Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
June 19, 2008

The Pipeline Through Afghanistan

What is the war in Afghanistan about?

Yes, you guessed it: hydrocarbons. Today's Globe and Mail reports:

Afghanistan and three of its neighbouring countries have agreed to build a $7.6-billion (U.S.) pipeline that would deliver natural gas from Turkmenistan to energy-starved Pakistan and India – a project running right through the volatile Kandahar province – raising questions about what role Canadian Forces may play in defending the project.

To prepare for proposed construction in 2010, the Afghan government has reportedly given assurances it will clear the route of land mines, and make the path free of Taliban influence.
The so-called Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline has strong support from Washington because the U.S. government is eager to block a competing pipeline that would bring gas to Pakistan and India from Iran.

The TAPI pipeline would also diminish Russia's dominance of Central Asian energy exports.

The project to build that pipeline was nearly ready in 1998 when Unocal had a deal with the Taliban government and the Northern Alliance.

The deal was stopped in 1998 because no one was willing to finance it:

An internationally-recognised government in Kabul would have paved the way for securing the financing, but American anger at the Taleban for harbouring Osama bin Laden, has, for the time being, stopped that.

Following the US air strikes Unocal suspended its plans.

This time the deal is supposed to be financed by the Manila-based Asian Development Bank.

Still there are several issues that will make it very difficult to build the pipeline.

  • Russian and Iranian (and Chinese?) interests are touched and both have incentives and capabilities to hinder it by various means.
  • As the occupation troops continue to bomb the Afghan population, the support for the resistance against the occupation will increase.
  • It is impossible to 'make the path free of Taliban influence', because the most of the Taliban in that pipeline path is the native population living there.
  • Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan are getting worse by the day and may endanger the deal.
  • NATO countries will be reluctant to support further action in Afghanistan as the real interests behind these are now revealed.

Until now whoever mentioned such a deal as being behind the Afghan War was seen as falling for conspiracy theories. That will now end and I welcome the discussion that will follow.

Today we also learn that Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP are getting no-bid, two years contracts to 'service' Iraq’s largest fields. This puts them into the position to win further exploration rights.

As the real war reason are now in the open the key question is: How many of their sons and daughters are 'western' democracies willing to get killed in support of such schemes?


Posted by b on June 19, 2008 at 10:44 UTC | Permalink


No-bid, cost-plus contract = license to print money

Posted by: ralphieboy | Jun 19 2008 12:45 utc | 1

bernhard, if my feeble memory serves me, there had been later pipeline negotiations with the Taliban govt which were firmly and finally turned down by them in August, 2001 -- a month before 9/11. That was a glaring point when the drums started to beat in earnest for war with Afghanistan. As I thought back then, it's really about the pipeline and not bin Laden since the Afghan govt offered to turn over BL after a proper extradition hearing or, in the alternative, try him in their own courts. All America had to do was to show enough evidence to make a prima facie case. Apparently, the US didn't have enough evidence to directly link him to the 9/11 attacks, and probably still doesn't.

Posted by: Ensley | Jun 19 2008 13:38 utc | 2

Until now whoever mentioned such a deal as being behind the Afghan War was seen as falling for conspiracy theories. That will now end ...

Somehow I don't think it will end, in my case...

Posted by: Cloud | Jun 19 2008 13:56 utc | 3

@Cloud - sorry I don't get what you want to say.

Meanwhile Maliki is picking off the competition before the provincial election:

Top Sadrist official arrested in Amarah

Iraqi troops on Thursday arrested the top official in Amarah, a Muqtada al-Sadr loyalist, officials said, drawing swift condemnations from followers of the anti-U.S. cleric and raising tensions as a military operation against Shiite militias got under way.

Rafia Abdul-Jabbar, who also was acting deputy governor for Maysan province, was seized from his office Thursday morning along with a member of the provincial council, a local official said.

Quite unfair as the guy had cooperated in the sweep on Amarah ...

