Posts Tagged ‘Oil’

A Resource for Contemporary Arab Politics: A Brutal Friendship by Said Aburish

October 4, 2013

London: Indigo 1998.

Aburish Cover

Although this book was published over fifteen years ago, it is still highly relevant for providing the historical background to the Arab Spring and contemporary events in the Arab world. Aburish’s book traces the history of the bloody relationship between the Western powers and their client regimes in the Middle East. The book describes how the conquering British and French in the 19th and 20th century carved up the Middle East into its present mosaic of state and supported various political movements and politicians in these countries in order to maintain their control and overlordship. This continued even after former decolonisation. Leadership of the free world then passed from Britain to America, who manipulated the Middle East during the Cold War in order to check Russian influence. Oil also played a major part in the political economy of the Middle East, with Britain and America supporting some highly repressive and deeply authoritarian regimes, such as Saudi Arabia, in order to keep the oil flowing. Arab leaders, who revolted against their neo-colonial overlords were ousted, frequently through coups and assassinations. Among the various assassinations arranged by the Western powers was a plot in the 1950s to kill Iraq’s anti-Western leaders. The assassin was sponsored by the CIA, and, although the plot failed, was able to escape to Syria. The assassin? Saddam Hussein.

Aburish shows how the new political divisions and regimes created and imposed by the Western imperialists were often deeply resented by the indigenous peoples, and responsible for further hatred and violence within those nations. The Prime Minister of Iraq in the early 1950s was described in glowing terms by Western politicians and the press. He was, however, so hated by the Iraqi people that not only was he literally torn apart by a mob during a revolution, but they also ran over the pieces in a car. The atrocities committed by the Maronite Phalange in Lebanon during that nation’s Civil War in the 1980s also have their roots in Western diplomacy. When the British and French divided the Middle East during the Mandate, they enlarged the area under Maronite jurisdiction far beyond that people’s traditional homeland. When Lebanon was created, the Maronites were the largest single religious group in Lebanon, and so were given a leading position in that nation’s complex political structure. Demographic changes between the ’20s and the 80’s saw the Maronite population reduce in comparison with the Muslim sects. Fearing losing control of their nation and their expanded heartland, the Maronites reacted with appalling savagery. Aburish describes the notorious massacres they committed on the Muslim inmates of the refugee camps.

He also describes the Orientalist prejudices of the Western, particularly British, explorers and diplomats, who created the modern Near East. These, such as the great, pioneering British lady explorer, Gertrude Bell, preferred Bedouine nomads and tribal warriors to modern, educated middle class Arabs. They saw the desert warriors as representing the true, noble Arabs, while reviling what they saw as the corruption of urban society, like Beirut and its fleshpots. I can believe this. One contributor to Lobster was a colonial civil servant, who believed he had seen serious electoral fraud in Nigeria in the run-up to the Biafran War. He was bitterly critical of the aristocratic British colonial officers, whom he states were looked up as ‘polo-playing pr*cks’ by their subordinates. These had far more affection for the feudal Fulani than for the settled, agricultural Nigerian peoples. During the War, Britain secretly supplied arms to the Muslim Fulani against Christian Nigerians in order to keep the oil supplies flowing. I can believe that the British officer class were closer to the Fulani than the other Nigerian peoples. The Fulani were pastoralists with a feudal social structure. The officer class of the British army has also largely been drawn from the aristocracy, and with the same love of equestrianism and horsemanship the British army and the Fulani emirs and their warriors shared similar social classes and outlook.

In the last chapter, Aburish criticises the attitude of Arab expatriates in London ‘the Beiru-on-Thames syndrome’. He objects to the way they have taken over Western attitudes towards their peoples and society, and considers that they form a new slave class.

The anti-Islam blogs have frequently criticised liberal, pro-Arab journalists, such as the Independent’s Robert Fisk, for their support of the Arab Spring, and the deeply illiberal Salafi regimes that have arisen from it. Although it was written over fifteen years ago, this book shows why so many liberals did have such high hopes of the liberal movements that ousted the previous secular dictatorships: these regimes were so horrific, and did little but enrich themselves while serving the West. Western friends of the Arabs, like Fisk, therefore hoped and expected that these regimes would be removed by a new class of politicians, who would truly lead their people to dignity and independence. Unfortunately, this hasn’t occurred, and the Middle East still remains a bloody battle ground.

