Anglo-American-Jews Driving a Sunni Wedge in the Shiite Arc (2014)

The nation of Iraq is making headlines once again. Over ten years after the Anglo-American-Zionist empire's "forces of freedom and democracy" mercilessly sacked the ancient city of Baghdad, Western promises of freedom and democracy continues to be an elusive fantasy for beleaguered Iraqis as the brutal cycle of sectarian bloodletting continues unabated. After hundreds-of-thousands of deaths, hundreds-of-thousands of maimed, millions of lives uprooted and the utter plundering of an oil rich nation, Iraq has in recent years been a nation that barely exists. A weakened Iraq's already terrible situation just got much worst. A new terror network known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has occupied significant territories inside Sunni populated region's of Iraq.

The story at hand does not simply begin and end with the group ISIS. The story behind the story is that Iraq's weakness is currently being exploited by a conglomeration of foreign powers towards a greater regional geostrategic agenda.

As in Syria, we see in Iraq a number of major political interests vying for power and/or influence. Western powers, Gulf Arab states, Kurds, Turks, Israelis, Iranians and Russians are in varying degrees involved in the Iraqi equation and a number of other nations are playing supporting roles. As in Syria, we are seeing an agenda to reshape the borders of Iraq. Similar to what we saw attempted in Syria, what is going on in Iraq is a proxy war in which Iranian interests (and to a lesser degree Russian interests) are battling a conglomeration of Western, Arabian, Turkish, Kurdish and Jewish interests. Will the Maliki government pull together similar to how Bashar Assad's government did and preserve the modern state of Iraq, or will Iraq break up into pieces? 

I personally believe Iraq is - much more so than Syria ever was - in a serious danger of falling apart. Unlike Syria, Iraq had already been utterly devastated by twenty years of war. Unlike Syria, Iraq's military is very weak. Unlike Syria, Iraq is demographically too fragmented. Unlike Syria, Iraq's government is too saturated with Western mercenaries (although this may be changing) to be able to organize an effective resistance against those trying to destroy it.

If Iran and Syria do not immediately begin providing Baghdad serious military assistance, Iraq will sooner-than-later break into three pieces - Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish. The good news is that Iran and Syria are beginning to come to Iraq's assistance. And Moscow is also stepping in to provide Baghdad with much needed aid.

While the agenda to redraw the map of the Middle East is self-evident (they haven't even tried to conceal their intentions) we can only guess at what their ultimate end-game is. In other words, what is it exactly that they want and what lengths are they willing to go to get it?

In my opinion, with their military setback in Syria and their continuing powerlessness against Iran's growing strength in the region, they may now be taking the fight into Iraq. And similar to what they are doing in Ukraine with Russia, they may also be trying to pull Iran into the fight in Iraq. After all, Tehran is the epicenter of the Shiite world. Lebanon's Hezbollah, Syria's Alewite regime and Iraq's Shiite majority government cannot survive without Iran.

The reader may have noticed that when news first broke out about ISIS gains in Iraq, there was a lot of talk in the Western press about Iran being a "natural ally" of the US and the need for Washington to begin talks with Tehran. Have Western powers had a change of heart about Tehran? Is Tehran all of a sudden a lesser threat against Western, Israeli, Gulf Arab and Turkish interests? Not as far as I can tell. Tehran is not going to stop its nuclear pursuit; Tehran is not going to stop aiding Hezbollah; Tehran is not going to stop aiding Bashar Assad's government; Tehran is not going to stop aiding Iraq's Shiite led government; and Tehran is not going to stop being Shiite. Therefore, them wanting to have talks with Tehran is in fact a very troubling sign, as far as I'm concerned.

In my opinion, because of Iran's strength, they are resorting to more devious measures against Tehran. I personally believe they are attempting to draw Iran into a civil war in Iraq. Why? I do not know the very exact reason why for I don't sit in at Council of Foreign Relations Meetings. But I can surmise based on what I observe taking place on the ground. In my opinion, the plan is to plunge the region into serious sectarian violence and entrap Tehran in a civil war in which the opposing, Sunni side is being aided by a conglomeration of  Western, Arabian, Turkish and Jewish interests. Similar to what they did in the 1980s with the Iran-Iraq war, they may be seeking to entrap Iran in another protracted bloody conflict.  

Many of the Middle Eastern conflicts in recent years have emerged from an attempt to curb the growth of Iranian power in the Middle East - as well as keeping Russian influence out of the region. We saw this agenda play-out in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war; we saw this agenda play-out in the 2006 Israel–Hezbollah War; we have been seeing this agenda play-out in Syria and Iraq in more recent years. The growth of Iranian power in the region is the number one geostrategic problem for Western powers and their regional allies. 

Their fear of Iran 

On April 5, 2001 an assessment concerning Russian-Iranian relations was featured in the website of the now infamous The Heritage Foundation, one of the premier neoconservative think tanks in the United States. The article was more-or-less a set-by-step, geopolitical blueprint for the Bush administration. As noted above, this work comes to us from a period in time when the terms "neocon" and "war on terror" were still unknown to the general public. However, as the article clearly reveals, even before it all supposedly began in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the grand agenda of special interest groups working deep within power centers of Washington was there for all to see. 

Their main fear for the Middle East is the growth of Iranian influence.  Their main fear for Eurasia is the reassurance of Russia as a superpower. 

Their fear is that if left unchecked Iran and Russia will disturb what is termed as the "balance of power" in their respective regions. This so-called balance of power is where Western powers, the Zionist state and several US-backed Arab monarchies enjoy total supremacy and complete impunity. As a result, many in positions of power in the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia have been quite vociferous in calling for a preemptive war against Iran. They fear that they will no longer have the impunity to do as they will, once Iran becomes a nuclear power and begins projecting its interests throughout the region.
The growth of Iranian power and influence in the Middle East in recent decades has thus been keeping officials in Washington, London, Tel Aviv, Brussels, Ankara, Riyadh and Doha awake at nights. This is because, as mentioned above, Tehran threatens to disturb what the Anglo-American-Zionist alliance terms "the balance of power" in the region. In other words, they are afraid of a real balance of power emerging because in such a political environment, they will not feel invincible and will no longer be able to act with impunity.

In particular, Iran's rise as a regional power is seen as an existential threat for Israel. For the Zionist state to survive in the Middle East it has to enjoy total supremacy over its neighbors. 

Moreover, Tehran's rise as an independent regional power also threatens the free flow of the region's Western controlled energy production and distribution. Being that Iran is one of the world's largest producers of energy (natural gas in particular, which the developed economies of Europe, Turkey and Israel desperately need), Tehran's rise as a major regional power is seen as a serious strategic, long-term threat. But as alluded to above, Iran is not their only problem here because there is also the Russian Federation. Russia's resurgence as a Eurasian superpower has essentially monopolized the production and distribution of Central Asia's much coveted energy resources.

Central Asia and the Persian Gulf are increasingly coming under Russian and Iranian influence, and I should also add that China is beginning to project its power in the Far East. This is cause for serious consternation in the Western world. And this is why they want to see a greatly diminished Iranian and Russian and Chinese role in global affairs. In short, Tehran and Moscow are redefining global energy politics and are currently on the verge of changing the geopolitical landscape Eurasia. 

What I just outlined above is more-or-less the geostrategic basis of all the volatility we have been witnessing in the Middle East and elsewhere. Their fear of increasing Iranian - and Russian - power in the Middle East lurks behind the international aggression we have been see taking place against Syria - because the road to Tehran starts in Damascus.
True to their predatory spirit: Since Iran is a much tougher opponent to take on directly, they are first going after Syria and now Iraq. Before they are able to take on a large and powerful nation like Iran, they must first stamp-out Iranian support in the region.

Driving a Sunni wedge in the Shiite Arc 

In the big geostrategic picture, what is happening in Iraq today can be accurately characterized as a Western/Saudi Arabian effort to drive a Sunni wedge into the Shiite Arc. This arc (also known as "a victorious arc of Iranian terror from the Gulf to the Mediterranean backed by nuclear weapons") is a swath of territory essentially stretching from southern Lebanon to western Afghanistan, a strategic territory where Iran wields great influence.

A by-product of an Iranian political awakening that reached its climax in Iran during the late 1970s, this arc gradually came into existence as a direct yet unintended consequence of Western machinations in the region. Iran's rise as an independent regional power began in 1979 when Iranians managed to depose their country's Western-backed dictator Shah. Iranian power and influence was thereafter refined during the brutal war Iran fought against Iraq in the 1980s, during which Western powers were encouraging the fighting by supplying both sides with weaponry. The 1980s also saw the rise of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon as a direct consequence of Western-backed Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon. Then came the Western military aggression against Iraq in 1991 and its subsequent invasion in 2003. This inadvertently enabled Iraq's Shiite majority to dominate the political landscape in Baghdad through the help of double agents like Ahmad Chalabi. Then came the 2006 war in Lebanon during which the Hezbollah heroically stopped Israel's massive war machine dead in its tracks. This propelled Hezbollah to the top of political influence in Lebanon. Finally, the Western aggression against Syria and Iraq has resulted in the further fusing of Shiite/Alewite cooperation between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon's Hezbollah.

The Iranian/Shiite Arc can therefore be characterized as something that was forged in fire and something that won't be broken easily.

Backed by Russia, Tehran has built a massive, well organized military force and is currently on the verge of acquiring nuclear capability. The defeat of the Western-backed Sunni Islamic insurgency in Syria has greatly increased Bashar Assad's regional political clout. And Israel is once again sounding the alarm about Hezbollah's growing military capabilities. Therefore, in a certain sense, it was only inevitable that they would set their eyes back on Iraq - the weakest link in the Shiite Arc

Therefore, let it surprise no one that trigger-happy Western forces do not want to carry-out air strikes or send in ground troops against Islamic terrorists that have occupied large territories throughout Iraq. They were so enthusiastic about bombing Syria... but all of a sudden they are concerned about getting caught in a civil war and killing civilians? All of a sudden they do not have any good options on the table?

Let it also surprise no one that the Western news press as well as Western officials are placing all blame on Maliki's Shiite-led government. The Western new press is framing the recent crisis as a sectarian violence brought upon by the Maliki government and Western voices have been unanimous in telling Baghdad to reach out to Sunnis and Kurds. The blame Maliki campaign is now seen in all corners of the empire's disinformation machine. In stark contrast to what Washingtonians have been doing in Ukraine (where the West has been backing the central government's bloody crackdown on pro-Russian separatists in the country), talk about Iraq is instead focusing on the importance of creating an "inclusive government" where the rights of Sunnis and Kurds (both entities supported by the Anglo-American-Zionist establishment) are respected by the nation's majority Shiites.

Is ISIS a tool of Western foreign policy?

Due to multiple, interrelated players, constantly changing and overlapping variables not to mention the very murky world of intelligence services, I admit that the topic of Islamic terrorism is a difficult matter to truly wrap one's mind around. I myself still have some trouble with it. 

With that said, groups like ISIS (said to be state-less Sunni extremists) are too well organized, too well armed, too well trained, too well manned and too well funded to exist independently or against the wishes of regional state interests. What are these state interests? In my opinion, primarily Gulf Arab states, Turkey, Israel and Western powers.

The reader can think of militant groups like ISIS or Al-Qaeda in this way: A rabid monster created by certain state interests and then thrown onto the laps of their enemies. 

These groups are like rabid animals that even their trainers/handlers try to keep at a safe distance and use only when needed. They don't even have to have direct control over the beast in question. It is inevitable, even natural, that such rabid animals cannot be fully controlled. But they can be guided (given a path) to do damage against one's enemies. Such militants are often times controlled through intelligence services of Western-backed nations such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Pakistan and Turkey. Often times such movements are disbanded or destroyed once their mission is fulfilled. Sometimes such movements take on a life of their own. And sometimes such movements are not what they seem.

Consider this: ISIS has regularly clashed with Syrian rebels who are opposed to Bashar Assad. There have also been reports that Bashar Assad's government has been purchasing oil from ISIS controlled territories in Syria. There are reports of internal problems within Saudi Arabia's intelligence services, leading to suspicions that Riyadh's Western-backed Islamic terror networks have somehow been compromised. Moreover, Damascus has been known to have intimate connections with some Islamic militant groups in the past. Bashar Assad has even recently threatened to "unleash" such groups against Israel. Finally, during the US occupation of Iraq, Damascus had been providing aid to Sunni rebel groups within Iraq's Anbar province, where ISIS is said to have come into existence...

All this is leading to some theories that suggest ISIS may somehow be connected to or colluding with the regime in Damascus and articles such as this and this are fueling the speculation. So, is ISIS an elaborate Syrian/Iranian plan to pit Sunnis against each other in Syria, and create the premise for deeper Iranian influence in Iraq? I personally do not think so.

The above theory ultimately neglects to take into full account the well known fact that ISIS has only been able to achieve its successes in Iraq and Syria by closely coordinating its actions with various Saudi-backed local Sunni tribes and rebel groups that have been fiercely opposed to Bashar Assad and Iraq's Shiites. The theory in question also neglects to take into account a growing body of evidence suggesting that ISIS volunteers, many of whom arriving from the Western world, are funneled into Syria and Iraq from Western-backed nations of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. There have also been reports that US intelligence in tandem with Turkey's MIT are running ISIS operations out of Turkey. There are even accusations that ISIS commanders have received treatment inside Turkey. There have also been reports that US intelligence has been training ISIS in Jordan. The above mentioned theory also neglects to take into account a growing body of evidence suggesting that funding for ISIS is coming from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. I'd like to remind the reader that the news/propaganda network known as Al-Jazeera is funded by the Qatari government and that the small but oil wealthy nation of Qatar hosts one of the largest US military bases in the world. Nevertheless, without support - Sunni support to be exact - ISIS could not achieve what it has achieved. With that said, there is still a lot the public does not yet know about this mysterious group. Time will ultimately reveal the true identity of those behind ISIS. 

But as the American saying goes - "If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it most probably is a duck"

At least on the surface, actions carried out by ISIS directly serves the Western and Saudi Arabian agenda of curbing Iranian power in the region by weakening Syria and Iraq.
Similar to how the Ukraine crisis is meant to create circumstances to drive a bloody wedge between Europe and Russia and breath new life into NATO, the recent crisis in the Middle East is meant to drive a bloody wedge between Shiites and Sunnis, draw Western forces back into the strategic region and perhaps support the creation of a Kurdish state. It is also quite significant that the leader of ISIS was jailed and later released by Americans several years ago. I say this bit of information is significant because of the following: Sometimes, inmates under US custody that have been assessed to be potentially useful to the empire's overall agenda are recruited and prepared for action by their captors. This is not merely my personal speculation. If you read between the lines of the following mainstream article you will see that there have been similar accusations made against Guantanamo Bay.

In other words, if Western intelligence operatives assess that an inmate under their control can be useful for Western interests somewhere in the world, they will set him/her free regardless of whether or not he/she is anti-American. As I have said in the past, a few American lives lost from time-to-time is a price well worth paying for political value such operatives bring to the table. There are many-many cases of Islamic militants kept in US facilities and then suddenly released without any explanation. We saw this happen in Libya, Syria and most recently in Afghanistan. Once more, the existence of a militant Sunni movement in Iraq (even if it is also anti-American) serves to limit Shiite influence and dissect the Shiite Arc. Periodic property damage and losing a few Western lives here and there is well worth the price to pay for Western policymakers.

For added insight on this topic please listen to Michel Chossudovsy's interview -
"ISIS:  An Instrument of the Western Military Alliance":
And please revisit my blog commentary on Islamic terrorism -
Tsarnaev brothers, secret services and Islamic terrorism - (April, 2013):
For several decades now Western powers have been colluding with Islamic militants in various hotspots around the world. This unholy convergence of interests between Western powers and Islamic forces is in fact nothing new. The Western world has found common ground with Islam for hundreds of years. Five hundred years ago it was German-made technology in the form of giant canons that helped Ottoman troops defeat Byzantine forces defending Constantinople thereby forever changing the course of history. 1853 French and British interests united with Ottoman Turks to fight Imperial Russia. In 1914, British forces aided Islamic tribes in the Arabian desert against Ottoman Turks. In 1979, Western powers began helping Saudi Arabia and Pakistan organize an Islamic insurgence inside Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. In the 1990s, Western powers aided the Islamic insurgency against the Russian Federation in northern Caucasus and against Serbia in the Balkans. In recent years, Western powers have been fully behind the Islamic insurgency in Libya, Syria and Iraq. 

Nothing personal, mind you. It's all merely an execution of realpolitik. Western powers naturally seek tools with which to carry-out their imperial agendas against Russia, Iran, Arab nationalism, etc. Islam, with its backward but aggressive character, has often times been that useful tool for Western interests.

Subtext to all this is of course pipeline politics. To put it into simplest terms as possible: Tehran would eventually like to build an east-west pipeline to the Mediterranean Sea through Shiite-friendly Iraq and Syria. Gulf Arab states and their Western/Jewish masters on the other hand would like to lessen their dependence on transporting oil through the very narrow Strait of Hormuz by constructing a north-south pipeline to the Mediterranean Sea through Iraq and Turkey - or if Bashar Assad could be defeated, through Syria. These wishes therefore create ideal circumstances for an international clash of interests. And given Russia's near total dominance of Central Asian gas and oil distribution, energy production and distribution within the Middle East continues to be taken very seriously by Western and Gulf Arab states. More on this topic can be read in the following article -

Oil Road Through Damascus (2012 Asia Times report):
Prominent in all these equations is the modern entity known as Kurdistan. And little known in all this is how powerful Western and Israeli stakes are in Kurdistan. Carved out of northern Iraq beginning in 2003, Kurdistan has been a joint US/Israeli project. For its creators, the existence of a Kurdistan is ultimately meant to act as a buffer against Arabs, Iranians and Turks. This agenda has actually been the root cause of tensions between Ankara and Washington/Tel Aviv in recent years.

Remaking the Middle East

Western powers have been successful in their plans to weaken Syria and Iraq as a geostrategic prerequisite for their eventual move against Iran. However, I would like to once again point out here that Syria, Iraq and Iran are not their only targets and their overall agenda is nothing new. In fact a sinister plan for the entire Middle East was first hatched three decades ago by one Israeli named Oded Yinon. The following is his Strategy for Israel in the 1980s” as summarized by anti-Zionist Jewish political activist, Israel Shahak -
"The plan operates on two essential premises. To survive, Israel must 1) become an imperial regional power, and 2) must effect the division of the whole area into small states by the dissolution of all existing Arab states. Small here will depend on the ethnic or sectarian composition of each state. Consequently, the Zionist hope is that sectarian-based states become Israel’s satellites and, ironically, its source of moral legitimation."
Plans to breakup the Middle East into smaller, more manageable states is thus decades old. The intent is to more effectively exploit such weakened nations and ensure Israel's overwhelming military dominance in the region. They were basically emboldened when one of their strategic obstacle, the Soviet Union, collapsed in 1991. And they acted. More recent calls to breakup regional nations into smaller pieces could be heard just before the foreign-backed Islamic uprisings began in Syria and Iraq. The following chilling words from another Zionist Jew was first published in 2010 -
"The total disintegration of Lebanon into five regional, localized governments is the precedent for the entire Arab world... The dissolution of Syria, and later Iraq, into districts of ethnic and religious minorities following the example of Lebanon is Israel's main long-rage objective on the Eastern Front. The present military wreaking of these states is the short-range objective. Syria will disintegrate into several states along the lines of its ethnic and sectarian structure... As a result there will be a Shiite Alawi state, the district of Aleppo will be a Sunni state, and the district of Damascus another state which will be hostile to the northern one. The Druze-even those in Golan - should form a state in Huaran and in northern Jordan... The oil rich but very divided and internally strife-ridden Iraq is certainly a candidate to fit Israel's goal... Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation... will hasten the achievement of the supreme goal, namely breaking up Iraq into elements like Syria and Lebanon. There will be there states or more around the three major cities, Basra, Baghdad and Mosul, while Shiite areas in the south will separate from the Sunni north, which is mostly Kurdish...The entire Arabian Peninsula is a natural candidate for (dissolution)... Israel's policy in war or peace should be to bring about the elimination of Jordan..." Beware of small states, David Hirst, p. 125-126
Their intent has always been to divide and conquer. It is painfully clear that there have been serious, long-term designs on the much troubled region. This all should bring to mind the now infamous confession/talk US general/war criminal Wesely Clark gave several years ago -
General Wesley Clark tells of how Middle East destabilization was planned as far back as 1991:
Taking advantage of the Soviet Union's collapse, the West has been embarked on a long term, geostrategic plan to redraw the borders of the Middle East. While some of the plan envisions the death of certain nations seem as problematic (e.g. Syria, Iraq, Libya), some plans call for the creation of certain nations (e.g. Kurdistan, Islamic Caliphate). Lesser nations such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey are maneuvering within this Western template in hopes of extracting benefits. The overall agenda is to ensure Israel's survival in the tumultuous region; ensure that the region's energy production remains firmly within Western control; curb the growth of pan-Arabic nationalism; curb the growth of Iranian power; and keep nations such as Russia and China from entering the region.

Despite what the retired General Clark's politically motivated rhetoric at the time was trying to insinuate, when it comes to core national interests there are no real differences between Democrats and Republicans in the United States. The recent Western aggression against Russia, Syria, Iraq and Libya are ample proof that US presidents, regardless of their party affiliations, or race for that matter, do not make political policy. The privilege of making US policy is reserved for special interests groups that run the American empire.

Who formulates major political decisions in Washington? Primarily: US military industrial complex, Council on Foreign Relations, oil industry, Federal Reserve, Western based multi-national mega corporations, Wall Street bankers and the Jewish lobby. The United States of America is a global empire run by special interests and corporations. Once Americans understand this - once the rest of the world understands this - they will understand why the US does what it does and why the world is in the shape it is today.

Despite what countless sheeple around the world believe, democratic principles and human rights are not guiding principals of Western officials. As a matter of fact, such lofty notions have never been a serious matter for consideration in power centers in the Western world. Similar to what religion was in earlier times and similar to what Marxism was more recently, the notions of human right, democracy and civil society are powerful sociopolitical tools Western officials have cleverly used to manipulate and exploit the ignorant masses of the world. As it has been since the dawn of human civilization, the primary intent of any governing body is to project power and secure wealth.

We are in the very midst of a forced remaking of the Middle East. The old format put together by England and France between the two world wars less than a century ago no longer seems suitable for them. While they normally use Western grants, opposition politicians, rights activists, economic blackmail and cultural invasion as a way of undermining nations that are not enslaved by them, the West has resorted to remaking the region at the tip of a sharp and now very blood-covered bayonet.

If on this eve of the one hundredth anniversary of the First World War the world does not descend into yet another major world war as a result of this cruel manipulation and exploitation of humanity, we may yet live to see a stronger Turkish, Saudi Arabian, Zionist and Kurdish presence in the region.

