With the events in Iran and the tussle over what the U.S. response should be, I started to blog the other day that all the U.S. is really after in the Persian Gulf is oil, not so much democratic government or power to the people or anything like that. Then other events came along, and then I read something to remind me of that blog I meant to post.
China is after oil too, big time. That part we already knew of course. But the news is that the state-owned Chinese oil refining entity Sinopec has agreed to purchase Addax, a Geneva, Switzerland-based oil exploration firm for the equivalent of $7.2 billion. With this, China will be heavier into oil exploration in Iraq and offshore Western Africa. The deal is not final yet (http://www.thestate.com/359/story/838931.html ).
Up until now, according to what I read, China has had a hard time competing with other major oil companies in the world. China tried to buy U.S.-owned Unocal four years ago but that deal was killed by political pressure. China also tried to by a mining company in Australia, but political pressure there killed that deal too. But China is in the process of trying to lock up natural resources in the world.
So the idea that the U.S. is after oil is not so strange or even unreasonable. How else would it remain a world power? (It’s bad enough that it is suffering along with the rest of the world from an economic crisis, but lack of resources can kill any nation.)
But as I started to blog previously:
What does the United States really want in the Persian Gulf region? Peace? Democracy? Governments friendly to the U.S.?
Well yes to all three, but really the overriding need for the U.S. is what it always has been – OIL!!!!
Remember, way back in the run-up to the first Gulf War under Bush 1 an argument was that we were not really concerned that Saddam Hussein was violating the sovereignty of Kuwait by invading it but instead that we might lose access to oil. But there was no love among the U.S. populace for the evil dictator that Hussein was (and he was – just saw a documentary with video shot by Saddam’s henchmen to remind me) so Bush was able to get his way and put together a coalition led by the U.S. to kick old Saddam out of Kuwait. He was kicked out.
(As a somewhat separate issue, it seems to me it was folly first for the U.S. to go to war in Iraq the first time – and second time – but seeing as we did, we should have gone all the way to Baghdad the first time and deposed Saddam then and set up a reasonable government and secured our oil supply in the process. I think we had the momentum then, something we seemed to have lacked the second time around.)
In the second war against Iraq, there was also an argument that oil was the real motivation, but most of its supporters denied that. It’s as if those who support our moves in the region play a little mental game that says we are simply fighting for representative and peace-loving government with oil being a side benefit.
Well now that Saddam has been removed and executed and we have helped install a government more friendly to us (maybe, or so far) the race by the oil interests is on. See the Wall Street Journal article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124579553986643975.html
I don’t think we got exactly what we wanted, though. The U.S. is now in competition with all other nations, including China (and how many troops did they send?) for the oil. China has already sealed a deal that was initially made years ago (separate from the one mentioned above). The Iraqi oil industry is nationalized, but the Iraqi government needs outside expertise to rejuvenate its oil industry damaged by years of war.
It was all about oil all along, make no mistake about it. I don’t necessarily think that is wholly indefensible. After all, the U.S. does have its “strategic interests” as it is often put (I think that means we need access to oil for our survival). I just wish we could be more open about it when we decide to commit U.S. forces (let everyone decide using honest reasoning).
The British held sway in the region after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and the British really got interested once oil was discovered in the first half of the 20th Century.
After World War II the U.S. became a world super power and became interested in oil and resisting communist (Soviet Union) influence in the Gulf (and elsewhere).
At the same time there were budding nationalist movements in the region. The U.S. was afraid that if the nationalist movements took hold they might be taken over or influenced by the communists and that would be a threat to the West and its free enterprise system and to our oil supply.
That is why, for instance, the U.S. helped install the Shah of Iran. He was a dictator and no practitioner of western-style democracy, but he was anti-communist and he tried to do what we told him to.
(Interestingly, as much of a tyrant as the Shah of Iran was, I have read that he was the first to give Iranian women the right to vote and that his government supported various women’s right reforms. He himself, though, was quite the male chauvinist, I have read too. I have also read that even in Iran today there are those who lament that the economy of that nation was better under the Shah.)
I’m skipping over a multitude of details and historical events here, but at times we supported Iraq’s despotic and maniacal leader Saddam Hussein because he was not communist and we wanted his oil. Eventually he turned against us or we turned against him.
We also screwed up our relationship with Iran by supporting the Shah who was deposed by an Islamic-backed revolution in 1979, and worse yet by supporting Saddam in his war on Iran.
One thing the Western powers may have done wrong is treat the people themselves in the Persian Gulf as not important, but instead concentrating on the governments that could be installed and supported.
But here’s the deal. We don’t need to run the affairs of other nations – governments or people. We need oil. But oil is worthless unless it can be sold. In fact the OPEC nations are discovering that their black gold is not worth nearly as much as it used to be what with declining demand due to a world-wide recession (of course that can and likely will go the other way too).
I would think the only concern we should have is whether we have access to buy that oil. Sure if the Chinese were to get a lock on the oil supply we would have a problem. And I can see they are probably working at it.
While there is no justifiable excuse for the attacks we suffered on 9/11, we have to admit it concerned in part the U.S. role in Mid East affairs.
Nearly all of the 9/11 attackers were not from Afghanistan or Iraq or even Iran but Saudi Arabia, whose monarchy is a solid ally of the U.S. and its major oil supplier. But the monarchy there is fearful of any movement among its populace to overthrow it. The Al Qaeda attackers were a threat to Saudi Arabia and they detested the U.S. for its support of the monarchy and other governments who they claim are not representative of the people, but of the outside oil interests. Of course Al Qaeda itself is simply a group of power hungry individuals who use religious fervor to gain support. If they even are genuinely devout (and I doubt a lot of them are), they subvert the true ideals of Islam to their own advantage (kind of like politicians in the U.S. do when they appeal to the religious right for support).
Japan struck us at Pearl Harbor back in 1941 in large part because the United States was attempting to cut off its oil supply.
Oil seems to often be tied to war – resources (and religion) being the cause of war throughout the ages.
Now we are all caught up in the struggle for freedom in Iran. And while after seeing apparently sincere people who simply want rights as human beings beat back by the goons that protect the religious dictatorship there, we do have sympathy for them.
But there is nothing we can really do other than to offer moral support.
We don’t go into Darfur in Africa where people are starved and slaughtered and we don’t go into Myanmar in Southeast Asia where their own government refuses outside aid in a natural disaster to the detriment of its own people.
But Iran has oil. And I’ll bet if it were not for the fact that the U.S. is tied up in Iraq and Afghanistan and facing threats from North Korea, there would be talk of going in militarily to support the brave Iranian freedom fighters (and picking up the oil as a side benefit).
Iran is believed to be developing a nuclear weapons capability. As I have blogged before, that is a true concern that we must ultimately address. But that is a separate issue. And Israel may yet do our job for us on that – they did so in Iraq, bombing a nuclear reactor there many years ago.
Something tells me we don’t want to get bogged down anywhere. And something tells me we better watch China – and it is uncomfortable that China holds so much of our debt.