eyes on the U.S.

It Was All About The Oil: A Chinese View As Curtain Closes On Iraq War

Op-Ed: As the US officially declares its military engagement over in Iraq, the toll can be measured in human lives, but also in a geopolitical chessboard ever more shaped by energy security.

US and Iraqi soldiers Al Muradia, Iraq, March, 13, 2007 (U.S. Army)
Zhang Guoqing

BEIJING - After nearly nine years, the war in Iraq has officially come to an end. Its effects can of course be calculated in the heavy human toll, but the war has also left a lasting imprint on both global affairs and across America's political landscape.

When people feel the effects of high oil prices, they should remember that it was the breakout and ongoing stalemate of the Iraq war that prompted petrol costs to soar. One could even connect those skyrocketing energy prices to the financial crisis of today.

Years ago, scholars had already warned that the exploitation of petrol was going to extend to remote and unstable regions of the globe. This had long created concerns in the US, and was part of the motivation for America's attack on Iraq.

Already in 2001, the White House declared that the US could not risk the impact of Iraq's instability on the oil market; and that military intervention might very well be necessary.

The fact is plain that President George W. Bush had drawn up his black list of nations that included mostly major oil exporters such as Iraq, Iran, Libya, and Sudan. Whether it was his early passion for better relations with Russia, stationing soldiers in Afghanistan or sending troops to the Middle East, the most important starting point was always the oil and gas.

Prior to the Iraq War, The Nation, an American left wing weekly, had already declared that an invasion would be an "oil war." American military lives would be lost for this prize, and an even higher cost was paid by the deaths of tens or hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens.

Since all lies have been exposed, the fact that the Iraq War was an energy war is no longer a secret. Although under President Bush's administration the link to energy was denied, it was but the "Emperor's new clothes'.

The negative effects this brought are two-fold. On one hand, it stimulated the anti-American forces in Iraq, and on the other hand, it reminded other countries to commit themselves to focus ever more of their attention to energy security. This in turn required ever more delicate international relations, and objectively also pushed up oil prices. Not coincidentally, after the war started, oil producers like Iran and Venezuela both chose to stand in opposition to America. All of these effects added up in rising prices for oil.

US propaganda claimed at first that the Iraq War was launched to prevent Saddam Hussein from using weapons of mass destruction, while the argument later turned to the defense of democracy and prosperity. What we know now is that this country, with the second biggest oil reserves, is still facing chaos and unrest, and its oil production has yet to recover to its pre-war level.

Speculators love emergency

Between the start of the war in 2003 and the end of the Bush administration, international oil prices multiplied six-fold, while Iraq's production dropped from 2.6 million barrels to 1.1 million per day.

An unnecessary war buried Saddam, but left the oil speculators in seventh heaven. High oil prices have brought the Exxon Mobil Corporation, the Texan energy giant, huge profits. Its operating profit soared from $30 billion to $200 billion within six years. American petroleum companies took away most of Iraq's exploitation rights. It's not until the latter half of President Bush's second term that other countries were allowed in.

The reality proves that in any geopolitical crisis, there's always someone who is profiting. International speculators love emergencies. The rest of us are left to face the drop in output, and rise in oil prices that fuel inflation across the economy.

There's another side effect as well: the Bush administration's rash decision to launch the Iraq War instead of concentrating its energy in combating al Qaeda and finishing the war in Afghanistan. It took until last May to finally track down and kill Bin Laden. In the meantime, this international terrorists network had time to reestablish itself, and also allowed the Taliban to reemerge in Afghanistan, where the war indeed continues.

This look back at Iraq should give caution for those considering starting a war in Syria or Iran. If a war were to be launched in Syria, or the US and Israel were to attack Iran, the Gulf Region will be plunged into a great dilemma. The plague of uncertainty would again make oil prices soar, and hopes for a global economic recovery would quickly dim.

Among its many lessons, the Iraq War has taught us that however easy it is to start a way, ending one is much harder.

Read the original article in Chinese

photo - U.S. Army

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Thousands of Tunisians gathered in the capital of Tunis

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 Laphi!*

Welcome to Monday, where post-Merkel Germany looks set shift to a center-left coalition, San Marino and Switzerland catch up with the rest of Europe on two key social issues, and a turtle slows things down at a Japan airport. Meanwhile, we take an international look at different ways to handle beloved, yet controversial, comic books and graphic novels characters.

[*Aymara, Bolivia]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

Social Democrats narrowly win German elections: Germany's center-left party claimed a narrow victory in the federal election, beating the CDU party of outgoing chancellor Angela Merkel by just over 1.5%, according to preliminary results. SPD leader Olaf Scholz has claimed a mandate to form a government with the Greens and Liberals, in what would be Germany's first three-way ruling coalition. Germany's capital city Berlin will also get its first female mayor.

