Category Archives: U.S. Foreign Policy

ISIS Oil: About the Erdogan Trail………….

_9OJik4N_normal Sharqeya-Baneen-15    DennyCreek2

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“U.S.-led coalition warplanes bombed oil installations and other facilities in territory controlled by Islamic State militants in eastern Syria on Friday, taking aim for a second consecutive day at a key source of financing that has swelled the extremist group’s coffers, activists said. The strikes hit two oil areas in Deir el-Zour province a day after the United States and its Arab allies pummeled a dozen makeshift oil producing facilities in the same area near Syria’s border with Iraq. The raids aim to cripple one of the militants’ primary sources of cash — black market oil sales that the U.S. says generate up to $2 million a day…………”

It is well to hit the oil wells they have occupied in Syria (and Iraq). But there is a cheaper more efficient way to throttle their oil revenues: a bomb-less way. How do they sell the oil? To whom do they sell the oil? More important: by which route is that oil shipped?

That last question, the route, is the gorilla in the war room. Dealing with it requires some neighborly cooperation from one particular country.There is no sea outlet for the oil since the terrorists don’t control any ports or even any coastal regions. Their only route seems to be through NATO member Turkey. Across the border into Turkey and into the markets. Get Mr. Erdogan to shut the ISIS oil route, if he can. Get him to be less vague, less vague and tentative, about his ties to the Jihadis in Syria (and by extension in Iraq). 

Unless there is another route I am not aware of through which the Caliphate petroleum is shipped.

Then there is that other money route, the one we know that leads “north” into Syria and Iraq.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Turkey and the Caliphate of IS: You Scratch my Back and……..

_9OJik4N_normal Sharqeya-Baneen-15    DennyCreek2

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“Turkey, however, did not join the 10 Arab countries that signed on to help build a coalition against IS at a meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, this past week, and has made it clear that it will not partake in military operations against IS. It is willing to provide humanitarian aid, and will in all likelihood offer clandestine support to U.S. efforts. The primary reason the Turks give for their reticence was their concern for the fate of 49 Turkish diplomatic and security personnel who were seized by IS when the group overran the Iraqi city of Mosul; they were released this past weekend. The hostage crisis was emblematic of all that has gone wrong for Turkey in Syria…………..”

Turkey bet on the Syrian rebels early on. In those heady early days of the Arab Uprisings of 2011, when they looked and sounded and smelled like an Arab Spring. Early on, the Turks started voicing support for the Syrian protests, then for the armed Syrian rebels. No doubt partly because they knew that a large portion of the protesters were Sunni fundamentalists of the kind Mr. Erdogan can be comfortable dealing with.

That was just before the nascent Syrian uprising was hijacked by Persian Gulf Wahhabi princes and their Salafi allies. Before it was bought with vast amounts of petroleum money flowing north from Saudi Arabia and Qatar and other places. Before it was quickly changed into a blatantly sectarian movement of hundreds of rival groups and gangs of Jihadis, quasi-Jihadis, and kidnappers fighting Assad and each other.
The Turkish government opened its borders to everyone who was heading into Syria to fight the Assad regime. Foreign volunteers from the Gulf, North Africa, and Europe flowed into Syria from the Turkish borders. As did weapons and money. If this Caliphate is selling Syrian (or Iraqi) oil, as some reports claim, then their only route for that would be through Turkey, with the cooperation of the authorities.
Meanwhile, the sources of volunteers and money for the Jihad were secure in their palaces in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Abu Dhabi. They were far away from the Syrian borders and hence felt shrapnel from the Syrian crisis, which they had converted into a sectarian civil war, would not touch them. They wanted to manage the Syrian war and shape its outcome to serve their interests even as starry eyed Western pundits waxed poetic about the war for democracy and freedom in Syria. Which is also what the Turks aimed for: to manage the Syrian war.

