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U.S. Imperial Strategy in the Middle East

Gilbert Achcar lived in Lebanon before moving to France where he teaches politics and international relations at the University of Paris-VIII. He is the author of The Clash of Barbarisms: September 11 and the Making of the New World Disorder (Monthly Review, 2002), in addition to several books on contemporary politics published in various languages.


This essay has been adapted from a much longer chapter, “U.S. Imperial Strategy in the Middle East in the Early 21st Century,” in Gilbert Achcar’s new book, Eastern Cauldron: Islam, Afghanistan, Palestine and Iraq in a Marxist Mirror, available from Monthly Review Press.

The Editors

The Turning Point

U.S. Middle Eastern strategy for the decade 1991-2000 had run up against its limits on both of its main fronts: the Israeli-Palestinian front, and the Arab-Persian Gulf.

On the Israeli-Palestinian front, it had become clear that the “peace process” had run aground. Only a major concession by one of the two sides could set it afloat again, given that their divergences concerned issues that were fundamental for both. From Ehud Barak’s point of view, which Clinton supported, the Palestinian leadership had to accept the “generous offer” that Barak had made at Camp David. In the absence of any broad consensus on the Israeli or Palestinian side, Barak’s offer corresponded to a version of a “settlement” that Washington considered satisfactory.

The direct inspiration for Barak’s offer was the agreement negotiated in October 1995, just before Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, by the two men principally responsible for negotiating the Oslo accords: Yossi Beilin, at the time working under Shimon Peres at the Israeli foreign ministry, and Mahmoud Abbas, alias Abu Mazen, a member of the Palestinian leadership. Their agreement foresaw that Israel would keep settlements in the territories occupied in 1967, both in an area that Israel would annex and in the remaining Palestinian area. The territory of the “Palestinian state” would be cut up into separate enclaves controlled by the Israeli army, which would maintain strategic positions there. Israel would keep the part of Jerusalem that it had annexed in 1967, while the Palestinian capital would be in the Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis. Finally, Palestinian refugees would receive international compensation and a “right to return” to the “Palestinian state.”1

At Camp David Arafat had argued, rightly, that he could never make the base of his own Fatah organization, let alone the Palestinian people as a whole, accept this kind of “settlement.” Both Washington and the Israeli Labor Party drew the conclusion that the way out of the impasse was to reduce Palestinian resistance and demands by force. This conclusion induced Barak to authorize Ariel Sharon to commit his provocation at Jerusalem’s Haram Al-Sharif on September 28, 2000, thus provoking a Palestinian uprising. The violence of the repression with which Israel responded to this Second Intifada—at Barak’s orders—tended to radicalize it, in such a way as to create the conditions for its brutal suppression. This was supposed to make the Palestinians give in and accept the Camp David conditions. The Palestinians for their part, poorly led by an autocrat at the end of his tether surrounded by corrupt bureaucrats, fell into the trap of “militarizing” the Intifada.

A broad front thus took shape, including Washington as well as all the major Israeli political currents, all of whom agreed on the goal of drowning the Palestinian rebellion in blood. With this as the task, no one was better suited to carry it out than Sharon, a general with an impressive record as a war criminal. Something that had seemed unthinkable only a few years earlier happened: one of Israel’s most extremist politicians, a man whose fanaticism had managed to exasperate Menachem Begin himself, took over the leadership of Likud and won the Israeli elections in February 2001. Sharon settled down to the task of breaking the Palestinians’ spirit of resistance, with the more fundamental goal of provoking them to leave their territories en masse. To this end he worked to make Palestinians’ living conditions unbearable for as long as possible. He thus resorted systematically to provocations, in the spirit that had brought him to power, notably by carrying out “extrajudicial executions” of leaders of the Palestinian groups that were most determined to react: the Islamic fundamentalists.

