U.S., Britain and NEw Big Game in Near East
1. Please give us a brief review of the contemporary situation in Egypt with respect to the recent government change and the recent riots, in Syria with respect to the ongoing civil war and insurgency, and in Turkey with respect to the recent socio-political crisis encountered by the Erdogan government.
The three situations must be treated as distinct but clearly all part of the same mosaic of change in the region. Regarding Egypt, more and more evidence is coming out publicly, indicating that the Morsi government was more interested in consolidating absolute Muslim Brotherhood control over the state apparatus than in governing on behalf of the entire Egyptian people. When somewhere between 10 and 22 million Egyptians turned out on the street on June 30 in a peaceful protest, demanding Morsi’s resignation, the Egyptian generals acted on that popular mandate. This is an old story in Egypt. The Army comes out of the Nasser tradition and sees itself as the guardians of the nation. They had evidence that the Muslim Brotherhood was planning a purge of the top generals, arrests of opposition leaders and a move to consolidate the “Ikhwanization” of the country. The interaction between the top leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Army was intense prior to, during and after the ouster of Morsi. This is an ongoing process. Unless the Muslim Brotherhood decides to launch an all-out military campaign to take back power, they will be incorporated into the political process, including the upcoming elections. Morsi and Khayrat al-Shatar, the power behind the scenes within the Muslim Brotherhood, made the mistake of presuming that the Obama Administration would assure that they remained in power by pressuring the Army to stay in the barracks, regardless of what happened on June 30. Ultimately, the Muslim Brotherhood failed to live up to the mandate that they were given by the Egyptian people. General Martin Dempsey, the wise Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff recently observed that modern history has seen very few successful revolutions. He noted that in almost every instance, except for the American Revolution, the first generation got it wrong, the next generation in power overcompensated and also got it wrong, and the third generation managed to get it mostly right. We are at the very early stages of the Egyptian revolution. Economic well-being for the vast majority of Egyptians is the ultimate test. Egypt has water, which is the most precious commodity in the region, and has the capacity to grow vast amounts of food. Development projects have been on the drawing board for a long time. This will be the measure of success of the future governments.
The Syria crisis is a tragedy in almost every respect. No one involved in the Syria events of the past two-and-a-half years is immune from some responsibility for the bloodshed and the near-total destruction of a nation. A country that was once a model of communal integration (Sunni, Shiite, Alawite, Kurd, Druze, Christian) and was a birthplace of Christianity has been thoroughly Balkanized into warring factions. Outside powers played the Syrian situation to their own interests and advantages. President Obama, declared that President Bashar al-Assad had to go almost two years ago, before receiving any intelligence or military assessments of the situation there. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey all jumped into the situation early on, promoting an armed Syrian opposition that was expected to oust President Assad in short order. Now, Syria is the epicenter of a regional sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shiites/Alawites that has spread to Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan. The British have been promoting just such a sectarian “Hundred Years War” within the Muslim world as part of a classic Malthusian population reduction campaign. Saudi hatred for the Syrian Alawites has been exploited by London, assuring that arms and cash have been flowing into the hands of a global Sunni jihadist apparatus. Now, the Obama Administration is weighing in with covert support for a more “moderate” anti-Assad Free Syrian Army, centered in Jordan. Weapons that were confiscated after the execution of Muammar Qaddafi in Libya in late 2011 have been smuggled into the hands of Syrian rebels, including the Al Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front since April 2012. The program has been coordinated out of the Obama White House and managed by the CIA. President Obama has his own “Iran-Contra” scandal brewing and is attempting to cover up for crimes that have been ongoing for over a year and which could lead to his impeachment. At one point, the danger of the Syrian crisis triggering a global war prompted US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to attempt to convene a Geneva II peace conference, as a way to avoid the situation slipping totally out of anyone’s control. That Geneva II option remains the last best hope that further destruction of the entire region, and a possible trigger for general war can be prevented.