The Turks have been scratching the Jihadist backs for three years. Now ISIS have released the Turkish hostages from Mosul. No beheadings there, but then the Turkish hostages probably were all of the right religion and sect. Not surprising that the Turks are staying away from this new NATO campaign against the Caliphate, to the extent of refusing to “cooperate” with the air campaign.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Mr. Obama’s New Syrian Alibi: a Pig With Lipstick………

_9OJik4N_normal Sharqeya-Baneen-15    DennyCreek2

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Mr. Obama has now got his Arab alibi. He has got the Arab, actually GCC, cosmetics he thinks he needs to expand the war into Syria:

  • The rulers of tiny Bahrain, which need foreign mercenaries and Saudi troops to keep their own rebellious people at bay and repressed, are allegedly bombing the Hollywood Caliphate of ISIS.
  • The United Arab Emirates, a country so full of foreign military bases it looks like Persian Gulf Swiss cheese, is also doing likewise. No news yet if their Blackwater-modeled mercenary army of Colombians and Australians and other foreigners will be involved.
  • Ditto for the rulers of Qatar, who don’t have enough troops to fill two World Cup stadiums in 2022. Let alone wage war on anybody.
  • Apparently Saudi Arabia is also involved, somehow although it is not clear how and in what capacity are the oily slippery princes involved.

So, Mr. Obama has got his “Arab” alibi, his GCC fig leaf, although we all know the ‘real’ war will be American, with some French huffing and puffing. But at what price this GCC alibi? He must have promised a deeper American involvement in Syria, well beyond attacking the Wahhabi Jihadist cutthroats of ISIS. He must have promised something beyond ISIS and Al Qaeda: something like a repeat of NATO’s Libyan adventure in 2011. The results of which we are now enjoying from Tripoli to Benghazi. The temptation and the push by the Wahhabi camp for Mr. Obama to get deeper into the Syrian “civil war” will be strong.

Yes, there is something about cosmetics nagging at the back of my mind. I recall what Mr. Obama famously said during the 2008 campaign for president. Something about “a pig with lipstick is still a pig. Even if we call it a coalition.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

A Western Addiction to Sanctions? SWIFT-ing the Houthis of Yemen………

_9OJik4N_normal Sharqeya-Baneen-15    DennyCreek2

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“Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it…….” Newton’s First Law of Motion (one version)

“Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Wednesday accused the United States of being “obsessed” with sanctions against his country, on the eve of new bilateral talks on a nuclear deal……….”

Apparently imposing these financial sanctions (actually blockades) can become addictive. Anyone who does not know any better, and that probably includes me, might think that the Obama administration has become addicted to inflicting sanctions on other nations and entities and corporations and whatever and whoever catches its fancy in the wrong way. The U.S. Congress is an even more avid imposer of these sanctions, it leads the way: its hawkish threats scare and force the administration to be “proactive” in these matters.

Governments and despots (only a few of them) and peoples and groups and parties and unions and gangs and possibly bad musicians, probably even alumni associations are targeted. From East Asia through Russia and Iran and Lebanon and Syria and Africa and into the threatening little superpower of Cuba, after passing through the mighty empire of Venezuela. Even as the Iran+P5+1 talks were resuming this summer, some evil genius somewhere in Washington was churning out new plans for tightening the screws on the Iranians. Just to keep the mullahs on their toes, or maybe just to let the hotheads in Congress and Knesset know that they have nothing to worry about.

Yesterday, reports came out that the US (and possibly other Western powers) are considering imposing sanctions against the Houthis of Yemen. The Houthis? They are one of the many tribal/political/ethnic/religious factions that dot the Yemeni landscape. But they have nothing to do with Al Qaeda or any other Wahhabi terrorist groups: in fact they are their enemies. They have no goals beyond their own region of Yemen, so what would they be sanctioned for? Sanctioned for daring to protest against their fundamentalist military government and marching on the capital Sana’a. I would have thought the Western powers had their hands full trying to drone the Saudi-Yemeni Al-Qaeda (AQAP) out of existence (often taking a passel of innocent Yemeni civilians along as collateral damage). Or maybe someone in Washington got a persuasive call from someone with a golden telephone in Riyadh or Abu Dhabi.