For Sharon the Oslo accords as well as the Beilin–Abu Mazen accords, including the version presented at Camp David, were all unacceptable. His own vision of a settlement swings back and forth between his optimal solution of “transfer” and the maximum set of “concessions” that he is prepared to accept. “Transfer” is the Israeli euphemism for expelling the Palestinians from their territories, i.e., a new edition of what happened in 1948. This is what Sharon, like his extreme-right coalition partners, fervently desires. But, if necessary, he would be willing to accept a less “ideal” solution, reducing the plan proposed by Yigal Allon to three separate, tightly controlled Palestinian enclaves—three Palestinian concentration camps, in short—including a total of only 42 percent of the West Bank land occupied in 1967. This option, which Sharon laid out when his party came to power in 1977, would in fact go together with a massive but less than total “transfer.” The so-called security wall, whose construction Sharon began in June 2002 after his predecessors had threatened to do so, fits in very clearly with this sinister perspective.2

This same Sharon—who has never hidden his ideas—presided over a coalition government including the Labor Party until November 2002, a coalition responsible for the worst episodes of the brutal war waged on the Palestinians.3 He also benefited from the “benign neglect” of George W. Bush’s administration, inaugurated only one month before Sharon’s own election. The connivance among the three parties—the Likud under Sharon, the Zionist Labor Party, and the U.S. administration—was a clear expression of their convergence toward a common objective: crushing any spirit of Palestinian resistance. Their divergences were put off to a later date, after the common objective had been reached.

In the Arab-Persian Gulf, the other major front in U.S. Middle East strategy, or rather on a part of this front, another strategic shift occurred in 2001. “Double containment” was replaced with single containment, directed at Iran. Washington hoped—encouraged by the rise of popular protest—that the Iranian regime would crumble the way the Eastern European regimes had. In the case of Iraq containment gave way to military overthrow, designated by the euphemistic name “regime change.”

George W. Bush’s team entered office in January 2001 with the firm intention of overthrowing the regime in Baghdad. Bush had expressed this intention himself during his presidential campaign. Several members and coworkers of his administration agreed with him, to the point of having jointly petitioned Bush’s predecessor, Clinton, in January 1998 to this effect. The petition was organized by the Project for the New American Century, a reactionary think tank whose influence on the Bush administration has been widely noted. The fact that 11 out of 18 signers of the petition that called on Clinton to overthrow the Iraqi regime by military force later found themselves associated with the Bush administration,4 at the Pentagon in particular, could easily have given the impression of a conspiracy, had their project not been proclaimed so openly.

George W. Bush’s administration, like his father’s administration, which waged the first U.S. war against Iraq, is as tightly linked to the oil industry as any administration in history. At the risk of annoying those who react to any explanation of U.S. foreign policy in terms of economic interests, and oil interests in particular, with cries of “reductionism”: the oil lobby has traditionally played a key role in formulating U.S. foreign policy, at the very least since the Second World War.5

Some administrations are more sensitive than others to oil company influence, however. The administration of the younger Bush, whose presidential campaign had all the oil and gas industry’s chief companies (including of course ExxonMobil, BP Amoco, El Paso, and Chevron) among its main donors, is certainly one of the most sensitive. Besides his own personal and family ties to the industry, Bush appointed people with equally close or closer ties to it to key posts in his administration, including Vice President Dick Cheney (Halliburton) and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice (Chevron).

As it happens there was a sharp rise in oil prices (and in gas prices at the pump in the United States) during the presidential campaign year 2000. Since the imposition of the embargo on Iraq and throughout the years 1991–1999, nominal prices of crude oil6 had stayed under their 1990 level ($22.26 a barrel), which was in turn 35 percent below the 1974 price when adjusted for inflation.7 The situation turned around in 2000, with a jump in nominal prices from $17.47 a barrel in 1999 to $27.60 a barrel (though even this price was lower in real terms than the 1990 price).8

More important, Bush’s team shared the U.S. ruling class’s general concern about the future of the oil market and the prospect that hydrocarbon sources will gradually dry up.9 The very influential Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington expressed this concern most clearly in a November 2000 report made public in February 2001 under the title, The Geopolitics of Energy into the 21st Century. According to this report, world energy demand should increase by over 50 percent during the first two decades of the 21st century.

