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James O’Neill: 'The US’s ability to wage its endless and unsuccessful wars using other people’s money will come to an end'

James O’Neill is a former academic and has practiced as a barrister since 1984. He writes on geopolitical issues, with a special emphasis on international law and human rights. In an interview with Balkans Post he said ''there was a Pentagon plan from the Bush 2 era to invade, undermine or achieve regime change in seven middle eastern and North African countries."

James O’Neill

BP: What role does the U.S. play in the Syrian conflict? How has Washington’s relations with the so-called rebels changed since 2011?

In 2011 the government of Syria refused an American request for transit rights of Qatari oil and gas to Europe. The Syrians knew this was intended to replace Russian gas is Europe’s main source of energy. That was when Assad’s problems began. Ever since then, the Americans have provided arms, money and political support to Syrian opposition groups. When they proved insufficient foreign fighters were imported to supplement local dissident groups. These came to be known as ISIS or Daesh. This is a standard US technique, used in Indochina in the 1960s and in Afghanistan in the 1970s(operation cyclone). The Saudis were used as a major financial channel, but the driving force has always been the US.

The terrorists used in Afghanistan in the 1970s and 1980s extended their operations to the Muslim dominant republics of the then Soviet Union in central Asia and the Muslim region of Southwest China.

It is always important in this context to be at the mind the Yinon plan, and Israeli objective from at least the 1980s onward, to dismember Syria and Iraq so that Israel remained the strongest military force in the region.

A parallel objective was revealed by General Clark when he wrote about  “seven countries in seven years” that was a Pentagon plan from the Bush 2 era to invade, undermine or achieve regime change in seven middle eastern and North African countries. Only Iran is thus far relatively unscathed.

There has been no change in Washington’s relationship with the rebels since 2011 they were and are essentially US proxies.

BP: Has the U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East changed drastically since Donald Trump became president?

I don’t believe the foreign policy objectives have changed since trumpet became president. This rhetoric before the election suggested some changes emphasis, but since the election he has been almost completely neutered by the neocon elements in Washington. Their objectives have been changed for at least three decades and nothing in the US’s present policies suggests that their power has been weakened.

What has changed has been the United States’ and Israel’s capacity to give effect to their policy objectives. There are a number of reasons for this, but the most important are probably Russia’s intervention and the Chinese inspired BR I providing an alternative policy options.

BP: Since Trump took office, the Saudis have been emboldened in adopting adventurist policies in the Middle East? What’s your take on this? 

I don’t accept that Saudi policies have changed significantly since Trump took office. The current Crown Prince (MBS) initiated the Yemen war, with US and UK support, well before Trump was elected.

MBS has made some vague reforming noises)(e.g. women are being allowed to drive) , but their foreign policy stance is essentially unchanged. Again, external forces are providing impetus  for change, and the Chinese are the most significant factor here. The demise of the petrodollar, which I envisage within 12 to 18 months, will be the most significant factor here, and not only in the Middle East. The US’s ability to wage it’s endless and largely unsuccessful wars using other people’s money will come to an end.

BP: To what extent do you think the U.S. foreign policy is to blame for the new crises in the region, for instance in the Lebanese President Saad Hariri’s resignation?

I question whether there are actually ‘new” crises in the Middle East. They are actually continuation is I’ll old crises that date back at least to the Sykes-Picot plan for the post World War one period, and the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

When Kissinger negotiated in classic mafia style the petro dollar regime in the early 1970s that further compounded the region’s problems, although initially it worked very much in favour of the United States. That has now changed, and the rate of change will accelerate. Hariri’s “resignation” was part of an Israeli-Saudi plan to undermine Hezbollah. Hariri is simply a pawn in a much bigger game.

BP: The U.S. has ramped up support for Saudi Arabia in its military campaign against Yemen. How could that affect Yemen and the region?

The US-Saudi-UK war on Yemen is a microcosm of much is what is wrong with the inability of the international community to control such manifestly illegal attacks.

The protestations of the US, Australia and the others that they support a “rules based international order” are cruelly exposed for the hypocritical cant that they are. Yemen is one of the poorest nations on earth.  The fact that still survives is a commentary on how lousy the sorry military are, even when given the latest military equipment and a large mercenary component to do the fighting.

To understand why Yemen is being attacked one needs to do no more then look at a map. It sets astride a key narrow waterway (one of seven critical chokepoints worldwide that are a major geopolitical goal of the United States to control) that is also a gateway to the Suez Canal.   It is not a coincidence that China’s sold foreign military base is in Djibouti, on the same narrow waterway.

The effect on Yemen is clearly a humanitarian disaster. Iran is providing some support, although not as much is US and Saudi propaganda would suggest. Interestingly, the Yemenis are taking the fight to Saudi Arabia. It needs to be noted that the major oil region of Saudi Arabia is in the east of the country, and that region has a significant Shia population.

I cannot see an end game at this stage, but it has the potential too spread to a much wider conflagration, especially if Iran it gets further involved. Without US support the Saudi regime would crumble rapidly.