Developments centred upon Syria, with western governments mindful of Russian military involvement, provide insight into the changing nature of official United States defence and security planning.
It is marked by the Pentagon increasingly taking an organisational role behind the scenes with greater use of regional 'hubs' and proxies to defend 'US interests'.
The role also extends into the shadowy world of covert operations, which, however, maintain a certain consistency and continuity, particularly in light of the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s.
The implementation of US military planning in recent times has created serious problems for countries such as Australia. They include a greater likelihood of being ever more frequently drawn into 'theatres of US militarism': military exercises, manoeuvres, war-games, aggressive diplomatic posturing.
There is also greater likelihood of the 'theatres of US militarism' becoming real-war scenarios.
Within the rising diplomatic rivalries, a number of problems also arise which have a major bearing upon contemporary western political positions.
US wants others to do its fighting
In mid-October, France announced it had invited Australia to send a naval frigate into the Persian Gulf area to assist with western military operations in Syria. It revealed a great deal about US involvement. While the US has had a long-term covert operation to topple the Assad government in Damascus, it has also had a long-standing leadership role in the so-called Taskforce 50 carrier operation 'comprising ships from several countries'. (1) It has, officially, been supporting 'air-strikes against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria'. (2) In December, however, leadership of Taskforce 50 will pass into French control. It will then consist of warships from France, Britain and Belgium, together with a French submarine. (3)
The move toward the US delegating responsibility for military engagement to others while retaining organisational leadership has been a hallmark of the Obama presidency, a noticeable departure from the swashbuckling bravado and military incompetence of the former Bush administrations.
The recent military planning has not been kept secret: addressing a graduation of cadets at the US military academy in West Point, New York, last year, Obama stated, 'it was possible for the US to lead through example and by creating international alliances'. (4) Under Obama, the US has attempted to implement a seemingly less aggressive foreign policy, made possible by delegation of responsibility for military action through other countries.
In the Asia-Pacific region the implementation of the Global Transformation of Defence and Security (GTDS) has transformed Japan into a full-fledged regional hub in the northern part of the region with Australia as a counterpart in the south. The moves have included a 're-interpretation' of Clause 9 of the pacifist Japanese constitution and an announcement from the White House in April which specified the US implementation of the new alliance.
On the eve of a high-level diplomatic visit to the US by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, an official media release stated 'US and Japanese officials announced an agreement on Monday that would extend the reach of Japan's military – now limited to its own defence – allowing it to act when the US or countries US forces are defending are threatened'. (5)
It has caused serious concern across the Asia-Pacific region with collective memories of atrocities conducted by occupying Japanese military forces during the Second World War period. Many residents of the region still believe successive Japanese governments have never properly apologised and accepted full responsibility for their appalling human rights abuses to millions of people during the Imperial fascist period. All they have provided, to date, are regarded as mere token gestures. The problem was a major priority agenda item for the high-level diplomatic talks which took place between South Korea and Japan in early November. It was noted South Korean President Park Geun-hye 'confronted Mr Abe yesterday over Japan's refusal to apologise to Koreans who were trafficked and used as so-called “comfort women” (sex slaves) during World War Two'.(6)
The wave of US-led militarism rests upon over a thousand US military bases and intelligence facilities across the world. At least 300 of these installations are situated in the Asia-Pacific region. There are many more covert facilities, closely linked into intelligence networks. Present official military statements specify there are over 320,000 US troops and marines stationed in the Asia-Pacific region. It will expand still further with an estimated sixty per cent of the US military being in the region by 2020. (7)
Regional US-led military planning has also extended far beyond the immediate Asia-Pacific. Pentagon planners have global aims for total control, if possible, although at present both Russia and China stand in their way. The term Indo-Pacific, for example, has become commonplace in diplomatic statements. Australian military involvement in Afghanistan and the Middle East provide evidence of the wider definition of the immediate region.
Against the backcloth of waves of militarism, the announcement France had invited Australian naval involvement with Syrian operations can be seen in a sinister light. Even greater responsibilities are being thrust upon Canberra. While Australia, at present, has frigate HMAS Melbourne based in the Arabian Gulf, its role has been 'conducting anti-drugs and anti-pirarcy operations'. (8) As the area is regarded as sensitive with problems arising with access and egress with shipping-lanes, it has not yet been specified whether another naval frigate will be sent to assist French operations.
US believed it could create a “new Middle East”
The escalation of conflict in Syria caused by US attempts to topple President Assad has had far-reaching implications. The massive wave of immigrants and asylum-seekers fleeing the conflict has caused many western governments to reluctantly accept the problem must be resolved, sooner, rather than later. The fact Russian Federation military forces are now actively involved in supporting Syrian armed forces has worried western governments: Moscow will be extending its diplomatic influence into the wider Middle East region, perceived as threatening 'US interests'.
