the abolition of all border controls, as part of the wider fight to uproot racism from the working-class movement and build unity among workers in Britain, so strengthening the fight for communism.
The problem here is that no distinction is made between immigration into imperialist countries and immigration into semi-colonial type countries. For example, Syria has been forced to close its borders due to the passage of terrorists in the service of imperialism. In such circumstances, it would be ludicrous to condemn the Syrian government for erecting fences to protect its borders. Similarly, Hungary, a small country which has just taken modest steps towards escaping from the clutches of US imperialism under the control of the IMF, has decided to erect fences to protect its borders from what it perceives as an attempt by US imperialism to destablize the country. Under these conditions, such a decision is entirely justified. The CPGBML argues correctly that “the scourge of racism, along with all other ills of capitalism, will only be finally abolished after the successful overthrow of imperialism.” The erection of fences in Hungary is part of that fight against imperialism, when migrants are clearly being used as weapons of imperialist strategy against recalcitrant nation-states.
The fact that Zionism is using the refugee crisis to further its imperialist agenda does not mean, however, that all refugees in the world are being used for this purpose. Rather, just as in the Arab Spring where the social inequalities of capitalism were used by imperialism to further the cause of capitalism, so are many refugees coming from the Middle East and Africa being used for the same purpose.
Throughout the world Homo sapiens is being supplanted by homo economicus: a vacuous, brain-washed, rootless cosmopolitan, a deterritorialised and acculturated nomad, hopelessly blown hither and thither by the exigencies of capital. Meanwhile, Zionism continues to stoke up the incessant and utterly fraudulent ‘War on Terror’, with omnipresent mass surveillance of the “nations” (goyim) while at the same time Jews are being encouraged by the Israeli regime to leave Europe for settlement on Arab lands, ruined and depopulated by Zionism’s wars.
The ‘refugee crisis’ is indubitably one more step towards the creation of a Greater Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu recently told the Israeli National News that Israel must become a “world power”.
To politically correct pundits, Victor Orban’s fence might appear inhumane and xenophobic, but at this moment in history the concrete choice presented to us is between temporary fences designed to protect nations from imperialism or Zionist walls built to imprison humanity.
Last month, before the parliamentary vote on whether to bomb Syria, British Chancellor George Osborne publicly stated that the cost of extending air strikes against Islamic State into Syria would run in the “low tens of millions of pounds”.
Reuters (December 1st 2015 Osborne referring to the bombing of Syria) – “I think the estimate of extended air action over Syria would be in the low tens of millions of pounds. That’ll come out of the special reserve which we established for the purposes of military action like this.” Osborne told a committee of lawmakers.
Reuters (March 23 2011 Osborne referring to the bombing of Libya) – “The cost of Britain’s involvement in military operations in Libya is likely to be measured in tens of millions of pounds rather than hundreds of millions, Chancellor George Osborne said on Tuesday. Osborne said the cost would be less than recent conflicts and would be fully met from contingency reserves rather than the defence ministry’s main budget”.
Same thing, different bloodbath.
Documents released from Westminster show the final statistics of the bombing campaign in Libya amounted to £320m. This included £50m spent on replacing spent weapons and munitions. These figures were clearly designed to disguise the truth from the British public.
It has since transpired, contrary to Osborne’s “tens of millions” prediction, that the actual total to Britain of bombing Libya is now estimated conservatively to be somewhere between £900 million and £1.25 billion.
We have a Chancellor in Britain who ‘miscalculated’ this campaign by around 12,000%, give or take a few ‘tens of millions’. Any so-called ‘special monies’ set aside obliterated in days.
In the meantime, the UK’s actions in Libya has left the country awash with weapons and terrorists groups running amok, the government has collapsed, the country completely lawless. Africa’s richest nation per capita, where poverty was lower than The Netherlands and life expectancy the longest on the continent under Gadaffi has disintegrated. Libya is now just a failed state, a bloody anarchy with extremists hell bent on exporting its death doctrine to the streets of the West.
