US Plans Slash and Burn of Middle East to "Minimize" Iranian Influence

December 18, 2017 (Tony Cartalucci - NEO) - The US is attempting to sell to the public the next phase of its continued occupation and military operations across the Middle East. Predicated on claims of "rebuilding" Iraq and "fighting terrorists" in Syria, it is in actuality a plan to perpetuate for as long as possible the upheaval currently consuming the region in hopes of overextending and exhausting Iran - and by extension - Russia.

Iranian Roadblock to Western Hegemony

The United States in its pursuit of global hegemony has placed particular focus on encircling, containing, undermining, and if possible, overthrowing the socioeconomic and political order of Iran as a means to secure for itself primacy over the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.


Since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the British followed by the Americans have pursued a multi-generational policy of divide and conquer across MENA.

Nations Ango-American influence could not outright conquer and co-opt such as the Persian Gulf monarchies - or create in the case of Israel - have been either picked apart and left in ruins through direct or indirect military interventions, or have spent decades staving off open and concerted efforts to divide and destroy their respective nations. These nations include Yemen, Libya, Iraq, and Syria most recently, as well as Egypt, Lebanon, Algeria on and off throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.

Iran - above all other nations in the region - reserves a special place for Western attention. Its large population, geography, economy, and military might has provided it space and time to incrementally grow its power and influence throughout the region and the world to dimensions difficult for the West to overcome and dominate.

With 80 million people, a GDP of nearly $400 billion, and an army over half a million strong, Iran is not Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, nor Libya. And as the technological disparity among nations in regards to conventional military capabilities closes, the West finds itself in an increasingly disadvantageous position in regards to coercing Iran directly through force.

Because of this emerging reality, US policy versus Tehran is shifting from attempting to justify a military confrontation it is no longer certain it can win, to a policy of containment and limited conflict similar to America's maneuvering in Asia Pacific regarding Beijing.

US Plans to "Minimize" Iran's Influence in the Middle East 

A piece in The Nation Interest penned by Brookings policymakers titled, "A blueprint for minimizing Iran’s influence in the Middle East," attempts to summarize America's current plans regarding the containment or "minimization" of Iranian influence.


In Iraq, the US appears poised to extend its military presence under the pretext of aiding and rebuilding the country. It even suggests proposed aid levels comparable to those given to Afghanistan - a nation where, despite immense aid and a continuous US military presence since 2001 - still has seen and suffered the arrival and spread of the so-called "Islamic State" (ISIS).


What Southeast Asian Muslims' Response to US-Jerusalem Embassy Move Means

December 15, 2017 (Joseph Thomas - NEO) - US President Donald Trump's announcement to move the US embassy in Israel from the city of Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has ignited protests, tensions and fears of future conflict across the Middle East. Protests and posturing have followed the announcement from a wide variety of demographics.


Predictably, Muslim communities across the Middle East have voiced their opposition. This includes both Sunnis and Shia'a who have even united at rallies organised by Hezbollah in Lebanon. Middle Eastern Christians have also attended such events as well as having staged their own protests.

Other nations, such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have predictably condemned the United States and Israel, while simultaneously continuing their collaboration with both in terms of undermining Syria.

While it is tempting to see the ongoing conflict through a primarily religious lens, however, geopolitics appears to be a much more relevant target and motivation driving US foreign policy and the very predictable reaction it has provoked.

This is especially so, considering how large Muslim communities beyond the Middle East have reacted, particularly in Southeast Asia.

Southeast Asia's Muslims Muted Over Move 

Southeast Asia is home to an estimated 240 million Muslims. They compose a majority of the populations in Indonesia (the most populous Muslim nation on the planet), Malaysia and Brunei. Muslims also make up a sizeable minority in nations including Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand and Myanmar.

Despite the significant number of Muslims in Southeast Asia, the fervour over America's announcement was relatively muted.

There were indeed protests held in Malaysia and Indonesia including by parties with past or present affiliations with the regimes of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and organisations such as the Muslim Brotherhood, but beyond these symbolic protests, little more has unfolded. 


Thailand: US Creating "Space" For Destabilisation

December 13, 2017 (Joseph Thomas - NEO) - In late November, the US, Canadian and British embassies along with several other European partners as well as the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and Amnesty International, organised what they called the "Isaan Human Rights Festival" in northeast Thailand.

Foreign embassies have funded and directed a number of events to breath new life into the political proxies of ousted former prime minister, Thaksin Shianwatra in pursuit of regime change in Thailand. 

US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) funded media front, the "Isaan Record" in its article, "Rare human rights event gathers Isaan communities and foreign diplomats," claims (our emphasis):
The 8th Annual Isaan Human Rights Festival brought together 17 communities from across the region, activists, scholars, and international and Thai students. Ambassadors from Finland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom were in attendance, as well as political officers from Canada, the European Union and the United States. National Human Rights Commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit also attend the event. 

Hosted by Mahasarakham University’s College of Politics and Governance, the festival opened a rare space to discuss the human rights situation in the Northeast.
While the US-funded media outfit mentioned funding provided by the Germany-based Heinrich Böll Foundation, it failed to mention other sponsors whose logos were clearly visible in media used throughout the event.

Creating Space for Destabilisation and Conflict 

The foreign-sponsored "festival" takes place against the backdrop of a currently dormant Thai political crisis. In 2014, the Thai military ousted then Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, sister and publicly admitted proxy of Thaksin Shinawatra, a convicted criminal hiding abroad to evade a jail sentence and who was himself ousted in 2006 in a similar coup.