The Persian Gulf will remain the key marginal supplier of oil to the world market, with Saudi Arabia in the unchallenged lead. Indeed, if estimates of future demand are reasonably correct, the Persian Gulf must expand oil production by almost 80 percent during 2000–2020, achievable perhaps if foreign investment is allowed to participate and if Iran and Iraq are free of sanctions.10

The report underscored the “fundamental contradiction” between this need and Washington’s policies:

Oil and gas exports from Iran, Iraq, and Libya—three nations that have had sanctions imposed by the United States or international organizations—are expected to play an increasingly important role in meeting growing global demand, especially to avoid increasing competition for energy with and within Asia. Where the United States imposes unilateral sanctions (Iran and Libya), investments will take place without U.S. participation. Iraq, subjected to multilateral sanctions, may be constrained from building in a timely way the infrastructure necessary to meet the upward curve in energy demand. If global oil demand estimated for 2020 is reasonably correct and is to be satisfied, these three exporters should by then be producing at their full potential if other supplies have not been developed.11

For the Bush administration, as in fact for U.S. capitalism as a whole, the need to put an end to the embargo imposed on Iraq was becoming urgent. It was time to make possible reconstruction and modernization of Iraq’s oil infrastructure—meaning several years of investments and work. Iraq sits on the second largest oil reserves in the world after the Saudi kingdom; Washington’s goal was to allow Iraq to double and then triple its production (up to its estimated capacity) during the first decade of the new century, so as to ward off an oil crisis during the following decade. Underlying this concern was the principle according to which a substantial margin of flexibility in Saudi production—a safety margin between the kingdom’s actual production and its production capacity12—must be maintained. This is crucial to the stability of the world oil market under supervision from the United States, and constitutes “the cornerstone of its oil policy.”13

Bush’s Windfall: September 11, 2001

It was thus becoming urgent to create the conditions for lifting the embargo on Iraq. There were essentially two preconditions. First, Saddam Hussein had to be overthrown and replaced by a government under U.S. control. Without this “regime change” Washington would not contemplate moving to lift the embargo. Paris and Moscow had been calling for some time to lift the embargo on the Ba’athist regime, precisely because it was in their interests and contrary to Washington’s.

Baghdad had granted its two privileged partners—historically France and Russia—major oil concessions whose implementation depended on ending the embargo. Given the magnitude of what was at stake in Iraq—the huge market for rebuilding the country, devastated as it was by 20 years of war and embargo, in addition to its gigantic oil resources—it was out of the question for Washington, backed by London for identical reasons, to hand it all on a silver platter to Paris and Moscow.

The Bush administration’s only options—like the Clinton administration’s before it—were either maintaining the embargo or securing U.S. control of Iraq. To make this last, more and more pressing option possible, another condition had to be fulfilled, however: it had to be politically possible, essentially in terms of U.S. domestic politics, to invade Iraq and keep the country under direct U.S. occupation and tutelage. In truth, the one and only sure guarantee of keeping Iraq under Uncle Sam’s thumb is ruling the country directly from Washington.

The reason is that Iraq is not located in Eastern Europe, but rather in the one part of the world where popular feeling is most hostile to the United States. In the absence of any U.S. ideological hegemony that would ensure Iraq’s ongoing, guaranteed dependence on the United States, the country had to be placed under some original form of trusteeship. Since the elder Bush had been politically incapable of achieving this, he had preferred to let Saddam Hussein bloodily repress the March 1991 popular rebellion rather than allowing the triumph of an Iraqi revolution that would not have been under Washington’s control. Clinton, constrained by the Republican opposition’s exploitation of the Lewinsky scandal, was certainly not able to invade and occupy Iraq either, when the crisis around the UN inspectors provided him with a suitable pretext in 1998.

In this context, September 11, 2001, came as a terrific windfall for the Bush administration. As with Saddam Hussein in 1990, one could say that if Osama bin Laden had not existed he would have had to be invented—for Washington’s benefit. The spectacular blow struck by Islamic fundamentalists, former U.S. allies who had become its sworn enemies, created such a huge political trauma in the United States that the Bush administration thought it was possible at last, for the first time, to break once and for all with the “Vietnam syndrome” and return to the unbridled military interventionism of the first Cold War decades.

We know from investigative reports and interviews that some members of Bush’s team wanted to seize the occasion immediately to go after Iraq, although they knew full well—whatever they claimed—that Baghdad had nothing to do with the men who had attacked the World Trade Center and Pentagon. There was a debate inside the administration between proponents of the “Iraq first” option (like Donald Rumsfeld) and the “Afghanistan first, Iraq later” option (like Colin Powell). The principle of invading Iraq eventually had long been a point of consensus. For obvious political reasons, the president chose the second option.

