Friday, January 25, 2002

Pipelineistan: Or, it's the Oil Stupid

This two-part article from the Asia Times shows just how the activities going on in the Middle East is just about the Oil. Not the Oil in the Gulf of Arabia, but instead the Oil in the Caspian Basin. This Oil is underneath countries carved from the former Soviet Union, and have been the subject of an intense series of gaming in the years since the collapse of that country.

[January 25, 2002; Asia Times;] Pipelineistan, Part 1: The rules of the game ... A quick look at the map is all it takes. It's no coincidence that the map of terror in the Middle East and Central Asia is practically interchangeable with the map of oil. There's Infinite Justice, Enduring Freedom - and Everlasting Profits to be made: not only by the American industrial-military complex, but especially by American and European oil giants.

... Pipelineistan is the golden future: a paradise of opportunity in the form of US$5 trillion of oil and gas in the Caspian basin and the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. In Washington's global petrostrategy, this is supposed to be the end of America's oil dependence on the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

... The Caspian states hold at least 200 billion barrels of oil, and Central Asia has 6.6 trillion cubic meters of natural gas just begging to be exploited. Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are two major producers: Turkmenistan is nothing less than a "gas republic". Apart from oil and gas there's copper, coal, tungsten, zinc, iron, uranium, gold.

The only export routes, for the moment, are through Russia. So most of the game consists of building alternative pipelines to Turkey and Western Europe, and to the east toward the Asian markets. India will be a key player. India, Iran, Russia and Israel are all planning to supply oil and gas to South and Southeast Asia through India.

... It's enlightening to note that all countries or regions which happen to be an impediment to Pipelineistan routes towards the West have been subjected either to a direct interference or to all-out war: Chechnya, Georgia, Kurdistan, Yugoslavia and Macedonia. To the east, the key problems are the Uighurs of China's far-western Xinjiang and, until recently, Afghanistan.

The stakes in the Oil game are big. First, the way of life we enjoy could not happen if it were not for Oil. The cheaper that Oil, the better, in economic terms. Well, unless you're the supplier of said Oil (e.g. OPEC).

According to the United States Energy Information Administration, in 2001 America imported an average of 9.1 million barrels per day - over 60 percent of its crude oil needs. In 2020, the country is projected to require almost 26 million barrels per day in imports. So, it is projected that in 20 years the U.S. is going to triple its use of Oil? Say what?

This is the same U.S. that is running out of domestic Oil reserves. The same U.S. that is already using 25% of the worlds resources, while having only 5% of the worlds population. Asinine.

And, this underscores why the war is about the Oil.

[January 26, 2002 ; Asia Times;] Pipelineistan, Part 2: The games nations play

He goes on to detail the different board pieces being played in this game by the various countries.

A series of pipelines are being built, or planned. The various countries are jostling one another. For example Russia has strong influence because of their historical control of the region. But the U.S. has invaded Afghanistan taking a strong position there, and has (since the article) invaded Iraq and is now threatening Iran. By overturning a swath of countries from Iraq to Afghanistan, the U.S. position will be all the stronger.

The key is, how to get the Oil out of the region without passing through a hostile country. Afghanistan used to be hostile, but look what happened to them. Pakistan used to be, and still is, hostile, except we seem to have bribed them into agreement. Iran is hostile, but we're threatening them and may well invade them as well. Iraq was hostile, and the geurilla fighters definitely still are hostile. Russia isn't exactly friendly, despite our cozy relationship with them. Ditto the situation with China, since some of the maneuvering is to "surround" China with countries friendly to the U.S.