Oil Costs More Than You Think
by Hossein Askari
www.antiwar.com, November 28,
In its quest to control global oil and
gas reserves, the U.S. has forgotten its noble heritage and is
endangering its future by supporting dictators abroad. While the
Middle East's resources are a tempting prize, the continuing alienation
of its people and the likelihood of wider confrontations are a
recipe for disaster.
To reach its goal, the U.S. has relied
principally on supporting malleable strongmen and interfering
in the internal affairs of sovereign countries. Most recently
the U.S. has resorted to military intervention. Washington initiated
the policy of interference and support for dictators in 1953 when,
along with Britain, it overthrew the elected government of Mohammad
Mossadegh in Iran and reinstalled the shah. Unfortunately, the
U.S. learned nothing from the events of the ensuing years. The
Iranian Revolution was as much about jettisoning U.S. control
of internal Iranian affairs as it was about overthrowing the shah
and establishing an elected government. With the loss of Iran,
the U.S. focused on Arab countries ruled by corrupt families.
To my mind, the extent of the corruption
in the Persian Gulf is unprecedented in the history of man. Just
ask yourself a simple question: How is it that the rulers of Saudi
Arabia are so rich? Is it because all the roughly 20,000 family
members are so very intelligent? Is it because they are so hardworking?
The answer is simple. The Saudi monarchy has taken brazen corruptness
to a level never seen before. The Saud family is plundering the
birthright of all present and future citizens of Saudi Arabia.
They are in on every big government contract, and their commissions
can sometimes run into the billions of dollars. For example, the
commission paid to Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud on the al-Yamamah
military contract (with BAE Systems) in the UK has allegedly exceeded
well over $2 billion, with many more billions expected to follow.
In 2006 the British government stopped all investigations into
the widely reported commission and rescued this "royal"
middleman by resorting to an "in the interest of national
security" argument. As expected, in 2007 another large Saudi
military contract, more wasteful military expenditures, and more
commissions, all to the detriment of Saudi citizens, rewarded
But this is only the tip of the iceberg.
The late King Fahd's palace in Jeddah, just one of many, reportedly
cost well over $1 billion. This is the same King Fahd whose favorite
title was the "Custodian of theTwo Holy Mosques"! The
senior members of the Saud family take from the state treasury
at will, robbing the citizens of Saudi Arabia without hindrance.
Once depleted and plundered, the trillions in oil and gas assets
will be lost to all generation of citizens, present and future.
Although corruption and lavish lifestyles are forbidden in Islam,
the Western media's confusion persists: it is not a matter of
Islam condoning corruption, but rather of regional dictators who
are supported and protected by the U.S. How can the U.S. believe
that its support for these rulers and their policies will "win
the hearts and minds" of Muslims?
As if these sad legacies of Washington's
drive for control of Persian Gulf petroleum were not enough, the
U.S. has encouraged regional conflict. The Iran-Iraq war could
have been stopped at the very moment Saddam Hussein invaded Iran.
Instead the United Nations, with implicit U.S. backing, took no
action, and the U.S., along with its European allies, supplied
Saddam Hussein with all sorts of weaponry, including outlawed
chemical and biological weapons. The U.S. also supplied Iraq with
battlefield intelligence. The cost of this war to Iraq exceeded
the country's total oil revenues over the entire period from the
creation of Iraq to 1988 (the year the war ended); the cost to
Iran exceeded Iran's oil revenues from 1945 to 1988. The U.S.
encouraged the rulers of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab
Emirates, and Qatar to shower their Arab brother, Saddam Hussein,
the supposed Arab protector, with cash in an effort to protect
their shaky regimes. Later, the U.S. did less than it could have
to discourage Saddam's invasion of Kuwait. Instead, the U.S. led
a coalition of mercenary allies to reinstall the Kuwaiti monarchy,
thereby winning sweetheart deals from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and
the United Arab Emirates for favored oil companies, engineering
firms, and arms manufacturers.
Then came the invasion of Iraq in 2003,
a war motivated in part by a desire to control the oil of Iraq
and its neighbors and to render Iran more malleable. Iran was
labeled a supporter of terrorism and a member of an "axis
of evil," while Arab dictators were praised as "moderates."
The Iraq war continues today with higher costs than any previous
war in the Persian Gulf and with no end in sight. Oil, greed,
and aggression go hand in hand and bring out the worst in men
and in governments. Can anyone expect the people of the Persian
Gulf region to welcome U.S. support for regimes that rob them
of their freedom, plunder their resources, and subjugate them?
An Iranian-style revolution, but on a much wider scale, cannot
be avoided if the U.S. continues on its present course.
While Persian Gulf rulers have wrapped
themselves in Islam, they are anything but Islamic. The fundamental
principle of Islam is economic and social justice. Pious Muslims
the world over are repulsed by impious rulers and those who support
them. This is one of the chief causes of anti-Americanism in the
Sadly, in its efforts to dominate the
Middle East, the United States has forgotten its own heritage.
The U.S. has chosen to side with dictators at the expense of the
people of the region. The U.S. no longer even promotes free elections,
as recent elections have not produced the results Washington wished
for; given Muslim mistrust of Washington's record in the Middle
East, those allied with the U.S. are unlikely to be elected anywhere
in the Muslim world. The U.S. has become a willing accomplice
to the subjugation of millions of Muslims. Since 9/11 the U.S.
has used the terror card to shore up Musharraf, Mubarak, and the
House of Saud and their deplorable policies. This is the same
United States that produced the Declaration of Independence and
the Bill of Rights. How long does the U.S. think it will get away
with this transparent double standard?
The U.S. government's double standard
for favored regimes was evident recently when the White House
was asked for a statement on the doubling of the sentence handed
out to a Shia girl (not from the majority Sunni sect of Saudi
Arabia) who was the victim of a gang rape: she dared to question
Saudi injustice when her rapists were given relatively lenient
sentences while she received 90 lashes for "allowing"
herself to be raped. The same government now occupying Iraq initially
responded that Saudi Arabia was a sovereign country with its own
Let's connect the dots. The masses in
the Middle East and much of the wider Muslim world are disenfranchised.
If the disenfranchised try to overthrow their governments, they
are called terrorists by the U.S. There is little opportunity
to affect change peacefully. Increasingly, these people see their
misery as connected to the U.S. government's policies. I cannot
help but repeat something that I have said for many years: the
reason the U.S. is surprisingly popular with many in Iran is that
the U.S. has not imposed the current regime on the people of Iran.
It's that simple.
The Middle East is ready for an explosion
like none seen before. At the same time, America's growing control
of the region's resources threatens China. China will be increasingly
daring in its support of anti-American elements in the region
and around the world, as it has little choice but to thwart U.S.
domination of the Persian Gulf. Any hostile act against U.S. interests
could trigger a massive U.S. response, which could in turn fuel
widespread uprisings against American allies and interests. A
world war could erupt because the U.S. pursues hegemony through
corrupt, unelected proxies at the political, social, and economic
expense of millions of innocent people.
How can Americans, whose ancestors fought
for their own independence, be accomplices to rulers who deprive
millions of people in the Middle East of their rights? How can
America not see the folly of its imperial ways? How can America
be blind to the catastrophe that is sure to follow