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One simple question we can ask about oil and the Middle East is this: Are we close to another oil war, The
Next Oil War ? This simple question has a lot of complex answers, sometimes needing a look at what first
appear unrelated, abstruse or even bizarre details of history, culture and religion stretching back at least a
thousand years. Another and very critical question this book tries to answer is the following: If oil is a
declining, outdated, dirty and polluting fuel, why depend on it ? Are there alternatives, do some of these
solutions directly result from recent oil wars, or 'oil related geostrategy' experience in the Middle East ?
As we know, for the last 100 years wars have been fought for oil, its reserves, production and transport
routes, mainly but not exclusively in the Middle East. We know or fear this complex, troubled region of today,
the spectre of AlQaeda terror and the menace of what is called political Islam. Since 2008 we also fear the
200-dollar barrel of oil, reminding us of Oil Shocks and economic crisis in the 1970s, and attempts through
the past 30 years at ensuring reliable energy supplies at fair prices. Our political leaders, and average
consumers know the key Middle East oil producing region also contains a lot, about 60%, of the world's
remaining natural gas reserves, and that gas is supposed to take the strain in world fossil fuel supply as oil
starts to fade out. Accepting that oil is poised to start fading away is already something of a cultural
revolution for the plastic-and-pesticide consumer society, but this new reality has emerged, and denial of it is
steadily weakening. It underlines one simple fact: the Middle East remains vital for the OECD's
“postindustrial” societies, and the emerging giant economies of China and India, simply because the global
economy is still almost totally dependent on energy from oil and gas. If or when the economy grows, so does
oil and gas demand, ensuring that energy crisis can return at any time.
The Middle East's oil reserves, and later on its gas reserves, help explain the region's intense ability to
generate Great Power rivalry right through the 20th C. As this book shows, this rivalry continues in high gear
today but it is only the 'supply side picture'. In the region, the primal hunger for oil of external powers is
overlaid by the region's complex and troubled, but powerful role as the birthplace of western civilization. All
three of the so-called Religions of the Book trace their origins to key historical events and the major
communities and cultures of this geopolitical fault line zone. Apparently abstruse and ancient philosophical
dispute and rivalry between different schools of thought in Islam have left enduring traces, which are still
powerful today. Shifting with the still smouldering horrors of the Iraq war, the vagaries of the confused and
long-running Afghan war, and the seemingly eternal and bloody Israel-Palestine conflict, this region is
probably more unstable today that at any previous time. It can only command our attention - and provoke
questions this book sets out to answer.
The context is dark and troubled. It is further troubled by new facets and forces, overlaid on a simmering
cauldron like layers of an onion. Talk about oil 'fading away' is easy, but we have to understand this could be
faster rather than slower, and not only due to geological depletion or industrial investment costs and limits.
We also have to face increasing doubt on the longevity of world natural gas supplies. This has reinforced
rather than weakened the geopolitical intrigue of energy hungry external players in the Middle East, but does
this mean oil-and-gas war is for tomorrow ? What time horizons might be in play ? Diminishing and extremely
overestimated oil reserves, and repeated Mid Eastern geopolitical disasters mostly caused by the so-called
Great Powers have already had one direct impact on our lives. Windmills are everywhere, solar power
investing is a favorite theme for hundreds of hedge funds and biofuels are thought able, by some experts, to
cover a sizeable part of present oil demand. The permanent threat of oil war therefore tends to accelerate
the world’s hesitant and unsure energy transition away from fossil energy, although this is communicated by
guardians of politically correct as a way to mitigate climate change, protect the environment, create jobs and
improve national energy security in the energy import-dependent countries.
The global economic recession adds more complexity to the picture. If cheap oil is a useful, or vital prop for
restoring economic growth we should take firm action in the Middle East to assure supplies, but if they are
diminishing anyhow, perhaps we should desist. This book provides answers to another simple question we
can ask: If we are close to another oil war, why is this ?
Answering these and other questions needs a wide but focused look at the factors in play. Modern Great
Power rivalry in the region, for close to 100 years, has been intensified by the hunt for oil and gas, by the
desire to control regional energy reserves, their production and supply. This has resulted in US regional 'oil
security doctrines' for more than 50 years, which on further examination reveal their shifting inconsistency .
The major external powers with an oil interest, the USA, Britain and France, are today very present in the
region, but as this book explains many other powers and forces are at work. Both new and traditional,
historical, religious, ethnic, ideological and geopolitical pressures and factors, even philosophical dispute and
rivalries help to maintain the complexity and unpredictability of the multi-layered conflicts that we witness,
and fear today. With the effective political defeat of the US and British 'regime change experiment' in Iraq, in
part due to this war's sheer failure to deliver bountiful new supplies of oil, regional tensions have risen. The
appetites or ambitions of other oil hungry powers, both new and old rivals, could be rekindled and driven
beyond control. Another oil war is highly possible.
Conversely, the exact opposite can be argued. Energy transition to non-fossil energy reinforced by the need
to mitigate runaway climate change could result in the Middle East and central Asia losing their almost
hypnotic interest for real and would-be Great Powers. If economic recession turns to long-term depression,
world consumption of fossil energy will decline anyhow.
Today, in widening spheres of political, economic and financial decisionmaking the “low carbon economy”
commands at least lip service, if not practical application due to the immense technical and financial needs,
and time needed for achieving energy transition away from current and massive dependence on the fossil
fuels. But if there is faster development of renewable energy by the world's fossil energy-intense economies
and societies, and firm measures to cut the OECD group's oil and gas burn, pressure will be taken off the
region. The necessity of energy transition will be joined by the geopolitical benefits of limiting or reducing
dependence on oil and gas imports from the troubled Middle East and central Asia.
As this book underlines, the wider Middle East and Central Asian region has its own dynamics, its own pent-
up needs for change, its own ambivalence and contradictions. One critical point is this: Most pressures for
change inside the region have little or nothing to do with fossil energy and resource issues, or even
economic goals and interests. Due to political inertia, and the technical, economic and even cultural
problems of achieving energy transition in the big oil consumer nations, the Middle East “tinder box” of today
is at least as dangerous as anytime in the past - including the Oil Shock periods of the 1970s.
How the Iraq, Afghan, Palestine-Israel, Lebanese, Iran nuclear, Kurdish national and other crises play out,
interact with each other, and decide the outcome of latent and ongoing change in the region - all these
events will affect world energy and the life expectancy of the oil-fired growth economy. Through this book, we
bring answers to the underlying questions the average reader asks.
Where we go in The Next Oil War will depend on a multitude of factors, reviewed and described in
this book by Andrew McKillop. The historical and economic facts, the geopolitical and religious
factors are sometimes surprising, sometimes based on events in the remote past, sometimes the
recent past and present. Under any hypothesis, as this book clearly shows, change is now endemic
and rapid. The ‘regional status quo’, dating from the 1920s, is now living out its last days. This
book shows how the implacable logic of world oil and gas depletion and the imperative of fighting
climate change through abandoning the fossil fuels can either trigger a new oil war, or relegate this
threat to the wasteheap of History. We can hope for the second but must be aware of the first. (end
of Introduction)


The Bourbon dynasty spanned about five centuries, its fortunes waxing and waning before it
collapsed in the French Revolution. During its high times of prestige and power, in several
European countries and in many roles, legend says it had one famous weakness: the Bourbons
“forgot nothing and learned nothing.” Great-power games in the Middle East and central Asia, with
players drawn in by the region’s huge but declining oil reserves and still massive gas reserves, show
every sign of this. Imperial amnesia afflicts not only the recent and present imperial players - USA,
France and UK - but also forgotten or neglected historical or traditional rivals, imperial players like
Iran, Russia and Turkey. These are surely re-entering the game. Lower down the often obscure and
hidden heap of power plays, we also find the local imperialism of what can be called the non-
national and proto-national regimes and powers of the region. Like the so-called Great Powers, but
rarely with the single aim of controlling hydrocarbon resources, these players have a vital interest in
what happens in this region of simmering conflict.

These forces and players feature the twin pillars of political, religious and national rivalry and
dispute in the region, the sunni and shi’a power structures. In some cases this is now expressed and
channeled as 'political Islam', as we discuss later on. Family dynasties like the Jordanian
Hashemites and Saudi Arabia's ruling clans, and Egyptian guardians of sunni rectitude and
intellectual influence, all vy for power, influence and the respect that former, often imperial or
dynastic glory once conferred - in reality or in the imagination that legends feed. At the same time
political and religious, the Iranian 'ayatollocracy' claims to speak for all the world's shi'a, while
preaching atomic fire and brimstone, or at least long range ballistic misile attack in the direction of
Israel. This waning and mutating pillar of US regional influence is in direct ethnic and ideological
conflict with all Arab, sunni Muslim powers in the region, but for the moment is forced to defend
them. Israel, we should also never forget is itself not exempt from theocratic stirrings. Its
expansionary aims, in part driven by religious fundamentalism are only now, and rapidly being
tempered by demographic, regional political and economic reality, as its very raison d’être comes
under challenge not only from outside, but also inside its own society.

All these ‘ethnic, national and religious imperiums' or power structures suffer from the Bourbon
weakness. This includes not only those players sketched above, but many others. The range is vast:
they include renascent, restructured, irredentist and returning power structures, wielding varying
types and degrees of influence from different centers of ideological, ethnic, political, demographic
and religious power. Last but not least, there is economic power. This features resource power, of
the type that flows from a barrel of oil or gas pipeline, whether built and in operation, or more often
and increasingly in the minds and on the maps of different players. There is also demographic
power, with Iran, Turkey and Egypt occupying the high ground. And there is industrial power, with
the first two, but not Egypt exercising increasing mercantile clout in regional or global markets.

All players in the wider MECA region, to different degrees, suffer from different types or forms of
imperial nostalgia. The imperiums they dream of are quite often completely virtual, mythical or
legendary but that has no importance: myth by definition needs no physical proof. The further back
in time the glorious peak of power was mythically held, the more it can be exaggerated by present-
day nostalgics and claimants. The smaller the power that is held today, the bigger the injustice
suffered, and the more intense is today's quest for new glory.

All players are afflicted like the Bourbons often were, sometimes for decades, a half-century, or
more by a sentiment of present day weakness, injustice and almost omnipresent enemies brewing
complex intrigues. This paranoid Achilles heel joins the other fatal weaknesses of the Bourbon
plight. As we find when looking at the real and would-be imperiums acting in the region, the less
feasible or possible the nationbuilding project, the strategy for regaining widespread power, the
quest for power and control of vast but virtual new territories, and real or imagined economic
resources - the more passionate is its ideological justification and defence. This unstable and
dangerous context is reinforced by the real world immobilism and hesitation of current and
potential imperial players, and by their fatally incoherent action in the face of the region’s restless
urge for change. As we know, this dynamic is presently – but not forever - largely driven by the
world's insatiable appetite for oil and gas. This is now intensified by the approach of physical
shortage for both as the world moves from Peak Oil to Peak Gas, but for exactly the same reason
the quest could also shrink and disappear like a desert djinn.
As with the Bourbons, the leaders and strategists of today's real and virtual imperiums acting in the
region cannot forget their former glory. Real or imaginary, past glory must be restored or their
present glory must not be allowed to weaken - but to what end? This power tropism or endless quest
for power, but with no clear aim in view, generates another fatal trait of all dynasties, civilizations
and their imperial power structures or imperium.

The clock ticks on. Apart from constantly mounting demographic pressure, water and agricultural
resource limits, climate change, multiple and interlocking lower rank environment crises, and
always rising consumer demand on natural resources, the countdown now includes the oil and gas
depletion clock. This clock is ticking faster because of the world's uncertain energy transition away
from fossil energy. Many words still replace few deeds. Worse still, the relatively small amounts of
investment in new energy supply capacity from low carbon sources is wantonly allocated by the
blind and irrational choices dictated by the free market. First brought under the spotlight of media
and political concern during the Oil Shocks of the 1970s, action and interest in alternate energy
waned as the world experienced the unsure pleasures of the Cheap Oil interval, spanning a long and
lost decade of reality denial, through 1986-1999. Through this period, alternate energy was a lost
cause. This self-satisfed inertia was shattered by the oil price spiral of 1999-2008. Today again, as
in the 1970s, shrinking fossil energy reserves and increased prices could spur on the imperial
players to take new initiatives, including war, to satisfy basic and slow changing dependence of the
economy on fossil fuel burning. It could also trigger the decision to renounce and desist.

The current supercharged context brings new and giant players alongside the old. The new players
now include the emerging global economic superpowers of China and India, driven or forced to
invest themselves in the turbulent MECA region. The tide of change, quiescent for so long and so
easy to ignore, is now able to dictate events and will likely continue to do so. Urgent pressures
generating unexpected and rapid change now focus the region with renewed force, further raising
the challenge for all players. In turn, this will raise the stakes for all players, including China and
India. Driven by energy hunger, China and India have no option but to make their mark, protecting
their own 'vital oil interests' like the USA, France, Germany, Britain, Japan or any other ‘mature
postindustrial’ oil consumer country. This is sure, but how the two new Asian superpowers with
very long histories will act is to some certain degree affected by their own and confused imperial
pasts, and by their unwillingness to act decisively, while the current Euro-American players, forced
by events, only send ambiguous or incoherent signals regarding their true or real intentions. Adding
the sure retreat of western troops or decline of their active military presence, the stage is set for a
radical acceleration of history in the wider region.

The outcome of the present crisis in the wider MECA region may be the start of The Next Oil War.
We can at present only be sure that among the options, there could be a rapid coalescence of
previously-local conflicts, spinning out of the existing regional hearths - notably Iraq, Afghanistan,
Palestine, Lebanon, Kurdistan - and engulfing the wider region. What we can be sure of is that the
political failure of the Iraq war and the physical inability of the big Middle East oil producers to
raise their production and net export supplies, coupled with renewed sunni-shi'a rivalry and the
emergence of political Islam is both a cause and consequence of regional instability. Unable to
distinguish cause from consequence, yet another Bourbon weakness, the risk of fatal error is high.
In turn, this brings the risk of region-wide war to new heights, certainly in the period 2009-11.

In the daily present since at latest 2006, and more surely with each year further, we are witnessing
the end of the US and British petrostrategic initiative in Iraq. This in no way is taking place on a
lonely but tranquil island like that of Hayy ibn Yaqzan, whose island paradise is shattered by the
troubles, intrigues and violence of society. More than gathering doubt now exists on the solidity of
the Afghan adventure. Both Israel and Palestine seek entirely classic and conventional national
entity – in the same space. In the current and emerging context, their potential for further and bitter
struggle can only grow. Other serious and growing poles of geopolitical stress exist in the region,
generating only one conclusion: ever-rising instability. What is basic is that a sequel of inertia and
incoherence by the recent imperial players - the USA, Britain and France - will surely encourage
other players or actors, even smaller players to take the lead. This features the political and
ideological, military and economic initiatives of Iran, Turkey, Israel, Hezbollah forces in Lebanon,
the Palestinians, Kurdish and Baluch nationalists, and others, as we discuss below. This should not
however hide the weakness affecting all the imperial and would-be imperial players in this region.
This is the fatal trend of one wrong decision leading to another. As in the past, defeat of one or
more imperial players in the region increases tensions and draws in new players, while reviving the
appetites of traditional and historical rivals. This Pandora's Box is now wide open, specially due to
the failed or ambiguous, fragile and uncertain liberation experiment in Iraq.

Regarding oil we are on surer ground. The failed attempt to import democracy by force in Iraq has
resulted in Iraq's oil export performance falling far below the approximate 2.2 to 2.4 Million
barrels/day (Mbd) export volumes achieved under the police state and sunni autocracy of the
Saddam Hussein regime, even with sanctions, during the 1990s. Far worse, this bungled attempt at
installing a servile, or at least cooperative and grateful puppet regime to replace the previous
autocratic and tyrannical regime has had a swath of negative sequels and impacts. These include a
major increase in the range, scope and firepower of sectarian, intercommunal sunni-shi’a
ideological and religious-based conflict across the region. Today, shi'ite-sunni conflict and political
rivalry, across the region, is surely one of the most important factors that can shape the near-term.

On the ground, this conflict is fed in many key areas such Saudi Arabia’s eastern and northeastern
provinces – in which oil production is concentrated - by crying disparities of wealth and power
between the two communities. This in turn reinforces shi'ite political solidarity to a certain extent,
but in the case of Iraq naturally focusses and intensifies the ongoing struggle for control over this
artificial country’s diminished oil and gas revenues. At the wider regional level, the Iraq microcosm
is reproduced wherever shi'a majority populations are dominated by sunni political minorities. This
returns us to the key role of control over oil and gas reserves, and revenues from their production,
sale and utilisation. As in any long and bitter religion-based or religion-driven conflict, denial of
resources to the opposing side is, and will always be one natural or inevitable war strategy. This is a
warning to the world’s oil and gas importers: the conflict in Iraq, its ability to ramify and spread
across the region, are as dangerous as the certain losses of energy production and export capacities
through accelerating – and natural – geological depletion.

From 2003, but specially since 2006, the Iraq civil war has become a reality, although shifting,
varying in intensity, and contradictory in its local and regional impacts, and above all its
interpretation by external observers. This sunni-shi'a civil conflict can break into war almost
anytime. This is hard to deny, exactly like the reality of the Afghan civil war and the growing seeds
of sunni-shi'a civil conflict in Palestine and Lebanon. This leads on to the necessary recognition that
Iraq has been starkly revealed as what it was, a figment of English colonial oil-hungry hopes and
dreams dating from the 1920s and 1930s. Its very bases, of British and American oil hunger shakily
twinned with renascent and mutant sunni and hashemite strivings for regional power and influence,
are revealed as of no consequence to the present, with no staying power.

In the MECA region, and surely in Iraq, all the regional sunni power bases are, as ever, whether we
talk of the year 1000 or 2000, confronted by shi'a opposition. This is constantly reinforced by the
demographic and therefore political and economic weight of shi'a communities across the region.
Like most current nations of the region, Iraq's English colonial raison d'être or founding logic – a
sunni petromonarchy soon toppled by sunnite military leaders - was weak and incoherent from the
start, even before the rise of the Saddam Hussein regime. What has happened to Iraq, today, can
well be the model for other unsure national entities in unrealistic frontiers, that like Iraq were
figments of imperial imagination, made possible through divide-and-rule, and then impossible by
age old and enduring sunni-shi'a rivalry.

This is much more a threat, than a promise of manageability for the traditional imperial players, the
USA, Britain and France, but this reality is as much denied as supposedly unknown or studiously
ignored. We must underline that the entire present political regional geography, from the
Mediterranean to the Gulf, was either in total or in large part set by the Allied victors of the First
World War, in the period 1917-1939. In a very real way, The Next Oil War threatens to sweep away
all traces of the imprint left by the 'red-white-blue gang' on this oil-driven, and now gas-driven
lynchpin region of the world.

Today, what was called Iraq is only governable from the inside, not by military administrators from
USA and Britain. It is a fictional, or virtual country whose frontiers mean very little. Does
Kurdistan again exist ? If so, where ? Afghanistan is similar, a confusing set of warring chefferies
and warlord clans driven by sunni-shi'a rivalry, engaged, with modern weapons, in age-old systems
of ethnic based feuding and conflict. This was ably exploited by the US and European powers
during the 8-year war against Soviet occupation in the 1980s, but is now fatally turned against their
own military invasion and occupation. French, American, Israeli and Italian blustering in Lebanon
and against Syria and Iran, together with French, Israeli or US threats of nuclear weapons use
against Iran’s ‘mollah regime’ are essentially sabre rattling with no fixed, set or organized strategy,
or policy behind them. As we discuss in more detail below, Iran's huge natural gas reserves - now
that Russia's increasing inability to deliver is becoming known - have muted and blunted these
empty threats, but can at any time trigger the reverse. Previously shrill calls for regime change made
by the G W Bush regime and the outgoing French power elite of Jacques Chirac, were almost
inaudible by the end of 2006, but became extremely audible again by Summer 2007 and later on.
Such is the confusion and incoherence of imperial players struck by the Bourbon weakness.

Occasionally, almost cyclically, the wars of words that all players wage, now with the aid of
Internet and satellite TV stations, condense into punitive raids, skirmishes and shorter or longer-
term, renewed military action. In the summer of 2006 the Israel proxy of the US, France and UK -
now more precisely a self-operating proxy and self-elected ‘gendarme of the Near East’ - reacted to
the rising shi'ite political challenge to itself from Lebanon, and supposed threat to the sunni regimes
of the Gulf Petromonarchies. This was unsuccessful, as was Israel's previous gendarme role, the
western pillar of the ill-fated and confused Twin Pillars doctrine, that we discuss below. This oil
doctrine or petrostrategy, initiated in the 1950s by the Eisenhower presidency, has experienced
many remakes and facelifts, and heroic revisions over the decades, but like repeated Bourbon
initiatives for regaining power during the dynasty's long lows, its underlying or structural
incoherence and powerlessness have never changed.

Usually and fatally, as in any modern war constant low level brushfire wars in the Middle East
result in huge numbers of civilian casualties, topped by tritual military vandalism of civilian
economic infrastructures. Revenge, long-term weakening of the enemy, and ‘teaching a good
lesson’ are age-old reasons for resource denial. As ever, and applying the Bourbon rule of learning
nothing, no attempt is made to rejig the fragile, dangerous, unrealistic and outdated frontiers of the
region. These, as previously but now ever more so help generate and maintain the constant conflict
and violence that plays out on CNN, al-Jazeera, BBC World and other satellite TV news channels.
Between the publicity spots and breathless business journalism recounting new and emerging
business opportunities in all sectors including regional reconstruction, the lurking tension and
threats of war peek through the business hype. The Next Oil War threatens much more than the
credibility of business prose. It sets the threat of an accelerated tail-down and run-out of the fossil
energy resources feeding the growth economy worldwide, and carries the menace of region-wide
destruction and devastation.

(end of chapter)

The most significant traditional players are Turkey, Russia and Iran. Turkey is now reduced to a tiny
rump relative to its Ottoman glory, but is also a modern, fast-growing, oil and gas dependent
industrial power with a strong and determined military which quite openly dreams of past glory.
Turkey regularly threatens an immediate invasion of any reconstituted and re-declared Greater
Kurdistan. The threat is real; in Cyprus, the rock-solid determination of the Turkish military to hold
on and hang in has been maintained, now, for over 30 years despite all and every attempt by the so-
called international community and specially the European Union to rein-in the Turkish generals.
Leaders of the oil-fired postindustrial democracies, bathing in a rout of cheap industrial consumer
goods from over the horizon are above all anxious to anchor-in the new and powerful Turkey. This
emerging industrial and consumer society powerhouse is crisscrossed by mostly imaginary gas and
oil pipelienes, but has a real and huge, cheap labor force and emerging consumer market of the type
dreamed-of by liberal economic European decider elites. Their always unsuccessful, half-hearted
attempts to mask the reality of Turkey’s pure and simple Cyprus land grab have not gone unnoticed,
both in Turkey and elsewhere.

In the soon-to-be former Iraq, the results of Turkey openly and formally invading Kurdistan - at
least in theory - would include a widespread Kurdish revolt, possibly or probably backed by Baluch
fighters. This would trap Turkey in a long and unwinnable colonial war of the type that Lawrence of
Arabia worked to create near the end of World War 1. As we argue elsewhere, Chechen and even
Armenian fighters might join a modern remake of this struggle, on the Kurdish-Baluch side. In fact
however, the perspective of Turkey invading re-declared Kurdistan, which now exists in the ruins of
Iraq, is the so-called conventional wisdom regarding the geopolitical sequels of Iraq's coming
disappearance, but as we can argue the exact opposite is also a real and emerging possibility,
especially for 21stC versions of Turkish lebensraum.

Turkey’s High Command has moved fast but covertly to co-opt the Kurdish PKK (Kurdish Workers
Party, nominally trotskist) in a vast new imperial project to recreate the Ottoman Empire. Using a
mix-and-match selection of propaganda planks, including newly effective and extreme sunni
rhetoric of the bin Laden type, Turkey can promise peace and prosperity for all, that is all the sunni
masses who will live in a restored and facelifted, Turkish-led condominium. This will banish the
kafir infidels from the region as surely as the legendary Kurdish war hero of the 12thC, Saladin,
vanquished and chased Europe's crusaders from the region. In this New Ottoman Empire, not only
would Kurds, Baluch and even christian and Jewish Armenians live in peace under Turkish
hegemony, but Turkey’s military would control the real hydrocarbon reserves and real oil and gas
infrastructures of the region, from the Chatt al-Arab and Yemen, to the Bosphorus. Rhetoric similar
to this, and often carefully ambivalent in its condemnation or not of Turkey, is stock feed for
Kurdish media, such as the PKK-controlled satellite TV stations which cover not only Kurdistan,
but also Europe. One example is Rojava TV sometimes treated by host governments of its foreign
bureaux in Europe as terrorist media, and sometimes not.

Iran, like Turkey of today is heavily shrunken and reduced in its imperial reach and power relative
to its former glory. From the 18thC Iran has only lost territory, including its '14th province' Bahrein,
if we exclude Chah Reza Pahlavi's American-tolerated 1970s grab of a few small islands in the Arab
- or Persian - Gulf. Iranian strategists surely imagine, in print, that Iran will be the first to profit
from the final collapse or break-up of Iraq. In theory, and probably in practice, if there is
uncontrollable civil war in 'rump Iraq', after Kurdistan's secession, this would massively potentialize
the often evoked ‘chi’ite Anschluss’. In other words the coalescence of Iran with the chi’ite
majority, oil- and gas-rich regions bordering Iraq, eastern Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf
Petromonarchies. To be sure, the US, Britain and France could not tolerate this. Any attempt by Iran
to realize its role as the chi’ite power bastion in expanded frontiers, and fully occupy and
incorporate eastern Saudi Arabia, SE Iraq, and the Petromonarchies would lead to automatic US and
European military action, if only through oil realpolitik, and through simple jealousy of Iran’s new
and immense oil and gas power. To be sure, this threat of shi'a anschluss with Iran as sole
beneficiary, and the much more concrete threat to Israel of Iran developing nuclear weapons, are
linked in the minds of many advisers to the permanent teams of negotiators in the long-running 'Iran
nuclear affair', or saga. On occasions, Washington and the European Triumvirate grotesquely leak
'bomb Tehran' rhetoric, then backtrack from fear these threats could push oil prices to exotic limits,
or for some other reason such as the near total impossibility of regime changing Iran. This
permanent valse hesitation in fact only underlines the uncertainty and unpreparedness of the
traditional red-white-blue Great Powers who permanently interfere in the region.

An example of this critical ambivalence was the sequence of events through summer 2006. As oil
prices moved up almost every day, threatening messages were leaked and delivered to Iran by a
number of channels. Both the channels used, and the messages transmitted were varied. These
included discrete warnings passed through the Tehran-based 'alternate Kurd leadership structure' run
by Massaoud Barzani, and clear warnings delivered during regional speaking tours by high-ranking
US diplomats, echoed by British and French politicians. Bellicose papers by Bush administration-
friendly speakers at key conferences were given large media attention. Detailed papers examining
near-term bombing options in Iran at international conferences included the July 2006 paper by
Terence Ward at the annual Association for Study of Peak Oil (ASPO) conference in Pisa, Italy.
This conference, ironically, was held to discuss the certainty of Peak Oil and the emerging threat of
Peak Gas, both of which can only reduce the geopolitical interest of the wider MECA region in a
highly predictable and certain near-term future.

Iran regime change using nuclear weapons, no more or less, was threatened by French minister of
Foreign Affairs, Philippe Douste-Blazy, in the summer of 2006, using the pretext of the Iran nuclear
affair. Within weeks, from the mouth of Jacques Chirac, this threat was both denied and retracted,
proving if needed how ambivalent deciders' mindsets remain on Iran regime change. Such extreme
threats, we can note, are always watered down and rationalised once they have been made. This is
likely more in relation to oil price moves - threats moderating when oil prices fall - and is also
likely driven by rising proof that the US and British Iraq regime change experiment is unworkable.
Parlaying with Iran to find a facesaving way out of this unwinnable war is becoming an obligatory
option, therefore bombing Iran goes down the wish list. The threats of summer 2006, repeated on a
haphazard timetable from time to time, however serve to show that shi’a Anschluss is one
nightmare armchair strategists in Washington, London, Paris, Rome and Brussels like to transfer
from think tank dreamings, to the real world of foreign ministry communiqués and war game map
drawing. Lower echelons translate this by selecting the best bombing mission routes with the
minimum round-trip fuel burn.

Russia, under Putin’s increasingly autocratic and demagogic regime, in fact a super oligarchy, now
has a crudely expansionist strategy, perhaps motivated by defensive expansion, or perhaps by this
and other motives stretching back to the first imperial dreamings of the Slav national ethnic
movement, in the 1840s. Today's Russia also has strong and simple economic interests in not seeing
Tehran bombed as a 'lesson to others', or for any other reason. To what extent, if any, Iran plays a
part in Putin’s model of Russian expansionism is difficult to gauge, but we can be sure that
following the Russian power sphere's heavy compression in the 1991-1999 period, the desire for a
Russian revenge on history is strong, or very strong. As the Putin-Medvedev duo know very well,
Russia is a petro-power and gas-power: whatever raises their prices raises Russian revenues and
international clout.

During the recent high oil price good times, the Putin clique reminded Russian citizens almost
every day how newfound oil-and-gas power reinforces Mother Russia, enriching not only the newly
rich but also the new middle class. Tinted with the nostalgia of Mother Russia, many powerful and
demagogic voices in the Putin power elite remind Russians that its 19th century regional claims
extended to all northern Iran, some regions of today’s Turkey, many chunks of the present CIS or
Southern Muslim Republics, and even far-flung parts of today’s Pakistan. As we will note in more
detail below, Russia and Iran hold perhaps 55% or 60% of the world's remaining natural gas
reserves, such as they are known, accepting a large degree of over-reporting of gas reserves by
Russia and Iran. This hides an important fact on Russian gas. Probably intensifying its talk-up of
official reserves, the reality is that Russia's gas reserves are declining quite rapidly. Adding some or
a lot of Iran's gas reserves, whatever they are, would most surely bolster the Gazprom Empire and
protect Russia, and therefore Putin from the ire and recrimination of its jilted oil and gas partners,
such as BP, Shell, Total, ENI, Chevron, Conoco and others. When or if a US-European alliance
attempted regime change of Tehran, Russia could claim a large slice of the remains, provided they
are not too radioactive. In addition to the gas bonanza, sorely needed to save the sagging Gazprom
edifice from the encroaching reality of Peak Gas, the north of Iran contains a large part of Iran’s
established but rapidly ageing oil reserves and production capacities.

Faced by Russia armed with thermonuclear weapons the Red-White-Blue Team, that is USA,
France and UK, will agonizingly hesitate before any action to satisfy their weakening, incoherent
and irraional desire to crush Iran's mollahs. Russia has more than an ambiguous stance on Iran’s
nuclear program: it is itself heavily implied in Tehran's thrust to master the atom in a nuclear
program which employs tens of thousands of Russians inside Iran, garnering significant worker
remittances for Mother Russia,. Another brake on the Red-White-Blue Team’s desire to crush the
upstart 'ayatollocracy' is that Russia could, and likely will claim its part of the Iranian pie if they
succeeded. Haggling over who gets which slice of this cake would surely be bitter, given the stand-
off emerging between Russia and Europe as the certain future gas crisis filters into the mass media,
instead of being studiously ignored. This crisis is simple to state: non delivery of Russian gas is
increasingly sure in the near-term future because it cannot be produced. Russia has rapidly moved
from unsure ally to unsure enemy. This is the real Russian brake on Iran regime change, translated
on the ground, or rather in the UN Security Council by more than somewhat symbolic sanctions
against Iran, in late December 2006, and further hesitant and symbolic sanctions after that.

Iran regime change was never logical nor feasible. From about summer 2006 it became impossible,
as essentially signalled by CIA chief Robert Gates from as early as February 2007. Military failure
‘changing Iranian hearts and minds’ is yet more certain and sure than doing the same in Iraq or
Afghanistan. In fact, any attempt at repeating the Iraq catastrophe in a three times bigger country
would be guaranteed almost total failure. Opening this box of Pandora would surely be a step too
far beyond the Rubicon, or the Styx, even for armchair American ultraconservatives whose
knowledge of the Islamic world has been culled from the books of Robert Baer, Time or US News
and World Report and the flights of fantasy churned out by the more extreme think tanks. With the
exit of the Bush regime from power in January 2009, and the certain planned disengagement or cut-
and-run from Iraq, an absolute end to Iran adventure was almost certainly sealed. This leaves one-
only possible scenario for Iran regime change: desperate or heroic action by Israel, with almost awe
inspiring logistic challenges. Iran's most important Russian-built nuclear installations are heavily
guarded, with the most critical facilities placed underground. As hundreds of special supplements to
heavyweight Sunday newspapers and dozens of in-depth reports on mass viewer TV chains have
concluded: taking out Iran will need nuclear weapons.
The regional strategy or strategies of the new players, that is mainly India and China, as well as
actual and potential action by atomic weapon armed Pakistan, are for the least cloudy and
sometimes contradictory. Pakistan is claimed by many observers to provide sure and certain support
to Saudi Arabia in return for 'friendship oil'. This apparent support, featuring 'the Islamic bomb' is
trumpeted by some of the more unconditional and extreme pan-Arab nationalist factions inside the
Saudi wahabite power structure, and relayed by many Internet sites in the region. Further analysis
however underlines that nothing is less sure than the readiness or willingness of Pakistan to actually
translate talk of islamic solidarity into action, when or if Saudi princely elites were threatened.
Much worse for regional stability, and a sure guarantee that the region will rapidly fissure along old
and new fault lines we are now witnessing the mutation of the Afghanistan war into a transborder
Afghan-and-Pakistan war, and the sure but discreet rise of Chinese and Indian involvement in
regional power plays. When oil dictates that long delayed change must occur, nothing indicates that
China and India will avoid the route taken by their imperial rivals. In other words China and India
will soon seriously play divide-and-rule in the region. Their strategy is clear: through divide-and-
rule a precarious balance of forces and military stalemate can be hoped for, enabling oil and gas
production and exports to be maximised, or at least maintained. This hope is always betrayed by
real world change, certain to surprise by its twists and turns or arabesques.

Already the two new and giant players, the new Great Powers of China and India, with imperialist
ambitions only when these translate to barrels of oil and cubic meters of natural gas and commercial
results for their export industries, are staking their claims in the region. At present and
schematically these are to the east for China, in Iran and Pakistan, and for India to the west, in Syria
and Iraq. One immediate and direct impact of India and China being drawn into the region by
hunger for hydrocarbons is yet further arms inflows to the Middle East and Central Asia. Arms
deliveries by these two new imperial players the region have increased radically since the 1990s,
unsure data suggesting that Chinese and Indian arms deliveries to the region are roughly on a par
with those supplied by the former USSR each year in the 1980s. Deliveries have surely increased
again since the start of the Iraq war. Interestingly, we can note here, China and India have so far
tended to play the 'chi’ite card', because of shi'a demographic power in the region's richest oil and
gasbearing regions, but further analysis reveals the Bourbon weakness of learning nothing from
previous - or even current and ongoing - mistakes. One example is India’s cosying up to the alouite
and ismaelian factions of the chi’ite ruling elites in Syria, in return for oil and gas assets, purchased
by Indian interests from Petro Canada in 2004, along with major exploration acreages.

It is surely Iran that now forces the pace. More precisely the Amedhinejad power elite, itself far
from assured of total support from the country’s Top-14 (the highest-ranking 14 ayatollahs) is
loosely followed by Syria's ruling elite. Since 2005-2006 both have skilfully played 'the Arab and
Muslim street' against the sunni rulers of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Petromonarchies, using the
common enemies of Israel, the USA, the UK and France. Israel has played its designated role, of
local American proxy and illicit Euro-American colony in the Near East, almost perfectly.
Multiplying its 'punitive raids' over the whole Lebanese territory in its short-lived summer war of
2006, and almost daily in Palestine, most recently in its late 2008 feats of destruction in Gaza, year-
in and year-out, Israel has acted to ensure it is hated by average Arabs and Muslims. For Iran, this is
a chance for taking its revenge on history and reversing the tide of territorial loss, at least as strong
as Israel's apparent desire for a revenge on history, Kurdish desires for a revenge on history, Turkish
desires for a revenge on history, and so on.

Iran's 'legitimate sphere', we can note, was historically limited to the east of the Chatt al-Arab and
the present Iraq-Iran frontier. Its real potential for lebensraum expansion is to the east and north, but
demographics and oil decide that Iran feels expansionary urges towards the west. To the east, the
Balochistan province of Pakistan is now, despite its thin density of population, and above all its
meager stock of immediately merchandisable resources (and despite its natural gas resources), a real
and effective barrier to Iranian land grabs oriented towards the east. The reason is political. Kurd
and Baluch renascent nationalism can be played against Turkey, the Saudi and Gulf sunni rulers,
and the US-UK in Iraq; but it can also play against Iran. Going too far in the strategy or tactic of
whipping up Baluch or Kurd irredentism in Iraq and elesewhere in the region - specially Pakistan -
can reverse the game's apparent advantage to Iran. The Kurd and Baluch national movement can
turn against Tehran, with sure and certain support from the USA, UK, France and Turkey. This
leaves the north as Iran's natural expansionary corridor or front. Only the most extremely delirious
dreamers in the Ahmedhinejad power elite might imagine firstly a defeated and beaten Russia, after
the fall of Putin, that would then cede territory to Iran, reversing the losses suffered by Iran to
Russia since the 1750s.

Iran's western tropism, or geopolitical striving to expand and influence to the west, rather than its
natural corridors and historical areas for expansion, to the east and north, is easy to explain. Oil, as
we said, is one reason but only one among many. In the far west of the region, on the Mediterranean
coast, the Hamas movement of Palestine and the Syrian alouwite shi'a minority power structure -
placed in power by France in the 1946-48 period - are natural allies of Iran. Only the common
enemy Israel is advanced, by many external observers, as the explanation for this 'natural alliance',
of course adding the attraction due to common shi'a heritage. This radically oversimplifies a long
process of demographic, political, economic and religious doctrinal change in the region. Syria,
more than any other Mid Eastern country, was the favoured interlocutor, and beneficiary of
economic aid from the USSR, not centuries ago but 20 years ago. Syria's al-Assad 'dynasty' or
father-and-son power elite is probably comparable to the father-and-son 60-year dynasty of two-
only Chahs in Iran. Like the Iranian Pehlavi 'dynasty', the Syrian one may also be short-lived and
count only two members. Today's Syria is the hearth of many important developments in shi'a
doctrine and philosophy. As in the past, this continues with no relation to, or impact from any but
the most extreme geopolitical and military changes. Ignoring this religious doctrinal factor modern
geostrategists underline the former linkage of Syria with the USSR. Until the collapse of the USSR,
its choice of Syria for brokering and interfacing in the Middle East was of distinct and large
economic benefit to Syria and Lebanon. For Syria, the Soviet ally eased political pressure from the
Kurds and their nominally communist PKK fighters against the al-Assad regime, provided arms and
aid, and utilised Syrian go-betweens for dialogue with the sunni rulerships of the region, as well
with the French, the Americans and the British.

All this has been subjected to massive geopolitical change since the collapse of the USSR in 1989
and the first Gulf War in 1991. Rather than the al-Assad regime seeking Hamas the reverse was the
case. Hamas forced itself on Syria, pressuring it to take a more adventurous and belligerant line
with sunni regimes and powers in the region, sometimes including sunni Palestinians. Reaction was
not slow to come. The sunni regimes of the Petromonarchies, and especially Saudi Arabia, allied in
this case to France and with increasing US support, soon rallied to the effort of undermining and
sapping Syria's neo-Ottoman suzerein role in Lebanon. This 'suzereinty', running from 1986-2004,
was above all of economic benefit to Syria, despite the apparent or claimed political trappings.
Holding on to these clear economic benefits, including employment for tens of thousands of Syrians
in Lebanon, was of sure and certain interest to the al-Assad regime. Since 2004, therefore, and
intensified by repeated threats of regime change from the mouths of G W Bush and Condoleeza
Rice, Syria can be more belligerant than at any time for decades, whenever needed. Far from being
the wounded tiger that US, Israeli, French and other strategists might imagine, however, simple
demographics and Arab popular political sentiment against Israel and the 'historic' or traditional
Great Powers makes Syria's influence and power larger than for many years. Syria's natural alliance
with Iran, intensified and formalized since the 2000-2004 period, only serves to reinforce Syria's
political if not economic and military power.
What the mass media and Washington think tanks call 'the Crescent of Evil', or Syria-Iran alliance
in the wider Middle East, was initially only defensive. Since at latest 2004 it has become a twin
strategy, both defensive and offensive, the first concrete expression of the latter being the July 2006
Lebanon war, which in political terms was a disaster for Israel. Syria and Iran are now heavily
implicated in weapons supply to Arab fighters in the Palestine-Israel conflict. By supporting both
sunni and shi'a groups and movements, Syria and Iran are able to play 'the Arab street' against the
de facto Israel-Petromonarchies and Egypt axis, created by constant pressure and a lot of tax
dollars, pounds and euros by the US, Britain and France with the claimed and imagined goal of
creating regional stability. The Palestine-Israel conflict is part and parcel of the much wider Middle
East and central Asian conflict, which draws on and reinforces local and regional sunni-shi'a
rivalries. Under certain conditions this not only could, but almost certainly would mutate into the
Next Oil War . Returning us to the always present risks of region-wide conflict, the Bush
administration theatrical and loud accusations if Iran and Syria's Crescent of Evil is essentially an
attack on shi'a influenced political Islam, and a defence of what Bush strategists, and others imagine
is regional sunni hegemony - knitting this into an alliance contre nature or fragile and undeclared
defense pact with Israel.

(end of chapter)


What former and present, as well as the potential, renascent or would-be imperial powers in play
always choose to ignore, before military invasion and occupation, is the cost and logistics of
occupying the terrain. This is surely a traditional problem: Mesopotamian colonists of Egypt, many
centuries before Christ, were confronted with sheer cost and logistics problems for maintaining
troop presence extending as far south as today's Sudan. The economic wherewithal, today called the
'Peace Dividend' for this imperial war effort resided mainly in slave-based gold mining in today's
border region of Egypt and Sudan. This was less bountiful than hoped, that is it underperformed,
and local peacekeeping was costly. When spending rises for any reason, notably increasing local
resistance and declining security, this can tip the balance and trigger the start of disengagement.

This can become a 'wall of spending'. It overwhelms pre-invasion hopes for a rich Peace Dividend,
and the exit strategy begins. A wall of spending is the most effective and real cause of loss-of-faith
in the Iraq war and will soon drive the US and UK out of Iraq: their continued presence in Iraq can
be counted in months rather than years. The Times Square ticker display panels count the hourly
cost, in tens of millions of dollars, of this failed military colonial adventure or geopolitical
experiment. Various estimates of the war's real cost to US taxpayers, for example by Joseph Stigler,
suggest total costs may be running at 300 or 400 Billion US dollars per year, perhaps more. The
incoming Obama administration has given figures of about 160 Bn USD for 2009 costs only
covering formal US military presence, excluding 'privatized war spending' on security and other
needs. US oil imports of about 13.5 Mbd (million barrels per day) cost the US government,
consumers and taxpayers about 0.6 billion dollars-a-day in late 2007 and again in late 2008, or a
yearly rate of around 220 Bn USD. To be sure, the day traded price, and yearly implied total cost
were lower in early 2009, with lower oil prices. Also surely, rising production cost-per-barrel in the
Middle East, as elsewhere, ensures that even at 'friendship prices' the USA would not greatly cut its
oil import bill through pillaging Iraqi oil and only paying its production and transport costs, about
25 USD/barrel for the two. At present and due to the failed oil war, oil imports + Iraq war spending
cost US taxpayers, consumers and companies as much as 500 Bn USD-per-year.

The cost of oil has to be set against Iraq war costs. We can be certain that oil-and-war economics
came into the geopolitical and strategic mulling that preceded the 2003 invasion of Iraq. We can
also be reasonably sure that G W Bush’s neoconservative soothsayers and armchair, Fox News
Middle East experts counted on a rapid and complete victory, before the Iraq war. In military terms
this would have been a repeat of the 1991 Gulf or Kuwait war, this time extended as far as Bagdad.
With rapid pacification, improvement of Iraq’s oil export performance would have been sure and
certain, or at least a reasonable expectation. US oil corporations would have fully participated in the
oil booty. Reconstruction and economic recovery spending, aided perhaps by the Gulf
Petromonarchies, would have generated further revenues for US corporations and their employees.
Net costs to the US taxpayer would have been lower and quickly repaid. This very big bet was lost,
for the many reasons we examine in this book. Along with the bet, all political credibility was lost
for the US junior partner in this regime change attempt, the UK New Labour government of Tony
Blair. Its Gordon Brown follow-on government has no choice, by the force of real war costs, but to
cut UK troop numbers in Iraq and prepare the exit strategy.

One fatal error in the pre-war oil accounting of the Peace Dividend concerned Iraq's oil reserves.
These set its production 'performance' like that of any producer. What counts is there are huge
differences in total oil extracted from the same given reserve or OOIP (original oil in place),
depending on the maximum daily rate or peak rate of extraction that is achieved. For many years
under Saddam Hussein, Iraq's oil production strategy was 'USSR model', rather than 'US model'. In
other words more years of production at a lower maximum daily extraction rate were targeted,
rather than the opposite. The first model requires higher upfront investment, the second needs more
remedial spending after peak. In the 1980s and 1990s Iraq's Soviet oil model changed to the US
model of targeting the highest possible daily extraction per field or per well with the least possible
initial investment. This strategy however also extracts less of the total reserves in place during a
shorter total lifetime of operations. Switching to US model, higher-cost secondary recovery
techniques are needed sooner if maintained total production across all exploited fields is required.

This kind of spending was not engaged by Saddam's Iraq. Spending was rather directed to palace
building and kickbacks to foreign dignitaries feeding off Oil-for-Food. Today’s Iraq, despite
continuing attempts to talk up its oil reserves that have been produced, explored and sought after
from the 1920s, more than 80 years ago, is now a relatively small oil exporter and will remain a
small exporter, about equal to Angola. The important difference is this: Angola’s exports will likely
continue at around 2 Million barrels/day, perhaps increasing a little before Angola reaches its
production peak from what is a small and high-cost reserve base.

Iraq, conversely, has much larger oil reserves than Angola, but unlike Angola these reserves are
widely dispersed. Also, the 'US model' or strategy for production was employed for at least 20
years, and production infrastructures suffered serious war damage and postwar pillage. This makes
Iraq something of a basket case in OAPEC and OPEC. Unlike Angola, Iraq is now referred to by
OPEC as a special case. Its oil production and net exports are pushed to the bottom of OPEC
Secretariat communiqués with the comment "OPEC production excluding Iraq". What is currently
produced, and currently exported is for the least conjectural. Estimates for the period from late 2006
to mid year 2008 vary from about 1.4 to 1.9 Mbd net exports. Relatively large volumes of Iraqi
crude and refined products 'disappear', for example north by tanker truck into Turkey and east by
double-hulled dhows to Dubai, Iran, Pakistan and India. As and when required, highly optimistic oil
export figures can be leaked and channelled in the media, claiming Iraq has almost overnight
regained its former export performance, but in reality Iraq will have major difficulty restoring and
then sustaining its export rate even of the late 1990s, about 2.2 Mbd. Rolling back the oil depletion
clock to the heydey of Iraqi oil exports - in the 1970s at close to 4 Mbd - is totally impossible. Cost
is the simplest key for understanding this. Restoring Iraq's mostly shattered and pillaged economic
infrastructures - and partly shattered oil production, refining and export installations - could cost 30,
40 or 50 Bn US dollars. Nothing like this has been spent in the period from 'liberation' in 2003 to
date. Heavy and sustained infrastructure spending is not possible during continued civil strife and
under coditions of high risk for investors, who ask: Who will take over in Iraq after the departure of
US troops? Will Iraq still exist? What happens when Kurdistan secedes ? At present, there is little
or no chance that a reconstruction feat can occur. Perhaps ironically, one condition would be the
retreat of US and UK troops from Iraq - of course raising the risk of runaway sunnite-shi'a civil war.
This simple fact is well known to all observers, including US and British strategists.

The economic pressure for military disengagement from Iraq is clear. No oil and gas booty means
rapid falling interest in expensive military occupation. This is not a novel or strange situation. It
happened many times, to differing degrees, in the long period of oil-based rivalry and cooperation
between the triple victors of World War 1, the USA, France and Britain. This rivalry and
cooperation extended across the wider Middle East, through 1917-1939. At the time, world oil
export supply and import demand were below one-tenth of today's approximate 51 Mbd. Ample
supplies were available from outside the Arab Middle East, from Iran and Mexico for example.

What is important today is that Iraq's oil booty is hidden or unavailable, or difficult and long to
build up to the desired - that is maxiumum possible - volumes. Iraq's oil is not hidden to the same
degree as the 12th saint Imam of the chi’ites, the Mahdi, that is for “up to 360 000 times 360 000
years”, the waiting period for the Mahdi's return as set by some chi’ite gnostics in their mystic
cogitations, but it will surely be long. In the case of Iraq's oil industry, very large and urgent
remedial spending is first necessary to stop the decline of production, and then perhaps build it up
to levels close to those of the late 1990s. Rational estimates of the time needed for this are at least 5
to 8 years following the departure of the US and Britain from Iraq, and the end of sunni-shi'a
conflict, together with all other political sectarian conflict. Almost any figure can be put on what
this waiting period may total, counting from 2009. Up to and beyond 2015 may be a reasonable
estimate of the actual time needed for Iraq to recover reliable net export volumes of oil better than
about 2.2 Mbd. This may be a short-lived peak export capacity, for various reasons, including oil
industry impacts of Peak Oil. Long before 2015, Peak Oil will be an established and unambiguous
reality: oil industry spending may first exponentially increase. Then however it may also collapse,
as the global economy nosedives back into recession, driven by oil prices well above 150 USD-per-
barrel, and world oil demand plummets. Oil sector spending in Iraq would be a 'collateral damage'
victim of this sudden economic driven collapse of investment spending.