The US is also deeply unpopular in the Middle East region in general and Syria, in particular. Their aggressive diplomatic role has not won them many genuine friends or serious political allies. They have alienated much of their traditional support through the maintenance of a Cold War type position with Iran and those associated with Shia Islam which includes the Alawite grouping around President Assad of Syria. Continued US support for Saudi Arabia and their Sunni interpretation of Islam has created serious divisions across the region and elsewhere.
It is from within the wider Sunni grouping that the jihadists emerge. They are backed by the US and financed from Saudi Arabia. (9) While their emergence as intelligence assets was intended for clearly defined destabilisation purposes, the US quickly lost control. Problems have subsequently escalated. The example of a US-led covert operation involving Division 30 has provided a clear illustration of debacle. Trained by US Special forces in Turkey, Division 30 was intended to act as a 'moderate' grouping inside Syria: as a nucleus of a new Syrian armed forces. Soon after entering the Syrian battlefields, however, they grouping defected to join al-Qaeda networks. (10)
There are numerous other examples of US covert operations proving counter-productive. Their present position, in terms of diplomacy, is tenuous. They have been ravaged by the same forces they are responsible for unleashing. Perhaps the military planners intended a policy of continued 'constructive chaos' as a prolonged form of low-intensity warfare to completely destroy all semblance of normality for millions of people. Such a scenario would include the fragmentation of countries in the region into smaller, warring entities fighting amongst themselves. The outcome would inevitably lead to a strengthening of Israel, a desired outcome for US military hawks.
The debacle US imperialism created in Syria rests upon grander planning nearly a decade ago. Speaking at an official State Department press briefing on 21 July 2006, then Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice announced, 'I have no interest in diplomacy for the sake of returning Lebanon and Israel to the status quo. I think it would be a mistake. What we are seeing here, in a sense, is the growing – the birth pangs of a new Middle East and whatever we do we have to be certain that we've pushing forward to a new Middle East not going back to the old one'. (11) A definition of a supposed 'new Middle East', was not, however, provided by Rice.
Clearly, the US would appear to have had a grander plan than merely invading Iraq and installing a compliant government. The failure of the military planning, and the US-led occupation to stabilise a highly volatile theatre of war, has recently been clarified by an apology given by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The so-called Coalition of the Willing, clearly got it wrong. Blair is noted as stating 'I apologise for some of the mistakes in planning and, certainly, our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime'. (12) He attributed the problem arising to failure to plan properly for the aftermath of the 2003 military invasion and the 'false intelligence used to justify it'. (13)
Pentagon military planners, whose values and beliefs are embedded in imperialist ideology, did not understand the Middle East, its countries and people.
Other, more serious analysis of the problem might correctly attribute the errors made by Blair to be more in keeping with his personal problem of being a sycophant and creep, ever eager to follow the 'big-boys' in the Bush entourage. His facial expressions, on regular occasions, have revealed a great deal about just what made him very excited. It proved very difficult for him to hide or deny.
None of the Bush entourage, it should be noted, were renowned for their intellectual endeavour although most had significant holdings in the oil industry, giving them the motive for widespread interference in the Middle East, a region rich in oil deposits. The thugs in suits from the White House and Pentagon proved to possess much in common with the present criminals on the ground masquerading as jihadists. It has been noted the rebel groupings deal 'with human slaves, stolen antiquities and everything that wasn't nailed down and some that was'. (14) The motives of the two groups were much the same.
If any of the Bush entourage and their intelligence flunkies had bothered to read a serious history book they would have been aware of the likely difficulties arising.
The Middle East region, while steeped in history, largely dates from the aftermath of the First World War and the collapse of the Sultanate of Turkey in 1918. The Sultanate, as a major colonial power throughout the Islamic world, ceased to exist. The victors acquired colonial acquisitions as the spoils of war. The borders of most of the countries were established through western diplomatic initiatives, the victors mapping the region with a new geography. Ethnic groupings were often split into different countries for diplomatic convenience. The stoking of historical rivalries in one country, quickly spread to others. The problematic Kurdish question is but one example.
A further example of the problem, from an Australian perspective, has been jihadists from Lebanese ethnic groupings with joint citizenship joining rebel groups in Syria. Their families entered Australia with Lebanese credentials. They, however, belong closely to Syrian tribal groupings divided during the Sykes-Picot agreement of May, 1916, secretly signed between France and the UK to create the present Middle East region. (15) Those concerned, estimated to number in their hundreds, regard it a birthright to defend their historical place of residence: adherence to particular interpretations of Islam may well take second place.
