Trump seeks war on Iran to save U.S. fracking industry

Persian Gulf Star Co. oil processing plant in Bandar Abbas, Iran, in 2019.

Blood and oil and Trump and Biden, part 1

The Trump regime sees war with Iran as its salvation. They’re using his last legal weeks in office to provoke one. The racist state of Israel is their advance guard and agent provocateur. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a partner in the crime. 

It’s not about Iran’s peaceful nuclear energy program. Or Trump’s ego and legal woes. It’s a last-ditch effort to bail out the fracking billionaires who own Trump and the Republican Party, and prevent the collapse of the U.S. fossil fuel industry. 

Fracking — the hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas from shale rock — is the cornerstone of Trump’s fantasy of “U.S. energy dominance.” He tells his followers it’s a recipe for peace. But in fact the fracking industry needs endless war to survive. And the idea of “U.S. energy dominance” is genocidal and insane. 

Blood and fracking

The “shale revolution” that once enchanted bankers and investors was a product of the energy-price boom caused by the 2003 Iraq War. It was an artificial bubble, sustained for over a decade by bloody wars and cruel sanctions. 

It has now burst. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been lost. Mountains of debt cannot be repaid. The Trump regime is trying desperately to reinflate it. 

The shale debacle turned many on Wall Street against Trump. But he retains a base among those capitalists whose fortunes depend on fracking.

Those fortunes are collapsing with the price of oil, and Trump’s political fortune with them. The fracking barons are desperate for subsidies, tax breaks and an end to environmental regulation. 

They are also desperate for an oil war. Not a war to “get oil” — contrary to popular belief, the U.S. has never, ever gone to war for that purpose. Rather, a war to restrict supply and drive up prices, profits and rates of return. That’s what Washington’s 30-year war in the “Middle East” (Western Asia and North Africa) is all about.

Stealing Palestine’s gas

Also involved is the fate of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s pet East Mediterranean Pipeline Project, a U.S.-Israeli scheme to bring stolen Palestinian gas to Europe. Its investors dream of challenging Russia for the European energy market. 

The racist state of Israel has always been Washington’s hit man in the region — a highly paid one. Washington props Israel up with an endless stream of arms and dollars. Within that relationship, the Republican Party and Netanyahu’s Likud Party have a special alliance. 

Their ties grew stronger in 2010, when Texas-based Noble Energy began drilling for gas in the stolen waters off the coast of Palestine. Noble built close links with the Trump campaign in 2016. In October 2020, oil giant Chevron acquired Noble for $5 billion. It also assumed the company’s $8 billion debt. Chevron has now replaced ExxonMobil (XOM) as the largest U.S. oil monopoly.

On Oct. 20, the racist Israeli regime and the United Arab Emirates signed a deal to transport UAE oil to Europe via occupied Palestine. The oil would travel through the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline, built to bring Iran’s U.S.-owned oil to Europe in the Shah’s time. There is now talk of a direct pipeline from Saudi-occupied Arabia to the Mediterranean across stolen Palestinian land.

U.S. & Israel: partners for war

On Nov. 27, in a brazen terrorist attack, an Israeli death squad murdered Dr. Mohsen Fakrizadeh, director of Iran’s Center for Defensive Innovation and Research. They ambushed him on his way to visit his family. Dr. Fakrizadeh helped Iran produce its own medical equipment, including a COVID-19 test kit. Trump retweeted an Israeli post praising his murder.

A week before Dr. Fakrizadeh’s murder, Trump’s Secretary of State Pompeo met Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem. Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani joined them there. As Pompeo arrived in occupied Palestine, Israel’s made-in-the-USA air force attacked Damascus International Airport in Syria. 

War criminal Elliot Abrams, Trump’s “special representative” on Iran and Venezuela, met Netanyahu on Nov. 9. Abrams, who served under Ronald Reagan and both Bushes, has a long record of involvement with covert operations and death squads.  He was pardoned by George H.W. Bush for lying to Congress about U.S. crimes in Central America.

On Nov. 21, the U.S. Air Force dispatched B-52 bombers to the Arabian/Persian Gulf. They flew over Israeli-occupied Palestine before landing in Qatar. Pompeo was in Qatar that day.

