By Gregory R. Copley
August 26th, 2014
Much has been spewed forth about the seemingly inexorable and sudden rise, steeped in blood, of a chimeric new “state”, the so-called Islamic Caliphate. It has occupied land seized from Syria and Iraq, both states conveniently presently divided, distracted, and ripe — at least for the moment — for exploitation.
The Islamic Caliphate (referred to in the Western media as the “Islamic State”) may indeed be a pivotal entity, but perhaps not for the reasons it thinks itself to be. It may be the final provocation which brings Iran to mount its promised vengeance on Turkey, the patron (and not the victim) of the “caliphate”.
The Islamic Caliphate was nurtured by Turkey from its beginnings in the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and al- Sham (ISIS) [also Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL)] and the Al Qaida Organization in the Land of the Two Rivers (AQI) organization, Al Qaida in Mesopotamia, the Mujahedin Shura Council in Iraq, Jund al-Sahaba (Soldiers of the Prophet’s Companions), and a large part of Jabhat al-Nusra (JN). These were often amorphous and overlapping entities. Massive semi-clandestine support to these groups from Turkey and Qatar — and supported at the beginning by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia — had been designed to break Iran’s hold on Syria and Iraq. But for Turkey and Qatar, it was also a tool to threaten or cower Saudi Arabia and to isolate Iran.
That very genesis was enough to set Iran irrevocably at the throat of Turkey, and could eventually even bring about common cause between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The self-anointed “caliph” of the Islamic Caliphate (or, more modestly, as its Emir) Abu Omar al-Baghdadi (born as Hamed Dawood Mohammed Khalil al-Zawi), broke with Al Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, ostensibly in defiance of a sacred oath between al-Baghdadi and Zawahiri. We should remember that the Norman conquest of Britain in 1066 was premised similarly on the allegation of the breaking (by English King Harold Godwinson) of a sacred oath to Duke William of Normandy, so the current justification for the actions in the Fertile Crescent should not be dismissed.
What is profoundly obscured and ignored by the international media and policymakers, however, is Turkey’s key role in bringing the “caliphate” into being, and sustaining it now, even though Baghdadi’s people conveniently hold 49 Turkish diplomats hostage in the area of northern Iraq which the Islamists seized. There is evidence also that Turkish sources provided the IC with intelligence which ensured that U.S. Special Forces, on July 4, were unable to locate and free foreign hostages, including U.S. journalist James Foley (who was subsequently beheaded on or about Aug, 19, by an IC “fighter” of apparently UK background).
There is a blur of action surrounding the emergence of the IC to the point where real strategic trends are being overlooked. What, then, are the key factors or trends?
Who Controls al-Baghdadi? As far as al-Baghdadi is concerned, he is controlled by no one, but in reality he cannot survive without Turkey’s support, both from the initial financial and weapons support, to the long-term logistical support. Some 10 percent of his fighters are reportedly Turkish, and most of his fighters are “foreign” and need to enter his region via Turkey. By late August 2014, al-Baghdadi was working to broaden his land “border” with Turkey in order to facilitate better contact. The “caliphate” needs to export the 800,000 barrels per day of oil production from the wells it captured in Syria and Iraq, and although it must do this through trucks, rather than pipelines, it is hoping for a stable traffic through Turkey, despite United Nations sanctions against the trade. The “caliphate” may be achieving as much as $3 million per day from illicit oil exports, insufficient to allow it to govern the territory it has seized.
What happens if Turkey is forced by the international community to actually cease its support for the entity? To stop all traffic, all intelligence support (which clearly works in contravention of U.S. interests), all weapons and human traffic? The “caliphate” would then be an easy target. But the U.S. White House, so long complicit with Turkey in funding the jihadists in Syria, and so dependent on Qatar for U.S. Persian Gulf basing, and supportive essentially of the Turkish approach to the Muslim Brothers, finds it difficult to challenge a Turkish Government which is increasingly visible in its anti-U.S. policies.
The Threat to Iran: The rise of the “caliphate” is a proxy war by Turkey and Qatar, particularly, against Iran.
Washington has supported this, but may be poised to sell out this approach if it can achieve a rapprochement with Tehran. But Turkey, Qatar, and the “caliphate” also represent an existential threat to Saudi Arabia, and ultimately the UAE, Oman, Jordan, Egypt, and Israel. Iran has already begun responding. It is not farfetched to envisage a time when Saudi Arabia and Iran — as well as Israel, Egypt, and so on — can find common cause.
The Kurds: The Turkish leadership believes it has now transformed the Kurds of Turkey, and the Kurds of Syria and Iraq, from enemies into allies. It is true that, as always, the Kurdish leadership of northern Iraq has put aside ideology and ethnicity in the name of profits; their major income, apart from border traffic with Iran, is to act as exporters of oil to Turkey. But Iran and the Iraqi Government can and will, with others, devise new solutions to make the Kurds independent of Ankara.
In all of this, the “caliphate” is vicious, but ephemeral. But it may have forced a new set of regional expediencies. A new Middle East is emerging. Get your tickets early.