Failed states are preferable

Take what you are being told by the Western news media with a grain of salt. What is undoubtedly clear is that the terrible carnage in Syria, Iraq and Ukraine is essentially a result of imperial policies of the Western political/economic establishment. In the big picture, what's been happening aforementioned countries is Western democracy in action. Every single one of Iraq's catastrophic problems are a result of Western meddling. At a time when most things are made in China, some things remain exclusively made in America. We will continue witnessing more-and-more bloodbaths around the world because of attempts to preserve Western hegemony. Whole nations will be made to suffer simply so that Westerners are able to continue living their carefree lives.

Islamic societies tend to be tribal, backward, oppressive, economically primitive, culturally stagnant, militarily incompetent and thus easily manipulated and/or controlled. Moreover, Wahhabi or Salafist forms of Sunni Islam is an effective way to curb the growth of Iranian Shiism. Anyone familiar with the region knows that Sunni Arabs and Shiites have an almost instinctual disdain towards each other. In fact, the historic rivalry between Sunni and Shiite sects of Islam are much deeper and much bloodier than Islam's rivalry against Christianity or Judaism.

Therefore, as they go on pitting one group against the other, as they replace one leader with another, as they form and reform nations, as they divide and conquer... It could be said that the West is, simply put, micromanaging the much troubled region.
In the meanwhile, failed states - or fragmented states if you will - will be the Anglo-American-Zionist global order's best friend, not only in the Middle East but everywhere, as we have been seeing in Ukraine. 

The motto of the Western elite these days seems to be: When can't own it or control it, break it!

Weakened states are much easier to deal with than cohesive, independent ones that do not want to cooperate with Western officials or money men. Fragmented nations are also much easier to control and they pose no serious threat militarily, financially or economically. Fragmented states such as Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Libya and Ukraine are also good sources for financial servitude, cheep energy, cheep labor, narcotics and of course loot (e.g. precious metals and gems). The geostrategic intent is to isolate, undermine or weaken nations that are not part of the Western world or under the Western boot. And what better way to do it all than democracy as prescribed by Western powers?

The above assessment should be the general perspective from which we need to observe the actions of Western powers and their allies around the world. As they seemingly champion the causes of "self-determination", "democracy" and "human rights" in various targeted nations, they are in fact covertly engaged in the systematic process of destroying nation-states that they no longer have any use for or those that pose a threat to them.

As long as the Western world is protected by oceans and allied buffer states - and as long as they control the commodities trade and the money flow in the world - failed stated within targeted areas of the world actually serve their long term interests. As long as the Western establishment is not made to suffer severe consequences for their actions around the world, they will continue their egregious crimes against humanity.

Money as a weapon of mass destruction 

Leo Tolstoy wrote: “Money is a new form of slavery, and distinguishable from the old simply by the fact that it is impersonal – that there is no human relation between master and slave”.

Emperor Napoleon lamented: "When a government is dependent upon bankers for money, they and not the leaders of the government control the situation, since the hand that gives is above the hand that takes… Money has no motherland; financiers are without patriotism and without decency; their sole object is gain".

Mayer Amschel Bauer Rothschild boasted: “Give me control of a nation's money and I care not who makes it's laws".

When the big guns don't work against a particular enemy, money continues to be by-far the Western establishment's all-time favorite weapon-of-mass-destruction. As long as they continue controlling the creation and dissemination of money - and set prices of commodities and the parameters of global trade - they will continue being the masters of the universe.

Therefore, let it surprise no one that prices of major global commodities such as gold, diamond and oil are determined every morning within the City of London. Let it surprise no one that most nations on earth (including Armenia in recent years) have had central bank officials trained in the Western world. Let it surprise no one that nation-states are forced to borrow money from Western lending institutions. Let it surprise no one that nation-states are forced to accept Western restrictions by entering into Western trade organizations. The above is why representatives of nations around the world are forced to quietly sit at the table with Wall Street executives and IMF officials.

Making nations dependent - financially and economically and thus politically - on the Western world is incomparably a more effective weapon than Western bombs and missiles.

For the past several hundred years global commence and finance had been, to a large degree, controlled by a multinational, albeit European powers: Britain, France, USA, Germany, Holland, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Russia, Sweden, etc. This multinational character in trade and fiance began to change as a result of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia and Germany's two defeats in 1918 and 1945. With economic giants at the time such as Russia, Germany - and Japan - no longer in the equation, Anglo-American influence in global commerce and finance - and thus politics - rose to unprecedented heights. The economic and financial principles set by Anglo-Americans at Bretton Woods at the close of the Second World War thus came to dominate the world. Since Second World War all roads have thus led to the new Rome. For nearly one hundred years the global financial system and global trade has been rigged solely to their benefit. For nearly one hundred years Western powers have looked at the rest of the world as a playground for their financial/corporate elite. For nearly one hundreds years Western corporations and currency dominated the world. For nearly one hundreds years Western societies have thus enjoyed unprecedentedly high standards-of-living. This however came at a great cost to the rest of the world.

The following Swiss study may go a long way in explaining why the world is in the shape it currently is and why the Western economic/financial paradigm is in fact a very dangerous animal that needs to be killed before it drags down the entire world. When one begins to realize that over 90% of mega-corporations that control most of the global economy are Western entities - and that the Western war-machine essentially exists to protect the global operations of these mega-corporations - that is when political matters around the world today will start making better sense -

Does one 'super-corporation' run the global economy? Study claims it could be terrifyingly unstable:
The whole system is designed/rigged to make nations dependent on the Western system. The whole system is designed/rigged to bring wealth into the coffers of the Western elite - at the cost of either destroying or enslaving nation-states around the world. Their financial system is ultimately why the Western world holds unprecedented powers over mankind. As Argentinians and Greeks have found out in recent years, indebtedness and financial servitude - on a personal level as well as on a national level - is indeed a weapon-of-mass-destruction. This is how they make or break peoples/nations around the world. The Greek tragedy and Argentina's plight in recent years is a stark lesson for humanity, yet a majority of the sheeple still do not see the fundamental problem at hand.

A glaringly obvious and yet a mostly overlooked absurdity in global financial matters is the inability of nation-states to print their own currency based on their own economic forecasts and financial formulas. The right to print money has almost exclusively been relagated to Western institutions. This Western right to create money out of thin air and lend it to developing nations at interest lies at the very root of their power and influence. You take this right away from them, you take away their power and influence.

Why does Armenia, for instance, have to beg interest-charging-money-lending cartels to acquire the essential funds it needs to develop its national infrastructure? Why can't official Yerevan simply print the money it needs for such types of development projects and create job for its citizens in the process? Why does Armenia have to borrow(!) money from a foreign entity? Please think about this for a while because we have been born and raised in a world (the Anglo-American-Jewish era) where this question is almost never asked. And in rare times when it is asked, a proper answers is never given. We all simply assume that it can't be done. Yet it can be done!

For a nation to prosper and be truly independent, it has to be able to print its own money as needed. For further insight on this most important of topics please visit the link to a film following this paragraph. In my opinion, Secret of Oz is one of the most important documentaries ever made because the subject matter directly impacts each-and-every human being alive today. Producers of the film are adherents of fiat currency. Fiat money is literally anything that a government recognizes as legal tender. The currency is then regulated by state agencies and not by private banks or private financial institutions. Propagators of fiat money are opposed to gold-backed currencies because commodities such as gold can be manipulated by foreign interests -
The Secret of Oz:
The following presentation, produced by Austria's prestigious Ludwig von Mises Institute, presents the advantages of a gold-based monetary system -
Money, Banking and the Federal Reserve:
Both schools-of-thought, those who support fiat currency and those who support a gold-backed currency, adamantly oppose the control of a nation's monetary system by private banking institutions. Incidentally, the financial system we have in the world today (thanks to Anglo-American-Jewish entities such as the Federal Reserve, the IMF and the World Bank) is more-or-less a "privately" run form of fiat money. After all, what is the Dollar? Nothing but paper! An exclusive group of people - primarily Anglo-American-Jews - print as much of the paper in question as they need and they go on to make financial policy for the entire world. 

As long as nation-states do not take back the right to print their own money independent of Western wishes - be it fiat or gold based currency - they will remain dependent upon Western powers for survival. As long as nation-states allow themselves to become dependent upon Western loans for their national development, they will remain dependent upon Western powers for survival. As long as nation-states stake their economic survival on trading with the Western world, they will remain dependent upon Western powers for survival.

Financial freedom - the unrestricted implementation of fiscal policy of sovereign nations - is thus the key to a successful nation-state. With that in mind let's recognize that the Anglo-American-Jewish global order will rule the backward barbarians of this world as long as the backward barbarians in question (Argentinians in the following particular case) blindly embrace the financial/economic paradigm setup by the Anglo-American-Jewish global order at the end of the Second World War -
This Is How A Hedge Funder Brings An Entire Country To Its Knees:
And time-to-time, even western European nations are terrorized by Uncle Sam's money cartels -
Just imagine: A global entity makes a unilateral decision to severely punish a nation - and has the precise levers to do so - simply because the nation in question did not abide by its self-serving laws. Where is the backlash? Where is the public outcry? Does the public even understand what is going on? When this happens to small, developing nations around the world, not much noise it made and the nation easily falls prey. But when this happens to a well established nation, like France in this case, noise is sometimes made. But mere noise is not enough. I really hope the French finally wake up from their post-De Gaullian stupor before it kills their nation -
France lashes out against US dollar, calls for ‘rebalancing’ of world currencies:
As noted above, the control Washington has over global commerce and finance is unprecedented in human history. This is a serious matter for humanity. Even Fareed Zakaria, a Council of Foreign Relations member and a professional propagandist for the American empire, admitted in his show recently that Washington's control over global financial and trade matters is a very powerful weapon that is being used recklessly -
Fareed Zalaria: "I'll tell you how America is wielding a unique weapon that is the economic equivalent of a killer drone":
Russia has managed to survive Western sanctions because of its energy reserves, massive size, powerful military and geopolitical importance. But even Russia would not want to bare the brunt of a serious Western financial/trade onslaught. Needless to say, lesser nations around the world do not stand a chance.

As long as all roads led to Rome, punishing nations for not following Roman dictates proved easy for Romans. Today, all roads (financial, economic and cultural) have been meticulously paved to lead to Washington and London. It has therefore become troublingly easy for the Western establishment to impose harsh penalties on nations that do not follow rules it has created for its self-interest.

The only way humanity can free itself from the monster that the political West has become is to strive for the creation of a multi-polar world order where multiple centers of power are established and seek the end of the US Dollar's reign as global reserve currency. The leader in this monumental effort can be the Russian nation -
BRICS establish $100bn bank and currency pool to cut out Western dominance:
As powerful as the Western financial order currently is, it is also vulnerable.

The Western world has been living in a bubble created by the US Dollar's global hegemony. The Western financial system has grown so immense in size today that it is essentially a virtual reality and a house of cards. This Anglo-American-Jewish paradigm is living its twilight years. Once this Western financial bubble finally bursts and the house of cards falls apart - it's only a matter of time before it does - it will be lights out. The Soviet Union's collapse will look like a leisurely walk through a pretty flower garden in comparison because the Western world is too developed, too well fed, too complacent, too dumbed-down, too medicated and, too racially/culturally mixed to survive such a downturn. At this point in history, the only thing the West has going for itself is hype, the mere notion/facade of superiority (e.g. American exceptionalism) and the semblance/facade of stability achieved by the global dominance of the US Dollar. Once the US Dollar falls, so will the political West.

In the not too distant past, Western powers went to war to preserve the global hegemony of the US Dollar. It can be argued that the criminal actions against Iraq and Libya in recent years were at least in part an attempt to preserve the US Dollar's supremacy in international trade. But, needless to say, Russia and China are not Iraq or Libya. Moscow and Beijing have been discussing the need for ending the US Dollar's dominance. With that said, the final end may prove long in coming. As long as Western puppet-masters are able to use their levers of social engineering to continue making the self-destructive peasantry in places such as Armenia and Ukraine think they will be "happy" living under the Western world order, the rest of humanity will have to wait before the beast is finally killed.

As long as the political West is not made to suffer it will create suffering

Western powers are bloated with several centuries of plundered wealth and nearly a century of near total dominance over global affairs. Western powers have come to control global trade routs and the commodities exchange. Western powers set the world's political, financial and cultural trends. The US Dollar is the world's reining reserve currency. Western power and influence is thus unprecedented in the annals of human history - but it has been in decline in most recent years. With dwindling natural resources under their direct possession and/or control the emergence of competitive powers around the world, their near total control of the political and financial life of the world is slowly being challenged.

I think the fundamental danger lies in the fact that Western powers are doing their best to secure their hegemony in a new century when emerging powers are poised to become their global competitor. In other words, the Western elite is deeply worried about maintaining its opulent lifestyle. The tens-of-millions of Westerners that live in mansions, gated communities and on vast estates - and the political/financial elite that preside over them - want to maintain their standard-of-living and not surrender it to Asiatic, backward upstarts in Russia or China.

The worrying part here for me is that they will go to great lengths - including bringing the world to the very brink of catastrophe - simply to ensure their global supremacy and money flow. Another worrying things is that Western powers feel immune, and in the particular case of Washingtonians, they feel destined to rule the world as evidenced by a peculiar psychosis infamously known as "American Exceptionalism".

The Western world's world view has been cultivated by centuries of easy money and a safe geography. Western nations such as the US and Britain have historically provoked wars around the world knowing well that due to their safe distances from the killing fields, their respective societies could weather such crisis and then simply come in to exploit the spoils in the aftermath. Thus, from a distance they destroy, they destabilize... they then come in to gather the spoils of war, rebuild and lead. Of course there is also the added benefit of selling weapons to warring factions and purchasing assets and/or commodities in troubled nations at rock bottom prices. Another benefit to sowing unrest around the world is enjoying the acquisition of hard currency. The more nations they destabilize, the more money pours into their coffers by wealthy individuals and firms taking their money out of those troubled nations and placing it into the perceived security of Western banks. Immense amounts of wealth have in fact been poured into London and New York in recent years from all over the world in this very manner. While the situation may be changing in recent times, where did many of Russia's Jewish oligarchs flee to with their plundered wealth after President Putin chased them out? The City of London! 

This imperial arrogance, megalomania, opulence and gluttony coupled with financial worries and the strong sense that nothing will happen to them regardless of what they do overseas, drives their political thinking and world view. It also drives their blood-thirst.

As long as the Anglo-American-Jewish world is not made to suffer serious consequences for their actions overseas, they will continue their volatile sociopolitical experiments and militaristic aggression around the world regardless of the amount of misery and carnage it causes. 

Once more, I would like to remind the reader that as long as the Western world's political/financial establishment is not seriously threatened with destruction (i.e. as long as the Western world does not suffer dire consequences for their actions around the world) they will continue to treat the world as a far way, exotic land where to safely carryout toxic experiments. Think of it this way: They destroy nations, kill millions and ruin the lives of hundreds-of-millions and then they go up on public podiums and contemplate whether it was the right thing to do... In other words, regardless of how bad it gets around the world as a direct result of their policies, at the end of the day, they simply get into their luxury cars, go to their estates or gated communities, sit by their fireplace, sip their wine and check to see how their stocks are doing. As long as this now centuries old process continues, the Anglo-American order will enjoy superiority in world affairs.

June, 2014
(Articles amended in 2015)


John Bolton: To Defeat ISIS, Create a Sunni State

America is debating how to respond to the terrorist attacks in Paris. Unfortunately, both President Obama’s current policy and other recent proposals lack a strategic vision for the Middle East once the Islamic State, or ISIS, is actually defeated. There are no answers, or only outmoded ones, to the basic question: What comes after the Islamic State?

Before transforming Mr. Obama’s ineffective efforts into a vigorous military campaign to destroy the Islamic State, we need a clear view, shared with NATO allies and others, about what will replace it. It is critical to resolve this issue before considering any operational plans. Strategy does not come from the ground up; instead, tactics flow deductively once we’ve defined the ultimate objectives. Today’s reality is that Iraq and Syria as we have known them are gone. The Islamic State has carved out a new entity from the post-Ottoman Empire settlement, mobilizing Sunni opposition to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and the Iran-dominated government of Iraq. Also emerging, after years of effort, is a de facto independent Kurdistan.

If, in this context, defeating the Islamic State means restoring to power Mr. Assad in Syria and Iran’s puppets in Iraq, that outcome is neither feasible nor desirable. Rather than striving to recreate the post-World War I map, Washington should recognize the new geopolitics. The best alternative to the Islamic State in northeastern Syria and western Iraq is a new, independent Sunni state.

This “Sunni-stan” has economic potential as an oil producer (subject to negotiation with the Kurds, to be sure), and could be a bulwark against both Mr. Assad and Iran-allied Baghdad. The rulers of the Arab Gulf states, who should by now have learned the risk to their own security of funding Islamist extremism, could provide significant financing. And Turkey — still a NATO ally, don’t forget — would enjoy greater stability on its southern border, making the existence of a new state at least tolerable.

The functional independence of Kurdistan reinforces this approach. The Kurds have finally become too big a force in the region for Baghdad or Damascus to push them around. They will not be cajoled or coerced into relinquishing territory they now control to Mr. Assad in Syria or to Iraq’s Shiite militias. The Kurds still face enormous challenges, with dangerously uncertain borders, especially with Turkey. But an independent Kurdistan that has international recognition could work in America’s favor.

Make no mistake, this new Sunni state’s government is unlikely to be a Jeffersonian democracy for many years. But this is a region where alternatives to secular military or semi-authoritarian governments are scarce. Security and stability are sufficient ambitions. As we did in Iraq with the 2006 “Anbar Awakening,” the counterinsurgency operation that dislodged Al Qaeda from its stronghold in that Iraqi province, we and our allies must empower viable Sunni leaders, including tribal authorities who prize their existing social structures. No doubt, this will involve former Iraqi and Syrian Baath Party officials; and there may still be some moderate Syrian opposition leaders. All are preferable to the Islamist extremists.

The Arab monarchies like Saudi Arabia must not only fund much of the new state’s early needs, but also ensure its stability and resistance to radical forces. Once, we might have declared a Jordanian “protectorate” in an American “sphere of influence”; for now, a new state will do. This Sunni state proposal differs sharply from the vision of the Russian-Iranian axis and its proxies (Hezbollah, Mr. Assad and Tehran-backed Baghdad). Their aim of restoring Iraqi and Syrian governments to their former borders is a goal fundamentally contrary to American, Israeli and friendly Arab state interests. Notions, therefore, of an American-Russian coalition against the Islamic State are as undesirable as they are glib.

In Syria, Moscow wants to dominate the regime (with or without Mr. Assad) and safeguard Russia’s Tartus naval base and its new Latakia air base. Tehran wants a continuing Alawite supremacy, with full protection for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria.

As for Iraq, Russia and Iran want the Sunni territories returned to Baghdad’s control, reinforcing Iran’s regional influence. They may wish for the same in Kurdistan, but they lack the capability there. Sunnis today support the Islamic State for many of the same reasons they once supported Al Qaeda in Iraq — as a bulwark against being ruled by Tehran via Baghdad. Telling these Sunni people that their reward for rising against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq will be to put them back in thrall to Mr. Assad and his ilk, or to Shiite-dominated Baghdad, will simply intensify their support for the jihadists. Why would they switch sides?

This is why, after destroying the Islamic State, America should pursue the far-reaching goal of creating a new Sunni state. Though difficult in the near term, over time this is more conducive to regional order and stability. Creating an American-led anti-Islamic State alliance instead of Moscow’s proposed coalition will require considerable diplomatic and political effort. American ground combat forces will have to be deployed to provide cohesion and leadership. But this would be necessary to defeat the Islamic State even if the objective were simply to recreate the status quo ante.

The Anbar Awakening and the American military’s 2007 “surge” provide the model, as do Kurdish successes against the Islamic State. Local fighters armed, trained and advised by the United States would combine with Arab and American conventional forces. The military operation is not the hardest part of this post-Islamic State vision. It will also require sustained American attention and commitment. We cannot walk away from this situation as we did from Iraq in 2011.

The new “Sunni-stan” may not be Switzerland. This is not a democracy initiative, but cold power politics. It is consistent with the strategic objective of obliterating the Islamic State that we share with our allies, and it is achievable.


The Engineered Destruction and Political Fragmentation of Iraq

Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria

 The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham: An instrument of the Western Military Alliance

The Western media in chorus have described the unfolding conflict in Iraq as a “civil war” opposing the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham against the Armed forces of the Al-Maliki government. (Also referred to as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)) The conflict is casually described as “sectarian warfare” between Radical Sunni and Shia without addressing “who is behind the various factions”.  What is at stake is a carefully staged US military-intelligence agenda. 

Known and documented, Al Qaeda affiliated entities have been used by US-NATO in numerous conflicts as “intelligence assets” since the heyday of the Soviet-Afghan war. In Syria, the Al Nusrah and ISIS rebels are the foot-soldiers of the Western military alliance, which oversees and controls the recruitment and training of paramilitary forces.

The Al Qaeda affiliated Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) re-emerged in April 2013 with a different name and acronym, commonly referred to as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The formation of a terrorist entity encompassing both Iraq and Syria was part of a US intelligence agenda. It responded to geopolitical objectives. It also coincided with the advances of Syrian government forces against the US sponsored insurgency in Syria and the failures of both the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and its various “opposition” terror brigades.

The decision was taken by Washington to channel its support (covertly) in favor of a terrorist entity which operates in both Syria and Iraq and which has logistical bases in both countries. The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham’s Sunni caliphate project coincides with a longstanding US agenda to carve up both Iraq and Syria into three separate territories: A Sunni Islamist Caliphate, an Arab Shia Republic, and a Republic of Kurdistan.

Whereas the (US proxy) government in Baghdad purchases advanced weapons systems from the US including F16 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham –which is fighting Iraqi government forces– is supported covertly by Western intelligence. The objective is to engineer a civil war in Iraq, in which both sides are controlled indirectly by US-NATO.

The scenario is to arm and equip them, on both sides, finance them with advanced weapons systems and then “let them fight”.

US-NATO is involved in the recruitment, training and financing of ISIS death squads operating in both Iraq and Syria. ISIS operates through indirect channels in liaison with Western intelligence. In turn, corroborated by reports on Syria’s insurgency, Western special forces and mercenaries integrate the ranks of ISIS.

US-NATO support to ISIS is channeled covertly through America’s staunchest allies: Qatar and Saudi Arabia. According to London’s Daily Express “They had money and arms supplied by Qatar and Saudi Arabia.”

“through allies such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the West [has] supported militant rebel groups which have since mutated into ISIS and other al‑Qaeda connected militias. ( Daily Telegraph, June 12, 2014)

While the media acknowledges that the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of supporting ISIS, it invariably fails to mention that both Doha and Riyadh are acting on behalf and in close liaison with Washington.

Under the banner of a civil war, an undercover war of aggression is being fought which essentially contributes to further destroying an entire country, its institutions, its economy. The undercover operation is part of an intelligence agenda, an engineered process which consists in transforming Iraq into an open territory.

