Oil War II, the Sequel: The Empire Strikes Back in the Caspian (english)
by summary of Klare's book RESOURCE WARS 8:42pm Sat Oct 6 '01 (Modified on 7:20pm Tue Nov 13 '01)

 

"Michael Klare, author of the book "Resource Wars", which has a major focus on the Caspian region, was interviewed by Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc.,http://www.rferl.org on May 28, 2001. Klare is the Director of the Five College Program in Peace and World Security Studies based at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. In his book, Klare argues that it is not only the United States that is preparing. . .He contends that all regional powers are focusing increasingly on how to protect or enlarge their access to vital resources. . ."


The World Trade Center attack.....Caspian Oil and Gas and the
Afghanistan Pipeline Connection

By Jon Flanders

In the sound and fury of media coverage following the World Trade
Center attack, I have yet to see any serious examination of the
economic forces working behind the scenes in the Middle East and
specifically South Asia and Afghanistan. This in the United States,
where every up and down of the stock market makes headlines every
day, and we have TV channels devoted exclusively to economic
activity.

Most of us know that the Middle East is a center of activity for
world oil production. Some of us have heard about the Caspian Sea,
and the touted possibilities for great oil resources there. But few
would think that rocky, war torn Afghanistan might be part of this
energy production picture.Yet it most certainly is. And the
information about Afghanistan's role is readily available on the
World Wide Web to anyone who wants to investigate. Indeed, much of
the information comes from US government sources like the Voice of
America.

Michael Klare, author of the book "Resource Wars", which has a major
focus on the Caspian region, was interviewed by Radio Free Europe /
Radio Liberty, Inc.,http://www.rferl.org on May 28, 2001. Klare is
the Director of the Five College Program in Peace and World Security
Studies based at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. In his
book, Klare argues that it is not only the United States that is
preparing for resource conflicts. He contends that all regional
powers are focusing increasingly on how to protect or enlarge their
access to vital resources over the next generation.

Klare tells RFE/RL that vast energy reserves in Central Asia and the
Caucasus have made the region a priority for the United States
despite the area's generally poor progress in post-communist reforms.
"I think in this case this is a national security consideration
that's driving all of this. The United States has to get that oil
from that region [Central Asia] and will make a deal with whatever
governments are there in place that are willing to work with us [that
is, the US], like the government[s] in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan and
Turkmenistan that are far from ideal with respect to human rights and
democratic procedure. And I think that's a reflection of the view
that I write about in my book -- we [the US] view oil as a security
consideration and we have to protect it by any means necessary,
regardless of other considerations, other values." I will argue that
the current US government focus on Afghanistan is part of the oil
security consideration. The following is my attempt to make sense of
the Afghan energy connection.

The US government Energy Information fact sheet on Afghanistan dated
December 2000 says that.."Afghanistan's significance from an energy
standpoint stems from its geographic position as a potential transit
route for oil and natural gas exports from Central Asia to the
Arabian Sea. This potential includes proposed multi-billion dollar
oil and gas export pipelines through Afghanistan, although these
plans have now been thrown into serious question........"

These pipelines would begin in the former Soviet Republic of
Turkemenistan, which may have one of the largest gas deposits in the
world. The Washington Post reported in a 1998 article that "In August
1997, in a bold move that conjured up memories of 19th-century
Turkmen khans staving off would-be Russian conquerors, President(of
Turkemenistan) Saparmurad Niyazov halted gas deliveries to the
Russian-controlled pipeline system that was built during the Soviet
era."

The Post goes on to say that " Turkmenistan's potential was enormous.
Just inland from the Caspian shore were some of the world's oldest
oil fields, and Soviet-era geological surveys indicated that the
prospect for offshore finds was good. In the trackless Garagum
Desert, away from a thin line of irrigated valleys, geologists had
discovered one gas field after another beginning in the 1960s. By
1990, Dauletabad and the adjoining Sovietabad field were producing
1.6 trillion cubic feet a year, rivaling the gigantic gas fields of
Siberia.