On Nov. 23, Pompeo and Netanyahu were in Saudi-occupied Arabia for a secret meeting with Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman. As they met, Yemeni Resistance missiles hit a Saudi ARAMCO oil storage site in Jeddah. 

The Saudis deny this meeting happened. Reports say the Saudi prince is reluctant to risk war with Iran. Like the U.S. ruling class, the House of Saud is riven with factions. 

On Nov. 30, the U.S. aircraft carrier Nimitz and its strike group of guided-missile cruisers and destroyers entered the Arab/Persian Gulf off the coast of Iran.

On Dec. 1, Israeli media reported a drone attack on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps soldiers at the Iraq-Syria border. The IRGC is helping both countries fight U.S.- and Saudi-funded terrorists. It also claimed the assassination of an Iranian official in oil-rich Ahwaz province.

On Dec. 2, Pompeo was back in Riyadh, this time with Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner and a “team.” Kushner has built a real estate empire with Saudi and Israeli cash. 

Kushner also went to Qatar to meet Prince Hamid Khalifa and bring him into the anti-Iran alliance. The ruling-class faction behind Trump wants to build an international alliance that outlasts his presidency. 

On Dec. 10, U.S. B-52 bombers based in Louisiana flew another run over the Arab/Persian Gulf off the coast of Iran. Saudi, Bahraini and Qatari warplanes — made in the USA — flew with them.

Murder in Iraq and Yemen

The Trump regime has worked desperately to provoke war with Iran. Last Jan. 3, 2020, Trump ordered the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad. Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi Al Mohandas was also murdered in the U.S. drone strike. The two had led the fight against ISIS and al-Qaida in Iraq and Syria.

Gen. Soleimani was in Iraq to meet Saudi representatives about reducing tensions. On Sept. 22, Trump bragged about the assassinations in a hate filled rant to the United Nations General Assembly.

Following the assassinations, on Jan. 10, Iraq’s parliament voted that U.S. troops should leave the country. The Trump regime refused. 

It has also escalated the war in Yemen. In March, U.S. Marines invaded the Yemeni island of Socotra. They came to back up UAE forces in the genocidal war against Yemen. Israeli troops joined them there. 

Every 10 minutes, a Yemeni child dies from the brutal blockade that the U.S., Saudi Arabia and the UAE have imposed on that impoverished land. 

In 2019, Trump vetoed bills restricting U.S. involvement in that war and ending U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia. 

On Dec. 11, Steve Mnuchin’s Treasury Department put sanctions on five Yemeni officials. The White House says it will add Yemen’s Ansarullah government — the “Houthis” — to the State Department terror list. Aid organizations say that that will make it harder to bring humanitarian aid to the war-ravaged country. 

On Dec. 9, Iran sanctioned U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Christopher Henzel for his role in the humanitarian catastrophe there.

Trump’s ‘peace deals’ are war moves

War with Iran is the object of Trump’s vaunted Abraham Accords.” That’s what he calls the “peace deal” he “brokered” between Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and the Israeli occupation regime in Palestine. 

Bahrain is over 1,200 miles from Palestine. The UAE is more than 1,600 miles away. Neither state has ever been at war with Israel. Bahrain is, however, only 480 miles over open water from Iran. The UAE is just over 600 miles away. That’s 20 and 30 minutes respectively as the F-35 stealth fighter flies. 

The U.S. has already gifted Israel two squadrons of F-35s. On Dec. 9, the U.S. Senate approved Trump’s $23 billion arms sales to the UAE. Fifty F-35s are included in the sale. Lockheed Martin keeps a production line running to supply F-35s to Bahrain. 

On Dec. 10, Trump announced that U.S.-backed King Mohammed VI of Morocco would also “normalize” relations with the Israeli settler state. In return, the U.S. would openly recognize Morocco’s annexation of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. The king, who has a personal fortune of $2.1 billion, spent $3.5 billion of his people’s money on U.S. arms this year. 

The ‘supermajors’

Powerful forces in the U.S. ruling class are wary of Trump’s war schemes in the Arab/Persian Gulf, unless they can be assured of a quick victory and that they would reap the benefits. 

They worry about its impact on their European and Asian investments, the price of oil and the value of the U.S.’s No. 1 export: the dollar. Bankers fear war would disrupt the flow of petrodollars that the ruling families of the Arabian peninsula pour into their vaults. 