In September 2011, David Cameron, Speaking in Paris after he chaired a summit on Libya with France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, said early signs for its future were “incredibly impressive” and that the UK will “play its part in rebuilding the country.”
Cameron lied. Britain sent just £25 million ($36m) to rebuild the devastated nation. For context it cost $100 million to build one waste water treatment centre in Iraq after the invasion.
Carmeron, being asked questions by a BBC correspondent said “We stopped a genocide. Would you have rather we’d done nothing, let a genocide take place? Would you feel better as a British citizen?”
The Prime Minister continued to challenge his questioner: “You’re asking me lots of questions, why don’t you answer a question?”
He added: “What you’re suggesting is we should have stood aside and had a genocide take place in Libya, that’s what you’re suggesting. I profoundly disagree. Really disagree. I was prime minister at the time, I could see what was happening, I could see people were going to be slaughtered in their hundreds, possibly in their thousands. I had a choice: act and stop it or stand to one side? We acted and it was the right thing to do.”
But as Counterpunch reveals – David Cameron’s assertion of genocide was a myth. The NYT reported March 2011 – “the rebels feel no loyalty to the truth in shaping their propaganda, claiming nonexistent battlefield victories, asserting they were still fighting in a key city days after it fell to Qaddafi forces, and making vastly inflated claims of his barbaric behavior”. The “vastly inflated claims” are what became part of the imperial folklore surrounding events in Libya, that suited Western intervention.”
It has since been estimated that although David Cameron asserted that ‘hundreds, maybe thousands’ would be killed by Gaddafi – 60,000 civilians were killed by August 2011 as a result of the 26,000 bombing sorties and 9,600 strike missions.
British former MI5 agent Annie Machon went further, telling RT that NATO’s intervention was a total disaster on every front.
“They’ve had free education, free health, they could study abroad. When they got married they got a certain amount of money. So they were rather the envy of many other citizens of African countries. Now, of course, since NATO’s humanitarian intervention, the infrastructure of their country has been bombed back to the Stone Age.”
The World Food Programme stated in November 2015 that one third of Libyans now need humanitarian assistance just to survive and one in five are on the brink of starvation. The economy has utterly cratered.
In an interview with The Spectator, just three weeks ago, David Cameron, a man with blood on his hands for taking a fully active role in the destruction of Libya, lied again – “I would say that Libya is better off without Gaddafi. The coalition helped those on the ground to get rid of the Gaddafi regime. We did a lot to try and help it”.
Cameron went on in the interview to confirm he would do the same again under the same circumstances and unbelievably, given his own ‘dodgy dossier‘ moment confirmed that “you can’t drop democracy out of a box at 40,000 feet” – and proceeded to do exactly that in Syria.
In December, after the British parliament voted to engage in the bombing campaign in Syria, there were seventeen airstrikes in three weeks. As truepublica reported on the 8th December – “Each 6 hour Tornado mission costs around £210,000, adding to that cost is the use of four Paveway bombs at £22,000 each and two Brimstone missiles at £105,000 each. If all weapons are fired on an average mission the cost of each Tornado mission is therefore £508,000.”
It costs £400,000 a week for British fighters to use airbases alone, before they fuel the fighters – and this is a campaign set to go on for years according to David Cameron.
In the meantime, Britain has successfully lobbied the UN to send ground troops alongside special forces back into Libya to fight terrorists that Britain allowed to take a foothold and subsequent control in the first place. This will add to George Osborne’s “tens of millions” that turned into £1.2 billion.
Unofficially, Britain already has troops in Syria and Libya on the ground and fighting on multiple fronts.
Up to 2013, the cost of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq cost the British taxpayer nearly £35 billion in addition to normal military funding, which left those countries devastated. Of course that doesn’t include the government’s silence over the£36 billion ‘black hole‘ that the taxpayer was facing in 2010 when the Conservatives came to power.
Gordon Brown, the Chancellor at the time of the Iraq invasion stated the cost of the Iraq war to Britain was £8bn – which was only £12 billion short of the actual cost.
