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Takeover of Oil by Militias
Islamic militants understand the importance of controlling petroleum resources.

Takeover of Oil by Militias By TOBIAS VANDERBRUCK for OIL-PRICE.NET, 2012/10/01

Iraq wars 1 and 2 were fought as much on the ground as in the media. Embedded journalism, the war on terrorism, toppling an evil dictator and spreading freedom were all images used to instill on the public, justification for the invasion of Iraq. These wars were a paid spokesperson's dream come true: immense budgets to convince the public that they were not wars for oil. Most journalists avoided to portray these as wars for oil for the sake of their careers. How the spin doctors worked, you'd be pardoned to believe of a flat Earth the size of Texas. Not without basis, the fact is, anything is justified for oil, even mendacity.

As a result of the biased reporting from the Middle-East, our culture seems to be hit with the disease of a casual attitude to war, setting new extravagant standards in catching collective attention. Indeed, journalist attempting to report on insurgents put themselves at risk, like the female US journalist who was sexually assaulted by a mob in Egypt. Consequently very little gets shown to the public and these insurgency are romanticized as struggles for democracy, which they are not. They are struggles to control the world's resources and fund terrorism.

In fact, many of today's ongoing wars fail to capture people's attention and, unfortunately, some of these wars are taking place right under out nose. Yes, today's oil wars are happening right now. The worrying trend is that they are more numerous than ever before. Here are some:


Essentially, it's religion at play here. The conflict: There's been two civil wars in 1956 and 1983 between a predominantly Arab Islamic North and a Non-Muslim South (Animist and Christian). Not to forget, it's been only six decades-and a few years- since the independence of Sudan itself. About a year ago South Sudan left Sudan putting an end to the civil war. But, things are far from normal. South Sudan is rich in oil with an output of 350,000 barrels per day, in other words, three quarters of a united Sudan's oil output. Naturally, Sudan still has a bad South Sudan hangover. In January, South Sudan shut off its oil production. Ask why? The landlocked country had disagreements over fees to be paid to the North for oil exports through Sudan to the Red Sea port. Rather a bold move, one has to say, as South Sudan depends on oil for up to 98 percent of its state revenue. Well, sadly, the new country didn't have money to buy food or medicine, thus. Last month, both the countries decided to resume exports from South Sudan after an interim agreement. But, according to the Finance Minister of South Sudan, the country would be able to pump only at about seventy per cent of its capacity. A development, nevertheless, even if it takes three months for the oil to reach the Red Sea Terminal at Port Sudan. Also, both the countries have agreed for further talks, which is a good sign. Still, the road ahead is long, so are the problems.


According to a study by the International Center for Development studies, Iraq is not able allocate resources for infrastructure projects in spite of more than '$100 billion in oil reserves for 2012'. The study blames it on corruption and bureaucracy. To soak up on this, here's some background: Oil production in Iraq is about 3.2 million barrels per day, while the exports are around 2.5 million barrels per day. The proven reserves stand at about 143.1 billion barrels of oil. No wonder, countries invaded Iraq giving flimsy reasons. So, what have we got after the invasion? An Iran-influenced Islamic republic in the making. The Shia-Sunni strife has intensified after the invasion, and continues to strike Iraq at regular intervals.


Recently the US ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens was killed by Islamic militants in a well-planned attack. What has the Arab spring done or undone? Reports suggest that the Ambassador was killed by militants based in Libya itself. Make no mistake; the unrest over the volatile video is just a mask to destroy any western influence in Libya. When rebel fighting broke out in Libya, it cannot to be attributed to coincidence alone that the main oil ports and facilities were taken over in the first move. Only later did the war spread to the cities. Not without reason, of course. Libya has the world's fifth largest reserves, the first in Africa. It is also a member of Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). According to EIA, the crude oil production stood at 1.4 million bbl/d in May 2012. And it's anyone's guess how the political situation is going to pan out in the coming months. At present, there's growing concern over the security situation in the country. Like Iraq, there are more chances of an Islamic administration in Libya too. EIA too warns of changes in Libya's oil sector "depending upon outcomes of political processes that have yet to run their course."


As of January 2011, Iran had an estimated 137 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, 9.3 percent of the world's total reserves and over 12 percent of OPEC reserves. But, well, if one goes by the Iraqi oil minister, the country has 154.8 billion barrels of oil with new discovery of reserves in SouthWest Iran. And, the International Energy Agency has stated that the oil exports from the country stepped down to 1 million barrels a day in July from 1.74 million barrels a day in June.

Further, Iran is the second largest producer in OPEC, next only to Saudi Arabia. Crude exports contribute to about 80 percent of the foreign revenue. How profitable it'd have been for the country, then, to tone down its belligerence. Instead, Iran continues with its threat to block the Strait of Hormuz. This strait is a major oil route for countries in the Persian Gulf, including Iran. In 2011, about 17 million bbl/d flowed through. At its narrowest, the strait is just 21 miles wide. Iran uses this geographical formation to its advantage, threatening to choke the strait, at regular intervals. Sadly, Islamist fundamentalist threaten to take over 20% of the world's oil traffic if the West interferes with their nuke plans.


In Nigeria, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), a terrorist group, has one target in mind-oil. It frequently abducts foreign employees working in oil installations, attacks oil pipelines and other installations and steals oil as well. Four years ago, MEND had almost paralysed the oil industry of Nigeria with its assaults. Nigeria has the second largest oil reserves in Africa and the world's 11th largest oil reserves. As of January 2011, Nigeria's estimated oil reserves stood at 37. 2 billion barrels. Majority of the reserves are along the Niger River Delta. Niger Delta is, thus, vital for the income of the government. In 2009, the militants had accepted a peace deal from the government in lieu of cash and employment opportunities. Yet, recently they have returned bringing violence in their wake. Compounded by infrastructure problems the Niger Delta continues as a source of contention.

The pattern is obvious: Islamic terrorist groups, foreign and domestic, are waging multitude of wars to take over smaller yet significant oil producing nations. And gradually these oil resources are falling into the hands of political Islam. Dodging these militants is becoming an almost impossible task. This should have the western world concerned as it is extremely hard and expensive for western military to fight simultaneously multiple wars at separate locations, a thing terrorists have learned from recent experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Will the gunning down of US ambassador in Libya be a wake-up call to the West? According to Jacques Beres, French co-founder of Doctors without Borders recently returning from a clandestine Syrian hospital, an estimated 60% of rebels fighting in Syria are foreign Islamic fighters there to set up an Islamic state under Sharia law to become part of the world emirate. This corroborates what Syrian president has been consistently saying. And Russia. And Israel. But for now western powers fail to notice the trend whereby one by one, oil-producing nations turn into mini-Irans who understand the fundamental importance of controlling the world's oil and the leverage it gives to any ideology. Just like Iran understands it.


All the countries mentioned above can alter the price of oil in a second. Somehow, it doesn't feel fair that the ordinary person on the street has to pay the price for the takeover of oil rich nations by religious extremists, does it?

Oil wars are ongoing as we speak. Not only are oil resources depleting worldwide but key ones are falling into the hands of the enemy. The smaller size of these conflicts and the absence of western involvement force them under the media's radar and the public's attention. With Iran likely less than 4 years away from nukes, the next administration's stance on the issue will be capital to the world's survival, as we know it.

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