BOOK REVIEW: I HEARD YOU WERE GOING ON JIHAD
Executive Global Advisor | Communications & External Affairs Lead | Public & Government Affair Lead | Public & Government Affairs Specialist
April 12, 2015
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Any American in the USA on 9-11-2001 and witnessed the events on television or in person, should read this book By J.W on April 9, 2015 I Heard you Were Going on Jihad, by Mitchell Gray, was received from the publisher in exchange for this review. Any American in the USA on 9-11-2001 and witnessed the events on television or in person, should read this book. I learned more about how the Middle East became what it currently is, in the preface, than I had ever been told from the media or politicians, who caused many of the problems. Before you, the readers, starts sharpshooting me, I am FULLY aware it was politicians past whose ineptness in foreign policy, much like the ineptness of modern times, within the last 20 years, that lead to the Middle East we now accept. At times, the author goes into the weeds so much the book sounds “clinical,”, which caused me to skim some but over all, if you are the type of person who wants to understand “why,” the events happened, how the events happened and is it possible for them to happen again, no matter how much money we act like we are throwing at the problem, then you should read this book and buy copies for the naysayers who want to blame one specific group for what happened. (underlining by Mitchell Gray)
BY MITCHELL GRAY: I appreciate the kind words by J.W. Unlike many books on this topic I think I contributed to the historical antecedents of 9/11 based on my historical knowledge and detailed study of the petroleum industry, the Arabic language and Middle Eastern politics.
The book is a personal narrative because I was personally involved with these events but it also goes into “the weeds” as J.W. calls them to provide legal analysis and a chronology of documentary records rarely set out in other books.
I have read over one hundred books on 9/11 and many are quite good. That type of background reading helped me identify topics that needed to be discussed.
I am not an advocate of the term “terrorism expert” because the topic is too big for one person. I have a story to tell that contributes to the 9/11 mosaic and it is my obligation to do so. To me, it was essential service the same as my tour in Iraq in 2008.
This book is 100% my own as I did all my own research and of course experienced many events first hand in a mosque and in subsequent meetings with certain individuals including suspects and law enforcement personnel.
I am proud of the fact using my legal skills I was able to produce valuable new evidence and to clarify certain “internet” claims that are inaccurate or false.
OKLAHOMA CITY: APRIL 19, 1995
Executive Global Advisor | Communications & External Affairs Lead | Public & Government Affair Lead | Public & Government Affairs Specialist
April 9, 2015
We are nearly at the twentieth anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing of the Murrah Federal Building which at that time was largest terror attack on U.S. soil. One thing is clear: Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols are guilty of the crimes they were charged with and deserved their punishments. By definition this was a conspiracy because at least two persons were involved. In fact, more were involved including Michael Fortier and his wife. Mr. Fortier signed a deal with the government for testimony that landed him in federal prison and the Witness Protection Program.
Questions remain about possible involvement of others ranging from home grown domestic terrorists and possibly Islamic or Middle Eastern plotters. I have copies of the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms undercover reports concerning a Carol Howe, an informant, who lived at Elohim City in far eastern Oklahoma where paramilitary training took place and where several unsavory characters associated with Germany and domestic hate groups set up camp.
My focus here is on a possible nexus to Middle Eastern groups. Perhaps the most interesting question is Terry Nichols multiple trips to the Philippines, a hot bed of Islamic terrorism in the 1990’s. Abu Sayyuf, a Bin Laden associate, set up shop there and Bin Laden’s brother in law and best friend along with an Wali Khan Shah set up cells there to promote Al-Qaeda.
Ramzi Yousef, a/k/a Abdul Basit, is from Baluchistan and trained as a technical engineer in Wales all the while seething over U.S. policies especially towards Palestinian issues and support of Israel. Yousef and his friend Abdul Murad also set up shop in the Philippines and records can place Nichols and Yousef, an Al-Qaeda master bomber, in Cebu City at the same time in 1994. A Filipino informant told the National Police a man called “the Farmer” was at a meeting with Yousef and his sketch resembled Nichols. The informant was not of great character and some reject this claim while others embrace it.
Tim McVeigh had problems making even small bombs on his own but after Nichols trips to the Philippines the OKC bomb was a device that even impressed even top Hizballah operatives . The bomb and damage were very similar to the 1994 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires.
Ramzi Yousef entered the United States on a forged Iraqi passport and a phony Asylum claim. He was accompanied by a friend who acted extremely bizarre at JFK airport in an effort to legitimatize Yousef. Yousef was told to come back at a later date for his asylum claim and he immediately took a cab to a radical mosque led by Egyptian scholar and radical jihadist Umar Abdel Rahman, the “Blind Sheikh” who supported Al-Qaeda.
These early Al-Qaeda cells were penetrated by my friend Mr. Emad Salem an ex Egyptian Army officer who was ousted by FBI supervisors in a fateful and foolish decision based on procedural reasons. Yousef replaced Mr. Salem and with his associates built and exploded the bomb that nearly toppled the WTC in 1993. Mr. Salem was ushered back into the cells and helped break up more plots designed to kill thousands in New York City.
The OKC bomb bore similarities to the 1993 WTC blast. There were other possible connections. My recent book, I Heard You Were Going on Jihad, showed how I supplied a U.S. Congressman the name of an Oklahoma City Palestinian slum lord who’s name was on an “unindicted co-conspirator list” for the 1993 NYC attacks. When the Congressman confronted the legal authorities they would deny it was the same man. This Palestinian had also served time in Federal prison and had been investigated in the 1980s’ for funding the PLO terror group.
The same Palestinian man had been employing for several months before the OKC bomb several ex Iraqi soldiers who aroused suspicions among co-workers. None of these men were ever charged with terrorism.
Another link is that Terry Nichols married a mail order bride from the Philippines and government phone records show that Al-Qaeda bomber Ramzi Yousef called a number in New York associated with one of her relatives. Another Oklahoma City man who was arrested after 9/11 and had been an associate of Al-Qaeda convict Zacarias Moussaoui was the subject of a New York City counter-terrorism investigation related to the 1993 WTC bombing and lied to the FBI about a trip to Pakistan.
My book revealed that by 1993, Oklahoma City had been prepped by the highest leaders of Al Qaeda (Sheikh Abdullah Azzam) and Hamas (Khaled Mishal) setting up a radical infrastructure that could possibly support future actions. More chilling is my revelation that the top Hamas fundraiser in the U.S., Mufid Abdulqader, was a civil engineer at the Oklahoma Department of Transportation in 1995, an he is the half brother of Hamas leader Khaled Mishal. Evidence shows that Mufid may have had a cell at the prominent state infrastructure agency. Mufid was convicted as a terrorist and sits in federal prison.
These are just a few of the possible connections between the OKC bombing and other terror attacks. I am not claiming that Al-Qaeda planned the OKC bomb but rather elements of the group may have provided technical and logistical support to those like McVeigh and Nichols willing to attack America based on their own ideologies independent from Al-Qaeda or Hamas et al.
