Energy security has always been US’ prime concern


Major General SCN Jatar


US strategy in the Middle East & Central Asia is oil-centric

US is aiming is to have mastery over oil




The US had garnered a grand coalition to fight terrorism after September 11, 2001.  There was no perceptible opposition to the US when Bush uttered his famous words, “You are either with us or against us”.  When the US now descends on Iraq, it will be naïve to think that the big oil that lies in Iraq is incidental to US aims, especially when Bush has spelt out a scary 20-year scenario in which America becomes increasingly vulnerable to oil price shocks, supply interruptions and even blackmail.[1]  The Newsweek’s gloomy energy scenario appears to be a follow up on the re-publication of the Olduvai Theory in November 2000 by Richard C. Duncan, PhD.  Here the bottom line is that beginning in 2008, the 11 OPEC nations will produce more than 50% of the world's oil after which OPEC will control most of the world’s oil exports and that 2030 would mark the end of Industrial Civilisation signalling permanent blackouts.  Domestically, Al Gore, the person who lost out to Bush in the presidential race, says that Iraq detracts from the main US task of pursuing those responsible for the 11 September attacks on America.  The US economy is in doldrums and there are congressional elections in Nov. 02.  It appears that the new US doctrine on Iraq is to detract the American people from the worsening economy.  Russia, France, and Germany would like that the first step should be for the UN weapons inspectors to check if Iraq indeed has weapons of mass destruction (WMD).  Reportedly, Iraq and Saudi Arabia have refused the use of their bases against Iraq.  Blair faces stiff opposition from the labour party cadre.  After the US has a friendly regime in Iraq, it will control vast oil resources almost the same as Saudi Arabia.  Obviously, the importance of Saudi Arabia in OPEC would reduce.  Saddam Hussein attacked Kuwait in 1990 for the same reasons that the US is now targeting Iraq.  The US is now ‘dealing; with al Qaeda through Pakistan, where most of the fleeing Taliban are sheltered.  Fighting terrorism has apparently been given short shrift.  The intensity of Pakistan-sponsored cross-border terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) has increased.  Musharraf is not delivering on any of the assurances that he gave to the international community in this regard.  Isolating India seems to be that short terms aim of the US in which China has joined hands.  The US wants to diffuse India-Pakistan confrontation until Iraq capitulates.  Will India “choose its own options” as Vajpayee and Advani keep saying? 


Whither US objectives after 9/11?


The political objectives after 9/11 were to eliminate bin Laden and Taliban leadership in the short term, to establish a stable Afghanistan and wind up al Qaeda around the world in the medium term and in the long term to deter state sponsorship of bin Ladens, rebuild Afghanistan and stabilise South West and Central Asia.  The National Security Strategy report of the US[2] also states, “Our priority first will be to disrupt and destroy terrorist organisations of global reach and attack their leadership; command, control, and communications, material support; and finances”.

Except for the short term objective, the US is far from reaching any of the other goals.  Afghanistan is still shaky.  Afghan vice president Haji Abdul Qadir, whose claim to fame rested almost entirely on his credentials as an anti-Taliban leader[3] was assassinated in Kabul in early July 2002.  Kabul is under the International Security Assistance Force.  Gulbuddin Heckmatyar's Hizbe Islami Afghanistan (HIA) was expelled by Iran and greeted enthusiastically by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has filled the vacuum formed by the withdrawal of the Taliban and Al Qaeda into Pakistan, where they are being sheltered with Musharraf’s blessings.  HIA carried out an abortive attempt to kill President Hamid Karzai at Kandahar on September 5, 2002 and would continue to target Hamid Karzai, whom they look upon as the USA's puppet.  Recent video tapes show Al Quaeda’s global reach and links with other groups.  It has spread to Chechnya, Eritrea, Uzbekistan, Algeria and Bosnia.[4] 


Pakistan’s increasing hostility towards India


Pakistan has not changed its policy on Kashmir in spite of US prodding because, as Musharraf put it in his January 12, 2002 broadcast to his people, “Kashmir runs in our blood.  No Pakistani can afford to sever links with Kashmir.  We will continue to extend our moral, political and diplomatic support to Kashmiris.”  Thus, Kashmir has become raison d’etre for the existence of Pakistan.  India is being cautioned to give more time to Musharraf because he has undertaken a great task to “reform Pakistan and remove its people from the fundamentalist clutches” according to US assessment.  However, Pakistan continues to foment terrorism in India under the banner of “moral, political and diplomatic support”.  Pakistan refuses to even discuss India’s demand on the ‘list of 20’, (15 of them are on the wanted list of the Interpol).  India has not only backtracked on this demand being a pre-condition for resuming bilateral talks but did not so much as raise this point in the talks with President Bush and others during the Sep. 02 visit of Prime Minister Vajpayee to New York.[5]  Pakistan’s known position on cross-border terrorism in Kashmir is shifty.  Pakistan continues sing the old tune that the intruders are not terrorists but freedom fighters.  Pakistan’s belligerence is due solely to the explicit US support to Pak and the volte face on the ‘list of 20’ is apparently because of the fear that Dawood Ibrahim, may implicate important Pakistani officials and expose their active terrorist connections.. 


