On August 19, 1953, pro-Shah supporters in Iran staged a coup on the Iranian government that was planned, organized and supported by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and British Intelligence. Iranians lived under the brutal rule of Mohammad-Reza Shah Pahlavi for the next 25 years until the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Though the CIA-led coup in Iran was the first time the agency overthrew a democratically elected government, it wasn’t to be the last. In 1954, the CIA orchestrated a coup against the democratically elected president of Guatemala. In 1963, the CIA orchestrated the coup in Iraq that eventually brought Saddam Hussein and the Ba’athist Party to power. In 1973, the CIA orchestrated a coup against the democratically elected leader of Chile. In every case, those who were helped into power instituted regimes of terror and violence. These regimes prompted bloody revolutions, or worse, US-led invasions. Either way, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed due to US foreign policy.
Securing access to Middle East oil using military force if necessary became US foreign policy in 1945 under President Roosevelt and was officially adopted as US foreign policy by President Carter in 1980. The CIA coup in Iran in 1953 was, arguably, the beginning of the global war for oil resources. In 2002, the CIA failed in its attempt to overthrow Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. In 2003, the US-led invasion of Iraq toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime. Regime change in Iran is still seen as a priority. In 2007, ABC news reported that the CIA was secretly using the terror group Jundullah to attack Iranian officials. In 2009, former CIA official Robert Baer stated in an interview with Time magazine that the CIA did indeed have contact with the group Jundullah, but, characterized it as “sporadic.” What these three countries have in common are vast amounts of oil reserves.
Tom Collina, executive director of 20/20 Vision, a national, nonpartisan organization promoting increased citizen participation on global security and environmental issues, testified before a Congressional subcommittee in 2005: “America has tried to address its oil vulnerability by using our military to protect supply routes and to prop up or install friendly regimes. But as Iraq shows, the price is astronomical – $200 Billion and counting. Moreover, it doesn’t work – Iraq is now producing less oil than it did before the invasion. While the reasons behind the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq may be complex, can anyone doubt that we would not be there today if Iraq exported coffee instead of oil?”
In order to use military force to secure access to Middle East oil, the United States must have bases in or near the region. In 1990, after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, the US military gained its first foothold, establishing bases in Saudi Arabia and other countries. A CRS Report to Congress, dated December 2001, stated, “Many Arabs in the Middle East resent the presence of non-Muslim western forces, which evoke memories of European colonialism. In particular, the presence of western military forces on Saudi soil is seen by some as a desecration of the Islamic holy places of Mecca and Medina, which are located in Saudi Arabia. Significantly, the first grievance listed by Osama bin Laden in his fetwa (Muslim legal opinion) of February 1998 was the US military presence in the Arabian Peninsula and this complaint seems to have resonance in the region. Even some individuals and leaders who are less concerned with the US military presence on religious grounds tend to suspect a long-term US plan to maintain military bases in the Middle East.” The US would maintain combat troops in Saudi Arabia for the next 13 years.
The same report further stated, “Of particular concern to many in the region is the possibility that the United States may expand the current campaign against Osama bin Laden and the Taliban to target Iraq or possibly other Muslim countries on the State Department’s terrorism list (such as Iran, Syria, or Libya). At a meeting of the 56-member Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) on October 10, 2001, attendees refrained from criticizing the US campaign against bin Laden/Taliban forces in Afghanistan, but rejected the targeting of any other Arab or Muslim country. Key allies such as President Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah of Jordan have urged the United States not to take this step, which they think could cause a major backlash in their countries and elsewhere in the Middle East.” The fears of these leaders were realized when the US invaded Iraq in 2003, built numerous military bases and occupied the country while continually trying to gain a casus belli for an attack on Iran.
The Iraqi Parliament ordered all US troops out of Iraq by 2011. The United States government, however, has continually tried to negotiate a permanent military presence in Iraq, thus, keeping the bases in Iraq already established. With US troops having been ordered to withdraw from Iraq by next year, the Obama administration is now looking toward Afghanistan and President Karzai’s regime as the central point for US bases in the Middle East. In this light, it is no wonder that President Obama proclaimed during a visit to the troops in Afghanistan, “If I thought for a minute that America’s vital interests were not served, were not at stake here in Afghanistan, I would order all of you home right away.”
Afghanistan’s vital strategic placement in the Middle East for US military bases becomes even more apparent as the revolt in Kyrgyzstan unfolds. In February 2009, the government of Kyrgyzstan announced that it would force the closure of the base maintained by the United States, apparently at the behest of the Kremlin. Then, four months later, the president of Kyrgyzstan reversed that decision, stating that the base could remain open at an increased rent and with new limits on the United States forces. Now, as the president of Kyrgyzstan was forced to flee the country, the fate of the US base is again uncertain.
With the war in Afghanistan still going on and the uncertainty of further military operations by the United States in the Middle East, there will come a point when the world’s leaders either capitulate to US oil interests or take a stand.
Not everyone can pay for the news. But if you can, we need your support.
Truthout is widely read among people with lower incomes and among young people who are mired in debt. Our site is read at public libraries, among people without internet access of their own. People print out our articles and send them to family members in prison — we receive letters from behind bars regularly thanking us for our coverage. Our stories are emailed and shared around communities, sparking grassroots mobilization.
We’re committed to keeping all Truthout articles free and available to the public. But in order to do that, we need those who can afford to contribute to our work to do so.
We’ll never require you to give, but we can ask you from the bottom of our hearts: Will you donate what you can, so we can continue providing journalism in the service of justice and truth?