Posted by: b | Jun 19 2008 14:32 utc | 4

You're using post hoc reasoning. That article revealed nothing. It just restated the status of a well known pipeline proposal. Just because there's a pipeline project under consideration you assume that it must be the reason behind the fighting. Accusations of conspiracy theory thinking will not end, because it shouldn't, else the strained logic behind conspiracy theories will never be questioned.

Posted by: Inkan1969 | Jun 19 2008 17:01 utc | 5

Posted by: Inkan1969 | Jun 19, 2008 1:01:28 PM | 5

Sorry Inkan, b is just confirming what most have being saying for the last 1.5m posts and visits to his website here for the last few years.

We are not conspiracy headjobs here, you are with your stupid postabove.

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Jun 19 2008 17:24 utc | 6

I said we should not stop questioning conspiracy allegations like the one in this post: Why should I submit to a "that will now end" declaration like it was one of the 10 Commandments? I made sure to respect manners on this board by not insulting any person with something like "headjob".

Posted by: Inkan1969 | Jun 19 2008 17:34 utc | 7

I can look through blogs and find 1.5M posts where the posters claim they've confirmed creationism. But that doesn't mean creationism is true.

Posted by: Inkan1969 | Jun 19 2008 17:37 utc | 8

The post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this therefore because of this) fallacy is based upon the mistaken notion that simply because one thing happens after another, the first event was a cause of the second event.

So I am accused of that - that would be correct if I would argue that the building of the pipeline after the invasion of Afghanistan proves that the invasion was for the pipeline.

That is not what I argue - the invasion of Afghanistan was part of the plan for the new great game. Surrounding Russia, conrolling the flow of the energy from the Kaspian basin etc.

This was attempted without war during the 1990s but failed because of this nasty little U.S. created problem of al-qaida. 9/11 than gave a chance to run the project within a war and here we are.

Some saw this immediately when the war started: Monbiot and John Pilger

Posted by: b | Jun 19 2008 17:39 utc | 9

To the question "how many sons and daughters will the Western Democracies sacrifice for the pipeline" the answer is obvious. As many as they are ready to sacrifice for the Democratic System that allows women to kill their unborn children.

Posted by: jlcg | Jun 19 2008 18:05 utc | 10

As many as they are ready to sacrifice for the Democratic System that allows women to kill their unborn children.

There is a huge difference between something unborn and unable to live and living, grown sons and daughters.

The living organism, or person, in the first case is the pregnant women. That person is the sole one to decide about its own fate. That case has nothing to do with democracy deciding to put resources and its members into war, only with the basic human right of that one person.

Basic human rights are not issues of a democracy to allow or not.

Posted by: b | Jun 19 2008 19:11 utc | 11

So because it is not living it has to be killed. Odd logic. A child lives in the appropriate environment for its age, at one time it is the womb at another time it is the atmosphere at another time is a respirator, at another time it is under anesthesia. The extremes of fallacy the abortionists reach defy understanding except for a particular enjoyment of cruelty and death. And what is more basic human right than to live? Now you may think that fetuses are "untermeschen" and then your logic will carry you to determine that other human aspects belong to the "untermenschen" group and you can push them into whatever device for their elimination suits you.

Posted by: jlcg | Jun 19 2008 20:37 utc | 12

jlcg, please quit trying to hijack this message board for your pet issue.

Posted by: Inkan1969 | Jun 19 2008 21:20 utc | 13

OK you made your point but if you want us to talk about this, theres other ways to make the point.

Posted by: jony_b_cool | Jun 19 2008 22:17 utc | 14

the (ahem) actual topic of this thread is pretty well bolstered by this development in the sister conflict in Iraq

The NYTimes does everything short of scream that this deal is exactly what you would expect if the most cynical theories on the motives are war are true. Honestly, I think it is a brave article...

"Four Western oil companies are in the final stages of negotiations this month on contracts that will return them to Iraq, 36 years after losing their oil concession to nationalization as Saddam Hussein rose to contracts...