The invasion of Afghanistan was also a chance for the Bush administration to carry out a project it had cherished since the final collapse of the Soviet Union. But establishing a direct U.S. military presence in the heart of ex-Soviet Central Asia had seemed even more improbable than a U.S. occupation of Iraq.14 A military presence in the heart of the Eurasian continental mass joining Russia to China—two countries tempted to ally with each other in order to resist U.S. hegemonic pressure more effectively,15 or even to ally with Iran as well—had evident geostrategic value. Besides, a U.S. military presence in Central Asia and the Caspian basin (in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia and so on) fit into its global and Middle Eastern strategy of taking control of sources of oil, supplemented in this particular case by natural gas.

In fact the previously cited CSIS report, while noting that Caspian oil would be “important at the margin but not pivotal,”16 indicated that foreseeable increased demand for natural gas would raise the strategic value of this energy resource in years to come. The region made up of Eastern Europe and the whole of the former Soviet Union holds only a bit more than 6 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves, even if estimated reserves are sometimes believed to be much greater. By contrast, the region holds more than 30 percent of the world’s proven natural gas reserves.17

The central objective of the Afghanistan war, besides destroying the al-Qaida network, was in fact U.S. strategic implantation in Central Asia and on the shores of the Caspian Sea. This explains the low level of interest in Washington in controlling the Afghan interior or in building the promised “modern” state, to be led by its loyal vassal Hamid Karzai. The United States knows quite well in any event that the stakes are too small in Afghanistan to justify the enormous financial and military investment that would be needed to try to control this country in reality—without any guarantee of success. Afghanistan’s reputation as indomitable destines it to be the prey of the warlords Washington relied on to “liberate” it.18 The war against the Taliban–al-Qaida alliance actually provided the opportunity, along with Vladimir Putin’s miscalculations and illusions, which allowed the U.S. government to accomplish this ultimate extension of its imperial military network softly, behind the back of U.S. public opinion.

Once the Afghan operation had been more or less completed, the Bush administration turned to the main course: Iraq. In this case, given how much is at stake, Washington has definitely decided to make a huge effort in order to rebuild an Iraqi state that would be its loyal vassal and capable of ensuring neocolonial order under U.S. supervision and the protection of U.S. troops. This perspective was even the sine qua non for invading the country and overthrowing Saddam Hussein, as we have already explained. The Bush administration’s curt attitude toward Paris in particular expressed its determination to exclude France from any share in the booty. Washington knew that France has some major trump cards in its rivalry with the United States: its long experience with the Iraqi market and its standing among Arab peoples, which contrasts sharply with the general hostility to the U.S.-British tandem.

The “Quagmire”

The Bush administration, and above all Rumsfeld’s team at the Pentagon, committed the monumental error of underestimating the great difficulty of the task and overestimating the means that they really had at their disposal. These difficulties were entirely predictable, and many people—including the present author—had predicted them.19 Resentment of the U.S.-British occupation of Iraq, which the great mass of the country’s Arab population is expressing in an increasingly visible and lethal way, is impelling Washington to speed up its search for solutions that can slow down the situation’s slide into a “quagmire.” This “quagmire” would resemble the Israeli army’s quagmire in Lebanon more closely than Uncle Sam’s old quagmire in Vietnam, incidentally. Washington is obviously improvising, in a way that the Bush administration’s political adversaries are criticizing harshly. The result is already a decline in the artificial, inflated popularity that Bush had enjoyed since September 11, 2001.

The United States may have the world’s most formidable army and be able to dispose of any other army. But the Bush-Rumsfeld team is discovering to its cost that its “smart” or even “brilliant” bombs, its robots and other remote-controlled or electronically programmed drones are useless when it comes to controlling masses of people. The problem is not that the United States is short of settlers or “imperialists,” meaning candidates among the population of the occupying power who are prepared to go live in the conquered country and administer it, as in the glory days of the Raj. Niall Ferguson, the author of a bestseller on the defunct British Empire who made this argument in the New York Times Magazine, was reasoning by analogy.20 He failed to see however the big difference between the British imperial epoch and our own time.

