As ASEAN Shifts East, ISIS Follows

Where US interests are threatened, ISIS coincidentally appears, threatening those standing in the way. What is behind this increasingly transparent pattern of geopolitical coercion? 

July 18, 2017 (Tony Cartalucci - NEO) - As protracted warfare continues in southern Philippines between government forces and militants linked to the so-called "Islamic State" (ISIS), fears that the US is leveraging the terrorist group far beyond Syria and Iraq where it was created are rising. Nations opposing or obstructing US interests beyond America's borders now find themselves likely targets of this covert form of armed coercion.

The United States is increasingly at odds with nations and political orders across Southeast Asia it had once counted among its closest allies in the region. Included is Thailand, a nation of nearly 70 million people, who as of 2014, ousted a US-backed client regime in a bloodless military coup.

Since then, Bangkok has definitively shifted further away from Washington's influence, toward Beijing, Moscow, and virtually any other nation-state that can provide Thailand with alternatives to Washington's monopoly on geopolitical, economic, and military influence.

Much of Thailand's military inventory - for decades consisting of US hardware - is now being replaced by a combination of Russian, Chinese, European, and even domestically developed weapon systems. These include orders of Chinese main battle tanks, Russian helicopters, Swedish warplanes, and both armored personnel carries and rocket artillery systems developed by local industry.

More recently, Thailand sealed a significant arms deal with China for the purchase of the Kingdom's first modern submarines. In total, three submarines will be bought, enhancing Thailand's naval capabilities across the region - and more specifically - drawing the navies of Thailand and China closer together in both technical and strategic cooperation.

Following Thailand, is a number of other nations including the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and even to certain degrees, Myanmar and Vietnam.

As Thailand and other members of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) pivot East, the US has predictably increased pressure on these states through the use of US-funded fronts posing as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) as well as opposition parties created, backed, and directed by Washington.

In nations like Myanmar where the ruling party is already a long-supported US client regime, pressure is placed upon it through the exploitation of human rights advocacy when it is perceived by Washington to be tilting too far in Beijing's favor.

As these methods of coercion become increasingly futile, the US has also pursued more direct means of coercion - terrorism.

US-Linked Terrorism in Southeast Asia 

In 2015, when Thailand refused to heed US demands to allow Chinese citizens wanted for terrorism to travel onward to Turkey where they would inevitably join US-backed efforts to overthrow the government of neighboring Syria, terrorists detonated a bomb in the center of Bangkok leaving 20 dead and many more maimed. Even Western analysts concluded the likely culprits were members the Turkish Grey Wolves front, created by NATO and cultivated as a means of asymmetrical warfare by the United States itself for decades.

Also increasing across ASEAN is the presence of the so-called "Islamic State" or ISIS.

Trump's ASEAN Policy Isn't "Confused," It's a Continuation of Decades of Coercion

July 14, 2017 (Joseph Thomas - NEO) - In an effort to reinforce public perception that policy changes when a new administration assumes the White House, US and European analysts have made several attempts to push forward narratives describing US President Donald Trump's foreign policy as "confused" or "unclear" in contrast to his predecessor, President Barrack Obama.

However, upon closer examination, from the Middle East to Asia Pacific, US foreign policy has continued, virtually uninterrupted, for decades.

Thailand-based newspaper, The Nation, in an article titled, "Asean under pressure due to uncertain US policy, China’s ambitions: researchers," would illustrate this by claiming:
Asean will be under tremendous pressure as the United States under Donald Trump’s administration tries to be more engaged without a clear strategy while China competes for the grouping’s favour, experts at the Hawaii-based East-West Center said. 

While it was still hard to see what the Trump administration wanted to do regarding the relationship with Asean, it was expected that the US would continue to see Asean as a useful partner, said Denny Roy, senior research fellow at the research and education institute.
The article also cites former US diplomat Raymond Burghardt reporting:
Burghardt, former US ambassador to Vietnam and deputy envoy to the Philippines, said Vietnam needed to take a crucial role in leading Asean to deal with China regarding the South China Sea as the Philippines seemed to be taking a softer stance to please Beijng. 
However, the article reveals that:
Of the 10 members, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam claim sovereignty over islands, rocks, shoals and reefs in the contentious sea. Indonesia is not a claimant but has some conflicts over fisheries. 