A study of the hundred Syrian households in South Australia revealed they were solidly behind the Assad administration in Damascus: they knew of no jihadists from their ethnic grouping. (16)
The US preoccupation with covert operations in the Middle East, to date, has proved a sham. A multitude of rebel groups operate in a myriad of combat-zones. The problem is too difficult to hide. A recently declassified intelligence report has proved the US wilfully allowed the rise and expansion of Islamic State. Speaking on Al Jazeera, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, former intelligence chief, confirmed the report and claimed the goal of the planning was, 'to isolate the Syrian regime'. (17)
Syria, for example, has had to deal with US special operations Eager Lion and Infinite Moonlight based in military facilities in Jordan and Turkey training supposed rebels. (18) Other military initiatives include, 'intelligence agents from Saudi Arabia, the US, Jordan and other allied states working at secret joint operations.....to train and arm Syrian rebels'. (19) All it has achieved is the destabilisation of the genuinely popular Assad administration in Damascus with the creation of a vacuum quickly filled with jihadist groups. They are often composed of criminals, with few political agendas other than self-enrichment.
Saudis becoming more active
The role of Saudi royal family in the conflict should not be under-estimated. They have both a long and loyal history to the US and ambivalence to diplomatic niceties. In return for their diplomatic compliance, western governments regularly overlook the appalling human rights abuses and seemingly officially sanctioned criminal behaviour taking place regularly in the country and by its government representatives elsewhere. (20)
The Saudi government has had a long-time close working relationship with the US for covert operations. On 31 March 1984, for example, Robert McFarlane, then National Security Advisor, met Prince Bandar, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the US to appeal for aid to assist the Contra in Nicaragua. The Saudi Royal family were only too pleased to make monthly donations of US$1 million (21) By their involvement they became major players in the subsequent Iran-Contra scandal. The Contra rebel grouping were responsible for 'low-intensity warfare' and destabilisation of the democratically-elected Sandinista government in Managua. It was not the financing of an insurgency which became the point in question, it was the methods used to finance and support the illegal and covert action which eventually proved a major embarrassment for the US and its allies.
The Saudi royal family were not, however, at all concerned the Central American conflict they had entered involved, on their side, widespread illegal arms transportation and drug-trafficking as a lucrative side-line to fund other, non-legitimate covert operations. It was an established method of funding a covert operation. Subsequent developments would indicate the Iran-Contra legacy provided the guidelines for further covert operations in contemporary Syria. Prince Bandar has been quoted recently as stating about the Syria conflict that 'the kingdom had plenty of money and was committed to using it to prevail'. (22)
The Saudi money-trail is difficult to clearly define into what is legitimately donated and what is not. The lines are blurred.
The announcement in late October that Saudi Prince Abdel Mohsen Bin Walid Bin Abdulaziz had been arrested together with four accomplices at the Rafiq Hariri airport in Beirut for using a private jet to transport over two tonnes of illegal drugs, therefore, has proved merely a continuation of earlier drug-trafficking covert operations in Central America. It was noted while Lebanese officials had discovered cocaine, the bulk of the drugs confiscated were Captagon, a stimulant used by rebel combatants in Syria. (23)
The drug, an amphetamine-like stimulant, has been used by rebel groupings to boost their military prowess. It has many side-effects which may explain the mass rape and other sexual abuse common in areas occupied by jihadist groupings. Banned in the 1960s period for being highly addictive, Captagon is perhaps the perfect drug for the Saudi backed forces: an enforced compliance where only those who remain part of jihadist groups can obtain a regular supply to feed their drug-habits. Sales of the drug, elsewhere, are also used to boost illicit funding of the covert operation.