In fact, when the population of an occupied country today is hostile to an occupying force and sees it as such, it is incomparably more dangerous for the occupiers than in the 19th or even the first half of the 20th century. A century ago the great bulk of colonized peoples were often resigned to their subjugation. Since then people have taken note of the national liberation struggles that characterized the era of decolonization. In addition, levels of education and therefore of national consciousness are now at a qualitatively higher level.

Israel was able to occupy the West Bank and Gaza without too much difficulty during the two decades after 1967—before the outbreak of the first Intifada turned the occupation into a nightmare for the Zionist army—only because its occupation of the 1967 territories was and remains a genuine military occupation. Zionist colonialism is a form of settler-colonialism intended to evict the pre-existing population. The settlers are isolated from the Palestinians for security reasons, and have little in common with the colonial administrators of former times. Only the quantitative strength of Israeli occupation troops relative to the population of the occupied territories, made possible by the size of the territories and the fact that the occupiers’ territory adjoins them, has enabled Israel to keep the situation under control for so long.

These conditions are however virtually the opposite of the conditions that the occupying powers confront in Iraq, where they face a substantial population of almost 20 million people (counting only Arabs). The U.S. problem is that it does not have enough soldiers to control Iraq and at the same time maintain its imperial role in relation to the rest of the world. This is why Rumsfeld now plans to ask Congress to authorize a considerable increase in the total numbers of the U.S. armed forces,21 whose personnel has been much reduced since the end of the Cold War and the technological “revolution in military affairs.” In light of the Iraqi people’s hostility and nationalist touchiness, the essential form of U.S. presence in Iraq can only be military. U.S. civilians in Iraq are seen as the political and economic arm of an armed occupation, and therefore require military protection.

Washington is trying to extricate itself from the quagmire that its troops are sinking into by exploring the possibility of using forces from other countries, Muslim countries in particular. But the problem will not be solved as long as the troops, wherever they are from, act as auxiliaries of U.S. troops. Washington’s dilemma is that changing the Iraqi population’s perception of the occupying forces would require no longer using them to oversee the culling of Iraqi resources by the United States and its British allies. But that is exactly why Washington set out to occupy the country in the first place!

The myth that Washington wants to endow Iraq with a democratic government that would be a model for the whole region, the myth that the United States is replaying in Iraq the tape of Germany and Japan’s post-1945 democratization, will not stand up for long to the test of events. In the two big countries defeated in the Second World War, sizable capitalist classes with ideological hegemony over their societies were ready to collaborate with the U.S. occupier and rebuild their countries under its tutelage and with its aid—all the more willingly because they lived in terror of the “communist” threat. While allied with the United States, they were still capable of governing on the basis of genuine electoral majorities.

Nothing comparable exists in Iraq today. The effects of the Iraqi bourgeoisie’s very long confinement in the iron collar of an omnipotent, semi-fascist state apparatus further aggravate the structural weakness characteristic of third world bourgeoisies in general. There are no reliable U.S. allies in Iraq with any real credibility among, not to speak of ideological hegemony over, the great Arab majority of the population. Iraq, like other Middle Eastern countries, thus only confirms what Samuel Huntington called “the democracy paradox: adoption by non-Western societies of Western democratic institutions encourages and gives access to power to nativist and anti-Western political movements.”22

This is a “paradox” only in the eyes of those who believe that democracy goes hand in hand with submission to the West. Anti-U.S. resentment among Muslim peoples, which is even more deeply felt than among other peoples of the third world, is the result of a long history of oppression. The fact that Western domination is identified with the hated despotic regimes that it depends on,23 and with the state of Israel, has kept this resentment alive up to the present day. So it is entirely natural that if the majority of the people could express itself freely and truthfully at the ballot box in Muslim countries, it would elect governments hostile to Western domination.

Iraq is no exception to this rule; quite the contrary. Consequently there are only two possibilities. Either Washington will keep the country under its rule by brute force, exercised directly or through the mediation of puppets despised by the people and “legitimized” by a travesty of democracy, on the model of what it is doing in Afghanistan; or the Iraqis will democratically choose their own government and elect leaders hostile to continuing U.S.-British control of their country’s resources. The “democratic” ideological delirium of a few “neoconservatives” in the United States will not count for much next to the economic interests that are at stake in Iraq—even if these “neocons” really do naively believe in their own ideological discourse, which is very far from certain.