Pakistan’s support to cross border terrorism in Kashmir goes directly against the stated American objectives.  Pakistan has, thus, become an “unreliable client state of the US” as aptly brought out by Leon T. Hadar in his paper titled “Pakistan in America’s War against Terrorism – Strategic Ally or Unreliable Client?”[6]  Hadar has significantly commented, “…it (the US) should recognise that triumph by radical Muslim terrorists in Kashmir would amount to a defeat in the global war against terrorism.  Hence, pressing the Indians to not respond to terrorist acts and resisting Indian calls for America to condemn anti-India terrorism in Kashmir reflect more than morally dubious ‘double standards’.  Such a policy runs contrary to US national interests and is just the latest demonstration of the way Pakistani tail can wag the American dog.” 

Nationalist” and “trans-national” terrorism


There is a school of thought led by Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar that propagates that terrorism in J&K (by JKLF and Hizb-ul-Mujahedeen or IRA in Ireland) is “nationalist” and not “trans-national” fuelled by bin Laden.[7]  Musharraf is US ally in combating trans-national terrorism.  This view does not stand scrutiny because there is proof of al Qaeda presence in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir of Musharraf sheltering fleeing Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan. [8]   Musharraf ordered the arrest Ramzi bin-al-Shibh soon after it was known – courtesy Al Jazeera – that the principal planner of 9/11 attack was in Pakistan.[9]  Surely, the Americans know, as do we, that Al Qaeda and Taliban cadres have found a haven in Pakistan and they can be suitably dealt with there only with the cooperation of an effective authority in Pakistan.”[10]  The Foreign Secretary, Mr. Kanwal Sibal has said that the US cannot at all overlook the fact that the epicentre of terrorism today, whether the Pakistan Government is fully involved or not, is in Pakistan.  It has shifted from Afghanistan.[11]  Aiyar may be reflecting American thinking.  American thinking, however, does not lessen India’s current security concerns because it does not stand scrutiny in the face of hard facts, which show Musharraf as an opportunist who holds with the hare (al Qaeda/Taliban) and hunts with the hounds (the US).  The US is making full use of Musharraf and ignores his duplicity because he is indispensable in the short term.  However Musharraf’s future is unsure.  The US would dump him once all al Qaeda/Taliban are evicted from Pakistan.  If not the US, the al Qaeda/Taliban or even the ISI may well eliminate him because no one respects treachery.  At the same time, there is no doubt that the US wants to have a long term strategic relationship with India to combat the growing strength of China. 


The US appears to blame anti-Mushrraf forces for all the negative aspects of his regime including cross-border terrorism and safe haven to al Qaeda and Taliban in Pakistan.  The contention is that many centres of power in Pakistan are sabotaging Musharraf’s effort towards reform and an open society.  On the other hand, the US consciously ignores curbing of liberty and democracy in Pakistan to the extent that there was no censure when Musharraf rigged the election and installed himself as an ‘elected’ president.  Periodically, there are news reports to the effect that ISI, especially the middle level, is protecting al Qaeda men without Musharraf’s consent.[12]  It is difficult to give credence to such reports because if the ISI can protect al Qaeda in spite of a heavy presence of US FBI in Pakistan, then ISI can well harm Musharraf too.  This does not appear to be the case. 



US military presence in Central Asia & the Caspian Sea region


It appears that Afghanistan was an occasion for and not the cause of US action to place strong military force in Central and South Asia.  The US can now influence the hydrocarbon producing countries of the Caspian Sea region.  On the other hand, the US view is, “The presence of American forces overseas is one of the most profound symbols of the U. S. commitments to allies and friends.”[13]  As Achin Vanaik has commented, “The Central Asian and Caspian Sea region …abuts the territories of three of its (the US) most important rivals over the next decade or two – Iran, Russia and China.[14]  Vanaik concludes, “Washington needs stable client regimes in India and Pakistan  ...and therefore cannot afford to destroy the domestic credibility of either ‘ally’ by taking sides over Kashmir”. 


