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15 June 2014


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Sykes-Picot is Dead? All this hand wringing about Sykes-Picot.

I don't recall anyone (but Russia) saying a word about the demise of the Conference of Ambassadors in Paris agreement that established Yugoslavia in 1922.

Why is Sykes-Picot considered sacrosanct, when the Yugoslav agreement was ready to be shredded at the whim of the West?

Ah, yes...the whim of the West...like the rule of law on the American frontier...

Sykes-Picot will be dead when the White House decides it's dead.



"Sykes-Picot will be dead when the White House decides it's dead." IMO the US no longer has the will to reimpose a Western sense of order on the ME. pl

FB Ali

I am hearing that Pakistani troops have arrived in SA. No idea if it is true or not.


Agreed. But the USG will keep up appearances and publicly declare the ME to be as it has been for 100 years, disregarding any new, defacto political boundaries. To do otherwise would be tantamount to an admission of weakness and defeat, just as the breakup of Yugoslavia was celebrated as part of the aftermath of the defeat of communism.


FB Ali

Ah! I remember the old protocol between the two countries. So, the Saudis are really afraid. Well, I hope they got a lot of money in the deal and I suggest that while they are there they should do us all a favor and get rid of the Al-Saud. pl


Fair enough. Just for the sake of being argumentative, I would still suggest that although the Lebanese state disintegrated, the Lebanese identity did not. Each sect still thought of itself as the "true" Lebanese (with the others being usurpers, newcomers, stooges of foreign powers etc.). It always amused me to see people who in Lebanon would proudly wear the Christian cross, Sunni Koran, Shiia sword of Ali or Druze star around their neck discard these in favour of a Lebanese flag or a cedar as soon as they were abroad, and tell anyone who would listen that Lebanon is the greatest country in the world.

I know next to nothing about Iraq, but I would imagine that Al-Douri and his merry men are also steeped in Iraqi nationalism - sectarian, undoubtedly, but Iraqi nonetheless - and that they are therefore fighting for a place WITHIN Iraq rather than independent of it. I could of course be completely wrong, and their alliance - and at some point inevitable conflict - with ISIS types may render this point moot anyway. But I still wonder if the resilience of Iraqi identity - and, as Babak pointed out, the fact that a Sunni state would not be economically viable - might not lead to Iraq surviving a little longer after all.



at which point is a stronger Kurdish rule in the northern parts of Iraq, this may even include Mossul, the lesser of two evils for the Turks?


If the ISIS goes after Jordan, would expect Israel to assist greatly in defense. A jidhadi state on the border of Israel would be "interesting"

FB Ali

Some months ago the Saudis gave Pakistan $1.5 billion - as a gift!

The beaver

Brigadier Ali

Pakistani soldiers were on loan to Saudis in the East of the Kingdom and also in Bahrain to fight off the Shi'a when the Arab spring started in 2011.

There are rumours that a Pakistani has taken over from where Ian Henderson (after Kenya, he went to Bahrain) left as far as the torturing those who are against the Emir ( now King) of Bahrain.


Col: The Arabs are capable of democracy, but they are having a difficulty with federalism. Are there any un-federated democracies that are bigger than a polis? Even the Swiss federate their cantons.


FB Ali: To what end?


Interesting appraisal of the Mosul situation by its now fugitive governor Mr. Nujafi. He seems to think there is no way Duri or Nghshbandi types would join up with the likes of ISIS. Moreover, he sees Iranian cooperation on the ground to clear out the ISIS as harmful. here is the link:




IMO the Kurdish issue, and especially Kirkuk, may become indeed the crucial point of the current developments in Iraq.

Since a couple of years Turkey is actively empowering Iraq's Kurds, eg by buying several 100k bpd oil from the KRG - defying strong objections against that from Baghdad, and also defying criticism from Washington. That is while, as I see it, Turkey's strongest political base in the region was Mossul, which is nearby. Turkey will want to keep it's political influence, the KRG's oil and it's markets in the Iraq's Kurdish region. However, the KRG, while having close ties to Turkey, has also some obvious ties to Baghdad, and also some old ties to Tehran.

I think a very crucial question will be in what direction will the current developments push the KRG? Currently it uses the current developments to politically push for a referendum on a Kurdish state, and military the KRG seized Kirkuk a couple of days ago. However, I see this as a fast moving game, where the last cards have not been played by all actors.

As I wrote in my comment above, I, for example, would not wonder if ISIS would push in the near future from Mossul to get the KRG's oil fields near Kirkuk. From what I've seen in Syria, despite all cruel ideology ISIS operates in very commercailly sensible and even clever way, usually going to war where it sees financial benefits greatly outweighting battle cost. Getting it's fingers on several 100k bpd of the KRG's oil would be like a jackpot for ISIS. That oil could fill the ISIS war chests for many military expeditions in years to come.

The KRG's peshmerga are quite strong, but in case of conflict with ISIS over oil I think they couldn't expect much outside help. From Maliki the KRG shouldn't expect much support in defending their oil exports to Turkey, which Baghdad deems illegal. The Turkish forces are disliked by many people in the KRG region, so open Turkish intervention on the side of the KRG may spark a huge backlash.

I know ISIS said it's going to Baghdad, but based on what I saw of ISIS in Syria that may change quickly. I don't know if ISIS is strong enough to pull off such a stunning operation, but with Mossul ISIS has a fine base for trying to get Kirkuk, and Kirkuk has a seizable Sunni Arab population, so ISIS may find some popular support there. I tend to see this possiblity as a mortal threat for the KRG. I doubt that the KRG can survive if it loses the oil to ISIS. It could be a major gamechanger for the whole region - and besides the KRG Turkey would be the biggest loser of such a development.

In Turkey such worries seem to be there. Since ISIS pulled off the Mosul op, Turkish stocks are nosediving, and a pundit in Daily Sabah, a paper close to Erdogan, just claimed:

What happened in Iraq was a direct attack on Turkey

... paramilitary organizations such as ISIL attack Turkey's economic and political bases in Iraq. Yes, the energy centers, oil fields in Mosul and Kirkuk are and have been throughout history, economic centers of Turkey. ...



FB Ali

Retired personnel from the Pakistan military have long been a feature of Bahrain's security forces and police. After the troubles there the kingdom recruited many more of them. My understanding is that there are no serving personnel there (apart from perhaps a few advisers).

The Pakistani authorities encourage and facilitate this recruitment of retirees.

Wouldn't be surprised if your report of the Pakistani replacing Henderson is correct. There are probably many former ISI officers with that particular skill set.


This is the long-term consequence of neocons' ditching the intelligent and capable Arabists from within our State Dept. Commander-in-Chief Don Knotts (thank you, VietnamVet, above) didn't have the balls or brains to insist that Chas Freeman stay when his pro-Israel advisers jockeyed to craft the foreign policy admin they wanted in 2009. So much for the vaunted meritocracy.

According to that interesting Guardian article, it was boots-on-the-ground Iraqi commanders who cracked ISIS intelligence, not Keith Alexander's NSA. Not even on their radar.

BTW, good post, Colonel. Sending it around.



You seem to be prophetic. Iranian media just reports today that ISIS opened an ISIS branch in Jordan. See, eg, the report of Hosein Mortada, Iranian Al Alam channel's chief reporter in Syria:


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