Israel and Russia At Odds Over Syria

Syria-articleLarge-v2

Times of global economic disruption or depression have often historically been preludes to war. So too have been periods of geopolitical instability, where new economic powers are rising, and old ones falling. Back in 2008 the United States’ tenture as the sole global superpower appeared to be endangered, and we appeared to be on the cusp of a new multipolar world order.  And at the same time a new demand-side depression bearing some eerily similar characteristics to the Great Depression surfaced. So — even though we were sitting on the back of a huge trend of decreasing war and violence — I was to a small degree worried that this slump might be a prelude to another global conflict.

Luckily — with the exception of a few skirmishes in the middle east following the Arab spring — no such wide-scale global conflict has broken out. The forces of peace have kept the forces of war and chaos mostly at bay. No direct war between the great powers has broken out. Given the high level of trade interdependency and global economic integration that now exists — factors which play a great role in discouraging conflict — that is very good news. Avoiding a new global conflict should be a top priority for policymakers, corporations, and individuals worldwide.

Hopefully, then, the latest friction in the middle east — this time between Israel and Russia — will amount to nothing:

 Israel’s defense chief said Tuesday a Russian plan to supply sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles to Syriawas a “threat” and signaled that Israel is prepared to use force to stop the delivery.

The warning by Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon ratcheted up tensions with Moscow over the planned sale of S-300 air-defense missiles to Syria. Earlier in the day, a top Russian official said his government remained committed to the deal.

Israel has been lobbying Moscow to halt the sale, fearing the missiles would upset the balance of power in the region and could slip into the hands of hostile groups, including the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, a close ally of the Syrian regime.

Israel has carried out several airstrikes in Syria in recent months that are believed to have destroyed weapons shipments bound for Hezbollah. Israel has not confirmed carrying out the attacks.

The delivery of the Russian missiles to Syria could limit the Israeli air force’s ability to act. It is not clear whether Israeli warplanes entered Syrian airspace in these attacks.

Attacking Syrian bases and weaponry is one thing. Attacking Russian attempts to aid the Syrian government is quite another — and could very easily have dark consequences. Perhaps Russian interests in Syria — including their naval base there — are a lost cause. Perhaps Russian attempts to help the Syrian government are misguided. And perhaps Western attempts to aid the Syrian rebels — who  have some have affiliations with al-Qaeda and radical Islamism, and who have reportedly used chemical weapons — overthrow Assad are even more misguided and even more dangerous. Neither side can really claim the moral high ground in what is effectively a proxy war between the Russian-backed government and Western-backed rebels. Both sides have committed atrocities and killed civilians and journalists. All that has been achieved is massive disruption to millions of ordinary Syrians who have had to flee the country.

Ideally, a peace based around compromise, power-sharing  and democracy can be brokered by the UN Security Council to avoid any further escalation. But unfortunately, both the Russians and the West are continuing to provide material support to their favoured sides. That has been bad for the Syrian people, whose country lies ruined and abandoned and while they now populate refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt. But it could even worse for the region and the world with further escalation.

Hopefully, there will be no escalation. Hopefully, the Syrian Civil War will wind down to a stalemate, peace terms will be brokered and the refugees will be able to go home. Hopefully the great powers who have so far allowed this proxy war to continue will realise that fighting a proxy war in Syria is a very dangerous thing. The likeliest outcome is that the forces of inertia, peace and economic development will triumph over the forces of chaos. But this is not assured so long as this dangerous proxy war goes on.

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Weapons of Mass Destruction Redux

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

That’s what I’d say to the Western governments currently planning an invasion of Syria under the pretense that Bashar al-Assad is readying the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Civil War.

The Telegraph reports:

NBC News quoted an unnamed US official as saying there was evidence that the bombs, loaded with the chemical weapon, could be dropped on the Syrian people from fighter planes once president Basah al-Assad gives the order.

