CORRELATIONS: Because of this interrelationship for example, the
American administration finds itself having to take Venezuela into
consideration when it draws up policy on Iran. Russia and China
have—after decades of rivalry—become allies in the fight against
Islamic extremism. The correlation between oil and terrorism is even
credited with rescuing old alliances—such as that between the United
States and Saudi Arabia—from collapse.
powers—such as the United States, Europe, China, Russia, and India—are
competing intensely for economic domination, using oil as a major
weapon; on the other side of this struggle for global hegemony,
extremist Islamist groups are making increasing use of terrorism as a
means of protest and resistance—thus holding hostage the very peoples
the Islamists pretend to be fighting for, and facilitating foreign
control of oil resources. This is especially true in the Arab world.
therefore extremely important to read the new map of global alliances
and enmities correctly, as it is to make peoples aware of the
astronomical price they will be required to pay for the Islamists’
campaign of ‘protest’.
Iraq, an arena where oil, terrorism, liberation, and occupation
interact and play out against each other, is walking a tightrope
towards democracy and full sovereignty; there is a very real chance
that the country might fragment into small warring sectarian statelets.
Needless to say, one of the major objectives of the Iraq war was to
replace the Saddam Hussein regime with pro-Western government that
would be ensure Washington’s pre-eminence in future struggles for
global greatness. Oil is an essential prerequisite for great power
status, and Iraq is full of oil; in fact, it is estimated to hold the
second largest oil reserve in the world. Russia expended a lot of
money, time, and effort in Iraq in the belief that by controlling
Iraqi oil reserves—in addition to its own—it could become a major
world power. But the American invasion and occupation put paid to
Recently, talk has been increasing of a possible U.S. pullout from
Iraq within months. This does not imply that Washington will not leave
in place a pliant Iraqi government that would ensure U.S. control of
Iraqi oil resources.
In the contemporary world, having permanent military bases in the
traditional sense is not that important if special relationships that
can assure continued and free access to oil can be entered into. At
any rate, it is almost inconceivable that U.S. forces would be
withdrawn from Iraq as long as the insurgency continues to threaten
the new Iraqi government.
Paradoxically, the ‘resistance’ is actually prolonging the occupation
it says it is fighting. The bloodbath in Iraq is therefore set to
continue, with new atrocities reported every week, and new piles of
bodies discovered on a regular basis, to the disgust of most Iraqis.
It is now essential for popular forces in the Arab world to come up
with a common position in support of the Iraqi people, who are being
ground down by a foreign occupation on the one hand, and a vicious
extremist Islamist insurgency on the other.
Whatever Arabs think of the reasons why the U.S. has occupied Iraq
(and whatever their opinions of the Egyptian regime for that matter),
they must utterly reject the massacres which are taking place on a
regular basis in Iraq—and the phenomenon of the ‘terrorist family’
which was demonstrated last week in Cairo.
There is no need to fall into the trap of having to choose between
only two options, either the Americans or the terrorists; there are
many parties vying for power and influence in the Middle East besides
those two. While more or less traditional rivalries predominate in
Iraq, the global war on terror brings together such diverse parties as
Russia, India, China, Europe, and the United States.
Russia for example is using military means almost exclusively in
dealing with the problem of Chechnya—after having succeeded in
transforming the Chechen question into one only of terrorism. In the
meantime, Russia and China re in the process of creating a strategic
alliance to confront U.S.-European expansionism and global economic
The partnership between Moscow and Beijing was born after the U.S.
invasion of Iraq, and was driven by their desire to confront Islamist
extremism (from Chechnya in Russia’s case, and from the Islamic
western provinces in China’s). Nevertheless, the enterprise was
underpinned by an urgent mutual need to confront the United States.
According to economic experts, Russia is now providing China with a
significant proportion of its oil needs, in exchange for financial
guarantees and loans. The two countries are also reportedly carrying
out secret military operations in order to formulate a joint strategy
for self-defense. This, according to experts, is the first time China
has ever established a mechanism for close consultation in security
matters with Russia.
interview with Newsweek’s Christopher Dickey, Saudi foreign minister
Saud al-Faisal said that China has become his country’s biggest oil
customer. Asked whether a strategic relationship exists between Riyadh
and Beijing, the minister replied that, ‘if oil supplies can be seen
as constituting a strategic relationship, then yes, I suppose there
is.’ But al-Faisal went on to describe his country’s ties with China
as being ‘still in their infancy, while those with the United States
are much stronger and deeper’.