The four energy “supermajors” — XOM, Chevron, British Petroleum and Royal Dutch Shell — made huge profits off the wars in Iraq, Libya and Syria. Now they share the crisis of their industry. They have lost tens of billions of dollars this year. 

In January, Chevron wrote off $11 billion in fracking investments. In August, BP — registered in Britain but controlled by U.S. investors — reported a $17 billion second-quarter loss. XOM, once the crown jewel of the Rockefeller empire, lost its 92-year-old spot on S&P’s Dow Jones Industrial Average. On Dec. 1, the oil giant wrote off $20 billion in U.S. domestic assets, the biggest downgrade in its history. 

Their most important strength in the world market is their relationship with Saudi Aramco, which owns the biggest and cheapest oil reserves in the world. They once owned it outright, when it was the Arabian-American Oil Company. They still control most of its exports. They also operate in Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain and the UAE. With those resources, they dominate the Asian energy market. 

The Big Four have close ties to JPMorgan Chase and Citibank, which “manage” hundreds of billions of Gulf State petrodollars. XOM owns much of the Saudi petrochemical industry. 

Those companies owned Iran’s oil when the U.S. puppet Shah was in power. When the Iranian people overthrew the tyrant in 1979, they lost a gold mine. They dream of overthrowing the Islamic Republic and making Iran a colony again. 

But a war that disrupts Arabian energy production or closes the Straits of Hormuz could make their bad situation worse. They don’t want to lose vital markets to Russia — which they see as their main competitor — or lose out to their rivals in the U.S. fracking industry. Trump helped his friends at Cheniere Energy score liquefied natural gas (LNG) supply contracts with China and South Korea this year.

Middle East Escalation Threatens Global Chemical Supply, Demand,” Business & Industry Connection magazine warned after the Soleimani assassination. 

Like the frackers, the supermajors want higher prices. But the prices the frackers need would also boost the renewable energy and electric vehicle industries. In their fight for the world market, the supermajors need access to cheaper production. 

‘Game of Thrones’ in Washington: Persian Gulf vs. Permian Basin

Former XOM CEO Rex Tillerson was Trump’s first secretary of state. He said it was in the “U.S. interest” to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. Trump fired him in March 2018. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis agreed with Tillerson. He was gone by the end of that year.

Trump replaced Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo. In his time on Capitol Hill, Pompeo was known as the “Congressman from Koch.” Koch Industries gets most of its revenue from North American energy operations. It also competes with XOM in the petrochemical industry. 

For Koch, a devastating war in the Arab/Persian Gulf would be a windfall. As it would be for all the fracking barons and speculators behind Trump. They don’t have access to the oil and gas of West Asia, Africa and South America. The supermajors have locked them out. They don’t have interlocking directorates with transnational banks and corporations or their vast cash reserves. They want to follow in the footsteps of the Rockefellers, Pews and Mellons: robber barons who became monopolists. They are a century too late. 

Their profits come from the Permian Basin in the southwestern U.S. — a region stolen from Mexico and Indigenous peoples — not the Persian Gulf. Yet they are no less imperialist than their blue-chip cousins. They too must follow the iron law of capital: expand or die. They too are in constant struggle with declining rates of profit. They too must conserve the value of their capital and find new outlets for its profitable investment.

That law has driven every U.S. imperialist war since President William McKinley invaded Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines in 1898. 

The billionaires who own Trump

Who are they? “Big oil remembers ‘friend’ Trump with millions in campaign funds,” the British Guardian reported August 9. The headline is misleading. 

The capitalists behind Trump are very rich indeed. But they are not from among the shrinking club of giant multinationals that made up Big Oil. They are “new money” oil drillers and speculators, corporate “outsiders.” Their fortunes multiplied in the energy-price boom created by the Iraq War. The biggest banks flooded them with cash. They are deep in debt and fighting to survive. 

The Iraq War pushed them into the big leagues. Trump got them the White House. They don’t want to give it up. 

The Guardian article describes a fundraising gala for Trump at billionaire Kelcy Warren’s “palatial Dallas,Texas, home.” Warren’s company, Energy Transfer Partners, is majority owner and operator of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). 

Trump’s first act in office was to unleash federal troops against Native water protectors blocking the pipeline. Trump personally invested in ETP and Phillips 66, which owns 25% of DAPL.

