It’s no surprise that a number of regimes on three continents want badly a fundamental change of direction in U.S. foreign policy. But what binds these ruling establishments together in their desire for a different America is that they are authoritarian, afraid of democracy and oil producers. Furthermore, they control the destiny — and thus the economic firepower – of a collaboration of the wealthiest rulers in history, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, better known as OPEC.
OPEC was formed in September 1960 in Baghdad to “coordinate and unify petroleum policies among member countries in order to secure fair and stable prices for petroleum producers.” It mutated gradually into a world cartel that manipulates world affairs to ensure the comfortable survival of its member regimes.
The free world witnessed OPEC’s first “economic terrorism” against consumer states, including against the United States and Europe, during the 1973 oil boycott. Europeans were forced to bike in freezing temperatures to their jobs and homes, and Americans were humiliated at the pumps in their towns and cities.
Since that shock, and because of the West’s need for oil, OPEC’s hard core regimes exported immense political influence into the West; multinational corporations, universities and foreign policy chanceries were virtually colonized by the imperial power of the oil producers.
But the world of the authoritarian petro-regimes began ominously to change after 9/11. First Washington started to talk about “spreading democracy” in the Greater Middle East, home of 9 out of 13 of the OPEC members: Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Venezuela. Seven of these regimes – Iran, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Ecuador – are authoritarian. Three are either fundamentalist or they fund radical Islamist ideologies: Saudi Arabia, Iran and Qatar. The leading forces in this club are Riyadh, Tehran and Caracas.
Hugo Ch√?¬°vez of Venezuela and Rafael Correa of Ecuador are anti-Western socialist/populist leaders. They are paying to suppress their domestic democratic opposition with their oil revenue dividends. Saudi Arabia finances Salafi Wahabbism and Qatar funds Muslim Brotherhood Salafism, both of course with petro-dollars. Libya’s Muammar Qadhafi is not fond of liberties at home. In the ranking of Human Rights abuses around the world, Angola’s MPLA-controlled government ranks only 157 ahead of Syria, Venezuela, Iran, Libya and Cuba. This leaves the organization with four members with multiparty electoral systems: Indonesia, Algeria, Kuwait, UAE and Nigeria.
These five Muslim countries are members of a large body, the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) where Saudi Arabia and Iran have leadership influence. Each one of the following four moderate OPEC members has internal Islamist forces that carry influence. Algeria is home to al Qaeda of the Maghreb and the combat Salafists; Indonesia has Laskar Jihad and the Jemaa Islamiya; and Northern Nigeria is infested with radical Jihadi factions while its oil fields are under attack by terrorists. The UAE, although under U.S. protection has the Iran threat looming too close to their shores. This leaves OPEC with Kuwait as the sole independent-minded member, ally to the West.
Iraq is for now balancing between pragmatism with the U.S.-led Coalition — as long as they are present- and the long arms of Iran and the Salafists inside the country. In short, OPEC is mostly a very rich forum of anti-democracy regimes. Thus a first clear conclusion: this powerful bloc deeply resents and resists a U.S.-led, or even internationally-endorsed campaign to “spread democracy.”
But perhaps as important is the concern of OPEC as it observes efforts under way in America and among its Western partners to secure energy independence. A full American independence from OPEC oil means a cataclysmic loss of $700 billion a year for these regimes. On a global Western scale, the regimes’ loss will climb to trillions. Hence on that basis, the hard core of the organization has been moving to strike back, or even strike preemptively at U.S.-led efforts to “democratize” and to become energy independent.
In addition to mounting gigantic propaganda efforts internationally against the so-called “war on terror” and inciting the Arab and Muslim world as well as segments of Latin American societies against alleged “Western democratization,” the oil empire is now believed by many to have been behind the economic manipulation that crumbled American and international finances. But the crucial question is: if indeed that is the case, what is the agenda of these regimes? What is the strategic goal of collapsing U.S. and Western economies or, in more politically relevant terms, what is the change OPEC needs in U.S. foreign policy? Despite their bilateral tensions, the members of OPEC’s hard core have exerted common pressures against many U.S. efforts favoring democratic change.
Detecting the agenda is not very difficult: a thorough review of past and current statements throughout an immense body of literature from open sources, as well as behavior assessment, shows us the strategic goals of the “change” they want to see taking place in Washington, D.C. Here are the most salient of them:
1) “Sit down” with the Iranian regime of Khamanei and cut a deal over Iraq, Lebanon and the nuclear weapons.
2) Withdraw from Iraq and recognize Iran’s influence over that country. Shrink Kurdish autonomy in the north and give Salafi Islamists influence in the center.
3) “Sit down” with the regime of Assad and cut a deal over Iraq, Lebanon and cease the isolation of the Syrian regime.
4) Impose Hamas on the Palestinian Authority and Israel.
5) Let go of the Cedars Revolution in Lebanon, get Hezbollah off the list of terrorist organizations and grant it a dominant role in the country.
6) Bring the Taliban back to the government in Afghanistan.
7) No U.N. intervention in Darfur and cut a deal with the regime in Khartoum.
8) Stop the Pakistani Government’s campaign on the Taliban in Pakistan and bring them to government.
9) Give the “Chavez axis” room to consolidate its grip on Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua. Don’t pressure Cuba.
10) Declare the end of the "War on Terror."
11) Cease any “War of Ideas” against the Jihadists and engage in a dialogue with the Islamists across the globe.
12) End the doctrine of Homeland Security.
This grand change in direction is what the hard-core inside OPEC is seeking to achieve, including the very dangerous use of the oil weapon, just as it may have been used in the ongoing crumbling of Western economies. This puzzle is not so difficult to assemble; its pieces have already been inserted into the international and American debate.
All that remains is for this to be transformed into reality in 2009.