We could hope that the most recent imperial players to arrive, China and India, who are already
active in the region through oil need, will learn from this. Unfortunately, no bets can be placed on
this, simply due to their own versions of the Bourbon Achilles heel. Especially China, now the
world's biggest single emitter of greenhouse gases, with an exponentially growing car industry, is
pinning its hopes to massive deficit spending to restore economic growth - and therefore its oil
import needs. One possible result might be that the US and European players, driven out by the
sheer cost of occupying the region, ‘subcontract’ the task of regional pacification to the cheap
labour armies of India and China. This may not be through evident design and open negotiation, but
through UN-brokered peakekeeping operations. These hypothetical operations would bring in the
two new economic superpowers with massive low-cost armies, effectively 'subcontracting' Iraq
peacekeeping to China and India in return for oil booty. Alternatively, these two superpowers could
decide by themselves to take on the task, in secret negotiation with the US and Britain, guaranteeing
certain oil export volumes, or quotas for certain periods of time, produced by oil corporations based
in China and India as well as USA or Britain.

This would be "oil for peace" in the special sense of ensuring non-belligerence from the departing
imperial powers, to direct benefit of China and India. Nothing prevents the new arrivals from
playing one or other of the many other combinations of cards that, as we shall see, exist in huge
numbers. Both India and China have long experience of Asian politics, from the south and east
rather than north and west.

Turkey and Russia, we can note, may find they can live with Chinese and Indian presence in the
new strategic map drawing exercises for the region. Many scenarios are possible, for example
copying the already existing nuclear sanctuarization of Saudi Arabia by Pakistan through giving
Saudi ruling elites access 'in last resort' to atomic weapons in return for cheap oil. This may or may
not be a present day reality, but India may or could do the same for a new Syrian Kurdistan, or a
restored and greater Kurdistan. This far-out possibility might be joined by another: India would be
obliged to ensure that neither Syria nor Turkey took action to prevent orderly oil sector activity by
Indian interests in Kurdistan. Carefully dosed political and military support to Syria, firstly giving
political protection to Syria’s Bachr al Assad regime might be one strategic possibility, leaving
trickier decisions to be made regarding Turkey. This player might be bought off through joint
Indian-Turkish oil and gas sector development and operations in Turkish Kurdistan.

Even less likely, but possible in Armenian collective imagination, is a Turkish-Kurdish-Armenian

condominium under sunni suzerein-type rule. This entity has grave credibility problems, but above
all would be 'elastic' and stretchable far to the north and east - bringing attractive new gas and oil
exploration, production and pipeline route potentials. Perhaps last in demographic weight, but
heavy in their fervour, Baluch nationalists claim that in tandem with Kurdish irredentists, and
possibly with Armenian objective allies, a re-created and re-located 'Super Kalat', or Baluch
homeland is a legitimate and feasible prospect. This could be allied to Turkey, or opposed to Turkey.
These and other geopolitical dreams are, we should note, almost always highly flexible and easy to
call fantasist. However, the MECA region teaches us, time after time, that today's enemy is
tomorrow's ally, and the reverse is equally true. The fragile, unrealistic national borders and
frontiers of the region play their part in building these fantasies and dreams - which can also
translate to reality.

This makes it unrealistic to apply Western standards and viewpoints when making an attempt at
analysing why imperial blunder, and imperial adventure are almost synonyms. The irrational is part
and parcel of the process - but economic gains are often pure illusion. Making economic crystal ball
gazing yet more unsure and as we note amny times in this book, the wider MECA region is up for
grabs in a new and dangerous sense, driven faster as the oil depletion clock ticks down, energy
prices tick up, and the failed US-UK regime change 'experiment' in Iraq sends further shockwaves
of instability across the region. Even worse, the oil depletion countdown is now joined by the
certainty of gas shortages world wide, probably before 2011. This second hydrocarbon threat to the
growth economy makes Iran's large but overestimated gas reserves of heightened economic interest,
and therefore strategic interest - but this is in theory, only.

Sure shortage of oil and gas supplies, but unknown economic values for these resources, and
unknown timeframes for global economic recovery can only throw up new and variable geometry
scenarios for economic, military and geopolitical strategists. However, what was called the oil
strategic imperative, is now joined by the gas imperative. The united anti-Iran front of the
Europeans is likely to be an early victim. Finding new and large non-Russian gas supplies and
bringing them to EU markets as soon as possible is a rising imperative, given concrete expression
by the EU-backed, and US-backed Nabucco gasline project. Destroying Iran is not the way to
achieve this mega project, again underlining the schizophrenia of decision making where on one
hand there is the need to present Iran as a motal threat to Israel, and until January 20, 2009, to
please hardliners in the Bush regime, and on the other hand there is a basic need to find new and
large supplies of natural gas for Europe. In addition, the emerging West Asian and Near East gas
imperative brings other imperial players into the arena, Turkey being the key player. This adds more
layers of complexity, more intrigue, and ever slower real world decisions.

We can easily argue that the energy resource picture is now at least as important as geopolitical
impulsions and Great Power strivings for glory. Both the old and new players, imperial and other,
that have vital concerns in the MECA regional Great Game of the 21stC know that oil energy may
retreat in the world energy mix very fast. By very fast retreat we can first suggest 0% growth, that is
stagnation of oil's place in the energy mix, which in any case is certain, after Peak Oil arrives. How
long it takes for world oil demand to attain complete Zero Growth will mainly be a question of
prices, but oil prices will explode, exactly as in 2007-2008, if there is any growth of oil demand.

The demand side part of the equation is therefore equally important. Depending how deep the
economic recession goes, either the present recession or the near-term follow-on recession, and how
much oil demand is cut by recession, oil prices could 'stick' at very high levels. Gas energy may not
at all take the place of oil energy, for one reason because of insufficient supply, and on the other
because gas prices will rise with oil prices. Also, as we are finding out, in the same way that oil
reserves and production possibilities were exaggerated for oil in the Middle East and central Asia,
the same applies to natural gas. Because of this resource constrained real world and despite their
Bourbon amnesia, the existing and would-be Great Powers itching to use military means to ensure
energy supplies may desist. On the basis of 'once bitten, twice shy' the new, traditional and
renascent imperiums identified in this book, each with an obsessive interest in the wider MECA
region, will hesitate and then renounce. Moving on and away from the fossil energy sources, the
major traditional players and the emerging economic superpowers of China and India will apply
different strategies for the epochal energy transition that in any case and nolens volens will come.

Regional instability in the Near East, Middle East and Central Asian region is however so
traditional that some local players will be unaffected by new or former great powers desisting. The
Middle East, and to a lesser extent central Asia, has been a geopolitical fault-line zone for many
centuries, but particularly since the collapse of the Turkish or Ottoman Empire in 1917. This was
formalized by the Constantinople capitulation of October 1918, and reinforced by the Bolchevik
revolution, in 1917-23. This subject, lengthily treated by Halford Mackinder and other geopolitical
historians of the same ilk 'organically' links the Middle East, central Asia, and the east of Europe in
an unstable continuum. Already, oil played a key role in the modern upheavals wracking this region,
and then the world, from as early as 1900. Today, the heightened needs for oil and gas of external
players, which as we note may or might suddenly backtrack and diminish, are joined by the
complex and multi-layer islamic irredentism that runs right across the region. Both these trends are
interlinked and dependent, but any longer-term forecast is obliged to suggest regional instability
will surely fall, not instantly or massively, as oil and gas reserves quite rapidly decay and the world
by force of necessity transits to non-fossil energy.

This ignores what we can call 'Euro tropism' or an obsession with Europe's place on the
checkerboard. Halford Mackinder and likeminded early geopolitical strategists regarded the Arab
world as insignificant as a prime mover for change. To these geostrategists, the 'Arab and Muslim
world', usually extended to Turkey and Persia, would not react to the emerging Soviet Empire of the
1917-23 period, whose thrust southward continued through the 1930s and 1940s. By consequent, a
vast Euro-Russian monster state or hyperpower would emerge. This monster would make short
shrift of the Arab world, which early geostrategists relegated to a 'detail of history'.

Mackinder's school of thought, in its early versions also heavily downplayed oil addiction or 'petro
tropism' of World War 1's triple victors (ignoring Italy), that is the USA, Britain and France. Taking
one key focus of regional instability today, the renascence of Iran's geopolitical power due to Iran's
nuclear programme and to its large remaining gas reserves, and also because of its demographic
size, fast industrialisation and urbanisation, this cause of instability is surely a consequence of
previous. In particular, the 'petro tropism' not only of Britain and USA, but also Soviet Russia
during the long period of about 1925-1955 heavily destabilized Iran. This oil-motivated and oft-
repeated interference in Iran had many and powerful effects through about 30 years. These ranged
from frontier re-drawings, to sudden regime changes, even the invention of the Chah Pehlavi
'dynasty' almost strictly from nothing. The related civil unrest included mass deportations, forced
population movements, forced industrialisation and forced urbanisation. In turn, Iranian popular
suspicion of the west, and fast emergence of 'political shi'ism' were caused or at least favored by
this external interference. Another perhaps more subtle factor was that these trappings of both
imperialism, in the Pehlavi 'dynasty', and modernism in the forced urbanisation and industrial
development of the country led to Iranian belief it was on its way back as a Great Power.

As we know, Soviet Russian experiments, specially under Stalin, in creating 'new ethnic republics'
through massive forced deportations was mirrored by similar experiments inside the narrower
Middle East region, especially from 1917. The numbers of displaced ethnic, religious and national
entities in the region, over centuries and especially since the 1917-23 period is very large. Some of
these ‘fantom nations’ of uprooted, displaced and wandering peoples are well-known, notably the
Kurds, who number about 40 to 45 Million but have no national territory, due to the 'de-recognition'
of Kurdistan at the last 1923 Lausanne conference of the 1917-23 Versailles Treaty series. Very
surely, control of oil reserves entered the decision mix. The Baluch 'proto nation', which can be
estimated at perhaps 8 Million, is traceable to both British and Iranian deportation experiments
targeting 'greater stability'. In the second Iranian case these had a distinct oil flavour. The
Palestinian national conflict with Israel, whose borders remain fluid and controversial, is another
well-known example of regional shadow nations or proto-nations with virtual territories. However
virtual these territories, they very surely exist in the minds of affected and interested parties.

Many others virtual homelands unrelated to present national or ethno-traditional territories exist in
the region, notably those of the Chechens and the Armenians. In general this applies to large
numbers of what are new, as well as traditional ethnic minorities, any of which can act to secure a
recognized national territory. In total this concerns massive numbers of persons throughout the
region. From the east Mediterranean to the Caspian area and the wide region around the Persian or
Arab Gulf, we can estimate these heterogeneous and unstable population groupings at well above
65 Million, including the Kurds and other mentioned 'proto nations'. This is more than the
population of Spain, Italy, UK or France today.

Usually these displaced or relocated minorities are only minorities in their present geographical
territories of domicile. They include both pre-Islamic and pre-Christian ethnic groups. They often
have very long ethno-historical lineages, far longer than most European nations of today. In all
cases these population groupings have been engulfed by other larger groupings, or displaced,
sometimes over many centuries in a ceaseless series of population movements, mass deportations,
and demographic growth.

We can take the case of an apparently insignificant ethno-national group, the Baluch, whose main
population grouping is currently concentrated in eastern Iran and across the Pakistani frontier in the
Pakistani province of Balochistan. The Baluch like the Chechens, Kurds, Palestinians and
Armenians were subjected to mass deportation. Figures on total numbers deported vary, even
wildly, but the total numbers forced to migrate were likely well above 1 Million. Today, this Baluch
minority, swollen by 50 to 70 years of fast demographic growth and numbering about 7.5 to 8
Million, only in Pakistan, could like many others trigger a shockwave of communal religious,
sectarian or national conflict and instability if it chose, for one reason or another, that now is the
moment to act. In the Baluch case mass deportation was due to, and decided by the Iranian chahs of
the 20th century (1925-1979), for a mix of mostly whimsical and vindictive motives, occasionally
with an oil handle. Pehlavi decisions to deport the Baluch were sometimes urged by British
advisers, and sometimes home-grown. The process of Baluch deportation or forced movement
began with British imperial probings in the region, from the 1840s. In the 20thC and over 50 years,
much as the Stalinist mass deportation of Chechens, the two Chahs vented their ire on the Baluch,
and several hundreds of thousands were deported from Iran’s western border with Iraq, to the
frontier lands of Iran's Far East. With the tracing of the Pakistani frontier in 1948, large numbers of
Baluch became trapped in the new Pakistan to which they have no affiliation or identity. Today,
Pakistan has a serious and permanent 'Baluch problem'.

Within the current and unstable national frontiers of the region, other and huge forced population
movements have occurred since 1917-23, for example inside the borders of today’s Syria, Lebanon,
Israel, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and the other Central Asian republics, in
Pakistan and in Turkey. These movements have sometimes been reinforced, sometimes weakened
by ‘normal’ and large-scale economic migration, including economic migrants flooding into Israel
from the Russian economic debacle of the early 1990s. Fast demographic growth has complicated
this process in the wider MECA region, one of the world's last bastions of strong population growth
but weakening rapidly in Iran and the Near East. This demographic pump has on one hand
increased deportee community numbers and increased the host population size, while on the other it
intensifies the struggle for limited resurces of space, water, energy and food. The net result is rising
conflict between indigenous and incoming populations, between early arrivals and later comers. In
the case of Palestine this is very clear: the vast slum shanty town called Gaza was designed and
planned to temporarily house about 60 000 refugee Palestinians whose lands were taken by Jews in
1948. Since then Palestinians have also been displaced by Israel's latter day mass economic migrant
inflows. This process is sometimes rationalized or defended by right and far-right Israeli politicians
as a normal process of nationbuilding, but the vast bidonville of Gaza City now contains, in every
sense of the word, around 1.5 to 2 Million angry Palestinians who also want to build a nation.

As we shall see later on, the very existence of, and rationale for Israel as a Jewish homeland is
threatened and undermined by a number of factors and trends. One of these is simple demographics
weighing on available economic resources, but another is the much more ramifying collective angst
of the former christian, western European and American societies. This collective angst, since
September 2001, now has the rallying slogan of 'war on terror' in response to real and imaginary
Islamic threats to Europe, the USA, and the world. We can note here that the new official rationale
for the existence of NATO is no longer to fight Soviet expansion, which ended in 1989, but to fight
Islamic terror - especially in Russia's backyard and failed zone of lebensraum, Afghanistan.

Israel is always presented as a frontline state, the western bulwark in the Near East, defending
liberty, democracy and private enterprise but under attack from Arab and Muslim tyranny and
antisemitism. Yet the home of antisemitism in its most virulent Nazi form was Europe. Pogroms and
deportations of Jews are a fact of European history stretching back at least 750 years. The post-1945
public guilt of the Europeans, and Americans for the fate of the Jews under Hitler in no way
resolves the so-called 'Jewish problem'. Worse still, by a bizarre cocktail of national and collective
amnesia featuring public guilt for the Nazi attempt at genocide against the Jews, but public inertia
on the 'Palestinian question', blind support to Israel can only be perceived for what it is - blind - by
Arab and Muslim communities. Worse still, this inertia is also seen as a handy excuse for
maintaining a 'gendarme of the region' in place, perhaps guarding oil export routes and port
facilities, perhaps protecting the Gulf Petromonarchies from being swallowed by Iran, perhaps only
occupying the region. As we note in discussing the failed American Twin Pillars doctrine, Israel
certainly has no significance for the first of these rationales. As we know today from a torrent of
Sunday supplements and Internet sites, any attempt by Israel to regime change Iran will need atomic
Of course we return to oil obsession but as we note many times in this book the depletion clock is
ticking. In much less than 20 years, by about 2025, the physical and geological bases of this petro-
tropism will be so diminished by oil and gas depletion - and hopefully by energy transition - that the
present 'intrinsic' geopolitical importance of the wider MECA region will disappear. This will return
it to the pre-20thC unimportance it traditionally held for European players for around 600 years,
after the 'crusader peak' of 1095-1299, right through 1900, until oil radically changed this from
1917. By the very latest 2025-2035, the geopolitical clock will leap backwards. Seven centuries of
geopolitical change will occur in the coming 15 - 25 years from today.

This does little or nothing to confer stability in the present. It may even trigger 'one last try' by one
or more oil and gas-hungry external powers, as we note many times through this book. Whatever
happens in the future, shockwaves of future change are already swirling around the wider MECA
region. Now set into heightened instability, and highly vulnerable to any spark able to set The Next
Oil War alight, we can only be sure of uncertainty in the coming 10 years, the danger peak period
coinciding with the oil and gas peaks.

(end of chapter)


The context of the 10th to 13th centuries seems light years from today's MECA region, and totally
unlike the wider world today. This however hides several unchanged realities. The Mongol invaders
were atheist or animist peoples. In theory, they might have completely reshaped the large regions
they conquered. Yet religion held fast. Atheist Mongols were converted to Islam in the west, and to
Buddhism (among other faiths) in the east, in a relatively short period. Down the ages, as in the past
religion has remained, or has been restored as a powerful sorting agent. Today, it intermingles with
what we can call western economic and political sorting and structuring of communities by non-
religious nationalism built on firepower, by activity, wealth and random chance, called luck.

Traditionally, in the 10th to 13th centuries in the crusader period and under the Mongols, and later
under their successors the Turkish Ottoman powers and regimes, population sorting was through
what we can call cosmopolitanism. The result can seem to be a strange mix of religious, ethnic and
economic-based structuring of cities and urban regions, sorted into ethnic-based but economically
diverse quarters. These remain in the always changing patchwork of defined ideological or religious
doctrinal frameworks. This is a population sorting model antagonistic to building nations on the
19thC European mold, and is antipathetic to the present globalized economy based on almost
identity-free 'economic atoms', vibrating like Brownian movement as they pursue their one-only
goal of the plastic-and-pesticide consumer society.

The Mongol invasions were an extreme reversal of apparent logic: they effectively led to increased
cosmopolitanism, to widespread social and cultural intermingling, and to greater stability – after the
initial onslaughts. Identities remained unchanged while the administrative or power structures
changed. The Mongol invasions were also an economic success for this basic reason: non
interference. Another apparent illogical result of long-term Mongol hegemony across the region
was a form of proto-nationalism, of near-national entities gelled into and existing as city states.
Many historians explain this as flowing from Mongol agnosticism or atheism, enabling them to
easily treat all subject communities on an equal basis, and their strong economic motive in
conquering the rich, mercentalist and artisanal urban economic structures of the western
Mediterranean. By the first 100 or 200 years after the Monghol invasions, by about 1300-1400,
highly intermixed communities separated by non wealth ethnic divisions existed all over the Near
East and eastern Europe. These existed, often with only slight change for another 500 years or
longer, until the 1900-1920 period.

This long ‘Monghol interlude’ in the Middle East and central Asia was most unchanging in the
period up to the start of industrial revolution in Europe. Even then, the nation building fervour that
swept Europe from about 1750 did not export itself easily to the region, in large part due to the
Mongol legacy. In other ways also, notably the types and forms of accepted economic development,
the non-industrial or anti-industrial nature of Mongol cultures and folkways, even long after their
conversion to Islam, acted as a brake on rapid industrialisation of the MECA region.

Gengis Khan was probably born in the Keraits region of Central Asia, around 1176, and well before
the age of 30 had become a Chingiz Khan, or traditional leader (Chengiz being deformed into
'Genghis' or 'Gengis'). By the period of about 1205-1207 Gengis Khan led Monghol fighter groups
in victorious campaigns against Tatar and Kirghiz groups, so unifying what can be called a 'Greater
Mongolia'. By about 1225, Gengis Khan launched his now much bigger troop contingents both to
the east, against the Chinese Kins, and to the west, as far as today’s Albania and former Yugoslavia.
Before 1230, Khan's troops had occupied and conquored Afghanistan and most of today's Iran.
After his death, about 1228, his third son Ogudai led victorious Monghol armies to the east, as far
as today's Korea.

The net impact of this on the wider MECA region, we should note, was at least contradictory. The
Mongol onslaught, as it is often called by historians seeking a sensational term, effectively
cemented and reinforced the ideological power of key local religions - Judaism, Islam, Buddhism,
Hinduism and Taoism - while also creating a ‘second tier’ of near-secular societies and urban
economic entities. This was given concrete form in the highly mixed or cosmopolitan urban
geography of cities and urban regions across the wider MECA region, by about 1500 AD. Previous
to this, the Christian crusades had in several ways slowed or frozen the dynamic of change in the
region. As a direct result it was explosive and total when it finally broke through. Economic
systems of regional cities quickly extablished, or reinforced themselves with a near-uniform
regional model, that is cosmopolitan cheek-by-jowel mixing.

This intermingling carried its own dangers for the future. Rising Arab nationalism from 1900-1920,
coupled with long-term and traditional shi'a-sunni schism, was powerfully aided by the collapse of
the Ottomans – the heirs to Mongol hegemony. This factor helped set a trend for political and
religious sorting into semi-national or proto-national frameworks, essentially on a sectarian basis.
Since 1917 this has reached a peak. Inside this process, dramatically accelerated in the geographic
areas covered by Palestine and Israel since Israel's founding in 1948, both religious and ethnic-
based armed conflict is facilitated by highly intermixed urban geographical population sorting,
reinforced by a history of failed or frustrated nation building. As a net result, urban guerrilla war is
the sure sequel to any military invasion, today, and this is surely intensified by current unstable
frontiers - which also lever up the potential for conflict.

Religion, we can summarise, has longer staying power as a sorting agent in human society and
politics, than the western invention called the 'global consumer economy'. Superposing the second
on the first – itself unstable – guarantees further risks of conflict. In the wider MECA region of
today, all that is required is the oil spark, and gas spark. When or if this is applied from the unstable
mix of internal or external forces, or from both, the last heroic and of course military struggle for
control over the region's remaining oil and gas reserves will start, inevitably with serious urban
warfare, called 'urban guerrilla insurgency'.
At least since Sept. 2001, the rush-to-print newsstand publishing houses, and even the celebrity
people tabloid press have been drawn like flies to dog mess by the bin Laden-Islamic terror lode, for
generating quick-selling material destined for the world's sidewalks and trash bins. Rarely remarked
is that only in highly specific circumstances did anything at all comparable to 'islamic terror' exist
on the historical scene. A classic and rare example, intensively used precisely because it is so rare, is
what we can call the earliest modern Al Qaeda conspiracy theory. This concerns the hashashiyin or
Ismaelian shi'a assassins of the 12th and 13thC. This mostly fantasist but highly mediatic conspiracy
theory was developed by 19thC Austrian and French historians and orientalists (I. von Hammer-
Purgstall, 1818; S. de Sacy, 1838). Their theory focused the Ismaelians, who established in, and
were deported to present day Syria from today's Iraq-Iran border region after about 765, and
especially after the death or assassination of Musa al-Kasim, 7th Iman of the shi'a, in 799. The
Ismaelians were by about 950 also engaged in an islamic imperial struggle, between the shi'a
majority Fatimide empire, or califate covering Sicily, Tunisia and parts of Syria and Palestine, and
the Baghdad based sunni Abbaside empire, or califate. This latter was allied with or protected by the
Turkish Mongols, at the time expanding south and westward. Comparisons with the 911 conspiracy
theory are quite easy to build.

As we discuss in a little more detail elsewhere, there is no importance as to whether Musa al-Kasim
was assassinated or not by ismaelian shi'a, the followers of al-Kasim's older brother Ismael. To the
sunni, neither 6th imam Jafar al-Sadiq nor his two sons Ismael and Musa were respected sources of
doctrinal knowledge. Both can be considered as 'agnostic tendency' by hardline sunni. Certainly by
950-1000, sunnite religious philosophers had winnowed down the field of ideologically acceptable
imams, cutting them down to three. With the arrival of the European crusaders, from 1095, the
Ismaelian followers of the 7th imam in their own imamology or lineage system engaged in a two-
front struggle. This was against sunnite Arabs, and against European christians, using assassination
to further their politico-religious quest. Later on, Mongol military or political leaders were also
attacked, after the retreat of European christians.

The shi'a ismaelians in the crusader period, and after it, driven by both political and religious
pressures engaged in selective assassination attack on both crusader and sunni Abbaside leaders,
and Mongol military commanders, in wide areas of the Middle East. Their action was particularly
powerful and successful under the leadership of Hasan al-Sabah in the period of about 1092-1120,
but continued until around 1230. Whether they systematically used hashish, and if this is a cause of
their paranoid tendencies, or their common name the 'hashashiyin', is in fact doubtful. Yet further
reasonable doubt is brought by the fact that 'hashashiyin' was never used at the time, in the 12th or
13thC, for describing the ismaelians. Whether they believed they would be surrounded and
succoured by 72 or any other number of virgins in the Ismaelian paradise beyond the head and tail
of the Dragon, that is the dark side of the Moon, after their kamikaze assassination feats, is yet more

Their military campaign was highly successful. Several major setpiece battles in the crusader series
opposing the legendary (and also real) military commanders Richard the Lionheart and Saladin,
were brusquely aborted because of hashashiyin assassination of leading political, religious or
military commanders. Through the ages, these historical facts have been adorned to the extent that
today's media often call 12thC Ismaelians kamikaze fighters - like Japanese aviators of World War
2, Palestinian fighters, Afghani rebels, Pakistani insurgents, Iraqi sectarian fighters, and Sri Lankan
Tamoul combattants, or any other supposed 'descendants of the hashashiyin'. The basically
sensationalist musings of the 19thC historians Hammer-Purgstall and de Sacy are now founding
myths for the 'Al Qaeda conspiracy industry', seeking to designate Islam as a terror doctrine. One
major and immediate problem for this industry is sectarian allegiance: shi'a are usually branded
most dangerous and most kamikaze islamic terrorists, while Al Qaeda is an almost wholly sunnite,
if fundamentalist sunni oganisation. Just as possible, we have to add, Al Qaeda could be a plaything
and invention of the CIA, MI6, DGSE, Mossad, the Pakistani ISI and other secret services, since the
beginning, whose operating usefulness or raison d'etre is now winding down rather fast. while it
develops more than sufficient internal reasons and powers for existing.

As we know, the sunni leader Salah al-Din al-Yusuf, or Saladin, had no compunction ordering the
death of the great shi'a (but not ismaelian) philosopher Sohrahwahdi in 1198. This proves if needed
that sunni political and military leaders clearly saw the shi'a and their philosophy or theology, or at
least their political organization as a threat - exactly as the crusaders saw all Muslims as
representing a certain danger, towards the end of the crusades. In other words, as the fighting
intensified and dragged out across the decades then centuries, battle lines were drawn tighter and
tighter on religious or ideological and ethnic lines,. This of course covered more and more
population groups.

Since the 1991 oil crusade to liberate Kuwait, specially since 2001 and the current spillover of
regional warfare and fighting from Afghanistan to Pakistan, this is as true today as in the 11th,
12th and 13th centuries.

What is called the 'post 911 world' is heavily influenced by the looming certitude of oil and gas
shortage. Just as surely, no mention of the oil imperative ever surfaces in NATO communiqués. All
the major oil and gas consumer and importer nations have a vital interest in the wider MECA
region, for simple geological reasons. In reality however there is no imperative to act using the
classic policies of fomenting divide-and-rule conflicts, setting up military alliances, or by simple
military invasion. This is underlined by by the absence of supply side solutions able to support
present oil and gas intensities, or average per capita consumption rates of oil and gas in the OECD
countries, plus demand growth in the emerging industrial economies, at prevailing trend rates.

Of course we are talking about a crisis of civilization and a recipe for enduring economic crisis - not
Enduring Freedom. This said, however, the sequels or social facts of the growth economy in the
'mature urban industrial consumer societies' include large Muslim communities drawn to the high
energy OECD countries by the economic growth that oil and gas made possible. Almost surely, the
end of the growth economy will be through crisis and come fast. Few leaderships will care to
announce the inevitable until after it happens. One near-term consequence of this could easily be
victimisation of the 'last entry', newest and most visible economic immigrants - the Muslim, Arab,
African and Asian migrants to the declining urban industrial, consumer economies. As in the 1930s
long economic crisis, the focus of these essentially social conflicts would be in Europe.

Another way to put this is simple: European countries are for many reasons likely to suffer long
recession from about 2010 or 2011 almost whatever happens with the recession that started in
2007-2008. Due to politically correct refusal to imagine recession as anything but temporary, and in
absence of any forwards planning for this, the most affected European countries will be subjected to
the de facto sorting principle of 'last in - first out'. The warning is clear. Not acting to head off this
future crisis, in the few years that are left before there is structural slow growth of the economy, that
is adjustment to higher energy prices, resource shortage, intensifying economic damage from
climate change, continued industrial competition from China and other factors, is culpable
negligence by current political leaderships in the former richworld countries. Even if there is no in
theatre oil war in the Middle East, the same cause of oil and gas decline and resulting economic
damage could or might turn the possible 'away match' of another Mid East oil war into a 'home
match' civil war inside richworld countries, starting in Europe.

The threat of civil conflict right up the range to outright civil war is of course downplayed, ignored
or denied as even being possible by mainstream political parties in the most affected, and exposed
nation states of Europe. Conversely, the almost daily evidence of existing and growing sunni-shi'a,
sectarian and political or national conflict inside the wider MECA region, and its effects on
geopolitical stability is daily news feed and Sunday news roundup almost every week, in the world
media. Weekly or daily carbombing atrocities in Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan are given a few
seconds TV time on evening news shows. Great Power jockeying over what happens after the US
removes its troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and who pays, is gradually moving into daily mass
viewer news programs.

The risks we identify and describe in this book show there is open-ended possibilty for another oil
war in the wider MECA region. We can add that if this regional conflict started, its worldwide
economic effects could be immense. The potential hearths are numerous, including the smoldering
Iraq civil war, the Afghan war, its Pakistan spillover, long-standing Israel-Iran political rivalry for
regional hegemony, Kurdish and Baluch irredentism, Turkish irredentism, Russian oil and gas
interest - and many others. Under the worst scenarios, one or more region-wide civil wars would
lead to huge and deliberate - not 'collateral' - damage to oil and gas installations and production
capacities, sharply limiting export supply. As in all previous or traditional civil wars, worldwide, the
resource economic supports of 'the enemy' would in priority be targeted. The impact of this on the
global growth economy, at present the global recession economy would be almost unlimited. We
can for a moment think what a sudden oil price explosion followed by physical rationing would do
for consumer morale and the perspective of economic recovery 'sometime in 2010'. Social stability
in the exposed nation states of Europe, North America and Asia would be a first victim, intensified
by the fragile bases of national cohesion fed by economic mass migration. Underlying the 'Islamic
terror' message, therefore, we have its real foundation - simple economic terror.

(end of chapter)


One thing is sure: along with plenty of analysts advising political leaderships in countries such the
USA, UK and France we can say that one major stalking horse of war in the Middle East is the very
long running 'Kurdish crisis'. To Kurds, however, there is no crisis but centuries of injustice,
culminating in the early 20th C, and repeated in the 1970s and 1980s by Saddam Hussein with
almost open support by the Great Powers. Today, this injustice is fading or waning to the extent that
de facto Kurdistan exists. A reason why the 'Kurdish crisis' is treated - almost never in public - as a
threat to business as usual is that practically all the so-called minority peoples of the wider MECA
region are comparable or similar to the Kurds. They also would like to imitate the recent past of the
Kurds, using oil as a powerful bargaining chip to get recognition from the so-called international
community. Today's small-size de facto Kurdistan is courted by the oil and gas community. Foreign
oil companies jostle with each other to sign contracts with this 'semi-formal entity', or proto-nation
inside Iraq, which has re-emerged as a direct spinoff from the 1991 and 2003 Iraq wars.

All of the forgotten peoples, often minorities in their present countries of residence, have so-called
‘legitimate’ claims to nation status with a homeland territory. This 'legitimacy' is conferred, as for
most if not all modern nations, by ethnological, linguistic, religious and historical-mythical factors,
claims and beliefs. All are entwined, both rational and fantasist. In this, they are exactly similar to
the 19th C European nationalist movements, or Israeli nationalism in the 20th C. In the case of the
Kurds, Palestinians and Jews, the role and weight of religious legitimisation varies. The basic and
real driver is less glamorous: intensification of essentially demographic conflict for relatively fixed
resources of land, water, and other economic resources - oil in the case of the Kurds. Due in part to
completely different resource endowments and sizes of disputed territories, to very large historical
differences, and to the important fact of Kurdistan's short but real existence in the 1917-1923
period, the religious undertow or component in Kurdish nationalism is weak. The political strand,
conversely, is very strong and as elsewhere in the region, political Islam is making inroads.

The religious base for Palestinian nationalist claims is relatively strong, perhaps more so in the past
than present due to factors including large scale economic migration. Political Islam among
Palestinians is claimed by outsiders to be a menacing reality, concretised by the Hamas movement
and its Lebanese counterpart Hezbollah movement, but its basic power is uncertain. Religion was a
founding base of nationbuilding claims leading to creation of the Jewish state, Israel, but since then
it has been diluted by economic and other factors. When we turn to the Baluch, their national claim
is of the type we can call 'historical-mythical' and features ‘return' to, and integration with an
independent and greater, highly enlarged Kurdistan, itself built more on politics than religion. Inside
this, Baluch nationalists could establish a sort of “Super Kalat” The 'Kalat' national concept is the
Baluch name for their clan-based monarchy of the 18th century, casually destroyed by British
colonial expansion in the 1840s and 1850s.

Baluch history is for the least confused. Where exactly the Baluch came from is unknown, but
Baluch speaking peoples were well established in today's Iraq and Iran by the period of 700-1000
AD. Ethnographic and linguistic research goes on to place the Baluch close to the Kurds and
Iranians, and there is no doubt of their conversion to islam well before the Iranians, around
1000-1100. However, exactly like the Kurds, the Baluch got on the "wrong side of History", and
found themselves deported, or force-migrated to what is western Pakistan, today. To be sure,
migration over centuries was also voluntary, for simple economic reasons, another factor we find
operating with the 'lost nations' of the Middle East and central Asia today. In turn this factor
militates against an easy return, en masse, to the previous hearth, today occupied by other peoples.

The Baluchi Kalat monarchical clan federation of the 18th C was dissolved by the British, and their
fate at the hands of the two-only 20th C Chahs of Iran was similar to that of the Chechens under the
Soviet Russians. This in no way limits Baluch dreams, in fact the opposite: the more recent, large
and unjust the migration, the easier it is to claim that return must take place. The capacity of Baluch
politicians to dream aloud of a restored and great homeland is at least as strong as that of the Kurds,
Armenians, Chechens or Palestinians. The new "Super Kalat" would necessarily, by its size, contain
quite large oil and gas reserves, and production capacities. As with the Kurds, the Baluch are well
able to fight for a national homeland, even if this homeland would be located far to the west of their
current main geographical area, the Balochistan province of Pakistan, of which the city of Kalat is
an important centre. As with the Kurds, Israelis, Palestinians, Druzes and others, the exact extent
and precise geographic location of the restored 'homeland', for Baluch and their new 'Super Kalat',
leaves plenty to the imagination, especially for territorial maximalists.

The borders of Greater Kurdistan (SEE MAP) are for the very least unclear, but extend in the
imagination of many Kurd leaders to at least one-half of current Iraq, one-third of Syria and Turkey,
and about one-fifth of Iran. Map drawing by Kurd leaders is often influenced by the location and
size of oil and gas reserves, exactly like the map drawing exercises of US, British and French
administrators following World War 1. In this penchant for thinking and drawing big, the Kurds and
Baluchi, like Israelis, Russians and many others, draw on a political concept of history. By
'political' we mean, and they mean a wide or 'Platonic' definition of this term. Armenian nationalists,
for example, consider their current geographical national entity as completely unrelated to, and
vastly smaller than ‘historical’ or Greater Armenia. In the same way, Israeli ‘hyper nationalists’ in
their Eretz Israel dream, claim a vast sweep of territory to the north and east of current Israel,
stretching to the Caspian Sea, and further. In nearly all cases, the question of hydrocarbon reserves,
even good agricultural land and water resources were either minimal or completely uninmportant to
these mostly mystical or legendary Home Territory claims and concepts. Resources have however
surely crept up the agenda since the early 20th C.

The question of oil resources was basic for the triple victors of World War 1. At the Versailles
Treaty series (1917-1923), many times, papers presented by the American, British and French
'inheritors' of, or 'successors' to the Turkish Ottoman empire sought to find the strictest minimum
heartlands for historical entities with existing claims in the region. This concerned Palestine,
Kurdistan, Syria or Armenia, and multiple religious-ethnic or proto-national groups such as the
Druze, Asian orthodox Christians or Baluch. At the same time, with an eye on potential and likely
oil reserves as known and discovered at the time, new countries under the red, white and blue
national flags of the triple victors were maximised in their geographical extent. British Iraq was a
classic example, easily able to be a subdivided a little through 'hiving off' Kuwait, formerly the 19th
province of British Iraq.

In many cases, to be sure, these were completely contradictory aims and desires. One example is the
British-French dispute and rivalry regarding British Palestine and French Syria, and the French-
dominated Lebanon. British Palestine could draw on both Palestinian and Jewish homeland claims.
The oil link for these territorial claims was very low - since British Iraq was already in the bag, for
Britain. Lebanon counted for little, being non prospective for large oil discoveries, so the French
placed their hopes in large territorial coverage for Greater Syria, but this was only backed by diffuse
claims of shi'a factions in the ruling elites. Once established, the Syria with borders very similar to
those of today was shown to have little in the way of oil and gas producing territory.

In the case of Kurdistan, however, the net result of Great Power tractations was both dramatic and
dramatically unjust. The troublesome entity of Free Kurdistan was simply 'done away with'. The
term 'derecognized' was officially utilised, and the rationale advanced was that no choice was
available because of menace from Turkey, which threatened to re-enter into war with the 'red, white
and blue' alliance of victors, when or if Kurdistan was allowed a continued de judere existence. Just
as important in the decision to 'do away with' Kurdistan, without doubt, the Kurdistan of 1917-1923
held about 60% of all then-known and mapped oil reserves in the region and over 90% of those
known in Britain's future Iraq.

The future Allied suzereinty or mandate territories of the Near and Middle East surely featured
British Iraq. In some early maps this not only englobed 'de-recognized' Kurdistan but parts of what
Daniel Yergin and other authors call 'The Prize', that is parts of the future wahabite nation of Saudi
Arabia. This was finally proclaimed and recognized, at US behest in 1932, after more than a decade
of wrangling and map drawing exercizes. This process of cobbling together both smaller and larger
new countries, or conversely sharply reducing, displacing or 'de-recognizing' historical proto-
nations, or real nations in the case of Kurdistan, in no way went without friction and conflict.

This trend of increased population movements, sometimes mass deportations to give some
credibility to the newly traced nations and their frontiers was mirrored, in Soviet central Asia, by
the imposed and irrational nationbuilding of the all-new Soviet state, or empire, controlled by
faraway Moscow. The interwar period in the Middle East on the one hand, and in Soviet central
Asia on the other, is inevitably a long story of irrational frontier drawing, irredentism, rebellion, and
mass deportation by the Europeans, Americans and Russians. Oil reserves and other economic
resources, to be sure, played their part - certainly not exclusive - in this rush to create and fix new
national entities and frontiers. In all cases the objective was regional stability, but inside new, tightly
delimited frontiers - convenient to those drawing the maps.

From about 2000 we are witnessing a constant reduction in the 'tightness', or increase in the
porosity of frontiers across the region. The invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and its spillover to
Pakistan is one example. Due to increasingly evident political failure of the Iraq war, occasional
threats and menaces of ‘regime change’ in Syria and Iran, recurring military initiatives by Israel,
continuing outward migration from Palestine, increasing inward migration to Kurdistan, and other
factors, the trend will likely continue. Border porosity is also increased by tnormal workings of the
global economy, but in today's Middle East and central Asia the process underlines that existing
frontiers are mostly unrealistic. They were mostly and quickly traced for the wider Middle East
region at the Versailles treaty series (1917-1923). Later modifications were caused by the sadistic
quirks of Stalin's humour in the 1930s, by events following World War 2, by the creation of Israel,
and in central Asia sometimes again modified by the collapse of the USSR. The credibility of these
rapidly traced, erratic and eccentric frontiers, often testimony to vast injustices or the cause of them
and today none older than about 85 years, is like the credibility of the world finance and banking
system since 2007-2008. They are unstable and have low credibility. It is no exaggeration at all to
say the historical myth of the Versailles Treaty series, setting 'secure and rational' frontiers
throughout the Middle East, is no more fantasist than Baluchi dreamsings of a new and impossible
federated Super Kalat and Greater Kurdistan, sharing vast oil booty with their 'Kurd brothers'.

In this specific case, many Kurds see no historical, ethnic or cultural association of their people with
the Baluch. This also applies to Eretz Israel, still an official dream for Israel's far right parties. This
dream territory as explained elsewhere, could cover perhaps 1 Million square kilometres, sweeping
in millions of non-Jews needing housing and jobs, not a dream nation territory. Yet equally fantasist
territorial entites have become countries, in part due to oil. The key example is Saudi Arabia, which
exists in splendid contradiction to the supposed rules and traditions of nationbuilding, such as these
rules exist.

To some Kurd , Baluch, Palestinian, Armenian and other leaders, very simply, if Saudi Arabia and
Israel have any form or type of 'overwhelming legitimacy' then their own dream nation should exist.
A new and very large Kurd-Baluch federation, and a huge new Palestine can and should exist, if
Israel and Saudi Arabia can exist. Taking population numbers or demographic weight, a Kurd-
Baluch federation could possibly muster around 50 Million population, compared to about 27
Million for Saudi Arabia and about 7 million for Israel including 2 million minority Arab citizens.
When we turn to the geographical, and then geopolitical implications of a new and Greater
Kurdistan, (MAP), the intrinsic or structural instability of the whole wider MECA region is
revealed, yet again. In today's conditions, with today's unrealistic frontiers, the creation of Greater
Kurdistan, and perhaps even de judere Kurdistan in its present territory would ignite explosive
conflict across the region. Equally surely, Greater Kurdistan could result from explosive conflict
spiraling across the wider region, this conflict being the essence of what we term The Next Oil War.

Many scenarios can be built regarding likely or possible rejigging and reworking of national
frontiers in the wider MECA region, in the period from the present to about 2025. What is certain is
that de facto change including population movements always precedes de judere change as
formalized by international conference-based map drawing experiments, imposed or backed by
powerful external players. Conflict always plays its part as an agent of change. This reality is very
clear on the ground, for example in the Palestine-Israel conflict and in Iraq, with the emergence by
2006 of a de facto Kurdistan and very large population movements. One clear risk is of larger,
rather than smaller national boundary changes being the near-term outlook, either following or
perhaps culminating in what we call The Next Oil War.

If the war comes first, this would send a shockwave of change through the region, entraining
massive change of its current frontiers, many of them now almost completely unrelated to reality.
Under some scenarios, Lebanon could disappear. Jordan's frontiers would again be modified as they
have been several times since the 1920s, Israel would be firmly set and held within its wall-
delimited territories, or in fantasy might link with Palestine in a condominium perhaps swallowing
Lebanon. Kurdistan could expand twestward taking present Syrian territory, and perhaps
incorporate several hundred thousand Baluch migrants. Syria would expand towards the south, into
present Lebanon, taking its revenge on reversals suffered since 2004. To the east, the 'shi-ite
Anschluss' could take place, expanding Iran to the west surely with large conflict, especially with
Saudi Arabia and inevitably with the USA and Europe. Similar scenarios of rapid and large border
changes could become real in central Asia. Turkey would be very far from inert and idle. Armenian
and Azerbaijani border conflict would restart - the list is very long.

Such scenario building is almost a cottage industry. The basic trigger factor is however often not
spelt out: heightened tension due to oil and gas hunger multiplying hand-me-down regional
tensions which all contain traces of Bourbon imperial amnesia. In other words a refusal to learn
from either success or failure. There is almost kneejerk conditioned-reflex refusal to accept any
change that could compromise 'vital national interests'. Yet when perceived national interests, for
example in 1923 at the Lausanne conference, dictated the Middle Eastern nation of Kurdistan
should disappear overnight, this was perfectly possible. In other words, no change will occur until it
is forced by convergence of very powerful interests - in 1923 concerning oil reserves. In the wider
MECA region of today this always returns the conclusion that when frontier changes do occur, they
will likely be rapid and large scale, and not the reverse.

(end of chapter)


Under any hypothesis, the effective disappearance of Iraq would quickly increase mass migration
within the region. Already by late 2007 at least 1 Million Iraqi refugees were living in Syria, and
another 1.5 Million Iraqi refugees were established solely in the Amman region of Jordan,
generating Jordanian popular hostility to this tidal wave of supposedly political, but mostly simple
economic migrants. Some Jordanian editorial and political voices, from late 2006, compared the
'Iraqi invasion' with events leading to the 1972 Black September massacres, by Jordanians of
Palestinian refugees, both political and economic, whose numbers exceeded the 'tolerance
threshold'. In the first case, what will happen in the new "New Iraq" through 2010 and beyond most
surely includes a potential complete break-up of the former national entity, held together by Saddam
Hussein's troops and secret police, and maintained today by vast US spending and probable near-
term NATO military backing of the fragile coalition government.

The present post-2003 “New Iraq” could lose about two-fifths of its present territory, due to de
judere Kurdistan being declared in the north, beyond about latitude 38°N. It is not certain that
Turkey would immediately move to destroy this national entity in a mass invasion, as we note
elsewhere, but events prove that Turkey's military has scant respect for the northern borders of even
the fictional, pre-2003 Iraq. The passage from de facto, to de judere Kurdistan is proceeding slowly
and opaquely, driven by oil, but any shift to de judere existence, surely aggravated if the size of de
judere Kurdistan is large, would set up a shockwave of change right across the region. For certain,
current unofficial deportation of 'Bagdadi' sunni Iraqis, and Turkmens would become official.
Voluntary flight from the new Kurdistan would also become daily reality, forcing non-Kurd sunni
communities away from the east of present Iraq, towards the west. This is effectively to Baghdad,
and after that, Amman in Jordan, Beirut, Damascus, Cairo and elsewhere in the Near East.
In the east of present Iraq, the often-evoked "shi'a Anschluss" is already, but slowly and unofficially
taking place by 'osmosis' across a not-so-herletic frontier and through political Islam. If we moved
to military thrusts by Tehran this would be the trigger button for regime change war against Iran,
Tehran knowing well that military takeover of the GCC countries would surely bring on this war.
Through constant if relatively slow population movements, however, the anschluss process would
weld together present chi'a communities of Iraq, and their transborder Iranian counterparts. On
balance, given the current and emerging economic and security situations, it is probable Iraq would
lose population relative to its likely population in early 2009, of about 23 - 25 Million, counting
population losses since 2003. Some estimates suggest Iraq could lose 25% of its current population
within 10 years from 2009.

Among the very first of the ‘forgotten nations’ which would leap from Pandora’s box, Kurdistan
would surely figure. As we discuss elsewhere, like a Russian doll going from small size to big,
Kurdistan includes its bigger brother, Greater Kurdistan. From 2005-2006, we already have the de
facto and modest-sized Kurdistan of NE Iraq. With the shi'a SE, this is the only remotely stable part
of ruined Iraq today. Turkey is therefore poised to act, but under most hypotheses it is far from
certain immediate invasion and destruction of de judere Kurdistan would be the automatic response
of the Turkish High Command. We can summarize by saying that Greater Kurdistan is totally
unacceptable to Turkey, but the current Iraqi Kurdistan might be accepted, if or when it becomes –
as is possible or likely – a formal state. Turkey cannot and will not accept anything bigger than that.
It has its own revenge to take on History, meaning its military defeat in 1917 and the humiliating
capitulation forced on Turkey, in 1918. Turkey's revenge has taken many long decades to come to
maturity, suggesting that its strategists can and will remain patient. As they and all analysts reckon,
oil and gas reserves in the region can only increase in value in the coming years. The likelihood of
Peak Oil and Gas coming rather fast, economic recession holding fast, and alternate energy also
coming fast, is not a part of conventional reasoning.

The Great Powers of the day casually proceeded to the oil-driven choice of ‘de-recognizing’
Kurdistan at the last Versailles series meeting, the Lausanne Conference of 1923, but Kurdish
existence is impossible to magic away. For an apparent long while it was possible for the Great
Powers to either manipulate the regional kaleidoscope of traditional and modern national
movements, or when needed invade and occupy the region. These options are now much less easy
to operate: the time worn strategy of either divide-and rule, or full-scale military invasion, are
paying low returns on the ground. The US 'Twin Pillars' doctrine as we note below started with the
concept of installing or backing local friendly regimes, that is indirect colonial rule, but has
collapsed under its repeated failures and incoherence. This reinforces one simple conclusion - the
region is ripe, or overripe for change equal to that of the 1917-1923 period. The net results can be
powerful and unexpected, due to a lethal cocktail that includes demographic expansion, population
movements, depleting oil and gas reserves, arms flows to the region, political islam, and new or
reawakened imperial players moving into or back to the region. Inside the region, the legacy of
artificial frontiers and real but ‘forgotten’ nations can provide the explosive charge for runaway
change, necessarily violent.