Last week, Siddharta Dhar, a Hindu-born Muslim convert, made front page news as the latest British citizen to turn up in Syria draped in ISIS imagery and toting an AK.
He may or may not be the masked Brit who starred in a recent ISIS snuff movie, but, like pretty much all those who preceded him, he was well known to the British security services.
A member of Al-Muhajiroun, a ‘proscribed organization’ under the 2000 Terrorism Act, he was on bail for terrorism offenses at the time he left the country, and had been asked to hand over his passport to the police (he didn’t bother, it turned out). Indeed, according to Andy Burnham, shadow British Home Secretary, “He was well-known to the authorities having been arrested six times on terrorism related offenses”.
Perhaps stating the obvious, Burnham added that “people will be shocked that a man detained on a series of counts of terrorism-related activity could be allowed to walk out of the country, unimpeded.”
Nor was his flight exactly unpredictable. Earlier in the year, he had declared – on the BBC’s ‘This Morning’ program, no less – that “now that we have this caliphate I think you’ll see many Muslims globally seeing it as an opportunity for the Koran to be realized”. Just to further clarify his intentions, he went on to tell Channel Four News: “I would love to live under the Islamic State”.
I’m no expert on decoding terrorist lingo, but to my untrained eye this statement appears fairly unambiguous. But perhaps no one in British intelligence has a telly.
Or perhaps there is another explanation. Once in Syria, Dhar tweeted: “My Lord (Allah) made a mockery of British intelligence and surveillance… What a shoddy security system Britain must have to allow me to breeze through Europe to the Islamic State.” Shoddy? Maybe. But as Nick Lowles, from the group Hope not Hate, put it, “With at least six prominent members of al-Muhajiroun (the banned extremist group) having been able to slip out of Britain whilst on bail or having been banned from leaving, questions need answering. One absconding is a worry, two appears careless, but six – well, that needs answering.” Indeed it does.
In fact, it seems that pretty much every time a British ISIS or Al Qaeda recruit is unearthed, they turn out to have deep ties to the intelligence services. The story of Michael Adebalajo is a case in point.
On May 22, 2013, Adebelajo and Michael Adebowale stabbed Fusilier Lee Rigby to death in London. It soon emerged that MI5 had been trying to recruit him at the time. But for what?
The parliamentary committee on intelligence and security conducted hearings on the murder later that year, and its report makes fascinating reading. It revealed that, prior to the murder, Adebolajo had been identified as a Subject of Interest (SoI) in no less five separate MI5 investigations, including one which was focused specifically on him.
This surveillance had revealed that he was in contact with “a high profile and senior AQAP [Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] extremist” as well as two “Tier 1 SoIs being investigated… due to their possible links with AQAP in Yemen”. At one point in 2011, this particular investigation was “MI5’s highest priority operation” and it led MI5 to conclude that “Adebolajo was a primary contact of BRAVO and CHARLIE”, code names for the two suspected AQAP members under investigation.
Of course, ‘guilt by association’ alone would not have been enough to arrest him. But his drug dealing would have been. In theory, MI5 are supposed to ‘disrupt’ the activity of extremists by, for example, facilitating their arrest if they are involved in criminality. In Adebolajo’s case, the ‘intrusive surveillance’ which he was under for a time revealed not only that he was “involved in drug dealing” but indeed that he was “spending most of his time” drug dealing.
This was the perfect opportunity for MI5 to ‘disrupt’ the activities of a man suspected of being a recruiter for Al Shabaab and known to be in contact with senior members of Al Qaeda. But MI5 seemed curiously uninterested in pursuing it. They did eventually pass some information onto the local police – but without passing on any actual evidence, and “accidentally omitting” his house number, with the result that “the police officer tasked to investigate concluded… that no further action could be taken”, an entirely predictable outcome.
