|The Modern Middle East Imperialist War III: What’s it All About by Steven Jonas|
November 30, 2015
“Modern Middle East Imperialist (MMEI) War III,” you say? How are you counting (?) might be the first question. Of course, Western Imperialist Wars have been waged on the region at least since Alexander the Great marched through the region in the 4th Century, BCE. The modern (contemporary) set can be said to have begun when George H.W. Bush tricked Saddam Hussein into invading a Kuwait that, among other things, had been diagonal drilling across the Iraq/Kuwait boundary, stealing Iraqi oil.
Militarily that war ended quickly. But through subsequent U.S. policy (e.g., the Bill Clinton “No Fly” zone) over the years it wreaked havoc on many tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians (especially children). Then came Bush II’s infamous War on Iraq which, by all logic it seems to be, was waged in order to establish a state of Permanent War for the U.S., if not one or more other Western Powers, and perhaps to create the “Permanent Republican Majority” (or at least Presidency) in the U.S. that was the dream of Karl Rove’s Repubs. (and of course the nightmare for the rest of us).
The United States is now in the midst of MMEI War No. III. Since there are so many sides involved, with shifting alliances, sometimes from month-to-month, this one is rather more complicated, and not easy to figure out. Certainly for me, I must admit, it has been confusing. But now, with several thoughtful, insightful columns that I have read recently, and with the shooting down of the Russian (I almost wrote “Soviet,” the way “Russia” is referred to by many authorities in this country) plane by the Turks, I have come up with an hypothesis, which I am going to share with you. I now have come to the conclusion that this multi-pronged, multi-front battle has at its center Iran and the hatred of key Arab states and Turkey for it. The hatred and urgency to attempt to rein Iran in has only intensified with the signing of the “Nuclear Deal.”
Iran is, as is well known (although perhaps not to all U.S. persons and perhaps not even to all Repub. Presidential candidates) one of the two major non-Arab Muslim powers in the Middle East. (The other one is of course Turkey which, of course too, both geographically and by treaty has a foothold in Europe as well.) Iran is Shia, but it is also modern in Middle Eastern terms, has a goodly supply of oil, has a going nuclear industry designed to provide power for it once the oil is gone, and of course sits on one side of the aptly named Persian Gulf and astride the Strait of Hormuz. The latter happens to be the only exit from the Gulf, through which lots of oil from the aptly-named “Gulf States” must pass.
To the reactionary Sunni Muslim Arab oil states like Saudi Arabia, Iran is a menace. To Turkey, Iran is also a menace because a) it is a relatively modern Muslim country like Turkey (even though it is nominally religious, unlike Turkey), and b) Turkey is very concerned about the decades long indolent war with its Kurdish minority with aspirations for independence that Iran probably supports even though it has a Kurdish minority of its own with the same aspirations. But Iran has Arab friends as well as enemies, mainly the Alawite/Shia-controlled government of the Baathist Assad in Syria and the Shia government of Iraq.
A somewhat strange alliance has been attempting, without success, to dislodge Syria’s Assad. Besides Washington and the Saudis — both covertly and overtly — the principal fighter in this one at the moment, is the 7th-century (by their own admission) Islamic State in the Levant (ISIL and a few other names). It has received essential support from private elements in Saudi Arabia and several of the Gulf States (and from their governments too).
Russia is the major world power supporting Assad, certainly in part to maintain its Mediterranean bases at Latakia and Tartus, and also as matter of principle mixed with pragmatism: Russia is a lynchpin of the multipolar alliance against ISIL that also happens to include China. The ISIL bombing of the Russian airliner, and the cold-blooded shooting down of a Russian fighter by the Turks near the Syrian/Turkish border have only deepened and probably hardened Russia’s involvement in the fight against it.
When they started bombing in Syria a month ago or so the usual Western sources said that the Russians were focusing more on the anti-Assad forces than on ISIL—as if they weren’t one and the same. That has been a pathetic propaganda line disseminated by Washington from the start, part of its information war on Russia, which has also included an all-out demonization of Putin. The accusation shows no sign of being retired any time soon. On the morning of Nov. 29, on CBS’s Face the Nation, both the new host, John Dickerson, and his guests, the usual “worthies” du jour, were sanctimoniously complaining that if Russia were to be included in the US coalition fighting ISIL, Moscow would have to stop supporting Assad.
The absurdity of thinking that Moscow would need to be accepted by Washington into some sort of fake coalition to fight these barbaric terrorists -— which anyone except those utterly bamboozled by the American media know quite well Washington itself created -— is the kind of audacious arrogance that typifies imperial “journalism”. (All these US celebrity journalists are witting presstitutes, albeit high-priced ones, who, as abettors of international war crimes, remain subject to trial just like the Nazi defendants in Nuremberg at the close of WWII. In a world with a semblance of justice and genuine democracy, that’s exactly what they would be facing, along with their equally corrupt masters, who strut around in high positions of power with impunity.—Eds.) Further, none of them, seem to be aware that in 2012, as reported in the Los Angeles Times, Pres. Putin offered to engage in negotiations through the UN that could well lead to the replacement of Bashir Assad as Syrian President.
