If you want to wage war it is often necessary to open different fronts. For example, what is going on in Ukraine is a diversion designed to slow the Russians resupplying Syria and perhaps joining in the fight by indirect methods. This can be understood by looking at how justification is being created for greater US engagement in Syria, under the cover of combating ISIL, which the US put there in the first place.
The US House of Representatives has now voted to take direct military action against ISIL. USA Today has reported that “the bipartisan 273-156 vote came after days of debate in which lawmakers across the political spectrum expressed doubts about the scope and merits of the mission but conceded that the potential threat to the U.S. is too great to ignore.
As usual all America’s allies will be obliged to play a part in this. Regardless of their feelings on the matter, the US will invoke existing defence agreements, or rather the interpretation of these the US wants, to ensure they play a full part. If that fails, other means will be used. The war against the US’s own allies, designed to make them bow to its will, will also be conducted on several fronts.
Doormat of Europe
During the Saakashvili years the Republic of Georgia proved itself very accommodating to US interests, in exchange for cash for the ruling clan. For years the US was allowed to train and equip Chechen terrorists in the Pankisi Gorge, who were easily distinguished from the rest of the population by their relative wealth and lack of apparent cultural roots in a country where everyone knows who is related to whom and all the political and economic connections.
The present Georgian government is a lot of things, but has not yet shown itself to be the murderous criminal enterprise Saakashvili’s regime was. Although it is even more pro-US, as it is making efforts to actually adopt the Western democratic standards the previous government gave only lip service to, it cannot be relied upon to foster criminal schemes for that very reason, as like most allies it actually believes in US values more than the US itself does.
So the disinformation front has been opened. On September 23rd Foreign Policy, a respected if not exactly independent journal, published an exclusive story that “In a potential boost for the Obama administration, the former Soviet republic of Georgia has offered to host a training facility for the Syrian rebels as a part of the U.S.-led war against Islamic State militants in both Syria and Iraq.” The source for this story is an unnamed Administration official.
Georgia has been swift to deny this. Although the Ministry of Defence, mindful of its contracts, did not specifically deny the report, the State Security Council has rubbished it. “Neither opening of a training centre whatsoever nor sending of Georgian military contingent as part of the coalition is planned….As far as anti-IS coalition is concerned, Georgia’s participation will mainly be limited with humanitarian missions,” its statement read.
Neither side is telling the whole truth here. The Georgian Ambassador to the US is quoted in the Foreign Policy report as saying that Georgia had already offered such a centre to the US, but later said there were “inaccuracies” in his quote, without saying what they were. This has much to do with the ambitions of Defence Minister Irakli Alasania, who keeps prefacing comments by saying “I am only the Defence Minister”, implying that he thinks he should be Prime Minister and can plot his own course with impunity, and the rest of the government’s resistance to them.
However Maia Panjikidze, the Georgian Foreign Minister, states that “We have not discussed it and our American partners know it.” This implies that the US has two concerns. Firstly, it believes, rightly or wrongly, that this assistance was a hidden clause in the agreement to grant Georgia EU Associate Membership and accelerate its progress towards NATO. Secondly, as Senator Robert Menendez recently warned John Kerry, Congress may scrap the open-ended authorisation to use military force as approved in 2001, which allows the White House to conduct this action against ISIL.
If the US puts all the facilities it wants in place now, bouncing all its allies into taking part, it will not matter whether the authorisation to use force is withdrawn. By using the same methods we saw in Ukraine, provoking “popular” agitation and inserting native terrorists to further its cause, it can create a climate where no Congress, which is pledged to uphold America’s professed values, will dare back down in the face of the threat the US has itself created.
The US makes great play out of being part of “allied forces” and “coalitions”, implying that the free world is voluntarily uniting against the bad apples threatening it. However the US-led “coalitions” are not taking anything in the free world as their operational model.
