Finian Cunningham -
Originally from Belfast, Ireland, Finian Cunningham (born 1963) is a prominent expert in international affairs. The author and media commentator was expelled from Bahrain in June 2011 for his critical journalism in which he highlighted human rights violations by the Western-backed regime. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For many years, he worked as an editor and writer in the mainstream news media, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. He is now based in East Africa where he is writing a book on Bahrain and the Arab Spring.He co-hosts a weekly current affairs programme, Sunday at 3pm GMT on Bandung Radio. Finian Cunningham is a frequent contributor to international media, including PRESS TV and nsnbc, where he began contributing in 2012.
Finian Cunnningham (SCF) : French President Francois Hollande is pushing for a grand coalition to defeat the self-styled Islamic State terror group. Hollande wants the United States and Russia to join forces in a united fight. Russian President Vladimir Putin was quick to welcome the French proposal, saying that such a grand alliance is what Moscow has been advocating for months. Putin has even ordered his naval forces to begin liaising with the French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle to coordinate aerial bombing operations in Syria against the Islamic State network.
Hollande is due to fly to Washington next week to discuss with American President Barack Obama how this proposed military coalition could be organised. The French leader will then proceed to Moscow two days later to hold the same discussion with Putin.
This could appear to be a step in the right direction. But many questions remain about the feasibility of such a US-Russia alliance that Hollande is seeking to bridge.
No doubt the horror of the Paris massacre on November 13 – in which 129 people were killed in apparent suicide attacks by IS operatives – has focused minds. That focus has only been reinforced by confirmation from Russian investigators that the Metrojet civilian airliner was brought down by a terrorist bomb en route from Egypt’s Sharm el Sheikh to St Petersburg on October 31, in which all 224 lives on board perished. An IS affiliate claimed responsibility for that atrocity.
Russia has been careful not to crow about this. But the latest spate of terror attacks, including deadly bombs in Beirut and Iraq, serves to underline the correctness of Russia’s intervention in Syria that began on September 30. The Russian intervention was from the outset about destroying the IS network and related jihadist terror groups. Key to the Russian strategy has been its full-square support for the Syrian state and close coordination with the Syrian Arab Army of President Bashar al-Assad.
The deadly capability of IS (also known as ISIS, ISIL) to launch attacks outside Syrian territory and in the heart of Europe only underlines the fact that Russia’s intervention was the right call to make.
French warplanes this week have now stepped up their bombing raids on the IS stronghold of Raqqa in eastern Syria. Russia has also intensified its operations. This belated determination by France to wipe out the IS group raises the question: what have the French and their American allies been doing for the past year, with their combined bombing raids supposedly against the jihadists up to now having been seen as ineffectual, allowing the IS to run a virtual oil industry in eastern Syria.
There still remains the illegality of what the French and the Americans are doing in Syria with their air forces. As Moscow has repeatedly pointed out, the US-led operations are in violation of international law, as they have not been approved by the Syrian government. Russia’s operations were authorised by the Syrian authorities and are therefore legally deployed.
So while the French military operations are now being conducted with a newfound sense of purpose to eradicate the IS, they are still unlawful.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said this week that French military intervention may be countenanced and that Syrian authorities will share intelligence with France – but only if Paris genuinely joins the fight against terrorism. Assad set France a test of correct commitment. He said that France «cannot fight terrorism if it remains an ally of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey» – three countries which Syria has consistently accused of supporting the terror networks waging war against the Syrian state.
The American media have this week been pondering the possibility of a new coalition involving the US and Russia, as Hollande is promulgating.
The McClatchy new agency reported: «As Russia forms a new alliance with France and Russian warplanes rain down bombs on Islamic State targets in Syria, the Paris attacks may be nudging Moscow and Washington closer together».
McClatchy even quoted a Pentagon spokesman as welcoming the latest Russian airstrikes. «Those airstrikes, at least from our vantage point, did appear to strike in ISIL-held territory», said Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook. «We welcome any sincere effort on the part of the Russians to play a more constructive role in Syria», he added. Albeit with a misplaced arrogant inference of American righteousness.
The New York Times also ran an article with the headline: «Envisioning How Global Powers Can Smash ISIS». It too weighed the possibilities of the US and Russia combining military effort in Syria. «Much of the world agrees that the Islamic State needs to be crushed. But how that can be accomplished, and what the unintended consequences may be, are a lot more complicated», noted the NY Times. The latter comment is a massive understatement and raises a lot more questions than perhaps the paper even intended. Complicated indeed.
For to really address the problem of conflict in Syria and the explosion of terrorism in that country over the past four years requires a fundamental accounting of Western policies and the alliances that Washington, Paris and London have been working covertly in the Middle East.
