Help Us Transmit This Story
In this interview, investigative journalist Greg Muttitt talks about efforts by US occupying forces, multinational oil giants and Iraq’s newly-minted ‘leaders’ to privatise the war-torn nation’s coveted oil sector.
“No Blood for Oil” was a slogan featured on many a sign in demonstrations during the run up to the US-led invasion of Iraq, and throughout the early years of the occupation as global opposition to it grew. But as Iraq faded from the headlines in 2009, the struggle over its oil continued. In the following interview, Greg Muttitt, investigative journalist and author of the groundbreaking Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq (2012), discusses the attempts by occupying forces, multinational oil giants, and newly minted Iraqi “leaders” to privatise Iraq’s oil.
What they wanted was to see foreign investment in Iraq as a starting point for opening up the other nationalised industries, especially of the region, so as to get oil flowing more quickly. Iraq’s oil sector had been nationalised since the 1970s. The nationalisation took place mostly in 1972, and the final phases of it continued until 1975. Essentially, what they wanted to do was to reverse that: put multinational oil companies back in the dominant role in the Iraqi oil sector.
AI: You place the struggle over Iraq’s ‘oil law’ at the centre of Iraq’s recent history. What is the oil law, how has it evolved, and what is its present status?
The law had three purposes. The first was to create a framework in which multinationals would have a primary role in developing Iraq’s oil industry, and to determine exactly the extent of that role, what rights they would have, and the extent of their powers. The second element was to clarify how that would work in an emerging federal system in Iraq.
To put it simply: With whom would they sign contracts? Was it with the central government in Baghdad, or was it with regional governments – in particular, the only one that exists so far, the Kurdistan regional government?
The third element of the law was to essentially dis-empower parliament in relation to decisions around oil. . . . Since 1967 Iraq has had a law in place, No. 97, which said if the government were to sign contracts to develop oil fields and run them, the parliament would have to sign a specific piece of legislation to approve them.
[In other words,] the parliament would have to say, “We support and agree with this contract and we give it validity in law.” That was still in force in 2003, and indeed in 2006. The government could legally sign contacts with foreign companies. But if it did so, it would have to get the OK from parliament for them to have any force.
Therefore, the most important role of the oil law of 2006/2007 was not [so much] to allow contracts to be signed by multinationals, as that was already possible. It was to allow them [i.e., the contracts] to be signed without parliament having any oversight.
Incidentally, the importance of parliamentary oversight is that oil accounts for over 95 per cent of government revenue. So it is quite reasonable for parliament to have some say in how that works.
So this was the oil law. The United States, Britain, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and other financial institutions wanted to see it passed as soon as possible once the permanent post-Saddam government was formed in May 2006. As soon as that happened, the United States and Britain started to say, “Your priority is going to be to pass the oil law.”
I have documents from that period which make this very clear. They moved very quickly to draft an oil law in August 2006, and it basically delivered those three asks of it. Getting this law passed in parliament became the major political priority of the United States.
AI: But the law did not pass. What prevented its passage?
Essentially, it was a squabble between politicians – who thought only about their own interests, or about their ethno-sectarian groups’ interests – about which of them would get the right to sign contracts and thereby control revenues. This dispute over decentralisation slowed down the law’s progress, and people on either side of that debate leaked it to their allies.
This led into the second factor, which was the overwhelming opposition within the Iraqi population to giving multinationals such a central role. I think this was very well known by those in the US administration and those in the Iraqi government. So the way they planned to deal with that was by not telling anyone that this oil law was going through. But it leaked in October 2006.
Once it leaked out, it started to spread into civil society. In December 2006 I attended a meeting of Iraq’s trade unions in Amman. They were discussing the law and decided that they were going to campaign against it. Their strategy, which began in early 2007, was basically just to get it known about: to tell people about it.
So they produced pamphlets, which they handed out to their members and to the general public. They also organised conferences, public meetings, demonstrations, etc. The more this was done, the more people knew about it, the more anger there was that in secret this government – that had a fairly limited mandate given the circumstances of an election under occupation – was trying to push something through that the occupation powers were demanding, and that looked like it would do considerable damage to Iraqi interests and the Iraqi economy.
Iraqis feel very strongly that oil should remain in Iraqi hands, not least because of their historical experience with foreign companies. So, during the course of 2007, this opposition spread. One after another, new groups and new constituencies got involved in it.
AI: What did the Bush administration do?
