The Oil Connection


On its face, President George Bush's recent endorsement of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's land grab in the occupied territories makes little sense. The plan, under which Israel would abandon Gaza while permanently annexing most of the West Bank, has met with almost universal condemnation. 

  • It has stirred rage in the Arab world, where, according to U.S. ally Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, "there exists a hatred of Americans never equaled in the region." 

  • European Union (EU) foreign policy spokesperson, Brian Cowen, said that the "EU will not recognize any change to the pre-1967 borders other than those arrived at by agreement of the parties." 

  • A letter by 52 former senior British diplomats called Prime Minister Tony Blair's support for Washington on this issue, "one-sided and illegal," and predicted it "will cost yet more Israeli and Palestinian blood." A Financial Times editorial called the letter "the most stinging rebuke ever to a British government by its foreign policy establishment." 

At a time when the U.S. is desperate for an international bailout in Iraq, why would the White House go out of its way to alienate allies? 

The most popular explanations are: 

  • The influence of pro-Israeli lobbies, and a Republican strategy to woo Jewish voters and money away from the Democrats; 

  • A bow to the Bush Administration's Christian Evangelical wing, which is rabidly pro-Israel because it is convinced the Second Coming is upon us. 

There is no question that pleasing evangelicals is an Administration priority, and certainly Republicans would like to cut into traditional Jewish support for the Democrats. But this explanation assumes that foreign policy is all about partisan politics and God. 

Bush certainly has the inside track with evangelicals. However, there is virtually no difference between Republicans and Democrats on Israel. If anything, the latter are slightly more hawkish. 

There is a simpler explanation for the White House's posture, one the Administration laid out four months after taking office. In May, 2001, Vice-President Dick Cheney's National Energy Policy Development Group recommended that the President "make energy security a priority of our trade and foreign policy." 

U.S. Policy and Oil 

The recommendation was hardly a bolt from the blue, and the Republicans didn't invent the idea. The recent move of oil companies and the U.S. military into Central Asia is a case in point. It was President Bill Clinton, not George W. Bush, who crafted that strategy. It was not the Republicans who brought Halliburton and Cheney into the Caspian region, but Clinton advisor Richard Morningstar, now a John Kerry point man. 

A flood of future Bush Administration heavies followed in Cheney's wake. Condolezza Rice helped ChevronTexaco nail down drilling rights for Kazakhstan's Tenez oil fields. James Baker, who pulled off Bush's Great Florida Election steal, helped British Petroleum get into the area. 

When it comes to oil, partisan politics stop at the U.S. coastline. And if it is about oil, it's about the Middle East. 

Oil production in the US, Mexico, and the North Sea is declining, and a recent study by the University of Uppsala in Sweden suggests reserves may be far smaller than the 18 trillion barrels the industry presently projects. If the new figure of 3.5 trillion barrels is correct, sometime between 2010 and 2020, worldwide production will begin to decline. 

Given that most oil geologists think there are few, if any, undiscovered resources left, that decline is likely to be permanent. 

So the price of oil-now $41.65 a barrel, a jump of $32 since 1997-may not be a temporary spike. World pumping capacity is going full throttle, but a combination of economic growth, coupled with cash shortages for investment, have kept supplies tight. Only during the Iranian revolution and the Iran-Iraq War did oil cost more. 

With U.S. consumption projected to increase 1/3 over the next 20 years-two-thirds of which will be imported by 2020-the name of the game is reserves. The bulk of those reserves lie in the Middle East. Between Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, the Gulf States control 65 percent of the world's reserves, or close to 600 billion barrels. In comparison, the U.S. reserves are a little under 23 billion. 

Whoever controls these reserves essentially controls the world's economy. Consider for a moment if the U.S. were to use its power in the Middle East and its growing influence in Central Asia to tighten oil supplies to the exploding Chinese economy.

China presently uses only 8 percent of the world's oil, and accounts for 37 percent of consumption growth. 

Lest anyone think this scenario is paranoid, try re-reading President Bush's June, 2002 West Point speech that clearly states the U.S. will not allow the development of any "peer competitors" in the world. 

