When, on June 29, 2013, Al Baghdadi’s Caliphate symbolically destroyed a mark of the boundary line of the old Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916-1917, it reaffirmed, without knowing it, its true geopolitical significance.
The long and complex agreement between France and Great Britain, which affected and changed the actions on the spot by Luis Massignon and Lawrence of Arabia, defined the dislocation of the remains of the Ottoman Empire, the only real objective of the First World War.
Oil was an accessory – certainly important but, all things considered, secondary – in the British Grand Strategy, because the issue lay in adding to the British power in the Mediterranean the land shore towards India and East Asia, the real British primary asset in terms of raw materials and hegemony over world trade.
The First World War started with a casus belli in Serbia, the Western gateway of the Eastern Empire.
The Anglo-French allies, and later the Americans, sacrificed for the East goal even Czarist Russia which, in the private documents of the British Admiralty, was indicated with the phrase “suitable for Socialist experiments” as early as 1910.
At the end of the Cold War, there was a shift from Al Qaeda to Sulbah, (the “solid foundation”) created by Abdullah Azzam, the Jordanian-Palestinian Imam affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood in 1987-1988, to the current Al Qaeda, (simply “foundation”). There is a strategic and operational continuity with today’s Caliphate.
Azzam’s text, which was praised by all major Sunni Imams of the time, begins with a revealing sentence: “Today we have no Caliphate”.
And Azzam himself created the Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba, supporting – jointly with the Pakistani intelligence services – the mujahideen who came to fight the jihad in Afghanistan against the Soviets.
It is exactly from this group, which merged with a disconsolate Bin Laden, left alone by the Pakistani and Saudi intelligence services, that Al Qaeda – as we currently know it – was born.
Islamists have learnt to their cost that they cannot support the global jihad according to Bin Laden’s old rules, namely an informal network, born from a computerized database of the Afghan jihad militants, operating without State support, except for some Sunni “help”.
Currently we are in phase two of what Abdullah Azzam already envisaged when he spoke of the “solid foundation”, namely Al Qaeda al sulbah.
Al Baghdadi’s Caliphate is one of the “solid” answers to the same Bin Laden’s questions, in a different context – made different also by the jihad activity both in the Middle East and among the Western “infidels”.
The new geopolitics of the region – which is still the connection point between the Western civilization and a revived Central Asia, will probably be as follows:
a) there will be a struggle – already evident, however – for Islamic hegemony between Iran, the leader of Shias, and Saudi Arabia, the Sunnis’ point of reference – a fight for hegemony over the Greater Middle East and the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean, so as to control the oil and natural gas consumption and the investment made by both regions to diversify their economies, which are both oil-based.
b) Whoever will win between Sunnis and Shiites will close, at their discretion, the communication line between the Eurasian peninsula and Asia, by militarily managing the new Silk Road between the Southern Mediterranean and China.
c) The jihad has always had a universalistic thrust and momentum. The “crown of Prophecy” does not admit – nor can it do so – the exchange of views and dialogue with other religions or political cultures.
Hence, Islam’s mandatory mediation on the key relationship between Europe and China, as at the time of the Roman Empire, implies the Koranic religion penetration even among the kuffar, namely the “infidels”.
d) The Russian Federation will be driven by the compaction of the Islamic universe both towards China and towards the Eurasian peninsula. In this strategic twist Russia could be tempted to regain its hegemony – this time not at territorial level, but at geoeconomic and military levels – over the EU Eastern region, with now unpredictable effects.
e) China may react with a power projection – not only at economic level – from Central Asia towards the Greater Middle East – to protect the autonomy of its crude oil supply routes and the new Silk Road which connects it with its primary markets of reference.
f) As already happens today, this will strengthen the ties between the Indian Federation and China, against Islam and jointly with Russia for gaining control over the areas stretching from Dagestan to Chechnya, which can spread the jihadist contagion up to Russia, thus separating the most populated area, bordering on the Eurasian peninsula, from the intermediate and Siberian region.
g) This would mean the end of Russia and, above all, the creation of Russia’s geo-economic dependence on what remains of the European Union.
h) The United States would deal with whoever will win the Islam’s match in the Greater Middle East – a new special relationship, like the one that Kissinger negotiated with the Saudis at the end of the Yom Kippur War. Apart from managing the flow of petrodollars, the United States needs a power controlling the EU and the Russian Federation’s expansion and which may reach up to the Chinese borders.
Obviously the United States are equally interested both in the strengthening of a network controlling the new Silk Road and in a divide and rule tactical strategy in the new Caliphate region, be it Shiite or Sunni.
i) The only credible threat to the new Caliphate – block and “cap” for the Eurasian peninsula – will come from the North-West region – with the Russian-Caucasian axis – and from the Southern seas, with the Chinese-Indian axis, which will act as sea containment for the Islamic region and land control factor for Kashmir, another future thorn of the jihad.
Giancarlo Elia Valori (@GEliaValori)
Honorable of the Académie des Sciences of the Institut de France.