Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, South Sudan, Ukraine, the East and South China Aeas. It seems to me that these days the world is aflame with new or worsening conflicts. At first glance, most of these upheavals and smaller conflicts appear to be independent events, sometimes even driven by their own unique and idiosyncratic set of circumstances. But if you look more closely you will see that they share many key characteristics. In fact it is a brew of ethnic, religious, and national antagonisms that
have been boiling up to a possibly unnecessary fixation on energy.
In every single one of these conflicts, the fighting is caused mostly by the brewing up of long-standing historic antagonisms among neighbouring tribes, sects, and peoples. For example in Iraq and Syria, there is a clash among Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, Turkmen to name but a few. In Nigeria most of the troubles are between Muslims,
Christians and various tribal groups. In South Sudan, between the Dinka and Nuer;. In Ukraine, between Ukrainian loyalists and Russian-speakers aligned with Moscow.
In the East and South China Sea, among the Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Filipinos, and others. I am sure you get the point. Now to be honest it is very easy to
attribute all this to age-old hatreds as we are often advised by many analysts but while such hostilities do help to drive these conflicts, they are often fuelled in my opinion, by a desire to control all the valuable oil and natural gas assets. Let us not pretend anything different, these are all twenty-first century energy wars perhaps being adopted by some using religion as a pretext.
I am sure nobody is surprised to know that energy plays a significant role in these conflicts. Oil and gas are definitely the world’s most important and seriously valuable commodities and constitute a major source of income for every government and/or corporation that controls the production and distribution rights.
Quite frankly the governments of Iraq, Nigeria, Russia, South Sudan and Syria derive the majority of their revenues from oil sales. Let’s not forget also that the major energy companies, many of which are state owned, command immense control and power in all these countries involved and of course the collection and allocation of crucial revenues.
Despite the patina of historical enmities, many of these conflicts, then, are really struggles for control over the principal source of national income. Moreover, we live in an energy-centric world where total control over oil and gas resources including delivery, translates into powerful world clout for some and serious economic vulnerability for others.
Unfortunately because so many countries are dependent on energy imports nations with abundance and surpluses to export, including Iraq, Nigeria, Russia, and South Sudan, often exercise disproportionate influence on the world stage. Now do not run away with the idea that what happens in these countries does not involve us sometimes it matters as much to the rest of us as to the people living in all of these different countries.
Sometimes the risk of external involvement in their conflicts, whether in the form of direct intervention, arms sales or transfers, possibly the sending in of military advisers, or perhaps economic assistance, is greater than almost anywhere else. On first glance, the fossil-fuel factor in the most recent outbreaks of tension and fighting may seem less evident, but look more closely and you’ll see that each of these conflicts is, at heart, an energy war.
Iraq, Syria, and IS The Islamic State (IS), the Sunni extremist group that controls large chunks of western Syria and northern Iraq, is possibly a well armed militia group which is certainly intent on creating an Islamic caliphate in the areas it controls. In my opinion it is a fanatical, sectarian religious organization, seeking to reproduce in this modern twenty first century the pure piety of the early days of Islamic era. Also it intends to create a total Islamic state.
There is no way that IS could ever hope to accomplish its evil ambitious goals. However, as it does occupy key oil-producing areas of Syria and oil-refining facilities in Iraq, it is in a unique position with clever manoeuvring to do so. From what I can understand from my research, IS sells oil from the fields it controls to shadowy middlemen who in turn arrange for its transport usually by tanker trucks, to buyers in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. People we have helped or are allies with!
Oil, then, is absolutely essential to the organization’s grand strategy. In a fossil-fuel world, control over oil and gas reserves is an essential component of national power. Oil fuels powerful countries military power, Government treasuries and of course international politics including our own far more than any ordinary trade commodity. It also fuels countries national security, and their individual international power. Incredible power for those who possess this oil resource, and the opposite for those who do not.
So in conclusion, I feel that it is even truer today. Energy wars will continue to expand and to be honest the truth of this will only become more evident in the near future. Someday perhaps, the development of renewable sources of energy, wind power, sea power etc., may invalidate this dictum. But in my opinion, if you see a conflict developing, look for the energy. It’ll be there somewhere on this fossil-fuelled planet of ours run by greedy people wanting control over others and the world.