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Posts Tagged ‘Iran

IS Strength is Proportional to our Weakness

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The recent Paris attacks have opened a series of questions on security and the real strength of IS. However, one clear fact is in front of our eyes: IS strength is proportional to our weakness.

World powers division over Syria has just highlighted how easy is for groups like IS to increase their force and exploit the void created by our indecisions. IS strength has been unequivocally supported by the fragility of political institutions in Middle East, and especially after the raging war in Syria. It cannot be denied that the so-called Islamic State is a collateral effect of the western disastrous policy of “change of regime” and at the same time a sub-product of the illusory Arab spring. The weakening of secular states, pursued by the US during the Al-Qaida years, although has led to the fall of repressive regimes, created a void thus replaced by the only real organised and opposition force: Islamists groups.

While the Arab spring worked in a way in Tunisia, Egypt is the best example of how the dangerous shift to Islamism was blocked in time by the only possible resource available: a military coup. When Mubarak was ousted, and the Muslim Brotherhood won, everyone just simply knew that it would be matter of time before Egypt would be engulfed in serious troubles. The army, conscious of the danger, used its force to avoid a Libyan scenario thus blocking the contagion from the IS fever. It is true nonetheless, that Egypt is still a terrain fertile for IS infiltration and the recent attack on a Russian airliner simply shows that.

Nevertheless, it is the total failure of western policies in Syria and Iraq, that ultimately led to the growth of IS and its apparently unstoppable force. Following the steps of Libya, Western powers have made a huge miscalculation in thinking to replace easily the Assad regime with a pro-western government. Arms sent to strengthen the illusory rebel army, instead favoured the growth of all Islamist groups and ultimately of IS. In Iraq, the total disregard and animosity towards the Shia government in power, united with their own mistakes in seeking revenge against the Sunnis, soon created the fertile terrain for Sunni resistance and ultimately IS growth.

However, how really strong is the Islamic State? Is terrorism a sign of power or weakness? IS in itself is full of contradictions: fights the West but many fighters are mercenaries from Europe where most of them enjoyed life of freedom; is against idolatry and western consumerism but uses all social media platforms; destroys cultural history, belonging even to their own past, but put forward slogans of brotherhood; it fights against other Muslims, mainly Shia, and does not concern itself with the Palestine problem.

It is quite remarkable for a group claiming to be ready to install a Caliphate to notice that in all their claims Israel and the Palestinian problem has been left out. Even when they slightly consider the issue, their targets are Hamas and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, for who they fight for then?

Terrorism is never a viable political solution, inevitably leads only to two solutions: total annihilation of the group or negotiation. By the choices of targets and its political agenda, it is unlikely that IS can pursue or even is willing to negotiate. Exactly because has been born from western hypocrisy is in itself a hypocritical and cowardly group: attacks minority groups, enslave women, fight a terror war against civilians, is armed and financed by foreign donors (powers). Therefore, the question is, can be destroyed? Yes and easily.

Taking into account that its main base is in Syria and part of Iraq, and it is surrounded by major regional power, we have: Turkey in the North, the Kurds in Turkey and Iraq in the North, Lebanon backed by pro-Syrian groups and Hezbollah to the West, the sea to the West can be blocked (if wanted by any major power like the US), Israel and Egypt in South-West, Jordan in the South, Iraq Shia backed government to the East and obviously Iran that support Assad, Hezbollah and the Iraqi government.

At first looks like an impressive display of power but we need to consider the following issues affecting the real fight against IS:

  1. Turkey could block the borders better and support the Kurds, instead of fighting them for internal reasons;
  2. The western powers keep living the dream of the Free Syrian Army that in reality is just non existent as long as all weapons are used against the only other legitimate ground force to counter IS, which is the regular Syrian Army. Any future agreement on Syria should be postponed after the war. They face a common enemy.
  3. Western powers, namely US, against Russia: the Russian campaign in Syria was denigrated and attacked before the Paris attacks, while now Putin is seen as a messiah in the fight against terror;
  4. Russia is also not always clear on the real targets of its campaign in Syria: internal security, defence of strategic interests or to pin point US forces?
  5. Western powers refusal to acknowledge the importance of other actors in the scene: Iran and its allies.
  6. The hypocrisy and double play of some of the so-called “allies of the West”: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and UAE. Financing for IS comes mainly from “donors” in these countries.
  7. The refugee problem: open door policy or closed borders? EU has not a clear strategy and swing from an excess to the other in the assessment.
  8. Media propaganda and misinformation: once again serious anti-Islam slogans and total disregard for an unbiased assessment of the reality. The theory of the double standards still applies and only has as a result an increase in racism and xenophobic attacks in the western capitals.

