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Crusaders, Sieges And Fortress America

Politics / US Politics Sep 03, 2014 - 10:59 AM GMT

By: Andrew_McKillop


ISIS is More Menacing Than Russia
In a sometimes virulently anti-Russian but sophisticated propaganda piece, 1 September, D. K. Matai tells us that Russia, or Vladimir Putin, and the Islamic State, are “our” two greatest threats (“Islamic State or Russia? Ten Key Questions Towards Pragmatism”  .

That firstly depends on who “we” might be, and throughout his article Matai does not exactly define that entity.. “We” might for example not welcome a nuclear war waged on the basis of who “possesses” the poisoned and useless gift of Ukraine. “We” might not believe Russia is our worst enemy. Even Matai is forced to conclude at the end of his article that ISIS – not Russia - is the real menace for western society and civilization.

Matai attempts to condense and summarize world history since 1945, and after the collapse of the USSR in 1989-90, in an effort to explain why Putin is a “ruthless poker player with a chip on his shoulder”. If we were trading insults, Barack Obama could be called a “dithering golf player with nothing in his trousers”, but that would not advance this discussion. Matai says that the root cause of the Ukraine crisis is Russia claiming its own exceptionalism, versus US exceptionalism – the Great Power hypothesis. Russia was downsized by the collapse of the USSR, so it has a chip on its shoulder.

This is a false comparison. Russia is anchored to the Euro-Asia land mass. It does not have a gigantic moat around it, called the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, protecting Fortress America. Russia has some very dangerous neighbors, especially to the south, and has at least as much experience fighting Islamic extremism as the US or Europe. To be sure, since 9 / 11 the USA is less sure of its gigantic moat. Matai is right to explain that World War II, for the Russian people, was a totally traumatic event – nothing like its impacts on American society. Russians want protection from encroachment.

In his article, Matai extensively wanders off into the world of European energy policy. I was an in-house policy analyst and advisor at the Commission's Energy Directorate for nearly 4 years. Matai is forced to admit there is no such thing as Fortress Europe, especially when it concerns oil and gas imported from Putin's Russia.

Matai's 10 Loaded Questions
One is this: If a vexed Russia halts its oil and gas supplies to major world powers within Europe and without, what are the consequences and how disruptive are they?

What indeed my friend! We can do the math and find out, or the west can keep goading Putin and find out. This is only one of Matai's 10 loaded questions, but when or if there was a complete embargo on Russian oil and gas supplies to Europe, this would be Putin's “economic atom bomb”. Helping Matai to understand this, the 1973-74 oil embargo decreed against the West by the West's Sunni friends of the Arab Gulf - who are now fighting Shia-regime Syria but also want protection from ISIS - concerned a maximum cutback in oil shipments to selected but not all European countries of about 15%.

Russia supplies about 33% of all oil consumed in Europe, today. Do the math! The same applies to Russian gas supplies to the EU28, and winter is coming.

Matai rightly says the fracking-based US self sufficiency for gas, and its rising domestic oil production also due to fracking is cutting the USA's import needs for oil on a rapid basis. This in theory makes the US able to sit out the Ukraine crisis because it would primarily be EU28 economies that were (devastatingly) hit by a Russian oil and gas embargo.  The US of today could be indifferent or “not interested” but domestic politics says otherwise.

One other question he poses before he gets into the real threat – ISIS – is heavily loaded with anti-Russian bias. His Question 7 concerns Russian exceptionalism at loggerheads with American exceptionalism (operated using the EU28 as its lever). Matai asks if Putin, for all his current popularity in Russia, may discover there is no such thing as Great Power “exceptionalism” in today's world? The USA urgently needs to find that out, also.

The Siege of Alamut, 1256
D. K. Matai makes several interesting comments. He rightly compares the ISIS psychopaths to the more sophisticated so-called Haschichin or hashish-consuming Shia kamikazes of the Eagles Nest of Alamut, during the Crusader wars. Alamut was perched at about 2000 metres altitude in today's Iran, near the Caspian Sea and a very long way from Jerusalem, the “war theatre” of Muslim forces fighting the last of the European Crusaders in the Holy Lands.