Further opportunities for ‘disruption’ were also ignored. The report notes that in November 2012, Adebolajo was part of “a larger group of individuals who were [involved in] a violent confrontation”. Following the disruption, it was noted that “Adebolajo’s details will be passed to [another police unit]”. For some reason, however, this didn’t happen. Nor was Adebolajo prosecuted for his membership in a proscribed organization (Al Ghurabaa, aka Al Muhajiroon).
But most suspicious was the British response to his arrest in Kenya in 2010: “On 22 November 2010, the Kenyan police reported to the MPS officer based in Nairobi that they had arrested Adebolajo the previous day. He had been arrested with a group of five Kenyan youths and was assessed to have been attempting to travel into Somalia to join Al Shabaab (a Somalia-based terrorist group).”
Information apparently relating to Adebolajo’s involvement with terrorism – but redacted from the report – was known by MI6 at the time of his arrest according to the British counter-terrorist police officer stationed in Kenya at the time.
According to the Daily Mail, “The Kenyans believed Adebolajo, 28, had played a crucial role in recruiting his co-accused, including two secondary school-aged boys, after they were radicalised during weekly visits to a mosque in Mombasa.”
Kenyan government spokesman Muthui Kariuki said: “We handed him to British security agents in Kenya and he seems to have found his way to London and mutated to Michael Adebolajo. The Kenyan government cannot be held responsible for what happened to him after we handed him to British authorities.”
The security agents in question belonged to a highly secretive counter-terrorism unit in Kenya (referred to in the report as ARCTIC) with “a close working relationship” with the British government. Adebolajo alleged on several occasions that he had been tortured during his time in custody, leading the Committee to point out that “if Adebolajo’s allegations of mistreatment did refer to his interview by ARCTIC then HMG could be said to have had some involvement”.
MI6 consistently lied to the Committee about their involvement with Adebolajo in Kenya – a point noted (albeit somewhat apologetically) in their report. Of his detention, MI6 claimed “we did not know it was going on”; prompting the Committee report to “note that SIS [MI6] had been told that a British citizen was being held in detention: therefore, they did know that “it was going on”.
The Chief of MI6 then lied about their responsibility to investigate the allegations of abuse, claiming that this “is not an SIS responsibility”, directly contradicting emails written by an MI6 officer at the time which had stated that “We obviously need to investigate these allegations”. This, said the Committee, “clearly indicates that SIS officers believed that they had a responsibility to investigate the allegations”, adding that this is “not consistent with the evidence provided to the Committee by the Chief of SIS”, and going on to note their “concern that this email was not provided as part of the primary material initially offered in support of this Inquiry as it should have been [as] it was clearly relevant to the issues under consideration.”
Finally, a redacted piece of information referring to what the Committee called “relevant background knowledge” concerning Adebolajo was disowned by MI6, who claimed only to have heard it when told by the police. The police, however, had already explained that it was MI6 who passed it to them in the first place.
Exactly what MI6 were up to in Kenya with Adebolajo remains shrouded in mystery. However, the Committee was clearly unimpressed by what they were told: “SIS has told the Committee that they often take the operational lead when a British national is detained in a country such as Kenya on a terrorism-related matter.
They have also told the Committee that they have responsibility for disrupting the link between UK extremists and terrorist organizations overseas, and that in Kenya this is at the centre of their operational preoccupations. The Committee therefore finds SIS’s apparent lack of interest in Adebolajo’s arrest deeply unsatisfactory: on this occasion, SIS’s role in countering ‘jihadi tourism’ does not appear to have extended to any practical action being taken.”
What if, however, MI6’s work on the “link between UK extremists and terrorist organizations overseas” is not aimed at disruption after all? What if they have been charged with facilitating, rather than countering, “jihadi tourism”?
The SO15 (counter-terrorism) police officer who conducted an extensive interview with Adebolajo on his return to the UK from Kenya concluded that “It is… believed Adebolajo will attempt to travel again in the future…”
At the time, MI5 was running an investigation into “individuals who were radicalizing UK-based extremists and facilitating their travel overseas for extremist purposes”, referred to in the Committee’s report as Operation Holly. They wrote to an MI6 representative in East Africa to ask whether “one of Adebolajo’s contacts could have been a Kenya-based SoI known to MI5 and SIS” then under investigation, but MI6 never responded.
