The most dangerous despot in the Middle East

MARTIN JAY @MartinRJay
Published 23.06.2015 21:34
Updated 23.06.2015 21:35
The most dangerous despot in the Middle East

Instead of engaging in conflict resolution in the Middle East and North Africa, so far Federica Mogherini has focused only on keeping the refugee influx out of the Europe by pursuing strict policies that have led to huge tragedies

The EU has been having a tough time of it playing this charade of a super state in the Mediterranean and Middle East, but in reality, having its hopes dashed each time it tries to spread its wings. Federica Mogherini is having to come to terms with the fact that there is a massive expanse between her dream of an EU foreign policy with an army on standby and what most of the more sober EU folk in Brussels know to be what Brussels has to work with: EU foreign policy is still a wet dream for many in the Belgian capital. It must have been humiliating for her to not go to her own 28 Member States with a plan to deal with the migrant problem - which is growing by the day since she has put it on the front pages of most of Europe's broadsheets - but to have to go to the U.N. instead. And what a crackpot plan it was: to capture, destroy and even kill those trafficking in migrants in Libya. The EU would not back such an insane plan more akin to a blueprint conjured up by Stanley Kuberick (Space Odyssey, 2000) rather than anything from the loins of anyone with any common sense when it comes to smart geopolitics. And so, bless her, she goes to the U.N. who might have gone ahead with the shoot-to-kill master plan, which, by the way, already had individual EU navies like the U.K.'s ready to sail to Libya, if it were for only one annoying caveat to U.N. diplomacy, which foiled it at the last moment: the Libyan government would have to give it their blessing.

And thank god that someone in the room had some common sense. The Libyan government - and there is some confusion here as to who they are exactly - said no. But let's consider what would have happened if it would have gotten approval. British destroyers would shoot to pieces a trafficker in his boat (even with no migrants in it). Then, his family would go to al Qaida or ISIS (take your pick) in Libya and ask to be part of a new commando unit which presumably would ram EU frigates with suicide vessels; they would fail miserably and more would die, which, in turn, would give more gravitas to their cause and before you could say "hand me my klash," you would have a new battleground between the West and ISISI/Qaida. But that would be OK, because then Mogherini could go back to Brussels and now argue for the need for an EU army, as it would be argued either the Brits are doing a good enough job at blowing up Libyans, or, and here's where you need to understand how the EU beast works, that they are in fact doing far too good a job and we need to steal their thunder by giving them support navies from France, Italy, or Macedonia.

We've been here before though. A trip down memory lane takes us back to 2000 when Gadhafi jetted into Brussels with an entourage of stunning young girls in blue army fatigues who dazzled a packed auditorium of Brussels-based hacks who giggled through the most awkward moments of the Libyan leader's ramblings in English. The big thinking then was: can we bring this tyrant back in from the cold and make a killing? And what was the feast that wetted their mouths? A new investigation into the killing of a U.K. policewoman? Or the truth about Lockerbie? Naaagh. Of course not. Neither of those two have any significance for the geopolitical ambitions of the EU. Oil. And lots of it. Good stuff as well. The dream then is still the dream today of getting the 28 nation-block to break away from Russian energy dependency.

Nothing has changed. Still the EU dreams of this even more today, which is what, in part, a new deal with Iran is about, but seldom revealed by hacks who know the real deal. Mogherini needs a boost to her career and as like most EU folk in Brussels, cares little about the consequences of who gets killed in the process. In Libya, she thinks she has a win-win scenario if only she can draw fire from a few Libyan fighters, whose umbrage will be stirred sufficiently to focus on the huge EU boats in their waters. If it goes well and they are overpowered, she will be a Hollywood legend in the EU capital and its media machine - a secretive institution which swallows hundreds of millions of euros - will lift her to a new status. If it fails and a war ensues, she will also win as she will be in the media limelight every day as an EU Joan of Arc fighting the terrorists and pushing for an EU mandate. Her desperation to give her own role on the world's stage some impetus is staggering and worrying. And yet the awful truth is that it is the EU's own politics that is at fault as well. Just the immigrant problem alone, as one example, gives us an insight into how bumbling and dangerous the EU machine can be, geopolitically, without having a lunatic arguing for hardcore foreign policy powers to compliment NATO. Yes, you read correctly. The EU, which can't even resolve its own internal conflicts - Cyprus, Basque, Northern Ireland, Yugoslav War - wants to become a real super power and have its own foreign policy with its own army that can just go wherever a senior civil servant in Brussels would send it to resolve conflicts by shooting loads of hot lead at anyone who doesn't watch Euronews. One day there will be a Hollywood movie about it. But wait. There already is a movie about a super power that goes into a Muslim country and tries to resolve intractable disputes between warlords, which ends in most of the white guys getting killed. Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down catalogued the extraordinary fiasco of an elite forces op in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993. The horn of Africa at that time was an anarchy unimaginable to most Westerners but failed UN operations there led to squabbling tribes all uniting overnight to fight what was originally a peace-keeping force, which initially was welcomed by them. The TIME magazine cover of a U.S. soldier's body being dragged on a long rope through the streets of the capital is an iconic reminder of failed U.S. foreign policy.