"There was suspicion among many in the Arab world and among parts of the American public that the United States had gone to war in Iraq precisely to secure the oil wealth these contracts seek to extract. The Bush administration has said that the war was necessary to combat terrorism. It is not clear what role the United States played in awarding the contracts; there are still American advisers to Iraq’s Oil Ministry.

"Sensitive to the appearance that they were profiting from the war and already under pressure because of record high oil prices, senior officials of two of the companies, speaking only on the condition that they not be identified, said they were helping Iraq rebuild its decrepit oil industry.

"For an industry being frozen out of new ventures in the world’s dominant oil-producing countries, from Russia to Venezuela, Iraq offers a rare and prized opportunity.

"While enriched by $140 per barrel oil, the oil majors are also struggling to replace their reserves as ever more of the world’s oil patch becomes off limits. Governments in countries like Bolivia and Venezuela are nationalizing their oil industries or seeking a larger share of the record profits for their national budgets."

Some logical issues were brought up above... if we try to handle the issue like Popperian scientists, and just look at theories as ideas that can be put to the test, then: These developments in Iraq and Afghanistan make it impossible to claim that the seizure of oil and the creation of a network to control the distribution of that oil were NOT motives. The key actors have done everything you would expect at this point if that were the case. What more could you ask of any theory, regardless of the "conspiracy" label?

Posted by: boxcar mike | Jun 20 2008 0:27 utc | 15

Let's not forget that we have to keep the Opium Pipeline flowing too.

Posted by: R.L. | Jun 20 2008 1:16 utc | 16

In a strict logical sense I was wrong at comment 15, it could be that there were other motives and oil is an emergent issue. For my claim to hold, it is necessary to assume that when ME policy decisions are made, oil is considered. Seems like a bombproof assumption to me.

The widely held zionism argument contains the oil argument within it, as it is oil wealth that would allow the arab world to threaten zionism.

Posted by: boxcar mike | Jun 20 2008 1:51 utc | 17

finally, all the hard murdering, raping, torturing, maiming, displacing, imprisoning, widowing and orphaning of millions of Iraqis and Afghanis is starting to pay off for some well-connected oil bigs and the pols they're in bed with.

who said these adventures wouldn't end well?


Posted by: ran | Jun 20 2008 2:05 utc | 18

This was front page on the Globe this morning. My get-to-work routine in the morning is get some coffee and a quick on-line scan of the NYT and the Globe.

I expected a companion piece in the Times and searched for. Couldn't find. Checked again this evening - silence. The TAPI pipeline proposal was discussed in the papers prior to 9/11, then silence.

The Globe & Mail is a very good paper: the conservatives deride it as a pinko rag, the progressives deride it as the voice of the establishment. If they're both upset the paper must be doing its job quite well. And both sides read it as a "must" daily staple.

Posted by: Allen/Vancouver | Jun 20 2008 2:51 utc | 19

boxcar mike- oil (& all that the control of its source/ flow brings) is the primary reason, above all others. if the nyt were to practice authentic journalism, they could have easily made this case very clear, rather than confine it to the realms of mere "suspicion" on the part of some in the arab & u.s. public. this country's foreign policy has primarily revolved around oil since 1910. it is only a people that don't know their own national history that are malleable enough to be fooled by the likes of the current admin. and it's the media, by & large, that are responsible for that cultural ignorance.

i linked to both of these recently, but they're worth repeating

dilip hiro: It's the Oil, Stupid
michael klare: blood and oil movie trailer

we really are a nation -- and maybe a planet -- of idiots, for the large part. seems like this kind of stuff is important to know, all the more reason to make sure we don't, i reckon.

here's a passage from hiro's blood of the earth that i found relevant

The above analysis establishes unequivocally the central role oil has played since 1910 in shaping the foreign policies of not only the United States and major European powers in war and in peace but also the leading Middle Eastern countries. Yet, appearing before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee in April 2006, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, "Nothing has taken me aback more as secretary of state than the way that the politics of energy is -- I will use the word "warping" -- diplomacy around the world." This statement was all the more astonishing as it came from a former director of Chevron - who had one of the company's oil tankers named after her.

re the pipeline

klare's latest book has a good analysis of the geostrategic moves underway in central asia & the caspians. on relations b/w india & iran, he writes

At least one aspect of this relationship has provoked considerable discomfort in Washington: an Indo-Iranian plan to construct a 1,600-mile natural gas pipeline from eastern Iran across Pakistan to India. Expected to cost $3 to $4 billion, the "Iran-Pakistan-India" (IPI) pipeline would allow the Iranians to deliver natural gas to India without going through the difficult and costly process of liquefaction. For this reason, it is highly favored by officials in New Delhi - even though this means overcoming their traditional hostility toward Pakistan.

