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Episode 32: Riding the Caliphate Interstate with Jeff Steinberg

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The Last Defense
27 Jan 2015

In order to fully communicate the history of the Islamic State and its relationship with the House of Saud and Turkey, we consulted Jeffrey Steinberg, Senior Editor and Counterintelligence Director of the Executive Intelligence Review with 40 years of experience working with the LarouchePAC. He is also member of and active contributor to the Schiller Institute based in Wiesbaden, Germany. Click HERE to listen to the full interview.

HANEUL
: Can you give us a history of the Islamic State? How did they rise to power after the [2003] US-NATO invasion of Iraq?

JEFF: You have to go to 1979 when Brzezinski was the National Security Advisor to Jimmy Carter, [when he] convinced the president to sign a secret authorization to begin covert operations in Afghanistan, six months before the Soviets arrived around Christmastime of 1979. Known as the Bernard-Lewis Plan, it involved promoting Islamic Fundamentalism all across the Southern tier of the Soviet Union. When the Soviets finally moved in, things became concentrated in building up a radical Islamic terrorist apparatus, sponsored by the US, British, Saudis, French, and Israelis.

The whole idea was to play Islamic Fundamentalism against the “godless Soviet Union”, but the problem this created was the emergence of groups such as al-Qaeda. Osama bin Laden himself went to Peshawar in Northwest Pakistan, near the Afghanistan border, as part of this Anglo-American/ Saudi project to create a terrorist organization against the Soviet presence in Afghanistan. That effort succeeded somewhat, but the consequences of that was the birth of an international Jihadi terrorist apparatus that is haunting the world today.

You had the establishment of al-Qaeda [MSC] following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Some of those networks in Pakistan and Afghanistan spread to other areas, including Somalia—Chechen rebels in the Caucuses, which then moved to Pakistan and Afghanistan and became some of the leading commanders of al-Qaeda. This in turn created spin-offs such as al-Qaeda in Iraq, in the Arabian Peninsula, and the Islamic Maghreb, many splits and permutations such as the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, and the British and French backed those networks to overthrow Gaddafi, and now we have a mess in North Africa as a result.

I was frequently on Capital Hill in the mid-1980s, and you would see well-known neoconservatives touring with these so-called freedom fighters who later became leading figures in al-Qaeda. This is a long collusion between Western intelligence agencies and radical Sunni Jihadist networks.

HANEUL: The Islamic State wants to expand its territory. How legitimate are their aims and what exactly are they trying to accomplish? Are they just controlled by the West or is this something more sinister?

JEFF: Saudi Arabia is a kingdom that shares power between the House of Saud and Wahhabi clergy, who are among the most radical fundamentalists of all the Sunni branches. In the 1960s, during the crackdown from Egyptian President Nasser against the Muslim Brotherhood, many of them fled to Saudi Arabia, joined the Wahhabis and began spreading a form of pan-Arabism around the world, with enormous financing from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries. They began opening up madrasas—special Islamist schools—in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and parts of Africa as early as 1963.

You had the founding of the Muslim Worldly [League], the origins of neo-Salafism—a form of fundamentalist Islam with a messianic caliphate ideology, whom received support from Arab Gulf powers, as well as British and US intelligence services, to be used against the Soviets and China. Al-Bagdhadi, the nominal head of IS, is committed to the establishment of a universal caliphate under [IS] direction. For that reason, there’s concern between the Saudis and the IS network, whom could potentially overrun Saudi Arabia and incorporate it into their version of a caliphate.

You had a merger in Saudi Arabia of the Muslim Brotherhood and Wahhabism, but later, when the MB became had democratic electoral politics in Egypt, the Saudis no longer liked that, and this created splits between different factions of Jihadism. IS inside Iraq contains members that have fought for over a decade—Chechens, Uyghyrs, Afghans, Saudis, Libyans, and Iraqis—whom have traveled around the world in this continuous battle, honing skills in asymmetrical warfare. You also have in Iraq remnants of the old Hussein military that are deeply resentful that they were removed from any power sharing in their country, and who have opportunistically joined the neo-Salafists.

HANEUL: [Turkey] wants to expand into the European Union, NATO and has one foot into the Arab world. What exactly are the aims of [Tayyip Erdogan] related to these three fronts?

