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French analysts say President Bush's plan to attack Iraq is covered in oil

PARIS (IPS)—The U.S. is mixing its interest in oil with the global fight against terrorism, leading French analysts say.

Plans to overthrow Saddam Hussein have little to do with the fight against terrorism, said Francois Lafargue, professor of geopolitics at the University of Saint-Quentin in Paris, and an expert on Iraq. Control of the world’s main oil reserves are the chief strategic objective, he said.

The Middle East produces 65 percent of the world’s oil, and Iraq is known to have the second-largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia. Experts believe that Iraq, which has not been intensively explored, could produce far more. Iraqi oil is also cheaper to produce. A barrel of oil costs 70 cents in Iraq, and up to $8 in Central Asia, Mr. Lafargue said.

“By controlling the oil fields in the Middle East, the U.S. would obtain a huge leverage on countries dependent on foreign oil, especially the People’s Republic of China,” Mr. Lafargue said. “By the year 2020, China will have to get half its oil imports from the Middle East.” The U.S. wants to curb China’s military and political ambitions, most experts agree.

The U.S. is not primarily interested in Iraqi oil for itself, Mr. Lafargue added. “Less than a third of oil consumed in the U.S. comes from the Gulf,” he said. The main suppliers to the U.S. are Latin American and sub-Saharan African countries such as Mexico, Venezuela, Angola and Nigeria, he argued.

Bertrand Le Gendre, leading foreign affairs commentator with the daily Le Monde, said U.S. intentions “smell of oil.” Secretary of State Colin Powell quietly visited Angola and Gabon, two of the main oil-producing sub-Saharan countries in August to obtain guarantees that the U.S. “could count on them in case an invasion of Iraq sends oil prices skyrocketing,” Mr. Le Gendre said.

Angola has been ruled since 1975 by the formerly Marxist government of Jose Eduardo dos Santos “which the U.S. has for many years wanted to send to hell,” said Mr. Le Gendre. Gabon has been ruled since the late 1960s by Omar Bongo who seized power in a bloody coup. The governments of both countries are accused of corruption.

The U.S. wants an Iraqi regime under its control to counter the new tensions with Saudi Arabia and control new sources of oil, according to Mr. Le Gendre. Discovering that most of the Sept. 11 terrorists were Saudis has meant that “the pact of cooperation sealed in 1945 by U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and Saudi King Ibn Saud is over,” he argued.

“We cannot say that the Saudi regime itself was involved in the attacks,” said Jean-Charles Brisard, a French intelligence expert who has extensively researched Saudi collaboration with so-called Islamic terrorism. Mr. Brisard is working as an investigator in the judicial action for compensation launched in New York by relatives of the Sept. 11 victims. “But we, and the prosecution in New York, have evidence that individuals directly linked to the Saudi state apparatus financed organizations associated with terrorism,” he said.

Brisard co-authored a book last year, “Osama bin Laden, The Forbidden Truth,” on the links between Osama bin Laden and Saudi officials. The book said the administration of President George Bush blocked investigations of its own secret services on terrorism because they affected U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia.

The book said that until August of last year, the U.S. was talking to the Taliban about construction of a pipeline from the oil fields in Central Asia through Afghanistan to the Indian Ocean. The negotiations failed and the Sept. 11 events ended any further attempts.

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