They are in fact based on that of Communist Bulgaria. This state was so pro-Soviet that Great Leader Todor Zhivkov described Bulgaria and the Soviet Union as “two lungs in the same body”. Theoretically, therefore, it was everything the US despises.
However, as the US was always aware, every Bulgarian government from 1946 to 1989 was technically a coalition. Though the Communists dominated parliament they refused to rule alone: the government also included several puppet parties at different times, most prominently the National Agrarian Party, which had ruled for various periods in the pre-Communist era. Therefore the Communists could claim popular legitimacy, as their regime was a voluntary coalition rather than an imposed one-party state, even though everyone knew what was really going on.
The US does not enter into defence partnerships to help its allies become more independent of the US, or stronger. Its various support programmes, such as the notorious 64 Million Dollar “Train and Equip” which has been proven again and again to do neither, simply increase the dependence of its allies on the US and continue playing dangerous zero sum games with Russia and many other countries.
Long gone are leaders such as John Curtin, the Australian Prime Minister who openly defied his allies during World War Two and brought his troops home to defend Australia when all the indications were that it would be sacrificed to the Japanese for the sake of broader war objectives. Now the US’s allies are like the puppet politicians of Bulgaria. The world has been freed from the Cold War only to see a single superpower warring against foe and friend alike, to achieve objectives its own people would never support on its own soil.
Sledgehammers and nuts
If the US really wanted to combat ISIL it would not need to use military force. As it trained and armed this force in the first place it could seriously affect its viability by simply stopping its supplies. Georgia is one of the countries long used to supply US terror partners through the provision of fake end user certificates for arms shipments going through its ports and airspace. Much of this activity, all of which involves American manufacturers and/or dealers, is well documented. If the US can find and kill Bin Laden, it is perfectly capable of stopping these supply lines and cutting off other material support.
Similarly, ISIL is funding itself, and paying for this equipment, by controlling oil wells and selling their products. You can’t sell if nobody buys, and the oil industry is regulated. It is not difficult to find out who is buying this oil and where each barrel originates from, as we know from sanctions taken against the Palestinians. The US is happy to interfere in free markets in currencies, for example, when it wants to punish a country, it can do the same with ISIL’s oil.
These steps would not stop a determined force in its tracks but would seriously weaken it. They would also change its personnel. The militants that have ended up there via the Georgian Army or Maidan Square would soon be redeployed elsewhere to serve some other US purpose, leaving a different contingent profile. But that is the risk, from a US point of view. The devils they know, serving their own purposes, are too predictable an opponent to dare defeat, at least for now.
Anyone with a military background, even the most basic, knows that bombings alone, without “dedicated” boots on the ground, will not be enough to defeat an entrenched and well-financed enemy, which can merely concentrate its forces in civilian areas and wait for the Crusaders to come and get them. Obama himself knows this. Therefore the action Congress has voted for serves other US objectives, just as putting ISIL there to begin with did – and chief amongst these is forcing the US’s allies to play a full part in its schemes, by any means possible, by bringing the ISIL threat ever closer to their own doorsteps, their personnel and their stability.
ISIL exists to create an independent Kurdish state by force. It also threatens every US ally in its immediate region, including Turkey, as each of these countries is either majority Moslem but against ISIL or has a not insignificant Moslem population.
Each of countries of Eastern Europe and the Middle East has some connection with ISIL, either as a target or a supplier of some of the men and equipment being used by it. This is unlikely to be a coincidence, as US arms and defence agreements are the one thing all these countries have in common.
When television was first developed the British government took a strong but unrecognised interest in the project. We now know from declassified documents that its aim was to develop cathode ray tubes, the type used in early televisions, for use in the next World War – at least five years before it broke out. Neither John Logie Baird or any other founding father of TV had a choice in this matter, but they had no choice but to be allies of such a programme.
Whether terrorist or ally, in the modern world you will be treated the same. Fighting its enemies is the best means the US has of waging even bigger wars on its friends.
Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.