If it proves to be true, the move would be a dramatic escalation in the conflict in Syria, which could lead to US involvement.

Earlier this week, US officials said the regime had begun mixing the chemicals to make the deadly sarin gas.

Sarin, used in two terrorist attacks in Japan in the 1990s, is a man-made nerve agent which can cause convulsions, respiratory failure and death.

The Syrian regime has never overtly admitted having chemical weapons, though it is believed by western analysts to have the biggest stocks in the Middle East. It has also denied it would ever use chemical weapons against its own people.

Western intelligence agencies never had to publicly display their evidence for the invasion or Iraq — their wrong claims that Saddam Hussein was in possession of weapons of mass destruction which could be deployed against Western countries at 45 minutes notice.

And now they expect us to take it at face value that they have evidence that Syria is ready to use chemical weapons? Talk about the boy that cried wolf.

Want to commit blood and treasure to fight another middle eastern war? (Even though the most recent interventions have all ended in Islamists and even groups affiliated with al-Qaeda coming to power)

To be taken seriously, Western intelligence agencies need to prove these claims with hard evidence open to public scrutiny. If the claims are based on second-hand reports, circumstantial evidence and bad guesswork (as was the case in Iraq) then Western taxpayers deserve to know the truth.

But they won’t. Governments are already massing armies to intervene. The politicians and bureaucrats making these decisions won’t have to pay for it. They will leave that up to taxpayers.

CostofWar

Time to Get Out of the Middle East

It takes a lot of time and effort to try to understand American counter-terrorism policy today.

Personally, I think the status quo is like trying to treat a cocaine overdose with methamphetamine. It’s like trying to cure chlamydia by having sex with multiple random strangers in a park. It’s like trying to cure a broken nose by punching oneself in the face.

Or, as Glenn Greenwald puts it:

I absolutely believe that another 9/11 is possible. And the reason I believe it’s so possible is that people like Andrew Sullivan — and George Packer — have spent the last decade publicly cheering for American violence brought to the Muslim world, and they continue to do so (now more than ever under Obama). Far from believing that another 9/11 can’t happen, I’m amazed that it hasn’t already, and am quite confident that at some point it will. How could any rational person expect their government to spend a full decade (and counting) invading, droning, cluster-bombing, occupying, detaining without charges, and indiscriminately shooting huge numbers of innocent children, women and men in multiple countries and not have its victims and their compatriots be increasingly eager to return the violence?

Isn’t it painfully obvious? The interventionist policies — occupation, drone strikes, cluster-bombing, indefinitely detention, false vaccination programs and so forth — in the middle east advocated by both “liberal” and “conservative” hawks that are supposed to prevent terrorism are creating anger, creating enemies, and creating terrorists. I too am amazed another 9/11 hasn’t happened. I despise jihadism and Islamism. It is contrary to everything I stand for. That’s exactly why I oppose a foreign policy that serves as a hugely effective recruiting tool for the totalitarian jihadists. 

Yemeni lawyer Haykal Bafana explained the rationale last month:

Dear Obama, when a U.S. drone missile kills a child in Yemen, the father will go to war with you, guaranteed. Nothing to do with Al Qaeda.

Or as convicted terrorist Faisal Shahzad put it:

Well, the drone hits in Afghanistan and Iraq, they don’t see children, they don’t see anybody. They kill women, children, they kill everybody. I am part of the answer to the U.S. terrorizing the Muslim nations and the Muslim people.  And, on behalf of that, I’m avenging the attack.  Living in the United States, Americans only care about their own people, but they don’t care about the people elsewhere in the world when they die.

Or as former CIA counter-terrorism expert Michael Scheuer noted:

The idea that has been pushed by President Clinton and President Bush and Mr. Cheney and Barack Obama and Senator McCain, that America is being attacked [for its freedom] is a disservice to the population of the United States. This war is not against Americans because we’re Americans, it’s motivated by the activities of our government and its allies in the Muslim world.