Switzerland says yes to same-sex marriage: Nearly two-thirds of Swiss voters approved the proposal to legalize same-sex marriage in a referendum, making it one of the last countries in Western Europe to do so.

San Marino voters back legal abortion: More than 77% voted in support of legalizing abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy in San Marino in a historic referendum for the predominantly Catholic tiny city-state, which was one of the last places in Europe that still criminalized abortion.

COVID update: Australian authorities announced they will gradually reopen lockdowned Sydney, with a system that will give vaccinated citizens more freedom than the unvaccinated. Meanwhile, Thailand will waive its mandatory quarantine requirement in Bangkok and several other regions for vaccinated travellers in November. In Brazil, a fourth member of President Jair Bolsonaro's delegation to the United Nations has tested positive to COVID-19.

Power shortages in China spread: Tight coal supplies and toughening emissions standards have led to power shortages in northeastern China, forcing numerous factories including many supplying Apple and Tesla to halt production.

Strong earthquake hits Crete, at least one killed: An earthquake of magnitude 6 struck the Greek island of Crete, with reports that at least one person was killed and several injured after buildings collapsed.

Turtle causes delays at Tokyo airport: A wandering turtle forced the Tokyo Narita airport to close its runway for twelve minutes, delaying five planes, including an All Nippon Airways plane featuring ... a sea turtle-themed fuselage.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"Neck and neck," titles German daily Augsburger Allgemeine about the tight results of the federal election, which according to preliminary results, is set to be won by the center-left party SPD led by Olaf Sholz by just over 1.5%. It was the country's tightest race in years, and will likely lead to long, complicated negotiations to form a coalition government.


💬  LEXICON

Magal

On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of Muslim pilgrims from Senegal, but also from elsewhere in Africa, Europe, and the United States, converged to the great Mosque of Touba, as part of the Grand Magal. The annual pilgrimage, a Wolof word meaning celebration, marks the date French colonial authorities exiled spiritual leader and founder of the Senegalese Mouride Brotherhood Sheikh Amadou Bamba.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Cancel Tintin? Spotting racist imagery in comics around the world

From the anti-Semitic children's books of Nazi Germany to the many racist caricatures of Asian, African or Indigenous people in the 20th century, comics have long contained prejudiced, sexist and xenophobic stereotypes. These publications have been rightfully criticized but some are pushing back, saying that this kind of unwarranted "canceling" threatens freedom of expression. Here are examples from three countries around the world about how people are handling the debate and sketching the future of comics.

🔥📚 The Adventures of Tintin and The Adventures of Asterix both emerged in French-speaking Europe during the 20th century and quickly developed global audiences. But the comic books have also been called out for controversial depictions of certain groups, including North American Indigenous peoples. And as Radio-Canada recently reported, one group of French-speaking schools in Ontario found the texts so offensive that they decided to go ahead and burn the books. The report, not surprisingly, stirred up a pretty fiery debate on the issues of free speech and what some refer to as "cancel culture."

🤠 In a more progressive model for rethinking cartoons with long — and complicated — legacies, Lucky Luke in France is taking a different direction. Telling the story of a cowboy in the Wild West, the series is notably lacking in terms of diversity. But in 2020, well-known French cartoonists Julien Berjeaut (known as Jul) and Hervé Darmenton (known as Achdé) took on the challenge of a more inclusive Lucky Luke. With its 81st album, Un Cow-Boy Dans Le Coton (A Cowboy in High Cotton), they changed the perspective to focus on recently freed Black slaves.

🇯🇵 Outside of France and Belgium, Japan arguably has the largest market for graphic novels, or manga, which first developed in the late 19th century. And like their European counterparts, certain manga titles have been accused of using racist tropes. One example is the character Mr. Popo, a genie from the popular Dragon Ball series who has been cited for having offensive features. In the meantime, more and more mangaka (creators of manga) are expanding beyond these traditional representations, including in their depictions of women, who are over-sexualized in many mangas.


➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"Still now, I am terrified."

— In mid-August, Afghan news anchor Beheshta Arghand interviewed Mawlawi Abdulhaq Hemad, a high-ranking Taliban representative, for TOLOnews. A historic moment for the female presenter, just days after the Islamic fundamentalist group took over Afghanistan. Now exiled in Albania, Arghand tells the BBC in a moving testimony why she had to flee to Albania and how she, like many in her country, has lost everything.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin, Clémence Guimier & Bertrand Hauger


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