I was there in Mogadishu as a young journalist. And I saw with my own eyes what superpowers do when they underestimate local cultural, religious and historical sensibilities. The fine line of being a friendly foreigner helping deliver aid and restoring law and order can so easily be crossed into foreigner aggressor. A young friend of mine was killed in Mogadishu when we all got this line wrong and misjudged how the Somalis regarded the West. And history will repeat itself with Mogherini who is leading Europe towards such madness. She, and other leading figures in Brussels could not be trusted with important decision-making responsibilities in their own countries, but in the Disneyworld of the EU capital, compensate the career deficit by getting carried away with their own illusions of themselves and the roles they play. It's a little-reported fact that the mess of the migrants crossing the Med - 9,000 last week alone - is born from the EU foreign policy meddling. Most of the countries they come from are recipients of EU aid - which props up despot regimes across Africa in return for fake reverence towards the EU Euphoria, which in reality can't even set up a single telecoms market, let alone run an EU army.

It would be sad enough if it were only the immigrants or indeed citizens of these miserable failed states who paid the price for Mogherini's career foibles, as well as others in Brussels who dream of themselves as super stars as they are whisked from the airport of third world countries who lay on the full motorcade treatment when they visit their chosen tyrants in office. But in fact it is Europeans who also pay the price. In Israel right now, a hilarious game of afternoon charades is being played by Mogherini and Netanyahu - each using the other to boost their own political agenda via the media.Yet what Mogherini did just recently beggars belief. She has sat down and begun a game of poker with the Israeli PM which will only end with him ending with a royal flush. Mogherini told him recently that it was "inevitable" that Israeli products in European supermarkets would have to soon be labelled if they originated from occupied Palestine. If that were to happen, it would be an unprecedented victory for super diplomacy: sanctions against Israel for essentially stalling the two-state solution process. But sadly, it won't and can't happen, and Mogherini's hand is a bluff. And she doesn't have the skills to pull it off anyway. Put simply, for the supermarket labelling idea to go through, she has to propose it to all 28 EU member states. The chances of all agreeing are about the same as Netanyahu running for President of Lebanon. She has though, as a token level of support, letters from 16 EU governments supporting the plan. But it's not nearly enough.

Netanyahu is no fool. He knows from his experts in Brussels - let alone the MEPs who support him) how these things pan out. The Plan B for Mogherini is to generate some interest in an unofficial, ad hoc plan proposed to EU member states to go ahead with the labelling rules individually, as one country - Belgium - already has done. But Mogherini is really playing with a loaded gun here. If such a plan came off, then the Israelis would simply supply those EU countries with the fruits and vegetables which didn't sign up to it - and therefore create a soft underbelly to enter the highly regulated EU market. In other words, to divide the single market and create mayhem - something unimaginable in the higher echelons of the European Commission who consider themselves to be guarding a single market shrine based on a near-ecclesiastical creed of free movement of goods, services and people. Could Israel shake the very foundations of the EU? Perhaps Mogherini needs to be careful what she wishes for. Her predecessor was less ambitious and understood her real place in Brussels. There is a rather cruel rumor in the soulless corridors of power in the European Commission in Brussels that when Catherine Ashton took her new job as EU foreign policy chief in 2010, she called the Americans handling the Haiti earthquake crisis to see if she could jet in, for a 'manufacturing consent' media stunt.

But a U.S. general told her "to be honest dear, you'd better not come. No one knows who you are and you'll probably just get in the way." Ashton was seriously challenged when it came to being a super diplomat. Bereft of any apparent personality and unable to speak foreign languages, she bumbled through four years of trying to intervene in the world's superpower problems, but always came across as a provincial school teacher lost on a day trip to London. But her appointment was a cunning one, by London. The EU thinking at the time in Brussels was "keep the Brits on board by giving them the heavyweight diplo post," while London was happy that there was never a danger of the EU ever developing a foreign policy when the job was given to someone who was as about as charismatic as a pile of damp laundry. Ashton was never meant to be part of any "solution" in the Middle East. And she knew it. But has that idea changed now with the appointment of Federica Mogherini? Already she is leaving many of us wondering whether the EU's foreign policy show for the world's media is actually destroying any lingering hopes for peace between Israel and Palestine, and her only real spot in the limelight is going to be in a yet-to-be-made Ridly Scott movie.

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