The surge, which was announced in January 2007 and sent an extra thirty thousand troops to Iraq, was very clearly one side of a two-part strategy. You can read this in the documents published by the Bush administration at the time. It was called “The New Way Forward,” and its two parts were . . . to send thirty thousand troops, to control and pacify the country, and . . . to use that control delivered by extra military force to push Iraqi politicians to deliver what they called “benchmarks” –markers of political progress.
By far the foremost among these was passing the oil law. It was all they ever talked about. In meetings with members of the Maliki government, US administration officials kept saying, “When are you going to pass the oil law? Where’s our oil law?”
Also during this period there were very strong indications from the US military that if the oil law was not passed, the Maliki government would no longer have the support of the United States. . . . Maliki very clearly understood this as a threat to remove him from his job. So, through the course of 2007, you had pressures increasing on both sides.
On one side you had pressure from Iraqi civil society started by the trade unions, but spreading into broader civil society – religious and secular – along with the professionals who ran the oil industries since nationalisation. All of them were saying, “This oil law is bad news for Iraq; don’t pass it.” At the same time, you had the Bush administration applying more and more pressure to get it passed.
AI: What was the outcome?
By around July 2007, the majority of the Iraqi parliament was against it. The US administration had set a deadline for passing the oil law – September 2007 – and this was when General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker were going to report to congress on how the surge was going, and they were very clearly saying to the Iraqi government, “Give us the benchmarks, give us the oil law by September, otherwise you will face all of these consequences that we warned you of.”
But by that stage it was a majority of the parliament that was against the oil law; they could not therefore get the oil law approved by parliament. The September deadline arrived, and there was no oil law. Today there is still no oil law.
To me that is quite a remarkable story, and it is an untold story. It is remarkable in that Iraqi civil society was able to prevent the United States from getting this absolutely vital objective, in which they had invested so much political capital, simply through talking about it.
It was partly a measure of the distance between what the United States was demanding – and absolutely desperately wanted – and what the vast majority of Iraqis really passionately felt should happen. But I think the consequence beyond that is that having invested all that political capital and having failed to get the oil law, September 2007, I think, marked the beginning of the decline of US influence in Iraq.
We saw that much more clearly through the course of 2008, in particular, the failure to get the treaty to keep US troops indefinitely – the Status of Forces Agreement had a three-year term limit. But I think it was this moment, having thrown all that political capital into getting something and then failing, which marked the shift in Iraqi politics from being absolutely dominated by the United States to having a rising Iraqi voice.
AI: Why then are multinational oil companies in Iraq now?
AI: The challenge to the oil law succeeded, so the contracts could be declared illegal by a future Iraqi government. What are the conditions necessary for a second challenge to these contracts?
GM: After the first contracts were signed in 2009, there was a member of the Iraqi parliament – Shatha Al-Musawi – who challenged the first of the contracts, which was with BP, in the Iraqi Supreme Court. Her challenge was unsuccessful, but not on substantive legal grounds. Rather, it was stopped on process grounds.
The Supreme Court has been quite problematic over the last few years, in that the Maliki government has had increasing influence over its decisions, and that has been seen in a number of decisions that have gone the way that Maliki wanted them to, rather than where the law as written should have pushed it.
That was seen especially after the 2010 election when Maliki was given the right to form the government rather than it being given to Allawi. That decision was the Supreme Court’s. There are strong indications that he has channels of influence.
In the case of Al-Musawi’s challenge to the BP contract, what happened was that the court ordered her to pay a deposit of three hundred million Iraqi dinars, which was about $225,000 at the time. She was ordered to pay that, and it would be returnable if she won.
She did not have that kind of money, so the case collapsed. So in order to carry out a legal challenge in Iraq, I think what would be needed would be some means of containing government influence over the Supreme Court.
A way of containing that might be a set of institutions that are backing the case financially, institutionally, and politically, such that it becomes difficult for the Maliki government to steer the court or for the court to side with the Maliki government. But that is the major block there.
On the other hand, I think that where such a challenge could come from is most likely the government itself. This is traditionally where challenges to contracts come from in oil-producing countries. A government says, “This is not in our interest, we are going to change the terms, or we are even going to cancel it.”
This has happened a lot over the past decade around the world. Now companies use legal mechanisms in the contracts to prevent governments from doing that – to get the contracts judicable in international investment tribunals, rather than in the country’s courts.