It happens that at that time, Iran supported a similar position. A major opportunity that could have saved tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of lives, plus the current Syrian refugee crisis, plus the establishment of ISIL as a force with power, could have been avoided.
Now, in 2015, Russia seems to have a clear policy and is moving to implement it. That is to surely shut down ISIL, with the cooperation of other powers or not. Indeed Russia, over original U.S. objections, has obtained a UN Security Council Resolution supporting their campaign to do just that. Now it happens that the best way to achieve that aim is to effectively close the Turkey/Syrian border. Turkey, of course, has at best been ambivalent about ISIL because they would really like to get rid of Assad in order to move the Iranian influence out of Syria. Further, Turkish President Erdogan has long dreamed of grabbing a chunk of Syria as part of his Greater Turkey vision, harking back to the days of the Ottoman Empire. (Where is Lawrence of Arabia when we need him?) But, not so fast, for of course Iraq already has a Shia government and openly cooperates with Iran. And the Turks have their enmity against the Kurds, who just happen to be the most effective indigenous grouping fighting ISIL. In any case, the fact remains that while Turkey talks tough against ISIL, its border is a sieve with fighters, supplies, oil, and money moving freely across it. Not to mention medical support, facilitated in collaboration with the CIA.
It is now clear that Russia is determined to jam up the sieve. To do that they need to remove the Turkish-supported anti-Assad rebel groups from along the Syria-Turkish border, substituting the Syrian Army of Assad for them (which is why they are bombing those anti-Assad groups). The latter then could effectively shut down the free flow of whatever element wishes to infiltrate/exfiltrate Syria, across the Turkish-Syrian border. That is the reason Russia is now supporting Assad’s army in that sector with some very serious air power. Turkey shot down the Russian jet (apparently over a 5-mile-wide strip of land in Syria along the traditional Turkish-Syrian border that Turkey claims is part of Turkey but other power recognizes as such) as a warning shot across the bow at the Russians. Their response has been immediate: “Are you kidding us?” and, “Oh, by the way, we can do sanctions as effectively as the Western powers can.” And so, the Russians very quickly moved some very modern anti-aircraft firepower into the region; a clear message to Turkey. The game is now afoot.
If the Russian/Syrian government campaign is successful, the border which currently allows, for example, oil to flow one way and weapons and personnel to flow the other, will be shut down. ISIL as a territorial body will slowly choke and wither away. (Of course its potential for terrorism around the world will hardly do that, since the sources of militants exists in many bankrupt, backward nations, a world reality primarily of Washington’s making, but that is another story.) Through Syria and Iraq, Iran will be firmly established as a power in the Arab world. Further, if Iran chooses to do so, it could abet the establishment of an independent, though land-locked, Kurdish state comprising the Syrian, Iraqi, and possibly Iranian portions of Kurdish territory. Of course such a Kurdistan would be, shall we say, very friendly with Iran. Further, the Kurdish portion of Iraq happens to sit upon one of the largest not-fully explored oil regions left in the world. And oh yes, there is the Iran supported Hezbollah, which would be strengthened much to Israel’s dismay (which is why, some claim, with some credible evidence, that Israel is and has been supporting ISIL all along [!?!]).
And so, I think that the ongoing struggle is quadripartite. In part this is all about the traditional Sunni/Shia war that has been going on since just after the death of Mohammed. In part it’s about the place and role of Iran in the Arab world. In part it’s about Turkey playing both sides of the street in their objective of removing Assad and his Iranian allies/patrons while appearing to be a U.S./NATO ally. And in part it’s about US policy (supported by both elements of the Duopoly). Among other things that policy has finally succeeded in awakening the Russian bear which, it now appears, is both determined to and capable of finishing the job against ISIL, while at the same securing the future (at least for now) for the Assad regime (and its Mediterranean bases) and for the Kurds as well. And that, in my view, is what the Modern Middle East War III is all about (Alfie).
Hmm. I just wonder what the Repubs. and their propaganda machine are going to say about this one: ISIL gone, requiring no U.S. “boots on the ground” (except that “the Russians” did it). Oh, I know. Regardless of what happens on the ground, regardless of what happens to ISIL, it will be, “Obama is weak, weak, weak,” Russia is who-knows-what, and somehow they will weave Benghazi into their narrative.
May 22, 2015
THE BATTLE is over. The dust has settled. A new government – partly ridiculous, partly terrifying – has been installed.