Sunday, September 30, 2007

Afghanistan, oil, Unocal and the Caspian connection

The next person who says we're in Afghanistan for the women needs to read this.

West End Bound puts a finer point on it.
This easy-to-connect-the-dots synopsis of the lead-up to a major fiasco is great. It reads like a Michael Moore expose of insider ulterior motives. Even Alan Greenspan is now verbalizing it was all about the oil.
All about the oil? How can that be? Afghanistan doesn't have any oil that we know of.

The truth is, it was about putting oil in the right hands and giving the US and UK big oil companies control of oil coming out of the Caspian Basin. To do that, they needed Afghanistan and they couldn't get it as long as the Taliban was in control.

Richard W. Behan's article at Alternet is a compelling piece. It puts together the pieces that make it clear Afghanistan was on the target list of PNAC and the Bush administration from the start. A weak country with a tribal government, the Bushites were more than willing to bomb it out of existence. What becomes very clear is that whether 9/11 had happened or not, Afghanistan was to receive US military attention.

There are portions of Behan's assertions which I have some difficulty with. The Karzai/Unocal connection is still questionable, however, there are two points which easily dismiss that loose connection and point clearly at the fact that the US, the multinational oil company Unocal and the US oil lobby were slathering over the route through Afghanistan for an oil pipeline which would guarantee control of the delivery of the Caspian Basin oil reserves.

The first point is that Unocal had clearly stated, as early as 1998, that Afghanistan was the prefered route for an oil pipeline from the Caspian oil producers, but that they could not pursue it as long as the Taliban remained in control. Unocal vice-president, John J. Maresca, who would later become the the special US ambassador to Afghanistan, made Unocal's desires clear during US congressional hearings.
[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.

Unocal envisions the creation of a Central Asian Oil Pipeline Consortium. The pipeline would become an integral part of a regional oil pipeline system that will utilize and gather oil from existing pipeline infrastructure in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia.

The 1,040-mile-long oil pipeline would begin near the town of Chardzhou, in northern Turkmenistan, and extend southeasterly through Afghanistan to an export terminal that would be constructed on the Pakistan coast on the Arabian Sea. Only about 440 miles of the pipeline would be in Afghanistan.

This 42-inch-diameter pipeline will have a shipping capacity of one million barrels of oil per day. Estimated cost of the project -- which is similar in scope to the Trans Alaska Pipeline -- is about US$2.5 billion.

There is considerable international and regional political interest in this pipeline. Asian crude oil importers, particularly from Japan, are looking to Central Asia and the Caspian as a new strategic source of supply to satisfy their desire for resource diversity. The pipeline benefits Central Asian countries because it would allow them to sell their oil in expanding and highly prospective hard currency markets. The pipeline would benefit Afghanistan, which would receive revenues from transport tariffs, and would promote stability and encourage trade and economic development. Although Unocal has not negotiated with any one group, and does not favor any group, we have had contacts with and briefings for all of them. We know that the different factions in Afghanistan understand the importance of the pipeline project for their country, and have expressed their support of it.

The second point is that the US had conducted face-to-face meetings with the Taliban government of Afghanistan and threatened them with a US military incursion before September 11th, 2001.
Christina Rocca, Director of Asian Affairs at the State Department, secretly meets the Taliban ambassador in Islamabad, apparently in a last ditch attempt to secure a pipeline deal. Rocca was previously in charge of contacts with Islamic guerrilla groups at the CIA, and oversaw the delivery of Stinger missiles to Afghan mujaheddin in the 1980s.
If there is a third point, it is this: Argentina's Bridas had signed a deal with the Taliban to build a pipeline through Afghanistan. The effect was to effectively cut of US and British oil companies from access to oil originating in the Caspian Basin. The only way to change this was to effect a military takeover of Afghanistan, toppling the Taliban regime and render any deal they had made null and void.

And a fourth point. The oil from the Caspian Basin producers was not OPEC. If the oil from the Caspian Basin could be secured by way of delivery to market through Afghanistan it would put a crimp on OPEC. In terms of busting OPEC completely, directly securing one of the largest oil reserves in the world would serve that purpose nicely. The one country which had large reserves, was producing well below its potential and was governed by a leader the world at large would be happy to be rid of was, Iraq.

Behan's assertion that Afghanistan was targeted by the Bush administration before 9/11 makes complete sense when the history is reviewed. He doesn't however, go quite far enough. When Unocal was pleading with the US government to find a way to get rid of the Taliban in 1998, they stated that the alternative route to deliver Caspian Basin oil was through Iran. A toppling of that regime with a US erected government would provide the oil companies with access to huge untapped oil reserves and a secured tap on Caspian oil. In short, a double knock-out.

Everyone might want to review why NATO and Canada are in Afghanistan. You can spread a "values" argument around as much as you like. It doesn't wash.

We are in Afghanistan for the same reason the Bush administration is in Iraq. Both are connected.


No comments: