Chapter 3: Sweeping it all Up : From Iraq to Somalia and Iran


Sweeping it all Up : Expanding the "war on terror" to control Iraq's economy and oil reserves

Members of the Bush administration and their political allies soon expanded the 'war on terrorism' to Iraq - making claims that Saddam had allowed Al Qa'ida to use Iraq as a base and was involved in the September 11th attacks despite the lack of evidence for these claims and the wealth of evidence that they were false. The CIA's former director James Woolsey was among those keenest to make the Iraq link (1), (2), (3). Woolsey previously voiced concern over future US oil supplies citing US Defence Department estimates that when India's and China's growing use of oil reaches a per capita level equal to that of South Korea those two countries alone will need twice as much oil per day as the entire world currently produces (4). The FBI has since said its investigations suggest a member of US intelligence or of the Pentagon's biological warfare research division USAMRID is the most likely culprit behind the anthrax attacks (5). By predicting further attacks Woolsey also probably boosted profits for Paladin Capital, of which he's a Director and which invests in homeland security firms - including some involved in producing anthrax vaccines (6), (7). Interestingly he was also head of the CIA when it was co-operating with Pakistan's ISI intelligence agency to arm and fund armed Islamic fundamentalist groups in Afghanistan in the 1980s (8). Woolsey was also on the board of USF&G when it bought stock in Titan Security - whose employees were involved in "interrogations" at Abu Ghraib (9), (10), (11). He's now an adviser to John McCain's Presidential campaign and would probably be in any administration formed by McCain if he won the 2008 Presidential election (11a)

The Iraq war, like the war on Afghanistan, had been planned long before 9-11. The Project for a New American Century's September 2000 report "Rebuilding America's Defenses" stated that as the Persian Gulf is a "vital region...While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification,the need for a strong American presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of Saddam Hussein's regime" and that the US interest in maintaining military bases in the Middle East would remain even if Iran and Iraq both had governments friendly to the US (12). In other words Saddam's regime and the ayatollahs in Iran are just the pretext needed to do what the US government would have done whether those countries were run by brutal dictators, a democratically elected Gandhi type figure or had the Second Coming of Jesus as their head of government. The Pentagon and the US Department of Energy had seen ensuring U.S access to global oil and gas reserves as vital under Clinton as much as under Bush. The US Chief of Staff's 'Joint Vision 2020' document still saw middle eastern oil remaining as the key energy resource for the 21st century (13). The decision to go to war on Iraq was made by prospective members of the Bush administration in the PNAC before Bush was even elected and only awaited a pretext - a new Pearl Harbour as "Rebuilding America's Defenses" put it - found in September 11th and shifting excuses varying unconvincingly from WMD "threats" to democracy and human rights.

So on September 11th, five hours after the attacks ended, Donald Rumsfeld as Defence Secretary told Pentagon planners "Go massive. Sweep it all up - related and unrelated." (14) The Bush administration now had both a pretext for military action in Afghanistan to secure a pipeline route (and more military bases near Caspian and Iranian oil and gas) and a shock to Americans big enough that it could be used to drum up support for wars on Iraq and Iran, which then had the second and third largest proven oil reserves in the world according to British Petroleum's estimates (further exploration for oil in Iran - but less in Iraq due to the war - has increased Iran's proven reserves so that they now exceed Iraq's) (15).

The major issue for the Bush administration and the companies linked to it was which countries' firms got contracts to explore, drill for and export oil from Iraq. Under Saddam those countries were Russia, France and China. Under US-led occupation they were to be the US and UK.

As the Washington Post reported on the 15th of September 2002 "A U.S.-led ouster of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could open a bonanza for American oil companies long banished from Iraq, scuttling oil deals between Baghdad and Russia, France and other countries, and reshuffling world petroleum markets, according to industry officials and leaders of the Iraqi opposition...."It's pretty straightforward," said former CIA director R. James Woolsey, who has been one of the leading advocates of forcing Hussein from power. "France and Russia have oil companies and interests in Iraq. They should be told that if they are of assistance in moving Iraq toward decent government, we'll do the best we can to ensure that the new government and American companies work closely with them." But he added: "If they throw in their lot with Saddam, it will be difficult to the point of impossible to persuade the new Iraqi government to work with them."   (16). Since the new Iraqi government would exist only on the sufferance of over 100,000 American and British troops and 'mercenaries' or 'civilian security firm employees' Woolsey turned out to be right - British and American firms got contracts in Iraq after the invasion; after the French and Russian governments opposed the US invasion French and Russian firms didn't.

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The Old British Imperial Pipelines and the War on Terror : Israel - Palestine, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and oil and gas exports


Map of the old British Empire pipelines from Kirkuk via Haditha in 1941. At Haditha they became two pipelines -one went via Rutba through Palestine (now mostly Israel) to the port of Haifa (now Israeli) ; the other went through Palmyra (now called Tadmur) in Syria to the port of Tripoli in Lebanon (source Lyman 2006 = (24)

Map of the old British Empire pipelines from Kirkuk via Haditha in 1941. At Haditha they became two pipelines -one went via Rutba through Palestine (now mostly Israel) to the port of Haifa (now Israeli) ; the other went through Palmyra (now called Tadmur) in Syria to the port of Tripoli in Lebanon (source Lyman 2006 = (24)

During the British Empire's occupation of the Middle East between the two world wars two oil export pipelines were built from Iraq to the Mediterranean. One passed through Syria and Lebanon to the port of Tripoli. The other went through Jordan and what was then part of the British mandate of Palestine but is now Israel (24). In The U.S and Israeli governments were considering giving a contract to the U.S based firm Bechtel to reconstruct the Haifa pipeline (25).

In 1941 the British fought the Germans in Iraq over control of Basra, Habbaniya, Fallujah and Baghdad. Other key targets included H1, H2 and H3 - pumping stations on the oil pipeline to the Mediterranean port of Haifa, then in the British Mandate of Palestine and now in Israel (26), (26a). In 2003 the H2 and H3 pumping stations, were captured during the 2003 invasion as targets identified for British and American special forces. This, like the decision to send troops to prevent the Oil Ministry in Baghdad being looted while letting looters wreck Baghdad museum, was probably not co-incidence. H2 and H3 were described in the media during the 1990 and 2003 wars as "airfields" and "chemical weapons sites", no doubt because thats what government and military spokespeople had told them. They may be both these things but they are also key points to hold if the oil pipeline from Iraq to Haifa was to be re-opened. In June 2003 Israel's Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced it would be. Bechtel, a US based firm which donated to Bush's election campaign, was offered a contract to re-construct it - though the insurgency or resistance may make this difficult (27), (28), (29).

As Lyman ( who taught history in the British army for 20 years) notes one of the British campaigns' aims in the 1941 campaign was to deny Iraqi oil to Germany, much as today the anglo-American alliance has ended Saddam's provision of oil contracts to Russian, French and Chinese firms and granted them to British and American ones (30).

Syria, bordering the pipeline route, could potentially shut it down by damaging it repeatedly if it wanted to. If a second old British pipeline route, from Kirkuk to Tripoli via pumping stations T1, T2 etc, is also under consideration then the seemingly eccentric decision to treat Syria, like Iraq, as a member of the 'axis of evil', despite their lack of links to Al Qa'ida or 9-11, becomes even more intelligible ; as does US direct involvement in Lebanon in the 1980s and covert supplies of arms to Sunni extremists in Lebanon in the present. (This is covered in more detail in later chapters) (31), (32), (33).


Map of Iraq in 1941 from Somerset De Chair's book 'The Golden Carpet' (Faber and Faber 1944) - the H3, H4 and T2 pumping stations are all marked on the route of the campaign force. (to see larger version

Map of Iraq in 1941 from Somerset De Chair's book 'The Golden Carpet' (Faber and Faber 1944) - the H3, H4 and T2 pumping stations are all marked on the route of the campaign force. (to see larger version click here)


Photo of US CentralCommand briefing to journalists in 2003 in which H2, H3 and H4 are visible on the map - once again they were key targets. After the invasion the Haifa pipeline was re-opened.

Photo of US CentralCommand briefing to journalists in 2003 in which H2, H3 and H4 are visible on the map - once again they were key targets. After the invasion the Haifa pipeline was re-opened.

Most Americans and Europeans may not remember that their government was overthrown by the US and British governments in 1953 in favour of a dictatorship to secure Anglo-American control of Iran's oil wealth. Many of us may not remember the last time foreign troops occupied Iraq for its oil, told its people it was a "liberation" and killed any who dissented. Most Iranians and Iraqis certainly do.

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De Ja Vu for Iraqis and Iranians : Colonial Oil Wars and Client Governments Dressed up as "Liberation" All Over Again

What has been presented as something entirely new - a war "for democracy" and "against terrorism" is in fact something very old - colonial wars for control of Middle Eastern oil much like those fought by Britain in the 19th and first half of the twentieth centuries (The Palestinian born historian Rashid Khalidi has shown this in his book "Resurrecting Empire") (17). The British Empire dominated the Middle East through invasions followed by support for client dictatorships and the brutal crushing of nationalist, democratic and religious popular uprisings in the early twentieth century and after World War One. You can still get second hand copies of books by the British Lieutenant General Aylmer Haldane who commanded the occupying forces in Iraq in the 1920 against 'The Insurrection in Mesopotamia' (the title of Haldane's book) (18). The towns in which rebellions were crushed using artillery, tanks and bombing included many familiar in the recent past - notably Fallujah. Like the Bush administration and its allies there was much "noble purpose" rhetoric with another British General - Maude - announcing on the invasion of Iraq in 1917 that "We come not as occupiers but as liberators".

The only major difference was that until after the Second World War there werent as many oil companies who were major players involved. The dominant firm was the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, a majority of whose shares were owned by the British government. It operated across the Middle East. After World War Two Iran was formally granted independence from the British Empire. Its first post-independence elected Prime Minister was Mohammed Mossadeq who, with massive public support, proposed nationalising Iran's oil industry to get decent pay and conditions for its Iranian employees and a fair share of oil revenues for Iranians. At this point Iranians workers employed by Anglo-Iranian Oil were paid a tiny fraction of what British employees got and lived in wooden shacks without electricity or water. The British and American governments , the CIA and MI6 then funded Islamic fundamentalist parties to oppose Mossadeq (a moderate Muslim) as 'a Communist' and backed a military coup which overthrew Mossadeq's elected government. They replaced him with the Shah's (King's) dictatorship - and U.S firms got a share of what had formerly been the British Anglo-Iranian oil's monopoly. The Shah's government tortured and jailed his political opponents using the SAVAK secret police and squandered Iran's oil wealth on the Shah, his rich cronies and on buying western arms for his military (19), (20).

The Shah's dictatorship discredited secular government in Iran as corrupt, tyrannical and acting in the interests of foreigners instead of Iranians. (This led to growing support for Islamic fundamentalism which, when the Shah had hundreds of unarmed demonstrators killed by the army in 1979, led to an Islamic revolution which brought Khomeini's brutal and intolerant version of Shia Islam to power. Even Khomeini and Khameini though have been marginally less undemocratic, corrupt and brutal than the Shah was. (The 1953 coup (along with US and British funding and arms supplied to Saddam during the Iran-Iraq war) also created a distrust of the British and American governments which remains to this day.) (21), (22)

Anglo-Iranian Oil went on to become British Petroleum (B.P). In 200? B.P's Chief Executive Lord Browne demanded the British government and the Bush administration make sure B.P got its share of the new oil contracts in Iraq (23). No doubt their new CEO will be lobbying for a share of any new oil contracts following the planned war on Iran too.

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Worse than Darfur : From Afghanistan to Africa : Somalia, Yemen and the Gulf of Aden

Bush has repeatedly made it clear that Afghanistan and Iraq are just 'battles' in the 'war on terror' and that other 'battles' are planned elsewhere. Much like the supposedly omnipresent Communist threat in the Cold War the 'Al Qa'ida' or 'terrorist' threat gives a pre-text for interventions worldwide for a variety of motives. Somalia has already become another battle in the war and Iran and Yemen may be next.

