Monday, February 18, 2019

Is Imran Khan a Stooge of Pakistan’s Military?


During Imran Khan’s four-month sit-in and political demonstrations in front of the parliament in Islamabad from August to December 2014, the allegations of election rigging and the demand for electoral reforms were simply a smokescreen.

A question would naturally arise in the minds of curious observers of Pakistan’s politics that what prompted Imran Khan to make a sudden volte-face when the stellar success of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the general elections of 2013 was anything but a pleasant surprise for the PTI leadership.

Imran Khan and his political party were accustomed to winning only a single seat in the parliament right up to the general elections of 2008 which the PTI boycotted. In the parliamentary elections of 2013, however, Imran Khan’s PTI mustered 35 National Assembly seats and completely wiped out the northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province’s Pashtun nationalist party, Awami National Party (ANP), and formed a coalition government in the province with the tacit approval of Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), because PML-N could have easily formed a coalition government in the province with Maulana Fazl-ur-Rahman’s Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam’s support.

These facts prove beyond doubt that the demonstrations and protests by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) from August to December 2014 were based on political opportunism rather than any genuine grievances against the government of Nawaz Sharif.

Imran Khan came forward with a very broad and disjointed agenda: from electoral reforms to the resignation of the prime minister to seeking justice for the victims of the Model Town tragedy on 17 June 2014 in which 14 workers of Tahir-ul-Qadri’s Minhaj-ul-Quran were killed by the Punjab police in Lahore.

When the government agreed to the demand for electoral reforms, Imran Khan began insisting on the unacceptable demand of prime minister’s resignation; and when people and media criticized him for being unreasonable and causing disruption to the normal functioning of the state, he immediately occupied the high moral ground by drawing attention to the Model Town tragedy.

Evidently, Imran Khan’s “wish list” was only a smokescreen to hide his real motive, which was to permanently banish Nawaz Sharif and his family from Pakistan’s politics by sending them into another decade-long exile to Saudi Arabia with the help of Imran Khan’s patrons in Pakistan’s security establishment.

Truth be told, Imran Khan’s PTI played the same spoiler role in Pakistan’s politics which the elusive Tamarod Movement had played in Egypt in June 2013, before the military-led coup against Mohammad Morsi’s government by General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Apart from a small number of loyalists of Egypt’s military, Tamarod was mainly comprised of a few thousand football enthusiasts, known as “the ultras,” who claimed that they had purportedly collected “millions” of signatures endorsing the ouster of Mohammad Morsi of Muslim Brotherhood, who had only had an year-long stint in power in Egypt’s more than sixty-year political history.

Similarly, Imran Khan’s PTI’s demonstrations in 2014 were not spontaneous uprisings. Those political protests were cleverly planned and choreographed by Pakistan’s military that has a history of staging military coups in Pakistan.

Those protests should be viewed in the backdrop of the Euromaidan demonstrations in Ukraine in November 2013, the Rabaa square massacre in Egypt in August 2013, and the mass protests and the ensuing military coup against the government of Yingluck Shinawatra in Thailand in May 2014, months before the announcement of street demonstrations against the government of Nawaz Sharif by Imran Khan.

Apparently, the “scriptwriter” of 2014 protests first realized the potential of PTI’s zealots to stage a sit-in when they blocked NATO’s supply route in Pakistan’s northwestern city Peshawar. It must have then occurred to Pakistan’s security establishment that Imran Khan’s PTI’s highly motivated youth supporters were very much capable of staging months-long demonstrations against the government of Nawaz Sharif.

Notwithstanding, there were actually two groups of perpetrators that carried out an assault on democracy and constitution during the mass demonstrations against the government of Nawaz Sharif in 2014. Imran Khan’s PTI is a nation-wide political party which has a mass following; however, Tahir-ul-Qadri and his Minhaj-ul-Quran religious organization is a subversive outfit which is as dangerous as the Taliban.

The Taliban carry out subversive activities against the state; and in the same manner, Tahir-ul-Qadri’s Minhaj launched a concerted assault on the paramount institutions of the state: the Parliament and the Prime Minister House.

Evidently, the August to December 2014 protests were carefully planned and choreographed. The role played by Imran Khan and PTI was only secondary; the primary role was played by the establishment’s stooges: Tahir-ul-Qadri, Sheikh Rasheed, Chaudhry Shujaat and Pervaiz Elahi.

Imran Khan’s PTI is a broad-based political party which represents the urban middle class; by their very nature, such protesters are peaceful and nonviolent. Left to his own resources, the best Imran Khan could have done was to stage a sit-in at Aabpara Market for a few days.

Both violent charges of the demonstrators in August 2014, the assault on the Red Zone in Islamabad as well as the charge on the Prime Minister House, were led by the Minhaj-ul-Quran workers. Those hooligans were a bunch of highly organized and trained religious zealots who were equipped with sticks, slingshots, gas-masks, cranes and anything short of firearms, which apparently their organizers forbade them from using in order to keep the demonstrations legit in the eyes of public.

The role played by Imran Khan and PTI in the assault on the Constitution Avenue was simply meant to legitimize the assault: the peaceful protesters, women and kids, music concerts and populist demagoguery, everything added up to creating excellent optics; but the real driving force in the assault on democracy was Tahir-ul-Qadri and his Minhaj-ul-Quran, which is a religious cult comparable to the Rajavis of Iran and their Mujahideen-e-Khalq, or the Gulenists in Turkey.

Although Imran Khan did eventually manage to win the elections last year and formed the government in the center, those elections were anything but fair. Many of the stalwarts of Nawaz Sharif’s political party were sent behind the bars before the July 2018 general elections, and Nawaz Sharif himself was barred from taking part in the elections by a verdict of Pakistan’s apex court in July 2017, and was subsequently also given a ten-year imprisonment sentence, though the latter decision is subject to appeal.

In Pakistan’s context, the national security establishment originally meant civil-military bureaucracy. Though over the years, civil bureaucracy has taken a backseat and now “the establishment” is defined as military’s top brass that has dictated Pakistan’s security and defense policy since its inception.

Paradoxically, security establishments do not have ideologies, they simply have interests. For instance, the General Ayub-led administration in the 1960s was regarded as a liberal establishment. Then, the General Zia-led administration during the 1980s was manifestly a conservative Islamist establishment. And lastly, the General Musharraf-led administration from 1999 to 2008 was once again deemed a liberal establishment.

Similarly, the Egyptian and Turkish military establishments also have a liberal outlook, but they are equally capable of forming alliances with conservatives if and when it suits the institutional interests of military. In fact, since military’s top brass is mostly groomed in urban milieus, therefore its high-ranking officers are more likely to have liberal temperaments.

The establishment does not judge on the basis of ideology, it simply looks for weakness. If a liberal political party is unassailable in a political system, it would join forces with conservatives; and if conservatives cannot be beaten in a system, it would form an alliance with liberals to perpetuate the stranglehold of the “deep state” on its traditional domain, the security and defense policy of a country.

