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It Really is About Oil--and Not Just in Iraq

Greenspan’s Open Secret

by RON JACOBS

So, the secret is finally out. The Iraq war and occupation is about oil! Alan Greenspan, the man on whom the capitalist press has conferred the title of sage numerous times, says exactly that in his memoirs released this week. Of course, many folks around the world have assumed this for years but, even so, it’s nice to hear it from one of Washington’s own. It was the concern of those that pull the strings on Wall Street and in DC that Saddam Hussein represented a severe threat to their access to oil that prompted the war. According to George Bush and his henchmen, it is the concern that anti-US "extremists" also threaten that access that causes the war and occupation to continue. Of course, these so-called extremists seemed to be primarily composed of Iraqi nationalists who simply want to control their own destinies and not leave them up to a small handful of men with offices in the Green Zone whose lives and livelihood depend on the continued presence of US forces on Iraqi soil.

Oil and other energy resources are also the reason Washington is threatening Iran. There are other factors certainly, not least among them a desire for revenge on the Iranian revolution, but the fundamental motivation for the US threats of military action against Iran is to replace the current regime in Tehran with one that will do Washington’s bidding and provide them with access to that nation’s oil on terms set by DC, not Tehran. That is why the US overthrew Mossadegh back in 1953 and why it supported the Shah even after he was overthrown in 1979. Iran is estimated to have the world’s fifth largest oil reserve and second largest natural gas supply. But, if this is so, then why can’t the US just buy the stuff from them? It could, of course, but that would go against the stated desire of Washington to not only have unfettered access to energy resources, but to also be able to prevent potential competitors from having similar access. In other words, the men and women that run the US want exclusive control over the energy resources of Iraq and Iran and the only way they can get that is through military action, since Hussein was not going to agree to US terms for oil sales and neither will the Tehran regime.

Yet, despite the apparent desires of Dick Cheney and his band of bellicose Beltway warriors, that military action has yet to occur. While the world can certainly be thankful for that, it shouldn’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet. In some of his recent comments on Iraq, George Bush stated that one of the reasons for the continued occupation of Iraq is the need to contain Iran. No matter what one thinks about the government in Tehran, the plain truth is that they have every right to be concerned about the future of Iraq. Just as certain is that they have the right to defend themselves from aggressive actions from groups supported by Washington. Likewise, they have the right to reject Washington’s impending designation of their Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist force. After all, if all things were fair, then a similar designation should be given to the CIA and the US military’s various special forces, all of whom are known to engage in what are essentially terrorist activities.

What about Israel? There are those that insist that Israel is behind the US drive against Iran and Syria. According to these folks, it is Tel Aviv’s desire for a greater Israel that is the guiding force behind Washington’s occupation of Iraq, its threats against Syria and desire to attack Iran. While it is certainly true that Tel Aviv might benefit from regime changes in these nations and there is no doubt that most of the US political establishment supports Israeli expansion, it seems downright foolish to claim that US policy in the Middle East and Central Asia is set by Tel Aviv. After all, it is Tel Aviv that receives military and financial support from Washington, not the other way around. This does not always mean that the two governments agree on specifics, but it does mean that they share both resources and a desire to create a world beneficial to them both. Still, however, Washington is the dominant member of this relationship, if for no other reason than that its financial support of Israel makes it possible for Israel to exist as the regional power that it is. Furthermore, it is the perennial veto held by Washington (and its refusal to demand enforcement of Security Council resolutions against Israel that Washington doesn’t veto) that has allowed Israel to continue its violations of international law without retribution. This doesn’t mean, of course, that Israel will not act alone, but the fact that it hasn’t is certainly an indication that Washington holds the leash in this relationship and not Tel Aviv. Poorly-behaved dogs will pull at their chains and maybe even bite their masters, but they also never forget the hand that provides them with their chow.

Just as in Iraq, any attack on Iran will probably not target oil producing facilities. Indeed, should an attack occur and actually succeed to the point where the US is able to bring in ground forces, it is fairly safe to predict that many of the first GIs on the ground will be deployed to guard those facilities, just like they were in Iraq. As retired general Wesley Clark put it in an op-ed in the September 16, 2007 Washington Post: "To prevent world oil prices from soaring, you’d have to try to protect every oil and gas rig, and the big ports and load points. " Of course, there is also the possibility that the facilities might already be under the control of the oil workers themselves, much like what occurred during the revolution in 1979-1981. Would these workers then become the enemy of the US-led "liberation" forces–the same position that many of the citizens of Iraq now find themselves? If so, one wonders what they have learned from their neighbors to the west in regards to the US military.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is published by Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: rjacobs3625@charter.net