The fact is that these contracts are not validated within Iraqi law. That Iraqi law requires parliamentary approval, and parliamentary approval has not been sought or given, means that if a future Iraqi government were to change the terms of the contracts or even tear them up, and if the companies concerned went to an investment tribunal – in Europe or in the United States – the government could argue, and I believe it would have a very strong case, that these contracts are not legal, because look: here is the law No. 97 of 1967, it is still in force, it says you have to get parliamentary approval, you did not, they are void.
Now the conditions for that to happen would be a government that believed there was a problem with the contracts, and probably it means a different government from the current one. It would be politically embarrassing, to say the least, for the current government to argue that they are illegal on the basis of what this same government did not do – namely, take it to parliament. So a change in the government could drive this.
But Iraqi politics strike me as very fluid at the moment. I cannot predict what the nature of the Iraqi political system will be in a year’s time. I think it is hard to say whether Maliki will still be there; it is more likely that he will than he will not, but I would not put a great deal of money on it.
AI: In their rejection of the oil law, did you get a sense of what unions and civil society was positively hoping for? Are their concrete visions, like the nationalisation of pre-1990 Iraq, or do they differ?
They were finding greater quantities of reserves each year than were found in the whole of the rest of the world put together. What I heard, especially from the senior managers and technicians in the oil industry, was that if you wanted to run a technically successful oil industry in Iraq – and that was what they were interested in since they were technocrats – then the way to do it is to keep it in the public sector. The only reason you would privatise it and bring in foreign companies would be for ideological reasons.
I think the only problem with keeping the oil industry in the public sector was that Iraq was behind on technology as a result of the sanctions period. But many people recognise that technology is something you can buy. You can hire a company like Schlumberger to come and install some if its new separators, or pumps, or whatever it is.
They can install them, they can train the Iraqis how to use them, and they can even operate them for a couple of years until the Iraqis have got the hang of it – quite straightforward. But that is very different from signing a 20-year contract that gives a company like BP or Exxon control over the oil field, management of it.
I think where there was some debate was exactly how far you could go in terms of letting foreign companies in. There were varying degrees of pragmatism towards that. Some said, “Well maybe it’s okay to have BP for five years. Or maybe it’s okay to have BP as long as they are in a junior role.”
The absolute objection was to the idea of putting a company like BP in control, having the primary management and decision-making role for a long period, like 20 years – especially when there was home-grown Iraqi expertise. So that’s what I was hearing.
AI: You have written that the decimation that the sanctions caused triggered a kind of slow rebuilding of the oil industry by many of the technicians that remained, and all of that then played an important role in fostering a sense of ownership of that rebuilding. So the other side of the reaction to sanctions seems to have been a maintenance – and even strengthening – of a national consciousness that then played an important role in Iraqi civil society’s response to the oil law.
Global Research Articles by Greg Muttitt
Global Research Articles by Ali Issa
The appearance in the trailer of Pierre Morel, EU Special Representative for Central Asia, is noteworthy. He really is one of the nastiest men in Europe, with not even the slightest pretence of any concern for human rights except as a bureaucratic box to be ticked. What is the real interest of this arch European powercrat? You will hardly be surprised to hear it is Central Asia’s oil and gas.
One of the most important diplomatic developments in the last year – not mentioned anywhere in the lamestream media – has been the westward shift of the Government of Azerbaijan. Under hereditary President Aliev, son of Putin’s ex boss and mentor in the KGB, they had seemed the closest of Russia’s allies. But I noted a few months ago that remarkably on Syria they were voting with the U.S. and against Russia at the UN Security Council. Now they have agreed that an EU hydrocarbon pipeline can pass through their waters in the Caspian – thus negating Putin’s blocking move when he effectively annexed part of Georgia.
Germany now sees the eventual transit of Turkmenistan’s and Uzbekistan’s gas through Ukraine and Poland and into the Nordstream project, while bypassing Russia, as a tantalisingly close prospect. The furious courting of Central Asian dictators is therefore viewed as an unbounded success, and mangled corpses and tortured women an irrelevancy – along with the probable extinction of the sturgeon and other inconveniences. No wonder Morel looks self-satisfied.
I do hope the Central Asians who suffer grinding poverty and terrible repression will one day understand all this, and once they have their freedom will not forgive.
The report comes as clashes between army forces and armed gangs rage on in several regions in Syria.
Signs of torture can be seen on bodies found in areas held by the armed rebels, Syrian sources say.
The Syrian army on Saturday launched a military operation to clear Aleppo, the country’s biggest city, from the foreign-backed rebels.