So why do we keep doing this? Two reasons: hubris and greed.

First, the hubris. We know Ron Paul was booed in South Carolina for advocating that we should do to others as we would like done to us:

My point is if another country does to us what we do others, we’re not going to like it very much. So I would say that maybe we ought to consider a golden rule in — in foreign policy. Don’t do to other nation what we don’t want to have them do to us.

But that’s just the propagandistic nature of being a superpower. Years of prosperity, military supremacy and pro-war propaganda have made it normal to believe strongly in the idea that America is intrinsically better, and wherever America goes America brings freedom, and anyone who doesn’t agree with that needs to be waterboarded until they do.

Yet however many times as the phrase “they hate us because we are free” is repeated, mantra-like by a Rick Santorum or a Newt Gingrich, it does not become truer. It is just an illusion, just a fantasy. While the jihadis were always anti-American, anti-democratic and anti-capitalistic, Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Sayyid al-Qutb — the fathers and grandfathers of modern Wahhabism, jihadism and al-Qaeda — became anti-American militants because of America’s role in the middle east.

As bin Laden himself said:

Those who kill our women and innocent, we kill their women and innocent, until they refrain.

And even more clearly:

Free men do not forfeit their security, contrary to Bush’s claim that we hate freedom. If so, then let him explain to us why we don’t strike Sweden, for example.

Second, the greed. America is in the middle east because America likes cheap energy. That myth of America as liberators flourished first as a justification for America’s petrodollar foreign policy.

And people get rich from America being at war — so far in the region of $4 trillion has gone to fighting since 9/11. A lot of weapons contractors are happy with the status quo.

So the military-industrial complex — the lobbyists, the weapons makers, the media — may accept it if Obama kills 14 women and 21 children to get one suspected terrorist. More terrorism means more weapons spending. For the lucky few it’s a self-perpetuating stairway to riches. Yet for wider society it means spending time, money and effort on war, instead of on domestic prosperity. It means the constant threat of terrorism. And it means the loss of our liberty, as the security state adopts increasingly paranoid anti-terrorism measures.

We should do to others as we would have done to ourselves. That means — unless we are comfortable with the idea of ourselves living under military occupation and drone strikes — getting out of the middle east, and letting that region solve its own problems — forget another costly and destructive occupation in Syria. Slash the war and occupation spending, and redirect the money to making America independent of middle eastern energy and resources.

Is the Middle East About to Explode?

It looks like Israel and America’s secret war on Iran has finally provoked a response.

From AP:

Iran’s semiofficial Fars news agency says the country’s armed forces have shot down an unmanned U.S. spy plane that violated Iranian airspace along its eastern border.

The report says the plane was an RQ170 type drone and is now in the possession of Iran’s armed forces. The Fars news agency is close to the powerful Revolutionary Guard.

Iran is locked in a dispute with the U.S. and its allies over Tehran’s disputed nuclear program, which the West believes is aimed at the development of nuclear weapons. Iran denies the accusations, saying its nuclear program is entirely peaceful.

Iran’s response to the downed U.S. drone’s violation of its airspace will not be limited to the country’s borders, a military source told state television.

“The Iranian military’s response to the American spy drone’s violation of our airspace will not be limited to Iran’s borders any more,” Iran’s Arabic language Al Alam television quoted the military source as saying, without giving details.

Iran said in July it had shot down an unmanned U.S. spy plane over the holy city of Qom, near its Fordu nuclear site.

Why is this happening?

As I wrote last month, a new middle eastern war can provide a lot of opportunities to the Western establishment:

  1. Create a new post-9/11-style hard-to-question patriotism — “There’s a war on — we all need to rally together around the flag — the complainers and protestors must hate America”
  2. Put America back to work — in weapons factories, and on the front lines.
  3. Give the economy a large Keynesian injection — through war spending.
  4. Take out Iran, a powerful enemy of America — and send a threatening message to other uppity Eurasian autocracies like Russia and China.
  5. Curtail civil liberties & censor the internet — “There’s a war on — we all need to rally together around the flag — and those who don’t must be working to undermine America”

The real danger here is that this won’t solely be a middle eastern war. Israel and America have grossly miscalculated the odds of drawing Russia and China into a global confrontation. Russia and China want a new world order centred around themselves, not America, and they will grab this opportunity to dethrone the West.