Meanwhile,  public opinion is led to believe that what is at stake is confrontation between Shia and Sunni. America’s military occupation of Iraq has been replaced by non-conventional forms of warfare. Realities are blurred. In a bitter irony, the aggressor nation is portrayed as coming to the rescue of a “sovereign Iraq”.

An internal “civil war” between Shia and Sunni is fomented by US-NATO support to both the Al-Maliki government as well as to the Sunni ISIS rebels. The break up of Iraq along sectarian lines is a longstanding policy of the US and its allies. (See map of Middle East below)

“Supporting both Sides”

The “War on Terrorism” consists in creating Al Qaeda terrorist entities as part of an intelligence operation, as well as also coming to the rescue of governments which are the target of  the terrorist insurgency. This process is carried out under the banner of counter-terrorism. It creates the pretext to intervene.

ISIS is a caliphate project of creating a Sunni Islamist state. It is not a project of the Sunni population of Iraq which is broadly committed to secular forms of government. The caliphate project is part of a US intelligence agenda.

In response to the advance of the ISIS rebels, Washington is envisaging the use of aerial bombings as well as drone attacks in support of the Baghdad government as part of a counter-terrorism operation.  It is all for a good cause: to fight the terrorists, without of course acknowledging that these terrorists are the “foot soldiers” of the Western military alliance.

Needless to say, these developments contribute not only to destabilizing Iraq, but also to weakening the Iraqi resistance movement, which is one of the major objectives of US-NATO. The Islamic caliphate is supported covertly by the CIA in liaison with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkish intelligence. Israel is also involved in channeling support to both Al Qaeda rebels in Syria (out of the Golan Heights) as well to the Kurdish separatist movement in Syria and Iraq.

More broadly, the “Global War on Terrorism” (GWOT) encompasses a consistent and diabolical logic: both sides –namely the terrorists and the government– are supported by the same military and intelligence actors, namely US-NATO.

While this pattern describes the current situation in Iraq, the structure of “supporting both sides” with a view to engineering sectarian conflict has been implemented time and again in numerous countries. Insurgencies integrated by Al Qaeda operatives (and supported by Western intelligence) prevail in a large number of countries including Yemen, Libya, Nigeria, Somalia, Mali, the Central African Republic, Pakistan. The endgame is to destabilize sovereign nation states and to transform countries into open territories (on behalf of so-called foreign investors).

The pretext to intervene on humanitarian grounds (e.g. in Mali, Nigeria or the Central African Republic) is predicated on the existence of terrorist forces. Yet these terrorist forces would not exist without covert US-NATO support. 

The Capture of Mosul:  US-NATO Covert Support to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) 

Something unusual occurred in Mosul which cannot be explained in strictly military terms. On June 10, the insurgent forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) captured Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, with a population of over one million people.  While these developments were “unexpected” according to the Obama administration, they were known to the Pentagon and US intelligence, which were not only providing weapons, logistics and financial support to the ISIS rebels, they were also coordinating, behind the scenes, the ISIS attack on the city of Mosul. 

While ISIS is a well equipped and disciplined rebel army when compared to other Al Qaeda affiliated formations, the capture of Mosul, did not hinge upon ISIS’s military capabilities. Quite the opposite: Iraqi forces which outnumbered the rebels by far, equipped with advanced weapons systems could have easily repelled the ISIS rebels.

There were 30,000 government forces in Mosul as opposed to 1000 ISIS rebels, according to reports. The Iraqi army chose not to intervene. The media reports explained without evidence that the decision of the Iraqi armed forces not to intervene was spontaneous characterized by mass defections.
Iraqi officials told the Guardian that two divisions of Iraqi soldiers – roughly 30,000 men – simply turned and ran in the face of the assault by an insurgent force of just 800 fighters. Isis extremists roamed freely on Wednesday through the streets of Mosul, openly surprised at the ease with which they took Iraq’s second largest city after three days of sporadic fighting. (Guardian, June 12, 2014, emphasis added)
The reports point to the fact that Iraqi military commanders were sympathetic with the Sunni led ISIS insurgency intimating that they are largely Sunni:
Speaking from the Kurdish city of Erbil, the defectors accused their officers of cowardice and betrayal, saying generals in Mosul “handed over” the city over to Sunni insurgents, with whom they shared sectarian and historical ties. (Daily Telegraph,  13 June 2014)
The report is misleading. The senior commanders were largely hardline Shiite. The defections occurred de facto when the command structure collapsed and senior (Shiite) military commanders left the city.

What is important to understand, is that both sides, namely the regular Iraqi forces and the ISIS rebel army are supported by US-NATO. There were US military advisers and special forces including operatives from private security companies on location in Mosul working with Iraq’s regular armed forces. In turn, there are Western special forces or mercenaries within ISIS (acting on contract to the CIA or the Pentagon) who are in liaison with US-NATO (e.g. through satellite phones).

Under these circumstances, with US intelligence amply involved, there would have been routine communication, coordination, logistics and exchange of intelligence between a US-NATO military and intelligence command center, US-NATO military advisers forces or private military contractors on the ground assigned to the Iraqi Army in Mosul and Western special forces attached to the ISIS brigades. These Western special forces operating covertly within the ISIS could have been dispatched by a private security company on contract to US-NATO.

In this regard, the capture of Mosul appears to have been a carefully engineered operation, planned well in advance. With the exception of a few skirmishes, no fighting took place. Entire divisions of the Iraqi National Army –trained by the US military with advanced weapons systems at their disposal– could have easily repelled the ISIS rebels. Reports suggest that they were ordered by their commanders not to intervene. According to witnesses, “Not a single shot was fired”.
The forces that had been in Mosul have fled — some of which abandoned their uniforms as well as their posts as the ISIS forces swarmed into the city. Fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al-Qaeda offshoot, overran the entire western bank of the city overnight after Iraqi soldiers and police apparently fled their posts, in some instances discarding their uniforms as they sought to escape the advance of the militants.
A contingent of one thousand ISIS rebels takes over a city of more than one million? Without prior knowledge that the US controlled Iraqi Army (30,000 strong) would not intervene, the Mosul operation would have fallen flat, the rebels would have been decimated. Who was behind the decision to let the ISIS terrorists take control of Mosul? Who gave them the “green light”Had the senior Iraqi commanders been instructed by their Western military advisers to hand over the city to the ISIS terrorists? Were they co-opted?

Was the handing over of Mosul to ISIS part of a US intelligence agenda? Were the Iraqi military commanders manipulated or paid off into allowing the city to fall into the hands of the ISIS rebels without “a single shot being fired”.

Shiite General Mehdi Sabih al-Gharawi who was in charge of the Mosul Army divisions “had left the city”. Al Gharawi had worked hand in glove with the US military. He took over the command of Mosul in September 2011, from US Col Scott McKean. Had he been co-opted, instructed by his US counterparts to abandon his command?

US forces could have intervened. They had been instructed to let it happen. It was part of a carefully planned agenda to facilitate the advance of the ISIS rebel forces and the installation of the ISIS caliphate.

The whole operation appears to have been carefully staged. In Mosul, government buildings, police stations, schools, hospitals, etc are formally now under the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). In turn, ISIS has taken control of military hardware including helicopters and tanks which were abandoned by the Iraqi armed forces.

What is unfolding is the installation of a US sponsored Islamist ISIS caliphate alongside the rapid demise of the Baghdad government. Meanwhile, the Northern Kurdistan region has de facto declared its independence from Baghdad. Kurdish peshmerga rebel forces (which are supported by Israel) have taken control of the cities of Arbil and Kirkuk. (See map above) 

Concluding Remarks 

There were no Al Qaeda rebels in Iraq prior to the 2003 invasion. Moreover, Al Qaeda was non-existent in Syria until the outset of the US-NATO-Israeli supported insurgency in March 2011. The ISIS is not an independent entity. It is a creation of US intelligence. It is a US intelligence asset, an instrument of non-conventional warfare.

The ultimate objective of this ongoing US-NATO engineered conflict opposing the al-Maliki government forces to the ISIS insurgency is to destroy and destabilize Iraq as a Nation State. It is part of an intelligence operation, an engineered process of  transforming countries into territories. The break up of Iraq along sectarian lines is a longstanding policy of the US and its allies.

The ISIS is a caliphate project of creating a Sunni Islamist state. It is not a project of the Sunni population of Iraq which historically has been committed to a secular system of government. The caliphate project is a US design. The advances of ISIS forces is intended to garnish broad support within the Sunni population directed against the al-Maliki government.

Through its covert support of  the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, Washington is overseeing the demise of own proxy regime in Baghdad. The issue, however, is not “regime change”,  nor is the “replacement” of the al-Maliki regime contemplated. The division of Iraq along sectarian-ethnic lines has been on the drawing board of the Pentagon for more than 10 years.

What is envisaged by Washington is the outright suppression of the Baghdad regime and the institutions of the central government, leading to a process of political fracturing and the elimination of Iraq as a country. This process of political fracturing in Iraq along sectarian lines will inevitably have an impact on Syria, where the US-NATO sponsored terrorists have in large part been defeated.

Destabilization and political fragmentation in Syria is also contemplated: Washington’s intent is no longer to pursue the narrow objective of “regime change” in Damascus. What is contemplated is the break up of both Iraq and Syria along sectarian-ethnic lines. The formation of the caliphate may be the first step towards a broader conflict in the Middle East, bearing in mind that Iran is supportive of the al-Maliki government and the US ploy may indeed be to encourage the intervention of Iran.

The proposed re-division of both Iraq and Syria is broadly modeled on that of the Federation of Yugoslavia which was split up into seven “independent states” (Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia (FYRM), Slovenia, Montenegro, Kosovo). According to Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, the re division of Iraq into three separate states is part of a broader process of redrawing the Map of the Middle East.

The above map was prepared by Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Peters. It was published in the Armed Forces Journal in June 2006, Peters is a retired colonel of the U.S. National War Academy. (Map Copyright Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Peters 2006). Although the map does not officially reflect Pentagon doctrine, it has been used in a training program at NATO’s Defense College for senior military officers”.

New Iraq crisis is part of US agenda to target Syria and Iran

By hook or by crook or by carrots or sticks, the US and its NATO and regional allies will not stop targeting Syria and Iran until they vanquish both. The crisis in Iraq is just a new phase in those objectives.

The anti-government forces ravaging Iraq and Syria are mostly the same overzealous or gung-ho head choppers, rapists, extortionists, thugs, and cannibals that were pillaging and senselessly devastating the Syrian countryside with the aim of occupying Damascus in 2011. These ever morphing and constantly name changing groups are not new at all. They have just been rebranded.

Some may recall the leaks about the training facilities and secret headquarters that the US and its allies erected for the Syrian insurgents in Jordan, where the buffoon King Abdullah II pretends to manage his discontent subjects while the US and Israel really run the show. The groups marauding Iraq have been trained in these not-so-secret Jordanian facilities.

But this is where the plot thickens. The US was using sticks for the last few years against the Syrians and Syria’s staunch ally Iran. That has changed. Poisonous carrots are now in use.

Dividing Iraq

It just so happens that the Irbil-based autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government made a de facto military annexation of Kirkuk. The Kurdistan Regional Government did this by sending its peshmerga forces into the oil-rich city when the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/DAISH) caliphate was being carved out of northern Iraq, and northern Iraq was in disarray as the Iraqi military and security forces were repositioning themselves.

What is very telling is that there were very few clashes, if any, between the peshmerga and the DAISH/ISIL forces. Iraq was being carved into three chunks. Although the process did not take place overnight, the country was literally divided into an autonomous Kurdistan region waiting in the wings to declare its independence from Iraq, a pseudo-caliphate enveloping the areas of Iraq predominately inhabited by Sunni Muslim Arabs, and the federal territories enveloping the predominately Shiite Muslim Arab parts of Iraq in a matter of days. This division fell exactly into line with America’s Biden Plan and Israel’s Yinon Plan.

It also so happened that the mendacious Masoud Barzani President of the Kurdistan Regional Government said that the Iraqi Kurds were preparing to declare their independence. It was no mere coincidence that Israel also announced it was high time for Iraq to dissolve with the secession of Iraqi Kurdistan. No wonder there were reports from Baghdad that Israeli forces were assisting both the ISIL/DAISH forces and the Kurdish peshmerga in northern Iraq.

Nor should it be a surprise that American and Israeli weapons have been reported to be used by the pseudo-caliphates forces.

When the pseudo-caliphate was being carved in Iraq, the US declared that it was going to openly aid the insurgents in Syria. Looking past the Orwellian doublespeak, what this meant was that the US was going to help the pseudo-caliphate. The calculus is simple: insurgents in Syria are the same people that have helped takeover Mosul and carve the pseudo-caliphate in Iraq against the people of Iraq, particularly the Christians.

Sending weapons to help or to divide Iraq?

When it was declared that the not-so-covert US-supported pseudo-caliphate in northern Iraq was fighting the Kurdistan Regional Government, the US and its NATO partners wasted no time in calling for more arms shipments to be sent to Iraq. Not wishing to be indicated, the US let France to take the lead in this.

The trickery lies here. Instead of sending arms to the national military of Iraq, the calls were for sending weapons to the Kurdistan Regional Government. Under the cover of a new crisis in Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government is being militarily armed and supported so that it can break away from Iraq.

When the US started bombing Iraq, it was not going after Abu Baker Al-Baghdadi’s forces. No man’s land was being bombed. The Pentagon was demarcating northern Iraq between the pseudo-caliphate and Iraqi Kurdistan. In other words, boundaries were being drawn out for both sides.

Destroying plurality and diversity

Consistently in the backdrop of the crises in Iraq and Syria, there has been a persecution of minorities and deliberate sectarianism aimed at creating sedition. It is no coincidence that Yazidis and Christians are systematically being targeted in Iraq, just like how Christians, Alawies, and Druze have been targeted in Syria.

It should be mentioned that while minority groups are being systematically targeted, the majority of people being killed by groups like ISIL/DAISH, Al-Nusra, and the Free Syrian Army are actually the innocent Sunni Muslims that oppose these troublesome militant groups.

The Foreign Minister of Lebanon Gebran Bassil, made an interesting connection between the Israeli war crimes against Palestinian civilians of Gaza and the ISIL/DAISH murder of Iraqis in Mosul. For Foreign Minister Bassil, himself a Maronite Catholic Christian, the connection was clear. Both Israel and ISIL/DAISH are working to redraw the ancient region by destroying all traces of plurality and diversity. This is why Bassil and the Lebanese government sent a request to the International Criminal Court to investigate the crimes of Israel against the Palestinians and the crimes of the ISIL/DAISH.

Using the crisis in Iraq to co-opt Iran and to attack Syria?

The US is still holding a stick behind its back. Washington could use its intervention in Iraq to open a gateway for intervention against Syria as a means of shifting the balance of power against the Syrian government.

Washington is now talking about intervening in Syria to bomb the same troublesome groups that it is supposedly fighting in Iraq. Pentagon military honcho, General Martin Dempsey, has stated that the ISIL/DAISH “cannot be defeated unless the United States or its partners take on the Sunni militants in Syria” on August 21, 2014. Speaking about the Pentagon strikes in Iraq, General Dempsey stated: “Can they be defeated without addressing that part of the organization that resides in Syria? The answer is no.”

At the same time Washington, London, Paris, and their cohorts are dangling carrots too. The US and its allies are talking about cooperating with Iran and Syria to fight the groups that the US and its allies have created and unleashed in Iraq and Syria. The Independent newspaper in London had this to report about the British government’s position on August 17, 2014: “Britain must prepared to ally itself with Iran to combat the ‘shared threat’ of Sunni Islamist extremists in Iraq and Syria who want to create ‘a terrorist state’ that could extend to “the shores of the Mediterranean,” David Cameron has said.”

What the US and its allies are dangling in front of Tehran and Damascus is not fully known yet. Cooperation, however, is a poisoned chalice that neither Iran nor Syria should drink from. The whole world knows what happened to Muammar Qaddafi and the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya when Tripoli cooperated with the US, Britain, and France. Cooperation was used to infiltrate the Jamahiriya and to buy out officials. In the end it ended up in regime change in Tripoli and the murder of Colonel Qaddafi by NATO-controlled Libyan militants.

Nor should it be discounted that Washington wants to turn Tehran against Moscow. Iran and Russia are important partners for one another in bypassing sanctions, and the US is very unhappy with the oil-for-goods deal that has been authored by the two sides. So on the one hand Washington holds its stick whereas on the other hand it dangles its poisonous carrots.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hussein Amir-Abdollahian, however, has dismissed the chatter about cooperation with the US and its allies, saying that Iran sees no need to cooperate with the US and British governments to fight the terrorists plaguing Iraq that both the US and Britain have helped create.


​ISIS in Iraq stinks of CIA/NATO ‘dirty war’ op

For days now, since their dramatic June 10 taking of Mosul, Western mainstream media have been filled with horror stories of the military conquests in Iraq of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, with the curious acronym ISIS. ISIS, as in the ancient Egyptian cult of the goddess of fertility and magic. The media picture being presented adds up less and less. Details leaking out suggest that ISIS and the major military ‘surge’ in Iraq - and less so in neighboring Syria - is being shaped and controlled out of Langley, Virginia, and other CIA and Pentagon outposts as the next stage in spreading chaos in the world’s second-largest oil state, Iraq, as well as weakening the recent Syrian stabilization efforts. 

Strange facts

The very details of the ISIS military success in the key Iraqi oil center, Mosul, are suspect. According to well-informed Iraqi journalists, ISIS overran the strategic Mosul region, site of some of the world’s most prolific oilfields, with barely a shot fired in resistance. According to one report, residents of Tikrit reported remarkable displays of “soldiers handing over their weapons and uniforms peacefully to militants who ordinarily would have been expected to kill government soldiers on the spot.”
We are told that ISIS masked psychopaths captured “arms and ammunition from the fleeing security forces” - arms and ammunition supplied by the American government. The offensive coincides with a successful campaign by ISIS in eastern Syria. According to Iraqi journalists, Sunni tribal chiefs in the region had been convinced to side with ISIS against the Shiite Al-Maliki government in Baghdad. They were promised a better deal under ISIS Sunni Sharia than with Baghdad anti-Sunni rule.

According to the New York Times, the mastermind behind the ISIS military success is former Baath Party head and Saddam Hussein successor, General Ibrahim al-Douri. Douri is reportedly the head of the Iraqi rebel group Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order as well as the Supreme Command for Jihad and Liberation based on his longstanding positions of leadership in the Naqshbandi sect in Iraq.

In 2009, US ‘Iraqi surge’ General David Petraeus, at the time heading the US Central Command, claimed to reporters that Douri was in Syria. Iraqi parliamentarians claimed he was in Qatar. The curious fact is that despite being on the US most wanted list since 2003, Douri has miraculously managed to avoid capture and now to return with a vengeance to retake huge parts of Sunni Iraq. Luck or well-placed friends in Washington? 

The financial backing for ISIS jihadists reportedly also comes from three of the closest US allies in the Sunni world—Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. 

US passports?

Key members of ISIS it now emerges were trained by US CIA and Special Forces command at a secret camp in Jordan in 2012, according to informed Jordanian officials. The US, Turkish and Jordanian intelligence were running a training base for the Syrian rebels in the Jordanian town of Safawi in the country’s northern desert region, conveniently near the borders to both Syria and Iraq. Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the two Gulf monarchies most involved in funding the war against Syria’s Assad, financed the Jordan ISIS training.

Advertised publicly as training of ‘non-extremist’ Muslim jihadists to wage war against the Syrian Bashar Assad regime, the secret US training camps in Jordan and elsewhere have trained perhaps several thousand Muslim fighters in techniques of irregular warfare, sabotage and general terror. The claims by Washington that they took special care not to train ‘Salafist’ or jihadist extremists, is a joke. How do you test if a recruit is not a jihadist? Is there a special jihad DNA that the CIA doctors have discovered?

Jordanian government officials are revealing the details, in fear that the same ISIS terrorists that today are slashing heads of ‘infidels’ alongside the roadways of Mosul by the dozens, or hundreds if we believe their own propaganda, might turn their swords towards Jordan’s King Abdullah soon, to extend their budding Caliphate empire.

Former US State Department official Andrew Doran wrote in the conservative National Review magazine that some ISIS warriors also hold US passports. Now, of course that doesn’t demonstrate and support by the Obama Administration. Hmm...

Iranian journalist Sabah Zanganeh notes, "ISIS did not have the power to occupy and conquer Mosul by itself. What has happened is the result of security-intelligence collaborations of some regional countries with some extremist groups inside the Iraqi government." 

Iraq’s Chechen commander

The next bizarre part of the ISIS puzzle involves the Jihadist credited with being the ‘military mastermind’ of the recent ISIS victories, Tarkhan Batirashvili. If his name doesn’t sound very Arabic, it’s because it’s not. Tarkhan Batrashvili is a Russian - actually an ethnic Chechen from near the Chechen border to Georgia. But to give himself a more Arabic flair, he also goes by the name Emir (what else?) Umar al Shishani. The problem is he doesn’t look at all Arabic. No dark swarthy black beard: rather a long red beard, a kind of Chechen Barbarossa.

According to a November, 2013 report in The Wall Street Journal, Emir Umar or Batrashvili as you prefer, has made the wars in Syria and Iraq “into a geopolitical struggle between the US and Russia.”

That has been the objective of leading neo-conservatives in the CIA, Pentagon and State Department all along. The CIA transported hundreds of Mujahideen Saudis and other foreign veterans of the 1980s Afghan war against the Soviets in Afghanistan into Chechnya to disrupt the struggling Russia in the early 1990s, particularly to sabotage the Russian oil pipeline running directly from Baku on the Caspian Sea into Russia. James Baker III and his friends in Anglo-American Big Oil had other plans. It was called the BTC pipeline, owned by a BP-US oil consortium and running through Tbilisi into NATO-member Turkey, free of Russian territory.

Batrashvili is not renowned for taking care. Last year he was forced to apologize when he ordered his men to behead a wounded ‘enemy’ soldier who turned out to be an allied rebel commander. More than 8,000 foreign Jihadist mercenaries are reportedly in ISIS including at least 1,000 Chechens as well as Jihadists Saudi, Kuwait, Egypt and reportedly Chinese Uyghur from Xinjiang Province.

Jeffrey Silverman, Georgia Bureau Chief for the US-based Veterans Today (VT) website, told me that Batrashvili “is a product of a joint program of the US through a front NGO called Jvari, which was set up by US Intelligence and the Georgian National Security Council, dating back to the early days of the Pankisi Gorge.”

Jvari is the name as well of a famous Georgian Orthodox monastery of the 6th century. According to Silverman, David J. Smith—head of something in Tbilisi called the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies, as well as the Potomac Institute in Washington where he is listed as Director of the Potomac Institute Cyber Centerr—played a role in setting up the Jvari NGO.

