Iraq, Afghanistan, and Big Oil

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At Last, Some Truth About Iraq and Afghanistan

by Eric Margolis by Eric Margolis

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PARIS — After a sea of lies and a tsunami of propaganda, the ugly truth behind the Iraq and Afghanistan wars finally emerged into full view this week.

Four major western oil companies, Exxon, Mobil, Shell, BP and Total, are about to sign US-brokered no-bid contracts with the US-installed Baghdad regime to begin exploiting Iraq’s oil fields. Saddam Hussein had kicked these firms out three decades ago when he nationalized Iraq’s foreign-owned oil industry for the benefit of Iraq’s national development. The Baghdad regime is turning back the clock.

This agreement comes as talks are continuing between the Washington and its Baghdad client regime over future US basing rights in Iraq. After some face-saving Iraqi objections, it is expected that Baghdad will sign a compact with Washington giving US forces control of Iraq and its air space in a manner very similar to Great Britain’s colonial arrangement with Iraq.

Interestingly, the same oil companies that used to exploit Iraq when it was a British colony are now returning. As former US Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan recently admitted, the Iraq war was all about oil. VP Dick Cheney stated in 2003 that the invasion of Iraq was about oil, and for the sake of Israel.

Meanwhile, according to Pakistani and Indian sources, Afghanistan just signed a major deal to launch a long-planned, 1680 km long pipeline project expected to cost $ 8 billion. If completed, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline (TAPI) will export gas and, later, oil from the Caspian Basin to Pakistan’s coast where tankers will transport it to the west.

The Caspian Basin located under the Central Asian states of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakkstan, holds an estimated 300 trillion cubic feet of gas and 100—200 billion barrels of oil. Securing the world’s last remaining known energy Eldorado is strategic priority for the western powers. China can only look on with envy.

But there are only two practical ways to get gas and oil out of landlocked Central Asia to the sea: through Iran, or through Afghanistan to Pakistan. For Washington, Iran is tabu. That leaves Pakistan, but to get there, the planned pipeline must cross western Afghanistan, including the cities of Herat and Kandahar.

In 1998, the Afghan anti-Communist movement Taliban and a western oil consortium led by the US firm UNOCAL signed a major pipeline deal. UNOCAL lavished money and attention on Taliban, flew a senior delegation to Texas, and also hired an minor Afghan official, one Hamid Karzai.

Enter Osama bin Laden. He advised the unworldly Taliban leaders to reject the US deal and got them to accept a better offer from an Argentine consortium, Bridas. Washington was furious and, according to some accounts, threatened Taliban with war.

In early 2001, six or seven months before 9/11, Washington made the decision to invade Afghanistan, overthrow Taliban, and install a client regime that would build the energy pipelines. But Washington still kept up sending money to Taliban until four months before 9/11 in an effort to keep it "on side" for possible use in a war or strikes against Iran.

The 9/11 attacks, about which Taliban knew nothing, supplied the pretext to invade Afghanistan. The initial US operation had the legitimate objective of wiping out Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida. But after its 300 members fled to Pakistan, the US stayed on, built bases — which just happened to be adjacent to the planned pipeline route — and installed former UNOCAL"consultant" Hamid Karzai as leader.

Washington disguised its energy geopolitics by claiming the Afghan occupation was to fight "Islamic terrorism," liberate women, build schools, and promote democracy. Ironically, the Soviets made exactly the same claims when they occupied Afghanistan from 1979-1989. The cover story for Iraq was weapons of mass destruction, Saddam’s supposed links to 9/11, and promoting democracy.

Work will begin on the TAPI once Taliban forces are cleared from the pipeline route by US, Canadian and NATO forces. As American analyst Kevin Phillips writes, the US military and its allies have become an "energy protection force."

From Washington’s viewpoint, the TAPI deal has the added benefit of scuttling another proposed pipeline project that would have delivered Iranian gas and oil to Pakistan and India.

India’s energy needs are expected to triple over the next decade to 8 billion barrels of oil and 80 million cubic meters of gas daily. Delhi, which has its own designs on Afghanistan and has been stirring the pot there, is cock-a-hoop over the new pipeline plan. Russia, by contrast, is grumpy, having hoped to monopolize Central Asian energy exports.

Energy is more important than blood in our modern world. The US is a great power with massive energy needs. Domination of oil is a pillar of America’s world power. Afghanistan and Iraq are all about control of oil.

Eric Margolis [send him mail], contributing foreign editor for Sun National Media Canada, is the author of War at the Top of the World. See his website.

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