Halliburton 2.0: How Meta-Corporate Interests are Dictating U.S. Involvement in Syria

Just hours after reports of U.S. airstrikes against Syria blanketed every media outlet connected to the electrical grid, more questions remain unanswered than not. Did Assad use chemical weapons against his own people? Did the Obama Administration’s approach provide causation for the attack, if it was indeed Assad? Is this the precursor to WWIII that has become almost a foregone conclusion to take place in our lifetime?

Let’s make one thing clear, before all else. The only difference between a Hillary Clinton presidency and the current one, is the timeline of events. Syria has been a target of U.S. foreign policy for quite some time, and electing someone who guaranteed to protect marriage rights and uphold Roe v. Wade was not going to bring peace to the region, or save innocent lives. In fact, just hours before U.S. airstrikes targeted a Syrian Government held airfield, Clinton said, “And I really believe that we should have and still should take out his airfields and prevent him from being able to use them to bomb innocent people and drop Sarin gas on them.” This is not an indictment on the Trump administration or the hypothetical one of his Democratic counterpart, but rather the long mystified and increasingly visible stranglehold corporate interests and profits have on our government, and how they use the military to do their bidding.

In a 2007 interview with Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman, retired four-star General Wesley Clark recalls being shown a classified document from the office of the Secretary of Defense that outlined seven countries subject to regime change under U.S. foreign policy. Those seven countries were Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Lebanon, Sudan, and, you guessed it, Syria.

Considering recent events, and the fact that this article could otherwise turn into a novel, we’re going to focus solely on Syria. But why Syria? And why now?

What else? Oil. While Syria has long been a target of the U.S., it wasn’t until 2015 that the discovery of huge oil reserves in the Israeli occupied Golan Heights was announced by Afek Oil and Gas, a subsidiary of Genie Energy. Yuval Bartov, the company’s chief geologist told Israel’s Channel 2 television, “We’ve found an oil stratum 350 meters thick in the southern Golan Heights. On average worldwide, strata are 20 to 30 meters thick, and this is 10 times as large as that, so we are talking about significant quantities.” Israeli officials long believed that the Golan Heights held the key to centuries of energy independence.

But would Syria continue to peacefully object to Israel’s occupation of the territory once these vast reserves of natural resources had been discovered? They would if they were busy elsewhere.

Two years prior to Afek Oil and Gas being granted exclusive rights for exploratory drilling in the area, by Israel, the initial protests and uprising were occurring in Syria. By August of 2013, when the drilling began, tensions had escalated into an all out militaristic conflict, with rebel forces taking control of several cities and military installations, including an air defense base providing increased access to the nation’s capital of Demascus. The acquisition of these areas, which totaled roughly 25 km (15.5 miles), gave rebel forces control of an area directly adjacent to the Golan Heights, save for the UNDOF occupied neutral zone.

Rebel Held Area in 2014. Source: Institute for the Study of War, U.S. Military

But how neutral is the area? When Israel grants Afek Oil and their parent company Genie Energy rights to drill in the Golan Heights, and the U.N. lets it happen, how are we not supposed to come to the conclusion that the U.N. is merely policing the area in favor of Israel’s oil interests? Let’s look at the people in charge of Genie Energy and Afek.

First, Genie Energy’s strategic advisory board consists of some pretty heavy geopolitical hitters influential both within the energy industry and United States foreign affairs. For example:

  • Dick Cheney (Former Vice President and CEO of Halliburton, the company that profited $39.5 billion from the Iraq War.)
  • Michael Steinhardt (Founder of The New York Sun, a neoconservative publication that supported the Iraq War, actions against Iran, and prosecuting Iraq War protesters for treason.)
  • Lord Jacob Rothschild (Investment banker who purchased a 5% stake in Genie Energy through an undisclosed source in 2010, according to this Preliminary Information Statement from the Securities and Exchange Commission. He was quoted as saying, “ Genie Energy is making good technological progress to tap the world’s substantial oil shale deposits which could transform the future prospects of Israel, the Middle East and our allies around the world.”)
  • Rupert Murdoch (Former Chairman and CEO of News Corporation, and current CEO of Fox News. In a 2009 speech, when awarded the National Human Relations Award by the American Jewish Committee, Murdoch said, “ In the end, the Israeli people are fighting the same enemy we are: cold-blooded killers who reject peace … who reject freedom … and who rule by the suicide vest, the car bomb, and the human shield.”)
  • R. James Woosley, Jr. (Former CIA Director, 2008 John McCain campaign adviser, 2016 Donald Trump campaign senior adviser, and member of the Committee on the Present Danger, a neoconservative interest group who actively lobbies Washington to influence U.S. foreign policy in regards to the “War on Terrorism”. Other members of the CPD include Laurie Mylroie, an author who began beating the drum war for Iraq after the WTC bombing in 1993 and continued to do so when she testified before the 9/11 Commission. Woosley and Mylroie are joined in the CPD by AIPAC, a lobbying group that advocates pro-Israel policies to Congress and the Executive Branch of the United States.)
  • Lawrence Summers (Former Senior U.S. Treasury Department official, former Director of the National Economic Council, and former Chief Economist of World Bank, a component of World Bank Group, which leverages loans to developing countries, and is an observer at the United Nations Development Group.)
  • Bill Richardson (Former U.S. Secretary of Energy and Senior Managing Director for Kissinger Associates, INC., a consulting firm who identifies strategic partners and investment opportunities for its clients.)

