It Really Is About the Oil–And Not Only in Iraq

So, the secret is finally out. The Iraq war and occupation is about oil! Alan Greenspan, the man on whom the capitalist press has conferred the title of sage numerous times, says exactly that in his memoirs released this week. Of course, many folks around the world have assumed this for years but, even so, it’s nice to hear it from one of Washington’s own. It was the concern of those that pull the strings on Wall Street and in DC that Saddam Hussein represented a severe threat to their access to oil that prompted the war. According to George Bush and his henchmen, it is the concern that anti-US “extremists” also threaten that access that causes the war and occupation to continue. Of course, these so-called extremists seemed to be primarily composed of Iraqi nationalists who simply want to control their own destinies and not leave them up to a small handful of men with offices in the Green Zone whose lives and livelihood depend on the continued presence of US forces on Iraqi soil.

Oil and other energy resources are also the reason Washington is threatening Iran. There are other factors certainly, not least among them a desire for revenge on the Iranian revolution, but the fundamental motivation for the US threats of military action against Iran is to replace the current regime in Tehran with one that will do Washington’s bidding and provide them with access to that nation’s oil on terms set by DC, not Tehran. That is why the US overthrew Mossadegh back in 1953 and why it supported the Shah even after he was overthrown in 1979. Iran is estimated to have the world’s fifth largest oil reserve and second largest natural gas supply. But, if this is so, then why can’t the US just buy the stuff from them? It could, of course, but that would go against the stated desire of Washington to not only have unfettered access to energy resources, but to also be able to prevent potential competitors from having similar access. In other words, the men and women that run the US want exclusive control over the energy resources of Iraq and Iran and the only way they can get that is through military action, since Hussein was not going to agree to US terms for oil sales and neither will the Tehran regime.

Yet, despite the apparent desires of Dick Cheney and his band of bellicose Beltway warriors, that military action has yet to occur. While the world can certainly be thankful for that, it shouldn’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet. In some of his recent comments on Iraq, George Bush stated that one of the reasons for the continued occupation of Iraq is the need to contain Iran. No matter what one thinks about the government in Tehran, the plain truth is that they have every right to be concerned about the future of Iraq. Just as certain is that they have the right to defend themselves from aggressive actions from groups supported by Washington. Likewise, they have the right to reject Washington’s impending designation of their Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist force. After all, if all things were fair, then a similar designation should be given to the CIA and the US military’s various special forces, all of whom are known to engage in what are essentially terrorist activities.

What about Israel? There are those that insist that Israel is behind the US drive against Iran and Syria. According to these folks, it is Tel Aviv’s desire for a greater Israel that is the guiding force behind Washington’s occupation of Iraq, its threats against Syria and desire to attack Iran. While it is certainly true that Tel Aviv might benefit from regime changes in these nations and there is no doubt that most of the US political establishment supports Israeli expansion, it seems downright foolish to claim that US policy in the Middle East and Central Asia is set by Tel Aviv. After all, it is Tel Aviv that receives military and financial support from Washington, not the other way around. This does not always mean that the two governments agree on specifics, but it does mean that they share both resources and a desire to create a world beneficial to them both. Still, however, Washington is the dominant member of this relationship, if for no other reason than that its financial support of Israel makes it possible for Israel to exist as the regional power that it is. Furthermore, it is the perennial veto held by Washington (and its refusal to demand enforcement of Security Council resolutions against Israel that Washington doesn’t veto) that has allowed Israel to continue its violations of international law without retribution. This doesn’t mean, of course, that Israel will not act alone, but the fact that it hasn’t is certainly an indication that Washington holds the leash in this relationship and not Tel Aviv. Poorly-behaved dogs will pull at their chains and maybe even bite their masters, but they also never forget the hand that provides them with their chow.

Just like in Iraq, any attack on Iran will probably not target oil producing facilities. Indeed, should an attack occur and actually succeed to the point where the US is able to bring in ground forces, it is fairly safe to predict that many of the first GIs on the ground will be deployed to guard those facilities, just like they were in Iraq. As retired general Wesley Clark put it in an op-ed in the September 16, 2007 Washington Post: “To prevent world oil prices from soaring, you’d have to try to protect every oil and gas rig, and the big ports and load points. “Of course, there is also the possibility that the facilities might already be under the control of the oil workers themselves, much like what occurred during the revolution in 1979-1981. Would these workers then become the enemy of the US-led “liberation” forces–the same position that many of the citizens of Iraq now find themselves? If so, one wonders what they have learned from their neighbors to the west in regards to the US military.

Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way The Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground and Tripping Through the American Night, and the novels Short Order Frame Up and The Co-Conspirator's Tale. His third novel All the Sinners, Saints is a companion to the previous two and was published early in 2013. Read other articles by Ron.

14 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Deadbeat said on September 18th, 2007 at 6:21am #

    Ron Jacobs continues to expound on the same strawman argument to ridicule those who challenge the “War For Oil” mantra oft repeated by so called “progressives”.

    That strawman is that the U.S. MidEast policy is being conducted by Tel Aviv. In other words, that the “tail is wagging the dog”. Such rhetoric is obviously not true and critics of the “War For Oil” mantra has never claimed that U.S. foreign policy is being formulated by Tel Aviv.

    What has been stated by scholars like James Petras and critics of Israel such as Jeffrey Blankfort and Lenni Brenner is that MidEast policy is being influenced by Zionism. Groups such as AIPAC wield a great deal of influence among both Democrats and Republican politicians and especially the neo-cons currently in power. The ideology of neoconservativism by the way is grounded in Zionism and their interest are aligned with the advancement of Israeli hegemony.

    What folks like Jacobs are doing is minimizing the influence of Zionism to conflate the issue as SOLELY or MAJORITY a desire of the U.S. to control MidEast oil. Once again that belies the fact that there is more oil to control in Latin America whereby the U.S. has not conducted a major invasion and prefer covert actions.

    The contradiction Jacobs assertions are easily exposed by James Petras reports that the oil industry was NOT supportive of the invasion of Iraq while the supporters of Israel and neo-cons where greatly in favor of it and expressed their favor of the invasion in the late 1990’s via PNAC written by Paul Wolfowitz.

    The real problem is that there are “progressives” who are queasy when the “War for Oil” mantra is challenged because it places Zionism in the U.S. and its influence on U.S. Foreign policy front and center.

    These “progressives” are not unlike “whites” who would rather ignore the problem racism in the U.S. And to be frank Zionism is a racist ideology promoting Jewish hegemony. To be unconcerned or dismissive about Zionism in the U.S. is to call into question the credibility of these so-called “progressives”. In reality these “progressives” do not desire to CONFRONT the real issue of racism(Zionism) as it exist in the United States that now carry a huge cost in lives and resources.

  2. ron said on September 18th, 2007 at 6:39am #

    Nowhere have I denied that US foreign policy is being influenced by Zionism. However, to pretend that US foreign policy is set by Tel Aviv is nonsesne. The US project for world hegemony precedes the existence of israel and the growing influence of Zionists on US policy. Petras, Blankfort and Brenner have many points regarding this and other question with which I agree. However, my history of US imperialism predates the neocon phenomenon by at least one hundred years and consequently relegates the role of Israel and Zionism to one more befitting of its actual influence. Iin other words, it matters more than it should but it does not change the underlying fact that Washington and Wall Street will do what’s best for them and, if it helps Israel, well that’s good too.
    As for your characterization of progressives as queasy folks afraid to acknowledge Zionism, I wouldn’t know. I’m not a progressive, but a radical and can’t answer for those you characterize as progressive. Zionism may very well be a racist ideology (it certainly appears to be in practice), but then again what the hell is US imperialism? One of the most racist ideologies in history, that’s what!
    I stick with my conviction that the number one cause of the world’s injustices is US imperialism, not Zionism, religion, or some other philosophy–just the harsh economic reality that US imperialism needs to reign supreme in order to survive and those that benefit from it the most will do whatever it takes to ensure their supremacy. If Israel ever stopped serving the purposes Washington has decided for it, Washington would drop it. They might have to fight the Israel lobby to do so but it would lose.

  3. Deadbeat said on September 18th, 2007 at 9:21am #

    However, to pretend that US foreign policy is set by Tel Aviv is nonsesne.

