America’s War Over Oil

V.K. Shashi Kumar

Intelligence analysts Charles Brisard and Guillume Dasquie have released an explosive book that claims that the USA’s primary interest in the Afghan war is oil, not terrorism; the US president, they claim, had obstructed investigation into the Taliban’s terrorist activities.

A book written by the two French intelligence analysts is certain to embarrass President George W. Bush and his administration. The book, ‘Bin Laden, La Vérité Interdite’ (Bin Laden, the Forbidden Truth), released recently, claims that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Deputy Director John O’Neill resigned in July of 2001 in protest over Bush’s obstruction of an investigation into Taliban’s terrorist activities. The authors claim that Bush resorted to this obstruction under the influence of the United States’ oil companies.

Bush stymied the intelligence agency’s investigation on terrorism, even as it bargained with the Taliban on handing over of Osama bin Laden in exchange for political recognition and economic aid. ‘The main obstacles to investigate Islamic terrorism were US oil corporate interests, and the role played by Saudi Arabia in it,’ O’Neill reportedly told the authors. According to Brisard and Dasquie, the main objective of the US government in Afghanistan prior to Black Tuesday (September 11th) was aimed at consolidating the Taliban regime, in order to obtain access to the oil and gas reserves in Central Asia.

Prior to the September 11th attack, the U.S. Government had an extremely benevolent attitude and understanding of the Taliban regime. The Taliban was perceived ‘as a source of stability in Central Asia that would enable the construction of an oil pipeline across Central Asia’ from the rich oilfields in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, through Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Indian Ocean. This would secure for the USA another huge captive and alternate oil resource centre. ‘The oil and gas reserves of Central Asia were controlled by USSR and now Russia. The Bush administration wanted to change all this... this rationale of energy security changed into a military one,’ the authors claim.

‘At one moment during the negotiations’, US representatives told the Taliban, ‘either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs’, Brisard said in an interview in Paris. On Saturday, November 25, representatives of the Northern Alliance (NA), former King Zahir Shah’s confidantes, and possibly non-Taliban Pashtun leaders met in Berlin under the aegis of the US-led coalition to discuss a broad-based government for Afghanistan. It might be a coincidence, but the US and Taliban diplomatic representatives met in Berlin early this year!

According to the book, the Bush administration began a regular series of negotiations with the Taliban early in 2001. Washington and Islamabad (Pakistan) were also venues for some of these meetings. The authors claim that before the September 11 attacks, Christina Rocca, in charge of Asian Affairs in the US State Department, met the Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef in Islamabad on August 2, 2001. Interestingly, Rocca is a veteran of US involvement in Afghanistan.

She was previously in charge of contacts with Islamist guerrilla groups of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), where she oversaw the delivery of US Stinger Missiles to Afghan mujahideen fighting the Soviet forces in the 1980s.

Brisard and Dasquie also revealed that the Taliban were not really ultra orthodox in their diplomatic approach, because they actually hired an American public relations expert for an image-making campaign in the US. It is, of course, not known whether the Pakistanis helped the Taliban secure the services of a professional image-maker. What is, however, revealed in the book is that US’s Laila Helms, a public relations professional, who also doubles up as an authority on the way the US intelligence agencies work, was employed by the Taliban. Her task was to get the USA to recognise the Taliban regime. Prior to September 11th, only three countries – Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates recognized the Taliban regime. Helm’s familiarity with the ways of US intelligence organizations comes through her association with Richard Helms, who is her uncle and a former director of the CIA and former US ambassador to Teheran, Iran.

Helms is described as the Mata Hari of US-Taliban negotiations. The authors claim that she brought Sayed Rahmatullah Hashimi, an advisor to Mullah Omar, to Washington for five days in March of 2001 – after the Taliban had destroyed the ancient Buddhas of Bamiyan. Hashimi met the Directorate of Central Intelligence at the CIA, and the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the US State Department.

