Monday, 21 February 2011

Stability in the Middle East demands more than cheap oil for the West

The various popular uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa have been a cause of real hope for change in the region.
The protests began in Tunisia and spread like wildfire, with the biggest scalp claimed thus far being that of Egyptian Hosni Mubarak. At time of writing popular revolt has begun in Libya, with things unclear as to what will happen in that country and others beyond, such as Saudi Arabia.
The popular revolts are to be welcomed in countries where the mass of people just struggle to survive while a small number enjoy opulent wealth.
The rheoric of Britain and America has been all about the need for law and order, stability and democracy in that order,. There has been support for the protesters in a real politic sense, namely it would be silly to get the wrong side of people who could be about to take over the government of these countries in a very short space of time. Concerns though have been expressed regarding the overall question of stability in the Middle East.
Stability in this context is an interesting concept, because when decoded what it really means is that the arrangements to get cheap oil out of the region be maintained. Oil is the essential concern of the developed world when it comes to matters in the Middle East. The duplicitous role of Britain and America in calling for democracy in these situation, given their joint histories in supporting and underwriting brutal dictators across the region, should be clear for all to see.
President Mubarak would not have survived as long as he did in Egypt had American aid not been underwriting his tyrannous behaviour. Saddam Hussein was another friend supported by Britain and America with arms and aid in order that he would provide the sort of brutal order required in Iraq to secure oil for the west. America and Britain had heavily supported the Shah in Iran before his fall in 1979, giving way to the islamic fundamentalist regime of the ayatollahs. The likelihood of an Iranian style scenario is now one that clearly worries the developed world countries.
The pattern of powerful developed world countries supporting tyrants who keep their people down and deliver for First World corporations is a well trod path. On those few occasions when an alternative system that promised a more equal distribution of wealth, education and health care for the masses does surface, America in particular has often reacted with great brutality to stamp it out. Cuba, and Nicaragua in the 1980s, provide good examples of this policy in action.
It should though be added that developments over recent years in Venezuela, Boilivia and a number of other Latin American countries in establishing independence and sovereignty over their own raw materials has proved a cause for hope. New models of development delivering for the mass of people in those countries appear to be functioning well.
Countries like Britain and America profit hugely not just from the cheap oil received but from the whole paraphanalia of repression put in place to maintain this status quo. Both countries are major players in the arms industry, selling into conflict situations and making huge profits as a result.
These corrupt and unjust arrangements should cause real concern because our governments are effectively doing these things in order that we can have cheap oil. There are many direct links between the poverty suffered by two thirds of the world and the relative prosperity of those in the other rich third.
The popular uprisings must be supported, with the people allowed to elect their own leaders who will deliver for the people.

1 comment:

  1. "There are many direct links between the poverty suffered by two thirds of the world and the relative prosperity of those in the other rich third." - Yes indeed. And you make this point very well in your article in the Morning Star about RND, which that event conveniently glosses over or fails to address. I liked that MS piece.