The UK Defence Journal reported on January 2, 2017, that the RAF had conducted airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq through New Years Eve, ushering in a new era of death and destruction. The article quotes from a government press release referencing strikes in Mosul: “A Brimstone weapon was used in a precision attack to destroy a[n] Islamic State artillery weapon which was mounted on a truck. Tornado aircraft conducted thorough checks before each strike to ensure that no civilians were put at risk”. Despite the UK’s use of “precision strikes” and its meticulous care to avoid civilian casualties, the civilian death toll in Mosul continues to mount as a result of coalition airstrikes. The article goes on to state the following: “In December 2016, it was reported that the Royal Air Force is operating at its most intense for 25 years in a single theatre of operation which far outstripped the UK involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan – RAF jets have dropped 11 times more bombs (1,276 strikes) on Syria and Iraq in the preceding 12 months than they had in the busiest year of action in Afghanistan a decade previously”.
The RAF’s savage, unrelenting bombardment of Iraq and Syria, which “far outstrip[s] the UK involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan”, is certainly being felt by the civilians on the ground; over 2,000 Iraqi and Syrian civilians have been killed by coalition airstrikes since the bombing began, and Mosul is beginning to resemble Aleppo as civilians there suffer endless aerial bombardment. The cost of these military campaigns, which are contributing to the destruction of the region and are inflaming extremism at home, is extortionate; “between August 2014 and the 31st of March 2016” the MOD “set the costs… at £265 million (£45 million in the 2014-15 financial year, and £220 million in the 2015-16 financial year)”. No doubt this money is being put to good use; the NHS and other public services that are under severe threat can receive funding from elsewhere. The same day, the UK Defence Journal ran an article proclaiming 2017 to be the “‘Year of the Royal Navy’”. The article opens with Michael Fallon, the euphemistically-titled ‘Defence Secretary’, declaring: “We are investing billions in growing the Royal Navy for the first time in a generation with new aircraft carriers, submarines, frigates, patrol vessels and aircraft all on their way. 2017 is the start of a new era of maritime power, projecting Britain’s influence globally and delivering security at home”.
The UK government will project its power and influence around the world in a variety of ways; for example, “The fourth Astute Class submarine will enter the water for its commissioning phase in spring; The keel for the seventh and final Astute-class submarine – as yet unnamed – will be laid in 2017 as work continues apace on the fifth and sixth, HMS Anson and HMS Agamemnon in Barrow; The opening of the first permanent Royal Navy base East of Suez in nearly half a century”. Aside from providing UK-based arms manufacturers with a fortune, these plans will consolidate and strengthen British military power in the Middle East; that is, the power to intimidate the people of the region into submission and protect the existing hegemonic order. Since the end of the Cold War, British military submarines have been deployed largely for symbolic purposes; they have not been involved in any actual warfare, and their positioning alongside US submarines around the world is merely to remind other countries of who is in charge. The article’s reference to the “opening of the first permanent Royal Navy base East of Suez in nearly half a century” is an allusion to the construction of a permanent Royal Navy base in Bahrain. The rulers of Bahrain have always been reliable clients; alongside creating a favourable environment in the country for corporate exploitation, they have dutifully carried out the task of suppressing the population and ensuring that democracy is not allowed to prevail, often with our direct assistance.
A revolution in Bahrain would be bad enough for the West in and of itself as it would topple a dependable dictatorship, but its real danger would be that it could trigger a similar revolution in Saudi Arabia, which would be an unmitigated catastrophe; we would no longer profit from Saudi oil, and a regime that obediently carries out Western orders would be gone. That is why the US and the UK supported the Saudi-led suppression of the Bahraini uprising in 2011; democracy is too dangerous for us to tolerate. The establishment of a permanent Royal Navy base in the country is a way for us to prop up the regime from within and allow it to more efficiently suppress the population by coordinating with it militarily and logistically. Unless democracy is also asserted here in the UK and we summon the will to impose constraints on our leaders, they will be free to do as they please over the next year.