The Frenchmen have indeed produced a controversial book, which is undoubtedly explosive, because of the interesting nuggets of information they have dug up. Besides, they have an impressive record in intelligence analysis, and this perhaps is the reason why the book is being talked about in hushed tones in Paris and other European capitals.

On November 18, the Irish Times newspaper said in a report: ‘O’Neill investigated the bombings of the World Trade Centre 1993, a US base in Saudi Arabia in 1996, the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar-Es-Salaam in 1998, and the USS Cole last year.’

‘Jean-Charles Brisard, who wrote a report on bin Laden’s finances for the French intelligence agency DST, and is co-author of ‘Hidden Truth’, met O’Neill several times last summer. He complained bitterly that the US State Department – and behind it the oil lobby, who make up President Bush’s entourage – blocked attempts to probe bin Laden’s guilt.’

‘The US ambassador to Yemen, Barbara Bodine, forbade O’Neill and his team of so-called Rambos (as the Yemeni authorities called them) from entering Yemen. In August of 2001, O’Neill resigned in frustration, and took up a new job as head of security at the World Trade Centre. He died in the September 11th attack.

O’Neill, an Irish American, told Brisard that all the answers and everything needed to dismantle bin Laden and Al Qaida, can be found in Saudi Arabia. Fearing that the Saudi royal family will be offended, US diplomats quietly buried the leads developed by O’Neill. So much so that when the FBI wanted to talk to the suspects accused of bombing the US military installation in Dhahran in June of 1996, in which 19 US servicemen were killed, the US State Department refused to make much noise about it. The Saudi officials, however interrogated the suspects, declared them guilty and executed them. No witnesses to worry about.

The US hedging on investigating Taliban’s terrorist activities and its links with bin Laden were premised on a belief that a quid quo deal could be arranged with the Taliban. The deal was for oil in exchange for diplomatic recognition. One important reason for the Operation Enduring Freedom could well be securing American oil interests in the region. It is certain that the oil pipeline project will be put on track soon. Even a cursory look at the oil potential, you can see and understand the American interest in this region. The Caspian Sea basin which encompasses the countries such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, are believed to possess some 200 billion barrels of oil, which is one third the amount found in the Persian Gulf area.

The greater Gulf area, encompassing Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirate and other adjacent countries, have been the centre of international politics of oil. First, the British fought to gain control over the area’s petroleum wealth, followed by the French. But in post World War Two scenario, the US emerged as the dominant power in the region, because its energy security and economic prosperity depended on the uninterrupted oil supply from this region. In March of 1945, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and King Addel Aziz ibn Saudi signed a secret agreement, which forged a long-lasting strategic partnership. Though the details of this agreement remain secret till today, the deal ensured privileged US access to Saudi oil, in return for US protection of the royal family from internal people’s wrath and external threats.

However, the US dependence on Middle Eastern oil is not a secret. The US national energy policy, released by the Bush administration earlier this year, stated: ‘The Gulf oil will be the primary focus of US international energy policy.’ According to Michael T. Klare, professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College in Amherst and author of Resource Wars: ‘The new landscape of Global Conflict, by launching Operation Enduring Freedom, the US wants to achieve two sets of objectives: First to capture and punish those responsible for the September 11th attacks, and two, to consolidate US power in the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea area, and to ensure the continued flow of oil to the USA. And while the second point might get less attention than the first, this does not mean that it is less important.’

With a large number of senior members of the Bush administration linked to major oil interests, it is more than a matter of coincidence that the US is involved in a war in Afghanistan. Vice-President Dick Cheney was, until the end of last year, president of Haliburton, mega-company that provides services to the oil industry. US National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice was between 1991 and 2000, manager for Chevron, Secretaries of Commerce and Energy, Donald Evans and Stanley Abraham, worked for Tom Brown, another oil giant.

There is therefore, more to the war against terrorism than the USA’s Bush administration is willing to admit. So, operation Enduring Freedom wants to do the following:

Courtesy: ‘Northstar Compass’, December 2001.

Click here to return to the April 2002 index.