Silverman maintains that Jvari in Rustavi, near the capital, Tbilisi, gathered together Afghan Mujahideen war veterans, Chechens, Georgians and sundry Arab Jihadists. They were sent to the infamous Pankisi Gorge region, a kind-of no-man’s lawless area, for later deployment, including Iraq and Syria.

Batrashvili and other Georgian and Chechen Russian-speaking Jihadists, Silverman notes, are typically smuggled, with the assistance of Georgia’s Counterintelligence Department and the approval of the US embassy, across the Georgia border to Turkey at the Vale crossing point, near Georgia’s Akhaltsikhe and the Turkish village of Türkgözü on the Turkish side of the Georgian border. From there it’s very little problem getting them through Turkey to either Mosul in Iraq or northeast Syria.

Silverman believes that events in Northern Iraq relate to “wanting to have a Kurdish Republic separate from the Central government and this is all part of the New Great Game. It will serve US interests in both Turkey and Iraq, not to mention Syria.”

Very revealing is the fact that almost two weeks after the dramatic fall of Mosul and the ‘capture’ by ISIS forces of the huge weapons and military vehicle resources provided by the US to the Iraqi army. Washington has done virtually nothing but make a few silly speeches about their ‘concern’ and dispatch 275 US special forces to allegedly protect US personnel in Iraq.

Whatever the final details that emerge, what is clear in the days since the fall of Mosul is that some of the world’s largest oilfields in Iraq are suddenly held by Jihadists and no longer by an Iraqi government determined to increase the oil export significantly. More on this aspect in an upcoming article.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

​Chaos theory: ISIS and Western foreign policy

A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds an ISIL flag and a weapon on a street in the city of Mosul, June 23, 2014. (Reuters / Stringer)

As ISIS/ISIL cuts a swathe through the Middle East, retroactively transforming Osama Bin Laden into the highbrow arm of modern Islamic terrorism, we’ve quite naturally begun the game of deciding who to blame for its existen. In fact, Tony Blair showed admirable consistency in sticking to the doctrine of preemptive self-defense by firing off a statement that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant had nothing to do with his policies in Iraq - the moment they made their big break into mainstream television.

This back and forth over responsibility is really at the heart of the matter, but in a far deeper way than we usually get around to discussing.

After all, a good deal of Western foreign policy post-Cold War has revolved around NATO states voluntarily assuming responsibility for issues that were, strictly-speaking, not their responsibility. Someone needs to ‘police the world’, ‘bring the bad guys to book’, exercise their ‘R2P’ (‘responsibility to protect’ – yes, we have descended into text-speak) and ‘nation-build’.

It looks good on paper.

But if you really look at how this policy has played out on the ground, you will notice that far from nation-building, this voluntary ‘assumption of responsibility’ has instead sown a level of chaos and dissension that cannot plausibly be blamed purely on ‘mistakes’ or ‘unforeseeable circumstances’.

Instead, it seems to be the old divide and conquer strategy at work and we probably have keen minds like Richard Perle and Bill Kristol of the neo-conservative think tank Project for a New American Century (PNAC) to thank for this modern take on an old classic. We will return to the thoughtful documents penned and disseminated by PNAC shortly. But first, let’s try to figure out what is really going on beyond the rhetoric when it comes to our ‘responsibilities’ around the world.

I think we can discern a few key trends.

The first trend is that Western countries do engage in what could be termed nation-building activities in a few select, small countries, provided those countries have for one reason or another really made headlines. Think of Timor L’Este (now independent after a mere 30 years of occupation); Rwanda (yes, 800,000 people were killed, but we did give them a tribunal once activists remembered to play the racism card), and Kosovo (presents a somewhat more contested narrative, but it was too close to the EU’s future borders for comfort).

Other troubled nations like Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire (another contested narrative) have certainly seen their fortunes improve in recent years, thanks in part to international peacekeeping missions and efforts to facilitate community reconciliation and post-conflict justice. But those are, in a certain sense, ‘the lucky few’. In most other places, we have chosen to ‘take responsibility’ along more Blair-ish lines, which means that our sense of responsibility tends to come and go with astonishing rapidity. Consider the following:


The failed state par excellence. Americans were apparently willing to ‘take responsibility’ for restoring law and order in Somalia until 19 of them were killed. That was too much ‘responsibility’ and Somalia was left minus a government and awash with weapons next to one of the greatest shipping lanes in the world. All things considered, it took Somalis a surprisingly long time to master modern piracy.

Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo

All rocking around on the cusp of failed statehood for decades now; in the case of the DRC ever since Western countries decided to rid the world of Patrice Lumumba back in the ’60s.


Currently a respectable No. 38 on the Fund for Peace’s Failed State Index, but Taureg rebels control an impressive hunk of territory.

Ukraine and Pakistan

Both pretty nearly failed states, run along semi-feudal lines by leaders who are openly oligarchs, whether that be the ‘new money’ of Ukrainian industrialists or the ‘old money’ of tribal leadership in Pakistan.


Currently rated an uneasy No. 54 on the Failed State Index, down from a comfortable No. 111 in 2010 (on par with South Africa) before we decided to get rid of Gaddafi, only to be instantly stricken with amnesia about the country he ran for 42 years.


Despite having the latest technology in drone strikes lavished upon it, Yemen maintains a virtually unbroken record in the top 10 failed states, currently at No. 6.


Locked in a civil war, which has seen a once secular-oriented nation become the home of armed jihadists, who were permitted to obtain their weapons and cash with remarkable ease. Apparently ‘getting rid of Assad’ was the sum total of our planning abilities on what should happen in Syria.


Round and round she goes, and where she stops nobody knows. Spiraling somewhere.

Iraq and Afghanistan

I’m not even sure what the correct term for Iraq and Afghanistan, rated No. 11 and No.7 respectively on the Failed State Index, would be these days. Suffice it to see that after more than a decade of nation-building, we are having difficulty discerning progress on these construction sites, which I’m pretty sure haven’t even gone one day without a work-related accident. Of course, the already abysmal ratings were handed out before ISIS went big last week. (Interesting fact: current ISIS head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who, unlike many detainees, truly did have a history of terrorist involvement, was captured by Americans in Iraq in 2004 but released in 2009. You had one job…)

Then there are places like Western Sahara, Transdniester and Palestine, which cannot fail because they do not even count as states. To add to our woes, the UN recently announced that there are more displaced persons today than at any time since the end of WWII. These are a lot of open problems to have for a world hegemony so bent on nation-building and stability, especially when you consider that its citizens spend something like a trillion dollars annually on ‘defense’.

When you are forking over that kind of money, you like to see results, and not hear excuses about the world’s instability being ‘also’ rooted in local problems. I can see very well that organizations like ISIS are ‘also’ rooted in local problems. However, I am also fairly certain that if some alien power used its superior resources to bomb us back to the Stone Age and then failed to provide any meaningful replacement infrastructure, that our ‘local’ problems would begin to get uglier too. And the reason is that they would have destroyed the social fabric and rule of law that keeps any place running as well as it does. Create that kind of power vacuum and anything can happen. To expect ‘the locals’ to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and jolly well carry on because we have suddenly lost interest in our overwhelming ‘responsibility’ to them is little short of delusional.

The second trend that I think emerges is closely linked to the first.

It is the deliberate ripping of the social fabric within states that are still relatively stable and prosperous. That this could in any way be connected to the first trend occurred to me while reading ‘A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm’, which was written by Richard Perle for Benjamin Netanyahu back in the 1990s. Now - and I do not say this lightly - not only does this document have a title that sounds like its composer was experiencing LARP-withdrawal at the time he wrote it, the text itself resembles the creation of an eight-year-old who was subjected to a crash course on international relations followed by a heavy dose of LSD. There are sudden switches in topic, where the free associative connection is at first less-than-obvious to the sober reader.

One of these switches was an abrupt change from harping on Israel’s alleged need to pursue a no-compromises peace strategy to urging a comprehensive privatization plan on the state. According to this paper, efforts to salvage Israel’s socialist institutions were undermining the legitimacy of the State of Israel and “Israel can become self-reliant only by, in a bold stroke rather than in increments, liberalizing its economy, cutting taxes, re-legislating a free-processing zone, and selling-off public lands and enterprises — moves which will electrify and find support from a broad bipartisan spectrum of key pro-Israeli Congressional leaders, including [then-]Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.”

Why Newt Gingrich’s support was synonymous with self-reliance was left unexplained.

However, like many things that happen on acid, ‘Securing the Realm’ has a weird strain of truth to it, because it combined, albeit clumsily, two separate ways to erode the social fabric. The first was to become much more aggressive externally and seek to crush foreign entities as oppose to negotiate with them, even when those negotiations had yielded results, most notably under the leadership of Yitzhak Rabin, assassinated just one year before ‘Securing the Realm’ was written. The second was to actually work on eroding Israel’s alleged socialism from within by selling off the same public goods, which they under no circumstances would give to Palestinians, to private bidders.

I would argue that we can see both of these strains at work around the world, in that we push aggressive, no compromises foreign policy to its limits (witness Ukraine and Syria) without much thought for the destabilization that this engenders, not to mention its quite extreme effect on our own bank balance.

We are also hard at work undermining our own prosperity. Western countries are the most prosperous on earth. We unequivocally enjoy the highest standard of living. China, India and Brazil are still a long way off the kind of lifestyle most of us are accustomed to. And enjoy that lifestyle partly because we were pretty successful at ripping other people’s wealth off them in the past and partly because we invented a brilliant economic system after WWII which centered on what Richard Perle - aka the Prince of Darkness - would probably designate ‘socialist institutions’.

Western nations may not have fully gotten the knack for doing good in the world, but there was certainly what I would term growing interest and truly altruistic concern for people in other parts of the world among ordinary Western citizens pre-9/11.

Thanks to policies like those the Prince of Darkness so thoughtfully outlined for Netanyahu all those years ago, we have privatized, liberalized and cut taxes to the point that most people in Western nations are now experiencing a deterioration in their own living standards and society is increasingly divided between the haves and have-nots. We are, in other words, tearing up our own social fabric.

What that means is that the place that would have been most able to use its resources to truly stabilize and improve those parts of the globe most in need now not only refuses to do so (which was bad enough), in the future it might be unable to so do. We may, in short, be destabilizing the rest of the world, while simultaneously reducing our own capabilities to ever put it back together. The natural consequence of being responsible in short, sharp bursts.


All you need to know about ISIS and what is happening in Iraq

A militant Islamist fighter uses a mobile to film his fellow fighters taking part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014. The fighters held the parade to celebrate their declaration of an Islamic caliphate after the group captured territory in neighbouring Iraq, a monitoring service said. The Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot previously known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), posted pictures online on Sunday of people waving black flags from cars and holding guns in the air, the SITE monitoring service said. Picture taken June 30, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

As ISIS, a group thought to consist of only a few thousand people led by a shadowy figurehead, defeats forces many times its size to capture a large part of Iraq, RT looks into what is ISIS, and how has it achieved its terrifying triumphs.

So, what is ISIS? And is it even ISIS, or is it ISIL?

The world’s most committed and fanatical radical organization has only recently gone by its current name, after the unrecognized Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) was proclaimed in April last year. Al-Sham has been most commonly translated from Arabic as the Levant, hence ISIL. It was previously known as Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic State of Iraq. 

The frequent name changes are not cosmetic – but the direct result of the transforming circumstances which have allowed ISIS to rapidly flourish. Initially focused on achieving dominance in Iraq, it was kept under control in the relatively calm period between the initial sectarian strife that broke out following the US-led invasion in 2003, and the outbreak of hostilities following the American military withdrawal in 2011.

Since then, it has become a major player, receiving another critical boost when the civil war in Syria turned into a sectarian conflict, bringing in millions of dollars in funding and thousands of fresh recruits from around the world. Currently, ISIS strongholds extend from Raqqa in northern Syria all the way down to the outskirts of Baghdad – a stretch of more than 500 km, though the group doesn’t have comprehensive oversight of the roads and settlements between them. 

The speed with which the Islamist group is closing in on Baghdad can be compared – if not exceeds – the pace of the 2003 invasion. Unlike the US and allies, though, ISIS does not have a capability of launching destructive air strikes, however in its latest offensives the group has reportedly managed to significantly boost its military power capturing dozens of US-made armored vehicles and other heavy weaponry from the retreating Iraqi military. 

ISIS is part of and similar to Al-Qaeda, right?

No, it is significantly worse. Al-Qaeda has been the touchstone for the Western understanding of terrorism ever since 9/11, but ISIS differs from it philosophically, organizationally, and even officially, as it has declared itself an entirely separate body. If anything the two organizations – though both espousing Sunni Islam – are currently more rivals than allies. While Al-Qaeda, in its most well-known forms, is a terrorist organization, with sleeper cells, training camps and terrorist attacks, ISIS as of now is more a militia and a rogue territory with its own infrastructure, more similar to Boko Haram and other localized fiefdoms that have spawned in lawless or failed African states.

Al-Qaeda has become more conscious of avoiding acts of indiscriminate or counter-productive brutality since the demise of Osama Bin Laden, but ISIS revels in it, espousing a religious philosophy so uncompromising it appears almost nihilistic. The areas it has secured have been kept under control by an endless stream of floggings, mutilations, beheadings and crucifixions. The targets can be well-chosen or arbitrary, but no one is spared – Shia opponents, Sunni rivals, captured soldiers or “immoral” women.

Unsurprisingly, although the first leader of ISIS, the late Abu Musab, did swear fealty to Al-Qaeda back in the early 2000s, the two organizations have fallen out. The breaking point was the internecine fighting between ISIS and Al-Qaeda-backed Nusra in Syria. Pleas by Al-Qaeda to divide spheres of influence were flatly rejected by Abu Bakr, the ISIS leader, who spent four years in US captivity, before being released in 2009. After increasingly testy communication between the sides, Al-Qaeda “disowned” ISIS earlier this year, in return provoking ISIS to call the organization “traitors” and “a joke.” With the rise of ISIS, many say that it is now Al-Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri who should be pledging allegiance to the 43-year old Abu Bakr. 

How is ISIS funded?

ISIS operates as a half-mafia-style commercial enterprise, half pious international charity, looking for wealthy donors in the Gulf States and throughout the globe. It is certainly not lacking in opportunism in commercializing its military activities. In 2012 ISIS – or ISI as it was then – took over oil fields in Syria, reaping profits from selling the oil at discounted prices to anyone willing to pay. It has traded in the raw materials in areas it has captured, and even dabbled in selling antiques from monuments under its control.

Sometimes, it doesn’t have to be so elaborate. Its biggest single success was plundering a government vault in Mosul – captured last week – that reportedly contained more than $425 million. With the loot taken during its recent advances, ISIL’s estimated war chest now stands at over $2 billion.

But just as important is ISIS income from its unknown – yet easily guessed – backers from the Arabian Peninsula. As the world’s foremost proponents of Saudi-style Wahhabism, Iraqi officials claim ISIS gets a steady stream of funds and support from politically engaged operators, working from the safety of Saudi Arabia’s and Qatar’s US-protected borders.

Like any up-and-coming enterprise, its recent publicity and burgeoning reputation is likely to form a virtuous circle, where ISIS will receive additional funds, to wreak more impressive feats of destruction to the delight of its backers. 

How did ISIS manage to capture so much territory?

On June 10, less than a thousand of ISIS militants on soft-shelled pickup trucks occupied the northern Iraqi city of Mosul with a population of 1.8 million people. The city was supposed to be under the protection of the US-trained Iraqi military force of about 30,000 stationed in the region. It was equipped with sophisticated US-made military equipment – part of the weaponry and hardware supplied by Washington to Baghdad, which has been estimated to cost billions of US dollars.

However, Mosul fell with no apparent resistance as scores of Iraqi troops fled dropping their uniforms and leaving the precious hardware behind. The militants celebrated getting US-made Humvees and tanks – some of which have since headed to Syria to be used against the government forces – and even allegedly captured at least one Black Hawk helicopter.

General lack of morale and cohesion in the Iraqi army has been named the cause for the humiliating loss of this and other cities – including the strategic city of Tal Afar close to the Syrian border and Saddam Hussein’s birthplace Tikrit. Aiding this parade of ISIS victories has been the allegedly sweeping support of the local Sunni population, who previously supported the Sunni regime of Saddam Hussein overthrown by the US-led forces.

Sectarian factors, but also the way the post-invasion Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki’s government has handled religious and social conflicts in the country, certainly contributed to Iraqi army being unpopular in ISIS-occupied regions. Apparently, replacing some Sunni commanders with Shiites locally did not help, and the way ISIS won the support of local tribes via negotiations has shown how little the new central government is valued in northern rural Iraq. 

However, one also has to realize that ISIS is no bunch of poorly-trained extremist thugs. With years of experience on the Syrian battlefield, the group boasts training camps producing well-prepared fighters, and it has been joined by scores of professionally trained overseas mercenaries.

ISIS spokesman Shaykh Muhammad Adnani has explained the group’s current success by the will of God, saying that “the [Islamic] State has not prevailed by numbers, nor equipment, nor weapons, nor wealth, rather it prevails by Allah’s bounty alone, through its creed” in a recent statement posted on YouTube.

 It remains unclear for how long the brutal and repressive policies of ISIS will guarantee their support on the ground in Iraq, while they are trying to win the locals’ hearts with religious propaganda and dreams of a huge cross-border caliphate.

It is ironic that the hardcore Islamist group will be using the equipment provided by Washington to Baghdad in the Western-backed insurgency in Syria, but at the same time may be confronted by the West in Iraq, where the militants are now contesting the country’s largest oilfield.

Having spent billions on Iraq and war on terror for securing its own interests in the region, the US and its allies have been unwilling to admit the devastating 2003 invasion was a mistake with disastrous consequences for the whole Middle Eastern region. While 2013 was marked by the bloodiest sectarian violence in Iraq in five years, it mostly went unnoticed with the “international community.” Recently, the former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair chose to blame“bad systems of politics mixed with abuse of religion” as the root of all the problems in Middle East.


U.S. Trained ISIS at Secret Jordan Base

Members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIS, were trained in 2012 by U.S. instructors working at a secret base in Jordan, according to informed Jordanian officials.

The officials said dozens of ISIS members were trained at the time as part of covert aid to the insurgents targeting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. The officials said the training was not meant to be used for any future campaign in Iraq. The Jordanian officials said all ISIS members who received U.S. training to fight in Syria were first vetted for any links to extremist groups like al-Qaida.
In February 2012, WND was first to report the U.S., Turkey and Jordan were running a training base for the Syrian rebels in the Jordanian town of Safawi in the country’s northern desert region. That report has since been corroborated by numerous other media accounts. Last March, the German weekly Der Spiegel reported Americans were training Syrian rebels in Jordan.

Quoting what it said were training participants and organizers, Der Spiegel reported it was not clear whether the Americans worked for private firms or were with the U.S. Army, but the magazine said some organizers wore uniforms. The training in Jordan reportedly focused on use of anti-tank weaponry. The German magazine reported some 200 men received the training over the previous three months amid U.S. plans to train a total of 1,200 members of the Free Syrian Army in two camps in the south and the east of Jordan.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper also reported last March that U.S. trainers were aiding Syrian rebels in Jordan along with British and French instructors. Reuters reported a spokesman for the U.S. Defense Department declined immediate comment on the German magazine’s report. The French foreign ministry and Britain’s foreign and defense ministries also would not comment to Reuters.

The Jordanian officials spoke to WND amid concern the sectarian violence in Iraq will spill over into their own country as well as into Syria. ISIS previously posted a video on YouTube threatening to move on Jordan and “slaughter” King Abdullah, whom they view as an enemy of Islam.

WND reported last week that, according to Jordanian and Syrian regime sources, Saudi Arabia has been arming the ISIS and that the Saudis are a driving force in supporting the al-Qaida-linked group. WND further reported that, according to a Shiite source in contact with a high official in the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the Obama administration has been aware for two months that the al-Qaida-inspired group that has taken over two Iraqi cities and now is threatening Baghdad also was training fighters in Turkey.

The source told WND that at least one of the training camps of the group Iraq of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Syria, the ISIS, is in the vicinity of Incirlik Air Base near Adana, Turkey, where American personnel and equipment are located. He called Obama “an accomplice” in the attacks that are threatening the Maliki government the U.S. helped establish through the Iraq war. The source said that after training in Turkey, thousands of ISIS fighters went to Iraq by way of Syria to join the effort to establish an Islamic caliphate subject to strict Islamic law, or Shariah.


Turkey's Support for ISIS Islamist Terrorists

This photograph shows ISIL commander Abu Muhammad, April 16, 2014, allegedly receiving free treatment in Hatay State Hospital after being injured during fighting in Idlib, Syria.

The battle in Iraq consists of "Turkish-backed Sunni jihadis rebelling against an Iranian-backed Shi'ite-oriented central government," I wrote in a recent article. Some readers question that the Republic of Turkey has supported the "Islamic State in Iraq and Syria," the main Sunni group fighting in Iraq. They point to ISIS attacks on Turkish interests, within Turkey, along its border with Syria, and in Mosul and a successful recent meeting of the Turkish and Iranian presidents. Good points, but they can be explained.

First, ISIS is willing to accept Turkish support even while seeing the Islamist prime minister and his countrymen as kafirs (infidels) who need to be shown true Islam. Second, the presidential visit took place on one level while the fighting in Syria and Iraq took place on quite another; the two can occur simultaneously. Turkish-Iranian rivalry is on the rise and, as the distinguished Turkish journalist Burak Bekdil notes in the current issue of the Middle East Quarterly:

Recent years have often seen official language from the two countries about prospering bilateral trade and common anti-Israeli ideological solidarity. But mostly out of sight have been indications of rivalry, distrust, and mutual sectarian suspicion between the two Muslim countries.
Ankara may deny helping ISIS, but the evidence for this is overwhelming. "As we have the longest border with Syria," writes Orhan Kemal Cengiz, a Turkish newspaper columnist, "Turkey's support was vital for the jihadists in getting in and out of the country." Indeed, the ISIS strongholds not coincidentally cluster close to Turkey's frontiers.

Kurds, academic experts and the Syrian opposition agree that Syrians, Turks (estimated to number 3,000), and foreign fighters (especially Saudis but also a fair number of Westerners) have crossed the Turkish-Syrian border at will, often to join ISIS. What Turkish journalist Kadri Gursel calls a "two-way jihadist highway," has no bothersome border checks and sometimes involves the active assistance of Turkish intelligence services. CNN even broadcast a video on "The secret jihadi smuggling route through Turkey."

Actually, the Turks offered far more than an easy border crossing: they provided the bulk of ISIS' funds, logistics, training and arms. Turkish residents near the Syrian border tell of Turkish ambulances going to Kurdish-ISIS battle zones and then evacuating ISIS casualties to Turkish hospitals. Indeed, a sensational photograph has surfaced showing ISIS commander Abu Muhammad in a hospital bed receiving treatment for battle wounds in Hatay State Hospital in April 2014.

