Aida 203 Syria
IN our last issue, APN No 202, we argued that America's attempt to block the sale of our sophisticated Tiger laser-guided tank firing and aiming platform to Syria was based, not on any ethical grounds, but represented pure trade protection. This is now confirmed by the political journal, Washington Inquirer, which discloses that the US Government recently granted exemption to America's own Occidental Petroleum to conclude a deal with Sudan, another state high on the US hit list of renegade states.
Officially, US opposition to SA's sale to Syria rests with the provisions of the 1996 Counter-Terrorism Act. This requires the US to act against any country which provides lethal military equipment to "state sponsors of terrorism." Syria is one of the seven states listed.
Of the officially sanctioned Sudan deal - which appears to have been stymied, not by the Americans but by Sudan itself - The Inquirer writes: "The military regime in Sudan is one of the most repugnant and aggressive in the world. It is believed to have sponsored the attempted assassination of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
"It is well known as encouraging slavery. It is one of the main staging areas for aggressive Islamic fundamentalism, sponsoring the spread of its destabilising influence across North America, including Egypt and Libya, in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. It provides training camps and supplies for many of the most dangerous and active Islamic and anti-Israeli terrorist organisations.
"Its military, under the pretext that rebel groups against its authoritarian regime are using its neighbours as staging areas for attacks, is threatening to go to war with Eritrea, Ethiopia, Uganda and Zaire. These pretexts are merely military adventurism. But in pursuit of a US$930 million oil venture, the Clinton Administration quietly exempted Occidental Petroleum from the provisions of the anti-terrorism law, allowing it to pursue its interests in seeking to develop an oil venture in Sudan.
"One of the seven countries listed as state sponsors of terrorism is Iran. Last year the US was outspokenly critical of our ally, Turkey, for initiating a pipeline deal with Iran. Even more to the point, in 1995, Clinton forced the American oil company, Conoco, to break an agreement with Iran to support the development of two Iranian oil and gas fields.
"The seven countries listed as state sponsors of terrorism are Cuba, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Libya and North Korea. It now turns out that we hypocritically have been allowing our companies to deal with these countries. One such exemption allowed was with Syria.
"Relying on information from an anonymous source in the State Department, The Washington Post said exemptions were granted to both Syria and the Sudan in August, under a provision of the law which allows the Treasury Department to grant exemptions. Representative Benjamin A Gilman, Republican chairman on International Relations, has protested the loophole in a letter to Clinton.
"The Post says the sequence of events leading to the Sudanese deal are unclear, but points out that Occidental has long been a major political player. In the past two years it has given more than $600 000 to both parties, nearly equally divided between them."
Later reports indicate that the Sudanese regime, possibly angered by American action in North Africa, in December signed a deal with China National Petroleum Corp, Malaysia's state oil company and excluding Occidental "for political reasons." It will be interesting to see how the US now handles Malaysia.
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