The following piece will firstly explore the origins of the conflict in Iraq, in particular the indicator that is oil and its relationship with America. Secondly, it will explain the current state of play which has developed into the Islamic State caliphate. Then finally it will propose the solution of an American transfer to 100% renewable energy as a means of resolving the ongoing conflict.
There is a long history of US covert and overt intervention in the Middle East, which overtime has eventually led to the 2003 Iraq invasion and an ideological battle of terror that is ISIS. An important initial piece of history in the early conflict in Iraq is the assistance of the CIA in bringing Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist to power in 1963. This event was the beginning of the entanglement of the USA/Iraq oil based relationship. The 1950s saw a period of time where there was overproduction of oil and Iraq played a critical role in the international political economy thanks to it possessing one of the largest supplies of proven oil reserves. General Qasim of Iraq had increasingly friendly relations with the Soviet Union and the Communist party of Iraq. Then in December 1961, he took a bold decision and nationalised 99.5% of Iraq’s oil reserves. The purpose of this was for Iraq to gain geopolitical power and increase Iraq’s economy. This lead to the leading anti-communist party, the Baath party of Iraq, to attempt a coup with the help of the American CIA in February 1963. This coup was critical in restraining Iraqi oil production and can been seen as a major pinpoint in the origins of the conflict in Iraq.
The 1979 Iranian revolution is also seen as a source of the conflict that has terrorised Iraq throughout its history. This is not only because the revolution introduced to the west radical Islam but also due to the Iraq-Iran war of 1980-88 that followed . The Iraq-Iran war was initiated because of several political and territorial disputes. Iraq wanted to gain control over the Iranian border where Khūzestān had vast amounts of oil. Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was also fearful over the recent Iranian Revolution and saw a chance to become the dominant state in the middle east. He timed his attack during the chaos of Iran’s new government with Iran’s regular armed forces in a state of dissolution along with the recent unstable relationship with the United States. This fight for power and oil would go on for 8 years until both nations suffered tremendously both economically and lives lost.
Following the ceasefire with Iran in 1988, Iraq was in financial breakdown. It owed vast amounts of money to both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Saddam Hussein propositioned both nations to forgive the debt but both refused. Simultaneously there was a massive collapse in the price of oil which resulted in a devastating impact on Iraq’s already damaged economy. With Iraq in such a vulnerable state its government then claims that Kuwait has been slant-drilling across the border into Iraq’s Rumaila oil field. Saddam Hussein then made the bold decision to invade Kuwait on 2 August 1990. The Iraqi Republican Guard completely overpowered Kuwait’s Armed Forces, so much so that after only a few days Saddam Hussein declared Kuwait as the 19th province of Iraq.
This ongoing fight for oil led to mass economic sanctions against Iraq from members of the United Nations Security Council. The United States consolidated forces with its primary oil ally Saudi Arabia and deployed large numbers of military into Saudi Arabia. After the US urged other nations to join the fight, a coalition was formed so immense that it was the largest since World War II. The culmination of this aggravated Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden and fuelled radical Islam. The US’s main concern was the fact that following the Kuwait invasion, Iraq was now within striking distance of Saudi Arabia’s oil fields. The US understood that if Iraq took control of Saudis oil fields it would have given Saddam Hussein power over the majority of the world’s oil reserves. This, combined with Iraq owing $26 Billion to Saudi Arabia for the Iran war and the ongoing fear of radical Islam. The US and coalition forces decided to attack Iraq on 17 January 1991. This led to President Bush implementing Operation Desert Sabre. It was a huge allied ground offensive which retook Kuwait City in a period of merely 3 days. The operation completely destroyed Iraq’s army, so much so that by 28 February U.S declared a cease-fire and the Iraq resistance was no more.
This led to the August 6, 1990 United Nations Security Council severe economic sanctions to be expanded and elaborated much further after the first Gulf War. The new sanctions focused on the removal of weapons of mass destruction and also excluded all financial resources and trade except for medicine and food. These sanctions would go on to be the longest lasting sanctions of all time, only to finally end after Saddam’s regime ended in May 2003.