One Turkish opposition politician estimates that Turkey has paid $800 million to ISIS for oil shipments. Another politician released information about active duty Turkish soldiers training ISIS members. Critics note that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has met three times with someone, Yasin al-Qadi, who has close ties to ISIS and has funded it.

Why the Turkish support for wild-eyed extremists? Because Ankara wants to eliminate two Syrian polities, the Assad regime in Damascus and Rojava (the emerging Kurdish state) in the northeast.

Regarding the Assad regime: "Thinking that jihadists would ensure a quick fall for the Assad regime in Syria, Turkey, no matter how vehemently officials deny it, supported the jihadists," writes Cengiz, "at first along with Western and some Arab countries and later in spite of their warnings."

Regarding Rojava: Rojava's leadership being aligned with the PKK, the (formerly) terrorist Kurdish group based in Turkey, the authoritative Turkish journalist Amberin Zaman has little doubt "that until recently, Turkey was allowing jihadist fighters to move unhindered across its borders" to fight the Kurds.

More broadly, as the Turkish analyst Mustafa Akyol notes, Ankara thought "anybody who fought al-Assad was a good guy and also harbored an "ideological uneasiness with accepting that Islamists can do terrible things." This has led, he acknowledges, to "some blindness" toward violent jihadists. Indeed, ISIS is so popular in Turkey that others publicly copy its logo.

In the face of this support, the online newspaper Al-Monitor calls on Turkey to close its border to ISIS while Rojava threatened Ankara with "dire consequences" unless Turkish aid ceases.

In conclusion, Turkish leaders are finding Syria a double quagmire, what with Assad still in power and the Kurdish entity growing stronger. In reaction, they have cooperated with even the most extreme, retrograde and vicious elements, such as ISIS. But this support opened a second front in Iraq which, in turn, brings the clash of the Middle East's two titans, Turkey and Iran, closer to realization.

More than 1,000 Turks fighting for the Islamic Caliphate

The number of Turkish citizens fighting under the umbrella of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is slightly more than 1,000, according to Turkish officials, who admit that they are unable to learn the exact number. The estimated number of armed ISIL fighters is around 12,000 to 15,000, which shows that Turks make up just less than 10 percent of the jihadist group.

Turkey has long been accused of not efficiently controlling its borders to prevent those foreigners joining the jihadist extremist groups and stop the flow of weapons into Syria. In response to these criticisms, Turkish officials have noted the difficulty of controlling a nearly 900-kilometer-long border while blaming Western countries for not sharing intelligence on potential recruits for the jihadist groups.

However, when it comes to Turkish citizens’ participation in one of the world’s deadliest groups, these explanations are unconvincing. Who organized the recruitment of these people for ISIL? What organizations sponsored these recruitments? Which routes have been used? Assuming the security forces and the intelligence are closely following the jihadist movements in Turkey, how did they fail to realize that more than 1,000 Turks have joined ISIL? Could it be because security forces and intelligence skipped their main duties and responsibilities as they are chasing what the government calls the “parallel state”?

Whatever the answers to these questions are, there is one absolute reality: Turkey is facing the danger of the jihadist structure, both inside and outside. In Iraq, 49 Turkish citizens have been in ISIL captivity since early June. Due to the sensitivity of the issue, mainstream media does not frequently write on the issue, but one thing is certain: Somebody will have to answer some very disturbing questions once our citizens, including Turkey’s consul general in Mosul, return home safe.

Inside Turkey, there is enough evidence to get concerned about increasing extremism. First, we have seen some Sunni groups attacking a mosque belonging to the Caferis, a branch of Shiite Islam. With ISIL making new advances, their sympathizers have become more visible in a bid to display their contentment with the developments. It was on July 31 when the Hürriyet Daily News reported about an Istanbul-based Islamic charity organization that had to suspend its activities after it was criticized for using an insignia adopted by the ISIL.

There were also allegations that the charity was recruiting militants for the fight in Syria and Iraq. In separate news, Turkish media broadcast a few days ago pictures of hundreds of men with long beards in Taliban-style dress gathering for Eid al-Fitr somewhere in Istanbul. The group was allegedly linked with ISIL, and they dedicated their Eid al-Fitr prayers to ISIL fighters in Iraq and Syria.

Another development that has boosted the public showcase of these jihadist groups is the Israeli attack on the Palestinians. Israeli brutality deserves all sorts of reactions, but demonstrations staged by groups, especially in Ankara and Istanbul soon became violent. These are obviously the best moments for such groups to gain more supporters in society and reach out to different segments of the society. The government has the full responsibility to keep these demonstrations in check without causing any unwanted, irreparable incident.

Before it is too late, the intelligence and security forces must be on full alert to stop the growth of these jihadist groups, recruitment to ISIL or other terrorist organizations, while the government should issue strong statements that it won’t tolerate these inclinations in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-sect society.


John McCain: "Thank God for the Saudis"

“Thank God for the Saudis and Prince Bandar,” John McCain told CNN’s Candy Crowley in January 2014. “Thank God for the Saudis and Prince Bandar, and for our Qatari friends,” the senator said once again a month later, at the Munich Security Conference.

McCain was praising Prince Bandar bin Sultan, then the head of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence services and a former ambassador to the United States, for supporting forces fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham had previously met with Bandar to encourage the Saudis to arm Syrian rebel forces.

But shortly after McCain’s Munich comments, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah relieved Bandar of his Syrian covert-action portfolio, which was then transferred to Saudi Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. By mid-April, just two weeks after President Obama met with King Abdullah on March 28, Bandar had also been removed from his position as head of Saudi intelligence—according to official government statements, at “his own request.” Sources close to the royal court told me that, in fact, the king fired Bandar over his handling of the kingdom’s Syria policy and other simmering tensions, after initially refusing to accept Bandar’s offers to resign. (Bandar retains his title as secretary-general of the king’s National Security Council.)

The Free Syrian Army (FSA), the “moderate” armed opposition in the country, receives a lot of attention. But two of the most successful factions fighting Assad’s forces are Islamist extremist groups: Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the latter of which is now amassing territory in Iraq and threatening to further destabilize the entire region. And that success is in part due to the support they have received from two Persian Gulf countries: Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Qatar’s military and economic largesse has made its way to Jabhat al-Nusra, to the point that a senior Qatari official told me he can identify al-Nusra commanders by the blocks they control in various Syrian cities. But ISIS is another matter. As one senior Qatari official stated, “ISIS has been a Saudi project.”

ISIS, in fact, may have been a major part of Bandar’s covert-ops strategy in Syria. The Saudi government, for its part, has denied allegations, including claims made by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, that it has directly supported ISIS. But there are also signs that the kingdom recently shifted its assistance—whether direct or indirect—away from extremist factions in Syria and toward more moderate opposition groups.

The United States, France, and Turkey have long sought to support the weak and disorganized FSA, and to secure commitments from Qatar and Saudi Arabia to do the same. When Mohammed bin Nayef took the Syrian file from Bandar in February, the Saudi government appeared to finally be endorsing this strategy. As The Washington Post’s David Ignatius wrote at the time, “Prince Mohammed’s new oversight role reflects the increasing concern in Saudi Arabia and other neighboring countries about al-Qaeda’s growing power within the Syrian opposition.”

The worry at the time, punctuated by a February meeting between U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice and the intelligence chiefs of Turkey, Qatar, Jordan, and others in the region, was that ISIS and al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra had emerged as the preeminent rebel forces in Syria. The governments who took part reportedly committed to cut off ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, and support the FSA instead. But while official support from Qatar and Saudi Arabia appears to have dried up, non-governmental military and financial support may still be flowing from these countries to Islamist groups.

Senior White House officials have refused to discuss the question of any particular Saudi officials aiding ISIS and have not commented on Bandar’s departure. But they have emphasized that Saudi Arabia is now both supporting moderate Syrian rebels and helping coordinate regional policies to deal with an ascendant ISIS threat.

Like elements of the mujahideen, which benefited from U.S. financial and military support during the Soviet war in Afghanistan and then later turned on the West in the form of al-Qaeda, ISIS achieved scale and consequence through Saudi support, only to now pose a grave threat to the kingdom and the region. It’s this concern about blowback that has motivated Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to encourage restraint in arming Syrian rebels. President Obama has so far heeded these warnings.  

John McCain’s desire to help rebel forces toss off a brutal dictator and fight for a more just and inclusive Syria is admirable. But as has been proven repeatedly in the Middle East, ousting strongmen doesn’t necessarily produce more favorable successor governments. Embracing figures like Bandar, who may have tried to achieve his objectives in Syria by building a monster, isn't worth it.


Saudi refutes UK media claims of ‘ISIS support’

Saudi Arabia has denied financing or supporting militant group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), after some UK media outlets accused the country of supporting the group which is currently taking over swathes of Iraq.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia wishes to emphasize, once again, that it does not and has not supported, financially, morally or through any other means, the terrorist organization known as… (ISIS),” the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in London said in a statement issued Tuesday.

“Despite having clarified this issue on numerous occasions, several inaccurate, misleading and distorted allegations, made by certain media outlets in the UK, requires us to do so,” the statement added.

“We urge the British and international media to take an in-depth look into the financial backing and organizational structure of this terrorist organization, as well as to report the situation in the region objectively and fairly and to verify allegations before reporting them as fact,” the statement said.

The statement also added that the kingdom believed “the lack of international involvement that has paved the way for terrorist affiliated networks to breed within Syria,” where the kingdom has been providing – through the Friends of Syria – support to the Syrian opposition. The Friends of Syria group is an international diplomatic collective of countries and international bodies, organized by the United States, aimed at providing aid for the crisis in Syria.

“Through the Friends of Syria, Saudi Arabia has provided support only to the moderate Syrian opposition. All these groups share a common goal in supporting a political transition in Syria that will see the removal of the Assad regime. We believe it is the lack of international involvement that has paved the way for terrorist affiliated networks to breed within Syria,” the statement added.

Last March, Saudi Arabia blacklisted ISIS, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Saudi branch of Shiite movement Hezbollah and the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, labeling them terrorist organizations. In June, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz ordered “all” necessary measures be taken to protect the kingdom, as ISIS extremist fighters began nearing the border shared between Iraq and Saudi Arabia.


Was ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi radicalized in a US-run prison in Iraq?

In early July, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the jihadist terror group now known as the Islamic State—formerly the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS [1]preached on high in Mosul [2] and declared himself the "Caliph Ibrahim" of a new fundamentalist Sunni state [3] stretching from western and northern Iraq to northern Syria. This announcement came after months of fighting over territory and skirmishes with Iraqi forces, as ISIS invaded and captured dozens of Iraqi cities including Tikrit [4], Saddam Hussein's hometown.

In short order, Baghdadi has become Iraq's most prominent extremist leader. But for much of his adult life, Baghdadi did not have a reputations as a fiery, jihadist trailblazer. According to the Telegraph [5], members of his local mosque in Tobchi (a neighborhood in Baghdad) who knew him from around 1989 until 2004 (when he was between the ages of 18 and 33) considered Baghdadi a quiet, studious fellow and a talented soccer player. When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, Baghdadi was earning a degree in Islamic studies in Baghdad.

But within a couple years of the US invasion, Baghdadi was a prisoner in Camp Bucca, the US-run detainment facility in Umm Qasr, Iraq. And a US compound commander stationed at that prison—and other military officials—have in recent weeks wondered whether Baghdadi's stint there radicalized him and put him on the path to taking over ISIS in 2010 and guiding the movement to its recent military victories.

The details of Baghdadi's time in Camp Bucca are murky. Some media reports [6] note that he was held as a "civilian internee" at the prison for 10 months in 2004. Others report [7] that he was captured by US forces in 2005 and spent four years at Camp Bucca. The reason why he was apprehended is not publicly known; he could have been arrested on a specific charge or as part of a large sweep of insurgents or insurgent supporters. (A confidential Red Cross report [8] leaked in May 2004 suggested than around 90 percent of detainees of Iraqi origin were arrested "by mistake.") Army Colonel Kenneth King, the commanding US officer at Camp Bucca in 2009, recently told the Daily Beast [9]that he distinctly remembered a man resembling Baghdadi: "He was a bad dude, but he wasn't the worst of the worst." King noted he was "not surprised" that such a radical figure emerged from the facility.

James Skylar Gerrond, a former US Air Force security forces officer and a compound commander at Camp Bucca in 2006 and 2007, says that he believes Baghdadi's stay at the prison contributed to his radicalization—or at least bolstered his extremism. After Baghdadi proclaimed the Islamic State a new nation and himself its leader, Gerrond tweeted, "Many of us at Camp Bucca were concerned that instead of just holding detainees, we had created a pressure cooker for extremism." Gerrond is now a civilian working for the Department of Defense.

"Like many Iraq vets, I've been following the situation with ISIS for the last several weeks and trying to understand why things are falling apart so badly in the region," Gerrond tells Mother Jones in an email. "When some of Baghdadi's personal history started to come out, such as the fact that he was detained at Camp Bucca around the same time I was deployed there, I started to reflect on my deployment and what the conditions were at the facility during that time."

Gerrond notes that US military officials in charge of the prison fretted that prisoners could be radicalized at the facility: "This was something that everyone in the chain of command [for Camp Bucca] (and other detention facilities) were always concerned with." Maj. General Douglas Stone, the deputy commander for detainee operations in 2007, told Newsweek that year [11]that potential radicalization was a "very real concern" at Camp Bucca.

According to Gerrond—and documents released by the US military back him up [12]—the military officials running Camp Bucca took steps to prevent radicalization of inmates and violence at the camp. This included careful segregation and later, specific anti-extremist re-education programs. Prisoners were separated on the basis of ideology, among other factors, in order to prevent the commingling of extremists and moderates. The prisoners who were identified as the "most extreme," including those who associated with radical factions, were isolated.

By quarantining extremists from younger or more moderate detainees, US military officials believed they could keep others from being converted, according to Gerrond. However, he says, it was incredibly difficult at Camp Bucca to regulate and monitor whether or not these efforts were successful. "In theory, this segregation should have kept those with the most heinous and violent ideologies separate from those detainees that were less motivated to commit violence," says Gerrond. Yet efforts to curtail extremism fell short:

There was a huge amount of collective pressure exerted on detainees to become more radical in their beliefs. Obviously, this was supported by the fact that the detainees were being held against their will in a facility with minimal communication with their family and friends. This led to detainees turning to each other for support. If there were radical elements within this support network, there was always the potential that detainees would become more radical in their beliefs.
Gerrond notes the US military instituted several initiatives to counter the spread of extreme beliefs among the prisoners at Camp Bucca. Most preaching, he says, was conducted in public, where it could be monitored, and translators stood by to identify radical rhetoric. The facility also implemented an anti-extremist re-education program that offered various courses, including literacy classes and seminars on reading the Koran that were designed to counter interpretations of the holy book that justified violence. Most of these courses were voluntary and likely only reached a small percentage of detainees. The program, according to US military records [12], enlisted Islamic clerics, psychologists, and behavioral scientists to work with prisoners.

"I would be surprised if more than 5 to 10 percent of the detainee population participated," says Gerrond. He recalls that the first graduation ceremony for this program was "somewhat surreal…with a round of sincere handshakes and congratulations between American guards and Iraqi detainees." The program also attempted to increase family visitation privileges to provide psychological support to moderates and prevent radicalization. But the camp's location in southeast Iraq, on the border of Kuwait, [13] made it difficult for many families to visit, because of the distance and the danger in traveling.

Former inmates told Al Jazeera in 2009 [14] that Camp Bucca, which closed in September of 2009 [15]and transferred detainees to Iraqi custody, was an "Al Qaeda school," where extremists gave chalkboard lessons on explosives and suicide bombing techniques to younger prisoners. One former prisoner, Adel Jasim Mohammed, told the Arab news service that one extremist "stayed for a week and recruited 25 of the 34 detainees" he was grouped with. Mohammed said that the US military officials did essentially nothing to stop radicals from indoctrinating other detainees, though US military officials denied to Al Jazeera that jihadists had radicalized moderate prisoners there.

The US military investigated [16]the management of the camp and other detention facilities in 2004 and cited serious problems including "inexperienced guards, lapses in accountability, complacency, lack of leadership presence, and lack of clear and concise communication between the guards and the leadership." But this inquiry did not examine whether conditions had fostered extremism.

As sectarian violence flares in Iraq, Gerrond thinks back to a "chilling conversation" he had with a "Shia Iraqi corrections officer" at Camp Bucca. He "stated to me (through a translator) that when the Americans departed Iraq, his only request was that we leave them enough ammunition so that they could kill all the [Sunni] detainees that were being held."

Iran Pursues Subtle Strategy on Iraq

Iran is pursuing a delicate strategy of supporting fellow Shiite Muslims and preserving its influence in neighboring Iraq—where the government is under siege by radical Sunni militants—without pushing the confrontation into outright sectarian warfare. For the second straight week, influential clerics, who are appointed by the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, used their Friday sermons to denounce the militant groups and support Iraq's government. But their speeches steered clear of explicitly encouraging individual Shiites to act against the Sunni insurgents.

"We are ready to help Iraq as they ask for help," Ayatollah Mohammad Saeedi told thousands of Iranians gathered for Friday prayers in Qom, Iran's religious capital.

The country has openly sent top military advisers to help the Iraqi government, and blamed a collection of foreign enemies from Saudi Arabia to Israel and the U.S. for the violence. It deployed at least three battalions of elite Revolutionary Guards units to Iraq, according to Iranian security officials—an action Iran's foreign ministry denied. Yet it has stopped short of sending in large numbers of its own troops and discouraged ordinary Iranians from crossing the border to fight or defend holy sites in Iraq.

Iranians have been at least as alarmed as Western countries at the rapid advance through Iraq by the group calling itself the Islamic State, which was formerly known as ISIS. The militants, who advocate violence against those who don't accept their religious views, have killed thousands of Iraqi Shiites and vowed to destroy Shiite holy sites. They also disparage Iranian influence in the country.

Their threats to the holy sites are designed to stoke tensions between Sunnis and Shiites. A successful attack on a major Shiite site could tip Iraq into a sectarian civil war, as the destruction of a Shiite shrine by Sunni militants in 2006 did. That prospect has alarmed Iran's leadership because a larger conflict could bring down Iraq's government, spill across the border or force Iran to send large numbers of troops into Iraq.

"We have to make sure this does not turn into a Sunni-Shiite war," said Hossein Sheikholeslam, an international affairs adviser to the conservative speaker of Iran's parliament.

So Iran's government has strained to lay blame on a collection of enemies, arguing that what it calls a small number of fighters could only have taken so much territory with help, including from Saudi Arabia, the U.S., and supporters of the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Iran's influence in Iraq has grown dramatically since the U.S.-led invasion toppled Hussein in 2003. His Sunni-led government fought a brutal eight-year war with Iran during the 1980s, and was a check on Iranian influence in the Middle East for decades.

With the U.S. occupation eventually assenting to the Shiite-dominated central government in Iraq led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Iran has become a major power broker across the border. Trade and investment ties have grown as well, amid the flowering of long-suppressed religious ties between the Shiite religious capitals of Qom in Iran and Najaf in Iraq.

Last year, some 2.5 million pilgrims traveled each way between the two countries, according to the Pilgrimage Research Center in Qom, and billions of dollars in investment in hotels, prayer centers and religious donations have flowed with them.

"Both countries are united. We don't even think of ourselves as separate countries," said Hamid Reza Taraghi, who heads a religious foundation operating under the auspices of the supreme leader. "We've helped Iraq flourish, especially in these holy cities."

To protect those ties, Iran has openly rushed to aid Mr. Maliki's government with military advisers, weapons and intelligence.

Perhaps its biggest contribution, referred to only obliquely in Iranian media, has been helping Mr. Maliki's government overhaul Iraq's lackluster professional military. Iran has provided advisers and trainers of zealous and often battle-trained militias formed and largely controlled by hard-line Iraqi Shiite religious groups with close ties to Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Iran has made no secret of the presence of Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Revolutionary Guards' overseas unit known as the Quds Force, inside Iraq to advise the Iraqi government and its armed forces. It has emphasized that Iran is willing to provide whatever help the Iraqi government requests, and news about the conflict is widely broadcast in Iran.

To justify those outlays, it has played up the need to protect Shiite holy sites in Iraq and help defend what it sees as Iraq's popularly elected Shiite government. Yet at the same time, the Iranian government has sought to play down the increasingly sectarian character the Iraqi military is taking on under Iranian tutelage. And it has sought to stress that the Iraqi government and military are capable of handling the insurgent's onslaught. The drumbeat of Iranian news reports and religious pronouncements has created a wellspring of emotional support for Iraq within Iran.

"We're furious about those who insult our beliefs," said Mohammed Vahid Nikouseffat, a 26-year-old seminary student studying in Qom.

Mr. Nikouseffat spoke as he entered one of Iran's biggest and most prominent Shrines, known as Jamkaran. All around the towering domed mosque thousands of regular Iranians worshipers prayed and sang verses of the Quran after breaking their Ramadan fast. Mr. Nikouseffat said Iranians are ready to help defend the holy sites in Iraq if necessary. But for now, they must obey their Supreme Leader's instructions to leave the fight against Iraq's enemies to the government—and a higher power.
"We believe God will judge them," he said.

The US Is Flying Right Into The Iran-Russia-Syria Plan In Iraq

The US Is Flying Right Into The Iran-Russia-Syria Plan In Iraq

An AH-64D Apache attack helicopter from Company B, 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Multi-National Division - Baghdad, flies over Baghdad providing security for U.S. ground forces nearby near Camp Taji in Baghdad, in this June 11, 2009.

The skies of Iraq are getting crowded. U.S. Apache attack helicopters and unarmed drones are being deployed along with the 500 American troops already ordered to the country. They're just the latest foreign aircraft to join the fight against ISIS, the jihadist group that's swept through northern and western Iraq in recent weeks.

The Syrian Air Force bombed targets that were allegedly ISIS positions in western Iraq last week. Iran has reportedly sent its entire fleet of Sukoi-24 fighter jets to Iraq. And Russia has sent jets and "advisers" to assist Baghdad.

The U.S. military is now in a situation where it likely has to work out military logistics with countries that are typically adversarial with both U.S. policy and international norms more generally.

As combat aviation expert and blogger at The Aviationist David Cenciotti explained when reached by Business Insider, " it is possible to fly Apache and drones in Iraq without any coordination with other air forces operating in the same airspace, but it would be quite dangerous For proper deconfliction of tactical assets, prior coordination and air space management and control are required."

Cenciotti notes that this could be done through "creating a coordination cell" with the other militaries present in the country, or even by "deploying a dedicated asset" like surveillance aircraft "for Airspace Control, Airborne Early Warning, ground targets identification, and mapping."

So U.S. military planners will have to coordinate their activities with other actors to avoid friendly fire incidents or other potentially dicey confrontations between countries with plenty of political and strategic baggage in their relationships with the U.S.

More than that, the deployment of U.S. combat aircraft means that the U.S. is acting as a potential force multiplier for some of the international community's most problematic actors.