The Guardian also mentioned Trump donors Harold Hamm of Continental Resources, Jeff Hildebrand of Hilcorp, John Catsimatidis of United Refining Co., Syed Anwar of Midland Energy, Robert Murray of Murray Energy and Joe Craft of Alliance Resource Partners. Joe Craft is married to Kelly Craft, Trump’s representative to the United Nations. She introduced his hate-Iran talk at the General Assembly in September by bragging about U.S. intervention in Syria. 

Other big capitalists who’ve bet big on Trump and fracking include Blackstone Group’s Steven Schwarzman, Ken Fisher of Fisher Investments, Texas banker Andy Beal, John Paulson of Paulson & Co., Jack Fusco of Cheniere Energy, Henry Kravis of KKR, Marc Rowan of Apollo Global Management, Paul Singer of Elliot Management, and the Hunts and the Wilks brothers. Oil-money heirs Timothy Mellon and Ross Perot Jr. also gave big to the Trump campaign. 

Schwarzman has since called for Trump to accept the election results. So has energy magnate Charles Koch, who helped put the Manhattan real estate parasite in the White House. No doubt promises have been made.

Trump’s biggest lie

In the Oct. 22 presidential debate, Trump told a whopper even by his standards. “We are energy independent for the first time,” he claimed. “We don’t need all of these countries that we had to fight wars over because we needed their energy. We are energy independent.”   

But even Trump knows that Washington’s 30-year war in the “Middle East” is not about getting oil. He knows it’s a war for monopoly, to control the world’s energy reserves and revenues. Trump basically admitted that a year ago when he ordered U.S. troops to seize Syria’s oil fields. He offered them to XOM. 

Trump also knows that the U.S. fracking industry cannot survive without endless war. 

Fracking barons need war

Fracking is not only environmentally destructive. It is very expensive. It costs from $45 to $90 per barrel to extract a barrel of oil from North American shale. Pumping a barrel of crude in Iran or Iraq costs less than $10. A barrel of heavy crude from Venezuela’s Orinoco Belt costs about $12 to pump. A barrel from Arabia’s giant Ghawar Field costs less than $3. 

A barrel of bitumen oil from Canada’s Athabascan tar sands costs $85 to produce. The Koch brothers made billions there after the Iraq war. They abandoned their leases there last year.

Meanwhile, the onward march of technology is making renewable energy — wind, solar, fuel cells, etc. — cheaper and more practical, threatening the future of fossil fuels.

In April, the price of oil fell to -$40 a barrel — that is, below the cost of production. Oil companies had to pay for storage. It wasn’t just the COVID pandemic. There was a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia. 

Bloodbath For America’s Oil Frackers As Saudis Declare Price War On Russia” was the headline of a March 9 article in Forbes magazine. 

Here is how Forbes described the situation: “Oil companies are suffering massive share price losses, with ExxonMobil down 10%, Chevron 13% and BP 19%. Shares in Saudi Aramco also lost about 10%, sending the implied market cap of the world’s biggest oil giant down to $1.6 trillion—down 20% from its December high. 

“Those losses are modest. The pain is much more acute among the heavily indebted, high-cost shale frackers like Chesapeake Energy (–22%), EOG Resources (–30%), Occidental Petroleum (–35%), Marathon Oil (–40%) and Diamondback Energy (–48%) so far today. 

“At the beginning of 2020 oil prices were just above $60 per barrel — even that was scarcely high enough for American drillers to break even. Now all of a sudden we’ve nearly revisited the lows of $26 last seen during the price war of 2016.” 

The Financial Times of March 29 declared, “Wall Street calls time on the shale revolution.

What did Trump do? In words, he tweeted, “Good for drivers, low gas prices.” But in deeds, he ordered the U.S. Strategic Reserve to buy oil and drive up prices. Then he gave the Saudis an ultimatum: Stop the price war and cut production. If not, the U.S. would end military support for the genocide in Yemen. 

War in Iraq made fracking profitable

The year 2020 has been the energy industry’s worst year since 1998. That’s when the collapse of the Russian ruble drove prices below $10 a barrel. That crash happened despite the murderous sanctions on Iraq imposed by the first Bush regime. Bill Clinton continued the Bush sanctions, hoping to induce U.S. oil firms to invest in the former USSR. 

