"I cannot think of a time when we have had a region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian"
&endash; Dick Cheney in 1998, Then CEO of a supplier to the oil industry, Haliburton, Inc.. Now vice-president of America Inc..
(Quoted in the Guardian 23/10/01)
I have already explored how the current NATO offensive in Afghanistan rather than creating increased security for the populations of the West will in fact, and has in fact, resulted in the opposite. (see Hatred: The Price of Intervention)
Furthermore a considerable amount of antiwar writing is devoted to how that offensive is a very blunt, indeed counter-productive, way of getting to those responsible for the S11 atrocity.
If, that is, there were more people behind it than those who died in a kamikaze attack.
No effort was made to negotiate the hand over for trial of Bin Laden.
A Human Rights Watch study into the Afghan civil war maintains that the Pakistani government held considerable influence over the Taliban, so it does not seem unreasonable that the possibility of negotiation could have been explored. The excuse for not doing so was that to do so would be to expose sensitive sources of information.
Which is a peculiar logic to use after such a monumental failure of intelligence agencies as S-11. In other words, if these sensitive sources of information exist today, where were they prior to S-11?
Furthermore investigation into a wider conspiracy, if indeed a wider conspiracy exists, is dependant on the co-operation of Arab/Muslim states and individuals. Surely that is something which is imperiled by the anti-Western backlash launched by the bombing. For instance, M.I.5 have been posting advertisements appealing for information onto dissident websites which they imagine are likely to be being accessed by people "on the edge of extremist communities who are sufficiently shocked to want to contact the agency." (Quoted in The Guardian 26/10/01)
Do you fancy their chances while bombs are raining down on the heads of Afghans?
Also we have yet to encounter any explanation of the role played by Afghanistan's "terrorist training camps" in the S11 attacks? The people thought responsible were resident in the U.S. and Germany, came from Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and hardly needed to be trained in scissors wielding in a camp in Afghanistan.
F.B.I. investigations point in a different direction: "FBI agents are sure the majority of the men were from Saudi Arabia. They also claim some of the recruiting, planning and financing of the attacks occurred in the country." (Quoted in The Guardian 26/10/01)
In short the military campaign will increase the "terrorist threat" and will hamper efforts to find a wider conspiracy behind S-11, furthermore it may be aimed in the wrong direction entirely.
So why is it happening?
The sinking of the Lusitania, with the loss of almost 1,200 lives (over 100 of them American), by a U-Boat in May 1915 was one of the stated reasons for America's entry into World War One (the others were so superficial we need not concern ourselves with them) . After this Imperial Germany suspended unlimited submarine warfare, only to re-introduce it in January 1917. This decision of the German state was followed by the ending of diplomatic relations by the United States and then in April 1917 by the U.S. entry to the war.
However it is now widely recognised that influential sections of the American public, namely Big Business, stood to gain from a Allied victory and would suffer from a Central Powers victory. So widely recognised it is even mentioned in school textbooks -
"The interests of Big Business: The war needs of the Allies gave a tremendous boost to American industry. Trade with the Allies soared from $825 million in 1914 to $3 214 million in 1916 which lifted America out of a deep depression. Before the war America was a debtor nation, owing money to Europe. By 1917 America was a creditor nation, having lent the Allies huge sums to finance their growing purchases of vital war materials.
By 1917 European debts to America totalled $2 700 000."
('An Outline of Modern European History 1870-1951',page 120, Frank O hUallachain)
Of course collecting that money would be a lot easier if the Central Powers were not victorious , and a triumph for them was still on the cards as late as the summer of 1918.
The sinking of the Lusitania provided an excuse for a course of action which was more concerned with the interests of Big Business than "freedom of the seas" (it managed to ignore the British blockade on Germany).
It is possible today that the S-11 attacks may have provided an excuse for a course of action which is more concerned with furthering the interests of Big Business than providing security for the citizens of Western states or getting those responsible for S-11.
Certainly the proposals of a wider war against "rouge states which sponsor terrorism" (and the selectivity of that term has been discussed earlier see Crusade Versus Jihad, Six Questions About The War) which had no alleged involvement in S-11 does not seem to be in keeping with those two goals. That wider war would only give greater incentive to carry out acts of violence against the West for which no great resources or state backing is needed, and obviously it would not get those responsible for S-11 (if indeed there was a wider conspiracy involved in S-11).
