Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|why the war "The target is Afghanistan but the prize is the Caspian" (oil)|
|11/14/01 at 07:17:10|
The target is Afghanistan but the prize is the Caspian
In the early 1990s it became an over-worn cliché that the Gulf war was all about oil. The unprecedented mobilisation of troops and military hardware became a point of discussion amongst many from the chattering classes of the West. The fact that the Gulf was awash with wealth raised levels of scepticism about the whole event. George Bush’s famous New World order speech summed up the whole of a decade of the US’s involvement in global affairs. In contrast, the issue of oil is not discussed, in relation to current events. Shady figures from the old Bush administration have been resurrected. In the same way the issue of oil has also resurfaced, only this time out of the headlines and topics for day-time TV talk shows.
Comparisons of Afghanistan and Iraq are limited as Afghanistan’s oil reserves are barely worthy of mention. However what are of major strategic concern are those of Afghanistan’s northern neighbours. In 1998, Dick Cheney, the then chief executive of a major oil services company, (now US vice-president) remarked: "I cannot think of a time when we have had a region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian." The oil and gas there is worthless until it is piped out.
Transporting the fossil fuel of the Caspian through Russia or Azerbaijan would greatly enhance Russia's political and economic control over the central Asian republics. The US hardly wants to give succour to Russia now. Over the last ten years it has watched Russia decline into its current lowly position. Sending it the long way round through China, quite aside from the strategic considerations, would be prohibitively expensive. But pipelines through Afghanistan would allow the US both to pursue its aim of "diversifying energy supply" and to penetrate the world's most lucrative markets. Growth in European oil consumption is slow and competition is intense. However in south Asia the demand has been created and competitors are scarce. Pumping oil south and selling it in Pakistan and India is far more profitable than pumping it west and selling it in Europe.
In 1995 the US oil company Unocal started negotiating to build oil and gas pipelines from Turkmenistan, through Afghanistan and into Pakistani ports on the Arabian sea. The company's scheme required a single administration in Afghanistan, which would guarantee safe passage for its goods. Soon after the Taliban took Kabul in September 1996, the Daily Telegraph (UK) reported that "oil industry insiders say the dream of securing a pipeline across Afghanistan is the main reason why Pakistan, a close political ally of America, has been so supportive of the Taliban, and why America has quietly acquiesced in its conquest of Afghanistan". Unocal invited some of the leaders of the Taliban to Houston, where they were royally entertained. The company suggested paying them 15 cents for every thousand cubic feet of gas it pumped through the land they had conquered.
For the first year of Taliban rule, US policy towards the regime appears to have been determined principally by Unocal's interests. In 1997 a US diplomat at the time said "the Taliban will probably develop like the Saudis did. There will be Aramco [the former US oil consortium in Saudi Arabia] pipelines, an emir, no parliament and lots of Sharia law. We can live with that." Thus the beginning of the US government's covert backing for Kabul.
Even so, as a transcript of a congress hearing now circulating among war resisters shows, Unocal failed to get the message. In February 1998, John Maresca, its head of international relations, told representatives that the growth in demand for energy in Asia and sanctions against Iran determined that Afghanistan remained "the only other possible route" for Caspian oil. The company, once the Afghan government was recognised by foreign diplomats and banks, still hoped to build a 1,000-mile pipeline, which would carry a million barrels a day. Only in December 1998, four months after the embassy bombings in east Africa, did Unocal drop its plans.
But Afghanistan's strategic importance has not changed. In September, a few days before the attack on New York, the US energy information administration reported that "Afghanistan's significance from an energy standpoint stems from its geographical position as a potential transit route for oil and natural gas exports from central Asia to the Arabian Sea. This potential includes the possible construction of oil and natural gas export pipelines through Afghanistan". Given that the US government is dominated by former oil industry executives, are we to suppose that such plans no longer figure in its strategic thinking. The possible economic outcomes of the war in Afghanistan mirror the possible economic outcomes of the war in the Balkans, where the development of an economic zone built around a pipeline carrying oil and gas from the Caspian to Europe, is a critical concern.
American foreign policy is that the US should control military, economic and political development world-wide. The doctrine of "full-spectrum dominance". China has responded by seeking to expand its interests in central Asia. The defence white paper Beijing published in 2000 argued that "China's fundamental interests lie in ... the establishment and maintenance of a new regional security order". In June, China and Russia pulled four central Asian republics into the "Shanghai co-operation organisation". Its purpose, according to Jiang Zemin, is to "foster world multi-polarisation". Translated from diplomat-speak in to English, this means “contesting US full-spectrum dominance”.
If the US succeeds in it's current adventure, it will have flexed its military muscle, thus reaping any rewards from this, but also blunted the growing ambitions of both Russia and China.
Who says it’s not all about oil this time?
26 October, 2001
Source: Kcom Journal
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