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From: X
Date: Sun, 4 Nov 2001 13:14:03 EST
To: X
Subject: Fwd: It's about oil - from yesterdays San Francisco Chronicle


In a message dated 11/3/01 11:30:16 AM, X writes:

It's about oil

Ted Rall

Friday, November 2, 2001


URL:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2001/11/02

/ED90804.DTL


New York -- NURSULTAN NAZARBAYEV has a terrible problem. He's the president

and former Communist Party boss of Kazakstan, the second-largest republic of

the former Soviet Union. A few years ago, the giant country struck oil in

the eastern portion of the Caspian Sea. Geologists estimate that sitting

beneath the wind-blown steppes of Kazakstan are 50 billion barrels of oil --

by far the biggest untapped reserves in the world. (Saudi Arabia, currently

the world's largest oil producer, is believed to have about 30 billion

barrels remaining.) Kazakstan's Soviet-subsidized economy collapsed

immediately after independence in 1991. When I visited the then-capital,

Almaty, in 1997, I was struck by the utter absence of elderly people. One

after another, people confided that their parents had died of malnutrition

during the brutal winters of 1993 and 1994.


Middle-class residents of a superpower had been reduced to abject poverty

virtually overnight; thirtysomething women who appeared sixtysomething

hocked their wedding silver in underpasses, next to reps for the Kazak state

art museum trying to move enough socialist-realist paintings for a dollar

each to keep the lights on. The average Kazak earned $20 a month; those

unwilling or unable to steal died of gangrene while sitting on the sidewalk

next to long- winded tales of woe written on cardboard.


Autocrats tend to die badly during periods of downward mobility. Nazarbayev,

therefore, has spent most of the past decade trying to get his landlocked

oil out to sea. Once the oil starts flowing, it won't take long before

Kazakstan replaces Kuwait as the land of Mercedes-Benzs and ugly gold

jewelry. But the longer the pipeline, the more expensive and vulnerable it

is to sabotage. The shortest route runs through Iran, but Kazakstan is too

closely aligned with the United States to offend it by cutting a deal with

Tehran. Russia has helpfully offered to build a line connecting Kazak oil

rigs with the Black Sea, but neighboring Turkmenistan has experienced

trouble with the Russians --

they tend to divert the oil for their own use without paying for it. There's

even a plan to run crude through China, but the proposed 5,300-mile-long

pipeline would be far too long to prove profitable.


The logical alternative, then, is Unocal's plan, which is to extend

Turkmenistan's existing system west to the Kazak field on the Caspian Sea

and southeast to the Pakistani port of Karachi on the Arabian Sea. That

project runs through Afghanistan.


As Central Asian expert Ahmed Rashid describes in his book "Taliban,"

published last year, the United States and Pakistan decided to install a

stable regime in place in Afghanistan around 1994 -- a regime that would end

the country's civil war and thus ensure the safety of the Unocal pipeline

project. Impressed by the ruthlessness and willingness of the then-emerging

Taliban to cut a pipeline deal, the State Department and Pakistan's Inter-

Services Intelligence agency agreed to funnel arms and funding to the

Taliban in their war against the ethnically Tajik Northern Alliance. As

recently as 1999, U.S. taxpayers paid the entire annual salary of every

single Taliban government official, all in the hopes of returning to the

days of dollar-a- gallon gas. Pakistan, naturally, would pick up revenues

from a Karachi oil port facility. Harkening back to 19th century power

politics between Russia and British India, Rashid dubbed the struggle for

control of post-Soviet Central Asia "the new Great Game."


Predictably, the Taliban Frankenstein got out of control. The regime's

unholy alliance with Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network, their

penchant for invading their neighbors and their production of 50 percent of

the world's opium made them unlikely partners for the desired oil deal.


Then-President Bill Clinton's August 1998 cruise missile attack on

Afghanistan briefly brought the Taliban back into line -- they even

eradicated opium poppy cultivation in less than a year -- but they

nonetheless continued supporting countless militant Islamic groups. When an

Egyptian group whose members had trained in Afghanistan hijacked four

airplanes and used them to kill thousands of Americans on September 11,

Washington's patience with its former client finally expired.


Finally the Bushies have the perfect excuse to do what the United States has

wanted to do all along -- invade and/or install an old-school puppet regime

in Kabul.


Realpolitik no more cares about the thousands of dead than it concerns

itself with oppressed women in Afghanistan; this ersatz war by a phony

president is solely about getting the Unocal deal done without interference

from annoying local middlemen.


Central Asian politics, however, is a house of cards: every time you remove

one element, the whole thing comes crashing down. Muslim extremists in both

Pakistan and Afghanistan, for instance, will support additional terrorist

attacks on the United States to avenge the elimination of the Taliban. A

U.S.- installed Northern Alliance can't hold Kabul without an army of

occupation because Afghan legitimacy hinges on capturing the capital on your

own. Even if we do this the right way by funding and training the Northern

Alliance so that they can seize power themselves, Pakistan's ethnic Pashtun

government will never stand the replacement of their Pashtun brothers in the

Taliban by Northern Alliance Tajiks. Without Pakistani cooperation, there's

no getting the oil out and there's no chance for stability in Afghanistan.


As Bush would say, "make no mistake": this is about oil. It's always about

oil. And to twist a late '90s cliche, it's only boring because it's true.


Ted Rall, a syndicated editorial cartoonist, has traveled extensively

throughout Central Asia. In 2000, he went to Turkmenistan as a guest of the

State Department. His latest book is "2024: A Graphic Novel" (NBM Books, May

2001).


