Why Iraq? Oil and U.S. Foreign Policy


This essay is the text of the paper "Why Iraq?" given on January 29, 2003 to inaugurate the Halifax Political Forums held at Dalhousie University from January to May on the theme "Peace & Nations in the 21st Century: Understanding the Causes of War." One hundred and three people attended, filling the lecture room to overflowing.


This eleven-part series was aimed at "meeting the widespread demand for analysis of the contemporary situation, combating the massive disinformation about the nature and causes of war, providing clarity, and a venue for discussion." It was co-sponsored by Dal Peace, Fernwood Books, People's Front (Halifax), Canada Palestine Association, The Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group, and shunpiking magazine.

Many have spoken of the perfidious aroma of petroleum that suffuses the U.S. determination to wage war and rain destruction upon the people of Iraq. The oil of the Middle East is viewed as the central objective of the U.S., the paramount reason undergirding the conquest of Iraq.

During World War II, the U.S. State Department and the Council for Foreign Relations developed the concept of the Grand Area Planning. The Grand Area was defined as an area "strategically necessary for world control."[1] Critical to the Grand Area conception was the Middle East. The region was described as "a stupendous source of strategic power and one of the greatest material prizes in world history."[2] After World War II, particularly in the 1950s, the U.S. supplanted the various European powers that had held sway -- primarily Britain and France -- and became the dominant force in the region. The U.S. was the prime mover in the creation of the State of Israel, installing and propping up anti-democratic regimes such as the Pahlevi dynasty in Iran and overthrowing nationalist regimes.

The result was that from 1940 to 1967, U.S. companies increased their control of Middle Eastern oil from 10 per cent to almost 60 per cent, while British control dropped from 72 per cent to 30 per cent. U.S. oil companies extracted enormous profits. In Iran between 1954 and 1964, U.S. corporations netted a compound interest rate of profit of an incredible 70 per cent. [3] In 1970, the U.S. Commerce Department estimated the net value of U.S. assets in the Middle East at us$1.5 billion, which yielded a profit of us$1.2 billion: a prodigious profit return of 79 per cent.[4] In the 1970s, 40 per cent of all U.S. investment in the Third World and 60 per cent of profits derived from the Third World was oil related.[5] On the basis of this immense wealth, oil companies became huge conglomerates that dominated the international economy. In 1973, seven of the 12 largest corporations in the world were oil companies.[6] The so-called "Seven Sisters" still dominate the oil industry: Exxon, Mobil, Chevron, Texaco, Gulf, Shell and BP. The "Seven Sisters" have been joined by the French giant TotalFinaElf.[7]

The singular importance of the Middle East to the U.S. has been continually underscored in U.S. foreign policy. In the January 5, 1957 address to the U.S. Congress, President Eisenhower outlined what became known as the Eisenhower Doctrine in which the U.S. asserted the right to employ force, if necessary, to assist any nation or group of nations in the general region of the Middle East requesting assistance against armed aggression from any country controlled by "international communism." [8] Ostensibly formulated to preserve regional stability, its primary goal was to preserve and deepen American hegemony as the strategic and economic interests of the U.S. and its allies were increasingly tied to the vast oil reserves in the Middle East. In order to preserve U.S. control, President Nixon devised what became known as the Nixon Doctrine, which focused on creating and buttressing client states, which would serve as instruments of U.S. power in the region. President Carter in the January 23, 1980 State of the Union Address, augmented the Eisenhower Doctrine when he announced a new American policy -- the Carter Doctrine. In the wake of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Carter warned that: An attempt by an outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force. [9] However, while the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was presented as the overriding reason for establishing the Carter Doctrine, it was, in particular, the Iranian Revolution and, in general, the victories of several revolutionary movements in Africa, Asia and Latin America in the 1970s that provided the underlying impetus. Thus, as in the case of its predecessor the Eisenhower Doctrine, the Carter Doctrine’s aim was to preserve U.S. dominance through military means, especially in the face of increasing challenge by anti-imperialist forces. Towards this end the Pentagon in 1980 created the Rapid Deployment Task Force, which became in 1983 U.S. Central Command.