The "war on terror" in Somalia gets less coverage than Iraq but has been just as brutal. In a scenario with echoes of Afghanistan decades of civil war in Somalia were ended in summer 2006 when the Islamic Courts Union defeated rival warlords' brutal militias and brought about peace. As in Afghanistan the initial welcome for an end to the killings and rapes carried out by the warlords were rapidly followed by shock at the brutal enforcement of a backwards and "literal" interpretation of the Quran by the new government.

Unlike the Taliban in Afghanistan though the Courts never had US backing.

The US government had armed and funded the defeated warlords. Now it supports the invasion of Ethiopian forces, who have killed thousands in shelling and bombing of cities, towns and villages and indirectly through creating food shortages among millions of refugees - much like the US campaign in Afghanistan from October 2001 to the present (34), (35), (36), (37), (38), (39), (40), (41), , (42). The UN has said the number of civilians dying as a result of the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia is on a greater scale even than in Darfur in Sudan - and that Ethiopian forces indiscriminate fire and the new US and Ethiopian backed governments' denial of food to civilians in areas held by rebels is causing deaths by starvation (43), (44), (45).

As in Afghanistan there is also probably an ulterior motive for US and European governments' support for the Ethiopian invasion. Significant oil and gas reserves have been discovered between Somalia and Yemen in the Gulf of Aden - which is also the export route for a third of American oil imports. Several oil companies - Agip of Italy , BP Amoco , and US company Conoco - all have exploration and drilling rights for oil and gas which they negotiated with the murderous US-backed dictator Siad Barre before his overthrow in 1991 by his chief of police Mohammed Aidid. Those contracts remain on hold due to civil war. The bloody US-led Operation 'Restore Hope' in 1993 saw the killing of many UN peacekeepers and hundreds of Somali civilians - but failed to resolve the civil war in favour of America's protege - Barre's former interior minister Abdikassim Hassan (46), (47), (48). In Yemen on the other side of the Gulf of Aden companies including Occidental , Shell, Exxon-Mobil , Agip, Stat-Oil and British Gas are already developing oil and gas resources on and off shore - and again control of Yemen ensures control of the Gulf of Aden for oil exports. There are violent disputes with Yemenis demanding a fair share of oil revenues from their government and the corporations (49), (50), (51), (52).

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The Method in the Circle of Madness

Back in the 1980s the US, Saudi and Pakistani governments were funding, arming and training mostly Sunni Islamic jihadists in Afghanistan to fight the Communist government and occupying Soviet forces there. They were also arming and funding the secular (but mostly Sunni Muslim) regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq against Iran's Shia regime and in conflict with Iran's Ahia allies Hezbollah in Lebanon. In the 1990s the Clinton administration were doing much the same - backing the Sunni Taliban against Iranian and Russian backed Shia and Uzbek groups in Afghanistan. In the late 1990s this strategy started to backfire badly as Bin Laden carried out attacks on Americans with the protection of the Taliban. After 9-11 the US went to war on the Taliban and Al Qa'ida and the war in Iraq was supposedly part of the same struggle (despite the absence of Al Qa'ida there until after the US invasion - with the one group supposedly linked to Al Qa'ida in Iraq , Ansar Al Islam in the Kurdish controlled North, actually having no links to Al Qa'ida though similar in ideology and actions). As the largest minority of Iraq's population are Shia the overthrow of Saddam's regime in Iraq, like the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan, increased Shia Muslim influence in these countries and so Iranian influence in them. So in what Seymour Hersh has called "the re-direction" the US government went full circle back to arming and funding Sunni extremist armed groups across the Middle East to fight Shia armed groups like the Medhi army in Iraq and Hizbollah in Lebanon. Despite claims that the Moqtadr Al Sadr's Medhi army are 'pro-Iranian' they are in fact Iraqi nationalists with the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and their Badr Brigade militia the main allies of Iran in Iraq. The US government and military seem to get on much better with SCIRI than the Medhi army - suggesting that perhaps they are still following the advice of Samuel L. Huntington. Huntington suggested that in order to intervene to "sell" US interventions to American and world opinion the US government might have to "create the misimpression its the Soviet Union you are fighting". The current equivalent seems to be to claim its "terrorism" or "terrorists" you're fighting and pretend also that Shia armed groups and Sunni armed groups are allies, not enemies, much like Woolsey's claim that Nazis and Communists were allies. Jundullah , an Al Qa'ida like Sunni terrorist group based in Pakistan, has also been aided by the CIA in its roadside bombings and assassinations in Iran.