It should also be noted that Genie Energy’s subsidiary directly responsible for the extraction, is headed by Effi Eitam. The far-right political leader in Israel has advocated for the expulsion of Arabs, calling them a “cancer”. He has advocated for genocide of the Palestinian people, and in a 2002 interview, stated that, “As for the area east of the Jordan [River], we have to state that no sovereignty will be established there other than that of the State of Israel.”

As you can see in the map above, the Golan Heights is directly east of the Jordan River.

Coincidentally, Effi Eitam served as the Minister of Housing and Construction for Israel, which oversaw the development of controversial Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem.

Deputy International Director for the New York Times, Jodi Rudoren, wrote in a 2015 piece that Naftali Bennett, a senior Israeli minister, was pushing a plan for 100,000 new Israeli residents in the Golan Heights over the next five years. That developmental plan, according to Rudoren, was an alignment with “many Israeli leaders and thinkers seizing on the chaos in Syria to solidify Israel’s hold on the Golan”. Rudoren also reports that Bennett, along with those same Israeli leaders, pushed for the U.S. to recognize their annexation of the Golan Heights as compensation for the nuclear deal with Iran.

Never mind the fact that the biggest threat to Israel from the nuclear deal were the sanctions being lifted against Iran, and not their actual nuclear arsenal or capabilities, which were set to be heavily diminished and then regulated to include uranium enrichment at a level of 3.67%. In comparison, it takes uranium enriched to 90% in order to produce nuclear weapons. That, and the reduction of Iran’s stock of uranium being reduced by 98% to just 660lbs, were the compromise in order to lift the sanctions, and allow Iran to re-enter the global petroleum market, which had been costing the country as much as $8 billion every month.

Iran resumed distribution in the global petrol market in February of 2016. Even with the late start, they managed to finish the year with the sixth highest oil production in the world, with 3,920,000 bbl/day, a mere 18,000 bbl behind fifth place China. Iran’s role in the global market cannot be understated, and the reemergence of that role left many countries/oil companies worried that the price of crude barrels would continue their historic fall from the previous year and a half. However, the price of a barrel of crude oil actually rose 42.3% in the 14 months since Iran resumed petroleum exports.

Barrels of Crude Oil Have Risen 42% Since Iran Resumed Exports

This increase, despite the emergence of another competitor with a 5% market share, is largely due in part to speculation. Revised disclosures, estimates, and even rumors cause speculators to overshoot prices in order to trap new investors. This same technique caused prices to soar to $147.27 in 2008, causing a bubble, which deflated to $33.20/bbl in just 7 months. John Campbell, the Morton L. and Carole S. Olshan Professor of Economics at the Department of Economics at Harvard University, shows in this 1991 article that movements in the aggregate stock market prices are mainly driven by news about future expected returns. Higher expected returns invites more investors, and like a self-fulfilling prophecy, causes the market price to rise. These artificial market bubbles create enormous wealth for those who cash in and out at the right times. If one were to float rumors of, or participate in the destabilization of an oil producing country, they could create a sense of resource scarcity, and artificially prop up the market, adding a few, if not several zeros to their bank accounts.

But it’s not just profits, or hyper-focused disaster capitalism fueling this U.S./Israeli push to control the Middle East petroleum reserves. It’s the hubris of some men refusing to accept that infinite growth does not exist. Without diversification into other sources of energy, profits will continue to soar on the back of resource scarcity as proven reserves dwindle, and will inevitably dry up. Israel is not just focused on energy independence, they are intending on keeping surrounding countries dependent upon oil provided by them and allies such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Why else would Israel so vehemently oppose Iran having a heavily regulated nuclear program that only allows for low concentrated energy production? Why, if not for control of the world’s most widely used energy source, would the U.S. and United Nations turn a blind eye to the illegal occupation, drilling, and settlement of the Golan Heights?

The Meta-Corporation doesn’t have a worldview, and it’s solution to every problem is simply to become a bigger and more powerful version of itself, at any cost. The integrity of our government. The environment. The people. And eventually, itself.

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