Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|oil and war|
|01/22/02 at 20:06:11|
|Bismillah and salam,|
Here are two excellent articles on U.S. interest in Afghanistan, Central Asia and oil and gas. From the Guardian.
In return for security in the region, the US will snap up central Asia's oil
Simon Tisdal - The Guardian / UK
Wednesday January 16, 2002
The United States is engaged in a strategic power grab in central Asia of
epic proportions. In previous eras, this sort of
expansionism would have been called colonialism or imperialism. It would be
portrayed as a dutiful mission to civilise
the less fortunate of the world or as a legitimate expression, perhaps, of
America's manifest destiny. Now it is simply
called the "war against terrorism".
If moral justification were required, there is no need, it seems, to look
beyond Ground Zero. Current American certitude
of the rightness of its cause is as unshakeable as that of any Victorian
missionary society or Palmerstonian gunboat
Ideologically, the US case appears - to many in the US, at any rate - to be
equally unanswerable. Freedom, democracy,
security and free trade are the supreme gifts bestowed upon those who
acknowledge Washington's tutelage. And are
these not the great, universal shibboleths of our time? Proselytising hawks
within the Bush administration and
Republican party certainly believe so. They see no good reason why any
country should be denied such felicity and are
determined to extend these benefits to all.
Even if such considerations are set aside, the war in Afghanistan has
presented regional political, economic and
defence opportunities that the US has long sought and which are now within
its grasp. In September 2000, for example,
General Tommy Franks - the man who made his name running the Afghan war -
was already touring central Asia,
waving a military aid chequebook. But on the whole, during the Clinton
years, keen US interest in beating a path to
central Asia's oil and gas riches remained largely stymied - especially
after the 1998 cruise missile strikes on
Afghanistan which followed the al-Qaida embassy bombings in Kenya and
Only a brief 18 months ago, indeed, the geo-strategic chit-chat was still
all about a reassertion of Russian power in
former Soviet territories such as Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan,
Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. Moscow's
newly-installed president, Vladimir Putin, was particularly interested in
the destabilising impact of Taliban-backed
fundamentalists (whom he linked to Chechnya). "The actions of Islamic
extremists in central Asia give Russia the
chance to strengthen its position in the region," said a memo from the then
Russian defence minister, Igor Sergeyev.
China, worried about unrest among its own western Muslim Uighur minority and
alive to central Asia's strategic and
economic potential, also moved in June last year to extend its regional
influence through a new Shanghai pact.
But in the wake of September 11, and as the US-Russian dynamic in particular
changed, Putin agreed (against the
advice of some senior generals) to allow the US to negotiate the first,
limited base and operational facilities with
Afghanistan's neighbours. China, too, while objecting in principle to US
intervention, in practice recognised the serious
consequences of trying to thwart the US. Both countries hoped to benefit in
other ways from helping the Americans - and
have done so to a limited degree. The US has begun to treat Putin as a
partner, even suggesting a closer relationship
with Nato. Rows with Beijing over human rights and trade, after last
spring's Hainan spy plane fracas, have been
avoided. China's WTO membership has gone through without a hitch.
All the same, both countries increasingly have good reasons to regret their
accommodating stand. Having pushed,
cajoled and bribed its way into their central Asian backyard, the US clearly
has no intention of leaving any time soon.
Romantics who believe this demonstrates a commitment to rebuilding shattered
Afghanistan can dream on.
The US's top priority remains, as ever, the pursuit and destruction of
al-Qaida. That focus is now shifting elsewhere, into
Pakistan, Somalia, even Iran. What is left behind in Afghanistan is for
"coalitions of the willing", such as the
under-powered security assistance force led by Britain, or aid agencies, or
UN diplomats, or anybody but the Bush
administration to deal with. In short, the former can build nations; the US
The task of the encircling US bases now shooting up on Afghanistan's
periphery is only partly to contain the threat of
political regression or Taliban resurgence in Kabul. Their bigger,
longer-term role is to project US power and US
interests into countries previously beyond its reach.
Thus Uzbekistan now finds itself home to a permanent American base at
Khanabad, housing 1,500 personnel; Manas,
near Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan, is described as a future "transportation hub"
housing 3,000 soldiers, warplanes and
surveillance aircraft; more airfields are under US control in Tajikistan and
Pakistan; and the Pentagon has begun regular
replacement and rotation of troops, thereby instit-utionalising what were at
the outset temporary, emergency
The temptations for the host governments are plain enough. Military
cooperation typically works both ways. With the
bases comes US agreement to provide training and equipment for local forces.
Economic aid packages and trade
agreements then follow. Thus previously neglected Uzbekistan received $64m
in US assistance and $136m in US
Export-Import Bank credits in 2001. In 2002, the Bush administration plans
to hand over $52m in assistance to
Kazakhstan, some partly for military equipment. The US security umbrella
provides shelter from other predatory powers
and effectively entrenches a group of mostly unpopular incumbent regimes.