Nevertheless, the Paris attacks and the Russian plane bombing are changing everything, as France is now ready to cooperate (at least in words) with Russia; Egypt will have to answer about its security standards as surely cannot allow tourism to disappear following the recent incidents. Calls are growing on US and the UK (the most recalcitrant in changing their views and policies towards Syria) for a coalition to destroy IS, but the risk of leaving main actors such the Kurds, the Iraqi government, and Iran out of the decisions can also expose further the West and Russia in a direct intervention that will play IS propaganda. On the other side, all powers must reconsider their circle of friends in Middle East and realise that a shift of policy towards Iran could benefit these powers in the long term better than the current dependence from questionable partners, Pakistan-US relations are a lesson.

Written by Matteo Figus

18/11/2015 at 14:32

The Isis: An Offensive Not Only Towards Iraq

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The Isis offensive has exposed not only the failure of the Iraqi state but also of the whole Middle Eastern strategy pursued in these years by the US. “I told you so”, this is the resounding and well known sentence that many are now saying referring to the Iraqi situation. It is difficult not to comment or express sympathy for the use of the sentence when for years we have been brainwashed with the fairy tale of the “mission accomplished” or of Iraq becoming a stronger state. However, acute observers did not miss to notice the constant bloodshed of car bombings and suicide attacks targeting Baghdad’s markets or Shia sanctuaries as worrying signs of an incoming sectarian violence.

The hypocrisy is reaching gigantic dimension then if we look at Syria, where for years Assad warned of Al Qaida linked group filling the ranks of the insurgency and branded as mere propaganda from the West. You would have expected at least the decency of an “admission of misunderstanding” (a diplomatic way to admit failure) instead we heard American and British officials saying that they could not prevent or foresee Isis offensive. Is that true? One fact is established: unless Isis is taken into the wider picture that is set by its own goals, and therefore addressing not only Iraq but also Syria, the risk of a civil war spilling across the region, not on nationalist lines bit on sectarian ones, is becoming an alarming possibility.

 

Who is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant?

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (alternatively translated as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham) (Arabic: الدولة الاسلامية في العراق والشام‎ al-Dawlah al-Islāmīyah fī al-ʻIrāq wa-al-Shām), abbreviated ISIL, ISIS, now officially calling itself simply the Islamic State (Arabic: الدولة الإسلامية‎ al-Dawlah al-Islāmīyah), is an unrecognized state and active jihadist militant group in Iraq and Syria. In its self-proclaimed status as a sovereign state, it claims the territory of Iraq and Syria, which implies future claims over more of the Levant region, including Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Kuwait, a part of southern Turkey and Cyprus.

The group in its original form was composed of and supported by a variety of insurgent groups, including its predecessor organizations, the Mujahideen Shura Council, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) and Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), the insurgent groups Jaysh al-Fatiheen, Jund al-Sahaba, Katbiyan Ansar Al-Tawhid wal Sunnah and Jeish al-Taiifa al-Mansoura, and a number of Iraqi tribes that profess Sunni Islam.

Isis has witnessed significant growth as an organization owing to the deteriorated security situation in Iraq and Syria, both subjected to the western change of regime strategy. In Iraq Isis flourished due to the Sunni population being sidelined by the Shia government in Baghdad, where political discrimination and even persecution created the fertile support for Sunni insurgents to join the group. In Syria, the civil war created the situation under which ISIS make the most of the inability of the government to control its borders, taking advantage of the influx of armaments from neighboring countries and supporting Sunni in their struggle against the Alawite minority in power. In the ongoing Syrian civil war, Isis has a large presence in the Syrian governorates of Ar-Raqqa, Idlib and Aleppo.