There are some significant parallels between the Erdogan government in Turkey and the recently deposed Morsi Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt. Since coming into power, Prime Minister Erdogan had pursued a policy of economic and political cooperation with all of Turkey’s neighbors. That policy served Turkey well for several years, building trade with Russia and Iran, settling Kurdish conflicts involving both Turkey and Syria, and building a strong economic bridge with the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq, without damaging Ankara-Baghdad relations. When the Syrian protests erupted in early 2011, President Obama urged Prime Minister Erdogan (one of the few foreign heads of state to have any kind of personal relationship with the US President) to “take the lead” in pressing for Assad’s rapid removal from power. Erdogan presumed that Washington would make good on its demand for Assad’s removal from power. Given the US role in the overthrow and execution of Qaddafi in Libya, and given the Obama Administration’s strong promotion of humanitarian interventionism and “R2P” (“Responsibility to Protect”), post-Westphalian dogmas permitting a full range of intervention into the internal affairs of formerly sovereign states, Erdogan was not totally foolish in his expectation that Washington would run a replay of Libya in the Eastern Mediterranean and Assad’s days were numbered. That prospect never materialized, and as the result, the Turkish people are becoming disillusioned with the Erdogan AKP approach. The Turkish Army, having been a target of Erdogan purges, is becoming restless. The Turkey situation has become an important piece of the regional disintegration. Economic and political agreements with Iran, Russia, Syria and even Iraq are now in doubt. Turkey is facing a period of potential turmoil. The European economic crisis, far from being solved, will add further fuel to the fire in Turkey.
2. What is nature of the Arab Spring, and how do you see the Arab Spring developing in the future?
There are two dimensions to the Arab Spring that are generally ignored. First, a combination of economic depravations and political persecution created a “perfect storm” for popular dissatisfaction to spill over into mass action. In Tunisia, as well as Egypt, a well-educated segment of youth revolted over the fact that they had no prospect for a future in their own country. The initial impulse was that of a classic “mass strike” when a large percentage of the population concluded that they had nothing left to lose, and they seized upon a symbolic event and launched a public demand for change. Second, once events on the ground reached a critical mass, external political forces intervened for self-serving reasons. London wants a permanent war of “each against all” to reduce the population levels in the developing world. Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two rival Wahhabi monarchies, began pouring money into contending factions of the Islamist opposition and the militaries. The Obama Administration concluded that the Muslim Brotherhood were the safest representatives of “political Islam” and began backing them in both Egypt and Syria. The fact that the United States has turned Qatar into a forward-based hub of Washington power projection in the region has, up until the recent change of power in Qatar, meant a combined Doha-Washington backing for the Muslim Brotherhood as the “pragmatic” Islamists. There is a serious reassessment now underway in Washington. The outside factors made it impossible for the internal dynamics of Egypt and Syria to come to an understanding about a way forward. At no time was there adequate outside economic assistance to provide breathing room for a raw political process to evolve. The standard IMF recipes for economic starvation and “shock therapy” privatization and de-subsidization made matters worse.
3. What is the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria and in Egypt?
Historically, the Muslim Brotherhood was a creation of the Sykes-Picot colonial process and of British intelligence. The organization evolved, spread, spawned a far more virulent network of more radical jihadists including Al Qaeda. A long exile in Saudi Arabia, following the Nasser crackdown against the Brotherhood beginning in the 1950s, spawned a new neo-Salafist phenomenon. When Hafez Assad launched his own harsh crackdown against the Syrian Muslim Brothers in the early 1980s, that led to a second wave migration and exile in Saudi Arabia. Under the influence of Dr. Bernard Lewis, a British intelligence “Arabist” who is also a leading Zionist, successive American administrations adopted the “Islamic Card” as a tool to bring down the Soviet Union. The Afghan War of the 1980s saw British and American intelligence deepen the alliance with the Muslim Brothers. This spawned Al Qaeda and a large number of groups that were foreign fighters brought to Afghanistan as “muhahideen” trained and armed to fight the “Godless” Soviet Red Army. The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), an arm of Al Qaeda created by Afghanzi fighters who returned to Libya after that Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, is exemplary of the spreading neo-Salafist problem that emerged out of the “Bernard Lewis Plan” to play Islam against Communism. When Communism collapsed in the early 1990s, the West in general and the United States in particular became the “New Satan” to be targeted. The Obama Administration’s belief that the Muslim Brotherhood was potential allies led to a string of policy blunders and mishaps that are still playing out. In recent weeks, Washington’s love affair with the Muslim Brotherhood has fractured. The ouster of the Emir and prime minister of Qatar has weakened the financial support for the Muslim Brotherhood. It is too early to say what the next phase of the process will look like, but the naïve presumptions about the Muslim Brotherhood are being severely challenged right now.