Events on the Israeli-Palestinian front since the official end of the war in Iraq strikingly confirm the rule laid out above. In the Palestinian case, Washington is not directing its “democratic” reproaches at a bloody tyrant but at Yassir Arafat, the only man in the Arab world with a status comparable to that of a head of state who has been elected through a process that was relatively democratic and enjoys the real support of a majority of his own people. The United States’ “democratic reform” has consisted in imposing on the Palestinians and their elected president a “prime minister” whom the overwhelming majority of Palestinians rejected as a new Quisling. This “prime minister” was—surprise!—Mahmoud Abbas, alias Abu Mazen, the same one who accepted the 1993 Oslo accords and the 1995 agreement with Yossi Beilin.

The second Bush administration, like the first, needs to stabilize U.S. regional hegemony by clearing all obstacles out of the way to establishing a Pax Americana in the Middle East. It therefore needs, like its predecessor, to move toward a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To this end it has published its “road map” and made clear to everyone in the region that it means to impose it. Strengthened by its new, direct hold on the region from occupied Iraq, the U.S. administration, more even than in 1991, has declared itself ready to put strong pressure on its Israeli ally.

But Sharon is stalling, as Shamir did in 1991. He pretends to yield to Washington’s demands by making minor or purely formal concessions while continuing to provoke the Palestinians. He is counting on the fact that 2004 is a presidential election year in the United States, and U.S. administrations are generally not much inclined to put strong pressure on Israel during election years. Furthermore, the more the U.S. occupation of Iraq turns into a quagmire, the more the Bush administration will see dealing with Iraq as its top priority; it will thus be tempted to give up on chasing two Middle Eastern hares at once.

So what remains of the prospects for “democracy” in the Middle East? In fact the term “democracy” has increasingly given way in official U.S. statements to the term “freedom,” the term that was used by the way to name the invasion of Iraq: “Iraqi Freedom.” But what kind of “freedom” is this? George W. Bush has not delayed passing on the good news to the peoples of the Middle East: in a speech on May 9, 2003, he proposed to them “the establishment of a U.S.–Middle East free trade area within a decade”!24

Meanwhile the mission of overseeing the restructuring of the Iraqi oil industry has been assigned to Philip Carroll, former CEO of the U.S. branch of Royal Dutch/Shell. It would be hard to think of a better symbol of the U.S.-British alliance. Carroll’s job will consist of carrying out the decisions made at a hush-hush meeting held in London by the U.S. State Department with the designated future heads of the Iraqi oil industry on April 5, just before the fall of Baghdad.25 Central to the London decisions were the “production sharing agreements” that U.S. and British oil companies mean to impose on Iraq. The agreements will be a model—real, not mythical, this one—for agreements with other Middle Eastern countries. The goal is to go back to the “participation” that the Saudi oil minister proposed 30 years ago as an alternative to nationalizations!

A Short Afterword

The lines above were written in the summer of 2003. Since then, the situation has moved in a very predictable way: the quagmire has been getting deeper day after day, with a steady increase in anticoalition attacks and U.S. military casualties. The pitiful arrest of serial mass murderer and Washington’s former buddy, Saddam Hussein, could not reverse the trend. The promised “democracy”—judging by the plans for a “provisional government” decided upon by U.S. proconsul Paul Bremer and the “Governing Council” that he appointed—proved to be nothing but a plan to continue Washington’s “rule by brute force, exercised… through the mediation of puppets despised by the people and ‘legitimized’ by a travesty of democracy.” A travesty which resembles true democracy so little that its main opponent is a Grand Ayatollah, Ali Sistani, who is stubbornly demanding free elections to enable the Iraqi people to choose their government by themselves. Thus, Washington, which pretended to bring civilization to the (backward) Iraqi Muslims is being taught lessons in democracy by a Muslim theologian! As for the great benefits of economic freedoms and privatizations, they are so unpopular among Iraqis that they are increasingly put on the shelves for fear of fueling mass resentment and increasing thereby the ranks of what even U.S. sources do not hesitate to call “the resistance.”26