Since Thaksin Shinawatra's ouster in 2006, he has led a campaign of terrorism, street violence, armed insurrection and assassinations. This includes riots in 2009 that saw sections of Bangkok lit ablaze and at least two shopkeepers gunned down by looting Shinawatra supporters. The following year, Shinawatra organised up to 300 heavily armed militants who fought for weeks in the streets of Bangkok against the military, leaving nearly 100 dead and culminating in citywide arson.

Shinawatra supporters have been banned from gathering in Thailand for good reason. They are used by Shinawatra's political proxies to incite unrest, violence and substantial bloodshed in pursuit of regime change.  

The most recent coup was precipitated when Shinawatra's militants began murdering anti-Shinawatra protesters in the street. Armed with assault rifles and grenade launchers, hit-and-run attacks targeted protest camps across Bangkok and even those that sprung up in other provinces. Over 20 would die, including women and children.


Look Who's Interfering: Tillerson's Thai Election Comment

December 10, 2017 (Tony Cartalucci - NEO) - US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson released a press statement regarding Thailand's National Day. In it he expressed diplomatic greetings and well-wishing to the Thai people, but failed to resist also expressing American exceptionalism - stating, "we look forward to Thailand holding elections next year."


While the statement may seem rather innocuous at first glance, it is anything but.

Returning a Murderous Proxy to Power 

Thailand's elections have been put on hold, following a 2014 military coup ousting the US-backed regime of Yingluck Shinawtra who served openly as her brother Thaksin Shinawatra's proxy.

Thaksin Shinawatra resides abroad in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, a convicted criminal evading a 2-year jail sentence for abuse of power. He too was ousted from power in a military coup in 2006.

Before being removed from power, he oversaw a brutal "war on drugs" in 2003 that left nearly 3,000 extrajudicially killed in the streets over the course of just 90 days. He also attempted to unilaterally sign a US-Thai free trade deal without parliamentary approval, sent Thai troops to participate in the US invasion of Iraq, and allowed Thai territory to be used as part of the US CIA's extraordinary rendition program.



Since being deposed from power in 2006, Shinawatra has organized street mobs, militants, and terrorists, killing scores of people, conducting campaigns of mass arson, bombings, and assassinations as part of his bid to seize back power.

He regularly meets members of his Pheua Thai Party (PTP) in Hong Kong, and has been allowed to travel across Europe, to the UK, and even to the US to conduct business despite being a fugitive and despite his human rights record.


ISIS Helps US Keep Military's Foot in Philippines' Door

December 7, 2017 (Joseph Thomas - NEO) - Current US ambassador to the Philippines, Sung Kim, recently congratulated the Philippines' armed forces and the US military for their successful completion of KAMANDAG, a joint military exercise held for the first time this year.


The US embassy in the Philippines on its website noted that:
KAMANDAG, which will run until October 11, is an acronym for the Filipino phrase “Kaagapay Ng Mga Mandirigma Ng Dagat,” or “Cooperation of Warriors of the Sea,” emphasizing the close partnership between the Philippine and United States militaries. KAMANDAG will increase overall U.S. and Philippine readiness, improve bilateral responsiveness to crises in the region, and further reinforce our illustrious decades-long alliance. Leading up to the commencement of KAMANDAG, AFP and U.S. forces completed bilateral humanitarian and civic assistance projects at schools earlier this month in Casiguran, Aurora.
The embassy also made particular note that the exercise would "increase counterterrorism capabilities," which is particularly convenient considering the current crisis Manila faces on its southern island of Mindanao, where parts of the city of Marawi are still being held by militants linked to the Islamic State.

News outlets including across the United States and Europe, have noted that fighting in Marawi is backed by foreign interests and includes foreign fighters. Reuters in an article titled, "ISIS-Linked Mmilitants Fighting in Marawi City are 'Paralysed': Philippine Army," would report:
The battle for Marawi has raised concern that ISIS, on a back foot in Syria and Iraq, is building a regional base on the Philippine island of Mindanao that could pose a threat to neighboring Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore too. 

Officials have said that, among the several hundred militants who seized the town, there were about 40 foreigners from Indonesia and Malaysia but also fighters from India, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Chechnya. 

The strike on Marawi City suggested to many that pro-Islamic State factions wanted to establish it as a Southeast Asian "wilayat" – or governorate - for the radical group, a view reinforced by video footage the military found last week showing the fighters plotting to cut the town off completely.
With militants in Syria and Iraq clearly the recipients of extensive state sponsorship, particularly from the United States and its closest regional allies, it stands to reason that their ambitions thousands of miles away in the Philippines are likewise state-sponsored.


As to why the US and its allies would sponsor terrorism in the Philippines, the answer is surprisingly simple and straight forward.

US Seeks to Keep Its Foot in the Door

With the election of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, US-Philippine relations became increasingly strained. Beyond the political leadership in Manila, overall pragmatic considerations regarding Washington's waning influence in Asia Pacific and Beijing's rise have put increasing distance between the United States and its former colonial holdings in the Philippines.

Manila's unwillingness to help Washington leverage tensions in the South China Sea against Beijing have become a particular point of contention, hindering Washington's attempts to use the Philippine armed forces as a proxy to hem in Chinese interests across the region.