London: 'We always get our oil… No matter what!’

A view of a depot for machinery and equipment used in oil exploration on the coast of Port Stanley March 13, 2012 (Reuters/Marcos Brindicci)
With the threat of a British tanker strike threatening to paralyze 90 per cent of gas stations, the government’s decision to train 200 military teams to get behind the wheel shouldn’t come as a surprise given the UK’s sordid history with oil.

When cabinet minister Francis Maude announced the plan, he created further panic by telling Britons it would be “a sensible precaution to store some extra fuel in jerry cans in your garage”. The fact that those old 20 liter World War II jerry cans were outlawed in Britain decades ago didn’t help and, as The Telegraph newspaper pointed out on 28th March, “In a country where “having a little drink” is taken to mean multiple litres of beer, people took those words as a license to hoard. Don’t Panic!: that’s the official advice from the Government… Or rather, do panic, but only a little bit…” 

So who are these angry striking truckers anyways?  Again, the Telegraph points out that when the last tanker trucker strike hit in 2000, then prime minister Tony Blair described protesters as “a motley bunch: … hauliers, the self-employed and the anti-government.”  “They were anti-government all right, mainly because at the time the soaring cost of fuel was putting a lot of them out of business. The average small hauliers are predominantly working class, running one or two truck businesses, frequently managed by husband-and-wife teams. They work terrible hours, for minimal profits…”

This time, 10 Downing Street is bent on bringing the army to the streets of Britain to deliver fuel to gas stations.  It should come as no surprise: this would be the last link to be militarized in that long corporate oil chain running from oil prospecting, exploration and extraction, through transportation and refining, down to deliveries to your local petrol station. 

In line with traditional British (and US) strategies demanding full control of global oil resources, the threat of military intervention and outright invasion has been their historical norm worldwide when it comes to guaranteeing oil supplies and gasoline distribution. 

The first image that comes to mind is the US-UK led invasion of Iraq in 2003 which, leaving aside the hypocrisy of wanting to bring “democracy” to the country, and the outright lies regarding Saddam’s “Weapons of Mass Destruction” – where Tony Blair was the most passionate supporter of  the Bush administration’s blatant lying – the one factor where we find a decades-long consistency in British foreign policy is in their systematic use of military force to secure oil fields, exploit oil production, guarantee oil transportation to Britain and its allies and, more recently, to ensure that it reaches all corners of the UK economy.

In a way, one may begin to understand this rather paranoid attitude towards oil considering Britain is an island and, even though technology has reduced its vulnerability in terms of supplies and access to oil and other key resources, it is still a sensitive issue in the British collective psyche.  For several centuries, Imperial Britain’s well-being has depended on its ability to guarantee gross exploitation of raw materials in the farthest reaches of our planet.

We could go back to the mid-19th Century, when the British East India Company – acting as the Crown’s business and trade broker for such major financial institutions as the Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank/HSBC – imposed the opium trade on China with the backing of the Royal Navy and Expeditionary Forces. In fact, two wars were waged by Britain against China starting in 1839 and ending in 1860, both of which were geared at ensuring the Qing Dynasty understood the “benefits” of British controlled opium on their society, which reaped huge profits for the City of London. 

Regarding oil, we should also mention the British invasion of Iran in August 1941 – “Operation Countenance” as Churchill called it – together with his then ally and Soviet  leader Joseph Stalin, to grab desperately needed Iranian (Persian, as it was called then) oil in their quest to “save mankind from the tyranny of Hitler.” Something most Iranians, Iraqis, Afghans, Syrians, Palestinians, Libyans, Egyptians, and other Muslim countries hotly debated at the time, as they were for the most part pro-Germany and Italy during the War, and considered Britain as their main foe. 

Seeing their present plight at the hands of the US, Britain, France and Israel, history may finally be proving them right.

After the Second World War, the Iranians were graciously granted “independence” by Britain and its allies, whereupon in April 1951 they democratically elected Mohamed Mossadegh as their prime minister, who quickly nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (today known as BP plc – British Petroleum), so that its profits would benefit the Iranian people and not the British government and shareholders. So British Military Intelligence MI6, together with the CIA, engineered, financed, organized and carried out “Operation Ajax”: a coup d’Etat that in August 1953 ousted Mossadegh, starting the long 27 year pro-US/UK dictatorship of Shah Reza Pahlavi. 

Until, that is, the Iranians finally retook control of their own country in 1979: (Notice for US and UK leaders: this is what we call “the self-determination of peoples and nations”).   No surprise then that sixty years later, the UK now forms part of a trio next to the US and Israel, threatening Iran every other day with unilateral military attack.

Then, in 1956, the UK again ganged-up militarily – this time with France and Israel – to attack

Gamal Nasser’s Egypt after he nationalized the Suez Canal, which was considered to be the “jugular vein of the UK and Europe” when it came to deliveries of Iranian and Iraqi oil.

A quarter century later, after prospecting by Shell and BP in the South Atlantic revealed massive (more than 30 billion barrels) of oil in Argentina’s shallow continental shelf in the vicinity of the Falkland / Malvinas Islands again, UK and US strategists astutely maneuvered and were handed a golden opportunity by the geopolitically illiterate Argentine military junta when they took those bleak islands in 1982.

Although more difficult than at first expected, Britain did recover the Falkland Islands thanks to unrestricted US military support, whereupon Margaret Thatcher set up the largest military base in the South Atlantic; nuclear bombs and all.  Today, British and American oil companies are prospecting and will soon begin exploiting Argentina’s off-shore oil in the Falkland/Malvinas zone.  British companies Rockhopper Exploration, Borders & Southern Petroleum, Falklands Oil & Gas, Prime Oil & Gas are joint-venturing with US companies as Anadarko Petroleum, Noble Energy and others, knowing British military power is in place to protect them.

As part of the combined US/UK resource-grabbing strategy, we now have the US South Atlantic Fourth Fleet that was created in 1942 at the height of war against Germany, disbanded in 1950, and refloated in 2008 by George W. Bush.  Clearly, all oil producing regions count with full UK/US military control on a planetary scale.

But let’s face it: the UK has shown real public relations talent by presenting all their military invasions and attacks as “benign”, promoting “civilization” and “democracy”.  After all, they do have five centuries of imperial prowess and experience.  So, dear Britons, the next time you line up to fill up your petrol tanks, be careful not to run over those nice military boots standing by to “protect” you…

­ Adrian Salbuchi for RT

­Adrian Salbuchi is a political analyst, author, speaker and radio/TV commentator in Argentina. www.asalbuchi.com.ar

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.