4. Is there a difference between the policy supported by General Dempsey and Defence Secretary Hagel on the one hand and the State Department and White House forces on the other? If yes, please explain these differences.
There are significant differences. General Dempsey is a leading figure in a war-avoidance faction inside the governing institutions of the United States. He has taken a courageous stand, opposing direct US military engagement in Syria. He wants to bring home the American troops who have been engaged for over a decade in Afghanistan, and he wants to assure that there is never again a long war that drains the armed forces and the nation’s resources of the US. He has the backing of Defense Secretary Hagel in this quest. General Dempsey believes that it is a priority to deepen cooperation with Russia and China, the other two leading world military powers. He judges all military options from a global overview. The contrasting views inside the Obama Administration are centered at the White House with people like Dr. Susan Rice and the former Special Assistant to the President Samantha Power, now the President’s nominee to replace Rice at the UN. They are extreme proponents of humanitarian interventionism. In that respect the “liberal” humanitarian interventionists are soul mates of the neoconservatives of the Bush-Cheney era. It is ironic but also not surprising that the leading war-avoidance forces in the United States are active duty and retired flag officers of the armed forces, who have lived through the hell of the post-911 long wars and want no more of it. They are painfully aware that a conflict that pits the United States against Russia and/or China could lead to thermonuclear war and extinction of mankind. They understand war as Dr. Rice and Samantha Power (and President Obama) do not.
5. What is the role of Israel and of the U.S. Israeli lobby in the contemporary upheaval in the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean in general?
The Revisionist Zionist Movement, founded by Jabotinsky and now ruling Israel under Netanyahu, is a British colonial creation—part of the divide and conquer strategy that the British and French imposed on the Middle East from the end of World War I. Israel and the Israeli Lobby, as such, are expendable pawns in the larger British game. To the extent that Israel has any pretence of being a sovereign state, they have been pursuing a series of tragic self-destructive policies ever since the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 after his historic Oslo Agreement with Yasser Arafat and the PLO. Without a drastic change in policy, Israel is likely doomed. The Israeli Lobby is a powerful force in Washington politics but is not all-powerful. Right now, their focus is on Iran. Their primary objective is to keep up pressure on President Obama to where he will eventually take military action for regime change in Iran. That could be a trigger for all-out war, which is exactly what General Dempsey and the rest of the JCS want to avoid at all costs. Israel was, ironically, sidelined as a minor player in the unfolding events in Egypt and Syria. There is no good outcome of the Syrian mess from Israel’s standpoint. They had a truce with the Assad governments in Syria and came close on several occasions to formalizing it in a Camp David-style treaty with Damascus. Israel may appreciate the benefits of the Syrian Army being gutted, but they do not welcome a Jihadist state on their northern border. The British will sell out Israel in a heart-beat to pursue their new game of permanent brutal sectarian war within Islam.
6. Which is the strategy of Netanyahu and the Zionist political forces in general in the fields of geopolitics and geoeconomics?
The Netanyahu Zionists want to maintain the status quo of gradual absorbtion of the entirety of the West Bank into a Jewish state. They will exploit so-called peace negotiations with the Palestinians to stall, as new settlement expansion accelerates by the day. As pawns of larger forces, including the British, they do not really have a strategic vision. They have integrated their high-tech aerospace and electronics sector into the United States economy to such an extent that they are defacto the 51st state. Most Israeli high-tech companies have their stock traded on the NASDAQ exchange in New York. A majority of Israeli Jews are so fed up with the madness dominating Israeli politics that they would prefer to live in the United States.
Interviewed by Dr Nicolas Laos (member of the faculty of International Relations at the University of Indianapolis, Athens Campus (Greece) and a columnist of the Greek political daily newspaper "Ellada").