In the wake of the collapse of the USSR and the Eastern Bloc, the U.S. sought to deepen its hold on the Middle East. The months preceding Iraq’s August 2, 1990 invasion of Kuwait provide a telling story.

In January 1990, Judge William Webster, Director of the CIA, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the rising Western dependence on Middle East oil, particularly the Persian Gulf.

In February of that same year, General Schwarzkopf told the Committee that the U.S. should expand its military presence in the region and outlined military plans for intervention that required the establishment of permanent military bases.

In May, the Center for Strategic and International Studies completed a study initiated two years earlier detailing the outcome of a war between the U.S. and Iraq. This report was circulated in the Congress and the Pentagon.

Throughout 1990, several war games, premised on repelling an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, were staged. [10]

On July 25, 1990, April Glaspie, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, told Saddam Hussein regarding the growing friction between Iraq and Kuwait that Washington has "no opinion on Arab-Arab conflict, like your border disagreement with Kuwait." She further added that she was expressing official policy and that Secretary of State George Shultz, "has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction." [11] Glaspie was thus merely reiterating the directions of a State Department communiqué received on July 24, 1990.

On July 27, the CIA informed the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee that all indications pointed to an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990.

On July 31st, two days after the CIA informed the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee and two days before the Iraqi invasion, John Kelly, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, testified to an open session of the U.S. Congress that the "United States has no commitment to defend Kuwait and the U.S. has no intention of defending Kuwait if it is attacked by Iraq."[12]

On August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, claiming it as its "19th province." The resulting Gulf War -- waged by a U.S.-led and dominated coalition and fought ostensibly to "liberate" Kuwait -- destroyed large areas of Iraq and Kuwait, including Baghdad and other cities. The Gulf War allowed Washington to escalate its military presence, tighten its grip on the region and open up the road for massive investment of billions of dollars by U.S. multinational companies, especially in the oil rich Caspian Sea region. The prevailing situation was aptly summed up by Zbigniew Brzenski -- a Carter national security advisor -- and Brent Scowcroft -- national security advisor to Bush Sr. -- who asserted that it was "imperative that all parties understand an important strategic reality: the United States is in the Persian Gulf to stay."[13]

However, the events of the 1990s took place against the backdrop of the increasing economic challenge posed by Europe and Japan, which together by the 1980s had surpassed the U.S.

Energy in the 21st Century

Global oil use is 77 million barrels a day. In 20 years it is projected to reach 120 million barrels a day. World energy consumption is projected to increase dramatically over the next few decades. By 2020 it is anticipated that the Asian economies, lead by China, will consume 25 per cent of the world’s energy; the U.S. 25 per cent; Western Europe 18 per cent; Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union 13 per cent; and Latin America five per cent. Currently, the U.S. consumes approximately 20-25 million barrels of oil per day i.e. nearly one out of every three barrels produced. The U.S. has an estimated 2 per cent of the world’s oil reserves but uses 25 per cent of the world’s oil. Twenty-four per cent of U.S. oil imports are from the Middle East. This is expected to rise sharply as other sources disappear.


by Philippe Rekacewicz /June 1998 / Le Monde Diplomatique
Hydrocarbons from the Caspian Sea used to be routed through the Russian Federation, but Turkish and Iranian plans to skirt round Russia’s southern border and run pipelines through the Caucasus are a challenge to Russia’s monopoly.

The Middle East contains 65 per cent of the world’s proven reserves. Iraq alone has 12 per cent of the world’s proven reserves, an estimated 112 billion barrels. The U.S. Energy Department further calculates that Iraq has as much as 220 billion barrels in "probable and possible" reserves, enough to cover present U.S. imports for 98 years. It is estimated that within seven years of the lifting of sanctions, Iraqi oil production could rise from 3 million to 6 million, or even 10 million barrels per day.[14]

At present, the French corporation TotalFinaElf has the lion’s share in Iraq, with exclusivity to exploit the huge Majnoor and Bin Umar oil fields. The Majnoor field has an estimated potential of 30 billion barrels of oil, larger than the proven reserves of the U.S. Also, the Italian oil company Eni and the Russian consortium LukOil have negotiated very large deals and concessions. LukOil signed a us$20 billion contract in 1997 to develop the West Qurna field, which is estimated to have a potential 15 billion barrels. Another Russian company, Zarubezhneft, recently negotiated a contract worth us$90 billion. The potential total value of the Iraqi contracts with foreign corporations is estimated at us$1.1 trillion.[15]

