Middle East Changes

Written By: - Date published: 1:58 pm, August 27th, 2017 - 70 comments
Categories: afghanistan, International, iraq, jacinda ardern, labour, Syria, us politics, war - Tags:

Interesting to hear Jacinda Ardern is highly sceptical of further New Zealand troop deployments. And good to hear her confirming that she would be guided by United Nations mandating before doing so.

Advice from the United Nations will be needed reasonably shortly, as ISIS appears territorially on the run.

Are we beginning to see some dust clear in the middle of the Middle East? With the Syrian civil war  winding down, and Islamic State reduced to much smaller collectives along the banks of the Euphrates, it could feel slightly worse than it has been.


In the immediate aftermath of the Islamic State’s defeat in eastern Syria, the emerging winners will be the existing Syrian regime and its Iranian ally. For the cost, see here.

Actual prospects for Syria? Needs a decades-long state partner to rebuild itself, at least in the major cities and coast. And in the meantime, needs the rest of the world to take care of its people because much of the cities and towns are in ruins.

The Kurds

The ongoing Syrian arrangement with the Kurds in cities like Raqqa and Manbij is temporary at best and will eventually break down, causing continued instability and uncertainty in the region. Regrettably, I think the United States will eventually abandon its temporary Kurdish friends. The United States influence in Syria relies on the People’s Protection Units (YPG), with close ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). PKK are at war with Turkey. Turkey is a NATO partner. But YPG rules much of northern Syria, and is a major U.S. military partner against the Islamic State. Yet if Islamic State becomes sufficiently degraded as they appear to be, I think the U.S. will lose interest in supporting YPG. I don’t think it will be quick, but that’s the mean summarised logic.


The counter argument is that the YPG gives the United States proxy influence in Syria, which in turn gives them some limited leverage against Iran. Iran, on the other hand, is motivated to expand and solidify their influence by encouraging the Syrian government to continue pushing the YPG back into northern Iraq. So far, Iran is winning, and the only home for the Kurds is a semi-autonomous region inside Iraq. Iran, now less shackled by sanctions and better globally integrated, will flourish in its manufacturing, agricultural and non-oil sectors.


Bathe me in the tears of Ataturk. The United States faces the task of reviving a very difficult relationship with a vital NATO partner, run by a near-tyrant. U.S. leaders are meeting there this week with Erdogan.

The consequences of Erdogan’s comprehensive civil society purges after the near-coup have a trajectory that is exceedingly dark socially. Economically, the E.U. may expand a customs union agreement into one that includes agriculture, thereby strengthening prospects. Who knows, maybe the BREXIT divorce will help EU-Turkey relations. Erdogan still faces re-election in 2019.

The United States

President Trump’s administration is weighing four competing priorities: minimising open-ended commitments abroad, repairing its strained alliance with Turkey, protecting against jihadi resurgence, and countering Iranian and Russian influence. Meaning: continue Obama’s work. On balance I don’t see the U.S. wanting to strengthen any one people against either Turkey, Iran, or from inside Iraq. It’s functionally a slow withdrawal. In most places you look west of Afghanistan, the weakened role of the United States gets weaker. With exceptions.

Under Trump I see a better chance that the United States and Russia will accept that there has been little gained by intensifying conflicts in proxy wars, which simply unleash the very chaos and sectarianism from which terrorism is born and on which it thrives. I hope they pull back from everyone else’s business unless U.N. mandated, accept the changes in influence that they each now have, and settle into the new diplomatic order in which Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Iran sort more things out between each other.

Jihadism in general?

The Islamic State, which has been around in one form or another since 2006, will almost certainly survive. So will al Qaeda. Neither will swallow the other, neither will unify into something greater. And they won’t apologise either. The conflicts they foment will be degraded not deleted.

As for the Islamic State specifically, while it will be defeated comprehensively on the battlefield, its ideology remains strong online. It is a foreseeably chronic disease to the wider world.

The United Nations is going to get called upon to hold Syrian postwar conferences, but the international invasions over so many years will mean rejection of imposed plans. For a tiny country like New Zealand, I hope a future government will simply build schools and water supplies, not send troops.

Hundreds of thousands dead in Syria, and multiple millions of its population scattered to the wind. Same in Iraq. But there’s currently less dust in the air.

70 comments on “Middle East Changes”

  1. Agora 1

    What was that about fools rushing in where angels fear to tread ?

  2. Exkiwiforces 2

    New Zealand should stay out of the shit fight called the Middle East Region full stop and concentrate in the South Pacific Region, the Souther Ocean, the South East Asia Region or help those Commonwealth Nations in Africa.

    One only needs to talk us veterans of the MER or read about Irish Army or the Fijian Army operations in and round Beruit about the problems of operating in MER.

