Oil drives Mid-East “nation-building” and perpetual war
As the United States considers committing additional troops and resources to defeat ISIS and topple the Syrian government, it provides an opportune time to revisit the reality on the ground and determine what American interests are at risk, if any.
Emerging facts suggest that after the 9/11 attacks against the US by Al Qaeda, the American retaliation against the Taliban was quick, lethal, and decisive. The Taliban was toppled and Al Qaeda was flushed from its safe-haven in Afghanistan – mission accomplished, right? Wrong. So what happened after the crushing victory in Afghanistan?
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According to former Army General Wesley Clark, a think-tank known as the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) had a plan in 2001 to topple seven Middle East regimes in five years while the US was still the undisputed superpower in the world.
The PNAC plan was to nation-build by deposing the governments of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Sudan and Somalia in a five-year period (these names may sound familiar today). The only thing missing from the bold and audacious plan was motive and endgame.
While the PNAC was looking for justification to implement its nation-building (read – nation-toppling) domino plan for the Mid-East and Africa, the 9/11 attack provided the opening needed to launch the region dominating tactic, but motives remained elusive.
We now know the original Bush-Cheney claims of WMD’s in Iraq were unsupported by any credible evidence, for example, the mobile WMD trailers were a figment of the imagination of an Iraqi expat and the “yellow cake” stockpiles were a complete fabrication. Nonetheless, those illusory motives were good enough to take out Saddam. But what about the rapid expansion across the region of US/NATO war-making in the following years?
In a not so strange twist of fate, following the “successes” in Iraq, it appears the Bush/Cheney team further energized the PNAC concept in 2007 when Bush issued a “Presidential Finding” that authorized the CIA to begin clandestine programs in Libya and Syria to build insurgencies among government opposition groups in a furtherance of the PNAC plan.
Nevertheless, it was “The Arab Spring” – when a fruit cart vendor overcome by bureaucratic red tape in Tunisia that protested his frustration in self-immolation that was the “spark”that set the region on fire. The West pounced on the idea of “The Arab Spring.” Finally, the Allah-loving peoples of the Middle East and Africa were determined to rise up against dictatorships and corruption to create democratic countries replete with democracy, equal rights, and individual freedoms – not. Americans have to admit it was a good storyline.
So what was so compelling as to drive the US into a major war that was known at the time to be unwinnable and never ending?
Could it be that all of this “nation building” rhetoric may have just been the cover for US intelligence operatives’ plans to choose the winners and losers in the construction of gas pipelines from the Middle East to Europe? This hegemony would allow the US to reduce Russian and Iranian influence in Europe.
The Russians had been seeking to build the “South Stream” pipeline that circumvented Ukraine and terminated in Bulgaria where it could link to the EU networks. But the US was concerned that the Russians would gain commercial and political influence in Europe that could undermine its interests. We now know from WikiLeaks documents that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dispatched her senior advisors to Ukraine to try to foment tensions with Russia. The Russians responded by seizing Crimea (which was part of Russia for hundreds of years), which also solidified their routing of the South Stream gas pipeline. (See graphs here)
Meanwhile, Qatar, owner of the world’s largest proven gas fields sought to build a gas pipeline from the Persian Gulf through the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Iraq and Syria to terminate in Turkey and then connect to trans-European pipelines.
Interestingly, the US was unaware that the Iranians also approached Iraq and Syria about cooperating in the construction of an Iranian pipeline beginning at its shared Persian Gulf gas fields with Qatar, which would also terminate in Turkey and connect to trans-European pipelines.
KSA and Qatar were threatened by the idea of Iran selling gas to the EU, which would not only diminish KSA and Qatar’s market share in the EU but would also allow Iran, the so-called world sponsor of terrorism to accumulate great wealth from the pipeline to EU.
The question for policy wonks in the US was how to get their way without the world knowing they were interfering with sovereign nations in the Middle East. That was easy, they took the economic, political and Islamic schism to make the confrontation a Sunni v Shia religious war.
You may recall this column reporting (here) that KSA and Qatar warned the US not to intervene in the ISIS run to Baghdad along the Damascus to Baghdad Highway in 2014 whereupon ISIS was able to seize billions of dollars worth of US and NATO equipment from the fleeing Iraqi army.