It is supposed that a U.S. military occupation of Iraq and the establishment of a U.S. controlled government would likely lead to the cancellation of these deals, with U.S. companies filling the breach. This has been explicitly stated by the various individuals that Washington is grooming to form the post Saddam Hussein government. U.S. oil corporations are already positioning themselves for re-entry into Iraq and Iran. As Robert J. Allison Jr., chairman of Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, stated, "We bought into Qatar and Oman to get a foothold in the Middle East. We need to position ourselves in the Middle East for when Iraq and Iran become part of the family of nations again." [16] This is in line with the Bush administration’s statements that a U.S. military governor will be established to directly rule Iraq. [17] Washington would then develop and hold in trust Iraqi oil: in short, siphon of Iraq’s wealth.[18]

However, oil by itself is not sufficient to explain why the U.S. is so intent on waging war. What is at stake is not simply a massive gorging on oil profits by American oil monopolies: a war to fill the coffers of the oil giants. It is the control of oil which is critical and must be seen within the larger context of the clash of the aims and interests of the great powers in the geo-political arena, as an integral part of the overall U.S. strategy for global hegemony, for world supremacy. Control of oil is but one of a constellation of objectives behind the multi-faceted and multi-pronged U.S. drive for global supremacy. It is a means to an end.

The Drive for U.S. Hegemony

The present period is characterized by Washington’s push to permanently entrench its hegemony by imposing arrangements that will ensure U.S. domination in the 21st Century and beyond. The National Security Strategy of the United States of America -- the Bush Doctrine -- released by the White House in September 2002 established the policies that the most aggressive sections of the U.S. ruling circles see as essential to preserve and extend American economic and political dominance. Central to this stratagem -- in reality an ultimatum issued to the world -- are:

1) The preservation of U.S. military dominance in the world: The National Security Document states "[i]t is time to reaffirm the essential role of American military strength. We must build and maintain our defenses beyond challenge." [19] Another critical objective identified was the dissuasion of "future military competition" [20] by any other country by ensuring that U.S. "forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equalling, the power of the United States;" [21]

2) The resolve to launch pre-emptive strikes at anyone it perceives as or labels a threat, anywhere and at any time. The Bush regime has made it clear that they "will not hesitate to act alone;" [22] and,

3) The destruction of the framework of international law and the fundamental norms of diplomacy. This has centred on the re-affirmation of the use of force in international relations: acceptance of the dictum Might Makes Right. This requires a whole-scale reconstitution of international law to suit U.S. interests. [23] The goal is to naturalize U.S. dictate.

It is important to emphasize that while the immediate source of the National Security Strategy is the priorities of the Bush regime, the position it formulates was developed at the end of the Cold War. Moreover, the current approach is primarily aimed at the European Union.

In 1992, the Pentagon produced a document entitled Defense Planning Guidance. This document cast a misgiving eye on Germany and Japan, predicting that these countries would enter into "global competition with the United States," resulting in "a crisis over national interests, military rivalry." [24] It further outlined that Washington should actively make every effort to undermine Europe’s attempt to assert an independent role. It argued that the U.S. "must seek to prevent the emergence of Europe-only security arrangements which would undermine NATO, particularly the alliance’s integrated command structure." [25] Furthermore, the Pentagon document emphasized that the continuance of U.S. dominance required maintaining "the mechanisms for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role." [26]

In 1994, the U.S. Congressional Research Service concurred with the Pentagon’s conclusions in the Defense Planning Guidance document. It stated that the prevailing view in U.S. ruling circles was that European integration would have "negative consequences for U.S. interests." [27] Indeed, the central importance of U.S. efforts to control and even exercise hegemony in Europe, in order to ensure American pre-eminence in the world, cannot be overstated. As Henry Kissinger opined, NATO was the U.S. "prize for victory in the Cold War" and was the principal institutional link between America and Europe." [28] In short, it was the fulcrum of U.S. hegemony in Europe. One of the principal objectives of NATO, as lucidly stated by Gabriel Robin, former French representative to NATO, is "to serve as a chaperon of Europe" and "prevent it from establishing itself as an independent fortress and perhaps one day, a rival." [29]

