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The New Great Game: Oil Politics in Central Asia

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  • mike
    I thought this was interesting... ... beneath ... far ... people ... realist ... earned ... to ... Nazarbayev, ... But ... for ... project ... a ... of ... and
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 20 6:12 AM
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      I thought this was interesting...

      > The New Great Game: Oil Politics in Central Asia
      > Source: Alternet.org - Oct 19,2001
      > By Ted Rall
      > Nursultan Nazarbayev has a terrible problem. He's the president and former
      > Communist Party boss of Kazakhstan, the second-largest republic of the
      > former Soviet Union. A few years ago, the giant country struck oil in the
      > eastern portion of the Caspian Sea. Geologists estimate that sitting
      > the wind-blown steppes of Kazakhstan are 50 billion barrels of oil -- by
      > the biggest untapped reserves in the world. (Saudi Arabia, currently the
      > world's largest oil producer, is believed to have about 30 billion barrels
      > remaining.)
      > Kazakhstan's Soviet-subsidized economy collapsed immediately after
      > independence in 1991. When I visited the then-capital, Almaty, in 1997, I
      > was struck by the utter absence of elderly people. One after another,
      > confided that their parents had died of malnutrition during the brutal
      > winters of 1993 and 1994. Middle-class residents of a superpower had been
      > reduced to abject poverty virtually overnight; thirtysomething women who
      > appeared sixtysomething hocked their wedding silver in underpasses next to
      > reps for the Kazakh state art museum trying to move enough socialist
      > paintings for a dollar each to keep the lights on. The average Kazakh
      > $20 a month; those unwilling or unable to steal died of gangrene adjacent
      > long- winded tales of woe written on cardboard.
      > Autocrats tend to die badly during periods of downward mobility.
      > therefore, has spent most of the last decade trying to get his land-locked
      > oil out to sea. Once the oil starts flowing, it won't take long before
      > Kazakhstan replaces Kuwait as the land of Benzes and ugly gold jewelry.
      > the longer the pipeline, the more expensive and vulnerable to sabotage it
      > is. The shortest route runs through Iran, but Kazakhstan is too closely
      > aligned with the U.S. to offend it by cutting a deal with Teheran. Russia
      > has helpfully offered to build a line connecting Kazakh oil rigs to the
      > Black Sea, but neighboring Turkmenistan has experienced trouble with the
      > Russians: they tend to divert the oil for their own uses without paying
      > it. There's even a plan to run crude out through China, but the proposed
      > 5,300-mile line would be far too long to prove profitable.
      > The logical alternative, then, is Unocal's plan, which is to extend
      > Turkmenistan's existing system west to the Kazakh field on the Caspian and
      > southeast to the Pakistani port of Karachi on the Arabian Sea. That
      > runs through Afghanistan.
      > As Central Asian expert Ahmed Rashid describes in his 2000 book "Taliban:
      > Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia," the U.S. and
      > Pakistan decided to install a stable regime in Afghanistan around 1994 --
      > regime that would end the country's civil war and thus ensure the safety
      > the Unocal pipeline project. Impressed by the ruthlessness and willingness
      > of the then-emerging Taliban to cut a pipeline deal, the U.S. State
      > Department and Pakistan's ISI intelligence service agreed to funnel arms
      > funding to the Taliban in their war against the ethnically Tajik Northern
      > Alliance. It has been reported that as recently as 1999, U.S. taxpayers
      > the entire annual salary of every single Taliban government official, all
      > the hopes of returning to the days of dollar-a-gallon gas. Pakistan,
      > naturally, would pick up revenues from a Karachi oil port facility.
      > Harkening to 19th century power politics between Russia and British India,
      > Rashid dubbed the struggle for control of post-Soviet Central Asia "the
      > Great Game."
      > Predictably, the Taliban Frankenstein got out of control. The regime's
      > unholy alliance with Osama bin Laden's terror network, their penchant for
      > invading their neighbors and their production of 50 percent of the world's
      > opium made them unlikely partners for the desired oil deal. Then-President
      > Bill Clinton's 1998 cruise missile attack on Afghanistan briefly brought
      > Taliban back into line; they even eradicated opium poppy cultivation in
      > than a year, but they nonetheless continued supporting countless militant
      > Islamic groups. When an Egyptian group whose members had trained in
      > Afghanistan hijacked four airplanes and used them to kill more than 6,000
      > Americans on September 11, Washington's patience with its former client
      > finally expired.
      > Finally the Bushies had the perfect excuse to do what the U.S. had wanted
      > all along: invade and/or install an old-school puppet regime in Kabul.
      > Realpolitik no more cares about the 6,000 dead than it concerns itself
      > oppressed women in Afghanistan; this ersatz war by a phony president is
      > solely about getting the Unocal deal done without interference from
      > local middlemen.
      > Central Asian politics, however, is a house of cards: every time you
      > one element, the whole thing comes crashing down. Muslim extremists in
      > Pakistan and Afghanistan, for instance, will support additional terror
      > attacks on the U.S. to avenge the elimination of the Taliban. A
      > U.S.-installed Northern Alliance can't hold Kabul without an army of
      > occupation because Afghan legitimacy hinges on capturing the capital on
      > own. And even if we do this the right way by funding and training the
      > Northern Alliance so that they can seize power themselves, Pakistan's
      > Pashtun government will never tolerate the replacement of their Pashtun
      > brothers in the Taliban by Northern Alliance Tajiks. Without Pakistani
      > cooperation, there's no getting the oil out and there's no chance for
      > stability in Afghanistan.
      > As Bush would say, make no mistake: this is about oil. It's always about
      > oil. And to twist a late '90s cliche, it's only boring because it's true.
      > Ted Rall, a syndicated cartoonist for Universal Press Syndicate, has
      > traveled extensively throughout Central Asia. Most recently, in 2000, he
      > went to Turkmenistan as a guest of the U.S. State Department.
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