Bogotá, Colombia —I was surprised to learn from a Canadian news outlet recently that our latest military involvement in Iraq stemmed from a discreet offer made by us. We volunteered. Who in their right mind does that? Apparently Stephen Harper did.
Like everyone else I'd merely believed what I was told, that the coalition fighting ISIS solicited our help, and we complied in our passive Canadian way. Not so. The U.S. Department of Defence (DoD) says we called them.
Curious about this, I contacted yellow-caked Postmedia columnist Terry Glavin, thinking he of all people should know. He didn't. He merely tweeted the following:
...uh, well so is Halloween but it still happened. You dumb shit!
I was about to drop it when he asked me what happened. Aha, an expression of interest. I explained that sources in the U.S. Department of Defence told Global TV their request for "help" was in fact a response to "unknown" Canadians who had initiated contact. This got me blocked, one of three popular Glavin argument enders: Others are (variously) what I call the Glavin Expletive, where he polevaults to the end with illbred cursing, and some faux hysteria in ubiquitous 26 pt. type.
But it's plausible to anyone with a brain that former PM Harper, who had been doing a slow burn since 2003 over Cretien's refusal to participate in the first Iraq go-round, would grab the first opportunity to send Canadian military forces over there. Even if he had to invent the pretext. So it was. Invented, that is. Probably by then Minister of Defense Rob Nicholson, with Mackay and a few other hawks. Harper would take the DoD response to the wider cabinet, saying, "boys (sic), it's the call we've been waiting for". Not that there's anything wrong with circumventing parliament and the diplomatic corps to send our armed forces on a fool's errand stemming from the prime minister's personal agenda. At least not according to Terry-fucken-Glavin.
I pressed on, speculating (helpfully) that some clerk in the PMO may have contacted the DoD.
@barkerletter Sure wasn't me. I'd have been 1 Enlist RCAF as Kurdish air force 2 Darken the Damascus skies with drones 3 Back FSA to hilt.
There's a lot to unpack with that statement, but let's make a start shall we?
To "darken the skies over Damascus with drones" is a horse's ass statement from any perspective. But I'm intrigued by his proposition that the R.C.A.F. join the Kurdish revolt in Northern Syria and Iraq. Which Kurdish army should we join, I wonder? There are currently three. However, while I analyse this, and because it's complicated, I suggest Terry and his band of hairy-assed nitwits amuse themselves here, and come back for the punchline in my last paragraph.
For example, we could enlist with the YPG, the fully-democractic people's defense units in Northern Syria. They're righting ISIS alright, or DAESH, or whatever we're calling them this week, but they're soft on Syrian government forces. And deliberately so, to maintain a precarious friendship with both the Russians and Americans who have unaligned ambitions in the region. That doesn't exactly square with Terry's vendetta against "Assad the Butcher" ™. The problem for Canada, however, is they're in Syria, where we can't go without a UN Security Council Resolution, and which Russia keeps vetoing.Or we could link arms with the peshmergas in Iraqi Kurdistan, whom we are presently advising militarily. Iraq is terra firma for us; we had some 60-odd personnel in Erbil during last week's massive throwdown with ISIS.
"With whom should we enlist? The Syrian or Iraqi Kurds or the PKK? Ah, the agony of choice...."
But to fight with them is political suicide. Animosity among NATO partners who choose different sides in this Turkey-Kurdish scenario is the last thing anybody (anybody?) seeking an end to Syria's civil war needs. And especially NATO which is desperate to avoid being dragged into the deepening conflict between Ankara and the Kurdish insurgency. It would be the equivalent of Charles de Gaulle sending French Legionnaires to support the FLQ.
The third Kurdish option is the banned workers party called PKK, currently at war with Turkish paramilitary forces. Ah the agony of choice!
The YPG and Peshmergas are more palatable to the west, having been groomed with such accessories as egalitarian recruitment policies and elected leaders. As I pointed out earlier, however, joining arms with any of them would incur the wrath of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the self-styled Ottoman Caliph in Ankara who received a huge public mandate in the recent Turkish elections, and is now bent on crushing any challenges to his supreme rule. Morever, to have our CF-18s hitting ISIS positions on the Turkish border would undermine Erdoğan's goal of establishing a no-fly zone to shield the highly-profitable though scarcely-noticed oil smuggling racket his son Bilal is alleged to have going with ISIS. He's already bickering over that with the Russians, who have aerial photos of ISIS supply routes into Turkey. That little game got ugly fast: Turkey splashed a Russian bomber and now YPG units are approaching Azaz on the Turkish border with Russian air cover. Turning up the heat under everybody are the Norwegians. A peacenik periodical called Klassekampen this week leaked a classified report by oil industry consultants Rystad Energy revealing the ISIS oil smuggling routes and daily volumes. This comes on the heels of allegations from senior sources in the Norwegian government that G-20 nations are among the buyers of that stolen oil. Well, terrorism is a business after all.
@TerryGlavin can't you just blog them to death? You're killing me...