The 1990s were marked by, among other developments of crucial significance to humanity, significant political changes within the European Union, changes aimed at achieving and securing independence from the U.S. Germany and France throughout this period increasingly and openly advocated European autonomy. This was accompanied by specific policies and measures aimed at actually concretely establishing an independent global role. The clearest indication was the adoption of the European Security and Defense Identity Policy in December 1991 at the Maastricht Conference. The resulting establishment of the joint Franco-Germany army corps -- viewed as an embryonic pan-European army -- was the immediate result. Of course, this move to an independent European foreign and military policy was seen as a "threat to NATO and U.S. dominance." [30] Indeed, the U.S. has since actively undermined the European Security and Defense Identity Policy, encouraging and pressuring the smaller European countries not to participate.

The introduction of the euro not only heralded a new stage in European economic integration but, also, an important potential challenge to the dominance of the U.S. dollar as the international reserve currency. Indeed, it presaged a real threat to U.S. global primacy. As Helmut Schmidt, former German Chancellor, observed, the euro would "set up a monumental conflicts it will change the whole world situation so that the United States can no longer call all the shots." [31] Poignantly, some in the U.S. also came to the same conclusion. Martin Feldstein, former head of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, stated that the monetary integration of Europe could alter "the political character of Europe in ways that could lead to confrontation with the United States." He went on further to emphasize that the European monetary union could lead to a world that was "very different and not necessarily a safer place." [32]

These developments underscored serious inter-imperialist contradictions. The euro has increased markedly in strength, trading at more than one to one against the U.S. dollar and is, thus, mounting a serious challenge to the U.S. dollar as the world’s dominant currency. Moreover, the European Union -- in particular Germany and France -- desire to challenge the characterization vis-à-vis the U.S. of being economic giants but political dwarfs. In short, the European Union -- especially an increasingly assertive Berlin and Paris -- represent the most powerful challenge to U.S. global ascendancy, both economically -- as one of the largest economic units in the world -- and by its ever-growing independence from Washington’s dictate.

Critical to the project of maintaining U.S. hegemony, specifically ensuring that the European Union "knows" its place, is the reshaping of the Middle East according to U.S. imperial schemes. All the U.S. government’s purported "reasons" for war in Iraq are a smokescreen to hide the true intention of Middle East domination, its oil included, for purposes of keeping Europe in check and dominating Asia. This requires reducing the region to a situation akin to the colonial status that existed before World War II. This is the task which the first Bush administration set itself under the so-called New World Order and is now being consummated by the second Bush administration. A September 10, 2002 article in the Boston Globe captured the intended scheme: "Iraq, the hawks argue, is just the first piece of the puzzle. After the ouster of Hussein, they say, the United States will have more leverage to act against Syria and Iran, and will be in a better position to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and will be able to rely less on Saudi oil. ‘The goal is not just a new regime in Iraq. The goal is a new Middle East,’ said Raad Alkadiri, an Iraq analyst with PFC, a Washington-based energy consulting organization. ‘The goal has been and remains one of the main driving factors of preemptive action against Iraq.’" A friendly Iraq -- home to the world’s second-largest oil reserves -- would provide an alternative to Saudi Arabia for basing U.S. troops. Its oil would make Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, less important in setting prices, he said. In general, others contend, a U.S. allied-Iraq could work to diminish the influence of OPEC [Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries], long dominated by Saudi Arabia, over oil supplies and prices." [33] In fact, it is the destruction of OPEC the U.S. seeks to achieve by extending and cementing its domination over the entire region and, thus, facilitate the projection of their power on a global scale.

Indeed, absolute control of the Middle East is crucial to the American Empire. In his book The Grand Chessboard, Zbigniew Brezezinki -- former National Security Advisor to U.S. President Carter and a major intellectual of the American ruling class -- stated that in order to maintain its global dominance the U.S. must control Eurasia, an area encompassing the Middle and Central Asia. [34] Indeed, he identified that task as "central to America’s capacity to exercise global primacy." [35] To control Eurasia would allow the U.S. to wield overweening influence on its main rivals: the burgeoning European Union and Japan. As Jay Brookman, an editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, stated, the war against Iraq "would be the culmination of a plan 10 years or the more in the making, carried out by those who believe the United States must seize the opportunity for global domination, even if it means becoming the ‘American Imperialists’ that our enemies always claimed we were." [36]

The Objectives of the U.S.

