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Encircling Russia, not oil motivates US policy in Afghanistan
By Jared Israel
[Posted 13 May 2002]
[Original Title, 'They Aren't in there for the Oil']

Note: This article was published last May. However, it contains material which is entirely relevant today. None of the content has been changed.
- John Flaherty, 16 November 2003


We just published an article entitled, "U.S. Won't 'Abandon' Central Asia ...Central Asians, Be Warned!"

In it we commented on the Senate testimony last December by US Undersecretary of State for Eurasian Affairs, Elizabeth Jones. In her report to the Senate, Ms. Jones mentioned Caspian Sea energy resources as one area of US policy concern in Central Asia.

Commenting on this, I argued that the key to understanding US strategy in Afghanistan was not oil. The US (or, more properly, the Empire that includes the US) is trying to take political control of the Central Asian Republics as a step toward the further subjugation of Russia.

I said that the theory, according to which the quest for oil explains the war against Afghanistan, was mistaken. A reader then wrote in as follows:

"Dear Emperor's Clothes:

"I respect your work, especially your high standards and due diligence. Sometimes when I read your articles I feel as if a door has opened. However I also respect some of the folks who are arguing that oil explains US actions in Afghanistan. You seem to dismiss that opinion out of hand. Could you please explain why, using the documentation to which I have become accustomed?

"Best regards,
High School Teacher, New Jersey"

Thank you, Philip. Criticism accepted.

To begin with, in case you haven't seen it, here are a few remarks from Ms. Jones, the U.S. State Department official assigned to the most important region on earth, the vast Eurasian landmass.

I will give you two excerpts. You can read the whole report on her testimony on Emperor's Clothes at

Excerpt 1:

"The USA must step up 'constant support for democratic political institutions, local NGOs and the independent media' in all five countries.

"At the same time, Jones stressed that the USA would render assistance to the Central Asian states only 'providing that the latter take specific steps towards reforms.'

"The USA believes, Jones said, that 'certain countries' in the region should noticeably step up their economic reforms and democratic processes, the observance of human rights and the formation of a strong civil society.'"

Excerpt 2:

"...assistance was conditional on economic and democratic reforms and the observance of human rights. Jones outlined US priorities in the region: combating terrorism; reform; the rule of law; Caspian Sea energy resources."

I noted that people who oppose the war against Afghanistan might see this familiar phrase, "Caspian Sea energy resources," and think, "Aha! This proves it!" The 'it' in question being the widespread theory that "the reason for US policy in Afghanistan [and elsewhere] is oil."

The 'they-do-it-for-oil' theory relies on two facts, or supposed facts:

1) The US is supposedly running out of oil or will run out in coming years, and therefore the US establishment is desperate to control the area around the oil-rich Caspian Sea; and -

2) Negotiations between the Unocal oil company and the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan to build an oil pipeline in the area supposedly broke down just prior to September 11th due to Taliban intransigence; thus the US establishment, already worried about oil, went to war to protect Unocal's vital pipeline project.

There are several things wrong with this theory.

First, there is no evidence the US had to go to war to guarantee oil supplies. Fidel Castro spoke about this. Some of our readers may admire Mr. Castro and some may not but surely all will concede he is a shrewd observer. Commenting on the theory that oil was "behind" the war in Afghanistan, Mr. Castro said:

"I do not share the view that the United States' main pursuit in Afghanistan was oil. I rather see it as part of a geo-strategic concept. No one would make such a mistake simply to go after oil, least of all a country with access to any oil in the world, including all the Russian oil and gas it wishes. It would be sufficient for the U.S. to invest, to buy and to pay." (2)
- For full text of Fidel Castro's remarks, see

Second, the Taliban were never entirely the "rulers of Afghanistan." They were under considerable influence of Pakistani advisers with funding by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, both of which, especially Saudi Arabia, are part of the U.S. Empire.