The whole US-led covert criminal enterprise of regime change in Syria will have to be reckoned with. This has been the policy of Washington, Paris and London going back several years before the Syrian conflict erupted in March 2011. And not just Syria. Add Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, among others.
France’s Hollande is on record admitting, from as early as 2012, that his government has funnelled weapons into Syria to arm unknown rebel groups. He may claim that the munitions were delivered to the elusive «moderate rebels» of the so-called Free Syrian Army, but even the Western media has reported that foreign-supplied weapons have mainly ended up in the hands of the jihadist networks, like Al Qaeda-linked IS and Al Nusra Front.
The bitter, painful truth is that France along with its Western allies have created a terrorist Frankenstein monster which they cannot control. The slaughter in Paris last week is one horrific consequence of this criminal policy paid with the blood of innocent French civilians.
It is also well documented that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have funded, armed and facilitated the jihadist mercenary armies. Even US vice president Joe Biden admitted this in an off-guard moment, as well as former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in secret memos published by Wikileaks. One such group Jaish al Islam, which grew out of Liwa-al-Islam, recently made the news from holding women and children in cages as human shields. The same group is also implicated in the East Ghouta chemical weapons atrocity back in August 2013. Turkey and the Gulf Arab oil states are linked inextricably with these jihadists and many others besides, as investigative American journalist Seymour Hersh revealed.
In the whole heinous division of labour, Washington, Paris and London have colluded with NATO member Turkey and the Arab regimes to orchestrate the mercenaries in the criminal enterprise for regime change in Syria. Those mercenaries include the IS brigades, as former head of the US Defence Intelligence Agency, Lt General Michael Flynn, admitted in an Al Jazeera interview earlier this year.
France and other powers may have been jolted by the savage horror on the streets of Paris into finally waking up to the horrendous nature of terrorism in and out of Syria. But there must a proper accounting of why and how this terrorism was spawned and activated.
As Russian leader Vladimir Putin said in his September address to the United Nations General Assembly, speaking about the corruption of international law: «Do you see now what you have done?» Putin also highlighted at the G20 summit last weekend that the financing of the terror groups has been instrumented by member states of the G20.
This is why forming a grand anti-terror coalition is going to be so much more complicated than even the New York Times can imagine. For a genuine solution will necessarily have to address the core criminality of Western governments, including the French. They are up to their necks in sponsoring the very the kind of terror that is rebounding in Western societies.
This year alone, France and the United States sealed arms deals with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf states worth billions of dollars. Only a few months ago, Hollande inked deals to sell dozens of Rafale fighter jets. The massive arms trade with these oil states is vital to French economic interests, as it is for the US.
If a real war on terror, as opposed to the fake one that the West has been conducting up to now, were to get underway in earnest, sooner or later the Western powers are going to have to face up to the Gulf Arab and Turk lynchpins who help run their
Murder Inc in the Middle East. It is extremely doubtful that these powers will forego their economic and other strategic interests. That goes especially for Washington. Its decades-old client-relationship with the Gulf oil sheikhdoms is vital for maintaining the petrodollar system that perpetuates the bankrupt American economy and its gargantuan indebtedness.
So, for the moment, giving Hollande the benefit of the doubt that he has come partially to his senses about France’s covert war in Syria, the French president appears to have bona fide intentions of setting up a grand anti-terror coalition involving the US and Russia.
However, such an initiative seems woefully naive and vacuous. Russia is right to welcome a long-overdue apparent redirection. It proves that Russia is correct in its intervention in Syria. But how credible is such a move?
In the coming weeks we will see priorities being tested. Already Obama is under fire for his lack of leadership on Syria policy from Republicans in Congress. Many of them are accusing him of «allowing Russia to seize the initiative». Calls are mounting in Washington for a full-scale military intervention with ground troops to overthrow Assad. Hawkish think tanks like the Brookings Institute are more than ever calling for regime change in Syria.
Underlying the superficial US media debate about forming a coalition with Russia is the immanent, far more powerful tensions of safeguarding American ruling class strategic interests. Those interests are dependent on maintaining the Gulf oil sheikhdoms intact and inline, which is what the regime-change project in Syria was always about. A thorough anti-terror intervention in Syria aligned with Russia and its ally in Damascus, as well as in Tehran, is a fundamental contradiction to the strategic interests of US capital and its Western minions.
In which case, the Hollande initiative of a grand coalition will be rebuffed by Washington and its trusty British lieutenant. Hollande will be told to get back into line, as he was when his American masters told him to breach the Mistral helicopter ship contract with Russia over the trumped-up Ukraine crisis.
Tragically, the cause of terrorism in the world will continue. Because the root source of this scourge – US-led imperialism – remains unchallenged. So far anyway. Therein lies the real challenge, and solution to world peace.
Finian Cunningham, Strategic Culture Foundation