This may seem like mere stupidity or short-sightedness on the part of US governments acting on the maxim 'my enemy's enemy is my friend' while constantly changing their minds about who the main enemy is. In fact its a fairly consistent and cynical application of the maxim 'divide and conquer'. In the 1980s the US armed and funded Saddam's Iraqi regime while simultaneously arming Iran via Israel. In this way it kept the two most powerful states in the Middle East (not including Israel - a US ally) at each others throats so both were weakened. Now the strategy seems to be to foment civil war between Sunnis and Shias across the Middle East so that they will be too busy fighting each other to resist occupations aimed at taking their oil wealth. The strategy may not be working very well but its fairly clear that 'divide and conquer' and not 'democracy' or 'human rights' is the aim of at least some elements of the US government's game (possibly including Dick Cheney). There are others in the administration who seem to be genuinely attempting to prevent sectarian violence and civil war through for instance mixed Iraqi militias recruiting from all religions and ethnic groups (see Get Sadr ? The War for the Oil Law )

copyright©Duncan McFarlane2008

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(1) = Independent 23 Oct 2001 Former CIA chief: 'Iraq was involved in terror attacks'

(2) = ABC News 10 Oct 2001,Transcript: Ex-CIA Director James Woolsey, and

(3) = James Woolsey ,Former Director of the CIA, Speech on Terrrorism at the American Institute for German Studies, John Hopkins University 29 Nov 2001,

(4) =Margolis , Eric S.(2000) War at the top of the world Routledge , London , 2000 , p240

(5) = BBC News 18 Aug 2002, 'Anthrax killer 'is US defence insider'',

(6) = Observer 11 May 2003, 'Bush ally set to profit from the war on terror',

(7) = Center for Public Integrity 28 March 2003, 'Advisors of Influence: Nine Members of the Defense Policy Board Have Ties to Defense Contractors',

(8) = Coll, Steve (2004) , 'Ghost Wars : The secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden' , Penguin , London, 2004

(9) = EB Benador Associates - R. James Woolsey,

(10) = SEC Info - USF&G Corp · SC 13D · Titan Holdings Inc · On 8/15/97,

(11) = New Yorker Magazine 10 May 2004, ' Annals of National Security : Torture at Abu Ghraib',

(11a) = The Hill 23 Apr 2007, 'Woolsey joins McCain camp as security adviser', Woolsey joins McCain camp as security adviser

(12) = Project for a New American Century September 2000 , ‘Rebuilding America’s Defenses’, pages 14 and 17, and

(13) = Guardian 1 November 2001, 'The west must kick its oil habit', Dan Plesch ,

(14) = CBS News 4 Sep 2002, 'Plans For Iraq Attack Began On 9/11',

(15) = BP statistical review of world Energy 2007 : Oil : Reserves : pages 6 – 8 (especially page 6) , And

(16) = Washington Post 15 Sep 2002, 'In Iraqi War Scenario, Oil Is Key Issue : U.S. Drillers Eye Huge Petroleum Pool',

(17) = Khalidi, Rashid (2004) , 'Resurrecting Empire : Western Footprints and America's Perilous Path in the Middle East', Beacon Press, Boston

(18) = Haldane, Aymer L. (1922) , 'The Insurrection', Battery Press, Nashville, Tenesee, 2005

(19) = Pollack, Kenneth M.(2004), ‘The Persian Puzzle', Random House, New York, 2005 paperback edition

(20) = Curtis, Mark (1995), 'The Ambiguities of Power : British Foreign Policy since 1945', Zed Books, London and New Jersey, 1995, p87-95

