The New Great Game: Oil Politics in Central Asia

It's always about oil, isn't it? In this editorial piece from yahoo, Ted Rall points out that the Kazakhstan has an estimated 50 billion barrels of oil (compared to Saudi Arabia's remaining 30 billion), and is desperate to find a way to get the oil out of the country to paying customers. Lacking a port, they'll have to build a pipeline, and one of the most attractive options is to pipe through Afghanistan.

Time to put on your paranoid/conspiracy hat…

The New Great Game: Oil Politics in Central Asia
By Ted Rall
Monday October 22 05:18 PM EDT

Nursultan Nazarbayev has a terrible problem. He's the president and former Communist Party boss of Kazakhstan, the second-largest republic of the former Soviet Union. A few years ago, the giant country struck oil in the eastern portion of the Caspian Sea. Geologists estimate that sitting beneath the wind-blown steppes of Kazakhstan are 50 billion barrels of oil-by far the biggest untapped reserves in the world. (Saudi Arabia, currently the world's largest oil producer, is believed to have about 30 billion barrels remaining.) Kazakhstan's Soviet-subsidized economy collapsed immediately after independence in 1991. When I visited the then-capital, Almaty, in 1997, I was struck by the utter absence of elderly people. One after another, people confided that their parents had died of malnutrition during the brutal winters of 1993 and 1994. Middle-class residents of a superpower had been reduced to abject poverty virtually overnight; thirtysomething women who appeared sixtysomething hocked their wedding silver in underpasses, next to reps for the Kazakh state art museum trying to move enough socialist realist paintings for a dollar each to keep the lights on. The average Kazakh earned $20 a month; those unwilling or unable to steal died of gangrene while sitting on the sidewalk next to long-winded tales of woe written on cardboard. Read More …