American, European and Russian corporations are the only ones winning from humanitarian disasters of their own making
By Steve Topple and cross-posted from INSURGE INTELLIGENCE, a crowd-funded investigative journalism project for the global commons.
As a tentative ceasefire continues to hold in Syria, with the next round of peace talks having resumed this week, you’d be forgiven for thinking that there might be an end in sight to a conflict that has raged for nearly five years.
But as with every war in the Middle East, nothing is quite as it seems.
According to Naomi Klein in her book The Shock Doctrine, corporatist (a more pertinent term for what many of us consider “neoliberal”) policymakers — those that are inherently intertwined with both Government and multinational companies — take advantage of catastrophes such as economic collapse, hurricanes, terrorist attacks and even war, to further what she describes as their “policy trinity”: the elimination of the public sphere, total liberation for corporations and skeletal social spending.
In short, disaster capitalism is premised on a simple philosophy: where there’s chaos, there’s money to be made.
From Pinochet’s Chilean coup and subsequent reforms in the 70s, via Thatcher, to the Falklands conflict and the miner’s strike; from 9/11 to the second invasion of Iraq, Klein argues that the economist Milton Friedman was the spiritual leader of this “shock doctrine”:
“The falling bombs, the bursts of terror, the pounding winds serve to soften up whole societies much as the blaring music and blows in the torture cells soften up prisoners. Like the terrorised prisoner who gives up the names of his comrades and renounces his faith, shocked societies often give up things they would otherwise fiercely protect.”
For Klein, like a prisoner under torture, societies are moulded in three stages: firstly, being battered down so they no longer put up a fight against their captors and are “blank canvases”; then they are “encouraged” to relinquish control of their country and its commodities; and finally, political fiat decrees that anyone who defies this will be subject to more “shocks” (the nature of which may be metaphorical or physical).
Shock, awe and pipelineistan
If Klein were to rewrite The Shock Doctrine now, I hope she’d agree that the situation in Syria is playing out as a textbook example of her terrifying concept — because I believe that’s what we are witnessing.
To understand the actions of each nation involved in Syria, you first have to recognise their motivation. It is, as always, fossil fuels and the dollar — with human life at a lowly position down the pecking order.
The crux of the matter is that Bashar al-Assad put paid to the construction of an oil and gas pipeline, which would have ended Europe’s reliance on Russia for its natural gas, by refusing to sign an agreement with Qatar.
Instead, he opted for a partnership with Iran (after which the civil war in Syria intensified).
While the construction of the pipeline had previously been put on hold, it was quietly announced last July that Iran was forging ahead with a trunkline(“IGAT6”) to supply Iraq with natural gas; in theory, this could be the beginning of an Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline — or one that goes direct to Turkey.
The Iranian pipeline would be unacceptable to both Washington and Brussels, as it would mean energy co-ordination from Iran, Iraq, Syria and Russia (putting pressure on their Sunni-led cohorts in the region), and also because the product from such would be traded in a basket of currencies — not exclusively the petrodollar.
Moreover, with Iran now emerging from sanctions (and forecast to produce 3.1m barrels of oil per day), its gas fields, the second largest reserves on the planet, are up for grabs to exporters.
There is, in Syria and across the spectrum of corporate interests of the countries involved, everything to play for — and the disaster capitalists are piling into the game, full throttle…