The biggest threat to nascent democracies all over the world does not come from external enemies, but from their internal enemies, the national security establishments, because military generals by their very training have a chauvinistic mindset and a hawkish temperament. An additional aggravating factor that increases the likelihood of military coups in developing democracies is that they lack firm traditions of democracy, rule of law and constitutionalism which act as bars against martial laws.

All political parties in Pakistan at some point in time in history were groomed by the security establishment. The founder of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was groomed by General Ayub’s establishment in the 1960s as a counterweight to Sheikh Mujib’s Awami League in the East Pakistan province of Pakistan, which is now a separate country Bangladesh.

Similarly, Nawaz Sharif was nurtured by General Zia’s administration during the 1980s to offset the influence of Benazir Bhutto-led Pakistan People’s Party, which was deemed a “security risk” by the military’s top brass. And finally, Imran Khan was groomed by General Musharraf’s establishment to counterbalance the ascendancy of Nawaz Sharif, who had fallen out with the establishment after the Pakistan Army’s Kargil Operation in the Indian-administered Kashmir in 1999.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Pakistan’s War on Terror and Ouster of Nawaz Sharif

Imran Khan and General Qamar Bajwa.

In a momentous decision on July 28, 2017, then Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif was disqualified from holding public office by the country’s apex court on the flimsy pretext of holding an “Iqama” (a work permit) for a Dubai-based company, and was subsequently given a ten-year imprisonment sentence, though the latter decision is subject to appeal.

Subsequently, sham elections were staged last year, in which many of the stalwarts of Nawaz Sharif’s political party were sent behind the bars and the stooge of Pakistan’s military Imran Khan and his newly formed political party emerged as clear winners, thus legitimizing the “judicial coup” against the government of Nawaz Sharif.

Although it is generally assumed that the revelations in the Panama Papers, that Nawaz Sharif and his family members owned offshore companies, led to the disqualification of the former prime minister, another critically important factor that contributed to the ouster and incarceration of Nawaz Sharif is often overlooked.

In October 2016, one of Pakistan’s leading English language newspapers, Dawn News, published an exclusive report [1] dubbed as the “Dawn Leaks” in the Pakistani press. In the report titled “Act against militants or face international isolation,” citing an advisor to the prime minister, Tariq Fatemi, who was fired from his job for disclosing the internal deliberations of a high-level meeting to the media, the author of the report Cyril Almeida contended that in a huddle of Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership, the civilian government had told the military’s top brass to withdraw its support from the militant outfits operating in Pakistan, specifically from the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad.

After losing tens of thousands of lives to terror attacks during the last decade, an across-the-board consensus has developed among Pakistan’s mainstream political forces that the policy of nurturing militants against regional adversaries has backfired on Pakistan and it risks facing international isolation due to belligerent policies of Pakistan’s security establishment.

Not only Washington, but Pakistan’s “all-weather ally” China, which plans to invest $62 billion in Pakistan via its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects, has also made its reservations public regarding Pakistan’s continued support to the aforementioned jihadist groups.

Thus, excluding a handful of far-right Islamist political parties that are funded by the Gulf’s petro-dollars and historically garner less than 10% votes of Pakistan’s electorate, all the civilian political forces are in favor of turning a new leaf in Pakistan’s checkered political history by endorsing the decision of an indiscriminate crackdown on militant outfits operating in Pakistan. But Pakistan’s security establishment jealously guards its traditional domain, the security and defense policy of Pakistan, and still maintains a distinction between the so-called “good and bad” Taliban.

Regarding Pakistan’s duplicitous stance on terrorism, it’s worth noting that there are three distinct categories of militants operating in Pakistan: the Afghanistan-focused Pashtun militants; the Kashmir-focused Punjabi militants; and foreign transnational terrorists, including the Arab militants of al-Qaeda, the Uzbek insurgents of Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the Chinese Uighur jihadists of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM). Compared to tens of thousands of native Pashtun and Punjabi militants, the foreign transnational terrorists number only in a few hundred and are hence inconsequential.

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which is mainly comprised of Pashtun militants, carries out bombings against Pakistan’s state apparatus. The ethnic factor is critical here. Although the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) like to couch their rhetoric in religious terms, but it is the difference of ethnicity and language that enables them to recruit Pashtun tribesmen who are willing to carry out subversive activities against the Punjabi-dominated state apparatus, while the Kashmir-focused Punjabi militants have by and large remained loyal to their patrons in the security agencies of Pakistan.

Although Pakistan’s security establishment has been willing to conduct military operations against the Pakistani Taliban (TTP), which are regarded as a security threat to Pakistan’s state apparatus, as far as the Kashmir-focused Punjabi militants, including the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, and the Afghanistan-focused Quetta Shura Taliban, including the Haqqani network, are concerned, they are still enjoying impunity because such militant groups are regarded as ‘strategic assets’ by Pakistan’s security agencies.

Therefore, the Nawaz Sharif government’s decision that Pakistan must act against the jihadist proxies of the security establishment or risk facing international isolation ruffled the feathers of the military’s top brass, and consequently, the country’s judiciary was used to disqualify an elected prime minister in order to browbeat the civilian leadership of Pakistan.

Historically, from the massacres in Bangladesh in 1971 to the training and arming of Afghan jihadists during the Soviet-Afghan war throughout the 1980s and ‘90s, and then mounting ill-conceived military operations in Pakistan’s tribal areas under American pressure, leading to the displacement of millions of Pashtun tribesmen, the single biggest issue in Pakistan’s turbulent politics has been the interference of army in politics. Unless Pakistanis are able to establish civilian supremacy in Pakistan, it would become a rogue state which will pose a threat to regional peace and its own citizenry.

For the half of its seventy-year history, Pakistan was directly ruled by the army, and for the remaining half, the military establishment kept dictating Pakistan’s defense and security policy from behind the scenes. The outcome of Ayub Khan’s first decade-long martial law from 1958 to 1969 was that Bengalis were marginalized and alienated to an extent that it led to the separation of East Pakistan (Bangladesh) in 1971.

During General Zia’s second decade-long martial law from 1977 to 1988, Pakistan’s military trained and armed its own worst nemesis, the Afghan and Kashmiri jihadists. And during General Musharraf’s third martial law from 1999 to 2008, Pakistan’s security establishment made a volte-face under American pressure and declared a war against its erstwhile jihadist proxies that kindled the fire of insurgency in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

Although most political commentators in Pakistan nowadays hold an Islamist General Zia-ul-Haq responsible for the jihadist militancy in tribal areas, it would be erroneous to assume that nurturing militancy in Pakistan was the doing of an individual scapegoat named Zia. All the army chiefs after Zia’s assassination in 1988, including Generals Aslam Beg, Asif Nawaz, Waheed Kakar, Jahangir Karamat and right up to General Musharraf, upheld the same military doctrine of using jihadist proxies to destabilize the hostile neighboring countries, Afghanistan, India and Iran, throughout the 1980s and ‘90s.

