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Syria background - oil and climate change

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Oil

China joins Russia in opposing military strikes
Patrick Wintour, Guardian
China has joined Russia in opposing military strikes on Syria, saying it would push up oil prices and create an economic downturn.

The Chinese intervention came as G20 leaders gathered in Saint Petersburg on Thursday for a summit likely to be dominated by Syria. The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, is expected to allow the issue on to the agenda for dinner, reflecting the reality that the fate of the world economy is inextricably intertwined with the risk of a Middle East conflagration.

The Chinese deputy finance minister, Zhu Guangyao, told a pre-G20 briefing: "Military action would have a negative impact on the global economy, especially on oil prices – it will cause a hike in the oil price."
(5 Sept 2013)


Syria intervention plan fueled by oil interests, not chemical weapon concern

Nafeez Ahmed, Guardian
Massacres of civilians are being exploited for narrow geopolitical competition to control Mideast oil, gas pipelines

... The 2011 uprisings, it would seem - triggered by a confluence of domestic energy shortages and climate-induced droughts which led to massive food price hikes - came at an opportune moment that was quickly exploited. Leaked emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor including notes from a meeting with Pentagon officials confirmed US-UK training of Syrian opposition forces since 2011 aimed at eliciting "collapse" of Assad's regime "from within."

So what was this unfolding strategy to undermine Syria and Iran all about? According to retired NATO Secretary General Wesley Clark, a memo from the Office of the US Secretary of Defense just a few weeks after 9/11 revealed plans to "attack and destroy the governments in 7 countries in five years", starting with Iraq and moving on to "Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran." In a subsequent interview, Clark argues that this strategy is fundamentally about control of the region's vast oil and gas resources.

Much of the strategy currently at play was candidly described in a 2008 US Army-funded RAND report, Unfolding the Future of the Long War (pdf). The report noted that "the economies of the industrialized states will continue to rely heavily on oil, thus making it a strategically important resource." As most oil will be produced in the Middle East, the US has "motive for maintaining stability in and good relations with Middle Eastern states":
(30 Aug 2013)
Just a few days ago we posted An interview with Nafeez Ahmed by Rob Hopkins of Transition. -BA

Climate

Your Labor Day Syria Reader, Part 2
William R. Polk, The Atlantic
... Syria has been convulsed by civil war since climate change came to Syria with a vengeance. Drought devastated the country from 2006 to 2011. Rainfall in most of the country fell below eight inches (20 cm) a year, the absolute minimum needed to sustain un-irrigated farming. Desperate for water, farmers began to tap aquifers with tens of thousands of new well. But, as they did, the water table quickly dropped to a level below which their pumps could lift it.

 

USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, Commodity Intelligence Report, May 9, 2008

In some areas, all agriculture ceased. In others crop failures reached 75%. And generally as much as 85% of livestock died of thirst or hunger. Hundreds of thousands of Syria’s farmers gave up, abandoned their farms and fled to the cities and towns in search of almost non-existent jobs and severely short food supplies. Outside observers including UN experts estimated that between 2 and 3 million of Syria’s 10 million rural inhabitants were reduced to “extreme poverty.”

The domestic Syrian refugees immediately found that they had to compete not only with one another for scarce food, water and jobs, but also with the already existing foreign refugee population. Syria already was a refuge for quarter of a million Palestinians and about a hundred thousand people who had fled the war and occupation of Iraq. Formerly prosperous farmers were lucky to get jobs as hawkers or street sweepers. And in the desperation of the times, hostilities erupted among groups that were competing just to survive.

So tens of thousands of frightened, angry, hungry and impoverished former farmers flooded constituted a “tinder” that was ready to catch fire. The spark was struck on March 15, 2011 when a relatively small group gathered in the town of Daraa to protest against government failure to help them. Instead of meeting with the protestors and at least hearing their complaints, the government cracked down on them as subversives. The Assads, who had ruled the country since 1971, were not known for political openness or popular sensitivity. And their action backfired. Riots broke out all over the country, As they did, the Assads attempted to quell them with military force.
(2 Sep 2013)
An info-rich but readable article at The Atlantic by William Polk, a foreign policy expert and former member of US governments. Some conclusions:
- It is not a slam-dunk that the Syrian government is responsible for the poison gas. The investigation is far from complete, and factions among the rebels have motivations for a false-flag operation. But any conclusion is now premature.
- A symbolic action would likely have little effect, and there is significant danger of "mission creep", with the US getting further involved and the conflict expanding.
Bio of the author
-BA


 

Wars to Alter How We Live

Necessary And Unnecessary Wars
Carolyn Baker, Speaking Truth to Power
... At this moment in history, legitimate wars cry out to be fought, but they have nothing to do with fossil fuel energy or political triumph. Rather, they have to do with the termination of industrial civilization and its living arrangements and the acquisition of food and water on this planet.

In his brilliant September 4, 2013 Huffington Post article, “Responding To Killer Gas,” Craig Comstock argues that the more lethal “poison gas” now being released on the planet is not from chemical weapons in Syria but from fossil fuel usage across the globe:

... as empire is busily embroiled in terminal resource wars, its inhabitants are less likely to focus on catastrophic climate change or the massive doses of lethal radiation that hourly spew from the deadly Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Power Plant—the worst nuclear accident in the history of the world.