The Chinese continue to stab India in the back


Vanaik’s theory of ‘client states’ appears rather farfetched.  It is however, true, the US is sounding ‘neutral’ in the India-Pakistan confrontation on Kashmir.  The US does not want China to get too powerful, which will pose a threat to US hegemony in the long term.  In the short term, however, it is in US interest and also that of China to keep India on a leash.  US does not, therefore confront China on any issue, be it human rights violations or proliferation or Taiwan.  China is clandestinely providing Pakistan nuclear and missile material, expertise and technology in violation of international control regimes, such as the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) although not a member of the MTCR, China has repeatedly pledged that it adheres to its provisions.[15]  In fact, Yossef Bodansky, Director Task Force on Terrorism of the US Congress says, “The Islamist terrorism campaign … is intensified because of the Peoples’ Republic of China.  However, its close allies – Pakistan and Iran – bear the brunt of the sponsorship of terrorist escalation … Beijing urged Islamabad to escalate the subversion of Eastern India …”  According to a U.S. intelligence report, China's military provided training for Afghanistan's Taliban militia and its al Qaeda supporters. The intelligence was obtained from anti-Taliban Afghan sources.[16]  In the face of these facts, the US keeps the Chinese front quiet just as it wants to cool down India-Pakistan confrontation over Kashmir.  Chinese policy and actions, thus, go directly against Indian interests.  The report on National Security Strategy, [17]however, defines US relationship as “constructive” with a changing China.  It strikingly says, “We already cooperate where our interests overlap”.  At the moment, their interests converge as far as India is concerned.  Rajinder Puri claims that there is a Sino-American consensus on South Asia. [18]  It is to defuse Kashmir by converting the LoC into an international border, to consolidate China’s “historical” relationship with Pakistan as a permanent dagger at India’s throat and to make South Asia a market to be exploited by both the US and China.  “In short, allow China to become the big brother in South Asia”. 


Jasjit Singh has rightly commented, “The trend in China appears to be to deepen co-operation with the US working bilaterally and multilaterally, while co-operation with its allies in Europe and Asia is deepened separately.”[19]  China has, on the surface, desired improved relations with India.  However, China still does not support permanent membership for India in the Security Council nor has it made any substantial progress in solving pending issues with India.  China would like India and Pakistan to be “treated equally” (in the context of cross border terrorism) as the Chinese ambassador to Pakistan, Zhang Chunxiang said in an interview to Dawn.[20].  However, we miss the point if we do not realise in this ‘equal treatment’ theory, the subtle Chinese hint to dissuade India from taking any pro-active measures in J&K to demolish cross border terrorism.  Another significant pointer is Chinese undercutting India in oil contracts, by quoting below even the break-even point in international tenders for accessing oil acreage abroad (in Iraq, CIS countries Turkey, Russia, etc).  This serves two purposes: isolates India and denies her access to oil. 


As we have seen earlier, the US too is cautioning India not to confront Pakistan militarily and had even gone to the extent of issuing travel advisories against India during India’s stand-off with Pakistan to hurt India economically so that India would withdraw her troops from the border.  The US ignores Pak support to cross border terrorism in Kashmir.  Thus, US policy directly intensifies Pak-sponsored militancy in India.  We can expect many more terrorist attacks such as on Akshardham Temple in Gandhi Nagar on Sep. 24, 02. 


India– convergence with America in the long term, isolation by the US in the short term


In the super power’s quest for Iraq, India appears to get isolated.  China and Pakistan are active participants in this game.  The Chinese will ‘endure’ until they are in a position to face up to America.  It, therefore, pays China to have bilateral and multilateral co-operation with the US following the old business adage, “Collaborate, if you cannot compete.”  If the US wants to keep the Kashmir issue passive, so be it because it does not go against Chinese interests.  Meanwhile, China extracts maximum economic and commercial mileage from its relationship with the US, which is a step for China in the direction of becoming a ‘super power’ in a position to challenge America in the long term. 


The National Security Strategy Report of the US says that several potential great powers are in the midst of in internal transition – most importantly Russia, India and China (in that order).  Referring to India, the report says, “The US has undertaken a transformation in its bilateral relationship with India” and “Finally, we share an interest in fighting terrorism and in creating a strategically stable Asia”. [21]  At the same time, while new US National Security Policy characterises Washington’s differences with China as “profound disagreements” describes divergence between India and the US as only “differences”.[22]  It is not “convergence below the surface”[23] but ‘convergence in the long term’ between India and the US. 

Axis of evil’ theory does not figure in the US national security strategy


Although there is no specific mention of the theory of the ‘axis of evil’ (North Korea, Iran and Iraq) in the National Security Strategy Report (Sep. 02) of the US, it looks certain that the Bush propounded the theory to prepare his own people and the world that Iraq would be targeted shortly.  Afghanistan thus was a ‘dry run’ for Iraq and Kashmir is no longer on the US schema and certainly not on the “international agenda”.[24]  Indeed, these public statements, along with the premise of “nationalist” and “trans-national” terrorism, may well be a smokescreen for the main political objective of a regime change in Iraq for which the US needs Pakistan, not only because it is a Muslim country but also for military reasons. 