A strategic rethink in the Pakistan Army’s top-brass took place only after the 9/11 terror attack, when Richard Armitage, the US Deputy Secretary of State during the Bush administration, threatened General Musharraf in so many words: “We will send Pakistan back to the Stone Age unless you stop supporting the Taliban.” Thus, deliberate promotion of Islamic radicalism and militancy in the region was not the doing of an individual general; rather, it was a well-thought-out military doctrine of a rogue institution.

Notwithstanding, although far from being its diehard ideologue, Donald Trump has been affiliated with the infamous white supremacist “alt-right” movement, which regards Islamic terrorism as an existential threat to America’s security. Trump’s tweets slamming Pakistan for playing a double game in Afghanistan and providing safe havens to the Afghan Taliban on its soil reveals his uncompromising and hawkish stance on terrorism.

Many political commentators in the Pakistani media misinterpreted Trump’s tweets as nothing more than a momentary tantrum of a fickle US president, who wants to pin the blame of Washington’s failures in Afghanistan on Pakistan. But along with tweets, the Trump administration also withheld a tranche of $255 million US assistance to Pakistan, which shows that it wasn’t just tweets but a carefully considered policy of the new US administration to persuade Pakistan to toe Washington’s line in Afghanistan.

Furthermore, Washington has also been arm-twisting Islamabad through the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to do more to curtail the activities of militants operating from its soil to destabilize the US-backed government in Afghanistan.

Finally, after Donald Trump’s outbursts against Pakistan, many willfully blind security and defense analysts suggested that Pakistan needed to intensify its diplomatic efforts to persuade the Trump administration that Pakistan was sincere in its fight against terrorism. But diplomacy is not a charade in which one can persuade one’s interlocutors merely by hollow words without substantiating the words by tangible actions.

The double game played by Pakistan’s security agencies in Afghanistan and Kashmir to destabilize its regional adversaries is in plain sight for everybody to discern and feel indignant about. Therefore, Pakistan will have to withdraw its support from the Afghan Taliban and the Kashmir-focused Punjabi militant groups, if it is eager to maintain good working relations with the Trump administration and wants to avoid economic sanctions and international censure.

Footnotes:

[1] Act against militants or face international isolation, civilians tell military:

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Syrian Conflict and Beginning of the New Cold War


In July 2003, Dr. David Kelly, a British weapons inspector who had disclosed to the media that Tony Blair’s government’s dossier on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction was “sexed up,” was found dead in a public park a mile away from his home.

The inquiry into his death concluded that Kelly had committed suicide by slitting his left wrist but the mystery surrounding his death has remained unresolved to date, though the obvious beneficiary of his propitious “suicide” was the British intelligence itself.

More recently, on March 4 last year, Sergei Skripal, a Russian double agent working for the British foreign intelligence service, and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a public bench outside a shopping center in Salisbury. A few months later, in July last year, a British woman, Dawn Sturgess, died after touching the container of the nerve agent that allegedly poisoned the Skripals.

In the case of the Skripals, Theresa May’s government promptly accused Russia of attempted assassination. There are a couple of caveats, however. Firstly, although Sergei Skripal was a double agent working for MI6, he was released in a spy swap deal in 2010. Had he been a person of importance, Moscow would not have released him and let him settle in the UK in the first place.

Secondly, the British government concluded that Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a Moscow-made, military-grade nerve agent, Novichok. A question would naturally arise that why would Russian secret agents leave a smoking gun evidence behind that would lead prosecutors straight to Moscow when their assassins could have used a gun or a knife to accomplish the task?

Sergei Skripal was recruited by the British MI6 in 1995, and before his arrest in Russia in December 2004, he was alleged to have blown the cover of scores of Russian secret agents. He was released in a spy swap deal in 2010 and was allowed to settle in Salisbury.

Both Sergei Skripal and his daughter have since recovered and were discharged from hospital in May last year, which means they might not have been poisoned by Novichok. In fact, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov shared the results [1] of a Swiss laboratory in April last year, according to which “BZ toxin” was used in the Salisbury poisoning which was never produced in Russia, but was in service in the US, UK and other NATO states.

Nevertheless, the US, UK and European nations expelled scores of Russian diplomats and the Trump administration ordered the closure of Russian consulate in Seattle. In a retaliatory move, Russia also expelled a similar number of American, British and European diplomats, and ordered the closure of American consulate in Saint Petersburg. The relations between Moscow and Western powers reached their lowest ebb since the break-up of the former Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War in December 1991.

Although Moscow might appear as an aggressor in these instances, in order to understand the real casus belli of the new Cold War between Russia and the Western powers, we must recall another momentous event that took place in Deir al-Zor governorate in eastern Syria in February last year.

On February 7, a month before the alleged assassination attempts in Salisbury, the US B-52 bombers and Apache helicopters struck a contingent of Syrian government troops and allied forces in Deir al-Zor that reportedly [2] killed and wounded scores of Russian military contractors working for the Russian private security firm, the Wagner group.

The survivors described the bombing as an absolute massacre, and Kremlin lost more Russian citizens in one day than it had lost throughout its more than tow-year-long military campaign in support of the Syrian government since September 2015.

The reason why Washington struck Russian contractors working in Syria was that the US-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – which is mainly comprised of Kurdish YPG militias – had reportedly handed over the control of some areas east of Euphrates River to Deir al-Zor Military Council (DMC), which is the Arab-led component of SDF, and had relocated several battalions of Kurdish YPG militias to Afrin and along Syria’s northern border with Turkey in order to defend the Kurdish-held areas against the onslaught of the Turkish armed forces and allied Syrian militant proxies during Ankara’s “Operation Olive Branch” in Syria’s northwest that lasted from January to March 2018.

Syrian forces with the backing of Russian contractors took advantage of the opportunity and crossed the Euphrates River to capture an oil refinery located to the east of the Euphrates River in the Kurdish-held area of Deir al-Zor.

The US Air Force responded with full force, knowing well the ragtag Arab component of SDF – mainly comprised of local Arab tribesmen and mercenaries to make the Kurdish-led SDF appear more representative and inclusive – was simply not a match for the superior training and arms of Syrian troops and Russian military contractors. Consequently, causing a carnage in which scores of Russian citizens lost their lives, an incident which became a trigger for the beginning of the new Cold War as is obvious from subsequent events.

Regarding the brinkmanship, in the aftermath of alleged Douma chemical weapons attack in Syria on April 7 last year, one of the “smartest” American presidents ever tweeted on April 11, 2018: “Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”

When Donald Trump’s advisers drew his attention to the fact that he might have telegraphed his intentions of bombing Syria to Moscow, he came up with an even more childish tweet the next day, saying: “Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all! In any event, the United States, under my Administration, has done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS. Where is our Thank you America?”

Fact of the matter is that during the week before the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria, Donald Trump was so distracted by the FBI’s raid on the office of his attorney Michael Cohen and the release of former FBI director James Comey’s tell-all book that he had paid scant attention to what had happened in Syria.

