Professor Jeremy Keenan of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London frames it in terms of an Algerian false-flag operation gone wrong. Algiers may have wanted to signal to the West that French bombing in Mali would inevitably lead to blowback; but then Belmokhtar turned the whole thing upside down because he was furious the French were allowed to own Algerian airspace to bomb Mali. In a way, this could be seen as another remix of the Taliban revolting against the ISI.
Algerian public opinion is immensely suspicious, to say the least, of all the players' motives, including the Algerian government and especially France. Here is a fascinating sample. This perspective, by a political science professor, is worth quoting at length, as it neatly summarizes the French "lead" in the new GWOT chapter.
"In an interview with the French-language daily Le Soir d'Algerie, political science professor Ahmed Adimi described the intervention as an attempt to 'undermine Algeria' and a 'step in a plan for the installation of foreign forces in the Sahel region.' Adimi's thesis is that France has worked for years to destabilize the Sahel as a means of strengthening its geopolitical stance.Tariq Ramadan, in a devastating piece, also unmasks Paris, drawing the connection between the dodgy Sarkozy "humanitarian" intervention in Libya and the current Hollande drive to protect a "friendly" country -- all coupled with the hypocrisy of France for decades not giving a damn about "the people" suffering under assorted African dictatorships.
"Asked whether the French operation in Mali was consistent with United Nations security council resolution 2085, Adimi states that the resolution 'does not pose much of a problem in itself. Western powers have used it to intervene and adopt resolutions to justify their military operations. This has already happened in Iraq. In fact, the French operation may seem legal since it comes at the request of the Acting Present of Mali. However, it is important to remember that the current government came to power in a coup. Regarding the intervention, it was certainly predictable but the French have precipitated matters. [...] These terrorist groups are being manipulated by foreign powers,' continuing to argue that these groups were 'allowed' to move south to Konna as means of justifying the French intervention.
"Adimi argues that Algerians have 'been sounding the alarm about the situation in the Sahel in general. Ahmed Barkouk and myself have organized several seminars on this topic. We discussed the role of France and its commitment to the region. It was France that was behind the creation of the movement for the Azawad, and I speak of course of the political organization and not of the people of Azawad, who have rights as a community. The French knew that their intervention in Libya would lead to a return of the pro-Qaddafi military Tuareg to Mali. They also planned the release of Libyan arms stockpiles across the Sahel band. The project is to transform the region into a new Afghanistan, the result of long-term planning.'"
But the Oscar for Best Hypocritical Scenario certainly goes to the current French-Anglo-American concern about Mali being the new al-Qaeda playground, when the major playgrounds are actually NATO-supported northern Syria (as far as the Turkish border), north Lebanon and most parts of Libya.
Follow the gold, and follow the uranium
Even before it's possible to fully analyze the myriad ramifications -- many of them unforeseen -- of the expanded GWOT, there are two fronts to be carefully observed in the near future. So let's follow the gold, and let's follow the uranium.
Follow the gold. A host of nations have gold bullion deposited at the New York Federal Reserve. They include, crucially, Germany. Recently, Berlin started asking to get back its physical gold back -- 374 tons from the Bank of France and 300 tons out of 1,500 tons from the New York Federal Reserve.
So guess what the French and the Americans essentially said: We ain't got no gold! Well, at least right now. It will take five years for the German gold in France to be returned, and no less than seven years for the stash at the New York Federal Reserve. Bottom line: both Paris and Washington/New York have to come up with real physical gold any way they can.
That's where Mali fits in -- beautifully. Mali -- along with Ghana -- accounts for up to 8% of global gold production. So if you're desperate for the genuine article -- physical gold -- you've got to control Mali. Imagine all that gold falling into the hands of... China.
Now follow the uranium. As everyone who was glued to the Niger yellowcake saga prior to the invasion of Iraq knows, Niger is the world's fourth-largest producer of uranium. Its biggest customer is -- surprise! -- France; half of France's electricity comes from nuclear energy. The uranium mines in Niger happen to be concentrated in the northwest of the country, on the western range of the Air mountains, very close to the Mali border and one of the regions being bombed by the French.
The uranium issue is intimately connected with successive Tuareg rebellions; one must remember that, for the Tuaregs, there are no borders in the Sahel. All recent Tuareg rebellions in Niger happened in uranium country -- in Agadez province, near the Mali border. So, from the point of view of French interests, imagine the possibility of the Tuaregs gaining control of those uranium mines -- and starting to do deals with... China. Beijing, after all, is already present in the region.
All this crucial geostrategic power play -- the "West" fighting China in Africa, with AFRICOM giving a hand to warlord Hollande while taking the Long War perspective -- actually supersedes the blowback syndrome. It's unthinkable that British, French and American intelligence did not foresee the blowback ramifications from NATO's "humanitarian war" in Libya. NATO was intimately allied with Salafis and Salafi-jihadis -- temporarily reconverted into "freedom fighters." They knew Mali -- and the whole Sahel -- would subsequently be awash in weapons.
No, the expansion of GWOT to the Sahara/Sahel happened by design. GWOT is the gift that keeps on giving; what could possibly top a new war theatre to the French-Anglo-American industrial-military-security-contractor-media complex?
Oh yes, there's that "pivoting" to Asia as well. One is tempted to donate a finger -- extracted Islamist-style -- to know how and when will come the counterpunch from Beijing.
1. Mali conflict exposes White House-Pentagon split, Los Angeles Times, January 18, 2013.
2. African nations can, must do for themselves - with US support, December 4, 2012.
3. David Cameron: fight against terrorism in north Africa may last decades, The Guardian, January 20, 2013.
4. Intelligence chiefs and special forces plot Sahara mission, The Independent, January 21, 2013.
5. In Amenas : les ex-otages racontent quatre jours d'angoisse, Liberation, January 20, 2013. (In French).
6. Algeria Hostage Crisis: Terror Attack 'Inside Job' Gone Wrong, Says Professor Jeremy Keenan, The Huffington Post, January 19, 2013.
7. Le Mali, la France et les extremistes, journaldumali.com, January 18, 2013. (In French).