Nor does Secretary for Defence Rumsfeld's assertion that they may never get Bin Laden and even if they did it wouldn't make any difference, remember he's speaking about the supposed mastermind behind S-11:
"He's got a lot of money, he's got a lot of people who support him and I just don't know whether we'll be successful,"
"If he were gone tomorrow, the same problem would exist,"
(Quoted on BBC News Online Thursday, 25 October, 2001)
It is also important to remember that there were plans to attack Afghanistan prior to S-11.
According to former Pakistani diplomat Niaz Naik, at a meeting in Berlin in July:
"The Americans indicated to us that in case the Taliban does not behave and in case Pakistan also doesn't help us to influence the Taliban, then the United States would be left with no option but to take an overt action against Afghanistan," "I told the Pakistani government, who informed the Taliban via our foreign office and the Taliban ambassador here."
(quoted in the Guardian 22/9/01 )
After the September 11th attack there was a necessity for a dramatic American response purely for prestige reasons, as we have seen that response has little to do with security or criminal justice, but as well as prestige reasons there are other motivations behind the current intervention.
To explore those motivations we will have to turn to that long forgotten part of the world where Afghanistan is to be found.
According to the trade magazine 'The Oil and Gas Journal':
"Central Asia today represents one of the world's last great frontiers for geological survey and analysis, offering opportunities for investment in the discovery, production, transportation, and refining of enormous quantities of oil and gas resources.
Central Asia is rich in hydrocarbons, with gas being the predominant energy fuel. Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, especially, are noted for gas resources, while Kazakhstan is the primary oil producer."
Significantly the report goes onto to note that:
"the only existing viable export routes from the area lead into and out of Russia. These nations will not be free from Russia's economic stranglehold until their lucrative energy resources can be developed and transported to Europe --- while avoiding Russian territory&emdash;and, ultimately, to Asia, the world's fastest growing region.".
The Oil and Gas Journal September 10th 2001
There are three directions in which this gas and oil can be exported, west to the currently saturated European market, where there is too much competition, east to China and Japan, but exporting via pipeline that way would seem cost-prohibitive or south to India., which has according to another report in The Oil and Gas Journal a "huge market" "of more than 100 billion cum.". (The Oil and Gas Journal May 28, 2001)
A number of these pipeline export routes are being developed.
In 1997 the BBC reported that:
"The Presidents of Iran and the Central Asian republic of Turkmenistan have opened a gas pipeline between their two countries -- the first out of the Caspian region not to go through Russian territory. The pipeline links the Korpedzhe gas field in south-western Turkmenistan to the village of Kord-Kuy in northern Iran."
(BBC Online News Monday, December 29, 1997)
Then there is the eastward route, The Oil and Gas Journal reports
"cost estimates for the pipeline are astounding -- $11.8 &endash;
22.6 billion (depending on the route) &endash; Mitsubisbi Corp.,
China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC), and other interests continue
to plan and design what would be one of the largest infrastructure
projects in the world."
(The Oil and Gas Journal September 10th 2001)
The Guardian reported in March 2001 on another plan:
"backed by Washington and American oil companies, including Chevron, is for a pipeline taking Turkmenistan and Kazakh oil to Baku, the Azerbaijani capital, through Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, and through eastern Turkey to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan."
As well as yet another:
"There is also a plan, backed by the US, for a pipeline running from the Bulgarian Black sea port of Burgas through Macedonia to the Albanian Adriatic port of Vlore. The idea is for Caspian oil to be shipped to Burgas by tanker from the Black sea ports of Novorossiysk in Russia and Supsa in Georgia.
A feasibility study for this ambitious project - due to be operational by 2005 - is being undertaken by Ambo, a company registered in the US, with, say the Bulgarians, the support of Texaco, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, BP Amoco, Agip and TotalElfFina."
(The Guardian March 5, 2001)
You might note that this particular pipeline will seemingly be going through and certainly near to areas where in 1999 NATO fought a war, and where they currently have troops stationed (they have them in Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania).