My book is primarily about 9/11 and the many Oklahoma connections to the plot but I also discuss in more detail the Oklahoma City bombing. You should know that many in the FBI adamantly deny any talk like this and that is fine. But remember that in 1995 the FBI knew almost nothing about Al-Qaeda or the role of the Philippines etc. Frankly, the FBI made many bungles on 9/11 as well and their claims must be considered in light of their counter-terrorism record from 1993-2011 which sadly is not great. There were and are many great field agents and at times their efforts were ignored by higher ups to our collective disadvantage.
Even if there are no connections between the 1995 OKC blast and any of these groups it does not negate the fact that Oklahoma was a place where radical Islam existed and where groups like Hamas and Al-Qaeda operated for years.
MEXICO’S 1938 EXPROPRIATION
Executive Global Advisor | Communications & External Affairs Lead | Public & Government Affair Lead | Public & Government Affairs Specialist
April 7, 2015
Mexico is encouraging foreign investment to produce minerals, build infrastructure and wealth but must combat border violence, social inequality and political corruption. This sounds like Mexico today but it is also the Mexico of the late nineteenth century under the virtual dictatorship of President Porfirio Diaz who dominated Mexico’s politics from 1877-1911.
President Diaz created a new Mexican society that strengthened Mexico’s national economy, established critical infrastructure, transportation networks and abundant hydrocarbon resources turning Mexico into a haven for foreign investment. Diaz surrounded himself with a technocrat class known as the Scientificos that formulated modern economic policies. These reforms did not alleviate poverty and the Diaz regime foreclosed political opposition for decades causing deep resentments in sections of Mexico’s society.
Mexico suffered various social and class divisions related to the former domination by Spain, the influence of the Catholic church and the status of Native Indians versus the Creoles.
By the late 1800’s the U.S. and Russia were producing oil in commercial quantities as the world transitioned into the hydrocarbon era. Likewise, tensions in Europe led to an Alliance system that dangerously coalesced the great ruling houses into hostile factions that was aroused by the rise of industrial Germany’s economic penetration of the British dominated Ottoman Empire and a future source of great oil deposits.
Today we see China penetrate traditional western economic zones in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America causing similar anxiety to what Britain, France and Russia experienced in the days before WWI (1914-1918).
The quest for secure oil supplies led to Mexico where British concerns and then American entities eventually discovered major fields transforming Mexico into an oil exporter. To better enable foreign investment Diaz changed land laws to allow private ownership of the sub-soil which reversed existing Spanish mining laws. Private land ownership in Mexico was held by only a small amount of individuals who profited from oil production.
The new laws also included favorable tax and political considerations that attracted foreign oil companies who flocked to Mexico’s Golden Lane in Tamaulipas to produce great wealth for their efforts. Eventually Standard Oil of New Jersey became the dominant American company in Mexico and Royal Dutch Shell acquired British owned Mexican Eagle. Royal Dutch Shell was sixty percent Dutch and forty percent British.
By 1910 the political and social tensions exploded in Revolution and men like Emilio Zapata and Pancho Villa led various factions to destroy the old order. The Mexican Revolution was long and bloody but the foreign oil companies continued to produce great quantities of oil despite the ongoing battles.
In 1917 a new Constitution reflected revolutionary principles restricted foreign ownership and returned Mexico’s oil and minerals to state ownership. This led to long and bitter dispute between Standard Oil and Mexico on the status of oil properties acquired during the Diaz era that allowed the companies to own the subsurface oil.
As WWII approached the U.S. feared that Mexico would assist Germany who was desperately seeking oil supplies as Germany produced no domestic oil. This concern led the U.S. government to adopt a good neighbor policy in Latin America and the Roosevelt Administration did not fully ally with Standard Oil’s complaints about the Mexican government.
After the 1920’s Mexico’s oil production declined due to salt water seepage in wells and by the 1930’s foreign companies were more excited about oil in Venezuela that was far more abundant than in Mexico without the political chaos. So when a series of labor disputes and Mexican Supreme Court rulings went against the foreign oil companies Standard Oil refused to comply setting the stage for expropriation.
President Lazaro Cardenas of the Revolutionary Party (RPI) made a final effort to resolve the labor issues but when that failed in 1938 he went on national radio and announced the expropriation of Mexico’s oil thus ending foreign companies involvement in producing and owning Mexico’s oil. A bitter dispute followed between Standard Oil and Mexico over the value of oil properties chiefly on the idea of actual ownership of subsurface rights. Before WWII Standard Oil agreed to settle for a compensation amount they claimed was grossly unfair based on their legal rights and investments.
The result of the expropriation was the creation of PEMEX as a state oil company. PEMEX maintained Mexico as a top ten oil producer for decades but production has been declining for several years. PEMEX lacks the funding and technology for sophisticated deep water and shale extraction. Because Mexico relies on petroleum revenue President Enrique Pena Nieto ushered in historic reforms that amended the Constitution to allow foreign investment for the first time since 1938.
President Pena Nieto is from the RPI party that once expropriated Mexico’s oil industry. Like the Diaz era Mexico is investing in infrastructure and changing laws to encourage investment. There is political corruption and impunity due to the drug cartels who produce so much revenue that the politicians and administrators gained access to this money. The result has been a decline in the rule of law, corruption, intimidation and severe violence especially in northern Mexico where significant shale deposits exist.
Foreign firms are interested in Mexico’s vast potential but have they studied Mexico’s history and the 1938 expropriation? The reforms maintain Mexico’s ownership of subsurface hydrocarbons. Foreign firms need to show booked reserves to investors and shareholder and usually that is through ownership. Deals have been made with regulators to show booked reserves based on projected production figures. Foreign firms may own oil only after it is produced pursuant to Production Sharing Agreements.
Public opinion polls have shown the energy reforms are not popular with most Mexicans who are deeply skeptical of foreign oil companies who they think will steal their wealth. PEMEX, despite its problems, has been a great symbol of Mexican nationalism.
Mexico has great energy potential but its history shows that foreign involvement can end badly. There are lessons to be learned from this history but the question is: Will these lessons be learned?
BEST BET FOR MEXICO’S SHALE
April 6, 2015
In 1938, Mexico’s president Lazaro Cardenas expropriated foreign assets and nationalized Mexico’s oil creating PEMEX the state oil company. PEMEX became a top ten producer for decades but starting in 2004 Mexico suffered declines in production and PEMEX lacked the capital and advanced technology to better exploit its Shale reserves and deep water deposits.
To remedy the situation President Enrique Pena Nieto ushered in historic reforms for several sectors including energy by amending Article 27 of the Consitution to provide for foreign investment in hopes of developing Mexico’s vast potential. Mexico will still own the sub-soil and will offer Production Sharing Contracts and Joint Ventures to induce foreign firms to invest capital and technology. Under these contracts the foreign firms can obtain ownership of oil after it has been produced and brought to the surface.
In advance of the reforms Mexico invested substantially in its infrastructure and after the reforms it has been quick to implement regulations and enabling legislation to promote reform. PEMEX has been made a competitive company but no longer is the sole player in Mexico. There will be bidding for offshore blocks and for Shale blocks to allow foreign investments.
The overarching problem in Mexico is security, especially in northern Mexico, where various Cartels compete for lucrative “plazas” located near the U.S. border to supply America’s grotesque appetite for illegal drugs. Violence began to escalate in 2004 and then exploded in 2006 when then president Felipe Calderon “declared war” on the cartels and unleashed an unprepared military on these groups.
The upshot of these policies, supported by the U.S., was that border cities such as Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, Reynosa and Juarez became bloody war zones causing fear, panic and economic deterioration of Mexico’s Northern Economic Corridor where goods and commerce flow continuously into the U.S.
The majority of Mexico’s oil and gas industry is in Tamaulipas state just south of Texas where there are 17 major land crossings and several international ports. The flow of legal and illegal goods constitutes a major economic zone and even American banks have turned a blind eye to the criminal acts when they laundered billions of cartel drug dollars. Likewise, the cartels have diversified into the petroleum business and steal billions of dollars worth of hydrocarbons for illegal sales including to criminal U.S. purchasers.
These events affect the energy reforms. The prolific Eagle Ford Shale has enriched south Texas and extends into northern Mexico. Energy analyst Robert Clark at Wood Mackenzie recently advised attendees at a shale summit, “don’t put your money in the Eagle Ford basket..” noting that the Burro-Picachos trend had drawbacks such as: 1) being isolated and in waterless terrain, 2) near the border, “in one the most dangerous places on earth” and 3) more expensive due to security costs.
According to Mr. Clark the better investment is in the Tampico-Misantla Basin known as the Pimienta (“pepper”) tight oil play. The main advantages of this play are: 1) similar analog to the enormously productive Barnett Shale near Ft. Worth, Texas, 2) closer to established operations making it cheaper to operate and 3) farther south and more secure than the border shale.
During the opening rounds of new energy reform bidding PEMEX has kept some of the acreage in these zones but will be looking for partners with technical experience to explore and produce the leaseholds.
Investors and American oil companies will need to evaluate many factors but among the three I see as most prominent are: 1) security, 2) taxes and regulatory issues and 3) water. The drilling activities require millions of gallons of water and water is a significant issues south of the border and companies should plan wisely for this requirement.
Mexico has significant problems with transnational criminal organizations and in Tamaulipas the government is not in firm control. Sadly, the U.S. has contributed to this problem providing an attractive and lucrative market for illegal drugs. This goes to show that the drug habits of Americans significantly impacts national security including energy security as the U.S. seeks to lessen dependence on foreign oil and rely more heavily on North American oil.
March 30, 2015
Everyone seems to have an opinion about the U.S. and Mexico border. The border is a hot button political issue that resonates with American voters especially in the Southwest. There is no question that border ranches and homes have been oft violated and the U.S. government has seemed indifferent at times. Yet on a larger scale we must know that there is one eternal truth about Mexico: It will always be connected to the U.S.
There are several key economic areas in Mexico. One emerging zone is the Pacific Alliance where Mexico, Peru, Chile and Columbia are in interested in pursuing Asian markets. This has been aided in Mexico by the recent opening of a superhighway connecting the Gulf Coast to the Pacific Ocean through Mazatlan and promises to make Asian exports cheaper by reducing drive time and distance.
Closer to the U.S. is the Northeast Economic Corridor that is concentrated in Tamaulipas state that shares a large border with Texas. The coming years promise more economic integration between Texas and Mexico and Tamaulipas will be ground zero for this growth.
Border experts such as Dr. Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera at the University of Brownsville have published papers examining the economic relationship of Tamaulipas to Texas by analyzing both sides of the border to show that the U.S. has actually benefitted from the increased drug carte violence that spiked in 2006 when then President Felipe Calderon employed the Mexican Army in a fight with the cartels causing a massive increase in violence and deaths-mainly in Mexico- though there has been some spillover in Texas and Arizona for example.
On example showing how the U.S. benefitted was the migration of skilled labor from Mexico to Texas to avoid violence thus adding to the U.S. skilled labor pool while depriving Mexico of critical skills. This is closely related to the flight of wealth by Mexicans who fled the violence to invest in U.S. businesses or create new businesses.
Tamaulipas contains critical infrastructure for trade and economic integration with Texas. This state contains four ports including 3 international maritime ports and five international airports according to the Secretaria de Economie in Mexico. The Secretaria also reported that Direct Foreign Investment (DFI) swelled to 511.4 million in 2014 which was more than a threefold increase over bleaker numbers reported by Correa-Cabrera for 2010.
This dramatic increase in DFI is mainly in the manufacturing industry where there are 122 Maquiladoras in Matamoros that is the twin city of Brownsville, Texas on the border. These factories employ about 53,000 people and specialize in exports to the U.S. in such goods as electronics, appliances, vehicle parts, textiles, chemical products and computer parts etc.
Tamaulipas contains 17 land bridges into the U.S. which is the most of any Mexican state. Other key cities on the border in Tamaulipas include Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa. The Mexican government has increased spending for infrastructure in Tamaulipas in advance of historic energy reforms because Mexico, under President Enrique Pena Nieto, amended Article 27 of the constitution to reverse the 1938 oil expropriation to assist Mexico in developing Shale assets.
Most of these Shale assets are in Tamaulipas and are comprised of the same geology as the prolific Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas. Unfortunately low gas prices have dimmed U.S. exploration and the chances for early success in Mexico exist more with offshore drilling in the Gulf by major companies and key foreign state owned companies. Eventually the Shale gas in Mexico will be produced and this will generate great economic benefits.
The economic reforms extend also to electricity generation and other key economic sectors. Mexico wisely set up an oil sovereignty fund where money will be invested for public benefits like health care and education so that petroleum wealth helps all Mexicans. Mexico will still own all the subsurface oil and gas and companies will operate under Production Sharing Contracts.
The biggest problem is security, corruption and impunity as Mexico struggles to reform the security forces and the judicial system to strengthen the rule of law in Mexico. Tamaulipas is also where the Gulf Cartel originated and right now the Mexican government is not in full control of Tamaulipas where murder, kidnapping, extortion and intimidation are rampant. In March 2015, the U.S. Department of State issued a travel warning for Tamaulipas as major cartel gun battles occur on the roads between Reynosa and Matamoros killing civilians along with cartel members.
The so called drug cartels have diversified into the petroleum business and illegally tap PEMEX (state oil company) gas lines costing the Mexican government billions of dollars the last few years. America contributes to the problem with a sickening drug appetite and the billion dollar economy it generates tempts U.S. banks to launder money. There is a robust black market peso exchange in the U.S, that helps facilitate the illegal transfer of drug and death money. So far, no bank executive has been sent to prison for laundering cartel money.