Press TV’s correspondent in Syria said the army is inflicting heavy losses on the rebels in Aleppo.
The Red Crescent has suspended some of its operations in Aleppo because of heavy fighting.
Syrian government said its troops have freed two Italian nationals who had been kidnapped by armed groups in a suburb of Damascus.
There have also been reports of clashes in the northern province of Idlib while calm has returned to the capital Damascus after government forces flushed out the rebels there.
Government forces also defused several bombs planted near a mosque in the Hajar al-Aswad district of the capital.
Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011, with demonstrations being held both against and in support of President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
The Syrian government says outlaws, saboteurs, and armed terrorists are the driving factor behind the unrest and deadly violence while the opposition accuses the security forces of being behind the killings.
Damascus also says the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country.
|No To Transparency: Harry Reid vows to kill
bill to audit the Federal Reserve
On Wednesday, Ron Paul‘s bill to audit the Federal Reserve was overwhelmingly passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. The vote was 327 to 98. You would think that a bill with such overwhelming support would easily become law. But it won’t, because Barack Obama and the Democrats plan to kill it. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has already said that the Senate will not even consider the bill. But of course if Barack Obama called Harry Reid and told him that he wants this bill to get through the Senate so that he could sign it then Harry Reid would be singing a much different tune. Sadly, we all know that is not going to happen. Barack Obama’s good buddy Ben Bernanke called the Audit the Fed bill a “nightmare scenario” last week, and Obama is certainly not going to do anything to upset Bernanke – especially this close to the election. – Daily Caller
An audit of the Federal Reserve would be nice but really it wouldn’t change anything. In fact, it would likely prove a kind of sideshow from reality, which is that monopoly central banking should simply be abolished.
And that probably won’t happen until people get so sick and tired of being driven into bankruptcy and despair that they begin to kick the doors down and arrest the criminals cowering inside.
And they ARE real criminals. The system is responsible for debasing currency the world over and driving billions into poverty and even suicide. In the West it has blighted the hopes and dreams of millions who scratched and saved and then found their portfolios devalued by half or whole on a single day.
But it is worse in Third World countries. The money never even trickles down in these countries. Billions of people live on literally a couple of dollars a day.
This despite the United Nations and other international institutions that are supposedly dedicated to eradicating poverty. In fact, these institutions create the poverty they supposedly wish to remove. They do so via institutionalized violence costing trillions. War is the health of the state but it sickens everyone else.
It’s not as if people don’t already know the depths of the depravity that is the modern money system.
There’s really no justification for the Fed, a monopoly central bank that issues fiat money as it chooses.
The exposure is irrelevant to the evident reality. The reality is that a small group of white, middle aged men can never figure out how much money an economy needs at what price.
The reason to audit the Fed is to find out what “they” are up to. But we already know that. A limited audit examined transactions during 2008 when the world’s financial system froze up. It found the Fed had loaned out more than 16 trillion dollars, almost interest free, to the “too big to fail” banks.
This is not exactly astonishing. The same men who have built this dysfunctional system handed out trillions to various cronies when the system was in danger of collapsing.
So here is what a Fed audit would discover: More of the same. It would likely also discover that a shadowy group of dynastic families control the workings of the Fed, as they do of other central banks, and use money-from-nothing to further implement world government.
Of course, even if an audit-the-Fed bill passed by some miracle it still wouldn’t be effectively implemented. The best we’ve got is the “fox guarding the hen house,” and that effectively precludes any real investigation into central banking, specifically or generally.
We can see this at work even with the audit-the-Fed bill the House just passed. Eight co-sponsors of the legislation actually voted against the bill and most of them, when contacted, refused to explain why.
This is to be expected. Money Power is a vast and intimidating force. If you want to get ahead in this world, one way to do it is to advance the agenda of Money Power, which seeks world government.
Money Power flourishes because it is resistant to the kinds of investigations offered by Ron Paul’s audit. Money Power works busily many layers deep.
Money Power in aggregate is not fazed by an audit. An audit that blows up the current system would probably usher in a state-run gold standard or some new form of money, perhaps SDRs, also controlled by the power elite. Out of chaos, order …
We don’t know what societies would look like absent monopoly central bank money stimulation. The past 100 years have hyped the world’s banking and industrial systems into overdrive. It’s considered normal but there is nothing normal about China’s empty cities or the razing of Detroit.