Anyway, it is not clear how financial sanctions can affect the Houthis of the rugged territory of northern Yemen. As I recall from my past days of extensive travel, the economies of some remote regions are not very monetized, unlike Washington DC (not so many lobbyists with a lot of money hanging around Sanaa or Ouagadougou). These fellows are not known to fly to Las Vegas or Nice or even Dubai, or to own foreign property. Unlike the petroleum princes and potentates, they do not even frequent the diversion-filled joints of Beirut or Cairo or Bangkok. Unlike the Saudi princes, they never fly into the sin-filled cities of Morocco. So, they don’t have as much need for access to foreign exchange, be it dollars or euros or riyals.

Personally, sometimes I think they impose some of the sanctions jut because they can. The mechanisms and the people are in place, so there is some bureaucratic inertia involved, unless acted upon by an external force, as Isaac Newton taught us so long ago. There are no other world currencies that compete with the dollar, and no institution that can compete with SWIFT. SWIFTing a country or an organization is easy. But the Houthis?

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Myth of Arab Forces in Iraq and Syria: Organizing a Piss-Up in a Brewery………

_9OJik4N_normal Sharqeya-Baneen-15    DennyCreek2

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There has been a lot of talk lately about non-American boots on the ground in Iraq and Syria. Some of the senators during the Armed Forces Committee hearings earlier today, as well as on the media, have been mentioning “Arab forces” that would augment Iraqi forces and Syrian Wahhabi opposition forces.

I got some news for these senators and pundits. If the Iraqi people objected to extended American military presence in their country beyond 2011, do you really believe they would welcome suspected outside Arab forces? This is the age of sectarianism, initially packaged and promoted by several Arab regimes (and I don’t men Iraq and Syria here) as a divide-and-rule strategy. Wahhabi forces from sparsely-populated Saudi Arabia and UAE and Qatar and possibly politically Wahhabi-ized forces from Egypt? Given their history in Iraq and the grief they have caused the people over there with their export of terrorists and weapons and money? Not to mention these regimes’ historical disrespect for the Shi’a (Shi’ite) holy shrines. (Wahhabis have raided Karbala and Najaf in past centuries with the aim of destroying the shrines).

I got some more news for the same senators and pundits. The same objections apply to Syria. Can you imagine the Saudi army and the UAE and Qatari hired-mercenary armies facing the Syrian army and its Hezbollah allies (and possibly other violent allies)? Not to mention facing their own hardened fellow Wahhabi Jihadis who have moved to the dark side with ISIS and Al-Qaeda.

Besides, my rule of thumb of war is against it: you can’t expect them to face these battle-toughened forces if they can’t even organize, militarily, a proverbial “piss-up in a brewery“. And we know these princes and potentates can’t organize that proverbial “piss up in a brewery“. Speaking militarily for now.

This myth of Arab forces inside Iraq and Syria needs to be put to rest. The whole idea is not even DOA: it is dead from before its ill-advised inception.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Mulling ISIS Supply Routes and Friedman’s Arab Taxis on a Pacific Northwest Trail………

_9OJik4N_normal Sharqeya-Baneen-15    DennyCreek2

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I though I’d write a Friedman-esque (as in Thomas not Milton) post today. I am not starting it upon arrival at some Arab airport and a ride into town in a taxi driven by Abdu (in Cairo) or Abed (in Beirut) or Abul-Abed (in Amman). Funny, when Friedman goes to Beijing, the inscrutable Chinese taxi drivers (Abu Wong, et al) never share their local wisdom with him. Only Arabs do: blab and share their apparent wisdom with Western journalists.

