by Finian Cunningham, Irish journalist and writer
January 2, 2013 (TSR) – The UN Security Council approval this week of a French-led resolution for military intervention in Africa’s vast Sahel region signaled the Western imperialist powers’ laying down a new incendiary marker.
While the intervention force being assembled is officially African-led and manned, the Western powers are driving the initiative, something about which there is little doubt. Under the guise of restoring Mali’s national security – following a separatist revolt earlier this year – the real agenda is extending Western imperialist interests in the resource-rich West Africa region.
However, this new frontier for neo-imperialist intrigue in a volatile region threatens to become another explosive quandary for the Western powers – one that may set off a conflagration involving several African nations.
Not content, it seems, with wreaking havoc in Libya in North Africa, fuelling a covert war in Syria that is destabilizing Lebanon and Iraq, cranking up the Israeli killing machine with $500 million of new weapons, announced this week in Washington, and the ratcheting up of more aggression against Iran with tougher sanctions, also unveiled this week, the NATO governments now want to embark on yet another military adventure – in Mali.
Bearing in mind that the NATO powers are still embroiled in a bloody quagmire in Afghanistan and are regularly carrying out clandestine killing operations in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, one can safely describe the world as being under fire from Western militarism.
This week, the Western imperialists added yet more fuel to the global bonfire by bringing their plans for military intervention in Mali a definitive step closer.
Over recent months, France and the US have been upping the pace for an African-led force to go into the West African country. Now the UN has given these plans the final green light.
A force of 3,300 troops, assembled from Nigeria, Senegal, and Ghana, among others, is to join a Malian army of 5,000. UN diplomats are saying that the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) will not be deployed until well into next year, perhaps September 2013. But the French and Americans are pushing for a sooner dispatch.
The timing of this official military intervention belies the fact that French and American Special Forces have already been sent into Mali and neighbouring Sahel countries, where they are said to be training Malian regular and irregular forces. American and French surveillance drones are also reported to be operating in the remote desert region.
This involvement of Western military in Mali exposes French President Francoise Holland’s earlier promises that there would be “no French boots on the ground” as hollow and cynical.
It also reveals the real relationship between the Western powers and the African forces comprising AFISMA. The latter are but foot soldiers that serve to give an “African face” to disguise underlying Western imperialist interests.
The alleged concern for the Western powers is that Mali has become “a haven for Islamic terrorists.”
American General Carter Ham, who heads up US AFRICOM, was quoted by The New York Times earlier this month as saying, “As each day goes by, al-Qaeda and other organizations are strengthening their hold in northern Mali. There is a compelling need for the international community, led by Africans, to address that.”
When Mali’s Prime Minister Cheikh Modibo Diarra was pushed out of office two weeks ago by the Malian army, Philippe Lalliot, a French foreign ministry spokesman, said, “These developments underline the need for the rapid deployment of an African stabilisation force.”
Since then, the French have been pushing hard at the UN to get the green light for military intervention.
There is more than a suspicion that Washington and Paris are inflating the specter of “Islamic extremists” in order to give propaganda cover for what are simply their imperialist interests. Western media have carried lurid reports of the populace in northern Mali being corralled by “brutal application of Sharia law” with claims of whippings, stonings, beheadings, and amputations against people who transgress Islamic teachings.
This media depiction is reminiscent of how Afghanistan under the Taliban was reported and served to give a moral imperative to NATO invasion of that country in 2001.
Such Western reportage on what is happening in northern Mali has to be treated with skepticism given the remoteness of the region and the ulterior agenda that such reports are transparently serving.
Additionally, and this is telling, the rebel groups have opened political negotiations in recent weeks with the Malian government in Ouagadougou.
Mali’s rich, and hitherto untapped, resources of minerals, metals, ores, and uranium in particular are prizes to be seized by the Western powers. The neocolonial re-conquest of Mali would also serve to provide a projection point for the West Africa region and all its tremendous wealth in oil, gas, agriculture, fishing, and minerals.
When AFRICOM was first formed in 2007, General Carter Ham said one of its main purposes was to facilitate the unimpeded flow of resources from Africa to Western markets.
But here’s where Western best-laid plans will come severely unstuck. Northern Mali is probably one of the remotest regions on Earth. Over the centuries, invaders and Armies have disappeared in the Saharan scorching deserts trying to conquer the ancient capital of Timbuktu. It comprises an area the size of France or Texas spread over some of the most unforgiving terrain and climate that human beings can face. In that sea of desert, the population is numbered at only 1.6 million, compared with 65 and 25 million in France and Texas respectively.
Western imperialists think they are smart sending in Africans to do their dirty work in Mali. But the invasion of 3,300 black-skinned Africans into a desert against light-skinned nomadic fighters who know the terrain like the back of their hands is a recipe for military disaster.
To say that France and the US are opening up a can of worms with their Mali subterfuge is a gross understatement. They are undermining the cap on an active volcano.
AUTHOR: Finian Cunningham
Finian Cunningham is an Irish journalist and writer. He is also Global Research’s Middle East and East Africa Correspondent.