Isis may have up to 6,000 fighters in Iraq and 3,000–5,000 in Syria, including 3,000 foreigners with many arriving from Chechnya and even from France, Britain and elsewhere in Europe.

Isis is known for its harsh interpretation of Islam and brutal violence, which is directed particularly against Shia Muslims. In addition to attacks on government and military targets, have claimed responsibility for attacks that have killed thousands of civilians on both Iraq and Syria. Isis had close links with al-Qaeda until 2014 but, after an eight-month power struggle, al-Qaeda cut all ties with the group, reportedly for its “notorious intractability” and brutality, although the reason is more related to divergent strategic objectives between the group and the main al Qaida linked movement in Syria, Al Nusra Front.

Isis is now widely regarded not as a terrorist organization but as a proper army with ambitions to govern, similar to the Taliban: they have shadow governments in and around Baghdad, they currently run social programs, which includes social services, religious lectures, it also performs civil tasks such as repairing roads and maintaining the electricity supply.

The group is also known for its effective use of propaganda. In November 2006, the group established the al-Furqan Institute for Media Production, which produced CDs, DVDs, posters, pamphlets, and web-related propaganda products. Isis’s main media outlet is the I’tisaam Media Foundation, which was formed in March 2013 and distributes through the Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF). In 2014, ISIS established the Al Hayat Media Center, which targets a Western audience and produces material in English and German, and the Ajnad Media Foundation, which releases jihadist audio chants. Isis’s use of social media has been described as sophisticated and it regularly takes advantage of social media, particularly Twitter.

It is estimated that Isis have assets worth $2 billion, making it the richest jihadist group in the world. About three quarters of this sum is represented by assets seized after the group captured Mosul in June 2014, including likely $429 million looted from Mosul’s central bank as well as a large quantity of gold bullion. Sources of funding are mainly generated from kidnapping, extortion rackets, robbing banks and gold shops. The group is also widely reported as receiving funding from private donors in Gulf States, and both Iran and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of funding Isis, although there is reportedly no evidence that this is the case. The group is also believed to be receiving considerable funds from its operations in Eastern Syria, where it has control on oil fields and engages in smuggling out raw materials and archaeological artifacts. ISIS also generates revenues from producing crude oil and selling electric power in northern Syria.

A caliphate was eventually proclaimed on 29 June 2014, with the leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi being named as its caliph, the group was renamed the Islamic State and calling for Muslims to accept obedience.

 

Paradoxes and Contradictions fuel ISIS growth

 

So why is now Isis becoming so important even to create a miraculous rapprochement of Washington with Iran? The reason it may be the obvious partition of oil resources but at a closer look the US policy is more similar to a matryoshka. On the exterior the policy may have been shortsighted and failed in addressing the future state structure when a change of regime is achieved, but it also offer inside a sub-goal that is to create a weak state unable to survive and be dependent of US assistance. This opens therefore to the third sub-goal that is to generate an instable situation in the region under which no one will be enough powerful to overcome or undermine western interests.

For years the US have branded the change of regime policy as an infallible tool to export democracy, but they never considered that once eliminating a strong power the spot could be soon filled by another questionable or even more dangerous figure. Nevertheless, this strategy, even though being blind on future scenarios, suits best for the principle of divide et impera by fuelling internal instability. Iraq with its Shia government, although officially approved by Washington, has also been under scrutiny due to its Iranian links, and this is the reason why Kurds have been allowed to maintain their formidable army of Peshmerga. But exactly as per Shia groups, the Kurds cannot be allowed to exert influence to the point of creating an independent state across the region. So whilst on the news the US branded Iraq a mission accomplished, the constant bloodshed in everyday life simply exposed a failing project waiting to develop a next stage. Isis grew out of these paradoxes and religious violence, but what Washington did not planned or considered is that the internal instability is evolving into sectarian violence and completely underestimates the importance of the Syrian civil war connection.