That is what Cheney's Energy Policy Group meant by making "energy security a corner stone of US trade and foreign policy." 

Petro-politics and Israel 

So, what does this have to do with Israel and the occupied territories? Israel may not have any oil, but it is the most powerful player in the Middle East. In the great chess game that constitutes oil politics, there are only two pieces left on the board that might check U.S. plans to control the Middle East's oil reserves: Syria and Iran. 

And that is where Ariel Sharon comes in. Sharon's ruling coalition has been spoiling for a fight with Syria and Iran. The Israelis bombed Syria late last year and leading members of the Sharon government have routinely taken to threatening Iran. 

Cabinet Minister Gideon Ezra threatened to assassinate Damascus-based Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal, and Sharon did the same to Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah. On May 11, the Bush Administration levied economic sanctions on Syria. 

The Sharon government is just as belligerent about Iran. Israeli Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon says that he hopes international pressure on Iran will halt its development of nuclear weapons, but adds ominously, "If that is not the case we would consider our options." 

Neoconservatives in the Bush Administration have long targeted Iran. Richard Perle, former Defense Policy Board member, and David Frum, of the neo-con Weekly Standard, co-authored An End to Evil, which calls for the overthrow of the "terrorist mullahs of Iran." Michael Ledeen of the influential American Enterprise Institute argues that "Tehran is a city just waiting for us." 

According to Irish journalist, Gordon Thomas, the U.S. has already targeted missiles on Iranian power plants at Natanz and Arak, and one Israeli intelligence officer told the Financial Times, "It could be a race who pushes the button first-us or the Americans." 

If Syria and/or Iran are removed from the board, the game is checkmate. The Americans can ill afford another war in the Middle East, but the Israelis might be persuaded to take the field. Is giving Sharon a free hand in the West Bank a quid pro quo for an eventual American-supported Israeli attack on the last two countries in the region with any semblance of independence? The world, of course, is not a chess game, and the pieces don't always do what they are told. 

Sharon might indeed start a war with Syria or Iran, but not because the Israelis are spear-carriers for the Bush Administration. The "Greater Israel" bloc has its own strategic interests, which for the time-being, happen to coincide with American interests. 

Sharon, however, is hardly a trusty ally. During the first Gulf War, he did his best to sabotage the coalition against Iraq, because he felt such a victory would eventually be used to pressure Israel for concessions in the Occupied Territories. 

Nor are all Israelis on board. The recent round of assassinations has helped revitalize the peace movement, which put 120,000 people into the streets of Tel Aviv on May 17. 

Some Israelis are unhappy about what they see the West Bank becoming. "Sharon has pushed Washington into embracing an accelerated process of forming the state of Israel as a bilateral state based on apartheid," Meron Benvenisti, former deputy mayor of Jerusalem told the British Guardian. 

Others are uncomfortable with the support of Christian evangelicals. According to Rabbi David Rosen, international director of Inter-Religious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee's Jerusalem office, the evangelicals support "some of the most extreme political positions in Israeli society." 

One of those "extreme positions" is a plan to raze the Dome of the Rock Mosque in Jerusalem and rebuild the Jewish temple destroyed by the Romans-a precondition, Evangelicals believe, to the Second Coming. 

For the time-being, the American drive to control the bulk of the world's oil reserves, and the Sharon government's push for a greater Israel and the elimination of regional rivals, finds common ground. On the other hand, if Israel crosses U.S. interests, watch how fast the lobbies and the born-agains find themselves out in the cold. 

The crisis in the Middle East is not a clash of civilizations, less so a hijacking of American foreign policy by the so-called "Jewish lobby" and Christian fundamentalists: It's business as usual.

 

Conn Hallinan is an analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus and a provost at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Source: Foreign Policy in Focus


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  12 Comments   Comment

  1. Tim B. from USA

    Very interesting opinions. And thank you all for proving my point: believing is seeing.

    But I will leave you with some good news that I think you all will like: Look to Bush to being fired this coming November. The man has alienated much of his support of his political base through incredible ineptness. His father made the same tactical error in 1990.