Current US designs against Iraq have evoked varied responses.  Initially, British ministers were against a war with Iraq as it would “contaminate” crises in Afghanistan, Israel and Kashmir rather than “containerise” existing conflicts in the region as the US assesses[25], Blair, however, has gone to the extent of saying, “The UK will pay the ‘blood price’ of its special relationship with the US by lining up alongside ‘when the shooting starts’ in Iraq.”[26]  Blair’s policy was approved in his party’s convention narrowly in Sep. 02.  It is significant that Russia has taken the stand that only experts can say whether Iraq has WMD and hence should await the report of the weapons inspectors 


In an angry and impassioned speech on the floor of the Senate, the normally measured and softly spoken Senate Majority Leader Mr Daschle said President Bush had insulted Democrats when he said the Democrat-controlled Senate was "not interested in the security of the American people".  "You tell those who fought in Vietnam, those who fought in World War II they're not interested in the security of the American people," Mr Daschle said.  As the November congressional elections approach, Mr. Bush's Republican administration is focussing attention on its war on terror and confronting Iraq.  On Sep, 24, 02, Al Gore, the presidential rival of Mr. Bush, said the administration's approach to Iraq would detract from the main US task of pursuing those responsible for the 11 September attacks. [27]  Although there is no internal consensus in the US on Iraq, the Congress has authorised Bush to use force against Iraq ‘after all diplomatic initiatives are exhausted’ and the Security Council may also give conditional approval. 


Is the US following double standards?


While the US is preparing for a pre-emptive strike on Iraq, there are subtle hints that this option is not open to India.[28]  Jaswant Singh, Indian Finance Minister, had this to say in Washington on Sep. 30, 02 (after discussions with Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State), “Pre-emption was not the sole prerogative of any one country.  Inherent in deterrence is pre-emption.  What is being asserted here is very inherent in Article 51, which applies to all states that subscribe to the UN charter.” 

Deterrence, self-defence and pre-emption are interchangeable in present day strategic parlance.  Article 51 of the Charter states the following: “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations …” If however the “inherent right” expressed in article 51 allows customary international law to be considered, then it may be argued that a state does indeed have a right of anticipatory self-defence.  Moreover, it may be argued that a state claiming to be acting in self-defence can take into account the accumulation of hostile acts that have been committed against it in assessing the proportionality of its response.  There is here a very fine line dividing anticipatory self-defence, which may be legally permissible, from reprisal, which is not legally permissible.[29]  It would thus appear that anticipatory self-defence is pre-emption and there is very fine line between anticipatory self-defence and reprisal and between fear of reprisal and deterrence.  The circumstances in J&K, thus, give India all the moral and legal force to use pre-emption or anticipatory self-defence.  Why is the US interpretation different then?  The only reason could be the Iraq affair and the desire not to open two fronts simultaneously. 


US continues to build up pressure against Iraq


In the biggest single operation in four years, 100 US and British aircraft attacked Iraqi air defences dropping precision guided bombs in the raid on Sep. 05, 02.  [30]  The US and the British air forces again struck Iraq on Sep. 25, 02.  This brought to 39 the number of attack missions reported in 2002 by the US and UK coalition.  There have been two more strikes until Oct. 4, 02.  It appears that the US/UK coalition would continue to keep up the pressure on Iraq by aerial bombing in view of the Nov. 02 elections in the US when the entire congress is up for re-election.  >From the current indications and the acceptance by Iraq to allow UN weapons inspectors, it appears that a full scale war is unlikely until after the US elections.  The main aim of US administration appears to be to divert American public attention from the main issue of deteriorating US economy. 


Both the NASDAQ and Dow Jones have dropped to historical lows.  There have been numerous scandals in corporate America and even billion dollar companies have applied for bankruptcy.  Democrats, who would like to draw attention to the suffering US economy, are concerned that Republicans are politicising national security issues for party political ends.  G. Anandlingam[31] has correctly said, “The hysteria over Iraq helps the Republicans distract the American public from the reality of economic slowdown and the spate of corporate scams as the congressional elections approach.”[32]


Are Saudis friends or foes?


What has prompted the US to change tack from the al Qaeda to Iraq?  Is it the growing irrelevance of Saudi Arabia to the US?  Saudi Arabia has lately said that the U.S. will not be allowed to use Saudi soil to launch an attack on Iraq.  This attitude has confirmed US view that Saudi Arabia is not an "ally" in the war on terror. 