The futures of Mexico and the U.S. are intertwined. There are great possibilities between Tamaulipas and Texas to mutually benefit from this reality. Both nations must work together to make this happen and the work must start today.
RADICAL SHIFT IN MIDDLE EAST GAS MARKETS: Israel and Egypt
March 26, 2015
Thanks to an oil company founded in Oklahoma and based in Texas , Israel can overcome a strategic liability present since inception: The lack of domestic hydrocarbons. The company is Noble Energy and they partner with the Delek Group, an Israeli firm, and a some other smaller entities.
The giant gas fields in the East Mediterranean claimed by Israel are Tamar and Leviathan. Leviathan is the larger field and is set to produce in 2018. These fields transform the regional relationship allowing Israel to export gas to Jordan, Egypt and Gaza. Israel imported gas from Egypt for decades but now Egypt faces severe shortages and problems with corruption, fraud and political instability.
Initially, the Israeli Antitrust Authority approved a preliminary plan to exempt the Leviathan deal from antitrust violations via a Consent Decree.
Opinion polls reveal most citizens in Jordan, Egypt and Gaza oppose importing gas produced by Israel for political reasons so the proposed deal now emphasizes that the real producer is an American energy company. Likewise, the Al-Sisi government is promoting oil field development by Western and Russian companies in Egypt to stimulate the economy. China will also be interested in regional petroleum deals.
A major hurdle is that the Israeli Antitrust Authority has reversed course and now threatens to find the Noble-Delek venture a cartel and or a monopoly that requires divesture. Noble Energy vigorously opposes divesture and several academics in Israel have opined that classical antitrust theory does not readily apply to the infant gas markets in Israel. Industry observers claim this regulatory uncertainty may scare off foreign investment in Israel. The issue is price control. There is only one customer and that is the Israeli Electrical Corporation.
Israel’s gas sector is immature and has few competitors. Therefore Israel should grant an exemption or otherwise find the “cartel’ is in the best interests of Israel’s national security. Since Israel’s business and common law has been influenced by western legal systems Israel can examine American oil history for a sound precedent.
At the end of WWI Britain, France and an individual entity (Calouste Gulbenkian) drew a “Red Line” circling a large part of the Middle East including Saudi Arabia forming the worlds largest Area of Mutual Interest. This created a monopoly and the United States muscled into the agreement. This allowed a consortium of western oil companies to dominate Arab oil.
After WWII, a few American oil companies in the agreement sought to join the American-Arabian Oil Company (ARAMCO) without including all the Red Line agreement parties. The main US companies were Standard Oil spinoffs like Socony, Socal, Standard of New Jersey and independent Texaco. To evade the terms of the agreement, they advanced the argument was that during WWII both France (CFP state oil company) and Gulbenkian were domiciled in occupied France deemed “enemy territory.” The American companies-eager to join ARAMCO clamed these facts terminated the Red Line agreement.
After much wrangling and litigation the mater settled. But the American companies worried about antitrust laws and the 1911 Supreme Court decision that broke up Standard Oil. Standard Oil was deemed a monopoly and was broken into many smaller entities with different boards of directors. But Standard had confronted hundreds of competitors whereas Israel faces no such competition in its gas sector.
By acknowledging how vital oil was for America’s national security and noting the large oil reserves in Arabia the US Attorney General allowed the American companies to join ARAMCO as being in the best interests of the country. Likewise, Israel can enhance its security and develop regional partnerships based on mutual interests. Diplomats know this is a key component in maintaining peace.
The Israeli Antitrust Authority should do likewise. Israel should make its gas policies based on national security and not classical antitrust legal theory.There is a precedent to follow.
PEMEX PIPELINE THEFT: Terror Groups In The Oil Business
March 25, 2015
Terror and criminal groups steal oil and gas to fund operations. This occurs mainly where political instability and corruption exist such as in Nigeria and parts of the Middle East. ISIS makes millions selling oil in the Middle East, Boko Harem seeks control over Nigerian oil and now Iran backed Houthi rebels in Yemen seek control over oil rich Marib Province.
This is an ongoing problem in Mexico where sophisticated pipeline taps are common and linked to well known criminal organizations such as the Sinaloa Cartel and the Los Zetas group operating in Tamaulipas the home of the Mexican oil business.
In the past several years PEMEX, through a Houston law firm, has sued US companies for buying stolen petroleum as only PEMEX can sell the product.
The AP reported recently that there has been a 70% increase in illegal taps causing PEMEX to alter necessary processing steps when putting product in the pipelines. This will make tapping harder but will also decrease the quality of gas as the necessary steps are best performed prior to putting the petroleum in the pipe lines. Likewise, the crime groups will learn how to finish the processing themselves. In other words, PEMEX is desperate.
PEMEX reported the number of illegal taps as 3,674 in 2014. This is dangerous to human life and the environment due to accidents causing toxic spills and deadly explosions and fires.
PEMEX claims pecuniary losses of at least $1.5 billion during 2014. The Mexican government has heavily relied on PEMEX as a “cash cow.” Recent amendments to Article 27 of the Constitution now allow foreign investment in Mexican oil reversing the 1938 expropriation that ousted foreign oil companies like America’s Standard Oil.
Standard Oil demanded just compensation for losses of subsurface rights based on their acquisitions of Mexican oil when the laws allowed private ownership of oil gas…a law that was reversed by the 1917 constitution. The 1917 Constitution was the result of the Mexican Revolution that reclaimed Mexican property rights for Mexico and minimized foreign ownership of resources.
Today, foreign firms can enter Production Sharing Contracts where oil can be “owned” only after it has been produced. Mexico still owns all subsurface rights.
PEMEX will be placed in a competitive market. But the slump in world energy prices comes at a bad time as US drillers are currently reducing efforts and laying off workers. Likewise, Mexico cannot provide a functional rule of law in Tamaulipas state where the energy is located. Tamaulipas is just south of Texas and experiences daily murders, kidnappings, extortion and intimidation.
Mexico has made significant infrastructure investments but more work is needed. This area needs better roads, access to water ,pipelines and refining capacity. The greatest improvement is the completion of the Mazatlan Superhighway that will connect the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific coast providing easy access to Asian markets.
Mexico has great energy potential and should attract US investment. But the US role needs to be comprehensive that includes helping Mexico impose a rule of law while cracking down on US banks that launder Mexico’s drug and criminal money. The US drug demand also fuels the problem. Most importantly, the security must dramatically improve. There are many border issues that require bilateral cooperation between the emerging Texas-Mexico economic zone and trade corridor
Meanwhile, PEMEX battles corruption and cartel infiltration that contributes to this massive petroleum theft that further erodes Mexico’s ability to move forward. In the days of the Revolution the Mexican people considered the foreigners oil thieves. Today they must look inside their own country to see who is stealing their petroleum.
