Iran and the Proxy War in Kurdistan

October 23, 2014 at 1:39 PM

PeshmergaS-300x168In the midst of the war against ISIS (Islamic State) now taking place in both Iraq and Syria, a possible shifting of alliances that could fundamentally alter the balance of power in the region is taking place, and no one seems to have noticed. Specifically, the burgeoning relationship between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq has the potential to remake the political landscape of the Middle East. Naturally, such a development is part of a broader geopolitical gambit by Iran, and it will have significant ramifications for all regional actors. However, it is Turkey, the gulf monarchies, and Israel that potentially have the most to lose from such a development.

While Iran has long-standing disputes with elements of its own Kurdish minority, it has demonstrably taken the lead in aiding Iraqi Kurds in their war against extremist fighters loyal to ISIS. As Kurdish President Massud Barzani explained in late August, “The Islamic Republic of Iran was the first state to help us…and it provided us with weapons and equipment.” This fact alone, coupled with the plausible, though unconfirmed, allegations of Iranian military involvement on the ground in Kurdish Iraq, demonstrates clearly the high priority Tehran has placed on cooperation with Barzani’s government and the Kurdish people in the fight against the Saudi and Qatari-backed militants of ISIS. The question is, why? What is it that Iran hopes to gain from its involvement in this fight? Who stands to lose? And how could this change the region?

The Iran Equation

While many eyebrows have been raised at Iranian involvement on the side of the Kurds in the fight against ISIS, perhaps it should not come as a much of a surprise. Tehran has steadily been shoring up its relations with Erbil, both out of a genuine desire to form an alliance, and as a counter-measure against the ouster of their close ally and partner, former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Since the US war on Iraq began in 2003, and especially after US troops left in 2011, Iran had positioned itself as a key, and in some ways dominant, actor in Iraq. Not only did it have significant influence with Maliki and his government, it also saw in Iraq an opportunity to break out of the isolation imposed upon it by the US, EU and Israel over its disputed nuclear program. For Iran, Iraq under Maliki was a bridge both physically (linking Iran with its allies in Syria and Southern Lebanon) and politically (serving as an intermediary with the West in negotiations). In addition, Maliki’s Iraq was to be the linchpin of a new economic strategy which included the proposed Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline, a project which would have provided Iran overland access to the European energy market, thereby allowing the Islamic Republic to overtake Qatar as the region’s dominant gas exporter to Europe.

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ISIS, Turkey, and the Propaganda of Intervention

October 23, 2014 at 12:17 PM

turkey_syria-300x225Today’s headlines are filled with reports of the imminent fall of the Syrian city of Kobani to forces of the Islamic State (ISIS). There are terrifying descriptions of an imminent massacre and the looming threat to Turkey as Islamic State forces move ever closer to the Turkish-Syrian border. Turkish President Erdogan waxes poetic about how he “warned the West” about the threat IS would pose and the dangers of inaction. It seems that everyone, including security experts and pundits, agree that the situation is critical and that US bombardment alone is powerless to protect the town or halt IS.

And yet, somehow lost amid the din of cries for intervention is the simple fact that it is US policy and the actions of the aforementioned Erdogan along with his counterparts in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, and Israel that created ISIS, nurtured it in its infancy, promoted its development, and unleashed it on Iraq and Syria. And now, for those same leaders, along with a chorus of interventionist voices in the media establishment, to sound the alarm is not only cynical and utterly disingenuous, it is a shining example of the arrogance of empire.

Kobani and the Story Not Being Told

As fighters of the Islamic State (IS) continue their charge towards the mostly Kurdish town of Kobani on the Turkish-Syrian border, deep cracks in the edifice of the US-led coalition against IS have begun to emerge. Diplomatic infighting has shattered the illusion of a cohesive and unified coalition cobbled together by Washington. Not only have a number of countries been apprehensive about getting deeply involved in yet another unwinnable war in the Middle East led by the US, some ostensible allies have used the crisis as an opportunity to achieve political objectives. Perhaps the world leader in cynical opportunism this week is Turkish President Erdogan who has thus far refused to involve his forces in the war on Syria unless that war has as its ultimate aim the toppling of Syrian President Assad.

On October 7th, the NY Times ran a story with the headline Turkish Inaction on ISIS Advance Dismays the US which quoted a senior Obama administration official saying, “There’s growing angst about Turkey dragging its feet to prevent a massacre less than a mile from its border…After all the fulminating about Syria’s humanitarian catastrophe, they’re inventing reasons not to act to avoid another catastrophe…This isn’t how a NATO ally acts.” While the obvious implication is that Erdogan could cost the US the chance at a successful anti-terror operation, there is a subtle subtext that has gone almost entirely unnoticed; Turkey sees in ISIS an opportunity, not a threat.

And this is precisely the point. IS is in fact a creation of NATO intelligence agencies (including Turkey), and it is achieving by force and propaganda what Washington, London, Riyadh, Doha, Tel Aviv, and Ankara never could – the expansion of the war in Syria.

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Interview – Ukraine, Russia, and Western Media

August 20, 2014 at 5:03 PM

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Eric Draitser appears on Voice of Russia to discuss the role of western media in shaping how Americans and Europeans understand the conflict in Ukraine, Russian perspectives, and more.  Draitser explains that the US corporate media is a propaganda mouthpiece of US foreign policy, and that the coverage of Ukraine from US and European media has merely parroted the talking points of US-NATO.  He examines how anti-Russian attitudes are deeply embedded in US public consciousness, and therefore it’s not at all surprising to see how public opinion is so easily molded to fit the interests of Washington.  Draitser also details how the long-standing policy of NATO expansion is part of a broader post-Soviet imperial agenda, one that has defined US foreign policy for more than two decades.  This and much more…

StopImperialism.org Update

August 13, 2014 at 1:46 PM

Hello Friends and New Visitors,

Please note that StopImperialism.org is currently experiencing some technical issues that might take some time to resolve.  To follow my media appearances, articles, and more, please visit StopImperialism.blogspot.com which will serve as a temporary repository for my work.  The regular site will be undergoing some maintenance in the coming weeks, but will be back very soon.  Please keep checking the site for updates.  Also, in case there’s any confusion, the site will continue to function and all content from July and earlier is still available, it is only new content that will appear on the blogspot site.

I want to express my sincere gratitude to all those who continue to follow and support my work and spread the message.  This is a collaboration with all of you.  I look forward to continuing to put out high quality analysis and commentary, even while StopImperialism.org is undergoing some much needed maintenance.  The site will return better than ever, with new features and options to make the experience even better. 

If you are on Facebook (Eric Draitser) or Twitter (@stopimperialism), please connect with me there.  If not, you can still contact me through the “Contact” page on the site.  

In Solidarity,

Eric Draitser
StopImperialism.org 

Ceasefire in Ukraine?

July 30, 2014 at 6:55 PM

http://youtu.be/9ZGSdCI47DkEric Draitser of StopImperialism.org provides his analysis of the latest diplomatic and political developments in Ukraine.  He explains that the alleged ceasefire proposal that US Secretary of State Kerry mentioned in his comments is little more than a disingenuous and cynical ploy by Kiev to buy time and present themselves as interested in peace, all the while bombing civilians.  Draitser explains that Kiev is merely a puppet of Washington and that the latest developments are still further confirmation of that.delimeter3