A U.S. News & World Report of Jan. 09, 02, entitled "Princely Payments," mentions two senior Saudi princes paying off Osama bin Laden since a 1995 bombing in Riyadh, which killed five American military advisers.  The amounts involved were "hundreds of millions of dollars," and it continued after Sept. 11.  Paying off bin Laden might be the simplest and least bloody way of dealing with the threat of Islamic extremism, at least in Saudi Arabia.  Simon Henderson of the Washington Institute of Near East Policy questions Bush administration’s refusal to admit the difficulties with the Saudis and opines that it is because diplomacy, like politics, is the art of the possible.  “While putting up barriers for U.S. action against Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Riyadh is taking a calculated risk that it no longer needs U.S. security guarantees”.  [33] 


More disturbing for the US is a briefing for a top Pentagon advisory panel depicting Saudi Arabia as an enemy to the United States and a backer of terrorism.  "The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader," stated the briefing prepared by Laurent Murawiec, a Rand Corporation analyst according to a report in the Washington Post. [34]   The briefing was presented on July 10, 2002 to the Defense Policy Board (a group of prominent intellectuals and former senior officials) that advises the Pentagon on defense policy and it appeared to be linked to the growing debate over how to drive Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.  The Pentagon has officially clarified that neither the briefing nor the advisory board represented the views of the U.S. government and said, "Saudi Arabia is a long-standing friend and ally of the United States. The Saudis cooperate fully in the global war on terrorism."  The members of the Defense Policy Board include former vice president Dan Quayle; former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger; former defense secretaries James Schlesinger and Harold Brown; former House speakers Newt Gingrich and Thomas Foley; and several retired senior military officers. 


In a recent interview, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said bluntly that that self-defence required pre-emption which means taking the battle to the terrorists and to those states that harbour, support and arm them.  …It requires a more flexible way of establishing alliances.  The mission must determine the coalition, coalitions must not determine missions”.  The current US mission against Iraq has determined the present coalition.  When a congressional committee recently asked Rumsfeld for rigorous evidence against Iraq, his response was that after 9/11 “we cannot wait for all evidence to be in” before acting.  On the other hand, British ministers, while sharing the US belief that Saddam has acquired weapons of mass destruction, have not seen any evidence that he can deliver them in any meaningful way against the West.[35] 


Saudi Arabia has lost its position, in the last quarter of 2001, as the principal supplier of imported oil to the U.S.  However, Saudi Arabia continues to be the ‘swing producer’ If the regime in Iraq is friendly and with Kuwait on its side, America would have control over 208 billion barrels of oil reserves (112 of Iraq excluding 220 undiscovered resources and 96 of Kuwait) as opposed to Saudi oil reserves of 262 billion barrels.  US control over Iraq and Kuwait would adversely affect Saudi influence in OPEC. 

O-I-L spells W-A-R[36]


We thus come to the unpleasant conclusion that US intentions are indeed the same as Saddam Hussein’s in invading Kuwait in 1990: to dominate the oil-rich middle east.  Is this not balancing the power of oil by reducing Saudi Arabia’s importance? 


In the short term, oil prices are likely to hit the roof when the hostilities commence largely because of ‘sentiment’ and a perceived scarcity rather than actual shortage.  Saddam Hussein’s scorched earth policy may not very effective judging from the experience in Kuwait in 1990.  Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait have adequate shut-in capacity to make up the 1 million barrels per day that Iraq currently exports.  “OECD[37] countries have strategic reserves of about 1.3 billion barrels, which if drawn down fully, could produce 1.2 million barrels of oil per day for up to 30 days” says Vikram Mehta, Chairman Shell Group of Companies in India[38].  However, once Iraqi oil is freed, it would be available without restraint in the medium term.  Dan Morgan and David Ottaway recently wrote in the Washington Post that the Iraqi National Congress, the umbrella organisation of opposition groups, has more or less assured the Bush administration that US companies would lead any consortium to exploit their country’s oil reserves.[39]  The oil connection of Bush, Cheney and Rice are too well known to recount.  While the US companies would benefit, the countries that are already in Iraq in the oil business (Russia, France, Italy, China and India) are likely to suffer if the ‘new regime’ asks them to leave. 


Is the United States into the worst energy-supply crisis since the 1970s?


The main cause for American anxiety for its long term security is the Olduvai theory, first enunciated by Richard C. Duncan, Ph. D in 1989 and restated in November 2000. As of now, the theory cannot be rejected by the historic world energy production and population data.  In Apr. 02, Newsweek devoted many columns to a modified form of Duncan’s theory.  A few samples: “Released last May, the Bush energy policy warns that dwindling supplies of oil and gas, an antiquated power grid and burdensome regulation threaten to drag the US into the worst energy-supply crisis since the 1970s”, “Bush spelt out a scary 20-year scenario in which America becomes increasingly vulnerable to price shocks, supply interruptions and even blackmail”.[40]  These developments give rise to misgivings that the doomsday predictions have been resurrected to justify the current US objectives in Iraq or could it be that US strategists genuinely believe that energy production per capita will fall to its 1930 value by 2030, thus giving Industrial Civilization a lifetime of less than or equal to 100 years as propounded by Duncan?  In either case, the true face of US strategy is to grab Iraq to control mid-east oil and avoid falling into the Olduvai trap.[41] 

The Olduvai theory[42]


The Olduvai theory is based on world energy and population data during the past 30 years in some 50 nations on all continents except Antarctica.  The theory states that the life expectancy of Industrial Civilization (1930-2030) is less than or equal to one hundred years based on world average energy production per person per year.  The Olduvai theory stresses that Industrial Civilization = Electrical Civilization = the 'modern way of life’. 