 

Isis could have never reached the current proportion without also gaining valuable advantages from the Syrian civil war. The other rebel and opposition fighters have been soon outgunned by government’s forces while the western and especially Arab supplies soon ended in Isis or Al Nusra hands thus polarizing the conflict not as political but as religious. Assad’s warnings have always been branded as regime propaganda, but on the ground ISIS gained not only equipment but also basis and oil fields in Syria, has been able to deploy a stronger army to counter not only government forces but also other rebel groups, Al Nusra and even to support Iraqi insurgency.

Whilst stronger concern has been put on Iraq with the Syrian side of the Isis activities continuing to be underestimated, on the other Assad and rebel groups fight against Isis basically alone and you can wonder how it would be possible to destroy effectively the group without targeting its basis in Syria.

Isis offensive in fact opened at the eyes of the whole wide world the paradox and contradictions of the Middle Eastern policy of several countries, all of which have little or nothing to do with the wellbeing of Iraqis.

 

ISIS Effects in the Region

 

Syria

Isis already controls large parts of northern and eastern Syria, including much of Raqqa and Deir al-Zour provinces. Emboldened by the gains made in Iraq, Isis fighters seized a number of strategically important towns along the Syrian side of the border. They also used weapons and equipment seized from the Iraqi army.

Isis’s advance is said to have alarmed the Syrian government, which has allegedly refrained from targeting the jihadist group because of the damage it has caused to more moderate rebel forces. However, over the past weeks, the Syrian air force has for the first time attacked Isis strongholds and also for the first time neighboring Iraq even welcomed action in its own territory.

The main Syrian opposition alliance, the National Coalition, has said it has been warning about the threat posed by Isis for years, and that pro-Western and Islamist rebel groups should have been given the military aid they needed earlier to counter it. They launched an offensive to expel Isis from Syria in January, triggering fighting that has killed thousands. Syria offers the excellent conditions for a jihadist group to raise and shine: security decay, arms influx, fighters joining from other countries, indifference of big powers. Buy Syria is not different from Iraq, you have an alawite minority, Shia linked, that struggle for maintain its power, you have the Kurds and you have the Sunni population that have been subjected to decades of discrimination.

But if Iraq received outmost attention and even forced US and Britain to reconsider their links with Iran, Syria on the other is still seen as a country to be left alone struggling against the group. This reinforce the idea that behind the concern there is in reality an use of Isis to reach the ultimate goal that is a change of regime and destroy another pillar of the anti US policy in Middle East.

 

Iran

Iran’s Supreme Leader rejected military intervention in Iraq by the US, accusing Washington of trying to manipulate sectarian divisions to retake the country it once occupied. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he believed Iraqis could end the violence themselves.

The region’s leading Shia power is reported to have sent troops to Iraq to advise its security forces on how to tackle Isis. The commander of the elite Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Gen Qasem Soleimani, has flown to Baghdad to oversee the capital’s defences and the thousands of Iraqi Shia who have responded to calls to take up arms and defend their country, particularly its Shia shrines.

Iran has steadily built up its influence in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, with whom it fought a bloody eight-year war in the 1980s. Many Iraqi leaders spent years in exile in Iran, and their political parties and militia receive support from Tehran. Iran strengthened its position in Middle East in recent years thanks mostly to the reckless actions of the western coalition, but at the same time Iran understood very soon the danger posed by the policy of divide et impera and the possible degeneration into sectarian violence. This is the reason why if one side Iran welcome the request of intervention to stop Isis on the other does not approve western involvement in a situation created ad hoc by them. Iran is aware that the West, without a powerful Iranian support, will not achieve its goals, reason why Teheran is instead strengthening its forces with Assad.

 

Jordan

Jordan has bolstered its defences along the border with Iraq with tanks and rocket-launchers after Sunni militants seized territory in the west of Anbar province and took control of the Iraqi side of the only land crossing with Jordan at Traybil.

The loss of Traybil is not seen as an immediate security threat to Jordan. However, army units had been put in a state of alert.

Some analysts believe Jordan could be Isis’s next target. However, they note that the government is more stable than Iraq’s, its army more effective, and its jihadist ideologues have denounced Isis’s brutality. In addition Jordan strong links with the Palestinian cause will open another theatre of operations with all the dangers connected to it.

 

Turkey

ISIS has taken over a number of cities and towns near Turkey’s borders with Iraq and Syria, and kidnapped dozens of Turkish citizens.

