The Guardian 15 August, 2007

Oil and the march to war



Rob Gowland

The US and fellow imperialist powers Britain, France and Germany are engaged in a far reaching and deadly serious campaign to carve up and take over the energy resources of the entire world.


It is well known that the giant oil corporations, especially the seven biggest (known as the "seven sisters") have long been intent on achieving control over the oil reserves of the Middle East.

This aim was made specific, however, during the NATO air war against Yugoslavia when one of the aims was identified as securing control over an "energy corridor" or potential pipeline route from Central Asia through Turkey to Europe.

At that time, US and British strategic planning was expressed in terms of their winning the "resource wars of the 21st century". Today those resource wars are an all-too-obvious reality.

The rush is on by imperialism to lock up the oil supplies of Africa, South America and Central Asia. Companies like Shell are heavily engaged in countries such as Nigeria, but across the Atlantic in South and Central America the big oil companies of imperialism are finding popular governments and publicly owned enterprises standing between them and their prize.

Efforts to remove these obstacles, such as the coup against oil-rich Venezuela’s President Chavez, have so far failed. But the imperialists have by no means given up.

In Central Asia, US diplomatic and economic efforts are concentrated on "convincing" governments to sell their oil to the imperialist states and not to the growing economic superpower China.

US threats of nuclear strikes against Iran (and not just threats but actual plans to carry them out) are prompted as much by anger at Iran’s apparent willingness to send its oil east instead of west as by US coveting of Iran’s oil reserves for itself.

New energy corridors

The world, however, is not static, and there are a number of proposed energy corridors in the world’s hot spots now, some of them contending with each other.

Turkey and Syria are both involved in a project to establish an energy corridor on the coastline of the Eastern Mediterranean that would bring Egyptian natural gas to Turkey by way of Jordan, bypassing Israel.

According to Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Ottawa-based Research Associate at the Centre for Research on Globalisation, "Israel is heavily involved in Egyptian natural gas projects.

"On June 30, 2005, Egypt and Israel signed a preliminary joint agreement in Cairo that was valued at US$2.5 billion. The deal called for a 15-year allocation of gas to be sent to Israel from Egypt.

"The Israeli–Egyptian natural gas deal was initially set to ensure the delivery of Egyptian natural gas to the Israeli port of Ashkelon via undersea pipelines."

This deal is strategically important since it lessens Israeli dependence on the Arab oil states, and at the same time strengthens Israel’s importance in the regional economy.

Says Nazemroaya: "It is apparent that infrastructure is being developed to connect the whole Eastern Mediterranean within a single energy arc or some form of energy corridor. Israel could easily integrate itself in this network and even seems like it could be the focal point of the energy projects in the Levant and the Eastern Mediterranean."

At the same time, a branch of the Egyptian gas pipeline is planned to go through Lebanon by way of Syria and Jordan. This branch line could be very important for it would be able to serve Turkey, thus allowing Turkey to be enticed away from its present co-operation over energy matters with Iran and Russia.

Syria the key

The diplomatic and media animosity shown by the US towards Syria may be at least partially explained by noting that in any energy corridor in the Eastern Mediterranean Syria would be a vital piece. And Syria is refusing to be dragooned into the US camp.

As Nazemroaya points out, "In Syria alone the Russians are involved in three energy projects. One of these projects is the construction of the Syrian segment of the Egypt-Jordan-Syria gas pipeline.

"Syria and Russia have also signed a gas deal worth 160 million euros.

"The Syria Gas Company (SGC) and Stroytransgaz (a subsidiary of Russia’s Gazprom) will also jointly work on developing Syrian gas reserves discovered in the fields of the governorate of Homs."

Nazemroaya notes that "Whereas the integration of Lebanon is optional in the creation of an Eastern Mediterranean energy corridor, Syria is a required segment. … Without Syria the Eastern Mediterranean cannot be linked together.

"Without Syria there can be no north-south link between Turkey in the northern Eastern Mediterranean and Israel and Egypt in the southern Eastern Mediterranean."

Arming Syria

Syria is being steadily armed defensively by Iran and Russia. "Tehran has been reportedly financing Syrian weapon upgrades and military purchases from Russia, Ukraine, and China.