Although world oil production increased from 1979 to 1999 at an average rate of 0.75 %/year, world population grew even faster.  Thus, world oil production per capita declined at an average rate of 1.20 %/year during the 20 years from 1979 to 1999.  Although world energy production from 1979 to 1999 increased at an average rate of 1.34 %/year, world population grew even faster.  Thus world energy production per capita declined at an average rate of 0.33 %/year during these same 20 years.  This 20-year period is named the "Olduvai slope," the first of the three downside intervals in the "Olduvai schema." 


Moving beyond the historic period (1999), Duncan predicts that world oil production will reach its all-time peak in 2006.  From its peak in 2006 to 2040, world oil production will fall by 58.8 %, an average decline of 2.45 %/year during these 34 years.  The OPEC/non-OPEC crossover event is predicted to occur in 2008.  This event will divide the world into two camps: one with surplus oil, the other with none.  This forecast presents the following scenario: (1) Beginning in 2008, the 11 OPEC nations will produce more than 50% of the world's oil. (2) Thereafter OPEC will control nearly 100% of the world’s oil exports. (3) BP Amoco (2000) puts OPEC's "proved reserves" at 77.6% of the world total.


The peak and decline of Industrial Civilization, should it occur, will be due to a complex matrix of causes; overpopulation, depletion of non renewable resources, environmental damage, pollution, soil erosion, global warming, new viruses, and resource wars.  The Olduvai theory uses a single matrix only, as defined by "White's Law"[43] but with a new twist: electricity.  Electricity is an "energy carrier": zero mass, travels near the speed of light, and, for all practical purposes, it can't be stored.  Electricity is the quintessence of the 'modern way of life'.  All this suggests that permanent blackouts will be strongly correlated with the collapse of Industrial Civilization — the so-named "Olduvai cliff". 


The power shortages in California and elsewhere are the product of the long economic boom in the US, the increasing use of energy-guzzling computer devices, population growth and a slowdown in new power-plant construction amid the deregulation of the utility market.  The electricity business has certainly run out of existing generating capacity, whether this capacity is a coal-fired plant, a nuclear plant or a dam or any other.  The electricity business has already responded to this shortage.  Orders for a massive number of natural gas-fired plants have already been placed.  But these new gas plants require an unbelievable amount of natural gas.  This immediate need for so much incremental supply is simply not there (Simmons, 2000). 


The Bottom Line: Beginning in 2008, the 11 OPEC nations will produce more than 50% of the world's oil.  Thereafter OPEC will control nearly 100% of the world’s oil exports. 


Absolute numbers of mid-east oil speak for themselves


If one looks at the absolute numbers of oil reserves of the Middle East vis-à-vis the rest of the world, especially the Central Asian countries, one gets a reasonable idea of the reasons for the US targeting Iraq.  And if one views this in the context of the Olduvai Theory of November 2000 and its resurrection in Newsweek in April 2002, one starts to realise the raison d’etre behind the current US posture.  The US is not taking any chances for its energy security.  If indeed the Industrial Civilisation ends in 2030, there is very little that the US or any other country can do.  However, there is always the chance that the Olduvai projections may be deferred.  But as of now, it has to be taken cognisance of considering the historic world energy production and population data.  And that is what the US is precisely doing.  The US would be sitting pretty if the Olduvai projections are either delayed or proved wrong and it would continue to be the sole super power well into the 21st century. 


Table 1 below shows the oil reserves[44] of four large areas of the world and Table 2 the oil reserves of the larger of the oil producing nations of the “Middle East”. 


North and South American continents


Middle East


Russian Federation


Rest of Europe/Asia/Africa/Australasia


Total World (as of end year 2000)


Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan (out of the above world total)



Table 1: Oil Reserves of the world in billions[45] of barrels








Saudi Arabia


United Arab Emirates (basically Abu Dhabi alone)


Rest of “Middle East”


Total Middle East (as of end year 2000)



Table 2: Oil Reserves of the “Middle East” in billions of barrels


The enormity of the Middle East oil can best be understood by the magnitude of some of the individual fields of Iran, Iraq or Saudi Arabia.  A single field is comparable to the entire regions such as North America, South America, Africa, Europe or Asia (without the Middle East).  The known and predicated reserves of crude oil in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan are in the vicinity of 16 billion barrels vis-à-vis about 660 billion barrels in Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.  The Middle East area, which consumes only a very small fraction of the world’s daily production, produces about 35 % of the daily global production and has almost ¾ of the world’s reserves of oil.  The OECD area, which consumes a little under ¾ of the world’s daily production, produces less than 10 % of daily global oil production and has insignificant oil reserves. 