The U.S. objectives behind establishing dominion over the Middle East include:

1. Direct U.S. control of Iraq or rule by Washington puppets would allow domination of the Persian Gulf and bring 65 per cent of the world’s known oil reserves under U.S. control. Washington would ensure that the European Union, Japan and China would thus become dependent on U.S. controlled oil for their most vital energy requirements. The oil spigot would be in American hands. Pepe Escobar, a writer for the Asia Times, summed it up: "Oil and gas are not the ultimate aims of the U.S. It’s about control. If the U.S. controls the sources of energy of its rivals -- Europe, Japan, China and other nations aspiring to be more independent -- they win." [37]

2. The occupation of Iraq and the installation of a regime under American control would leave "Iran (itself an oil power and part of Bush’s ‘Axis of Evil’) almost completely surrounded by U.S. military bases in Central Asia to the north, Turkey and Iraq to the West, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman to the South, and Pakistan and Afghanistan to the east."[38] Direct control of Iraq will convert Iraq into the perfect U.S. weapon to keep the rest of the Middle East under its domination; much like the U.S. used Japan as a military base and supplier during the Korean conflict and the Vietnam War. Who knows? After the conquest of Iraq, maybe the U.S. command will start an "anti-feudal" campaign to "liberate" all the feudal emirates around the Persian Gulf and use their control of oil to finance a war against another member of the "evil axis," the Islamic Republic of Iran.

3. The U.S. would then participate in augmenting Israel’s campaign to both suppress and crush the national liberation struggle of the Palestinians and territorially expand at the expense of its Arab neighbours. The resistance of the Palestinians has been a major obstacle to U.S. designs.

4. The encirclement of China by military bases would continue. It is important to note that China, the fastest growing economy in the world, is a potential political, economic and military impediment to the projection of U.S. power in Asia. Also, China stands at the heart of the largest free trade area in the world: the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) trading bloc contains more than 1.7 billion people and is increasingly a new and potent site of world capital accumulation. In short, China is emerging as a new geopolitical pole of power.

5. The war against Iraq and the eventual occupation of the Middle East would completely "free" the U.S. from any obligations or responsibilities under the system of international law and norms, leading to the reaffirmation of force in international relations. Thus, Washington would re-introduce Might Makes Right as the governing "principle" of international relations, while simultaneously ensuring that it is the paramount economic and military hegemon.

6. The resulting devastation of Iraq would serve as an example to anyone who seeks to flout or challenge U.S. dictate.

7. The war would serve Washington’s goal of extinguishing the right to self-determination and negate the rights of the world’s peoples to carry out their affairs without external interference. Under the justification of removing the threat of so-called failed states to world peace and order, the policy of recolonization would be re-initiated.

8. By conquering Iraq and extending its absolute sway in the region the Bush regime would be able to establish an exclusive U.S. dollar zone, effectively barring the euro, thereby, strengthening the U.S. currency against European and other potential challengers. Moreover, "since 2000, Iraq has tried to undermine the hegemony of the dollar in world trade -- with all its implications for U.S. financial domination -- by selling its oil in Euros." [39] Through the control of Iraqi oil, Washington would ensure that future sales are in dollars, thereby, simultaneously shoring up the dollar at the expense of the euro and funnelling profits to the U.S. oil conglomerates. This foreshadows an immediate future struggle. As the contradictions between them intensify and deepen, the world imperial centres will engage in a titanic contest to determine which currency will be the ascendant global "legal tender."

