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Hullabaloo


Sunday, August 10, 2014

 
Friendly reminder from John Judis

by digby

If you're watching the gasbag shows today, you're hearing a lot about atrocities and genocide from members of both parties. These are terrible stories (although I think at least a little bit of skepticism is required, as I discussed here. The history of these things is quite clear.) But there is something else which I've seen nobody even mention:
The United States is conducting airdrops to aid the Yazidis who have fled the advance of Islamic State militants, but it is conducting airstrikes around Erbil, which is to the east. There are American consular personnel in Erbil, but they could be evacuated if necessary. What Obama left unsaid was that Erbil, a city of 1.5 million, is the capital of the Kurdish regional government and the administrative center of its oil industry, which accounts for about a quarter of Iraq’s oil. The Kurds claim that if they were to become an independent state, they would have the ninth-largest oil reserves in the world. And oil wells are near Erbil.

If the Islamic State were to take over Erbil, they would endanger Iraq’s oil production and, by extension, global access to oil. Prices would surge at a time when Europe, which buys oil from Iraq, has still not escaped the global recession. Oil prices have already risen in response to the Islamic State’s threat to Erbil, and on Thursday, American oil companies Chevron and Exxon Mobile began evacuating their personnel from Kurdistan. But oil traders are predicting that American intervention could halt the rise. “In essence we find U.S. air strikes more bearish than bullish for oil as the act finally draws a line for IS and reinforces both the stability in south Iraq and in Kurdistan,” Oliver Jakob, a Swiss oil analyst, told Reuters.

In portraying American intervention in Iraq as a purely humanitarian effort, Obama is following the script he read from in Libya, when he justified American intervention as an effort to prevent a massacre in Benghazi. In a March 28, 2011 address to the nation, Obama painted the American intervention as a response to “brutal repression and a looming humanitarian crisis.” Oil was not mentioned, even though Libya was the world’s sixteenth-largest oil producer in 2009 and a major supplier to Europe. But oil was most likely involved, as became clear when, after preventing a massacre in Benghazi, the United States and its coalition partners stuck around to topple the regime of Muammar Qaddafi. If the Obama administration wanted to prevent the world’s peoples from brutal dictators and repressive regimes or from takeovers by terrorist groups, there are other countries besides Libya and Iraq where it could intervene. What distinguishes these two countries is that they are major oil producers.

He points out that Libya's oil production has plummeted and that the country is in a state of anarchy that nobody knows what to do about. So neither our humanitarianism or our pragmatism has resulted in anything very positive. Well, we do manage to topple dictators we've propped up for years when they get out of hand. But we haven't yet grokked the next steps. I guess practice makes perfect ...

Just something to keep in mind as we contemplate our heroic generosity and goodness of spirit over the next few days.

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