Is Islamic State now equipped with a NATO air force?

John Wight
John Wight has written for newspapers and websites across the world, including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal. He is also a regular commentator on RT and BBC Radio. John is currently working on a book exploring the role of the West in the Arab Spring. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnWight1
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Within the past two weeks Turkish F-16s have shot down a Russian SU-24 bomber and a US-led coalition airstrike has hit a military base controlled by the Syrian Arab Army. It begs the question: are these people actually insane?

ISIS could not have had a better two weeks than these past two if it had its own air force. But with the US and Turkey among its 'enemies' it appears they don’t need one, for those countries have been doing its job for them.

How else are we to explain the strikes carried out by both countries, not against ISIS but against Russia and Syria, who are fighting ISIS?

Never in the annals of military conflict has such a dangerous and absurd scenario been played out as the one being played out in Syria today. Two entirely separate multi-nation coalitions are engaged in combat operations against one enemy, thus dictating they coordinate and combine their efforts. Yet such is the lack of leadership and statesmanship within one of those coalitions – led by Washington – that the prospect remains a distant dream even after a recent spate of atrocities resulted in the mass murder of citizens and civilians belonging to both.

This at least is one narrative, which holds that incompetence, stupidity and hubris is the root of the problem, impairing the judgment and clarity of the West when it comes to Syria and the wider region, responsible for allowing a terrorist menace in the shape of ISIS and other extremist groups to grow and enjoy the kind of success they should never have enjoyed.

There is a second narrative to be explored, however, one far more insidious. It is that these attacks are evidence of the real objective of the West and its allies when it comes to Syria, despite the rise of ISIS, which remains regime change in Damascus.

Turkey’s president, Recip Erdogan, has long harbored this objective. In fact, more than harbor the man has been utterly obsessed with it. He has taken every opportunity to rail against Syria’s president, attributing the entire blame for the Syrian crisis and conflict to him, even though the majority of Syrians support their president and have done so throughout.

Never in the annals of military conflict has such a dangerous and absurd scenario been played out as the one being played out in Syria today.

With Russian airstrikes bearing down on the illicit oil trade between ISIS and Turkey, the strong suspicion is that Turkey’s desperate action in shooting down the Russian bomber was directly related to it being unmasked as a key actor in facilitating the terrorist group, rather than an ally in the struggle against it.

This has now been followed by Turkey’s military incursion into northern Iraq, where its troops have occupied territory around Mosul, slap bang in the middle of the oil smuggling route from the oilfields located there up into Turkey.

The Turks claim they are there to train Kurdish Peshmerga forces they are supporting, at the request of the Kurdistan Regional Government, led by Massoud Barzani, which administers a de facto independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq in defiance of central government authority in Baghdad. The equally independent oil trade controlled by he Barzani administration has come under attack from the PKK over the past few months, which has managed to destroy pipelines transporting oil from the Mosul region to Turkey.

By now the penny should be starting to drop.

Erdogan is a man who many consider to be engaged in a neo Ottoman policy of re-establishing Turkey's hegemonic influence in the region, exploiting the chaos and turmoil across its southern border in both Iraq and Syria to establish Turkey as a regional power broker and architect of a Sunni state comprising eastern Syria across into northern Iraq.

The collapse of US leadership in the region, measured in the rise of ISIS, has left a vacuum that its regional allies – Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Israel – are exploiting with an aggressive pursuit of their own national and sectarian agendas. Those agendas are contrary to the interests of stability and security, and unless reined in can only lead to more chaos and conflict rather than less.

The point is that the aforementioned states are leading the wider Western strategy towards the region at this point, the primary aim of which, as mentioned, is the toppling of the Assad government in Syria and the weakening of Iranian influence in Iraq and Lebanon.

The US airstrike, despite Washington’s denial of responsibility for it, should be seen with the aforementioned in mind. It also helps explain the recent entry of British airstrikes into the Syrian conflict.

Less than the official justification of helping to crush ISIS, Britain is intent on establishing an overt military presence in Syria with its eyes not on the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa but on Damascus in advance of the upcoming peace talks in Vienna. We know this because no sooner had the British Government received the vote required to press ahead with airstrikes from the House of Commons than British foreign secretary Phillip Hammond was talking up the need for a transitional government in Damascus, making it clear that President Assad cannot remain in power.

Overall it is becoming increasingly apparent that for the West and its regional allies, such as Turkey, ISIS is but a sideshow and that the real priority is the removal of the Assad government. They want a pliant alternative in its place, one willing to be their place man in a region that has long been the focus of their geopolitical, strategic, and economic priorities.

In the process they are willing to court the risk of a major conflagration, evidence of their failure to learn the lessons of history and playing with fire as a consequence.

The First World War was the last major conflict into which the major powers sleepwalked. It resulted in a level of carnage that undermined the very foundations of civilization and led inexorably to the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires. The response to the Western powers of the collapse of the latter in the Middle East, in moving in to carve up the spoils between them regardless of the wishes and interests of the people living there, has brought us a century of turmoil and conflict from then to now.

In a very real sense, the world of today is paying the price of the crimes of the past. As a consequence, committing more crimes is more than folly it is tantamount to dragging us back in time to a hell of our own creation.

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