In the fight against ISIS, Russia ain’t taking no prisoners

Pepe Escobar
Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of "Globalistan" (2007), "Red Zone Blues" (2007), "Obama does Globalistan" (2009) and "Empire of Chaos" (2014), all published by Nimble Books. His latest book is "2030", also by Nimble Books, out in December 2015.
Tu-95MS strategic bombers. © Ramil Sitdikov
The so-called Islamic State should have learned by now: they've picked a fight against the wrong guys. We have entered "take no prisoners" territory. For Russia, now all the gloves are off.

Especially after online terrorist magazine Dabiq published a photo of the alleged bomb that downed the Metrojet: a crude device inside a can of Schweppes Gold, placed under a passenger seat. Also published were photos of passports of Russian victims, allegedly taken "by the mujahedeen."

Their collective fate was sealed the minute the Director of the Federal Security Service Aleksandr Bortnikov told President Putin, about the Metrojet crash on October 31 in Egypt that: “We can say with confidence that this was a terrorist act.”

Caliphate goons may run – in the deserts of ‘Syraq’ and beyond - but they can’t hide, as per Russia’s presidential message: “We will search for them everywhere - wherever they are hiding. We will find them in any spot on the planet and we will punish them.” The message comes with extra enticement; the $50 million bounty offered by the FSB for any information leading to the perpetrators of the Sinai tragedy.

Putin’s message instantly turned heavy metal in the form of a massive, impressive Russian barrage over 140 Caliphate targets, delivered via 34 air-launched cutting-edge cruise missiles and furious action by Tu-160, Tu-22, and the Tu-95MC ‘Bear’ strategic bombers. This was the first time the Russian long-range strategic bomber force has been deployed since the 1980s Afghan jihad.

And there’s more coming - to be stationed in Syria; an extra deployment of 25 strategic bombers, eight Su-34 ‘Fullback’ attack aircraft, and four Su-27 ‘Flanker’ fighter jets.

The tanker truck riddle

At the G-20 in Antalya, Putin had already, spectacularly, unveiled who contributes to Daesh’s financing – complete with “examples based on our data on the financing of different [Daesh] units by private individuals.”

The bombshell: Daesh’s cash, “as we have established, comes from 40 countries and, there are some of the G20 members among them.” It doesn’t take a Caltech genius to figure out which members. They’d better take the “you can run but you can’t hide” message seriously.

Additionally, Putin debunked - graphically – to the whole G20 the myth of a Washington seriously engaged on the fight against Daesh: “I’ve shown our colleagues photos taken from space and from aircraft which clearly demonstrate the scale of the illegal trade in oil.” He was referring to Daesh’s oil smuggling tanker truck fleet, which numbers over 1,000.

Apparently acting on Russian satellite intelligence, the Pentagon then miraculously managed to find tanker truck convoys stretching “beyond the horizon,” smuggling out stolen Syrian oil. And duly bombed 116 trucks. For the first time. And this in over a year that the ‘Coalition of the Dodgy Opportunists’ (CDO) is theoretically fighting Daesh. The only such bombing that happened before was by the Iraqi Air Force.

The US “strategy”, which Obama recently turbocharged, is to bomb (aging) Syrian oil infrastructure currently expropriated and exploited by Daesh. Technically, this is the property of Damascus, and thus belongs to “the Syrian people.”

And yet Washington seemed so far to be more focused on other “people” who could make a bundle rebuilding the devastated infrastructure, disaster capitalism-style, in case “Assad must go” works.  

Russia once again went straight to the point. Bomb the transportation network – the oil truck convoys – not the oil infrastructure. That will eventually drive oil smugglers out of business.  

The key reason the Obama administration had not thought about this before is Turkey. Washington needs NATO member Ankara for the use of the Incirlik air base. And then there’s the sensitive subject of who profits from Daesh’s oil smuggling.

Turkish Socialist party member Gursel Tekin has established that Daesh’s smuggled oil is exported to Turkey by BMZ, a shipping company controlled by none other than Bilal Erdogan, son of “Sultan” Erdogan. At a minimum, this violates UN Security Council resolution 2170. Under the light of Putin’s message of going after anyone or any entity engaged in facilitating Daesh’s operations, Erdogan’s clan better come up with some really good excuses.   

© Reuters

That jihadi boot camp

Putin’s vow to go after anyone or any entity that facilitates/collaborates with Daesh should logically imply a trip back to ‘Shock and Awe 2003’: the bombing, invasion and occupation of Iraq that created the conditions for the establishment of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, “directed” by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi up to 2006.  

The next significant step was Camp Bucca, near Umm Qasr in southern Iraq; a mini-Guantanamo where at least nine members of the future metastasis of al-Qaeda – Islamic State (IS) – was spawned.

ISIS/ISIL/Daesh was born in an American prison. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a.k.a. Caliph Ibrahim did time there, as well as Daesh’s previous number two, Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, and most of all Daesh’s conceptualizer: Haji Bakr, a former colonel in Saddam Hussein’s Air Force.

Hardcore Salafi-jihadist meet former Ba’athist notables and find a common purpose; an offer the Pentagon could not refuse and in fact - willfully - let prosper. GWOT (the Global War on Terror), after all, is a Cheney-Rumsfeld-coined “Endless War”.  

The US neocon regime change obsession ended up bolstering Daesh’s reach in Syria.

The whole process exhibits multiple ramifications of imperial folly, past and future, that can be identified like splinters from a suicide bomb; from CIA-trained/weaponized, Wahhabi-drenched mujahedeen (“Reagan’s freedom fighters”) metastasizing into ‘Al-CIAada’, to Hillary Clinton admitting Saudi Arabia is a top source of terrorist financing.    

Paris 2015 – as well as Sinai 2015 – essentially is a side effect of Baghdad 2003. Putin knows it. For now, the task is to smash those mongrel imperial offspring once and for all.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.