YEMEN: The “Strait” Truth
March 24, 2015
Yemen is an ancient Arabic land at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Yemen is a poor country that for years has been a haven for arms dealers, drug lords and terrorists. Yemen was once two countries being North Yemen and South Yemen until their civil war (1990-94). Like most Arab countries, clan and tribal loyalties can be the most important relationships. Yemen produces great coffee beans and recently has become a bit of an oil producer though it is dwarfed by Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Iran in terms of production.
Yemen is in full chaos with disparate groups fighting for control including al-Qaeda, ISIS, armed tribesmen, Iran backed Houthis, Sunni militias and Yemeni security forces still loyal to deposed president Al-Salah.
Some in Yemen want to return to a two state solution. Some, like the Houthis would prefer to take over the whole country. Why is this a goal and why should you care ?
At the end of the day the strategic value of Yemen primarily concerns the Bab Al-Mandeb which is a narrow Strait in the Horn of Africa critical to world commerce and oil exports. Recall that the USS Cole was attacked by al-Qaeda in the Port of Aden in 2000 as part of al-Qaeda’s declared war on America.
Bab Al-Mandeb connects the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean and forms a vital link between the Mediterranean Sea and East Asia. It is one of the most important maritime corridors in the world. The CIA and British M16 know how critical this area is to Gulf stability and world commerce. The Bab Al-Mandeb is a potential “choke point” for much of the world’s commerce.
Author and historian Thomas C Mountain wrote in Foreign Policy Journal (November 19, 2011), ” Almost all of the trade between the European Union and China, Japan, India and the rest of Asia passes through Bab Al-Mandeb…everyday up to 30 percent of the world’s oil and natural gas from the Persian Gulf heading west passes through the Horn of Africa.”
The Houthi rebels are Shia (though not exactly like Iran’s version) and are backed by Iran who already controls the other vital Gulf choke point the Strait of Hormuz. The Houthis now seek greater control including control over the Bab Al-Mandeb hence greatly strengthening Iran’s position in the region. Reports are that 600 Houthis are in Iran for advanced military training.
The Houthis are also making a bid to control Marib Province where considerable oil production is located in west central Yemen. This will be defended by Sunni tribal fighters and others some of who are members of Al-Qaeda. Several western oil companies are rapidly closing shop and fleeing the area. For more influence the Houthis (Iran) are making promises to Russia for favorable oil contact’s in this region.
This is all a grave security threat to the Saudis who fear growing Shia influence on the Arabian Peninsula. Most of Saudi Arabia’s Shia population are in the east which is where the Saudi oil industry is located. Likewise, there is a Shia majority in Bahrain another energy state that is governed by Sunni interests.
If the Houthis gain political control of Yemen and control Marib Province along with Bab Al-Mandeb it will be a total victory for Iran in the proxy war with Saudi Arabia. Iran will have the major influence over strategic commerce in the area and this can affect Europe, Asia and the USA negatively.
To combat the Houthi-Iranian influence will the west again turn to their historical allies in “radical Sunni Islam.” Is there an alternative? That alternative could have serious political risks and open the door for another quagmire in an Islamic country. The polices in this area must be well thought out and bold because the stakes are extremely high for regional and international security.
ISIS PRECEDENTS: LIBYAN OIL
March 20, 2015
On February 24, 2015, a British law enforcement and counter-terrorism expert told me that ISIS is rapidly expanding in Libya. This now requires a more detailed review of Libya’s role in the modern world to assess today’s trends.
Libya was ruled by King Idris a British installed monarch, until 1969 when Col. Gadhafi led an Officers coup modeled on his hero Gamal Abd al-Nasser the Egyptian hegemon. Libya is a Muslim and Arabic speaking country off the Mediterranean coast and part of North Africa, To the south lie Chad and the Sudan as gateways into central and sub-Saharan Africa. Like Libya, Chad and Sudan have significant oil deposits and political corruption.
Libya is an oil powerhouse. But Libya is a newcomer to oil as commercial quantitates were not produced until 1959. By 1969 Libya could produce as much as Saudi Arabia ! There are three things to know about Libyan oil: 1) It is high quality “sweet” and takes less work and money to process, 2) Libyan oil is close to the Mediterranean sea for easy transportation to refineries in Italy and France, and 3) Libyan oil laws were set up to favor Independent companies with smaller concessions than those in Iraq, Arabia and Kuwait.
The Libyan oil industry is in the eastern half of the country and in 2015 has a different political core than the government in Tripoli in western Libya.
Standard Oil of New Jersey produced Libyan oil and its advantages were stated by company official M.A. Wright who said, “We would have an improved position with the Saudis by having another source of crude.” In addition to Standard of New Jersey, British Petroleum produced significant amounts of oil as did Occidental Petroleum a large American independent company.
Gadhafi was at the apex of a growing resource nationalization movement and played hard ball by exploiting greater royalties and changing the world oil market . By 1971 Libya expropriated British Petroleum and by 1973 also expropriated a majority of other foreign assets as OPEC exploited its position as the top oil producing regime that could control production and pricing mechanisms greater than the American oil companies. These events created the largest shift of wealth from west to east in world history.
By the 1970’s Gadhafi was funding international terror and the U.S. considered him a major national security threat. Even without the benefit of American oil companies Libya’s oil was of such high quality it easily sold for top prices trouble in the world market. Gadhafi was able to use oil revenue to fund his international terror activities that targeted U.S. interests and personnel.
Eventually Libya began to feel pressure as the West targeted regimes like Iraq in 1991. After 9/11 Gadhafi shifted strategies and re-opened up Libyan oil to the west and disavowed terrorism and weapons of mass production. He enjoyed support from many oil companies that desired the high quality crude.
China had also penetrated Libya with 30,000 workers and Libya became a pivotal player in the battle for regional and continental resources. The U.S. was leery over growing Chinese encroachment in Africa. China was also involved with oil in Sudan, Angola, Gabon and other African states rich in resources. This paralleled how the British viewed Germany’s rise and industrial power a century ago just before WWI (1914-1918)
Gadhafi’s instability caused a desire to see him ousted and the establishment of democracy that would include decreasing the role of the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation. The final straw may have been in 2008 when Gadhafi threatened Conoco-Phillips and Chris Stevens, then Charge d’affaires, noted Libya threatened to drastically reduce Libya’s oil production and possibly expel US companies. Later, “foreign interests” would be supporting “rebels” in the east where most the oil business is located.
By 2009 Gadhafi was accusing the US of merely exploiting Libyan oil resources. By 2011 protestors following the lead in Egypt and Bahrain rallied in Benghazi demanding Gadhafi’s ouster.
By May, 2013, Libya was extracting high production and offering contracts that favored Russia and China who did not support the rebels (according to the International Business Times).