©2001 San Francisco Chronicle Page A - 25




----------------------- Headers --------------------------------
From: X
Date: Saturday, November 3, 2001 11:27 AM
To: (Recipient list suppressed)
Subject: It's about oil - from yesterdays San Francisco Chronicle

It's about oil
Ted Rall
Friday, November 2, 2001

URL:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2001/11/02
/ED90804.DTL

New York -- NURSULTAN NAZARBAYEV has a terrible problem. He's the president
and former Communist Party boss of Kazakstan, the second-largest republic of
the former Soviet Union. A few years ago, the giant country struck oil in
the eastern portion of the Caspian Sea. Geologists estimate that sitting
beneath the wind-blown steppes of Kazakstan are 50 billion barrels of oil --
by far the biggest untapped reserves in the world. (Saudi Arabia, currently
the world's largest oil producer, is believed to have about 30 billion
barrels remaining.) Kazakstan's Soviet-subsidized economy collapsed
immediately after independence in 1991. When I visited the then-capital,
Almaty, in 1997, I was struck by the utter absence of elderly people. One
after another, people confided that their parents had died of malnutrition
during the brutal winters of 1993 and 1994.

Middle-class residents of a superpower had been reduced to abject poverty
virtually overnight; thirtysomething women who appeared sixtysomething
hocked their wedding silver in underpasses, next to reps for the Kazak state
art museum trying to move enough socialist-realist paintings for a dollar
each to keep the lights on. The average Kazak earned $20 a month; those
unwilling or unable to steal died of gangrene while sitting on the sidewalk
next to long- winded tales of woe written on cardboard.

Autocrats tend to die badly during periods of downward mobility. Nazarbayev,
therefore, has spent most of the past decade trying to get his landlocked
oil out to sea. Once the oil starts flowing, it won't take long before
Kazakstan replaces Kuwait as the land of Mercedes-Benzs and ugly gold
jewelry. But the longer the pipeline, the more expensive and vulnerable it
is to sabotage. The shortest route runs through Iran, but Kazakstan is too
closely aligned with the United States to offend it by cutting a deal with
Tehran. Russia has helpfully offered to build a line connecting Kazak oil
rigs with the Black Sea, but neighboring Turkmenistan has experienced
trouble with the Russians --
they tend to divert the oil for their own use without paying for it. There's
even a plan to run crude through China, but the proposed 5,300-mile-long
pipeline would be far too long to prove profitable.

The logical alternative, then, is Unocal's plan, which is to extend
Turkmenistan's existing system west to the Kazak field on the Caspian Sea
and southeast to the Pakistani port of Karachi on the Arabian Sea. That
project runs through Afghanistan.

As Central Asian expert Ahmed Rashid describes in his book "Taliban,"
published last year, the United States and Pakistan decided to install a
stable regime in place in Afghanistan around 1994 -- a regime that would end
the country's civil war and thus ensure the safety of the Unocal pipeline
project. Impressed by the ruthlessness and willingness of the then-emerging
Taliban to cut a pipeline deal, the State Department and Pakistan's Inter-
Services Intelligence agency agreed to funnel arms and funding to the
Taliban in their war against the ethnically Tajik Northern Alliance. As
recently as 1999, U.S. taxpayers paid the entire annual salary of every
single Taliban government official, all in the hopes of returning to the
days of dollar-a- gallon gas. Pakistan, naturally, would pick up revenues
from a Karachi oil port facility. Harkening back to 19th century power
politics between Russia and British India, Rashid dubbed the struggle for
control of post-Soviet Central Asia "the new Great Game."

Predictably, the Taliban Frankenstein got out of control. The regime's
unholy alliance with Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network, their
penchant for invading their neighbors and their production of 50 percent of
the world's opium made them unlikely partners for the desired oil deal.

Then-President Bill Clinton's August 1998 cruise missile attack on
Afghanistan briefly brought the Taliban back into line -- they even
eradicated opium poppy cultivation in less than a year -- but they
nonetheless continued supporting countless militant Islamic groups. When an
Egyptian group whose members had trained in Afghanistan hijacked four
airplanes and used them to kill thousands of Americans on September 11,
Washington's patience with its former client finally expired.

Finally the Bushies have the perfect excuse to do what the United States has
wanted to do all along -- invade and/or install an old-school puppet regime
in Kabul.

Realpolitik no more cares about the thousands of dead than it concerns
itself with oppressed women in Afghanistan; this ersatz war by a phony
president is solely about getting the Unocal deal done without interference
from annoying local middlemen.

Central Asian politics, however, is a house of cards: every time you remove
one element, the whole thing comes crashing down. Muslim extremists in both
Pakistan and Afghanistan, for instance, will support additional terrorist
attacks on the United States to avenge the elimination of the Taliban. A
U.S.- installed Northern Alliance can't hold Kabul without an army of
occupation because Afghan legitimacy hinges on capturing the capital on your
own. Even if we do this the right way by funding and training the Northern
Alliance so that they can seize power themselves, Pakistan's ethnic Pashtun
government will never stand the replacement of their Pashtun brothers in the
Taliban by Northern Alliance Tajiks. Without Pakistani cooperation, there's
no getting the oil out and there's no chance for stability in Afghanistan.

As Bush would say, "make no mistake": this is about oil. It's always about
oil. And to twist a late '90s cliche, it's only boring because it's true.

Ted Rall, a syndicated editorial cartoonist, has traveled extensively
throughout Central Asia. In 2000, he went to Turkmenistan as a guest of the
State Department. His latest book is "2024: A Graphic Novel" (NBM Books, May
2001).

©2001 San Francisco Chronicle Page A - 25

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