Almost all of this gas was pumped north across Uzbekistan and
Kazakhstan into a Russian pipeline and on to markets in Europe and
the former Soviet republics. Niyazov said he "smelled old Soviet
ambitions" in Russia's use of its pipeline monopoly to keep
Turkmenistan's gas from competing with Russian gas in European
markets."

Advising Niayzov during the early nineties? None other than former
NATO commander and US Secretary of State Alexander Haig. In 1993 Haig
actually formed a consortium to build a pipeline from Turkmenistan
through Iran. Haig's project did not involve U.S. companies; Haig's
pipeline enterprise was registered in the British Virgin Islands. The
idea foundered on the opposition of the Clinton administration. But
the idea of new routes for the Turkemenistan oil and gas did not end
with the Haig plan. In an article dated 11/25/97, Voice of America
reporter Joan Beecher writes that top government officials and oil
company executives from the United States, Turkey, Great Britain,
Russia, Azerbaijan, and Central Asia met to discuss an issue of great
mutual concern: Pipeline routes for Caspian oil and gas.

The Washington Post in 1998 reported that "The initial enthusiast for
the Afghan route was not an American, however, but Carlos Bulgheroni,
the short, workaholic chairman of the Bridas Group, an Argentine
company. In 1993, a Bridas joint venture with Turkmenistan had begun
laying more than 2,000 miles of seismic lines to map the geology of a
potential gas field in eastern Turkmenistan. Two test wells confirmed
a huge gas deposit 150 miles from the Afghan border.

In the spring of 1995, Turkmenistan and Pakistan commissioned
Bulgheroni's company to study the Afghan route. But that summer, a
rival entered the game. John Imle, president of California-based
Unocal Corp., wooed Niyazov and Benazir Bhutto, then prime minister
of Pakistan, throughout July with a vision of a Unocal pipeline
following roughly the same route as the one proposed by Bridas."

By early 1998 a Unocal led consortium had made a deal with the
Taliban to construct an Afghanistan pipeline from Turkmenistan to
Pakistan.

On the question of the Afghanistan route VOA's Beecher says
that........ "the most obvious drawback of a proposed pipeline from
Turkmenistan, through Afghanistan, to Pakistan and down to the
Arabian Sea is that there is still a civil war going on in
Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, all factions in the civil war have signed agreements
supporting the proposed pipeline, according to Bob Todor, executive
vice president of Unocal, the company that is leading an
international consortium to construct the central Asian pipeline
through Afghanistan.

Speaking to the international conference, Mr. Todor argued that the
basic problem with the existing and proposed western routes, across
northern Russia, or to ports on the Black Sea, or under the Caspian
and down to Turkey, is that they all lead to European markets:

"Western Europe is a tough market. It is characterized by high prices
for oil products, an aging population, and increasing competition
from natural gas. Furthermore, the region is fiercely competitive. It
is now being serviced by fields of course in the Middle East, the
North Sea, Scandinavia, and Russia... Although there is room for
Central Asia's oil, on the whole, it [western Europe] is not a very
attractive market, because substantial infrastructure will have to be
developed to bring that oil from the Caspian to the Western European
market, and that market is very competitive."

Much the same is true of Eastern Europe and the countries of the
former Soviet Union, according to Mr. Todor. But Asia is a completely
different story. Many speakers, not just Mr. Todor, argued that Asia
will be the fastest growing market for Caspian oil, even if the
region's present financial crisis should lead to a prolonged economic
slowdown. Three routes to Asian markets have been proposed: Through
China, through Iran, and through Afghanistan to Pakistan. In Mr.
Todor's view, the proposed China route is too long, and will probably
prove to be prohibitively expensive. The major argument against the
Iran route is, quite simply, that the US government opposes it. Among
the many advantages of the Afghanistan route, according to Mr. Todor,
is that it would terminate in the Arabian Sea, which is much closer
than the Persian Gulf or northern China to key Asian markets:

"There is tremendous international and regional political will behind
the pipeline. The pipeline is beneficial to Central Asian countries
because it would allow them to sell their oil in expanding and highly
prospective Asian markets. The pipeline is beneficial to Afghanistan,
which would receive revenues from transport tariffs.... On a regional
level, the pipeline will promote stability and encourage trade and
economic development between South Asia and Central Asia. Finally,
because of the combination of short pipeline distance and the
relatively low cost of tankerage, this southern route will result in
the most competitive export route to the Asia/ Pacific market." Yet
construction of this promising route can only begin if and when an
internationally recognized government is formed in
Afghanistan......."