The Dangers With Aligning With Iran-Russia-Assad

The Syrian government is one of the most oppressive in the world and was responsible for a chemical-weapons attack in Damascus that killed over 1,500 people in August 2013. Iran is one of the world's leading state sponsors of terrorism, according to the U.S. State Department, and has fostered violent sectarianism in Iraq through its arming of Shiite militias and support for despotic Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea got it kicked out of the G8 in March, and several Russian officials are under E.U. and U.S. sanctions over the country's expansionist policies toward Ukraine.

Yet the alliance between these three countries has transformed the Middle East in the years after the Arab Spring protests of 2011. Russian and Iranian support allowed the Syrian regime of Bashar al Assad to survive against a constellation of secular and jihadist rebel groups — feeding a war that's killed over 150,000 people and leading to the displacement of over 9 million.

Iran's strong position in Syria — enabled through Russian financial, diplomatic and military support for Assad — has allowed it to turn Baghdad into a veritable client, to the point where Qods Force commander Qassem Suleimani is arguably the most powerful person in the country.

And there's been plenty of blowback from these policies throughout the Middle East, from the destabilization of Lebanon to the ongoing falling out between the U.S. and its Gulf allies to the potential creation of an independent Kurdistan.

The U.S.'s deployment of attack helicopters to Iraq for possible use against ISIS doesn't prove that Washington is explicitly assisting Moscow, Damascus, and Tehran in their regional ambitions, which have had such a disruptive effect on the post-Arab Spring Middle East. But that may be the likeliest effect of the U.S. joining the fight in Iraq on the side of Russia, Syria, and Iran.

Michael Doran, a former senior director at the National Security Council and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told Business Insider that the Obama administration needs to stifle both Iran and ISIS's regional strategies if it wants a comprehensive solution to the problems wracking Syria and Iran. In his view, the U.S. needs to avoid taking a side in the region's larger Sunni-Shiite split — now encapsulated in the fight between Shiite Iran and its Iraqi clients, and Sunni extremists like ISIS — and work to curtail all of the region's bad actors.

"If you want to build up a non-jihadi Sunni force that is capable of commanding loyalty from people on the ground then you have to fight Assad and push against Iran, and you push back against ISIS and Iran at the same time," he said. "If you're just fighting ISIS then you're building an Iranian security system in the region."

U.S. policy could have this effect even if it isn't the Obama administration's intent to strengthen Iran's hand. Even simply coordinating intelligence with a sectarianized and Iranian-infiltrated Iraqi military could play to Tehran's advantage.

"The Iraqis are a thin membrane between the U.S. and the Qods Force," says Doran, referring to the foreign arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. "Any intelligence that we give to the Iraqis is probably going to be on the desk of Qassem Suleimani in less than a day."

With this increased commitment of U.S. military assets to Iraq, the U.S. isn't just forcing itself to coordinate logistics with the Iranian-Syrian-Russian alliance in the Middle East. It's also bringing American policy alarmingly close to that of some of the region's more destructive forces — whether Obama intends for this or not.

Why ISIS gains in Iraq are reshaping Syrian regime's war strategy

With Islamic militants at the vanguard of what appears to be a general Sunni uprising against Baghdad’s Shiite-dominated government, the conflicts in Syria and Iraq are beginning to merge under the strains of sectarian and ethnic competition.

The shockwaves are already reverberating in Syria’s civil war and changing the calculus of both the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian armed opposition. One element of that opposition is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIL or ISIS. Last week it seized Mosul and it has advanced on Baghdad, raising alarm bells in Washington – and in Damascus, which had previously shown tacit tolerance for a group that controls a swath of northeast Syria.

Over the weekend, the Syrian Air Force staged its first major attacks on ISIS strongholds in the provinces of Raqqa and Hasakeh. These strongholds were the launching pad for the group's recent gains in Iraq. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Syrian jets had targeted ISIS headquarters in Raqqa and the group's religious courts. There was no word on casualties. 

“ISIL was useful to the [Assad] regime and [Assad’s ally] Iran for the pressure it put on the Syrian opposition,” says Frederic Hof, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. “But given what's happened in Iraq, ISIL's shelf life in Syria has expired.”

Although sworn enemies on paper, ISIS has largely refrained from fighting the Syrian regime to focus on building an Islamic state in northern Syria and ousting more moderate rebel rivals. In return, the regime has left ISIS alone, allowing the Syrian military to concentrate on fighting the moderate rebel groups. At the same timeAssad also points to the brutal exploits of ISIS and other jihadist groups in the conflict to justify its argument to the international community that it is fighting Islamic “terrorists.”

The Iraq upheaval appears to have changed that calculation. It has also injected uncertainty into Assad's reliance on Iraqi Shiite fighters to seize the upper hand in Syria's war.

In recent weeks, “thousands” of Iraqi Shiite fighters who were in Syria to defend the Assad regime have left, according to a diplomatic report from a European embassy in Beirut. Some of the Iraqi Shiites withdrew from the town of Rankous in the mountainous Qalamoun region north of Damascus. Two months ago, the town fell to the Assad regime. Last week, Syrian rebels took advantage of the weakened regime presence in Rankous to mount a counter-attack in which at least 11 Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah fighters were killed.

“The rebels launched a surprise attack on the edge of Rankous. The fighting is ongoing,” says a veteran Hezbollah combatant who has served multiple tours in Syria. 

Challenge of holding territory

Despite a succession of battlefield successes in western Syria over the past year, the Assad regime barely has sufficient forces to hold its newly seized territory. With the Syrian Army weakened by desertions and exhaustion, the regime relies heavily on its allies, chiefly Hezbollah as well as Iraqi paramilitaries and the National Defense Force (NDF), a militia composed mainly of Alawites, the splinter Shiite sect to which Mr. Assad belongs. 

It is estimated that there are around 5,000 Hezbollah fighters in Syria at any one time and they have spearheaded key offensives in the past year, backed by Syrian air power and artillery. Before the ISIS offensive in northern Iraq, there were an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 Iraqi Shiite fighters serving in Syria, most of them ill-trained recruits on six-month contracts offered by Iran with a promise of a job upon return. The Iraqi Shiites mainly defend religious sites and man checkpoints. The strength of the Iran-trained NDF is thought to have reached 80,000.

Even before ISIS seized Mosul, some Iraqi Shiites were pulled out of Syria in response to rising tensions in Iraq where Sunni militants had a growing presence in Anbar Province. But the advance toward Baghdad and a vow by Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, the group’s spokesman, to take the war to the “filth-ridden city” of Karbala and Najaf, “the city of polytheism,” both containing paramount Shiite shrines, has upped the ante. For Iraqi Shiites in Syria, protecting these holy sites is a more pressing priority than defending Assad’s regime.

A drawdown of Iraqi Shiites could make Syria's regime even more dependent on Hezbollah fighters, further straining the Lebanese group’s support base. Lebanese Shiites generally have supported Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria, especially when Shiite areas of Lebanon suffered suicide bombings last year by extremist Sunni groups.

But the last car bombing occurred at the end of March, and since then Lebanon has enjoyed a period of relative calm. Now, there is a sense of unhappiness building among the families of Hezbollah fighters. They are increasingly asking how much longer their fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons will be sent to fight and die on the Syrian front. 

Regional recalculations

More broadly, the Iraq crisis could change the regional and international calculus toward Syria. The sight of ISIS militants equipped with American vehicles and weaponry looted from Iraqi Army bases may further dampen the White House's willingness to supply arms to moderate Syrian rebels in case they fall into the wrong hands.  

Iran also is having to recalibrate its position in light of the Iraq crisis. Tehran has committed a significant financial and military investment in propping up the Assad regime over the past three years. It also is showing a willingness to come to the rescue of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government and reportedly has dispatched elite troops to Baghdad.

“Iran’s primary interest has been to maintain the axis of Iran, Maliki’s Iraq, Assad’s Syria, and Hezbollah in Lebanon,” says the European diplomatic report. “Iran is therefore now entering its very own two-front situation [Syria and Iraq] and may face a lengthy problematic situation that could affect the quantity and quality of the financial and military support to Assad’s Syria.”


Newsweek: Maliki Compromised CIA Spies in Iraq for Years

Nuri al-Maliki

U.S. military advisors arriving in Iraq better be careful who they talk to and where they go: Their Iraq ‘allies’ will almost certainly be spying on them.

According to three current and former CIA officers, the Iraqi government, led by Muslim Shiites with close ties to Iran, has waged an aggressive campaign against the spy agency and other U.S. security personnel in the country for several years.  “They cover us like a blanket,” says former CIA official John Maguire, who was deputy CIA station chief in Iraq in 2004 and maintains widespread contacts there as an oil business consultant.

The first targets of Iraq’s counterspies were CIA contacts in the fledgling Iraq National Intelligence Service, or INIS, set up by the CIA in 2004, Maguire and others say. Its first chief was a longtime CIA asset, Gen. Mohammed Shahwani, an Iraqi Sunni who had plotted against the late dictator Saddam Hussein. The INIS soon came under assault by the rival, Shiite-led Ministry of Interior, headed by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

“They fired all the guys who they considered suspect, which was basically all the guys we put into the [intelligence] service, and solidified control around the Shia and Iran,” Maguire tells Newsweek. In 2007 Shahwani was ousted. “Then their technological operations [against the CIA] began in earnest. About two years ago was when they really started to work us hard.”  

According to Maguire and another former CIA operations officer, the Iraqis acquired sophisticated cell phone monitoring equipment, probably from Iran, and began tracking CIA operators to identify their spies, especially inside the Maliki government. “It wasn’t so much the agency people they were interested in as who they were meeting and talking to,” says another CIA source, a paramilitary operations specialist who did three tours in Iraq. Although he was not authorized to discuss the subject, he agreed to be quoted on condition of anonymity because he felt U.S. advisers just arriving in Iraq needed to be warned.

“They are very aggressive,” he says of the Iraqi security services. “They have the best equipment Iran has,” including devices known as StingRays, that can lock onto a cell phone and extract all its data, from contacts to photos and music.

CIA operators in Iraq today, Maguire explains, make it too easy for Iraqi agents to know who they’re meeting. “They are working out of the Green Zone,” the high security area of Baghdad which is home to the U.S. embassy, Maguire notes.  “Everything they do is done on phones. And Iraq and Iran can see that... “

It’s a common lament of CIA oldtimers that the current crop of operators don’t measure up to past standards. But Maguire is appalled at how easy at least some CIA spy-handlers, called case officers in espionage jargon, make it for the Iraqis to find them. “I can't tell you the number of times I've been driving around the city the last several years and I would see a station motorcade come by with a lead car, a car with a case officer in it and a follow car.  And the case officer would be in the passenger seat and have his feet on the dash reading a newspaper. That is not clandestine collection tradecraft. It's embarrassing.”

To enhance security, more CIA operators need to hide in the city, he says. “When the situation deteriorated in 2004, we stopped crossing the [security] lines to get into the Green Zone,” Maguire says.  “We stayed in the city in safe houses with our assets. There's no reason, with today's technology, to come back to the embassy to send classified messages. You can send them from everywhere. Crossing security lines is always the most risky, from both a safety and a counterintelligence aspect, so if you don't go into the Green Zone, you don't come up on a lot of people's screens.”

While dealing with the current emergency, the U.S. and Iraq will maintain the fiction that they are allies. According to the Pentagon, 90 U.S. military advisers will begin setting up one of two joint information centers where U.S. and Iraqi personnel will share intelligence.

“They better be careful,” the CIA paramilitary officer says. “The Iraqis are going to be all over them.”

ISIS Proposes Truce With Iraqi Kurds as Fighting Grows

Officers in the Kurdish Peshmerga paramilitary force say that they have received an informal offer of a truce from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syrian (ISIS) fighters who have been sweeping through Iraq recently. “If you don’t attack us, we would not attack you,” appears to have been the extent of the offer, which was delivered by courier from ISIS territory to Peshmerga fighters south of Kirkuk. Though ISIS has often fought with the Kurdish factions in Syria, they have so far focused on the military in Iraq, against whom they have won several overwhelming victories. The Peshmerga has used the fighting as an opportunity to seize some Iraqi cities of their own, and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) seems to be getting closer to outright secession. Given that, they seem in no hurry to start fighting ISIS, especially if ISIS isn’t going to threaten their territory. That could change quickly, of course, but for now it seems mutually beneficial for ISIS and the KRG to ignore one another and focus instead on shoring up their respective domains out of territory the Maliki government simply can’t hold any longer.
Iraq Official Says Iran's Military Mastermind Is In Charge

A former CIA operative described Qassem Suleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force, as the “most powerful operative in the Middle East today.” Qassem Suleimani, the head of the Qods Force, the foreign arm of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps, is leading the Iraqi reaction to a radical Islamist group's takeover of much of the country, according to a senior Iraqi official quoted by The Guardian.

"Who do you think is running the war? Those three senior generals who ran away?" the unnamed official asked The Guardian's Martin Chulov. "Qassem Suleimani is in charge. And reporting directly to him are the militias, led by Asa'ib ahl al-Haq."

Asaib ahl al-Haq (AAH)  organization is one of several Iraqi groups that serve as instruments of Iranian policy through the region, as University of Maryland researcher Philip Smyth explained in a policy brief for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy earlier this week.

Specifically, it is a Shiite militia and Iranian proxy in Iraq that deployed fighters to the Syrian theater to support the regime of Bashar Assad. But Smyth writes that AAH fighters have now been recalled to Iraq to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), the al-Qaeda castoff that took over vast stretches of the country's oil-producing north last week.  
"Many of the Shiite Islamist forces fighting in Iraq operate as part of Iranian proxy groups that have been attached to [Iraqi Security Forces] and Iraqi army units," Smyth wrote. "Some even operate as a direct part of these official Iraqi military forces."

So it would make sense if Suleimani were calling the shots inside of Iraq itself. He's responsible for arming and organizing sectarian militias that are semi-integrated into the official security apparatus in parts of the country. And he was in Baghdad meeting with Shiite parliamentarians not long before things escalated.

It's a place he knows well. In his profile of Suleimani for The New Yorker last year, Dexter Filkins recounted how the Qods Force chief used his connections in Iraq to play the Americans, Sunni terrorists, and Shiite proxy militias off of one other during the U.S.'s military presence in the country. He even visited Baghdad's Green Zone:

Throughout the war, [Suleimani] summoned Iraqi leaders to Tehran to broker deals, usually intended to maximize Shiite power. At least once, he even traveled into the heart of American power in Baghdad. “Suleimani came into the Green Zone to meet the Iraqis,” the Iraqi politician told me. “I think the Americans wanted to arrest him, but they figured they couldn’t.”

The pro-Iranian Iraqi government that ensured the U.S. military would leave the country in 2011 is essentially Suleimani's creation as well. Suleimani is deeply invested in keeping together the network of influence and control that he spent much of the past decade building in Iraq. Still a major open question: whether he'll have the U.S. on his side in his efforts.


7 Times When Iran's Strategic Mastermind Reshaped The Middle East

A former CIA operative described Qassem Suleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force, as the “most powerful operative in the Middle East today.”

Qassem Suleimani has been called the single most powerful operative in the Middle East today. Take a look at his resume and it's no surprise why. As the commander of Iran’s Quds Force — the foreign branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards best described as a cross between the CIA and Special Forces — Suleimani has emerged as Iran’s leading foreign strategist. Suleimani has fomented unrest in Iraq, lead, supplied, and trained Bashar al-Assad's army in Syria, and maintained a vast network of contacts and operatives throughout the world.

Due to the nature of his position, Suleimani’s operations have usually been clandestine. It’s often impossible to know for sure whether Suleimani and his Quds Force have been involved. But after one look at the circumstantial evidence, patterns begin to emerge. Here’s a few of the operations that Suleimani has been tied to over the last twenty years. 

1. Guiding the Iraqi insurgency throughout the Iraq War (2003-2011)


Since the beginning of the Iraq War, Suleimani has sent Qods Force agents and officers into Iraq to train, fund, and lead Shiite militias against Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist party. Once that was eliminated, Suleimani trained his attention on Coalition forces. Senior Qods Force officers, including the third highest-ranking officer in the Force, have turned up in Iraq. At one point, it was estimated that as many as 30,000 Iranian operatives were in Iraq.  

Initially, Iranian involvement amounted to training and arming the country's militias. After the U.S. caught wind of Iran’s strategy and began capturing Iranian officers, Suleimani and Iranian forces began directly attacking Coalition forces through their proxies.  In addition, Iran helped create "secret cells," groups of 20-60 Iraqis that have been trained and armed in Iran to attack Coalition forces and undermine the Iraqi government.

The Qods Force is responsible for importing the roadside bombs, IEDs, and explosively-formed projectiles, that inflicted a massive amount of casualties on Coalition troops. It’s estimated that around 20% of American combat deaths in Iraq came directly or indirectly from Iran and the Quds Force. 

2. The 2005 Assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafic Hariri 


On February 14th, 2005, Rafic Hariri, a former prime minister of Lebanon and of the leaders of the country's Sunni community, was assasinated when more than 2,000 pounds of TNT detonated by his motorcade in Beirut, killing him and 21 others.

Shortly after the assassination, the United Nations began investigating the bombing and convened its Special Tribunal for Lebanon in 2006. The Tribunal, which is still investigating the attack, charged four Hezbollah members in 2011, all of whom have since disappeared — although one has resurfaced in Syria, fighting for Assad).

Many in the Tribunal believe that Hezbollah carried out the attack with the approval and support of both Syria and Iran. Syrian officials and Hezbollah have conversely accused Israel and the Mossad of carrying out the assassination, although there is no evidence to support these claims.

Investigators reportedly found that one of the disposable cell phones used by the killers made at least a dozen calls to Iran before and after the assassination. In addition, Iranian operatives were overheard minutes before the assassination, directing the attack. 

“If indeed Iran was involved, Suleimani was undoubtedly at the center of this,” Robert Baer, a former senior C.I.A. official,  told Dexter Filkins of the New Yorker in 2013.   

The assassination triggered the Cedar Revolution, a series of demonstrations that led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. If Iran did carry out the assassination, the expulsion of Syrian troops doesn’t seem like the intended result. But that almost didn't matter: Hezbollah ended up wrecking the country's post-Revolution coalition government, and nearly triggered a civil war in 2008.

3. 2006 Hezbollah Cross border raid on Israel
lebanon israel war

After years of increased tensions between Hezbollah and Israel, Hezbollah fighters crossed the border into Israel and attacked two Humvees on July 12th, 2006, killing three soldiers and abducting two. The sophisticated attack included other Hezbollah contingents that opened fire on seven Israeli army posts at the same time, knocking out surveillance and communications.

The incident set off the 2006 Lebanon War. The 34-day conflict included Israel airstrikes on both Hezbollah military targets and Lebanese civilian infrastructure, a naval blockade, and a ground invasion of southern Lebanon. 

The conflict has been considered by many to be the opening round of an Israeli-Iranian proxy war. Iranian Revolutionary Guards reportedly assisted Hezbollah fighters in firing rockets on Israel, and helped operate Hezbollah outposts during the war. Iran has long been involved with Hezbollah, helping to form, train, and finance the group since its inception.

According to some Middle Eastern security officials, the original cross-border raid was enacted with Suleimani’s guidance, though he did not expect such an intense reaction from Lebanon's southern neighbor.

4. Arranging the 2006 deal that made Nouri al-Maliki Prime Minister of Iraq

Nouri Al Maliki Iraq President Prime Minster

When Nouri al-Maliki was selected to be the Prime Minister of Iraq in 2006, the U.S. actually saw it as a great victory for their troubled policy in the country. After the first post-war prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, fell from favor, the U.S. went to great lengths to vet potential replacements, partly out of concern over their relationship to Iran. Maliki was seen as someone who was “independent of Iran” Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq said, at the time.

More recently, it has been reported that Maliki is far more of a puppet for Iran than U.S. policymakers had thought or expected during the American presence in the country. In Filkins' New Yorker exposè, he reports that Suleimani arranged the deal that put Maliki in power, extracting promises of support from the Shiite and Kurdish leaders that eventually put Maliki in power. Suleimani supposedly offered benefits to those that agreed to back Maliki, including an agreement to build a lucrative oil pipeline to Syria. 

It now appears that Maliki has been helping Iran evade Western economic sanctions via the Iraqi banking industry. He's provided Suleimani with proceeds from 200,000 barrels of Iraqi oil a day. If all that is true, then it isn't such a stretch to assert that Suleimani is the most powerful man in the Arab League's fourth most-populous country.

5. 2007  Raid on the Karabala provincial headquarters in Iraq


Spc. Johnathan B. Chism of Louisiana, Pvt. Johnathon M. Millican, of Alabama, and Pvt. Shawn Falter of New York are three of the five Americans captured and killed in the raid on the Karbala base in 2007.

On January 20th, 2007, a team of twelve men disguised as U.S. soldiers arrived at the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Iraq, where U.S. soldiers were conducting meetings with local officials. Once in the compound, the team headed straight for the one building with American soldiers, capturing and eventually killing five U.S. troops. 

After an investigation, American military officials concluded that the Quds Force knew of, supported, and helped plan the Karabala attack. Many believe that the attack was in retaliation to U.S. forces detaining five Iranian officials accused of helping Iraqis kill American soldiers.

The U.S. successfully killed the attack's leader, a member of the Iranian-backed group Asaib al Haq, and ended up capturing several of it's planners and participants — one of whom confirmed that the attack was ordered by Iranian officals. Suleimani supposedly messaged the American ambassador in Iraq, denying responsibility for the attack. Few Americans believe him. 

6. 2011 plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Washington, D.C.


In October 2011, the United States arrested Iranian-American used car-salesman Mansour J. Arbabsiar and Gholam Shakuri, a known member of the Quds Force, for plotting to murder the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S. in Washington, D.C.

The plan involved Arbabsiar hiring assassins from the Los Zetas drug cartel for $1.5 million to bomb a restaurant that the ambassador often visited, and included bombings at the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington. The plot never got off the ground because the Los Zetas representative that Arbabsiar was negotiating with was actually a DEA informant.  

Numerous U.S. officials believe that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader, and Suleimani at least knew of the plot. An FBI investigation found that money from a Quds Force bank account had been wired to Arbabsiar and that he was able to identify Quds Force officers from a photo array while in custody. In addition, law enforcement had Arbabsiar make calls to Shakuri in Iran, during which Shakuri urged Arbabsiar to carry out the plot. 

Nonetheless, many Middle East and Iran analysts found it hard to believe that Iran would carry out an attack on U.S. soil, using a non-Muslim proxy in such a haphazard manner. If Iran did order the attack, it could mark a worrying shift in strategy. 

7. Providing Bashar al Assad with billions of dollars in arms, support, strategic training, and troops in Syria


While Iran and Syria have always been close allies, Suleimani has gone a step further by taking care of the job that dictator Bashar al-Assad and his generals couldn't: turning the tide of the country's brutal civil war, which has killed over 150,000 people over the past three years.

