Monday, August 26, 2013

As Civil War Threatens Labor Day Oil Prices, U.S. Considers Military Strikes Against Syria

SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- After more than two years of condemning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the bloody conflict his regime launched in retaliation to the rebel uprisings in March 2011, the U.S. government finally threatened military intervention on Monday after al-Assad's use of chemical weapons against civilians became incontrovertible. The catalyst occurred on August 21, when snipers targeted U.N. weapons experts on their way to investigate an alleged chemical attack. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters that President Obama is now seeking to hold al-Assad accountable for deploying "the world's most heinous weapons against the world's most vulnerable people." And those vulnerable people, according to Edward Kraftstofflieber, a senior analyst with the State Department, are consumers living in oil-reliant nations to the West. "For the first time, the Syrian conflict seems poised to disrupt oil transport," Kraftstofflieber warned. "With gas prices soaring and the Labor Day holiday fast approaching, we must act now."

Allied military leaders from the United States, the European Union and the Middle East met in Jordan to decide whether to launch strikes against al-Assad, who consistently denies using chemical weapons. Hundreds of Syrians perished in Damascus last week during what government sources called the worst chemical weapons attack since Saddam Hussein's gassing of the Kurds in 1988. Kraftstofflieber described the Jordan summit as a "long overdue war council."

He also responded to human rights activists who criticized the administration for doing nothing during the preceding two years of conflict.

"Foreign policy in this region is a complicated beast," Kraftstofflieber explained. "We don't just rush willy-nilly into some country and occupy it. We utilize a five-factor test, which has actually been expanded to six factors since the whole 'weapons of mass destruction' debacle in Iraq."

The original five-factor test judged the necessity for U.S. military intervention on the following grounds, as declassified in a recent report.

Is there oil? Is there a dictator? Is he one of ours and still active? Can the country defend itself? Will any of our "allies" have a problem with us attacking?

The newly amended criteria include a sixth factor, which was inserted as a follow up to the fourth factor.

Does this country actually have, real ones (and are the victims sympathetic to Western audiences)?

Until now, Kraftstofflieber admits, the United States has faced severe challenges in satisfying all six factors required to authorize military strikes against a sovereign nation.

"Syria is technically a democracy, like Iran, which is why we haven't shown up with an invading army already," he said. "We can't go inserting our influence and spreading our ideology when it theoretically exists on their books. Al-Assad might be a deranged optometrist with delusions of grandeur and a violent, murderous god complex, but the Syrians sort of voted him into office, so he's not truly a dictator like Saddam or Gaddafi."

And although Syria lacks the defensive capabilities and tactical infrastructure to retaliate against the United States, Russia has affirmed that it will defend the country against attack and has supplied al-Assad's government with weapons.

Most importantly, Syria has not been considered a comparatively oil rich nation in the region, nor a significant producer. Its strategic value has stemmed from its pipeline, making it a potentially important oil transit state. Until now, with some U.S. allies contributing to Syria's $10 billion pipeline expansion and maintenance projects, al-Assad's value to the West seemed relatively undiminished by the gruesome and horrific slaughter he ordered against his own helpless people.

But that began to change in February of this year. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) discovered that Syria's oil production capabilities were higher than previously believed. Output was cut in half when the protests first broke out in 2011, further diluting the estimate. The EIA studies also found vast, untapped crude oil reserves at around 2.5 billion barrels, with 8.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and nearly 50 billion tons of shale.

A prolonged civil war now poses very real threats to the pipeline, with violence spilling over into Iraq, "a vital oil ally that cost us an ungodly amount of American troops and money to secure," Kraftstofflieber noted. "We have to protect it."

Kraftstofflieber also revealed that Saudi Arabia has offered Russia a deal to safeguard its gas contracts and gain strategic control of energy reserves if the Kremlin will abandon its support for al-Assad's regime.

"When you add it all up, a U.S. strike makes a lot more sense today than it did a week ago," Kraftstofflieber said. "We've come much closer to satisfying the six-factor test: Assad's basically a dictator, Russia could be off the table, WMDs are a reality, we got pictures of dead babies and poisoned little kids, and the global oil supply seems to be in legitimate peril. We must intervene. Syria has become too big to fail. And Saudi Arabia wants the regime overthrown, too. We have to support our Saudi allies in democracy and the free market."

But any actions by armed forces would not be undertaken merely for these humanitarian reasons. Kraftstofflieber also illustrated the economic benefits inherent in a joint U.N. military effort.

"Gas prices are climbing," he said. "Believe it or not, that actually hinders our economic recovery, especially if consumers decide to forgo their travels this Labor Day weekend. We can't afford to take that kind of a hit. Also, with President Obama's drawdown of troops in the Middle East, we're facing the prospect of a lot of boys and girls coming home to nothing. That compounds our unemployment crisis. Engaging with Syria -- and possibly Iran, China and Russia as a result -- puts these tireless, hard-working Americans right back on the job to provide for their families. America supports her troops; I think a war in Syria would really demonstrate that and bolster this country's morale. Plus, it would be nice to find a new way to piss off Russia after all this Snowden crap."

2013. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License. See disclaimers.

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