Todor's arguement for the Afghanistan pipeline was also made before
the US Congress in 1998, by John J. Maresca, Vice President,
International Relations of the Unocal Corporation in testimony to the
House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, February 12, 1998.

Maresca concluded his Congressional testimony with this peroration.
"Developing cost-effective, profitable and efficient export routes
for Central Asia resources is a formidable, but not impossible, task.
It has been accomplished before. A commercial corridor, a "new" Silk
Road, can link the Central Asia supply with the demand -- once again
making Central Asia the crossroads between Europe and Asia."

The Unocal led Centgas consortium consisted of the following
companies.

Unocal Corporation (US), 46.5 percent Delta Oil Company Limited
(Saudi Arabia), 15 percent The Government of Turkmenistan, 7 percent
Indonesia Petroleum, LTD. (INPEX) (Japan), 6.5 percent ITOCHU Oil
Exploration Co., Ltd. (CIECO) (Japan), 6.5 percent Hyundai
Engineering & Construction Co., Ltd. (Korea), 5 percent The Crescent
Group (Pakistan), 3.5 percent

The 48-inch diameter pipeline was to extend 790 miles (1,271
kilometers) from the Afghanistan-Turkmenistan border, generally
follow the Herat-to-Kandahar Road through Afghanistan, cross the
Pakistan border in the vicinity of Quetta, and terminate in Multan,
Pakistan, where it would tie into an existing pipeline system.
Turkmenistan was to construct a pipeline that will link with the
CentGas line at the border and stretch approximately 105 miles (169
kilometers) to the Dauletabad Field. A potential 400-mile
(644-kilometer) extension from Multan to New Delhi also was under
consideration. (source, Hazara.net)

The Unocal-led initiative foundered in 1998, after the US cruise
missile retaliation against Bin Laden's Afghan camps for the bombings
of its African embassies. Brown University's William O. Beeman wrote
in 1998 that ... " From the US standpoint, the only way to deny Iran
everything is for the anti-Iranian Taliban to win in Afghanistan and
to agree to the pipeline through their territory. The Pakistanis, who
would also benefit from this arrangement, are willing to defy the
Iranians for a share of the pot."

Beeman continues, "Enter Osama bin Laden, a sworn enemy of the United
States living in Afghanistan. His forces could see that the Taliban
would eventually end up in the American camp if things proceeded as
they had been. His(Bin Laden) bombing of US embassies in East Africa
(since there were none in Afghanistan) was accompanied by a message
for Americans to get out of ``Islamic countries.'' By this, he meant
specifically Afghanistan.The American response was to bomb bin
Laden's outposts while carefully noting that his forces were ``not
supported by any state.'' This latter statement was an attempt to
rescue the Taliban relationship, while at the same time giving the
Taliban leaders the message that they must ditch bin Laden. For good
measure, American missiles also took out a factory in Sudan - a
smokescreen for the real target of their action...."(William O.
Beeman is a Brown University anthropologist specializing in the
Middle East. The piece first ran in The Providence Journal and was
distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services. Aug 1998.)

At the same time Unocal came under fire from international women's
organizations for its courting of the Taliban, despite their
notorious repression of women's rights. The women's rights issue,
more than the embassy bombings, were used as an excuse to end the
Unocal led consortium's deal with the Taliban. UNOCAL had entered a
one million dollar contract with the University of Nebraska to train
workers in Afghanistan specifically for pipeline construction.
Women's organizations focused on this arrangement for protests.

