John Ward – Ukraine, ISIS, 2% Of GDP On Defence, Oil, Exports & Employment: Can Yer See Hadditizzyet? – 5 September 2014



After sabre-rattling in Ukraine and beheadings in Iraq, spending 2% on defence is firmly on the NATO agenda. But what’s the agenda? The Slog investigates and speculates.

On BBC Radio, David Haines is this morning being referred to universally as “British aid worker”. The rest of the media are pretty largely following suit. Yesterday’s Slogpost suggests that this simply isn’t true, but far be it for any self-respecting MSM hack to go off-message.

‘To the outside world, they’re a force of ruthless yet mysterious insurgents bent on terrorizing civilians and expanding Islamist rule’ insisted CNN’s website this morning. Well, according to a defector from ISIS, the view from the inside out is not dissimilar: “The main and principal goal of the Islamic State that they tell their new members is to establish an Islamic state that will encompass the Arab world,” the man said in Turkey. “And after that, we go to other countries.”

CNN of course doesn’t name the guy, and I can see why; but that does make it easy to just, um, invent someone – and then have them say stuff to scare the crap out of us. This particular page is truly an act of terrorism, in that it is clearly designed to terrify.

All this is going on against the background of a NATO summit in Wales, which as you know is a long way from the Ukraine, Syria and Iraq….and thus a reasonably safe venue for those behind the lies that lie far behind the lines. This is the demand I’d been expecting for some time….and it arrived last Monday bang on cue:

“I think it’s clearly the view at Nato that the Ukraine situation has been a game-changer,” Robert Bell, US secretary of defence representative in Europe told The Guardian.

The US has been pressing its European partners for a long time to increase defence spending. Now bigwig US and UK military staff are gung-ho about the summit, one of the Brits hilariously blowing the gaffe on Monday by saying “The US thinks this is its best chance for years, and we’re optimistic too.” Ooops. Create situations, sell arms, It’s the Special Relationship, folks.

Pretty early on, the exact number required came leaping from several mouths at once: two per cent.

By the end of Day 3, the figure had taken the form of a mantra designed to create an ecstatic tranquility among those present: toopasent, toopasent, toopasent, toopasent….ohhmmmmmm.

Now what we’ve been looking at since Brussels-am-Pentagon decided to meddle in Ukraine is (a) shot-down aeroplanes blamed on Russia (with all the evidence pointing in other directions) (b) vitriolic attempts to present Putin as a homicidal nutcase who’s obviously gone feral-rabid and (c) a whole new and even more terrible bogey-man in the Middle East called ISIS. Or ISIL. Or Syrian rebels. Or foreign insurgents in Iraq. Whatever.

Don’t get me wrong: the two separatist Kommissars working for the Kremlin who popped up for a news conference on Tuesday were pure media-savvy propagandists, Vladimir Putin is a bit too fond of his biceps for my taste, and those working towards a Jihadist Islamic Planet are very clearly people of whom we should all be afraid.

But who are these ISIS chaps who – we were told last winter – “are losing support in northern Syria, and in a state of disarray”? And what’s happened since last January to change their fortunes so radically?

ISIS is alleged to have emerged from the wreckage of the bombers formerly known as Al-Qaeda inside Iraq – or in Arabic, Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad. The Jihad word is something of a clue, there – but parts of this story don’t entirely add up.

ISIS is Sunni, albeit not in its disposition. It first appears during 2006 in Iraq as a ‘splinter group’ of Al Q’aida. Sunni Saddam Hussein having been regime-changed by shock-and-awe, the nascent terror group launched attacks on Iraq’s Shiite majority. Its ambition thus fuelled, the newest new-wave jihadi sect rushed to the anti-Assad rebellion in Syria during 2011, joining forces with local rebel group Al Nusra. Also entering Syria at that time (armed to the teeth thanks to US largesse) were Hillary Clinton’s new friends, the Muslim Brotherhood..who are also Sunni.

Predictably, once Assad didn’t oblige by being toppled, the Sunni allies began squabbling between themselves, and ISIS withdrew to Northern Syria, declaring The Islamic State. Note here that the main group with whom they argued was the Muslim Brotherhood….America’s new ally that had, previously here on MiddleEasters, been spawn of the Devil. Today ISIS is run on a führerprinzip basis by a Mr Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is either very cunning or not what he seems. Although at first interned by the US, after Dubya’s ‘victory’ in Iraq, Baghdadi was recommended for “unconditional release” in 2004. The report by the Joint US/Iraqi Release Committee did not see him as any kind of threat at all, and indeed referred to him as a civilian. This is odd, as he was well-known as a radical cleric in an especially outspoken Baghdad Mosque. But of course, he didn’t like Saddam…so he was OK. Allegedly.

But seven years later, things had changed: on 4 October 2011, the US State Department listed al-Baghdadi as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, offering a reward of up to US$10 million for information leading to his capture or death. In 2013, Baghdadi declared himself to be boss of the newly minted Islamic State.

Although seen over the winter of 2013/14 to be “licking its wounds with its tail between its legs” – quite a feat – ISIS(L) abruptly became very strong and successful. In February 2014, Al Q’aida mysteriously disavowed any and all things about to be done by ISIS, and in June Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared himself Caliph of the even more newly minted Islamic Caliphate.

Somehow, at this point the ISIS leader managed to get over 80% of former squabblee Al-Nusra’s ‘foreign fighters’ to join him. Many of these rebranded foreign fighters had been or still were Muslim Brotherhood jihadists…that is, bankrolled by the CIA. Together, this alliance “seized” a huge area of Iraq.

Today – miraculously – just three months later – ISIS controls 42% of Syria and 40% of Iraq. Quite a comeback. What’s more, it has some 70,000 or more armed fighters under its banners. Explaining the speed of its advances since February, one ISIS fighter said the group had been able “to capture American equipment left behind during the start of its surprise offensive”. Bit careless of the Yanks, that.

But here’s one piece of data most have missed: although two fifths of Syria and Iraq have been taken by ISIS, this is estimated to account for nearly four fifths of the area’s oil output. Local officials claim ISIS is currently making $1 million per day in oil profits from Iraq alone. Ah. Right.

Add that million a day walking around money to the capital flowing towards ISIS from the Saudis (and, say some, Qatar) and this is not a group about to leave the stage in a hurry. Also please note: President Obama visited the Saudis this year to ‘underscore the importance of the bilateral relationship’ between their countries.

Like all my pieces this week, I refuse to be definitive at this stage about who is doing what to whom, or with what and why. I will simply end here with another set of extrapolations:

1. The Establishment media are clearly uninterested in David Haines’s real job.

2. It remains clear that the Americans have bet the farm on Sunni rather than Shia Islam. ISIS is avowedly Sunni.

3. NATO members spending 2% on defence would be quite a hike. But you can bet that the beheadings will act as money-raisers. And you can speculate that this was precisely the idea.

4. Lest we forget, the main event that got a depressed West up off the floor at the end of the 1930s was the vast increase in defence spending – and the employment that created. Some EU countries spending that much would unquestionably create jobs. It would also boost US and UK exports massively in terms of weapons sales. So with an election just eight months away now, this is very handy timing for Camerlot.

Last night at The Slog: the twin Establishment weaknesses of cynical cuts and naive largesse. / link to original article

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