Long ago, the Rothschild family helped found the system under which we now labor but they’ve been aided and abetted by hundreds and thousands and then millions of others. The men at the top understand full well what is going on. Congress, both House and Senate, are complicit in what’s taking place, which is no less than the slow-motion rape of the American people.
A Federal Reserve facility that can issue US$ 15 trillion in a weekend to preferred clients is not an entity that should stand another minute. And the political institutions that tolerate this sort of facility should be removed as well.
Congress is a bastion of bought-and-paid for front men. Those in Congress have created a US$ 3 trillion Leviathan that bestrides the world with tax collectors, murderous Intel agents, endless warfare and the poisoning of millions, including US vets, with depleted uranium.
Now this same Congress has brought down the curtain of fascism on the American people via “Homeland Security” with its groping, ID checks and poisonous radiation machinery.
This is the group that is supposed to audit the engine of this dysfunctional, murderous funding?
Even if it did, it wouldn’t make any difference.
The cleansing must go far deeper. It starts with … you.
NATO created a multi-layered strategy to subvert and destroy the Syrian state using covert action below the threshold of bombing and invasion, although including out special forces and espionage.”
Last week, the NATO powers launched their long-awaited summer offensive against Syria. This was a multi-pronged effort designed not just to overthrow the government of President Assad, but also to totally disintegrate the existing structures of the Syrian state, dissolving the entire country into chaos, confusion, secession, attempted coups d’état, and a likely massacre of Assad backers, Alawites, Christians, Kurds, and other minority groups.
This assault peaked between July 18 and July 21. Almost a week later, all indications suggest that Assad, the Baath party, and the Syrian state have proven to be much stronger than the NATO planners had imagined, and that the imperialist attack has been defeated for the time being.
The easiest way for NATO to destroy independent Syria would be to obtain a UN Security Council resolution authorizing a no-fly zone, a bombing campaign, and incursions by special forces, many of them sent by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the other reactionary Gulf monarchies. But this path has been blocked by the courageous resistance of Russia and China. Another method would be to form a coalition of the willing outside of the United Nations and proceed to the attack, as was done in the cases of Serbia and Iraq. But, with Russian President Vladimir Putin reasserting Russia’s support for Syria, this method poses the risk of Russian and Chinese retaliation in ways which the Anglo-Americans might find extremely painful. Therefore, NATO created a multi-layered strategy to subvert and destroy the Syrian state using covert action below the threshold of bombing and invasion, although including out special forces and espionage.
The signal to activate the assembled capabilities was given by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on July 8, when she warned Damascus that little time remained to avoid a “catastrophic assault” capable of destroying the Syrian state. This is exactly what was attempted last week.
First, NATO attempted to isolate Syria by interrupting communications with its traditional ally, Iran. According to the Wall Street Journal of July 23, the United States in particular has exerted pressure on the government of Iraq to deny overflight permission for flights between Syria and Iran through Iraqi airspace. An official US diplomatic demarche delivered in Baghdad demanded that such flights be banned. At the same time, pressure was exerted on the government of Egypt to violate the international status of the Suez Canal by preventing the transit of Iranian ships allegedly headed for Syrian ports. But these efforts have yielded only mixed results, according to this account.
The main diplomatic thrust of the destabilization effort was yet another UN Security Council resolution opening the door to Chapter Seven economic sanctions and military attack on Syria. This transparent bid for a general war in the Middle East was duly vetoed by Russia and China, while Pakistan and South Africa abstained despite US pressure. United States Ambassador to the UN Susan E. Rice became hysterical, raving that the Russian Federation was “pitiful,” “dangerous,” and “deplorable” after she lost the vote. Hillary Clinton had previously branded Russia as “despicable” and “intolerable.” One imagines these charming ladies chewing the carpet as Hitler reportedly did during the run-up to the Munich conference of September 1938.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov correctly described the US diplomatic posture as “justifying terrorism.” According to Lavrov, the US stance amounted to, “We will continue to support terrorist attacks until the Security Council does what we want.” It would now be in order for Russia and China to propose a Security Council resolution condemning the United States and its allies for giving material support to terrorism.
The most dramatic single episode of the assault was an apparent explosion on Wednesday, July 18 in one of the main Syrian government buildings which killed Defense Minister Rajha (the top Christian in the government), crisis management director Turkmani, and Assef Shawkat, a military intelligence expert and brother-in-law of President Assad. Interior Minister Shaar was reported wounded, and national security director Ikhtiyar succumbed later to injuries. Western media were quick to gloat, attributing the explosion to a suicide bomber recruited from inside one of the key ministries, but this may reflect an attempt to launch a variation of Operation Splinter Factor among top officials. Other hypotheses include a rocket fired from a US drone. Thierry Meyssan has reported that the explosion was detonated from inside the US Embassy, which is nearby.