Unocal's defection did not end pipeline plans. According to the VOA's
Sarah Horner "But the pipeline dreams have surfaced again. In May
2000 there were reports of discussions of the issue involving
Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Iran and Turkmenistan. And the Taliban
newspaper, the Kabul Times, recently reported that the mine and
industries minister, Mullah Mohammed Isa Akhond, met representatives
of the Central Asia-based US company, Central Asia Oil and Gas
Industry. The newspaper quoted company representative, Rafiq Yadgar
as saying: "Central Asia Oil and Gas Industry is ready to invest in
Afghanistan in the field of oil and gas extraction and meanwhile is
willing to build an gas and oil refinery in Afghanistan." He added
that Turkmen authorities are ready to cooperate with his company."

But any plans still ran afoul of the civil war in Afghanistan.
According to Horner, "Should any pipeline actually get off the ground
it will be a prime target for sabotage the United Front whose leader,
Ahmad Shah Massoud, excels at guerrilla tactics." A few days before
the WTC attack, Massoud was killed by suicide bombers posing as
journalists.

So as matters stood before the "election" of George W. Bush, plans
for Afghanistan's role in world energy production were at an impasse.
As most of us know, the Bush-Cheney team that took control of the US
Government in January, 2001, was heavily influenced by the oil
industry. Bush himself is a veteran of a number of mostly failed oil
enterprises. Cheney was the CEO of Halliburton, a major player in the
downstream oil industry.

Cheney described Halliburton's role in a 1998 speech at the aptly
named "Collateral Damage Conference" of the Cato Institute, a
conservative Washington think tank. According to Cato "This all-day
conference explored the current and potential conflicts between US
foreign policy and the liberty and well-being of American citizens.
The conference focused on the ways that US foreign policy infringes
on the freedom of Americans to trade, invest and communicate with the
rest of the world."

Cheney said in his speech that "Halliburton was founded some 70 years
ago in Duncan, Oklahoma, by one man and a truck, cementing oil wells
and casings inside oil wells. Over the years we developed the
capacity to do everything downhole that is necessary to produce oil
and gas: we drill wells, we do completions on wells, we cement, we
stimulate, and we undertake a host of other activities involved in
the production of oil and gas. We also own Brown & Root Engineering,
a company that began about 70 years ago with two brothers with a road
grader in Austin, Texas. Brown & Root is in the business of building
off-shore platforms, undersea pipelines, refineries, and other
down-stream facilities. Brown & Root is also heavily involved in the
operations and maintenance business. They currently have the
logistics contract for the U.S. Army in Bosnia under which they build
and operate all the camps for the US Army deployed there. As a
measure of the company's diversity, I should also mention that we are
building the new baseball stadium in Houston.

Halliburton employs about 70,000 people. We are currently a Fortune
200 company, but are in the process of merging with Dresser
Industries. Once we do that, part of Haliburton will not only include
Brown & Root, but also M. W. Kellogg, one of the world's premiere
engineering and design companies. In addition, Dresser also is
heavily involved in manufacturing pumps, compressors, and all kinds
of complex mechanical equipment that services the energy industry.
Overall, once we complete the merger, we will have about 100,000
employees. Our sales in 1999 should put us among the top 100
companies in America in terms of revenue. We'll be the largest
private employer in Texas and operate in over 130 countries all over
the globe. About 70 to 75 percent of our business is energy related,
serving customers like Unocal, Exxon, Shell, Chevron, and many other
major oil companies around the world. As a result, we oftentimes find
ourselves operating in some very difficult places. The good Lord
didn't see fit to put oil and gas only where there are democratically
elected regimes friendly to the United States. Occasionally we have
to operate in places where, all things considered, one would not
normally choose to go. But, we go where the business is."

Where the business is, indeed. In an article by Kenny Bruno and Jim
Valette in Multinational Monitor magazine, dated May 2001 the authors
report that "...During Cheney's tenure, Halliburton created or
continued partnerships with some of the world's most notorious
governments-in countries such as Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq,
Libya and Nigeria.

In order to do business with dictators and despots, Halliburton has
skirted US sanctions and made considerable efforts to eliminate those
sanctions. Halliburton's pattern of doing business with US enemies
and dictators started before Dick Cheney joined the company, and may
well continue after his tenure as CEO.