"It has been reported by Russian sources, but denied by Kremlin officials, that Russia has initiated the delivery of five MiG-31E fighter-interceptors to Syria. This could only be the tip of the iceberg.

"In the event of confrontation between Iran and the US it is apparent that Israel will play a direct role. The strengthening of Syria will keep Israel at bay in the event of a possible conflict between the United States and Iran."

Geo-Strategic Defeat for the US and EU

Under the dictatorial rule of President Niyazov (self-named "Turkmenbashi"), Turkmenistan was largely neutral in the tensions between Russia, Iran, and China on the one side and the Anglo-American alliance and its NATO partners on the other side.

Since the death of Niyazov, however, there has been a slow change in Turkmenistan’s position. The Central Asian republic has started to align itself more with Tehran, Moscow, and Beijing.

"The new leader of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedow, has made visits to Moscow and Tehran which have resulted in closer cooperation between Turkmenistan, the Russians, and the Iranians. Turkmenistan is also moving towards joining or working with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)."*

A key strategic plank in the plans of the US and EU has been to make sure that the Russian Federation, like Iran, would be bypassed by new oil and gas pipelines, thus eliminating any Russian influence on international energy supplies. This policy too is now in tatters.

"On 12 May, 2007 the Russian President and his Turkmen and Kazakh counterparts signed an agreement that confirmed a geo-strategic defeat for the US and its partners. According to the agreement the energy exports of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan would go through Russian territory."

And that wasn’t all. On May 18, 2007, Iran and China concluded an agreement on the development of the North Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf.

"Russia is also involved in the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline and the Russians are establishing a naval base in Syria to protect their interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. Greece, Bulgaria, and Russia have also signed a long-delayed energy deal for the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline that would carry oil from the Black Sea terminals of Russia through Bulgarian and Greek territory."

Enemy at the gates in the East

In Tehran and Damascus there has been a feeling that the enemy, meaning the US, Britain, and NATO is at the gate. Similarly Moscow and Beijing are also aware that the enemy has gathered at their gates. "US and NATO forces are amassing on the borders of Iran, Syria, Russia, China, and the republics of the former Soviet Union.

"These nations continue to be demonised and demeaned as the anti-theses of peace. The Washington Times has even called Russia, China, and Iran the ‘new Axis of Evil’."

General Wesley Clark, the former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO in Europe stated frankly in an interview that "the US had planned on attacking Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Iran in 2001 as part of a multi-phased military roadmap that would start in Afghanistan and Iraq and end with Iran.

"All the listed nations have either been invaded or are the subject of covert intelligence operations or have surrendered. Iraq is under occupation; Libya has surrendered and has given major oil concessions to Anglo-American firms; Sudan is the subject of internal fighting; Lebanon has been attacked and is internally divided; Somalia has been invaded by both Ethiopian and American forces; war threats loom over Syria; and Iran is being threatened."

However, the leaders of Russia, China, and Central Asia have made it clear that an attack against Iran would jeopardize their security and is unacceptable. "It is not accidental", says Nazemroaya, "that officials from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) have gathered several times to discuss US behaviour and that military officials of the SCO assembled in Kyrgyzstan during late June of 2007, to entrench and strengthen the Eurasian bloc’s military ties."

*The Shanghai Five grouping was originally created in 1996 with the signing of the Treaty on Deepening Military Trust in Border Regions in Shanghai by the heads of states of Kazakhstan, the People’s Republic of China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan. At its Annual Conference the group admitted Uzbekistan.

The SCO is primarily centred around its member nations’ Central Asian security-related concerns, often describing the main threats it confronts as being terrorism, separatism and extremism. There have been a number of SCO joint military exercises. The first of these was held in Kazakhstan 2003, and the second in China. On a larger scale, but outside the SCO framework, the first ever joint military exercise between the PRC and Russia was held in 2005. Among other nations of the wider region, Mongolia became the first country to receive observer status at the 2004 Summit. Pakistan, India and Iran received observer status at the 2005 Summit. Mongolia, Pakistan, and Iran have since applied for full membership.

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