9. U.S. ruling circles seek to divert the U.S. population’s attention from the growing U.S. economic crisis. The financial woes continue unabated. The monthly U.S. trade deficit reached a record US$40 billion for November 2002. The 2002 general accounts deficit is projected to exceed US$400 billion. [40] Thus, to meet its shortfalls and cover the deficit the U.S. requires a net inflow -- i.e. must borrow -- more than $2 billion daily. Moreover, the U.S. dollar has steadily declined in value in relation to the other major currencies. Rates of industrial investment and output are static or decreasing. Indebtedness, at both the corporate and personal level has reached record levels. In the last quarter of 2002 the U.S. economy grew by only 0.7 per cent. A "dismal performance" that raises "concerns that the economy could yet slide back into recession." [41] Thus, the American "economy is faltering, unemployment is rising, consumer confidence is weakening and economic uncertainty widespread." [42]

The Bush regime hopes to overcome this crisis through the exertion of military force. Thus, the press is awash with articles outlining the benefits to the U.S. economy of a seizure of Iraqi oil. However, the link between economic prosperity and war -- e.g. the creation of more jobs, wage increases etc. -- is a fallacious construct. Moreover, the U.S. economic woes are part of a growing world economic crisis. Some projections forecast world economic growth for 2003 at only 2.2 per cent. A growth of 2.5 per cent and less is considered by many economists to demarcate recession. Stagflation, a Depression era spectre long thought exorcised, now haunts the globe. These phenomena underline the "world economy’s fragility." [43]

Inter-Imperialist Contradictions

Direct military control of the Middle East would translate into even more immense U.S. economic and political power on the worldscale. In the 1970s the U.S. lost economic ground to Europe and Japan. The U.S. share of the world GDP shrunk from year to year. However, with the collapse of the USSR and the Eastern Bloc, leaving the U.S. as the only superpower, the U.S. ruling class saw this as an opportunity to consolidate a Pax Americana -- i.e. permanently cement a unipolar world. Thus, the Bush doctrine is a continuation of this strategy. To achieve world hegemony the U.S. ruling class is determined to reorganize and restructure the world politically and economically to reflect and serve its interests. This necessitates the subordination of not only underdeveloped countries such as Iraq, but also, and above all, its powerful international rivals in Western Europe and Japan.

However, the EU -- specifically Germany and France -- will not countenance a U.S. stranglehold on the Middle East. But there exists an asymmetry in power. While the EU wishes to challenge U.S. unilateralism there are limits on the level of opposition it can mount at this time. As they cannot match U.S. military might, the German and French ruling classes seek to promote and pursue their own self-interests through, besides other things, the United Nations and international law. In this way they wish to safeguard their stake in the Middle East and mitigate U.S. control of the region. It is not humanitarian concern for the fate of Iraq’s people that accounts for the German and French opposition to the U.S. drive to war but the recognition that America’s rush for absolute hegemony poses a serious threat to the political, economic and strategic interests of the German and French ruling classes: the goal of the global projection of their power would be forestalled. This vulnerability is evidenced and epitomized by a special Deutsche Bank report advising the purchase of ExxonMobil, which is considered to be "ideally positioned to get new reserves after Saddam is toppled." [44] The report observes that: Exxon Mobil’s status as the largest U.S. oil company gives it major weight with the U.S. government. The company may find itself in the pole position in regime-changed Iraq. [45]

Central in comprehending the U.S. push to war against Iraq is realizing that it is the part of a scheme that attempts to impose U.S. dictate in international relations and to implement a new redivision of the world: a new appropriation of markets, sources of raw materials and cheap labour, zones for investment and spheres of influence that U.S. ruling circles hope to accomplish at the expense of their global competitors. However, history demonstrates that the other powers will not stand idly by. They will seek to impose their own wishes on the world and seek a global division that serves their own interests. Thus, intense inter-imperialist rivalries emerge, contradictions that can be smoothed over peacefully for a time but -- as World War I and World War II testify -- these contradictions and rivalries ultimately cannot be contained within the confines of peaceful resolution, trade wars or regional wars. They inevitably result in world war unless the peoples can resolve the crisis in their favour instead. Hence, we are entering a period in which one of the main features will be increasing contention and tensions between the world’s main power centres. The economic, strategic and "security interests of the French and Germans are incompatible with those of the Americans." [46] The bitter diplomatic fissure surrounding the war on Iraq augurs a future of direct and open conflict -- inevitably violent -- between the major world powers and underscores the urgent need for the peoples to step up the tempo of the work to push for their own aims.