(21) = See (19) above

(22) = See (20) above

(23) = Guardian 30 Oct 2002, 'BP chief fears US will carve up Iraqi oil riches',

(24) = Khalidi, Rashid (2004) , 'Resurrecting Empire : Western Footprints and America's Perilous Path in the Middle East', Beacon Press, Boston, Chapter 3, page 101

(25) = Observer 20 April 2003, 'Israel seeks pipeline for Iraqi oil',

(26) = McCartney, Laton (1989) 'Friends In High Places: The Bechtel Story : The Most Secret Corporation and How It Engineered the World', Ballantine Books, 1989

(27) = Khalidi, Rashid (2004) , 'Resurrecting Empire : Western Footprints and America's Perilous Path in the Middle East', Beacon Press, Boston, Chapter 3, page 101

(28) = Lyman, Robert (2006) 'Iraq 1941 : The Battles for Basra, Habbaniya, Fallujah and Baghdad', Osprey Publishing , Oxford(UK), 2006, page 7-8,M1

(29) = CNN 21 Mar 2003, 'CNN AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN : Strike on Iraq: 30 Oil Wells on Fire in Southern Iraq', (refers to special forces securing H2 and H3 'airfields')

(30) = Jane's Defence 03 Apr 2007, 'Iraq's western desert a 'special forces playground' (again refers to special forces securing H2 and H3 'airfields')

(31) = Telegraph 21 Jun 2003, 'Iraq-Israel oil pipeline 'to reopen'',;jsessionid=GKB3H01JI03UNQFIQMFCFFOAVCBQYIV0?xml=/news/2003/06/21/woil21.xml

(32) = Lyman, Robert (2006) 'Iraq 1941 : The Battles for Basra, Habbaniya, Fallujah and Baghdad', Osprey Publishing , Oxford(UK), 2006, page 7-8,M1

(33) = New Yorker Magazine 5 Mar 2007 ,'Annals of National Security : The Redirection' by Seymour Hersh ,

(34) = Professor Marc Herold : A Dossier on Civilian Victims of United States' Aerial Bombing of Afghanistan: A Comprehensive Accounting ,

(35) = Independent 19 Oct 2001, 'Blair in row with aid group over claim that Taliban are looting food convoys'

(36) = Independent 27 Nov 2001 Legacy of civilian casualties in ruins of shattered town ,

(37) = Guardian 3 Jan 2002 Refugees left in the cold at 'slaughterhouse' camp

(38) = Guardian 12 Feb 2002, 'Storm over Afghan civilian victims',

(39) = Guardian 12 Feb 2002, 'Afghans are still dying as air strikes go on. But no one is counting',

(40) = Guardian 20 May 2002, 'Forgotten victims',

(41) = Independent 10 Aug 2002, 'Return to Afghanistan: Explosives that US knew would kill innocents continue to take their toll',

(42) = USA Today 24 Jun 2007, ‘Afghan civilians reportedly killed more by U.S., NATO than insurgents’,

(43) = Independent 22 Nov 2007, 'Somalia war-refugee crisis surpasses Darfur in its horror',

(44) = Independent 03 Dec 2007 'Humanitarian crisis' facing Ethiopia, says UN',

(45) = Independent 09 Feb 2008, 'Somalia: The World's forgotten catastrophe',

(46) = Inter Press Service English News Wire, 27 May 1998, 'YEMEN/UNITED STATES: WASHINGTON SWEET TALKS SANA'A.' , by Dilip Hiro ,

(47) = US Energy Information Administration Country Briefs/Background - Yemen ,

(48) = Los Angeles Times 18 Jan 1993 'The oil factor in Somalia' , LATimes archive link

(49) = Reuters 03 Aug 1999 , 'ANALYSIS-Yemen oil investment bid faces challenges', Michael Georgy

(50) = Reuters 13 Jan 1999, 'Western oilmen lie low in Yemen after killings'

(51) = Reuters 8 Jan 2008, UPDATE 1-Yemen accepts 25 bids for offshore oil blocks,

(52) = Reuters 22 Feb 2008, 'Yemen seen sliding towards breakdown',

copyright©Duncan McFarlane2008