If you want to know more about the Middle East, and the background to the current events and bloodshed, then I recommend this book.

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Private Eye Joke Cover on Bush and the Middle East – Policy Now Continued by Obama in Syria

September 23, 2013

Private Eye put the above joke on the cover of their issue for the 4th to 11th of February, 2005. Commenting on the recent Iraqi election, the cover shows Condoleeza Rice saying ‘It’s a great day for freedom’. Behind her, Bush replies ‘Now I’m free to attack Iran!’

Bush Iran Joke

The joke was very much based in reality, as seven years ago there was indeed the possibility that Bush would launch an attack on Iran in order to prevent them developing nuclear weapons. This hostility to Iran has continued under Obama in Syria. I have discussed in several previous blog posts American resentment of Syria’s signing of a non-aggression pack with the Islamic Republic. I have suggested that the Jihadis funded by Saudi Arabia and controlled by the Kingdom’s intelligence chief, Turki al-Faisal, have as part of their objective the curtailment of Iran’s attempts to take over OPEC by taking control of a larger portion of the Middle Eastern oil supply. Although a direct attack on Iran seems fortunately to have receded, nevertheless the current civil war in Syria and western attitudes to Assad and the Ba’ath party are essentially a continuation of Bush’s oil policy in Iraq and his hostile stance to Iran. Despite the rhetoric, it isn’t about freedom or human rights, just oil and geo-politics.

And just to remind everyone what Bush’s invasion of Iraq was really about, here’s Spitting Image’s view of Gulf War I in the form of George Bush snr. answering questions in Britain’s Mastermind TV quiz. It’s another example of the way the satire from twenty-odd years ago is still very much fresh and relevant. The faces may have changed, but the attitudes, issues and posturing remain the same. Enjoy!

Why The US Want Regime Change In Iran: And Its NOT Because Of Nuclear Weapons

September 12, 2013

Another interesting video from Stormcloudsgathering, found by Sparaszczukster. While I certainly don’t support their call for a revolution, I do feel they’re on to something here. Iran does indeed have the world’s third largest reserves of oil. Not only do the Iranians not subscribe, and seek to undermine the petrodollar system, foreign investment in Iran and ownership of Iranian industries is strictly prohibited. Like Syria and Iraq before the American invasion, Iran’s economy is dominated by a massive state sector. The oil industry is state-owned. A vast part of the Iranian economy is also dominated by the bonyads, Muslim charitable foundations, including the ‘Foundation for the Poor’ that also owns and controls much industry. After the invasion of Iraq, the large state corporations were privatised and sold to American corporations. Given the way the Iranian state and para-state sector – the bonyads – dominate the economy and exclude foreign capital, my guess is that the American military-industry complex would also like to do the same to Iran. The Iranians are also supporting the insurgents in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan. According to Private Eye, there have already been reports of contact – fighting – between British forces and Iranian troops. The Iranian regime is also militantly hostile to Israel. I suspect that these factors will lead to a strike, or escalation of tension sometime between the West, led by America, and the Iranians, and an invasion of Iran is a real possibility.

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Destabilising the Global Price of Oil – the Real Reason for the Ousting of Saddam Hussein

September 6, 2013

Don’t Destroy the oil wells.

– George ‘Dubya’ Bush’s demand to preserve the oil infrastructure during the invasion of Iraq.

‘Gosh, no, we won’t go, we won’t die for Texaco’

-Chant of American anti-war protestors during Gulf War 1, ‘Desert Storm’.

War is theft by other means.

– Joseph Bronowski, British scientist and Fabian Socialist.