He kept fulminating about those two issues throughout the week before the alleged Douma chemical weapons attack on his Twitter timeline and mentioned the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria on April 7 last year only in the passing.

Even though Trump’s babysitter then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis admitted on the record that although he was sure chlorine was used in the attack in Douma, Syria, he was not sure who carried out the attack and whether any other toxic chemical agent, particularly sarin, was used in the attack. If chlorine can be classified as a chemical weapon, then how is one supposed to categorize white phosphorous which was used by the US military in large quantities in the battle against the Islamic State in Raqqa?

Despite scant evidence as to the use of chemical weapons or the party responsible for it, Donald Trump ordered another cruise missiles strike in Syria on April 14 last year in collaboration with Theresa May’s government in the UK and Emmanuel Macron’s administration in France. The strike took place a little over a year after a similar cruise missiles strike on al-Shayrat airfield on April 6, 2017, after an alleged chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun, that accomplished nothing.

Both those cruise missiles strikes in Syria were not only illegal under international law but were also unlawful under American laws. While striking the Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria, Washington availed itself of the war on terror provisions in the US laws, known as the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), but those laws do not give the president the power to order strikes against the Syrian government targets without the approval of the US Congress which has the sole authority to declare war.

The Intercept reported last year [3] that the Trump administration had derived the authority to strike the Syrian government targets based on a “top secret” memorandum of the Office of Legal Counsel that even the US Congress can’t see. Complying with the norms of transparency and rule of law had never been the strong points of American democracy but the Trump administration had done away with even the pretense of accountability and checks and balances.

The fact that out of 105 total cruise missiles deployed in the April 14, 2018 strikes against a scientific research facility in the Barzeh district of Damascus and two alleged chemical weapons storage facilities in Homs in Syria, 85 were launched by the US, 12 by the French and 8 by the UK aircrafts demonstrated that the strikes were meant as a show of force against Russia by a “powerful and assertive” American president who regards the interests of his European allies as his own.

Footnotes:

[1] Lavrov: Swiss lab says ‘BZ toxin’ used in Salisbury:

[2] Russian toll in Syria battle was 300 killed and wounded:

[3] Donald Trump ordered Syria strike based on a secret legal justification even Congress can’t see:

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Have Islamic State’s Jihadists Joined Al-Nusra Front in Syria’s Idlib?


At its peak in 2014, when the Islamic State declared its “caliphate” in Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, the Islamic State, according to the mainstream media’s count, used to have 70,000 jihadists. But now, only several hundred fighters seem to have been left within its ranks, who have been cornered in a holdout in Hajin in eastern Syria near the town of Al-Bukamal on the border between Syria and Iraq.

The divisions within the rank and file of the terrorist organization seem to be growing as it has lost all its territory and is now surrounded in a border town, with the US-backed Kurdish militias pressing their offensive from the west on the Syrian side and the Iran-backed militias from the east on the Iraqi side of the border.

Moreover, tens of thousands of Islamic State jihadists and civilians have been killed in the airstrikes conducted by the US-led coalition against the Islamic State and the ground offensives by the Iraqi armed forces and allied militias in Iraq and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in Syria.

Furthermore, due to frequent desertions, the number of fighters within the Islamic State’s ranks has evidently dwindled. But a question would naturally arise in the minds of curious observers of the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria that where did the remaining tens of thousands of Islamic State’s jihadists vanish?

The riddle can be easily solved, though, if we bear in mind that although Idlib Governorate in Syria’s northwest has firmly been under the control of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) led by al-Nusra Front since 2015, its territory was equally divided between Turkey-backed rebels and al-Nusra Front.

In a brazen offensive last month, however, the al-Nusra jihadists completely routed Turkey-backed militants even though the latter are supported by a professionally trained and highly organized and disciplined military of a NATO member Turkey. And al-Nusra Front now reportedly controls 70% territory in Idlib Governorate.

The reason why al-Nusra Front has been easily able to defeat Turkey-backed militants appears to be that the ranks of al-Nusra Front have now been filled by hardcore jihadist deserters from the Islamic State after the fall of the latter’s “caliphate” in Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.

The merger of al-Nusra Front and Islamic State in Idlib doesn’t come as a surprise, though, since the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front used to be a single organization [1] before a split occurred between the two militant groups in April 2013 over a leadership dispute.

Regarding the nexus between Islamic jihadists and purported “moderate rebels” in Syria, while the representatives of Free Syria Army (FSA) were in Washington in January last year, soliciting the Trump administration to restore the CIA’s “train and equip” program for the Syrian militants that was shuttered in July 2017, hundreds of Islamic State’s jihadists joined the so-called “moderate rebels” in Idlib in their battle against the advancing Syrian government troops backed by Russian airstrikes to liberate the strategically important Abu Duhur airbase, according to a January last year’s AFP report authored by Maya Gebeily.

The Islamic State already had a foothold in neighboring Hama province and its foray into Idlib was an extension of its outreach. The Islamic State captured several villages and claimed to have killed two dozen Syrian soldiers and taken twenty hostages, according to the report.

Though the AFP report titled “Four years and one caliphate later, Islamic State claims Idlib comeback” [2] has been taken down by Yahoo News, because it mentioned that on January 12, 2018, the Islamic State officially declared Idlib one of its “Islamic emirates.”

The reason why the AFP report has been redacted appears to be that it did not meet the editorial line of the mainstream media, as it mentioned Idlib, which is surrounded by the Syrian government troops, as an “Islamic emirate” of the Islamic State, which could provide a pretext to the Syrian armed forces backed by Russian airstrikes to mount an offensive against the jihadists in Idlib Governorate.

Nevertheless, in all likelihood, some of the Islamic State’s jihadists who joined the battle in Idlib in January last year were part of the same contingent of thousands of Islamic State militants that fled Raqqa in October 2017 under a deal brokered [3] by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

In fact, one of the main objectives of the deal was to let the jihadists fight the Syrian government forces in Idlib and elsewhere in Syria, and to free up the Kurdish-led SDF in a scramble against the Syrian government troops to capture oil and gas fields in Deir al-Zor in eastern Syria and the border posts along Syria’s border with Iraq.

Notwithstanding, according to a December 29 report by RT [4]: “A high-ranking Turkish delegation arrived in Moscow on December 29, only a day after international media broke news of Kurdish militias inviting Syrian forces to enter Manbij before the Turks do. Syria’s military proclaimed they ‘raised the flag’ over Manbij, but there have been no independent reports confirming the moving of troops into the city.”

The report notes: “The Saturday Moscow meeting was key to preventing all actors of the Syrian war from locking horns over the Kurdish enclave. Obviously, Turkey will insist that it is their forces that should enter Manbij, Russia will of course insist the city should be handed over to Assad’s forces, Kirill Semenov, an Islamic studies expert with Russia’s Institute for Innovative Development, told RT.”

