Table of Contents
Hydrocarbons are among the most valuable resources on the planet because of their capacity to burn and produce heat energy. They are used in many fields from car engineering to the production of heavy industrial equipment. As a result, countries value these resources and try to develop their own storages along with ensuring their own safety and establishing trade relations with other states. However, it is evident that the amount of hydrocarbon resources is different in different countries to the extent that there are countries with almost no resources. Everything depends on the states, which produce, buy and sell oil and gas. In their turn, countries with large deposits of natural hydrocarbons enter trade relations on the competitive market of oil and gas. Consequently, one may state that oil and gas regulate international trade relations and policies and impact political and economic processes around the globe. This paper investigates the role of oil in political, economic and trade relations, which involve such countries as the UAE, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Israel and the USA. Moreover, it explores the meaning of these processes for the local population of the Middle East region and its impact on the citizens of the regional states. The discussed countries are among the largest oil producers, which make oil one of the factors that determine the nature of their political, social and economic relations. The USA has specific commercial interests related to oil in the Middle East region, which is why the local countries are in the focus of its international activities. In case the mentioned countries are able to reach agreement on oil production and distribution, they can become oil companions and not competitors. As a result, the citizens of the Middle East would benefit from having the USA as a companion in the sphere of oil production and distribution.
Oil is a regulator of many aspects of international relations because of its unique characteristics as a hydrocarbon resource. In this sense, the Middle East can be characterized as one of the regions with the biggest concentration of oil resources in local countries. Thus, among the top oil exporters are Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Iraq and Kuwait, which produce from 2.8 to 11 billion barrels per year (Carpenter 2015). Despite the fact that they are part of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), these countries and their geographic neighbors have different political disparities. A typical example of such disparities is the Muslim’s division into Sunnites and Shiites, which has turned from the religious disagreement into political and military conflict. Other countries, such as Israel have specific economic and political interests in the region, which are aggravated by military tensions with Palestine (Beinin and Hajjar 2014). The conflict with Palestine has a long history and is based on the disagreement concerning territory. Furthermore, the USA has a particular interest in the Middle East region due to its worldwide export of crude oil (Gillies 2016) whereas Israel is one of its strongest partners in the region. Thus, Israel, being a country without or with extremely poor oil deposits, has a strong ally. Moreover, the fact is that the interests of the USA regarding oil in the Middle East are significantly supported by numerous cases of military presence and even involvement in conflicts. Therefore, it is evident that the local population in the Middle East severely suffers from international struggle for oil and regional influence. This fact is supported by the revolutions and military conflicts throughout recent decades, which severely undermined social and economic conditions of the local population. This position is proved by various scholarly sources and publications. Some of the publications contain the analysis of the influence of oil on international policy whereas the others are the showcases of the causes and consequences of military actions. Moreover, certain resources suggest that the major part of these interventions were carried out by the USA as the back supporter and the most active international player. Consequently, the existing investigations present the USA as a country, which aspires for international influence on the oil market attempting to defend its vulnerable economic sector. However, the methods, which are used by the leaders of the USA, are far from being non-harmful. On the contrary, they are especially harmful for the local population of the Middle East, which has destructed infrastructure, as well as economic and humanitarian problems. Moreover, the recent examples of the conflicts in the Middle East demonstrate that international terrorism perceives oil as its basic resource for survival and impact. Furthermore, some scholars presume that Russia tries to increase its influence in the Middle East because it is also one of the leading oil exporters. Therefore, the population of the Middle East is the object of international interests based on the desire of other countries to take over the oil market.
The analysis of the recent oil-related events in the Middle East demonstrates that the issue of oil is tightly intertwined with military conflicts in the region. For instance, some scholars claim that the Gulf War was initiated by the officials of the US in order to dominate at the oil market (Aarts and Renner 2015). They quote the unnamed US official stating that “We need the oil. It’s nice to talk about standing up for freedom, but Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are not exactly democracies” (Aarts and Renner 2015). Thus, the major reason for initiating a military conflict was the problems of oil explorations in the US during the 1980s in contrast to OPEC countries. However, instead of making attempts to practice scientific approaches to enhance exploration processes, the officials decided that the most easy and successful way of dealing with competitors is war. As a result, a series of military operations resulted in the fact that Iraq invaded Kuwait whereas Saudi Arabia became one of the most powerful allies of the US in the Middle East. Consequently, the positions of the US in the Middle East and the overall oil market strengthened. Furthermore, the military actions of the US such as the invasion of Iraq in 2003 were also deeply tied with the petroleum industry. However, despite the fact that the US was defeated in that, war the scholars argue that the US oil companies actually won (Solnit 2015). The reason for this was that post-war Iraq faced numerous sanctions, which significantly restricted its economic abilities. Similarly, the tactics of economic restriction has been active in Iran. The recent lift of this ban resulted in an extremely positive reaction among the Iranian politics, who stated that the country’s citizens would finally have greater financial capabilities (Dehghan 2016). At the same time, other scholars argue that the end of the Cold War led to the end of the “world hegemony of the US” (Bromley 1998). However, despite this opinion was based on the will of the US to be a partner and not a competitor of the countries of the Middle East, it was a mistake. As clearly demonstrated by the course of oil-related wars, the US is able to apply its military force in case it faces economic problems caused by the international community.