The continued rise of ISIS has intensified the hostilities in the region to such an extent that KSA/US are fighting a proxy war in Yemen against Iran; the fledgling Libyan government is now a virtual ISIS jihadi haven; the northern parts of Iraq have been occupied by ISIS leading the Kurds to undertake military operations to expel ISIS from Kurdish lands in Iraq and Syria; the actions of the Kurds have mobilized the Turks to fight both the Kurds and ISIS; the Russians have deployed naval and air units to aid Syrian President Assad; Iran and Iraq have deployed troops to Iraq to expel ISIS from Iraq and Syria; Hezbollah has moved forces from Lebanon to fight ISIS in northern Lebanon and western Syria; and, now the Chinese have agreed to commit forces to aid the Syrian government against the US back anti-Assad insurgents. Confused yet?
The preceding paragraph demonstrates the complexity of the region and the high stakes geopolitical game being played there. To further heighten tensions, both the US and Russia are flexing their nuclear muscles in a show of commitment to their competing interests. But it is the complexity itself that enhances the possibility of the crises slipping into the unthinkable – World War III.
The commitment of multi-national forces to the region of Syria raises a serious chance that US/NATO-Russian-Iranian-Chinese troops could come into direct conflict that could light the fuse for a far-reaching conflict. A few months ago Turkey shot down a Russian warplane that amplified the specter of a Turkish-Russian confrontation.
The US must take into consideration all of the competing interests, rivalries, and history before choosing sides that risk American lives with a negligible outcome to American national security objectives, after all, the US is essentially energy independent and has begun the exportation of its oil.
After the Iraq war disaster, it is imperative that Americans know they are not being duped into another regional war under false pretenses. Acknowledging our mistakes, looking at the real problems and having a national discussion will allow the country to make the best choice.
In addition, Americans must consider the following points before the US military is deployed.
The pipeline deals
For most Americans, the geopolitical landscape playing out in the Middle East is focused on the brutal war between Muslim sects. But what Americans may not know, is control of the Middle East oil and pipelines is really at stake.
Qatar, the owner of the world’s largest gas fields, has been trying to develop a gas pipeline from the Persian Gulf through KSA, Iraq, and Syria in an effort to sell gas to Turkey’s trans-European pipelines.
On the other hand, the Iranians have also approached Iraq and Syria about cooperating in the construction of an Iranian pipeline beginning at its Persian Gulf gas fields and ending in Turkey.
Enter the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) new Fujairah $5.5 billion dollar oil hub. The third-largest oil port will relieve the hundreds of tankers forced to store oil on board at a substantial cost and allow that oil to be stored within the Sunni-dominated UAE.
Currently, the new Fujairah control tower harbormaster, Mousa Morad, monitors flotilla tankers offshore in order to keep track of the region’s oil supply (video link). He says the current glut of oil and continuous war has resulted in: “A long line of tankers parked outside the port due to conflict, this port gives a comfort level, a psychological comfort level which is as important to economic value, because of its strategic location. Yes, I think the capacity to be able to bring in these kinds of vessels fully laden. This will be the deepest port in the Middle East.”
With the completion of this port the UAE, predominately Sunni, expects to grow its capacity to be a global leader in energy.
“We’re looking to compete internationally,” said Al Mazroui, UAE Minister of Energy. “I think we could be at the top as we want to build a second terminal,” to handle super tankers or very large crude carriers in industry parlance. This is the UAE doubling down on their bets to secure market share for their crude oil. Customers value the security of supply, ease of shipping and lower insurance costs — all things Fujairah can offer.”
“I think the capacity to bring this kind of vessel fully laden, this is going to be the deepest port in the Middle East, gives yet another dimension to this growing storage hub,” said Christopher Bake, a member of the executive committee of Vitol, one of the world’s largest energy traders.
Perhaps even more important, the UAE port bypasses the Strait of Hormuz, a critical waterway that accounts for 30 percent of the oil shipped globally on a daily basis. The all-important strait connects the Persian Gulf to the world. But a Sunni-run port would also dispense with any trouble with Iran, which controls navigational passage through the Straits of Hormuz.
