Oil, Obama and Pakistan-Ahmed Quraishi

Islamabad, Pakistan–Publicly, America’s most immediate challenges after the government change are Afghanistan and Pakistan. Privately, in Washington’s power corridors, it is oil.

Oil, and not al Qaeda, is threatening to knock America off global leadership. President Obama takes over a country whose global economic leadership is threatened by dwindling oil reserves and a dogfight over whatever remains.

Oil is running out, fast. And the remaining oil, including new reserves, lie in other people’s lands, closer to Russia, China, Europe and other powers. America’s global supremacy rests on easy access to oil. If someone else gets that oil, America loses.

Luckily for President Obama, his predecessor, George W. Bush, has done an excellent job in: one, securing new oil, and, two, warding off threat from other oil hungry powers. Under the guise of spreading freedom and democracy, Bush’s eight years saw the biggest expansion of American military bases across the world. America’s foreign policy was also adjusted to follow the footprint of oil, be it Angola, Sudan/Darfur, Central Asia, Russia, Colombia, Georgia, Venezuela, and of course Iraq. Somalia is fast becoming the latest battlefield in this secretive global dogfight over oil.

The Taliban government was not an enemy of America. It sent delegations to the United States and lobbied for US State Department’s attention. Its removal was decided much before 9/11, according to Pakistan’s former top diplomat Niaz Naik, who was told so explicitly by U.S. officials in July 2001. Taliban fell out of favour because they put terms and conditions on the pipelines that American oil giants planned to construct on Afghan territory. Taliban were replaced by US oil consultants Zalmay Khalilzad and Hamid Karzai.

Pakistan was and continues to be the next target. US diplomatic meddling has already disturbed the natural progression of the Pakistani government system, creating local players who look to America for support. The United States is trying to pitch the country’s elected governments against the military to reduce the military’s ability to decide Pakistani interest on Afghanistan, China and India.

US military intervention is softening up the country through regular missile attacks and drone flights. The chatter in the U.S. think tanks and media about Pakistan’s division along ethnic lines has never been this high. Pakistan has to be subdued in order for America to secure Pakistani transport routes from the sea to the Afghan border.

Balochistan is an interesting case. Destabilizing this Pakistani province disturbs Iran’s plans to lay down pipelines to Pakistan and beyond. The instability also helps destroy China’s chances of using Gwadar, the new Pakistani port city overlooking oil-rich Gulf, to dock its commercial and naval ships.

In fact, the entire area between Gwadar and the Sino-Pakistani border is up in insurgencies of all sorts. This entire area was peaceful before 2005, until meddling by unknown actors began from the US-controlled Afghan soil, exploiting Pakistani internal problems.

Stopping American intervention in Pakistan, while continuing the cooperative relationship, is the biggest challenge facing President Obama. Will he do it? After gaining unprecedented access inside Pakistan – both diplomatically and militarily – it is doubtful that an Obama administration would scale back US gains.

Pakistan will have to tell the US that it has legitimate security and strategic interests in the region and that it cannot allow the US to decide these. These include the shape of the future government in Kabul, the expansion of the Indian role in the region, and the relationship with China.

Obama’s Washington has to respect Pakistani interests and concerns. President Obama needs to wean his policy planners off the idea of reproducing the pliant regimes of Baghdad and Kabul.

Those things require war. And President Obama doesn’t want another war, does he?

The writer works for Geo TV. Email: aq@ahmedquraishi.com

Source: The News, 21-Jan-09

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