The year 1998 was also the year that Texas wildcatter George W. Mitchell patented the technology that the fracking industry uses today. It took the 2003 invasion of Iraq to make it profitable. 

The entire U.S. ruling class and political establishment united behind the Iraq War, and the invasion of Afghanistan before that. Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware was the cheerleader from the Democratic side of the aisle. 

Blood feast in Iraq

The U.S. invasion of Iraq devastated that country. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people died. Five million children became orphans. Six million people became refugees.  

In the U.S., skyrocketing fuel prices forced poor families to choose between heating and eating. Lakota elders on the Pine Ridge reservation burned their clothes for fuel. Venezuela’s Bolivarian government led by Hugo Chávez donated heating oil to help poor and oppressed communities in the United States. The U.S. government didn’t care.

For Big Oil and Wall Street, the war was a bonanza. To these modern-day plunderers, Iraq was what the silver mines of Potosí were to the 16th-century Spanish conquistadores. Except in this case, the plunder came not from enslavement and exploitation but from simple destruction. 

Accumulation by destruction

In 2002, before U.S. invaders destroyed Iraq’s state-owned oil industry, the price of West Texas Intermediate crude, a benchmark used by the oil industry, hovered around $20 a barrel. By April 2003, when U.S. tanks rolled into Baghdad, WTI crude was over $40 a barrel. By 2007, it hit $79 a barrel. XOM and Chevron saw their profits rise nearly 300%.

Then, the 2007 subprime mortgage meltdown hit. Prices fell back to $30 a barrel. In January 2008, the U.S. Navy provoked a confrontation with Iran in the Straits of Hormuz. In March, the Bush regime imposed new sanctions on Iran, Sudan, Syria and Venezuela. 

By July, oil prices soared to $147 a barrel. It was XOM’s most profitable year ever. The oil giant’s market cap hit $504 billion. It was $234 billion in 2002, the year before the invasion of Iraq.

Mass murder in Iraq made profitable the DAPL and Keystone XL pipelines, the plunder of Canada’s tar sands, and mountaintop removal projects in Appalachia. Or so it seemed.  

Shelved projects like BP’s Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean and XOM’s Chad-Cameroon Pipeline in West Africa became realities. XOM and Saudi Aramco built a huge refinery in Tianjin, China.

The slaughter unleashed a 21st-century gold rush into the shale plays and tar sands of North America. Credit flowed like a river. “Nonperforming” loans became “performing” loans.  “Nonproductive” assets became “productive” assets.  Millionaires and billionaires became multibillionaires. 

XOM and Chevron competed with “new money” wildcatters and speculators for fields once thought marginal. The biggest banks competed to finance them all.

Shale oil, bitumen, offshore drilling, coal, even ethanol, all flourished. Firms like General Electric and Berkshire Hathaway poured money into fracking. Four of the top 10 companies on Fortune’s 500 list for 2009 were energy companies. XOM was No. 1. In 2020, only XOM remained, at No. 3.

The flood of investment in North American shale paid off big in Obama’s second term. In 2013, the U.S. Energy Information Agency declared that the U.S. had replaced Russia and Saudi Arabia as the world’s top petroleum producer. (Trump, of course, claims it happened on his watch and that he made it possible.)

Capitalist bubbles always burst

But the boom was not without downsides for the U.S. capitalist class as a whole. High oil prices hurt such sectors as airlines, retail, auto sales, trucking and delivery companies and online retailers dependent on them (including Amazon).

High prices helped oil-producing countries free themselves from the grip of U.S. finance capital. They empowered the Venezuelan-led ALBA bloc in South and Central America and Libyan leader Muammar Qadaffi’s vision of an African central bank and a gold-backed pan-African currency. 

The Chávez government in Venezuela was able to build 500,000 units of rent-free housing and even help poor and oppressed communities in the U.S. It also strengthened Russia economically and militarily. A surge of Russian direct overseas investment challenged Wall Street. 

But the biggest problem was capitalism itself. When prices and profits boom, capitalists will produce and invest more than “the market can bear.” Collapse follows. Every capitalist bubble bursts. Every boom leads to a crash. 