All the Crusaders were gone by 1299 and Alamut was destroyed, Matai says by the Mongols, in or about 1256. He does not say the Mongols were themselves already in retreat, after their “lightning conquests”, ISIS-style, ran out of steam and luck in today's Egypt. He does not add that the siege of Alamut most certainly included Sunni Arab and Kurd fighters, as well as the Mongols. This was a “joint operation” similar to US, Kurd, Iraqi, Iranian, and other forces fighting ISIS militants in Iraq today. The war for Alamut was Sunni versus Shia, rather than today's anti-Sunni action, to the extent that ISIS can be called “Sunni extremist' and not a motley but dangerous crew of young male killers from perhaps 25 different countries, many of them with only the flimsiest notions of Islam.

Alamut's Old Man of the Mountain in myth only, trained young male Shia kamikazes to commit suicide in return for 72 virgins in Heaven - but only a bedful of them if they failed in their mission and had to live in Islamic Purgatory – the dark side of the Moon. The Old Man's doctrine was the assassination of top generals and political chiefs or heads of state, and the battles would end very quickly or would not even start. Most historians however conclude the logistics were simply impossible for Alamut's forces to weight heavily on the final Crusader battles. Fighting the Crusaders in Jerusalem and its vicinity from a base in Iran in the 13th century would have been difficult! Try Google maps.

Trying FOX News, August 30, we find a belated attempt by Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah to explain away his country's support to extremist killers in Syria, saying that ISIS jihadists could soon target the US and Europe if leaders across the globe do not react to the terrorist threat as Islamic State fighters advance across Iraq and control ever-growing parts of Syria. Abdullah said: "If neglected, I am certain that after a month they will reach Europe and after another month, America", adding “They know no humanity”. In related news, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar are increasing their military action in Libya to defeat the growing Islamic extremist menace that has torn the country apart. Several western countries including the US, France and UK are also poised for military action in Libya.

The Real Menace of ISIS
In guise of serious conclusions, after briefly mentioning MAD or mutually assured nuclear destruction – taking on Russia is not the same as bombing Gaddafi to a pulp, you understand? - Matai tells us that Europe must “urgently become self-sufficient in energy so as to separate itself from its reliance upon Russia and that cannot happen without structural changes and may yet take a decade or more”  The EU28 since December 2008 has its energy transition program, supposedly to save the world from Global Warming but also targeting the reduction of gas and oil consumption.  We can say 15 or 20 years will be needed for serious and major results, so fighting Vladimir Putin in 2014 will be difficult, assuming that western Europeans both need and want to, on the back of a dangerously fragile economy that would be ruined if it was deprived of a third of its oil and gas.

More seriously, Matai finally moves on to treat the ISIS menace. As he says, this is a global threat not restricted to the political symbolism of “Rolling back the Russian Bear” in one single east European country. Given the practice of Islam in large regions of the world, outside North and South America, East and SE Asia, Southern Africa and Australasia, and Europe until recent decades, due only to immigration, Islam's implantation in Russia and China makes the Islamic State “phenomenon” an effective near-global problem and threat.

In other words and forgetting the Western hegemonic feel-good urge to “face down Putin”, Russia and Ukraine could or should be treated only as a regional problem by the west, which can be very easily resolved with no serious loss of face on either side. Matai is forced to conclude that the real menace for the world, today, is ISIS. He says “Thus the need to deal with the Islamic State may be paramount and perhaps ought to take priority in the immediate future”. Playing with nuclear fire and European economic collapse, with Russia, for the very dubious prize of Ukraine would be more than only stupid. It would in fact be madness when very urgent international action is nneded, including Russian help and it proven experience in containing the Islamic extremist backlash..

By Andrew McKillop


Former chief policy analyst, Division A Policy, DG XVII Energy, European Commission. Andrew McKillop Biographic Highlights

Co-author 'The Doomsday Machine', Palgrave Macmillan USA, 2012

Andrew McKillop has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has had specially long experience of energy policy, project administration and the development and financing of alternate energy. This included his role of in-house Expert on Policy and Programming at the DG XVII-Energy of the European Commission, Director of Information of the OAPEC technology transfer subsidiary, AREC and researcher for UN agencies including the ILO.

© 2014 Copyright Andrew McKillop - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisor.

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