MOSCOW, August 22 (RIA Novosti) — American James Foley's barbarous execution provides a perfectly convenient pretext for the US to rekindle a large-scale war on terrorism “to exterminate this evil in Iraq under the cover of humanitarian bombing”, Pepe Escobar, a roving correspondent for Asia Times, said in an interview with Radio VR.
The video itself is a high-quality production, featuring no gory details; it doesn’t just send a message to the US, but to Muslims throughout the world (numbering 1.2-1.3 billion), the expert says.
The militants’ message to the US is rather simple and explicit: it states that if Obama persists in his intervention, his actions will lead to more American hostages and casualties. The message to the Muslims is somewhat more complex, Mr. Escobar says: “What you have in Mecca, in the House of Saud is completely illegitimate. We are the real caliphate, we are the real Muslims. We are conquering territories. We have an area larger than Great Britain between Syria and Iraq.” This has been confirmed by many Islamic Scholars, including some living in Saudi Arabia, the expert concludes, adding that, odds are, they are planning to depose the House of Saud altogether.
However, the Western public seems more concerned about the gory, bloody details of the recent execution, which has commonly been compared with the brutal murder of American-Israeli journalist Daniel Pearl, which sparked public outrage in 2002.
It’s largely impossible to protect journalists, Mr. Escobar says. Western journalists who previously worked in Syria and now function in Iraq tend to embed themselves with what they call rebels. There is a myth in the West that the rebels are “the good jihadist gangs”, while “the bad jihadists” are offshoots of al-Qaeda or the Islamic State: “al-Qaeda’s heirs”.
What is most absurd about Foley’s case is that following his kidnapping in 2012 in Syria, there was a campaign supported by the White House, the CIA and even his employer (he was a freelance journalist working for GlobalPost), which promoted the idea that he was being held by government forces, namely those of al-Assad, says Pepe Escobar. No ransom talks helped at the time, nor did the special forces which were sent by the US government to Syria for the purpose of finding and freeing Foley.
It’s self-evident that nobody should be able to get away with killing journalists with impunity and that clear messages should be sent: notably the situation in Syria should be duly reported to the International Criminal Court, so that the ones responsible for the crimes are held accountable, stresses Lama Fakih, a Human Rights Watch researcher in Syria. The expert also pins hopes on the steps that have been taken by the UN Security Council, saying it is important to put pressure on the detention centers where journalists are held.
Ms. Soazig Dollet, head of the Middle East& North Africa Desk at Reporters without Borders, made the same point when speaking to the Voice of Russia.
It’s crucial for the international community to get “mobilized” in light of the barbarous acts being committed by the Islamic State, and stop focusing on short-term solutions; chaos in one place has immediate repercussions in neighboring regions, she points out.
All the evil initially emerged in Syria, where the militants were getting support from the US, first and foremost, alongside wealthy Saudis and donors from Qatar and Kuwait, says Pepe Escobar. This is an extended mercenary system comprised of Syrians, Pakistanis, Iraqis, Uzbeks and Chechens, as well as radicalized fighters from Europe, notably Belgium, Britain and France, local Middle Eastern jihadists, and fighters from the Gulf States, making up around 10,000 all in all, states the expert. He further singles out young European jihadists operating in ISIS, noting that Foley’s executioner had a clearly British accent.
The government in Iraq is in fact much more fragile than the Syrian government, believes Mr. Escobar, thus explaining why the US-led jihadists who had previously failed to take Syria had met with less resistance when they’d moved on to Iraq.
For one thing, the self-proclaimed caliphate is “subject to Sunni tribal sheikhs”, who are all cousins essentially, especially in Anbar province in western Iraq. Secondly, there’s no border with Syria, and everything is surrounded by desert – all of these make it an ideal area to take over, the expert states. When they announced, however, that they were going to approach Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, American interests were directly targeted. This was “a completely different story”, says Pepe Escobar, citing CIA operatives on the ground as well as the headquarters of big American oil companies, which have taken an interest in exploring the Kurdish oil fields. “This has nothing to do with humanitarian operations”, the expert concludes.
Under the cover of this particular war on terror, it could be possible for the US to return its forces to Syria and make another attempt to depose the government there. “It all goes round and round and comes to the same point.” However inconsistent American foreign policy currently is (given that Obama is “maneuvered” by neocons in his own government), once the possibility of returning to the same war theatre [Iraq] is voiced, it is most likely to happen, with more boots on the ground and the number of drone attacks rising, Pepe Escobar predicts.
The United States has pledged to continue attacking ISIS despite its threats to kill another American hostage. In his statement on Wednesday, President Obama called for a global response to the group that has taken over vast territory in both Iraq and Syria. He denounced the group, calling it a cancer that threatens the entire region, with the US administration voicing plans to send more troops to Iraq.