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19 May, 2017

US destabilizes Venezuela, Syria to retain hegemony in global oil, gas markets

The ongoing crises in Syria and Venezuela have been described by mainstream media as the result of failed leadership. In truth, their troubles are the result of U.S.-led regime change efforts masquerading as humanitarian aid to control both nations’ lucrative oil and gas industries.

by Whitney Webb

Part 3 - U.S. fueling instability through economic sabotage

In addition to the media strategies used to promote foreign-led regime change in both nations, the Syrian and Venezuelan leadership have also had to contend with economic sabotage, as well as foreign funding of opposition forces to the tune of millions of dollars.

In Venezuela, the U.S. is estimated to have spent between $50 to $60 million since Chávez’s election to bolster the country’s right-wing opposition in hopes that they will win elections.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama alone dedicated $5 million to “support political competition-building efforts” in Venezuela. The U.S. Senate introduced new legislation last week that will provide an additional $20 million for “democracy promotion” efforts in Venezuela. However, some of these efforts have involved right-wing politicians and their affiliates paying protesters in cash to violently escalate what would otherwise be largely peaceful opposition rallies.

In Syria, the U.S. has been openly funding opposition forces for most of the conflict, with hundreds of millions of dollars spent to arm and train Syria’s so-called “moderate rebels.”

In addition, both nations have been targeted by U.S. sanctions, some of which have driven Venezuela into an economic downturn. In 2015, the U.S. accused Venezuela’s government of being a “national security threat” and announced sanctions against several government officials as a result. More recently, in February, Trump sanctioned Venezuela’s vice-President, calling him a “drug kingpin” without supplying concrete evidence. Several U.S. senators are now seeking further sanctions against Venezuela.

Businesses associated with the U.S.-funded opposition have also been accused of intentionally creating scarcity with the goal of fueling unrest that could destabilize the government, a tactic that was also used against the Allende government in Chile in the 1970s.

Yet, the most damage has come from the manipulation oil prices, a concerted effort led by the U.S. and its ally Saudi Arabia. The artificial lowering of oil prices presents several benefits for the U.S.-Saudi alliance due to the economic harm it inflicts on the Saudi’s oil-producing competitors – chief among them Iran, Russia and Venezuela. These are all countries that the U.S. seeks to contain. Seeing as oil represents 90% of Venezuelan exports, its economy has been especially hard-hit.

Syria has also been the target of U.S. sanctions, the most recent of which took place in late April when the U.S. targeted 271 Syrians who were allegedly involved in manufacturing chemical weapons that the U.S. claims were used by the Assad government against civilians in Syria’s Idlib Province earlier that month. However, these claims have proven to be dubious according to evidence that has been uncovered since the attack, as well as the fact that no independent investigation into the incident has taken place.

However, these are only the latest sanctions imposed on the embattled nation as U.S. and E.U. sanctions have targeted the basic needs of everyday Syrians, not their national leaders.

As Rania Khalek noted in an article for the Intercept:

Internal United Nations assessments obtained by The Intercept reveal that U.S. and European sanctions are punishing ordinary Syrians and crippling aid work during the largest humanitarian emergency since World War II. The sanctions and war have destabilized every sector of Syria’s economy, transforming a once self-sufficient country into an aid-dependent nation. But aid is hard to come by, with sanctions blocking access to blood safety equipment, medicines, medical devices, food, fuel, water pumps, spare parts for power plants, and more.

Ultimately, the goal of economic sabotage in both Venezuela and Syria is to create an economic situation so desperate that the people turn on their national leadership, blaming them for the nations’ financial woes instead of those who imposed sanctions or carried out other forms of economic warfare.

In addition, the involvement of the U.S. in both conflicts is largely driven by the U.S.’ intention of keeping key fossil fuel resources out of the hands of Russia. In the case of Venezuela, the recently introduced Senate bill to give $20 million to the Venezuelan opposition makes this clear.

From a recent MintPress report:

Within the text of the bill, concerns are raised regarding Venezuelan state-owned oil company PDVSA and its transactions with Rosneft, a Russian state-owned oil company. As TeleSur noted: “fearful that PDVSA could default on its $4- and $5-billion dollar loans from Rosneft, regardless of Venezuela’s steadfast debt repayments, the bill warned that Rosneft could come into control of PDVSA’s U.S. subsidiary, CITGO Petroleum Corporation, which ‘controls critical energy infrastructure in 19 States in the United States.’” Seeing as Russia has already seized Venezuelan oil for unpaid bills despite their political alliance, this fear is not unfounded.

The Syrian conflict also involves competing gas pipeline interests. One of the pipelines, which favors the interests of U.S. allies, was outright rejected by Assad, who wanted to protect the interest of Russia, Syria’s greatest ally.

As The Guardian reported in 2013:

Assad refused to sign a proposed agreement with Qatar and Turkey that would run a pipeline from the latter’s North field, contiguous with Iran’s South Pars field, through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and on to Turkey, with a view to supply European markets – albeit crucially bypassing Russia. Assad’s rationale was ‘to protect the interests of [his] Russian ally, which is Europe’s top supplier of natural gas.’

While conventional understanding suggests that the conflicts in Syria and Venezuela are wildly different, a closer examination of the nuances of the current crises shows that U.S.-led regime change efforts, whether covert or overt, often involve using the same tactics in order to ensure the same overarching motive – global dominance.

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