Iraq and the United States complex oil relationship became even more entangled in spring of 2001 as George Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney took US presidential office. At this time Saddam Hussein had been negotiating deals with non-American oil companies. The nations that sought to develop Iraq’s unused rich oil reserves were Russia, China and India. Vice President Cheney then set up an ‘energy task force’ which he thought was necessary to maintain America’s military and economic premier position. The task force was so worried about losing Iraq’s oil that it went to the extreme lengths of creating documents that had detailed analysis of 97 Iraqi oil fields. The documents continued further to detail the status of each negotiating contract and which nation was leading that contract. It then looked likely that one of Iraq’s richest oil fields, the Rumaila oil field, would go to Russian oil company Lukoil. Yet 2 years later, during the 2003 Iraq invasion that oil field was under American ally British oil giant BP.
Not long after ‘energy task force’ Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden architects a radical Islamic terror attack on September 11th 2001 which creates vast changes throughout the entire globe and spreads a global ideology of terror. The Bush administration considers the attacks as an opportunity to capitalise on the Iraqi oil fields which look likely to slip from American ownership . Finally, in 2003 every single United Nations secretary voted against the invasion on Americas basis of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. America then invaded in May 2003 along with Coalition forces even though the rest of the world thought it was under false interpretations. The fight was a complicated power struggle, particularly in the ‘Sunni-Triangle’, until the withdrawal of American forces in 2011. This left Iraq in its worst living condition yet.
The current state of play has Iraq still in utter turmoil. With the creation of the Islamic State extremist group filled with members of Saddam Hussein’s military and Baath Party. Following the Iraq war, a civil war broke out in neighbouring country Syria, with the rebel army ISIS taking advantage and eventually claiming victory. ISIS then pushed into the war-torn Iraq, taking control of oil refineries and stealing millions of dollars from Iraq’s banks. ISIS now operates as a fully functioning terrorist organisation, utilising the internet and social media to recruit fighters from all over the world. The ideology now even inspires attacks in their name such as the California San Bernardino attacks. Further attacks see terror across Europe with hits in France, Belgium and Turkey just to name a few.
One solution to resolve this conflict must be halting ISIS’s funding and to make their fight unprofitable. With the Middle East having such a vast history of oil based relationships, conflict and wars, one must look to end the dependency on oil. The answer therefore must be renewable energy. Not only would this take away ISIS’s main source of income, it would also end the greed of the U.S having to own Middle Eastern oil reserves. By ending such complicated oil dependant relationships, ISIS’s ideology would also be weakened as there would be fewer alienated Muslims joining ISIS due to the lack of conflict. United States Marine Corps major general Smedley Butler, the highest rank authorized during his time of World War I, is renowned for having vast knowledge on war and pertinently how to end it. One of his main solutions is to make the war unprofitable. With America switching to 100% renewable energy in both the energy sector and transportation sector there would be no need for oil, or at least no need for oil importation. This would therefore make the war unprofitable. America spends exponential amounts of money on its military. In 2014 it spent $581 Billion on its forces, four times its closest rival China. The immense amount of money available can be calculated since recent research shows stopping one fighter plane program would save enough money to build wind farms to power 320,000 homes.
America has some work to do but it is highly achievable. In 2015 just 0.6% of the nation’s energy came from solar panels. In order to get that number to 100%, solar energy sources would have to provide about 4.0 million GWh of power. It takes 2.8 acres to generate 1 GWh of solar energy per year, therefore using just 11 200 000 acres out of a possible 1.9 billion acres. This purpose would consume just 0.6% of the total land and would get the U.S to the 4 000 000 GWh required. This is highly reachable as it is just one source of renewable energy and it allows the public to understand that 100% renewable energy is not idealistic nor is it unrealistic.
This solution is also reflected by the correlation between the highest achieving renewable energy nations and their lack of military intervention in oil based conflicts. This is exhibited through nations such as Costa Rica, Denmark and Uruguay, which all lead the way to a green economy, having no interest inside the Middle Eastern conflict.
By looking back through Iraq’s troubled history one can start to unravel what has taken place. The ongoing conflict in Iraq has always had a connection to oil whether it be for their own benefit or that of others, especially America. This ongoing conflict and relationship with oil has now left us with ISIS. In order to combat and subsequently end the conflict one must first end the relationships that exist. Understanding this, America must end its dependency on oil and move forward towards a conflict free green economy. One knows this is more than achievable and constantly witness’s successful evidence of nations hitting renewable energy targets. Especially when those nations are not involved in Middle Eastern conflict.