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Imperialism and Oil


In March 2003, after months of propaganda about phony threats posed by Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, as well as absurd suggestions by the White House that his regime was in league with al-Qaeda, U.S. forces invaded Iraq in an act of aggression that was every bit as brazen and illegal as Nazi Germany’s blitzkrieg of Poland in 1939.

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and a cabal of neocon schemers preyed upon the American public’s fears, prejudices, and patriotism to support a war that has cost the United States $1 trillion, spread hatred for America across the Muslim world, and resulted in the death of almost 4500 American servicemen and the wounding of tens of thousands more. The butchers bill has been much higher for Iraqis, with estimates of the dead ranging from 100,000 to over a million.

My intention here is not to try to stir the conscience of Americans (although that would be nice) but to alert them to a propaganda campaign now being waged to promote another war. This time the target is Iran.

For the better part of two decades, the American people have been treated to warnings that Iran was on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons. This latest scare comes on the heels of a report released by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) raising concerns regarding Iran’s civilian nuclear-energy program.

From all the attention the IAEA report is receiving from the mainstream press, one would expect it to contain some new evidence of Iran developing nuclear weapons. But the report contains no new information, and it is really just a recapitulation of earlier allegations based on a stolen laptop computer of dubious origin, as well as a bit of thin gruel regarding a Russian scientist whose field of expertise isn’t even in nuclear weapons.

Nevertheless, the IAEA’s report has been seized upon by bellicose politicians as justification for military action, and the mainstream media has fallen into line by producing alarmist headlines telling Americans of the imminent threat of an Iranian bomb.

This is disturbing, for it was the failure of the mainstream press to scrutinize the White Houses claims regarding Iraq that cleared the path to war in 2003. The news medias credulity today regarding Iran may lead to another war in the Middle East that could easily escalate into a global confrontation.

So if there is no new evidence whatsoever of Iran developing nuclear weapons, why all the hysteria? Perhaps these events can be better understood if one looks at the history of western intervention in Iran, which goes back for the better part of a century.

In 1941, British and Soviet forces invaded Iran in a joint exercise to secure the Trans-Iranian Railway and safeguard the country’s oil reserves. The British were primarily concerned with protecting the interests of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, and the Soviets wanted oil concessions (which they obtained before withdrawing in 1946).

In 1953, U.S. and British intelligence services, operating out of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, fomented a coup against Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister Dr. Mohammed Mosaddegh, because he tried to nationalize the country’s oilfields. The coup restored Shah Pahlavi to his throne, and the monarch returned the favor by being Americas loyal ally in the region for the next quarter century. During this time, the CIA worked closely with the Shahs brutal secret police, the Savak, to crush dissent.

In February 1979, an Islamic revolution led by Ayatollah Khoemeini overthrew the Shahs regime and installed the Islamic Republic. After spending months searching for a country that would take him in, the deposed Shah was permitted to enter the United States. Then, Iranian militants, fearful the CIA would use the U.S. embassy in an operation to restore the Shah to power, stormed the embassy compound and took the diplomatic mission hostage.

During the Iran-Iraq War (19801988), the U.S. government covertly supported the Iraqi war effort, not only as retribution for the hostage crisis, but also as part of a cynical strategy to prolong the exhausting conflict and thereby render the region more vulnerable to western penetration. U.S. assistance included arranging for loans from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and permitting the export of missile technology to Iraq’s missile-procurement agency. The United States also provided satellite data on Iranian troop movements and prepared detailed battle planning for the Iraqi army at a time when Iraq was using chemical weapons against Iran.

Since September 11, 2001, the United States has occupied two of Iran’s neighbors (Iraq and Afghanistan), established military bases to Iran’s north in central Asia (Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan), and has an aircraft carrier near the Iranian shore.

The current hysteria regarding Iran’s alleged nuclear ambitions is a manufactured crisis intended to provide cover for Washington’s imperial ambitions in Persia and its wider geopolitical plan to dominate the planet through the control of its oil heartlands. As Zbigniew Brzezinski, cofounder of the Trilateral Commission, stated in his 1998 book, The Grand Chessboard,

How America manages Eurasia is critical. Eurasia is the globe’s largest continent and is geopolitically axial. A power that dominates Eurasia would control two of the world’s three most advanced and economically productive regions. A mere glance at the map also suggests that control over Eurasia would almost automatically entail Africa’s subordination, rendering the Western Hemisphere and Oceania geopolitically peripheral to the world’s central continent. About 75 per cent of the world’s people live in Eurasia, and most of the world’s physical wealth is there as well, both in its enterprises and underneath its soil. Eurasia accounts for 60 per cent of the world’s GNP and about three-fourths of the world’s known energy resources.

Two basic steps are thus required: first, to identify the geostrategically dynamic Eurasian states that have the power to cause a potentially important shift in the international distribution of power and to decipher the central external goals of their respective political elites and the likely consequences of their seeking to attain them; second, to formulate specific U.S. policies to offset, co-opt, and/or control the above.

To put it in a terminology that harkens back to the more brutal age of ancient empires, the three grand imperatives of the imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together.

Iran is home to the worlds fourth largest oil reserves, and it is strategically located just across the Persian Gulf from Saudi Arabia. Iran also borders the Caspian Sea, an area long coveted by Western energy interests connected to the U.S. government.

While the U.S. justified its invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 as a necessary response to the 9/11 attacks, one objective of the decade-long NATO occupation has been to provide security for the Trans Afghanistan Pipeline, a project that has been in the works since the early 1990s and figures greatly in Washington’s wider geopolitical agenda to control various strategic resources. Bringing Iran back into the Anglo-American fold would go a long way toward finally securing control of the Caspian Basins rich energy deposits.

But Russia and China are not likely to sit still as the U.S. maneuvers to dominate a region so vital to their interests. Russia and Iran trade extensively with each other, and China now relies on Iran for 12 percent of her oil. The Middle East is a tinder box, and therefore no place for the United State or Israel to be playing with matches. One hopes Washington’s and Tel Aviv’s bellicose posturing is only bluff and not a prelude to war. If an actual shooting war does breakout, Russia and China, both actual nuclear powers, could be drawn into the fight.

Then all bets are off.

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    Tim Kelly is a columnist and policy advisor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Virginia, a correspondent for Radio America’s Special Investigator, and a political cartoonist.