Oil, Tea and Sympathy

What do you get when you mix the ‘Camel Corps’ with big oil? The result, as demonstrated in Sir Jeremy Greenstock’s CiF article of June 2nd, is a rather interesting brand of pro-Hamas sympathy.
One can only be impressed by the fact that Sir Jeremy managed to find the leisure to pen this article so close to the time that it was announced that the US Attorney General is beginning criminal investigations in relation to the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. As a ‘Special Advisor’ to BP, one would imagine at first glance that Sir Jeremy has bigger fish to fry right now rather than leaping to the defence of one of the world’s most brutal theocratic dictatorships, but his willingness to promote good press for such a regime may seem a little less odd when one takes into account the fact that his employer is no stranger to accusations of human rights and environmental abuses itself, as well as having some business interests which could be seen as a bit of a hot potato.
Greenstock’s sympathetic defence of the Turkish role in the organisation and execution of the ‘Free Gaza’ flotilla is maybe a little more comprehensible when one takes into account that BP and Turkey co-operate on the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline project which came under fire from Amnesty International and that BP withdrew its bid for licensing for offshore gas and oil near Cyprus because of Turkish territorial claims. His omission of Indonesia’s part in the violent flotilla is also easier to contextualize when one considers BP’s interests in the Tangguh project in West Papua – an area controversially annexed by Indonesia in 1975. Interestingly, the chairman of the BP-funded ‘Tangguh Independent Advisory Panel’ (the independence of which was considered highly questionable at the time by some) was none other than that Middle East frequent flyer George Mitchell.
BP has also come under criticism from human rights and environmental groups for its dealings in Tibet where it co-operates with Petro-China, Colombia and Alaska, among other places. Then, of course, there is the subject of the rather shadowy role played by yet another former British government employee now working for BP in the affair of the release of Megrahi from prison in the UK and BP’s dealings with Libya.
Unfortunately, Sir Jeremy’s apparent inability to stick to the facts in his article does nothing to lend credence to his arguments. Gaza was of course not ‘bombed to a wasteland’ by Israel 18 months ago and humanitarian aid, including building materials was being transported into Gaza before, during and after the Hamas-initiated hostilities, right up to this very day. The flotilla was not about ‘humanitarian assistance’ and Israel has not occupied Gaza since August 2005. Neither is it true to say that this latest crisis with Turkey over the flotilla incident is what has brought Turkey’s former role as a bridge between East and West to ‘tatters’; Turkey nailed its colours to the mast some 18 months ago when it chose to back Hamas against its former ally, but it appears that many in the West have yet to recognise that.
Whilst everyone is entitled to hold an opinion on the subject of the Middle East, it is only reasonable to expect that those such as Sir Jeremy Greenstock declare any personal or business interests which may have influenced the shape those opinions take, particularly when they employ current or former ‘hats’ such as having been the UK’s ambassador at the UN (1998 – 2003) or British envoy to Iraq (2003 – 2004) as buttresses for their arguments and as supposed proof of ‘direct experience’. It is sometimes easy to marvel at the gullibility of Western attitudes towards the forces at work in the Middle East, but in Sir Jeremy’s case, I doubt very much that this is the factor at play.
Downplaying the Hamas and Hizbollah threats to Israel by simultaneously trying to create a smoke-screen of Israeli culpability for all that goes on in the Middle East and promoting the image of Hamas as a democracy- respecting legitimate political entity which should be embraced by the international community is not, it seems, exclusively the territory of sandal- and- kefiyah-wearing pacifists. The latter may be somewhat dismayed to discover that their interests are not too far removed from those of some big oil companies who have no interest in serious sanctions being placed upon Iran and are willing to turn a blind eye to the latter’s funding and arming of its Middle East proxies.
And if a few Israelis get killed along the way, well what the hell; nobody who ‘matters’ makes a fuss about things like that, do they?

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