The following year, “surveillance deployments indicated that Adebolajo had met an SoI investigated for radicalizing UK-based individuals and facilitating their travel overseas.” This entry in the report’s timeline was preceded by four redacted items and followed by another.
The report also contains reference to a number of occasions in which investigating officers’ requests and recommendations for action against Adebolajo and Adebowale were not implemented, for reasons that were not recorded. This raises the issue of whether these requests had been over-ruled, and if so by whom.
Unfortunately, the committee seemed to accept at face value MI5’s explanations of such failures (new priorities taking away resources, etc), but their report did note, in somewhat exasperated tone, that “where actions were recommended, they should have been carried out. If the investigative team had good reason not to carry out a recommended action, then this should have been formally recorded, together with the basis for that decision”.
Adebolajo, then, had come up on the security services radar again and again as someone not just potentially involved in recruiting for overseas terrorism, but with prior form in actually doing so. And yet we are supposed to believe that MI6 – whose prime concern was supposedly to deal with such people – had no interest in him in Kenya, and that MI5 – who are supposed to disrupt the work of such figures – willfully passed up chance after chance to do so.
Fast forward to today, and we have an official figure of 800 – but with estimates of 1,500 and more – British citizens who have gone to fight in Syria. We have evidence from Moazzam Begg’s collapsed trial that MI5 gave the ‘green light’ to his trips to train fighters in Syria; we have the collapse of Bherlin Gildo’s trial for terrorist activities in Syria due to the embarrassment it was feared it would cause British security; we have Abu Muntasir’s testimony that “I inspired and recruited, I raised funds and bought weapons, not just a one-off but for 15 to 20 years. Why I have never been arrested I don’t know”; we have the US Senate hearings into the murder of US ambassador Christopher Stevens revealing that MI6 was involved in running a ‘ratline’ of weapons from Libya to Syria; we have case after case of families angry at the British authorities for allowing their children to go and fight despite repeated warnings, and on it goes.
Can we really still call it a conspiracy theory to believe that British intelligence has allowed this to happen?
A shoddy security system? Or a ruthlessly efficient one.
Dan Glazebrook is a freelance political writer who has written for RT, Counterpunch, Z magazine, the Morning Star, the Guardian, the New Statesman, the Independent and Middle East Eye, amongst others. His first book “Divide and Ruin: The West’s Imperial Strategy in an Age of Crisis” was published by Liberation Media in October 2013. It featured a collection of articles written from 2009 onwards examining the links between economic collapse, the rise of the BRICS, war on Libya and Syria and ‘austerity’. He is currently researching a book on US-British use of sectarian death squads against independent states and movements from Northern Ireland and Central America in the 1970s and 80s to the Middle East and Africa today.
The visit of Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin may be considered by some to be unexpected, but it is hardly surprising.
Although the two countries maintain considerable trade ties to the tune of half a billion dollars a year, they have for more than a decade been erstwhile adversaries.
As two of the greatest gas exporters, they rarely agree on production quotas, vying for control of this essential market. In the past 20 months, Russia has been highly critical of Saudi Arabia and Qatar for refusing to curb oil production output as global prices plummeted.
A major oil exporter, Russia – already reeling from EU and US sanctions – has suffered considerably as prices drop to the $30 mark.
The rhetoric between both countries peaked after Russian fighter bombers and naval vessels began pounding Islamist extremist groups fighting to remove Moscow’s Syrian ally President Bashar Al Assad.
As the Sunni-funded campaign to remove Assad appeared to reach a stalemate, both Qatar and Saudi Arabia have since May 2015 significantly increased their support (financially, logistically and with materiel) to Wahabist Islamist factions in Syria.
The increase in support came as both countries realized that Washington was unable – or unwilling – to provide such groups as Nusra Front and the Free Syrian Army with the upper hand to turn the tide against Assad.