With the wars spiraling out of control, what does the Middle East oil market mean for the US?
For starters, the South Stream pipeline enables Russia to move its oil and gas more cheaply. If the Middle East could not move it quicker via a pipeline, then the EU would gobble up the natural gas from the Russians. To counter the Russians, the US/NATO and friends want the Qatar pipeline to proceed, but Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a staunch ally of Iran, has refused to grant the Sunnis permission to build a pipeline through his territory.
However, an Armed Forces Journal article written by Major Rob Taylor, of the US Army’s Command and General Staff College said the war in Syria was about much more than religion and that rival pipelines were more likely to be the root of the Syrian conflict.
“Viewed through a geopolitical and economic lens, the conflict in Syria is not a civil war, but the result of larger international players positioning themselves on the geopolitical chessboard in preparation for the opening of the pipeline,” Taylor said.
This appears to back up William Engdahl author of A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics in the New World Order.
“The US-Saudi oil price manipulation is aimed at destabilizing several strong opponents of US globalist policies. Targets include Iran and Syria, both allies of Russia in opposing a US sole Superpower. The principal target, however, is Putin’s Russia, the single greatest threat today to that Superpower hegemony. The strategy is similar to what the US did with Saudi Arabia in 1986 when they flooded the world with Saudi oil, collapsing the price to below $10 a barrel and destroying the economy of then-Soviet ally, Saddam Hussein in Iraq and, ultimately, of the Soviet economy, paving the way for the fall of the Soviet Union. Today, the hope is that a collapse of Russian oil revenues, combined with select pin-prick sanctions designed by the US Treasury’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence will dramatically weaken Putin’s enormous domestic support and create conditions for his ultimate overthrow. It is doomed to fail for many reasons, not the least because Putin’s Russia has taken major strategic steps together with China and other nations to lessen its dependence on the West. In fact, the oil weapon is accelerating recent Russian moves to focus its economic power on national interests and lessen dependence on the dollar system. If the dollar ceases being the currency of world trade, especially oil trade, the US Treasury faces financial catastrophe. For this reason, I call the Kerry-Abdullah oil war a very stupid tactic.”
Engdahl continues, “In July 2011, the governments of Syria, Iran, and Iraq signed a historic gas pipeline energy agreement which went largely unnoticed in the midst of the NATO-Saudi-Qatari war to remove Assad. The pipeline, envisioned to cost $10 billion and take three years to complete, would run from the Iranian Port Assalouyeh near the South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf to Damascus in Syria via Iraq territory. The agreement would make Syria the center of assembly and production in conjunction with the reserves of Lebanon. This is a geopolitically strategic space that geographically opens for the first time, extending from Iran to Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. As Asia Times correspondent Pepe Escobar put it, ‘The Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline – if it’s ever built – would solidify a predominantly Shi’ite axis through an economic, steel umbilical cord.
Shortly after signing with Iran and Iraq, on August 16, 2011, Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian Ministry of Oil announced the discovery of a gas well in the Area of Qarah in the Central Region of Syria near Homs. Gazprom, with Assad in power, would be a major investor or operator of the new gas fields in Syria. Iran ultimately plans to extend the pipeline from Damascus to Lebanon’s Mediterranean port where it would be delivered to the huge EU market. Syria would buy Iranian gas along with a current Iraqi agreement to buy Iranian gas from Iran’s part of South Pars field.”
For those in favor of restarting the “cold war” days, like the US clandestine services, the Middle East pipeline strategy puts the US and Russia at odds like in the good old cold war days. Syria is the gateway to Asia’s Silk Road and Russia’s return to economic dominance means it must build South Stream.
If history provides us with context, religious wars have typically been the most savage but when you throw in trillions of dollars in oil and gas revenues outsiders see big reasons to join the fight. It is here where the US/Iranian deal comes into play, both countries think they will gain political and economic power over a huge portion of the energy lifeline, but what they fail to appreciate are the deeply held religious beliefs of the Middle Easterners that could, more likely than not, lead to complete destruction.