Although the Turkish government has threatened to retaliate if any of its citizens are harmed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned of the risks of launching air strikes against the Isis-led forces in Iraq because of the risk of serious civilian casualties.

Analysts say the Turkish government is changing its stance on the creation of an independent Kurdish state in north-eastern Iraq, which it has long opposed. Officials now reportedly believe that Iraq will end up becoming a loose federation of three entities – Kurdish, Sunni Arab and Shia Arab – or divided altogether. Nevertheless, Turkey did not officially commented on the Kurds aspiration of creating a wider state encompassing also Turkish and Syrian territories.

Erdogan’s opponents also say his government has helped Isis by allowing Syria-bound jihadists to pass freely through its territory.

 

Saudi Arabia

Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri Maliki openly accused Saudi Arabia, the main Sunni Gulf power, of promoting “crimes that may qualify as genocide” by providing financial and moral support to Isis. The Saudi government rejected what it called a “malicious falsehood”. It stressed that it wished to see the destruction of Isis, and blamed the “exclusionist policies” of Maliki’s Shia-dominated government.

Despite such assertions, Isis is widely believed to receive money from wealthy individuals in Saudi Arabia. Hundreds of Saudis are also believed to have fought in Iraq and Syria over the past decade.

The authorities in Riyadh are increasingly concerned about returning Saudi jihadists switching their attention to the kingdom.

 

Kuwait

The Kuwaiti government has been criticised for having allowed wealthy donors to fund extremist groups. Kuwait’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Sabah has said the recent developments in Iraq are “deeply worrying” but were “expected”.

The Kuwaiti minister responsible for border security, Maj Gen Sheikh Mohammed al-Youssef, assured citizens and residents that the emirate’s northern frontier was safe. He said the state of readiness of the Kuwaiti military did not need to be raised because the situation in the predominantly Shia south of Iraq was “calm”. Wealthy donors based in Kuwait are believed to have given money to ISIS and other extremist Sunni rebel groups in Syria. This has increased the hostility of Iran and Syria towards the Gulf States.

 

Conclusion

The US are now caught in this situation that on one side may be a step further of their policy but in reality it could spill out of control very soon. While the US are trying to get Iran into the dispute, the move could be seen as hardly genuinely believable, as there is a sense that an Iranian involvement into the conflict could in reality exacerbate the sectarian violence rather than solve it. For many analysts Iran intervention is as questionable as Israel’s one. In such polarized situation while Isis is pushing for an all out war against Shia groups, on the other Israel in engaged again in the never ending saga with Hamas in Gaza. A war in the Gaza Strip would inevitably offer even more dangerous reasons to further damage the already fragile situation in the region, out of which Isis could get the biggest benefit.

The US are finding themselves caught in the paradox of their own policy without a future but with sub targets. The problem is that this time an intervention in Iraq could be seen as pro Shia government and will open questions about inaction in Syria; an intervention in Syria at the same time is not even considered, and while Turkey is calling for Kurds independence like Israel, it is difficult not to question why Tel Aviv government is keen to appease independence for Kurds and reject any negotiation on the Occupied Territories. This reinforces the idea that the whole project is to split the area in small states, and that there is a convergence of interests bringing together the US, Turkey and Israel on eventually accepting the partition of Iraq but continuing to destroy the Assad regime.

Syria and Iran are on the other side strengthening their partnership and, although not mentioned, they look with preoccupation at Lebanon as the possible next confrontation ground for ISIS, where the ground for a sectarian violence is fertile and where the two states have an ally in the Hezbollah.

 

The choice between partition versus enabling governments, although questionable they may be, to fight on their own terrorist groups, is the key to resolve Isis crisis, but a wrong move could open even more dangerous perspectives not only for the Middle East but also for US security and the West as a whole.

Written by Matteo Figus

11/07/2014 at 17:08

Assessing Interventionism in Syria

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The conflict in Syria, with its human costs and destruction, is still far from being over and, although contained to a civil war, many ask when this will turn in an international conflict. Sitting in a region where religious and ethnic lines cut across several states, this civil war could generate a dangerous conflict capable of involving anyone who has links or roots to the conflict inside Syria.