The goal of this attack was clearly the decapitation of the Syrian military and security forces, and of the Syrian state overall. But thanks to the fact that President Assad was not involved, Syria was able to maintain continuity of government and a functioning command structure, which quickly recovered from this staggering blow. Within hours, replacements for the slain officials had been nominated and announced to the public, and a reshuffling of top jobs continued for several days. If NATO had prepared a coup d’état to fill the void, there is no indication that it ever got off the ground.
So far, the NATO attack on Syria has depended mainly on Salvadoran-style death squads composed mainly of foreign fighters, including al-Qaeda and similar groups, some of which had originated as part of the US counterinsurgency effort in Iraq in 2005, during the tenure in Baghdad of US Ambassador John Negroponte. One of Negroponte’s disciples, Ambassador Robert Ford, was present in Damascus during the pre-2011 preparation of the current assault.
But, given the inability of the numerically weak death squads to capture and hold even a single town or village, to say nothing of a region of the country, it was decided to recruit and deploy an entirely new echelon of foreign fighters from all over North Africa and the Middle East. These were necessarily mercenaries, fanatics, convicts, and adventurers whose military training and weaponry would be inferior even to those of fighters deployed by NATO so far.
Their task was to implement a strategy of swarming. In military terms, swarming is the attempt to overwhelm an opponent by a rapid series of attacks from loosely coordinated autonomous groups. Quantity trumps quality. Many thousands of additional fighters were shipped in by NATO; Meyssan puts their numbers between 40,000 and 60,000, but this may be excessive. They crossed Syrian borders with Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraqi Kurdistan. The fighters themselves came from Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, and other countries. As they entered Syria from foreign territory, the fighters seized temporary control of several border crossings, a fact much-hyped by the Western press.
The premise of this irregular assault had been the wishful notion that resistance by the Syrian army would collapse. But the Fourth Armored division, the Republican Guard, and other key units held fast. This left the foreign fighters as sitting ducks in vulnerable positions they could not hope to defend. As of this writing, the foreign fighters have been largely mopped up in Damascus, and another large concentration in Aleppo appears to be surrounded and destined for annihilation. NATO’s pool of cannon fodder has thus been sharply depleted.
To spread the idea that Syrian resistance had collapsed and that further resistance against NATO was futile, Ben Rhodes of the Obama White House, the US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Saudi Prince Bandar, and other officials had also prepared a campaign of psychological media warfare and video fakery. Syrian state television, al Adounia, and other pro-Syrian broadcasters were to be denied access to Nilesat and Arabsat, and their signals replaced by fake programming generated by the CIA, including with movie sets and Potemkin villages in the Gulf monarchies. But this plan had been revealed many weeks in advance, notably by Meyssan. Accordingly, loyal Syrian broadcasters prepared their audience with public service announcements about what was coming, and how to receive genuine programming.
Programming on Nilesat and Arabsat was in fact repeatedly interrupted, while the widely hated al Jazeera of Qatar and Saudi al Arabiya reported that Assad had fled. But few were fooled by the crude NATO substitutes, so shock and awe fell flat. A NATO plan to organize a panic run on the Syrian currency, contributing a further dimension of economic and logistical chaos, also fell short.
As it became clear that the anti-government forces trapped in Damascus were being decimated, King Abdullah of Jordan began harping on the danger that Syrian chemical weapons might be used or get out of control – an established meme of NATO propaganda. NATO was clearly still looking for a pretext to attack, but the eleven Russian warships assigned to Tartus and the eastern Mediterranean left that approach fraught with peril.
A danger is also emerging for the reactionary feudal monarchs who are NATO’s main allies in the Middle East. Partly as a result of NATO’s incessant pro-democracy rhetoric, the ferment of social protest is now widespread in Saudi Arabia, surely one of the countries most vulnerable to a mass upsurge. On July 22, an explosion occurred at the headquarters of the Saudi intelligence service in Riyadh, killing the deputy director. The target may also have been Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who had just been named intelligence boss, and who is deeply implicated in the Syrian events. Was this somebody’s payback? More importantly, might this attack become the trigger for a mass movement in Saudi Arabia powerful enough to threaten the feudal-reactionary dynasty and the power of the infamous Sudairi clan?