If the Taliban were resisting allowing a pipeline through Afghanistan, the US could have brought considerable pressure to bear, short of bombing the place to smithereens. And why on earth would the Taliban want to resist having a pipeline? Pipelines bring in cash, lots of cash. Everybody needs cash. By building a pipeline, the Taliban would decrease their dependence on money from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia!

In fact, according to the Petroleum Economist of February 11, 2002, the Taliban did not resist. Quite the contrary.

In an article entitled, "ANALYSIS; PIPELINE SURVEY; RUSSIA GOES TO MARKET," the economist, which is the most sophisticated analytical journal of the oil industry - that is, it is not interested in molding public opinion but exists to provide insiders with accurate information - the Petroleum Economist states that:

"The Taliban promoted Afghanistan as an oil and gas transit point for exports from the Caspian to the Mideast Gulf. In 1997, Turkmenistan brokered the creation of an international consortium, CentGas, under the leadership of Unocal, which planned to build a $2bn gas line across Afghanistan. The imposition of US and, later, UN sanctions against the country and then Unocal's withdrawal put a stop to the plan.
The project envisaged a 1,270-km, 20bn cubic metres a year link from the border with Turkmenistan, along the Herat-Kandahar road, to the Pakistan border, at Quetta, ending at Mulat."

Doesn't that contradict the "the-US-did-it-for-oil" theory?

Proponents of the oil theory must explain why the US establishment, in order to help Unocal build a pipeline, took action which made it impossible for Unocal to build a pipeline.

And after having made Unocal's plan impossible, if the United States establishment subsequently changed its mind and decided it wanted the pipeline, and if Unocal also changed its mind and decided to reopen the deal, why wouldn't the US just remove the sanctions that were preventing the pipeline from getting built?

This would have been far simpler than going to war. Cheaper too. And pipelines are vulnerable to attack, so going to war renders building a pipeline impossible as long as the fighting lasts. And once you start a war, it is difficult to say when it will end. Wars are in this respect a bit like forest fires. And Afghanistan is a maze of difficult terrain, literally and figuratively.

The Petroleum Economist notes, in its dry way, that the war is discouraging investors from financing a pipeline:

"But the reservations of the international investment community, wary of becoming involved in a still-volatile area, suggest enthusiasm about pipeline projects in the country may be premature." (
- Petroleum Economist, see footnote

And we're not just talking about Afghanistan. This particular war has, predictably, destabilized a highly volatile region, which is jam packed with nuclear weapons. The threat of nuclear war is thus increased. Nuclear war makes building a pipeline rather difficult. One would only risk nuclear war for the biggest stakes - certainly not to build a pipeline, the building of which has been prevented by one's own past actions (the sanctions) and which is currently prevented by one's current actions (the war) and which could be permanently prevented if the war gets out of hand (nuclear war.)

The "they-are-in-Afghanistan-for-oil" theory has another problem. It was brought forth after the fact. That is, those who elaborated this theory in order to explain the attack on Afghanistan were not able, using their theory, to predict that the US would invade Afghanistan. Rather, believing that "the US is motivated by oil," they predicted that the US would launch military action in the Middle East, most likely against Iraq.

I am not saying the US and Britain will not - once again- escalate their endless war against Iraq, their utterly heartless war. But you will notice that, despite the predictions made by various pundits that an all out attack on Iraq, or even a ground invasion, was imminent, in the eight months since 9-11 the war against Iraq has not yet been escalated. Of course, that could change.

So what is left of the "they-do-it-for-the-oil" theory? It is apparently based on wrong facts about why Unocal failed to build a pipeline before September 11th. It is clearly wrong about the effects of the current war on Unocal's ability to build a pipeline since September 11th. Its adherents did not predict the invasion of Afghanistan but they did incorrectly predict that a massive attack on Iraq was about to happen, eight months ago.

This is not a good track record for a theory. Indeed, one might say that it is only due to a certain feature of intellectual life in the New World Empire - namely, that nobody is held accountable for what they said yesterday, let alone last week, and that impressionistic analysis is accepted - it is only because of these traits of our culture, which effect even the critics of the New World Empire, that the "they're doing-it-for-the-oil-stupid" theory is believed by so many intelligent people.

