Black Gold or Blackmail
Chavez is the Bush administration’s favorite “head-of-state-to-hate” in Latin America. He replaces Fidel Castro in this role for two reasons. One, all the “experts” on Cuba’s Fidel Castro – with the notable exception of his Spanish doctor – have effectively consigned the Cuban president him to the status of “dead man walking,” Second, Castro’s Cuba doesn’t have anything the U.S. really needs whereas Venezuela is a major oil producer and supplies 15% of U.S. imports.
Meanwhile, in the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia has warned that it will not stand idly by and watch Iraq’s Sunni population be killed by Shi’a militias and militants. Then the Saudi monarch, King Abdullah, hosted an inter-sectarian conference in Mecca attended by Iranian Shi’a clerics as well as Saudi Sunnis, after which the king appealed for all parties in Iraq and Lebanon to be calm. He was quickly echoed by Iraq, Egypt and Qatar.
This raised a question about just who is “with us” or “against us?” So I took a look at the core issue – our dependency on oil. What I found about the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is the identity of the original five founders: Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Venezuela. Think about it: at one time Iran was a close ally, then it became an enemy. The U.S. supported Iraq in its war against Iran, then fought two wars with Baghdad, and now counts the government as an ally. Saudi Arabia has a checkered record of cooperating with the U.S. Venezuela has also been on both sides of the fence. That leaves Kuwait, which was the casus belli for the first Gulf War in 1990-91.
This history seems to validate Lord Palmerston’s observation that countries don’t have permanent friends or allies – only permanent interests. And some will do anything to defend those interests.