A recent, blockbuster article in Bloomberg detailed how the dirty energy baron Koch brothers – who, the article points out, “blazed a path to riches -- in part, by making illicit payments to win contracts, trading with a terrorist state, fixing prices, neglecting safety and ignoring environmental regulations” – flouted U.S. law by “[selling] millions of dollars of petrochemical equipment to Iran, a country the U.S. identifies as a sponsor of global terrorism.” The connection between oil, corruption, and terrorism detailed in the Bloomberg article sounds like something out of the film Syriana. But in this case, it’s not fiction, it’s absolutely real: the connection between oil, corruption and Middle East-based terrorism cannot be clearer.
Barely over a week after the Bloomberg story broke, the oil-corruption-terrorism nexus was made even more glaringly obvious with breaking news of an Iran-backed terror plot against the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir.
In the Iranian plot outlined on Tuesday by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in Washington, officials in the elite Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps are accused of scheming to kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States by hiring assassins from a Mexican drug cartel for $1.5 million. The main suspects were identified as Mansour J. Arbabsiar, a naturalized American citizen of Iranian descent from Corpus Christi, Tex., who has been taken into custody, and Gholam Shakuri, described by the Justice Department as a member of the Quds Force, who is at large and believed to be in Iran.
Where do the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and its subsidiary, the Quds Force, get their funding? According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the IRGC “has ties to over one hundred companies that control roughly $12 billion in construction and engineering capital” in Iran, and also is linked to “companies connected to nuclear technology.” In addition, according to the U.S. Treasury Department, the IRGC “has numerous economic interests involving defense production, construction, and the oil industry.” Meanwhile, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Iran earned $73 billion from oil exports in 2010, accounting for about 80%-90% of the country’s total export earnings, and a large chunk of the budget as well. Clearly, oil is the source of wealth that allows the IRGC and the Quds force to operate as aggressively as they do. It’s also one of the main reasons why Iran can afford a nuclear weapons program.
Along these same lines, a just-published book, “The Petroleum Triangle: Oil, Globalization, and Terror,” by Professor Steve Yetiv of Old Dominion University, finds that “Middle East oil has fueled terrorism by helping to bolster oil-rich regimes that terrorists hate, to fund the terrorist infrastructure, and to generate anti-American and anti-Western sentiments about American support for oil-rich regimes and perceived Western designs on Middle East oil.” According to Professor Yetiv, “America’s failure to deal with its oil dependence contributes to it being caught in the cross-hairs of Persian Gulf conflicts, including those waged at the micro-level between oil-rich Saudi Arabia, which is threatened by oil-rich Iran’s nuclear aspirations and diplomatic rivalry.”
Needless to say, this is all severely problematic, and of course drives home the urgent necessity for the United States to break its oil addiction. What’s interesting is that many of the same people who are so fast to criticize other people’s patriotism have fallen eerily silent on the Koch’s patriotism, as well as on the need to get off of oil and onto clean energy – winds, solar, etc. – that funds no terrorism and promotes no corruption. Don’t hold your breath waiting for any consistency from these people, though. Clearly, being on the payroll of the Koch brothers, ExxonMobil, and the like has a way of skewing one’s views, let’s just say.
Take Texas Governor Rick Perry, for instance, who “rails against Iran's ‘extremist, repressive ideology’” and who “condemns any company who does business with ‘a terrorist state like Iran’ for aiding a country that wants to kill American troops,” yet who is, at the same time, heavily funded by cash from none other than Koch Industries. That’s right, the same company which “for years did business with Iran, helping to grow the Iranian energy industry.” Which means, in short, “that at the same time [Perry] was slamming companies profiting off of business with Iran, Perry was pocketing campaign cash from a company doing just that.” See what we’re getting at?
Of course, the corrupting influence of oil isn’t just limited to Iran or the Middle East. In Russia, for instance, Vladimir Putin’s autocratic, corrupt regime relies heavily on oil revenues to consolidate his hold on power. According to one Russian economist, Putin “would soon be imperiled” if “oil were to fall below $60 (U.S.) a barrel, and stay there.” Meanwhile, right here in the United States, a corruption scandal is brewing that involves “State Department employees in a cozy relationship with Paul Elliot, a leader on Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign turned head lobbyist for Keystone XL – offering personal favors, praise, advice, and generally cheerleading the project while it was under review.” No wonder why oil has been called “the devil’s excrement” – by former Venezuelan Oil Minister and OPEC co-founder Juan Pablo Perez Alfonzo, no less.
Given all of this, it’s clear what we need to do as a nation: move off of “the devil’s excrement” (oil) as soon as possible (no, the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is most certainly NOT the answer), and towards clean, safe, renewable energy that doesn’t corrupt, doesn’t endanger our national security, and doesn’t fuel terror plots from Iran or anywhere else. Fortunately, that’s doable right now, at a fraction of the cost of continuing the fossil industry welfare state we currently fund. So what are we waiting for?