The Pipeline Wars
These came in from Pleiades, to enlighten us about just what is lurking in the background of the Afghanistan-Pakistan-Iran nexus. Here’s Part 1 covering just what it is that is making America go after this part of the world. This bit caught my eye:
Obama’s opium war
By now it’s clear that the upcoming, Pentagon-enabled, summer surge in the “Af” section of Obama’s war in AfPak will be deployed essentially as Obama’s new opium war. In a spicy historic reversal, the British Empire (which practically annexed Afghanistan) wanted the Chinese to be hooked on its opium, while now the American empire wants Afghans to stop cultivating it.
The strategy boils down to devastating the Pashtun-cultivated poppy fields in southern Helmand province – the opium capital of the world. In practice, this will be yet another indiscriminate war against Pashtun peasants, who have been cultivating poppies for centuries. Needless to say, thousands will migrate to the anti-occupation rainbow coalition/motley crew branded as “Taliban”.
Destroying the only source of income for scores of poor Afghans means, in Pentagon spin, “to cut off the Taliban’s main source of money”, which also happens to be the “main source of money” for a collection of wily, US-friendly warlords who will not resign themselves to being left blowing in the wind.
The strategy is also oblivious to the fact that the Taliban themselves receive scores of funding from pious Gulf petro-monarchy millionaires as well as from sections in Saudi Arabia – the same Saudi Arabia that Pentagon supremo Robert Gates is now actively courting to … abandon the Taliban. Since the Obama inauguration in January, Washington’s heavy pressure over Islamabad has been relentless: forget about your enemy India, we want you to fight “our” war against the Taliban and “al-Qaeda”.
Thus, expect any Pashtun opium farmer or peasant who brandishes his ax, dagger, matchlock or rusty Lee-Enfield rifle at the ultra-high tech incoming US troops to be branded a “terrorist”. Welcome to yet one more chapter of the indeed long Pentagon war against the world’s poorest.
That’s a big claim, but you can see how the drug trade is the fly in the ointment. I don’t know if there’s an easy solution because a) parts of the West are totlly hooked on the drug trade; and b) this hooked-on-the-drug-trade aspect drives up the price of poppy so as to make it a viable crop for the disenfranchised poor.
Bottom line, just as if there wasn’t such a demand for cocaine, there wouldn’t be the Shining Path and Coaine cartels in Columbia, if there wasn’t such a demand for alkaloid opiates, poppy wouldn’t be grown in such quantities by these people. Because we’ve failed to escalate the growth in demand ove the years, it simply comes down to trying to choke the supply as much as possible, but the more this happens, the more the price goes up which makes it even more profitable for these people to grow these plants.
Balochistan is totally under the radar of Western corporate media. But not the Pentagon’s. An immense desert comprising almost 48% of Pakistan’s area, rich in uranium and copper, potentially very rich in oil, and producing more than one-third of Pakistan’s natural gas, it accounts for less than 4% of Pakistan’s 173 million citizens. Balochs are the majority, followed by Pashtuns. Quetta, the provincial capital, is considered Taliban Central by the Pentagon, which for all its high-tech wizardry mysteriously hasnot been able to locate Quetta resident “The Shadow”, historic Taliban emir Mullah Omar himself.
Strategically, Balochistan is mouth-watering: east of Iran, south of Afghanistan, and boasting three Arabian sea ports, including Gwadar, practically at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz.
Gwadar – a port built by China – is the absolute key. It is the essential node in the crucial, ongoing, and still virtual Pipelineistan war between IPI and TAPI. IPI is the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline, also known as the “peace pipeline”, which is planned to cross from Iranian to Pakistani Balochistan – an anathema to Washington. TAPI is the perennially troubled, US-backed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline, which is planned to cross western Afghanistan via Herat and branch out to Kandahar and Gwadar.
Washington’s dream scenario is Gwadar as the new Dubai – while China would need Gwadar as a port and also as a base for pumping gas via a long pipeline to China. One way or another, it will all depend on local grievances being taken very seriously. Islamabad pays a pittance in royalties for the Balochis, and development aid is negligible; Balochistan is treated as a backwater. Gwadar as the new Dubai would not necessarily mean local Balochis benefiting from the boom; in many cases they could even be stripped of their local land.
To top it all, there’s the New Great Game in Eurasia fact that Pakistan is a key pivot to both NATO and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), of which Pakistan is an observer. So whoever “wins” Balochistan incorporates Pakistan as a key transit corridor to either Iranian gas from the monster South Pars field or a great deal of the Caspian wealth of “gas republic” Turkmenistan.
Oh what joy. I’ve been wondering for a long while what the geopolitical carrot might be in Afghanistan and we’re beginning to see the outlines here. It is of paramount importance to the US to secure the pipeline the way they want it. The rest of it is power-politics to secure the interests, damn the ethics of doing so. We’re in a very deep mess.