China and USA in New Cold War
over Africa's Oil Riches
Darfur? It's the Oil, Stupid...
by F. William Engdahl
Global Research, May 20, 2007
To paraphrase the famous quip during the
1992 US Presidential debates, when an unknown William Jefferson
Clinton told then-President George Herbert Walker Bush, "It's
the economy, stupid," the present concern of the current
Washington Administration over Darfur in southern Sudan is not,
if we were to look closely, genuine concern over genocide against
the peoples in that poorest of poor part of a forsaken section
No. "It's the oil, stupid."
Hereby hangs a tale of cynical dimension
appropriate to a Washington Administration that has shown no regard
for its own genocide in Iraq, when its control over major oil
reserves is involved. What's at stake in the battle for Darfur?
Control over oil, lots and lots of oil.
The case of Darfur, a forbidding piece
of sun-parched real estate in the southern part of Sudan, illustrates
the new Cold War over oil, where the dramatic rise in China's
oil demand to fuel its booming growth has led Beijing to embark
on an aggressive policy of-ironically-- dollar diplomacy. With
its more than $1.3 trillion in mainly US dollar reserves at the
Peoples' National Bank of China, Beijing is engaging in active
petroleum geopolitics. Africa is a major focus, and in Africa,
the central region between Sudan and Chad is priority. This is
defining a major new front in what, since the US invasion of Iraq
in 2003, is a new Cold War between Washington and Beijing over
control of major oil sources. So far Beijing has played its cards
a bit more cleverly than Washington. Darfur is a major battleground
in this high-stakes contest for oil control.
China Oil diplomacy
In recent months, Beijing has embarked
on a series of initiatives designed to secure long-term raw materials
sources from one of the planet's most endowed regions-the African
subcontinent. No raw material has higher priority in Beijing at
present than the securing of long term oil sources.
Today China draws an estimated 30% of
its crude oil from Africa. That explains an extraordinary series
of diplomatic initiatives which have left Washington furious.
China is using no-strings-attached dollar credits to gain access
to Africa's vast raw material wealth, leaving Washington's typical
control game via the World Bank and IMF out in the cold. Who needs
the painful medicine of the IMF when China gives easy terms and
builds roads and schools to boot?
In November last year Beijing hosted an
extraordinary summit of 40 African heads of state. They literally
rolled out the red carpet for the heads of among others Algeria,
Nigeria, Mali, Angola, Central African Republic, Zambia, South
China has just done an oil deal, linking
the Peoples Republic of China with the continent's two largest
nations - Nigeria and South Africa. China's CNOC will lift the
oil in Nigeria, via a consortium that also includes South African
Petroleum Co. giving China access to what could be 175,000 barrels
a day by 2008. It's a $2.27 billion deal that gives state-controlled
CNOC a 45% stake in a large off-shore Nigeria oil field. Previously,
Nigeria had been considered in Washington to be an asset of the
Anglo-American oil majors, ExxonMobil, Shell and Chevron.
China has been generous in dispensing
its soft loans, with no interest or outright grants to some of
the poorest debtor states of Africa. The loans have gone to infrastructure
including highways, hospitals, and schools, a stark contrast to
the brutal austerity demands of the IMF and World Bank. In 2006
China committed more than $8 billion to Nigeria, Angola and Mozambique,
versus $2.3 billion to all sub-Saharan Africa from the World Bank.
Ghana is negotiating a $1.2 billion Chinese electrification loan.
Unlike the World Bank, a de facto arm of US foreign economic policy,
China shrewdly attaches no strings to its loans.
This oil-related Chinese diplomacy has
led to the bizarre accusation from Washington that Beijing is
trying to "secure oil at the sources," something Washington
foreign policy has itself been preoccupied with for at least a
No source of oil has been more the focus
of China-US oil conflict of late than Sudan, home of Darfur.
Sudan oil riches
Beijing's China National Petroleum Company,
CNPC, is Sudan's largest foreign investor, with some $5 billion
in oil field development. Since 1999 China has invested at least
$15 billion in Sudan. It owns 50% of an oil refinery near Khartoum
with the Sudan government. The oil fields (see graphic) are concentrated
in the south, site of a long-simmering civil war, partly financed
covertly by the United States, to break the south from the Islamic
CNPC built an oil pipeline from its concession
blocs 1, 2 and 4 in southern Sudan, to a new terminal at Port
Sudan on the Red Sea where oil is loaded on tankers for China.
Eight percent of China's oil now comes from southern Sudan. China
takes up to 65% to 80% of Sudan's 500,000 barrels/day of oil production.
Sudan last year was China's fourth largest foreign oil source.
In 2006 China passed Japan to become the world's second largest
importer of oil after the United States, importing 6.5 million
barrels a day of the black gold. With its oil demand growing by
an estimated 30% a year, China will pass the US in oil import
demand in a few years. That reality is the motor driving Beijing
foreign policy in Africa. (Source: USAID)
A look at the southern Sudan oil concessions
shows that China's CNPC holds rights to bloc 6 which straddles
Darfur, near the border to Chad and the Central African Republic.
