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In the wake of Arab Spring uprisings in March 2011, protests began in Syria against the government of Bashar al-Assad. In the following months, violence between demonstrators and security forces led to a gradual militarization of conflict. Moreover, the withdrawal of United States troops from Iraq was completed in December 2011. Thus, during the initial few months of the Syrian conflict, the United States troops were still stationed across the border in Iraq.

More to the point, the United States Defense Intelligence Agency’s declassified report [1] of 2012 clearly spelled out the imminent rise of a Salafist principality in northeastern Syria in the event of an outbreak of a civil war in Syria. Under pressure from the Zionist lobby in Washington, however, the Obama Administration deliberately suppressed the report and also overlooked the view in general that a civil war in Syria will give birth to radical Islamic jihadists.

The hawks in Washington were fully aware of the consequences of their actions in Syria, but they kept pursuing the ill-fated policy of nurturing militants in the training camps located in the border regions of Turkey and Jordan to weaken the Baathist regime in Syria.

The single biggest threat to Israel’s regional security has been posed by the Shi’a resistance axis, which is comprised of Iran, the Assad regime in Syria and their Lebanon-based surrogate, Hezbollah. During the course of 2006 Lebanon War, Hezbollah fired hundreds of rockets into northern Israel; and Israel’s defense community realized for the first time the nature of threat that Hezbollah and its patrons, Iran and the Assad regime in Syria, posed to Israel’s regional security.

Those were only unguided rockets but it was a wakeup call for Israel’s military strategists that what will happen if Iran passed the guided missile technology to Hezbollah whose area of operations lies very close to the northern borders of Israel?

The American interest in the Syrian civil war is partly about ensuring Israel’s regional security and partly it is about doing the bidding of America’s regional Sunni allies: Turkey, Jordan and the Gulf Arab States. Saudi Arabia, which has been vying for power as the leader of Sunni bloc against the Shi’a-dominated Iran in the regional geopolitics, was staunchly against the invasion of Iraq by the Bush Administration in 2003.

The Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein constituted a Sunni Arab bulwark against the Iranian influence in the Arab World. But after Saddam was ousted from power in 2003 and subsequently elections were held in Iraq which were swept by the Shi’a-dominated parties, Iraq has now been led by a Shi’a-majority government that has become a steadfast regional ally of Iran. Consequently, Iran’s sphere of influence now extends all the way from territorially-contiguous Iran and Iraq to Syria and Lebanon.

The Saudi royal family was resentful of Iranian encroachment on traditional Arab heartland. Therefore, when protests broke out against the Assad regime in Syria in the wake of Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, the Gulf Arab States along with their regional allies, Turkey and Jordan, and the Western patrons gradually militarized the protests to dismantle the Iranian resistance axis.

Regarding the Western interest in collaborating with the Gulf Arab States against their regional rivals, bear in mind that in April last year, the Saudi foreign minister threatened [2] that the Saudi kingdom would sell up to $750 billion in treasury securities and other assets if Congress passed a bill that would allow the Americans to sue the Saudi government in the United States courts for its role in the September 11, 2001 terror attack.

Moreover, $750 billion is only the Saudi investment in the United States, if we add its investment in the Western Europe and the investments of UAE, Kuwait and Qatar in the Western economies, the sum total would amount to trillions of dollars of Gulf’s investments in North America and Western Europe. Only yesterday, Middle East Eye published a report [3] that Qatar has invested $50 billion in the UK and that its property portfolio in London is three times larger than the Queen’s.

Furthermore, in order to bring home the significance of Persian Gulf’s oil in the energy-starved industrialized world, here are a few rough stats from the OPEC data: Saudi Arabia has world’s largest proven crude oil reserves of 265 billion barrels and its daily oil production exceeds 10 million barrels; Iran and Iraq, each, has 150 billion barrels reserves and has the capacity to produce 5 million barrels per day, each; while UAE and Kuwait, each, has 100 billion barrels reserves and produces 3 million barrels per day, each; thus, all the littoral states of the Persian Gulf, together, hold more than half of world’s 1500 billion barrels of proven crude oil reserves.

Additionally, regarding the Western defense production industry’s sales of arms to the Gulf Arab States, a report [4] authored by William Hartung of the US-based Center for International Policy found that the Obama Administration had offered Saudi Arabia more than $115 billion in weapons, military equipment and training during its eight years tenure. Similarly, £43 billion Al-Yamamah arms deal between the BAE Systems of UK and Saudi Arabia is another case in point.

Thus, keeping the economic dependence of the Western countries on the Gulf Arab States in mind during the times of global recession when most of manufacturing has been outsourced to China, it is unsurprising that when the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia decided to provide training and arms to Sunni Arab jihadists in the border regions of Turkey and Jordan against the Shi’a-dominated regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, the Obama Administration was left with no other choice but to toe the destructive policy of its regional Middle Eastern allies despite the sectarian nature of the proxy war and its attendant consequences of breeding a new generation of Islamic jihadists who would become a long-term security risk not only to the Middle East but also to the Western countries.

Similarly, when King Abdullah’s successor, King Salman, decided to invade Yemen in March 2015, once again, the Obama Administration had to yield to the dictates of Saudi Arabia and UAE by fully coordinating the Gulf-led military campaign in Yemen not only by providing intelligence, planning and logistical support but also by selling billions of dollars’ worth of arms and ammunition to the Gulf Arab States during the conflict.

Sources and links:

[1] The United States Defense Intelligence Agency’s declassified report of 2012:

http://levantreport.com/2015/05/19/2012-defense-intelligence-agency-document-west-will-facilitate-rise-of-islamic-state-in-order-to-isolate-the-syrian-regime/

[2] Saudi Arabia Warns of Economic Fallout if Congress Passes 9/11 Bill:

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/16/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-warns-ofeconomic-fallout-if-congress-passes-9-11-bill.html?_r=0

[3] Qatar plans £5bn spending spree in UK as Brexit looms:

http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/qatar-invest-5-billion-uk-brexit-looms-1724551748

[4] The Obama administration’s arms sales offers to Saudi top $115 billion:

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-saudi-security-idUSKCN11D2JQ

Nauman Sadiq is an Islamabad-based attorney, columnist and geopolitical analyst focused on the politics of Af-Pak and Middle East regions, neocolonialism and petroimperialism.

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  • K SHESHU BABU

    The Syrian conflict not only helps USA in increasing it’s arms sales to other bordering countries, but also gives a pretext to control the oil rich nation’s like Iraq and the Saudi royal government. By occupying the territories in the name of liberating from despotic government and ISIS jihadists, USA and it’s allies can actually plunder Syrian resources to suit their corporates.