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Iran Oil _ The New Middle East Challenge to America

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Iran Oil The New Middle East Challenge to America
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IRAN OILIRAN OILThe New Middle East  Challenge to AmericaRoger HowardPublished in 2007 by I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd6 Salem Road, London W2 4BU175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010www.ibtauris.comIn the United States of America and Canada distributed by Palgrave Macmillan, a division of St Martin¶s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010Copyright ‹ 2007 Roger HowardThe right of Roger Howard to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by the author in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in a review, this book, or any part thereof, may not be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.ISBN: 978 1 84511 249 3A full CIP record for this book is available from the British LibraryA full CIP record for this book is available from the Library of CongressLibrary of Congress catalog card: availableTypeset in Goudy Old Style by A. & D. Worthington, Newmarket, SuffolkPrinted and bound in Great Britain by TJ International Ltd, Padstow, CornwallContentsAcknowledgements viiIntroduction ix1. Why Iran¶s Natural Resources Matter 12. Breaking US Alliances 453. US Rivals and Non-Aligned States 874. Supporting the Iranian Regime 125Conclusion 157Notes 167Index 175viiAcknowledgementsAlthough I am indebted to numerous individuals for their assistance in the research and compilation of this book, I would like to express my particular gratitude to Lavinia Brandon for granting me access to the outstanding library at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, and to Reza Bayegan, Professor Sohrab Behdad, Fereidun Fesharaki, Dr Parviz Mina, Rosarie Nolan, Simon Shercliff, Professor Jonathan Stern and Mehdi Varzi for their comments and information. I am also particularly indebted to Abigail Fielding-Smith at I.B.Tauris, who has been a first-rate editor, to David Worthington, who has been such a good copy-editor, and to the Authors¶ Foundation for a generous grant.Roger HowardOxford, August 2006To Elaine C.ixIntroductionLike an individual who suffers sudden and unexpected misfortune, great powers can decline and fall with a rapid, even dramatic speed. Although the influence and prestige of many great empires has seeped away gradually and imperceptibly over many decades, or even centuries, in the way that was true of the British Empire or what Edward Gibbon called the µslow decay¶ 1  of the Roman, the sudden demise of others can some-times elicit as much surprise among contemporaries as the historian. Such a startling transformation eventuates most obviously after military defeat, of the sort that befell ancient Persia, or as a result of political turmoil and revolution, similar in scale to the upheavals that brought a tumultuous end to tsarist Russia. At the present moment it seems possible that the United States could suffer a serious loss of global influence with a comparable rapidity. The same country that on the eve of the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 appeared to be an untrammelled colossus, confident of its ability to stride with ease through the Middle East and elsewhere, prompting admiration among its friends and allies in equal proportion to the hostility and contempt it provoked among its rivals and enemies, could in the next few years conceivably look defen-sive and vulnerable, with the loyalties of its long-standing allies increasingly uncertain, its former allies even more distant and its enemies ever more emboldened. At the same time, the predictions of those who had heralded µthe next American century¶, and looked forward with joyous anticipation to the peace, democracy and progress it would supposedly bring, might equally look hollow and premature. Should it come about, the single most important factor in engineering this change of fortune will not be America¶s experiences in Iraq, where its name, reputation and resources have been undermined by insurgency, civil-ian casualty and atrocity. The USA, after all, survived defeat in Vietnam and maintained its global pre-eminence despite the war¶s serious damage on every party. Nor will it be simply because of the fiery rise of the Chinese IRAN OILxdragon, whose raw economic power is currently on course to make it the world¶s biggest marketplace and knock the United States into second place. Even if this happens, America can still remain a global superpower, if not a superpower quite as pre-eminent as before. Instead, much more important is the world¶s economic dependence on oil and natural gas, and the degree to which political power has suddenly begun to move into the hands of those who do possess the resources to feed that dependency at the expense of those who do not. Of course this presents a clear irony. Throughout the twentieth century, the governments of the developed nations were frequently accused of exploit-ing the resources of the less developed, and alleged to be using their over-whelming military superiority to plunder and take advantage. Nationalist leaders such as Mohammed Mossadeq in Iran and Gamal Abdul Nasser in Egypt played this card to great effect before seizing with resolute hand the Western-owned oil enterprises, the Anglo-Iranian and Suez Canal compa-nies, that had long enjoyed lucrative local concessions. Similar accusations were ventured by those who argued that the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003 was essentially motivated by an interest in its  vast deposits of high-quality oil. But in the course of the present century, a clear change of empha-sis has quickly come about, as the leaders of Europe and America openly accuse their counterparts in energy-rich states of exploiting their oil and gas deposits to devastating political effect. As US Vice-President Dick Cheney claimed in a telling phrase in May 2006, the Russian s are using their energy resources as µtools of intimidation or blackmail¶.2 A glance at the wider geopolitical picture in 2006 illustrates the degree to which political power is in the process of rapidly migrating into the hands of those countries that do possess deposits of oil and gas. In January, Moscow had briefly cut off supplies of gas to the Ukraine amid a price dispute, and four months later, as its giant energy supplier Gazprom considered making a bid for Centrica, the Western European utility company, Russian premier Vladimir Putin warned that his country would simply switch its energy supplies to Asia if Western governments blocked the expansion plans of Gazprom and any other Russian energy groups. With an overwhelming dependency on imported oil, one that has for some time caused deep conster-nation within the highest offices,3  the United States can only listen to such demands with a mixture of envy and alarm. On the other side of the world, in Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez has been voicing a stridently anti-American rhetoric and has pursued poli-cies deliberately antagonistic to Washington with a vehemence that has been fuelled by the rise in the price of oil. When first elected as president in 1998, at a time when a barrel fetched a mere $12 on the wo rld¶s market, Chavez had INTRODUCTION xineither the spare cash nor the political influence to antagonize Washington. But ever since the price subsequently began to spiral, the Venezuelan leader has been a moving force of regional anti-Americanism,

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