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Geopolitics - June 30

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Report: U.S. 'preparing the battlefield' in Iran

The Bush administration has launched a "significant escalation" of covert operations in Iran, sending U.S. commandos to spy on the country's nuclear facilities and undermine the Islamic republic's government, journalist Seymour Hersh said Sunday.

White House, CIA and State Department officials declined comment on Hersh's report, which appears in this week's issue of The New Yorker.

Hersh told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" that Congress has authorized up to $400 million to fund the secret campaign, which involves U.S. special operations troops and Iranian dissidents.

President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have rejected findings from U.S. intelligence agencies that Iran has halted a clandestine effort to build a nuclear bomb and "do not want to leave Iran in place with a nuclear program," Hersh said.

"They believe that their mission is to make sure that before they get out of office next year, either Iran is attacked or it stops its weapons program," Hersh said.
(29 June 2008)
Seymour M. Hersh article in the New Yorker (July 7 issue): Preparing the Battlefield: The Bush Administration steps up its secret moves against Iran.
Transcript and video of Hersch on CNN

Israel has a year to stop Iran bomb, warns ex-spy

Carolynne Wheeler and Tim Shipman, UK Telegraph
A former head of Mossad has warned that Israel has 12 months in which to destroy Iran's nuclear programme or risk coming under nuclear attack itself. He also hinted that Israel might have to act sooner if Barack Obama wins the US presidential election.
Shabtai Shavit, an influential adviser to the Israeli parliament's defence and foreign affairs committee, told The Sunday Telegraph that time was running out to prevent Iran's leaders getting the bomb.

Mr Shavit, who retired from the Israeli intelligence agency in 1996, warned that he had no doubt Iran intended to use a nuclear weapon once it had the capability, and that Israel must conduct itself accordingly.
(29 June 2008)
Lots of similar stories in the media about a possible attack on Iran. It's hard to determine the origin and purpose of the stories. Is the purpose to intimidate Iran? Encourage US action? Discourage an attack? -BA

Dubai: spots on the sun

Christopher M Davidson, openDemocracy
The achievement and ambitions of the Arab Gulf's business hub are impressive, but the pressures beneath its super-modern facade are building. Dubai has a critical choice to make before they explode.
The United Arab Emirates - comprising seven sheikhdoms, including the internationally renowned Dubai - were on 16 June 2008 elevated to the highest terrorism risk level by Britain's foreign office, acting on credible intelligence provided by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre. With warnings of indiscriminate terror attacks against expatriates and travellers to the country, the UAE and Dubai have been placed on a par with Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and other regional hotspots.

Dubai is not the richest of the emirates, nor is it the UAE's capital (that mantle rests with oil giant Abu Dhabi). However,it is the most populous, and it's very much the business hub. Since the mid-1990s Dubai has faced declining oil reserves and has urgently sought to diversify its economy. Today, with over 95% of its GDP coming from non-oil sectors - including tourism, real estate, and giant "free zones" for foreign companies - Dubai has truly moved beyond oil. It enjoys one of the highest economic growth rates in the developing world and attracts more foreign direct investment than any other Arab economy. It has also drawn millions of expatriates from across Europe, Asia, and Africa. Native "Emiratis" are now less than 5% of Dubai's population.

Christopher M Davidson is a fellow of the Institute for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, Durham University, and a former assistant professor of politics at Zayed University, Dubai. He is the author of Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success (C Hurst, 2008)
(25 June 2008)

The era of oil wars

Michael Meacher, Guardian
Growing competition for oil may escalate to something as hot and dangerous as nuclear proliferation
... What is most disturbing of all is that the big powers, so far from seeking major adjustments of their energy policies on either the supply or demand fronts or making a major switch into renewables, are actually massively intensifying their competitive struggle short-term for the limited oil reserves left. Despite an unwinnable war in Iraq, the US is still constructing at least five large permanent military bases there in order, according to evidence given to a US Congressional Committee, to control access to Gulf oil, including in Saudi and Iran. As one neocon recently put it, "one of the reasons we had no exit plan from Iraq is that we didn't intend to leave". The US is also trying to force through a new Iraqi oil law that would give western, primarily American, oil multinationals control of Iraqi oilfields for the next 30 years.

The US maintains 737 military bases in 130 countries under cover of the "war on terror" to defend American economic interests, particularly access to oil. The principal objective for the continued existence and expansion of Nato post-cold war is the encirclement of Russia and the pre-emption of China dominating access to oil and gas in the Caspian Sea and Middle East regions. It is only the beginning of the unannounced titanic global resource struggle between the US and China, the world's largest importers of oil (China overtook Japan in 2003). Islam has been dragged into this tussle because it is in the Islamic world where most of these resources lie, but Islam is only a secondary player. In the case of Russia, the recent pronounced stepping up of western attacks on Putin and claims he is undermining democracy are ultimately aimed at securing a pro-western government there, and access to Russian oil and gas when Russia has more of these two hydrocarbons together than any other country in the world.

The struggle has also spilled over into West Africa, reckoned to hold some 66 billion barrels of oil typically low in sulphur and thus ideal for refining.