Those would be routes to feed the European market, a more attractive prospect would be a route to feed the South Asian market.
South of the former "Soviet" republic of Central Asia we find two states &endash; Iran, and Afghanistan.
In the mid-90ies the CentGas consortium began to plan a natural gas pipeline through Afghanistan. The participants included Unocal, a Californian based energy corporation with a 54.11% share in the project.
"Turkmenistan's government holds 7%. Other CentGas participants include Saudi Arabia's Delta Oil 15%, Japan's Itochu Corp. and Inpex 7.22% each, South Korea's Hyundai Engineering & Construction Co. 5.54%, and Pakistan's Crescent Group 3.89%." (The Oil and Gas Journal June 21, 1999)
Unocal also had plans for "a 1,000-mile, 1-million
barrel-per-day (bbl/d) capacity oil pipeline that would link
Chardzou, Turkmenistan to Pakistan's Arabian Sea Coast via
Afghanistan. Since the Chardzou refinery is already linked to
Russia's Western Siberian oil fields, this line could provide a
possible alternative export route for regional oil production from
the Caspian Sea. The $2.5-billion pipeline is known as the Central
Asian Oil Pipeline Project."
(United States Government website: http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/afghan2.html)
John J. Maresca, Vice President of International Relations for the Unocal corporation testified to a house sub-committee (i.e. section of the U.S. government) in February 1998 on the advantages of the Afghan pipeline route.
"The key question is how the energy resources of Central Asia can be made available to satisfy the energy needs of nearby Asian markets. There are two possible solutions -- with several variations.
East to China: Prohibitively Long?
One option is to go east across China. But this would mean constructing a pipeline of more than 3,000 kilometers to central China -- as well as a 2,000-kilometer connection to reach the main population centers along the coast.
Even with these formidable challenges, China National Petroleum Corporation is considering building a pipeline east from Kazakhstan to Chinese markets.
Unocal had a team in Beijing just last week for consultations with the Chinese.
Given China's long-range outlook and its ability to concentrate resources to meet its own needs, China is almost certain to build such a line. The question is what will the costs of transporting oil through this pipeline be and what netback will the producers receive.
South to the Indian Ocean:
A Shorter Distance to Growing Markets
A second option is to build a pipeline south from Central Asia to the Indian Ocean.
One obvious potential route south would be across Iran. However, this option is foreclosed for American companies because of U.S. sanctions legislation.
The only other possible route option is across Afghanistan, which has its own unique challenges.
The country has been involved in bitter warfare for almost two decades. The territory across which the pipeline would extend is controlled by the Taliban, an Islamic movement that is not recognized as a government by most other nations.
From the outset, we have made it clear that construction of our proposed pipeline cannot begin until a recognized government is in place that has the confidence of governments, lenders and our company.
In spite of this, a route through Afghanistan appears to be the best option with the fewest technical obstacles. It is the shortest route to the sea and has relatively favorable terrain for a pipeline.
The route through Afghanistan is the one that would bring Central Asian oil closest to Asian markets and thus would be the cheapest in terms of transporting the oil."
"A recent study for the World Bank states that the proposed pipeline from Central Asia across Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Arabian Sea would provide more favorable netbacks to oil producers through access to higher value markets than those currently being accessed through the traditional Baltic and Black Sea export routes.
This is evidenced by the netback values producers will receive as determined by the World Bank study. For West Siberian crude, the netback value will increase by nearly $2.00 per barrel by going south to Asia. For a producer in western Kazakhstan, the netback value will increase by more than $1 per barrel by going south to Asia as compared to west to the Mediterranean via the Black Sea."
Unocal later withdrew from these pipeline projects giving their reason as instability in Afghanistan. Nonetheless everything John J. Maresca says still applies.
To avoid Russian or Chinese control you must go south or east.
The most attractive market is not Europe but South Asia.
Iran is a political impossibility &endash; subject to U.S. trade sanctions and the target, along with Iraq, of the American government's dual containment policy in the Middle East.
Which leaves Afghanistan.
The pronouncements of Western governments on the Afghan situation are full of references to re-construction and stable government. I don't think their lying and the first thing being re-constructed, or rather constructed, will be the pipelines. If they get that far.