On September 18th Emperor's Clothes published an article in which we made some predictions based on our hypothesis that the central goal of US foreign policy was the permanent reduction of Russia and the other former Soviet states to weak protectorates.

The article was entitled, "Why Washington Wants Afghanistan." It was written before the US attacked Afghanistan. At the time columnists and politicians were warning that the US would launch attacks on many countries. (4)

At first the list was limited to Iraq, Iran, Cuba, Libya, North Korea and Sudan. As we noted, there was no evidence that any of these countries had ties with Osama bin Laden. In fact, it was precisely the opposite:

"... the countries which collaborated to create the Taliban, training and financing the forces of Osama bin Laden, and which have never stopped pouring money into the Taliban - namely Pakistan...Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and the United States itself - have not been placed on the 'we've got to get them' list. Instead these states are touted as core allies in the New World War against terrorism."
- "Why Washington Wants Afghanistan" at

We quoted Donald Rumsfeld who on September 16th upped the number of countries threatened with US attack to 60:

"Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the US would engage in a 'multi-headed effort' to target terrorist organizations and up to 60 countries believed to be supporting them.

"The US, Mr. Rumsfeld told American TV, 'had no choice' other than to pursue terrorists and countries giving them refuge."
- BBC News, September 16th

We made the following argument:

[Start Excerpt From 'Why Washington Wants Afghanistan']

"The threats to bomb up to a third of the world's countries has scared many people, worldwide. This, we think, is the intention. It serves two functions.

"First, it means that if Washington limits its aggressive action mainly to attacking Afghanistan, the world will breathe a sigh of relief.

"And we think Washington will mainly attack Afghanistan - at first. Other immediate violations of sovereignty, such as the forced use of Pakistan, will be backup action to support the attack on Afghanistan. There may also be some state terror, such as increased, unprovoked bombing of Iraq, as a diversion. But the main immediate focus will, we think, be Afghanistan.

"Second, this scare tactic is meant to divert attention from Washington's real strategy, far more dangerous than the threat to bomb many states. Washington wants to take over Afghanistan in order to speed up the fulfillment of its strategy of pulverizing the former Soviet Republics in the same way Washington has been pulverizing the former Yugoslavia. This poses the gravest risks [of nuclear war] to mankind. (4)

[End Excerpt From 'Why Washington Wants Afghanistan']

We argued that Washington would strive to create a united force in Afghanistan, under its control. Washington didn't wish to destroy the Taliban. Rather, it wished to take Afghanistan into receivership, so to speak, because the Taliban was incompetent and unreliable, and Washington needed the direct presence of NATO in the area:

"It is our conviction, and that of many observers from the region in question, that Washington ordered Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to fund the Taliban so the Taliban could do a job: consolidate control over Afghanistan and from there move to destabilize the former Soviet Central Asian Republics on its borders. But the Taliban has failed. It has not defeated the Russian-backed Northern Alliance. Instead of subverting Central Asia in businesslike fashion, it has indulged in blowing up statues of Buddha and terrorizing people who deviate from the Taliban's super-repressive interpretation of Islam."
Why Washington Wants Afghanistan." (4)

The inefficiency of the Taliban was one of the reasons Washington moved into Afghanistan. The other reason was that Russia was taking independent steps which could challenge Washington's hegemonic rule:

"...China and Russia have signed a mutual defense pact. (5) And despite immense European/U.S. pressure, Russian President Putin refused to condemn Belarussian President Lukashenko who, like the jailed but unbroken Yugoslav President Milosevic, calls for standing up to NATO. (6) It is this unfavorable series of developments that has caused Washington to increase its reliance on its all-time favorite tactic: extreme brinkmanship." (4)

Since the invasion of Afghanistan, the encirclement of Russia has greatly intensified. For example, NATO has developed much closer military ties with the Central Asian Republics. There are now US 'advisers' in Georgia, a former Soviet Republic on Russia's strategic southern flank, whose government is hostile to Russia. Russian leader Vladimir Gorbachev - oh, I am so sorry, I meant Vladimir *Putin*! - has made use of the excuse of a united fight against terror to make major concessions to Washington.