Halliburton's dealings in six countries -Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Iran,
Iraq, Libya and Nigeria-show that the company's willingness to do
business where human rights are not respected is a pattern that goes
beyond its involvement in Burma:

* Azerbaijan. Dick Cheney lobbied to remove Congressional sanctions
against aid to Azerbaijan, sanctions imposed because of concerns
about ethnic cleansing. Cheney said the sanctions were the result
only of groundless campaigning by the Armenian-American lobby. In
1997, Halliburton subsidiary Brown & Root bid on a major Caspian
project from the Azerbaijan International Operating Company.

* Indonesia. Halliburton had extensive investments and contracts in
Suharto's Indonesia. One of its contracts was canceled by the
post-Suharto government during a purging of corruptly awarded
contracts. Indonesia Corruption Watch named Kellogg Brown & Root
(Halliburton's engineering division) among 59 companies using
collusive, corruptive and nepotistic practices in deals involving
former President Suharto's family.

* Iran. Dick Cheney has lobbied against the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act.
Even with the Act in place, Halliburton has continued to operate in
Iran. It settled with the Department of Commerce in 1997, before
Cheney became CEO, over allegations relating to Iran for $15,000,
without admitting any wrongdoing.

* Iraq. Dick Cheney cites multilateral sanctions against Iraq as an
example of sanctions he supports. Yet since the war,
Halliburton-related companies helped to reconstruct Iraq's oil
industry. In July 2000, the International Herald Tribune reported,
"Dresser-Rand and Ingersoll-Dresser Pump Co., joint ventures that
Halliburton has sold within the past year, have done work in Iraq on
contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq's oil industry, under the
United Nations' Oil for Food Program." A Halliburton spokesman
acknowledged to the Tribune that the Dresser subsidiaries did sell
oil-pumping equipment to Iraq via European agents.

* Libya. Before Cheney's arrival, Halliburton was deeply involved in
Libya, earning $44.7 million there in 1993. After sanctions on Libya
were imposed, earnings dropped to $12.4 million in 1994. Halliburton
continued doing business in Libya throughout Cheney's tenure. One
Member of Congress accused the company "of undermining American
foreign policy to the full extent allowed by law."

* Nigeria. Local villagers have accused Halliburton of complicity in
the shooting of a protester by Nigeria's Mobile Police Unit, playing
a similar role to Shell and Chevron in the mobilization of this 'kill
and go" unit to protect company property. Dick Cheney has been a
strong advocate for preventing or eliminating federal laws that place
limits on Halliburton's ability to do business in these countries."

The current hot spot for "where the business is" happens to be the
Caspian. In a column dated Thursday, August 10, 2000 in the Chicago
Tribune , Marjorie Cohn, a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of
Law in San Diego writes.....

"Because of the instability in the Persian Gulf, Cheney and his
fellow oilmen have zeroed in on the world's other major source of
oil--the Caspian Sea. Its rich oil and gas resources are estimated at
$4 trillion by US News and World Report. The Washington-based
American Petroleum Institute, voice of the major US oil companies,
called the Caspian region, "the area of greatest resource potential
outside of the Middle East." Cheney told a gaggle of oil industry
executives in 1998, "I can't think of a time when we've had a region
emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the
Caspian." ..."

Halliburton's Caspian investments include Turkmenistan.

On October 27, 1997, the same time period in which the Unocal
pipeline plan was in the works, a Halliburton press release announced
that "Halliburton has received a Letter of Intent from Petronas
Carigali (Turkmenistan) SDN. BHD. to provide integrated drilling
services for an exploration and appraisal program in the Caspian Sea
beginning in late 1997. Halliburton, in conjunction with alliance
partners, Dresser Industries and Western Atlas, will provide a
combination of 10 services. Halliburton will be the lead contractor
and project manager in addition to providing technical services. The
value of the award is estimated to be U.S. $30 million for the total
project. "This major new award will expand and solidify the HES
presence in the Eastern Caspian and position the company well for
both upstream and downstream projects which are rapidly developing in
this emerging market," said Zeke Zeringue, president, Halliburton
Energy Services. Halliburton Energy Services has been providing a
variety of services in Turkmenistan for the past five years."

