Who are the real winners in these conflicts?

Islamic State fighters at Syria Iraq border 11Jun2015 Guardian

This month, we have seen yet another humanitarian crisis unfold as the situation in Syria and neighbouring countries worsened. It was heartening to see thousands of New Zealanders pledging to open their homes to refugees and mounting public pressure which forced the government to open its border to an additional 600 Syrian refugees.

The media has been filled with stories of tragedies endured by refugees, the costs of accepting them into New Zealand and squabbles among European countries while refugees queued at their borders. Yet few journalists have enough conscience, courage or insight to expose the real difficult truth, the root causes and beneficiaries of the crisis.

An exception is Australian journalist John Pilcher who wrote in his highly analytical blog Why the rise of fascism is again the issue:

“Had the Nazis not invaded Europe, Auschwitz and the Holocaust would not have happened. Had the United States and its satellites not initiated their war of aggression in Iraq in 2003, almost a million people would be alive today; and Islamic State, or ISIS, would not have us in thrall to its savagery. They are the progeny of modern fascism, weaned by the bombs, bloodbaths and lies that are the surreal theatre known as news. …

Since 1945, more than a third of the membership of the United Nations – 69 countries – have suffered some or all of the following at the hands of America’s modern fascism. They have been invaded, their governments overthrown, their popular movements suppressed, their elections subverted, their people bombed and their economies stripped of all protection, their societies subjected to a crippling siege known as “sanctions”. The British historian Mark Curtis estimates the death toll in the millions. In every case, a big lie was deployed.”

When asked “Are there any winners in these conflicts?” award-winning journalist Matthieu Aikins replied:

“People who are selling arms to the Saudis… The British are the big suppler as are the European Union, Italy, France… Emirates and all these oil rich Gulf monarchies are their best customers… Clearly the sources of the Syrian conflict is not just internal, they are external, Russians, Iranians are the blame, just as much as the Turks, the Gulf States, the Saudis and the US. As long as these sides are fueling, the war in Syria has no end….”

Fueling” is a good word as fossil fuels have always been part of such complex conflicts. Jimmy Carter, in his state of the union address, Jan. 23, 1980, proclaimed:

Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force,” quoted in the Journal of American History by Toby Craig Jones:

Middle Eastern oil has enchanted global powers and global capital since the early twentieth century… The pursuit of American power in the Gulf has been fraught with peril and has proved costly in terms of both blood and treasure.”

This June, the Conversation and the Guardian reported, “Syria has been beset by a crisis over oil and gas supplies amid the escalation of the four-year conflict, with the Assad regime losing almost all of its oil fields and about half of its gas fields to IS.” 

The four part documentary series Secret of the Seven Sisters depicts the detailed, long-term perspective on the hidden role of the major fossil fuel corporations in fueling conflict. The seven sisters include Shell, Mobil and Chevron, all are operating in New Zealand.

The result is the escalating humanitarian crisis, in much the same way as climate change and the associated social injustice will unfold. This is why global and local climate justice movements are growing.

Photo: Medyan Dairieh/Zuma Press/Corbis: Islamic State fighters at Syria-Iraq border, published in the Guardian 11 June 2015.

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