The Saudi official said that the fact that President Bush is an oilman
(who ‘realizes where his country’s interests lie’) perhaps rescued the
Saudi-American relationship from meltdown. He went on to say that,
Washington now appreciates how much effort the Saudi government has
put in fighting domestic terrorism.
immediate need, the minister said, is to prevent terrorists from
crossing over into the kingdom from neighboring Iraq. The thrust of
al-Faisal’s statements was that while fighting terrorism was the
immediate priority facing relations between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia,
their relationship was built first and foremost on oil.
Surprisingly enough, recent efforts by the U.S. administration to
repair ties with Saudi Arabia did not elicit any howls of protest from
American opponents of Saudi-American relationship—perhaps because the
mere mention of the name ‘Chavez’ (referring to the deterioration of
relations between the U.S. and the Venezuelan president) was enough to
silence even the harshest critics.
Chavez, who harbors an intense hatred of the United States and of the
Bush administration in particular, has not let an opportunity for
damaging America’s relations with third parties pass by without
exploiting it in order to undermine U.S. ‘unilateralism.’
Accusing the Bush administration of being behind an attempted coup
against his government three years ago, Chavez is out to seek revenge.
The United States relies on Venezuela for 15 percent of its oil
supplies, making the latter one of the biggest four oil exporters to
the American market. Not a trifle by any means.
What makes Chavez even more of a threat to the United States is the
possibility that in addition to cutting off oil supplies to the U.S.,
the Venezuelan president might decide to sell oil to China instead.
Since Washington’s relations with Venezuela are constantly
deteriorating, ‘this is no time to abandon ties as important as those
with Saudi Arabia,’ as some Bush administration officials put it. To
make matters worse, Chavez has allied his country with Iran both
within OPEC and more generally. Unfortunately for Washington, it has
very few options to deal with the Venezuelan leader.
Chavez is after all a democratically elected leader; furthermore, his
neighbors are not willing to do without the oil supplies he has been
selling them at well below market prices just to obey America’s
request to isolate Venezuela.
Relations between the Chavez government and China have been improving
over the last twelve months, with official visits being exchanged.
Chavez has decided to nurture China as an alternative oil market to
the United States. According to the Venezuelan leader, ‘What is
required to break away from unilateralism is a mutually beneficial
What he has in mind is for China to invest in developing neglected
Venezuelan oilfields in exchange for cheap oil. Not that China is the
only major power Chavez has been wooing: He has also been busy
building military ties with Russia and Brazil, among others.
brings us to Iran. After meeting with President Khatami on a recent
trip to Tehran, Chavez declared that Iran has ‘all the right’ to
develop a nuclear program. Moreover, experts believe that the
Venezuelan leader is about to conclude a mutual defense pact with the
Iranians. Should Iran be attacked by the United States, then according
to this pact Venezuela would consider itself to be at war with the
He is in the process of forming a 2 million strong militia, and enjoys
considerable popularity in his country as well as in neighboring Latin
American states. But the main factor which makes Chavez so important
is oil because of Venezuela’s unique position in the rush for economic
greatness by the major powers.
its part, Iran welcomes new alliances and chooses to enter into those
it believes serve its long-term strategic interests. Tehran has
already established close ties with China, Russia, and Europe. The
Iranians see their country as a major power in its own right, and
believe that they have as much right to develop nuclear technology as
India, Pakistan, and Israel. Tehran understands what transient
alliances and partnerships entail; that is why it has decided to study
all available options and take matters into its own hands.
Iran is unlikely to oppose the American project for spreading
democracy in the Arab world, primarily because this project has
resulted in a Shiite government in neighboring Iraq—a development that
suits Iran. The Iranians are too smart to give the Americans an excuse
to attack, or to allow terrorism access to their country. In Iraq,
Iran enjoys considerable influence, but without impinging on U.S.
forces. While harboring ties with certain terrorist groups, Iran would
never allow terrorists to express themselves on Iranian soil. Iran is
therefore one of very few Muslim nations to have benefited from the
interrelationship of oil and terrorism.
has been behaving with a great degree of wisdom and patience. While
their Arab neighbors have been tearing their countries apart in
struggles for power, the Iranians have been pondering their position
on the global stage.
common with China and India, Iran knows how to find an appropriate
position for itself in the race for global supremacy. The Arabs for
their part are only just beginning to figure that out.
For them, it is going to be a long haul.