With reports of ISIS operating in Libya one wonders if the new Caliphate is not really a super Arab petro state emerging. The public does not have this all sorted out. But the key may be lifting the veil of the barbaric ISIS criminals and identifying just who is financing and organizing this new entity that is the best funded terror group ever controlling 35,000 miles in key oil and pipeline areas and making oil deals with others at below market costs. Libya is definitely part of this equation.
Recently the radical Islamic Boko Harem group aligned with ISIS. Boko Harem seeks control in Nigeria another oil rich state and West Africa’s leading economy. China also has an interest in Nigerian oil. As ISIS consolidates power in Africa it appears their ambitions may confront China’s interest soon. When ISIS and China intersect we will see how China handles this threat. One must consider the possibility it will be more effective than the U.S. strategy. Or perhaps we will see that there has been a “hidden hand” in all this terror activity and that China escapes unaffected by the ISIS menace.
(Some factual background taken from “The Prize” by Daniel Yergin)
ISIS PRECEDENTS: PAKISTAN
March 19, 2015
How did the U.S. get to where we are now in the Islamic world ? Islam predates the U.S. by over 1100 years. The U.S. was not very involved in Middle East affairs until after WWI when it emerged as a world power and an industrial giant. During WWI and WWII the U.S. was a net exporter of oil. WWI was won on a wave of American oil as Hitler’s tanks literally ran out of petro and stalled their efforts.
The end of WWII ushered in the Atomic age and the US was the leading power both economically and militarily. The chief rival was the Soviet Union and a “cold war” emerged where two competing ideologies used proxy forces in the developing world in places like the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. These regions were rich in natural resources and also vital for the transportation of petroleum.
After WWII the U.S. noted a sharp decline in domestic oil production and President Roosevelt in 1945 forged an “oil for security” alliance with Saudi Arabia thus cementing U.S. involvement in the Middle East.
In essence the US inherited British and French colonial policies as both those countries were weakened by the two world wars. An early example was the U.S. involvement in Indochina in the 1950’s replacing the French in Laos, Cambodia and Viet Nam after the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. The U.S. engaged in a war of attrition in Viet Nam that ended badly and drove a wedge in U.S. society.
Britain’s had ruled vast India with its large Muslim population for over a century but realized it could not continue this policy as India achieved independence. To maintain some authority Britain hived off the Muslim areas forming West and East Pakistan after WWII. This led to a bloody conflict in the late 1940’s and in the 1970’s East Pakistan melted away and became Bangladesh.
Therefore we see that Pakistan ,like Iraq and Jordan for example, were Western creations that were formed to serve western aims. Pakistan was strategically located in South Asia and home to many followers of the Deobandi sect of Islam similar to the conservative Saudi version of Islam. But parts of Pakistan on the Afghanistan border were never under full control of the central authority in Islamabad and is called the Federal Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and they have their own codes and customs. This is home to the Pashtun tribes and sub tribes where clan loyalty trumps any nationalistic claim to Pakistani borders on the world map.
The FATA area has been home to al-Qaeda, the Haqqani network and various groups that launched attacks on U.S forces in Afghanistan from areas such as North and South Waziristan.
But in 1979 the US had never had much military activity in these regions. The main U.S. involvement was petroleum. But as the Soviets appeared to be inching ahead in the cold war the Soviets made a fatal decision to invade Afghanistan to prop up a communist puppet regime as part of the Brezhnev doctrine.
President Jimmy Carter took the advice of Zbigniew Brzezinski, his National Security Advisor, to issue a Presidential Directive to covertly support the Mujahideen in their fight against the Soviets (Mujahideen is a plural of Jihad and means Holy Warriors). The idea was to create a “Viet Nam” for the Soviets who had supported the NVA and Viet Cong against the U.S.
This kicked off a decade of increased funding and support that helped repel the Soviets, drain their economy, damage morale and set the stage for their collapse in the early 1990’s. The U.S. abandoned Afghanistan and the void was filled by the Taliban.
The U.S. during the 1980’s under the Reagan administration continued supporting the Mujahideen but the Pakistani intelligence service (ISI) functioned as the Trustee and doled out the money to groups it favored such as anti-American Gulbuddin Hekmatyer. This meant the U.S. funded but did not control the support as it was farmed out to a foreign intelligence service. The Saudis matched U.S. aid dollar for dollar.
To foster Jihad the U.S.knowingly allowed radical Sunnis into the U.S. to raise support for the Jihad. For example, my book, I Heard You Were Going on Jihad, reveals how co al-Qaeda founder Sheikh Abdulla Azzam preached violent Jihad in Oklahoma City and helped set up cells there and in over thirty U.S. cities.
The most notorious import was Sheikh Umar Abdel Rahman, the “Blind Sheikh” an Egyptian cleric with a world wide following who established cells in Brooklyn and Jersey City mosques. These cells led to the first WTC attack in 1993 and other plots to kill thousands were foiled by Egyptian spy Emad Salem who courageously wore a wire and testified against the blind sheikh and others sending them to life in prison for terrorism in America.
As early as 1994 a secret list of indicted co-conspirators was leaked that showed bin Laden and over one hundred others were considered terror suspects. Many were living in the U.S. Meanwhile the Pakistani camps became al-Qaeda training camps using U.S. funds. The ISI had ambitions to increase Sunni power as a buffer against Shia Iran and used U.S. support to further policy goals.
The U.S. was warned. Former Pakistan Prime Minister the late Benazir Bhutto told the U.S. to be careful with supporting the Jihad because we were “creating a Frankenstein.” Egyptian intelligence told the U.S. regarding Abdel Rahman, “do not coddle the Sheikh.” But the U.S. did not listen and severe blow back followed.
Today ISIS is more deadly and better funded than the original Mujahideen. Their leaders say they have learned the West abandons Sunni proxies after the short term goals are achieved and they point to Afghanistan and the Balkans. They say they have learned lessons and will never rely on outside support. This is why they seek to control territory, oil and gas, and function as a Government/Caliphate.
ISIS learned from history. What did we learn ?
ISIS PRECEDENTS: CAMP BUCCA
March 18, 2015
In 2008 I served at Camp Bucca, a military internment facility in Basra Province near the city of Umm Qasr, Iraq’s only port. Bucca was named after Ronnie Bucca a former soldier and elite NYFD firefighter who died on 9/11. Camp Bucca housed(imprisoned) between 20-30,000 “detainees” (prisoners) for a variety of reasons such as terrorism, crime or attacks on Coalition forces. Task Force 134 attempted to solve problems at Abu Ghraib and provide humane treatment while segregating detainees to prevent recruitment and other problems that caused riots, killings and chaos.
When we arrived the opening brief was conducted by a non-middle east expert who babbled on about all the great things being done for the detainees. Local Imams were ushered in to teach the “true meaning” of the Quran and a detainee “art program” was established to provide free expression. The detainees were taught dental, hygiene and vocational skills.