    Ron, to interject that same strawman in your rejoinder actually confirms the point that I made in my response to your piece. The critics of the “War For Oil” mantra has never stated that Tel Aviv is wagging the U.S. dog. What people like Petras and Brenner are doing is exposing influence groups like AIPAC and there role in helping to advance and encourage U.S. military presence in the Middle East. Among whom neo-con Paul Wolfowitz penned the PNAC policy paper now being implemented by the neo-cons whose ideology is grounded in Zionism.

    Unfortunately those who are fearful of any discussion of the role Zionism is playing within U.S. society has accused critics of such commentary as you have done in your piece and rebuttal.

    My rebuttal to your piece clearly reject your strawman yet you see fit to repeat that same strawman. Why? Because it serves to diminish the role of racism(Zionism) influence in U.S. policy. What you fail to understand is that there must be an OUTCRY against Zionism (as well as racism) in the United States similar to the OUTCRY against apartheid in South Africa in order to eliminate a major pretext for U.S. militarism in the Middle East.

    It is clear that U.S. is imperialistic nation yet HISTORICALLY the Middle East has played a very little role in U.S. imperialism. LATIN AMERICA has been where the U.S. has put most of its imperialistic energies. However since the 1990’s and especially since 2003 the U.S. has spend a great deal of its budget engaged in an illegal invasion in the Middle East where there is no “economic benefit” to the U.S. and whereby U.S. oil companies are on record being against.

    Zionism may very well be a racist ideology (it certainly appears to be in practice), but then again what the hell is US imperialism? One of the most racist ideologies in history, that’s what!

    So why not an openly acknowledge the role Zionism is playing today in influencing U.S. foreign policy and the role it has played in miring the U.S. in the Middle East as well as U.S. culture?

    To focus on Zionism in fact weakens the pretext for U.S. involvement in the Middle East. Many people attempt to justify U.S. imperialism on economic grounds as “the need for the resources”. However your piece, like many who spread the “War For Oil” mantra results in diminishing the role Zionism plays in ADVANCING U.S. imperialism abroad as well as ADVANCING racism WITHING the U.S.

    The rhetoric has now been altered to say that the Iraqi invasion is part and parcel with “U.S. Empire” and “U.S. Imperialism” by “leftist” like yourself not to educate the intended reader but to serve as a reactionary shield of U.S. Zionism.

  4. Shabnam said on September 18th, 2007 at 1:56pm #

    The Zionists were very involved in waging the war in Iraq and now they are involved waging a war against Iran. In fact Zionists wanted Iran war first but Bush did not see it feasible at the time and therefore, the Zionists backed off for a period of time. Israel have a relationship with Kurds long before the invasion and has turned the north of Iraq into a spy network even before the occupation through a hospital Israel built and put his “doctors” in charge. Majority of zionists and their sevants are supporting and pushing for division of Iraq so they can create “kurdistan” to be an ally in the region.
    Mr. Jacob cleverly has presented the Iranian traitors such as Mojahedin, MEK, who have been listed as terrorists by State department, and have close relationship with the Zionists such as Daniel Pipe and the Neocon such as Richard Pearle who was the keynote speaker at MEK’s 2000 convention as alternative to regime in Tehran. MEK is supported by US and Israel and congress woman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen who is very pro Israel and supports MEK alternative to the current regime. Mojahedin who are viewed as traitors and terrorists by the majorities of Iranian people were stationed in Iraq and funded by Saddam for years. “MEK activists rarely deny the militia’s collaboration with the Washington hawks and Israel partisans. Rather, they insist that the necessity of a coup in Iran justifies any and all shortcuts to victory.” as Pourzal writes.
    Mr. Pourzal in his article titled “fanatic friends” criticized Mr. Jacob as

    “More recently Ron Jacobs, whose political commentaries appear regularly on left-of-center websites, described MEK as “a humane alternative to both Tehran and Washington” who’s religious “approach is no different than that of liberal Christian and Jewish denominations”