In April 2005 Sudan's government announced it had found oil in
South Darfur whoich is estimated to be able when developed to
pump 500,000 barrels/day. The world press forgot to report that
vital fact in discussing the Darfur conflict.
Using the genocide charge to militarize
Sudan's oil region
Genocide was the preferred theme, and
Washington was the orchestra conductor. Curiously, while all observers
acknowledge that Darfur has seen a large human displacement and
human misery and tens of thousands or even as much as 300,000
deaths in the last several years, only Washington and the NGO's
close to it use the charged term "genocide" to describe
Darfur. If they are able to get a popular acceptance of the charge
genocide, it opens the possibility for drastic "regime change"
intervention by NATO and de facto by Washington into Sudan's sovereign
The genocide theme is being used, with
full-scale Hollywood backing from the likes of pop stars like
George Clooney, to orchestrate the case for a de facto NATO occupation
of the region. So far the Sudan government has vehemently refused,
The US Government repeatedly uses "genocide"
to refer to Darfur. It is the only government to do so. US Assistant
Secretary of State Ellen Sauerbrey, head of the Bureau of Population,
Refugees and Migration, said during a USINFO online interview
last November 17, "The ongoing genocide in Darfur, Sudan
- a 'gross violation' of human rights - is among the top
international issues of concern to the United
States." The Bush administration keeps insisting that genocide
has been going on in Darfur since 2003, despite the fact that
a five-man panel UN mission led by Italian Judge Antonio Cassese
reported in 2004 that genocide had not been committed in Darfur,
rather that grave human rights abuses were committed. They called
for war crime trials.
Merchants of death
The United States, acting through surrogate
allies in Chad and neighboring states has trained and armed the
Sudan Peoples' Liberation Army, headed until his death in July
2005, by John Garang, trained at US Special Forces school at Fort
By pouring arms into first southern Sudan
in the eastern part and since discovery of oil in Darfur, to that
region as well, Washington fuelled the conflict that led to tens
of thousands dying and several million driven to flee their homes.
Eritrea hosts and supports the SPLA, the umbrella NDA opposition
group, and the Eastern Front and Darfur rebels.
There are two rebel groups fighting in
Sudan's Darfur region against the Khartoum central government
of President Omar al-Bashir-- the Justice for Equality Movement
(JEM) and the larger Sudan Liberation Army (SLA).
In February 2003 the SLA launched attacks
on Sudan government positions in the Darfur region. SLA Secretary-General
Minni Arkou Minnawi called for armed struggle, accusing the government
of ignoring Darfur. "The objective of the SLA is to create
a united democratic Sudan." In other words, regime change
The US Senate adopted a resolution in
February 2006 that requested North Atlantic Treaty Organization
troops in Darfur, as well as a stronger U.N. peacekeeping force
with a robust mandate. A month later, President Bush also called
for additional NATO forces in Darfur. Uh huh... Genocide? Or oil?
The Pentagon has been busy training African
military officers in the US, much as it has for Latin American
officers for decades. Its International Military Education and
Training (IMET) program has provided training to military officers
from Chad, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Cameroon and the Central African
Republic, in effect every country on Sudan's border. Much of the
arms that have fuelled the killing in Darfur and the south have
been brought in via murky, protected private "merchants of
death" such as the notorious former KGB operative, now with
offices in the US, Victor Bout. Bout has been cited repeatedly
in recent years for selling weapons across Africa. US Government
officials strangely leave his operations in Texas and Florida
untouched despite the fact he is on the Interpol wanted list for
US development aid for all Sub-Sahara
Africa including Chad, has been cut sharply in recent years while
its military aid has risen. Oil and the scramble for strategic
raw materials is the clear reason. The region of southern Sudan
from the Upper Nile to the borders of Chad is rich in oil. Washington
knew that long before the Sudanese government.
Chevron's 1974 oil project
US oil majors have known about Sudan's
oil wealth since the early 1970's. In 1979, Jafaar Nimeiry, Sudan
head of state, broke with the Soviets and invited Chevron to develop
oil in the Sudan. That was perhaps a fatal mistake. UN Ambassador
George H.W. Bush had personally told Nimeiry of satellite photos
indicating oil in Sudan. Nimeiry took the bait. Wars over oil
have been the consequence even since.
Chevron found big oil reserves in southern
Sudan. It spent $1.2 billion finding and testing them. That oil
triggered what is called Sudan's second civil war in 1983. Chevron
was target of repeated attacks and killings and suspended the
project in 1984. In 1992, it sold it's Sudanese oil concessions.
Then China began to develop the abandoned Chevron fields in 1999
with notable results.
But Chevron is not far from Darfur today.
Chad oil and pipeline politics
Condi Rice's Chevron is in neighboring
Chad, together with the other US oil giant, ExxonMobil. They've
just built a $3.7 billion oil pipeline carrying 160,000 barrels/day
of oil from Doba in central Chad near Darfur Sudan, via Cameroon
to Kribi on the Atlantic Ocean, destined for US refineries.