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* Isaac Saney teaches at Henson College, Dalhousie University and IDS, Saint Mary's University. He is the author of Cuba: A Revolution in Motion (Fernwood/Zed, 2003) and editor of shunpiking magazine's Black History Supplement.

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1. Joyce and Gabriel Kolko, The Limits of Power (New York: Harper and Row, 1972), p.242.

2. Ibid.

3. Michael Tanzer, The Energy Crisis: World Struggle for Power and Wealth (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1974), p.58.

4. Anthony Sampson, The Seven Sisters (New York: Viking Press, 1975), p.60.

5. Tanzer, op. cit., p. 60.

6. Sampson, op. cit., p. 189.

7. See Sean Gonsalves, "Corporate Interest in Iraqi Oil," Seattle Post-Intelligence, August 2, 2002.

8. For Eisenhower’s exposition of the doctrine see, The Department of State Bulletin, V1, No. 917, January 21, 1957, p. 83- 87.

9. Michael T. Klare, Resource Wars (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2001), p.4.

10. See U.S. News & World Report, Triumph without Victory: The Unreported History of the Persian Gulf War (New York: Time Books, 1991, p. 28-30 and Chapter 2) and "The Road to War," Newsweek, January 28, 1991. Also, see James Blackwell, Thunder in the Desert (New York: Bantam Books, 1991), p. 80-87.

11. See "The Glaspie Transcript: Saddam Meets the U.S. Ambassador," in Micah Sifry and Christopher Cerf The Gulf War Reader: History, Documents, Opinions (New York: Times Books, 1991, p. 130) and "Mr. Bush’s Fateful Blunder," New York Times, July 17, 1991.

12. As quoted in Geoff Simons, The Scourging of Iraq: Sanctions, Law and Natural Justice (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996), p. 3.

13. Zbigniew Brzenski, Brent Scowcroft and Richard Murphy, "Differentiated Containment," Foreign Affairs, May/June 1997, p. 30.

14. See Energy Information Administration, "World Oil Demand 1970 -2001;" Energy Information Administration, "World Energy Outlook 2002,"and Energy Information Administration, "World Primary Energy Consumption 2002," all available at www.eia.doe.gov . Also see, Klare, op. cit., p.61.

15. "Scramble to carve up Iraqi oil reserves lies behind U.S. diplomacy," The London Observer, October 6, 2002.

16. New York Times, October 22, 2002.

17. See "Iraqi opposition slams plan for military governor," The London Observer, February 16, 2003; "Exile leaders fault U.S. postwar plans," MSNBC News, February 11, 2003 and "Emerging U.U. military leaders," CNN.com, December 25, 2002.

18. See "Planning Underway To Manage Iraqi Oil," Boston Globe, January 26, 2003, and "Iraqi oil, America Bonanza" In post war Iraq, U.S. companies could be major players," MSNBC News, January 11, 2003.

19. Office of the President of the United States of America, The National Security Strategy of the United States of America (Washington: Office of the President of the United States of America, 2002), p.29.

20. Ibid., p. 29.

21. Ibid., p.30.

22. Ibid., p.6 and p.15.

23. Ibid., p.15.

24. "US Strategy Calls for Ensuring No Rivals Develop", New York Times, March 8, 1992. Also, see Der Spiegel, March 16, 1992, p. 18-21.

25. Ibid.

26. Ibid.

27. Stanley R. Sloan, "U.S.-West European Relations and Europe’s Future," in Glennon, J. Harrison ed., Europe and the United States (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1994), p. 171.

28. Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy (New York: Simon and Shuster, 1994), p. 819-820.

29. As quoted in David N. Gibbs, "Washington’s New Interventionism: U.S. Hegemony and Inter-Imperialist Rivalries," Monthly Review, September 2001, p. 23.

30. Ibid., p. 24.

31. William Drozdiak,"U.S. Dominance Breeds Irritation," International Herald Tribune, November 5, 1997.

32. Martin Feldstein, "EMU and Internation Conflict," Foreign Affairs, November/December 1997, p.2 &21.

33. Boston Globe, September 10, 2002. 34.

The so-called "war against terrorism" and the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan cannot be separated from the rush to war against Iraq. The geo-political and economic objectives of U.S. imperialism in Central Asia are an integral part of Washington’s drive for absolute hegemony.