The IPI project has dismayed officials in the Bush administration, who have stepped up efforts to weaken India's traditionally close ties with Iran. "Our views concerning Iran are very well known," Secretary of State Rice told reporters after meeting with Indian officials in New Delhi on March 16, 2005. "We have communicated to the Indian government our concerns about gas pipeline cooperation between Iran and India."
When subsequent attempts to persuade New Delhi to back down on the pipeline proved fruitless -- the prospect of imposing sanctions on the Indians was unappealing in the extreme -- the Bush administration evidently decided to offer powerful incentives for canceling the project instead. On March 26, 2006, President Bush traveled to New Delhi and announced a remarkable plan to provide nuclear fuel and technology for India's civilian reactor program in return for an Indian pledge to open these reactors to international inspection - and, it was widely assumed, a tacit Indian promise to drop the pipeline plan.

hiro's take is

Ever since its independence, India had maintained cordial relations with Iran, a country whose ties with the Indian subcontinent date back to ancient times.
In January 2005 three state-controlled Indian oil companies concluded a $40 billion contract with Iran for the purchase of LNG over twenty-five year, starting with 5 million tonnes in 2009 and rising to 7.5 million tonnes in 2011. Among other things, LNG is needed in India for domestic cooking, where the demand will rise from 170 million cubic meters per day to 400 million cubic meters per day in 2025.
The trend toward tightening links between Delhi and Tehran received a jolt, however, in September 2005. Defecting from the fourteen-strong NAM bloc at the meeting of the thirty-five governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, India voted with the United States for a resolution that stated that Iran's "many failures and obligations to comply with its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT] Safeguards Agreement ... constitute noncompliance" and that "the resulting absence of confidence that Iran's nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes has given rise to questions that are within the competence of the Security Council."

The switch-over in the Indian position stemmed from U.S. president George W. Bush's agreement with the visiting Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh in July to aid India's civilian nuclear program. The reason India cut this deal was that it was running out of uranium ore and needed expertise in high-tech fast-breeder technology. For its part, the United States wanted to open new markets for American nuclear reactors...
There were wider diplomatic implications. Bush's move meant that Washington accepted India as a nuclear weapons power even though it had not signed the NPT. The Indian side saw the agreement as implying that the United States was entering into a strategic alliance with Delhi - with the tacit aim of counterbalancing the rising power of China.

The downside was the cooling of diplomatic relations between Delhi and Tehran, and tension between Singh's minority government and the United Front Alliance, whose backing it needed to stay in power. Nonetheless, the Indians were not abandoning their plans to participate in the building of a gas pipeline from Iran through Pakistan to bring nearly 90 million cubic meters a day to fuel power and fertilizer projects in north and northwestern India.

Posted by: b real | Jun 20 2008 3:27 utc | 20

it's "all about the oil" was the mantra of many anti-war protestors back in 2003. well, they were right, but that kind of simple reasoning has been leached of its potency, despite the mounting evidence. "it's all about the oil" has therefore become an uncomfortable cliche, one we know to be accurate, yet too many bad anti-war folk songs and nursery-rhymed slam poems have made us squeamish to continue stating the obvious: it's all about oil, it's all about oil, it's all about oil...

Posted by: Lizard | Jun 20 2008 5:08 utc | 21

Arrogance, avarice and incompetence sort go knuckle in claw, reinforcing each other, leaving, well, shit and blood behind them.