I’ve already mentioned that one of the causes of increased American hostility to Assad’s regime was Syria’s breach of the oil embargo on Iraq through the illegal importation of Iraqi oil through the Kirkuk-Banyas pipeline. In fact it was Saddam Hussein’s repeated and unpredictable breaches of the quota limits placed by Big Oil and OPEC on Iraqi oil production that was one of the real reasons for the invasion of Iraq and his removal by Bush and Blair. Following Calouste Gulbenkian’s acquisition of exclusive oil rights from King Faisal of Iraq in 1925, the major oil companies – Anglo-Persian, now BP, Royal Dutch Shell, CFP of France and Standard Oil, now Exxon and its sister companies – agreed to maintain high oil prices by deliberately limiting oil production in Iraq. These companies, including Gulbenkian’s own, had the right to drill for oil everywhere in Iraq. In practice, only 0.5 per cent of the country was actually drilled for oil. Iraq has 74 known oil fields. Of these, only fifteen were producing oil in 2006. There are 526 known pools of oil. Only 125 of these have been drilled. from 2003 to 2005 Iraq’s oil output was less than under the oil for food programme. The profits of the five major US oil companies were massively increased following Bush’s invasion. In 2005 these were $89 billion, three times the amount in 2002.

In December 2000 a meeting of the major oil companies as part of the Joint Task Force on Petroleum of the James A. Baker III institute and the Council on Foreign relations criticised Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as a ‘swing producer, posing a difficult situation for the US government’ due to tight markets having left America and the rest of the world increasingly vulnerable to disruption and provided their enemies with a potential influence over the price of oil. Hussein would one minute cut oil production down to a minimum out of support for the Palestinian Intifada. A week or so later he would increase oil production to the maximum limit provided under the oil for food programme. This meant that oil prices across the globe rose and fell unpredictably. The Task Force’s report concluded that ‘Saddam is a “destabilizing influence … to the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East”. In 2002 the US attempted to launch a coup against President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. According to OPEC’s secretary general, Ali Rodriguez, this was because Colonel Gaddafi had contacted Rodgriguez to say that he and Hussein were planning to launch another Arab oil embargo. Venezuela had already broken the 1973 Arab oil embargo, and Big Oil was afraid that it would do the same under Chavez. Hence the US hurried prepared a coup. Rodriguez contacted Chavez, and with 48 hours the coup had collapse. Hussein’s actions in Iraq could affect oil production and prices across the world, encouraging countries like Venezuela, Iran or Russia to break the tariffs level by OPEC. The Council on Foreign Relations thus concluded that

‘Saddam Hussein has demonstrated a willingness to threaten to use the oil weapon to manipulate oil markets … United States should conduct an immediate policy review towards Iraq, including military, energy, economic, and political/diplomatic assessments’.

This report was seized on by Dick Cheney and the Neo-Cons, who wished to remove Hussein in order to create a low tax, completely free market state in Iraq and the decision made in 2001 to invade and removed Saddam Hussein.

Obama and Cameron’s demands for military strikes against Syria have little to do with the use of chemical weapons on civilians. Indeed, James A. Baker III had been Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff when the US was providing Hussein with the intelligence to target the Kurds and Iranians with poison gas and other weapons. Rather it is a continuation of one of the aims for the invasion of Iraq: to control that nation’s oil industry.

Sources

Michael Young, ‘Syria, the US and Terrorism’, in Christopher Heffelfinger, ed., Unmasking Terror: A Global Review of Terrorist Activities (Washington D.C., The Jamestown Foundation 2005) 223-6.

Greg Palast, Armed Madhouse: ‘Who’s Afraid of Osama Wolf?’, The Best Legal Whorehouse in Texax’, ‘No Child’s Behind Left’ and Other Tales of Class Combat in a Dying Regime (London: Penguin 2006).

Secrets and Lies: The Real Reasons Obama and Cameron Want to Attack Syria

September 4, 2013

Since the chemical weapon attack two weeks ago, Obama and David Cameron have both been demanding an attack on Syria, claiming that Syria’s president Assad was behind the attack. In fact there are strong reasons for disputing this claim. Global Research has published pieces showing that a British arms firm, Britam, discussed the possibility of using such a weapon in Syria and blaming the Syrian government. The White House itself may even have authorised this attack. See the links to these posts over at Sparaszczukster’s blog at http://sparaszczukster.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/britains-daily-mail-u-s-backed-plan-to-launch-chemical-weapon-attack-on-syria/ and http://sparaszczukster.wordpress.com/2013/09/02/did-the-white-house-help-plan-the-syrian-chemical-attack/. Even without these articles, there are still strong reasons for distrusting the official account that the Syrian regime used the gas. One of the UN inspectors, Carla Bruni, has stated that the attack was sarin gas, launched by the rebels. See Another Angry Voice’s article http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/william-hague-warmonger-syria.html.