The end product was to create better educated, moderate Muslims who would look back fondly on their American captors and lead the new Iraq into an era of nirvana and prosperity. There was even a pita bread factory that hummed 24/7 to provide constant nourishment and Halal MRE”s were all the rage. Someone surely got a medal for thinking this up! The intentions were no doubt honorable and the violence decreased at Bucca. From a security standpoint then, the program was a short term success.
It turned out that Camp Bucca was a fiery incubator for ISIS. Mr. Martin Chulov of The Guardian penned an excellent story in December, 2014 about how Camp Bucca became the central repository for future ISIS leadership including its most notorious graduate: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS.
As one current ISIS leader told Chulov, “We could never have all got together like this in Baghdad, or anywhere else…here we were not only safe, but we were only a few hundred meters away from the entire al-Qaeda leadership.”
Al-Baghdadi was galvanized by his impression that the US was changing the power base in Iraq to favor the majority Shia population.
How did the US personnel at Bucca evaluate the future ISIS leader? ISIS leader and former Bucca inmate Abu Ahmed told Chulov, “…the jailers had a very different impression of Baghdadi-they saw him as a conciliatory and calming influence in an environment short on certainty, and turned to him to help resolve conflict among the inmates, that was part of his act (the inmates knew he was a leader and anti U.S.).
By December 2004 the highly respected Baghdadi was found to not be a threat and was released. Abu Ahmed noted the detainees agreed to meet when they were released and wrote numbers on the elastic part of their underwear. They behaved well and told the Americans what they wanted to hear. Despite the humane treatment Bucca was seen as “a potent symbol of an unjust policy” as it is claimed many innocent men were swept up from villages.
Task Force 134 succeeded in terms of security and order. But the idea of transforming social, religious and tribal complexities is frankly absurd given the truth of the matter. This was not a proper mission for deployed troops with no understanding of culture and language that were only temporarily deployed to Iraq.
The British occupied Basra in 1914 to secure oil fields. Today Basra is booming with oil. The winner is China and not the USA or Britain but. Chinese managers move around Basra speaking the Iraq dialect. Camp Bucca is a “hotel” in a newly created International Trade Zone serving the hydrocarbon industry. Chinese restaurants are opening up.
Britain had many failures in Iraq in WWI “on the road to Baghdad” and the US not only failed to learn lessons it added more failure with its detainee program. Just look to ISIS and the Chinese oil industry for the result
THE BUSINESS OF FUTURE: PETRONAS
March 17, 2015
Over a century ago Royal Dutch found oil in Borneo and combined with the shipping prowess of Shell Transport, Asian oil was on the map. Early oil wars with Standard Oil left Royal Dutch Shell standing as a fierce competitor. Britain secured oil in Persia using a long term “concession” wholly in favor of Britain. In the long run, concessions and exploitation led to conflict and wars.
By the early 1970’s world oil markets were in upheaval as the old order was rocked by OPEC embargoes over Western support of Israel in the 1973 war. In 1974 PETRONAS was formed as Malaysia’s state oil company. Forty years later PETONAS is, according to the business journal Financial Times, the 12th most profitable company in the world. In 1998 PETRONAS was occupying the “twin towers” in Kuala Lampur the tallest ones in the world.
Western Oil companies are powerhouses of technology, innovation and risk taking. Where they excel no one can match them. But the geopolitics of the oil trade have left the west battered. It is not the oil companies but the politics surrounding oil that have been the culprit. Due to historical and geological reasons the modern West has been tied to Middle East oil, especially Saudi Arabia the guardian of the two holiest shrines in Islam, Mecca and Medina.
The upshot has been a century of meddling and propping up radical Islam to guard against nationalism and communism both which lead to expropriation of foreign assets ( Persia, Russia, Libya, Mexico, Venezuela etc.). The West connived with radical Islam in Iran in 1953 and Afghanistan in 1979 to mention two famous examples. The blow back has been the 1979 Shia revolution in Iran and the proliferation of al-Qaeda et al.
PETRONAS pioneered the use of Production Sharing Contracts (PSC’s) that are more equitable to host nations resources. This killed off the deadly concession deals. The PSC’s allow host countries to own the “subsoil” and title transfers only after petroleum is produced according to an agreed formula. A recent example is the 2014 Mexican oil where the subsoil is Mexican although the constitution was amended to allow foreign investment using PSC’s.
The business logo of PETRONAS is filled with symbolism such as the circle representing the integration of the full value chain and the oil drop pointing up to symbolize the quest for greatness etc.
PETRONAS is a great technological innovator and a fully integrated company working in over 50 countries. They provide 45% of government revenue. Their vision is to add value to the resources and build up reserves and financial coffers. They do not seek to conquer territory. The future of energy is international and PSC’s will be the norm. Conflicts will arise but there should be less of a problem based on sovereign ownership rights.
When PETRONAS started in 1974 they had 15 employees and two phone lines. Now they are multinational giant who freely works with many countries and companies. Their business model is an excellent template for future endeavors.
It is interesting to note that our towers will destroyed on 9/11 and theirs are still standing. Nothing excuses al-Qaeda for their crimes but future energy politics must be fully cognizant of the deadly politics behind international petroleum polices. Let us learn and go forward !
March 16, 2015
Mitchell Gray / Adjunct Professor of Oil and Gas
Who “created” ISIS is a simplistic statement often tinged with political meaning as in “Bush created ISIS”. Like any important question there is more to the story. Even now, the full answer is probably lacking. There is the “macro” view that I espoused noting the origins trace back to 1254 when the Sunni Baghdad Caliphate was sacked by Ottoman predecessors and scattered Sunni authority. There already existed a rift between “who could be Caliph” since the death of Mohamed in the 7th century.
Through Islamic history there have been periods of “baath” or revival of what we call Salafist ideology as a means to restore Islamic rule. For example in the 13th century Ibn Taymiiyyah called for this as did the Wahhabis in Arabia later and the Ikwan (Muslim Brotherhood) in Egypt in the 20th century etc. For now, I will bypass this history and focus more on the operational ISIS of recent years to show how ISIS grew.
In early 2008, while serving at Camp Bucca in Basra Province, a friend who is a Middle East analyst for a Federal intelligence agency sent me open source intel products relevant to Iraq. I recently re-read these reports to see what could be learned that is still important. The answer was a lot !
One report described the deteriorating security in Iraq in 2006 that led to counter intelligence (COIN) strategies, the “surge” and the formation of Sunni “Awakening Councils (AC’s).” The AC’s were designed to combat the growing Al-Qaeda threat. The Awakening movement started in al-Anbar province in 2006 that was straining under the influence of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. This al-Qaeda in Iraq group murdered many tribesmen to impose its rule as the official Iraq al-Qaeda franchise.