The report further adds: “Realpolitik, of course, plays a role here as various locations across Syria might be used as a bargaining chip by all parties to the conflict. Semenov suggested the Turks may agree on Syrian forces taking some parts of Idlib province in exchange for Damascus’ consent for a Turkish offensive toward Manbij or Kobani.”

It becomes abundantly clear after reading the RT report that a land swap agreement between Ankara and Damascus under the auspices of Moscow is in the works to avoid standoff over Arab-majority towns of Manbij and Kobani which have been occupied by the Kurds since August 2016 and January 2015, respectively.

The regions currently being administered by the Kurds in Syria include the Kurdish-majority Qamishli and al-Hasakah in northeastern Syria along the border with Iraq, and the Arab-majority towns of Manbij to the west of the Euphrates River in northern Syria and Kobani to the east of the Euphrates River along the southern Turkish border.

The oil- and natural gas-rich Deir al-Zor governorate in eastern Syria has been contested between the Syrian government and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, and it also contains a few pockets of the remnants of the Islamic State militants alongside both eastern and western banks of the Euphrates River.

The Turkish “East of Euphrates” military doctrine basically means that the Turkish armed forces would not tolerate the presence of the Syrian PYD/YPG Kurds – which the Turks regard as “terrorists” allied to the PKK Kurdish separatist group in Turkey – in Manbij and Kobani, in line with the longstanding Turkish policy of denying the Kurds any territory in the traditionally Arab-majority areas of northern Syria along Turkey’s southern border.

The aforementioned Moscow-brokered agreement would likely stipulate that Damascus would permit Ankara to mount offensives in the Kurdish-held towns Manbij and Kobani in northern Syria in return for Ankara withdrawing its militant proxies from Maarat al-Numan, Khan Sheikhoun and Jisr al-Shughour, all of which are strategically located in the south of Idlib Governorate.

Just as Ankara cannot tolerate the presence of the Kurds in northern Syria along Turkey’s southern border, similarly even Ankara would acknowledge the fact that Damascus cannot possibly conceive the long-term presence of Ankara’s militant proxies in the aforementioned strategic locations in the south of Idlib Governorate threatening the Alawite heartland of coastal Latakia, particularly now that al-Nusra Front jihadists have overrun 70% of Idlib Governorate and the hardcore deserters from the Islamic State have also established their foothold in northwestern Syria. If such a land swap agreement is concluded between Ankara and Damascus under the auspices of Moscow, it would be a win-win for all parties to the Syrian conflict.

Footnotes:

[1] Al-Nusra Front: Islamic State’s Breakaway Faction in Syria’s Idlib:

[2] Four years and one caliphate later, Islamic State claims Idlib comeback:

[3] Raqqa’s dirty secret: the deal that let Islamic State jihadists escape Raqqa:

[4] Land swap between Turkey and Syria – an option to avoid standoff over Manbij:

Friday, February 8, 2019

Islamic State’s Chief Al-Baghdadi Survived a ‘Coup’ by his Fighters

Abu Mohammad al-Jolani.

Martin Chulov reported [1] for The Guardian yesterday, February 7, the Islamic State’s chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had survived a coup attempt last month by foreign fighters within the ranks of the terrorist organization in its holdout in Hajin in eastern Syria near the town of Al-Bukamal on the border between Syria and Iraq, and the Islamic State had reportedly placed a bounty on the main plotter’s head.

The report states: “The incident is believed to have taken place on 10 January in a village near Hajin in the Euphrates River valley, where the jihadist group is clinging to its last sliver of land. Regional intelligence officials say a planned move against Baghdadi led to a firefight between foreign fighters and the fugitive terrorist chief’s bodyguards, who spirited him away to the nearby deserts.”

The report further adds: “Isis has offered a reward to whomever kills Abu Muath al-Jazairi, believed to be a veteran foreign fighter, one of an estimated 500 Isis fighters thought to remain in the area. While Isis did not directly accuse Jazairi, placing a bounty on the head of one of its senior members is an unusual move and intelligence officials believe he was the central plotter.”

The divisions within the rank and file of the terrorist organization seem to be growing as it has lost all its territory and is now surrounded in a border town, with the US-backed Kurdish militias pressing their offensive from the west on the Syrian side and the Iran-backed militias from the east on the Iraqi side of the border. Moreover, due to frequent desertions, it now has only several hundred fighters left within its ranks.

The Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is known to be a diabetic, suffering from high blood pressure and had suffered a permanent injury in an airstrike several years ago. Although al-Baghdadi has not publicly appointed a successor, two of the closest aides who have emerged as his likely successors over the years are Iyad al-Obaidi, his defense minister, and Ayad al-Jumaili, the in charge of security.

The latter of the two had already reportedly been killed in an airstrike in April 2017 in al-Qaim region on Iraq’s border with Syria. Thus, the most likely successor of al-Baghdadi would be al-Obaidi. Both al-Jumaili and al-Obaidi had previously served as security officers in Iraq’s Baathist army under Saddam Hussein, and al-Obaidi is known to be the de facto deputy [2] of al-Baghdadi.

Moreover, according to an AFP report [3] last year, hundreds of Islamic State’s jihadists had joined the so-called “moderate rebels” in Syria’s northwestern Idlib Governorate where they were surrounded by the Syrian government troops. The Islamic State already had a foothold in neighboring Hama province and its foray into Idlib was an extension of its outreach.

Though the AFP report authored by Maya Gebeily seems to have been taken down by Yahoo News because it mentioned that on January 12, 2018 the Islamic State officially declared Idlib one of its “Islamic emirates.” The Islamic State had captured several villages and claimed to have killed two dozen Syrian soldiers and taken twenty hostages, according to the report.

In all likelihood, some of the Islamic State’s jihadists who joined the battle in Idlib were part of the same contingent of militants that fled Raqqa in October 2017 under a deal brokered [4] by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). In fact, one of the main objectives of the deal was to let the jihadists fight the Syrian government troops and to free up the Kurdish-led SDF in a scramble to capture oil and gas fields in Deir al-Zor and the border posts along Syria’s border with Iraq.

The reason why the AFP report has been redacted appears to be that it did not meet the editorial line of the mainstream media. As it mentioned Idlib, which is surrounded by the Syrian government troops, as an “Islamic emirate” of the Islamic State, which could provide a pretext to the Syrian armed forces backed by Russian airstrikes to mount an offensive there.

It bears mentioning that Idlib has firmly been under the control of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) led by al-Nusra Front since 2015. And in a brazen offensive last month, the al-Nusra jihadists completely routed Turkey-backed militants, and al-Nusra now reportedly controls more than 70% of territory in Idlib Governorate.

The reason why al-Nusra Front has been easily able to defeat Turkey-backed militants appears to be that the ranks of al-Nusra Front have now been swelled by deserters from the Islamic State after the fall of its “caliphate” in Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria. The merger of al-Nusra Front and Islamic State in Idlib doesn’t come as a surprise, though, since the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front used to be a single organization [5] before a split occurred between the two militant groups in April 2013 over a leadership dispute.