JEFF: The Turks have been instrumental in the rise of ISIS [over the last two years]. There were several critical border crossings turned over to ISIS. They had training facilities inside Turkish territory, and integrated with smuggling networks that operate into Northern Syria and Iraq, and [they] are integrated into the ruling AKP party and Turkish MIT, the equivalent to the CIA, headed by [Hakan] Fidan, one of the most trusted right-hand men of Erdogan. If you look at the AKP, it’s an informal kind of Muslim Brotherhood with many parallels. There are more radical elements than Erdogan, and former presidents like [Abdullah] Gül that was a genuine moderate than him and [Ahmet] Davutoğlu. They’re playing a dangerous game; they’ve crossed swords with the US, and Washington and the Pentagon are pissed off at Erdogan.

There was a meeting between military commanders of the anti-ISIS coalition. Not only did Turkey send a deputy to the meeting, but carried out a bombing campaign against the PKK along the borders of Syria and Iraq the day before. Washington and some European leaders quietly made sure that Turkey didn’t get a seat on the UN Security Council. Frictions are becoming severe, and some American military personnel asked, “Why is Turkey in NATO if they’re on the other side”? I think that the neo-Ottoman aspirations of Turkey in MENA trump its desire to integrate into the EU and are openly promoted by Davutoğlu.

They’re not completely out of control. The Saudis are strong backers of IS and I am not convinced that they are an existential threat to the House of Saud. In the 1990s, bin Laden was protesting against the residual US military forces in Saudi Arabia after the first Iraq War, and then Head of Saudi Intelligence Turki bin Faisal sent a liaison to Afghanistan and funds once again flowed freely to al-Qaeda, granted they would attack America, but not the House of Saud. They’re perfectly capable of negotiating with IS. Things can change, but I’m not persuaded that we’re at that point yet.

You have a lot of contending forces—Gulf states—that are working with the Muslim Brotherhood, whom are training forces against Assad. What they’re attempting to do is to use militias with strong ties to Turkey and lead by the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. The “elected” government in Libya has allied with Egypt against the Libyan [Walter] Dorn Movement, which is backed by Turkey and Qatar. So, within the Sunni world, you have these fault lines that are becoming militarized, especially between Sunni and Shiite, which could easily turn into a regional war or even something bigger.

HANEUL: How will this affect BRICS and Western players in the long run?

JEFF: Several prominent Russians have made statements, one from [ex-Ambassador Veniamin] Popov that said, “if the US is serious about waging war with IS, then it has to be a coalition of countries with shared interests”. This emphatically includes BRICS; particularly Russia and China, for reasons such as the targeting of the Caucuses and Xinjiang provinces of Western China, where the Uighurs are a part of this “Jihadists without Borders” apparatus. There are at least 1,000 Chechens that are fighting with ISIS in Syria and Iraq, who represents some of the most seasoned IS commanders. They’ve been in combat continuously for over a decade since the Chechen wars.

Popov continued: “A serious alignment would involve the US, Russia, China, other BRICS countries, Iran and Syria”. You can’t trust Saudi Arabia or other GCC countries to genuinely try to defeat IS. If you had an alliance amongst those countries, you would have the resources to absolutely crush IS in Iraq and Syria. The Russians have a close relationship with the Syrians and Iranians, which could have genuine, direct coordination rather than the sneaky ones we have now. Egypt is a channel for feeding intelligence to the Syrian military, and the Iranians benefit from coordinated efforts between Iraq and the US, and Shiite militias, whom are some of the most effective fighters there.

Ultimately, [IS] has approximately 30-50,000 fighters in the region, and they’re relying on former Ba’athist military personnel in Iraq and Sunni tribes in Anwar who will go where they think the winner is. They’re not ideologically committed to the Islamic State and don’t believe in a caliphate; they’re just pissed off because they’ve been cut out from the power share in their own country and are demonstrating that they have more military ability with IS than with the Iraqi government. The minute those tribes see a fairer power share and are convinced Islamists will suffer defeat… they’ll switch sides. You’ll have a replay of the Anbar Awakening from the mid 2000s, so there’s a limit to how far IS can go before overstretching themselves.