Despite co-operation between America and Syria after 9/11, sections of the American government were suspicious and increasingly hostile to Syria, particularly the supporters of Israel and the Neo-Conservatives. Syria remained on the US State Department list of sponsors of terrorism. Syria provided sanctuary and support for Palestinian terrorist organisations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah in Lebanon. The latter maintained missile outposts aimed at Israel. After the invasion of Iraq, Donald Rumsfeld accused the Syrian regime of permitting insurgents to enter Iraq from their side of the border. Italian investigators have identified Syria as the hub through which suicide bombers belonging to the terrorist network of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi have entered Syria. Although the Syrian regime has denied that its intelligence service is aiding terrorists and insurgents to enter Iraq, Iraqi officials have stated firmly that this indeed the case. Ra’ad al-Samarrai, the chief Iraqi customs officer at the Waleed border crossing, has stated that ‘Syrian intelligence is controlling Syria’s border post(s). I can see in the Syrian customs agents eyes who is really in control’. Colonel Aref Fanus, the head of the border police at Anbar, confirmed this, stating ‘If they really wanted to help, they could stop any (terrorist) crossings’.

The US Treasury identified four nephews of Saddam Hussein, who had fled to Syria after the invasion, from where they funded the insurgency. The main source of funding for the Ba’athist insurgency in Iraq, according to American officials, another relative of Saddam Hussein, his cousin Fatiq al-Majid. Al-Majid is a former officer in Hussein’s Special Security Organization, who took refuge in Syria. With two of his cousins and other associates, whose number is currently unknown, al-Majid responsible for funding both the indigenous Iraqi insurgents and al-Zarqawi’s terrorists. The supporters of the radical Islamist preacher, Abu Qaqa’a, centred in Aleppo, aided terrorists to cross the Iraqi border, until a crackdown in January 2005.

In 2003 there was a battle between American and Syrian forces along Iraq’s border. They Americans believed they had encountered a convoy taking Iraqi officials across the border into Syria. US helicopters attacked the convoy, which was pursued into Syria by the Americans. As many as 80 Syrians were killed, and a number of border guards captured. This incident caused a further deterioration in relations between Washington and Damascus, and has been seen by some observers as an attempt to intimidate the Syrians into closing the border.

Syrian occupied Lebanon also acted as a sanctuary for former members of Saddam Hussein’s regime. According to American officials, Iraq’s former charge d’affaires in Beirut, Nabil Abdallah al-Janabi, is still in Lebanon, from whence he provides funding for foreign terrorists to enter Iraq. The Lebanese newspaper al-Nahar also reported that the Bush regime showed video footage of former Iraqi government officials jogging around the Ein Mreisseh boulevard on Beirut’s seaside and having a meal at a restaurant in the seaside of resort of Bloudan to the Syrians.

It is also believed that Syria has also provided a secure haven for terrorists attempting to infiltrate Jordan. In 2004 police in the country’s capital, Amman, uncovered a cell of al-Zarqawi’s terrorist network, consisting of ten men. They were planning to bomb the office of the prime minister, the General Intelligence Directorate, and the US embassy. From the police reports and the televised confessions of four of the conspirators, it appears that the majority of them were acting under the command of al-Zarqawi’s chief commander in Syria, Suleiman Khalid Darwish. The conspirators had trained in, entered Jordan from, and had smuggled most of their funds and equipment from Syria. The Jordanians also intercepted further shipments of arms from Syria. The Syrians, however, refused to extradite Darwish to face trial for his part in the conspiracy.

The American government was also critical of Syria for breaking the UN boycott of Iraq by illegally importing Iraqi oil through the Kirkus-Banyas pipeline. Furthermore, Syria voted against the invasion of Iraq during the debate in the UN, and sided with France and the other members of the Security Council in passing a compromise measure, Resolution 1441, which they believed would prevent war. Assad’s Ba’ath regime in Syria is militantly secular, nationalist and socialist, and so stands opposed to militant Islam. Several times in its history the regime has severely cracked down on militant Islam. It did, however, appear to use Zarqawi’s terrorist network to de-stable Iraq and prevent its emergence as a secure state.