  2. Ahmed Asgher from Bahrain

    Dear Brother Akbar Khan

    I got the message that you were not addressing me. Indeed, with my 50+ years, I was confirming your statements.

    God bless you and all those who truly seek the truth. As for TimB., here is a prayer our beloved prophet used to recite regularly: "Allahuma arani al-ashia'a kama hia." meaning "Lord, show me the things as they are truly." To understand such a prayer, one must have a little more than 'seeing is believing" stuff that you have mentioned. For everything one sees there is an inner vision. As science has shown us today, matter seems like a solid table or another object to the eye but in reality it is a bunch of atoms that are forever in a destruction and re-construction mode.

    As for what you see on your gobble-box, a child will tell you photoshop does wonders, and your media is not short of spin-doctors. They have turned this profession into a career. Remember Rumsfeld and his plan to create another department called 'The Office of Strategic Lies" practically. Pitty, those in power know how your Holywood-numbed brains work, and they can twist the facts anyway they want and you fall for it every single time. Let me tell you one thing for sure. The average teenager in any ME street knows about politics more than your Frum, Perle or Friedman's but ofcourse you guys have turned such characters into media icons to be worshipped. Enough said - like my brother once said: you can preach into the donkey's ears till kingdom comes.

  3. Akbar Khan from Canada

    Assalaamu'Alaiykum br. Ahmed Asghar,

    I was not referring to you in my last post I was referring to Tim B.'s comment, not yours, your comment was invaluable. I really appreciate your kind words but I do not think I have the 50+ years of experience which you have, but Insha'Allah I am on my way, 😀 Jazakum-Allah Khairun.

    Wasssalaamu'Alaiykum.

  4. Hudd D'Alhamd from Canada

    Mr Tim B., usually your comments outrage me with their inane insensitivity and crass ignorance(on the subject, far from me to consider you not-knowing or retarded), but this time you succeeded in intriguing me. You didn't intrigue me on your uninformed subject of who his running the Kuwati oil-wells, Ahmed Asgher already answered you in the most relevent way. However the rest of your comment is intriguing. Let's see to it:

    "Have you ever tried to reason or argue with someone who doesn't share your beliefs? You got nowhere, right?" Mr Tim B., did you ever hear about negotiators? I suggest you should watch movies like, John Q., The Negotiator, flicks made by Hollywood or read stories about real situations that would prove you wrong. You know Tim B., your problem is your arrogance, you believe that if you don't possess those negotiating skills, nobody has them! You remind me of my youngest son, he's ten, he also believes that whatever he knows is the ultimate knowledge there is, revealed to man. He is a child and he is in the process of learning, trials and errors. I as a parent, I make him aware that others know more and better, by example and fact. You should know better Mr Tim B., you are not a child.

    Your next comment is the tool of the day:""Seeing is believing." Actually, the truth is that "Believing is seeing." Interesting philosophy, wouldn't you say?! First,'seeing is believing', do you believe everything you see? Let me rephrase that for you, 'Do you believe everything they show you?' OK, you correct yourself by stating,'believing is seeing'. Now I understand how it came that you really believe in ghosts, vampires, UFO's, and that the cow jumped over the moon. Yeah, your statement explains it all, 'believing is seeing'. So,if you believed that the moon was the back side of the sun, you would start seeing it that way, wouldn't you? According to your philosophy! This explain the process of brainwashing,hm, never quite knew how it worked. Most intriguing!

  5. Ahmed Asgher from Bahrain

    Tim B. .. Perpetual self-denial.

    To believe, you should read a little more about history of the ME and may be at least the last 100 years. Then read widely outside your main biased newsmedia. Then question your Holywood upbringing.

    Then take a close look at the various military camps your government has set up. My last count was 120. If your blief is so wonderful, Why do you have to promote it thro the burrel of a gun?