  3. The US has a few other problems:

    1. It’s finding that it can’t project power the way it thought it could
    2. China is getting very aggressive in their push for territorial acquisition
    3. Russia has pretty much told them to go fuck themselves
    4. Syria and Iran’s relationship with Russia has pretty much stopped the US plans for taking all the resources from the ME
    5. The rest of the world is really starting to question the idea that the US is the Shining Light on the hill or a really deep, dark pit.
    6. Capitalism is failing.

    Things are not going the way that the oligarchs in the US planned.

    • tc 3.1

      Yup and Russia is continuing its multi faceted strategic war on the west in general to destabilise where possible.

      Branched into cyberspace disrupting and eavesdropping now to go with their tried and trusted Cold War pre internet techniques.

      Those Canadian oil sands better deliver also for USA or there’s more pressure.

  4. One Anonymous Bloke 6

    What can we do for the Middle East?

    Build more houses and accept more refugees, because it’s going to become uninhabitable.

    Climate change is already affecting the Arab World in dire ways…

    The World Bank.

    • Exkiwiforces 6.1

      Yes, Janes Information Services said sometime ago that the start of the Syrian civil war was the first climate change war as the wheat crop failed as a result the price of bread going up as the price of bread and wheat was subsidise by the central government along with price of cooking oil went up at the same which set off a chain reaction throughout Syrian society thence the civil war.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 6.1.1


        In 2003, before the drought’s onset, agriculture accounted for 25% of Syrian gross domestic product. In 2008, after the driest winter in Syria’s observed record, wheat production failed and the agricultural share fell to 17%. Small- and medium-scale farmers and herders suffered from zero or near-zero production, and nearly all of their livestock herds were lost…

      • Ad 6.1.2

        I always thought the Syrian War started because Quwait wanted to build a gas pipeline direct to the Mediterranean through Iraq and Syria, and so Saudi Arabia got its proxy radicals to stop that threat by making Iraq and Syria unsafe for the foreseeable future. 🙂 Run the conspiracy mill one more time …


        • Stuart Munro

          Unlikely – Kuwait is not a particularly ambitious player. Conceivably someone else wanted such a pipeline however, and Russia certainly didn’t want it.

          • Ad

            The link sets out how absurd looking for this kind of causality really is.

            • Stuart Munro

              Some wars you can put your finger on it – the War of The Stray Dog for example, or WW1, which happened because someone shot an ostrich called Archie. The ME is not short of factions, but a major driver of Syrian unrest has apparently been AGW caused drought.

              • Ad

                Personally I blame Obama and his dreadful “Arab Spring” speech in Cairo. That ill-fated “Spring” began when the Tunisian leader fell, then Egypt’s Mubarak. 2011. Back in the day.

                Then smallish protests started in Syria after 15 boys were detained and tortured for having written graffiti in support of the Arab Spring. One of them died from torture.

                So Syrian government, led by President Bashar al-Assad, responded to the protests by killing hundreds of demonstrators and imprisoning many more.

                In response in July 2011, some of the military defected and started the the Free Syrian Army, a rebel group aiming to overthrow the government ……

                ………. and there it went; the Syrian slide into civil war.

                • Brigid

                  Nope. Not correct at all. The Proxy Syrian war was initiated by those who destroyed Libya.
                  And financed by US NATO and Saudi Arabia

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  Absurd causality indeed 🙄

                • reason

                  No mention of usa or british foreign policy Ad ???

                  Let me fix your incorrect white-wash ……

                  “The causes of the Manchester atrocity, in which 22 mostly young people were murdered by a jihadist, are being suppressed to protect the secrets of British foreign policy.”


                  “WikiLeaks Reveals How the US Aggressively Pursued Regime Change in Syria, Igniting a Bloodbath”


                  “The numbers confirm that, as independent analysts have suspected, the U.S. military has conducted a deliberate campaign to publicly underestimate the number of civilians it has killed in its bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria.

                  Propaganda Campaign

                  The only rational purpose for such an extensive propaganda campaign by U.S. military authorities is to minimize the public reaction inside the United States and Europe to the killing of tens of thousands of civilians so that U.S. and allied forces can keep bombing and killing without political hindrance or accountability.”

                  • Ad

                    The John Pilger link is about Libya. Libya would need a post by itself.

                    The US and many others have been pretty open about wanting Syrian leadership change. Can’t see how Wikileaks adds to that.

                    Fully agree about US military propaganda.

                    • reason

                      Actually the John Pilger link was about ‘blow-back’ ….. from supporting Al-Qaeda ‘rebels’ ….. or if we are to describe them a bit better ….. head chopping Islamic mercenary terrorists.