They don’t pose a threat to overthrow Putin in Russia, or Xi Jinping in China, but can make a mess of things. The problem you’re dealing with is that the British, factions in the US, and the Saudis still continue to see this as an Islamic card they can play against the Russians and Chinese. If they are freaked out by what BRICS represents since the July meeting in Brazil, that’s where you can see these asymmetric operations—the air-sea battle against China and supporting neo-Nazis in Ukraine targeting Russia—you do see a situation where a general war does become a World War.

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My Rebuttal to the Article by Christian Takushi, “As in Georgia the West bears some responsibility for Crisis in Ukraine”

By Haneul Na’avi | 2014 March 12

Hello gang,

It’s wonderful to see this discussion take place here. I would like to add the notion that the Centre for Applied Non-Violent Action and Strategies (CANVAS) has been operating globally as a CIA-backed initiative for regime change in countries around the world, and has been instrumental in the Georgian Rose Revolution of 2003 and the Ukrainian Orange Revolution of 2004. Organizations such as this and the National Endowment for Democracy are instrumental in shaping the geopolitical course of governments not currently aligned with PNAC/ World Bank players. It was also directly responsible for many of the attempted regime changes in Syria, Egypt, Libya, and the current Ukrainian crisis:

“Currently Canvas maintains training programs for dissidents in: Egypt, Palestine, Western Sahara, Libya, Lebanon, Columbia, West Papua, Sudan, Eritrea, Belarus, Burma, Bahrain, Azerbaijan, Venezuela, Tonga, China, Burma and Zimbabwe, apart from those mentioned above.

Otpor activists have set up the Centre for Non-Violent Resistance. After having helped youth movements from Tbilisi in 2003, they got in contact with Pora, the biggest Ukrainian youth opposition movement in the spring of 2004. In April there were even some eighteen young people that traveled to Serbia for a course on organizational and negotiation skills, street protest tactics, and how to monitor the elections to be able to fight possible fraud. Some of OTPORs members tried to travel to Kiev to join in the protest, yet they were stopped at the airport.

Still, their experiences have helped youth groups to act, both in Tbilisi and Kiev. Although attempts to do the same in Belarus and Ghana failed, Otpor believes it was because the time was not right for it, but that in the future the same familiar images will arise again.”

I have also written an op-ed on my perspective of the Kiev matter, and how these NGOs are affecting the legitimately elected government in Ukraine in favor of a pro-EU puppet government that will willingly accept 3 billion of World Bank money as a bailout.

It’s no wonder that Putin occupied Crimea. He knew it would be the best place to hedge the US-backed neo-Nazis streaming in Russia from Ukraine, and secure a pro-Russian naval base that would remain instrumental to keeping weapons from getting in the wrong hands.

We remember back in 2012 when J. Christopher Stephens was murdered in public for smuggling weapons from Libya to Syria; this was discovered during the Bengazigate scandal and forced Hillary Clinton to testify why she ordered a stand-down of security forces when the US embassy was attacked. They wanted Stevens dead.

In addition, Bashar al-Assad spoke of unknown snipers shooting people during the initial protests. The process was repeated–snipers were hired by the heads of Euromaiden and used the same tactics to create chaos amongst heated protests where parties were in opposition, so that the governments are made to look responsible. This was revealed through talks between Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet and EU High Representative of Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton.

We have also heard these claims from Muammar Gaddafi of indiscriminate sniping; Western media shortly demonized Green forces after the initial firefights broke out so that they could claim the alphabet soup thug forces could be labeled as “freedom fighters”.

It’s all smoke and mirrors, and cloaks and daggers in the wonderful world of 21st century geopolitics.

My Rebuttal to the Article by Christian Takushi, “As in Georgia the West bears some responsibility for Crisis in Ukraine”

Africa: France, Chad, Gaddafi and the CAR – Years of Meddling Should Not Be Ignored Now

BY KEITH SOMERVILLE, 16 JANUARY 2014

ANALYSIS

Speaking at a United Nations event marking 20 years since the Rwandan genocide, France’s ambassador to the UN, Gerard Araud, said his government had seriously underestimated the level of hatred between Christian and Muslim communities in the Central African Republic.

He said on 15th January that African Union and French forces deployed in the CAR were facing a “nearly impossible” situation.