Furthermore, the Islamic State’s foray into Idlib isn’t the only instance of its kind. Remember when the Syrian government forces were on the verge of winning a resounding victory against the militants holed up in east Aleppo, the Islamic State came to the rescue of so-called “moderate rebels” by opening up a new front in Palmyra in December 2016.

Consequently, the Syrian government had to send reinforcements from Aleppo to Palmyra in order to defend the city. Although the Syrian government troops still managed to evict the militants holed up in the eastern enclave of Aleppo and they also retook Palmyra from Islamic State in March 2017, the basic purpose of this tactical move by the Islamic State was to divert the attention and resources of the Syrian government away from Aleppo to Palmyra.

Fact of the matter is that the distinction between Islamic jihadists and purported “moderate rebels” in Syria is more illusory than real. Before it turned rogue and overran Mosul in Iraq in June 2014, Islamic State used to be an integral part of the Syrian opposition and it still enjoys close ideological and operational ties with other militant groups in Syria.

It’s worth noting that although turf wars are common not just between the Islamic State and other militant groups operating in Syria but also among rebel groups themselves, the ultimate objective of the Islamic State and the rest of militant outfits operating in Syria was the same: to overthrow the government of Bashar al-Assad.

Notwithstanding, in order to create a semblance of objectivity and fairness, the American policymakers and analysts are always willing to accept the blame for the mistakes of the distant past that have no bearing on the present; however, any fact that impinges on their present policy is conveniently brushed aside.

In the case of the creation of the Islamic State, for instance, the US policy analysts are willing to concede that invading Iraq back in 2003 was a mistake that radicalized the Iraqi society, exacerbated sectarian divisions and gave birth to an unrelenting Sunni insurgency against the heavy handed and discriminatory policies of the Shi’a-led Iraqi government.

Similarly, the “war on terror” era political commentators also “generously” accept the fact that the Cold War era policy of nurturing al-Qaeda and myriads of Afghan so-called “freedom fighters” against the erstwhile Soviet Union was a mistake, because all those fait accompli have no bearing on their present policy.

The corporate media’s spin-doctors conveniently forget, however, that the creation of the Islamic State and myriads of other jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq had as much to do with the unilateral invasion of Iraq back in 2003 under the Bush administration as it was the doing of the Obama administration’s policy of funding, arming, training and internationally legitimizing the militants against the Syrian government since 2011-onward.

In fact, the proximate cause behind the rise of the Islamic State, al-Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham, Jaysh al-Islam and numerous other militant groups in Syria and Iraq was the Obama administration’s policy of intervention through proxies in Syria.

The border between Syria and Iraq is highly porous and poorly guarded. The Obama administration’s policy of nurturing militants against the Syrian government was bound to have its blowback on Iraq, sooner or later. Therefore, as soon as the Islamic State consolidated its gains in Syria, it overran Mosul and Anbar in Iraq in early 2014 from where the US had withdrawn its troops only a couple of years ago in December 2011.

Footnotes:

[1] ISIS leader believed to have fled coup attempt by his fighters:

[2] Military chief, al-Obeidi, could be the new commander of ISIS:

[3] Four years and one caliphate later, Islamic State claims Idlib comeback:

[4] Raqqa’s dirty secret: the deal that let Islamic State jihadists escape Raqqa:

[5] Al-Nusra Front: Islamic State’s Breakaway Faction in Syria’s Idlib:

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Does US Provide Covert Support to Islamic State in Afghanistan?


Last year, Russia’s seasoned Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Washington of providing material support [1] to the Islamic State Khorasan militants based in Afghanistan in order to divide and weaken the Taliban resistance against American occupation of Afghanistan. The accusations were also echoed by Iran.

Referring to news reports [2] that unmarked military helicopters had touched down in known Islamic State Khorasan strongholds in Afghanistan, Lavrov alleged: “Unidentified helicopters, most likely helicopters to which NATO in one way or another is related, fly to the areas where the [Islamic State] insurgents are based, and no one has been able to explain the reasons for these flights yet.”

Moreover, a news report leaked [3] in March last year, during the trial of the widow of Orlando nightclub shooter, Omar Mateen, who had killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in a mass shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on June 12, 2016, that his father, Seddique Mateen, was an FBI informant for eleven years.

In an email, the prosecution revealed to the defense attorney of Noor Salman, the widow of Omar Mateen, that Seddique Mateen was an FBI informant from January 2005 to June 2016 and that he had been sending money to Afghanistan and Turkey, possibly to fund violent insurrection against the government of Pakistan.

Although the allegation that Washington provides money and arms to its arch-foe in Afghanistan, the Taliban, to mount an insurrection against the government of Pakistan might sound far-fetched, we need to keep the background of the Taliban insurgency in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region in mind.

In Pakistan, there are three distinct categories of militants: the Afghanistan-focused Pashtun militants; the Kashmir-focused Punjabi militants; and foreign transnational terrorists, including the Arab militants of al-Qaeda, the Uzbek insurgents of Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the Chinese Uyghur jihadists of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM). Compared to tens of thousands of native Pashtun and Punjabi militants, the foreign transnational terrorists number only in a few hundred and are hence inconsequential.

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which is mainly comprised of Pashtun militants, carries out bombings against Pakistan’s state apparatus. The ethnic factor is critical here. Although the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) like to couch their rhetoric in religious terms, it is the difference of ethnicity and language that enables them to recruit Pashtun tribesmen who are willing to carry out subversive activities against the Punjabi-dominated state apparatus, while the Kashmir-focused Punjabi militants have by and large remained loyal to their patrons in the security agencies of Pakistan.

Although Pakistan’s security establishment has been willing to conduct military operations against the Pakistani Taliban (TTP), which are regarded as a security threat to Pakistan’s state apparatus, as far as the Kashmir-focused Punjabi militants, including the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, and the Afghanistan-focused Quetta Shura Taliban, including the Haqqani network, are concerned, they are still enjoying impunity because such militant groups are regarded as “strategic assets” by Pakistan’s security agencies.

Therefore, the allegation that Washington had provided material support to the Islamic State-affiliate in Afghanistan and the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) as a tit-for-tat response to Pakistan’s security agencies double game of providing support to the Afghan Taliban to mount attacks against the Afghan security forces and their American backers cannot be ruled out.

In November, for instance, infighting between the main faction of the Afghan Taliban led by Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada and a breakaway faction led by Mullah Mohammad Rasul left scores of fighters dead in Afghanistan’s western Herat province.

Mullah Rasul was close to Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, and served as the governor of southwestern Nimroz province during the Taliban's rule in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. After the news of the death of Mullah Omar was made public in 2015, Mullah Rasul broke ranks with the Taliban and formed his own faction.

Mullah Rasul's group is active in the provinces of Herat, Farah, Nimroz and Helmand, and is known to have received arms and support [4] from the Afghan intelligence, as he had expressed willingness to recognize the Washington-backed Kabul government.