P.V. Vivekanand, chief editor of The Gulf Today in the United Arab
Emirates sums up the pipeline picture in the Caspian/Central Asia
region in this way..."There are dozens of oil and gas pipeline
projects in Central Asia, some estimated to cost billions of dollars
and almost all sparking transborder disputes and controversies. Most
of the projects have been discussed for decades as the oil giants
wait for the right political conditions to move in. Because pipelines
are the best method to transport oil and gas over land, the
efficiency of such a delivery system is too tempting for energy
exporters and importers to let go of plans in a hurry. And for many
potential exporters and pipeline hosts, the realization of such
projects can mean economic survival."

So where are we in the post WTC disaster period? The Bush-Cheney
administration has taken full advantage of the shock and horror
aroused in the US populace by this disastrous attack. On every front
they are moving to implement a draconian conservative agenda. Whether
passing anti-democratic domestic laws in the name of fighting
terrorism, or to mobilizing the military to fight "terrorism" abroad,
they move full speed ahead with their political program.

The focus on Afghanistan compels our notice. After all, the Middle
East is full of people and governments that have no love for the US.
The right wingers of William Buckley's National Review call for war
to the finish against Iraq's Saddam Hussein. Others mention Iran.

But Bin Laden and the Taliban get the scapegoat's tail. Is this based
on a real case, with hard evidence? Or is it simply because Bin Laden
et al open the way for the full military might of the US armed forces
to be committed to make the Caspian and Central Asian region safe for
the US led oil and gas pipelines?

I think the evidence is overwhelming. The Bush administration plans
to use the WTC attack as an opportunity to use the US military as
pipeline police, with the current goal of splitting the government of
Pakistan and the Taliban from the Islamic militants led by Bin Laden.
If they can accomplish this, the way might be cleared for the
Afghanistan pipeline project, and the basis for further penetration
into the oil rich former Soviet republics established.


More on Oil Wars:

America's Pipe Dream

    The war against terrorism is also a struggle for oil and regional control
    By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 23rd October 2001

    "Is there any man, is there any woman, let me say any child here",
Woodrow Wilson asked a year after the First World War ended, "that does not
know that the seed of war in the modern world is industrial and commercial
rivalry?". In 1919, as US citizens watched a shredded Europe scraping up its
own remains, the answer may well have been no. But the lessons of war never
last for long.

    The invasion of Afghanistan is certainly a campaign against terrorism,
but it may also be a late colonial adventure. British ministers have warned
MPs that opposing the war is the moral equivalent of appeasing Hitler, but
in some respects our moral choices are closer to those of 1956 than those of
1938. Afghanistan is as indispensable to regional control and the transport
of oil in central Asia as Egypt was in the Middle East.

    Afghanistan has some oil and gas of its own, but not enough to qualify
as a major strategic concern. Its northern neighbours, by contrast, contain
reserves which could be critical to future global supply. In 1998, Dick
Cheney, now US vice-president but then chief executive of a major oil
services company, remarked, "I cannot think of a time when we have had a
region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the
Caspian." But the oil and gas there is worthless until it is moved. The only
route which makes both political and economic sense is through Afghanistan.

    Transporting all the Caspian basin's fossil fuel through Russia or
Azerbaijan would greatly enhance Russia's political and economic control
over the Central Asian Republics, which is precisely what the West has spent
ten years trying to prevent. Piping it through Iran would enrich a regime
which the US has been seeking to isolate. Sending it the long way round
through China, quite aside from the strategic considerations, would be
prohibitively expensive. But pipelines through Afghanistan would allow the
US both to pursue its aim of "diversifying energy supply" and to penetrate
the world's most lucrative markets. Growth in European oil consumption is
slow and competition is intense. In South Asia, by contrast, demand is
booming and competitors are scarce. Pumping oil south and selling it in
Pakistan and India, in other words, is far more profitable than pumping it
west and selling it in Europe.

