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Posts Tagged ‘National Security

Bush, oil and the Iraq war

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By: Ralph Shaw

The real reason the US invaded Iraq was that Mr Bush’s clients – the oil companies – wanted a piece of the Iraqi crude oil business. With Saddam in power and Iraqi oil nationalised, the US and British oil companies had little hope of becoming part of the lucrative Iraqi crude oil production business

Many political observers have long claimed that big corporations and moneyed interests have hijacked the American democracy. They contend that representative democracy in the US is only a farce and that, in reality, a culture of political patronage and deal-making flourishes in which there is no real accountability to the governed. The elected representatives, especially the ones at the top, are helped into power by powerful business interests and, once there, they serve their clients rather than their constituents. It might appear cynical, but a critical look at the last Iraq War certainly gives credence to this view.

It is no secret that George W Bush’s presidential campaign was heavily financed by the US oil industry. Centre for Responsive Politics – a non-profit organisation – estimates that oil and gas firms with donations totalling around $ 1.89 million were among the top 10 contributors. The presidential inaugural committee received another million from the same group and the contributions by individuals connected with the oil industry, though comparatively less in amount, were in addition. In fact, Mr Bush’s indebtedness to this special interest group went way back to his gubernatorial campaigns. He received more than $ 0.5 million for each of his 1994 and 1998 campaigns for governor of Texas.

Bush was not the only member of his administration who had strong ties to the oil and gas companies. Vice President Dick Cheney amassed tens of millions of dollars as head of Halliburton Oil Company. Commerce Secretary Donald Evans was head of Tom Brown Incorporated and held up to $ 25 million in the oil exploration company. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was one of the directors at Chevron. There is something mystifying in the prescient announcement by BBC News on January 29, 2001 that said, “The concentration of energy connections is so pronounced that some critics are calling the Bush government ‘the oil and gas administration’.” It went on to state that there were concerns that the private financial interests of the cabinet members could influence future US energy policy decisions and that exactly is what seems to have transpired.

The argument that military action against Iraq was motivated by a desire to assure continued cheap supply of oil to the US is rather flimsy. Having been defanged by military and economic sanctions after the first Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was in no position to influence either the supply or the price of oil in any significant manner. UN sanctions limited the amount of oil Iraq could sell and part of the $ 16 billion generated from oil sales went to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia by way of war reparations for the first Gulf War. Such straitened circumstances left little room for adventurism on the part of the Iraqi dictator. With the US already monitoring much of the Iraqi air space, Saddam knew that disrupting oil supplies or adopting a belligerent policy toward his neighbours would lead to swift retribution. If the invasion did happen in the interest of the US economy, as some claim, it was a colossal failure. Oil prices rose for several years after the war. Just before the start of hostilities on March 20, 2003, oil was trading at a little more than $ 30 a barrel. In the next three years the price doubled.

The real reason the US invaded Iraq was that Mr Bush’s clients – the oil companies – wanted a piece of the Iraqi crude oil business. With Saddam in power and Iraqi oil nationalised, the US and British oil companies had little hope of becoming part of the lucrative Iraqi crude oil production business. British and US companies had been specifically shut out by Saddam Hussein from oil production contracts. Out of the 60 companies negotiating oil contracts with Iraq, none were British or US. Chinese, Russian and French companies were negotiating the largest contracts. However, the contracts could take effect only if the UN sanctions were removed. Had that happened, the French and others would have benefited enormously to the detriment of the British and the American.

Consequently, the decision to go after Iraq predated any terrorist attack on US soil. The attack simply provided a convenient pretext to push the oil companies’ agenda forward with relative impunity. The post-war unsuccessful Production Sharing Agreements (PSAs), designed to give oil companies enormous control over Iraqi oil, made one journalist comment that the attempt was “the biggest rip off of resources since the British barged into Mesopotamia more than a century ago”.

So it was in the interests of the big oil companies to go to war and it was sold to the various stakeholders with a marketing pitch suited to their needs and sensibilities. To the US public it was marketed as a national security issue. A non-existent link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda was established.

One cannot but help marvel at the evil genius of the US war plotters at obfuscating the real issues driving the US policy towards Iraq. Iraq’s vast oil resources and avarice of the US oil companies never took centre-stage in the public debates over the war with Iraq. The rage was all about Saddam’s WMDs, his terrorist links and the phony threat to US cities. Reporters from the prestigious New York Times were either bought or duped into writing false stories in their influential newspaper and reluctant cabinet members such as Colin Powell were dragged into the administration’s web of lies because their credibility was the currency needed to buy support for war at home and abroad. Time and skilful research by a host of investigative reporters have exposed the blatant lies, half-truths, exaggerations, and deceptions that led to the destruction of a Muslim country. The least the US can do is apologise to the Iraqi people for the wanton destruction it inflicted upon them in the interests of US and British oil companies.