One should not ignore that to attain and maintain supremacy, a country not only has to access power for oneself but also to deny it to others.  In this case, the US would not only have a secure and easy access to oil but would also be in a position to deny it (including the oil reserves of Central Asia) to others with its all pervading military presence in the Middle-East (after Iraq) and the current military presence in Central Asia. 




While ostensibly aiming to disrupt and destroy terrorist organisations of global reach and proclaiming support to democracies, to liberty, to justice, to human dignity and rule of law, to free markets and free trade, to transparency; what actually stands out is the complete digression from the aims and values that the US had set for itself after 9/11, thus violating the basic principle of ‘maintenance of the aim’ in pursuing its new objective of having a friendly regime in Iraq. 


Available evidence shows that pre-empting Iraq, self-defence, fighting terrorism or establishing democracy, etc are not the core reasons for changing the regime in Iraq.  The real goal is to access the vast resources of oil that Iraq possesses and also sidestep Saudi Arabia in OPEC and strip it of the position of the ‘swing producer’.  By controlling oil resources of Iraq and Kuwait, the US may be actually pre-empting, not an Iraqi attack by WMD but the day (predicted to be in 2008 by the Olduvai Theory) when the 11 OPEC nations will produce more than 50% of the world's oil and thereafter control nearly 100% of the world’s oil exports.  In other words, Bush is attacking Iraq for the same reasons that Saddam Hussein attacked Kuwait in 1990: to establish control over vast resources of the Middle-East oil.  The US also has a long term strategy of ensuring energy security. 


The US faces opposition to its new found objective domestically as well as from all the major powers except Britain.  Even in the UK, the Labour Party is sorely divided over the issue.  However, both the US congress and the British labour party have endorsed the stance of their respective leaders.  Once the US establishes its sway over Iraq, the power equations would change radically.  The US would have substantial military presence in the Middle East, which would reinforce its already growing military presence in Central Asia and Pakistan.  US hegemony over these areas would then be sealed.  China would bide its time until it is in a position to challenge the US.  It is likely that another axis – Russia-China (?)-India-Iran may take root to combat increasing US domination.  The US would attempt to prevent this by establishing a long term strategic relationship with India with the sole intent of checkmating China. 

The US aim of ensuring secure access to oil would also mean that it would have the capability to deny access to oil to other net importers, e.g. China, Japan, India and any other country that it chooses.  This is because the US would then control not only the Middle East oil but also hold sway over Central Asian oil.  Iran would get ‘surrounded’ and ‘suffocated’ and its long standing resentment towards the US would surface more prominently.  India would get even more squeezed and isolated in the short term until the Kuwait operation succeeds and the US consolidates its gains.  India would perforce have to depend on the US because of the insecurity due its dependence on mid-east oil.  India would be pressurised by both Pakistan and China in the short term until the US changes its current stance of isolating India by neglecting India’s security concerns and cements a long term strategic relationship with India as stated in its National Security Strategy Report of Sep. 02.  Meanwhile, India may have to “choose its own options” in dealing with Pakistan and China. 


Oil is a strategic commodity and it has proved its importance from the day it was discovered in 1856.  There has always been keen competition throughout history for ‘mastery over oil’ and all wars including the last major conflict with Iraq in 1990 were fought with oil as the main concern.  As the world is thinking that oil is losing its ‘worth’ due to the endeavours in developing costly alternative sources of energy, the US perception seems to be that the country which has easy access to cheap oil would always have global supremacy, notwithstanding the gloomy predictions of the end of the Industrial Civilisation in 2030. 




[1] Newsweek, Apr. 02

[2] Chapter III – “Strengthen alliances to defeat global terrorism …”, Sep. 19, 02

[3] Editorial in The Hindu, July 12,2002

[4] Tapes broadcast by CNN on Aug. 23, 02.