In 2009, XOM spent $30 billion to buy fracking giant XTO. The firm was No. 5 on Fortune’s list of “100 fastest-growing companies.” The purchase made the biggest U.S. oil company the biggest gas producer in North America. 

Financial analysts now say that the purchase was the worst decision the XOM ever made. On Dec. 1, 2020, the giant wrote off XTO as a $20 billion loss. 

From restricting supply to predatory pricing

The Obama administration’s wars inflated the bubble further.  

The year 2011 was a bloody year. The U.S. and its NATO allies bombed Libya and murdered Muammar Qadaffi. It joined with the Saudis, the UAE and Israel to arm and fund a mercenary war in Syria. That war has raged for nine years and taken hundreds of thousands of lives. It has blocked construction of the planned Friendship Pipeline, a project to bring natural gas from Iran and Iraq to the Mediterranean. 

The U.S. also imposed new sanctions on Iran, Sudan and Venezuela. Oil prices stayed over $90 a barrel. 

Nonetheless, by January 2014, overproduction was driving prices downward. In February, the U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine threatened Russian energy shipments to Europe. “Oil hovers near $108 as Ukrainian crisis worsens,” CNN reported on April 14, 2014. Foreign Affairs magazine, the organ of the Council on Foreign Relations, devoted its spring issue to the glorious future fracking would bring. 

Russian gas kept flowing west, however. And east. In May 2014, Russia and China agreed to build a $55-billion gas pipeline, called Power of Siberia, from Yakutsk to China. A second pipeline deal was signed that September. 

In July 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin toured Latin America, meeting Fidel Castro, Daniel Ortega, Nicolás Maduro and Brazilian President Dilma Roussef. In Havana, Putin announced that Cuba’s $32-billion debt to Russia was canceled. Russia agreed to help Cuba develop newly discovered oil deposits in its waters, pledged more aid to Venezuela and to help build a canal across Nicaragua. 

Washington responded with a major strategy shift, from doomed efforts to restrict supply to “predatory pricing.” Ida Tarbell popularized that term in the late 19th century to describe a tactic John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil trust used to crush its competitors. The Reagan regime and Saudi Arabia used it in the 1980s against the Soviet Union. 

In June 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry met Saudi King Abdullah in Riyadh. According to Reuters, Kerry and Abdallah “briefly discussed oil supplies.” In reality, the U.S. ordered its Saudi clients to ramp up production and flood the world oil markets. The two met again in September.

On Nov. 27, at an OPEC ministers’ meeting in Vienna, the Saudis blocked production cuts. When the Saudis opened their taps, everyone else had to do the same. The price of oil plummeted. By January 2015, it was back below $40 a barrel. 

The Saudis got paid off in March 2015, with U.S. support for their war against Yemen.

Another kind of war

U.S. corporate media, which pretend the Saudi kingdom is an independent country, played the price war as an attack on U.S. producers: OPEC vs. Texas. “Oil prices keep plummeting as OPEC starts a price war with the U.S.,” Vox news reported dutifully. But in fact, the “price war” was waged in collaboration with both Washington and the oil supermajors who export and market most Saudi oil. 

Rightwing military analyst Ralph Peters (USA Lt. Col. ret.) called it more honestly.  “Saudi Arabia’s oil war against Iran and Russia” was how he described it in Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post (Dec. 14, 2014).

“Did you know there’s an oil war? And the war has an objective: to destroy Russia,” Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said on Dec. 29, 2014. “It’s a strategically planned war … also aimed at Venezuela, to try and destroy our revolution and cause an economic collapse.”   

“The fall of the oil prices is not just something ordinary and economical, this is not due to only global recession,” said Iran’s Prime Minister Hassan Rouhani. “It is a political conspiracy by certain countries against the interest of the region and the Islamic world.”

The U.S. fracking industry also took a beating, however. To the supermajors it was all good. They had huge cash reserves, ties to the biggest banks, and cheap oil and gas from around the world. If the “independent“ drillers went under, they could buy up their assets and take their place in the next boom. 

“Exxon Could Be the Big Winner of the Oil Crash,” wrote Bloomberg News on Feb. 2, 2015. 

Fracking barons revolt, bring in Israel

Then the Obama White House announced progress on the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA), which could lead to lifting sanctions. “Iran’s Nuclear Deal Could Open Oil Flood,” Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal warned (March 15, 2015). 