The crux of the problem was that they were dealing with “two communities who want to kill each other”. He emphasised that “they desperately want to kill each other … We knew that there was some inter-sectarian violence, but we didn’t forecast such deep ingrained hatred.”

Forgive me if I seem cynical about this, but the French have been involved in CAR for over 120 years – carving out a territory that bore no relation to ethnic, linguistic or other indigenous factors and did not take into account existing boundaries of communities.

Before colonial occupation, the region was no different from any other – experiencing trade, inter-marriage and, at times, raiding and conflict between different communities. It wasn’t some peaceful Eden, but nor was it riven by endemic warfare or hatred between its peoples.

France granted independence in 1960 but kept troops in the country until 1997 and backed or even organized coups in 1965, 1979 and 1981 to ensure the CAR remained friendly to France – they even bankrolled Bokassa’s coronation as Emperor.

During demonstrations by schoolchildren and students in 1979, French army officers and NCOs commanded forces of Zairean and CAR troops that brutally suppressed the protests. France has remained a major political, economic and military player in CAR – intervening for ‘humanitarian’ reasons several times.

With this long and intense involvement, if there were such wells of hatred and a desperation on the part of Christian and Muslim communities to kill each other, then why didn’t they spot it before and why is it only surfacing now?

The CAR has diamonds, gold and uranium which over decades have drawn in the French, Libyans and Chadians.

Libya’s Muammar Gadaffi became close to Bokassa as his excesses drove away even the French, who plotted to overthrow and replace him with the CAR’s first president, David Dacko, against whom the French had supported Bokassa in his 1965 coup.

Bokassa was in Libya in September 1979 arranging for Libyan use of military bases in the CAR near the border with Chad (in return for Libyan security support for Bokassa), when the French flew commando units to Bangui to overthrow him. They were then involved in a number of subsequent coups.

Despite Bokassa’s overthrow, Libyan involvement continued – largely because of the CAR’s usefulness as a route into Chad, where Libya was backing forces opposed to President Hissène Habré.

Libya saw the CAR as being part of its southern hinterland and its sphere of interest in central Africa. Successive Central African leaders would try to bolster their unstable power base by bargaining between Libya and France – and latterly Idriss Déby’s Chad.

Even after Habré’s demise and the end of the war there, Libya remained closely involved in the CAR supporting President Patassé against an uprising by former military leader Andre Kolingba.

Libyan, Chadian and Congolese rebel forces all fought for Patassé against the rebels and the Chadian government of Idriss Déby became heavily involved in the CAR and remains a key player.

Chad seemed willing to support Bozizé after he seized power, while still retaining links with rebel groups from the Muslim communities along the porous borders with Darfur and Chad.

It was the Chadian decision to ditch Bozizé and put its forces (already in the CAR) behind the Séléka rebel alliance which enabled the movement to quickly overthrow the government.

At various times over the last 15 years, conflict in the CAR between rebel groups (grown out of the rivalry between military or political leaders unable to accept anything other than a ‘winner takes all’ approach to power and resources), has involved the Chadians fighting on one side or another.

At times substantial numbers of Muslim Central Africans have fled into Chad or Darfur, where the Ndjamena or Khartoum governments received them and then trained or armed them for future use in their regional strategies. With the fall of Gadaffi, Chad’s Idriss Déby has become the regional kingmaker and shows no sign of leaving CAR alone.

So, for Ambassador Araud to say that France misunderstood how much Central Africans “desperately want to kill each other” is mendacious and a cover for the results of their decades of mercenary interference in CAR along with neighbouring states like Libya and Chad.

People do not just harbour primitive hatreds – an excuse also trotted out by the international community for non-interference in Rwanda and Bosnia – but they do become brutalized by years of oppression, of being the victims of the swirling regional conflicts that criss-cross the borders of the central African region.

Not only have the people of the CAR suffered the depredations of their own governments and their foreign backers, but also of the Congolese rebels of Jean-Pierre Bemba and of Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army. Brutalization begets brutality and killing in desperation, not desperation for killing.

It seems the French have either learned little from their years of meddling in Africa or think others are stupid enough to swallow their simplistic stereotyping to hide their own complicity in this humanitarian crisis

Keith Somerville is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, teaches in the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Kent, and runs the Africa – News and Analysis website (www.africajournalismtheworld.com)