According to Human Rights Watch, in its annual report published this week,
these deals have been cut despite
well-documented concern about authoritarian governance, a chronic lack of
democracy and respect for human rights -
torture of political prisoners is endemic in Tajikistan, for example - and
often non-existent press freedoms across central
For US empire-builders, like imperialists through history, the answer to
such contradictions is that exposure to superior
values and standards will have an ultimately positive, uplifting effect.
Meanwhile, the potential benefits for the US are
enormous: growing military hegemony in one of the few parts of the world not
already under Washington's sway,
expanded strategic influence at Russia and China's expense, pivotal
political clout and - grail of holy grails - access to
the fabulous, non-Opec oil and gas wealth of central Asia. If the Afghans
behave themselves, they even may get to run
For now, the military goes on hold
America may have Iraq in its sights, but it has other business elsewhere to attend to first
Simon Tisdall in Washington
Friday December 7, 2001
The alarming prospect that, post-Afghanistan, George Bush will again resort to military means in prosecuting a wider "war on terrorism" against other countries is receding, at least for now. The bellicose, anti-Saddam drumbeat in Washington is loud and unmistakable. But alive to the immense, practical difficulties, and aware of European and Arab opposition, Bush and his inner circle have made no final decisions about retargeting Iraq - and officials do not expect them to do so any time soon. Elsewhere, they will proceed with the step-by-step caution that has characterised their Afghan gameplan. This is what Bush means by a "long war".
US policy remains heavily influenced by risk analysis. Donald Rumsfeld, the ineffably smug, highly popular US defence secretary who is effectively running Bush's war, loses no opportunity to remind Americans that while the Afghan campaign has been almost bodybag-free, it is not over yet. Politically, the post-September 11 priorities are unchanged. The White House remains fixated on "getting" Osama bin Laden, finishing off the Taliban leadership, and destroying what Bush calls al-Qaida's "sophisticated caves". Yet even once Afghanistan is subdued, the elimination of al-Qaida-linked groups in the up to 40 or so countries in which "cells" are said to exist is likely to be the ongoing, primary objective.
Although force is not ruled out - Bush dangled the possibility again this week on television - the wider war will be pursued largely by non-military methods. Easier targets than Iraq will be tackled first; potential candidates include Somalia and Sudan, Indonesia and the Philippines, Bosnia and Uruguay - anywhere that the terrorist trail may lead.
Richard Boucher, the state department spokesman, recently spelled out the US approach to a post-Afghanistan, extended counter-terrorism effort. "Some places, it's consultations and information-sharing. Some places it may end up being training. Some places it may be economic and other support... like border security," he said, referring to some of America's shady new allies in central Asia. The main emphasis, it is suggested, will be on muscular diplomacy, financial and trade incentives, arms deals, and military collaboration rather than direct US military intervention.
Some of these approaches have already been road-tested. Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Salih, for example, recently received a rare White House audience. After last year's al-Qaida linked attack on the USS Cole in Aden harbour, FBI investigators complained about Yemeni obstruction. That is now a thing of the past after the US reportedly proffered some attractive incentives, including US special forces training for the Yemeni army.
Likewise, the US is working up its capabilities in and around Somalia. US warships are on station and the navy is flying surveillance missions. Washington is also said to be looking at closer cooperation with Ethiopia, against the day when action against supposed al-Qaida supporters in Somalia may be deemed necessary. But military manoeuvres aside, the US freezing of funds linked to Somalia's leading financial house, al-Barakaat, is already hitting home. Remittances from Somalis working abroad sent via al-Barakaat are Somalia's largest single source of income. This US financial offensive is devastating enough.
Other states are being nobbled by other means, sometimes by the use of proxies. The US has no diplomatic relations with Iran - but Britain does, and the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, has made two trips to Tehran since September 11. Washington does not expect the mullahs' support. But Britain and other EU countries have helped gain their acquiescence.
The US is also busily reinforcing and reshaping existing relationships. Thus to Israel's dismay, the administration is proposing new arms sales to Egypt and has so far ducked non-financial, direct action against Hamas or Hizbullah for fear of alienating Cairo, Tehran, and the already deeply uncomfortable Saudis. It has agreed a big increase in military aid to the Philippines and may do something similar for Indonesia. In Pakistan, the US has succeeded, in effect, in buying (and reversing) a country's foreign policy in return for loans, debt relief, and cancelled bilateral sanctions.
Given the CIA role in Afghanistan, meanwhile, US covert operations are expected to make a big, silent comeback. The emerging "Bush doctrine" - that terrorists will be pursued wherever they lurk, that governments that harbour terrorists will be deemed terrorists themselves, and that the possession of weapons of mass destruction may be sufficient to invite US attack - could in theory be made to apply to North Korea, Iran or Syria as much as Iraq. But when it comes to possible future US military action, only Baghdad is singled out. This process has less to do with the war on terrorism and more to do with old enmities and present-day geostrategy. Saddam symbolises a threatening defiance of America's will that the Bushmen, pre-September 11, detested - and that, post-September 11, they will no longer tolerate.
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