Syria has also signed a non-aggression pact with Iran. Assad himself has further provoked American hostility by declaring that ‘The armed operations against American occupying forces in Iraq (are) a legitimate resistance because it represents the majority of the people’. The regime has also caused concern in Washington and Israel through the test firing of Scud missiles.

The possibility that America would itself launch an attack on Syria was raised a decade ago in 2003. In October that year Israeli forces destroyed an alleged Palestinian terrorist based in Syria. This attack was not condemned by the American government. Despite attempts by the American government to engage Syria in negotiations, it appeared that Israel, and by extension America, would retain the option of military action in future. Despite pressure from the Americans over its sponsorship of Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups, it was believed that the Syrian government would still support them as a bargaining chip for negotiations with Israel over possession of the Golan Heights.

It seems to me that these are the real reasons Obama now wishes to strike against Iraq. Now nations have a right to defend themselves and their citizens, and our forces in Iraq have every right to fight to stop the entry of militants and terrorists into the country. This is not, however, what we are being told by our leaders. We have absolutely no right to order a strike against Syria under the pretext demanded by President Obama and David Cameron. Cameron’s motives for demanding the attack are simple: since Tony Blair’s administration British governments have automatically followed American demands for military assistance out of fear that not doing so would harm the ‘special relationship’. Sparaszczukster over on her blog has reported that the anti-immigration party, Veritas, has set up a petition demanding an inquiry into what the British government has really been doing in Syria. Sparaszczukster has made it very plain she does not share their attitude towards multiculturalism. In this case, however, they are doing the right thing. Go to her website at http://sparaszczukster.wordpress.com/2013/08/30/what-has-our-government-really-been-up-to-in-syria-petition-for-an-investigation/ and follow the link to the petition.

Sources

Michael Young, ‘Syria, the US and Terrorism’, in Christopher Heffelfinger, ed., Unmasking Terror: A Global Review of Terrorist Activities (Washington D.C., Jamestown Foundation 2005) 223-6.

Sherifa Zuhur, ‘Syria: A Haven for Terrorists?’, ibid, 227-30.

Gary Gambill, ‘How Significant is Syria’s Role in Iraq’, ibid, 235-9.

Another Angry Voice on the Government’s Introduction of Fracking to the UK

July 21, 2013

The Angry Yorkshireman has another excellent article up, this time criticising the government’s policy promoting fracking here in the UK. Fracking is the use of pumped fluid to extract natural gas from shale rock that holds it. It has resulted in environmental damage in the US, and George Osborne wishes to introduce it into the UK. The Angry One tells you what fracking is, the dangerous effects on it can have on the environment, and the conflict of interest between the Tories and the fracking industry. Many of the Tories have links to the oil companies involved. The Angry One’s article can be read here:

http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/fracking-tories-osborne-howell-browne.html

I’ve posted the link to this article as there are proposals to start fracking in here in the West Country. Somerset did have a coal industry, and there were mines in Bedminister, now a suburb of Bristol, Pensford, and Radstock. There is naturally an intense debate on these proposals.

I’m interested in the debate as one of the people I knew studying archaeology was an industrial chemist. The man had been part of the geology faculty at a Canadian university, which was doing work on extracting oil from the sand layers for one of the petrochemical companies in the land of the Maple Leaf. He had a look at what his colleagues was working on the for the project, and concluded it was impossible. It violated the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which says that you can’t get more energy out of a process than you put in. He reported his concerns to his superiors. In fact he had uncovered a piece of academic fraud by some of the faculty to take money from the Canadian taxpayer for fraudulent research. The process developed for extracting the shale oil simply wouldn’t have worked, and had been concocted simply as a way of winning funding from the Canadian government, who were naturally interested in developing the process. The scandal tore the department apart. Many of the whistleblowers were penalised for their exposure of the fraud, including being sacked. My friend managed to escape this as he had been offered a place at a very prestigious French university.

My fear here is that something similar could be going on here. Fracking is now a favourite cause of the transatlantic right. It is being promoted as a way for America and Canada to be independent of the Muslim Middle Eastern oil-producing states. My concern is not just for the environmental damage, which may result from the process, but also that, after the above oil shale fiasco in Canada, flawed or extremely partisan research could similarly be involved in its promotion here.