Regarding Washington’s motives for providing covert support to breakaway factions of the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban and the Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan, the US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attack, and toppled the Taliban regime with the help of the Northern Alliance comprised of ethnic Tajik and Uzbek warlords.

The leadership and fighters of the Taliban found sanctuary in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, and mounted an insurgency against the Washington-backed Kabul government. Throughout the occupation years, Washington kept pressuring Islamabad to mount military operations in the tribal areas in order to deny safe havens to the Taliban.

However, Islamabad was reticent to conduct military operations, which is a euphemism for all-out war, for the fear of alienating the Pashtun population of the tribal areas. After Pakistan’s military’s raid in July 2007 on a mosque in the heart of Islamabad, which also contained a religious seminary, scores of civilians, including students of the seminary, died.

The Pakistani Taliban made the incident a rallying call for waging a jihad against Pakistan’s military. Thereafter, terror attacks and suicide bombings against Pakistan’s state apparatus peaked after the July 2007 incident. Eventually, Pakistan’s military decided in 2009 to conduct military operations against militants based in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

The first military operation was mounted in the Swat valley in April 2009, the second in South Waziristan tribal agency in October the same year, and the third ongoing military operation was launched in North Waziristan and Khyber tribal agencies in June 2014. In the ensuing violence, tens of thousands of civilians, security personnel and militants lost their lives.

Although Pakistani political commentators often point fingers at the Washington-backed Kabul government in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s arch-foe India for providing money and arms to the Pakistani Taliban for waging a guerrilla war against Pakistan’s state establishment, according to inside sources of Pakistan’s security agencies, Washington had provided covert support to the Pakistani Taliban in order to force Pakistan’s military to conduct military operations against militants based in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Keeping this background of Washington’s covert support to breakaway factions of the Afghan Taliban that had waged an insurgency against the US-backed Kabul government and to the Pakistani Taliban that had mounted a guerrilla war against Pakistan’s state establishment in mind, the allegations by Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that Washington had provided material support to the Islamic State’s affiliate in the Af-Pak region in order to divide and weaken the Taliban resistance against American occupation of Afghanistan cannot be ruled out.   

Finally, the distinction between the Taliban and the Islamic State lies in the fact that the Taliban follow Deobandi sect of Sunni Islam which is a sect native to South Asia and the jihadists of the Islamic State mostly belong to Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi denomination.

Secondly, and more importantly, the insurgency in Afghanistan and the border regions of Pakistan is a Pashtun uprising which is an ethnic group native to Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan, whereas the bulk of the Islamic State’s jihadists in Syria and Iraq was comprised of Arab militants and included foreign fighters from neighboring countries, North Africa, the Central Asian states, Russia, China and even radicalized Muslims from as far away as Europe and the United States.

The so-called “Khorasan Province” of the Islamic State in the Af-Pak region is nothing more than a coalition of several breakaway factions of the Taliban and a few other inconsequential local militant outfits that have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State’s chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in order to enhance their prestige and to draw funds and followers, but which doesn’t have any organizational and operational association, whatsoever, with the Islamic State proper in Syria and Iraq.

The total strength of the Islamic State Khorasan is estimated to be between 3,000 to 5,000 fighters. By comparison, the strength of the Taliban is estimated to be between 60,000 to 80,000 militants. The Islamic State Khorasan was formed as a merger between several breakaway factions of the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban in early 2015. Later, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a Pakistani terrorist group Jundullah and Chinese Uyghur militants pledged allegiance to it.

In 2017, it split into two factions. One faction based in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province is led by a Pakistani militant commander Aslam Farooqi, and the other faction based in the northern provinces of Afghanistan is led by a former Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) commander Moawiya. The latter faction also includes Uzbek, Tajik, Uyghur and Baloch militants.

Footnotes:

[1] Moscow accuses Washington of aiding Islamic State Khorasan:

[2] Hamid Karzai’s interview: ISIS in Afghanistan is US tool:

[3] Pulse Nightclub Gunman's Father Was an FBI Informant:

[4] Mullah Rasul faction of Taliban has received support from Kabul:

Friday, February 1, 2019

As Washington’s Client, Can Europe Save Iran Nuclear Deal?


The Trump administration recently announced the most stringent set of sanctions against Iran to appease Benjamin Netanyahu. Donald Trump has repeatedly said during the last two years that the Iran nuclear deal signed by the Obama administration in 2015 was an “unfair deal” that gave concessions to Iran without giving anything in return to the US.

Unfortunately, there is a grain of truth in Trump’s statements because the Obama administration signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran in July 2015 under pressure, as Washington had bungled in its Middle East policy and it wanted Iran’s cooperation in Syria and Iraq to get a face-saving.

In order to understand how the Obama administration bungled in Syria and Iraq, we should bear the background of Washington’s Middle East policy during the recent years in mind. The eight-year-long conflict in Syria that gave birth to scores of militant groups, including the Islamic State, and after the conflict spilled across the border into neighboring Iraq in early 2014 was directly responsible for the spate of Islamic State-inspired terror attacks in Europe from 2015 to 2017.

Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in August 2011 to June 2014, when the Islamic State overran Mosul and Anbar in Iraq, an informal pact existed between the Western powers, their regional Sunni allies and jihadists of the Middle East against the Shi’a Iranian axis. In accordance with the pact, militants were trained and armed in the training camps located in the border regions of Turkey and Jordan to battle the Syrian government.

This arrangement of an informal pact between the Western powers and the jihadists of the Middle East against the Iranian axis worked well up to August 2014, when the Obama Administration made a volte-face on its previous regime change policy in Syria and began conducting air strikes against one group of Sunni militants battling the Syrian government, the Islamic State, after the latter overstepped its mandate in Syria and overran Mosul and Anbar in Iraq from where the US had withdrawn its troops only a couple of years ago in December 2011.

After this reversal of policy in Syria by the Western powers and the subsequent Russian military intervention on the side of the Syrian government in September 2015, the momentum of jihadists’ expansion in Syria and Iraq stalled, and they felt that their Western patrons had committed a treachery against the Sunni jihadists’ cause, hence they were infuriated and rose up in arms to exact revenge for this betrayal.

If we look at the chain of events, the timing of the spate of terror attacks against the West was critical: the Islamic State overran Mosul in June 2014, the Obama Administration began conducting air strikes against the Islamic State’s targets in Iraq and Syria in August 2014, and after a lull of almost a decade since the Madrid and London bombings in 2004 and 2005, respectively, the first such incident of terrorism occurred on the Western soil at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in January 2015, and then the Islamic State carried out the audacious November 2015 Paris attacks, the March 2016 Brussels bombings, the June 2016 truck-ramming incident in Nice, and three horrific terror attacks took place in the United Kingdom within a span of less than three months in 2017, and after that the Islamic State carried out the Barcelona attack in August 2017, and then another truck-ramming atrocity occurred in Lower Manhattan in October 2017 that was also claimed by the Islamic State.

