Another War for Oil on the Agenda? Thank Ted Cruz


Very important identical bills were introduced in the U.S. Senate and House in late February, but you’ve likely not heard of them – even though they could literally blow up the Middle East and take the world much closer to World War III.

On February 26, Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Tom Cotton (R-AK) introduced a bill asserting U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights in Syria – thereby attempting to change long-standing U.S. policy and to defy international law, which considers the Golan as “occupied territory” that Israel must surrender. The bill was co-sponsored by Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fl), Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). An identical bill was filed in the House by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI).

In one of the very few articles written about these bills to date, MintPress News (Feb. 27) noted that U.S. recognition of Israel’s claim to the Golan Heights “could result in an all-out war between Israel and Syria as well as with Syrian allies such as Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Given that Israel has been preparing for such a war for well over a year and that Israel has been given the authority to bring U.S. troops into that conflict if and when it occurs, the likely consequences of the passage of this bill should be treated with the gravity they deserve.” [1]

So why has there been so little press coverage of these companion bills? Presstv.com (Feb. 28) suggested two reasons: 1) the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has “kept mum” about the bills; and 2) “Concerned about a possible international backlash, Trump administration officials have privately asked Israel to quiet the lobbying campaign” for this legislation. [2] Without AIPAC lobbying about the issue, the mainstream media apparently acquiesce in the silence.

Ted Cruz is known to be the top Republican recipient of pro-Israeli lobby contributions in the U.S. Senate.

The Cruz/Cotton and Gallagher bills follow upon one of the final acts by U.S. Ambassador to UN Nikki Haley. In November 2018, the UN General Assembly’s “decolonization committee” passed a resolution declaring Israel’s jurisdiction and administration of “the occupied Syrian Golan” to be “null and void.” The vote passed 152-2, with 14 abstentions and 2 “no” votes – from Israel and U.S. Previously, the U.S. had always abstained on this issue.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon welcomed the U.S.’s decision, stating: “It is time for the world to distinguish between those who stabilize the region and those who sow terror.” [3]

Danon’s comment was remarkable, given that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks in 2016 released diplomatic cables showing that since 2006 Israel and the U.S. had sought to destabilize Syria and to actually engineer a civil war in that country. As Assange said at the time, apparently quoting from one of the cables: “[I]f Syria [is] sufficiently destabilized, [Israel] might be in a position where it can keep the Golan Heights forever, or even advance that territory.” [4]

MintPress News’ Whitney Webb argues that “the goal” of the current Cruz/Cotton and Gallagher bills “is not to secure international support but to provide enough diplomatic cover for the joint U.S.-Israeli extraction and use of the area’s strategic resources, namely oil.” [5] In 2015, after a major discovery of oil in the Golan, an Israeli subsidiary of New Jersey-based energy company Genie Energy Ltd. was granted drilling rights in the Golan by Israel.

I wrote extensively about Genie Energy in this space more than two years ago, in a piece called “Trump & Woolsey: Was There a Bait-and-Switch?” (November 11, 2016). Genie Energy has an amazingly powerful team behind it: Rupert Murdoch (the media mogul), Lord Jacob Rothschild (the billionaire), James Woolsey (ex-CIA director and former Trump advisor), Larry Summers (former U.S. Treasury Secretary), Dick Cheney (former U.S. Vice-President), Bill Richardson (former U.S. Secretary of Energy). I should also add that in response to that article, I received more angry emails than for anything else I’ve ever written for Counterpunch.

So now the Cruz/Cotton and Gallagher bills are intended to help Genie Energy in the Golan. As Whitney Webb writes, “Indeed, without a U.S. move recognizing Israel’s control over the region, Genie’s Israeli subsidiary is unable to sell any oil it extracts from the occupied territory on the international oil market.” [6]

Of course, the bills also come at a time when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust; is gearing up for a tight election race in April; and must deal with the just-released UN Independent Commission of Inquiry report suggesting that Israel may be guilty of major war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza over the past year.

Even more interesting in terms of global geopolitics, the U.S. bills are quietly being advanced at the very time that Russia and Israel are in discussions about removing all foreign powers from war-torn Syria, now that the war against ISIS/Daesh is winding down. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Netanyahu discussed this issue in Moscow in late February. But as one commentator put it, Moscow and Tel Aviv “may have a different understanding of the ‘foreign forces withdrawal’ concept.” [7]

As MintPress News has reported, in May of 2018 Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz told Reuters that Washington’s endorsement of Israel’s control of the Golan was “topping the agenda” in diplomatic talks; such an endorsement “was being peddled to the Trump administration as a way to further counter Iran, the goal that has now become the guiding force behind President Donald Trump’s Middle East policy.” [8]

Indeed, the Cruz/Cotton and Gallagher bills specifically state that the U.S. must recognize Israel’s claim to the Golan “in light of new realities on the ground, including Iran’s presence in Syria,” which is seen as important to the “national security interest” of the U.S.

President Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton has long wanted to bomb Iran, which is not surprising, given that from 2013 to March 2018, Bolton was Chairman of the Gatestone Institute, seen by many as an anti-Muslim hate group. Genie Energy’s James Woolsey has also been an advisory board member of the Gatestone Institute. [9]

At the time of Genie Energy’s 2015 discovery of oil in the Golan Heights, political analyst F. William Engdahl noted, “The geopolitical stakes in the Middle East have just gotten higher by an order of magnitude. Take a little known Newark, New Jersey oil company, the contested Golan Heights between Syria and Israel, add a reported major oil discovery there just as Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria goes into high gear, shake vigorously and we have a potential detonator for World War III.” [10]

Nearly four years later, with Iran now in the crosshairs of nuclear powers U.S. and Israel, that detonator has become less “potential” and more actual.

So of course AIPAC has “kept mum” about the Cruz/Cotton and Gallagher bills, and of course the Trump administration has asked Israel to be “quiet” about them to prevent an “international backlash,” but the rest of the world can’t afford to be silent, even as the mainstream press says nothing. There are times when an “international backlash” is warranted, and this is one.

Footnotes:
[1]Whitney Webb, “With Oil, Water and Iran as Targets, US on Brink of Recognizing Israeli Sovereignty Over Golan Heights,” MintPress News, February 27, 2019.
[2] “US lawmakers move to recognize Syria’s Golan Heights as Israeli territory,” presstv.com, February 28, 2019.
[3] AP and World Israel News Staff, “UN first: US opposes resolution nullifying Israel’s right to Golan,” World Israel News, November 17, 2018.
[4] Ivan Stamenkovic, “WikiLeaks: US, Israel, And Saudi Arabia Planned Overthrow Of Syrian Govt. In 2006,” MintPress News, October 26, 2016.
[5] Webb, op. cit.
[6] Ibid.
[7] South Front, “Video: US Forces Steal Tons of Gold Captured by ISIS in Syria, Iraq,” March 1, 2018.
[8] Webb, op. cit.
[9] Joyce Nelson, “Trump & Woolsey: Was There a Bait-and-Switch?” Counterpunch, November 11, 2016.
10] F. William Engdahl, “Genies and Genocide: Syria, Israel, Russia and Much Oil,” New Eastern Outlook, October 26, 2015.

Joyce Nelson’s sixth book, Beyond Banksters: Resisting the New Feudalism, can be ordered at: http://watershedsentinel.ca/banksters. She can be reached through www.joycenelson.ca.

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