As we pointed out a week ago, even before the downing of the Russian jet by a Turkish F-16, the most important question that nobody had asked about ISIS is where is the funding for the terrorist organization coming from, and more importantly, since everyone tacitly knows where said funding is coming from (as we have revealed in an ongoing series of posts “Meet The Man Who Funds ISIS: Bilal Erdogan, The Son Of Turkey’s President“, “How Turkey Exports ISIS Oil To The World: The Scientific Evidence” and “ISIS Oil Trade Full Frontal: “Raqqa’s Rockefellers”, Bilal Erdogan, KRG Crude, And The Israel Connection“) few on the US-led Western Alliance have done anything to stop the hundreds of millions in oil sale proceeds from funding the world’s best organized terrorist group.
We concluded by asking “how long until someone finally asks the all important question regarding the Islamic State: who is the commodity trader breaching every known law of funding terrorism when buying ISIS crude, almost certainly with the tacit approval by various “western alliance” governments, and why is it that these governments have allowed said middleman to continue funding ISIS for as long as it has?”
To be sure, the only party that actually did something to halt ISIS’ oil infrastructure was Russia, whose bombing raids of Islamic State oil routes may not only have contributed to the fatal attack by Turkey of the Russian Su-24 (as the curtailment of ISIS’ oil flows led to a big hit in the funds collected by the biggest middleman in the region, Turkey, its president and his son, Bilal not to mention Israel which may have been actively buying ISIS oil over the past year) but prompted questions why the bombing campaign by the US-led alliance had been so woefully incapable of hitting ISIS where it truly hurts: its funding.
This past week, someone finally came up with a “reason” why the Obama administration had been so impotent at denting the Islamic State’s well-greased oil machine. In an interview on PBS’ Charlie Rose on Tuesday, Rose pointed out that before the terrorist attacks in Paris, the U.S. had not bombed ISIS-controlled oil tankers, to which the former CIA deputy director Michael Morell responded that Barack Obama didn’t order the bombing of ISIS’s oil transportation infrastructure until recently because he was concerned about environmental damage.
Yes, he really said that:
We didn’t go after oil wells, actually hitting oil wells that ISIS controls, because we didn’t want to do environmental damage, and we didn’t want to destroy that infrastructure.
In other words, one can blame such recent outbreaks of deadly terrorist activity as the Paris bombings and the explosion of the Russian passenger airplane over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Obama’s hard line stance to not pollute the atmosphere with the toxic aftermath of destroyed ISIS infrastructure.
As the Daily Caller adds, Morell also said the White House was concerned about destroying infrastructure that could be used by the Syrian people. Such profound concern for a people which has been traumatized for the past 5 years courtesy of a US-funded effort to destabilize the nation courtesy of US-armed “rebels” whose only purpose has been the deposition of yet another elected president, and where the emergence of the CIA-created Islamic State has led to the biggest wave of refugees to emerge, and flood Europe, since World War II.
But back to Obama’s alleged decision that not polluting the environment is more important than halting the funding artery that keeps ISIS in business.
Morell continued “Prior to Paris, there seemed to be a judgment that … look, we don’t want to destroy these oil tankers because that’s infrastructure that’s going to be necessary to support the people when ISIS isn’t there anymore, and it’s going to create environmental damage. And we didn’t go after oil wells – actually hitting oil wells that ISIS controls because we didn’t want to do environmental damage and we didn’t want to destroy that infrastructure, right.”
Then we started asking questions, others joined in, and everything changed: “So now we’re hitting oil in trucks and maybe you get to the point where you say we also have to hit oil wells. So those are the kind of tough decisions you have to make.”
Of course, the lunacy gets even more ridiculous when one recalls that none other than one of the democrat frontrunners for president, Bernie Sanders, suggested in all seriousness that the real cause for terrorism is climate change, an allegation subsequently echoed by both UK’s Prince Charles and none other than the chief of the UN, Ban Ki-moon himself.