As we shall see, there are a host of ‘options’. All of them grow out of and from the current context
in which the Kurdish card is one key element. One certain result will be a frenetic new period of
frontier drawing, and related conflict, similart to the long period 1918-49 and very probably sucking
in the two other ‘regional great powers’, other than Iran, that is Turkey and Egypt. Both of these
players can or could nurture maximalist goals. In the case of Turkey this would be restoring the
Ottoman Empire, which is already a clear stated goal of Turkey's influential Grey Wolf organization,
firmly entrenched inside the Turkish military and now allied to powerful factions of the Kurdish
PKK and some nominally Kurdish nationalist groups, particularly youth organisations.
The Grey Wolf organisation or movement is usually described as the youth movement of the
Turkish MHP (National Action Party), itself described as 'ultranationalist'. This version of its
creation continues by claiming it was founded in 1969 by the late Alparslan Türkes, and like the
MHP, which at present is the second- or third-biggest parliamentary party in Turkey, is organised
along para-military lines. Several other versions of Grey Wolf foundation and structuring exist,
tracing back to the first political reaction inside Turkey, to its military defeat in 1917, and
capitulation in October 1918, claimed as being in part due to its alliance with modern 'christian'
Germany. These versions include linkage of the organization to chamanist legends of Siberian
Turco-Monghol peoples, in particular the Buriats. The irredentist nature of the Grey Wolf 'doctrine'
is very clear in these more grandiose versions of its founding. In the 'maximalist versions', Kurds
are designated by the Grey Wolf organization as servant peoples to the renascent Turkish Asian
hyperpower - as indeed the Kurds briefly were during the Armenian genocide of 1915, serving their
sunni Turk but short-term allies, against the christian and Jewish Armenians. Thus, the Grey Wolf
organization continues, Kurds, Baluch, Palestinians, Chechens and other 'wandering or lost peoples'
of the wider MECA region will be fixed in their right place and just territories by decision of
victorious Turkey, surely after The Next Oil War.

In the case of Egypt, whose slumbering political torpor is now perhaps in its last days, the
restoration of the earliest and greatest sunni Caliphates would be the maximalist goal. The ever-
growing democratic power base of the Egyptian Muslim brotherhood, a real and concrete political
islam movement, surely threatens Moubarak's power elites, installed after Anwar el-Sadat's
assassination in 1981. In more rational, or realpolitik terms the easiest strategy for Egypt would
feature an alliance with Turkey, and renewed alliance with Syria. When or if required, 'Egyptian
maximalists', and particularly the Al Azhar guardians of sunni orthodoxy, can supply the ideological
and historical rationales for extending Egyptian claims to the complete Arabian peninsula, and to
the north at least into present day Syria. In other words Egyptian heirs to Saladin's Arab nationalism
would get their own revenge on History.

Similar to the Iran of the Chahs, but more clearly divorced from all traditional and religious or
ethnic bases of justification or authenticity, modern Egypt's political power elite is today rather
surely living on borrowed time. Not necessarily by assssination, as in the case of Anwar el-Sadat's
removal from power before the installation of the Moubarak 'dynasty', in 1981, this discredited and
weak power elite, due to its immobility, threatens explosive change simply because it cannot or will
not respond to the attack lauched by political islam in Egypt, by the Muslim brotherhood. The trend
of democratization linked with both sunni religious and political Islam, can easily change Egypt's
facade of 'modern democratic' nation state. The country's serious, or 'structural' economic crisis, and
its quite rapid industrialisation, rampant urbanisation, massive poverty and heavily degraded
environment are surely aggravated by Egypt's declining oil and gas resources and production
capacities. These factors can surely whet Egyptian appetites for 'petro-grandeur' across the wider
Islamic sphere.

As in many social and economic systems, and also in the physical, astrophysical and nuclear
sciences, system stability very often breaks down after long periods of apparent fixity and apparent
resistance to change. These are sometimes called tipping points or break points. In other words
when change comes, it is rapid and complete or very large-scale. In the historical and political
arena, this type of change is commonplace. It is nothing at all like ‘reformist’ or ‘stage-by-stage’
processes of change that, for example, the Palestine-Israel conflict is supposedly responding to.

If we take the last real world example of 'system wide change' in the wider Middle East and central
Asia region, we go back to the wave of geopolitical change ushered in by the collapse of the
Turkish Ottoman Empire, in the 6 years 1917-1923. When we compare ‘before’ and ‘after’ frontiers,
population groupings, and even the supposed ethnic and religious identity of large tracts of the
region, we find that huge changes occurred in those 6 years. To dramatise, we could say that for
about 300 years previous, under the Ottomans, almost nothing changed. Then, in 6 years,
everything changed.

To be sure, this is a nice way to summarise, but what we call the Ottoman Empire, as discussed
elsewhere, was a complex entity through its 350 to 400 year period of power. The Ottoman
‘empire’, or more precisely suzereinty vastly changed through the centuries, not always slowly. Its
'operating modes' varied both by region, and by date or period. Sometimes this was by direct rule.
At other times and in different parts of the immense region covered by the Ottoman Empire it
operated by indirect rule, exercizing a constant and commanding but remote influence in political,
religious and ethnic, commercial and other domains. Both modes were applied, in some cases
simultaneously. During this long period of direct-and-indirect rule, we can say, Turkey was however
exposed to only one really decisive geopolitical crisis in the modern sense of the term.

This was Turkish-Iranian conflict cuminating in the 1736-47 war. It was built on sunni-chi’ite
rivalry and ethnic conflict, intensified by political-religious, economic and commercial rivalries
affecting the entire Mid East region, and in fact continued through at least 30 years. The war itself
was long and decisive, at least equal to or more important than the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war. In the
1736-47 war shi'ite Iranians traced a sharp eastern border or limit to the sunni Ottoman ‘empire’,
through their victory. Under Nadir Quli Beg (sometimes called the first modern Chah of Iran),
Iranian forces started by conquering parts of Afghanistan, then pushed back Turkish Ottoman-led
forces into what is today's eastern Iraq. The Iranian military campaign, we can note, started in the
late 1720s. This campaign continued and ranged as far as Indian border regions after Beg's
assassination in 1747. Defining the causes and origins of this war or series of military campaigns,
exactly like the 1980-88 war, is difficult because all candidates are possible, from the ethnic and
religious to the political and economic. One important background trigger factor to Nadir Beg's
campaigns, we should note, was emerging pressure from external Great Powers. The 1736-47 war
driving the Ottomans out of eastern Iraq sent a signal to Imperial Russia, which at the time was
already beginning its ‘march towards warm oceans’, that is south. Russian pressure from the north
made Iran more susceptible, and faster reacting to pressure from the Ottoman west. British imperial
incursions and probing in the region was already in evidence at the time, if at a low level.

Again this reinforces an argument made throughout this book: when massive change starts to occur
across the region it will be fast rather than slow, and will surely be accompanied by violent conflict.
The current Mid East and Central Asian geopolitical situation is overdue for change. However, we
cannot exactly predict when it will change. Careful analysis of the pressure points, previous history,
and the trend of current political decision by major players outside the region, and smaller players,
will obviously help our forecasts. We can predict the extent, which will be large. We can predict its
speed, which will be rapid. We can also predict likely first reactions and responses by the different
external players, almost all of them exclusively drawn into the region by hydrocarbon supply
search, making it certain their actions will be affected by oil and gas supply and reserve factors.

The worst-possible scenario, for the world and for the region would be region-wide sunni-shi'a war
rapidly translating to national wars, and spawning a subcontinental civil war. Due to external Great
Power presence in theater, and Israel's possessions of nuclear weapons this could rapidly result in
repeated use of atomic or nuclear weapons. Technology factors increase this risk through ever
smaller, downsized, tactical nuclear weapons. As many Sunday newspaper supplements and dozens
of Internet sites announce, future conflicts could result in a stand-off between nuclear armed Judaic
Israel, and nuclear armed Islamic Iran, by about 2010. To what extent 'the Arab street' wants a
nuclear war solution to current crises is hard to judge, but street politics like nationbuilding dreams
have their own fairground logic - the same that launched the first crusade in 1095.
As we repeatedly note in this work, pan-islamic unity welding together sunni and shi'a leaderships
and communities, is only possible when a common enemy is present. In the case of the biggest,
Israel, this role has been handed down to Israel right from its foundation, a direct consequence of its
foundation and expansion. Alternatively, Iran regime change, as discussed elsewhere in this work
could brutally shift into high gear, with use of tactical nuclear weapons by Israel, itself needing
approval and logistics support from the US, Britain, or France, to 'take out' Iranian nuclear facilities.
For sure, Iran would find ways to take revenge for this, even if mortally wounded. World oil prices
would rapidly soar beyond the 2008 panic price of 150 USD-per-barrel, drive gold prices to new
highs, and for a while would reinforce the world value of the US dollar. As noted elsewhere, this
scenario is becoming less possible despite Israel's 'laager mentality' and drift towards extreme
rightwind politics, but will remain a nightmare possibility.

The next and less apocalyptic scenario is accelerated worsening of existing geopolitical and
economic trends. Firstly, the 'orderly retreat' from Iraq by Britain in 2009 and the US in 2010 would
be revealed as a near-naked cut-and-run, semi isolationist retreat already emerging as a possible
Obama's policy plank, following Obama's theatrical and unsure attempts to rally the NATO faithful
and get troops and cash from the Europeans, for the new 'AfPak adventure', in April 2009. New
isolationism of the US could be sealed by ongoing and massive implosion of the US economy, and
regionally could shift the shi'a-sunni civil war into the higher gears, and maybe overdrive. Britain
has to quit Iraq, due to its drastic economic problems, lower troop strengths, massive shi'a hostility
in its Basra regional base of military operations, and stronger UK-domestic political opposition to
the unwinnable Iraq war. Turkish invasion of Kurdistan, despite the plan bis of the Turkish high
command, sketched above in this book featuring a hypothetical Turk-Kurd condominium, could
become the real world military response of Turkey. This might receive tacit support from the US,
France, Britain and other European players, anxious not to directly oppose modern Turkey's
powerful army in theater, allow 'Muslim powers to sort out Muslim problems', and use Turkey to
keep newcomer India from moving too far in the Kurd oil patch.

This would however be a short-life solution or first geopolitical response to runaway civil war in
the region. It would in no way halt irremediable regional change that we call The Next Oil War. In
particular, Palestinian conflict - internal and internecine, and external against Israel - would surely
continue. Israel might or could re-start the Lebanon war another time, with the hope of widening
and deepening the sunni-shi'a conflict in Lebanon and in Palestine. For sure and certain, the famous
'geopolitical risk premium' on oil prices would again be played by traders, raising oil prices to the
'pain threshold ', that is well above 100 US dollars-per-barrel.

Other scenarios can be traced. The unsure alliance between Israel and the Gulf sunni ruled, but shi'a
demographic majority Petromonarchies led by Saudi Arabia is at best makeshift and fragile. What
might be the longer-term goals of this de facto alliance, except business as usual ? No answers are
available to the question. It is very easy to conclude there is no Plan B for the region, further
reducing the credibility and life expectancy of this union contre nature. The role of Israel as
'protector of sunni power' in the GCC countries is entirely aggressive: Iran has to remain the local
bogeyman for this semi-secret role having any credibility. Within a few years, perhaps by about
2020, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf principalities and kingdoms will be forced to submit to shi'a
majority rule. This can be by peaceful democratic change, or can run the risk of coming through
civil war. Handled correctly, a transition to democratic shi'a party dominated governments in the
Gulf Petromonarchies poses no menace to oil exports from the region. Postwar Iraq with a shi'a
dominated democratic government could or might be a model, if Iraq holds together, and this would
radically decrease tension with Iran. The multiple proxy war in Afghanistan and its highly
predictable spillover to Pakistan is financed by a near-dozen outside powers including the Gulf
Petromonarchies and Iran, but this internal shi'a and sunni, and external anti-Western war could
wind down rapidly.

(end of chapter)


We can easily argue the first Iran-Iraq war of 1736-47 was mainly or only an ethnic or religious
conflict. In other words, sunni-shi'a rivalry translating to national and political war. One impact of
this first war was immediate proclamation of the Baluch Kalat clan federation. This is comparable
with Kurdistan’s declaration of independance on the fall of the Ottoman Empire, in 1917, and its de
facto independance since 2003-2004, with the fall of the Saddam Hussein sunni power elite. The
1980-88 Iran-Iraq war can be interpreted like the first war, as a partly nationalist, partly political
war, also drawing on weapons sales and supplies from outside powers. As we know, since 1917 all
of the major external powers with a vital interest in the MECA focus first and most on oil, but their
actions tend only to reinforce existing religious or ethnic conflicts - with supplies of new and better

Fighting in the second Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88 surely hovered over long established prizes on the
religious sectarian map. Baghdad, Basra, the twin cities of Najaf and Karbala, all in Iraq, and the
Khuzistan region of Iran were often theater to hostilities during this war, like the 1736-47 sunni-
shi'a war. These places are the essential heartlands of Islam’s earliest philosophical and theological
development. Their place on the religious resulted from the Yemenite, Saudi, Palestinian, Jordanian
and Syrian (using today’s national terms for the territories concerned) voyages of Mahomet himself.
This short period, of about 550-580 AD was a hinge period for the region – comparable to the
period of about 1917-1948. Later, the intellectual centre of sunnism shifted to the west, to Egypt.
Later again, by about 750, sunni theology and philosophy developed more to the east, in Baghdad
and today's Iraq, and the continguous border region of Iran. Somewhat later again, after about 900
AD, countervailing shi'a poles and zones of influence developed in north Africa, Syria, and
Palestine, and then later again in the heartlands of Iran.

The earliest definition and developments of the Sunna (or Tradition) took place in the east, and
depended not only on theological debate and dispute, but also contact between the many religions,
mythologies and folkways of the whole west and central Asian region. This first development of
what was already called 'tradition' was born in conflict - the great schism or split between shi'ism
and sunnism originating in the eastern part of the region focusing today's Iraq-Iran border region,
and extending as far as Baghdad to the west. The city of Samara, about 100 kms north of Baghdad
at the southern edge of the Kurd-controlled northern region, was the theatre of the final, almost
certainly irrevocable split, in 873 AD (260 AH or Hegire), of sunni and shi'a faiths, worldviews and
philosophies. This split was easily as deep, and violent as that produced in Europe in the first two
centuries after Martin Luther (1483-1546). European mediaeval religious and related political and
ethnic conflicts between Catholics, Lutherans, Protestants and others caused hundreds of thousands
of deaths, and mass human migrations. In Iraq, as we know, some 700 000 persons died in the
period 2003-2007, mostly through sunni-shi'a civil war. At least 1.5 million Iraqis have fled the
country since 2003. War deaths in Afghanistan since 2001 are at least 1 million.

The ghaybat soghra or ‘short occulatation’, caused by the simultaneous disappearance of the XIth
and XIIth Imams, a father-and-son pair, in Samara, was the result of heavy handed treatment by the
Abbaside (sunni) police and local authorities. After this, the shi'a faction of Islam, itself split into
Septimamians, Duodecimamians and Ismaelians. These were shi'a followers of the 7th and
12th imams, and followers of Ismael, discussed elsewhere in this book. Shi'a factions of Islam were,
and remain fundamentally opposed to the Quadrimamian sunnites or Motakallimun, that is sunni
groups and sects that accept the first 4 imams in the lineage started by Ali, the heritor or wasi of
Mahomet. Among the Quadrimamian and Motakallimun sunnis, we can note the literalists or
fundamentalists. These were historically led by the shafi’ites, karajites, malekites, and hanbalites,
from about 840. Much later, during the 18th century, the sunni literalists or fundamentalists were
joined by followers of formerly insignificant ibn Wahab, in today’s Saudi Arabia. Showing the
variety and degree of factional division inside sunnism, as well as between sunnis and shi'as, the
sunni camp, by 1050, included large numbers of theologians and philosophers we can group into
schools such as the motazilites and al-asharites. In brief, well before 1050, sunni philosophers and
theologians had set an intrinsically anti-chi’ite theology and political power structure in the region.
Also by about 1050, this anti-shi'a alliance was itself riven by internal dissent.

At least as important as the above, sunni political power and religious doctrinal power is essentially
Arab. Conversely, shi'a schools and doctrines or philosophies are both Arab and Iranian by origin
and by their historical development. This ethnic factor is sometimes critical, sometimes not in the
emergence of political, national or other conflicts through the wider MECA region, today as in the
past. What we can underscore, here, is that Saudi wahabism, surely one of the most strictly literalist
and fundamentalist doctrines that can be imagined, is Arab-based and Arab-oriented. Detractors can
easily call wahabism simple Arab racism, triggered by the need to give Arab fighters of the 18thC,
struggling against Turkish Ottoman rule, a highly rigorous and simplified version of the Qoran's
teachings. Very notably, none of the literalist or fundamentalist sunni doctrines had strong links with
Arab nationalist movements until very recently. Movements such as the sunni Egyptian Muslim
brotherhood, when founded in the 19thC, was more influenced by 19thC European political
movements, including Marxism, than by sunni literalism. Only since the 1980s and 1990s has
political Islam, discussed below, become a bridge between theology and modern mass society
politics of the Internet and satellite TV age.

Iran’s current population of around 75 Million is over 90% shi'a, and is almost exclusively non-
Arab. Iran is an ex-imperial power. No Arab state can legitimately claim this for the various
caliphates, with shifting and uncertain powers, that held various forms of power over a very wide
region - extending to the Atlantic coast of Morocco and Mauretania - for many centuries. This has
left little behind, except Islam, in the way of Arab pre-eminence or recognition as the earliest, or an
early civilizing presence. Conversely, the Persian Empire was an accepted and long-established fact,
over a very large region for at least 300 years.

All the external imperial players, including Turkey, Russia, Britain, France and the USA are or were
essentially nation-based imperial entities, although this is qualified for the Turkish Ottomans. Their
political or ideological structure is therefore distinctly different from those inside the MECA region.
Arab nationalism, as a result of this, has a 'revenge on History' to take whenever it can. As we will
see elsewhere, this factor is a sure player in the bundle of ideological, religious, economic and
political struggles, inside the region, that together threaten The Next Oil War

It is often claimed that sunni influence is ‘intrinically’ moderate, and shi'a influence is the reverse,
particularly duodecimamian chi’ism. One key base of this is simple: duodecimamian shi'ism has its
longest lieneage of uninterrupted development in Iran. Conversely,we can first note that Al-Qaida is
almost exclusively sunni, and what can be called the core doctrines of quadrimamian sunnites are of
nearly unlimited extremism. The anthropomorphic and literalist quadrimamian doctrines and
philosophy, for example as embodied by Hanbalite, and later 18th C Wahabite theology is rightly
renowned for its fundamentalism and intolerance of all and any other religion, agnosticism or
atheism. The al-Ashari movement (about 909-935 AD), essentially seeking to moderate and
reconcile ‘modernists’ and ‘traditionalists’, the latter following the very strict literalism of Ibn
Hanbal (died 855 AD), was effectively defeated. This led to al-Ashari’s reformed Motazilites
becoming highly orthodox, anti-shi'a and strictly literalist. For several centuries, and even today for
some Sunnites, al-Asharism was and is synonymous with the Sunna, this in turn being simply
translated: Sunna = Tradition. One cornerstone of sunni-shi'a conflict was therefore set, well before
1000 AD, imposing the narrowest possible and strictly word-by-word intepretation of the Qoran and
the hadith.

To many shi'a, all sunnites can be accused of idolatrous Mohammedanism. A neglected aspect of the
sunni-shi'a doctrinal schism is that sunni theology, or theosophy drew heavily on Judaic, Christian,
Neoplatonist and Aristotelian philosophy, before totally rejecting these influences in its core
doctrine. Conversely, shi'ism draws more on Zoroastrianism and Mazdeism, and even Hinduism and
Taoism, as well as the very same ‘western’ religious, semi-religious, philosophical and theosophical
sources as the Sunna. Iran, before the final and total imposition of shi'a Islam around 1100 AD
(officially in about 1309-1315), was essentially Zoroastrian and Mazdean. Arab and non-Arab
islamism is therefore highly divided, not only on ethnic but also on historical geographic grounds.
Ethnically, many more Arabs are sunni rather than shi'a, and most shi'a are not Arab. Over the
centuries, this has tended to reinforce the more fundamentalist tendencies in both sunni and shi'a
thought, while also extending the influence of syncretist and rationalist, but minority schools of
religious philosphy in Islam such as shi'a mysticism.

The 400-year overlay of the Turkish sunni Ottoman Empire, another caliphate, was brutally stripped
away in 1917. Today’s situation is a direct hand-down from the 1917 context, and is intrinsically
unstable. The new rhetoric and propaganda of the Turkish power elite, since the 1990s, promising
unity and peace under the Turkish sunni banner once the infidels eager only for oil and gas have
been repulsed, is therefore a message that carries far and wide. The reality is that shi'a demographic
dominance is large, nearly total in all major oil producer regions south of the Kurdish sunni sphere,
at about 35 °N, extending from Lattakia in Syria and stretching south-east through Samara in Iraq,
to the Iranian coastal region of the Gulf. All Saudi Arabia’s major oilfields are under shi'a
demographic dominance, by shi'a communities with no basic loyalty to the sometimes extreme
sunni local ruling elites. Those in the western ‘defence and intelligence community’ who decided to
play the sunni card of hanbalite and wahabite, and salafist extremism cut no ice either with Turkish
neo-Ottomans, nor with the shi'a masses who know that by the ballot box, or the kalashnikov, power
will be theirs in a sure and certain future. Al Qaeda's appeal to the shi'a masses is near zero.

In logical terms, that is logical to the majority shi'a communities of the region, sunni Arab
minorities have no legitimate basis for continued control and profit from oil or other natural
resources of the region. The Irano-Iraqi ‘Anschluss’ is at any time possible. Iraqi civil war, that is
shi'a-sunni civil war, would necessarily tend to encourage and incite other shi'a majorities to react
and respond. Shi'a communities all over the region would look to Iranian protection, in the event of
major conflict. How Iran's rulers of the day responded to this call is one of the key deciders on
whether The Next Oil War will start sooner, later or never. In the coming years, almost anytime,
Iranian conflict with sunni Arab minority regimes controlling the Gulf Petromonarchies, and with
Israel, will always be possible.

If or when there is what we can call regional ethnic war, this will rather surely be bad for cheap oil.
The reasons for this forecast trace back far in time. The first Iranian war against the sunni
Ottomans, won by Iran under Nadir Quli Beg in 1736-47, was only the start of rising threats to
firstly the Persian Empire, then the Ottoman Empire. Britain and Russia had begun probing attacks
and incursions into both empires by that period. Against Russia, Iran steadily lost territory to the
west, in today’s Iraq, and to the north, in the Caucuses. Exactly like sunni Turkey, chi’ite Iran has a
score to settle with History because of this. The newfound industrial and geostrategic power of
Turkey, and Iran’s hydrocarbon power and demographic weight provide both with easy rationales
for regional expansion.

As we can note, Turkey and Iran are recogized national entities, both within and without. Modern
warfare essentially concerns national entities, but this is to some extent breaking down with the
increasing emergence of 'asymmetric war', or 'terror war', and ethnic conflicts able to spread over
several national borders and trigger localized hearths of civil war and insurrection, rather than
‘classic’ national confrontations. Nevertheless, national entities are war-prone, for one major reason
because of their natural tendency – typical with newfound nations - towards geographic, economic
and military strategic or geopolitical expansionism. If we look at the 28 nations in today's NATO,
more than one-half of them are under 100 years old and some are under 20 years old.

Purely ethnic and religious entities, such as faith-based communities, are less war-ready. This helps
to explain the history of defeat for the various attempts at Arab expansionism in the region, going
back to the Mongol invasion (13th century), and the later Turkish Ottoman expansion in the region.
In every case, the failure of constituting effective national entities ensured lack of cohesion,
internecine fighting, and defeat by external, more organised powers and regimes. We can summarise
by saying that Iran's early constitution as a 'modern' nation was aided and reinforced by the
fundamental divide between chi’ite and sunni doctrines and theology. Iran, at least since the
1100-1300 period, is a near-exclusive shi'a entity - this cohesion helping Iran to become a nation.
Conversely, Arab nationalism is a long history of frustrated and unsuccesful attempts at creating
national entities alongside the Oumma or religious community.

Taking only Iran and Iraq inside their present borders we can note their present ethnic and religious
mix is relatively homogeneous for Iran, and the reverse for Iraq, which has only existed for about
80 years). This identifies the causes and triggers of future conflict, including ethnic, religious and
national differences, making for internal divide-and-rule. We can note that many Iranians and many
Arabs consider that Iraq has never existed as a nation or any other identifiable entity, and is merely
a relic of short-lived British colonial presence (about 1920-1958). The British choice, and
imposition of a minority sunni royal family in Iraq (the Faycals) only reinforced Iraqi chi’ite, and
Iranian hostility to the de facto sunni power structure that emerged, and continues in present New
Iraq, from about 35°N to the Indian Ocean and Gulf. For Iraq, the last absolute sunnite ruler was
Saddam Hussein, hanged in December 2006.

At the same time, the chi’ite Oumma regards Mecca and Medina as much a part of their religious
identity and legitimate sphere of influence as the sunnites. Being the demographic majority in the
region, east of Egypt and Jordan, any shi'a-sunni conflict starting in Iraq and drawing in Iran can
literally engulf the region. Kurd nationalism, probably the strongest and most legitimate national
movement in the sunni area, sets a more ‘modern’ and nationbuilding program for the large and
diffuse Kurdish sphere of influence. In theory, at least, Kurdish nationalism is 'non religious' or
sectarian, but only in theory. We cannot be sure that New Kurdistan, a de facto mini-state inside
ruined Iraq, would remain apart and uninvolved with widespread sunni-shi'a conflict in the region,
especially if this conflict extended far and wide, from today's Turkey to the Gulf and Iran. Kurdish
irredentism, extending into Syria and into Iran, would surely spark additional sunni-shi'a division,
tension, and later armed conflict.

Previous ethnic conflicts and national wars in the region have very often been long and destructive,
sometimes lasting 20 years or more. During such conflicts, successively descending the war-trigger
‘shells’ of political, then religious, and finally ethnic rivalry, dispute and conflict, widespread
destruction of any economic advantage or support to the enemy was almost obligatory. As the
European christian crusaders found, in their 200-year (1095-1299) religious-motivated military
invasion, and partial occupation of the western fringe of the region, ‘resource denial’ was readily
practiced by the enemy, and practiced by the crusaders against them in replique. Indeed, as many
historians have remarked, the very first use of chemical and bacteriological warfare occurred during
the crusades - for example the use of dead persons and animals, killed by bubonic plague, and
thrown into the waterholes and wells of the enemy. Chemical warfare took the form of burning
pitch and chemical salts used to propagate fire. Other modern-tpe aspects of the crusades included
large use of human shields, in certain battles and campaigns, and targeted destruction of croplands,
transport equipment, bridges and other infrastructures.

Today, therefore, we can be almost certain oil and gas installations would suffer repeated attack by
all sides when or if any longer-term, widespread ethnic and religious-based conflict started. Proof of
this is evident in Iraq, where sunni-shi'a conflict notably features the "resource denial" tactic of
depriving enemy communities of electric power and water supplies. To date, and since 2003, oil
pipelines in Iraq have suffered hundreds of attacks, winding down as a semblance of central
authority is levered by massive troop and police numbers. Oilfield equipment of all sorts has not
been systematically pillaged, but intensely and widely pillaged, when not simply destroyed. This
trend could easily increase, becoming more systematic, and further reduce Iraq to the state of a
totally under-developed country. One major reason for this is often ignored - we must remember
that in political-ethnic-religious wars and conflicts, what we can call 'triple-layer' war, little or no
attention goes to what happens when the fighting ceases. Due to the ideological and religious
component, fighting is more than a habit, because it is a moral or religious duty. By definition this
means long-term struggle.

(end of chapter)


Think tanks and academic ivory towers of the Great Powers, and other players, have in recent years
hummed with Plan B ideas on how to neutralize Iran, protect Israel and the Gulf Petromonarchies
and keep reasonable priced oil flowing. Iran is presented by these think tankers and a few professors
as only interested in destroying Israel, but being some way from Israel's frontiers, the obvious next-
best is to take out, or regime change Iran's ally Syria. Without this front line partner state and launch
platform for aggression, the logic goes on, Iran would quietly go back to pumping oil. As we
examine elsewhere, plenty of think tank thinking has also gone to regime change of Iran through
inciting a new and better Iran-Iraq war, like that of 1980-88, but with one-only loser instead of two
losers. Together with provoking or inciting a new Iran-Iraq war, this other unwinnable and
increasingly unreal and criminal regime change project is often presented by the media and various
Web sites as possible if not likely.

Certainly through 2003-2006 and linked to clears signs of political defeat of US and British forces
in Iraq, neighboring Syria and Iran were subject to a full blast of public suspicion and political
emnity by the G W Bush, Jacques Chirac and Tony Blair triumvirate. To some extent this menacing
context lingers after the departure of these leaderships, but specially towards Iran. Removing the
Syrian and Iranian twin pillars of The Crescent of Evil was never described as easy - it would be
difficult and costly but also would be definitive. Narrowing this to only regime changing Syria
would be cheaper and quicker, but also much less definitive. Through 2003-2005, and up to about
2007 regime-change of Syria and-or Iran was often claimed by Bush administration hardliners, and
by some European governments, notably the French and German, to be both necessary and feasible.
Already, however, there was dissent or an absence of total support in the Western camp. The UK
position was clouded by factors like the ambiguous relations between the Blair government and the
Bachr al-Assad regime of Syria, but also more likely and more simply because of the extreme cost
that Iran regime change would impose on the UK if it again wanted to play junior coalition partner
in another American-led, long and costly military adventure in the Middle East. Conversely, strictly
verbal French and German interest in and support to Syria and-or Iran regime change has tended to
increase since 2006, always with the public rationale that this is necessary to protect Israel and the
Gulf Petromonarchies - and rigorously nothing to do with cheap oil. A cursory glance at what it
would require in military personnel and logistics to occupy Iran - probably 3 times the troop
strength needed to maintain a semblance of central power in Iraq, and around 7 times present troop
numbers to do the same in Afghanistan - shows this project is more than unrealistic, in fact absurd.
Neither the US, nor any of its European allies has the manpower or cash to engage another regime
change war in the region. This is for one main reason: the new military adventure would produce
even less booty, or Peace Dividend, than the failed Iraqi operation. This is very clear.

While the Bachr al-Assad minority shi'a regime of Syria would be easy to overthrow, and Syria
would be easy to occupy, the benefits or war booty from the operation would be slender. Apart from
small but easily developed oil resources in Syrian Kurdistan, now attracting Indian interest in the
shape of the Indian Oil & Natural Gas Commission (ONGC), Oil India and several small, private
Indian entities which repurchased Petro Canada interests in the country, Syria has little to offer.
Regime-changed, its Mediteranean coast might offer ‘sustainable tourism’ development potential
featuring Low Carbon cleantech, but in terms of significant war booty there would be little to show.
In Lebanon, countervailing action by Syria to trigger a second front against Israel would be sure and
certain. This would raise regime change costs, and through increasing the number of belligerants
would likely raise losses of US and European troops.

The Bachr al-Assad regime's revenge action could easily extend to full-scale civil war in Lebanon
and bolstered support to Hezbollah and Palestinian fighters opposing Israel. In turn, Israel would be
dragged into yet another Lebanon war. This would carry heavy obligations to perform following
Israel's humiliating political defeat in its July-August 2006 military rampage in Lebanon.
Something very attractive is needed to sugar this pill, and course this focuses Iran's oil and gas. To
keep the voting publics interested, propaganda feeds are regularly placed in world media carrying
‘informed source’ claims that Iran’s oil reserves are probably second-only to Saudi Arabia’s
reserves, and of course Iran's natural gas reserves are, like Russia's of the 1990-2000 period, 'almost
limitless'. In other words the war booty from regime changing Iran would be nearly as massive as
the booty that was so surely going to be extracted from Hussein's Iraq !

We can recall, here again, that the Bourbon psychosis is often lurking in the minds of Great Power
strategists. Shortly before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, world media repeatedly carried ‘informed
source’ estimates, for example by the American Institute of Petroleum (AIP), or Bush
administration-friendly consultants like CERA, of Iraq’s oil reserves ranking them as second-only
in size to those of Saudi Arabia. The paranoid variant of the Bourbon handicap operates - that is a
genralized belief in enemy and foreign powers working to undermine Bourbon greatness. In this
case it was Saddam Hussein's refusal to produce and export more oil despite having the reserves.
Within one year, by 2004 and 2005, these enticing and vast reserves of cheap-to-produce light and
sweet crude, faithfully reported in the media before the war, were hard to find in the news feeds.
Forgetting nothing, exactly the same music is played again but with Iran now on offer as the
criminal underperformer and enticing source of regime change war booty. Its oil reserves in late
2006 and 2007, according to the media citing 'informed sources' were often cranked up to heights
exceeding 135 Billion barrels.
The Peace Dividend of huge Iranian oil reserves and limitless gas reserves is however harder to put
across, to average consumer voters in the West, as a good and nice reason to lay waste to Tehran,
almost certainly with nuclear weapons. Apart from oil pumping non-performance in Iraq and
distressing TV footage of carbomb atrocities, a major reason is huge amounts of easily accessible
data on Iran's oil and gas reserves. Iran’s real remaining oil reserves are probably about equal to
Iraq’s, that is no more than about 60 - 75 Billion barrels. They are certainly not the 120 - 135 Bn
barrels claimed by ‘informed’ but of course anonymous sources dangling regime change booty in
front of the nose of plastic-and-pesticide consumer democrats, to garner support for mass killing
sprees. These news feeds, to be sure, never mention that in reality Iranian oil output, and net export
supply capacity, have continued to shrink since the late 1970s. Its net exports in particular, are now
about one-half their 1978 peak of more than 4.5 Mbd. The hot topic for some Peak Oil forums and
Web sites is: Will Iran be a net importer of crude by 2012 ? In fact, even in the 1970s, the then-
future prospect of declining oil output was one factor determining the Chah’s regime to seek
development of nuclear electricity production.

At the time, this decision was given warm approval from the Ford and Carter administrations of the
USA. In Europe, hesitant steps were under way towards increasing commercial capacities for
uranium enrichment, to supply nuclear fuel for the massive growth of nuclear electricity production
that was projected following the first oil shock of 1973-74. Commercial and industrial realities and
high construction costs however made the Eurodif project a lame duck venture, needing capital bail
outs. This was supplied by the Chah's Iran, buying around 20% of the venture. After the Khomenei
revolution, haggling over how much of this capital should be reimbursed to revolutionary Iran was
a long-running and bitter saga, including French hostage taking in Lebanon during the 1980s.
Relative to Iranian oil, however, nuclear energy was and is a sideshow. Since 1979 Iran’s net oil
exports, due on the one hand to stagnating total production, and on the other to very fast increase of
domestic consumption, have consistently fallen despite periods during which huge investments
were made by Iran's NOC (national oil company). The prospect of stopping this trend, and then
reversing it thanks to regime change is almost totally unrealistic. Iran's gas reserves are for the
moment another question, and also include large potentials for international dispute - notably with
Qatar and Bahrein on demarcation of national territories, for gas production, in the Gulf.

Such has been the confused, lugubrious, irrational and often contradictory nature of the anti-Iran
media campaign, with a joyful confusion and profusion of ‘signals’ sent to Tehran via the world’s
media, that the incoherence of US and European war goals is starkly clear. Iran with atomic
weapons is unlikely any more dangerous to world peace than Pakistan, Israel, North Korea or India
with atomic weapons - the only difference is that Iran exports oil and gas and the others dont.
Whether all oil exporters except Russia should be prevented from possessing atomic weapons, to
facilitate regime-change when or if they ‘underproduce’ oil or gas, and fail in their apparent mission
to deplete national resources in the fastest possible time, has yet to emerge as a clean and clear
debating theme for the consumer voter masses of the West. Putting this rather cyncial message
across to public opinion, while also dangling low-CO2 cars, solar energy, agrofuels, organic foods
and windmills as our New Sustainable Future could be the ultimate in public schizophrenia. It
would surely be a hard public relations campaign to win.

It is however possible, even probable this slow moving and increasingly unreal crisis can drag out a
while longer, possibly to 2010 or a little later. Conversely, the final and irremediable collapse of
Iraq into full scale ‘ethnic’ and religious civil war could also occur within the same time horizon. If
this should happen, it is rather likely that Iran will be blamed for it, quickly restoring the military
option in the Iran nuclear crisis. However, just as surely and following Iraq's descent into civil war
and guaranteed oil pumping underperformance, Iran's oil exports would be more important than
ever. Without these, maintaining a semblance of 'well supplied markets' a short while longer would
be completely impossible. When or if Iraq descends into what would inevitably be sunni-shi'a civil
war, perhaps only for a short time and perhaps not, this event would be a harsh wake up call for the
OECD and present global economy sleepwalking in what the IMF calls 'the worst economic crisis
since 1945'. Since cheap oil is fondly imagined by close-to-power economists as a 'stimulus of
economic growth', its quick disappearance would deal a massive blow to hopes the global economic
recession could bottom out in late 2009 or early 2010.

We can provisionally conclude that neither Iran nor Syria regime-change are attractive, at least to
any sane Western politician, and in the Iranian case is at the limit of either the imaginable or
conceivable. Iran is a big country with a large population that is ‘ethnically’ almost completely
homogenous. Following the 1980-88 war, Iran was not subjected to a life-sapping sanctions regime,
but pursued its economic and industrial development. This included it nuclear program. Public
opinion in Iran, even among the young jean wearing, mobile phone wielding middle classes who are
often approvingly shown in Western media, is strongly in favor of Ahmedinjad’s nuclear
programme. Whatever its reality, the high tech and modernising image of nuclear electric power is
well-anchored in the heads of Iran's middle classes, exactly like it is among the same classes of the
'advanced industrial' or 'postindistrial' OECD countries.

Further threats by the West, to some extent tolerated by China at the Security Council, to utilise
nuclear weapons when and if necessary to prevent Iran ‘acceding’ to atomic weapons status
therefore only reinforce the groundswell of Iranian public opinion in favor of defiance. If the US,
France, Germany and UK had sought a better way to reinforce the anti-western leadership of the
mollahs, as it is called in Western media, they would have had few other choices. Time is ever
shorter for this so-called option. Each day brings nearer the test explosion of an Iranian A-bomb.
Iran will likely therefore proceed to ‘nuclear sanctuarization’, making itself not regime changeable
through possessing atomic weapons.

(end of chapter)


The first war as we noted was in the 1730s, but the first for today’s geostrategy analysts was the
1980-88 war. Regional response to this war, often stalemated for long periods with small but clear
territorial gains for Iranian forces, notably included the near-panic reaction of GCC country sunni
ruling families. This dovetailed with US and European political sentiment, and that of global
finance and equity market operators. Iran’s Khomeinist mobs had to be driven back at any cost - if
possible without Western troops on the ground, notably because the USSR had invaded nearby
Afghanistan, and even better if the Petromonarchs footed the bill. To be sure, oil supply fears were
also close to the surface but as ever rarely admitted. The cost of driving back what western media
presented as tumultous hordes whipped to frenzy by a sort of Islamic Che Guevara crossed with
Rasputin proved to be very high - for the ruling sunni royal and princely families of Saudi Arabia
and the Petromonarchies. Probable direct costs of the war to these sunni rulers was likely in the
range of 60 - 75 Billion US dollars at 1985 values, or well above 100 Bn US dollars in today's
money. Above all we can note, this second war was both geographically and economically
contained. Also, we can place very sure bets this war is unrepeatable. If by any chance a 'remake'
could or might be incited, provoked or nursed into reality this would very rapidly spread out and
away from its Iran-Iraq border hearths. The Next Oil War would have started.

The response of panicked sunni leaderships in 1980 was to massively finance the then-hero of the
sunni world and friend of the West, Saddam Hussein. This was mainly due to no alternative power
able to defend the Petromonarchies being available, due to US or European refusal to get directly
involved, notably because the USSR's troops were just over the horizon - in Afghanistan. We can
note in passing that at the time, Hussein’s regime had already killed at least 50 000 Kurds and
deported several hundred thousand, with only the merest whispers of complaint from Western
political leaderships, who quickly whipped themselves into loud public hysteria when a few dozen
US embassy personnel were held hostage in Tehran, in 1979-80.

The exact preliminaries to the Iran-Iraq war are shrouded in mystery. We can however be sure the
Petromonarchies’ deluge of part-gift and part-loan amounts to Iraq, probably totaling more than 50
Billion US dollars (easily financed because oil prices were high until 1986), was enthusiastically
approved by the US and Europe. We can go on to surmise this display of vulnerability and panic by
the region’s feudal sunni regimes was one reason for the Reagan administration to start a mostly
secret diplomatic campaign to persuade these regimes, specially the Saudi sunni rulership, to
radically increase oil output and maintain high production and exports, ‘at whatever market price’
for oil. Support to this argument would focus the strategic need to weaken the USSR (and Iran)
through depressing oil prices and therefore their oil export revenues - but for the USSR this is a
very weak argument, due to low oil exports by the USSR at the time.

Many other analyses and theories can be offered for this essentially suicidal, at least illogical Saudi
decision. Why and when the Saudi rulers accepted this deal, and for what counterpart benefits to
themselves apart from vague assurances of ‘security’, ‘protection’ and logistic and weapon supply
to extreme sunnite freedom fighters in Afghanistan are other unanswered questions. Concerning the
Saudi oil production performance feat that built up net export supply to peaks above 9 Mbd it is
easy to dispute and contest the exact amounts by which Saudi rulers decided to 'open the taps', in
the 1980-88 war period. Figures given for annual daily average oil production by the 4 major Arab
producers of the Middle East led by Saudi Arabia, through the period 1985-1990, are highly
variable according to source and date of original publication. What can be said is that Saudi Arabia
likely increased its oil production from around 7.5 Mbd to peaks over 9.25 Mbd, particularly in the
years 1985-88, and then maintained high output and exports long after the war ended, supposedly to
‘defend market share’. This was despite the catastrophic fall in barrel prices, of about 67% in Nov
1985-Jun 1986. Unlike the present day collapse of oil prices in the second half of 2008 and early
2009, which will be reversed within at most 6 months to 1 year, oil prices stayed very low for 13
years after 1986.

What we can note is these low prices surely eliminated any possible revenue gain for Saudi royal
coffers from their production performance feat and the 'defended share' of markets for a throwaway
priced Sunset Commodity, as oil was joyfully described by bright eyed New Economists in the
cheap oil interval of 1986-99. The extent of the crash in Arab oil exporter revenues in the period,
due to collapsed oil prices can be understood by a few simple figures. In 1980-81 the Big 4 Arab
exporters (including Iraq) received a total of about 212 Bn US dollars in oil export revenues; by
1986-87 this had fallen to less than 35 Bn US dollars, using constant 1980 dollars. Saddam's
grandiose war against the Persian horde proved very expensive to 'market share defending' Gulf

Not unrelated to this, the Saudi rulers and other minority feudal sunni rulers of the Gulf
Petromonarchies, and also Iran, radically and unilaterally raised their stated official reserves of oil
in the 1985-89 period. This feat of imaginative paperwork was rationalized as a way to defend
market share, because OPEC quotas are based on the official reserves of each member state, but the
basic thrust was to export more at whatever barrel price. In the Saudi case, the jump in ‘official
reserves’ was from about 180 Bn to 260 Bn barrels. Needless to say, the geological or exploration
evidence offered to support this heroically revised estimate was at best contradictory, and is heavily
focused in the reports and writings of Matt Simmons.
One direct result of this, and one real cause of the disastrous invasion of minority sunni-ruled
Kuwait by Saddam Hussein’s armed forces in 1990, was the sunni-sunni dispute between Hussein’s
regime, and the ruling princely clans of Kuwait. A similar, but less virulent dispute emerged
between Hussein’s Iraq and the Saudi ruling family. In both cases it concerned money and the barrel
price. The effective collapse of the barrel price in 1985-86 made Iraq unable, as well as unwilling to
repay Kuwait that part of its deluge of petrodollars provided as loans, for defending Kuwait against
the Khomenei hordes. The Iraq-Kuwait dispute was acrimonious and one direct, rather than
supporting cause of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Western and other oil importers reacted with the
same hysteria to the Iraqi invasion as they had reacted to Khomenei's overthrow of Chah Reza
Pahlavi. Major oil trading on the Nymex, and later the IPE, Tocom and ICE oil markets had only
recently started (in 1987-88), thus the Kuwait invasion and its sequels provided traders with the
chance to operate a fine speculative oil price run-up and then crash. Before the liberating invasion,
they assiduously talked up the daily price. After the liberating invasion they assiduously talked
down the daily price. This copybook 'good trading' provided traders not only with the media
acclaim of Good Boys who restored cheap oil after a short brush with what George Bush Father
called 'unreasonable' oil prices, but also their bonuses based on the size of daily price swings, not on
the high or low prices attained in the boom-bust sequence.

The massive destructive capability of the US-led military coalition’s attacks on Iraqi forces, and
Iraqi civil infrastructures like water pumping stations, schools, mosques, bridges and electric power
plants, sometimes called ‘command and control centres’ by the Western media and the Pentagon,
led to very quick defeat for Saddam Hussein's Iraq. It also led to very rapid restoration of cheap oil
aided by copybook market trading 'exuberance' as noted above. The success cost around 200 000
Iraqi lives, restored the sunni Cheikh of Kuwait to power, but provided only short-term political
acclaim to George Bush Father, notably due to cheap oil's low or zero impact on economic growth.
These were no doubt possible reasons for the George Bush Son administration trying its hand at
Iraq regime change, in 2003, if only to do better than Papa. Quick and total victory-plus-cheap oil
were probable hooks on which G W Bush war strategists hung their expectations, this time hoping
there would be an economic Peace Dividend. Their 2003 extravaganza had a much higher body
count on the Iraqi side, but excluded the showcasing of high-tech depleted uranium and chemical
weapons - which had been used in 1991 but rapidly proved to be counterproductive due to not only
killing Iraqis, but also American GIs.

As we note elsewhere, the role of a tangible Peace Dividend in legitimising any armed conflict is
probably key to the political and public success of the action. One key perverse or unexpected result
of 1991's oil price collapse was almost no economic yield in the shape of faster and stronger
economic growth in the OECD group or worldwide. In 2003, oil prices only showed a weak
response to the Iraq invasion, and anyway the global economy was growing. More important, the
regional and world oil reserve picture changed through 1991 to 2003 - easy to understand through a
single figure: in the 12-year period world total oil extraction was around 300 Billion barrels, vastly
more than Saudi Arabia's total remaining reserves in 2009. Yet another ignored element by G W
Bush’s war strategists was Peak Oil. World oil production and supply growth is in 2007-2009
slowing to zero. From 2010 world supply will experience 'negative growth' (exactly like 'negative
growth' of the economy this means contraction).The knock-on to global oil production capacity is
that ‘spare’ production capacity is falling fast and is a precious resource.

A few brief figures help explain this. Between 1990 and 2008 world oil demand increased from
about 24.1 Billion barrels-per-year to about 31.6 Bn barrels, from a daily average of about 66 Mbd
to nearly 88 Mbd. This increase is far more than two times the total maximum possible capacity of
Saudi oil exports. No "second Saudi Arabia", even less third, will ever be found and developed,
anywhere. World export supply or 'offer' can and will only diminish.
This real world context also produced a highly contrarian and unexpected winner, from the 2003
Iraq invasion extravaganza: Iran. While there was no clear military winner of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq
war, Iran was the clear winner of its sequels, if we count the 2003 war as a sequel to the first oil
war, of 1991. Not subjected to the corrupt and chaotic sanctions and Food-for-Oil regime which
Iraq suffered through the 1990s, nor repeatedly bombarded for hard-to-fathom reasons by the two
Clinton administrations, nor cynically allowed to descend into outright anarchy, Iran pursued a very
rapid and ‘classic’ economic growth and industrialization strategy right through the period from
1988 to today. One clear result was Iran's industrial, scientific and military progress, crowned by its
launch of a satellite with all-national missile launch technology in early 2009. Iraq, conversely,
remained good only for military occupation and civil war. Iran's progress is also reflected by its
domestic or internal oil and gas consumption. This has grown about 200% since 1988 (and 80%
since 1996) as its car fleet grows at rates drawing in major carmakers, like Renault Nissan, eager to
profit from this copybook Chinese-style growth of the consumer economy. Conversely, Iraq is an
impoverished Third World-style 'basketcase’, suffering endemic malnutrition and 50% adult
unemployment even in late 2008. The choice between being liberated or suffering what western
media calls theocratic and despotic rulership - also exactly the situation in Saudi Arabia - is
therefore easy for the Iranian public. Like the Saudis they prefer to eat, have jobs, drive cars, use
cellphones and be careful about what they say in public or on the Internet.

The state of forces in play, Iran-Iraq, is now completely in Iran’s favor. This is another fact
weighing heavy on any strategy aimed at fomenting another war . Without very large foreign troop
presence in Iraq, Iran could sweep through, take, and occupy Iraq at least as fast as the US-UK
coalition in 2003. This would be made even easier by probably large numbers of shi'a troop
defections from the ranks of Iraq's remaining elite sunni-led regiments. In other words, Iraq’s
national cohesion, economic strength and military preparedness are now so degraded that Iran can
decide the ‘chi’ite Anschluss’ whenever it wants, and be sure of victory, if no external power is there
to save Iraq. Another 'if' is decreasingly possible as we argue in this book: if US and European
hysteria concerning Iran’s nuclear programme does not first lead to Israeli bombing Iran's nuclear
installations. This would be pre-emptive bombing, of course, but this act of folly and one of the
greatest war crimes ever committed could easily trigger a kind-of mass chi’ite uprising. Israel for
the moment can with impunity carry out periodic killing sprees in Palestinian urban areas,
sometimes called 'disproportionate' - but using atomic weapons against Iran is not the same thing.
The 'Muslim street', and the 'Arab shi'a street' would be less supine or cynical than when watching
TV footage of Israeli punishment raids in Palestine. This would rapidly agitate the 'Arab street'
among shi'a majority communities of the GCC countries. One early victim could include the shi'a
led coalition's shaky control of Iraq, torn apart by internal stress along sectarian lines. Kurdish
declaration of de facto and complete independence would be another likely and rapid result.