Some experts assert that the development of the oil fields in this region, together with the ones in Iran and Iraq, will supplant the importance of the oilfields in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The region is estimated to contain 20 per cent of the world’s oil reserves -- 270 billion barrels of oil -- and one-eighth of the world’s reserves in natural gas -- 655 trillion cubic metres. The Caspian region, alone, is calculated to contain 115 billion barrels of oil, with energy reserves "many times greater than those of the North Sea." The oil in the Kashagan oilfield in Kazakhstan is estimated to exceed the entire U.S. oil reserves. The mammoth Tenghiz oilfield, also in Kazakhstan, is among the largest in the world. At present, U.S. companies have obtained around 75 per cent of the Tenghiz oilfield, with the Chevron Corporation being the heaviest investor (See, Jan H. Kalicki, "Caspian Energy at the Crossroads," Foreign Affairs, September/October 2001, p. 121).

One estimate places the value of the Central Asian oil and gas reserves at US$4 trillion. (See, Kurbanov, E. and Sanders, B. Caspian Sea Oil Riches: A Mixed Blessing (College Park, MD: The Center for International Development and Conflict Management’s Monograph Series, University of Maryland, 1998) and "Moscow’s Man in Armenia and Armenia’s Man in the Kremlin," Caspian Watch #11: U.S. Interests Jeopardized As Kremlin Prevails, (Centre for Security Policy, No. 98-D56, March 31, 1998)).

The area is key to the economic development plans of several surrounding countries, for example Russia, China, India and Pakistan. Thus, the U.S. is determined to penetrate and undermine spheres of Russian and Chinese influence in this strategic and resource rich region. It is revealing that one of the major oil and gas news agencies -- World News Network, October 15, 2001 -- advanced the following analysis:

"While the bombardment of Afghanistan outwardly appears to hinge on issues of fundamentalism and American retribution, below the surface lurks the prize of the energy-rich Caspian basin into which the oil majors have invested billions of dollars. Ultimately, this war will set the boundaries of U.S. and Russian influence in Central Asia -- and determine the future of oil and gas resources of the Caspian Sea."

In 1998, then CEO of Halliburton -- the world’s largest provider of oil and gas services -- and now U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney told a gathering of oil industry executives, "I can’t think of a time when we’ve had a region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian." (See The Manchester Guardian October 23, 2001).

In October 1999 the U.S. Department of Defence transferred "senior command authority over American Forces in Central Asia from Pacific Command to Central Command." This "represented a significant shift in American strategic thinking," entailing the recognition of Central Asia as "a major strategic prize."(Michael T. Klare, "The New Geography of Conflict," Foreign Affairs, May/June 2001, p.49).

In the wake of the war in Afghanistan, the Bush administration has signed military agreements with the various countries in the area permitting the stationing of U.S. troops for an indefinite period.

35. Zbigniew Brezezinski, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its GeoStrategic Imperatives (New York: Basic Books, 1997), p.xiv.

36. Jay Brookman, "The President’s Real Goal in Iraq," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, October 4, 2002.

37. Pepe Escobar," The roving eye, Pipelinestan," Asia Times, January 26, 2002.

38. "U.S. Imperial Ambitions and Iraq," Monthly Review, December 2002, p. 11.

39. Bertel Olman, "Why War With Iraq? Why Now?," ZNET, February 23, 2003 at www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm? SectionID=5&ItemID=3112.

40. See, "U.S. International Trade in Goods and Servicers," U.S. Census Bureau, January 17, 2002 and Bruce Odessey, "U.S. Trade Deficit Down in September; Exports, Imports Both Drop (Deficit for first nine months up 17 per cent from same period year earlier)," U.S. Department of State: Washington File November 11, 2002.

41. "A Temporary Setback," The Economist Global Agenda, January 30, 2003

42. Ibid.

43. "Look if you dare," The Economist, January 30, 2003.

44. "U.S. Admits Plans To Snatch Iraqi Oil Fields," The London Daily Mirror, January 25, 2003. 45. Ibid.

46. Andre Gerolymatos, "Crumbling Alliance: Conflict of Interests," Globe and Mail, February 12, 2003.

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