    You question why the US did not control Kuwaiti oil in the previous war. This shows how little you know of politics and I am not in the game of educating people who have thick blinkers on. The ruling Al-Sabah dictator was nicely put back on his throne by your democracy-loving elites. So, much for your gallant soldiers setting out to bring us freedom and democracy. Or is this policy cornered by Bush junior? and Bush (father) was just in the business of supporting dictators?

    When a nicely appointed Arab dictator can do the job without local resistence, then the end is achieved. Your troops are in Kuwait. They are in charge, except there and in Saudi and other Gulf States they are blessed by dictators - in Iraq the going has been a little tougher, so far. But liquidate them you will. Except in doing so, much more blood has to be spelt and then more enemies will be created. This is a vicious cycle indeed and your masters knew because Rumsfeld is on record that this 'war on terrorism may last 50 years". That is their plan, so be prepared for it OR chuck them out of the office and reveal their treachery for what it is.

    And that is the reason for people like you to come out of their ignorance and see this imperial plan for what it is. Sadly idiots will always dance to the drum of war, patriotism and national pride. That, more than anything else, shall be your downfall. For God does not like arrogance.

  6. Akbar Khan from Canada

    Bismillah. Assalaamu'Alaiykum.

    What can I say...in response to the previous comment, all I CAN say is, some people are wise, while others are otherwise. the outright denial of illegal intervention by the US government in the first gulf war is completely ignored and actually turned into the same rhetoric professed by the White House which was a lie just like what is happening now, that the Americans apperently went in there to stop Saddam from invading Kuwait - yet fails to explain the rest of the very intricate story from Kuwait's illegal tapping of Iraqi oil reserves, and remember under whose orders was that done? Or of how the first Bush administration really went in there because they were afraid of Iraq being under the rule of a leader that used to be their best friend (Saddam) and later rebelled and were basically afraid of his decisions concerning the world's second largest known oil reserves, taking away from US economic hegemony. This is the real reason why America fabricated the crisis between Kuwait and Iraq. There is also more to this story which I have mentioned so basically, anyone with a a little bit of common sense can see that there is more to this story than what some naysayers and cynics such as the previous poster profess, but apparently, common sense is not very common. This is also something that can be proven as the war in Iraq by this current Bush administration was also initiated because Saddam wanted to get out from under the clutches of the American designed OPEC and start trading his oil in Euro's, rather than the "mighty" US dollar, and I use quotations because if that had happened, it would really not be so mighty anymore. This probably scares ppl like hte previous poster - oh no someone's stronger than us!!

    Good article posted here, but unfortunately some ppl who post comments prefer to go off on rudiculous unrelated tangents that really have no relation to the content presented in the articles.

    Wassalaam.

  7. Ahmed Asgher from Bahrain

    Akbar Khan

    You are my man. You reflect my total understaning after 50+ years of education, learning, travelling and living amongst various communities in the world, it sums up to telling the truth even if it is against you.

    In exile in a far away land, I onc encountering an Iranian who has had enough and with his family saught another life elsewhere. He was nearly 60 years old. He told me if America attacks Iran, I shall go back to Iran, become a soldier and fight them. America and its Bastard and Illigitimate Country in the ME will have something else coming to them if they expanded their adventures beyond Iraq.

    Funny how material interests have lured the Jews into the Chistian-Zionist trap, knowing full well that if and when the Chritian zealots take over Jerusalem and their supposed saviour returns, the Jews will have to convert to Chritianity OTHERWISE they will all be slaughtered.

    And so much for the Zealots who want to save Jews by hatching such a plan for them. Do they deserve each other. We Muslims should take a back seat and watch events unfold, if it weren't for their bloody DU bombs. Reading articles like this makes one cheer on OBL and I can fully understand the resulting swelling in his ranks! The old Iranian guy is a reflection of what is to come if these idiots get their way.

    Sadly average American seem to be in deep slumber. May be we all should pray that he/she wakes up and like Michael Moore said: Dude, take your country back from these bastards.

  8. Tim B. from USA

    .. As far as wanting to control the oil, especially in Muslim lands, why didn't the US and its Allies during the Gulf War seize and control the Kuwaiti oil fields? Who would have stopped them?