When Russia moved to reinforce its bases in Syria and presence in the Mediterranean, the Qataris in late October 2015 announced they could militarily intervene in the civil war there to aid their Islamist allies.
“If a military intervention will protect the Syrian people from the brutality of the regime, we will do it,” Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid al-Attiyah said at the time.
If such bravado was meant to nudge Washington to up the ante against Assad, it failed.
Russian diplomacy moves forward
A week later, the US appeared to cave in to Russian pressure to bring together senior representatives from Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, as well as the UN’s special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura, and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to meet in Vienna to resolve the Syrian civil war.
It marked the first time rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran joined discussions on Syria. The two countries have backed opposing sides in the Syrian and Yemeni conflicts.
The armed Syrian opposition – classified as moderates by the US – did not participate in the talks.
By expanding the number of countries meeting on the crisis – and bringing Assad’s critical backer Iran to the table – Russia effectively minimized Qatar’s and Saudi Arabia’s influence in the conflict.
In late November, on the sidelines of the third summit of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) in Tehran, Putin thanked Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei for his help in Vienna.
Moscow and Tehran have supported Syria’s President Bashar Al Assad and insisted that he be part of an interim political process and future elections.
“All this is done, of course, in agreement with the Iranian partners … I think that without them it would be impossible,” Putin said in comments carried by Russian news agencies.
Russia also played a critical role in ensuring that Iran and the other permanent Security Council members (and Germany) sign a deal which would curb Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of debilitating sanctions.
If it wasn’t clear yet, a rising Russia was increasingly flexing both its military and diplomatic muscles in the Middle East.
Even Egypt, which has been financially sustained by Saudi Arabia, defied its Riyadh benefactors and backed Russia’s approach to resolving the conflict.
On December 18, Russia and the US agreed to a UN Security Council resolution “to convene representatives of the Syrian government and the opposition to engage in formal negotiations on a political transition process on an urgent basis, with a target of early January 2016 for the initiation of talks, pursuant to the Geneva Communiqué, consistent with the 14 November 2015 ISSG Statement, with a view to a lasting political settlement of the crisis”.
A week later, the previously chest-pumping Qatar Foreign Minister al-Attiyah was in Moscow where he praised his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov for Russia’s efforts to stabilize the Middle East.
The two diplomats agreed on the need to move the UNSC resolution forward.
“We discussed in detail what’s necessary to be done to implement the agreements on the Syrian settlement,” Lavrov said at the time.
In early January, Russia’s BRICS ally China, which is also increasingly playing a political role in the Middle East, separately hosted members of both the Syrian government and the opposition. It encouraged the latter to drop its preconditions to meeting with Syrian government representatives.
In less than six months, the momentum to bring Assad down has shifted toward ensuring that a political peace process get off the ground.
So, what changed?
Qatar’s ambitions to become a regional and global player have in recent months been tamed.
Its ‘soft power’ approach to controlling the Middle East has backfired as it rushed head on against countries that have for centuries been well-versed in the art of Machiavellian empire-building and proxy manipulation.
At the same time, Russia’s aggressive immersion in the Middle East muddle has altered not only the narrative in the region but physical realities on the ground.
Anti-Assad forces have been losing significant territory to the Syrian military and its Hezbollah allies.
As Russia pounds and destroys the weapons bought by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the US appears to have retreated despite Arab Sunni protestations.
As Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani himself likes to point out, Qatar is a peace-loving member of nations that will work with the US and Western allies to bring the Middle East back from the brink of chaos and collapse.
He has blamed the international community for not supporting Arab youth in their drive for democracy, justice and economic security. That is really a scolding of the US and the West for not doing more to bring the Assad regime down.
Iran rising, Russia to stay
New realities have been forming in the Middle East.
The Iran nuclear deal, which has alarmed Washington’s Sunni allies, will not only be a moral and propaganda boost for Tehran but also allow tens of billions of dollars to flow into its cash-strapped coffers.