To this moment the conflict managed to contain itself within the borders of the Syrian Arab Republic; however, are not the mindless and irresponsible actions of both parts in the conflict, but the international community that create alarms of a possible enlargement of this conflict.

Phase 1: The Libyan and Iraqi Recipes

The first point that strike into the minds of the western powers leaders is the desire to stop a civil war, causing thousands of victims, by international intervention. The failing points of this strategy are:

  1. By intervention the US, UK and France intend their war
  2. No UN legitimisation due to Russia/China veto
  3. Moved by post-Assad desires of influence in the area rather than Syrians wellbeing
  4. Blind appeasement of the opposition.

To this aim the so called democratic powers used at first the same strategy tested with success in Libya, by granting the opposition the etiquette of Samaritans against the wolves of the regime. This calculation was soon fallacious due to:

  1. The fragmented opposition forces
  2. Emerging proof that the most active rebels are in fact ex Assad forces deserters, al Qaida linked and other islamist groups. Although Assad at first denounced this, along with Russia, derision in what was branded as propaganda was the response in western medias.
  3. Egypt revolution ended with a Muslim Brotherhood government
  4. Tunisia  is in the hand of Islamic parties
  5. In Libya militias still run free and even the US ambassador was killed in Benghazi in an embarrassing security failure
  6.  Afghanistan stability is like the search for El Dorado
  7.  Iraq has practically daily attacks and bombs.

This block, after launching some threats such as intervention without UN legitimization, then moved to the next strategy: the Iraqi recipe/WMD scare. A continue accusation and revelations that Assad forces used chemical weapons, the  threats of war if this were employed, an attempt to show to the world that Syria was the new mortal danger, entered our TV screens taking the clocks back to 2003.

Nevertheless, even the chemical connection failed: the UN took distance this time from any attempt of manipulation and reasserted its independence; it appears clear that either part in conflict likely used chemical weapons.

This strategy of interventionism started to collapse as details of massacres, human rights violations, used of WMD, and terrorist groups destroyed the romantic image of the rebels.

The complete disinterest of the western powers in proposing a real solution, rather than bring war into a civil war contest, has also being demonstrated by:

  1. Undermining any UN attempt of mediation, like the Kofi Annan plan for cease fire
  2. Undermining any Russian diplomatic efforts by stubbornly refusing to pressure opposition forces. Although it must be said in their defence that they simply cannot do that as it has  become clear that the islamist and pro al-Qaida groups are hijacking the revolution
  3. Are preoccupied more to destroy Assad rather than think of the consequences for the area

This series of incapacity to run the conflict to their side made space to the plan B: proxy war/third party attacks.

Phase 2: Third Party Interventionism

If the humanitarian hypocrisy moved the powers to a war in Libya, this time we are going back to the old sphere of influence and power strategy, with the use of “puppets” for a proxy war that resemble more of a cold war era.

How to bring down Assad by using the military power of a country that is not easily accused of imperialism? The first name to come to their mind was Turkey. It all started with using the pretext of Syrian shelling along the border as an excuse to legitimise Turkey in a disproportionate response and threats of military intervention that seemed coming nearer day by day. All was going well until two big mistakes were committed: not taking into account Turkey’s internal politics and a hazardous move by Ankara. Turkey was pressured by US to act strongly, and PM Erdogan came under fire by its own citizen for supporting someone else desire for war and revenge. Turkey is also fighting internal insurgency by Kurds, so how to legitimise intervention for democracy when even internally they are not able to solve their own issues? To this we must add: risk of Kurds taking advantage in case of conflict to raise their actions against Ankara’s government; Turkey possible EU membership would be undermined as how appealing is to share a border with  Syria and Lebanon, with a country in turmoil for Kurdish independence and whilst Cyprus status is still unresolved?

The second mistake, and a huge one, was when Turkey’s fighter jets blocked a Russian plane accused of transporting weapons for the Syrian army. This led to a diplomatic row with Moscow and angered President Putin to the point that Russia made it clear to be ready to defend its planes. How serious Russia was, no one can say, but we must remember that only one head of state was so silly to test Putin nerves: Georgian President Saakashvili in 2008, and we all know how it ended.