False flag operations & the Arab Spring
Oftentimes national leaders seek to exert change through the will of their people by creating a galvanizing event that pulls the country together, thereby concentrating power in the leader. Many times in an effort to get the desired outcome they resort to false flag operations. The world is watching this unfold in Turkey as President Recep Erdogan is successfully moving his country from a secular nation to authoritarian rule using terrorism as his galvanizing event.
The New Yorker Magazine published a story from Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Seymour Hersh, that in 2007 President Bush gave the CIA a “finding” or permission to covertly stir up trouble in Iran. “The Bush administration had cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations intended to weaken the Shi’ite Hezbollah organization in Lebanon.” The US has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria (Like the Stuxnet virus).
By bolstering the Sunni jihadis, aka al-Qaeda, the US tried to undermine the Assad regime and determine the outcome no matter the expense. So far there are 12 million refugees, 500,000 dead, EU’s economy is on the brink, not to mention the near-total destruction of the once secular nation of Syria.
Hersh contends that the 2011 Arab Spring was not triggered by unhappy civilians but by the Wests’ insatiable desire to control all the energy. Proof of this comes from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who published emails from the private US intelligence firm Stratfor. The emails highlighted “a meeting with Pentagon officials that confirmed US-UK training of Syrian opposition forces since 2011 aimed at eliciting ‘collapse of Assad’s regime from within.’”
But why would the US want to undermine Iran and Syria? Retired NATO Secretary General Wesley Clark says he was told about a memo from the Office of the US Secretary of Defense weeks after 9/11. He explained he was stunned that the memo revealed plans to “attack and destroy the governments in seven countries in five years.” The plan was to start with Iraq and then “Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran” (view interview here). General Clark argued this plan was concocted to control the region’s oil and gas.
More proof that senior advisers were, in fact, destabilizing the region to control the oil was detailed in a 2008 US Army-funded RAND study, “Unfolding the Future of the Long War” (read here). The report highlighted that “the economies of the industrialized states will continue to rely heavily on oil, thus making it a strategically important resource. Once dwindling supplies run out it is important the US play a key role in maintaining stability in and good relations with Middle Eastern states.”
“The geographic area of proven oil reserves coincides with the power base of much of the Salafi-jihadist network. This creates a linkage between oil supplies and the long war that is not easily broken or simply characterized … For the foreseeable future, world oil production growth and total output will be dominated by Persian Gulf resources… The region will, therefore, remain a strategic priority, and this priority will interact strongly with that of prosecuting the long war,” the report surmised.
“Divide and Rule focuses on exploiting fault lines between the various Salafi-jihadist groups to turn them against each other and dissipate their energy on internal conflicts. This strategy relies heavily on covert action, information operations (IO), unconventional warfare, and support to indigenous security forces … the United States and its local allies could use the nationalist jihadists to launch proxy IO campaigns to discredit the transnational jihadists in the eyes of the local populace … US leaders could also choose to capitalize on the ‘Sustained Shia-Sunni Conflict’ trajectory by taking the side of the conservative Sunni regimes against Shiite empowerment movements in the Muslim world … possibly supporting authoritative Sunni governments against a continuingly hostile Iran,” the RAND report stated.
The RAND report also speculated that the US was agreeable to “shoring up the traditional Sunni regimes in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan as a way of containing Iranian power and influence in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. Noting that this could actually empower al-Qaeda jihadists… that doing so might work in western interests by bogging down jihadi activity with internal sectarian rivalry rather than targeting the US.
One of the oddities of this long war trajectory is that it may actually reduce the al-Qaeda threat to US interests in the short term. The upsurge in Shia identity and confidence seen here would certainly cause serious concern in the Salafi-jihadist community in the Muslim world, including the senior leadership of al-Qaeda. As a result, it is very likely that al-Qaeda might focus its efforts on targeting Iranian interests throughout the Middle East and the Persian Gulf while simultaneously cutting back on anti-American and anti-Western operations,” the report concluded.
The facts suggest that oil and gas market share can and do drive political, economic, and military policies across the region and the world. With Americans seemingly tired of the 15-year war and moving away from interventionist policies and globalization, it is clear the US 2016 election will be a watershed, or a BREXIT, moment in US foreign policy.
Part two: The Kennedy’s, Ukraine, Iran, Yemen and Israel’s role in the big switch.