Oil Interests: Bush Obstructed FBI Investigation
Arecently released book written by two French intelligence analysts is certain to embarrass President George W.Bush and his administration. The book, Bin Laden, La Verite Interdite (Bin Laden, the Forbidden Truth), claims that FBI Deputy Director John O'Neill resigned in July in protest over Bush's obstruction of an investigation into Taliban's terrorist activities. The authors, Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Das-quie, claim that Bush resorted to this obstruction under the influence of U.S. oil companies.
Bush stymied the FBI's investigations on terrorism, while bargained with the Taliban to hand over Osama bin Laden in exchange for political recognition and economic aid. "The main obstacles to investigate Islamic terrorism were U.S. oil corporate interests, and the role played by Saudi Arabia in it," O'Neill reportedly told the authors. According to Brisard and Dasquie, the main objective of the U.S. government in Afghanistan prior to September 11 was aimed at consolidating the Taliban regime, in order to obtain access to the oil and gas reserves in Central Asia.
Before September 11, the U.S. government had an extremely benevolent understanding of the Taliban. The Taliban was perceived "as a source of stability in Central Asia that would enable the construction of an oil pipeline across Central Asia" from the rich oilfields in Turkmenistan, Uzbek-istan and Kazakhstan, through Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the Indian Ocean. This would have secured for the U.S. another huge captive and alternate oil resource centre. "The oil and gas reserves of Central Asia have been controlled by Russia. The Bush government wanted to change all that... this rationale of energy security changed into a military one," the authors claim.
"At one moment during the negotiations, U.S. representatives told the Taliban, 'either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs'," Brisard said. On November 24, representatives of the Northern Alliance, former King Zahir Shah's confidantes, and possibly, non-Taliban Pashtun leaders, will meet in Berlin under the aegis of the U.S.-led coalition to discuss a broad-based government in Afghanistan.
According to the book, the Bush administration began a series of negotiations with the Taliban early in 2001. The authors claim that before the September 11 attacks, Christina Rocca, in charge of Asian Affairs at the State Department, met Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef in Islam-abad, August 2, 2001. Rocca is a veteran of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. She had been in charge of contacts with Islamist guerrilla groups at the CIA. She oversaw the delivery of Stinger missiles to Afghan mujahideen fighting the Soviets in the 1980s.
Brisard and Dasquie reveal that the Taliban were not really ultra-orthodox in their diplomatic approach. They hired an American public relations' expert for an image-making campaign in the U.S. Laila Helms, a public relations professional, who also doubles up as an authority on the way U.S. intelligence agencies work, was employed by the Taliban to get the U.S. to recognise the Taliban regime. Prior to September 11, only three countries - Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and UAE - recognised the Taliban regime. Helms' familiarity with the ways of U.S. intelligence organisations comes through her association with her uncle, Richard Helms, a former director of the CIA and former U.S. ambassador to Tehran.
Helms is described as the Mata Hari of U.S.-Taliban negotiations. The authors claim that she brought Sayed Rahmatullah Hashimi, an advisor to Mullah Omar, to Washington for five days in March 2001 - after the Taliban had destroyed the ancient Buddhas of Bamiyan. Hashimi met the Directorate of Central Intelligence at the CIA, and the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the State Department.
This controversial book is undoubtedly explosive. The authors, Brisard and Dasquie, have an impressive record in intelligence analysis. Until the late 1990s, Brisard was the director of economic analysis and strategy for Vivendi, a French company. He worked for French secret services (DST), and wrote a report for them in 1997 on the Al Qaeda network. Dasquie is an investigative journalist and publisher of Intelligence Online, a respected newsletter on diplomacy, economic analysis and strategy.
On November 19, The Irish Times said FBI Deputy Director "O'Neill investigated the bombings of the World Trade Center in 1993, a U.S. base in Saudi Arabia in 1996, U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar-Es-Salaam in 1998 and the USS Cole last year."
"Jean-Charles Brisard, who wrote a report on bin Laden's finances for the DST, met O'Neill several times last summer. He complained bitterly that the U.S. State Department - and behind it the oil lobby who make up President Bush's entourage - blocked attempts to prove bin Laden's guilt."
"The U.S. ambassador to Ye-men, Barbara Bodine, forbade O'Neill and his team of so-called Rambos (as the Yemeni authorities called them) from entering Yemen. In August 2001, O'Neill resigned in frustration, and took up a new job as head of security at the World Trade Center. He died in the September 11 attack."
O'Neill reportedly told Brisard that all the answers, and everything needed to dismantle bin Laden's Al Qaeda, can be found in Saudi Arabia. Fearing that the Saudi royal family would be offended, U.S. diplomats quietly buried the leads developed by O'Neill. So much so that even when the FBI wanted to talk to the suspects accused of bombing a U.S. military installation in Dhahran in June 1996, in which 19 U.S. servicemen were killed, the U.S. State Department refused to make much noise about it. The Saudi officials, however, interrogated the suspects, declared them guilty and executed them. O'Neill went to Saudi with his team, but according to the report in The Irish Times quoting Brisard, "they were reduced to the role of forensic scientists, collecting material evidence on the bomb site."
The U.S.' hedging on investigating Taliban's terrorist activities and its links with bin Laden were premised on the belief that a quid pro quo deal could be arranged with Taliban. The deal, apparently, was oil for diplomatic and international recognition. One important reason for Operation Enduring Freedom could well be securing U.S. oil interests in the region. It would not be surprising if the pipeline project is put back on track soon. Even a cursory look at the oil potential of the Central Asian region is enough to understand U.S. interest in this region. The Caspian Sea basin encompassing countries like Azerbai-jan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are believed to possess some 200 billion barrels of oil, which is about one-third the amount found in the Persian Gulf area.
The greater Gulf area has been a centre of international oil politics. First the British fought to gain control over the area's petroleum wealth, then the French. After World War II, the U.S. emerged as the dominant power in the region, because its energy security and economic prosperity depended on the uninterrupted oil supply from this region. In 1945, President Roosevelt and King Addel Aziz ibn Saud signed a secret agreement, which forged a long-lasting strategic partnership. Though the details remain secret, the deal ensured privileged U.S. access to Saudi oil, in return for U.S. protection of the royal family from internal and external threats.
U.S. dependence on Middle East oil is not a secret. The U.S. national energy policy, released by the Bush administration earlier this year, stated, "The Gulf will be a primary focus of U.S. international energy policy." According to Michael Klare, professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College in Amherst, and author of Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict, by launching Operation Enduring Freedom, the U.S. wants to achieve two sets of objectives: "First, to capture and punish those responsible for the September 11 attacks, and to prevent further acts of terrorism; and two, to consolidate U.S. power in the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea area, and to ensure continued flow of oil. While the second set may get far less public attention than the first, this does not mean that it is any less important."
With many senior members of the Bush administration linked to major oil business interests, it is more than a coincidence that the U.S. is involved in a war in Afghanistan.
Source: New Delhi, November 21, 2001. <http://www.tehelka.com/channels/currentaffairs/2001/nov/21/ca112101america.htm>