After going “cold Turkey”, the western powers relied on an even more dangerous card: Israel. Israel bomber twice Syrian targets in the past weeks, accusing Damascus to transport missiles towards Hezbollah bases in Lebanon. Whether true or not, Israel crossed a line that could have serious consequences if repeated:

  1. Transform the Syrian civil war in a Israeli-western backed aggression against an Arab country
  2. Split the pro rebel faction as the Arab League will have to find a very good reason to legitimise its position in staying in the same side  with the Israelis
  3. Could bring into war other countries such Egypt and Iran
  4. All the Al Qaida linked terrorist groups, islamist factions, Hezbollah and Hamas will have a reason to enter the conflict.

Although Israel could have legitimate reasons on a war in Syria, like the one that is strengthening pro-Iranian Hezbollah and other hostile groups, taking out Assad by direct intervention could turn the civil war into an Arab war. Western powers, ignorant of history and basic diplomatic calculations, are failing to see the danger; during the Gulf War of 1991, Saddam Hussein tried desperately to bring Israel into war by launching missile scuds against Tel Aviv. The then US president George Bush Senior,  had to pull every string available to calm the hawks in the Israeli army; he knew that a strike by Israel would have took away any legitimation for intervention at the eyes of the precious Arab allies and created a mass of mujahidin ready  to fight against the Americans.

This time, unfortunately for us, the arrogance of these current leaders is far more dangerous than the actual act from Israel and the risk of miscalculations is increasing day by day. This strong desire of the western powers, and especially US and Israel, to solve quickly the question is not dictated by benevolence towards Syrians but rather by national interests in the post Assad era. Their aim is especially to weaken Iran and its proxies.  To many analysts Syria is the first step in a wider scenario intended to weaken Iran in preparation for a possible military confrontation. This is also seen as a test of Teheran’s political, diplomatic and military strengths. The problem with this calculation is that, bringing Israel into the arena will also generate tensions with Russia and China and how Egypt will move?

Conclusion: Echoes of Cold War and Sphere of Influence

The Syrian conflict is therefore starting to resemble more to a cold war scenario where powers are fighting to decide who will get hold of the area, but without taking into account that a false move will bring into war Lebanon, Turkey and the Kurds, Hezbollah, Palestinian armed groups, Hamas, Iran and so on.

Russia and China, who vetoed any resolution and back a different solution rather than intervention, are also moved by political gains and strategic calculation. China is more preoccupied about economic investments, and to keep hold of insurgency in Xinjiang rather than generating a dangerous example for intervention in internal affairs. Also, this will fulfil the task in “keeping busy” the American forces elsewhere, distracting them from the China Sea.

Russia on its side, counter any American move for the simply reasons of influence and strategic necessity, as losing ties in Syria and eventually Iran will be a major blow for Moscow. This will leave unsecured two crucial areas, potentially dangerous also for the proliferation of terrorist and islamic insurgences that could spill in the rebellious Caucasus region.

Based on the above is clear that until we will have nationalistic and strategic reasons leading the proposals by these powers, the result will be only war and more destruction rather than stability. Until now the Syrian conflict maintained its internal character, but for how long it will depend on the acts of these leaders, on whose shoulders will fall all the responsibility for their actions and consequences, or to  paraphrase a celeb quotation from Fidel Castro, “History will judge… them”.

 

Written by Matteo Figus

15/05/2013 at 23:22

Posted in Analysis, Middle-East

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Should Iran Develop a Nuclear Deterrent?

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Iran is still one of the major concerns for US, EU and UN due its ambitious nuclear program. Teheran’s regime appears resolute in pursuing the nuclear power in order to improve and enhance its international status. All major international powers tried, in vain, to persuade the world on the danger of a nuclearized Iran. Israel and Netanyahu even went to the length of a ridiculous visual presentation of the bomb threat at UN. Teheran has always considered the achievement of a peaceful nuclear power as a right linked to its sovereignty, able to solve its energetic problems.

Nevertheless, western concerns that the civil program hide a military one to achieve a nuclear deterrent are not fantasy and find ground of demonstrations.