Iran is soon expected to flood already saturated oil markets with an additional one million barrels – a day.
Iran has successfully ‘managed’ its new ally Iraq, kept Assad in power, and maintained its proxy Hezbollah’s influence in Lebanon.
With Iran and the US appearing to be at the very least cordial now, Tehran’s influence is only set to grow.
For Iran to grow as a geopolitical power, other players must first retreat.
Backing the wrong horse
By continuing to back Islamist factions in Libya, Syria and Egypt, Qatar misread and miscalculated the response of erstwhile allies in its own front yard.
Nowhere has that been more evident than in Qatar’s commitment to Egypt following the 2011 uprising which resulted in President Hosni Mubarak stepping down and the Muslim Brotherhood eventually winning power through the ballot box.
Qatar backed the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist factions in Egypt.
Egyptian hardline cleric Yussuf Al Qaradawi, who was a vociferous critic of the Mubarak government, returned to Cairo from his home in Doha just a week after the president stepped down.
Qaradawi, who is close to Qatar’s ruling family, is also a strong advocate of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
When the Muslim Brotherhood’s President Mohamed Morsi was forced from power, many in Egypt felt that Qatar’s Al Jazeera was biased in favor of the Islamist group and openly belligerent against the new government.
According to prominent Middle East commentator Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, Al Jazeera was used by the Qatari leadership to the service of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Even after Morsi was imprisoned and put on trial, Al Jazeera continued to support the Muslim Brotherhood despite the advice to the contrary and objections of many of its allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the latter having been directly threatened by Brotherhood officials in 2012 and 2013, urged Qatar to back away from supporting the group.
After failing to persuade Qatar to terminate its ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, and in the wake of Saudi Arabia classifying the group as a terrorist organization, key GCC states turned on Qatar.
They accused Doha of failing to live up to a 2013 GCC security agreement to end support for the Muslim Brotherhood and stop providing sanctuary to its leaders and members.
GCC, oil and Al Jazeera America
In March 2014, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Doha.
This was unprecedented among the usually unified and resolute GCC.
The diplomatic rift indicated that there were significant fissures within the GCC and marked a shift in Qatar’s fortunes. How could it influence the region like it once did if it was becoming a pariah among its closest friends and allies?
As Europe, the US, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE declared support for the new Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah El-Sissi, Qatar was growing increasingly isolated.
The drastic fall of global oil prices has also delivered a debilitating blow to GCC countries, Qatar included.
Brent Crude was at nearly $110 in 2013; on January 15, 2015 it closed below $30 a barrel – more than a 75 per cent drop.
Funding a civil war that is not paying dividends is not the best of financial decisions given the current oil glut.
Some media analysts have speculated that the drop in oil prices played a role in Qatar deciding to shut down its media operations in the US – Al Jazeera America.
Having lost leverage, Qatar is adopting a more pragmatic approach to carefully chart a way back to international cooperation.
Ahead of his trip to the US last year, Sheikh Tamim said in a New York Times editorial that Qatar sees itself as a force of good. It aggressively seeks to resolve conflict and enjoys playing the role of mediator and arbiter.
Russia has in recent months made significant overtures to several Arab countries, including Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Qatar cannot afford to be left out. When Sheikh Tamim arrives in Moscow this weekend he will likely discuss current gas and oil crises with his Russian counterpart as both seek ways to raise global prices.
Qatar could also offer to mediate between Russia and Turkey, one of its strongest allies in the region, following the diplomatic spat between Moscow and Ankara in the wake of the downing of a Russian fighter jet over Syrian air space.
Middle East commentator Camille Otrakji, however, cautions that “one can expect Qatar’s ruler to talk to Russia, without necessarily being ready to stop financing and arming the Jihadists”.
“[The] Qataris show interest in any promising investment, and Russia is today looking very attractive,” he added.
In 2006, then Secretary of State Condi Rice said that the Middle East map was being redrawn.
She likely could have never predicted the Qatar-Russia detente we see today.