Keeping this background of the quagmire created by the Obama administration in Syria and Iraq in mind, it becomes amply clear that the Obama administration desperately needed Iran’s cooperation in Syria and Iraq to salvage its botched policy of training and arming jihadists to topple the government Bashar al-Assad in Syria that backfired and gave birth to the Islamic State that carried out some of the most audacious terror attacks in Europe from 2015 to 2017.

Thus, Washington signed JCPOA in July 2015 that gave some concessions to Iran, and in return, the then hardliner Prime Minister of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki was forced out of power in September 2014 with Iran’s tacit approval and the moderate former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was appointed in his stead who gave permission to the US Air Force and ground troops to assist the Iraqi Armed Forces and allied militias to beat back the Islamic State from Mosul and Anbar.

The Trump administration, however, is not hampered by the legacy of Obama administration and since the objective of defeating the Islamic State has already been achieved and Donald Trump gave indications of withdrawing American troops from Syria as early as April last year, though the long-awaited decision was finally announced on December 19, therefore Washington felt safe to annul the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018 and the crippling “third party” sanctions have once again been put in place on Iran at Benjamin Netanyahu’s behest.

Although the European Union is resisting the Trump administration’s pressure to cancel the Iran nuclear deal for now, the neocolonial world order is led by the United States; Europe will find no choice but to toe Washington’s line sooner or later.

It’s worth noting that both NATO and European Union were conceived during the Cold War to offset the influence of former Soviet Union which is geographically adjacent to Europe. It is not a coincidence that the Soviet Union was dissolved in December 1991 and the Maastricht Treaty that consolidated the European Community and laid the foundations of the European Union was signed in February 1992.

The basic purpose of the EU has been nothing more than to lure the formerly communist states of the Eastern and Central Europe into the folds of the Western capitalist bloc by offering incentives and inducements, particularly in the form of agreements to abolish internal border checks between the EU member states, thus allowing the free movement of labor from the impoverished Eastern Europe to the prosperous countries of the Western Europe.

Reportedly, 80,000 US troops have currently been deployed in Europe out of 275,000 total US troops stationed all over the world, including 50,000 in Germany, 15,000 in Italy and 8,000 in the UK. By comparison, the number of US troops stationed in Afghanistan is only 14,000 which is regarded as an occupied country. Thus, Europe is nothing more than a client of corporate America.

No wonder then, the Western political establishments, and particularly the deep states of the US and EU, are as freaked out about the outcome of Brexit as they were during the Ukrainian Crisis in November 2013 when Viktor Yanukovych suspended the preparations for the implementation of an association agreement with the European Union and tried to take Ukraine back into the folds of the Russian sphere of influence by accepting billions of dollars of loan package offered by Vladimir Putin.

In this regard, the founding of the EU has been similar to the case of Japan and South Korea in the Far East where 45,000 and 30,000 US troops have currently been deployed, respectively. After the Second World War, when Japan was about to fall in the hands of geographically adjacent Soviet Union, the Truman administration authorized the use of nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to subjugate Japan and to send a signal to the leaders of the former Soviet Union, which had not developed its nuclear program at the time, to desist from encroaching upon Japan in the east and West Germany in Europe.

Then, during the Cold War, American entrepreneurs invested heavily in the economies of Japan and South Korea and made them model industrialized nations to forestall the expansion of communism in the Far East. Similarly, after the Second World War, Washington embarked on the Marshall Plan to rebuild Western Europe with an economic assistance of $13 billion, equivalent to hundreds of billions of dollars in the current dollar value. Since then, Washington has maintained its military and economic dominance over Western Europe.

There is an essential stipulation in the European Union’s charter of union, according to which the developing economies of Europe that joined the EU allowed free movement of goods (free trade) only on the reciprocal condition that the developed countries would allow free movement of labor.

What’s obvious in this stipulation is the fact that the free movement of goods, services and capital only benefits the countries that have a strong manufacturing base, and the free movement of people only favors the developing economies where labor is cheap.

Now, when the international financial institutions, like the IMF and WTO, promote free trade by exhorting the developing countries all over the world to reduce tariffs and subsidies without the reciprocal free movement of labor, whose interests do such institutions try to protect? Obviously, they try to protect the interests of their largest donors by shares, the developed economies.

Regardless, while joining the EU, Britain compromised on the rights of its working class in order to protect the interests of its bankers and industrialists, because free trade with the rest of the EU countries spurred British exports. The British working classes overwhelmingly voted in the favor of Brexit because after Britain’s entry into the EU and when the agreements on abolishing internal border checks between the EU member states became effective, the cheaper labor force from the Eastern and Central Europe flooded the markets of Western Europe, and consequently the wages of native British workers dropped and it also became difficult for them to find jobs, because foreigners were willing to do the same job for lesser pays, hence raising the level of unemployment among the British workers and consequent discontentment with the EU.

The subsequent lifting of restrictions on the Romanians and Bulgarians to work in the European Union in January 2014 further exacerbated the problem, and consequently the majority of the British electorate voted in a June 2016 referendum to opt out of the EU. The biggest incentive for the British working class to vote for Brexit is that the East European workers will have to leave Britain after its exit from the EU, and the jobs will once again become available with better wages to the native British workforce.

The developed economies of the Western Europe would never have acceded to the condition of free movement of labor that goes against their economic interests; but the deep state of the US, which is the hub of corporate power and wields enormous influence in the Western capitalist bloc, persuaded the unwilling states of the Western Europe to yield to the condition against their national interests in order to wean away the formerly communist states of the Eastern and Central Europe from the Russian influence.

Thus, all the grandstanding and moral posturing of unity and equality aside, the hopelessly neoliberal institution, the EU, in effect, is nothing more than the civilian counterpart of the Western military alliance against the erstwhile Soviet Union, the NATO, that employs a much more subtle and insidious tactic of economic warfare to win over political allies and to isolate adversaries that dare to sidestep from the global trade and economic policy as laid down by the Western capitalist bloc.

It would be pertinent to mention that though Theresa May’s Conservatives-led government is in favor of Brexit, the neoliberal British deep state and European establishments led by France and Germany are fiercely opposed to Britain’s exit from the EU.

Since the referendum, the British deep state and European establishments have created numerous hurdles in the way of Brexit. The First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon is demanding more autonomy and control over Scotland’s vast oil and gas reserves and a debate is raging on over a “soft border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which will remain in EU post-Brexit. Instead of a smooth transition to an independent state, Britain is more likely to disintegrate in its effort to leave the EU.

Last year, 25 out of 28 EU member states signed an enhanced security cooperation agreement known as the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), whose aim is to structurally integrate the armed forces of EU members. Britain along with Denmark and Malta has been left out. Keeping the EU’s status as Washington’s client in mind, it would be na├»ve to assume the EU can bypass the Trump administration’s sanctions against Iran for long.