What are the reasons that pushed Teheran in this risky game with the international community? They can be summarized as follow: political, international and economical.

The Iranian nuclear program, contrary to what many think, has a root in history and can be traced to the late Shah Reza Pahlavi. In the 60’s the US signed contracts with Iran to start the development of reactors and achieve full operative power by year 2000. At the time the Shah was concerned by the future of oil industry and considered the necessity to develop an alternative energy source as a primary task. During the Shah power, the US did not consider the Iranian program as dangerous and even Kissinger recollect in 80’s that no one thought this could be an issue. When the Islamic Revolution in 1979 installed the Ayatollah, Khomeini declared the nuclear power as in contrast with Islam, and Iran in fact did not pursue the nuclear energy anymore as a primary goal.

This last at least until 2003-4, when two factors intervene in a decisive change of policy: the ascendance of a radical policy led by Ahmadinejad and the danger posed by the previous Bush administration and his “war on terror” that ultimately put Iran in the list of the countries sponsoring terrorism. Teheran, did not find a better situation with Obama, who consider Iran a possible target, meaning that the regime will require ultimately an enhancement of its defensive system. A conventional defence system, however, does not offer a secure protection against aggressions, and Teheran started to develop a program that can be capable to keep the US at large, and to this end two elements shift Teheran decisively toward the nuclear power: US activism and North Korea. The mighty American war machine did not stop in Iraq and, to greater alarm in Teheran, saw the West sponsoring the Arab Spring and revolts to topple dictators. The design to replace them with pro-western governments failed, if we look at Egypt and Libya, but on the other hand clearly weakened old enemies such in Libya and the same is now happening with Syria. The other element is North Korea: use the nuclear threats as a diplomatic weapon and, although questionable on an ethical point of view, it worked. North Korea continuously test and irritates the world powers with their missile launches or nuclear tests, leaving them with the doubt of whether a bomb could be there it is enough to guarantee the regime’s survival.

On an international level, Iran can count on a favorable conjuncture that see few countries ready to follow a suicidal mission in Iran, but especially can count on the Russian support. Iran become a valuable player in the international scenario, on which Russia sees a counterbalance to the aggressive American policy. Syria just represents how Russia and China will not tolerate another Libyan style adventure and any change of status quo can only happen by wish of the people and not by external meddling or intervention. Humanitarianism, that used to cover a new imperialist and neocolonial policy, seems to be an end and the West appears lost without this strategy.

On an economic level, Iran clearly consider the nuclear power a strategic sphere related to the future of oil industry. The Iranian oil industry clearly is the gold rush for the west, a new sort of Klondike, but a war will launch its price to the sky. The recent economic crisis that left many of the developed economies in trouble does not offer space for adventurism. Iran, on the other side, may need to develop alternative fonts of energy able to offer a diversification of its economy clearly dependent on oil.

Many accuse Iran to use the civil nuclear program to cover the real goal: build a nuclear bomb to destroy Israel. Even if that is not totally unfounded, it is clear that the real target are the US, as Teheran is trying to pursue a sort of North Korean style deterrent. The paradox is that this rush to weapons of mass destruction is not the result of ill pondered policies or regimes madness, is instead the result of a wrong policy by the US to consider themselves policemen of the world and apply the “two weight two measures policy”. Although cynical and irresponsible can be, states like North Korea and Iran know that only a powerful deterrent capable to attack US basis or their key allies will guarantee them survival and avoid the destiny of Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein.

In a world where nuclear bombs are detained by US, Russia, France, UK, China, India and Pakistan, nobody can really say that the above powers have shown reason and interest for the wellbeing of the world. Nevertheless, the equilibrium of terror, has avoided war between the superpowers during the Cold War, while India and Pakistan will think twice before starting a new conflict. In addition how to solve a problem like Israel? Why Israel, who is known to have the bomb, should be consider mature enough to be trusted when its reckless actions in Gaza show to the entire world how they act in total disregard for international law?

We may disagree with Teheran plans, but in a world where dreams and good intentions are only a way to go and sleep well in the night as good citizens, sometime harsh pieces of reality can bring stability in an area that could otherwise explode any minute.

Written by Matteo Figus

12/03/2013 at 18:17

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