The US, which is not a claimant in the area, has championed freedom of navigation as well as urged Asean to speak with one voice in dealing with China.
Thus, nations allegedly involved in claims in the South China Sea are not actually seeking confrontation with Beijing, while other ASEAN members have categorically abstained from becoming involved altogether. The United States, which has no claims whatsoever in the South China Sea, serves as chief antagonist, pressuring states to seek and expand confrontation with Beijing.

It is a process that heightened drastically amid the Obama administration's "pivot to Asia," including a high-profile court case fought by American lawyers on behalf of the Philippines. Despite a predictably successful verdict being delivered, the Philippine government itself refused to use the ruling as leverage against Beijing and decided instead to open bilateral talks, excluding Washington.

A Pattern of Coercion 

In response, the US has increased pressure on the Philippines both openly and covertly.

Overtly, the US has cancelled weapon shipments to Philippine police forces supposedly on humanitarian grounds regarding the government's current "war on drugs" and allegations of sweeping extrajudicial killings. However justified withholding weapons on such grounds may be, US policy presents a paradox when considering record arms deals being simultaneously made with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two nations notorious for their human rights abuses and two nations currently engaged in brutality both within their borders and beyond them specifically enabled by torrents of US weaponry.

Covertly, terrorism and now even armed combat allegedly linked to the Islamic State has coincidentally made its way to Southeast Asia, targeting not only the Philippines, but also Indonesia and Malaysia for their continued, incremental shift eastward toward Beijing. While US and European media sources insist that terrorist organisations like the Islamic State carry out their atrocities independent of state sponsorship, US intelligence reports and leaked e-mails from among American politicians have revealed otherwise.

US Grants Asylum for Agitators as it Turns Away Victims of its Global Wars

Understanding what is happening to Thailand helps observers understand how the US undermined and destabilized Libya, Syria, and beyond. 

July 14, 2017 (Tony Cartalucci - LD) - The US recently granted Thai national and fugitive Jom Petchpradab asylum, paving the way for a possible green card for the political agitator and supporter of ousted Thai prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.

Image: Petchpradab, (right) interviews Thaksin Shinawatra (left), a mass murderer and sponsor of terrorism deposed from power in Thailand amid a 2006 military coup. Petchpradab is a consistent and eager supporter of Shinawatra and his US-backed political proxies in Thailand. 
This comes as the US tightens immigration laws to deal with influxes of victims fleeing the pan-regional wars it is conducting from North Africa and the Middle East, to Central Asia and beyond - including the now 6 year war in Syria and approaching 17 year occupation of Afghanistan.

Asylum for Violent Agitators 

Petchpradab is an eager follower and supporter of Thaksin Shinawatra's Pheu Thai Party (PTP) and its ultra-violent street front, the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD or "red shirts"). While the Western media attempts to portray him and the movement he belongs to as "pro-democracy," in truth, he supports a political movement that has carried out physical intimidation, assassinations, riots, mass murder, and terrorism, with a member of the movement most recently carrying out a string of bombings including one targeting a hospital.

Image: Protests against then Prime Minister Shinawatra's "war on drugs" waged in 2003 that left 3,000 innocent people dead in just 90 days.
Thaksin Shinawatra himself, while in power between 2001-2006, would conduct a so-called "war on drugs" in which nearly 3,000 would be extrajudicially executed in the streets. It would later be revealed that the vast majority of those murdered had no involvement in the drug trade at all. Besides being wildly popular among Shinawatra's supporters, the "war on drugs" had no discernible impact on the drug trade itself.

He would also preside over the disappearance or assassination of multiple rights advocates who protested his government and its policies.

Once ousted from power amid a military coup in 2006, he would create the UDD and mobilize them to physically intimidate his opponents, including journalists. In one notorious instance, UDD members would surround the house of a local radio personality and butcher his father with machetes and pistols as he tried to escape the blockade.

