Darfur: NATO prepares intervention —for Exxon?

We recently argued that the planned NATO intervention in Darfur has more to do with securing the oil resources of neighboring Chad for Exxon than with saving lives in Darfur. Yeah we know, us leftists and our conspiracy theories. But all we do is read the newspapers, honest. First, from Reuters, April 16:

Chad says to stop oil output if no WB deal

N’DJAMENA: Chad will stop its oil production from Tuesday unless it reaches an agreement with the World Bank to end a dispute over the use of oil revenues, a government minister said on Friday.

“We will turn off the tap in a week if there is no agreement with the WB,” Human Rights minister Abderamane Djasnabaille told a news conference after a cabinet meeting. He said production would be stopped on Tuesday, April 18 at midday. Chad produces 160,000-170,000 barrels of crude per day.

The World Bank suspended loans to Chad on Jan. 12, saying the government had breached an agreement with the bank when it changed a law to access oil profits from a pipeline operated by a US-led consortium that were meant to benefit the poor. The bank also froze pipeline profits saved in a London escrow account, which it has refused to release to the government. The savings include royalties from the pipeline’s operator, Exxon Mobil.

Next, from Turkey’s Zaman, April 15:

Bloody Rebellion Ends Sudan-Chad Relations

Three hundred and fifty people, most of whom civilians, have died in clashes between insurgents and security forces in the African country Chad.

The Chad administration halted its relations with Sudan, and claim Sudan is behind the rebellion.

During a rebel attack this week, 271 people were arrested.

Chad President Idris Debi said at a news conference held in the capital N’Djamena yesterday that he cut diplomatic reactions with Sudan and closed all border gates with the country.

The Chad leader also announced that if Sudan cannot find a solution to the Darfur conflict by the end of June, they will not accept any more refugees from Sudan.

At present about 200,000 Darfurian refugees live in camps set up in Chad.

While President Debi asserts the Sudanese administration is behind the rebellion, the Khartoum administration, however, refutes the claims.

Insurgents accuse Debi of running a dictatorship and want to hold democratic elections in the country.

Debi declared himself a presidential candidate for the third time by changing the constitution for the upcoming May elections, which drew strong reaction from the opposition and the United Front for Change militants instigated a rebellion.

Finally, this, from Stars & Stripes, April 16:

NATO mulls sending additional forces to Darfur

NATO could decide as early as next week whether to send up to 500 troops, including some U.S. forces, to Africa to boost peacekeeping efforts for Sudan’s embattled Darfur region.

The proposal, backed by the Bush administration, calls for NATO forces to provide headquarters-type support outside of Darfur for the African Union’s fledgling peacekeeping force.

About 7,000 African troops are in Darfur trying to stop a three-year conflict between Sudan’s government-backed militias and anti-government rebels. The African peacekeepers, according to two officials from the Pentagon and NATO, could use more help in command-and-control, logistics and transport… The officials spoke on the condition on anonymity because of ongoing negotiations among the U.S. and European and African nations…

“The African Union, we need to help them succeed,” the Pentagon official said. “This is an African mission that [the AU wants] to have. We are in a support role to provide the capacity for them to be successful.

“It’s a much more credible mission for them to be successful. [But] we have to wait for them to ask us for support.”

Violence in the region erupted on Thursday when rebels in Chad, which borders the Darfur region to the west, tried to stage a coup in Chad’s capital of N’djamena and were bloodily defeated by the Chadian army.

According to The Associated Press, the Chadian rebels originated their attack from the Chad-Darfur border region, where many of Darfur’s refugees have migrated.

The U.S. Air Force has been among those providing airlift support to the African Union over the past two years. In February, about 15 airmen from the Ramstein, Germany-based 86th Contingency Response Group flew to Rwanda to help transport African peacekeepers to Darfur.

NATO-flagged forces, including U.S. troops, also have provided training to several hundred AU officers. But so far, no NATO forces have engaged in the fighting or peacekeeping in Darfur, according to the NATO Web site…

In other words: the Darfur crisis is spilling into Chad, prompting President Idriss Déby to put guns before butter and straining his relations with the World Bank. In retaliation for WB pressure, he threatens to cut off oil to the West entirely and give Exxon the boot. Just as this crisis escalates, NATO gets more serious about sending troops into Darfur—to finally get the region under control, which will deprive Chad’s guerillas of their staging ground and allow Washintgon to woo Déby back into the fold. Get it?

Now, this is not to argue that NATO intervention is not warranted for humanitarian purposes. (That’s a separate question.) But let’s not have any illusions about the real geopolitical imperatives here.