The Middle East Oil War: Briefing the President-elect
by Ed Kinane

Graphic: Eric Verlo

Author's note: this article was adapted from my notes for a presentation at SPC's September monthly program on creating a new foreign policy.

Dear Senator Obama:

During your campaign you showed little grasp of Middle Eastern realities. No doubt you understood that exposing those realities could mean forfeiting the election. Such frankness would have antagonized the power structure doing its best to mystify the reasons for the US military virtually occupying the region. Recall your predecessor's determination to block a thorough investigation of 9/11.

Recall the Neo-cons' sly equating of Saddam with 9/11. Witness the cascade of other lies that led to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Witness the parallel demonization of Iran. Note the war on dissent disguised as a "war on terrorism" here at home.

Further, note the pro-Israel tilt in US media, foreign policy, party platforms, and military aid. Note the marginalization of the Palestinian people and of their struggle for justice and against apartheid.

You've surely noticed that much of the world's oil supply lies under Islamic lands - hence the persistent equating of Muslims with "terrorists" (a word invariably and conveniently left undefined). Your advisors have by now taught you that US "interests" (another word invariably undefined) relate primarily to OIL. "Interests" is code for the US cornering Middle East oil reserves in order to dominate the world economy. This also entails controlling the pipelines and shipping lanes needed to bring the oil home where we think it belongs.

Thanks to the longstanding greed of US oil and automobile companies, the US is morbidly addicted to oil. Consumer self-indulgence also fosters such addiction. Either we are on the brink of "peak oil" or we are already past it. Unless we switch to renewable energy, the industrial world may well tank within the lifetime of your children. Your predecessor failed to understand - or care - that our children will have to live in the toxic and depleted world we bequeath them.

With the next - and subsequent - generations in mind, here are several core goals for your presidency:
1. eliminate US dependence on foreign oil and other dirty energy sources - oil, coal and nuclear.
2. comply with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and international law; abolish US nuclear weapons and do so hand in hand with working to abolish nuclear weapons throughout the Middle East…and beyond.
3. repeal the Patriot Acts; abolish torture and extraordinary rendition; close Guantanamo while providing habeus corpus and other civilian due process to its inmates; release the so-called "terrorists" like Syracuse's Dr. Rafil Dhafir.
4. outlaw Blackwater-type mercenaries; prosecute US war crimes and do so all the way up the chain of command.

Besides Iraq and Afghanistan there are other theaters of the Middle East Oil War. Given PNL space limitations, here I'll only touch on two - Israel and Iran.

The US, using billions of dollars of military aid, has in effect converted Israel into a military base - a strategic enclave (or "green zone") artificially wedged into the Islamic world. Israel has one of the most powerful and aggressive military machines on the planet. Its neighbors see that machine as an existential threat.

In the March '87 Peace Newsletter I compared Israel with its (then) ally, white-controlled South Africa. I observed that Israel was likewise an apartheid settler state. Since then Israel has kept expanding its settlements and consolidating its apartheid.

In your campaign you echoed the boilerplate of US politicians fearful of the make-or-break power of the Israel lobby. My hope is that as President you will feel more empowered than you did as a candidate to do the right thing by the Palestinians whose land the Israelis systematically confiscate.

As long as Israel maintains apartheid and as long as it maintains its nuclear arsenal, you must cut off military aid. Otherwise there is little chance of reining in Israel's expansionism or of achieving an enduring peace in the Middle East.

I'm no expert on the complex and remarkable land of Iran. Most US policy makers, politicians, generals, and US Americans know even less about Iran. It's a country that - unlike certain others - hasn't invaded another country in centuries.

The 1979 Islamic Revolution with its overthrow of the Shah, was a pivotal year in US/Iran relations. But Iranians also recall 1953 when the CIA toppled Iran's democratically-elected prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh, replacing him with the profoundly undemocratic Shah.

Few here seem to realize that President Ahmadinejad - despite the buzz about him in the mainstream press - is neither Iran's most powerful leader nor its commander-in-chief. Such ignorance of a country with one of the world's largest reserves of oil and gas can get us - and you - into a heap of trouble.

Cheney/Bush have vigorously opposed the development of Iran's nuclear industry. Their menacing words and bellicose actions embody the hubris and double standard of the US telling another nation what its nuclear policies should be.

After all, the US is one of the world's major exporters of nuclear technology. It's the world's major nuclear weapons power and a major booster of various other nuclear powers. It's the world's only perpetrator of nuclear holocaust. Such nuclearism substantiates Martin Luther King's comment that the US is the world's greatest purveyor of violence.

Why, with its vast oil reserves, does Iran seek to develop nuclear power? Given "peak oil" such reserves are likely to peter out within decades. Apart from prestige and deterrence, Iran seeks to develop nuclear energy because it dares not keep all of its energy eggs in one basket. Few here realize that due to US-championed sanctions, Iran's oil refining capability is stunted - thus forcing Iran to import gasoline. In September a group of peace and justice activists met with Iranian leaders who were in New York for the opening of the current United Nations session. President Ahmadinejad told us that Iran spends three times as much on developing renewable energy as on nuclear energy. I don't know if that's true, but I hope it could be true for both the US and Iran.

So, Mr. President-elect, how must you treat Iran?

With respect.

End the sanctions. Stop the demonizing. Stop the menacing. Pull back the destroyers and the cruise missiles. Stop violating Iran's sovereignty with clandestine and provocative infiltrations of US Special Forces.

Negotiate in good faith. And again, focus on abolishing nuclear weapons both here at home and in the world at large. That just might abort any Iranian drive to join the nuclear club.

Given the current financial collapse and given your predecessor's eight year-long credibility collapse, the days of the US imperium are numbered. Your foreign policy priority should be to put US unilateralism behind us and restore our honor - and security - by rejoining the community of nations.

Since reading the Club of Rome's Limits to Growth in the early seventies, Ed has used cars sparingly. He has never owned one