    The anti war movement is very much influenced by the “Zionist liberal”, as one of the leftists characterizes individuals such as Chomsky and Zonus, and they try hard to protect Israel from any critics of the Zionist war. These people never use the word “Zionism” in their analysis. Imperialism/Zionism is both sides of the same coin and whoever tries to divert attention away from this reality is going to be isolated. When Chomsky was asked why do the Neocons want to go after Syria if the war is for OIL and nothing to do with the Middle East map and elimination of Israel’s enemies knowing that Syria has done every thing US wanted her to do? He basically agrees that Syria has done every thing that US wanted Syria to do but he goes through the historical events of the past 4o years on a monotonous voice and puts everyone to sleep and then repeats the same thing: because Syria does not follow the order. He agreed ten minutes earlier that this is not the case.
    There is no doubt that The Zionists pro Israel have a role in waging the war. To maintain the US hegemony and access or even control the oil certainly occupation was not the best option available to US imperialism since the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq through massacres and destruction brought so far nothing but hatred of US beyond the middle east and this is not very helpful if the hegemonic US wants to rule. To maintain the status quo US imperialism will continue the use of more violence and more killing which is not helpful to US imperialism but definitely is very desirable to Zionism for many obvious reasons. The goal of Zionists is to divide the middle east into smaller parts so create allies for Israel and continue the status que in Palestine without attracting that much attention on Palestinian occupation and destruction and instead focus on other Islamic countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, ……….. and Iran until their goals are achieved.

  5. gerald spezio said on September 18th, 2007 at 2:01pm #

    NO the secret isn’t out, Jacobs. And you are typing like hell in order to keep the murdering Israel connection hidden in your word salad.

  6. gerald spezio said on September 18th, 2007 at 2:08pm #

    Grazi Deadbeat, Jacobs insults our intelligence as he masquerades for crypto peace and murderous Zionist designs.

    The forked tongue Israel First bastards are everywhere in every shape form and disguise imaginable.

  7. ron said on September 18th, 2007 at 2:13pm #

    You know, arguing with people who say things like the Middle east has never played much of a role in US imperialism kind of diminishes the argument. The Middle East is essential to the existence of US imperialism ever since oil took center stage in the world economy. Have you ever heard of Iran? How about the Suez canal incident? The Middle East matters because it has oil and the US wants to control that oil. It always has. Israel plays the role of a US frontline garrison for the US while also expanding its borders and helping to keep Arab nationalism in disarray.

    It’s not about mere oil–it’s about controlling access to that oil. READ THE PNAC STATEMENT. read Nixon and Kissinger in 1973. Read history for christ sake. I’m not denying that Israel and Washington are connected, but it is Washington that is in charge. Your hatred of Zionism blinds you to historical fact. Too bad.

  8. ron said on September 18th, 2007 at 2:17pm #

    You guys are out to lunch. To call me a supporter of Israel would surprise many genuine supporters of Israel who have threatened me in much more physical terms than either of you.

  9. gerald spezio said on September 19th, 2007 at 6:53am #

    What any essayist, philosopher, or preacher says is often far less important than what he purposely doesn’t say.

  10. gerald spezio said on September 19th, 2007 at 3:11pm #

    Mr Jacobs, on the outside or even inside chance that you are sincere and doing the very best that you can, I want to ask you a direct question.

    Is it possible for a real world discussion of U.S. foreign policy in the ME to occur without even mentioning Israeli Zionism as a significant variable?

  11. ron said on September 19th, 2007 at 4:48pm #

    No it isn’t possible. And I don’t believe I have done so. My emphasis is quite different from yours, but I agree with you that Zionism is a significant variable–just how significant is where we find our argument.

  12. gerald spezio said on September 19th, 2007 at 5:31pm #

    If I mis-interpreted your well meaning attempts to communicate, it is the last thing that I want to do. Your position, then, is akin to Chomsky’s about the dog and the tail.

    You alarm me when I “read into” your words, especially in the last paragraph, that an attack on Iran for oil is almost a done deal. According to James Baker, the big oil boys and girls wouldn’t have much to gain by an attack on Iran.

  13. ron said on September 19th, 2007 at 5:40pm #

    NOt exactly, but pretty close to Chomsky. I don’t know what to think about the possibility of an attack on Iran. Baker and his boys have one take but the Bushies and some of the Dems who support Israel tend to want an attack. We’ll see. Let’s hope there is no attack.

  14. Deadbeat said on December 10th, 2007 at 1:23am #

    The problem is Ron is that even with no attack you still have Zionism that you refuse to contend with. Also Ron, you still argue the strawman. Yes the policies are coming out of Washington. No one is disputing that. The issue and the argument that you refuse to confront is that Washington is now Zionist.