                      Their role in Syria is clearly mentioned in the article. http://johnpilger.com/articles/terror-in-britain-what-did-the-prime-minister-know

                      “The alleged suicide bomber, Salman Abedi, was part of an extremist group, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, that thrived in Manchester and was cultivated and used by MI5 for more than 20 years.” …..

                      “when Theresa May was Home Secretary, LIFG jihadists were allowed to travel unhindered across Europe and encouraged to engage in “battle”: first to remove Mu’ammar Gaddafi in Libya, then to join al-Qaida affiliated groups in Syria.”

                      “This imperial marriage reaches back to the Second World War and the early days of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The aim of British policy was to stop pan-Arabism: Arab states developing a modern secularism, asserting their independence from the imperial west and controlling their resources.”

                      “The Manchester atrocity on 22 May was the product of such unrelenting state violence in faraway places, much of it British sponsored. The lives and names of the victims are almost never known to us.”

                • Stuart Munro

                  While US policy folk have been expecting an Arab spring for probably half a century, Tunisia at least was spontaneous. Egypt is a different kettle of fish – with progressive Egyptians fleeing all over the place to escape the resumption of the dead hand of military rule.

                • Exkiwiforces

                  Syrian President Bashar al Assad, had kept the lid on the civil unrest within Syria over the food shortages, but once Obama made that speech in Cairo and the people of Syria could see what was happening with the MER at time. The Syrian people had enough and the genie was let out of bottle and once it was out it bloody hard to stuff it back in bottle.

                  The Middle East is a very interesting place to place to visit, but awfully complex when you throw in religion, the diversity of people and that’s before you have the US and Russia sticking it fingers in places, ottoman rule and its aftermath of its defeat by the British and the politics post WW1.

                  NZ should stay the hell away from the region it as I said before, yes by all means trade with them, but don’t get involved militarily or politically it’s just not worth it.

                  • Ad

                    Agree and agree.

                  • Brigid

                    Where on earth do you get your information from? BBC?
                    The Guardian? What journalists working for both have visited Syria since 2011?

                    • Exkiwiforces

                      My Information comes from time spent in the MER, reading from such authors as David KilCullen aka his books and his assessments, Janes information Services, research and cross referencing all from above including open media, blogs etc.

                  • Stuart Munro

                    MSF manage to operate in the region – we could do worse than to provide aid in parallel with their efforts – wouldn’t make us many enemies and might do some good.

                    • Exkiwiforces

                      I think supporting such NGO’s or UN agencies could work and some good may come off. Yes, I got a offer to work for MSF while I was a PTSD clinic a couple of mths though a contact with one of the staff at clinic. Needless I turned it down as I’ve got sort my own shit first.

      • CoroDale 6.1.3

        All wars start as financial wars. Only exception in history was German-NATO booming of Yugoslavia. Balkanization is humanitarian 😉 And so long as weapons keep getting sold and used, the independence of Kurdistan will take it’s time.

        But that was the dark old days, tides are turning slowly to peace, as neo-liberals like the Israeli are running out of trustworthy money.

        • Ad

          I’d like to go all West Wing and Syriana on it all, particularly on the Kurds. I really would.

          Hoping with you that peace gets more likely in Syria – if nothing else than through exhaustion.

          • Brigid

            There is peace in most of Syria. Please do try to keep yourself up dated.

            • Ad

              The link provided in the post showed where the battle lines were.
              It’s as up to date as the Wikipedia maps can be.

              I would be interested to hear from people in Syria to measure whether they think peace has arrived. I suspect those millions of refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey would take some persuading of your claim.

              • francesca

                Ask the 600,000 who have made their way back so far, 67% to Aleppo and Aleppo city since the “rebels ” have gone to Idlib, where they are currently battling it out between salafist factions



              • Brigid

                I’m disheartened there’s still so much ignorance about Syria
                Some websites for your perusal:

                • Brigid

                  By the way, Wikipedia is exactly what it says it is.
                  What I Know Is….
                  It doesn’t make any claims that all reports are factual..
                  The page on the Syrian war is egregiously false.

                  • francesca

                    The confidence in news media like NYT, WAPO, Guardian ,Reuters etc is pretty depressing. Particularly when it comes to coverage of the ME, Venezuela, Ukraine, Eastern Europe in general, the major news outlets absolutely fall into line with the foreign policy objectives of the US and its cronies.They all use the same narrow sources, and ignore first hand accounts of life in Syria at the time of the first protests.Classic colour revolution stuff, text book execution
                    Robert Fisk and Patrick Cockburn ,John Pilger old ME hands, say the coverage of Syria is the worst they’ve experienced, for propaganda, and unreliable sources.
                    The only sources given a voice within Syria (East Aleppo for instance) have been the extremist Islamist elements whitewashed as “moderates” and “activists”.Too dangerous for western journalists to embed in the “rebel ” areas
                    The same lies were told about Iraq and Gadaffi.
                    Last year a UK parliamentary committee on Libya found that Gadaffi was most unlikely to commit genocide in Benghazi, that news reports to the contrary, his record had been to spare civilians as much as possible while defending Libya against the same sectarian fascists who later went to Syria
                    The MSM lie and lie and lie again in promotion of war , and still apparently , we believe them

                  • McFlock

                    The page on the Syrian war is egregiously false.