I believe that as individuals, we must conduct “wars” in our families and communities to radically alter how we live. More importantly, we must engage in the ongoing transformation of our psycho-spiritual awareness so that we are not just giving lip service to our desire to live in a new paradigm, but are actually embracing it and functioning in alignment with it.

... Imperial resource wars dominate mainstream news and seek to distract our attention from humanity’s most daunting foes, but we must incisively see through them and their labyrinthine lies. Now is the time to discern which wars are necessary and which ones would deter us from the survival issues of our earthly existence and the spiritual awareness that transcends all human struggles.
(5 Sept 2013)

Discussion

Discussion among Resilience readers
Readers, Resilience
Below Kurt Cobb's article "What Syria tells us about world oil supplies" is a spirited discussion among Resilience readers. Click here to see all comments. Selected comments (not in chronological order):

Kurt Cobb (writer)
Some people may believe that I think that the only reason for American intervention is its interest in stable oil production. I don't discount the many other reasons evinced here and by the administration. I just felt someone had to say that yes, once again, oil is a huge factor despite all the hand waving about chemical weapons and about the so-called "revolution" in the shale gas and tight oil fields.

Jerry Silberman
Kurt understates the alignment of the Middle East religiously, and the impact in this struggle. The "rebels" are competing factions of Muslim fundamentalists aligned with Iran and Hezbollah Syria's traditional allies, or Saudi Arabia. None would offer a government less problematic than Assad's nor could they cooperate in a government, as proxies for mortal enemies (Saudi Arabia and Iran).

At this point, given the stalemate of power balance, any solution except the continuation of the Assad regime (which represented a factor of balance over the years) guarantees a ore volatile situation going forward. The US and its allies, by encouraging the rebels and dramatically underestimating the power of the regime, have now created their own worst nightmare, the possibility of raising the level of conflict, and risk to oil production by a magnitude for an indefinite period of time

NormanJohn
Ultimately all serious conflicts are over resources. The current mess in Syria was caused by years of drought forcing farmers off their lands and into cities, where they clashed with different sects. Right across the middle east one religious sect or other is grabbing of holding onto what it can, in the certain knowledge that as the oil declines into a finite future, all those millions of people spawned on the cheap excess of it are going to find their future very bleak.

So wars there are going to get worse as the oil drains away to a point where it costs more to get hold of than is economically viable. This is going to destabilize and destroy nations long before the oil is gone. This will add to the futility of fighting over it: the harder the battles to ‘protect’ oilfield, the more antagonists will seek to destroy them text...

Billhook
... I don’t see [the] scenario of a long boots-on-the-ground occupation as any less than utterly disastrous, as it would be a magnet for every Jihadi within 2,000 miles, and a perfect recruiting sergeant for the next generation. The sole, rather minor, advantage would be the Jihadis’ absence from their present countries. Moreover, while there are now openings in Iran – for instance Iran’s ex-president Rafsanjani stating on camera his understanding that it was the Syrian govt who ordered the recent Sarin attack - any US invasion would generate a prompt unification behind hardliners.

A very limited brief strike specifically against airfields and planes might be justified in my view as a clear message that breaches of the treaty banning CW will attract a damaging response, but only if it is accompanied by the provision of ample arms to the original democratic rebel forces to bring Assad to the negotiating table for a peaceful settlement. Training in the use of modern portable weaponry will take time, and the rational priority for a brief missile strike by the US would thus be to target Assad’s capacity to bomb civilian targets and resupply his many isolated bases during that period.

OTOH launching a very limited strike without giving the SFA the means to reduce the army would be to allow Assad to slowly crush the rebellion, or to see him overthrown by rising numbers of well funded foreign Jihadis, who seek to impose an equally tyrannical Wahabist theocracy, that would be backed by all of Assad’s munitions.

There do not seem to be any good outcomes from washing our hands of this conflict.

Bart (co-editor) ... I'm only speaking for myself, not PCI or Resilience.

To untangle the threads of the question, maybe we could look at three separate issues:

1) Military picture. As I understand the military people, they are saying to think it through - don't act impulsively. Consider

- What is the goal of the action?
- Is the action going to accomplish that goal?
- What are possible consequences?
- Are we prepared to accept those consequences?

It is very likely that a strike will not achieve much. Also, it is possible that additional players will be pulled into the conflict. Is the US prepared to engage in another multi-year land war, with the casualties and expenses that entails?

2) Geo-political strategy. A strike would be a continuation of the US policy since WW2: Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, as well as many other small-scale actions.

Constant intervention means that a good part of US wealth goes to military expenses. Less money is available for invention in industry, infrastructure and people. US society becomes more and more militarized.

For these reasons, a number of parties are saying that it is time for the US to scale down its military involvement: For example: traditional conservatives, some military thinkers, some on the liberal left.

3) Humanitarian reasons. I don't think nation-states decide their policy based on humanitarian considerations. As the blogger Atrios (Duncan Black) wrote:

"I don't claim to always know how to save the world, I just know we're willing to spend orders of magnitude more money to blow people up in order to save them than we are willing to spend on any other kind of "humanitarian" aid. When that changes, I'll be a bit more open to the bombs dropping."

(5 Sept 2013)

 

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