No, I was thinking about that yesterday, Saturday. As we biked the twenty mile round trip along the Sammamish River Trail, past a couple of vintners joints and at least one hbrewery, towards the Burke-Gilman Trail. On an unusually cloudless warm morning of the Pacific Northwest. Here goes: 

I saw a retired general (USMC) state that ISIS controls the upper rivers (Euphrates and Tigris) and roads from Syria to resupply their forces in Iraq. Which made me wonder, as I pedaled along that peaceful bike trail:

  • Where do ISIS get these supplies and volunteers from Syria (as the general said)?  Why is Syria their main supply route into Iraq? And from where and how do these weapons and the money and volunteers flow into Syria then into Iraq? And how would increasing the supply of weapons to the useless Syrian opposition groups affect the flow of weapons to the ISIS Caliphate? Should we ask Turkey or Saudi Arabia or Qatar or Jordan about this? They certainly don’t flow from Cyprus (no, Israel is also an unlikely source).
  • From which Syrian (FSA, Ansar-Al-WTF, etc, etc) “relatively moderate” opposition groups and gangs did ISIS purchase some of these Western hostages (journalists and aid workers) that were so horribly beheaded on camera? And they were no doubt purchased from some of the other would-be liberators of Syria.

Before I had finished, er, mulling this last question, it was time for us to hydrate and turn around. Sort of like what happens when Thomas Friedman’s Arab taxi, driven by Abdu (in Cairo) or Abed (in Beirut) or Abul-Abed (in Amman), or Abu-Wong (in Beijing) drives up to the hotel entrance. Before he finishes sharing his strategic and cultural gems with us.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

ISIS and the Arabs: a Standing Joke of a League…….

_9OJik4N_normal Sharqeya-Baneen-15    DennyCreek2

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Back to my last post about President Obama’s ISIS speech:
One or two of the experts, in their post-speech comments, lamely suggested the Arab League, a useless gathering of mostly dictators and absolute tribal kings with little moral standing. It is now dominated by the same princes and potentates who spawned and nurtured groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS and their ilk.

Among many ordinary Arabs, the only standing the Arab League bureaucracy has is as a standing joke. A place to bury aging senior Arab (especially Egyptian) bureaucrats before they die. Only Western, specifically American politicians and pundits would suggest the Arab League as a mover and shaker, and with a straight face. But that is probably only because it can be useful to them as a fig leaf.

Don’t get me wrong, the idea of an Arab League can eventually be a good one, nay a necessary one. But that can be only after all member states hold free and unfettered elections. You figure out the timetable.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Hobson’s Choice in Syria: Bad, Badder, or Baddest?…….

_9OJik4N_normal Sharqeya-Baneen-15           DennyCreek2

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HOBSON’S CHOICE:
1. an apparently free choice when there is no real alternative
2. the necessity of accepting one of two or more equally objectionable alternatives.………
”                                                                                                     Merriam Webster

“The jihadi group surging through Iraq and Syria is using large captured US-made weapons and has access to anti-tank rockets supplied by Saudi Arabia to a moderate rebel group, according to a report published on Monday. The study by the London-based Conflict Armament Research consultancy found that Islamic State (Isis) militants had access to large numbers of US weapons, which they were shifting to key battlefields……..The report was compiled from a list of weapons captured from Isis by Kurdish militias over a 10-day period in July. Of most interest was the capture of two M-79 rockets that were identical to a batch of such weapons supplied by Saudi Arabia to rebels………”

So this report seems to corroborate what we have all been saying for some time: it is almost impossible to keep weapons from being transferred among Syrian Jihadis. There is an active Syrian market for them and they get taken and sold and gifted between the hundreds of Jihadi groups and gangs that seek to liberate Syria for the Saudi and Qatari princes and take it back to their distorted vision of the seventh century (AD). ISIS and Al Nusra and all the other “Jabhats” and “Ansars” and myriad groupies get enough money from their well-known sources to be able to ‘buy’ whatever weapons they want from other Syrian ‘freedom fighters’, including the Free Syrian Salafi Army.

The fact is that within Syria there are no real non-Jihadi rebels anymore. This has been the case since late 2011, after the Wahhabis of the Persian Gulf region mobilized their vast financial, media, and volunteer resources and deployed them, armed with a strong dose of deep sectarian hatred, to commandeer a nascent uprising in Syria. Just a few years after deploying the same murderous resources to massacre Iraqi civilians in their towns and cities.

