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CASPIAN SEA

Washington's strategic target in Central Asia

By Cecil Williams

"America's new war!" That's what CNN calls President George W. Bush's plans to bomb and invade Central Asia and the Middle East.

There's not much new about it, though.

U.S. bombs and missiles have killed hundreds of thousands of civilians in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Sudan, Somalia and Afghanistan in the past two decades alone. No doubt many people in those countries have acquired a deep dislike for the United States.

When investigators look into a murder, however, their first question is not, "Who disliked the victim?" They want to know who will benefit from the crime. The Sept. 11 deaths of over 6,000 people, many Muslims among them, benefit no one in the Islamic world. But for some rich and powerful people in the United States, the tragedy will pay off quite handsomely.

"Since Sept. 11 opposition to increased military spending has evaporated," the New York Times reported Sept. 22. That should make the Pentagon brass quite happy. Just a few months ago they were publicly whining they hadn't gotten the giant budget increase they were expecting after Bush's selection as president.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was complaining he couldn't get funds to build a "21st-century military." Now Congress has not only voted the Pentagon an emergency increase. Democrats say they'll no longer object to Bush's antiballistic missile pork barrel.

When generals, admirals and defense secretaries retire from the military, they usually get jobs with giant defense firms like General Electric and Lockheed Martin. These firms are "among the benefactors of the Sept. 11 tragedy," the New York Times wrote.

Then there's the trenchcoat gang at the National Security Agency, the CIA, the FBI and Secret Service. Not to mention the new Office of Homeland Security to be headed by Bush's fellow executioner, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge. They have been promised funding and powers they recently only dreamed of.

The CIA actually created Osama bin Laden's organization back in the 1980s to attack Soviet troops and the progressive government in Afghanistan. As vice president, George Bush Sr. oversaw the operation. In the Agency's employ, bin Laden's troops murdered teachers, doctors and nurses, disfigured women who took off the veil, and shot down civilian airliners with U.S.-supplied Stinger missiles. The Afghan people called bin Laden's forces the "brotherhood of Satan."

The Afghanistan war was the biggest covert operation in the CIA's history. It was paid for in part by the heroin trade. Many who took part in the operation were recruited by Egyptian, Pakistani and Saudi intelligence services and didn't know they were working for the CIA.

In 1990 and 1991 the CIA used bin Laden's's group for operations against Iraq. More recently this group carried out anti-Russian operations in Chechnya and Daghestan and participated in U.S.-backed operations against Yugoslavia.

No one has more to gain, however, than the corporate big shots at Exxon, Mobil, Chevron and the other big oil monopolies. For 10 years now they have been scheming to get their hands on the vast oil and gas wealth of former Soviet Central Asia, just north of Afghanistan.

How to achieve that goal has been a U.S. foreign policy priority since the fall of the Soviet Union.

In a Feb. 12, 1998, report to the House Committee on International Relations, Unocal Corp. Vice President for International Relations John J. Maresca testified on the importance of this region. He said: "The Caspian region contains tremendous untapped hydrocarbon reserves. ...

"Proven natural gas reserves within Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan equal more than 236 trillion cubic feet. The region's oil reserves may reach more than 60 billion barrels of oil-enough to service Europe's oil needs for 11 years. Some estimates are as high as 200 billion barrels."

Oil, of course, is a commodity in which Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have a deep personal interest.

Now George W. has named his dad's old employees in Afghanistan as the culprits in the Sept. 11 attack. And the Pentagon has demanded the right to occupy the former Soviet republics named above plus Kyrgizia. In other words, right where the oil is.

According to the Sept. 25 New York Times, the Putin regime in Moscow is offering the United States broad support in this move.

The oil reserves are 10 percent of the world's known supply, under or around the Caspian Sea. That's worth about $5 trillion at today's prices.

Maresca testified that since "the Asia/Pacific region has a rapidly increasing demand for oil," it would be useful to have an oil pipeline from the Caspian region to the Indian Ocean--that is, through Afghanistan. An unrecognized Taliban government in Afghanistan is an obstacle to this, he wrote.

In May 1998, Time magazine reported that the CIA had "set up a secret task force to monitor the region's politics and gauge its wealth. Covert CIA officers, some well-trained petroleum engineers, had traveled through southern Russia and the Caspian region to sniff out potential oil reserves. When the policymakers heard the agency's report, [Secretary of State Madeline] Albright concluded that 'working to mold the area's future was one of the most exciting things we can do.' "

That's just what Washington and Wall Street set out to do. The Pentagon tried to entice the regions' governments into a military alliance linked to NATO's "Partnership for Peace." Oil companies hired Washington insiders like Zbigniew Brzezinski, Lloyd Bentsen, John Sununu and a certain Dick Cheney to lobby for them in the region.

As the 20th century ended, it seemed their efforts would be crowned with success. The U.S. bombing of Yugoslavia seemed to block the possibility of Caspian oil and gas reaching Western Europe through Russian-owned pipelines.

Meanwhile President Bill Clinton's 1998 bombing of Iraq pushed oil prices high enough to make construction of a U.S.-owned pipeline seem possible. "U.S. is Gaining in Great Game in Central Asia," a Time magazine headline crowed.

Then Boris Yeltsin resigned, and Vladimir Putin took office in the Kremlin. The Putin administration offered German banks stakes in Lukoil and Gazprom, Russia's main energy companies. Russia began to actively reassert its influence east of the Caspian, and Central Asian governments began to stall or renege on their deals with U.S. oil companies. Former FBI Director Louis Freeh and CIA Director George Tenet made emergency trips to the region.

The potential alliance of German capital and Russian, Caucasus and Central Asian energy resources raised the prospect that Western Europe would no longer have to buy its oil and gas from U.S. firms.

Adding to the U.S.-based corporations' problems, China began negotiating to build oil and gas pipelines from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. And Russia brokered a treaty with Iran to divide up the Caspian Sea without U.S. participation.

Oil industry journals blasted the Clinton administration for "appeasing Russia" and moaned about losing Central Asia.

Caucasuswatch.com bills itself as an intelligence service for the oil industry. In January it wrote: "With the coming of a Sino-Russian pact of mutual assistance and an Iranian acceptance of the Russian proposal to carve up the Caspian Sea, any chance the U.S. had of cementing alliances in the region seemed doomed. The incoming American administration, heavy in oil and related interests, will likely try to reverse this trend. How effective they will be is open to question."

A more recent entry on the Web site tied U.S. Big Oil's prospects in the region to "the success of the Central Asian counterstrike." That article was posted on April 24 of this year.

This article is copyright under a Creative Commons License.
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