The stage would be set for the Baghdadi shi'a and sunni political elite to call on the US, the UK,
other Europeans, and also local Arab states, for military support to save their jobs, prestige and
power. Unless this was quickly supplied, with quick and decisive military victories on all battle
fronts which would be mostly urban civil and guerrilla theatres, Iran would hold de facto control of
most non-Kurdish eastern Iraq and a sizeable chunk of its remaining oil reserves. If the Gulf
Petromonarchies and Saudi Arabia intervened, which would be unlikely due to their military
capabilities being impressive only on paper and in staged displays of imported hi-tech equipment
operated by expatriates, this would rapidly transmit the shi'a uprising into the heart of their own oil-
bearing regions. Oil and gas production losses would be rapid and large. This quite easy-to-build
scenario, in a sequence that in fact includes one fantastic event on another ends with the worst
possible outcome for all oil importers, everywhere. This scenario evidently includes the Terror of
the 200-Dollar Barrel, counting on the copybook exuberance of the oil trading fraternity. With no
possible doubt this scenario has been well fleshed out and studied not only in Washington, London,
Paris and Berlin, but also in Tehran, Riyadh and Jerusalem.

(end of chapter)


The complex overlay of historical events in the Middle East is like a cloth with a recurring but
shifting and changing emblem running through it: schism and rivalry between shi'a and sunni
religious factions or branches of Islam. This has been further complicated by large population
movements and, for the last 100 years, oil-motivated interference mostly by non-regional powers
but also from players inside the region. This gives us the chaotic patchwork of communities and
nations, irrational borders and geopolitical tensions that we find today. Very often, today as in the
past, ruling elites are ethnically different from the majority population, sometimes completely
different and imposed from without, by external action including military. Without this military
backing they would disappear almost overnight, like the Faisal monarchy of Iraq installed by the
British in the 1950s, quickly overthrown by the military putschist forerunners of Saddam Hussein.

External interference over the centuries before the 20thC has usually sought to divide-and-rule, to
create weakly governed entities, dependent on and obedient to those placing them in power. During
the 20th century and due to oil this strategy continued. The big difference was that of needing fixed
and sharp national borders, which almost never previously existed, and at least the pretence of large
and effective national armies, police and militias. The removal of previously fluid and tenuous
'national borders' or shifting zones of no-mans-land removed a traditional safety valve. With firm
and fixed borders, groups exposed to ever present tension and dispute of all sorts - inter-religious,
inter-communal and inter-ethnic - no longer had the option of easy population movement and
migration away from centers of conflict, dispute or tension to traditional 'grey zones'. Increased
firepower and more military personnel necessarily levered up the casualties in local conflicts.
Regional population movement, today, is therefore mainly of transborder refugees fleeing conflict,
and transborder economic migrants ballotted by the global economy's far-reaching tentacles and
irrational switchbacks in growth and activity.

Only since 2001, estimates of refugee migration across the MECA region extend up to 6 or 7
million persons, probably more than 3 million simply for Iraq, since 2003. From the end of World
War 2, with the creation of Israel in 1948 and fast-growing dependence of the OECD countries, then
China, India and other emerging economies on Middle East oil, and then gas, external manipulation
of regional borders and national politics has been constant. New or additional 'fantom nations' made
up of refugee and economic migrants necessarily add more complexity to, and further destabilise
the region's geopolitical make-up.

Modern border setting and manipulation of the political entities inside them has been incoherent and
contradictory, almost from the very start, which we can place at the Versailles Treaty series of
border drawing exercises 'in smoke filled rooms', through 1917-23. Today's examples abound:
recent and ongoing US and European treatment of sunni and shi'a claims right across the region,
and the measures and methods used by the Great Powers for resolving national, sectarian and
religious disputes. The irrationality or blindness of decisions - often with loss of life or livelihood
on the ground - is so high, we can argue, that what is called Great Power strategy in the region has
never been more than a constant series of shifting and incoherent foreign policy tactics, often or
mostly driven by oil and gas interest. Overall we can identify a trend, for at least the last 60 years,
of the Great Powers tending to support sunni claims and sunni-based political movements inside the
region. This said, examples to the contrary are very easy to supply, for example US and European
support to shi'a forces in Afghanistan fighting sunni Talibans after 2001, following very strong US
and European support to both sunni and shi'a forces in Afghanistan, during Soviet occupation in

Another key trend of the USA and most European states is supplying almost blind support to Israel.
As we note elsewhere, Israel's founding fathers included a powerful faction, the Eretz Israel
movement, with extreme expansionist claims on most of the western Middle East. Inevitably, blind
support to Israel results in the denigration of Palestinian national claims. This in turn has
progressively weakened pro-Western sunni power in Palestine, and later in Lebanon, favoring shi'a
factions and the 'political islam' Hamas and Hezbollah movements. In turn, one result has been the
strengthening of Syrian influence inside the Palestinian national movement, partly because Syria is
controlled by a shi'a minority. Also in part due to shared shi'a worldviews, the Syrian power elite is
close to Iran’s ayatollocracy, effectively replacing sunni-led opposition to Israeli expansionism of
the Fatah vintage by shi'a-led opposition, concretized by Hamas. This could be considered the exact
opposite of what the US, French and British, the Western external powers most implicated in the
region, would want or seek.

Since 2001 the vocabularly used by western media and politicians has to integrate the word
'terrorism', but realpolitik in the Palestine-Israel conflict results in US and European leaderships
giving weak support to sunni-dominated Fatah 'terrorists' while diabolizing Hamas 'terrorists'. For
local and regional public opinion this farce will surely not maintain a semblance of calm, propitious
for maximising oil production and exports. What we can note is that simple demographic and
weapons supply factors make shi'a forces and powers more threatening to Israel's survival, than
sunni. Also, we must note, Israel has no conceivable present day role in protecting oil or gas export
corridors or installations - but is conceived as able to 'protect the Gulf Petromonarchies' through
facing down Iran and taming shi'a islamic political movements across the region.

We always return to the theme of imperial incoherence, that is blind or irrational policies and
capricious changes of strategy. Twists and turns of political strategy, or tactics of the US, UK,
France and other external powers regarding the Kurds and Iraq is a good example. In this case the
players involved are far more numerous than only the 'Red-White-Blue' team. They include the
USSR, then Russia, the USA, Iran, Britain, France, Germany, other European countries, China,
Turkey, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf states, Armenia, India, Pakistan, South Korea, and others. The net
result of aiding then opposing the Kurds, then Saddam Hussein's Iraq, then the shi'a coalition
government of Iraq presided by Jalal Talabani, a sunni Kurd, was simple to calculate for Kurd
leaders: about 100 000 Kurdish dead through 1980-2003.

Has this improved or at least stabilized oil production in either Kurdistan or Iraq ? Today's Iraq
following regime change is itself an excellent - that is bad - example of irrational decisionmaking
by the traditional Great Powers, and all other players. The sunni-shi'a divide is always present:
Iraq's coalition government is a patchwork of rival shi'a and sunni factional interests, but if Iraq's
'territorial integrity' is so critical for the country, we can ask, why is there a de facto Kurdistan in the
north of Iraq today? Another striking example of imperial incoherence is France’s treatment of the
various factions at play in Lebanon, and its relations with the chi’ite minority Alaouite ruling elite
in Syria. Today, France plays hot-and-cold with the Bachr al-Assad regime, exactly like UK
political leaderships, supposedly due to minute changes of geopolitical trends or French geostrategy
imperatives in the region, these agonizing changes being followed or preceded by the USA's own
capricious changes of 'doctrine' or posture on "Assad the terrorist". Ironically however, underlying
the Assad regime, the Alaouite minority was only able to gain and then hold power through large-
scale French military protection in the years 1946-48. US and European treatment of the many
Palestinian national movements and factions, and democracy movements in the GCC
Petromonarchies, are yet more examples of this long-term and often deadly incoherence.

Over the years and decades, abrupt and capricious switches of policy have surely had one result:
more conflict and more refugees, raising population movements despite new and firm national
borders, in a region with world record demographic growth rates until very recently. Total
population movements over the last 25 years are often in fact higher than nominal or official total
population numbers in several MECA region countries. War against Iraq, military occupation of
Afghanistan, the incredibly long-running Palestine-Israel conflict and its impact on Lebanon – all
these result in waves of refugees and economic migrants. This makes for ever-rising problems for
maintaining ‘internal divide-and-rule’ in designated friendly regimes, simply because the internal
deomgraphic situation has changed, in favour of one or more previously non-majority factions or
groups. This processs can easily pass the tipping point, and result in near civil war - for example
Black September 1972 in Jordan following waves of refugee Palestinians flooding into Amman.

External imperial powers, we must note, have nearly always felt themselves constrained to operate
divide-and-rule strategy, or rather tactics inside the multitude of national and geographic entities
right across the oil-bearing source rock territories of the Mid East. Whether or not this leads to war,
either civil or international, was and is pushed down the wish-list. The net result in the mid-term
and longer-term is a lot less glorious than new and flourishing countries with a new designer flag
and Olympic sport team. The real result is localized, internecine factional rivalry, dispute and
conflict quite easily able to generate civil war. A good example is Afghanistan. Under external
threat, that is Soviet invasion and occupation, the many chi’ite and sunni factions in Afghanistan
could and did unite to resist and repel the invader. External powers opposed to the Soviet Russians
of course aided this effort. However, immediately the Russians quit Afghanistan in 1988,
internecine and factional fighting resumed in the country, but with levered-up supplies of weaponry.
The newcomer players to the scene in weapons supply and logistics terms if not historical or
theological terms, notably Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, India and China, further complicated, and
complicates the patchwork of well-armed and numerous Afghan factions, both shi'a and sunni,
engaged in an effective and nearly permanent civil war. Today this is overlaid by US and European
NATO troop presence, now including 'desire for political dialogue' with moderate Talibans - surely
signalling this war is too expensive, has no Peace Dividend, and must be wound down. In reality
Afghanistan is near totally unstable, and economically good only for producing heroin.

In different countries and 'theatres' of conflict, various dates and supposedly key events, persons or
entities can be advanced as decisive in sealing the finally porous split or schism opposing sunni and
shi'a communities. In each case the sunni-shi'a divide remains, but only tilts into open conflict and
armed hostility in special circumstances - like ruined Iraq after its "regime change" in 2003 and for
the 5 following years, if not longer. The al-Qaeda 'phenomenon' in Iraq, we can note again,
concerns extreme sunnite groups essentially fighting a rearguard action to maintain sunni power in
the now unstable and unsure frontiers of Iraq. To be sure, American and European leaderships and
mainstream media are obliged to present al-Qeda as 'something else' but we however need to ask
leading questions on the real nature of sunni-shi'a conflict. One question is how do we analyse or
treat conflicts like the first Iran-Iraq war, or Persian-Ottoman war of the late 18th Century. Was this
a sunni-shi'a war? Was the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war a sunni-shi'a war ? Are we moving to a context
where disengagement by the Great Powers, certainly in Iraq, probably in Afghanistan, could trigger
a regional sunni-shi'a war ? Are we facing religious conflicts, or something else?

To be sure, there is a fine and long pedigree for sunni-shi'a conflict ! There have been more than
1000 years of this in the wider Mid East and central Asian (MECA) region, more precisely about
1244 years if we take the squabbles, including loss of life, that surrounded the choice of wasi or
inheritor to the 3rd, 4th and 5th "saint Imans", concluding about 765, as the start. At the same time
theological, political, community based and philosophical or ideological - all these conflicts testify
to the deep-rooted, constantly renewed, and never forgotten divisions opposing the two camps. In
fact, from very early on, this division spilled out of the already large MECA region, with Islam's
spread to the west and to the east. More than 500 years of conflicts, partly or mostly religious,
within the islamicised societies of North Africa, West Asia and South Asia testify to this. The great
difference, we can note, is that sunni-shi'a conflicts outside the MECA region were almost never
international, at least during the 'historical period' that we place at before 1800-1850, the real start
of what is called 'The Clash of Civilizations'. Only inside the MECA region were sunni-shi'a
divisions able to trigger, and maintain what we would define as 'international conflict' today.

We can make imperfect and unsure arguments that 'clash of civilizations', mainly christian-islamic
conflict but also religious schism continued in the MECA region long after the crusaders quit, in
about 1299-1310. Today's Istanbul, the Constantinople of antiquity, was the scene of both christian-
muslim and internal christian schismatic conflict, and the scene of massive religious based pogroms
and massacres. The most extreme of these massacres was in 1453, opposing muslims and christians.
This event left indelible traces of muslim-christian tension in the Turkey of today, expressed by the
systematic marginalisation of Armenian, Syriaque and Chaldean christians. Another proof of this, in
November 2006, and 27 years before that in 1979, was the choice of the two most recent Popes to
visit Turkey. As we know, the 1979 visit of John Paul 2 was theatre to an assassination attempt, but
the objective of these visits was both ecumenical and an attempt at reconciling the Roman and
Byzantine strands of christianity, 'divorced' since the earliest days of christianity.

Conflict and schism inside the christian camp was surely at least as brutal and bloody as any
conflict inside Islam. Constantinople was theatre to numerous internal christian, or christian-only
conflict, and was also the city where the longstanding 'fatal division' of the Roman and Byzantine
christian churches was sealed and formalized, in the 16thC. This schism, we can note, was one of
the motors for emerging protestantism in western Europe, leading to its fatal conflict with Roman
catholicism. Catholic and protestant schism became intense, and bloody, from about 1450.

We can simplify by placing the start of sunni-shi'a division at about 750, becoming irrevocable by
about 900, while the greatest schism in the Christian church occurred much later, from the 15thC.
Islamic schism was therefore about 450 or 500 years earlier, but in theological terms we must note
the Christian church was riven by schism at least equal in virulence to the protestant-catholic divide,
by as early as 400. Some christian theologians and religious historians argue that supposed 'pagan
elements' in christianity - loudly attacked by many Judaic and Islamic theologians - were added as a
method for widening its reach among potential recruits and reducing tension. At the time of Christ,
and well before, Judaism was wracked by schismatic division. All these early doctrinal conflicts
were exploited by the Roman empire's attempts at 'regime saving' itself, in its colonial wars and
facing the resistance struggle against Rome's empire, which spread across a vast region of Europe
and the Near East, involving every kind of community, ethnic group, religion and creed. Emerging
christianity surely played a major role in the resistance struggles against the pagan or panthiest
Romans, exactly like Judaism's revolt against Rome, but christianity finally became the official
religion of Rome, by 550-569. Previously, it had been the exact opposite: the rallying ideology of
opposition to Rome.

It is therefore impossible to firewall or neatly separate "internal monolithic" struggles involving

only one ethnic group adopting or inventing a religion then dividing that religion, and the opposite.
This opposite, where different ethnic groups adopted or invented different religions is however the
real world case in most historical situations, such as Judaic-Christian rivalry in the Near East around
the time of Christ. As noted above, this was used by Roman colonial powers in a highly classic
divide-and-rule strategy to reinforce their control.

If we want a really basic cause of later and politicized sunni-shi'a division that has shaped the entire
MECA region and far beyond, we find this in the Mongol invasion. This event fed back as a motor
force for later sunni-shi'a division. It was likely also the real founding basis of Iran and Iranian
nationalism, with its related relegation or denial of the 'Persian' concept. The Mongol invasion
probably accelerated shi'a conversion of Iran, and also reinforced Arab sunnism to the west of Chatt
el Arab. Today, we have a stark and sharp geopolitical fault line to the east and west of the Persian
or Arab Gulf, ably exploited not only by the Great Powers, but also by all the local players. Arab
nationalism, we can suggest with many historians, was certainly accelerated if not founded by the
Mongol invasion - yet this in no way prevented the spread of chi'ism which quickly became Iran's
official religion. Throung the ages, we can also conclude, search by external powers for divide-and-
rule levers inside the region, using the shifting populations, communities, powers and regimes of
the region as their chess pieces, has on balance only tended to one result. This is to reinforce the
more militant and xenophobic currents in political Islam, which always and finally works to the
disadvantage of the external powers.

(end of chapter)


We have to ask why so many times, in the distant past as well as the present - and probably the
future - both shi'a and sunni factions, groups or movements can unite facing a common enemy, and
then quickly return to internecine fighting when this enemy is beaten, neutralized or 'absorbed'. This
is one way to look at the recent history of Afghanistan from the Soviet invasion of 1979, to the US
and western invasion of 2001 and beyond. The Mongol invasion of the entire region and its sequels
also helps to answer our question.

The Mongol invasion and conquest of the MECA region was completed or brought to a stable state
by about 1260-1300. Conventional history recounts that the Monghols, who were more a federation
of clannish states than a nation, were "converted to Islam" by about 1400-1600, earlier in Iran and
later elsewhere in the very large region they invaded and occupied. This is far too simplistic. As late
as 1600-1605 the eastern Mongol aristocracy, in a large region covering what today is eastern Iran,
western Pakistan, northwestern India and Afghanistan was being converted to lamaism, or
Buddhism, under Altan Khan. Conventional history continues by asserting that, to the west, Mongol
invaders converted to sunni Islam, while to the east they converted to shi'ism. This neat division is
unable to explain highly important events in the region, in that period, which shaped the sunni-shi'a
divide, and even the later creation or foundation of certain nation states. One huge anomaly was
shi'a ismaelian power in the far west of the region, in today's Syria.

The Ismaelites were followers of Ismael, eldest son of 5th Imam Jafar al-Sadiq, 'passed over' or
ignored by his father in favour of another and younger son, Musa al-Kazim, as his chosen wasi or
designated successor for the position of 6th Imam. This was in either 764 or 765. We can note that
the term '5th Imam' is usually followed by of the shi'a because many sunni 'stop the clock' at the
3rd Imam, al-Hosayn Said al-Shohada (died in about 680). Other sunni, for whom we could use the
term 'ecumenical', go a little further and include the 4th Imam, Ali Zaynol Abidin (died about 711)
as both a sunni and shi'a imam. These believers can be called 'quadrimamian sunni'. In any case, at
the time of the 5th Imam, about 765, the Ismaelites refused the choice of successor made by Jafar al-

The link with terror for 19th, 20th and 21stC European, American and other historians seeking
sensational factoids on Islam starts here. Ismaelians might have assassinated Musa al-Kazim, after
35 years or so of his supreme priesthood, in about 799, and they might have used haschich when or
if they did so. This supposed detail was used to build the theme of 'ismaelian = assassin'. When
Musa al-Kazim died it is unknown if his killers were themselves immediately killed, making them
kamikaze drug-dependent religious fanatics of the type today's media loves to present. The future
linkage of ismaelian shi'a, then any Islamic suicide bomber with the term kamikaze , now a staple of
media hysteria, obviously had to await the invention of the term after the second world war in the
Pacific region. Nearly at the war's end Japanese aviators, short of fuel, used their planes as bombs
usually killing themselves in this last ditch tactic for attacking the enemy.

At the time of ismaelian struggle, in the 8thC, the Jafar al-Sadiq succession squabble and then crisis
launched and then formalized what we can call the internal shi'a schism, between Ismaelite or
ismaelian shi'a on one hand, and all other shi'a on the other. The second and much larger group are
followers or believers in all imams up to the 11th and 12th Imams. They are also deep admirers of
Musa al-Kazim, al-Sadiq's wasi, and all wasis in the lineage of what are called the 'shi'a saint
imams'. This spans a period able to be quite precisely dated, about 764 to 874. Whether true or not,
non-ismaelian shi'a hold the ismaelians responsible for the death of Musa al-Kazim, in 799 AD.

Today's Syria is in part a French colonial concept flowing from the Versailles Treaty series of
conferences (1917-1923), in which French administrators, under mandate from the Society of
Nations (precursor to the UN), very surely played the ismaelite and shi'a card for divide-and-rule
ends. Their strategy was clear: in a context where the Arab nationalism-influenced sunni movement,
addressing the sunni demographic majority was a sure menace to French power and influence and
coverage of potential oil bearing territory, shi'ite countervailing power was welcome. At the base of
this strategy choice, traditional Syria was a small but historically vital ismaelian stronghold. An
important detail is that the Mongols carried out one of their relatively rare mass atrocities at the
siege of Alamut, 1256. This centre of shi'a learning was also called the 'centre of the hashashiyin
cult', by European historians of the 19thC - and portrayed by them as a hotbed of religious
kamikaze assassination cultists, using marijuana in their killing frenzies. Closer to reality, Alamut
was a centre of educational and philosophical reform.

Alamut was also a centre of sufi mysticism. Although mystic, as we note elsewhere concerning
political islam, sufi mystics were strongly hostile to all foreign domination, of any kind, including
any kind of foreign religious creed. They resolutely opposed all colonial presence in the entire Arab
and Muslim sphere. For these two reasons, that is philosophical and political, Alamut was destroyed
and razed to the ground by the Mongols. Analysing further we can note that the Monghols, by
1240-1250, had established a modus vivendi with the sunni Abbaside dynasty, and with the
expanding Fatimide shi'a-sunni authorities, also called a dynasty but at the time only a few years
old. Based in Cairo, this 'dynasty' or power structure, as its name suggests, supported the branch of
Islam attributing special importance to the daughter of Mahomet, Fatima. The ismaelian shi'a
mystics of Alamut also attributed great importance to this female principle in Islam, but in a very
different way from sunnis. The ismaelian interpretation of Fatima was condemned as pagan by
hard-line sunni theologians, proving their sunni zeal with their own brand of Fatima devotion.

In the east, in today's Iran, another and fourth Religion of the Book - mazdeism - was in the process
of being supplanted at the time of Mongol conquest. Nothing, in theory, would have prevented the
Monghols converting to mazdeism or zorastrianism in the east, rather than to shi'a Islam. This
however did not happen. In today's region of Palestine, Lebanon and Israel, Mongols rarely if ever
converted to Christianity or Judaism, but did convert to the cult of Hermes and its later Druze
religious or theosophical derivative. This "brotherly different" and parallel religion or mythology,
the Druze cult, is usually assimilated to either sunni or to shi'a islam, that is islamic and
monotheist.We can also consider it an 'islamic flavored' philosophy closely related to neo-
platonism, or, depending on analytic stance, it can be considered a derivative of certain Greek
mythical cults, notably the Hermes cult. Many of these cults remained powerful in the region until
well after the Mongol conquest was completed, about 1275.

This very brief review shows the extreme complexity we face in the real world, where black-and-
white divisions and differences are very rare. The story of haschisch cults inside Islam is shot
through with myth and legend, but in many well-documented cases both sunni and shi'a leaderships
will unite against a common enemy, bringing all their forces to bear. In other cases, divide-and-rule
works like clockwork on shi'a-sunni divisions and rivalries. This however does not help us
understand why there was so little resistance, from Arabs and Persians and other conquered Muslim
peoples facing 'heathen' invaders in the early 14thC, or so little organized transborder resistance to
Great Power oil-driven interference in the region since 1917.

The Mongol invaders, in theory, were exactly like the Christian and European crusaders. The last
major christian crusade (in the 1180s, well before the fall of Jerusalem) only preceded Mongol
arrival on the Mediterranean shores by a few decades. Mongol mercenaries often fought alongside
and for christian forces. It is possible the major difference was indeed religious: the Christian
Crusaders had a religion, if non-muslim; the Monghols had no religion at all. We could ironically
surmise that the almost pagan Global Economy cheap oil crusaders of today - US and British troops
in Iraq, and US, British, French, German and other European troops occupying Afghanistan - could
with time be converted to sunni or shi'a Islam by Iraqi and Afghani resistance fighters, like they did
to Monghols around 800 years ago. This underlines an important fact: sunni-shi'a schism is custom
made for divide-and-rule, in fact includes its own variant of this strategy, but also can mutate into
Holy War against outsiders. What we can be sure of is ambivalence and unpredictability, which is a
fitting tribute to the complex philosophical bases and long history of sunni-shi'a division.

We can describe the shi'a-sunni divide as a permanent if usually latent conflict, always able to surge
into the political arena, today as in the distant past. Parallels with catholic-protestant divisions and
rivalries are easy, but unconvincing on deeper analysis. Understanding the ancient-modern divide of
shi'a and sunni, and how this divide can radically sharpen political polarization and armed conflict,
as in Iraq and Palestine today, and in Afghanistan since the 1970s and 1980s, needs a look at its
historical, philosophical and theosophical bases. These bases, as we said, are often compared with
Catholic-Protestant rivalry and dissent in Mediaeval and modern Europe, but big differences exist.
One of these is that shi'a-sunni divide started very early. Another is that it included large population
movements from the start, rather than leading to these, as in Catholic-Protestant conflicts.

It is impossible to say whether sunni or shi'a theology and derived political values came first, but
we do know that conflict between these two branches of Islam extends as far back as the 8thC.
Since that time it has been sometimes a motor force, sometimes an aggravating factor in
uncountable conflicts. In other cases of conflicts across the MECA region it is hard to see any
specially important role from Islamic schism as a motor force. What we can say is that sunni-shia's
schism, like Christian schism but much earlier, was a forced and conflictual birth of opposing
religious doctrines within a single 'mother creed'. Like almost any political or ideological conflict it
was initially and fundamentally a philosophical dispute, that was able to move up and out from
academic discussion and debate, and penetrate the political sphere. In Islam, for special reasons, this
went further and faster, became more totalitarian than schismatic divide in other religions.

Perhaps due to its early start, ideological dispute soon became full religious schism, and was soon
exploited for political ends. Because the various strands are so intermingled - the religious and
philosophical, and the political and ethnic - it is not possible to cleanly or clearly separate the
factors that concern us today in the sunni-shi'a conflict, that is the 'religious' or ideological on one
hand, and the 'political' or ethnic and sectarian on the other. In Mediaeval Europe this was exactly
the same process if taking longer – once the philosophical or ideological conflict had broken out of
its academic chains, it became a fully-fledged driver of political conflict and war. As elsewhere
outside the Middle East, 'political' includes what are basically ethnic and nationalist divisions,
generating social conflict and popular opposition to identified groups, regimes or powers holding
envied control over resources, wealth or territory. As elsewhere, ethnic conflict and rivalry soon
grafted itself on or into the shi'a-sunni schism. This further intensified the schism, through
encouraging thinkers in rival ethnic groups to further sharpen the Us and Them divide. The link
with what is called 'political islam' today is evident.

A glance at the situation in Iraq, through about 2005-2007, immediately supports this argument.
Sunni-shi'a rivalry was quickly exploited by the sunni-dominated al-Qaeda factions or groups, as a
way to recruit and obtain support in their fight with the always fragile and transient shi'a-dominated
'national unity' government, first put in place in 2006 by the US and UK. Whether al-Qaeda itself
was a simple invention of US, UK, ISI or other secret services is another question. Basic numbers
decide that Iraq's shi'a majority would win out against minority sunnite hardliners, over and above
the economic and military overlays including the US “surge” and highly mediatized use of divide-
and-rule for pacification south of Baghdad. Adding more complexity, the now de facto Kurdish
homeland or 'near national state', in the north-east of Iraq, glowingly described in western media as
having at least 10 Bn barrels of oil reserves, is basically not built on religious planks or grounds but
is a proto-nation comparable to 19thC and early 20thC European nation building movements, like

Sunni-shi'a conflict, as we said, started in philosophical dispute from the 8thC. Its political impacts
were already strong by the 9th and 10thC, but were in no way of regular or constant occurrence
through the centuries that followed. More important, sunni-shi'a conflict was also implicated in
what can be called the earliest forms of Arab and Muslim nationalism.

The death of Shihaboddin Yaya Sohrawahdi in the citadel of Alep, in July 1191, was on the direct
orders of Salah al-Din al-Yusuf, better known as Saladin to the Crusaders and to Western school
textbooks. Less well-known to Western schoolchildren but well-known to their counterparts in
several Arab countries, Saladin is often dubbed Father of Arab nationalism. Why sunnite and
Kurdish Saladin ordered the death of this renowned shi'a scholar, transforming him to a sheikh
muqtal or martyred leader in the eyes of his followers, was most surely not in furtherance of the
Kurdish cause, despite Saladin's status as a sunni Kurd leader. Saladin acted, like many military
chiefs in wartime, for what he took to be the good of his cause. His cause can be called the sunni
community cause, but he willingly confounded and included this within a wider Arab and Muslim
cause. Saladin was a pan-Arab nationalist, at least in modern mythology.

On the ground, local forces under Saladin were at the time engaged in very intense military struggle
against the massed armies of the European crusaders. Saladin employed all the astucious tricks that
divide-and-rule can offer. Victory was close, with its war booty or Peace Dividend that victory
would deliver. Why Saladin refused every demand for mercy, from sages, philosophers and political
leaders, and did not spare Sohrawahdi was simple: Sohrawahdi was a major figure in the direct
lineage of all Islamic philosophers, both shi'a and sunni. Their entirely intellectual and
philosophical conjecture started in the 9thC, and in fact soon questioned and even transcended the
religious-philosophical barrier. By the late 12thC Sohrawahdi, and many other philosophers had
built a large body of religious philosophical speculation within Islam. All schools or tendencies
were represented, from extreme orthodox and dogmatic literalism tending to anthropomorphism, to
an opposite sort of humanism, almost extending to agnosticism.

We can trace Sohrawardi's intellectual lineage from al-Kindi (Abu Yusuf ibn Ishaq al-Kindi) in the
late 9th century, followed by al-Farabi (Abu Nasr Md. ibn Md. ibn Tarkhan ibn Uzalah al-Farabi) in
the 10th C. The works of these two key philosophers are large and confusing to any reader wanting
to find a quick, easy, clear division between 'theological' or doctrinal, and 'philosophical' or
speculative. Trying to find these firewalls is impossible, like finding completely fail-safe ways to
play divide-and-rule with sunni and shi'a groups and communities. Outside the Arab sunni sphere,
this process and form of religious philosophy, tending to mysticism and even questioning the
existence of a single and supreme creator god, continued for many centuries and still exists today.
Shi'a philosophers tended to be the flagbearers of this movement, starting early in Iran and
continuing through the 17th, 18th and 19thC, and even to the present. This in no ways means sunni
and shi'a philosophy were or are completely distinct and opposed, because the two strands were
welded together in certain schools from as early as the 9thC.

In 1191, however, very close to the final defeat of the Christian Crusaders, Saladin was a kind of
Ariel Sharon of the Arab Muslim world, a five star general with very basic ideas on religion and
righteousness of the narrowest sunni type. In the throes of war against the Infidel invader, and with
the lure of large territorial gains and massive booty, Saladin could not tolerate philosophising of a
type that, in fact, could be called "anti religious", or "trans religious". This in no way depreciates the
philosopher and valorizes the five star general, in fact the contrary. Many sunni intellectuals of
today, including Kurds, will describe Saladin as a war-crazed buffoon, while al-Kindi, al-Farabi and
Sohrawardi continue to be deeply respected for their philosophical works.

Al-Farabi was for over 500 years given the soubriquet Magister secundus, second only to Aristotle,
by scholars and theologians in a vast sweep of the then-civilized world, from Europe and Greece to
today's Pakistan. This status was not mainly or solely earned through his defence of Islam, but for
the quality of his philosophical speculation, including and incorporating much scientific and
technical knowledge, as well as humanist and mystical thought. As we know today, Aristotle made
absolutely false conclusions in subject areas as widespread as astronomy and biology, but at his
time and for centuries afterwards his writings held the role of 'pure science'. In some philosophical
areas however, for example dialectical and syllogistic reasoning, his works can only command
respect even today. Al-Kindi and al-Farabi laid the powerful bases for Sohrawahdi's philosophical
investigations, which he carried forward - even in wartime - at the cost of his life.

A brief examination of how these philosophers extended their conceptual bases, and in particular
their humanist or humanising orientation, shows us why sunni orthodox Saladin, holding to a
narrow literalist intepretation of Islam, in wartime, could not permit such dangerous speculation.
What we might call fundamentalism today was more than 800 years ago the natural choice of
determined political and military leaderships as exemplified by Saladin. We can easily conclude this
is one main form of political Islam, but in fact it concerns opinion management, ideologically
welding the largest possible number of people together, to fight some easily identified enemy power
with a different religious creed, for a certain period and with defined goals. Among these goals,
perhaps the most evident goal, was or is nation building.

Both al-Farabi and Sohrawardi, and al-Kindi can be loosely called neoplatonian or aristotelean
philosophers, although they surely and certainly did not accept such neat and watertight descriptions
of their Islamic philosophies. Even today opinions differ on Plato and Aristotle being 'monotheistic'
philosophers or not. Like any other monotheistic religion, Islam is obliged to reject any ambiguity
on the subject of a single creator god., and all three of these key philosophers were Islamic. This
was not a nuance or distinguo: the term 'islamic' had very special meaning to all three of them, but
examination of what they meant by 'islamic' is by its nature controversial for latter-day
fundamentalists and literalists, as for the so-called 'orthodox community' of their day.

In essence, by 'islamic' they meant 'monotheist'. Both Plato and Aristotle, the inescapable reference
sources for all scholars and all philosophers for hundreds of years, for more than 1000 years across
the then-civilized world, were by definition pagan or pantheist philosophers. Yet this is basically not
true and is too sharp and strong as a definition, because Plato and Aristotle were also considered
agnostic philosophers, certainly by many Judaic, Christian and Islamic scholars. Underlining the
uncertainty and ambiguity of this, and giving powerful ammunition to both sides in any dispute,
philosophers of the time and still today contradict this description of Plato and Aristotle. This
includes the ideas of followers of Aristotle, such as Ptolomey (about 200 AD). Depending on the
philosophical stance, Plato and Ptolomey can be treated not as 'agnostic' but as essentially "pre-
monotheist" thinkers, and Aristotle too. Their works, after this revision, were no longer reserved
only for book-burning because, no longer being pagan but perhaps with some lingering panthism,
their philosophy was now acceptable. It could be more widely considered and discussed, as
Sohrawahdi and other key Islamic philosophers of the time ably did.

For Saladin and the orthodox community this went too far: “mass opinion” needs to be marshalled
or in modern newspeak managed. Being tolerant with ideas that were already 1500 years old,
developed in the polytheistic Greece of about 900 years before Mahomet was much too loose for
the 12th century Middle East. Politically correct, or at least ideologically correct already had defined
meanings. One powerful reason apart from crusader war and invasion was that Islam faced at least
three other widely known, seriously competing Religions of the Book. These were Judaism,
Zoroastrianism and Christianity. Islam was born on the defensive, in competition with three other
powerful religions and a host of cults hungry for recruits, economic power and political standing.
These cults included the Apollo cult, which was bitterly criticised by Mahomet himself, using
arguments supplied to him by the Neoplatonian soothsayer Sergius working the Rash al-Ayna oasis
along the caravan route from Mecca to Damascus. All of the three competing monotheist religions,
Judaism, Zoroastrianism and Christianity, are in fact highly ambiguous regarding one single god, on
detailed analysis, despite their apparent central and 'monolithic' doctrine of One God.

This of course brings howls of protest from orthodox believers of these three 'religions of the Book',
but in fact the simple question of monotheism or not-monotheism was or is a constant and
dangerous ideological threat to all monotheistic religions. Schism within the Judaic religion and
Christian church, producing the Kabbale and Hassidism, Protestantism and Evangelism, the
collapse of Zoroastrianism in Iran and its migration to India, all these historical facts were
powerfully fed by dispute on the role and powers of one single god. This dispute usually started in
religious philosophical questioning of god's divisibility. This quickly extends into questioning how
far divine power or powers go, on Earth or in the sky, and apparently simple but dangerous
questioning of whether the single god permits both 'good' and 'evil'. If the god permits the second,
he, she or it can be presented as having an ambiguous relationship with Humanity. The question of
sex, gender and type of the god is also important : how may this entity or these powers be
personified, should it be personified ?

These and other doctrinal and philosophical questions are grist to the mill for those who wish to
split the religious community, and lead its believers towards other and different concepts,
incorporated in new or competing religions. Taking the question of whether or not good and evil
should, or could be personified (with an anti-god entity such as Satan, Ahriman, Honayd, Iblis or
the Devil), we can note that Zoroastrainism in particular personified good and evil as secondary and
equal god-like principles. Later Zoroastrianism, from about 600, backtracked on this implied triple
deity. Its theologians downgraded the good and evil principles, spenta angra and spenta minya,
very comparable to Yin and Yang, and brought in Adam and Eve-like anthropomorphic entities. Yet
even with this ‘agonizing rethink’ and relative to Islam, the Zoroastrian creed was always tainted by
ambiguity on the one-ness and the all-powerful nature of a supreme and single creator god.

All these philosophical, as well as doctrinal questions imply and implied ambivalence, at least in the
eyes of al-Kindi, al-Farabi and Sohrawahdi. Christianity, in particular, was targeted by Islamic
philosophers, from the earliest days. This was due to Christian doctrines containing deliberately
confused or ambivalent relations between the divine and the terrestrial, the role of 'God's son Jesus',
the role and function of 'immaculate conception', the transformation of blood to wine, or the
dilution of the soul in blood, and so on. This ambivalence or weakness was fiercely attacked, as
neo-paganism, by Islamic philosophers who went on to call this syncretism a mix-and-mingle
selection of incompatible religious ideas. Islamic philosophy, from its earliest days, sought rigour
and clarity, using all then-modern philosophical techniques, and notably dialecticism, to do so. As
we shall see, this was very surely a doubled-edged sword, but before this became evident the
apparent clarity, and apparently pure montheism of Islam were powerful supports in its
proselytising and proto national mission.

One case exemplifies this, and it still concerns us today: the mass conversion of today's Iran,
between about 1000 and 1150, was extremely rapid and total. It is easy to argue this greatly helped
the nation building of Iran. One fundamental reason why Zoroastrianism, the previous main
religion, fell back so fast and was completely replaced by shi'a islam is the absolutely monotheist
character of Islam, compared to the ambivalent, partly taoist and hinduist nature of Zoroastrinaism.
By 1306 shi'a Islam was proclaimed the official religion of Iran and has remained so ever since.

Al-Farabi, Sohrawardi and al-Kindi can be classified as sunni orthodox, shi'a, and sunni motazilite.
This last doctrine or school was the cause of early fundamentalist reaction within Islam. Al-Kindi
almost paid with his life, during the al-Motowakkil caliphate of Baghdad, for views able to be
called "atheist". This was due to his support, and criticism, of the wide debate that led to the
Motazilite school being founded. The debate was in part due to al-Kindi himself, working Bagdad's
leading intellectual debating circles, about 850-860. The Motazilite school or doctrine can be called
an early hellenising or ancient Greek philosophical trend inside Islam, starting with the musings in
about 735 of Wasil ibn Ata. The existence of this school directly triggered the first sunni orthodox
reaction, in the shape and form of ibn Hanbal's impassioned denounciation of Motazilite 'deviation',
from about 840. The very term 'sunna', meaning 'tradition', derives from this first and violent
intellectual or philosophical reaction to essentially dialectical speculation on the nature, role, and
powers of the one God and mankind, and of all or anything else, living or inanimate.

The extreme literalist doctrine set down by ibn Hanbal, called hanbalism, and its much later but
equally virulent 18th C cousin, wahabism, as well as 11thC salafism, and other orthodox, literalist
and reactionary schools or tendencies such as hanefism, malekism, and so on, are rightly described
as fundamentalist and obscurantist. Their reaction to challenge was to cover up and choke off
debate and discussion by refusing any dialectical opposite of any kind. The Motazilites, of which al-
Kindi was never a formal member, defended many 'dangerous' philosophical concepts, such as
universal expansion (an expanding universe), and the atomism of Democritus, which in fact dates
from at least 450 BC. Although this might seem a little innocent to us, today, early Greek atomism
was entirely polytheist basically arguing that all humans, animals and plants are a mix-and-mingle
of previously living beings in these three classes or categories.

At a time when western science and religion held the world to be flat and even denied the
circulation of blood in the human body, the Motazilites described an expanding universe made up of
atoms. Their mathematical theories were also highly developed, making it quite easy to see a link
between motazilism and the concepts that underlay all modern macromolecular physics, if not
subatomic physics. The Motazilites in general, and al-Kindi in particular, were however and
certainly devoutly religious. They were also integrally montheist in their religious views, but their
search for truth led them to take positions which surely exposed them to denounciation by their
contemporary opponents, the hanbalites and salafists.

The question of causality, so important to religious philosophers, and to dogmatists in all today's
remaining Religions of the Book (Judaism, Chritianism, Islamism), occupied a major role in the
philosophy and theosophy of al-Kindi, al-Farabi and Sohrawardi. This theme of causality was a
uniting theme, and to some extent enabled the rumbling orthodox-versus-humanist dispute inside
Islam to be plastered over. One reason for the need to limit dispute was the general context of attack
from without - notably the Mongol invasion, following right after the defeat and departure of the
last crusaders, by about 1300. Perhaps ironically, the Monghols were essentially atheist, making
them at least as bad, or worse than the monotheist Christians to stout Islamic believers.

The subject of causality, in fine, led to a convergence of extremes. On the one hand the extreme
literalists, such as ibn Hanbal, the salafists of ibn Taymiya, and the followers of ibn Wahab, and on
the other the most liberal Islamic philosophers in the tradition of as al-Kindi or Sohrawardi,
converge and agree on at least a few basics. One basic cause of any religion is its founding beliefs
and how they are communicated to mankind. Perhaps partly due to the Monghol threat, both
fundamentalist and liberal Islamic philosophers, as early as 1300, agreed that the Qoran's teachings
are intrinsic and trans-sensorial, not open to philosophical debate, impossible to verify or falsify,
and so on. For the liberals this was to some extent a major retreat.

We should separate the intellectual dispute which grew up inside Islam and spilled out to political
Islam and Arab nationalism, from the philosophical reasons for this.The causes of Islam's
ideological rejection of foreign influences, as already noted, feature the defensive role and nature of
Islam during the crusader wars and the Monghol invasion. The basic philosophical reason for retreat
of the 'hellenist' or 'humanist' schools in Islam is dialectical. If and when dialectical reasoning is
used on religious concepts relating to the existence of trans-sensorial entities, notably divine
powers, their existence or their powers can be negated as easily as affirmed. For example using
syllogistic reasoning, codified by Aristotle and highly influential for at least 1000 years in the
Eastern Mediterranean, it is is merely necessary to switch around the first two statements or
'principles'. The wanted conclusion can be the same, the opposite, or neither. Thus god can be
affirmed or negated as the first principle, and the conclusion can be that a single god exists. For any
monotheistic religion this is a basic necessity, enabling the single god to go on and cause matter,
existence, good and evil, bountiful harvests, rainy Tuesdays, or whatever.

For the intellectual elite of Islam, to be sure, this was a satisfactory way to limit dissent in a time of
stress and challenge, but opened the door to, and ended with a net victory for fundamentalists. The
final response of these Islamic philosophers, as for those from the other Religions of the Book was
to trace a frontier between the strictly physical and rational, and the religious. On the one hand there
is religion, on the other there is science or philosophy. Only the second group are open to debate
and dispute. Acceptance or rejection of this binary logic was, as we shall see, part and parcel of the
sunni-shi'a divide because shi'a philosophers, over the centuries, have always tended to reject this
intellectual figleaf, sometimes openly and sometimes covertly. Though seemingly abstruse, this
difference of sunni and shi'a viewpoints is still alive and well today, and a supporting cause or
driver of sunni and shi'a rivalry - for example Iranian-backed political Islam movements opposing
the sunni leaderships of the GCC countries.

In the religious philosophical dispute there could never be complete and total doctrinal victory, nor
absolute truth. For both camps - sunni scholars tending to orthodoxy and shi'a thinkers tending to
the opposite - these intellectual quarrels, on the ground and in politics, quickly become impassioned
and violent. There is no need to compare this with the long, sad and violent history of Christian
schism and its book burnings and heretic burnings on the bucher, but the comparison is valid:
schism breeds and feeds new or additional bases for political, social, ethnic or other conflicts. Only
in cases of massive attack from external forces will there be inter-confessional union and rallying
against the common enemy. This explains why, in the wider MECA region today, there is continued
potential for external players to operate divide-and-rule strategies and tactics, as the US and UK
have used since 2005 in Iraq, and all players have used in Afghanistan since the 1980s. Just as
possible however, this can pass a tipping point and result in jihad or Holy War against foreigners.

As we shall note elsewhere, claimed 'founding fathers of islamic terrorism' such as the ismaelian
shi'a hashashiyin of 12th and 13thC Syria, who surely used kamikaze attack against their enemies,
in no way traced their origin to sunni-shi'a schism, but to this cause among others. These other
causes included political, territorial, ethnic, and even economic causes. For the shi'a ismaelians, the
external threat was a war to the death against both sunni Arab and European crusader forces some
of which, in some battle campaigns included Mongol mercenary allies. As we shall also note
elsewhere, sunni extremism can be compared with any kind of part-religious nationalism - notably
with Jewish nationalism - because orthodox doctrinal concepts are easy to translate into unbending
and intransigent politics. As elsewhere in the world, religious based, or religion-inspired politics can
usually provide all that is required for launching and maintaining long-term armed conflicts with
massive loss of life and destruction of property.

(end of chapter)


Perhaps ironically, the philosophical bases on which sunnite-chi'ite schism are founded, and the
cause of fundamentalism - according to extreme orthodox literalists themselves - are traceable to the
foundations of ancient Greek philosophy, about 600 BC. That is 2600 years ago. The whole corpus
or body of ancient Greek philosophy is implied - sometimes openly incorporated - in both sunnite
and chi'ite theology and religious philosophy, even more so than in Judaism and Christianism.
Equally surely this plagiarism or 'need to deny' is itself denied by all orthodoxies, in all 3 religions
of the Book. In the case if Islam, this denial was early and ferocious, and another founding basis of
fundamentalism. Rooting out 'foreign and pagan' ideas was an early sport for sunnite literalists,
starting with ibn Hanbal in about 840 AD, but one basic problem was and is that the offending or
heretical ideas first have to be identified and discussed. One central teaching of Greek philosophy is
that a multitude of meanings and logic can be advanced and denegrated, contradicted and opposed,
disputed and defended almost anytime that the meaning of ideas is the subject. The cut and thrust of
debate will decide, as human social tradition has set from the dawn of organised human groups.
Debate and discussion are the real meaning of philosophy

Socrates, in particular, was well aware of this. His response was to never, under any circumstance
set down his thoughts in writing - while permitting students of his, notably Plato, to take all the
notes he wanted. Only by live debate and spontaneous thought do ideas progress, was the central
argument of Socrates. This rule was a long-time tradition of western philosophy, if we take Socrates
as the real founder of what we call western philosophy. In any case, this rule was also adopted and
applied by many founding figures of Islamic thought, doctrine and philosophy. One notable
example is Hibat Allah ibn Malk abul-Barakat al-Baghdadi (died about 1193), a convertee from
Judaism at the late age of about 60 years. This philosopher, based in Baghdad as his name indicates,
is sometimes called an islamic Thomas Aquinas. He is however mainly known as the father of
political Islam. This title or status was due to his philosophical stance, and had almost nothing to do
with what we call 'politics' today.

His stance was closer to Confucianism or to the schools of chi'ite sufi mysticism initiated by Abu
Yazid Bastami (9thC), than anything 'political' of today, but nonetheless Hibat Allah surely knew
how to criticise Baghdadi politicians of his day. These orators were well supported by the already
growing schools of sunnite fundamentalism, whose own orators were skilled in winning round big
audiences using sophistry, rhetoric, dogmatism and other speaking tricks. Hibat Allah's criticism of
their demagogy and trickery earned him many admirers - and bitter political foes.

His main teaching was interpreted as political, even in his day. It was a direct attack on the very
bases of literary fundamentalism. He argued that successive layers of phases of written learning,
and transmission of this written learning, can only destroy or degenerate the bases of traditional
wisdom. In turn, divorced from our innate and intrinsic capacities to learn, reflect, discuss and
discover, no book of any kind - holy or not - will be of utility to us. How will we know if these
books tell us the truth? What criteria and bases can we use to find out, if we have forgotten our
origins ? How do we return to these origins ? To the islamic fundamentalists already working their
obscurantist poison in the 12thC, and powerful in Baghdad's political circles, this was a very
dangerous message. Like chairman Mao's little red book or Mein Kampf, doctrinal books are to
read and obey. Or else. We can note here that Confucius, a contemporary of Socrates (5thC BC) and
another fervent defender of tradition, was considered an essentially political philosopher.

Political islam today is very surely an essential component in the triple-layer Iraq war, and in
Israel's endless conflict with Islamic movements, and poses ever stronger challenges to the sunni
elites of the Gulf petromonarchies. In Iraq, political islam pits sunnites and chi'ites against each
other, separates the Kurds into a 'remake' of their short-lived nation of 1917-1923 with all that
implies with regard to Turkey and its threat to crush the Kurd nation, and finally generates ongoing
civil, sectarian, and above all political struggle against US and British presence. Sooner or later, it
will be this political movement and action which seals the fate of US and British occupation of Iraq.
Political islam enters into the multiple conflicts under way in Afghanistan, in Lebanon and Syria,
and between Israel and the Palestinians. In every case however political Islam is a go-anywhere,
mean-anything term - or rallying call. Both modern, and traditional meanings of the term 'political'
are mixed, often violently, in what are religious, sectarian, ethnic, national and community-based
movements and conflicts. Most import, political Islam always has traditional legitimacy.

For external players, the political economic element occupies the high ground. This usually
relegates the other components far behind, or simply ignores them. In Iraq, but also in Afghanistan
and in the standoff between Iran and the west, the understandable obsession with present and future
oil and gas supplies is underlain by depletion fear, pushing deciders to take quick and wrong
decisions as the Peak Oil clock counts down. This is surely one major reason for pessimism
regarding the outcome of the Next Oil War. When we turn to political islam as it is today, however,
we find it is vastly unrelated to oil depletion worries, even to who owns and controls what oil
reserve or which gasfield. These are vital interests to external players, in fact the whole world or at
least the Global Economy. These vital interests are almost irrelevant to political Islam. This is
basically a philosophical or ideological crisis, far more than a 'political debate', running like a fault
line between the tectonic plates of sunnism and chi'ism.