Russia is already supplying Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime with cruise missiles.

Western policy has been built around a false cornerstone of interdependence, the idea that there can be no war between China and America because America is dependent on Chinese goods, and China is dependent on the American monetary system. Nothing could be further from the truth — America (and its consumeristic zombie hordes) need China far more than China needs America. China’s dollar reserves are a luxury, not a necessity, and they are a luxury that can be thrown away in the name of Chinese dominance in Eurasia and the Pacific.

Of course, although a new middle eastern or global war will be an economic, political, social and humanitarian disaster, it will be very profitable for weapons contractors, and provide a large boost to aggregate demand.

Kinetic Peace Action #2

Following NATO’s war in Libya, hawkish commentators have been salivating over the prospect of more “liberal interventionism” in the middle east.

Now, thanks to the Arab League, they might just get their wish.

From Zero Hedge:

Yesterday we reported that the Arab League (with European and US support) are preparing to institute a no fly zone over Syria. Today, we get an escalation which confirms we may be on the edge. Just out from CBS“The U.S. Embassy in Damascus urged its citizens in Syria to depart “immediately,” and Turkey’s foreign ministry urged Turkish pilgrims to opt for flights to return home from Saudi Arabia to avoid traveling through Syria.” But probably the most damning evidence that the “western world” is about to do the unthinkable and invade Syria, and in the process force Iran to retaliate, is the weekly naval update from Stratfor, which always has some very interesting if always controversial view on geopolitics, where we find that for the first time in many months, CVN 77 George H.W. Bush has left its traditional theater of operations just off the Straits of Hormuz, a critical choke point, where it traditionally accompanies the Stennis, and has parked right next to Syria.

The point, I think, is that the Arab League and NATO would be very happy to see Iran’s wings clipped through regime change in Syria. I’ll be absolutely clear: I think that this is an attempt to get Iran to directly intervene in Syria, and get their fingers burnt by a humiliating NATO counter-offensive. The preferred outcome would be a resurrection of the Green Revolution, a bringing of the Arab Spring to the streets of Tehran, and regime change.

I don’t think Ahmadinejad is that stupid. He long ago absorbed the lessons of Saddam Hussein (now confirmed by the demise of Qaddafi). As I wrote last month, these are:

  1. Nuclear weapons are an essential prerequisite to holding off NATO-sponsored regime change.
  2. Western nations and organisations — including NATO, the United States, Britain, France and the UN — cannot be trusted.

Ahmadinejad would not respond. Iran is preparing for the coming Israeli-NATO onslaught, and doing everything in its power to urge China and Russia to heavily discourage any such move. China and Russia — strong Iranian trade partners (and to some extent ideological partners) — already have a strong interest (energy and resources) in resisting regime change in Tehran.

But this is all part of a greater game: America and the West are locked in a proxy war with the Eurasian autocracies (Pakistan, Russia, Iran, China — for short, the PRICs) for both Eurasia’s huge resources and manpower, and global military and financial supremacy. American policy is to retain the petrodollar-standard, and continue enjoying the free lunch such a system yields.

Iran’s fall could give America — as heavily indebted and zombified as America is — a significant boost toward retaining primacy in years to come, and scare the other autocracies into compliance. For that reason, Russia and China — who have gained a very strong position through accumulating American currency, and become hubs of global trade — will not be keen to see further American encroachment into their back yard.

Forward-thinking readers are urged to get a copy of Zbigniew Brzezinski’s masterpiece The Grand Chessboard, and study it.