(Full disclosure: Rupert Murdoch sits on the board of New Jersey-based Genie Energy, which had a contract to explore for oil in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The project was found to be “not commercially viable” — prices weren’t high enough.)

The frackers rebelled. Their political servants in the Republican Party invited Israel’s Netanyahu to address a hate-Iran, hate-Obama rally in the Capitol on March 3, 2015. It was an unprecedented action. 

In June 2015, Trump threw his hat into the ring. He made tearing up the JCPOA a plank on his platform. He also said Saudi Arabia should have nuclear weapons. And he raved against Obama’s alleged “war on coal.”

Price wars are easier to start than to finish. Capitalist market forces don’t advance or retreat on command. By 2016, even the supermajors were hurting. In April, Standard & Poor’s stripped XOM of its AAA credit rating. It had held that rating since the Great Depression, when the company was known as Standard Oil of New Jersey. 

The Saudis and the UAE also chafed at Washington’s low price diktat. They threatened to cut back on U.S. arms contracts. They funneled money to the Trump campaign. 

Trump’s rebellion of oil billionaires

Donald Trump’s campaign was neither a Russian plot nor a populist upsurge. It was a rebellion of the fossil fuel industry against low prices, environmental regulations and the Obama administration’s retreat from military confrontation with Iran and Syria. 

In December 2016, the Obama White House ordered work stopped on the DAPL pipeline. It was a parting shot against the frackers. Trump lifted the stop-work order and unleashed federal troops against Indigenous water protectors. 

In January 2017, the Saudis made major production cuts and most of OPEC followed. “Saudis cut oil output to lowest in 2 years, pledge further reductions,” Reuters reported (Jan. 12, 2107).

Trump wanted to assassinate Syria’s president

In April 2017, Trump did what Obama backed down from doing in September 2013. He ordered the first direct U.S. attack on Syrian government forces: a missile strike on the Syrian airbase at Al Shayrat. In September 2020, Trump told Fox News that he had planned to order the murder of Syrian President Bashar Assad. He said Secretary of Defense James Mattis restrained him. 

The exit of Tillerson and Mattis marked the breaking of the alliance that put Trump in the White House. The most desperate “new money” oil interests and speculators were now in charge. They were less interested in invasion and occupation than the quick profits of destruction. War with Iran was their priority. 

Everything the Trump regime has done in the last two years — from troop redeployments to the courting of Turkey’s President Recep Erdoğan — should be seen in that context. 

An example of the conflicts inside the ruling class was Trump’s April 21, 2020, order to Chevron to stop drilling in Venezuela. It was good for Trump’s fracking bosses and bad for Venezuela. But it was also bad for Chevron. 

The new regime

What will Joe Biden do? The same as every other U.S. president has done: What he’s told. 

Presidents, including Trump, are not decision makers. They are paid actors hired by ruling class factions. There will be a fight over which ruling class faction does the telling. 

In monopoly capitalist states, finance capital is the ultimate power. But even the bankers are not their own masters. The sands of the world economy shift constantly beneath their feet. They are slaves to the ceaseless battle of capital against crisis and contraction, which defines the monopoly capitalist era. 

The Biden regime is also a coalition. It faces the same contradictions as Trump’s does. There is the clash between the position of U.S. monopoly capital in the world economy and the need and right of oppressed nations to develop their own productive forces. There is a constant battle for position between capitalist factions, which intensifies in times of economic contraction. 

It often appears as a fight over grand strategy, but usually comes down to who gets what. Both are expressions of the contradiction between the explosive growth of human productivity and the fetters of capitalist ownership. That contradiction leads inevitably to crisis and war. 

The real interests of working-class and oppressed people in this country are opposed to those of monopoly capital. We have nothing to gain from U.S. banks and investment funds being at the center of the world economy. Imagine how much better off we would be in a world of cooperation, not competition, destruction and plunder. 

Shut down the U.S. Central Command! Bring home all the troops, ships, planes, spies and other weapons and agents of destruction! End the sanctions! End all U.S. aid to the racist state of Israel! 

Make the arms plants manufacture vaccines, ventilators, medical equipment and PPE, not weapons of destruction. Money for health care, housing, schools and the people, not endless war!

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