One of the reasons for this is easy to explain. Both in Confucian philosophy, and the philosophy
attributed to Hibat Allah (meaning 'gift of Allah', god-given), the basic teaching is that what we call
'political' today is only a method. Vastly more important is the content. This argument is very clear,
but becomes even more extreme when we look at the meaning of 'political' in the 12thC. As in
Aristotle's times 1400 years before, or Confucian times 1600 years before, 'political' had meanings
totally unlike today's meaning of the word. Traditionally, politics is linked with the Greek word
polis. This includes a concept of city organization and even of ideal city construction. Inside this
concept, very surely, there is a place for 'political' structures and procedures, but above all or
fundamentally there must first be 'the whole man'.
Hibat Allah continued with this Asian-influenced and ancient Greek-influenced doctrine, by
claiming that only by destruction of the ego can the individual accede to any higher sphere, of the
type that so-called Holy Books speak, through becoming 'the whole man'. Without this essentially
pan-Asian wisdom, incorporated in Hindu, Buddhist, Confucian, and other Asian religions and
philosophy, and very certainly a part of much ancient Greek philosophy, no society can remain
stable, nor adjust to changing circumstances, claimed Hibat Allah. His followers, to be sure, were
castigated by the fundamentalist hanbalites and the salafists, and later by the 18thC Saudi wahabites
because of his argument that no written body of teachings, including the Qoran, could guide persons
who had lost all contact with their roots. Without these roots, there can be no knowledge of what
'tradition' might mean. Losing contact with tradition, the followers of Hibat Allah and many chi'ite
mystic philosophers claimed, the devil of the human ego would take control.

Political islam of today, organised into political parties described by western media and observers as
'islamist parties', are usually influenced, sometimes dominated by fundamentalist islam. The only
utility of the external world's oil and gas need to these parties is to call it oil greed, motivated by
pure and foolish egoism. Islam is then presented as the antidote to, and bulwark against this egoism
- through tradition. Sunnism is specially well placed for adopting this stance.

As we know, Sunna means Tradition. Orthodox also means traditional, and fundamentalism is a
"return to tradition". The problem, as Hibat Allah said, starts here: "tradition" has to have a
meaning, its origins must be accepted by all parties and respected by all parties. Only a moment's
reflexion is needed to prove that what is 'tradition' today was surely 'innovation' at some stage in the
past: no tradition emerges with an instant-but-ancient pedigree, however fiercely it is defended ! As
he and many sufi mystics went on, this reality forces us to restrict our definitions of 'traditional' to
easily verified concepts, not necessarily given a complete explanation in written sacred texts, which
only provide what we can call truths for debating purposes.

Here we have another real base of schism between sunnites and chi'ites, with sure and certain real
world impacts on the action and policies proposed by political Islam today. Islamic tradition is very
often, sometimes deliberately confused with fundamentalism. For many reasons this applies more to
sunni schools than chi'ite schools. Defence of religious tradition in particular means the defence of
literary tradition, but as Hibat Allah, and many other islamic philosophers have claimed down the
centuries, acceptance of all that is written in the Qoran cannot exclude the personal meditation,
introspection, reflexion and philosophical enquiry which is the duty of each individual believer.

This extends to a far more serious charge. Bible worship to the extent of neglecting a believer's
personal duty to link with god, at its worst, is tashbih or anthropomorphism. This was the counter-
charge made by followers of more humanist traditions in islamic philosophy, not only Hibat Allah,
to the key accusation made against them by hard-liners. The fundamentalists' accusation was and is
that not accepting all contents of the Qoran, through philosophising, debate and discussion leads to
the evil of tatil or agnosticism. From the very start of the sunni literalist reaction to emerging
chi'ism, mysticism, and humanist tendencies in Islam, the reaction launched by ibn Hanbal around
840 AD always stoutly denied any anthropomorphism in what became orthodox literary sunnism.
This continues today.

In the Middle East of today, sunni minority regimes controlling the Petromonarchies of the Gulf can
- and do - halt or slow the democratizing trend using the pretext they are defending tradition,
through barring the route to power of agnostic chi'ite political parties or movements. Democracy is
set as a form of agnosticism through its process of conferring power on groups of human beings,
rather than princes with a 'close and personal' traditional hot-line to god. The arguments and
rationale of the Petromonarchs and Gas princes in fact traces directly back to the origins of the
sunnite-chi'ite theological divide. This in particular concerns Saudi Arabia and its latter-day form of
hanbalist intolerance, called 'Islamic fundamentalism' by many outsiders. This is the lugubrious and
strict doctrine, tending to Arab racism, that was taken to its limits by ibn Wahab in the 18thC.
Almost a state religious philosophy in Saudi Arabia, the wahabist or wahabite doctrine is yet more
obscure than its ancient forbears, hanbalism and salafism. Wahabism emerged long after the
Mongol invaders had been converted to islam, becoming the Turkish nation after centuries of ruling
the Ottoman caliphate, which for centuries dominated today's Saudi Arabia and far beyond.

This was not far enough back in time, however, to prevent Arab nationalist struggle against Turkish
domination from triggering the defensive wahabite doctrine. Wahabism never advanced to the stage
of 'politics' because of these born-in-war origins. We can compare it to the narrow sunnite
orthodoxy defended by Saladin, and motivating his decision to execute the liberal and humanist
islamic philosopher Shihaboddin Yaya Sohrawahdi (in 1191), almost contemporary with the death
of Hibat Allah. Like Saladin of the 12thC, engaged in a long struggle against Europe's crusaders,
ibn Wahab was sending out a call for unity amongst Arabs against all and any foreign influences.

Chi'ite-sunnite schism, fanning ethnic and community conflicts, and feeding back to intensified
schism and dispute is surely 'political' in its impacts, today, in Iraq and elsewhere in the wider Mid
East region. We can estimate that the increasingly religious oriented, sunnite-chi'ite armed conflict
among so-called civil militias and groups in Iraq has, through 2008, killed several hundred thousand
persons since 2003, perhaps more. What is important is that there is no upward limit or ceiling to
the scope or range of conflict.

The upward limit for civilian casualties, and certain massive damage to economic infrastructures in
a widespread chi'ite-sunnite war throughout the wider Mid East region is almost open-ended, and
impossible to estimate. The reason for this pessmistic, but unfortunately rational conclusion is that
schismatic conflict, once it has spilled out of the philosophical debating circle, and become part and
parcel of armed sectarian, communtarian or national conflict, can continue for many years.
Historical evidence shows these conflicts can run for decades, even centuries. Runaway
intensification of the current schism-based, or schism-intensified conflict in Iraq, with the Iraq war
playing the role of regional flashpoint, and US strategists playing ‘containment through divide-and-
rule’ could almost surely result in millions of dead. The current estimates of total numbers of deaths
in Iraq since "regime change" in 2003, of about 1.6 million to mid 2008 (estimated by ‘The Lancet’
journal among others), would be puny by comparison. For external players and the world economy,
however, the certainty that oil production infrastructures would be collateral damage is the greatest
danger. For this reason we should never forget that during civil wars of the religious type, fighting
can continue for decades rather than years. Very surely each side, in each theater of armed conflict
will attempt to destroy the basic economic supports of the enemy, using resource denial to extirpate
the enemy from the region or country.

In the case of sunnite-chi'ite schism, because it came long after the first schisms of Judaism and
Christianity, and is better documented, we must note that Islam to a far greater degree than Judaism
or Christianity was obliged or forced to take account of, sometimes parry, and sometimes integrate
the rapidly growing scientific, technical, astronomical, biological and mechanical science
knowledge of its time. Islam was also obliged, more than Judaism or Christianity, to find ways to
negate and oppose the ideas of other religions and other philosophies. Islam was under intellectual
attack from the time of its birth, explaining two tendencies in Islam. These are ideological
hermetism and dogmatism on one hand. On the other, we find the opposing tendency of mysticism,
sometimes vaporous and idealist, sometimes bizarre and baroque to western thinkers, and
sometimes disguising what from the 18thC and today is called humanism. Simply because these
strands are so different, but so well developed, political islam will continue to mean all things to all
persons in the wider MECA region, and beyond.
The need for Islam to defend its core doctrines from rationalist attack - from the sciences - was
perhaps ironically one major reason Islamicised countries, in the Middle Ages, were for many
centuries so far ahead of the Europeans in the scientific and technical domains. These technical and
scientific riches, as we shall see, were yet another double edge sword for Islam, and against Islam.
One immediate and local effect of improving military and weapons technology and strategy,
domains in which the Arab and Muslim countries had a major advantage over the European in the
earlier periods of the Middle Ages, was to make internal and local conflicts, including sunnite-
chi'ite conflict bloodier. The scale and risk of losses had been raised, through technical progress.
This is turn very likely exercised a tendency for further, more intense and more definitive
intellectual or philosophical schism, separating and opposing the most politicised branches of
islamic movements. These can be simplified as being sunnite and literalist Islam, on one hand, and
the 3 main branches or types of chi'ism, on the other. Nonethless, and apart from the narrowest
literalists or obscurantists, all of these diverse types, schools or movements include rationalist and
humanist, as well as mystical or non-literary traditions. This maintains a real tradition in all
Religions of the Book: schism.

We should not forget that in Islam, at the time of the crusades and the Mongol invasions, religious
philosophy was part and parcel of the modernising, science based, technology-oriented change of
society. Numerous sunnite scholars of the narrower literalist schools, such as some reformed
Motazilites (11the C), did not hesitate to engage in attempts at transforming lead to gold, or
'persuading' pear trees to yield oranges. In Europe, such attempts at transforming matter did not
become part of an intellectual and philosophical tradition, with a religious handle, until much later.
Backed by religious fervour, early Islamic scholars believed it was more than possible to transform
the physical world. In Europe, this approach, or ideological goal did not become important until the
14th or 15th C in Europe, associated with philosophers such as Tommaso Campanella and Francis
Bacon - but this technology tradition has been part of Islamic philosophy and thought almost from
the start of sunnite-chi'ite schismatic divide, and certainly by the start of the 11thC. The scale of
ideological coverage and doctrinal inter-penetration of the physical and biological worlds was
already strong is Islam, and this quest enormously raised the intensity and scope of ideological and
philosophical dispute. Both sunnite and chi'ite thinkers, and political advisers to rulers, princes and
kings exploited this totalitarian near unlimited scope of man's powers, conferred by a single god, in
the very wide sweep of what were emerging sunnite and chi'ite ideologies. This again was a
powerful motor for long term conflict, simply because religious doctrine now covered all parts of
man's interaction with other men, society, and the wider physical world.

Thus political Islam, like Marxism, was and is a 'total doctrine'. In this it has a wider sweep than
Christianity, and vastly more than Judaism. Political Islam can therefore extend to all domains,
including the economic, right across the MECA region. It has a basic place in any social, political or
international conflict. Over the centuries, and especially in recent decades what we can call
'political islam' in the widest sense is able to bestride the religious and political fence, telescoping
the one into the other. This force of political islam is underestimated, due to its intrinsic
ambivalence, but if we move towards The Next Oil War it will be a major force shaping the outcome
or outcomes.

(end of chapter)

It is easy to ask why sunni - shi'a rivalry, division and dispute is so strong, in some contexts, but
almost absent in other contexts. To understand this we need to look at how they first split or divided,
in a classic religious schism. Both sunnism and chi'ism grew, then separated, through logic clash.
This clash needed defined and written concepts and values, for opposing believers to contradict and
dispute. For the sunnites this was provided, as for other religions, by a set of doctrinal and
theosophical texts - that is gnosology - underlain and backed by convergent religious philosophical
writings. The sunni Kalam is the most condensed and earliest version of this, setting out what good
sunnites should believe.The same word, Kalam, gives us the root word for calamity, but in fact
means 'writing instrument' and, by extension, writing. It was founded on what we can call 'Islamic
dialectics', by the8thC. Even at this date, the shi'a existed as an essentially political breakaway
movement, due to Abbaside repression of shi'a dissidents in the 'succession squabble' for wasi or
designated successor of the 5th Imam, that we discuss elsewhere. The shi'a countered the sunni
Kalam with Hikmat al Ishraquiya, or the School of eastern philosophy. Like sunni scholars, shi'a
scholars drew on many strands of Greek, central Asian and Indian philosophy, but in particular on
neoplatonism or the schools of Mediterranean and west Asian philosophy derived from the works of
Plato and Aristotle. Both of these commanding figures of world philosophy, we can note, died
hundreds of years before Christ and Mahommed.

In both cases, both sunnite and shi'a, there is the lurking presence of Aristotle. The works of
Aristotle as we know them were compiled and edited, or modified by Andronicus some 200 years
after Aristotle's death in about 323 BC. Aristotle's later admirer and imitator, Ptolomey, updated his
witings to a certain extent, and published his versions of Aristotle's thoughts from about 180 AD.
By the time that budding Islamic philosophers were at work, about 700, there was thus a vast body
of Aristotelean, neoplatonian, and Ptolomean works in circulation. Translations of these into many
languages with various degrees of errors, deliberate or otherwise was a widespread cottage
industry. There was a luxurious range of choice for dispute, ably grasped by sunni and shi'a
dogmatists, sophists, rhetoricians and scholars. At the base of this dispute, the role and functions of
dialectical reasoning were primordial, notably in attempts to create firewalls between religious or
'canonical' concepts considered as unchallengeable, and 'profane' or non-religious ideas,
propositions, discourses and theories, considered amenable to debate and possible modification.

One of Aristotle's undisputed successes was to codify and classify syllogistic and analogic
reasoning techniques of which dialectics is a part, or basic ingredient. It can be argued that the early
sunni Kalam, initially a 'debating circle', quickly evolved or slid towards dogmatic and doctrinal
stances. By 750 or 775 it had become a sort of orthodox and literalist proto church. This fact is
important. Islam never achieved the creation of an ecclesiastical and corporate, monolithic church.
This in large part can be attributed to early schism. Provoking, or sealing the schism, the sunni
Kalam made attempts at proving its logical superiority by exploiting Aristotelean syllogisms, using
them to demonstrate a sort of logical inviolability. The Muslim prayer call, an early invention of the
sunni schools, can be given as example of this:

La'h ilaha ! There are no Gods <-- first proposition (universal negative, type E in Aristotle's
Il al-Lah ! There is the God <- second proposition (specific affirmative, type I in Aristotle's
O al-Lah akbar! The God is the greatest <-- third concluding proposition (required, in theory, to
reconcile preceding propositions)

The roots of the first two propositions trace back, in fact, to the very beginnings of dialectics in the
Milesian, Pythagorean and Ephesean schools of Greek philosophy, well before 450 BC, for example
and notably the works of Anaximander, Heraclitus, Pythagoras and Xenophon. These philosophers
were broadly called 'physiologists'. This term in today's language means 'physical' or 'science
oriented', and was concretised in the very early building of the atomist doctrine, associated with
Democritus. This atomist conceptuality is still the basis of macromolecular physics including
thermodynamics, but not subatomic physics. This second needs near-mystical concepts regarding
matter and the Universe, for example Georges Lemaitre's 'universal atom', the real basis of Big
Bang theory, and its later derivatives, such as the theories of George Gamow.

Despite what we say below, an important ingredient of early atomist philosophy was pantheism and
polytheism. This is a highly logical and rational extension of belief in atoms as the founding bricks
or building blocks of matter. Rather than believing that each atom could have an in-built, micro-soul
of its own requiring complex arbitrage when untold trillions (in fact about 1023 atoms) are joined in
a single gram of our bodies, the early atomists said that souls of all living things - plants, fish, land
animals and human beings – were recycled from existence to existence, through a phase of non-
being. The soul at each stage (depending on the school of atomism), could be inherited, transferred,
reconstituted or built from scratch. Supervising this, different and multiple gods would control the
process. Relics of this pantheist idea exist in the Halloween festival and its legends.

Importantly, this polytheist or 'pagan' conceptuality was rejected by later Greek atomists. These
pilosophers replaced the idea of multiple gods with human, animal or plant attributes, by gods
without any kind of mortality, or any kind of physical limitations on their powers, defined by a set
of dialectical negations. For this reason several later Greek atomists, and one or two early atomists,
but most importantly and much much later Plato and probably Aristotle, are considered 'monotheist
friendly'. In other words they rejected, were hostile towards, or at least ambivalent on polytheism.
Very importantly, neither used the term 'god' but defined what the three Religions of the Book call
'god' by a set of dialectical negations, or by syllogistic reasoning using dialectics. It is probable that
their concept of a creator force or entity defined by dialectical negations or polar opposites - for
example not created, not limited, not mortal - was influenced by preceding or parallel Phoenician,
Mesopotamian or Egyptian cosmologies. In other words monotheism is in no way a radical
departure from philosophical speculation on what existence means, since at least 5000 years.

Heraclitus, about 500 years before Christ and more than 1000 years before Mahomet, formalized
the system of logic we call dialectics. This sets up pairs of contrary opposites which are contrasted
and resolved, with the emergence and use of a third or succeeding proposition, or statements held to
resolve and summarise the preceding. Using negation where and as needed, this process of rational
thinking has never been outdated or superceded. Aristotle codified this process, with a total of 128
possible types of what he termed syllogisms or formalized dialectical logic sets.

Referring to the originally sunni-source Muslim prayer call, the first two propositions are entirely
dialectical, contrary and opposed, starting with a universal negative and followed by a specific
affirmative. The third proposition, however, does not in any way resolve or summarise the
dialectical opposites which precede it, and cannot be called a syllogism in the Aristotelean sense of
the term. This problem or 'logic defect' was recognised very early on. The prolific sunni
philosophical and theological school founded by Abu Yusuf ibn Ishaq al-Kindi, about 830, most
certainly considered the fundamental opposition of 'no Gods' on the one hand, and 'the God' on the
other. Indeed the almost contemporary early Motazilites, accused quite rapidly by sunni literalists of
ta'til or agnosticism, suggested or proposed a kind of fusion between 'no gods' and 'the god'. To do
this, they used atomism and Epicurus's clinamen principle, a type of free will and indeterminism, as
a way to square the logic circle. In other words, the early Motazilites proposed a god so all-
powerful and combining all possible dialectical opposites, and therefore so universal or absolute
that no specific attributes could finally be allocated to this ultimate god. Attempting to find specific
attributes would always end in defeat because any attribute could be negated by the preceding logic
used to propose that attribute.

By the period of 950-975 this religious philosophical thinking had become highly developed,. To
the emerging fundamentalists or literalists of Islam this was not sufficient, but was certainly and
surely dangerous. Their conception of the One God could not include a mixture of 'no gods' and 'the

This concerned the emerging Sunna or 'Tradition', at that time a fast evolving mix of sometimes
radical philosophies derived from Mahomet's works and their derivatives, or gnoseology, and was
only a tradition in name. Shi'a intellectuals were also highly active by this period, in fact starting
earlier, about 850-875. By the end of the 10th C they had developed or erected a large body of
religious philosophical speculation that highlighted and underlined the many contradictions within
sunni orthodox literalism, which as noted above was itself a young and far from traditional set of
beliefs at the time. Shi'a philosophers pointed to the most basic contradiction of sunni literalism,
which on the one hand states there is 'no god', and then invites, or commands blind veneration of
'the god'. Within the sunni camp, sunni literalists already accused sunni dialecticians of engaging in
ta'til or agnosticism. Shi'a scholars replied that the Kalam vectored a message of tashbih, or
anthropomorphism. This is the dialectical opposite of agnosticism. Both are false, and mutually
annihilate each other, certain shi'a philosophers and mystics concluded.

Within the emerging sunni schools, this situation of stand-off led to al-Asharism, named for Abul
Hasan al-Ashari. This Baghdadi religious scholar of the 9thC attempted, but failed to resolve the
sunni-shi'a intellectual or philosophical divide through a kind of 'neither one nor other' position.
While many times not entirely rejecting atomism, Al-Ashari took a faith-based way out of
intellectual and philosophical disputes and debate about the existence, or not of one god or any
gods. This is resumed by al-Ashari's famous slogan or conclusion bi-la kayfa, recommending an
intellectual position where faith replaces and supercedes reason. That is, whenever the limits of
reason are reached, faith provides the way forward. Today's consumer society politics, specially the
logic of fighting to maintain oil-based civilisation while knowing that oil is running out, is a type of
non-religious, pseudo-economic bi-la kayfa.

All the religions of the Book, in effect, contain al-Ashari's doctrinal or logical filter. One key cause
of schism, through the ages and in every religion, concerns the struggle for preserving the religious
core, the 'core values', from intellectual assault based on dialectical - or any other type of reasoning.
Very surely however, the comfortable middle ground and middle way proposed by al-Ashari
pleased neither side. Sunni hardliners of the Hanbalite school, and shi'a ismaelians, then
duodecimamians or followers of the 11th Iman's son, the Mahdi (the 12th imam of the chi'ites),
quickly found ways to contradict and oppose al-Asharism. Their attacks came from both extremes:
broadly literalism for the sunnites, and mysticism for the shi'a. Nonetheless, despite this, al-
Asharism remained the base and core of sunnism for many centuries, to the extent that the two
terms 'Sunna', and 'al-Asharism' were used synonymously for centuries.

Today's easy argument that 'chi'ism is extremist' and 'sunnism is moderate', apart from being based
on simple ignorance is partly rationalized or fed by the long influence of al-Asharism inside the
Sunna. In fact, and within his lifetime, al-Ashari was himself forced to accept and publicly approve
the hard-line literary fundamentalism of the Hanbalites. Hanbalite logic is very simple. It claims for
example that once transferred to paper in the Qoran, the words of Mahomet make that book's ink,
paper and binding as holy and incontrovertible as the words of Mahomet. To this first defeat for a
‘middle way’ and within about 100 years (by the 11thC), al-Asharism was also forced to make a
pact with emerging Salafism, another extreme sunnite literary school of Islamic thought.
We can conclude that no later than the 9thC, or at latest the 10thC, the basic ideological, theological
and philosophical conflict between chi'ites and sunnites had been set. For the sunni literalists it was
vital to defend religion and its place in society. This required unambiguous and easily accessible
written codes and laws, for example the char'iah. For the chi'ites, the roles of intellectual and
political, and social struggle were and are just as important. Both extremes, however, remained
intensely 'religious' in the sense that neither extremes of sunni, or chi'ite philosophy, except
mysticism had any place for the individual. In this, we can see the really fundamental split between
'western hedonism' or freewill, and the 'defence of true religion', or determinism.

We can ask why this 'hermetic' trend or polarization of views was so strong in Islam, and one
answer is that Islam was exposed to much more numerous, and more intense philosophical and
political challenges than the other ‘religions of the Book’, starting from its very birth. One strong
philosophical challenge came from what can be called 'sophists', who in the 6th and 7thC were well
represented in the Near and Mid East. We can start with the central argument of many sophists, that
all monotheistic religions of the Book, or any monotheistic religion with a set and fixed theology, is
itself based on sophism, Islam like the others. This quickly arrives at one ultra heretical challenge to
any monotheisic religion - that it denies wisdom.

For this we firstly need a definition of sophistry - and the natural reference is Plato's book on
Sophism, in which he defined it by a play of affirmations and denials, premises and negations. The
simplest definition is that sophism is simple trickery and the opposite of wisdom. All religions of the
Book, perhaps specially Islam, go out of their way to claim they are the path to wisdom, or a store
of wisdom, an antidote to the brutality, stupidity and lack of wisdom of mankind. The accusation of
sophism made against Islam by many literalist and fundamentalist Islamic philosophers themselves,
then negated or strongly denied to reinforce the logical purity of their literalist doctrine, utilised and
still employs arguments made from the very start of sophism. Various Greek philosophers of about
450 BC - 200 BC are associated with 'sophism'. These include Zenon, Parmenides, Xenephon, and
even cynics such as Antisthenes. Sophism when applied to religious philosophy can in some ways
be compared with the 'logic shock' of Zen buddhist's dialectical opposition to mainstream
Buddhism, in other words a dissident strand within a larger religious intellectual movement.

The favourite sport of ancient Greek sophists, apart from talking down and confounding politicians,
and undermining established philosophy - Socrates and Plato were favoured targets of sophists -
was to challenge the intellectual bases of emerging monotheism. Islam's philosophical bases, like
those of Judaism and Christianity, goes back to these first hesitant steps toward monotheism. The
arguments of the 'proto-monotheists', including Plato, can be summarized as using dialectical
reasoning to affirm that God and Truth are both absolute, have no opposing alternative, and exist.
Their existence could be taken as logically setting the non existence of any opposites. The sophist
argument is more or less the contrary, notably that there is no opposite to illusion, because it is false
or imaginary and any so-called absolute, on examination, is an illusion. God and Truth are illusion
and have to be understood as illusion, pure and simple. The sophists continue by arguing that
neither 'god' nor 'non gods' exist because both are illusion, exactly like good and evil. Sophists
argued that 'proto monotheists' such as Plato in fact imply that both 'god' and 'non gods' exist.

In other words and assuming there is lineage of reasoning, Islamic fundamentalist philosophers like
Platonic philosophers and certainly Christian or Jewish, or Zoroastrian philosophers, must affirm
there is a single, all powerful god. They must go on to claim this entity was not created, except
perhaps by itself. It does or does not have human attributes, may or may not permit human freewill,
may or may not be ubiquitous, that is present day and night, everywhere, and so on. The 'so on', we
can note, was the meat for all gnoseology or doctrinal discussion and theological development of all
religions of the Book. It was also and surely the basis for all schisms and ideological conflict within
the believer communities. In these respects, Islam was exactly like the other religions of the Book.
In other words, for a certain time after the death of the Prophet – around 200 years in the case of
Christ and about the same for Mahomet – gnoseolgy proceeds. Following that, schisms start.

The essential difference that concerns us today is that both the gnoseology and the philosophical
challenges to Islam were more intense, and started earlier than for the other Religions of the Book.
Almost from the very start Islam faced larger challenges than comparable pressures placed on early
Judaism and early Christianity. In turn, as we argue elsewhere in this book, the intensity of
ideological conflict within Islam that resulted, and the external pressures of European crusader and
Asian Monghol invasions, favoured the early and probably irrevocable sunni-shi'a schism and the
development of Arab nationalism and political Islam.

This in turn facilitated the growth of extremist political planks linked to Islam, several of which are
found in political Islam today. The vast range of what is called 'political Islam' however makes it
impossible to apply today's western ideas on what is religion and what is politics. We can say that
political islam extends from a form of Marxism, to the ultimate in 1990s-style free market
Neoliberalism, and includes almost every possible political viewpoint, not at all excluding Islamic
literalist fundamentalism. More important for the themes of this book, Islam is more territorial and
defensive inside its heartland regions, for these relatively simple historical reasons.

(end of chapter)


From Dan to Beersheba and a lot further, is how we might put Israeli maximalist interpretations of
where their 'national heartland' extends. As our map shows, this Land of David is already highly
impressive space-wise, if englobing rather small amounts of oil-bearing territory relative to that of
the real Eretz maximalists. Their Eretz Yisrael was an imaginary national territory that extended
from the Nile, covered large areas of the Arabian peninsula, and extended into today's Turkey,
Armenia and the Russian caucasian republics.

We can ask how or why such grandiose territorial claims are made and can be found with a few
clicks of the mouse on Internet. Not exactly an answer, we find similar delirious 'national heartland'
claims from Kurd maximalists and their so-called objective allies the Baluch. Today's Iran and
Turkey are heavily downsized, for many patriots. Russia has lost territory since 1991, not at all
compensated by its minuscule geographical, but large political gains in Georgia. Jordanian
nationalists have large territorial claims on surrounding countries. Saudi Arabia has considerable
claims on several of its neighbour countries, Yemen for example. Armenia is not at all in its right
place according to many Armenians. The list goes on.

We can ask what ends might be pursued in desiring Eretz Yisrael, but such rational questions will
not bring satisifactory responses. Just like the paroxysms of always heroic nation building by 19th C
European powers, many created almost ex nihilo in that century as modern states and then extended,
sometimes vastly by overseas colonisation, we find that irrational, grandiloquent and emotive
impulses always occupy the high ground. Reasons for not going further with debate and discussion
have a long pedigree and sometimes decisive role - as in the original version of Occam's razor, or
al-Ashari's bi-la kayfur. Just as philosophical enquiry based on free debate was terminated, or
avoided sine die on the sunni literalist side of the sunni-shi'a divide, questioning Israel's 'right to
exist' is a dangerous game because any nation, anywhere, is only a temporary thing. Some are more
temporary than others. Few if any have a right to exist.

During the British Mandate of Palestine, 1923-1947, the name Eretz Yisrael was abbreviated to
Aleph-Yod by the yishuvi or Israeli activists and was a part of the official name of the territory,
when written in Hebrew. This 'name game' had more than passing importance because the British
) ‫ ארץ ישראל‬Palestina) while the Yishuvi wanted) ‫ פלשתינה‬authorities wanted the name to be
would be written in ‫ א"י‬Eretz Yisrael). The compromise eventually achieved was that the initials
is written. Consequently, in 20th century political usage, the term ‫ פלשתינה‬brackets whenever
"Land of Israel" usually denotes only those parts of the territory falling under the British mandate,
i.e. the land currently controlled by the State of Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, and
sometimes also Transjordan (now the Kingdom of Jordan). The 'real' Eretz Israel was hidden from
view, but very surely continued to work its magic, its seduction, or malevolent powers in secret.
None other than Ariel Sharon was a lifelong convert to the concept if not practice of 'Greater Israel',
surely powering his conviction that pitiless destruction of Palestinian settlements on Jewish land
.was an almost sacred quest

Israel, in its present borders, which as we write are shrinking towards those lands behind the Wall ,
is a shrunken and increasingly paranoid entity far below its fabulous potential, as dreamed of by the
circle of founding fathers around Theodor Herzl and Chaim Weiszmann. Campaigners for the
Jewish Homeland, including Herzl and Weiszmann, surely made copious references to Eretz Israel,
from the 1870s in the case of Herzl. After the first world war this campaign was renewed with
passion, in the interwar 1919-1939 period. On several occasions during this interwar period, British
political leaders such as Baldwin and Balfour, who were already pressured by Palestinian activists
to not cede or hand over territory to Jewish nationalists, made offers of massive territories in British
colonial Africa to Weiszmann and his circle of activists, but of course to no avail.

We must place this in perspective: Herzl's initial campaigning began in the 1870s. At the time, the
USA was hardly 100 years old, world population was fractionally more than 1 Billion compared
with 6.7 Billion today, Australia and Canada were immense underpopulated colonies of Britain, and
British colonial Africa englobed millions of square miles of lightly populated, easily invaded
terrain. At the time, the military technological superiority of Europe and USA relative to the rest of
the world was extreme. Who, in the 1920s, would have thought of Iran, one day, as being a
'threshold nuclear weapons state' with a population of about 75 million ?

British politicians could imagine in the 1919-39 period they had a way to 'square the circle', by
giving the Jewish national movement generous amounts of land in Africa, enough to cool their
passionate demands for creating an Israel that could swallow all or most of British Palestine. At this
time, before the second world war, commercial oil production was growing rapidly but remained at
a tiny scale, below one-fifth, of today's production. The strategic importance of Middle East oil
reserves was well known, but British Palestine was thought of in entirely different ways to British
Iraq by British colonial administrators. Israel was part of the Holy Land, including Jerusalem and
Nazareth. The concept of a well-armed Israeli modern state which would or might become a
regional 'pillar', defending the oil interests of the west, was surely very far from the minds of British
colonial administrators. Apart from their devout christian respect of the Holy Land, their most basic
preoccupation was avoiding an inevitable conflict beween Israeli nation builders, and Palestinian
nation builders.
This was a rational fear. From the 1860s, 1870s or 1880s, European nationbilding movements
including the Israeli movement had attained a kind of criticality well explained by Eric Hobsbawm.
Nationalism was exploding. One sequel many historians agree about is World War 1, partly
triggered by Serbian nationalist struggle against the Austro-Hungarian empire. In Russia, Slav
nationalism had been exploited by Marx, and had also exploited Marx in the rising communist tide
whose promoters traced grandiose maps of the communist heartland, which easily stretched across
Russia and into eastern Europe. Yet the Slav national myth had been invented almost overnight.
Several historians claim the myth was created, almost from nothing, at the Prague Slav congress of
1848. This semi-religious, semi-mystical movement was cleverly exploited, but also innocently or
naively vectored by Marx in his seductive vision, to Slavs, of a vast Slavic anti-capitalist empire
focused on Russia but 'international' in its sweep. Irish or Celtic ethno-nationalism had been
cobbled together as an antidote to English imperialism in England's first and last colony or overseas
province, Ireland. In Africa, ethno-nationalist movements started to grow. In the Balkans, nationalist
movements forged ahead, as indeed they did in Italy, Germany, Poland and elsewhere, sometimes
linked to religious movements, sometimes not.

Herzl, and later Weiszmann can therefore easily be forgiven for seeking a Jewish national homeland
in the 'classic' or contemporary mould of 19thC European nation building. The national concepts
that were so energetically defended were based on a mix-and-match of ethnicity, tradition,
language, religion, folkways and other strands - usually with big territorial ambitions. The veracity
of any one, or more of these 'planks' for building the nation was in almost every case unimportant:
people believe in myths and legends, the bigger the better. Large or maximalist homeland territories
were therefore a normal part of nationbuilding dreams. Herzl's early and eager grasping of Israeli
territorial maximalism can therefore be explained by the late 19th C context and environment of
European nationalism and nationbuilding, closely related as it was to European colonialism. At the
time, this was advancing almost daily, swallowing millions of square kilometres of 'empty lands' as
it rolled forward with guns and steel made in coal-fired factories. At the time also, the Middle
Eastern region still slumbered under the antique trappings of the Turkish Ottomans' apparently weak
and certainly distended system of langorous indirect rule, called an 'empire'. Arab nationalism and
shi'a-sunni conflict were inaudible, and unimportant, although this was soon to change.

For the modern nation of Israel the waiting was long. Decades, even a century after other European
national movements achieved their Home Territory, often through conflicts culminating in a civil
war bloodbath, and even through triggering widespread international conflict between existing and
older nations, did the Jewish Homeland exist. This was in 1948, following the sombre carnage of
World War 2, the first anti-civilian and genocidal world war. Jews and Slavs were among the most
ferociously and barbarously victimized by Hitler's 'national socialist and christian', and German
revanchist crusade. By 1948 the anti-colonial struggle that emerged following Europe's moral
defeat, and was directed against European nations and their colonization spree of the previous
century, had begun in earnest. This was a worldwide movement, exactly like the war which
preceded and caused it. Within the decolonising movement, Arab nationalism had its part to play,
initially in a political and intellectual role. We can note that this anti-European and anti-colonial
groundswell was at first ably exploited by the USA. This drew upon its own history of anti-
European struggle, the emotional and political bases of its own 'right to exist', as a way of extending
its influence in the anti-European struggle for nationhood that was under way in Europe's former
colonial territories, at low cost in US military manpower and US taxpayers' funds.

The postwar anti-colonial movement quickly swept through the Arab and Muslim world. Israel's
'opportunity window' as another European nationbuilding movement, carving out its heartland and
homeland in an empty corner of the world through the defeat of lightly armed local resistance
fighters was a classic type of 19thC nation building. However this no longer coincided with reality
on the ground. Israel was born following World War 2, a 20thC conflict. It was born in controversy
and with constant opposition. This has continued, with no sign or trace of abating, for 60
years.Today's Israel is now on the defensive more than ever, despite the political charade of the
'Middle East peace process'. The last major political action by one of its most charismatic founding
heroes, Ariel Sharon, was to signal a kind of retreat to the Alamo, behind a massive wall. The wall
project, far more extensive than the Berlin wall of the Russians, is fantastically outdated as a nation
building or national defensive concept. It is of course easy to compare with the Berlin wall - the
very symbol of Reagan's "Evil Empire" taunt against the tottering Soviet Union of the 1980s.

Well may European leaders mumble 'balanced phrases' as they deplore but do not condemn the
latest Israeli bombing atrocity in Lebanon or Palestine, and to be sure the American
ultraconservative right will yip with joy at Israel killing 'terrorists', regrettably including collateral
dead, human shield women and children, but each day the case and rationale for Israel's existence
gets weaker. As Ahmedinjad of Iran has said, many times, the Israeli national problem is a
European or German problem. Germany is a more morally logical place for Israel to set up, than in
Palestine if the simple fact of losing a war confers all rights on the winners to decide reparations or
compensation, including territorial concessions to third parties.

Talk of Israel 'not being in the right place' is of course called naked racism by today's self-elected
guardians of politically correct, but in no way changes its truth. Within Israel, today, one constant
debate concerns 'land-for-peace' that is downsizing the nation's territory, handing some over, or back
to Palestinians in return for peace. Israel, as the UK Balfour government of the 1920s pondered,
could have been given a large part of Uganda, or other parts of British colonial Africa, even tucked
away in Oceanian or Asian 'empty' colonies of the then-British raj. There, it would have ample and
often good agricultural land to apply late 19thC notions of agrarian democracy as popularized by
Robert Owen and others, mentioned en passant by Herzl and Weiszmann's followers and loosely
related to Israel's kibbutzim movement. Israel as defined by Herzl, who at times claimed that a
Jewish homeland could perhaps link with Slavic nationalism, was above all a 'universalist cause'. If
that was the case then in theory at least, it was a 'go anywhere' concept like today's Global
Consumer Economy. In practice however, and for highly traditional and religious-ethnic reasons
Israel could only have one geographic location.

As a homeland for The Errant Jew not only of neonazi propaganda but also of Jewish myths and
legends, the Israel of a people whose identity was strictly religious could, in theory, have been
placed almost anywhere in a very wide sweep of near Eastern or eastern European territory. Why
pick on Palestine? Any map of the Holy Lands shows why this was fatally the case. Palestine was
and is the 'heartland of the heartland'. The Holy Land is the unique location of Solomon's temple.
Relating this to the real world present of the 6.7 billion person global economy is as pointless as
demanding why sunni kamikaze bombers operate in the city of Najaf or why it doesnt rain every
Tuesday. In Solomon's times, world total population was perhaps 250 million. Today's Near East in
a world of 6.7 billion consumers suffers extreme population pressure on water and agricultural land
resources, as well as oil-related great power interference and rivalry. Both Palestine and Israel are
almost certainly 'ecologically unsustainable entities' with an extreme environmental footprint - or
bootprint, like a large number of other nations. Neither are viable or sustainable entities.

In this real world of today, the essentially 19thC European nationalist and patriotic, expansionist
conception of Israel is way out of date. Resource limits in particular make Israel a 'state too late'.
Israel's 19thC European-model nationalism and nation building is also in sharp contrast with today's
European 'post-nationalist' globalisation. In the Europe of today, nation is almost a dirty word, at
least to Commision bureaucrats who tirelessly work towards the goal of building the European
Economic Space. In this space a free flow of low wage economic migrants will enable real wages
and salaries to be continually eroded, permitting investment to grow, in turn keeping European
exports competitive for a while longer - enabling Europe to pay its oil and gas import bills. One
moral reason for the laborious construction of modern Europe's unsustainable and unworkable pan-
European liberal economic myth, we can note, was the horror of German Nazism. Nazism showed
the evil face of delirious and militarist nationalism. Today's Europe has no place for patriotic
fervour, whilst in Israel it is still a building block of its identity and raison d'ëtre.

There can be little doubt that, at least since the 1990s, Israel is confronted by a deeper and more
intractable identity crisis than ever before in its 60-year existence. On the one hand this tends to
reinforce a 'strategy' or tactic of massive and disproportionate military reprisal for Palestinian
attacks, on the other it has generated a kind of 'retreat and consolidation' laager mentality, and
political policy of national survival. This is symbolised and made concrete by 'The Wall'. The
strategy of national survival has been eagerly grasped by run-of-the-mill demagogues in Israel's
political elites and today there is no shame felt by leading Israeli politicians or most Israeli media in
calling for 'stricter control' and even deportation of Arab Israelis, now about 20% of the country's
population. This is easy to compare with resurgent nationalism and the growth of self-defensive and
paranoiac anti-immigration political groundswells in most or all European countries. The common
theme is that mass immigration dilutes national identity, degrades national cohesion and solidarity,
creates terror risks, and is not at all the economic passport to growth and good times for all that its
global economy defenders claim. At least this third claim is easy to substantiate, but because mass
immigration to build national population, raise consumption, and supply cheap labor is a
cornerstone of neoliberal New Economics, this simple fact is rarely admitted, except under crisis
conditions like the present. Demographic maximalism, we can note, continues to be alive and well
in the mindsets of many political leaders whose ideology stretches back to 19thC concepts of 'God
is with the big battalions' that is on the side of the nation with the biggest army.

For the Israel of today the 'Arab Israeli problem', and 'immigrant problem' are particularly acute and
constant pressures toward political extremism. At worst, Israeli Arabs are seen as a sort of fifth
column inside and behind the Wall. Waves of loosely Jewish but strongly economic migrants also
create difficulties for Israeli militantism and war readiness: their presence in Israel is essentially to
earn a living, and little more than that. Their potential for vibrating to war-like messages and feeling
proud to hide in bomb shelters as and when needed is low. Many, or even most Israeli political
parties and movements have adopted nationalist and anti-immigration arguments and rationales, to
one extent or other. However, exactly like the USA whose values include building national identity
from a society based on mass immigration, the growth of national identity politics expressed as
anti- immigration movements, in Israel, has created many ambiguities, plentiful incoherence, even a
type of political schizophrenia. Above all for the main theses of this book, today's Israeli
nationalism is marked by a defeatist laager mentality. The key symbol of this is the Wall, signalling
retreat within a defined, specific, and defendable Israeli territorial entity with a reinforced Jewish
identity, and this new policy was adopted and made his own by Ariel Sharon. The policy has
continued and accelerated from the mid-1990s. Ironically, Sharon's reputation and image was that of
a 'territorial maximalist', a conqueror of Palestinian lands, rightfully taking these for newcomer
Israeli settlement. Later, Sharon became the defender of the Alamo ! One founding belief of Israel,
much employed by the Eretz maximalists, was that Israel's Jewish population could be raised to 20
or 50 Million - compared with the approximately 5 Million Jews of Israel's population today.

Israeli politics is now permanently unsure, balloted one way and the other, symbolised to a certain
extent by the 'great warrior' Sharon remaining in a half living-half dead vegetative limbo (in 2008),
while smaller hysteria platform politicians scurry for votes. The tactical defeat of Tsahal in
Lebanon, in summer 2006, only underlined the incoherence of current Israeli politics - and further
underscored its identity crisis. Outside Israel, the Hebrew state's capital of sympathy has most
certainly been eroded, to the extent that never again would Israeli expansionism be accepted, even
less openly supported and defended in Europe, and also to an increasing degree in the USA.
One key reason for this, of course never openly stated, is that we are now too close to Peak Oil for
such dangerous games, threatening Middle East stability and increasingly fragile and hestitant oil
deliveries from regional suppliers - the suppliers of last resort. Israel, as we note elsewhere, has for
decades had no possible technical or industrial role as the western geostrategic pillar safeguarding
oil refining or transport infrastructures for exports from the region. Israeli extremism has retreated
from that of all-conquering expansionism of the Eretz Israel 19thC nationbuilding mould, to an
effective military extremism in a downsized laager Israel. Its politicians, to be sure, continue to
portray Iran as a mortal threat to the very existence of the Hebrew state, but here again we need to
see this through the lens of fossil fuel geopolitics.

Fossil fuel geopolitics and the Next Oil War openly link remaining official oil and gas reserves with
the attractiveness, or not, of regime change. The peace dividend has to be absolutely sure before the
decision to bomb or invade is taken. The grave mistakes made in the decision to invade Iraq in 2003
have no doubt been noted. The conclusion is simple: dont invade unless the booty is sure. Iran and
Russia are claimed, and often considered - by respected commentators, analysts and institutions - to
hold about 55% or 60% of world remaining natural gas reserves. As we know, the so-called Gas
Bridge is supposed to come to the rescue of oil-dependent economies and societies, breathing a little
more life, and cheap gas-based energy with a lower CO2 footprint into the sagging edifice of the
growth economy. Taking Iran out of the near-term future 'gas supply loop' would only reinforce the
hydrocarbon power of Putin's Russia. Whatever Israeli hardliners, and now departed Bush
administration hardliners like to claim on the subject of Iran's 'regime changeability', Russia is
101% surely not regime changeable. In the Middle East, therefore, this leaves only Iran and the Big
4 Arab OPEC producers as the default choice targets for oil export performance boosting through
regime change. For natural gas supplies from the region, only Iran and Qatar are serious performers.
In central Asia only Kazakhstan could be considered as a potentially interesting target for regime
change, but this target would not measure up to any of the Big 5 in the Mid East.

As we know, all the OPEC states, Russia, Canada and other 'strategic' or large energy exporters
such as Australia always exaggerate their official reserve estimates. Big reserve piles serve to pull in
capital flows and reassure investors, as well as satisfying national ego or self-esteem. Unfortunately
for the liars who produce these fake numbers, huge reserve piles also attract military invasion plans.

Calls for Iran regime change, the prayer wheel chant of even 'mainstream' Israeli politicians, and
Condoleeza Rice for years in the period of about 2002-2006, started seriously declining after the
failed Israeli war in Lebanon, of summer 2006. There are additional reasons for this sudden and
remarkable loss of steam, including the disastrously low success of US and British effort to create a
viable New Iraq, and the emerging Western coalition disaster in Afghanistan. Advocates of
punishment raids on Iran because its leaders have no respect for Israel, and accessorily because Iran
might also not be performing as it should in maximising the export of oil and gas, have since about
2005 had to face the growing reality of Iran's nuclear industrial and ballistic missile capacities. The
nuclear related installations, notably Iran's famous centrifuges, have been featured in many Sunday
newspaper supplements and TV documentaries as 'natural bombing targets' for Israel. Iran's
centrifuges are however very similar to the 'natural targets' for Iranian missiles, which have
hummed at Dimona in Israel for over 30 years - like those which spun out enriched uranium and
separable plutonium for the nuclear weapons of the 5 UN Security Council members, through their
frenzied 1950-1969 period of 'racing for the bomb'. To be sure, world production and supply of
plutonium has increased in direct proportion to the growth of 'civil' nuclear power.

Iran's nuclear industry is vastly different to Iraq's one-only, symbolic and tiny, French supplied
'Osiris' reactor, destroyed by 'surgical' Israeli bombing in 1981. In addition, Iran already has highly
conventional, and effective ballistic missile capabilities giving Iran the ability to attack Israel, and
beyond. While the world's media and politicians make a point of not dwelling on the security
implications of this - for Israel - these exist: Iran today could at any time use its missiles to attack
Israeli nuclear installations at Dimona and elsewhere. This could cause damage equivalent to
several Chernobyl disasters at one single strike by only a few Iranian missiles. Israel is therefore
practically powerless, whatever the 'Star Wars' anti-missile defence systems provided by US
taxpayers, until and unless Iran disappears from the face of the map, or its 'ayatollocracy' is replaced
by western style middle class democrats chasing the plastic-and-pesticide paradise of the late
consumer society. Until then, Israeli military blustering in Iran's direction has no significance,
except symbolic. This real world geopolitical or geostrategic fact is now well known, if rarely
mentioned in the media and never in the speeches of Western leaders. The conclusion is simple:
Israel is unable to deliver regime-change in Iran, at least without using its own nuclear weapons.
The Iranian Peace Dividend of abundant oil in theory, and abundant gas in fact is not available, so
Iran may well have permanently fallen off the list of regional regime change candidates. Therefore
Israel can be left to its own devices, to defend itself as best it can. Israeli extremism is one result.
Israeli interest in placating at least some strands of Palestinian political opinion is another. Israeli
nationalist downsizing and the laager mentality are yet others.

When the oil and gas runs out and in fact well before, remaining interest of the US and European
states in 'saving Israel' will be as modest as their low remaining interest in saving the sunni elites of
the Petromonarchies facing their majority shi'a populations. This increasingly possible scenario can
be delayed some while, but attempts at slowing what is demographic and geological change can
only be thwarted for a predictable, relatively short-term period. Refusing change, as we know, is yet
another strand making The Next Oil War more than a grim possibility.

(end of chapter)


By about AD 1000 the shi'a-sunni schism was more or less consumated, but only as an essentially
intellectual, doctrinal and 'debating society' subject, with relatively small, regular and predictable
on-the-ground conflict in a small area of today's Middle East. Few persons died as a result of this
early schism. Some communities, for example the daists of Yemen, or Druzes of Lebanon, and
shia'a Ismaelians of Syria had been ostracised by surrounding sunni-majority, orthodox-led Sunna
communities. Affected groups voted with their feet and migrated, sometimes far away - but this
population movement in a world with a total population probably well below 350 million was very
far from mass deportation.

By the year 1100 the region had completely changed. The First Crusade of European Christians and
Byzantin warlords, including a certain number of Mongol 'objective allies' or simple mercenaries,
started in 1095 or 1096. This first crusade, we must note, was so confused, complex, multi-layered,
so unsure and contradictory, so completely non-economic in its motivation and apparent or claimed
objectives, so uncertain even in that which concerns its commanding figures – who organized it ? - ,
that great caution is needed in describing, and even more so in interpreting it. We can quite easily
call it a militarized mass migration, concerning at least a half-million Europeans. For sure and
certain however the use of Human Shields, that is huge numbers of children as well as women and
older persons, all unarmed, was rigorously employed.

The inevitable result was massive casualties. Between about 1095 and 1097 or 1098 it is probable
that 100 000 or more crusaders died en route to the Holy Lands, or in the Holy Lands, but of these
one tenth-of-a-million victims around 50 000 were children, used as pure cannon fodder somewhat
like young troopers in setpiece battles of World War 1. Many were simply 'lost' in the snowy passes
of East Europe, en route for the bloodbath. Many others were taken prisoner and marketed as
slaves, both by Muslims and Christians. To have an impression of what the First Crusade meant, we
can note that in the 1090s Europe's total population was probably below 75 Million, compared to
about 485 Million in 2009. Today, we would need casualties of about one million of which 350 000
were dead children, to be comparable. For comparison, 'only' about 600 000 Iraqis died in the
period from the start of US and British invasion of Iraq, in 2003, to Autumn 2007, using data from
The Lancet.

What we can be sure about is this first crusdade concerned human waves of Europeans flooding into
the Near East. What they sought is not clear. Among the supposed 'commanding figures' we have
Peter the Hermit, of St Etienne in France, a kind of performing stage creature for Pope Urban 2.
Later promoted to important function by the Pope, then assassinated not long after that, this grotto-
dwelling epileptic had earned himself a following in markets and fairs of the centre and south of
France, and later in Lombardy (northern present day Italy) and parts of what is western Germany
today, though his impassioned and raving performances. During these he did not simulate, but
suffered real epileptic fits on stage, passionately calling for the occupation of Jerusalem and the
return of Christ's remains, among other things. How this misfit could have brought together a total
of 500 000 or 600 000 crusaders is a mystery, and in fact impossible. We must search for political
and economic, geopolitical and cultural motives, and solid logistics or organization underlying the
later crusades, if perhaps less so this First Crusade.