According to American officials, Suleimani travels to Damascus frequently, where he operates out of a heavily fortified command post, directing the Syrian military, Hezbollah commanders, and Iraqi Shiite militias. Suleimani has used his connections with the Iraqi government to arrange access to Iraqi airspace, allowing him him to fly operatives and arms to Damascus. This supply route has been integral to the maintenance and perhaps even the survival of the Assad regime. 

In addition, Suleimani reportedly planned and orchestrated the Battle of al-Qusayr, a key confrontation that made the Assad regime's victory over the rebels not only possible, but likely. The momentum of the two-week battle was shifted with the help of Iranian and Hezbollah officers, who encircled the town. 

According to John Maguire, a former C.I.A. officer in Iraq, Suleimani orchestrated the Battle of al-Qusayr, which was a "great victory for him" — another strategic masterstroke from one of the most important and shadowy figures in the Middle East.


'It fell on deaf ears': CIA and MI6 knew about ISIS assault in advance, failed to react

As Iraq’s western border falls beyond the control of the country’s government, a new report suggests the United States and Britain were warned of a burgeoning insurgency months before militants began gaining territory.

According to a report by the UK-based Telegraph, senior Kurdish intelligence officials said they tried to explain to their allies in the CIA, MI6, and the central Iraqi government that the members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) could represent a great threat to Iraq's stability, but that those warnings failed to spark any action.

In addition to calling attention to potential territorial gains in Iraq – a new Reuters report states the “entire Western frontier,” comprising borders with Syria and Jordan, is now “beyond government control” – Kurdish officials warned that ISIS is attracting foreign-born Muslims to its cause. Senior Kurdish intelligence officer Rooz Bahjat said that of the 4,000 estimated foreigners fighting alongside ISIS, somewhere between 400 and 450 were born in Britain and convinced to join the insurgency.

These officials also said a formal alliance between ISIS members and ex-Baathists, who held power under Saddam Hussein, was nearly completed, and that it would lead to an attack on Mosul and other cities in northern Iraq.

“We had this information then, and we passed it on to [the British] government and the US government,” Bahjat told the Telegraph. "We knew exactly what strategy they were going to use, we knew the military planners. It fell on deaf ears.”

Although ISIS has now quickly taken control of multiple cities in Iraq, it’s believed that many Sunnis have decided to support the extremist organization over the lack of an inclusive government in central Iraq. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Shia-led government has failed to bridge the country’s sectarian divide, leaving many Sunnis feeling as if they have no stake in the country’s future.

As RT reported previously, there have been indications that the US wants Maliki to resign his post so that attempts at Sunni/Shia reconciliation could be made, but there is little evidence to suggest Maliki will go, and the US has not declared this preference publicly. Speaking on the situation last week, President Obama said, "It’s not our job to choose Iraq’s leaders … But I don’t think that there’s any secret that, right now at least, there is deep division between Sunni, Shia and Kurdish leaders.”

During a recent interview with CBS News, Obama stated that ISIS is “a medium- and long-term threat” to US national security, but also cautioned that it is “just one of a number of organizations that we have to stay focused on.”

Speaking with the Telegraph in a separate article, head of Kurdish intelligence Lahur Talabani said it wasn’t simply the 2003 invasion of Iraq that’s responsible for today’s violence, but that the lack of willingness on the part of Western powers to establish a peaceful government in the war’s aftermath is primarily to blame. The Kurds have called for more substantial intervention from the West, to no avail so far.

"I have completely lost hope in America after listening to President Barack Obama," he said. "I blame him personally for what has happened in Syria, in the Middle East, in Iraq at the moment. I have no hope any more.”

For his part, President Obama has ruled out the return of American troops to Iraq. Last week, he announced that 300 military advisers – in addition to 275 troops meant to safeguard the American embassy in Baghdad – would be sent to help train and support Iraqi troops. The US is reportedly mulling the use of airstrikes and drones at the request of Maliki’s government, but has also expressed reluctance at entering a conflict with no clear political solution.

Initially, the use of airstrikes was also ruled out due to the lack of good intelligence related to ISIS, something analyst Michael Stephens of the Royal United Services Institute think tank believes is the result of policies that placed significantly less emphasis on Iraq.

“Both the Americans and the British had options to upgrade their presence on the ground many months before this happened but seem not to have acted on that,” he said to the Telegraph.
“For one reason or another there was a feeling that Iraq was not an important foreign posting and as a result it was seen as a place where careers go to die rather than a place to build a career. That meant the assets that should have been available to us weren’t really there when this kicked off.


Why Israel is in love with Kurdistan

The “Middle East” invented by British and French colonial powers almost a century ago is fast dissolving as ISIS carves a vast piece of real estate from the suburbs of Aleppo to Tikrit and from Mosul to the Jordanian/Iraqi border.

Artificial geography, established in the midst of World War I, via the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement, is at risk; and it’s no accident the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) itself, although dreaming of a Caliphate, is also graphically emphasizing the point. Those states carved out of the fragmented Ottoman Empire are all at risk. In this geopolitical vortex the ultimate free electron is definitely the notion of a Greater Kurdistan.

Iraq is breaking up before our eyes and it would appear that the creation of an independent Kurdish state is a foregone conclusion.” The analysis might have come straight from ISIS – but in fact came from none other than former bouncer and unreformed Zionist, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

What the invariably truculent Lieberman told US Secretary of State John Kerry this week pertained mostly to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq, an autonomous region that - quite handily – is also exporting oil to Israel (the KRG angrily denies it.)

By all practical purposes, Kurdish Peshmergas are now also in control of heavily disputed, oil-rich Kirkuk – after the ignominious withdrawal of Baghdad’s predominantly Shi’ite army as ISIS was advancing. The wily KRG president Masoud Barzani has been adamant; “We will bring all of our forces to preserve Kirkuk.

Talk about being handed over The Big Prize on a plate; the KRG has been trying to control Kirkuk by all means necessary since the 2003 Shock and Awe. In any future scenario Kirkuk would be the absolutely fabulous gas station fueling the wealth of a prosperous Kurdish nation. Baghdad is confronted with yet another quagmire.

It’s no secret in the “Middle East” that Tel Aviv and the Kurds have had a fruitful working relationship – in military, intel and business terms - since the 1960s. It’s a no brainer Israel would instantly recognize a possible new Kurdish nation-state. No wonder Israeli President Shimon Peres, also this week, told US President Barack Obama, “the Kurds have, de facto, created their own state, which is democratic. One of the signs of a democracy is the granting of equality to women.

At least they are not Arabs

So why this sudden interest in the welfare of Kurdish women? Something fishy is afoot. Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal is heavily peddling Kurdish independence. What is Tel Aviv really up to here? The consensus narrative in Israeli media is that Kurdish independence is “good for Israel” because Kurds, well, they are not Arabs, Persians or Turks. Kurdistan – at least Iraqi Kurdistan – is seen by Tel Aviv as a “non-hostile entity” that, crucially, is not exactly touched by the plight of the Palestinians. 

From a strictly Israeli point of view, Kurds are regarded as moderate, secular Muslims who have been victims – and that’s the key operative notion – of Arab chauvinism, be it on nationalist or hardcore Islamist terms. At least in theory, Kurds won’t antagonize the notion of “Jewish self-determination.”

And even more crucially, projecting ahead, a Greater Kurdistan would be the ideal buffer state acting in tandem with larger Israeli strategic interests; in one go, it would simultaneously amputate Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Even an independent Iraqi Kurdistan would be not only the proverbial “friend of Israel” but also a viable, prosperous state; Irbil, for instance, even though it is not Arab, wants to market itself as the Arab Capital of Tourism. And all this in a region Tel Aviv regards – paranoia included – as a basket case of failed states. What’s not to like?

Ankara’s double game

So expect from now on all sorts of made-in-the-shade moves by Israel to advance the Balkanization of Iraq into a Sunni state, a Shiite state and an Iraqi Kurdistan. There’s no question the KRG has been for all practical purposes independent since the First Gulf War in 1991 – boasting its own military (the Peshmerga) and now its own (Baghdad-contested) oil exports.

Yet the whole saga is also overloaded with myth – such as the supposedly irreconcilable gulf between Arabs and Kurds in Iraq. For nearly 10 years there has not been a single credible poll stating that the majority of Iraqi Kurds want independence. As much as there’s a yearning for independence, Kurds are also part of the government in Baghdad.

True, the KRG has brokered an uneasy truce between the Turkish government and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). But the Kurdish question in both Syria and Turkey is way more complex. Syrian Kurds have been enjoying a much larger degree of autonomy after a deal with Damascus – although they have refrained, for the moment, from demanding an independent state in Syria. Iraqi Kurds are busy helping them – from experience – in their autonomous ways.

The Kurdish question has become increasingly explosive as the Empire of Chaos preferred Divide and Rule strategy of pitting Sunnis against Shi’ites has metamorphosed into the ISIS blitzkrieg. Disaffected young Kurds in Turkey – incited by Saudi religious rhetoric, weaponizing and cash – have been particularly attracted to the Syrian jihad. Funerals in predominant Kurdish areas across Anatolia for ISIS jihadis always draw large crowds – and are the perfect recruiting opportunity for ISIS operatives.

This is only happening because – as many Kurds insist – the AKP is looking the other way. Picture the scene of a jihadi free flow in the Turkish-Syrian border at a minimum tolerated by Ankara (because it is anti-Assad) – but with the added complicating factor that ISIS in Syria is also fighting Syrian Kurds. And a lot of ISIS weaponizing also comes straight from Turkey.

The Holy Grail for Ankara is to prevent by all means necessary Turkish Kurd demands for autonomy. Their only plan so far has been to blame Syrian Kurds for their links with the PKK.

All this happens within a booming trade scenario; over 70 percent of the annual, $12 billion trade between Iraq and Turkey circulates via Iraqi Kurdistan, where over 1,500 Turkish firms are in business. It’s a contradiction pile up: Ankara in theory supports the KRG, but would never dream of supporting more autonomous Syrian and Turkish Kurds.

What’s certain is that wishful thinking – from Tel Aviv to Washington – will keep permeating calculations about the Kurdish question, as in assuming Turkey will be allowed accession to the EU (it won’t) and thus Kurdistan will be the EU’s de facto eastern border. Bordering what? A Sunnistan across the Levant? Over the Pentagon’s collective dead body, of course.

What Big Oil in the US – and also Israel – sees, most of all, is the mirage of a Western-friendly major oil exporter in the long run. That’s why Balkanization sounds so juicy. This has nothing to do with the welfare of the historically wronged Kurdish people. It’s hardcore business. And yet another Divide and Rule power play. Expect plenty of hardcore moves ahead.


ISIS, oil and war

Smoke rises from the the Baiji oil refinery in northern Iraq, 19 June 2014. Workers were evacuated from Iraq's key Baiji refinery, local sources said, as it remained unclear who was actually in control of the plant which accounts for almost a third of the country's refining capacity. Baiji has been the scene of intermittent fighting since the jihadist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) launched its attack against Iraqi government forces last week, seizing the northern city of Mosul and a string of towns stretching south towards Baghdad. EPA/STR +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

ISIS militants are selling oil from their conquered territories, further fueling tensions in the region. This has caused uncertainty on the world market, but could also lead to a drop in global oil prices. First al-Omar and now al-Tanak: The extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been making substantial and rapid progress in its conquest of major Syrian oil fields. Together with an Iraqi oil field captured at the end of June, the militants have taken control of wide development areas on both sides of the Syria-Iraq border. And on Thursday (03.07.2014), ISIS reportedly began selling oil out of Iraq.

Since ISIS is unable to sell the oil through legitimate channels, it has taken to the black market. According to news reports, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has accused ISIS of selling oil to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Obviously, the militants are aiming to achieve the highest possible revenue in order to prepare themselves for upcoming conflicts.

"ISIS militants are selling the oil to anyone who is interested," said the governor of the northern Iraqi town of Tuz Khormato, speaking with Turkish news agency Anadolu. "They need the money for weapons and ammunition."

The oil sales could contribute to further chaos in the war-torn region. With the oil, the Assad regime would be able to fill up its tanks and send them against the insurgents. And with the money it gets from the sale of the oil, ISIS would be able to further finance its conquest in Syria and Iraq. It's a big risk for the regime in Damascus, as the ISIS militants will only be temporary partners with the Assad regime. They're not concerned with keeping Assad in power. Their goal is to further expand the area of their recently declared caliphate, which already extends from Iraq through Syria to the Turkish border. And in Iraq, ISIS is planning to extend its territory to the south.

Impact on the oil market

The al-Omar oil field has been in the hands of the jihadists since last November. At the time it was conquered by the al-Nusra front, which has since ceded it to ISIS. Since that time, militants have extracted around 10,000 barrels of oil a day. The most recent ISIS conquests have not only contributed to escalating violence in the region, but have also triggered uncertainty on the international oil market. In May, the International Energy Agency listed Iraq as one of the most important future oil exporters. By 2035, the agency said it expected an annual output of 9 million barrels from Iraq, nearly three times the currently extracted 3.3 million barrels, turning the country into an even greater oil exporter than Saudi Arabia.

But these lofty expectations have since been dashed with the triumph of ISIS. Militants are still able to celebrate their high revenues from oil sales, but under ISIS there are unlikely to be many oil exploration companies willing to invest in Iraq. Even today, according to a recent article in "The Wall Street Journal" by U.S. political scientists Gal Luft and Robert McFarlane, only 15 percent of the investment in new oil fields is currently being invested in the Middle East. "With Iraq sinking deeper into protracted civil war, investment will fall even more, creating fuel shortages down the road," they wrote.

Iran, the beneficiary

Iraq's largest oil fields, in the south and thus in a Shiite-controlled area, are not yet seriously threatened. Nevertheless, the rise of ISIS could still lead to further uncertainty in the international oil market. The fight against ISIS will then only be successful if Iran is involved, said Paul Stevens, an economist with the British think tank Chatham House. In fact, Iran also has a strong vested interest in preventing the birth of a radical Sunni caliphate on its northwestern border. Nevertheless, Iran should expect a certain compromise from the international community for its commitment, and developments in Iraq have made an agreement almost mandatory, said Stevens. This could also include the lifting of sanctions, "enabling Iran to open its extraction and production facilities to much-needed investment."

New role for Saudi Arabia

This new shift toward Iran is likely to spook a current partner of the West: Saudi Arabia. If Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki remains in office and - thanks to help from Iran - is able to hold off ISIS, Saudi Arabia, the leader of the Sunni Muslims, would have to adjust to a strong Shiite presence on its northern borders. And the Saudis have had little to say about the recent American-Iranian rapprochement, said Stevens. One possible response would be to lower oil prices, something that Saudi Arabia would be able to implement immediately - to the benefit of buyers on the international market. "That would hurt both Iran and Iraq, both of which are in need of immediate income," said Stevens.

Is Russia Replacing US in Iraq?

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Thursday told BBC Arabic that he was buying used fighter jets from the Russian Federation and from Belorussia. He said it had been a huge mistake to depend on the US for arms purchases, since the US arms pipeline is extremely slow and F-16 fighter jets ordered some time ago still have not arrived.

Al-Maliki was likely also reacting to the attempt of US President Barack Obama to strong arm him into resigning from his office in favor of a national salvation government. Al-Maliki is widely blamed for the debacle of the past few weeks, in which he has lost a third of his country to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Al-Maliki’s stubborn sectarianism and inability to work with Sunni Arabs pushed them over the edge. Al-Maliki’s narrative is rather different. He maintains that his troops in the north and west lacked close air support because of American foot-dragging on weapons already paid for. Al-Maliki maintains that the jets can be in Iraq withing 3 days, and can be deployed in bombing raids on ISIS positions in the north.

Al-Maliki also portrays the idea of a unity government as anti-democratic, since it sets aside such issues as which party won the most seats.

Determined to stay as prime minister for another four years, al-Maliki is seeking to accomplish several things at once. He wants to do an end run around Obama so as to avoid succumbing to American pressure to resign. He wants to impress Iraqi parliamentarians with his external contacts such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, so that they might support a third term for him. And practically speaking he wants to adopt the Syrian Baath’s model of dealing with ISIS, which is to bomb them intensively, both aerially and by artillery, even at the risk of extensively damaging the local urban environment and killing and making refugees of millions. That he is even talking about this strategy publicly is probably meant as a threat with which to menace Mosul.

Al-Maliki has changed geopolitical positions quite a lot in a decade. He had been bureau chief of the covert Da’wa Party in Damascus in the 1980s and 1990s and formed a deep dislike of the Syrian regime. When he first became prime minister in 2006, al-Maliki blamed all the bombings and violence in Baghdad on the Syrian government. Then after the Syrian attempted revolution and accomplished civil war, al-Maliki switched around and began supporting Bashar al-Assad, in fear of ISIS moving back from conquests in Syria to Iraq (he was prescient).

As for Russia, its predecessor the Soviet Union had been the patron of the Iraqi Baath Party in the 1970s and forward. The Kennedy and Johnson administrations had conspired with the Baath Party. In return for building it up, the Baath would crush the Iraqi communist party, of which American officials were universally afraid.

But after the Baath failed coup of 1963, it bided its time and in 1968 made a definitive coup. From the early 70s the Baath government allied with the Soviets rather than with the US (joining Syria, Libya, the PLO and others in the Steadfastness Front in the face of Israeli expansionism).

The Soviet patronage of Baathist Iraqis lasted until the Gulf War in 1990-91. Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev tried to mediate a bit, but in the end acquiesced in Bush senior’s war on Iraq. Just as Putin has recovered the Syrian government as a client, so Putin seems to want to recover Iraq.

Putin is in a good position to pick up Iraq. Putin is consistent, hating the ISIS in Syria as much or more than the one in Iraq. Russia has fighter jets and helicopter gunships of sufficient firepower to hold ISIS at bay. Geopolitically, Russia is relatively close to Iran (Maliki’s backer as of 2010), as well as to al-Maliki’s ally, Bashar al-Assad. 

Al-Maliki’s apparent desire to mimic the Syrian Baath Party’s tactics is misguided. The  Syrian regime’s extensive shelling of Homs has reduced it to rubble. Al-Maliki told the BBC he had not asked Syria to bomb the ISIS positions at the Qa’im border crossing, but added that it was perfectly all right with him for foreign nations to bomb his own. The Yeltsin approach to Chechnya comes to mind.


Israel: Hezbollah is now stronger than any Arab army

Israel's top military officer warned today that Hezbollah's capabilities have grown substantially since the 2006 war, putting much of Israel within the reach of the Lebanese Shiite militant organization.

Israel’s top military officer warned today that Hezbollah is more powerful than most of the world’s armies and that a confrontation between Israel and the Lebanese Shiite militant organization was a near certainty.  While the threat posed by conventional Arab armies has diminished in recent years, Israel now faces highly mobile enemies like Hezbollah, skilled in asymmetric warfare and equipped with advanced weapons systems, Gen. Benny Gantz said. However, the massive destruction Israel can inflict on Hezbollah’s assets and Lebanon’s infrastructure continues to deter Hezbollah from overt aggression against Israel.

“Bring me four or five states that have more firepower than Hezbollah: Russia, China, Israel, France, and England,” he told Israel’s annual security-oriented Herzliya Conference. “What is this enormous power that they [Hezbollah] have that can cover every area of the state of Israel?”  

Gantz’s comments reflect Israel's longstanding concern about Hezbollah’s growing might, which has soared in terms of weaponry, technology, and personnel since the two enemies last fought each other in open war in 2006.  Last week, an anonymous Israeli intelligence officer wrote in Israel’s Maarachot military magazine that in the next war, Hezbollah would not merely defend against an Israeli invasion but could make a “ground offensive and multi-pronged attack on Israeli territory."

In the past eight years, the Iran-backed group is believed to have acquired GPS-guided Syrian-manufactured missiles fitted with 1,100-pound warheads with ranges of at least 150 miles. That puts Tel Aviv within range of the Lebanese border. It also has drones that can carry dozens of pounds of explosive. In October 2012, a drone operated by Hezbollah penetrated Israeli airspace in the south before being detected and shot down by Israeli jets.

Hezbollah’s reconnaissance and communications capabilities have also improved. Fighters serving in Syria use thermal imaging cameras to monitor rebel movements and prepare ambushes, including one in February that killed 175 rebel fighters near Otaiba, east of Damascus. It has built a few dozen training camps across the Bekaa Valley in recent years to process the steady influx of new recruits.  But the most significant change may be the crucial combat experience Hezbollah's cadres have gained from fighting in Syria's war on behalf of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Hezbollah is credited with helping turn the tide against the rebel forces in the past year, granting Mr. Assad the confidence to hold a presidential election last week that saw him earn his third seven-year term in office in a poll widely derided by the Syrian opposition and the West.

“Iran is investing a lot in Hezbollah in Syria.... Hezbollah is involved up to their necks in it,” Gantz said. It is fortunate for Israel that Hezbollah's attention is divided between domestic politics, military preparations against Israel, and its intervention in Syria, Gantz said. Fear of a damaging war has served as a mutual deterrence. “Hezbollah is like a state and they know exactly what is going to happen in Lebanon if they start a war with us, and that this would set Lebanon back decades,” he said. 

Despite that, tensions rose in February and March after an Israeli airstrike on a Hezbollah facility in the Bekaa Valley. The target was a 2,450-sq.-ft. utility building, possibly a temporary arms storage facility, beside a track used by Hezbollah to smuggle weapons into Lebanon from neighboring Syria, according to comparisons of satellite imagery on Google Earth.  It was the first Israeli air attack against Hezbollah in Lebanon since 2006. In response, Hezbollah detonated a roadside bomb against Israeli troops on Lebanon’s southern border. It is also thought responsible for staging three other attacks against soldiers in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, wounding four.

‘US hegemony in world has ended’: Russia’s deputy security chief

The deputy head of Russia’s supreme security body says US international dominance is being replaced by multiple centers of power. He urged a global agreement on the results of the Cold War, warning that the world could otherwise become engulfed in chaos.

The United States has an impression that the breakup of the Soviet Union was the only result of the Cold War. This is arguable, and this is possible. But no one has attempted to analyze the results or make any conclusions from the situation. The unipolar world headed by Americans simply appeared,” Evgeny Lukyanov told the RIA Novosti.

However, this status quo was not built to last. New power centers have appeared on the international arena, including the BRICS nations, and Russia itself has managed to regain its stance. Nations openly declare their interests and demand respect to their basic rights. This is how the US hegemony on the international arena has ended and of course Washington officials cannot agree with this,” the Russian official stated.

Lukyanov emphasized in the interview that the USSR was no more.

Russia is a different state, a participant of international processes and we want to have a say, we have national interests which we intend to defend,” he said. “This caused the West to overreact, on the verge of hysteria. But you cannot ignore the ‘Russia factor’ in the world,” the official added.

Lukyanov told reporters that all nations should gather and reach an agreement finalizing the Cold War. He suggested that it is done at a global congress of all major players and said that the only existing organization for such task is the UN and its Security Council.