Recall that many members in the AC’s were formerly part of the insurgency killing American soldiers. With full U.S. support the AC’s expanded to about 80,000 persons, mostly Sunnis who were paid up to $1,200 a month. The AC became a key component of US surge and COIN strategy. In my opinion this bought and paid for loyally could only succeed if the U.S. was prepared to stay in Iraq as long as needed to provide security and build institutions.
However, the election in 2008 showed the new leadership was not committed to this strategy and one wonders how many of the 80,00 have joined ISIS? Again, many AC members were ex al-Qaeda and even ex Iraqi military which today forms a core for ISIS. PM al-Maliki said in 2008 that he had reports that the AC’s were penetrated by al-Qaeda and ex-Baathists.
During the hey day of the AC there were grave concerns. The de-bathification and elections paved the way for Shia rule. The Shia are the majority sect in Iraq but the political center in Baghdad had been dominated by Sunnis and tribes loyal to Sadam Hussein. The Shia councils were very wary of Sunni dominated AC’s.
Another problem was the idea of holding the AC’s together in light of threats from other entities. With US resolve lacking why would anyone remain loyal to the AC when they could resume their prior activities ?
The US military and intelligence agencies were concerned that the AC plan could backfire. It was noted this was probable if the US could not continue to pay he AC’s salaries and if the central government did not meet their demands. In 2008 there was concern about AC members rejoining the insurgency. AC members wanted full integration into Iraqi security forces but this did not happen.
The Awakening Council idea is but one component in telling the story of ISIS, But here is tangible evidence of the U.S. arming and paying 80,000 men many of questionable loyalty who had been anti US before and likely are now part of ISIS.
The AC idea had merit but only if the U.S. had long term resolve. The 2008 U.S. elections showed that this resolve was lacking and then the CIC ignored military advice to retain a force level in Iraq. The US and Britain have long histories of arming and supporting Sunni Islam for a variety of purposes but apparently a very short history in realizing these policies often have severe blowback …
OSBORNE’S MAGNUS OPUS: “Crazy Train” A Critical Analysis
March 13, 2015
Released in 1980 this rollicking hymn contains more political commentary per word than almost any academic article in the last 50 years. The heavily inked British rocker enters the pantheon of political stalwarts no less a member than Locke, Montesquieu or Madison with this amazing political anthem still misunderstood by society at large.
The stringy haired madman penned this epoch as American hostages were languishing in Iran and the Soviets had invaded Afghanistan. As the West searched for warmth in the coldest days of the cold war Osborne reached deep into his corpus medulla to offer this searing commentary that proved both prophetic and enduring. We should still be listening!
Even the opening scream of “Aye”, is a shout out to Britain’s historical domination of the high seas and economic prowess evidenced by the East India Trading Company that stretched to South Asia- “The sun never set on the British Empire!
The name “crazy train” refers to the advent of railroads into modern society and how they threatened the essence of the British Empire. Osborne teases us with multiple cries of “going off the rails in a crazy train.” This clearly describes Imperial Germany’s economic penetration in the British dominated Ottoman Empire in modern Iraq with the Baghdad Railway. These issues helped foment the tensions that exploded in Sarajevo in 1914.
Osborne chants, ” Crazy, but that how it goes…millions of people living as foes.” Here Osborne laments the horrors of the Marne, The Somme and Flanders fields as Europe committed suicide culturally and politically. Looming on the horizon was the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia to shake up the old order and usher in the horrors of communism. These are events he “just cant control.”
Osborne laments about “mental wounds not healing, driving me insane” to show the sins of the New World Order after WWI that severely punished German aggression forcing a desperate people to yearn for revenge. As the world economy collapsed a young Austrian agitator named Adolph Hitler referred repeatedly to the “November Criminals” that sold out Germany…his mental wounds were “not healing and he was insane.”
When Osborne bellows he “listened to preachers and listened to fools” he smartly shows us the rise of radical Islam as a response to Western domination and oil exploitation. The Arab street grappled with Pan Arabism and finally Khomeini’s Islamism as a solution to chronic problems. We see today with ISIS some still “listen to preachers and fools.”
Osborne’s cynicism grows as he belts out, ” one person conditioned, to rule and control, the media sells it and you live the role.” He clearly saw a growing corporate media oligarchy that would create millions of “sheeple.” The media continues to shape our lives and we live the role.
The climax of this Thomas Paine like message is the line, “heirs of the cold war, that’s what we’ve become…” Here Osborne shows a post Soviet world with nothing but trouble in the Balkans, Central Asia and Middle East as American power falters as the sole super power. Osborne clearly saw a dismal future for the west in 1980 and over 30 years later this “crazy train” continues to plunge downhill totally out of control !
So add this great song to your playlist and now listen to it from the perspective for which it is meant ! Osborne should be Knighted immediately !
THE DEMOCRACY TRAP
March 12, 2015
The U.S. has promoted “democracy” in the Middle East for years but is unhappy with the results. This is because “democracy” must evolve and cannot be imposed. In the West, the modern ideals emerged from a feudalistic system that gradually created vested property rights in individuals. This evolved over a long period of time and the Magna Carta, in the 13th century, preceded the US Constitution by centuries. Feudalism did not exist in the Ottoman Empire that governed most of the modern Arab world.
Let’s examine modern attempts at democracy in the Arab world. In 1993 the Algerian people voted for the Islamic Salvation Front a Salafist type entity. The Government cancelled the elections igniting a firestorm that resulted in brutal killings and civil war . The al-Qaeda based GIA was ISIS before ISIS as they slit throats, beheaded and roasted thousands of Algerians.
More recently in Gaza the people elected Hamas which the U.S. and others designate as a global terrorist group. Hamas calls for the destruction of Israel a US ally and plans for Islam to rule from “the river to the sea” thus eliminating the Zionist entity.
In Iraq the majority of citizens are Shia meaning the traditional Sunni power that dates back to the Baghdad Caliphate of the Abbasids is out and a more Iran friendly government is in place. When al-Maliki repressed the Sunnis and America left no residual force it created space for ISIS and other Sunni groups to emerge and stir up problems.
During the WWI era (1914-1918) U.S. president Woodrow Wilson expanded the federal government and even entered WWI not as an Ally but as a special power to promote “democracy” in the “war to end all wars.” Wilsonian ideals led to the formation of the League of Nations a precursor to the United Nations. Wilson preached “anti-colonialism” and “self-determination” to the world.
But two things happened: 1) The WWI victors created a Mandate system in the “new” Middle East as the Ottoman Empire dissolved placing Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Palestine under British and French Suzerainty and 2) The “Redline Agreement” in 1926 saw the U.S. muscle into the worlds largest petroleum monopoly to dominate new Arab oil.
These events and others maintained the old system to a degree based on resource needs. The new world order did not create favorable conditions for democracy a la James Madison. Until such conditions are favorable the U.S. should be wary of promoting “elections” because odds are great they will not like the results. This was most recently seen in Egypt when Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was elected.