Much has been written about the First Crusade, but what is important is this: its exact date of start
and finish can never be known. Its motives are unknown. Its organising figures and personalities are
unknown. It is perfectly possible to give widely different dates for its end, for example 1098, 1099,
or 1100. This itself indicates the problems associated with this first and disastrous crusade. We can
note that Germanic warlords and their Christian military commanders who played an important role
in the first taking of Jerusalem, in later Crusades, needed plenty of persuasion by Pope Urban 2
before joining the first crusade, bringing their peasant camp followers behind their footsoldiers,
including massed ranks of cannon fodder children. In the First Crusade, the Germanic contingent
remained in the Near East, and continued to lose men, women and children much longer than
French, English or Italian princely state participants. These had faded away with their troop
contingents into the night, this being a favoured way of disengaging from a crusade - by 'midnight
flit'. The Germanic commanders were so bitterly disappointed by the multiple defeats visited on
them by dissident Monghol (later Turkish) seldjouks, already playing their own version of divide-
and-rule that they encouraged, or permitted their troop contingent to 'let off steam' by specifically
targeting and massacring Jews, on their return to Europe.

This was an early association of Jews with a 'fifth column' non-Christian religious presence in the
heartlands of Europe. Today we can easily surmise this role is, or will be occupied by Muslim and
other non-European economic mass immigrants when or if economic recession turns to long
depression, and the economic credibility of mass immigration as a lever for economic growth wanes
and weakens. The rate at which crusading Europeans abandoned the First Crusade was, to be sure,
mainly determined by losses and costs versus booty pillaged en route and inside the region. Today's
Cheap Oil crusade, beginning in 2003 and rather surely finished by 2009-2010, has above all
suffered a rising loss of credibility for the exact same reason. Exactly like the Crusades of more than
700 years ago the loss rate of combattants and rising costs, versus declining booty and pillage
received, determines the rate at which members of George Bush's "Coalition of the Willing" have
slipped away into the night. The rhetorical defence of this oil war as a 'crusade for human rights,
liberty, and democracy' has tended to weaken, for evident reasons. If it was also or mainly a crusade
for cheap oil, that also has been forgotten.
Any crusade has an intensely emotional aura, the word itself being considered too 'emotive' or
perhaps racist for 21stC consumers and voters in the 'Willing Coalition' countries. The 'C-word' was
therefore rapidly dropped from G W Bush speeches following September 2001, preceding the
armed stampedes into Afghanistan in 2001, and Iraq in 2003. The historic crusades, we can note,
were also not described using the word 'crusade', which was invented and used long after these
military invasions. However, even when the word is deliberately not used, any crusade must remain
coherent with society's goals, it must have one or more clear objectives, and above all it has to
remain popular. Social goals include economic wellbeing, which for the 21stC oil-fired consumer
society is about the only goal. Economic goals were basic to the later crusades, and to a small extent
figured in the first. The First Crusade, in a confused and messianic way offered mass settlement and
land in the Near East, or at least booty in the shape of mostly imaginary, but assiduously described
'fabulous riches' of the region. It therefore included apparent economic objectives. This said, we
must conclude that the First Crusade was above all called to pursue ideological, mystical and
messianic religious goals. It could also be described with hindsight as having the geostrategic goal
of setting up large military European outposts in the Near East.

The bundle of founding motives and drivers was however seamless, ranging from the purely
messianic to the supposedly economic in a single speech. Peter the Hermit, himself hardly a sure
source of information, had proclaimed to mostly illiterate but credulously believing fairground
crowds - not only in France but also in today's Italy and Germany - that this crusade would bring
back the bones of Christ. Apart from these relics it would also provide huge stocks of goods from
saintly places, religious relics, and dried body parts from identified and known ossuaries and
mausoleums in the Near East and today's Turkey. The fact that many of these desirable goods to
pillage dated from long before Christ and Mahomet had little or no importance to the baying
fairground crowds. At the time these dried body parts and physical remains of saintly persons, for
example knuckle bones and a range of related and derived trinkets, were the focus of an important
trade across Europe. As major traded goods they suffered competition from contraband imports and
fake relics, such as pig or sheep knucklebones and votaries manufactured in illicit workshops not
paying taxes to the princely or royal rulers, nor to local and regional Papal representatives.

Those who find the above an amusing example of early mediaeval hysteria can recall that in
2002-2003, during the run up to Iraq invasion, many supposedly serious Internet sites and other
media were saturated with stories of coming booty. Respected columnists in pink-colored business
magazines and papers and TV talkshow hosts told remarkably similar tales of the fabulous
resources of 'light sweet crude' located underneath Saddam Hussein's palaces, built during the 1990s
Oil For Food era of Western relations with, and oil extraction from Iraq.

Although the supposed economic rationale for the First Crusade is at best laughable, so are these
21stC claims, mostly emanating from US sources. Shortly preceding the Iraq invasion of 2003,
anyone reading newspapers or listening to newshows in the Western world heard that under each
Saddam palace there were 'probable' large quantities of light sweet crude oil, able to be extracted in
a trice almost with only a pick and shovel. As in any crusade however, there are always other
explanations of why it happened. In the Iraq invasion case of 2003 this for example involved mostly
British-origin stories of Hussein's huge stocks of African uranium or other fissile material, able to
be converted to bombs as fast as the light sweet crude could be extracted from under his palaces.
Some economic historians claim the first crusade was in part triggered by relatively rapid
population growth and slowed clearing and conversion to agriculture of the European forest,
declining crop yields, and long cyclic climate change. Other historians argue the geostrategic case:
the first crusade was a kind of "revenge attack", by Europeans who had suffered many centuries of
Muslim and Arab military domination and occupation. The Spain of 1095 was completely
controlled by Muslims, and had many influential seats of Arab-language learning. In the period
1050-1090 there had however been significant gains for Christian troops and losses for Muslim
troops in the European theatre, notably in France, Italy and the Balkans. In the geostrategy version
of why the First Crusade was called, this 'revenge attack' was the start of European forces being
able to play 'away match wars' after centuries of being on the defence.

Religious historians point to the unstable and complex series of early Mediaeval plots and counter-
plots opposing, but also allying various European princely and royal families and the Papal
authorities, themselves an often loose alliance of powers. Very importantly, internal or domestic
European religious and religious economic tension ran very high in the 12th and 13thC. By
launching this First Crusade against an external enemy, the Papal strategists hoped there would be
less resistance to papal powers and privileges inside Europe, more respect and loyalty to the Pope's
representatives in the different principalities and monarchies of Europe, and of course more regular,
and larger tax and fealty payments to the Nonce. Geopoliticians point to an emerging 'European
Heartland' as a cause or motor of this First Crusade, but geopolitics and realpolitik are often subtly
intertwined, without clear interrelations and formal dependencies. As we shall see later, concerning
the subsequent crusades which spanned a total of about 200 years (from 1095 to 1299), there was
considerable use of divide and rule tactics or strategies 'in theatre'. This strategy was already
operative on a large scale in Muslim occupied Spain, where Christian princely powers often allied
with certain 'objective allies' in the Muslim camp, against third party powers and entities.

One clear result of the First Crusade, but less so in the more economic-oriented, less religion-
inspired later crusades, was to accelerate and sharpen the intensity of sunni-shi'a schism, while at
the same time provoking ethnic Arab resistance to white or christian European dominance. This
accelerated the regional trend towards a sort of Arab proto-nationalism, or perhaps even started the
process of political change which was later called Arab nationalism and later still, political Islam.
This is important to us today: in a real and redoutable sense we are now edging towards the
possibility of massive conflict in the wider Mid East and Central Asian (MECA) region, due to Peak
Oil on one hand, and to Great Power rivalry on the other. As we also note, exactly like the Crusades,
this rivalry has many subsets of local or 'in theatre' allies and rivals. In today's context this shifting
set of forces operates like those generating the Crusades, with different goals and timeframes, and
very surely not exclusively for access to and control over oil or gas reserves.

The stakes are very high. The obvious and primary concern, to the external powers, is amortizing
the sharp decline in world oil supplies that is threatened by Peak Oil. A few figures from the
OECD's energy watchdog IEA explain this. By about 2020-2025, says the IEA, the Middle East
should export about 30 Mbd or more (compared to not much above one-half that, today). In this
way, the Middle East will 'save the day' and compensate the effects of openly-declared peak oil
decline elsewhere in the world. Despite this production feat being physically impossible, the IEA
likes to maintain the pretence it could be possible. It is arguable this in turn maintains political
appetite for military adventure in the region by the democratically elected leaderships of the
OECD's major oil importer countries, or is designed to encourage or justify these war-prone urges.
The first and real response to this certainty of 'non performance' in oil pumping has been a de facto
but uncertain shift to natural gas rather than renewable energy. This is intensified by Kyoto Treaty
interpretation of 'clean gas' as an alternative to dirty coal for electricity generation, but the Gas
Bridge is itself threatened by the rapidity with which Peak Gas will also arrive, hard on the heels of
its oil peak cousin.

Energy planners and strategists in government and in the private sector, worldwide, are grappling
with these two threats; their advice to political deciders could be translated, by these deciders, as
signalling The Next Oil War option, a pre-emptive response to looming energy crisis. All defenders
of the so-called growth economy, whether they want to acknowledge this or not, are dependent on
massive supplies of fossil energy. Wealth still mainly and mostly flows from the oil barrel and gas
pipeline. Without abundant - if not cheap - oil the 'growth economy' will be impossible to maintain.
This applies and to a growing extent with abundant - if not cheap - natural gas supplies. Already in
2005-2007 perhaps as much as one-seventh or one-eighth of world annual oil demand growth due to
economic growth (a net rate of about 2.2 Mbd each year, of which about 0.3 Mbd was substituted
by gas) was taken by gas, transferring some of the strain from less abundant oil, to more abundant
natural gas.

Denying that the 1991 Gulf or Kuwait liberation war, the 2001 Afghan war, and the 2003 Iraq war
were oil-dependent and oil-related, or 'future gas pipeline route' motivated in Afghanistan, is frankly
difficult, although stoically denied by politicians. One possible or probable reason is that, one day,
they might find themselves charged with war crimes. What is sure is that all three of these wars
were initiated, led or fomented by either the USA, or UK, or both. For the USA the oil linkage is
quite clear, its geopolitical stance in the MECA region has since 1945 been oil driven, as we discuss
elsewhere. Close behind the USA and UK in these war initiatives, some other European Union
countries have been willingly sucked, for variable lengths of time, into either or both of the
unwinnable wars started in 2001 and 2003. Support from outside the 'Euro-US axis' to these two
last wars has in fact been muted, unsure, and low-level, totally unlike the massive and coordinated
response of nearly all OECD energy consumer nations to the call, by the USA and Britain, to launch
the 1991 Gulf War, or to invade Afghanistan almost within weeks of the photogenic and highly
mediatized collapse of two tower blocks in New York, in Sept 2001. The effective desistment from
the Iraq war of 2003, by many stalwart allies in the Afghan adventure - for example France and
Germany - itself attests to the ability of potential allies for the 'Coalition of the Willing' series of
miitary adventures to analyse probable booty from the later wars, and decide against participating.

Europeans and Asians know the Middle East is is a troubled and dangerous region, both the
birthplace and burial place of many civilizations. As in the historical or 'classic' crusades, we can
note, one clear cause of Western defeat and abandon of the impossible quest of permanent military
occupation, both today and in the past, was lack of leadership and internal rivalry within the
Christian camp. American uncertainty and weak leadership exemplified by the G W Bush
administration has arguably destroyed US leadership credibility, at least in the two current wars, in
Afghanistan and Iraq.

In the 'classic' crusades two other key vectors of defeat and motives for abandon were economic
failure of war, and the sudden arrival of new and massive rivals. We discuss the economic causes of
weakening resolve, by historical and modern crusaders, elsewhere in this book. In the European
crusades of the 11th to 13th C the final abandon of this losing quest was sealed by the Monghol
Asian onslaught. After this, the military absence of Europeans from the region was nearly total for
at least 350 or 400 years.

Concerning pre-emptive war in the Middle East we can take what is generally called the Third
Crusade, of 1189, as a good example of motives and execution of war. The third crusade's
numbering is already a first problem. Its number in fact depends on the consideration or not of
internal and very bloody European crusades, such as the Albigensian crusade (1191), making it
possible to call this crusade the 5th or 6th crusade. More importantly it can also be termed the last
crusade. Called by Pope Gregory 8, it was a revenge attack or “away match” response to Saladin's
first taking of Jerusalem, in 1187. As we have already noted, Saladin had a major role in deepening
shi'a-sunni division and separation. His brilliant military campaigns against the crusader armies led
by Richard the Lionheart (more a Sicilian and European prince than an English monarch) had
themselves employed divide-and-rule tactics to sharpen divisions inside the crusader ranks. Some
contingents wanted to end the adventure right away. With the fall of Jerusalem, however, the
crusaders reunited, following the 'ecumenical' call by Gregory 8. All thought of booty, or long-term
economic advantage was now gone, in what became a last and very long wind-down and abandon
by crusader forces of the entire region, taking almost exactly 100 years from the first fall of
Jerusalem. From about 1190, therefore, the European crusades, already including Mongol warlords
and their footsoldiers were a complex or incoherent set of rearguard actions. The question: "To what
end?" has no answer. No more than the same question set in retrospect to Saddam Hussein, asking
why he maintained Iraqi forces in Kuwait City in the winter of 1990-91.

This recent sequence of accelerated loss of faith in US and UK war action in Iraq, on a vastly
compressed timescale relative to the historical crusades is arguably and in part due to the speed with
which Peak Oil will shutdown and close off options based on now atavistic ideas of "abundant oil".
To a certain exent this has probably had a knock-on effect to the Afghan war, both in the US camp
and the European camp.The simplest analysis of the costs of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, compared
with gains arising from control of the world's heroin trade, and profits on Iraqi oil - where massive
oil infrastructure damage makes this booty less easy to translate into reality than Afghani heroin -
shows this is bad business. In particular Iraqi oil, however much is obtained at 'friendship prices' by
the US and UK, that is pillaged, can only cover a fraction of war costs in Iraq. If we imagined Iraq
was able to produce about 2.2 Mbd and export about 1.5 Mbd year round, at around 50 or 60
USD/barrrel for "OPEC basket crudes", assuming they recover to this price level in 2009, the entire
total yearly value of all Iraqi oil exports would be about 38 Billion dollars. This would cover
perhaps two months of war costs arising to US and UK taxpayers in Iraq, and less than 6 weeks of
combined costs for the heroin crusade in Afghanistan plus the oil crusade in Iraq.

It is more than difficult - that is impossible - to see the cheap oil crusade in Iraq as ever moving into
the 'economic comfort zone', even under the most hopeful scenarios for spin-off from international
reconstruction aid and effort following the retreat of US and UK troops and perhaps much later a
complete end to sunni-shi'a civil conflict, possibly or probably needing partition and redrawing of
frontiers. In fact this oil war, almost from the start, has been in the red. In other words, this was an
'ideological crusade', despite the oil-linked or oil-driven trappings while it was being called. From
this perspective it can easily and surely be defended, with hindsight and in the fullness of time as
having 'nothing to do with oil'. This most surely ignores the war's real triggers which certainly
included oil greed or fear of shortage. However, almost from the start and as the true dimension of
the war and the real acceleration of Peak Oil became known, this new crusade became like a
rudderless ship drifting along towards the nearest available iceberg. It has no rationale. Any
subsequent and non-economic humanitarian interference argument put forward as an excuse for the
crusade, such as "liberation from tyranny", or "human rights", or whatever, is heavily contradicted
by reality on the ground. This has been well covered by the media over the years, reporting massive
civil war, sunni-shi'a death squad action, destruction of infrastructures, mass unemployment,
refugee flight, human misery and solid, ever rising Iraqi political rejection of military occupation.

The war costs are so huge that public opinion in Europe and USA is now hostile to any
'humanitarian wars' wherever they may be, in Africa against shifting rebel groups in the Congo, or
against the government of Sudan, as two examples. These wars in most cases and in reality are a
contradiction in terms and perceived that way, although regime change of Sudan might well throw
up some oil booty for this 'humanitarian crusade', if it is called and the military coalition is willing.
Strangely or not, and with care given to comparability of 13thC European media and today's world
media, the later crusades were also rejected by public opinion because of their economic failure.
They failed to deliver their economic promise, or Peace Dividend, and were increasingly
disapproved by the 13thC equivalent of 'public opinion' in Europe. This notably included the
churches, guilds, poets and script writers of popular theatre, but above all these wars were given a
thumbs down by military and commercial leaderships.

(end of chapter)

US oil geopolitics in the 1948 to 2009 period can be said to have been dominated, until 2001, by the
'Twin Pillars' doctrine of regional partners in the Middle East guarding and protecting US oil
interests. This doctrine had important ideological and non economic components, as well as
apparent and basic economic objectives. After 2001 we switch to the 'Twin Towers' doctrine, the era
of post 911 chaos. The Twin Towers oil doctrine, to be sure, is completely hidden from public view
and just as surely we can fear that it is completely makeshift, a Pavolovian response to the USA's
entirely desperate situation regarding its proven and real remaining oil reserves. If we forget the
flummery of imagined 'oil on paper' reserves, and hypothetical 'massive condensate reserves' at
fantastic depths (from about 4000 or 5000 metres below the surface), the US today has about 28
Billion barrels of remaining conventional crude. This is based on US Geological Survey estimates.
For some years now, spokespersons of the USGS itself make occasional presentations, displaying
large posters with a banner headline: The Big Rollover. In other words the peak of world production
is no longer a theory but a predictable reality. Almost certainly it is with us now, using the widest
possible 'all liquids' definition of oil, at earliest in 2007, at latest in 2010. Concerning the 'rollover'
of US domestic oil production there is no possible discussion: US domestic production peaked out
and rolled over in 1970-71, more than 36 years ago.

US proven conventional oil reserves, at about 28 Bn barrels, are less than 4 years national
consumption at present rates. The Twin Towers doctrine, if it can be called a doctrine, is surely
underlain by the nightmare of running out and doing without – noting here that highly successful
economies such as those of Switzerland, Singapore and Belgium operate in national territories with
'zero barrel' proven reserves of oil. This logic does not apply to US politicans and geostrategists.
Their reasoning is Aristotelean in simplicity. Using very basic syllogistic reasoning, the Middle East
has the reserves, can provide, and will provide.

The Twin Towers doctrine is much more than a secret, never avowed reaction to American oil fear.
Within the mishmash of ultraconservative ramblings that we can translate and analyse as motivated
by oil fear, there is also massive, scarcely hidden nostalgia for a glorious and heroic Chicago School
past that the USA never really had. This past economic glory is tarnished, but can be restored, claim
the shrinking band of ultraconservatives. What they mean by 'glory', always old, surely includes a
manageable and docile Middle East, able when needed to supply cheap and sweet light crude, in
preference to US domestic crude. Unfortunately this fantasy view of US post 1945 history is as
virtual as its current, declining Petroimperium status. For many years, we should note, US control
over Mid East oil reserves and production was of no direct strategic utility, and of no economic
utility to America.

US control or surveillance of the region's oil was in pursuance of a stated doctrine: what is good for
the USA is good for the world, at least to the World Outside Communist Areas as the Evil Empire
was known at the time, in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. The huge discoveries made in the Mid East
region during the 1950s and 1960s, often by US oil corporations, were taken to be so large that the
world outside communist areas almost had an obligation to use it as fast as possible. Under no
circumstance was future scarcity imagined. Climate change was an unknown subject. Islamic
fundamentalism was unknown. The very first versions of growth economics were at that time
coming out of the economics departments of US universities, Chicago being the hearth of this
movement. Cheap energy was as basic to this growth economics as turkey is to Thanksgiving, or the
KGB was to the USSR. Attempts at reversing this social and economic paradigm have proved to be
almost impossible, and may in fact be impossible. Attempts by Jimmy Carter to do so, and find a
demand side solution to America's gargantuan oil consumption, were a suicide pill for his re-
election chances and for the US Democrat party, ushering in the oil-fired and policy brimstone
Reagan years of 1980-88.

The US republican and conservative solution, or imagined solution to oil pinch and Peak Oil is a
supply side response, a pure expression of supply side economics. This means the Middle East must
supply, and accessorily, perhaps, the former USSR and Muslim southern republics of Central Asia
must also supply. Geology has decided, with George W Bush and Dick Cheney translating this to
the number of US Army divisions needed on the ground from as early as 2000-2001, with more
disclosable musings produced by their National Energy Policy Development Group.

As we already noted, it is also easy to argue the 'Twin Towers' doctrine places oil far behind other
objectives. These now include defence of America against terrorism, and against the loss of the
USA's imagined hyperpower or more-than-superpower geostrategic role, for example the challenge
posed by Putin's Russia with vast numbers of thrmonuclear weapons - and plenty of oil. The US
ultraconservative wish list is joined by a confused mass of other world fears. The makeshift nature
of this unacknowledged new doctrine, if we can call it a doctrine, is shown by its claimed
expression of 'loyalty to friends and allies', especially the oil dependent democracies of the OECD
club. Inside the Middle East and Central Asia, unfortunately, such have been the tortuous, often
rapid doctrinal shifts and ideological U-turns of US foreign policy over the decades since 1945, that
yesterday's enemy is surely today's ally, and the reverse. Multiple in-betweens also exist, subjected
to intense scrutiny by the G W Bush regime for signs of which side of the fence they belong to for
later cajoling, or threats of regime change.

Very surely, as the most cursory check of any book by Robert Baer will show, US ideological sifting
for the choice of strategic allies inside the region have for decades played both the sunnite card, and
the shi'ite card in a constant and far from glorious confusion. In Afghanistan and globally within
this country, that is with multiple exceptions, the US has tended to play 'the shi'a card'. Since 2001,
this is particularly clear, with the sunni Taliban regime being specially targeted through supposedly
selective aid to mostly shi'a opponents of the Taliban. This 'strategy' of preferring to spend US
taxpayers' dollars on almost always covert military aid to shi'a forces, rather than sunni forces is less
than sure in the rest of central Asia. Nevertheless, to maintain incoherence at the highest possible
level, in the Middle East we find that only sunni powers and regimes are supported, even the most
extreme fundamentalist. Numerous G W Bush administration-friendly think tanks claim that where
the Middle East stricto sensu is concerned, there is no such thing as 'moderate shi'a', these creatures
did not exist in the Bush regime's bestiary,and perhaps not also in the Obama administration's
national security appareil, with apparatchiks inherited from the previous administration. Conversely,
the wahabite-dominated Saudi regime is, and will probably remain categorised as 'moderate'. To this
incoherence, the Twin Towers doctrine adds further layers and shells of irrationality, scooping out
new and exciting urgent needs from whatever happens to be prominent at the moment on Yahoo or
Google blog lists of "key issues in the Middle East".

Oil is a fundamental supporting rationale for the Twin Towers doctrine. The highly simplist
equation oil = wealth is taken as fundamental, that is unquestionable. Never would any employable
or respected US geostrategist or petrostrategist, nor administration-friendly economist remark that
wealthy countries such as Switzerland, Belgium or Singapore, without a trace of domestic oil nor
oil production, feel no conditioned reflex to invade and occupy oil producer countries, or to back
various armed movements opposing their governments or ruling powers. The world's N°1 and N°2
oil producer countries, Saudi Arabia and Russia, are very surely among the most sombre, corrrupt
and repressive countries in the world. They are also far from the wealthiest, Saudi Arabia having a
GDP-per-capita score near that of Portugal, when the oil price is high, and below Romania's when it
is low. Does the USA feel it has no option but to imitate them ?
The problem is historical and economic. The USA's economy is so closely linked with oil, its recent
modern history so easy to call a petroimperium that we can be certain that no American leader can
imagine US power, or the country itself staying intact without 'command and control' of perhaps
25% or more of the world's oil reserves, production and supply system. Facing the integrism of
extreme sunnites and chi'ites, we have the USA's petro-integrism, the doctrinal inability to do
without oil, and inability to admit it.

The shifting incertitude and fear underlying the Twin Towers geopolitical doctrine are very clear,
very palpable. The net result, spurred on by the implacable decline of US oil reserves and US oil
production, was a great leap forward in the Bush regime's aggressiveness, and especially in the
wider Middle East and central Asian (MECA) region. Another reading of why the USA's oil
geostrategy in this region became so aggressive, desperate, and unsuccessful, is that the 1948-2001
period only saw the recurring collapse of "regional pillars", that is US allies in the region. The new
doctrine, being fear-based and fantasist, can be counted on to change before our very eyes, and call
any "sacrosanct" aspect of US foreign policy into question - even including the possible ultimate
sacrifice - abandonment of Israel. This threat is understood in Israel, which very surely is not so
much led by, but leads and manipulates the USA, through its own 'regional military initiatives'.

It is impossible to appreciate, or analyse US oil geopolitics, and American action in the MECA
region, conceived as supporting or tending to assure US oil interests, without reviewing what has
come before. As we have seen elsewhere in this book, the two European partners of the USA in the
Versailles Treaty series (1917-1923), France and Britain, acted to protect what they saw, at the time,
as their oil interests in the region. The very creation of British Iraq, then Kuwait, the intense oil
exploration-linked rivalry between the British and French concerning the size and area of French
Syria and Lebanon during the time of the Society of Nations Mandate, attests to this. At certain
stages, in the 1920s, British and French armed forces engaged in hostilities, with loss of life on each
side, merely for disputed oil prospecting territory in Syrian Kurdistan, and elsewhere. Yet the USA
was supremely absent from these feverish actions on the ground, though most certainly not in that
which concerns overall, regional control of the territories formerly controlled by the Turkish
Ottomans, including all of the Arabian peninsula. The Sykes-Picot "oil map" of the region resulted
from an American initiative to set spheres of influence for all 3 allied victors of World War 1 - with
all of the future Saudi Arabia reserved for the USA, or rather its oil corporations.

However, on the ground, in the 1920s and 1930s, US military or 'peacekeeping' initiatives were few
and the reason is again oil: at the time the USA was by far the biggest producer, and exporter of oil
in the world. US oil majors had no interest at all in seeing world production increase, if anything the
reverse, and made this known to their political representatives and friends.What the USA required
was orderly and controlled production of what were taken, at the time, to be "limitless reserves" of
oil in the southern territories of the former Ottoman Empire, and in Iran.

It was not until after 1945 that times changed for the USA. The geostrategic importance of oil had
been underlined by World War 2, and was now recognised. Even by the late 1940s and early 1950s
a 'heretical' American oil geologist called M. King Hubbert had made predictions - treated with the
same guffaws that Peak Oil was subjected to until about 2005 or 2006 - that the USA would in
1948, and again in about 1992, produce the same amount of oil. In other words, as his Hubbert Peak
diagram showed very starkly, production of oil in the USA would attain a peak between these two
dates, about 1970 or 1971. This was exactly correct. The negationist camp explain this as only due
to pure chance.

When we ask how American historians describe the Twin Pillars doctrine we find they have a
degree of doctrinal flexibility that would have been admired in the Russia of the 1930s. They can
point to, define and discuss the existence of several Twin Pillars doctrines. All are, or were, loosely
or strongly, focused on oil and all concerned, or concern the wider Middle East region, but not
central Asia. After defining any one Twin Pillars doctrine, come the revisions and the revisionism.
This extends to not only the doctrine, but also its history and key dates, its unfolding on the ground,
and its actors !

Thus it can be, and is said that a Twin Pillars doctrine based on the Iran of the second Chah (Reza
Pehlavi), and Israel, existed from about 1948-51 to 1979. Iran and Israel formed an eastern and a
western pillar guarding the oil production areas, and transport routes out of the region. This version
or mouture of the doctrine is presented as the brainchild of John F. Dulles and Kermit Roosevelt, or
their colleagues and advisers, and was primarily developed and used from about 1951-53.
Application of this doctrine is claimed as the motivation for removal from office of Iran's PM
Mossadegh, the 'oil nationalising minister' of the second Chah, in 1956.

More recent American historians, needing to rework history to the pleasure of today's rulers, claim
the Twin Pillars doctrine emerged under Richard Nixon, about 1960, and not under Eisenhower.
This 'second authorized version' of the doctrine is presented as a regional strategic doctrine seeking
to counter and contain the USSR, and to build up Saudi Arabia's defensive capability, rather than to
primarily safeguard oil supplies for the west. We should note that well into the 1960s the US
remained a sizeable net exporter of oil: this latter day revision of the doctrine by American
historians designates the western European, Asian and other oil importer OECD countries, not the
USA, as prime beneficiairies of American petro largesse. For this 'revised version' of the doctrine,
the key period is about 1956-63, starting with Mossadegh's ouster and the Suez crisis, followed by
the US marines invasion of Beirut in 1958 to restore a friendly local regime to power. In all three
cases the USA displayed either military or diplomatic power, and most surely put the European
allies - Britain in France - in their place for their Suez adventure. A distant outrider to the 1970s oil
shocks, the 1956 Suez crisis led to dire warnings, in Europe, of intense oil shortage due to short-
term closure of the Suez canal. The next trigger for change came in 1968. With the 1968
announcement, and 1971 application of the British decision to abandon all of its colonial treasures,
and military obligations in the entire eastern hemisphere the 'revised version' of the US Twin Pillars
doctrine went into high gear.

The basic rationale put forward by American strategists, historians and military men of today is as

Before 1971, responsibility for tregional security fell to the British, with the US only providing a
supporting role. From 1971, Britain abandoned the region, basically because contant regional
military presence was too expensive, but presented in the media and political stances as linked with
decolonisation, decreased regional tension, local economic growth enabling local powers to defend
themselves, and so on. The US felt it was obligatory for American oil and economic interests on the
ground, or 'in theatre', to receive physical protection. This protection, however, was operated in
British fashion, that is mostly or exclusively through indirect power and control, by unconditional
support to whatever political party, regime or system had local power. In effect, this was translated
on the ground by massive US military aid to designated friendly regimes. It was not in fact until the
Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 that the doctrine's really high gears were engaged,
with the "Carter doctrine". This new doctrine was the brainchild of Zbigniew Brzezinski, playing oil
strategist to Carter, as Kissinger had to Nixon.

This effortlessly rewrote all previous history, again. The Carter-Brzezinski doctrine featured the
Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force, a quickly available and very large American aeronaval force
'just over the horizon', ready to strike any troublemaker menacing US oil interests - which had
become ever more vital by the early 1970s. Also in the 1970s, thanks to the Khomeiny revolution
and overthrow of the Chah, the first mention of Islamic fundamentalism creeps into the reworked
and revamped Twin Pillars doctrine we can find with a few mouse clicks on the Web.

Oil is now all-imporant, but from 1979 this concerned Saudi, not Iranian oil. The Soviet threat then
seen to be hanging over the scene was later seen as a tragic misreading of the USSR's unwinnable
military occupation of Afghanistan, which had little or nothing to do with an imputed Soviet desire
'to gain access to the warm waters' of the Gulf and Indian Ocean. American and Bitish
geostrategists, steeped in their own Boy Scout lores and legends, believed the Soviet invasion was
taken from a Halford Mackinder pamphlet of the 1920s, and was nothing more or less than a thrust
by the Soviet Union towards the warm waters, of course sweeping in and taking control of all
regional oil reserves and production capacities.

What in fact changed from the before-1971 period, to after 1980? The Oil Shock of 1973-1974 was
a fundamental defining experience, entirely triggered by Israel's response to Arab military attack,
and not at all by petroleum geology. However, also in that period Peak Oil truly arrived in the USA.
Through the 1970s, US oil production regularly fell from its 1971 peak, as M King Hubbert had
predicted. US dependence on oil imports skyrocketed with rising national consumption, little
affected by also skyrocketing prices. The long period of comfortable theorizing by American
historians displaying their armchair erudition was now over. Declassified papers from the Nixon
White House of the 1973-74 oil blockade period show that Nixon and Kissinger very surely
discussed military invasion of Saudi Arabia at the time, to ensure oil supplies. By 1983, with
Reagan taking the relay baton of Republican far-right realpolitik, it was Iran that was permanently
under threat of invasion - for the same motive, of course.

A yet more radical 'revision' of the Twin Pillars doctrine, as taught to American Marines in the
USMC college, in their history courses of today, claims the Twin Pillars doctrine was initiated by
Nixon, then modified by Carter, and had from the start only concerned Iran and Saudi Arabia, not
Israel. This was therefore a Persian Gulf (or Arab Gulf, depending on the audience) doctrine. The
west of the region no longer had any significance in oil terms, Israel was dropped off the map. This
essentially technological and industrial reality - the west of the Middle East and the Mediterranean
coast no longer being strategic in strict oil supply terms - was recognised as early as 1955, by none
other than Richard Nixon. With his customary and fast-acting impetuosity, almost overnight, he
reoriented and reworked the doctrine.

Today's militarty historians in the US add that by oversight or design Nixon did not inform the State
Department and other heavyweight players. These players continued with an Eisenhower-vintage,
Dulles-Kermit Roosevelt Twin Pillars doctrine for so long that Carter's presidency, in 1979, was
sacrificed or destroyed by their lingering Iranophile doctrine. If the Persophiles had been silenced
and Nixon's correct reading had been allowed to dominate, the doctrinal revision by today's US
historians goes on, there would have been no humiliating defeat for the USA in Iran, in 1979. Early
American military and oil industrial effort to infiltrate and strategically dominate Saudi Arabia
would have been capitalized by quick and focused attack and seizure of key oil production and
export facilities, either in Iran or in Saudi Arabia, easing critical pressure on US oil import supplies.
This would have prevented any chance for a remake of the 1973-74 oil supply boycott. The
'insignificant detail' that the 1979-81 crisis was due to Iran, not Saudi Arabia, would have been of
little concern to happy US gasoline consumers, bathing in the euphoria that cheap gas delivers at
their friendly local filling station. This is an entire reversal of the Dulles-Roosevelt doctrine !

The 'traditional version', in the Eisenhower mold of the doctrine, holds that Iran and Israel were
always natural allies of the USA, unlike Saudi Arabia. Latter day defenders of the doctrine go on to
add that the loss of Iran is only temporary. Its 'natural ally' status will be restored by the Iranian
middle class and the consumer society, given time and inch'allah or God willing - or rather Obama
and Ahmedinjad willing or able. The role of Saudi Arabia as a trusty pillar in the 'traditional'
doctrine, we should note, was small, almost negligeable. Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf
petromonarchies were essentially considered desert kingdoms of herders and pastoralists, somewhat
like Somalia or Sudan and almost equally unreliable. Saudi fundamentalist wahabism was however
considered advantageous for American and western interests because this 'stone age thinking'
tended to make the populace more amenable to any peacekeeping intervention by the USA, to
install a new feudal monarch with absolute powers when or if needed. Its limitless oil reserves
would be extracted in orderly fashion by western companies, led by the US oil majors. Conversely,
Iran and Israel were seen as inheritors of important and traditional civilizations - the Jewish and
Persian civilizations - and therefore reliable partners for the USA, itself seen, at least by its own
historians and its own elites, as a major civilization.

The collapse of the second and probably last Chah's regime in 1979, a laughably ruritanian but
repressive mix of western bureaucracy and eastern corruption, always on the defensive against shi'a
criticism, dealt a mortal blow to Persophile notions in the American power elite. However, the
agonizing sloth and hesitation with which American policy moves forward resulted in a fatal delay -
for Jimmy Carter's regime. Leaving behind his RDJTF (Fast Deployment Force), to Ronald Reagan,
this force showed rather little resolute and massive power in Lebanon, where hundreds of US
marines were slaughtered by a single bomb in 1983. Reagan immediately ordered a total pull-back
of all US forces in the region, and a de facto handover of fighting to Israel's Tsahal in its bloody
Lebanon and Palestine campaigns. This underlined, if necessary, the 'cut and run' nature of
American geopolitical decisions whenever American armed forces take serious casualties - today
explaining the careful news management of casualties in Afghanisatn and Iraq. As for the reworked,
and mostly unworkable doctrines thrown up by myopic rats de bibliotheque burrowing in the
archives of Washington Think Tank libraries, these have even less credibility today than at any
previous time.

We can say that the Twin Pillars doctrine has experience life after death at least three times. After
collapsing due to real world events, it was resuscitated, revamped and recycled with new "founding
myths", and different objectives or goals, as and when required. The first collapse, we can note, was
technical not geopolitical. Israel was no longer needed as a western pillar safeguarding the west's oil
supplies from the Middle East, by as early as 1965. The few and small oil transport infrastructures
running east-west, from the Gulf region and northern Iraq to the Mediterranean coast, and the
refinery and docking installations of the Mediterranean ports, were entirely superceded and replaced
by supertanker shipping direct from Gulf ports. This accounts for Saudi Arabia replacing Israel as
western pillar, with Iran remaining the eastern pillar. Another and more massive shock to the
doctrine was the Arab-Israel war of 1973-1974, and the dramatic use of the oil weapon, that is
supply embargo, against the USA, Holland and other western countries decided by Arab countries
as too-supportive of Israel. To a certain extent, this brought into question the always coming but
never concretized "western pillar role" of Saudi Arabia, but ever-increasing dependence of OECD
oil importers on Saudi Arabia, and its large official oil reserves resulted in this fatal flaw of the
doctrine being papered over - after a long period of torment for US strategists.

By 1974 the US was more than 3 years post peak for its own national domestic oil production and
import dependence was rising fast, though in volume terms no faster than today. These combined
shocks - oil supply embargo, and structural import dependence - triggered the most recent versions
of the Twin Pillars doctrine, before its transformation into its surely last, and incoherent Twin
Towers mutant. As early as 1974, long before New Economics and a part of the emerging Nixon-
Kissinger doctrine which featured readiness to invade Saudia Arabia if it ever again cut off oil
supplies to the USA, the International Energy Agency (IEA) was founded. This part of the Nixon-
Kissinger doctrine sought to coordinate OECD country oil-saving and strategic oil stockpile
building as a response to future shortages, if or when they should occur. The decision to create the
IEA with this role underlined an important shift of perception, towards future oil shortage and high
prices. To fight the menace of high prices, the IEA was given the interesting role of exploiting
market mechanisms to reduce oil prices, through promoting divide-and-rule trading arrangements
with separate OPEC suppliers. It also became, and stayed a centre for concocting optimistic and
upbeat oil supply data, and always moderate or 'reasonable' oil consumption numbers, with the sole
aim of bringing down oil prices or least limiting price rises. Moving with the times, the IEA has
reflected ideological changes in the oil user camp since 2001. From at latest 2005 it gives copious
coverage in its publications and Web sites to 'low carbon energy' and OECD action to promote a
'clean, clever and competitive energy future'.

The largest and most brutal shock to the early versions of the Twin Pillars doctrine, even more so
than the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo, was the collapse of Chah Reza Pehlavi's regime in 1979,
causing total loss of the eastern pillar. As we noted above, this speeded acceptance and adoption of
the Carter doctrine: large, fast-deployed military forces held ready to invade any country in the
Middle East, when or if oil supply was threatened. To a certain extent, therefore, the bases of the
Twin Towers doctrine were surely set by 1979-1980, but were already latent or prefigured in the
panic caused by the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo. Permanent war readiness to defend oil suppliers and
punish any regime or power which would reduce or threaten oil supplies to the US, or its designated
allies, was now official and openly stated. By extension, the stationing of large and permanent
military forces in the region, for example in Qatar, and no doubt in New Iraq after 2010, flow
logically from this readiness to wage "pre-emptive oil security war", in sum a purely aggressive
doctrine. As we can see, after diplomacy, indirect rule and political influence wielding in the region,
operated through strategic local allies, military power and direct rule are subsequently used. In this,
the USA is in no way different from any historic imperium menaced by economic shortage or
political opposition in its far-flung possessions – but with one important difference. The USA faces
competition from very big and very well-armed rivals today, including China and India. Apart from
Russia, all of the 5 Security Council thermonuclear-armed states, as well as India and Pakistan need
the same Middle Eastern oil.

Since 2001 and joining previous forms of US petrostrategy, we have the Twin Towers doctrine. This
is surely more aggressive. Pre-emptive military action rigorously replaces simple military threat.
But more important for its coherence and staying power, this final doctrinal mold contains a
messianic and hysterical undertow. Essentially non-economic objectives confusedly replace the
former economic growth message that 'what is good for the USA is good for the world'. We move
into a polarized world of fantasy. This is half terrorist, and half angelic consumer of gasoline and
fastfood, similar to Zoroastrian notions of the spenta angra and spenta minya or pure good and evil,
as permanently equal and opposing powers. For the Twin Towers doctrine, securing oil and gas
supplies can only be a messianic quest. The incoherence of the Twin Towers petrostrategy is clear.
More important, this doctrine or fuite en avant can collapse at any moment, or with equal ease lead
to The Next Oil War.

(end of chapter)


Other hidden doctrines, apart from Cheap Oil, inhabit the collective mindset of decider elites in the
USA, as elsewhere in the oil-dependent world. Among these doctrines - especially since the two oil
shocks of the 1970s and early 1980s - we can add muscular monetarism. Plenty of definitions exist
for what monetarism means, and at risk of being confusing many are identical with the doctrine
called mercantilism, another very old economic-and-political doctrine or set of policies. This
doctrine is now incorporated in, or underlies attempts by the USA's Obama administration at
'winning the trade war', or at least cutting the USA's fantastic trade deficit through a mix-and-match
of dollar devaluation, and trade protectionism through appeals to 'Buy America'.

Concerning the MECA region and underlying the schizophrenia of managing accumulated and
massive trade deficits and overseas debt , monetarism means keeping the US dollar strong enough
to maintain confidence in the USA. The method used is petrodollar recycling, presented and
thought of by many US politicians as a national duty for monetary survival, economic growth, and
continuing global hegemony or power. The same idea occupies the heads of political and business
leaders in the other energy-intense, oil import-dependent richworld countries, in Europe nearly all
running a trade deficit like the USA. One headline example of European petrodollar recycling was
the late 2008 bailout and recapitalisation of Barclays Bank using UAE's Al Maktoum petrodollars.

Petrodollar recycling results in strange twists to the evolving Near East and Middle East political
context, with direct links to the sunni-shi'a conflit. This is basically due to the sunni-dominated
decider elites in the GCC oil exporter countries controlling these countries’ large capital surpluses.
If the US dollar is not too weak and cofidence in the USA is sufficient, these surpluses can be
recycled to the benefit of the US dollar and US Federal finances through the purchase of Federal
bonds, like 'T-bonds' or US Treasury bills. If the dollar is weak, they can also be used to buy gold,
since many persons in the GCC countries are more than somewhat 'aurophilic' or prone to buying
gold bars when they start losing confidence in the US dollar.

Late 20th and early 21st century monetarism played gold-averse for quite a while. From about 1985
until the period of 2004 to early 2005 almost any finance minister of the International Community
whether dragged from the hallowed halls of academia, or from the pizza business they used to run,
would go out of their way to say that gold was fading away. It was no longer needed, it really was a
barbarous Keynesian relic. Gold buying weakens the public’s appreciation, respect and confidence
in the nation's paper money. Behind all that, too much attention to gold will weaken everybody’s
adoration of the US dollar, and dollar instability is bad for world economic progress, that is growth.
High gold prices, in the new doctrine of New Economics which arose in the wake of the two oil
shocks, are destabilizing harbingers of inflation. High gold prices adversely impact trade growth
and transparent markets, and gold is not only produced by dependable and well-managed South
Africa, but also by some pretty barbarous countries and regimes we do not care to mention. In other
words gold is very much like oil !

Gold prices are also linked in peculiar but certain and sure ways with oil prices. The pecularity of
gold-oil price relations feeds the 'classic scholar' or monetarist view, that both are threats to the
value of national paper moneys. This view completely excludes the real world fantastic energy
intensity of dragging gold ore from mines at 3500 or 4500 metres depth, in 55°C working
conditions, to extract a few grams of gold from each ton of ore winched to the surface and milled in
electricity-intensive processing plants. It excludes the simple reality of oil reserve depletion and the
approach of Peak Oil, forcing production effort towards ever deeper offshore operations, extraction
of heavy oils, production from tarsands, and completely synthetic oil-like hydrocarbons production,
for example the biofuels. These methods, unsurprisingly, are only chosen because the easier and
cheaper lower energy cost oil has already been exploited. Such trifling physical details are however
a sideshow to Defenders of the Money, who are not interested in how much energy it takes to win
gold or why oil and gas are getting harder to come by. One of their other basic errors, with gold, is
to believe that large overground stocks of gold, around 150 000 tons for the world in late 2008, can
and will always set a final cap on price breakouts. This faith in the role of accumulated overground
stocks is necessarily dented by declining annual tonnages of fresh-mined gold and apparently
strange, but real annual losses of gold - in part due to the metal's fantastic density, making it highly
able to sink out of sight given the slightest chance.

A little background explains monetarism's rebirth. Inflation was the basic driver. In 1979-1981 the
eastern pillar of the US Twin Pillars doctrine collapsed with the ouster of Chah Reza Pehlavi, the
second and last Chah of modern times, the last member of a downsized 60-year ‘dynasty’. As
Khomenei’s shi'a mobs chanted anti-western slogans in Tehran and exhibited US embassy hostages
for a total of 444 days, gold prices racked their way up with oil prices to exotic and frightening
highs. In 2008 dollars, the gold price achieved about 1700 USD-per-ounce at the time, and oil went
well above 110 USD-per-barrel. Of course inflation was high: any hands-on businessperson could
profit from the ambient hysteria. Producers and distributors could rack up the prices of any product
they commercialized. Anyone able to could borrow new money at negative real interest rates. Stock
market players could short sell almost any stocks and shares, speculate on most anything, and make
a killing. This was bad economics even if it was good business for speculators. Until quite late into
1979 the 'real economy' in the US and other OECD countries was little affected, but inflation was
solidly rising. Inflation for monetarists close to power like Ron Reagan's egerie in the matter,
Milton Friedman, is something that must be firewalled into working only to the common good of
Jack-n-Jill Sixpack Citizen. Inflation, for monetarist advisers to presidents and PMs is only for the
nicest and best speculative instuments, like home purchase and housing rental prices, most food
goods, restaurant meals, shoe repairs, military equipment, hotel rooms, video games, mobile phone
operating licences and other 'postindustrial success stories' of the New Economy. Being generous
and pragmatic, they extended the permissible role of inflation to any goods or services that
somehow do not appear in official inflation numbers.

The basic line of modern monetarists was clear. Beating inflation is a daily duty for leaders of the
postindustrial consumer society. Beating inflation is the bugaboo that underlays monetarism, with
one end in view: Protecting the money from Evil. This desire goes back a long, long way in time.

The monetarist creed goes back far in history. Explaining its fascination for modern, hands-on
finance ministers whose track record in economic policy issues can extend to running pizza
franchises or football teams is more than difficult. We can however say the creed of monetarism, or
monetarist story goes back to the 1560s, and the grave threats to monetary stability posed by
massive inflows of cheap gold and silver into Elizabethan England, and elsewhere in royal Europe.

The coins of Elizabeth’s realm were simply unable to compete. Gold and silver from the Caribbean,
Central America and South America, brought by Spanish, Portuguese, English, Dutch, French and
Italian sailor heroes, and also by international pirates, flowed all over Europe. According to Nikolai
Kondratiev, the 'father of long cycle economics', Europe received an inflow of perhaps 40 000 tons
of gold and over 400 000 tons of silver in the 50 to 100 years spanning 1550-1600 or 1650. No
national central bank in Europe, today, has more than about 2200 tons of so-called ‘fiduciary’ gold
in its vaults, and most have a lot less. In the late 16thC the sudden ubiquity of not-so-precious
metals quickly had a fatal impact on coins of the realm, any realm in Europe. The populace rapidly
started minting their own coins. Official moneys wilted, and prices were difficult to track, going
down, up, and sideways. For Kondratiev this massive dose of volatility was the start of the longest-
ever 'super cycle', that he estimated at about 350 years length.

For the kings, queens, princes and religious leaders who ran 16thC Europe the biggest threat from
inflows of cheap gold was the loss of their assured profit from producing official money. This is
called seignorage, the mark-up between the coin value stamped on the face of official coins, against
the cost of raw materials and manpower for making them. The value, or numbers stamped on the
coins can also be called the fiat or decreed value. The comparison with US national oil production,
and overseas oil production by US oil corporations, is easy to draw, but for the completely opposite
basic reason: not enough oil, whereas 16thC Europe was inundated with cheap gold ! The Texas
Railroad Commission pricing system essentially set a kind of oil seignorage for John D Rockefeller
and his survivors. With no surprise, this US-based and US-operated control of world oil pricing fell
apart in 1971, exactly contemporaneous with the ultimate peak of US domestic oil extraction. We
can explain what happened as follows.

In the spring of 1971, the Texas Railroad Commission announced, for the first time, that it would
allow 100% full capacity oil production. In other words, producers in Texas were free to produce
their 'reference crude', West Texas Intermediate (WTI) at capacity. In other and never stated words,
this was simply because there was no longer enough oil and supplies were running short, at least in
the USA. On that date, the marginal price of crude oil was no longer set in Texas – the oil price
floated, an outrider to the marketising and then financiarization of oil, of the 1980s and 1990s. In
mid 2004 OPEC announced, for the first time, that it too would allow 100% production. The OPEC
quotas still theoretically stood, but the valves were now open in reality. On that date, the marginal
price of oil was no longer set by OPEC, another way to say that global surplus was giving way to
global shortage, since OPEC is the supplier of last resort. To be sure, there are many other factors in
the oil pricing puzzle, but the basic principle is that price stability is always a victim of shortage - or
of extreme abundance.

In the previous, 'administered systems' of pricing gold and pricing oil, stability was the goal. Only
with stable and assured oil production, and stable gold prices, can the whole upturned pyramid of
producer profits, producer government taxes, downstream intermediates' profits, and consumer
country taxes work to the predictable benefit of those who control oil and gold supply and their
downstream utilisation. Under extreme shortage or extreme surplus, the system tends to break
down, menacing the previous ordered patterns in the money or oil hierarchy.