So here is the purported logic: climate change leads to terrorism, but one can’t eradicate the primary funding source of the biggest terrorist threat in the world, the Islamic State, because of dangers it may lead to even more environmental damage and climate change.
We are truly speechless at this idiocy.
Meanwhile, the real reasons behind ISIS massive wealth build up: the illicit oil trade facilitated by, and involving NATO-member state Turkey, whose president and his son collect billions in illegal profits by arranging the charter of Islamic State oil to Israel and other international buyers of ISIS’ cheap oil, and which involves such “highly respected” commodity traders as Trafigura and Vitol, continues to this day, and only Putin has done anything to put a dent in it.
For those who can’t believe any of this (and it took us quite a while to realize this is not some elaborate prank) here is the clip proving the former CIA deputy director actually said it all.
Back in March, when the Saudis were in the early stages of executing Operation Decisive Storm (the air campaign aimed at routing the Iran-backed rebels who had recently taken control of Yemen prompting President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi to flee to Riyadh), the world began to get very nervous after the Houthis entered a military base at the strategic Bab el-Mandeb Strait.
Bab el-Mandeb is a key chokepoint for global crude and needless to say, just about the last thing Saudi Arabia (or the West for that matter) wanted to see was an Iranian proxy army taking control of one side of the corridor.
At the time, Aden was a veritable warzone as a loose confederation of troops still loyal to Hadi battled to keep the Houthis from overrunning the historic port city. Just as hostilities reached a crescendo, unidentified troops showed up, disembarked, and rescued dozens of foreign nationals trapped in the escalating violence. As it turns out, those troops were Chinese.
At the time, the rescue mission took virtually everyone off guard. China had inexplicably sailed a warship into the middle of a Mid-East proxy war, calmly strolled ashore, picked up some folks and left.
While the bold display of naval power came as a surprise in April, it’s now easy to put the maneuver in context. Since then, we’ve seen Beijing project its maritime capabilities on a number of occasions. The PLA’s man-made islands in The South China Sea are the most notable example, but don’t forget that China also sailed warships within 12 nautical miles of Alaska’s coast and is also readying patrols by a nuclear submarine. In other words, China’s impromtu appearance in Aden was part and parcel of a wider effort to make it clear that Beijing is set to build and maintain a true blue-water navy.
In that context, consider another map showing the Bab al-Mandeb:
On one side is Yemen, on the other, Djibouti. As we outlined back in May, China is negotiating a military base in the strategic port of Djibouti. Why Djibouti? So China can have a bird’s eye view of everything that happens at the Bab el-Mandeb Strait: one of the top 5 oil choke points in the world (fromthe EIA):”An estimated 3.8 million bbl/d of crude oil and refined petroleum products flowed through this waterway in 2013 toward Europe, the United States, and Asia, an increase from 2.9 million bbl/d in 2009. Oil shipped through the strait decreased by almost one-third in 2009 because of the global economic downturn and the decline in northbound oil shipments to Europe. Northbound oil shipments increased through Bab el-Mandeb Strait in 2013, and more than half of the traffic, about 2.1 million bbl/d, moved northbound to the Suez Canal and SUMED Pipeline.”
Six months later, it looks like those plans are on track. As WSJ reports on Friday, “China plans to build its first overseas naval installation in the East African nation of Djibouti, expanding the geographical reach of its armed forces as Beijing seeks to protect its growing economic and security interests around the globe.”
True to form, China is attempting to downplay the effort, calling the installation a “support facility.” “This facility will better ensure that the Chinese military can carry out responsibilities such as international peacekeeping, naval escorts in the Gulf of Aden and Somali waters, and humanitarian assistance,” a defense ministry spokesman said.
As WSJ goes on to note, “China has often cited its lack of foreign bases as evidence of peaceful intentions, but has been rapidly expanding its military capabilities in recent years to defend its regional territorial claims and project power far into the Pacific and Indian oceans and the Mediterranean.”
The US – which also has a base in Djibouti – is adopting Washington’s trademark condescending paternalism in discussions with the country’s government. “We definitely have concerns and parameters that were communicated in terms of how we think they should manage Chinese or anyone else entering into what is already a fairly congested space.”
