April 30, 2006

THREE-FER (via Gene Brown):

A battle for oil could set the world aflame: International powers will do everything to protect their access to dwindling resources. We are mad not to have an alternative strategy (Will Hutton, April 30, 2006, The Observer)

Oil is transforming world politics. Iran can afford to face down the wrath of the West and be robust about becoming a nuclear power because it has the cast-iron support of China - secured by oil.

In November 2004, Iran gave China the rights to exploit the giant Yadavaran field. Importantly, China plans to bring this oil into China, not across the Indian Ocean and through the Malacca Straits, but by pipeline across central Asia, free from the surveillance of the US fleet. China's attitude to Iran is foretold; it has refused to condemn Sudan over the killings in Darfur since Sudan allowed it to build a 500-mile pipeline to the coast. Ahmadinejad can therefore be 100 per cent certain that China will veto any attempt to win UN approval for military intervention in Iran.

China feels acutely vulnerable over oil. It has no strategic oil reserves and deputy chief of the Chinese General Staff, General Xiong Guangkai, has called for a build-up of both reserves and military capacity and for a fleet to defend its oil tankers. Iran is part of this equation. So is winning control of oil and gas reserves in the East China Sea, where the key is the disputed sovereignty of the uninhabited Senkaku Islands.

In February of last year, Japan formally occupied the islands to back up its sovereignty claim; in April, China replied with an ultimatum to Japan to withdraw and in September sent a naval force to patrol the disputed territory.

So far, China has backed off, but there is no question that it expects at least a compromise settlement that the Japanese, themselves vulnerable over oil, are reluctant to concede. The US has to be careful to keep China onside.

There's no bad reason to regime change China, but doing it over the issues of Iran, Japan and oil would be quite sensible.

Japan to step up its Asia security role: Accord on realignment of US forces in Japan, expected Monday, aims to boost security cooperation. (Bennett Richardson, 5/01/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

An agreement to realign US forces in Japan, to be finalized Monday in Washington, marks another step forward for Tokyo's ambitions to play an integral part in maintaining stability in a potentially volatile Asia-Pacific region. [...]

The agreement is expected to lead to closer cooperation between the two militaries, as well as a more equal security partnership. The accord provides for the relocation of both a US division headquarters from the state of Washington and the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces Command to Camp Zama in Kanagawa, making intelligence sharing more comprehensive. It also establishes joint US-Japan use of the air base at Yokota, near Tokyo.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 30, 2006 3:42 PM

I don't get it. Are we supposed to fear China because of a few frigates or a pipeline. If we are at peace such naval forces as China may come up with are on no moment. If we are at war they are of almost the same insignificance.

Go to it, Chinaman, build up your conventional forces. We know how well that scheme worked for THE FORMER UNION.

Posted by: Lou Gots at April 30, 2006 4:45 PM

"China feels acutely vulnerable over oil".

Doesn't that just remind you of the late 1930s?

Posted by: ratbert at April 30, 2006 11:34 PM

What I said before: China and Iran can afford a blockade of that oil even less than we do. Since we can remove the oil supply, shouldn´t we be China´s most favoured ally? No, because they are sure the US would never blockade Iranian oil exports or bomb their terminals. Prove them wrong. Wipe out the Iranian economy (and I mean completely, now) and you have good chances of achieving regime change and getting appeased for a change.

Posted by: wf at May 1, 2006 6:01 AM

"International powers will do everything to protect their access to dwindling resources. We are mad not to have an alternative strategy"

That's the byline and he's writing to the Brits. He thinks we're a role model with our current strategic response. He's nuts, all we're doing is whining about the price of gas. We have an energy program but it's all just words; no action in real time of any significance. Ostrichville.

Posted by: Genecis at May 1, 2006 1:20 PM