It's only avarice and arrogance that could imagine building a pipeline here under the present and any future conditions for quite some time. The ignorance of the Bush, well known for its broad expanse, in fact is the stuff of legend.

My point is that avarice, arrogance and incompetence sort of embrace each other like mating slugs and the effect is what we experience as conspiracy.

That the proposed pipeline would go through the area the Brits, Canadians, and the Danes will have to bleed for -- that is, of course, a coincidence and has nothing to do with either conspiracy or mating slugs.

Posted by: Chuck Cliff | Jun 20 2008 5:50 utc | 22

@jlcg - 12

So because it is not living it has to be killed. Odd logic. A child lives in the appropriate environment for its age, at one time it is the womb at another time it is the atmosphere at another time is a respirator, at another time it is under anesthesia. The extremes of fallacy the abortionists reach defy understanding except for a particular enjoyment of cruelty and death. And what is more basic human right than to live? Now you may think that fetuses are "untermeschen" and then your logic will carry you to determine that other human aspects belong to the "untermenschen" group and you can push them into whatever device for their elimination suits you.

So many falsehoods in one paragraph.

it is not living it has to be killed

If it is not living it can not be killed. Living is defind as an organism independent of another organism. You seem to be one of the radicals who defines a clump of cells a human being when it is only a potential one. Well, the billions of seeds I wanked away in my life were also potential persons ...

You are obviously unable to differentiate potential from real. But your conclusions following from that are even more weird.

particular enjoyment of cruelty and death

Oh whow. Because I thing something that is not living (and can therefore not die) should not have the status of a living being you are accusing me of cruelty. What's the lsat time you felt guilty for stepping on grass?

Next you come up with "untermenschen", a nazi (and us slaveholder) term. Those guys were against abortions and women equality.

I am for allowing women to decide what to do with their body what they want to do, including terminating a unwanted state when possible. This until the very moment they bear life that is able to live by itself (that is - I am against late term abortion when a cesarean would be medical valid possible alternative to an abortion).

That is certainly not a radical thought. Consider for example that many Buddhist streams, the loved-by-the-west Shangri-la ones in Tibet especially, do not consider a child as a person (with rights) in its first six weeks after birth. Only then the spirit of someones soul settles in the otherwise empty vessel of a living body.

While I tend to see myself as a practicing Buddhist I do not agree with that.

Posted by: b | Jun 20 2008 18:51 utc | 23

nothing particularly helpful on this latest move in central asian geopolitics nor much in the way of new insight in the neocon narrative, but here's a reprint of a recent analysis from a russian source that seems to fit in here - "Description of Source: Moscow Voyenno-Promyshlennyy Kuryer in Russian, Weekly newspaper focusing on military and defense industrial complex issues published by Almaz Media, a subsidiary of the defense industrial firm Almaz-Antey"

Geopolitical Consequences of `The New American Century`: the `Neoconservatives` Have Long Planned Tensions in Relations with Russia

The activities of the Bush Administration show that for the last eight years its geopolitical position has not changed. Although the course of behavior itself that Washington has selected can not but cause questions about the reason for its failure to correspond to the actual international situation. To intelligently present the true motivation for the American foreign policy it is necessary to turn to its ideological prime sources and its military political and economic prerequisites.

Posted by: b real | Jun 21 2008 8:12 utc | 24

The relations between UNOCAL, the Taliban and the US Gvmt, from Clinton to shortly before 9/11 was so long, involved, up and down, messy...The US lost patience.

It is rumored that Christine Rocca met with the Taliban one last time on (or about) Aug 2, 01, to negotiate the pipeline. Her visit to Pakistan is amply documented but I’m not sure the rest is true. Much of the material re. Big Oil and Afgh, the Caspian, Pakistan, comes from Brisard and Dasquié’s book - The Forbidden Truth - at least around here... Brisard valiantly chases terrorists, terror money, and files suits against muslims with status like Tariq Ramadan and Yeslam Binladen. Actually I think he didn’t file against Ramadan. He has a blog>link which doesn’t seem to mention his retractions and lost law suits (I can’t read him closely.)

this letter by Brisard to the Nation sums up the highlights of book I guess:>link

Imperial power thru military conquest...controlling resources...firstly oil, yes, as B in top post. But it doesn’t seem to work too well. Or not when carried out by the US, or not in comparison with ‘softer’ economic co-opting, manipulation or coercion. Iraq: 5 years of bloody occupation, incalculable expense, 1 million dead, several other million displaced, so that 4 oil companies can finally start to exploit the Iraqi oil fields? The whole model is crazed. Thinking along these lines makes me suspect that Obama will be s-elected.