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Furthermore, it is important to mention that the world’s economy severely depends on oil prices. For instance, the British offshore oil industry lost 65,000 jobs because of the drop of oil prices from $115 per barrel to $30 (Macalister 2016). Similarly, some of the North American producers of oil and gas were faced with a threat of going bankrupt because of the slump of oil prices. In their turn, the fall might be initiated by such countries as Arab Emirates, which greatly increase the amount of explorations and cause the tendency for oil prices to drop. However, despite the fact that this policy is mainly economic, the countries similar to Britain, Russia and the US experience severe troubles because they have to export oil for significantly lower prices. At the same time, it is evident that a sharp increase of oil prices leads to a global recession. For instance, the cases of 1973, 1979, 1990 and 2008 caused tremendous economic tensions for the global economy (Walker et al. 2015). However, despite the expectations that low oil prices would bring prosperity and peaceful development to everyone, the analyzed examples of military conflicts clearly indicate the opposite.
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Assessment, Analysis and Argumentation
The above-mentioned examples allow understanding the fact that oil is a powerful resource, which is capable of initiating and directing the most critical processes in the world’s economy. However, it is suggested that the core problem is the struggle of local population in the Middle East against poverty, economic and humanitarian deprivation. Thus, some of the journalists provide reports, which indicate that although such countries as Saudi Arabia are the wealthiest oil exporters, the average population is far from being rich. For instance, it is estimated that a quarter of Saudi Arabian population lives below the poverty line (Sullivan 2013). Although the population of the country has increased from 6 to 28 million of citizens, they live without economic benefits and have to deal with a common problem of getting food. For example, one of the locals has no job and money, but has five children under 14 and an unemployed husband suffering from a chronic disease (Sullivan 2013). Although the government of Saudi Arabia claims that it has spent billions of dollars on community welfare programs, it is evident that they are far from being efficient. On the contrary, the critics of these policies argue that the government has learnt to skillfully hide these problems from the public (Sullivan 2013). Therefore, it is evident that an enormous amount of money, which Saudi Arabia earns from oil exports, is bypassing the population of the country.
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Furthermore, it is suggested that while the population of Saudi Arabia is poor without any military interventions, the situation in Iran and Syria and other countries of the Middle East is dramatically worse. For example, the reporters claim that about 80% of the population of Syria suffer from poverty, while life expectancy is cut by 20 years, and the country has already lost a total of $200 billion (“Syria’s War: 80% in Poverty, Life Expectancy Cut by 20 Years, $200bn Lost” 2015). Despite the destructions caused by the war, lots of qualified specialists and other members of the society have left the country because of the loss of jobs and poor living conditions. For instance, only in 2014 almost three million civilians lost their jobs and more than 12 million people lost their primary source of income (“Syria’s War: 80% in Poverty, Life Expectancy Cut by 20 Years, $200bn Lost” 2015). Similarly, this data can be added with the evidence that hundreds of thousands civilians die annually because of a military conflict in the region. Besides, sanctions against Iran, partially caused by the desire of the US to control the oil market have led to the fact that the country now experiences food insecurity and mass suffering (Greenwald 2012). The imposture of sanctions resulted in a series of protests, the participants of which claimed for their lift on the basis of the fact that it was genocide. Indeed, the analysis of the effect of sanctions leads to the conclusion that 75 million Iranians experienced such problems as pervasive unemployment, inflation, medicine shortages, and even food riots (Greenwald 2012). Therefore, it is evident that the impact of the US activities on oil regulation in the Middle East turned out to be a cause for severe humanitarian crisis in the region. As a result of military and non-military interventions, tens millions of people lost their jobs and faced problems with food access, and hundreds of thousands civilians were killed or died annually. Consequently, there is a strong need for the change of the oil related policies of the US to decrease the level of economic and military pressure on the counties of the Middle East.
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Although the analysis of the problem has shown that the US has been enjoying the most powerful oil-related impact in the region, other international players are also involved in this process. For instance, one of the most influential oil exporting countries is Russia, which started bombing the areas in Syria to secure its international interests. Regarding this perspective, the critics argue that the act of bombing Syria is a long-term game for higher oil prices (Temerko 2015). Thus, as one can see, other countries follow the negative example of the US and practice military operations in order to secure their economic interests. At the same time, the US expects to perform the shale revolution to be able to produce crude oil in large quantities, which would increase its economic power (Harlan 2015). However, one of the most powerful organizations posing a threat to the worldwide community, ISIS, is also gaining power in oil refining industry in Syria and smuggles to other countries (“Can ISIS Be Blamed on Cheap Oil and Natural Gas?” 2015). As a result, the population of the Middle East still has numerous problems, which are expected to last for several decades. The reason for this assumption is a long struggle with the international terrorism and the conflict of interest between different countries in the region. Therefore, the UN and other organizations defending human rights should persuade the governments of the US and other countries to assist the local population. Similarly, the Arabic world has to stop concealing its profits from its population. These interventions are hard to implement because oil is the key to the prosperity of elites. However, this step is critical in order to avoid revolutions in the Middle East and guarantee the secure living of the local population.
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Summarizing the presented information, it should be concluded that oil is an extremely powerful resource not only because of its physical properties but also economic impact. Thus, such countries as the US, the Arab Emirates, Syria, Iran, Russia and others have specific financial interests in the Middle East. These interests are caused by the fact that the Middle East region represents the world’s richest oil exploration sites. Similarly, the world’s countries such as the US and Russia are interested in partnership with the countries of the Middle East. This partnership is aimed at the fair trade of oil and rational distribution of international incomes. However, the US and its allies have long been practicing the approach of military power and considerable economic pressure on such states as Iraq, Iran and Syria. As a result of military interventions, the population of the mentioned countries severely suffered from deaths, injuries and inadequate conditions for normal existence. Moreover, it is evident that the government of Saudi Arabia conceals the fact that the population of the country struggles against poverty whereas the elites have the access to financial funds. It is evident that the mentioned issues are even more serious from the perspective of emerging international terrorism, which uses oil for getting money for arms and mercenaries. Consequently, the UN and other organizations and countries have to initiate policies aimed at regulating the economic and humanitarian situation in the Middle East.
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