    I will lend one thought into how these ideas, like those in the article come about. It is essentially human nature. Have you ever tried to reason or argue with someone who doesn't share your beliefs? You got nowhere, right?

    Well, we in the West have a saying that "Seeing is believing." Actually, the truth is that "Believing is seeing." If you believe it you will see it and if you don't believe it you won't see it. This is especially true in religion and politics. There are conspirators hiding everywhere.

  9. Peter from USA

    Khadijah,

    I am very sorry your son had to hear such horrible things. That's just terrible. As a father I can imagine how upset that makes you.

    To the article,

    The main point I agree with is the alliance between the Evangelicals and the Republican party. This is potentially a very dangerous relationship, one that could undermine what this country is suppposed to be about.

    You know, I think the best way to fight it is to meet such people head on. By this I mean that the American people need to know what Islam is really about. I've often wondered why there is no mission work done (that would be a great place to start), schools, hospitals etc. "If you build it they will come.", cliched perhaps, but very true, methinks.

  10. Khadijah Amatullah from usa

    The thing that worries me is what I learned from a pro-Palestinian Jewish scholar and that is the the old pipeline from Iraq to Palestine/Israel is completely refurbished. The money that was given for the infastructure of Iraq has finished rehab on the pipeline while parts of Iraq do not have street lights.

    As for the American people knowing what the government is doing, they do know, but do not care or feel the same way as the government. One of my professors' sons just left for Iraq and his words were, "I can't wait to get over there and kill me a few of them m*f*'s." My innocent Muslim son asks me, "What does he mean Ummy, Muslim Folks?" Who are the terrorists here?

    I feel that Iran is next on the list of occupation. I think that will be a mistake. Once again history will repeat itself and the powers that be will take one step too far and fall. Noone stays a superpower forever. The US has had the position since WWII. We are making enemies out of old allies. We can not keep this up for too much longer without someone finally saying enough and launching our destruction. I pray that my family will be out of the country by then.

  11. saleem from USA

    we need to reali ze that they all know thi s,

    they kno w what they did to the natives, japs etc

    with the right system in place ie democracy...

    nothing w ill stop them, the connection b/w people and

    their leader i s not there.

    where few go to polls and elect someone they dont kno w personally,

    unlike the ca se in a tribal setting, where the tribal leader,

    i s well known by all members.

    and further voting i s done only by the tribal leader, total number of people

    in tribe i s equal to the number of votes its leader ha s.

  12. Akbar Khan from Canada

    Bismillahir-Rahman, ir-Raheem,

    Assalaamu'Alaiykum,

    Excellent job...you know this is what needs to be told to the American people so that they can actually see what the Bush Administration, AIPAC, Israel, and all their ponds are doing - they want to dominate the world and expand their evil empire and the irony is they are the very evil they profess to be fighting. If the truth is out, we all are realizing this and understand what is the truth, there should be no hesitation for any of us to openly declare this or be afraid of doing so, or else it is our own faults if this information is not opened up more and shared with others who need to understand that the world was not made to be a shooting ground for American interests. It is high time to teach Americans more about Islam as being more than people who just wear turbans, are dark skinned, are arab, or are violent, or treat their wives badly, etc., etc., and the list of misconceptions about Islam go on.

    I now believe that Syria will be used to sit there and tried to be sucked dry, by the the US Administration/Israeli lobby groups, and the Israeli government, while the U.S. gives Israel the go ahead to start a war with Iran...or make up another silly reason to go in there such as the WMD tactic of Iraq, meanwhile it's simply to grab Iran's oil. Yes...share amongst your friends, right, but destroy everything and everyone in your path stopping you just because you want it so badly. Greed-nation says it all.

    The truth is out, now if we do not work towards sharing this with teh public then it is our own faults that we are letting these despicable groups walk all over us and continue to fool good hearted American people through all sorts of media brainwashing.

    Muslims are deeper than what meets the eye, just like everyone else!

    The next article I want to see here is an uncovering of the masonic order... So let the truth be heard, Insha'Allah.

    Wassalaam.