Posted by: Tangerine | Jun 21 2008 14:23 utc | 25

pepe escobar: Big Oil's 'secret' out of Iraq's closet

New evidence shows once again both George W Bush administration wars - in Afghanistan and Iraq - above all are about oil and gas.
This past Monday, the [NYT] reported that "a group of American advisers led by a small State Department team played an integral part in drawing up contracts between the Iraqi government and five major Western oil companies to develop some of the largest fields in Iraq".

The bland language may be misleading. This is no less than the first step in the de facto de-nationalization of the Iraqi oil industry - Vice President Dick Cheney's wet dream.
Greg Muttit, co-director of the London-based oil industry research group Platform, explains that what's at stake at the current stage are "nine-year risk service contracts for six oilfields"; these are "halfway between TSAs and PSAs". Bids are due by March 2009, with signing in June 2009. As for the technical service contracts for five of the same oilfields, these are "no-bid contracts whose terms were dictated by the oil companies themselves". In other words: Big Oil is telling the Iraqi government what it wants.

And here's the catch. Muttit says, "The tendering of these fields is a big policy change, as producing fields were supposed to be developed by the Iraq National Oil Company [INOC], with only new fields allocated to foreign oil companies." Big Oil, though, wants the whole cake. INOC gets only a shabby 25% stake. Muttit makes an enlightening comparison with Libya, "where the national oil company gets around 80%, which is much more normal for fields of this size".

Bush/Cheney, unfazed by their own regime's death throes - and following what was already official policy under former present Bill Clinton - now are also poised to have one more crack at the New Great Game in Central Asia, trying to thwart regional energy supremacy by both Russia and Iran.
Forget about all that old 2001 "bringing freedom to Afghan women" rhetoric. TAP's roller-coaster history goes back to the mid-1990s Clinton era, when the Taliban were wined and dined by California-based Unocal - and the Clinton machine. Unocal beat the competition, led by Argentina's Bridas. The negotiations broke down because of money - those pesky transit fees. At the Group of Eight summit in Naples in July 2001 it was decided the US would take out the Taliban by October; September 11, 2001, accelerated the schedule by a fraction.

One of the first actual fruits of the US bombing of Afghanistan in 2001 was that in December, Karzai, Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf and Turkmenistan's wacky Nyazov (now dead) signed an agreement committing themselves to build TAP (by then known as the Trans-Afghan Pipeline). The Russians decided to wait for their counterpunch, and delivered it in style in September 2006.

Gazprom accepted a 40% price increase demanded by Nyazov for his gas. In return, the Russians got priceless gifts: control of all of Turkmenistan's gas surplus up to 2009; a preference for Russia to tap the new Yolotan gas fields; and Turkmenistan bowing out of any Trans-Caspian pipeline project. Nyazov pledged to supply all his country's gas to Russia.

Thus, dead on arrival, lay TAP, the (invisible) star of the "good" Afghan war, as Democratic senator and presidential hopeful Barack Obama now sees it. Washington's plan has always been to seduce Nyazov to provide Turkmenistan gas to the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, and then to TAP. This was part of a US grand strategy of a "Greater Central Asia" centered on Afghanistan and India.

Bush/Cheney will never give up. But India will go ahead with the Iranian pipeline. And Turkmenistan is selling all its surplus gas to Russia. Who needs a $7.6 billion, 1,600-kilometer steel serpent in a war zone?

Posted by: b real | Jul 3 2008 18:37 utc | 26

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