Image: Thailand's "red shirt" opposition to which Petchpradab belongs, is not "pro-democracy." It uses murder and mayhem to advance its self-serving US-backed political agenda. 
In 2009 and again in 2010, Shinawatra and his UDD organized street riots in Bangkok featuring armed violence, mass arson, and  bombings. The latter riot featured up to 300 armed militants wielding AK47s, M16s, M79 40mm grenade launchers, and hand grenades, carrying out violence that would leave nearly 100 dead over the course of several weeks.

Saudi Arabia: What's Really Behind Trump's Hypocrisy?

July 14, 2017 (Ulson Gunnar - NEO) - US President Donald Trump's support came in no small part from those Americans who believe terrorism, and more specifically, "Islamic" terrorism pose an existential threat to the United States and the wider Western World.

It is curious then that President Trump's first trip abroad was to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the sociocultural source code of the very extremism infecting both the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) as well as the wider, global extremism it inspires and fuels everywhere from Southeast Asia, western China and even in the streets of North America and Europe.

Far from a geopolitical gaff, US associations with Saudi Arabia and their mutual link and contribution to (not fighting against) terrorism is increasingly becoming an embarrassing, "open secret."

It was the US Defense Intelligence Agency in a 2012 memo leaked to the public that revealed the creation of terrorist organizations like the Islamic State (referred to in the memo as a "Salafist principality") were encouraged by "the West, Gulf countries, and Turkey."

Leaked emails from former US Secretary of State and 2016 US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton would include direct references to Saudi Arabia and Qatar in regards to their complicity in arming the Islamic State. More specifically, both nations were accused of, "providing clandestine financial and logistic support" to the Islamic State.

While the US postures to the world as engaged in a global war on terrorism, it is clear that those nations in the Middle East cooperating closest with Washington are in fact those also perpetuating this seemingly endless war. Why?

It turns out that perpetual war is a lucrative affair in both terms of acquiring wealth and power. It is this equation of wealth and power that takes precedence, even at the expense of narrative continuity and political legitimacy.

Dollars, Oil and Arms

Was President Trump's visit to Riyadh to deliver a stern warning regarding its extensive history of state sponsorship of terror? On the contrary. It was to seal an unprecedented weapons deal with Saudi Arabia amounting to an immediate $110 billion, and $350 billion over the next 10 years, according to the New York Times.

The New York Times also revealed the participants in the massive arms deal to include Lockheed Martin.

It was no surprise then that US policy think tanks like the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) encouraged members to submit op-eds praising President Trump's trip to prominent US and European media sources including The Hill.

The (In)significance of Baghdadi Being "Dead"

Hopeful onlookers should recall how Bin Laden's death was followed by the expansion of terrorism, not its defeat. 

July 11, 2017 (Tony Cartalucci - LD) - Reports have once again emerged that the supposed leader of the self-proclaimed "Islamic State" (ISIS), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed - possibly in a recent Russian airstrike in Syria.

News confirming the death of Baghdadi, would appear to have significant implications regarding the terrorist organization and its now global-spanning operations stretching from North Africa, across the Middle East and Central Asia, and even reaching into Southeast Asia as ISIS-linked militants continue to occupy a city in the south of the Philippines.

However, beyond the possibility of undermining the US rationale for maintaining a significant and growing military presence across regions of the planet inflicted with ISIS operations, Baghdadi's death would have little to no impact at all on these actual operations.

ISIS is a State-Sponsored Militant Proxy - Not an Independent Organization 

ISIS is first and foremost a proxy military organization, created by and for the state sponsors that fuel it politically, financially, and militarily. As revealed in a 2012 US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) document (PDF), these include the United States itself, its European partners, NATO-member Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Jordan, as well as Israel.

The summation of ISIS' fighting capacity stems from a torrent of cash, weapons, supplies, and military protection provided to the group, particularly in the establishment of safe havens within Turkey, Jordan, and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights where Syria and its allies are unable to strike.

Image: US presence in Syria is large and growing. It will only "pull the plug" on ISIS if it plans on replacing it with something more permanent. ISIS itself has many other "safe houses" worldwide to preserve itself in, courtesy of US foreign policy.
Within Syria itself, virtual safe havens have been likewise established by US and Turkish occupations, preventing Syria and its allies - including Russia and Iran - from fully rooting the organization from within Syria's borders. On numerous occasions, Syrian forces have even come under direct US military attack while engaging ISIS militants.