Michael Meacher, Labour MP for Oldham West and Royton, was environment minister 1997-2003
(29 June 2008)

It Was Oil, All Along

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, Common Dreams
Oh, no, they told us, Iraq isn’t a war about oil. That’s cynical and simplistic, they said. It’s about terror and al Qaeda and toppling a dictator and spreading democracy and protecting ourselves from weapons of mass destruction. But one by one, these concocted rationales went up in smoke, fire, and ashes. And now the bottom line turns out to be… the bottom line. It is about oil.

Alan Greenspan said so last fall. The former chairman of the Federal Reserve, safely out of office, confessed in his memoir, “… Everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.” He elaborated in an interview with the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, “If Saddam Hussein had been head of Iraq and there was no oil under those sands, our response to him would not have been as strong as it was in the first gulf war.”

Remember, also, that soon after the invasion, Donald Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, told the press that war was our only strategic choice. “… We had virtually no economic options with Iraq,” he explained, “because the country floats on a sea of oil.”

Shades of Daniel Plainview, the monstrous petroleum tycoon in the movie There Will Be Blood. Half-mad, he exclaims, “There’s a whole ocean of oil under our feet!” then adds, “No one can get at it except for me!”

No wonder American troops only guarded the Ministries of Oil and the Interior in Baghdad, even as looters pillaged museums of their priceless antiquities. They were making sure no one could get at the oil except… guess who?

Bill Moyers is managing editor and Michael Winship is senior writer of the weekly public affairs program Bill Moyers Journal, which airs Friday night on PBS.
(28 June 2008)
Related from NY Times: U.S. Advised Iraqi Ministry on Oil Deals.

Are they really oil wars?

Ismael Hossein-zadeh , Asia Times
A most widely cited factor behind the recent US wars of choice is said to be oil. "No Blood for Oil" has been a rallying cry for most of the war's opponents. While some of these opponents argue that the war is driven by the US desire for cheap oil, others claim it is prompted by Big Oil's wish for high oil prices and profits. Interestingly, most antiwar forces use both claims interchangeably without paying attention to the fact that they are diametrically-opposed assertions.

Not only do the two arguments contradict each other, but each argument is also wanting and unconvincing on its own grounds; not because the US does not wish for cheap oil, or because Big Oil does not desire higher oil prices, but because war is no longer the way to control or gain access to energy resources. Colonial-type occupation or direct control of energy resources is no longer efficient or economical and has, therefore, been abandoned for more than four decades.

The view that recent US military adventures in the Middle East and the broader Central Asia are driven by energy considerations is further reinforced by the dubious theory of Peak Oil, which maintains that, having peaked, world oil resources are now dwindling and that, therefore, war power and military strength are key to access or control of the shrinking energy resources.

Not only is Peak Oil theory unscientific, unrealistic, and perhaps even fraudulent; war and military force are no longer the necessary or appropriate means to gain access to sources of energy - resorting to military measures can, indeed, lead to costly, not cheap, oil. In fact, despite the lucrative spoils of war resulting from high oil prices and profits, Big Oil prefers peace and stability, not war and geopolitical turbulence, in global energy markets.

Behind the drive to war and military adventures in the Middle East lie powerful special interests (vested in war, militarism, and geopolitical concerns of Israel) that use oil as an issue of "national interest" - as a facade or pretext - in order to justify military adventures to derive high dividends, both economic and geopolitical, from war.
(20 June 2008)
Contributor TVeblen writes:
Following is the comment on this article I sent to Asia Times, slightly corrected to reduce 'authors' to 'author'.

The author of “Are they really oil wars?” provides a long overdue examination of the motives of US foreign policy in the Middle East. They correctly question the most popular variations of theories advancing the motive of oil as the pivotal explanation of US Middle Eastern policies. After discrediting theories having to do with the business interests of US oil companies, they argue the causes can be found in US militarism, its pursuit of global dominance and above all the domination of its foreign policy decision making by Israeli Zionists and imperialists.

In attempting to discredit oil as the principle motive for the US invasion of Iraq and its heavy military presence in the Middle East, the author attempts to discredit the ‘peak oil’ theory. Their discussion indicates that they have understood little of what they have read about ‘peak oil’. Except to note the obvious logical irrefutability of the proposition that after consuming large quantities of a finite resource like oil, the world will find it more difficult and eventually impossible to obtain that resource at a cost that makes sense - either in monetary terms or in terms of the laws governing the physical world, I’ll leave it to the reader to explore why few if any of the author’s’ objections to the ‘peak oil’ theory are correct. See, for example, “Profit from the Peak”, Hicks & Nelder.

Their Zionist / militarist explanation suffers from a logical flaw almost as serious. That is the assumption that US foreign policy is not dominated by hard-headed policy makers acutely aware of their own interests and how to pursue them. For such people, power for the sake of power makes no more sense than selfless altruism. These interests may be hard to see because of their subtly, complexity and all the red-herrings spread before a public whose cooperation in their pursuit is vital. The subterfuge is necessary because the interests of the US ruling class are increasingly at odds with the survival of its own people and probably, that of the rest of the world.

In a nutshell, those interests congeal around the use of money, the US dollar, to control as much of the world’s wealth as possible. I hope to be publishing a article shortly titled “Imperial Overdraft” explaining why I believe this to be the case. Please look for it.

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