January 1, 2004

Notes

  1. On the Beilin-Abu Mazen agreement as well as the road traveled from Oslo to Sharon, see Tanya Reinhart’s Israel/Palestine: How to End the 1948 War (New York: Seven Stories, 2002).
  2. Joshua Hammer, “Words & Deeds,” Newsweek (international edition), June 9, 2003.
  3. Elected leader of the Labor Party for one year in June 2003, Shimon Peres reportedly aspires to negotiate his return to government through a new coalition with Sharon.
  4. Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Abrams, Armitage, Bolton, Dobriansky, Khalilzad, Perle, Rodman, Schneider, and Zoellick.
  5. This is not the place to prove this assertion. We mention only that the Rockefeller group has played a central role in U.S. foreign policy. David Rockefeller was for many years president of the Council on Foreign Relations, the main U.S. foreign policy think tank. His company finances the council together with other companies like Bechtel, the big construction firm that has managed to ingest all sorts of contract tidbits in the oil-producing countries and is now in charge of rebuilding Iraq.
  6. OPEC Reference Basket price.
  7. OPEC, Annual Statistical Bulletin 2001, 119.
  8. The nominal price dropped back again the following year (to $23.12) while remaining above the 1990 price. But it rose once again in 2002 (to $24.36) and reached $27.87 a barrel on July 16, 2003, despite record Russian oil exports.
  9. See Michael Klare, Resource War (New York: Henry Holt, 2002).
  10. CSIS Panel Report, The Geopolitics of Energy into the 21st Century (Washington: CSIS, 2000), “Executive Summary,” xvi.
  11. CSIS, Geopolitics, xix. Incidentally, the same considerations explain the Bush administration’s eagerness to mend fences with Libya, and their hesitating attitude toward Iran.
  12. The kingdom has an unused, installed capacity today of 3 million barrels a day, without counting its much more considerable potential capacity.
  13. Edward Morse and James Richard, “The Battle for Energy Dominance,” Foreign Affairs 81, no. 2 (March-April 2002), 20. See also the debate around this article, “Does Saudi Arabia Still Matter?,” Foreign Affairs 81, no. 6 (November-December 2002), 167–78.
  14. See Gilbert Achcar, “Operation Oil,” and “War Drive” in Eastern Cauldron (New York: Monthly Review, forthcoming), See also Achcar, “Le nouvel ordre impérial ou la mondialisation de l’empire états-unien,” 15–24, in Achcar ed., Le nouvel ordre impérial, Actuel Marx, no. 33, 1st semester 2003, as well as John Bellamy Foster, Harry Magdoff, and Robert McChesney, “U.S. Military Bases and Empire,” Monthly Review 53, no. 10 (March 2002).
  15. On this aspect of the situation, which goes beyond the scope of this article, see Achcar, “The Strategic Triad: The United States, Russia and China,” and “Rasputin Plays at Chess: How the West Blundered into a New Cold War,” in Tariq Ali ed., Masters of the Universe? (London: Verso, 2000). See also Achcar, “A trio of Soloists,” Le Monde Diplomatique, December 2001.
  16. CSIS, Geopolitics, xvi.
  17. OPEC, Annual, 10, 12.
  18. The current situation is quite similar to the situation after the mujahedeen overthrew the Najibullah regime in 1992; see Achcar, “After the Fall of Najibullah,” in Eastern Cauldron.
  19. Achcar, “ Washington and London: The Problems Have Only Just Begun,” and “Letter to a Slightly Depressed Antiwar Activist,” in Eastern Cauldron.
  20. Niall Ferguson, “The Empire Slinks Back,” New York Times Magazine, April 27, 2003.
  21. Thom Shanker, “Officials Debate Whether to Seek a Bigger Military,” New York Times, July 21, 2003.
  22. Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations (New York: Touchstone, 1998), 94.
  23. Achcar, “The Arab Despotic Exception,” in Eastern Cauldron.
  24. George W. Bush, “Remarks by the President in Commencement Address at the University of South Carolina,” Washington: Office of the Press Secretary, the White House, May 9, 2003.
  25. Richard Mably and Tom Ashby, “Iraqis Agree on Role for Oil Majors, OPEC,” Reuters, April 5, 2003.
  26. Rajiv Chandrasekaran, “Attacks Force Retreat From Wide-Ranging Plans for Iraq,” Washington Post, December 28, 2003.
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