Here’s a bit of useful color from The New York Times:
China announced on Thursday that it would establish its first overseas military outpost and unveiled a sweeping plan to reorganize its military into a more agile force capable of projecting power abroad.
The outpost, in the East African nation of Djibouti, breaks with Beijing’s longstanding policy against emulating the United States in building military facilities abroad.
By establishing an outpost in the Horn of Africa — more than 4,800 miles away from Beijing and near some of the world’s most volatile regions — President Xi Jinping is leading the military beyond its historical focus on protecting the nation’s borders.
Together with the plan for new command systems to integrate and rebalance the armed forces, the two announcements highlight the breadth of change that Mr. Xi is pushing on the People’s Liberation Army, which for decades has served primarily as a lumbering guardian of Communist Party rule.
A presence in Djibouti would be China’s first overseas logistics facility to service its military vessels since the Communists took power, said David Finkelstein, director of China studies at CNA, an independent research institute in Arlington, Va.
“In the grand sweep of post-1949 Chinese history, this announcement is yet another indicator that Chinese policy is trying to catch up with national interests that have expanded faster than the capacity of the People’s Republic of China to service them,” Mr. Finkelstein said.
The new facility would enable the navy to live up to a strategy laid down this year by the Communist Party in a major defense document, known as a white paper, that outlined its ambitions to become a global maritime power.
China has invested heavily in Djibouti’s infrastructure, including hundreds of millions of dollars spent upgrading the country’s undersize port. It has also financed a railroad extending from Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, to Djibouti, a project that cost billions of dollars. The country has a population of about 900,000, many of whom live in poverty.
Strategically, Djibouti offers an excellent place from which to protect oil imports from the Middle East that traverse the Indian Ocean on their way to China, military experts say. From Djibouti, China gains greater access to the Arabian Peninsula.
Indeed they do, and that means not only will Beijing be able to keep a close eye on seaborne crude, they’ll also be better prepared to intervene in Mid-East affairs should the situation call for it.
As we discussed in “Here Comes China: Xi ‘Vows Terror Fight‘ After ISIS Executes First Chinese Hostage,” it seems unlikely that Beijing will be able to stay out of Mid-East affairs forever. Although one dead Chinese hostage likely won’t be enough to make Xi commit to a full fledged military campaign in Syria, China did send several warships to the Mediterranean in 2013 as the standoff between Russia and the US hit a crescendo and Beijing is already engaged in a fight to curb radicalization among Uighurs in Xinjiang. As Michael Clarke, an associate professor at the Australian National University’s National Security College told Bloomberg earlier this week, “It appears that events are dragging China further into the Syrian crisis. On one level, Russian intervention and the Paris attacks have raised the stakes and made Beijing’s preferred option of a political resolution much less likely. The killing of a Chinese national will certainly inject a new variable into Beijing’s calculations about its position on the conflict.”
Of course China isn’t going to build a naval base in a week (although they did just build a bridge in 43 hours), so it’s not as if the PLA will be sailing from Djibouti to Latakia next month, but the point is that we’re seeing a strategic shift from Beijing in line with everything we’ve observed over the past nine months from the rescue operation in Aden to the construction of some 3,000 acres of new sovereign territory in the South Pacific.
Xi is branching out and China is projecting its military prowess. The new naval base has implications both for global energy markets and for the Mid-East balance of power. If Moscow and Tehran do indeedpull off a coup wherein Russia replaces the US as the Mid-East’s superpower puppet master and Iran supplants Saudi Arabia as regional power broker, China will now have a base within shouting distance of its allies (recall that China generally votes with Russia on the Security Council with regard to Syria).
We’ll close with the following quote from Andrew Erickson, an expert on the Chinese military at the U.S. Naval War College:
“China has for decades proudly proclaimed its lack of military facilities on foreign soil, so seeking long-term military access at a quasi-base level is a massive about-face… China is poised to cross the Rubicon.”