Within Syria the choice among rebels is between the following: (a) plain bad Wahhabis, (b) badder Wahhabis, and (c) the baddest Wahhabis. The crucial battles with Syrian regime forces in the past year or two saw all these various tiers of Wahhabi Jihadist groups join forces. Join forces and share weapons before the baddest of them, ISIS, started to push the others to the margins, to the periphery of history. Building up new mildly Wahhabi groups inside the Humorless Kingdom of Jordan and sending them into Syria to keep the civil war going will not do the trick either. The Jordanian Front is not likely to fare better than the Turkish front has done.

Or maybe the plain bad Wahhabis are the only palatable Hobson option available for the Western powers. They can appoint French pop-philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, co-liberator of Libya, as NATO high commissioner for Syria, to keep them from going badder and baddest. It did not work in Libya, but it might in Syria: hope springs eternal when supported with tribal petro-money.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Oil Financed Lobbying Think Tanks of America………

_9OJik4N_normal Sharqeya-Baneen-15           DennyCreek2

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“Money is increasingly transforming the once-staid think-tank world into a muscular arm of foreign governments’ lobbying in Washington. Most of the money comes from Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere in Asia, particularly the oil-producing nations of the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Norway, and takes many forms. The United Arab Emirates, a major supporter of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, quietly provided a donation of more than $1 million to help build the Center’s gleaming new glass and steel headquarters not far from the White House. Qatar, the small but wealthy Middle East nation, agreed last year to make $14.8 million, four-year donation to Brookings, which has helped finance a Brookings affiliate in Qatar and a project on United States relations with the Islamic world. Some scholars say the donations have led to implicit agreements that the research groups would refrain from criticizing the donor governments……….”

There is nothing implicit or subtle about it: tis the season now to exchange objectivity for some oil money. Did you ever believe that the princes and potentates of the Persian Gulf states would finance and host Western think-tanks because they love objective unbiased analysis?

When was the last time a Brookings paper publicly criticized the government of Qatar? Don’t we read Brookings-Doha ‘analysts’ peddling Qatari and Muslim Brotherhood policies every day in American and other Western media? Don’t we read almost every day Western ‘analysts’ attached to “think-tanks” in Abu Dhabi and Dubai peddle Saudi and UAE interests and regional policies and positions?

Petroleum money has been making deep inroads not only into the Western political classes, but also in some aspects and activities of academic and research institutions. The trend extends beyond think-tanks and opinion-makers.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Wall Street Journal Continues its Own Middle East Wars……

_9OJik4N_normal Sharqeya-Baneen-15                   DennyCreek2

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“Well, this is a little scary. U.S. intelligence intercepted messages from Iran to militants in Iraq ordering attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad if America strikes Syria. U.S officials say they’re preparing for Iran’s fast boats in the Persian Gulf, and military resources, including Marines, have been moved to the area. The message came from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard leader Qasem Soleimani and instructed Shiite groups to respond with force if the U.S. strikes Syria………..”

I didn’t know a U.S. attack ‘on Syria’ was in the cards these days. Unless the Wall Street Journal writer knows something no one else does.

Could he mean extending the current bombing attack against the Wahhabi Caliphate of ISIS into Syria? But then why would Iran retaliate in the Persian Gulf and why would Hezbollah retaliate in Beirut for any attack on the ISIS den of terrorists? Especially if the target of the Syrian campaign is NOT to alter the military balance in the Syrian civil war and tilt it toward the strategic goals of the Wahhabi oil princes. Provided Syria approves of any operations over its territory.

An attack on the U.S. embassy in Beirut by Hezbollah? That would be a stupid thing for them to do these days, and they know it. Only some media types and propagandists would think of it as probable. No doubt Hezbollah planners are more intelligent than many Wall Street Journal opinion-ators who write this kind of nonsense. They read as if written by some Likud or AIPAC functionaries.

More likely any attack on the U.S. embassy anywhere and not just in Beirut, if it ever happens, would come from Wahhabi terrorists nurtured for years by allied oil princes and by money from elements of Lebanon’s right-wing blocs.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghulou
m