                    Thing is, all I have for that is your say-so. Similar claims in wikipedia stand out if they don’t have supporting footnotes (specific pages, not entire websites, and the dates they were downloaded, or citations of printed material) or flags such as “contested” or “citation required”, and a separate discussion page.

                    As for the sites you suggested for “perusal”: I especially loved the headline VID – Katy Perry Meltdown: MK Ultra Explained in 80s Film Predicting SJWs. It was right below the thing about the Illuminati.

          • Agora

            West Wing and Syriana were *fiction* .. as is a significant degree of media commentary.

          • CoroDale

            Hey, it was very fair and well written for the ordinance. I’m not complaining about the article. A better summary than that is very hard to find. Unless you want a summary that includes spiritual or other aspects from outer-space.

            Yeah, peace is slowing breaking out, that was my impression too.

          • CoroDale

            Hang on dude. I replied without viewing your link. Did you just link to Jewish propaganda? Sorry, I mean, Hollywood. I mean, is that a spade? It’s a spade. It’s a spade! It’s a fucken spade, dude!

  5. One Anonymous Bloke 7

    Under Trump I see a better chance… I hope they pull back from everyone else’s business

    I think you see about as far as the end of your nose, which, as the saying goes, may yet grow long enough to encompass your vision.

    • Ad 7.1

      Afghanistan would be a post all by itself.

      As i pointed out, the US won’t have much choice in Syria because anything it seeks to further impose will be rejected. The US lost, and they know it.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 7.1.1

        No, in fact you didn’t point that out, whether or not you believe it or can offer any evidence in support.

        • Ad

          ” the international invasions over so many years will mean rejection of imposed plans.”

          There won’t be evidence until there’s a conclusion to the war.

          • One Anonymous Bloke

            Pointers call attention to facts. Empty assertions point to nothing.

            • Ad

              No imposed plans have worked in Syria in quite a while.

              That’s sufficiently factual.

              The assertions are for the future. Where facts haven’t occurred yet.

              I’d be happy to be proven wrong, for Syria’s sake.

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                Logic from the Ken Ring school of reckons.

                • Ad

                  There are few facts on the ground in Syria. Only the next movement of front lines, the next diplomatic exchanges.

                  It’s becoming clearer, but it’s got a long way to go.

                  The post began and ended solely with the premise that the dust was beginning to clear, but that’s as close to a reckon as it was prepared to go.

                  • One Anonymous Bloke

                    So first, you set up a false frame: the “imposition” in your reckons (as though no-one has tried to broker any settlement on the ground). Then, you make vague unfalsifiable predictions based upon your initial false assertion.

                    • Ad

                      Nope. I provided three links.
                      The first was to the most recent diplomatic efforts.
                      The second was to the most recent territorial estimates.
                      The third was to wikipedia on the impact of the war.
                      You can argue with those ones all you like.

                      No post-war settlement has been proposed or indeed reckoned, because the war hasn’t ended yet.

                      Predictions aren’t verifiable. Until they occur.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      Which one of the links supports your false frame re: imposed solutions? Quote the passage(s) you’re referring to rather than wasting my time.

    • CoroDale 8.1

      Ya gotta to put your weapons somewhere.

      Stop making weapons is ideal plan. But better to story them in the North Pacific, than in the Middle East. US is slowly learning. Positive signs of change, especially for those who can read beyond the MSM/Wiki reality as presented here in The Standard.

  6. Michael 9

    The principle that NZ should intervene militarily only when the UN authorises the use of force is a good one that any future government should follow. It is very much in our interests that a rules-based international order prevails.

    • Stuart Munro 9.1

      I’m not sure we shouldn’t invade Manus Island and bust the people out.

    • CoroDale 9.2

      Hmmmm, I’m sure the Pope would agree with you whole-heartedly. But the idea of a one-world-govt seems a bit too easy to corrupt, or? Do we truly believe the UN pros out-weight the cons? Cause I could quickly dig out a long list of cons.

      • Agora 9.2.1

        Your last posts have been made at 1.47 am, 8.30 , 6.48 am, and 1:42 am
        .. are you on a night watch or something .. ?

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