Otherwise, we will have no rules of the game, no agreements. Violations will happen without concrete obligations, and the world will become less manageable and more chaotic,” he said.

Lukyanov also touched upon the current situation in Ukraine and mentioned that US advisors were actively helping the Kiev regime.

I am talking about intelligence specialists and people from US power structures. Of course, these people do not limit themselves to advice, they are developing a strategic line that the authorities are following strictly in making their decisions,” he noted.

The official also recalled that Russia also used US advisors during the reforms of the early ’90s and said that the results of this cooperation could be a warning to everyone who decides to repeat it.

He also said that it was unlikely that Kiev officials could establish order while using mercenaries from private military companies, such as Greystone Limited. German press has reported earlier that about 400 contractors from US private security firms were taking part in the Ukrainian military operation against anti-government protesters in southeastern regions of the country.


Heritage Foundation: Countering Russian-Iranian Military Cooperation

April 05, 2001

Iranian President Mohammed Khatami's recent visit to Russia resulted in expanded strategic cooperation between the two states, particularly in the areas of weapons and nuclear and ballistic missile technology. Iran already is the third largest importer of Russian arms after China and India.1 A new de facto alliance between Russia and Iran that increases Tehran's military capabilities will make this sponsor of terrorism more of a threat to vital U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf as well as to the security of America's allies in the Middle East. Moreover, by gaining nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and other advanced weapons systems, Iran could one day threaten the United States directly.

Nevertheless, Moscow has ignored Washington's repeated protests over the proliferation of its advanced weaponry and technology to Iran, particularly technology that could be used in producing weapons of mass destruction (WMD). For these reasons, Khatami's visit to Moscow on March 12-15 and the agreement by Iranian officials to buy state-of-the-art Russian surface-to-air missile defense systems have greatly increased concerns in Washington over this close relationship. On March 19, Secretary of State Colin Powell issued a warning to both Russia and Iran that the United States would closely watch their military cooperation and would take unspecified action if their activities threatened to destabilize the Middle East.2

Rhetoric alone will not be enough to deter cooperation between Iran and Russia. The Bush Administration will need to employ an array of military, diplomatic, and economic measures to slow Iran's strategic buildup of weapons, deal with its radical Islamic regime, and prevent further deterioration of U.S. relations with Russia. The Administration should proceed cautiously but deliberately to:
* Maintain a strong U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf to deter and defend against Iranian aggression or terrorism;

* Ensure that no U.S. enterprises or government credits contribute to Iran's buildup of missiles or development of weapons of mass destruction;

* Prevent American investors from subsidizing Russian projects that generate revenue for the Iranian government that could be used to purchase advanced military technology;

* Task the interagency WMD working group at the National Security Council with designing a strategy for sanctioning Russia and Iran because of their proliferation activities;

* Support the rescheduling of Russia's $150 billion debt to the Paris Club only in exchange for Moscow's active cooperation in cutting the flow of advanced military technology to Iran and other states;

* Accelerate the development of sea-based missile defense systems to be deployed in the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf;

* Strengthen U.S. military ties to the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, and encourage the council's members to form a more effective military alliance; and

* Assist the Iranian people in their quest to achieve genuine democracy.

Concerns over Russia's increasing military ties with Iran, especially in the area of weapons proliferation, have grown since 1994 when senior Iranian officials first took steps to establish relations with Russian bureaucrats in charge of nuclear and missile programs in the post-Soviet military-industrial complex. Up to $25 million changed hands to facilitate Tehran's access to Russian advanced technology.3

After intensive consultations, Vice President Al Gore and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on June 30, 1995, signed a confidential agreement that was supposed to limit Moscow's sales of arms to Iran. Russia agreed to supply only weapons specified under the 1989 Soviet-Iranian military agreements and promised not to deliver advanced conventional or "destabilizing" weapons to Iran. Finally, Russia agreed not to sell any weapons to Iran beyond December 31, 1999.4

With sales exceeding $4 billion between 1992 and 2000, however, Iran is now the third largest customer for Russian weapons. Among the systems Russia supplied to Iran in the 1990s are three Kilo-class attack submarines, which could be used to disrupt shipping in the Gulf; eight MiG-29 fighter bombers; 10 Su-24 fighter bombers; and hundreds of tanks and armored personnel carriers.5

In addition, the Russian Ministry of Nuclear Industry and affiliated firms may have transferred uranium enrichment technology to Iran while building a civilian nuclear reactor slated for completion in 2003 in the Gulf port of Bushehr.6 This technology is necessary in the development of nuclear bombs. Moscow has facilitated the sale of technology to Iran that is used in the manufacture of the Soviet-era SS-4 intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) and has helped Iran to develop its Shahab-3 IRBM, which has a range of 1,200 kilometers and is capable of hitting targets throughout the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and Israel.7

Cooperation between Moscow and Tehran increased after the election of President Vladimir Putin last spring and Moscow's November 2000 renunciation of the 1995 Gore-Chernomyrdin Agreement.8 Anticipating lucrative arms sales, a large number of Russian hard-line politicians and generals have endorsed Russia's rapprochement with the Islamic Republic.9 For its part, Tehran sees Russia as a valuable source of military technology that Western states have declined to provide since Iran's 1979 revolution.10

A Boost from Official State Visits

Khatami's state visit to Moscow reciprocated the visit of Russian Defense Minister Marshal Igor Sergeev to Tehran in December 2000. Sergeev's visit, in addition to being a major breakthrough in the military relationship between the two governments, was the first visit by a Russian defense minister to the Islamic Republic since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini seized power in 1979.

During his visit to Iran, the former commander of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces toured Iranian aerospace, electronics, and missile facilities and consulted with top Iranian leaders on strategic cooperation in the Middle East and Central Asia.11 Sergeev and his Iranian counterpart discussed a 10-year arms and military technology program worth over $3 billion that would include training for Iranian military officers and engineers at Russian military academies. The representatives agreed that their governments would consult each other on "military doctrines, common challenges and threats," effectively bringing the status of their bilateral ties to that of an informal alliance.12 Sergeev bluntly rejected U.S. concerns about the relationship, telling the Iranian media upon his arrival in that state that "Russia...intends to pursue its own ends."13

During President Khatami's visit to Russia last month, Putin reiterated that stance, stating that Russia has the right to defend itself.14 Iranian officials toured a Russian missile factory and agreed to buy Osa and TOR-M1 surface-to-air missiles, which have missile defense capabilities. Khatami also toured a nuclear reactor plant in St. Petersburg and signaled that his country would buy another reactor from Russia. Since Iran already controls some of the world's largest natural gas reserves, the need for two nuclear reactors--at a cost of $1.8 billion--is questionable at best. The reactors could provide cover for a clandestine nuclear weapons program, which could make use of Iranian scientists who currently are studying nuclear physics and ballistic rocketry in Russia and the more than 500 Russian experts currently working in Iran on supposedly peaceful applications of nuclear science.


Moscow has two strategic goals in pursuing a military relationship with Iran: keeping its own military-industrial complex solvent and building a coalition in Eurasia to counterbalance U.S. military superiority. Russia has found in Iran a large, oil-rich customer for its military-industrial complex, which supports over 2 million jobs. Russian leaders hoped the export revenues would allow them to save the research and development capabilities and technology base they inherited from the Soviet Union that could be used to develop new major weapons systems for the Russian armed forces and foreign customers. To achieve economies of scale, however, Russia needs access to large arms markets, such as China, India, and Iran.

The state-owned arms exporter, Rosoboronexport, is pursuing such former Soviet clients in the Middle East as Algeria, Libya, and Syria and is developing markets for arms in Latin America and East Asia, from Malaysia to Vietnam. Senior Russian officials reportedly have taken bribes from foreign customers anxious to gain access to Russia's sensitive technologies.15 Moreover, direct payments from foreign customers are often put in offshore bank accounts, from which some funds find their way into private pockets.

More worrisome for U.S. policy planners is the geopolitical dimension of Russian-Iranian rapprochement. In early 1997, then-Foreign Minister Evgeny Primakov and his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Velayati, issued a joint statement calling the U.S. presence in the Persian Gulf "totally unacceptable." Primakov sought to build a Eurasian counterbalance to the Euro-Atlantic alliance, which would be based on a coalition that included Russia, China, India, and Iran.16 Such efforts make it likely that the United States and its allies will be the target of Russian-Iranian military cooperation in the future.

The Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic cooperate over a broad range of policy issues, with military ties being an important aspect of relations between the two countries. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Iran has refrained from actively promoting its brand of Islamic radicalism in the former Soviet republics. Despite fashioning itself as defender of all Muslims, Tehran did little when the Russian military slaughtered tens of thousands of Muslim civilians in the first Chechen war (1994-1996), and it put forth only weak protestations against Moscow's excessive use of force in the second Chechen war (1999-2001). Moscow and Tehran also have cooperated against Afghanistan's radical Taliban regime by supporting the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance opposition coalition; support Armenia rather than the pro-Turkish, pro-Western Azerbaijan; and oppose a "western" route for exporting oil from the Caspian Sea basin through Georgia to Turkey.

Some Russian officials, however, recognize that cooperation with Iran has its limits. As arms control expert Alexei Arbatov, Deputy Chairman of the Duma Defense Committee, has warned, technology transfers to Iran may backfire. Within 10 to 15 years, he predicts, Russian technology could be used by radical Islamic terrorists or in Iranian, Algerian, Saudi, Egyptian, and Libyan missiles and other weapons aimed at Russia.17


Iran's military buildup poses direct threats to U.S. interests in the Middle East.18 Iran has long aspired to play a dominant role in the Middle East and the Islamic world. Under the late Shah as well as the current radical Islamic leadership, Iran has sought to build its military capabilities and its ability to defend itself against Iraq. However, its aspirations go beyond legitimate self-defense. Islamic militants in Iran make little effort to hide the fact that they want to destroy the United States and its ally, Israel.

For example, senior Iranian officials, including the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, repeatedly have denied Israel's right to exist. In a 1998 parade in Tehran, a Shahab-3 missile carrier prominently displayed an inscription that read, "Israel should be wiped off the map."19 By opposing Arab-Israeli peace negotiations and maintaining a militant anti-Israeli posture, Tehran hopes to build support for its leadership role in the Arab and Muslim world. Iran also backs the Hezballah (Party of God) terrorist organization that is based in Lebanon.

A more aggressive, nuclear Iran would cause further political instability that could lead to high oil prices, which would benefit both Russia and Iran as oil exporters. Moreover, a nuclear- and missile-armed Iran could well present a serious challenge to America's allies and major oil exporters in the Gulf. Iran could use its missile capabilities to blackmail the West, deter the United States and its allies from deploying forces to defend oil shipping routes, or deny the U.S. Navy access to the Gulf itself.

According to Admiral Thomas R. Wilson, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Tehran is "not unlikely" to re-export the sensitive Russian technology for weapons of mass destruction it obtains to militant Muslim regimes or terrorist groups in other countries, from Algeria to Sudan.20 If America's efforts to limit the proliferation of weapons and weapons technologies from China, Russia, and other countries to Iran fail, the United States will have little recourse but to impose sanctions on the violators and take other measures to punish countries that proliferate weapons of mass destruction.


The Bush Administration faces many challenges in dealing with the issue of strategic military cooperation between Russia and Iran. It inherited an ineffective policy from the Clinton Administration, which attempted to reason with Russia to limit arms proliferation to Iran. Although the United States spent $5 billion to secure Russia's nuclear arsenal, Moscow still sold its sensitive nuclear and ballistic technology to China, Iran, and other states of concern. In addition, American companies paid Russia $2 billion for commercial satellite launches authorized by the Clinton White House as compensation for Moscow's agreement to give up its arms trade with Tehran.21 Finally, President Clinton waived congressionally mandated sanctions against the suppliers of weapons and military technology to countries that support terrorism.

Congress attempted to limit the damage from these ill-advised Clinton Administration policies by imposing sanctions on companies that do business in Iran. In 1998, Congress overwhelmingly passed the Iran Missile Proliferation Sanctions Act (H.R. 2709) sponsored by Representative Benjamin Gilman (R-NY), chairman of the House International Relations Committee.22 The act mandated that the President report to Congress when there is credible information that a foreign entity has transferred any technology that is governed by the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). All licensed exports, sales of defense items, and U.S. government financial assistance to that entity would then be terminated. However, President Clinton vetoed that legislation in June 1998. Instead, he issued Executive Order 12938 to assign penalties to companies that provide assistance to nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs.23

Nevertheless, Congress insisted on stronger steps and passed the Iran Nonproliferation Act (P.L. 106-178), which was signed into law on March 14, 2000. This law authorizes, rather than mandates, the President to impose sanctions on Russian entities that assist Iran's missile or weapons of mass destruction programs. These sanctions include a ban on U.S. government procurement from or contracts with the entity, a ban on U.S. assistance to the entity, a ban on U.S. sales to the entity of any defense articles or services, and a denial of U.S. licenses for exports to the entity of items that can have military applications.

The Clinton Administration's counter-proliferation policy was too little, too late. It has neither limited the willingness of states or companies to sell advanced technology to Iran nor stopped the flow of forbidden items and technicians. Until the regime in Tehran abandons its anti-American stance or the Iranian people replace it with a democratic government, tensions between Iran and the United States and its allies are likely to remain high.

To staunch the transfer of Russian weapons and missile technology to Iran, the United States should develop a counter-proliferation policy that is deliberate, vigilant, and aggressive. Specifically, it should:

* Maintain a strong U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf to deter and defend against military threats from Iran. Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran has targeted Arab monarchies in the Persian Gulf with terrorism and subversion. It has sought to intimidate smaller neighbors with periodic naval exercises and has seized three islands claimed by the United Arab Emirates. To deter Iran from aggression and protect the free flow of oil exports, the United States must maintain a robust naval presence in the Gulf. As long as the United States stands by its allies, the chances of attack from Iran are low. A vigilant and robust naval presence in the Gulf would deter Iranian aggression, reassure nervous Arab states that the United States is committed to peace in the region, and help contain Iraq. The United States currently has deployed forces in Kuwait, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia, and it has pre-positioned military equipment in Qatar. The United States should deploy as few ground troops as necessary in the region to avoid a political backlash that Iran, Iraq, or local anti-Western movements could exploit. U.S. naval forces should limit their time in port and restrict refueling and resupply operations to only the most secure facilities to reduce their vulnerability to terrorist attack.

* Ensure that U.S. enterprises and government credits do not contribute in any way to Iran's buildup of missiles or weapons of mass destruction programs. The United States should expand sanctions against Russian companies and institutions that help Iran build missiles or that transfer weapons technology. They should be forced to choose between trading with America or aiding Iran. Under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-132), the President can withhold U.S. aid to any country that provides assistance to a government that the State Department deems a terrorist state. Iran has been on the U.S. terrorism list since 1984, and the State Department lists it as the most active state sponsor of international terrorism in its April 2000 Patterns of Global Terrorism report.24 Finally, the Administration should suspend all Export-Import Bank and Overseas Private Investment Corporation insurance and credits to U.S. companies that do business with Russian entities that are linked to Iran's military build-up activities.

* Prevent U.S. investors from subsidizing Russian projects that could generate revenue for Iran, which Tehran could use to obtain advanced military technology. Russian companies investing in Iran should not be allowed to raise capital in U.S. financial markets. The Securities and Exchange Commission should deny U.S. investors access to Russian companies that do business in Iran. Such investment, particularly in Iran's energy sector, would generate revenue for Tehran that could be used to buy military technology and weapons systems from foreign suppliers. U.S. sanctions under the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (P.L. 104-172) penalize companies that invest over $20 million in Iran's oil industry. However, these measures should be amended and expanded when the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act comes up for renewal later this year. For example, the waiver provisions should be toughened by excluding a presidential waiver for any company from a country that sells arms or nuclear equipment to Iran. Russian government-controlled companies, such as the natural gas monopoly Gazprom, should not be allowed to raise funds from U.S. investors for energy schemes in Iran, since they could fund its military buildup and ultimately could be used to threaten U.S. interests in the region.

* Task the interagency WMD working group at the National Security Council with designing a strategy for sanctioning Russia and Iran because of their proliferation activities. In the past, Congress has taken the lead in mandating sanctions against proliferators of WMD and related technologies. These sanctions, however, were narrowly focused on U.S. assistance or trade in goods and services, and have proven ineffective in stopping proliferation. A new approach by the Administration is necessary. The intelligence community should be tasked with a comprehensive assessment of the ongoing technology transfer and weapons programs, and with providing recommendations identifying "choking points" that are vulnerable to sanctions.

The current WMD working group at the NSC should be tasked with developing a sanctions strategy that targets Russian and Iranian officials, businesses, and individuals involved in the proliferation of WMD technologies, materiel, or know-how, as well as their sources of financing. This strategy could include restrictions on access to U.S. capital markets, scrutiny of international investment and banking activities by violators, and stricter visa controls for the individuals involved. The working group should include representatives from the Department of State; the Department of Defense; the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN) and U.S. Customs Service within the Department of the Treasury; and (to control the visa regime for officials and business executives) the Immigration and Naturalization Service within the Department of Justice.

* Support the rescheduling of Russia's $150 billion debt to the Paris Club only in exchange for its active cooperation in cutting the flow of advanced military technology to Iran. The Administration should make clear that it opposes further rescheduling of Russian debt to the Paris Club as long as Moscow continues to export dangerous military technology to Iran. If Russia were to cooperate in stopping the flow of weapons technology to Iran, Washington should support debt rescheduling with full disclosure of past transactions. Disclosure of other proliferation activities, such as Russia's sales of advanced nuclear and ballistic missile technology to China and rogue states like Iraq, should also be included in any deal on debt rescheduling.

* Accelerate the deployment of sea-based missile defense systems on U.S. ships in the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. Washington should cooperate with Israel and Turkey in the Mediterranean region and the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to deploy a sea-based anti-ballistic missile system, the upgraded Navy Theater Wide (NTW) program, on U.S. ships. Once deployed, such a system would blunt the emerging threat of Iranian missile attack and bolster the ability of America's allies in the region to withstand Tehran's attempts at intimidation.

* Strengthen U.S. military ties with the Gulf Cooperation Council to help it become a more effective military alliance. Washington should assist the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council--Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates--in transforming their loose collective security arrangement into an effective military alliance. It can do so by expanding joint military exercises and defense planning; assuring the continuous stockpiling of military supplies in the region; helping the GCC members to integrate their command, control, and communications networks; and assisting them in coordinating their military training programs. The Gulf states should speed up execution of the Cooperative Defense Initiative to enhance interoperability. They also should improve control of airspace over the Gulf by accelerating work on an integrated civilian-military air traffic control system. Bolstering the GCC would lessen Iran's ability to intimidate its weaker neighbors and would enhance efforts to contain both Iran and Iraq.

* Assist the Iranian people in their quest to achieve genuine democracy. Despite the reform efforts of President Khatami, the current regime under Ayatollah Ali Khamanei remains a harsh dictatorship of radical Islamic ideologues. The Bush Administration should work with U.S. allies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to expose the regime's human rights violations. It should support the creation of an international network of NGOs concerned with the plight of Iranian students, businessmen, national and ethnic minorities, and women, the main supporters of reform who voted for President Khatami in 1997 and for reformers during the 2000 parliamentary elections. Washington should help Iranians gain access to uncensored information by expanding the broadcasting range and frequencies of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Voice of America. This strategy, implemented under President Ronald Reagan in Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe, proved highly successful. Applied to Iran, it could lead to the ascendancy of democratic forms of government and leadership.


Russian assistance to Iran in developing ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction increasingly threatens U.S. interests, U.S. forces, and U.S. allies in the Middle East. Should Iran develop a nuclear arsenal, it could use it to deny the United States access to strategically important Persian Gulf shipping lanes and to interfere with the export of oil, wreaking havoc in global energy markets. In the longer term, it could use its missiles to threaten U.S. territory directly. The Administration must develop a comprehensive strategy that relies on pro-active diplomacy, creative economic countermeasures, and innovative military responses to address this growing threat from Iran.


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Dear reader,

Arevordi has taken a sabbatical of sorts. New blog commentaries will henceforth be posted on an irregular basis. The comment board however will continue to be moderated on a regular basis. You are therefore welcome to post your comments and ideas.

I have come to see the Russian nation as the last front on earth against the scourges of Westernization, Americanization, Globalism, Zionism, Islamic extremism and pan-Turkism. I have also come to see Russia as the last hope humanity has for the preservation of classical western/European civilization, ethnic cultures, Apostolic Christianity and the traditional nation-state. These sobering realizations compelled me to create this blog in 2010. This blog quickly became one of the very few voices in the vastness of Cyberia that dared to preach about the dangers of Globalism and the Anglo-American-Jewish alliance, and perhaps the only voice preaching about the strategic importance of Armenia's close ties to the Russian nation. From about 2010 to 2015, I did monthly, at times weekly, commentaries about Russian-Armenian relations and Eurasian geopolitics in general. It was very difficult for me as I had no assistance in this endeavor. The time I put into this blog therefore came at the expense of work and family. But a powerful feeling, dare I say voice, inside me urged me to keep going; and I did.

When Armenia finally joined the EEU and fully integrated its armed forces into Russia's military structures by 2015, I finally felt a deep sense of satisfaction and relief, as if a very heavy burden was lifted off my shoulders. I finally felt that my personal mission was accomplished. I therefore felt I could take a step back, as I really needed the rest. Simply put: I have lived to see the institutionalization of Armenia's alliance with Russia. Today, no man, no political party is capable of driving a wedge between Armenia and Russia. That danger has passed. Anglo-American-Jewish agenda in Armenia failed. And I feel satisfied knowing that at least on a subatomic level I had a hand in the outcome. I therefore no longer have the urge to continue in the same pace as in the past. In other words, the motivational force that had propelled me in previous years has dissipating because I feel that this blog has lived to see the realization of its stated goal.

Going forward, I do not want to write merely for the sake of writing. I do not want to say anything if I have nothing important to say. I feel like I have said everything I needed to say.

To limit clutter in the comments section, I kindly ask all participants of this blog to please keep comments coherent and strictly relevant to the featured topic of discussion. Moreover, please realize that when there are several "anonymous" visitors posting comments simultaneously, it becomes very confusing (not to mention extremely annoying) trying to figure out who is who and who said what. Therefore, if you are here to engage in conversation, make an observation, express an idea or simply insult me, I ask you to at least use a moniker to identify yourself. Moreover, please appreciate the fact that I have put an enormous amount of information into this blog. In my opinion, most of my blog commentaries and articles, some going back ten-plus years, are in varying degrees relevant to this day and will remain so for a long time to come. Commentaries and articles found in this blog can therefore be revisited by longtime readers and new comers alike. I therefore ask the reader to treat this blog as a historical record and a depository of important information relating to Eurasian geopolitics, Russian-Armenian relations and humanity's historic fight against the evils of Globalism and Westernization.

Thank you as always for reading.