August 10, 2000

Cheney’s “Black Gold”: Corporate Oil Interests to Drive U.S. Foreign Policy in Bush-Cheney Administration

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What do the Persian Gulf, the Caspian Sea and the Balkans have in common? U.S. domination in these areas serves the interests of corporate multi-millionaires such as Dick Cheney. As George Bush’s Secretary of Defense, Cheney was chief prosecutor of Operation Desert Storm in 1991. Humanitarian rhetoric notwithstanding, the bombing of Iraq – which continues to this day – was primarily aimed at keeping the Persian Gulf safe for U.S. oil interests. Shortly after Desert Storm, the Associated Press reported Cheney’s desire to broaden the United States’ military role in the region to hedge future threats to gulf oil resources.

Cheney is C.E.O. of Halliburton, the biggest oil-services company in the world. Because of the instability in the Persian Gulf, Cheney and his fellow oilmen have zeroed in on the world’s other major source of oil – the Caspian Sea. Its rich oil and gas resources are estimated at four trillion dollars by U.S. News and World Report. The Washington-based American Petroleum Institute, voice of the major U.S. oil companies, called the Caspian region, “the area of greatest resource potential outside of the Middle East.” Cheney told a gaggle of oil industry executives in 1998, “I can’t think of a time when we’ve had a region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian.”

But Caspian oil presents formidable obstacles. Landlocked between Russia, Iran and a group of former Soviet republics, the Caspian’s “black gold” raises a transportation dilemma. Russia wants Caspian oil to run through its territory to the Black Sea. The United States, however, favors pipelines through its ally, Turkey.

Although the cheapest route would traverse Iran to the Persian Gulf, U.S. sanctions against Iran belie this alternative. Cheney has lobbied long and hard, as recently as June, for the lifting of those sanctions, to lubricate the Iran-Caspian connection. This is consistent with his position, described in a 1997 article in The Oil and Gas Journal, that oil and gas companies must do business in countries with policies unpalatable to the U.S.

Cheney also favors the repeal of section 907 of the 1992 Freedom Support Act, which severely restricts U.S. aid to Azerbaijan because of its ethnic cleansing of the Armenians in Nagorno Karabakh, a mountainous enclave in Azerbaijan. Why would Cheney choose to ignore Azerbaijan’s human rights violations? Because Azerbaijan, key to the richest Caspian oil deposits, is, according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, “in fact, the focal point of the next round in the Great Game of Nations, a dangerous, hot-headed place with a Klondike of wealth beneath it. It is Bosnia with oil.”

Cheney’s oily fingerprints are all over the Balkans as well. Last year, Halliburton’s Brown & Root Division was awarded a $180 million-a-year contract to supply U.S. forces in the Balkans. Cheney also sits on the board of directors of Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor. Replacing munitions used in the Balkans could result in $1 billion in new contracts. War is big business and Dick Cheney is right in the middle of it.

Meanwhile, energy and gasoline prices continue to soar in many parts of the United States. OPEC controls the oil production in the Persian Gulf. Cheney, worried about a fall-off in investment, spoke in favor of OPEC cutting oil production so oil and gasoline prices could rise.

Cheney is ineluctably invested in keeping the world safe for his investments. Although he is stepping down as C.E.O. of Halliburton to run for vice-president, his financial interests in the Persian Gulf, the Caspian region and the Balkans will invariably continue. Chosen by George W. Bush to bring foreign policy expertise to the ticket, we can expect a Republic administration to increase U.S. intervention in regions when it suits Dick Cheney’s oil and other corporate concerns.