US support for terrorists fighting Assad
There is also the shadowy money-trail from the US into jihadist groupings in Syria and elsewhere. Those in receipt of the financial support and part of the pay-roll nevertheless eventually spoke out. A Pakistani Commander of ISIS, Yousaf al Salafi, confessed earlier this year to have been receiving funding from the US for services rendered. He was acting as a recruiter of jihadists, receiving US$600 per person for those entering the battlefields. (24)
Recent disclosures about illegal arms-trafficking also show US corporations directing NATO arms for the Ukraine, which are then shipped onto Syria through the use of supply-trucks driven by Turkish intelligence personnel. (25) They are specifically intended for jihadist groups. The covert operation has been noted as ISIS supporters 'at the highest levels of American public life' hiding the weapons 'inside the CIA's covert weapons deal with Kiev'. (26)
The announcement was subsequently, and reluctantly, acknowledged by the US Defence Department as correct with the stated weapons consignments flown to the US Air Force Base at Constanta, Romania, then forwarded by C-130 planes to Georgia. It was then noted, 'the CIA is totally aware that these prohibited missiles are being delivered to al-Qaeda and ISIS'. (27)
The French government invitation for Australia to become involved with Taskforce 50 has coincided with plans for the French to take control of the normally US-led taskforce for two months from mid-December. After provoking massive upheaval in the Middle East and Syria US imperialism now appears to be expecting others such as Australia to resolve the problems that have arisen. They thrust a dangerous role upon others, and expect compliance. It is doubtful the present right-wing Coalition government in Canberra will decline the 'invitation'. It has been issued more in line as a military directive from those planning the operation.
Recent military planning initiatives have caused some serious observers to conclude the US are more interested in creating wars than actually winning them. (28) War, for the Pentagon and their multitude of private contractors, is profitable business. Peace is not considered viable, in business terms. Winning wars, therefore, is not their primary goal. If those in air-conditioned offices in the Pentagon can get others to fight their wars for them, it is even more profitable and also safer.
Three issues, however, arise.
Elsewhere, US-led NATO military involvement in countries with shared borders with the Russian Federation has already heightened diplomatic tensions raising fears of a new Cold War in Europe. (30) The hardening of its political stance by US imperialism in this region must have implications for the Middle East as well.
Secondly, the price of the present Australian military involvement with the US alliance is too expensive for sensible people to pay. It is merely the thin end of a wedge, where Australian people and others will be expected to pay for their troops to fight wars in the name of 'US interests'. Progressive-minded people should be telling those concerned to stop interfering in far-flung parts of the world, defending 'US interests'.
Finally, US imperialism and its coalition partners must be held responsible for the dreadful refugee problem created by their interference in the Middle East in pursuit of regime change.
1. Aussies could join French-led naval taskforce, The Australian, dated, 17-18 October 2015.
4. US signals foreign policy shift away from military might, Guardian Weekly (U.K.), dated, 6 June 2014.
5. Japan to extend military reach beyond self-defence, The Age (Melbourne), dated, 29 April 2015.
6. Park, Abe thaw relations but war wounds remain, The Australian, dated, 3 November 2015.
7. Dangerous Allies, US bases and troops in Australia, Shirley Winton, Talk given at the Melbourne Unitarian Church, Victoria, Australia, 28 June 2014.
8. Australian, op. cit., 17-18 October 2015.
9. Al-Qaeda man names princes as cash donors, The Age (Melbourne), dated, 6 February 2015.
10. US-supported rebels in deal with al-Qaeda, The Age (Melbourne), dated, 18 August 2015.
11. Special Briefing, US State Department, dated, 21 July 2006.
12. Blair apologies for Iraq war and rise of ISIS, The Australian, dated, 26 October 2015.
14. US al-Qaeda Founders/Controllers Exposed, NEXUS Magazine (Australia), dated, October-November 2015.
15. Roll up that map, Le Monde Diplomatique, dated, 2 July 2014, and, Fraying at the borders, The Australian, dated, 16 April 2015.
16. Information provided by Syria Support Group, South Australia, 2014-5.
17. Washington wilfully allowed the rise of ISIS – US ex-intelligence chief, Australian National Review, dated, 12 September 2015.
18. See official US military websites: Operation/s, Eager Lion, Infinite Moonlight.
19. With Contras and Kabul under his belt, Saudi prince sets out to rid region of Assad,
The Australian, dated, 27 August 2013.
20. See: UK-Saudi deal ignores abuses, the Australian, dated, 5 October 2015.
21. The Iran-Contra Scandal: The Declassified History, Edited by Peter Kornbluh and Malcolm Byrne, (New York, 1993), page 383.
22. Australia, op cit., dated, 27 August 2013.
23. Prince in drugs bust, The Australian, dated, 28 October 2015.
24. ISIS leader admits to being funded by the US, Australian National Review, dated, 13 October 2015.
25. ISIS TOW missile inventories conclusively tied to CIA-Ukraine covert deal, (Veterans Today publication), NEXUS Magazine (Australia), dated, October-November 2015.
27. US/al-Qaeda founders/controllers exposed, op.cit., NEXUS.
28. Is America more interested in creating wars than actually winning them? The Australian National Review, dated, 10 July 2015.
29. See, Moscow targeting CIA-backed rebels: US, The Australian ,dated, 7 October 2015.
30. New Iron Curtain falling on Europe, the Australian, dated, 30 October 2015.