Putin, in exposing this, has shown a certain amount of naiveté about money and international terrorism; the Kurds, the Turks, Israel, the CIA, the Free Syrian Army and Hezbollah all have their roles to play in this movie and they need hard currency to finance it. There are rules to the game. Unlike a sovereign state, money has no enemies or borders. Busting Ergodan's little ISIS oil racket just puts everybody else's shady deals under the microscope. But I'm a teeny bit curious how a handful of uneducated Wahhabist bedouin solves the daily problems of extracting and marketing large inventories of oil. According to the Rystad Energy report dating from July of this year ISIS is pumping approximately 30,000 bbls per day, mostly from Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria, and refined at Idlib to the southwest of Aleppo. That's nowhere near the potential of those fields which comprised 40% of Syria's total output before the civil war. But extracting commercial volumes requires water injection techniques to pressurize the wells. Without it, the daily yield is only a fraction of what's down there. ISIS lacks either engineering expertise or water, or both. I'm betting some of that production comes from Iraq as well: Possession of Mosul and Kirkuk goes back and forth like a yoyo.
"ISIS oil is blended with exportable Kurdish grades and piped to Turkey"
Where this Rystad report differs from our narrative is how the oil is sold. The west maintains it is bought in Syria and Iraq. Russia says it goes to Turkey. According to Rystad's research, however, some at least was blended with exportable grades and piped to the Turkish port of Ceyhan from Kirkuk, with oil from Kurdistan, and thence to Israel. That's quite ironic if it's true, and it probably is. Kurdistan's oil nexus is now more or less independent of Iraq's federal energy system, with most if not all of it off the radar. Last year they built an independent link to the Kirkuk-Ceyhan line at the Turkish border to circumvent Iraq's network.
Baghdad calls it smuggling, which spooked the big oil conglomerates with contractural obligations to the Iraqi government out of buying it, leaving roguish state Israel as the main and perhaps only recipient. Kurdish resource minister Ashti Hawrami has called Israel "the key actor" for avoiding detection of smuggled oil from Kirkuk. In other words, they buy and transport it surreptitiously.
Look, this thing stinks. It's like every other mob deal I've investigated over the years. Money, oil, or drugs get traded for guns and jeeps and territory, and the guys at the top keep the dinars. ISIS is just another face in the crowd to the Kurds. Gee, these nutbars can fill 10% of our daily pipeline capacity at a 40% discount from the wellhead? Sign us up! Who in their right mind blows off a going concern over 'ideological differences'? Not Israel, not the Kurds, not Erdoğan, and probably not Jordan or Lebanon either. Incidentally, Kurdistan has the fastest growing percentage of millionaires per capita in the world.
"All that's missing are the Turkish paramilitaries and a prominent Western bank ... "
The other stupefyingly obvious scenario is that corrupt Turkish officials are swapping the oil for American guns and Toyotas destined for the YPG brigades in Syria. Well of course they are. It's better than handing them over to Erdoğan's sworn enemies, and it's pure profit. Cashless transactions are cleaner and don't leave a trail, standard operating procedure in organized crime. According to Klassekampen, admittedly a left wing mouthpiece, the corruption in Turkey reaches right into the top echelons.
So that's Erdoğan's little cash plumbing system, and the crowning turd in the water pipe is undoubtedly a big, fat CIA rat.
All of this comes from sources I would describe as barely credible. In that respect, Klassekampen's article quoting the Rystad Energy study is along the lines of The Guardian's recently published "report", complete with photos by the semi anonymous "Cesar", of Assad's torture hospitals, "prepared" by a London PR shop that specializes in celebrity libel suits. I mean come on guys! Those pictures could be from anywhere, even the CIA's extraordinary rendition program. Syria was a popular destination for that.
Anyway, like all propaganda they're both rehashes of old news, with a grain of truth. However, a grain is more than enough to stain the flowing white robes of our anti ISIS coalition.
I don't expect a vanilla guy like Terry Glavin to comprehend any of this, much less differentiate the politics of dissent in a place like Northern Ireland, which he celebrates every Easter, from The Levant. But the implications of involving ourselves in this little sewer of crime and corruption in Syraq must be obvious even to him.
He might at least resist the urge to make witless comments calculated to inflame the passions of heavily-armed homicidal maniacs with nothing to lose. Obviously he doesn't give a damn about ISIL/ISIS/DAESH. He just wants Assad's head on a plate, or at least whoever signs his cheque does; Postmedia or his Fleet Street cronies in London or the CIA or surviving Koch brother or whomever. He won't get it though, unless he's prepared to take on Putin, Hezbollah, Iran, and most of Iraq. I don't see anyone signing up for that.
"I'd darken the skies above Damascus with drones..."
Terry Glavin, Postmedia columnist
The biggest risk for us of engaging fully in this byzantine world of competing super powers is being left at the dock when they change partners and sail away. It's inevitable. Say, whatever happened to all the "merciless, pitiless war" promised as retribution for the November Paris attacks by France? They've done nothing but bomb a few suburbs in Mosul and Kirkuk. What does anybody gain from us joining them? Nothing. What do we stand to lose? Plenty. The odds of Canada being left without a chair when the music stops are staggering. Ironically though for Assad haters, an unexpected bonus of our involvement with the Peshmerga Kurds in Erbil could occur if and when Putin brokers some form of detente between YPG leader Polat Can and the Syrian leadership. As long as we refrain from "backing the Free Syrian Army to the hilt", that is. An Assad-Putin-Kurdistan triangulation would upset a few applecarts, including Glavin's. For that and other reasons I'm keen on it. If Justin Trudeau could stop pissing into the wind with Russia we might slide in with the winning side.
It's obvious to everyone that scenario is already in play, except a handful of highminded dipshits (hello there Terry) who persist in this pointless dream of displacing the Syrian regime, no matter how many lives are lost; and other people's lives I hasten to add. I don't see Glavin's ilk rushing over to al Raqqa to file their stories.
That'll be the fucken day...