In the case of Europe's tsunami of cheap gold and silver washed and dragged ashore through about
1550-1650, this wave of new precious metal hit the seignorage system. This was bad news for the
elites, who depended on seignorage, through controlling official money production and circulation.
Buying their raw material metals, including gold and silver at a cheap price, and selling the output
manufactured products dear, that is coins with pictures of the Queen, King, Pope or other fine
persons stamped on them, was a major prop to their personal economic wellbeing and political
power. Unlike oil, and whenever times were tough, and raw material metals were in short supply,
older and heavier coins could be called-in, scraped, and new lighter ones produced from the
scrapings - with the same fiat number stamped on them !

Summarized by the famous but little heeded aphorism of Thomas Gresham, monetary adviser to
Elizabeth 1 of England - “Bad money drives good money out of circulation” - reduced money value
in fact drags down the value of other things in the economy, whether there is inflation or not. To
most people, there is inflation but the inflation that occurs is monetary inflation. More of the bad
money is needed to pay the same quantity of goods or services. Even more complicated, the
economy in general is deflated for one reason because the same amount of money can be obtained
for a smaller amount of goods and services, tending to drive down total production or output.

In the later 1980s, Saudi Arabia, with US blessing and encouragement, practiced this with world oil,
through outproducing all rivals, driving down oil prices for a long period of Cheap Oil, through
1986-1999 and perhaps not unrelatedly accelerating the formal, and then market-based devaluation
of the US dollar, starting in 1985 with the Plaza accord. The Saudi oil action unsurprisingly dragged
down exploration and production investment in world oil and gas, later on ensuring that oil prices
would explode after just a few years of Petro Keynesian economic growth, in 2004-2007. The
counterpart for this Saudi largesse, as books by Robet Baer unsurely indicate, was the American
carte blanche for islamised ideological struggle in Afghanistan, against the Soviet infidel. Saudi
support of course went first and most to extreme sunni groups and movements, such as those run by
Osama bin Laden. For world oil and unremarked at the time, but not today, this quick draw down of
cheaply-produced world oil reserves will make energy transition away from the fossil fuels even
more difficult. To be sure, the Saudi action gave the world a long decade of cheap fossil energy, and
cheap mineral resources of all kinds, but this did less than nothing to stop the depletion clock and
surely accelerated climate change. Through removing cheaper energy, able to be blended into the
stream of fast-increasing energy prices and dampen the shock, future inflation and sky high gold
prices, as well as expensive oil are almost guaranteed in 2009-2011.

In approximate terms, total oil extraction in the 20-year period of 1985-2005, during which the
Cheap Oil interval reigned (through 1986-1999) was about 500 Billion barrels. This was mostly
burned as fuel, around 10% being used for all non-energy purposes. This 500 Bn barrel tribute to
the growth economy, produced and sold at bargain basement prices is about two times the total of
Saudi Arabia's remaining official reserves, and probably over 3 times its real remaining reserves.
The possibility of another Cheap Oil interval happening again is absolute zero.

In the late 16th and early 17thC European pirates had their anarchic fun through paying trivial
purchases by banging down solid lumps of gold - enough to make gold coins paying a dozen times
the purchased article! The petrodollar recycling caricature of this, today, is new wealth herdsmen
from the Saudi and Kuwaiti deserts banging down fistfuls of petrodollars to build a plastic-and-
concrete instant city using the best and smartest building design software on the market. From
around 2005 these efforts by sobre and respectable petrodollar recycling experts and hands-on hi-
tech building engineers now include solar collectors on the roof, water recycling, electric golf
caddies and perhaps a few windmills on the horizon. Cost are of course extreme, billions of dollars
to house and occupy a few thousand “low energy” eco-citizens.

In the recent monetarist heydey of about 1980-2005, after which deficit spending through
goverment borrowing became the no alternative doctrine, the permanent struggle in decider minds
was how to enforce reasonable-priced gold and reasonable-priced oil. As our review of the doctrinal
mutation from Twin Pillars to Twin Towers shows, the essential conditioned response is military,
after a certain amount of theorizing and agonizing. In the period of about 1600-1650 the grave
threat to established, royal money systems in Europe was countered by the same vigorous and
robust action, that is military. Pirates were hunted down, and muscular monetarism set a strategy of
rapid reaction overseas. Colonial implantations of soldiers-plus-miners were set up in gold
producing regions, and the hunt for gold, as for oil since the 1980s, naturally focused the ‘new’
region of Africa. Monetarism, like the real world oil doctrine of the US-led growth economies since
the 1980s, was and is a uncompromisingly supply-side strategy.

Monetarism is about money: if the enemy is deprived of money he will be deprived of means to
attack. Without petrodollars, or with fewer of them, as Wall Street Journal editorials have many
times opined since 2001, Islamic terror can only shrink.

The 1991 Gulf War was close to that spirit: get to the source of black gold, ensure a free flow of
reasonable-priced oil to the home side and its allies, and deprive the bad guys of both oil and
money. Also, we can note, the leader clans of today’s globalizing economy, recycled from running
pizza parlors to becoming great men of state, are brought up to believe the 1979-1981 shakeout and
meltdown of the economy, during which gold and oil prices reached terrifying heights, was itself
caused by the vertical upward movement of oil and gold prices. While they would surely not
confuse falling out of bed with the sore head from resulting for this wake-up process, deliberate
confusion of cause and consequence is wilfully applied to the 1979-1981 confidence meltdown
sequence, and its result on gold and oil prices.

The cause was confused with its effects. New Economy professors told the 1980s crop of Great
Statesmen what they wanted to hear: verily, oil and gold price rises were the sole, root cause of
inflation at that time. The idea that ‘high street’ bank interestest rates at 25% or 30%-per-year can or
could be inflationary was called irrational: gouging interest rates are a cure, not cause of inflation in
latter day New Economics. They in fact can easily come before or at the same time.

Because the monetarist prayer wheel chants that cheap gold is good for holding down inflation, and
cheap oil is good for the economy, gold prices were cranked down, inch by inch and dollar by dollar
through the 1980s and 1990s. To help the process, finance ministers would periodically sell big
slabs of fiduciary gold. The word ‘fiduciary’ is itself a relic from the 17thC, and means the stock of
gold held in national bank vaults to maintain faith in the money or ‘just in case’. That is, just in case
enemies start trying to undermine our money - which these days is almost exclusively paper, plastic
and electronic money. Before the neo-monetarism of the 1980s and 1990s, central bank gold stocks
were thought able to prevent ‘runs on the money’. However, forcing gold prices down to bolster the
value of paper and electronic money means fiduciary gold has to be sold, exactly the same way that
using strategic petroleum reserves will draw down these reserves. Selling national gold was
regularly operated through the 1980s and 1990s. Buying it back from the free market, today, is
mighty expensive and drives up total demand - but finance ministers have taxpayer funds, and
borrowed money to waste.

The reasoning path of latter-day monetarists is at best risible: high gold and oil prices are
inflationary, so if gold prices can be levered down then oil prices should follow, and inflation will
be low, perhaps forever, inch'Allah and God willing. As a quick check on gold-oil ratios (and
tradable indices based on this ratio) shows, the ratio of the price for an ounce of gold and price for a
barrel of oil, in US dollars, can vary from about 6 to over 30, depending on which crisis is worst:
deflation or inflation, or rising oil prices and a declining US dollar. The 'theoretical' considerations
of how much energy it costs to produce gold, and declining reserves of world oil cuts no ice with
montarists, their ironclad policy and strategy coal being very simple: gold and oil should both be
cheap, and specie or printed money the only store of value.

Trifling details interfere with this lyrical vision of things. Winning gold, as the term implies, needs a
lot of effort as well as luck. Gold is nowadays often mined from 4500 metres underground,
followed by sifting through a ton of ore to grub out 3 grams of gold. This takes a lot of energy. In
the case of reworking tailings from old gold mines the process needs needs huge quantities of
cyanide, to grapple a few grams of the yellow stuff here and there. This also costs a lot of energy,
much of it oil based. Later 'environmental restitution', if practiced, will be expensive in terms of oil
needed. to shift tons of toxic tailings and hide them under earth berms where they can poison water
tables for decades ahead. As we know, oil itself now takes a lot more resource energy to produce
relative to the 1970s and 1980s when, due to Iranian shi'a uprising, its sudden political lack of
abundance created a vast wave of panic in western economic and political leadership circles. We
can conclude, here, that attempts to 'save the money' through forcing down gold or oil prices is
thermodynamically unrealistic and doomed to failure.

A quick check on US national trade and financial accounts shows the vast need to maintain
confidence in paper dollars. In normal logic, today, the US dollar should be completely worthless.
Exactly the same also applies to the Euro, the Yen, and the national currencies of most any other
OECD oil and energy importer you care to name. In the 2009 context of massive and repeated
bailouts of bank, insurance, car making, housebuilding and other firms, using government borrowed
funds, this credibility problem for national moneys (or supranational moneys in the case of the
Euro) can only increase. Gold, oil and gas exporter countries have to accept these paper moneys,
like you and me. Every so often, and Kondratiev claimed that ‘every so often’ is cyclic and
relatively predictable, and is not purely stochastic or random, confidence melts down and paper
money, along with shares and derived financial instruments, has a very rough ride. This is what
really happened in 1979-1981, again in 2000-2003, and again from 2007-2008. Today, no amount of
gold selling by national banks will or can permanently halt the longer-term upward movement of
gold prices - or oil prices, we can easily surmise.

This brings us back to basic themes of The Next Oil War. When the current economic crisis has
sufficiently deflated all paper asset values, inflation will break out. As if by black magic and
simultaneously, oil and gold prices will increase rapidly, even if they are already high. This will be
fed by worse-than-normal news from Russia, from Nigeria, failed coups in Venezuela or more
socialist nonsense in gas-rich and lithium-rich Bolivia, renewed Israel-Palestine hostilities with
regrettable deaths of human shields on the Palestinian side, or even Somali pirate attacks on
supertankers as a surrogate for Al Qaeda evil. The media will do what it can to feed the rumor mill.
If there is also serious Great Power geopolitical stress in the MECA region the media will surpass
itself in oil and gold price-driving hysteria ! With simultaneous soaring oil prices and extreme gold
prices the inevitable response after a certain Decent Interval of doing nothing can only be massive
interest rate hikes. The only possible sequel will be a remake of the monetarist 1980-83 recession
grafted onto the current and ongoing global economic crisis.

(end of chapter)


By mid-2006 it was already clear that Iraq liberation, by military invasion and occupation, was far
from winning hearts and minds either inside Iraq, or across the wider MECA region. By late 2008
about the only issue able to unite both sunni and shi'a street protesters in Iraq was the theme: USA
Go Home. More important for world oil and gas, almost any scenario for Iraq's reconstruction and
recovery does not give a read-out of booming oil exports. This will almost certainly make the peak
oil downslope steeper, and less and less the hoped-for 'undulating plateau' of world oil export
supply and availability in the period from about 2007 to mid-2010.

The Iraq war is itself theoretically ending by about late summer 2010, allowing some potential for
western media to claim that rising or high oil prices, also in 2010, are due to military disengagement
from Iraq. The war, at 7 years in length, could seem to be a short one. In fact it was quite long, if not
a serious rival to the longer Crusades of about 850 years ago. The 2001 and 2003 wars in the MECA
region in reality started with the 1991 euphoria, for the US and Britain, that Gulf War 1 and the
Liberation of Kuwait had procured. The doctrine was set: Short and sharp displays of massive and
overwhelming, hi-tech military force in the region would always be followed by outright victory,
and the free flow of reasonable priced oil. Following the show of force only relatively small troop
presence would be needed, and costs of this would be paid by local regimes, new or restored
governments and sheikhly powers - in any case not by taxpayers of the US, UK or other external
powers. The important detail we need to know is what victory and defeat meant and means. Defeat
for Saddam Hussein was sure, and defeat for Al Qaeda and islamic terror in Iraq is less sure but
possible. Defeat for continuing menaces to Israel, or simply defeat for reasonable priced oil and gas
supplies from the region – which face a completely implacable geological menace - are absolutely
not assured.
Wise after the event commentators have for several years pointed to this or that 'fatal error' of US or
British military or political strategy, starting with the favourite of many analysts, the need to have
'got the job over' in 1991. In other words immediately overthrow the Saddam Hussein regime, and
start installing democracy in Iraq, some 18 years ago. Many reasons for why this did not happen can
be advanced and surmised, ranging right across all the possibilities. These surely featured the
relatively good oil pumping performance of Hussein's Iraq, at least until the sanctions regime of the
1990s took its toll on imports of key oil sector equipment such as pipeline control and refinery parts
and the foreign personnel needed to install and handover certain hi-tech equipment. Other deciding
factors probably included concern for regional stability in the aftermath of the USSR's collapse. The
sheer costs of war most certainly had their place in the decisional mix, including the unlikelihood
that rulers of the neighboring Gulf Petromonarchies would want to pay to have a shi'a majority,
democratically elected coalition government in Iraq following Saddam's ouster.

Oil was surely a part of the decision mix. In 1991, the world oil supply-and-demand system still
seemed in 'structural oversupply', locked into Saudi-dominated OAPEC pumping feats, and slow
growing demand in the consumer countries. As long as the post-Kuwait, war crippled Hussein
regime maintained at least 1.5 or 2 Mbd of exports, if only to pay for building Saddam castles,
world markets would remain well supplied. Oil was very cheap, and getting cheaper. The price
panic of the early 1980s had receded so fast that by 1991 it was but a shadow, menacing to be sure,
but no more than a shadow on the distant horizon. In 1991, any suggestion of Peak Oil and a
coming supply pinch was as far away from deciders' minds as water on Mars. With the political
collapse of the USSR, followed by Russia's economic collapse yet more supplies of cheap oil
surged onto the market. Middle East suppliers other than Iraq, and now Russia well complied with
their role assigned by the best and newest of the New Economists, that of obedient 'price takers'.
Whatever the price, they would keep pumping – perhaps because they were too stupid to do
anything else? No apparent logic could be seen for this behavior. Long gone were the days of Arab
petropolitics, solidarity with Palestine, hostility to Israel and supply crunching oil embargoes - of
which only one had ever in fact been applied, in 1973-74.

By 1991 the sunni minority regimes of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar and the other
Petromonarchies and Petroprincipalities, and Russia, seemed obsessionally dedicated to always
pumping the maximum possible, whether they gained more revenues with a falling barrel price or
not. As we examine elsewhere in this book, there are many ways to interpret this flagrant disinterest
in maximising national revenues from export of diminishing fossil reources. Several hundred
billions of barrels were extracted through the low-price years. Was this to aid the flagging, slow
growth economies of the OECD group, or simply to accelerate climate change and depletion of the
one-shot national oil resources of exporter countries ? The reason was political, many surmised, and
the 1991 war had seriously rearranged the political topography of the region. In 1991, after the
Liberation of Kuwait and Russia's retreat from Afghanistan, only one political dark spot remained
on the regional horizon. This was Iran, but licking its wounds following the long and disastrous war
with Iraq through 1980-88, and needing revenues, Iran played the same pumping performance
game, and of course massively revised up of its official oil reserves. By 1991 all the other OPEC
members and Russia, Mexico, Norway, the UK and other producers did the same - contributing to
an apparent 'near unlimited reserve' picture. Oil prices could only be low and were low.

Today, that Happy Time for world oil consumers is far away, receding into the mists of time. It is
unrelated to the coming reality of new and big oil price rises, which will come faster if the
economic recession ends in 2009, or slower if it does not, but will come anyway. This is due to
geological depletion. By about 2015 the world oil and gas supply picture will have moved on so far
that 2009 will seem like 1991 seems to us today. Iran for example is confronted by runaway growth
of its domestic oil demand, but production is stagnant at best, and probably declining. Iran's net
exports - about 4.5 Mbd in the heyday of the Chah Reza Pehlavi regime, before 1979 - are today set
around 2.4 Mbd. UAE's maximum net export capacity is similar, at about 2.3 Mbd although always
claimed as “able to be expanded”. Kuwait has admitted in various ways (for example in on-line
versions of Kuwait daily newspapers) that the giant Burgan field is well past peak and can only
decline. Under no reasonable scenario can Kuwait's net exports increase much, or at all, and
certainly not above the present volume of about 1.9 Mbd. Saudi rulers of course maintain the
official pretence that all is well. Any day, at the flick of a royal wrist, its net export performance
could be raised to “well above” 10 Mbd, while other Saudi sources state that withouth massive
remedial technology investment, Saudi oil reserves could diminish at 8% instead of the current 2%
per year. For Iraq, oil production and export data are something of a state secret, if there is a state.
Probable maximum export levels can be held around 2 Mbd or occasionally 2.25 to 2.5 Mbd, for a
while. Before invasion of Iraq in 2003, many Bush administration friendly oil experts (like CERA)
frequently published estimates of Free Iraq exporting 'around 4.5 Mbd by 2007'.

In any case, however the numbers are cut and folded the total of these net export volumes is
massively below the 'required' and impossible volumes needed to 'balance out supply and demand'.
What is 'required' is in fact simply a hope. The net oil export supply performance of the 5-biggest
Middle East exporters, as forecast by the World Bank, the IEA, the European Commission, the
OECD secretariat, and government or corporate energy and economic planning agencies and groups
right across the consumer world is in hed-on clash with reality. Taking only the IEA and the World
Bank, both still 'prefer to believe' that the 5-biggest Middle East exporters could or might export 30
Mbd by the period of 2015-2020, needing total production of about 40 Mbd. More fantastic, this
playing with unreal numbers is sometimes called a 'downward revision' of the Big 5's export
potential over the next 10 years, taking account of 'local difficulties' including the Iraq war and the
Iran nuclear affair, or saga.

Before this downward revision, estimates by the World Bank and other cheerleaders of the growth
economy claimed these 5 countries could export 35 Mbd within 10 years, by about 2020 ! This is
totally impossible, but the need for official fantasy is very simple to explain. By at latest 2006 it was
clear that Russia's 'oil and gas bubble' was going to start shading down by about 2009-2010
depending on both domestic demand and export market demand. Only high, or very high oil and
gas prices could palliate this, by enabling massive investment spending to keep flagging production
from rapidly falling, due to simple depletion. Real world figures back this analysis: Russia's net oil
exports fell from about 6.5 Mbd in 2005, to around 5.2 Mbd in 2006 and did not rebound, even with
huge increases of day traded oil prices in 2007 and 2008. Conversely the 'Russian gas bubble', as we
note elsewhere, was considered or hoped by European governments and gas consumers to be nigh
on eternal, or at least 'very long-term'. In other words Russian gas supplies would hold up even if its
oil exports started declining. The bulge in Russian gas exports recorded in 2007 was an almost sure
swan song, with the probable final peak coming as early as 2010. Net gas export volumes to
Europe, depending a lot on price, will be starting to decline on a long-term base from around the
end of 2009.

Subtracting Mother Russia from the oil supply, and gas supply growth loop resets the picture with a
vengeance to the Middle East, and to a sharply decreased and secondary extent on central Asia and
Africa. Regarding central Asia, which to many was the 'real reason' for US invasion of Afghanistan,
the relatively few years since 2000-2003 have seen a vast downsizing of estimates and forecasts,
made in the later 1990s, of oil and gas potentials right across central Asia. At the same time, as
Italian ENI and its Kazakhstan consortium partners have found, development costs for producing
what difficult-access and high sulfur crudes do exist in the region are extremely high. By default as
ever, hopes for the Middle East therefore have to remain 'robust'. Belief that the Middle East was
underproducing has been commonplace but discreet in US and European media for at least 10 years,
filtering out in specialist and technical journals, and the boardrooms of big oil corporations, as well
as the World Bank and the west's energy institutions. This, for many, was an ample explanation for
the invasion of Iraq.

Growth in supply to meet the reawakened and strong growth of world oil demand in major part
driven by China and India from about 1995-2000 became the leitmotif. Even in late 2008, as their
'overheated' economies cooled somewhat, Chinese and Indian oil import demand growth was
probably running at about 0.45 Mbd per year: a four-year rate able to completely swallow all of
Liberated Iraq's probable exports. World demand growth, at least in the period of about 2002-2007,
was so robust that almost by conditioned reflex only one region looked able to satisfy it. This
growth could only be satisfied by more supply from the Middle East - in particular the region's 5-
biggest producer countries. Smaller producers outside the Middle East, essentially African, were
with reason considered to be exactly that: smaller producers. This returned all analyses, all hopes to
the Middle East. World Bank papers on energy, and studies by the US EIA energy agency, and the
OECD's IEA all gave, and continue to give the same advice to political deciders – their advice is
very easy to understand. What is not possible to understand, because it concerns belief, not facts, is
continued claims that the Middle East has 'almost limitless' oil reserves. As we know, this is an old
belief, in fact a founding belief of the post-1945 growth economy. The equation Cheap Oil =
Economic Growth, despite receiving many shocks - including oil shocks - over the 63 years since
1945, remains anchored in the minds and reflexes of political deciders in the urban industrial
nations. Exactly like their Bourbon minded geostrategist friends, they have learned nothing and
forgotten nothing. There is therefore no surprise their conditioned reflex is that whenever more oil
supply is needed, the Middle East will be the supplier of last resort.

Belief that the Middle East has the oil reserves its ruling elites, regimes and powers claim they
have, and can therefore produce an awful lot more oil, was and is translated by swaths of World
Bank, EIA and IEA publications and reports, year in and year out. These studies simply program
permanent growth of Middle East net oil exports on a growth track of 2 Mbd-per-year, at least until
the economic recession ate into this growth, from late 2008. This 2 Mbd-per-year figure was the
supposed long-term future growth rate of world oil demand; this would be the growth of Middle
East net exports. If the Big 5 Middle East suppliers did not comply and conform with this fantasy
they would need 'help and persuasion'. When or if world oil demand growth fell below 2 Mbd each
year, as it did for many years through the 1990s, this would be all to the good, since spare capacities
would be built up, for handling emergency cuts in supply, and for adjusting to renewed growth in
world export demand when this returned.. The Iraq war can be seen that way, as a strategy for
building spare oil export capacity for the future, if not immediate and upfront export supplies in the
present. The 'persuasion' in the task of growing its production and export capacities was to supply
armed 'help' in the shape of installing a western-style democracy favouring private initiative – at
least in the oil and gas sector.

We have however many times repeated a basic message of this book: underneath any simplified and
evident cause, there are a host of less defined, old and new causes, pressures and factors. Oil and
geopolitics, like geopolitics in general and from the time of Halford Mackinder teaches us that
almost any 'simple and evident cause' is often unimportant in the real mix of pressures that resulted
in the event we are looking at

Probing these multiple factors is the way to understand why the future always remains unsure, why
well-hidden Plan B can mutate into very surprising Plan C and even less predictable, exotic others.
Regarding future oil supplies we have exactly this sequence. Many or most of the authors crowding
into "Peak Oil genre writing" since around 2004 when the genre began, like to claim with Matt
Simmons that there is No Plan B. The Middle East was believed, as recently as 1995-2000, to have
such large oil reserves relative to production capacity that it was always able to produce and export
more - a lot more oil. Since these reserves are likely exaggerated by up to 60% , the genre goes on,
there will be a terrible crisis sometime soon.
Iraq was and is a classic case of reserve overstating. With Saddam's flick of the wrist they were
raised, in the 1980s, to exactly 100.00 Billion barrels, from around 65 Bn previous. Perhaps
ironically, this was not thought to be sufficient for winning public opinion support for the 2003 war,
so close-to-power oil and economy advisers to the US and UK governments, in 2002-2003, built
these paper reserves to 125 Bn barrels or more. This is only just 4 years world total consumption,
we can note. What is more important is the global economy can go down and stay down, cutting
energy demand for several years, and energy transition away from fossil fuels can accelerate. Oil
supply can also fall not only because of geological depletion. Iraq is now a clear and classic
example of the massive number of local, ethnic, community cultural, religious and political factors
that can easily lead to long-term oil production 'underperformance', with or without oil war.
Certainly through 2003-2007, Iraq underperformed for oil and over-performed in dead body
counting. Moving on from this, finding out that Iraq cant perform has been traumatic, not least to
US geostrategists and to the hopes placed in Iraq regime change by the G W Bush regime.

This in no way directly explains US and British political defeat in Iraq, but helps explain why this
war has to end. Unlike the times of the Vietnam war, when the US had more determination - that is
wealth to waste - on a long unwinnable war for purely ideological reasons, today's deciders have
less wealth to waste, and so many other pressing issues and spending needs. We can easily say with
many other analysts that the fantastic cost of the Iraq war relative to the Vietnam war - itself far
from cheap - have helped speed the decision to desist, and to parlay with Iran, Syria and maybe the
devil if that allows a rapid exit without massive loss of face. With the departure of Bush and Blair
from power in the US and UK, the Iraq problem has been left to following deciders, who can only
decide to quit, and have only decided to quit.

We therefore turn to the real reasons the Iraq war was lost before it started, exactly like the Afghan
war. These trace far back in time to our islamic philosophers and the shi'a-sunni schism, to the start
of islamic philosophy and its rapid translation on-the-ground to political and military conflict.
Islam, as we have shown, is and was a religion on the defense, from the start. Almost the moment
that European crusaders were beaten, or withdrew - for essentially economic reasons like the Iraq
defeat - they were replaced by the Monghol tribes and federation. For a period of at least 350 years,
from the 11th to 14thC, Islam was the rallying ideology of Arab and later Persian resistance to
external invasion, conquest and assimilation. As we know, this resistance was so successful that the
Monghols were themselves assimilated, or converted to Islam - leaving us with today's Turkey, and
before it the Ottoman Empire. The Arab-Muslim world recentred itself in this period, losing Europe
but remaining in North Africa and partly converting the Mongol heartlands to Islam, gaining a vast
Asian sphere of influence for Islam, much larger than the its Arab and Iranian hearth region. This
was no 'strategy of resistance', per se, but a centuries long struggle dictated by historical events. The
continual defensive struggle surely intensified extremist and irredentist aspects and characteristics,
but also the philosophical debate and learning incorporated in political Islam. Above all for
undersanding the fatal certainty of US and UK defeat in Iraq, the question of time had no place in
this set of cultural, historical, ethnic and other factors, of which Islam was the defensive core.

All the Religions of the Book, we should note, regard humdrum everyday time as “delayed
eternity”. Islam like the others treats the passage of time as unimportant, even irrelevant. With this
perpective, a 5-year or 15-year war in one corner of the Arab-Muslim sphere is of no consequence
to the believer community. If anything, it provides yet more mettle to resistance fighters because
their religion tells them time is irrelevant and therefore always on their side. Running out of oil has
an almost perfect opposite symmetry, it concerns the predictable short-term future and only that.
After Oil investing is already a theme for Dubai and Bahrein-based hedge funds, and hundreds of
their role models and mentors in the USA, Europe, Japan and elsewhere. Exactly what 'after oil'
means is something we will discover - in the fullness of time.
Time was not on the side of American and British deciders, war planners, and the major oil
corporations. Their concern was and is the short-term oil future. Their basic approach to the Iraq
war set a timeframe extending from a few months to a few years: 'staying the course' in Iraq, a
favourite Bush and Blair theme, has translated in reality to a total of not much above 7 years. A June
2006 report by Colonel Conrad Crane and the former commander of the US 101st Airborne division
in Iraq, David Petraeus, of later 'surge' fame, concluded that the US Army is not organised to fight
an insurrection or handle a civil war of the present type in Iraq. One main reason, the authors said,
is that a war of this type is by definition long. Relative to the hundred year struggles that forged
political Islam, the war imagined by every American decider from G W Bush, Paul Wolfowitz,
Donald Rumsfeld and down the hierarchy, was 'as transient as the sheen on a mosquito's wings', to
use a renowned expression of the sufi mystic Abu Yazid Bastami (9thC), when talking of his own
life when he had already attained an age of more than 80 years.

This underscores the very important point that oil-based urban industrial civilization, adding other
adjectives as wanted, such as post-christian, 'rationalist-technologist', postindustrial, has a different
and fixed conception of time from preceding and parallel civilizations. The countdowns measured
by so many clocks indicating the remaining life expectancy of the 'western-inspired' global growth
economy, including climate change and biodiversity loss, soil erosion, energy resource depletion
and others, are in some cases in the few decades ahead extreme danger zone. Exemplified by the
US and Britain, by Japan, and by the Asian economic elites controlling their own semi-traditional
societies, and now the course of the world economy, time is always short and time is money.
Expected growth in world oil supply through regime change in Iraq was programmed almost to the
minute in many boardrooms, study centers and think tanks advising hard-pressed deciders. It was
not hoped for, but counted on to provide. Iraq's underperformance has already changed the outlook
for Peak Oil. In other words, brought it yet nearer.

Cutting your losses and if necessary quitting the game when you know you are beaten is as basic to
good business management as maximising one's gains when things are going right. We can be sure
that abandon of Iraq will be rapid, simply to cut losses. Whether or not the shi'a led coalition
government holds on and hangs in - without major and constant military backing from outside - is
far from sure. More certain is the acceleration of Peak Oil which the retreat from Iraq will cause or
help. This will have a large, or even catastrophic impact on the underlying reality of the growth
economy: growth means burning more oil until and unless there is drastic change in the economy
and society, in culture, lifestyles and consumer citizen expectations. Can this massive challenge be
managed without a recourse to oil war ?

(end of chapter)


Cheap Oil crusading is essentially an ideological effort. It is contradicted almost daily by the
ecology-and-environment, clean energy, climate change fighting rhetoric that freemarket liberal
New Economists are now obliged to lard into their speeches and Powerpoint presentations. For
political deciders this rhetoric comes at about page 3 of their talkshow – what counts is the page 1
call for stronger, better and bigger growth of the economy. In the downsized, recession-hit present
of 2009 this call means 'trenchant defence' of the consumer society as a way to get the economy
moving again. As anybody able to read a set of figures for world oil demand, and then compare this
with a set of data for world economic growth over the last 30, 40 or 50 years can tell, economic
growth means burning more oil and gas. To be sure this could be changed, and will be changed
through the simple fact of geological depletion but the only quick way to change the oil-need driver
or handle for economic growth is to redefine growth. Exactly like the ambivalence which reigns on
the subject of Great Power rights or duty to intervene in the Middle East, there is now plentiful
incertitude on the subject of economic growth. Globalisation, the mass consumer society, and the
directly related issues of environment protection, resource depletion and mitigating climate change
are now increasingly taken as a seamless whole. As the simplest of data shows in our Special
Section (below) oil and gas intensity, or average per capita consumption are extreme high and
totally unsustainable in the OECD countries. Redefining economic growth away from the pesticide-
and-plastic consumer society model - to many a No Alternative model - will be one of the biggest
challenges ever faced.

As we saw in a previous chapter, the biofuels are unlikely to provide any quick-fix solution to oil
dependence, but can surely raise food prices until and unless the 'second generation' biofuels take
the place of food-based biofuels. Both wind and solar energy have very big potentials. For solar
energy this is extreme. The world's disc exposed to the Sun, about 127 million square kilometres in
area, receives a constant 1.35 kW per square metre of solar energy at the edge of the atmosphere. To
be sure, a lot less finally reaches the ground but this total supply in, energy terms, is about 4 x 1015
kWh per day. World total energy consumption, including all the fossil fuels and all estimated non-
commercial and traditional fuels (mostly fuelwood and dried animal dung) perhaps total about 1.5 x
1015 kWh per year. World wind energy potential is not so extreme high, but very large. Wave and
tidal energy potential is large, geothermal energy resources are high. The list goes on. Developing
these sources is however a very different subject, and if 'soft energy' is a popular way to fill Sunday
supplements this carefully avoids the near term reality of starting to reduce oil and gas burning, and
also at least as desirably, coal burning. Doing so quickly could or might need a complete
redefinition of economic growth.

Redefining growth is a troublesome and complex quest, highly risky to those who hold power and
want to hold power. The challenge is daunting in financial, technical, industrial and logistic terms.
Simply substituting likely depletion losses of oil and gas with alternate and renewable energy
through 2012-2025 has been estimated by myself for the Australian FINSIA at costing upwards of
12 000 Bn US dollars at 2008 prices. By simple default choice therefore, perhaps only in the
meantime, there has to be cheap oil. If it is not cheap, then at least it must be abundant. The problem
is that Peak Oil says that even this second fond hope is not possible, one day soon. Transition to the
sustainable economy based on renewable energy and low environment impact agriculture and
industries will soon not be an option and nice theme for political campaigns, but the real and only
alternative, the No Alternative. As we have argued in this book, both the sequels and causes of the
oil wars in the Mid East since 1991 were linked, based or driven by a false premise: that abundant
oil and gas are available and can be ensured by regime change of recalcitrant producers.

Until recently, and in many cases still today the first and basic reaction to threats of geological
deprivation of access to abundant oil and gas supplies, rather than political, terrorist, military or
other deprivation has been to deny all evidence of oil supplies diminishing, and therefore any need
to reduce consumption. To be sure, today, most mainstream political parties in the big consumer
nations claim they want to reduce oil and gas burning for other reasons - to save the world's climate,
increase national energy security, generate new and lasting employment, trim oil prices, and reduce
the oil deficit inside the general and usually growing trade deficit. Mitigating climate change is now
one of the most widely based, most socially approved 'major goals' of society in the mature,
postindustrial countries, and increasingly among the elites of the emerging economic superpowers,
China and India.

Military crusading for cheap oil, such as the highly successful 1991 Gulf War, with the death of up
to 1.25 million Iraqis, was by around 2005 or 2006 no longer seen as normal and legitimate, a
business-as-usual way to achieve human wellbeing and sustainability for the consumer masses. Oil
pumping under-performance by Saddam Hussein’s regime or any other, such as Iran’s Ahmedinejad,
or Chavez's Venezuela was no longer offered by the media as rubber stamp approval for regime
change war. As the second Iraq war ground on, systematically destroying Iraq and subjecting its
people to mass impoverishment, and also reducing all hopes of a rapid upturn in its oil pumping
performance, military action to assure future supplies of cheap oil no longer got assured automatic,
kneejerk approval from average voters in the oil-fired consumer democracies. If the weather was
fine, anti-war rallies on the Iraq theme in Western capitals could attract several thousand
demonstrators, easily equivalent to an average big football match or pop concert turnout.

This discredits the most fundamental defence of Cheap Oil, that it is above all popular. Its
defenders now have to explain why cheap oil needs oil war, why they must devastate entire
countries, like Iraq and Afghanistan with Iran unsurely moving up the crosshairs, to ensure the
consumer faithful receive the cheapest possible oil and gas. The same consumer faithful are mass
consumers of plastic, fastfood and pesticides, gasoil and pharmaceuticals – all of which flow from
oil and gas – but they now claim they no longer want to consume so intensely, if only to limit
climate change and a wish list of other desires, even including the protection of polar bears. When
the US and UK 'lose' soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, this damages the untouchable hi-tech video
game image of heroic boy soldiers bringing Democracy to unwilling members of terror-prone
foreign races. In turn, this mix of factors has impacted fickle public opinion in the 'mature'
postindustrial consumer societies. It has moved public opinion further and further against the
unspoken rationale of the so-called War on Terror. Increasingly, public opinion in the ever declining
number of countries that are still members of the Allied War Coalition in Iraq reacts to this war
with “Yes the Iraq war is about oil, but no thanks”.The Peak Oil message has seeped through the
many layers of hype and denial set up to prevent average citizens knowing that burning oil really
does change the planet's climate, and oil really is a finite resource – the word 'finite' sharing a
common root with 'finished'.
One hope is that a rapid Peak Oil slope from 2009 or 2010, joined by the abject failure of the
second Iraq war to bring gushers of cheap light sweet crude to market, will temper and cool the
hidden ardours which tend to incite 'one last try' at organizing a successful new oil war. If the Big
Rollover for oil does not achieve this, the double whammy of Peak Gas arriving by about 2012 may
succeed in convincing diehard economic growth fanatics that they have to break their oil and gas
addiction. The words 'oil addiction', we can note, are already politically correct so long as they are
qualified as addiction to oil imported from the Middle East. This laughably implies that oil imports
'from somewhere else' could or might take the strain - but in fact its only meaning is use less. This
shift of values could in theory turn Oil Crusade ambitions into new and different, non-military,
sustainable economy ambitions, like swords rewrought as plowshares.

Saying this we must also take full account of the opposite being just as possible. Running through
this book we have an intense question: Does impending oil and gas scarcity increase oil war risk, or
diminish it ?

We will soon find out ! The first full year's oil peak, a full year in which demand outstripped supply
was rather surely about June 2007-June 2008, during which oil prices spiraled far into exotic highs
even beyond the 'nice price', to punish the USA, set by Osama bin Laden and published on many
Internet sites (144 USD/bbl). Only all-out recession from late 2008 makes it possible to ignore this
peak oil reality a little while longer - only because of the US and then global economy going into
meltdown and dragging down world oil demand faster than depletion losses. While the depletion
clock keeps ticking, so does the geopolitical clock. The political defeat and military disengagement
of the US and UK from Iraq could be the opportunity window for new, or traditional players to
make their entry, in an oil context where the hydrocarbons supply and reserve window is starting to
close. Knowing what we have learned in previous chapters, this new peak oil context could be the
trigger for runaway, coalescing conflicts.

The Next Oil War will have started.



(2-page spread)(second page is URLs to key info sites and Selected book references)

The urgency of the world oil, and natural gas supply prdicament tends to be lost in the mass of
confusing and contradictory news, views and opinions confirming or denying the need to
immediately limit, then decrease oil and natural gas burning in the OECD countries. Quite soon this
could also include Chinese oil habits, and for coal burning already concerns China and India.

The Table, below, gives some basic and chilling facts on the massive or ‘structural’ dependence on
formerly cheap oil, still cheap gas, and dirty but very cheap coal in the richer countries, and in the
Emerging Economies. Relative to these massive amounts of fossil fuel burning, the biofuels (see
below) and renewable energy are still gadgets and gimmicks, rather than serious quick fixes.



Annual consumption: about 31 Billion barrels.
At an oil intensity of 15 barrels/capita/year (OECD average 14.3), the current world population of
about 6.7 Billion would consume more than 100 Billion barrels-per-year
Only 7 countries of the planet have proven remaining oil reserves significantly above 50 Billion
barrels. More than 120 countries are net oil importers.
Table 2 World Fossil Energy and Biofuels Consumption
(Table source Andrew McKillop)

Energy source Oil Equivalent Bn barrels/year

Oil 31.5
Coal 29
Natural Gas 19
All biofuels (bioethanol, biodiesel) 0.6
2007 situation, rounded data

(return to text)


Surely the fact of peak oil and peak gas will be hidden and shielded from the consumer masses for
the maximum possible length of time, to bring back the sacred "consumer confidence" needed to get
the growth economy humming again, of course with sincere regret this also destroys the
environment and generates runaway climate change. Cleantech and soft energy will receive ever
larger prominence in the media. Oil traders will engage in the ritual of occasional speculative
talkdowns of the oil price, especially in warm winter weather when heating fuel demand is low, or
when Saudi leaders ‘send the right message’, that is renewed verbal assurances they can always
produce more. Or when Nigerian rebels release oil platform hostages, Iraq's oil exports appear to be
growing, or Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales receive a setback, or whatever. The ferocious economic
recession, as long as it lasts, will bring a slump dividend to remaining consumers hungry for oil, in
the shape of cheaper fuel for a while, but only for as long as demand plunges faster than depletion
loss of capacity and OPEC supply cuts, which themselves are made easier by depletion. The media
will continue its work of massive disinformation through giving 'all sides of the story' in a colorful
soup of facts, figures, lies and fantasy.

These rituals are traditional. They are believed to reassure consumers and the business community,
as if this was the sole basis and only goal of civilization ! But real world decline in supply, and
continuing increase of world oil and gas demand, can only go on for a certain time before energy
markets become structurally undersupplied. For oil, this peak supply context already happened, in
2007-2008. For gas it will likely happen by 2011. After that, market trading will wind down, slow
or fast, and probably be replaced by country-to-country deals, the traditional model. Of course
something completely different could also emerge. This could feature an IMF-style International
Energy Fund pursuing an international energy transition strategy with sure and automatic funding
from levies on traded oil and gas, needing a permanent forum of the bigger energy exporter and
bigger importer countries, setting supplies and prices. Keynes' Bancor international money, with a
CO2 emissions cutting handle, could be added.
The worst, most real, and basic fact is that both oil and gas are winding down. The oil-linked and
accelerating decline of world natural gas supplies from about 2011 - talk of which stayed taboo in
the media until very late in the day - will result in a 'double whammy' for the growth economy.
Unless very carefully, honestly and thoroughly communicated, with serious multilateral responses
including cooperative action from both energy exporter and energy importer countries, the net result
would be devastating for consumer morale. In concrete terms, cheap energy from gas will no longer
serve to drag down oil prices, enabling both gas prices and oil prices to rise at the same time, rather
than playing vases communicants or ‘one goes down when the other goes up’.

This will tear away another New Economy veil, the famous theory of seamless substitution. This
theory claims that free market forces will send the right price signals to the ever eager investor
community which, tuned-into these signals, will develop new substitutes in the nick of time, at
exactly the right time. Supply of the ersatz resource is of course abundant, allowing the consumer
masses to continue the party, with almost nothing changed in their pocketbooks. This kind of comic
book economics has already earned itself a deserved bad reputation in the 2008-2009 financial
panic and its knock-on to the real economy. Unfortunately, this is the only 'inveestor model'
available in the real world. For the fossil fuels it means that when cheap gas is not there to substitute
declining oil supply, both will rise in price, and in turn will lever up coal prices. This is exactly what
happened in 2007-2008, until the recession started. Average consumers have only one response –
cutting their energy consumption.

One of the clearest impacts of this process is rising electricity prices, due to higher coal prices and
to the 'rush to gas' for new electric power plant construction. This took place in many parts of the
world, especially Europe since 2005 aided by Kyoto Treaty-linked emissions credits trading, and in
the USA simply because gas was cheap right through the 1990s. In Europe the rush to gas carried
on to about 2007, intensified by European ETS or CO2 credits but then slowed rapidly due to gas
prices rising sharply. In the USA, without the prop of CO2 credits trading, this trend radically
slowed from as early as 2000 when US natural gas prices started their erratic but real rise from the
derisory, throw-away price levels they were pegged at, during the cheap oil interval of 1986-99.

The overall result through about 1996-2008 was an annual growth rate of world natural gas demand
at least 2 times the oil demand growth rate, that is around 4% annual for gas compared to 2% or less
each year for oil. Coal demand - simply due to coal being cheap - showed vintage growth at about
5% or 6% per year, and electricity demand grew at 6% or more, each year. Nearly all OECD
countries now have a 'cheap gas legacy' in the shape of large gas-fired electricity generation
capacities meaning that gas and electricity prices are now 'close coupled'. When gas prices rise with
oil, the dependent electricity quickly becomes more expensive. As we know very clearly from the
current recession, one unambiguous signal of recession is declining energy consumption, starting
with most expensive oil, and ending with cheapest coal. When or if energy of all kinds becomes
more expensive economic growth - or recovery from recession - will be even more difficult. This
very clear situation and outlook is well known and impossible to deny but little commented.

The net geopolitical and political impact of the cheap energy endgame may go one way, or the
other. Contradictory forces, pressures and trends on the ground in the wider MECA region are
mirrored by the ‘crisis of fossil energy civilization’. This is a confused and hesitant, but real
consumer and political desire for clean energy and environment protection, while at the same time
living high on the barrel in a swath of energy-based throwaway abundance, but in constant fear of
oil or gas shortage and high prices. The two paradigms are mutually exclusive: wanting a low
energy-clean environment lifestyle, and wanting a 6-cyclinder 300 HP car are not compatible. On
the ground, in the oil and gas-bearing source rock territories of the wider MECA region, this mass
schizophrenia of late consumer civilzation may incite further acts of 'military adventure'.
Alternatively the clean energy ego may master the consumer id, and public opinion may force
deciders to abandon the oil war option and face up to the reality of declining oil and gas reserves,
and the need to use less.

We can summarise the ‘no war rationale’ as follows: when oil and gas production decline becomes
sure and certain, impossible to deny, the urge to militarily invade and occupy the MECA region will
taper down and weaken. At that time, which is very short-term, the need for prudence and care to
avoid 'collateral damage' to installations or aggravate the decline of output for close-to, or past-peak
fields will reinforce the trend away from 'military adventure'.

This renounciation can be hoped. Today's reality includes the intense peaks of devastation,
including damage to oil installations, that the Iraq war has so far produced. If the Iraq war is a
model for future conflict in the MECA region, motivated by fear of oil or gas deprivation, and by
simple desire to control reserves and production capacities, the decline in world oil supply could
accelerate the warmonger reaction to the threat of shortage. Depletion losses, in fought-over
oilfields no longer receiving heavy and constant maintenance and upgrades would intensify far
beyond the natural and geological rate of depletion predicated by Peak Oil. This is about 2% to 8%
per year loss of output for past-peak Middle Eastern fields, with world regional peaks of depletion
of more than 12% per year in the oldest, and most intensely operated post peak fields of several
producer countries including Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, Nigeria, Indonesia, the Norwegian, UK
and Danish North Sea, Alaska and US Lower 48 states. World average depletion loss of output from
2010 will probably run at about 4% per year, according to ASPO. Iraq has dramatically proven that
military invasion and occupation of an oil producer country does not lead to rising oil production
and better export 'performance' in the short term. This could or might change but the process risks
being very long-winded, like awaiting the return of the 12th Iman.

We cannot be sure that Iraq was invaded mainly or even in major part because of oil. Surely
exhibited by the confused and contradictory rationales for Iraq war produced by the G W Bush
administration over the years, this war was a sort of crusade for 'fighting terror' and 'defending
Israel', following the photogenic destruction or demolition of the Twin Towers in Sept 2001. All of
the historical crusades, as we discuss elsewhere in this book, included a very large dose of the
irrational and emotional, for example well managed public outrage at news of Arab thieves
destroying supposed christian mausoleums in the Near East and stealing sacred body parts from
these shrines. Absence of any clear economic advantage, even the absence of immediate booty for
the footsoldiers and camp followers did not count for much, or stop the earliest crusades. Later on
however, economic interests played a big role in stopping the later crusades, of the late 12thC.

Today, a new mass fantasy is that due to Internet, or consuming fast food and listening to hip-hop
while checking out Facebook, the 'information society' in the Postindustrial Democracies is heavily
concerned by runaway climate change, world poverty, unjust wars and their civilian casualties,
resource depletion, loss of biodiversity and species extinction, and many other environmental,
humanitarian or idealist causes. Despite these nice intentions, average per capita oil and gas
consumption of the so-called 'postindustrial' societies tells another story. Demand remains extreme
high, that is vastly greater than the world average, and until late 2008 continued growing. For the
OECD countries, in 2007, average annual oil demand was about 14.3 barrels per head of population

The capacity for change of so-called 'postindustrial' society, now traversing a dangerous period of
self-introspection on its values, may not be sufficient to achieve the fast energy transition that
simple oil depletion will make obligatory. As we have seen in this book, depletion loss of oil supply
to world oil importers could start by end-2010 at rates as high as 3 to 3.5 Mbd per year. This is
more than Germany's total current oil import demand. Under a set of forced events that could easily
prolong the current economic recession and really change it into another 1929-1936 Depression,
nobody can surely say the 'oil war option' would not be on the list of options for leaders of the
'postindustrial' societies. Leadership stances on military conflict and regime change in the MECA
region are usually bathed in multiple contradictions, perhaps including the secret hope that oil booty
or gas booty may, could or might be available inch'Allah and God willing. All kinds of other, even
completely opposite rationales could be suggested – what counts is the permanent ambivalence,
confusion and contradiction. One likely reason for this is that Peak Oil, and geologically related,
industry linked Peak Gas are a lot too subtle and complex for extracting coherent newsbytes suited
to mass media communication.

One problem is that Peak Oil, and the causally related problem of Peak Gas, are analogous to
problems in particle physics. We are concerned with a time threshold, we call the year or date of
Peak Oil or Peak Gas, a time period when maximum possible supply starts to drop. Before that time
threshold, supplies were increasing or locked-into an 'undulating plateau'; after it they are
decreasing, representing totally different situations. Not unrealistically or impossibly, the decline
rate could start at a high annual rate, rather than low. Under several logical hypotheses the
switchover can be fast – becoming more sure and certain the closer we get to the peak. This is very
far from the so-called consensus view, prevalent in the media and Internet sites, and very surely in
the reports of official energy agencies of the oil dependent OECD countries, the IEA and US EIA.
This supposedly reassuring view claims that world oil supply on an all liquids basis has attained an
'undulating plateau', perhaps in 2005-2006, on which it will stay for some while, perhaps 5 years or
more (the start and end dates are carefully left vague), and only then will it start to fall. The net rate
of decline or loss of supply after peak, the consensus view argues, will be low due to biofuels and
soft energy ramping up, or more synthetic oil output, or energy saving, or gas substitution, or any
one of several other hoped-for quick fixes. Today the global economic recession adds to these 'other
reasons', cutting world annual oil demand for the first time since 1983.

The problem is simple: Due to a fast-rising number of factors this comforting consensus view or
outlook is likely untrue and unrealistic. Further, it will become ever less true as we approach the
real peak output of all fossil hydrocarbon liquids, or 'all liquids' including the almost symbolic real
world contribution from the biofuels or agrofuels, and other "XTL". That is resource “X” to liquids
or XTL, where X can be gas, coal, biomass, even animal fat and skin from abattoirs and recycled
McDonald fastfood cooking oil ! What counts is that massive numbers of XTL projects do not at all
mean massive volume future output because feedstock volume is insufficient.

The subject of "when do we know we are at Peak Oil?" can be compared to the conceptual problem
for electrons of 'positive matter' (our own) moving forward to a time threshold where they meet
anti-electrons (of 'negative matter') moving backwards from the future into our time, as in a
Feynman diagram. At the time frontier we call "now", there is mutual annihilation of the electron-
positron pair and emission of a photon, although other sequences of matter annihilation, creation,
transformation and transport can also take place. If the particle physics analogy was understood - a
rather scant hope given mass media journalism and opinion manipulation called "opinion forming" -
there would better ability of understanding how different the future will be from the present. One
thing is however very clear: After reaching the oil peak and the gas peak, demand has to fall.