[5]India quiet on fugitives in Pak”, The Times of India, Sep. 23, 02

[6] Review of the paper in August 2002 bulletin of SAPRA, India

[7] Aiyar, Swaminathan S. Anklesaria, “Hidden convergence on terrorism”, The Economic Times, Sep. 18, 02

[8] "Terrorism: Questions and Answers" (an authoritative, and non-partisan online encyclopaedia prepared by the Council on Foreign Relations in cooperation with the Markle Foundation, USA), also reported by TV channel Aaj Tak on Sep. 22, 02; the evidence, however, is based on wireless intercepts by the security forces., Raman, B, “Smoking al Qaeda out of Karachi”, Sep. 02

[9] Shukla, Rajiv, “Front Foot”, The Indian Express, Sep. 23, 02

[10]Rasgotra, Maharajkrishna, Former Foreign Secretary, “The world is much the same”, The Indian Express, Sep. 11, 02

[11] Television Talk Show Broadcast on SAB TV Channel, Aug. 15 & 18, 02.  Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal was interviewed by Karan Thapar, Mediaperson, C. Rajamohan, Strategic Affairs Editor, The Hindu, and Kanti Bajpai, Professor of Inernational Relations, Jawaharlal Nehru University

[12] “ISI protecting alQaeda men, alleges report” South Asia Tribune, quoted in The Indian Express, Oct. 4, 02

[13] US report on National Security Strategy, Sep. 02, Chapter IX, “Transform America’s National Security Institutions …”

[14] Vanaik, Achin, “Powell’s visit”, The Hindu, Aug. 12, 02

[15] Raman, B, “China’s Missile Game, Trick or Treat?”, (Paper 514), Aug. 30, 02 South Asia Group

[16] Gertz, Bill & Scarborough, Rowan, “China-trained Taliban” (Notes from the Pentagon), Washington Times, Sep. 24, 02

[17] “ Develop agendas for cooperative action with the other main centers of global power”, Chapter VIII, Sep, 02

[18] Puri, Rajinder, “Bull’s Eye”, Outlook, Sep. 09, 02

[19] Singh, Jasjit, “China in Uncle Sam’s world”, The Indian Express, Sep. 25, 02

[20] “India, Pak be treated equally”, The Times of India, Sep. 30, 02

[21] US report on National Security Strategy, Sep. 02, Chapter VIII – “Develop agendas for cooperative action with other main centers of global power”

[22] Sudarshan V, “Nuclear Family?”, Outlook, Oct. 07, 02   

[23] Aiyar, Swaminathan S. Anklesaria, “Hidden convergence on terrorism”, The Economic Times, Sep. 18, 02

[24] Statement by US Secretary of State, Colin Powell in New Delhi during his visit in August 2002

[25] “Britain warns Bush against strike on Iraq”, The Indian Express, Aug. 10, 02

[26] “Blair swears to pay the blood price”, The Times of India, Sep. 07, 02

[27] Ibid

[28] “What’s right for Uncle Sam is wrong for India”, The Economic Times, Oct. 1, 02

[29] Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2002

[30] The Daily Telegraph, London, Sep. 05, 02 reproduced in The Indian Express, Sep. 07, 02. 

[31] Ralph J. Tyser Professor of Management Science at the University of Maryland, USA

[32] Ananadalingam, G, “Why George Bush wants war”, The Economic Times, Sep. 27, 02

[33] Henderson, Simon, “The Saudi way”, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 12, 02; Mr. Henderson, an adjunct scholar of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, runs, a consulting firm.

[34] “Pentagon Board Told Saudi Arabia Is Enemy” – Washington Post, Aug 06, 02

[35] The Independent, London, Aug. 09, 02

[36] King, Niel Jr, & Bahree, Bhushan, “Why O-I-L could spell W-A-R”, Wall Street Journal, reproduced by The Indian Express, Sep, 20, 02

[37] The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development  Current membership: Australia, New Zealand, Japan, United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Eire, Austria and Greece.

[38] Economic Times, Sep. 10, 02

[39] Ananadalingam, G, “Why George Bush wants war”, The Economic Times, Sep. 27, 02

[40] Newsweek, Apr. 02


[41] Olduvai is an archaeological site in the eastern Serengeti Plains, within the boundaries of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in northern Tanzania. It is a steep-sided ravine about 30 miles (48 km) long and 295 feet (90 meters) deep, with subsidiary valleys. Deposits exposed in the sides of the gorge cover a time span from about 2,100,000 to 15,000 years ago. The deposits have yielded the fossil remains of more than 50 hominids, providing the most continuous known record of human presence during the past two million years, as well as the longest known archaeological record of the development of stone-tool industries.

[42] “The peak of world oil production and the road to the Olduvai Gorge”, by Richard C. Duncan, Ph. D, Pardee Keynote Symposia, Geological Society of America, Summit 2000, Reno, Nevada, November 13, 2000

[43] White’s Law states, “Other factors remaining constant, culture evolves as the amount of energy harnessed per capita per year is increased, or as the efficiency of the instrumental means of putting the energy to work is increased.  We may now sketch the history of cultural development from this standpoint.”

[44] “Reserves” are volumes of oil that can be economically recovered using the technology now available

[45] The term “billion” denotes one thousand million = 109 =1000,000.000