And as for the Taliban, despite the ruthless bombing of Afghanistan, which killed so many civilians, despite the pictures released by the US military of prisoners in Guantanamo, and so on, much of the Taliban has been absorbed into the armies of the new Afghan puppet state. This was clear as early as January of this year:

"Thousands of former Taliban soldiers are being recruited into a new Afghan army, where they are being armed with Russian AK47 rifles and dressed in uniforms provided by the United States. Some soldiers in Mullah Mohammed Omar's former stronghold estimate that as many as 6,000 Taleban will soon be part of Kandaharís new army."
- This was originally published by the (London) Times at
But you can more easily access the article at

How well will this new puppet state function? This state with an army made up of the various factions of Islamic fundamentalists whom Washington and Saudi Arabia have funded at various times since 1979, an army that is like an archeological dig, with various layers representing the various nightmares of US policy... How well will this living expression of the suffering Washington has inflicted on the people of Afghanistan function? That remains to be seen.

Maybe by the time Washington finishes with its little Central Asian/Russian adventure, it will earnestly wish that it had in fact gone to Afghanistan "for the oil."

-- Jared Israel
Editor, Emperor's Clothes

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Further Reading on US/NATO Encirclement of Russia

For map of Central Asia, see http://www.sitara.com/central_asia_map.html


2) For full text of Fidel Castro's remarks on the war in Afghanistan plus other issues, see

(3) Petroleum Economist, February 11, 2002, Pg.12
After the Taliban,"

4) 'Why Washington Wants Afghanistan,' by Jared Israel, Rick Rozoff & Nico Varkevisser, analyzes the geo-political designs behind the massive deception called The War On Terror"

* En Français
* Deutsch

5) What's the Target of the U.S. Move into Central Asia?
Two news reports look at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) which includes Russia, China and the Central Asian former Soviet Republics.

or more on the encirclement of Russia:

5a) Afghan Operation Leaves Russia 'Encircled' by US-NATO
by Sergey Ptichkin and Aleksey Chichkin

5b) "US Military Pushes into Ex-Soviet Georgia Under Guise of Fighting Terror," by Rick Rozoff can be read at http://emperors-clothes.com/articles/rozoff/pushes.htm

6) 'Why is NATO Decimating the Balkans and Trying to Force Milosevic to Surrender?' by Jared Israel and Nico Varkevisser. Can be read at http://emperors-clothes.com/analysis/whyisn.htm

7) Osama Bin Laden was propelled into power as part of the U.S. drive to create an Islamist terrorist movement for use, in the first instance, to crush the former Soviet Union. See the truly amazing account from the 'Washington Post,' 'Washington's Backing of Afghan Terrorists: Deliberate Policy.' at http://emperors-clothes.com/docs/anatomy.htm

8) 'Osama bin Laden: Made in USA,' by Jared Israel. This article includes quotes from a New York Times piece documenting the vast sums spent creating Islamist terrorism. It can be read at http://emperors-clothes.com/articles/jared/madein.htm

9) To read the New York Times piece quoted in the above article, go to 'Afghan Taliban Camps Were Built by NATO,' By TIM WEINER 
The New York Times August 24, 1998, at

10) One of Washington's most amazing uses of terrorists (amazing because of the extent of the hypocrisy involved) is against Macedonia, whose government, like that of Mr. Putin, did everything to please the American Empire. Macedonia is nevertheless - and indeed, all the more easily - now being destroyed. See "Articles Documenting Washington's Terrorist Attack on Macedonia,' at http://emperors-clothes.com/mac/listm.htm

11) Regarding bin Laden's supposed break with the CIA, see 'Gaping Holes in the 'Washington Hates bin Laden' Story,' by Jared Israel at

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