The mass of conventional talk on handling the 'probable long-term' contraction of oil and gas
supplies focuses supply side solutions. These include "Gas Bridge and new or renewable energy" or
“clean coal and nuclear”, or other hybrid mix-and-matches of financially and technically
unworkable quick fixes. After Peak Oil we move rapidly to Peak Gas. This we can say is the easy
part of the conceptual problem, since oil and gas covered about 85% of all commercial energy used
in the world, in 2007. For an apparently long time, at least through 2005-2007, supplies appeared
abundant even if they became more expensive in easily-printed, paper money terms. During
2007-2008 this radically changed, because we arrived at the first year of Peak Oil.
After the twin peaks we will wake up to find several unpleasant surprises. One is that developing
renewable energy can only be expensive and take a long time. The renewables are lower-intensity,
less easy to industrialise, and smaller capacity than fossil energy sources, despite their technical
abundance. As we already know, nuclear energy and clean coal tech are expensive, slow to
develop, and unsure due to massive R&D spending being needed for clean coal and carbon
sequestration (CCT-CCS) before it can replace the current near 50% of world electric power
produced in plants that burn regular and dirty coal. Decisional inertia has almost anarchically
wasted our resource of time - and time available for making energy transition is short. The climate
change due to to our fossil fuelburning spree, we can note, often adds more energy needs and
demands, to mitigate its negative climatic, and economic impacts. Other examples are easy to give.

As a few short years have shown, for reasons that range from physical mechanics and
thermodynamics, as well as chemical, biological and ecological limits, and financing or technology
and agro-industrial limits, the great hope of renewable energy - the biofuels – have shrunken to their
rightful status. They might substitute 5% of current world oil demand, but not much more. This
targets the consumer fetish symbol: the private car. Even cursory back-of-envelope calculations
show that satisfying even 10% of current world car fuel demand with 'current generation' biofuels is
completely impossible. Until the start of recession in 2008, world car output was increasing at about
6% a year (for a net addition to the world car fleet of about 55 million units per year), generating an
oil demand increase far above the growth in output of biofuels.

Lurking below the "peak oil debate", such as it is, we in fact find old-fashioned, plain and ugly oil
fear. This ensures the debate is confused, simply because it touches on the unmentionable: doing
without the cheap energy "birthright" of industrial society and civilization. The simplest data on the
oil intensity and gas intensity of the richworld OECD countries - barrels or barrels equivalent
consumed per head - shows that oil and gas demand at these rates is totally impossible as a world
model. We can take the USA and South Korea as examples: these are the two most oil intensive
OECD countries, whose annual consumptions are about 25 and 17.5 barrels of oil per capita,
respectively. If we applied these rates of demand, or oil intensity to the world's current population
(about 6.7 Billion) this would increase world oil demand to about 300-450 Million barrels-per-day,
and the world’s annual oil burn to over 125 Billion barrels !

In simpler terms, since this ultimate growth model economy would not have the land space to grow
enough biofuels to even satisfy 1% or 2% of demand, world oil consumers would mine out one
Saudi Arabia about every 2 years, less if we use Saudi Arabia's likely real remaining reserves, not
its surely false or 'optimistic' official remaining reserves. World atmospheric levels of CO2 would
get to 500 or 600 ppm almost overnight. The climate change impact would be completely
catastrophic. Related to other and smaller remaining national oil reserve piles in other oil-rich
OPEC states, one Iraq or Iran would be drawn down or consumed every 12 to 15 months at the
above, fantastic demand rate. The process would in fact be so fast that the time needed to simply
organize and pursue The Next Oil War would make this war a non-starter.
We can note that since oil prices attained around 60 to 70 USD/bbl in 2005-2006, renewable energy
development began in earnest to be communicated as a means to comply with Kyoto Treaty
obligations in the ratifying countries. With oil prices above 100 USD/bbl in 2007 and 2008,
renewables were treated with almost religious zeal by some political leaders and the media herd of
journalists that trail behind. In 2007 and 2008 press and TV reports in the US, and other OECD oil-
hungry countries tirelessly presented the latest 'soft energy' gimmicks claimed to cut or substitute
oil consumption. To be sure, rarely was it mentioned that many of these gimmicks are nothing other
than remakes of energy saving and alternate energy gimmicks or quick-fixes peddled by the press
and media during the two Oil Shocks of the 1970s.
By 2007, weather forecasts on evening TV in winter, in many OECD countries, end with a round-up
of tips on how the consumer can shave their heating bills by using less energy, even including going
to bed earlier! Green tags flourish on low energy, recycling-friendly washing machines in
department stores, and plastic bags (when the stores still give them away) carry printed messages
explaining how the bag, when incinerated, can run a light bulb a few minutes or cover the energy
cost of several dozen Google hits. Dioxin produced from burning plastics in older, cheaper
incinerators is of course not mentioned. At the same time, even in the depths of recession the
growth economy's world car factories, whether in 'climate change conscious' consumer societies of
the OECD, or not, churn out tens of thousands of new private transport vehicles every day, 98% of
them oil fuelled. The consumer herd can play innocent, if that is the same thing as ignorant, but this
changes nothing.

The 'cognitive dissonance', or mass schizophrenia of the situation could not be more extreme,
except in one area: oil war. Oil deprivation and oil fear run very deep in the collective subconscious
of the 'mature' consumer societies. In turn this generates the emotive, irrational, and antinomic
thinking and action of many players, from political and military deciders, through the business elite,
to average consumer citizens. During the run-up to the Kuwait liberation war of 1991 and the Iraq
war of 2003, the confusion between the stated goals of these wars - liberation, war on terror, forced
democratisation, regional stabilisation, and so on - were effectively but secretly doubled by simple
oil greed. No image of the future war zones was complete without the oil derricks, pipelines and
installations, able to deliver the consumer society the oil it cannot, or refuses to, do without.

What we must at all times note is the strong undertow and underlay of the irrational, in all that
concerns oil war and the oil producer countries. This is everywhere in the mostly false debates on
what exactly the western powers are doing, or hope to do in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and
elsewhere in the wider MECA region. Very obviously, oil and gas are central to these wars, but they
are strictly excluded from all official and political debate on the subject. News management has
been applied with ferocious intensity to all that touches on the utility or not – for oil and gas
supplies - of military invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, giving unconditional
political support to Israel, tolerating Kurdistan's return as a near-nation, and so on. Almost no
politically correct news media talkshow host, who wants to keep their job and their audience, will
wheel on guests who discuss the oil war theme. This is more than an 'impediment' to rational
debate; the deliberate exclusion of all that concerns oil and gas production and supplies from the
two-minute landmark speeches of G W Bush or Tony Blair, and their successors, on the regrettable
failures of the Iraq war and constantly deteriorating Afghan war, is flagrant and striking. Much as in
any demagogy or totalitarian state, certain subjects - in this case oil and gas as war aims - are taboo
and excluded from all public debate on these wars which are paid for with taxpayers' funds.

Oil fear almost surely feeds this demagogic pot pourri. This is blacked out from the media, and
replaced by fervent appeals to patriotism, the fear of defeat somehow causing economic failure,
distrust or fear of foreigners, especially bearded Islamic fundamentalists, and other props in a
constant but failing campaign strategy. Above all, delivering vote fodder requires heavy and
constant news management in what are ironically and untruthfully called the "mature democracies".
The very first victim of this has been any rational discussion of why there is oil fear and how it
justifies, or could justify, or might justify mass war crimes and the devastation of supposedly
faraway and foreign societies - very surely generating a simple desire for revenge in these societies.
Democracy without very exceptional leaders, as both Socrates and Plato pointed out a long time
ago, is no guarantee of anything except chaos because corrupt democracy gives randomly chosen
average leaderships unordinary, or extra-ordinary powers for which they have no special aptitude.

It is always necessary to repeat the facts of Hitler's rise to power: Hitler won power through the
ballot box. Germans voted Hitler because his regime delivered economic growth and full
employment after several years of the Great Depression. Without economic growth, all and any
tactic or strategy can be used by political leaders seeking power, for example and in the case of
Hitler the use of demagogy, hysteria, the victimisation of minorities, and finally war against any
foreign power - if this supposedly restores or maintains economic growth. As we know, to obtain
economic growth of the 'classic' or conventional type, today, it is necessary to burn about 11 Billion
tons of fossil fuels-per-year. Changing this reality is the real challenge we face.

We could say that what we need is world government.When or if we obtained it, one of its first
tasks would be seriously addressing Peak Oil and Peak Gas. Even without the impossible luxury of
world government, addressing these challenges to world security is obligatory - at least as necessary
as the Kyoto Treaty. Since about 2005 or 2006, public opinion in a large number of countries has
become convinced that Peak Oil and Peak Gas are not a "fake threat". The denial propaganda that
both are cooked up by grandstanding academics, out of work geologists with a chip on their
shoulder, or troublemakers seeking to alarm and divert tranquil consumers from their supposed Life
Quest of always consuming more has gradually ebbed away. All kinds of action are now becoming
possible - outside the supposedly inevitable military response to the fear of running out and doing

The Next Oil War might not happen.

(end of chapter)


Well before the US and British invasion of Iraq in 2003 the world press, the Internet and broadcast
media gave some airtime and column inches to questioning if the Iraq war was primarily an oil war,
partly an oil war, or not linked in any way with oil. The process was however steeped in the
ambivalence and schizophrenia of public opinion and political debate in the 'mature postindustrial'
societies: any political leader questioned would or could only deny it was an oil war. Business
leaders were studiously absent on the subject of oil war or not. Very few personalities and 'people'
took a stance on the subject, with a few notable exceptions. Public opinion was torn between
worrying about filling the family car and watching Iraq being destroyed with the same hi-tech
weapons used in 1991. The debate soon faded without any clear conclusion on the subject. Basic
facts however show that if it was an oil war it was a terrible failure.

Worse than that, resort to war for prolonging the oil age in the OECD group including the world's
most oil-based and energy-wasteful petroimperium, the USA, only deflects attention from the real
task of energy transition. There is no possible doubt that average oil consumption per capita in the
'richworld' OECD countries, currently using around 3 to 5 times the world average (about 4.8
barrels per capita in 2008), has to diminish. This is as sure as George Bush not being elected
president of the USA for a third term in 2013. Without very coherent international planning,
massive financing and careful organization this inevitable process of energy transition is much more
a threat of chaos and permanent economic slump, than promise of reorganized and more stable
societies, and new-model restructured and sustainable economies. Faced with chaos the easy quick-
fix option could be the default choice of oil war, as we argue in this book.

Accepting that average oil consumption is going to fall a lot, through diminishing supplies, is not a
very consumer friendly message nor a vote winner. The facts are however very clear. Like the
reserves of the Big 3 Arab Petromonarchies, Iraq's oil reserves and production capacity potentials
should not be underestimated - but they are in no way 'almost limitless'. This last and worst choice
of how to think about oil reserves of these countries was put the following way by Paul Wolfowitz,
before his short, ill-starred career at the World Bank. At a 2003 conference in Germany,
Undersecretary of Defense Wolfowitz explained the Bush regime's decision to invade Iraq. He said:
"Iraq floats on a sea of oil", before adding that "we", the G W Bush regime and its oil-importer
allies, "had no choice" but to invade. This relatively rare oil-related 'insight' from a close colleague
of G W Bush gives more proof that, underlying the Iraq war, the supposed and imagined oil
imperative was more than alive and well, probably in fact omnipresent. Equally surely, this war aim
was and is always denied in ferocious automatic kneejerk fashion by the architects of this almost
certainly illegal war. The desired conclusion of oil war propagandists was simple: the reserves were
vast, Iraq's production could only increase to nearly rival that of Saudi Arabia, the oil cornucopia
would flow, and flow again. Any argument to the contrary was sidelined.

During the run-up to war for liberating Kuwait the 'preposterous claim' of Saddam Hussein, that
Kuwait was the 19th province of Iraq was given plenty of media attention, this claim tracing back to
British colonial Iraq's initial border tracing, which before the early 1930s did include present day
Kuwait. Other disputes between the Hussein regime, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia originated from
each country's part of oil revenues from production in the so-called Neutral Zone shared between
Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait. Iraq often claimed its oil share was too low, or that its part of
reserves in the Neutral Zone were being 'siphoned off' or under-produced. Copious media attention
went to Iraq's 'oil grab' of Kuwait's oil reserves, which in 1990 had only recently been revised up, to
about 100 Bn barrels. This made a round number 200 Bn barrels as the possible or credible total
reserves falling under the control of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, assuming Iraq's revised official
esimate, also 100 Bn barrels, was credible. This unfortunately is not the case.

Denying reality is basic to any political decider faced with managing difficult and unwelcome
problems or crises. Facing the drawdown of world oil and gas reserves can be placed high up the
list of challenges and crises faced by the 'postindustrial consumer societies', still massively
dependent on oil, gas and coal burning. For a certain period in the 1980s and 1990s, that we can
date more precisely to about 1986-1996, denial of oil and gas depletion reality was powerfully aided
by official oil reserve revision. Both Kuwait and Iraq in the 1980s 'quota fight' period massively
revised up their official oil reserves, like other OPEC states, Russia, the UK and Norway, Canada,
Mexico, Venezuela and other big producers. Not producing these 'almost unlimited' or at least
massively upward revised estimates of extractible oil could be seen, and often was described in
some media as a 'crime against the growth economy'. Iraq under Saddam Hussein had a bad track
record for oil production performance, at least to many observers. This was despite the key role of
Iraqi oil exports in the period 1998-2002 compensating declines in export supply, or non-growth of
export supply from other OPEC producers and from non-OPEC producers. Liberating better-
performing Kuwait, then invading Iraq to improve its own performance could be seen as justified, at
least to some. It is therefore not a surprise that still today some media, some sections of public
opinion, and in some cases whole political parties in some of the countries of the shrinking
'Coalition of the Willing' continue claiming the 2003 US-led military invasion of Iraq was neither
illegal, nor an oil war, justifying this stance by Iraq postponing peak oil impacts on world oil
supplies, and therefore prices, by a few years.

Reality is always unwelcome to those who deny it. Today the formerly loud champions of pre-
emptive war against Iraq to prevent Saddam Hussein from using Iraq's vast, but rather hard to find
stocks of mass destruction weapons or WMD are more than muted. The mirage of Swiss-style
democracy emerging almost overnight in liberated Iraq, voted to power by a thankful middle class
electorate brimming with goodwill to christian and atheist liberators, these and other childish
ramblings and makeshift propaganda planks and ploys, to justify the killing of several hundred
thousand persons in Iraq, are no more credible than Israeli war hawk rhetoric in favour of massively
attacking Palestinian civilians at the slightest provocation. Iraq's oil exports can in no way change
the perspective of increasing global oil export supply shortage - unless serious energy transition
effort begins very rapidly, in both OECD and non-OECD countries. Because the US is a so-called
'hyperpower', however, its 2003 leaders are unlikely be placed on trial for oil war crimes, but this
may not be the case for leaders of the smaller and 'junior' member countries in the War Coalition.
This in no way excuses the crime of oil war, in fact the contrary, because it maintains the 'oil war
option' for rogue states prepared to use war to deny the reality of oil depletion and the urgent need
for energy transition. As we have found with the tragic case of the entirely useless Iraq war, even in
failure the leaders deciding this aggression receive no punishment.

One major problem for the war hungry 'liberators' of Iraq is democracy itself. Importing democracy
by force was a major plank in the official campaign for war, but their own democracies and their
own public opinions soon became hostile to this cosily humanitarian defense of the oil war option.
Public opinion polls on the Iraq war in all 'coalition of the willing' countries since about 2005 or
2006, are always in majority against the war and for the recall of national troops. This was
particularly the case in Italy and Spain, but also applied in supposedly stalwart, unflinching Britain.
Here, the spin doctors of the Tony Blair regime never succeeeded in winning above 50% public
opinion support for Iraq war. By 2006 typical opinion poll scores were 60/40 against the war and
the Blair regime was on the skids, in major part because of the Iraq war.

Also by about 2005 the true dimensions of the world's climate crisis and true dimensions of oil and
gas depletion began to really penetrate public opinion in G W Bush's coalition of the willing
countries. Adding the climate change imperative of energy transition to the oil and gas depletion
imperative of energy transition, and apart from the fantastic costs of war, the net result is a huge
challenge to war-for-oil's underlying logic. For public opinion in every allied coalition country
including the USA by late 2006, the question was simple: Why are our troops still involved in Iraq,
and exposed to an unwinnable war, why does this war go on ? What is the real cause or causes of
this war ? From about 2006, the Iraq war and related Afghanistan campaign were always more
disastrous, more unpopular, harder to explain.

To be sure and for Iraq, if there had been oil link or motive at the war's start, it soon became absent
and irrelevant. No serious analysis of the wars costs and benefits could show any advantage for the
war option. Supposed geostrategic imperatives such as protecting Israel from a hostile Iran through
creating a pro-Western and pro-Israeli government in Iraq were surely not likely to be achieved or
satisfied by regime change in Iraq. As the 'New York Times', 'Washington Post', CNN and other US
media, and their equivalents in the UK, Europe, Canada, Australia, the Far East and elsewhere are
forced to report, PM Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and his shi'a dominated national unity cabinet have few
if any problems with like-thinking shi'a allies Iran and Hezbollah, the supposed ultimate terrorists
for pro-Israel warhawks close to the G W Bush administration. Many writers and observers
conclude that without the formal implication of regional powers, including sunni and shi'a religious
leaderships, and full military disengagement by the US and British, and a major rejig of its artificial
frontiers, Iraq can only remain heavily destabilized. Within its loose and porous frontiers it can
become, or remain a source of terror at least equal to other mediatized regional 'agents of terror' -
notably the shi'a majority Hezbollah and sunni majority Taliban. When the US and UK disengage,
however, we run the risk of this opening the proverbial Pandora's Box. Iraqi terror squads could
become almost indistiguishable from New Iraq's chaotic, but relatively well armed and large sized
police and military forces.
For world oil consumers the main conclusion is much more basic: If the Iraq war was an oil war,
and in part it could only be an oil war, it was a terrible failure. Iraq's oil reserves, like those of the
other Big 4 Mid East producers - Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, UAE - are very far from limitless. The
10-year longitudinal study by US Geological Survey (USGS) experts, examining Iraq's likely
reserves and future production potentials, concluded in the 1990s that Iraq at that time likely had
about 65 to 70 Billion barrels of remaining conventional oil (excluding condensate and NGL based
oil). Kuwait's real oil reserves are probably somewhat less, perhaps 50 to 55 Bn barrels of
remaining conventional oil. This is a combined total not much above world total oil consumption in
3½ years at current rates of demand.

In the late-1980s 'quota fight' period, which we can more precisely date at 1985-1989, this struggle
for the right to produce and export led to one easily predictable result. Saudi reserves were of course
talked up the most, being revised overnight from about 180 to exactly 263.35 Bn barrels. Saddam's
revision of Iraqi reserves was to an astonishingly exact 100.00 Bn barrels. Since that time, 20 years
ago, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and other Big 5 Mid East producers have been extracting around 8.5 Billion
barrels each year with no decrease in their massively revised and wondrously exact official
estimates of remaining oil. These magic and false figure are still periodically found today in staid
and respectable, 'well-researched' articles published by The Economist or Financial Times, Forbes
and other financial, economic or business media !

Whatever these reserves may be, they are not sustainable. Long gone is the 1950s and 1960s
Chicago School growth economy euphoria of the world simply replicating the entirely oil-based and
oil-driven American economic model. It finally matters little why or how these massive oil reserve
revisions took place, in the 1980s. What we can note is that in the late 1980s Saudi production had
been cut the most among the OPEC group in volume terms, as a result of not-too-serious attempts at
'defending the oil price', following the price collapse of 1985-1986. Underscoring the uncertain
nature of this supposed attempt to stop oil prices collapsing, Cheikh Yamani, then energy minister
of Saudi Arabia, regularly proclaimed that high oil prices would cause a near-instant switch away
from oil. Oil energy was too expensive. Consumers would move to nuclear power, biofuels and
windmills, solar energy, biogas from landfill rubbish dumps, and even voluntary reduction of oil
consumption. Since Yamani's ouster, and replacement by Saudi ruling regime-faithful Naimi, the
Yamani financed and run Centre for Global Energy Studies (London) runs a relatively coherent, if
not effective cheap oil talk campaign, while also talking up alternate energy.

We could easily but mistakenly surmise that just like the 1980s and 1990s, oil will stay cheap for a
certain while, the global economy will recover, and recover its oil appetite but only after a certain
while, perhaps several years, would oil prices again 'get out of hand'. The 1980s oil price collapse
was very similar in apparence to the price collapse of 2008-2009: that is a 65% or 70% price crash
in a few months. Through 1985-1986 prices fell about two-thirds or 67%. The similarities stop
there. The 1985-1986 price crash was followed by thirteen years of cheap oil. Today we could give
an estimated lifetime of cheap oil at well above 13 weeks from January 2009, but surely not 13
months, and by no possible stretch of the imagination 13 years. For a host of reasons, but primarily
oil and gas reserve depletion, the 1986 price crash was a one-off event even if its sequels lasted 13

If we took Saudi Arabia's real oil reserves in 1986 as being what the Saudi authorities claimed them
to be, that is 180 Bn barrels, and subtracted production since 1986 at about 3 Bn barrels-per-year on
average, we obtain an estimate of actual remaining Saudi oil reserves in 2009: perhaps only 115 Bn
barrels. This radically changes the outlook for world remaining reserves, to be sure ! Taking account
of accumulated production, and using various hypotheses for the degree of 'reserve boasting' made
by the Hussein regime, Iraq today likely has about 55 - 60 Billion barrels remaining. This is not
even the equivalent of 2 years world consumption at current rates of about 31.5 Bn barrels each
year. Regarding Iraqi production, Bush-friendly oil experts, or supposed experts such as American
Petroleum Institute members forecast in 2003 that 'liberated Iraq' would very rapidly ramp up
production to perhaps 7 Mbd, and exports to perhaps 5.5 Mbd, or more, possibly within 5 years
after Saddam's fall. Today's real world outlook is for Iraq perhaps being able to maintain export
supply at around 1.9 Mbd, inch'allah. Iraq's entire oil production infrastructure has been not
systematically, but ruthlessly and wildly pillaged, often simply destroyed where it was not possible
to dismantle, transport and sell the equipment in 'America-friendly' Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE,
Qatar or elsewhere, notably in less friendly Iran. Only the new de facto Kurdistan offers shorter-
term potentials of increasing oil output, from a reserve base in the most strictly limited territorial
definition for Iraqi Kurdistan, of only about 10 Bn barrels. This real oil is however very attractive to
real world players and has been rapidly solicited by several major US oil corporations through
2006-2008, paying scant heed to Bush regime strictures on “not recognising Kurdistan”.

The Hussein regime's boasts of 100.00 Billion barrels, made at the stroke of a pen in the revision
euphoria or near hysteria of the 1985-1989 period, were of course simply boasts. This is partly
admitted by media and public opinion, or at least by the educated masses in the oil-fired consumer
democracies whose political leaders are now obliged to preach sustainable development and
renewable energy. For the moment of course, due to the worst economic recession since 1945, these
leaders carry out trenchant and well planned 'injections' of hundreds of billions of US dollars or
Euros of borrowed money to bail out failing banks and insurers, and other key industries like car
making. In the meantime, oil and gas sector investment plummets with the oil price. What most
persons understand less, but will learn, is that losing oil production capacity, depending on how it is
lost, can be irremediable. The lost capacity does not 'bounce back', particularly where costly and hi-
tech secondary production techniques are already needed to coax, and force the oil out of the
ground. Plenty of Iraqi production falls in this category, which is no surprise in an oil producer
province or region with over 80 years of accumulated production.

We have to face simple facts. The global growth economy needs about 31 Bn barrels of oil a year. If
we believed Saddam's favorite number on Iraq's official oil reserves 20 years ago, extracting it all
would cover 3 years of global consumer euphoria. Iraq's probable real reserves, if completely
extracted, would cover about 24 months or 2 years of the oil currently consumed by the world
economy. This reality underlines the simple fact that combined oil demand from the mature, or
‘post-industrial’ urban consumer societies, now joined by the Emerging Economies, is both
immense and unsustainable. Restructuring the global economy away from oil is at present a fond
hope, for example due to accumulated layers of oil-dependent economic infrastructures and of
course 'consumer culture' and expectations, but this restructuring will become obligatory, which in
no way means easy to achieve. At present the global economy cannot kick its oil and gas habit. Our
dependence on the fossil fuels is nearly total. By the whims of geology the biggest and easiest
produced remaining reserves of oil and gas are located in the Middle East and central Asian region.

Public opinion polls in the consumer societies regularly show they aspire to ecological values
which feature fighting climate change and protecting the environment. All of these, especially
mitigating climate change requires cutting back on fossil fuel burning. This is now an acute and
politicized question, simply because the consumer society industrial-urban lifestyle is so extremely
dependent on fossil energy but continued and massive burning of these fuels can only intensify our
environment and climate crises. The real world result – if not in nice speeches and Powerpoint
slides on “sustainable development and cleantech” – is accelerating environment degradation and
massive destabilization of the world’s climate. Perhaps unaware both of their massive dependence
on fossil fuels, and the massive quantities they consume, public opinion in the consumer societies
can almost innocently aspire to both clean energy, and ever rising consumption of oil-based or oil-
dependent goods and services. This mass schizophrenia background generates the reality of a
completely predictable and rapid countdown to zero for global oil and gas reserves.

Today, “ecologically correct” lifestyles are the meat of a million advertising and media campaigns.
Appeals to these lifestyles are also now politically correct and nearly obligatory in the speeches of
economic growth-chasing political leaders. This new 'ecologically correct' is however to gratify the
exact same consumer and voter masses who want a new car, flat screen TV, Internet-enabled
cellphone, and holidays in faraway but cheap tourist locations, traveling there in kerosene-guzzling
planes. Through a few clicks of the mouse button on dozens of Internet sites the exact CO2
emission impacts of these lifestyle choices is available. By direct consequence, since economic
growth is supposed as obligatory, vast emissions of greenhouse gases will continue except that
today this is now “with regret”. Rather surely this is fantastic hypocrisy at worst, and terrible
confusion at best. In this dangerously unstable, antinomic cultural and social context both rational
and irrational decisions can be expected. One of these decisions, based on a mix of the rational and
irrational, which will surely not itself prevent the Next Oil War from swirling into the headlines, is
to massively develop the biofuels. These are food crop-based low carbon fuels, direct substitutes for
oil unlike windmills or solar electric power. At present and for a long time into the future the
biofuels can only deliver insignificant quantities of oil saving substitute fuels for the Apocalypse
Wagon, or family passenger car.

Since late 2005 and increasingly ever since, agrocommodity and agroindustrial investment analysts
underline the new trend for "full barrel price indexation". In other words the main food crops used,
or with potential as 'feedstock' for producing fuel ethanol and biodiesel oil, to save petroleum-
source gasoline and diesel fuel, now reflect their real or potential alternate use for feeding cars. This
mini-boom for fuel-related and fuel-potential agrocommodities has, to be sure, the classic hallmarks
of a boom-bust cycle, due to anticipation pushing prices a lot higher and faster than strictly justified
by generally rising, but always volatile crude oil prices. More ironically, but very surely, rising
prices for corn or maize, wheat, rapeseed, palm oil, soy, sugar beet and other biofuel 'feedstock'
candidates can only translate to higher food prices. These, higher food prices, are one of the most
classic possible causes of economic recession, and apart from depressing economic growth tend
also to raise inflation. In turn, this can lead to falling oil demand and oil prices – making the
biofuels yet more uneconomic and yet more dependent on subsidies and tax breaks.

European rapeseed is one good example of future biofuels potential sharply raising today’s real
price for this formerly very cheap source of vegetable oils and cattle feed. Rapeseed is the main
crop used for mass production of biodiesel in Europe, where biodiesel output increased from about
2 Billion litres in 2004, to over 3.5 Bn litres in 2005, and around 7 Bn litres in 2007, taking well
over 25% of Europe’s total rapeseed harvest by 2007. Rapeseed prices quickly reflected the future
biodiesel potential of this now ‘dual use’ crop. Rapeseed prices regularly increased by large
amounts, through 2003-2007, and even fierce recession and good harvests in 2008 have not been
able to completely 'roll back' these rises. Prices for other food-or-fuel commodities from sugar
through turnips and peanuts to wheat and barley - able to be used to make alcohol or biodiesel
motor fuel - have tended to move up, sometimes sharply since 2005, again in 2006, and again in
2007, only because of their potential for future, large-scale fuel production. The keyword, of course,
is potential.

World consumption of fossil or mineral petroleum and 'fossil hydrocarbon liquids' in 2007 was
about 5050 Billion litres. The world's two biggest industrial biofuel programmes, in Brazil based on
sugarcane ethanol and in USA based on maize ethanol, produced a combined total of about 35
Billion litres of anhydrous ethyl alcohol. The European Union biofuels program, targeting 5.75% by
volume of all European motor fuels being substituted by 2010, may attain or achieve about 10 Bn
litres of annual biodiesel production, but is tending to be revised down every time food prices - and
biofuel feedstock prices - rise. Taking the two-biggest biofuel producers, USA and Brazil, and
taking account of the lower energy content or fuel value of ethanol relative to gasoline, their
production of 35 Bn litres in 2007 was equivalent to about 23.3 Bn litres of mineral oil.

Related to world total petroleum consumption this was therefore around 0.5 % of world total oil
supply, and European biofuels output was far behind this, at less than 0.25%. In addition, world
consumption of motor fuels, locked on to the growth of the world car and vehicle fleet, increased at
least 5% in 2006, 2007 and the first half of 2008. This annual increase in demand, only for motor
fuels, can be estimated at about 85 Billion litres of mineral oil fuel, equivalent to about 110 Bn litres
of fuel ethanol. From this quick review of simple facts we get an idea of how far the biofuels have
to go, and grow, to start representing a credible alternative to oil. This is the simple reality behind
the so-called biofuels revolution.

Very surely, promoters and defenders of the biofuels will point to plans for massive output increases
of biofuels, using ‘second generation’ cellulosic and genetically modified non-food plants as the
feedstocks. This may be so and research in this domain needs to be pursued, but on the ground and
in the fuel tanks of the world's approximately 875 Million car-size or car-type road and off-road
vehicles it is fossil petroleum, either liquid or LPG, which enables 98% of them to operate today,
emitting around 3 to 6 tons of CO2 and other climate change gases for each vehicle, each year.
Relative to the claims that Brazil "can become another Kuwait" the folly of such claims can be
gauged by the fact that the total production of bioethanol in Brazil, about 20 Bn litres, is not even
equal to the oil production of Chad (about 0.235 Mbd), let alone Kuwait's 2.4 Mbd oil production or
1.9 Mbd net exports.

For market traders and speculators operating in the arena of dual-use agrocommodities, and
whenever the oil price rises, the time is ripe for testing new 'psychological ceilings' for driving up
traded food crop prices. In turn, this more closely links agrocommodity prices with hard commodity
prices, themselves directly linked with and dependent on oil, gas and energy prices. The 'sensitivity'
to the oil price of biofuel economics has been massively demonstrated in a few short years, through
2006-2008. The biofuels outlook was bullish in late 2006. By late 2007 it was disastrous, simply
due to agrocommodity 'feedstock' prices moving up a lot faster than filling station forecourt
gasoline or diesel fuel prices, and the heavily 'leveraged' or debt-dependent economic model for
biofuels enterprises. The crash of oil prices in 2008 has dealt a new blow to biofuel ventures, due to
refined petroleum products from crude oil at around 40 USD/barrel simply undercutting the biofuels
and destroying their competitivity, except those ventures focusing development of non-food
feedstocks, specially jatropha oil for biodiesel production in plantation agriculture operations.

The basic economics of almost any biofuel based on food grain crops is that high and stable oil
prices are needed to conserve economic interest. Even less remarked, in fact almost unknown in the
minds of media commentators and business analysts, is the entropy-linked requirement for oil and
energy prices to keep moving higher. As a moment's thought on the subject will show, as oil prices
rise, so will the infrastructure costs and overheads for producing the biofuels, specially the food-
based first generation types. Rising oil prices will drag the biofuels behind them, into the realms of
long-term economic feasibility - as opposed to their present de facto role as vehicles for short-term
financial and speculative trading interest. Research reports from the band of now nearly completely
disappeared or 'restructured' investment banks, such as Lehman Bros, were by late 2007 stating the
simple and obvious: oil prices have to be at least 85 or 90 USD-a-barrel for crop based biofuels to
be viable, that is not need subsidies.

These and other, similar studies claim they take account of infrastructures and overheads, but the
necessary question is carefully avoided: Without cheap, or at least abundant oil and gas, how are we
to build and operate the factories, trains, ships, tractors, grain harvesters and grain silos, distilleries,
fuel tanks, pumps and supply equipment to substitute oil with biofuels? How will biofuels workers
firstly eat, then drive to their place of work and return home each day, and take their summer
airplane trip to exotic far-away locations, buy home computers and plastic trinkets, and contribute
to world economic growth ? The successive shells or layers of the urban industrial consumer
economy, that is economic infrastructures with high or very high embodied amounts of fossil
energy are not only oil dependent to build, but also energy intensive to maintain. This dependence
always increases as we mount the sucessive infrastructure layers because the previous shell or layer
is energy intensive. Embodying and incoporating abundant and previously cheap fossil energy in
productive and support infrastructures of the economy, these structures and economic processes
need energy to be maintained, operated and renewed. When energy becomes permanently
expensive, these Aristotelean shells and spires will need serious restructuring – or simple

Replacing all present economic infrastructures in a strategic energy restructuring plan using biofuels
and renewable energy will not be difficult, but totally impossible. The embodies energy or total
investment of fossil energy is too extremely high to be replaced with renewable energy in just a few
short decades. Choices will have to be operated, surely not by the blind and chaotic 'free play of
market forces'. This is – ironically - known to most financial players, that is traders, speculators, and
the business analysts who track big spending on biofuels and Green Energy in their market
watching. It is also known to the scientific community, but care is taken to avoid clearly spelling out
such coming critical choices, except in the climate change domain. Here, the calls for rapid and
total phasing-out of coal burning, which is economically impossible, are accompanied by calls to
rapidly develop and use 'clean coal tech', which is also economically impossible due to the extreme
cost of retrofitting the world's electric power system, currently about 50% dependent on coal-fired
plants. Too-slow energy transition in the present can only stack up future problems. In particular
and in the very short term, as we discuss at length in this book, these include oil war, military
invasion, mass killing and regional destabilisation in the wider Middle East and central Asian
(MECA) region - triggered by failed attempts to increase production and supply of real world
petroleum for the real world economy.

The continued growth of biofuels production is entirely linked to the oil price. What is required is
an oil price near the 'pain threshold', but well below the panic level we can place at around 100 to
125 USD/barrel. After the panic level is attained and prices do not tumble, but go on rising, the
biofuels comedy will be shelved - unless large subsidies are provided. This will be because the
world economy will enter into the troubled but classic waters of long-term economic recession,
already called depression by late 2008 and early 2009. Inside the wider MECA region, as we argue
in this book, sufficiently intense world economic recession could rein in the war option through
falling need for energy in the crippled world economy. World oil demand, at least for a few years,
could or might fall faster than depletion losses - meaning no supply shortage.

What we can conclude is that if we stay inside the 'pain price' threshold, below 100 USD/barrel, fast
development of biofuels, with fat subsidies in the case of US and European food crop based ethanol
and biodiesel, can remain a viable business. Marketing and media communicators, anticipating the
challenge of defusing public criticism of turning food into fuel in a hungry world, will continue
claiming that increased biofuels production can be linked with raising human food production. This
is possible but will need massive new biofuels + food crop plantations in Africa, South America or
Asia. In the present and real world, however, increased biofuels production can only raise the price
of staple foods, not only grains and oils, but prices for livestock, dairy products and meat which
also depend on these staple crops. Food prices are now closer-linked to oil prices than ever. This is
one perhaps ironic, but certain impact of the biofuels boom which promised 'new Kuwaits' of
biofuel exporter countries all over the world.

Another impact of the move towards biofuels has been especially ironic: the world's biggest supply
of industrial alcohols for the petrochemical industries, and all other industries, is from NGL-natural
gas liquids, condensates and natural gas reforming. These petroleum-source alcohols are now
themselves 'biofuel indexed', that is they rise in price more than the barrel price or bulk natural gas
prices, when or if food prices are high. Biofuels therefore not only increase the price of food in a
world of very tight human and animal food supplies, but also raise the price of fossil fuels ! As
previously noted, this is a basic requirement for strict economic based feasibility of the biofuels:
rising oil and energy prices lead to a Twin Spiral for energy prices, both fossil and non-fossil, rather
than the imagined or hoped-for reduction of oil prices through substituting a tiny part of world oil
demand with food-based fuels.

Much more important to the near-term and mid-term future, and despite a well publicised good
world harvest in 2008, food production growth is trailing behind food demand growth. The
production of biofuels on a large, or perhaps future massive scale comes at a bad time for world
agriculture and food. In large part due to climate change and a mix of other cost-push factors
including higher fuel prices, soil erosion, urbanisation and loss of biodiversity due to agro-industrial
concepts and methods being applied to the biosphere, world agricultural output has stagnated. More
strictly economic reasons for stagnating world food production can also be added. On the one hand
the annual increment of world population is falling but this increment nevertheless stands at about
70 million-per-year. On the other hand prospective new agricultural land for raising production is in
short supply. Possibly 7 million hectares of cropland is lost each year on a net basis.

What we find is that food prices were already tending to rise, independently of biofuels feedstock
demand on available grains, sugars and vegetable oils supplies. This problem is already recognised
in the action taken to develop GM non-food "fuel crops", such as grasses (in general leguminous
species) which can be planted in non-irrigated lands, take less existing agricultural land, and
potentially use less or no fertilisers and pesticides for production. At present however, it is regular
food crops that almost exclusively are used for biofuel production in the higher latitude oil-
intensive economies and societies, making it sure and certain that by sheer necessity world biofuels
production will shift towards the Biofuels Belt or region of 30° north and south of the Equator.

At present it is easy to conclude there is a firm and surprisingly low limit on how much food-based
biofuels production can be raised before food prices become dangerously high for the growth
economy. As any economic textbook will explain, the amount of "discretionary non-food revenue"
available to consumers is, and always has been the key determinant of economic growth and growth
potential in any economy. This 'iron law' of the economy, much discussed by Ricardo, Say, Malthus,
Engels and Marx, among others, is easy to understand: as the consumer cypher or Economic Man
spends more of his income on food, he has less to spend on Microsoft products and flights in oil-
burning Virgin airliners, with or without one of its engines running on jatropha biodiesel ! This loss
of spending power hits company revenues and corporate profits, employees are thrown out of their
jobs, company investment spending decreases, and so on. The moral question of feeding cars, rather
than the approximately 900 million underfed persons of the planet is absent from the glowing
business news magazine reports of biofuel earnings and profit potentials, but surely exists. More
important for us the tradeoff between food and fuels will be arbitrated by rising food prices and
their impact on the growth economy, and on political and public opinion. This will be bad news for
real, or would-be future biofuel millionaires !

What threatens a complete halt to production growth in biofuels is however, and ironically, either
oil price explosion or oil price crash. We can start with a first and rational hypothesis: economic
crisis generated by oil prices moving back to about 125 or 150 USD/barrel and staying there long
enough to set the economic crisis in place. World oil demand will again fall, reducing oil prices. The
recent past can only support this analysis, particularly the extreme oil and gas intensity and import
dependence of the OECD 'postindustrial' societies. As the period since 2007 has amply shown, their
economies are recession-prone because of the debt-driven, unstable, opaque bases of economic
growth. Another always-potential cause of recession is the cyclic nature of boom-bust sequences in
the stock exchange-led 'growth cycle', also driven by debt, and by selective and strong inflation in
certain economic sectors, for example the communications and Internet sector in the run-up to the
dotcom crash of 2000. We merely have to shift the focus of this cyclic, speculation driven process
to so-called real resources, ranging from works of art and gold bars to food, minerals, oil, gas, coal
and uranium, and we have a potential 2010-2015 cycle, but this time very inflationary.

These growth cycles are light years away from anything we can call sustainable and rarely last more
than 5 years. They are always hostage to some form or type of external shock, including oil shock.
Oil and gas depletion in the 2007-2010 period can very easily provide this shock. More ironically,
any prolonged fall of oil and gas prices, cutting back the real resource boom and depriving the
world economy of the extra liquidity generated by high prices for these basic ingredients of
conventional ecnomic growth, will also prolong the recession. This in turn can only limit non-
subsidized investment flows to alternate and renewable energy.

(end of chapter)


With no possible doubt the wider Middle East and central Asian region can at quick notice,
following the right spark, reheat and extend its smoldering hearths of tension across the region, and
beyond. These hearths of tension are very certainly not insulated from, or unrelated to other
pressures for change in the world, specially the Islamic world. As we have seen, regional tensions
are themselves growing, changing, and growing again in large part due to recent and present Great
Power rivalry for the region's oil and gas resources. This is almost a 'traditional' interest and driver
for in-theatre presence by external players, but as we have also seen, the region has more than
plenty of its own locally-brewed pressure points. These are basic, domestic or internal sources of
sectarian, community and political tensions: initially philosophical conflict opposing sunni and shi'a
communities rapidly became institutionalized, a long time ago, but in some cases has never been as
strong as today. Just as surely, this internal regional fracture can and does disaggregate, break down,
perhaps weakening for a while, but will then return - often more powerfully and in new or different
forms. One of these new forms (but in fact age old) is called 'political Islam'.

What is sometimes defended as a 'democracy crusade' of the USA and UK in Iraq, and with other
European countries in Afghanistan, very possibly included hopes for oil and gas booty, politely
called the Peace Dividend. Installing or importing democracy to the MECA region, by force, was
often defended as being able or likely to set up a regional democratizing trend, which could lead to
more stable power structures in the region, and of course less terror. Little of the same kind of effort
goes to crusading for democracy in Africa, we can surmize because oil and gas issues and interests
are surely growing in Africa, but are not presently so large as they are in the MECA region.
Whatever the motive for large-scale military interference, however, the MECA region's own
dynamics of conflict and change make for extreme high risk for this kind of 'democracy crusading',
amply shown by the Iraq war and Afghan war, and their regional effects.

Increasingly polarized sunni and shi'a power structures – extreme in the case of Iran and its
monolithic national chi'ite identity – are bad pressure points for playing divide-and-rule. These
power structures are themselves unable to adapt to modernising trends, to the global economy, to
the essentially valueless consumer society - making these power structures fragile and unrelated to
current social dynamics. Regional majority rule by shi'a elected democratic governments, as we
now have in Iraq, will in no certain and sure way bring peace and calm. Sunni irredentism can
always call on Ibn Hanbal and Ibn Wahab, if not Al Qaeda.

As this book makes clear, the oil driver for regional military adventure is not eternal. The oil
depletion clock only moves forward. Under the more pessimistic but more realistic scenarios for
remaining oil reserves in the region, future growth of output and export supplies is very unlikely.
Shrinking net export supplies from as early as the end of 2010 are far from unlikely. Little time is
left to gain access to the large, but diminishing reserves of the region. On the one hand world
energy demand could fall with economic recession, and further still if this becomes depression; on
the other the pressing need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to prevent catastrophic climate
change, and many other issues such as environment protection and energy security, reinforce the
rising calls for faster energy transition away from fossil fuels. On the one hand declining reserves of
oil could incite either external or internal imperial players to make a last armed bid for control of
these reserves; on the other the simple fact of declining reserves and the bad track record for recent
imperial adventure in the region could lead all players to renounce and desist. This is increasingly
possible - when it becomes spoken and open, change will have come.

World public opinion since 2003 has slowly, but surely moved towards massive disapproval of the
Iraq invasion led by the USA and UK. This 'epidermic' reaction includes both rational and irrational
elements. The triple-layer Iraq conflict in fact has not, in the present, spawned or intensified the so-
called 'clash of civilizations' outside the region, for example through increased Al Qaeda attacks,
but has surely concentrated and raised tensions inside Iraq. For as long as Western troops remain in
Afghanistan, this other possible or probable hydrocarbon linked war can regularly surge into the
headlines – through losses of Western soldiers occupying this country, and civilians slaughtered in
regular suicide bombing attacks. At one level, for local Arab and Muslim forces and public opinion,
local resistance to the Iraq and Afghan campaigns are classic anti-colonial and national identity
struggles, almost 19thC in their emotional and political symbolism. In this they are not much
different from Kurd nationalism, the Palestine national struggle, or Israeli nationbuilding.Yet all
Arab-Muslim power struggles and political tensions in the region are also hostage to to the sunni-
shi'a divide, to rivalries carried or vectored by religion, and by what is called 'fundamentalist
political Islam', itself inextricably if ironically twined with democratizing trends, to which both
sunnite and chi’ite orthodox theocratic circles can only be hostile.

The current or 'traditional' Great Powers involved in the region, as we have seen, have regularly and
drastically changed their 'game plans', their policies and strategies for regional domination aimed at
securing reliable supplies of reasonable priced oil. Their past or 'traditional' model is symbolized by
the 1917-1939 period of Indiana Jones-type and T E Lawrence-type rivalry played out in the empty
Arabian deserts, for the future oil prize. Great Power goals, today, are exactly the same – but the
world has moved on, and grown by around 4 000 million in population since that time.
Consequently the policies and strategies have changed, usually with increased violence.

Controlling oil resources, production and export installations, now joined by the prize of near-future
gas resources and the transport of this lifeline energy away from the region, remain basic goals not
only for US and Europeans, but also China, India and all the other oil and gas import-dependent
economies and societies. However, as we noted at several points in this book, the oil depletion clock
ticks much faster today than in the past. World oil and gas consumption has exploded, simply since
the 1960s, let alone the 1930s ! Since the start of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980, to today, more than 600
Billion barrels of oil have been extracted and used, worldwide. This can never be repeated. The
MECA region's essentially static, geologically-determined reserves and resources of hydrocarbons
will not magically grow, whatever might be hoped in Washington, London and Paris, Berlin, New
Delhi or Beijing.

The extreme complexity of the region, in part due to a century's oil-driven interference by outside
powers, itself makes for surprise always being possible. Calls for energy transition to an After Oil
future now can be heard in Jeddah or Doha, as well as New York or Sydney. The reality of oil and
gas depletion means this transition will occur, liked or not. We are now in the dangerous interval
from 2009-2010 to the period when there is clear and unambiguous evidence that world oil output is
entering into permanent decline, perhaps by 2011-2012. In this period the betting on The Next Oil
War being triggered, or perhaps some other and completely different outcome, must be considered
about 50/50 or even betting..


Powers, government and regimes: In most cases these terms can be treated as equivalent. The term
'regime' (Latin: regimem) defined in English as "organization that is the governing authority of a
political unit" has an emotively pejorative connotation such as 'illicit power' or 'unjust government'
but regimes in this work utilise the Latin meaning of the word, while underlining the temporary or
impermanent nature of any power.

Theology, theosophy: although easily distinguished and contrasted, these terms can in some
circumstances be nearly synonymous. In this work, theosophy is above all equivalent to 'religious
philosophy', while theology concerns doctrinal activity of religious powers or regimes.
Scholasticism or scholastics is another synonym for religious philosophy.

Cosmology, cosmogony: these are very different terms. The first concerns the theory, the second
concerns the sequence in time in which a 'cosmos', universe or physical, imaginary or divine world
was or is created. Confusingly, much of modern astrophysical cosmology is in fact cosmogony.

Religions of the Book: there are at least 5 or 6 Religions of the Book if this term is used to mean
any long-established, existing or previously existing major religion with a set of texts considered as
and believed to be 'revelationary and divine'. In this work, the 3 Religions of the Book are Judaism,
Christianity and Islam and their holy books are the Talmud, Bible and Qoran.

Logic, philosophy, reason: the strict definition of logic (Ancient greek logos: dialogue, debate) is
very close to modern and popular meanings of the term 'philosophy', which could be better termed
'philology'. In this work, logic and logical are used in the Aristotelean sense sense of 'verifiable' and
by extension 'methods of verification'. Reason in this work concerns all types of causes, and their
various explanations.

Gnoseology: development and extension of 'holy books' and doctrines always includes learned
speculation and theorizing, as well as more down-to-earth collection and compiling of aphorisms,
allegories and apothegegms.In opposition to those who accept the gnose, we have the agnostics.
Crusades: these were never referred to as such by their participants. The original crusaders were
known as fideles sancti Petri (faithful of St. Peter) or milites Christi (knights of Christ). They saw
themselves as undertaking a sort of pilgrimage. Like pilgrims, each crusader swore an vow (a
votus), to be fulfilled on successfully reaching Jerusalem, and wore a cloth cross (crux), sewn into
their clothes. This "taking of the cross", the crux, became associated with the entire journey; the
word "crusade" came into English from the French croisade, the Italian crociata, or the Portuguese

The major crusades: traditional numbering of the crusades gives us nine during the 11th to 13th
centuries, as well as three others that are mostly contemporaneous and unnumbered. This is
somewhat misleading, as there were frequent "minor" or "off region" crusades throughout this
period, in Spain, France and central Europe, against not only Muslims, but also Christian heretics
and personal enemies of the Papacy, or powerful monarchs. Such "crusades" continued into the 16th
century, until the Renaissance and Reformation when the political and religious climate of Europe
was significantly different than that of the Middle Ages.

Irredentism: from the Italian, and similar to the French s'insurger, giving insurgent. The irredentist
Alpine Italian army divisions, suffering large losses at the end of World War 1, heavily criticized
Italy's small part of the spoils of war, including German reparations and access by Italy to oil-
prospective lands of the defeated Turkish Ottoman Empire. Support from irredentists was essential
to Mussolinin in his march towards power. By extension, irredentism means large nationalist

Copyright Andrew McKillop 2006, 2007,2008