China Confidential has learned that the Bush administration's efforts to persuade Russia to adopt a harder line on Iran are being hampered by a growing perception among Russian political leaders--and military commanders--that the United States invaded Iraq mainly in order to steal its vast oil reserves.
The Russian view is that the "Great Oil Grab" was the brainchild of the first Bush administration's neo-conservative faction that included deputy defense secretary, Paul Wolfowitz; Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of state for defense; and Lewis Libby, the chief of staff for Vice President Cheney (whom many Russians regard as the de-facto president). As Moscow sees it, the neo-cons planned to first privatize (or "piratize," as some Russian analysts put it) and then substantially increase Iraqi oil production and exploration in order to flood the world oil market and drive prices below $15 a barrel. The Russians speculate that the Americans believed that an oil crash would cause the collapse of OPEC--and the domino-like fall of anti-democratic, oil-rich regimes--while strengthening the economies of the US and its oil-importing allies.
Iraq has approximately 112 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, which could theoretically be doubled or perhaps even tripled through exploration, surpassing Saudi Arabia's proven reserves of 245 billion barrels.
Russia's resurgence is based on escalating energy prices. The country is using its immense oil and gas resources to advance a geopolitical agenda in opposition to the US (which, under President Bush, seems to have gone out of its way to antagonize the Kremlin and push it closer to its former Communist rival, China).
The fact that the alleged neocon oil plot (like the democracy promotion project) obviously backfired--Iraq plunged into anarchy and proved impossible to control, Iranian influence increased, Iraqi oil production decreased, and the price of oil rose instead of fell and is now approaching the $100 landmark--does not make Mosow more inclined to help the US to peacefully resolve the Iranian nuclear issue. Having established itself atop the world's largest pool of oil, in a position to potentially control its exploitation, Russian leaders suspect, the US now plots to put an end to the Islamist regime in Tehran and ultimately win control of Iranian oil reserves. Another "oil war" is in the making, the Russians assert.
They believe that their suspicions have ironically been confirmed by prominent personalities in the US, including former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, whose recently published memoir states: "I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil."
Asked to comment, Gen. John Abizaid, former CENTCOM commander who oversaw three and a half years of the US occupation of Iraq, agreed. "Of course it's about oil, we can't really deny that," he said during a discussion at Stanford University.
In this context, the Russian military is in no mood to cooperate with Washington on its plan to station an anti-missile shield in central Europe to defend the region against Iranian missiles.
Chief of Staff Yury Baluyevsky on Tuesday told the Russia Today television audience that the US plan to station a radar facility in the Czech Republic and interceptors in Poland amounted to meddling in Russia's backyard.
"When one of the viewers asked about (Russia) deploying missiles in Venezuela, to defend Venezuela from Iranian and other missiles, I would like to note that our partners from the United States are doing exactly what our viewer suggested us to do," Baluyevsky said.