    As the author Ahmed Rashid has documented, the US oil company Unocal has
been seeking since 1995 to build oil and gas pipelines from Turkmenistan,
through Afghanistan and into Pakistani ports on the Arabian Sea. The
company's scheme required a single administration in Afghanistan, which
would guarantee safe passage for its goods. Soon after the Taliban took
Kabul in September 1996, the Telegraph reported that "oil industry insiders
say the dream of securing a pipeline across Afghanistan is the main reason
why Pakistan, a close political ally of America's, has been so supportive of
the Taliban, and why America has quietly acquiesced in its conquest of
Afghanistan." Unocal invited some of the leaders of the Taliban to Houston,
where they were royally entertained. The company suggested paying these
barbarians 15 cents for every thousand cubic feet of gas it pumped through
the land they had conquered.

    For the first year of Taliban rule, US policy towards the regime appears
to have been determined principally by Unocal's interests. In 1997 a US
diplomat told Rashid "the Taliban will probably develop like the Saudis did.
There will be Aramco [a US oil consortium which worked in Saudi Arabia],
pipelines, an emir, no parliament and lots of Sharia law. We can live with
that." US policy began to change only when feminists and greens started
campaigning against both Unocal's plans and the government's covert backing
for Kabul.

    Even so, as a transcript of a congress hearing now circulating among war
resisters shows, Unocal failed to get the message. In February 1998, John
Maresca, its head of international relations, told representatives that the
growth in demand for energy in Asia and sanctions against Iran determined
that Afghanistan remained "the only other possible route" for Caspian oil.
The company, once the Afghan government was recognised by foreign diplomats
and banks, still hoped to build a 1000-mile pipeline, which would carry a
million barrels a day. Only in December 1998, four months after the embassy
bombings in East Africa, did Unocal drop its plans.

    But Afghanistan's strategic importance has not changed. In September, a
few days before the attack on New York, the US Energy Information
Administration reported that "Afghanistan's significance from an energy
standpoint stems from its geographical position as a potential transit route
for oil and natural gas exports from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea. This
potential includes the possible construction of oil and natural gas export
pipelines through Afghanistan." Given that the US government is dominated by
former oil industry executives, we would be foolish to suppose that a
reinvigoration of these plans no longer figures in its strategic thinking.
As the researcher Keith Fisher has pointed out, the possible economic
outcomes of the war in Afghanistan mirror the possible economic outcomes of
the war in the Balkans, where the development of "Corridor 8", an economic
zone built around a pipeline carrying oil and gas from the Caspian to
Europe, is a critical allied concern.

    This is not the only long-term US interest in Afghanistan. American
foreign policy is governed by the doctrine of "full-spectrum dominance",
which means that the United States should control military, economic and
political development all over the world. China has responded by seeking to
expand its interests in central Asia. The defence white paper Beijing
published last year argued that "China's fundamental interests lie in ...
the establishment and maintenance of a new regional security order". In
June, China and Russia pulled four Central Asian Republics into a "Shanghai
Co-operation Organisation". Its purpose, according to Jiang Zemin, is to
"foster world multi-polarisation", by which he means contesting US
full-spectrum dominance.

    If the United States succeeds in overthrowing the Taliban and replacing
it with a stable and grateful pro-western government and if it then binds
the economies of central Asia to that of its ally Pakistan, it will have
crushed not only terrorism, but also the growing ambitions of both Russia
and China. Afghanistan, as ever, is the key to the western domination of Asia.

    We have argued on these pages about whether terrorism is likely to be
deterred or encouraged by the invasion of Afghanistan, or whether the plight
of the starving there will be relieved or exacerbated by attempts to destroy
the Taliban. But neither of these considerations describes the full scope
and purpose of this war. As John Flynn wrote in 1944, "The enemy aggressor
is always pursuing a course of larceny, murder, rapine and barbarism. We are
always moving forward with high mission, a destiny imposed by the Deity to
regenerate our victims while incidentally capturing their markets, to
civilize savage and senile and paranoidal peoples while blundering
accidentally into their oil wells." I believe that the United States
government is genuine in its attempt to stamp out terrorism by military
force in Afghanistan, however misguided that may be. But we would be na´ve
to believe that this is all it is doing.

23rd October 2001