Our addiction to crude oil created the Syrian refugee crisis

Refugees from wars in Syria, Yemen, North Africa and elsewhere are suffering unimaginably.  Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes, some making it as far as Europe, some drowning at sea, others stuck in war-torn areas for one reason or another, all of them bereft of home and livelihood.  In some cases the refugees have been met with open arms and humanitarian assistance, in other cases countries have told the refugees “we don’t want you”.  While the news is dominated by the Syrian refugees, the problem is a multi-dimensional war stretching from the Middle East to large parts of Africa.

One thing we CANNOT do is to isolate the refugee crisis from its cause.  Yes we must take care of the refugees in a humane way.  On the other hand, these people didn’t flee their homes just because they were bored one day, or because the glamorous thing is to take a life threatening trip to Europe.

They’ve become refugees because life at home became downright dangerous.  War of the most vicious kind is being waged in many countries simultaneously, especially in Syria.  Raging lunatic insane fundamentalist Muslims believe they have the right to essentially commit genocide on anyone whose cultural identity differs from theirs.  Despite thousands of years of a mix of cultures, from Armenian to Zoroastrian, living side-by-side in this region, these Muslims are demanding cultural purity and willing to commit murder on a mass scale and to wipe out countless historical sites for that end.

But .. wait for it … is that the sole reason?  Is it just a religious feud?  Is it about Climate Change?  Or was this caused by the global war to control crude oil resources?  We’ll get to that in a minute, but first let’s be clear about the scope of the problem.

The total refugee crisis

The picture at the top was published in early September 2015 by the UN High Council for Refugees (UNHCR) detailing the number of people who’ve arrived in Europe between Jan 1 and Aug 31, 2015.  Over 300,000 arrivals, nearly 3,000 known dead at sea, and the rate jumped significantly over the same period in 2014.  While the vast majority are Syrian, they’re coming from many other places.  The primary arrival point is Greece and Italy, because those are the easiest to reach from the affected territory.

Both Greece and Italy were already having serious economic problems, with Greece teetering on the edge of total collapse.

Back in June, the UNHCR published their Global Report for 2014 detailing the entirety of the refugee situation around the world.   As of the end of 2014 over 13 million people around the world were registered Refugees, and another 700,000 were living in refugee-like-conditions.

There are several significant new refugee crises … Libya turning from bad to worse, South Sudan’s humanitarian situation worsening, Russia invading and taking over Crimea, the war in East Ukraine, Boko Haram rampaging around Nigeria, and seriously bad fighting not just in Syria but Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries.  Each of these have caused wholly new sets of displaced people, some internally displaced within their countries, others fleeing their countries for safety elsewhere.

Everything’s connected to the global oil war

A common thread between almost every one of those situations is the competition over Oil Resources.

Two years ago I wrote about the oil resources struggle behind the war in Syria.  Let’s not delude ourselves, the West has been doing this sort of thing for decades.  Our need for crude oil has caused our governments to repeatedly meddle with the Middle East.  For example, the 1952 toppling of a moderate Democracy in Iran, orchestrated by American and British spy agencies, to install the Shah of Iran, was just one of the earliest instances.  That coup resulted in the late 1970’s overthrow of the Shah, the installation of the current regime in Iran, the US Embassy Hostage Crisis in Iran, and possibly even the current worries over nuclear weapons in Iran.

Neo-ConsMore important to the Syria story is a plan proposed in the mid-1990’s by the Neocons (Project for a New American Century).  This was to first topple the government of Iraq in order to install a Moderate Democracy in the middle of the Middle East, and then to move on to either Syria or Iran and do the same.  We’d be met with open arms by people squished under the thumb of brutal regimes, and we’d enjoy a more peaceful world because the Middle East would be a lot friendlier.  Supposedly.

The majority of these Neocon’s took senior positions with the Bush43 Administration – Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, etc – and one of them, Jeb Bush, was Governor of Florida and now a supposedly leading candidate for President in 2016.

Since 2001 we’ve been collectively living a complete utter nightmare due to the abysmal execution of that plan to remake the Middle East, by the Bush43 Administration.

The purpose of the Iraq War wasn’t the lies told to us by the Bush43 Administration, but access to crude oil supplies.  Iraq has the second largest oil reserves on the planet, and according to oil industry exec’s at the time Iraq was mismanaging those reserves and not producing as much oil as they could.  Hence, regime change was necessary to change the oil laws in Iraq so that western oil companies could operate in Iraq increasing the efficiency at the oil fields.


This isn’t just me saying this – the story has been told by many, here’s a few:

What happened after the 2003 Iraq War?  A whole string of things (see “US failed policies in Iraq War” above).  The existing Sunni/Shia tensions going back centuries divided Iraq.  The Bush43 Administration disbanded the Iraq Army, leaving a whole lot of experienced military people as outsiders and looking to fight the people they saw as invaders occupying their country.  Several things led to several other things, and these forces became known as ISIS after joining up with a group of rebels in Syria.

A key event was the pictures from the Abu Ghraib prison showing American troops abusing and torturing prisoners.  American troops actually committed torture — waterboarding is widely recognized as torture, and people have been tried and convicted and imprisoned over use of waterboarding.  American troops committed all kinds of grave sins, either through neglect or bad intelligence or whatever, and in many cases innocent people were hauled to prison or killed or harmed.  The issues go on and on and on, and it’s not just in Iraq but Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere, that have had these stories.  The result?  A huge amount of justified anger.

Over in Nigeria, Boko Haram has committed many horrid atrocities.  While their main schtick is pushing for purist Islam, they make lots of complaints about Western countries, our loose morals and whatnot, as well as the conduct of the Iraq war.  They sometimes target Western oil companies.

Last winter, the staff of Charlie Hebdo (a political satire that had repeatedly targeted Islam) was assassinated by Islamic militants.   While those attackers didn’t explicitly talk about oil companies, they had been radicalized by the conduct of the War in Iraq, which we’ve already shown was about access to crude oil supplies.

Radicalized by Western conduct in the Middle East creates these wars

Those are just a few examples of the radicalization of the Islamic world because of what the US and the West has done to Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.  It’s not just the Iraq War, but all the other things we’ve done to the Middle East going back for decades.

The groups like ISIS are fighting largely because they’ve been radicalized.  The troops join up not because of global oil power games, but because they’ve been radicalized by what the West has done to the Middle East.  But we did those things because of the global oil power games, and the quest for access to oil supplies.

What will end this war?  It won’t end by killing combatants, because that just causes more radicalization and more fighting.  It’s a cycle of violence begetting radicalization begetting more fighting begetting more radicalization.  Violence piled upon violence begets more violence.

The way out?  One is to stop using fossil fuels and therefore no longer have a reason to meddle with the Middle East.   Human nature being what it is I’m certain we’ll find something else to fight over.  What’s more important is to learn how to get along with each other.  That’s all.

It doesn’t matter if we’re Armenian or Zoroastrian or anything in-between.  We’re all human, and we should treat each others as brothers and sisters.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.
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About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.


  1. Exactly right David! Couldn’t agree more.

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