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Robert Dreyfuss: Oil-Control Formula

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    Oil-Control Formula By Robert Dreyfuss TomPaine.com Monday 18 July 2005 George W. Bush s war in Iraq may not be going as planned. But for those who ve stopped
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 2, 2005
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      Oil-Control Formula
      By Robert Dreyfuss
      TomPaine.com
      Monday 18 July 2005


      George W. Bush's war in Iraq may not be going as planned. But for
      those who've stopped believing the myth that prewar Iraq represented
      any sort of threat to the United States, there is plenty of
      circumstantial evidence mounting that the real reason for the American
      invasion of Iraq was the most obvious one: Oil. In this case, "oil"
      doesn't mean that we went to war for the commercial benefit of U.S.
      oil companies-and in fact, as I reported in Mother Jones magazine in
      early 2003, before the war, most U.S. oil firms and their executives
      were against the war. But in Iraq, "oil" means the strategic commodity
      that is the single most important world resource. Even a novice
      geostrategist knows that who controls oil controls the world. And in
      this case, America's rival for control of oil is, first and foremost,
      China.

      Last week, China, Russia and four Central Asian "Stans," including
      Uzbekistan, rather impolitely asked the United States to withdraw from
      Central Asia. That part of the world is a significant oil and gas
      region, and neither Moscow nor Beijing want the United States to put
      down roots there. But Central Asia's oil and gas resources pale next
      to the Middle East, and that is where America's imperial presence has
      set off alarms in Beijing.

      Consider oil the Occam's Razor explanation of the war in Iraq.

      A June 24 New York Times article subtly attacked China and its
      CNOOC oil firm over its bid to buy Unocal, a U.S. oil company with
      long experience in Asia, calling the intended purchase (in its
      page-one headline) a "costly quest for energy control." But if any
      nation "controls" energy, it is the United States. Buried in the
      article was this fairly explosive paragraph:

      Privately, Chinese officials and analysts say oil is treated as a
      strategic crisis. They have sounded the alarm about Western and
      particularly American domination of oil supplies and influence over
      major oil-exporting nations, including Saudi Arabia and now Iraq,
      which has made China dependent on what many here refer to as American
      economic and military hegemony.

      Together, Saudi Arabia and Iraq control roughly half of the
      world's oil deposits, a share that is likely to rise as oil countries
      deplete their reserves. Saudi Arabia has long been in America's back
      pocket, and now Iraq- though not going well for the United States-is
      occupied by the American army and its quisling government is comprised
      of American puppets. It isn't shocking for the Chinese to have a
      legitimate beef here. Consider the following from the July 13
      Washington Post . The headline read: "Big Shift in China's Oil Policy"
      and the subhead, more revealing, was "With Iraq Deal Dissolved by War,
      Beijiing Looks Elsewhere." It began:

      Until recently, China's view of the global energy map focused
      narrowly on the Middle East, which holds roughly two-thirds of the
      world's oil. Special attention was directed toward one well-supplied
      country: Iraq.

      Through cultivation of Saddam Hussein's government, China sought
      to develop some of Iraq's more promising reserves. Beijing advocated
      lifting the United Nations sanctions that prevented investment in
      Iraq's oil patch and limited sales of its production.

      Then the United States went to war in Iraq in 2003, wiping out
      China's stakes. The war and its aftermath have reshaped China's basic
      conception of the geopolitics of oil and added urgency to its mission
      to lessen dependence on Middle East supplies. It has reinforced
      China's fears that it is locked in a zero-sum contest for energy with
      the world's lone superpower, prompting Beijing to intensify its search
      for new sources, international relations and energy experts say.

      So. We went to war in Iraq, "wiping out China's stakes" in Iraq.
      And so, Chinese "officials and analysts" call the current situation an
      oil crisis, says the Times.

      Meanwhile, neoconservatives, Bush administration officials, some
      members of Congress and (unfortunately) a few labor-connected liberals
      are making a big deal of CNOOC's Unocal bid. For perspective, let's
      recall that Unocal is the company that did more to support the Taliban
      than any other U.S. entity, courting those Islamic radicals in search
      of a pipeline, oil and gas deal in central Asia-and hiring various
      malleable U.S. strategists to support the Taliban on its behalf,
      including incoming U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad. It's
      hard to imagine anything that China could do with Unocal that would do
      more damage to U.S. interests than Unocal has already done. Still, the
      outcry goes on, most recently during a congressional hearing at which
      Jim Woolsey, the former CIA director, and Frank Gaffney, the
      neocon-linked military strategist, railed against China. (CNOOC, by
      the way, is partly owned by Shell Oil, which bought a big chunk of the
      mostly state-owned firm when it conducted a public stock offering in
      2002.)

      According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, road
      transportation in China will be the driving force for that country's
      enormous oil appetite in the next two decades, noting that "the
      Chinese passenger car market grew tenfold between 1990 and 2000." By
      2025, says EIA, China's oil demand will reach nearly 13 million
      barrels of oil per day. (Saudi Arabia's entire output is only about 8
      million barrels a day.) To meet such demand, China is searching
      everywhere, from Sudan to Venezuela to Central Asia. Iran and China
      are making oil deals, too. But by invading and occupying Iraq, the
      United States has pretty much locked up the most easily expanded
      source of oil in the world; Iraq, which manages to eke out about 2
      million barrels a day, can produce six to eight times that much oil if
      it made sufficient investments in production facilities. Quite a
      prize, Iraq-if Washington can hold onto it. No wonder various
      neoconservative world hegemonists consider talk of an Iraq exit
      strategy to be treasonous.

      -------

      Robert Dreyfuss is a freelance writer based in Alexandria, Va.,
      who specializes in politics and national security issues. He is a
      contributing editor at The Nation, a contributing writer at Mother
      Jones, a senior correspondent for The American Prospect, and a
      frequent contributor to Rolling Stone. His book, Devil's Game: How the
      United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam, will be published
      by Henry Holt/Metropolitan Books in the fall.

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