Introduction: After posting Michael Hudson’s article “America Escalates its “Democratic” Oil War in the Near East” on the blog, I decided to ask Michael to reply to a few follow-up questions. Michael very kindly agreed. Please see our exchange below.
The Saker: Trump has been accused of not thinking forward, of not having a long-term strategy regarding the consequences of assassinating General Soleimani. Does the United States in fact have a strategy in the Near East, or is it only ad hoc?
Michael Hudson: Of course American strategists will deny that the recent actions do not reflect a deliberate strategy, because their long-term strategy is so aggressive and exploitative that it would even strike the American public as being immoral and offensive if they came right out and said it.
President Trump is just the taxicab driver, taking the passengers he has accepted – Pompeo, Bolton and the Iran-derangement syndrome neocons – wherever they tell him they want to be driven. They want to pull a heist, and he’s being used as the getaway driver (fully accepting his role). Their plan is to hold onto the main source of their international revenue: Saudi Arabia and the surrounding Near Eastern oil-export surpluses and money. They see the US losing its ability to exploit Russia and China, and look to keep Europe under its control by monopolizing key sectors so that it has the power to use sanctions to squeeze countries that resist turning over control of their economies and natural rentier monopolies to US buyers. In short, US strategists would like to do to Europe and the Near East just what they did to Russia under Yeltsin: turn over public infrastructure, natural resources and the banking system to U.S. owners, relying on US dollar credit to fund their domestic government spending and private investment.
This is basically a resource grab. Soleimani was in the same position as Chile’s Allende, Libya’s Qaddafi, Iraq’s Saddam. The motto is that of Stalin: “No person, no problem.”
The Saker: Your answer raises a question about Israel: In your recent article you only mention Israel twice, and these are only passing comments. Furthermore, you also clearly say the US Oil lobby as much more crucial than the Israel Lobby, so here is my follow-up question to you: On what basis have you come to this conclusion and how powerful do you believe the Israel Lobby to be compared to, say, the Oil lobby or the US Military-Industrial Complex? To what degree do their interests coincide and to what degree to they differ?
Michael Hudson: I wrote my article to explain the most basic concerns of U.S. international diplomacy: the balance of payments (dollarizing the global economy, basing foreign central bank savings on loans to the U.S. Treasury to finance the military spending mainly responsible for the international and domestic budget deficit), oil (and the enormous revenue produced by the international oil trade), and recruitment of foreign fighters (given the impossibility of drafting domestic U.S. soldiers in sufficient numbers). From the time these concerns became critical to today, Israel was viewed as a U.S. military base and supporter, but the U.S. policy was formulated independently of Israel.
I remember one day in 1973 or ’74 I was traveling with my Hudson Institute colleague Uzi Arad (later a head of Mossad and advisor to Netanyahu) to Asia, stopping off in San Francisco. At a quasi-party, a U.S. general came up to Uzi and clapped him on the shoulder and said, “You’re our landed aircraft carrier in the Near East,” and expressed his friendship.
Uzi was rather embarrassed. But that’s how the U.S. military thought of Israel back then. By that time the three planks of U.S. foreign policy strategy that I outlined were already firmly in place.
Of course Netanyahu has applauded U.S. moves to break up Syria, and Trump’s assassination choice. But the move is a U.S. move, and it’s the U.S. that is acting on behalf of the dollar standard, oil power and mobilizing Saudi Arabia’s Wahabi army.
Israel fits into the U.S.-structured global diplomacy much like Turkey does. They and other countries act opportunistically within the context set by U.S. diplomacy to pursue their own policies. Obviously Israel wants to secure the Golan Heights; hence its opposition to Syria, and also its fight with Lebanon; hence, its opposition to Iran as the backer of Assad and Hezbollah. This dovetails with US policy.
But when it comes to the global and U.S. domestic response, it’s the United States that is the determining active force. And its concern rests above all with protecting its cash cow of Saudi Arabia, as well as working with the Saudi jihadis to destabilize governments whose foreign policy is independent of U.S. direction – from Syria to Russia (Wahabis in Chechnya) to China (Wahabis in the western Uighur region). The Saudis provide the underpinning for U.S. dollarization (by recycling their oil revenues into U.S. financial investments and arms purchases), and also by providing and organizing the ISIS terrorists and coordinating their destruction with U.S. objectives. Both the Oil lobby and the Military-Industrial Complex obtain huge economic benefits from the Saudis.
Therefore, to focus one-sidedly on Israel is a distraction away from what the US-centered international order really is all about.
The Saker: In your recent article you wrote: “The assassination was intended to escalate America’s presence in Iraq to keep control the region’s oil reserves.” Others believe that the goal was precisely the opposite, to get a pretext to remove the US forces from both Iraq and Syria. What are your grounds to believe that your hypothesis is the most likely one?
Michael Hudson: Why would killing Soleimani help remove the U.S. presence? He was the leader of the fight against ISIS, especially in Syria. US policy was to continue using ISIS to permanently destabilize Syria and Iraq so as to prevent a Shi’ite crescent reaching from Iran to Lebanon – which incidentally would serve as part of China’s Belt and Road initiative. So it killed Soleimani to prevent the peace negotiation. He was killed because he had been invited by Iraq’s government to help mediate a rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia. That was what the United States feared most of all, because it effectively would prevent its control of the region and Trump’s drive to seize Iraqi and Syrian oil.
So using the usual Orwellian doublethink, Soleimani was accused of being a terrorist, and assassinated under the U.S. 2002 military Authorization Bill giving the President to move without Congressional approval against Al Qaeda. Trump used it to protect Al Qaeda’s terrorist ISIS offshoots.
Given my three planks of U.S. diplomacy described above, the United States must remain in the Near East to hold onto Saudi Arabia and try to make Iraq and Syria client states equally subservient to U.S. balance-of-payments and oil policy.
Certainly the Saudis must realize that as the buttress of U.S. aggression and terrorism in the Near East, their country (and oil reserves) are the most obvious target to speed the parting guest. I suspect that this is why they are seeking a rapprochement with Iran. And I think it is destined to come about, at least to provide breathing room and remove the threat. The Iranian missiles to Iraq were a demonstration of how easy it would be to aim them at Saudi oil fields. What then would be Aramco’s stock market valuation?