Ralph Shaw is the pen name of a freelance writer, who lives and works in Pakistan. He can be reached at ralpshaw11@gmail.com

US-Russian disarmament comes full circle in Prague

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The US and Russian presidents will meet in Prague Thursday to sign a landmark nuclear disarmament treaty a year after Barack Obama called for a nuclear-free world in the historic Czech capital.

By Jan Flemr

PRAGUE: The US and Russian presidents will meet in Prague Thursday to sign a landmark nuclear disarmament treaty a year after Barack Obama called for a nuclear-free world in the historic Czech capital.

After months of difficult negotiations between the two nuclear powers, Obama and Dmitry Medvedev are due to sign a successor to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which expired last December.

The choice of Prague as the venue to seal the deal was not random: Obama called for a world free of nuclear weapons in a keynote speech here last April, while acknowledging he that he might not live to see that goal achieved.

Obama has made talks on replacing START the central element of his efforts to “reset” strained US-Russian relations, an initiative that helped earn him the much-disputed Nobel Peace Prize for 2009.

In the justification of its decision to pick Obama, the Nobel committee said it had “attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.”

The US president, whose country is set to host a key nuclear security summit on April 12-13, took another major step on Tuesday when he unveiled a new nuclear policy reducing the role of atomic weapons in the US national security strategy.

After agreeing its outlines last July, Obama and Medvedev targeted the new START agreement to drastically reduce nuclear stockpiles for late 2009, but negotiations dragged on.

US and Russian negotiators were reportedly bogged down in disagreements over US missile defence.

One reason that Obama decided to speak from Prague last year was that Washington had planned to deploy a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.

In September last year however, the United States scrapped that version of the initiative, which had been a major source of tension between Washington and Moscow.

Poland may now host an anti-missile system under a revamped deal, but the Czech Republic was left out of the programme, which according to Czech pundits, made Prague an attractive choice of venue for the Russian side.

Missile defence will nevertheless be on the table Thursday, for Russia has warned that it may pull out of the treaty if it feels threatened by the new US anti-missile initiative. Hailed by analysts in Washington and Moscow alike, the new START deal will specify limits of 1,550 deployed warheads: about 30 percent lower than a previous upper limit on warheads set in 2002.

The treaty, which must be ratified by the US Senate and the Russian Duma, will limit missile forces to 800 deployed and non-deployed intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, submarine-launched ballistic missile launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear weapons.

The cap on deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine launched missiles will be set at 700, the White House said.

The original 1991 START led to huge reductions in the Russian and US nuclear arsenals and imposed verification measures to build trust between the two former Cold War foes.

The Prague signature is scheduled to take place on Thursday noon in the Spanish Hall of the Prague Castle, a richly adorned Renaissance hall built during the reign of King Rudolph II (1552-1612).

Obama is to arrive in Prague Thursday morning, take part in the formal signing ceremony, then hold a formal lunch with Medvedev and Czech President Vaclav Klaus.

He will also have a one-on-one meeting with Medvedev.

Later on Thursday, the US president will meet 11 leaders from eastern and central Europe, in a bid to reassure them that the new treaty poses no threat to them, according to the Czech News Agency CTK, citing diplomatic sources.

On Friday, Obama will hold a joint summit with Klaus and Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer, before returning to Washington. Medvedev is expected to come for his first official visit to Prague from neighbouring Slovakia on Wednesday evening to meet with Klaus. He is scheduled to leave the Czech capital Thursday afternoon.

Indian Maoists kill 75 in police massacre

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By Iftikhar Gilani

* Central Reserve Police Force patrol attacked at dawn in Chhattisgarh

NEW DELHI: Maoist rebels ambushed and killed 75 paramilitary personnel in the jungles of Dantewada district of central Indian province of Chhattisgarh on Tuesday.

Sources in the Home Ministry said a patrol from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) was attacked at dawn and when reinforcements rushed to the scene, they were surrounded by hundreds of heavily-armed Maoists, locally known as Naxals.

The attack has sent shock waves in the Indian security establishment. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh telephoned Home Minister P Chidambaram to make an assessment of the situation.

The National Security Council met under the chairmanship of the prime minister and is understood to have discussed the deadliest Maoist strike yet.

While Prime Minister Singh called it a “horrific” incident, Chidambaram said it showed the brutality and savagery of the Maoists.

The home minister admitted something must have gone “drastically wrong” in the joint operation, as the personnel seemed to have “walked into a trap”.

Home Ministry sources said it was likely that the CRPF contingent, which is a well-trained force, was tricked into an ambush.

“There was no intelligence input. But the troops were made to believe that they were going in for a raid in a non-descript area which was a Naxal training camp,” the sources said, adding the forces would need to improvise as lessons have been learnt.