To do it, they worked with Chad "President
for life," Idriss Deby, a corrupt despot who has been accused
of feeding US-supplied arms to the Darfur rebels. Deby joined
Washington's Pan Sahel Initiative run by the Pentagon's US-European
Command, to train his troops to fight "Islamic terrorism."
The majority of the tribes in Darfur region are Islamic.
Supplied with US military aid, training
and weapons, in 2004 Deby launched the initial strike that set
off the conflict in Darfur, using members of his elite Presidential
Guard who originate from the province, providing the men with
all terrain vehicles, arms and anti-aircraft guns to Darfur rebels
fighting the Khartoum government in the southwest Sudan. The US
military support to Deby in fact had been the trigger for the
Darfur bloodbath. Khartoum reacted and the ensuing debacle was
unleashed in full tragic force.
Washington-backed NGO's and the US Government
claim unproven genocide as a pretext to ultimately bring UN/NATO
troops into the oilfields of Darfur and south Sudan. Oil, not
human misery, is behind Washington's new interest in Darfur.
The "Darfur genocide" campaign
began in 2003, the same time the Chad-Cameroon pipeline oil began
to flow. The US now had a base in Chad to go after Darfur oil
and, potentially, co-opt China's new oil sources. Darfur is strategic,
straddling Chad, Central African Republic, Egypt and Libya.
US military objectives in Darfur-and the
Horn of Africa more widely-are being served at present by the
US and NATO backing of the African Union troops in Darfur. There
NATO provides ground and air support for AU troops who are categorized
as "neutral" and "peacekeepers." Sudan is
at war on three fronts, each country-- Uganda, Chad, and Ethiopia--
with a significant US military presence and ongoing US military
programs. The war in Sudan involves both US covert operations
and US trained "rebel" factions coming in from South
Sudan, Chad, Ethiopia and Uganda.
Chad's Deby looks to China too
The completion of the US and World Bank-financed
oil pipeline from Chad to the Cameroon coast was designed as one
part of a far grander Washington scheme to control the oil riches
of central Africa from Sudan to the entire Gulf of Guinea.
But Washington's erstwhile pal, Chad's
President for Life, Idriss Deby, began to get unhappy with his
small share of the US-controlled oil profits. When he and the
Chad Parliament decided in early 2006 to take more of the oil
revenues to finance military operations and beef up its army,
new World Bank President, Iraq war architect, Paul Wolfowitz,
moved to suspend loans to the country. Then that August, after
Deby had won re-election, he created Chad's own oil company, SHT,
and threatened to expel Chevron and Malaysia's Petronas for not
paying taxes owed, and demanding a 60% share of the Chad oil prieline.
In the end he came to terms with the oil companies, but winds
of change were blowing.
Deby also faces growing internal opposition
from a Chad rebel group, United Front for Change, known under
its French name as FUC, which he claims is being covertly funded
by Sudan. This region is a very complex part of the world of war.
The FUC has based itself in Darfur.
Into this unstable situation, Beijing
has shown up in Chad with a full coffer of aid money in hand.
In late January, Chinese President Hu Jintao made a state visit
to Sudan and to Cameroon among other African states. In 2006,
China's leaders visited no less than 48 African states. In August
2006 Beijing hosted Chad's Foreign Minister for talks and resumption
of formal diplomatic ties cut in 1997. China has begin to import
oil from Chad as well as Sudan. Not that much oil, but if Beijing
has its way, that will soon change.
This April, Chad's Foreign Minister announced
that talks with China over greater China participation in Chad's
oil development were "progressing well." He referred
to the terms the Chinese seek for oil development, calling them,
"much more equal partnerships than those we are used to having."
The Chinese economic presence in Chad,
ironically, may be more effective in calming the fighting and
displacement in Darfur than any African Union or UN troop presence
ever could. That would not be welcome for some people in Washington
and at Chevron headquarters, as they would not find the oil falling
into their greasy bloody hands.
Chad and Darfur are but part of the vast
China effort to secure "oil at the source" across Africa.
Oil is also the prime factor in US Africa policy today. George
W. Bush's interest in Africa includes a new US base in Sao Tome/Principe
124 miles off the Gulf of Guinea from which it can control Gulf
of Guinea oilfields from Angola in the south to Congo, Gabon,
Equitorial Guinea, Cameroon and Nigeria. That just happens to
be the very same areas where recent Chinese diplomatic and investment
activity has focussed.
"West Africa's oil has become of
national strategic interest to us," stated US Assistant Secretary
of State for Africa, Walter Kansteiner already back in 2002. Darfur
and Chad are but an extension of the US Iraq policy "with
other means"-control of oil everywhere. China is challenging
that control "everywhere," especially in Africa. It
amounts to a new undeclared Cold War over oil.
Global Research Contributing Editor F.
William Engdahl is the author of 'A Century of War: Anglo-American
Oil Politics,' Pluto Press Ltd. He may be contacted via his website,
F. William Engdahl is a frequent contributor
to Global Research. Global Research Articles by F. William Engdahl