The Petroanalysis team was discussing the most recent and outstanding issues concerning the oil market when our storyteller paid us a visit. He first quietly listened to the facts, figures and arguments affecting price oscillations and then said that he has brought us a present on a special occasion for him. This is Part One he said. More would follow.
With an ironic smile he added, “You are not obliged to accept it. After a full century of oil dependence in Venezuela, the country that expresses pride for being the nation that engendered OPEC, even policymakers lack the appropriate knowledge about the complexity of the subject and are prisoners of history tales, more related to myths than to anything else… So, he continued, if you do accept, I assure you that you shall have a better understanding of what you are discussing right now and realize that analyzing oil politics opens the door to go beyond geology and economics and reach towards the entangled, Siamese-twin-like ties between oil and politics.”
It all began there… According to the Moslem tradition, Allah commended Abraham to sacrifice his son Ismael. Al Adha is the Sacrifice.
The one billion four hundred million Moslems celebrate their main religious feast, the Al Adha, on Tuesday August 21st. Yet, peace is out of reach.
This takes us back to the early years of Petroanalysis. Around 30 years ago, we looked at an essentially similar type of meddling… It is true, superpowers determine the course of history, but also that minor players can be a tool to fulfil the final outcome. Iran, for example, is in no need for more territory. Nor is its primary objective the huge oil and gas reserves next to its borders. It has been an empire for thousands of years. Even Arab Moslem rule over it lasted a very short time. Persians were able to weaken the Arab Empire from within. Bloody sectarian battles were inspired by Persian nationalism for millennia. It was Persia until 1926 or so when the name Iran surfaced. Yet, it was simply one Dynasty that was substituted by another, the Pahlawi took over from the Qajars and the ruler’s title was Shahinshah, King of Kings, just as it had been for around 5,000 years. The end of the last Shah, Mohammad Reza was urgently required because his legitimacy was widely disputed. A new Emperor was needed to rule the country with an iron fist, imposed and accepted through a popular mindset of the vast least educated and enlightened sector of the society that blindly believes in the divine leadership of a Pope-like figure, the Rule of the Faqih: Khomeiny was the man. This marked the rebirth of an invigorated Persian Empire now divinely ruled by authorized clerics whose mission is to achieve longstanding Shiite aspirations to dominate the Moslem world. Such an objective can only be materialized if Qom and Teheran were to establish their hegemony over Makkah (Mecca) and Medina which since the birth of Islam have been in Arab hands. Thus a very long war has just begun.
Remember, just a few months ago, the situation was described as follows:
Ramadhan, the holy month for the Moslem World will end on the 14th of June. Although Moslem Persians do celebrate the end of the month of Ramadhan, their main celebration is Nawrooz, a pre Islamic Zarathustrian tradition. But this year, there seems to be less motivation for a real feast.
Petroanalysis touched such a point in 1987, with regard to the question of Makkah…
For the Islamic world the high festival “Id Al Adha Al Mubarak” was celebrated at the beginning of August. About a thousand million Muslims looked towards Makkah, which is birthplace of the prophet Muhammad and the seat of the Kaaba, the sacred place for the pre-Islamic Arabs and repository of the Black Stone that Muhammad, with wisdom and sense of justice, and before the revelation as Prophet, prevented the discord between the chiefs of the clans from Mecca who disputed the honour of carrying that Stone and placing it in the Kaaba. Muhammad put his modest “bisht” on the floor, took the Stone and placed it in the middle of that cloak and invited those present to carry it collectively. In that way the honour was shared and the discord avoided. That Muhammad bin Abdullah, son of Mecca, later took the message of Allah to his people. Allah is the name of a pre-Islamic Arab God. The Prophet said that one of the five pillars of the faith is the pilgrimage to Mecca. Another is to pray five times per day. And the Muslims do so facing towards their “Quibla”, which is Mecca. The original and orthodox Islam is based in the Coran, a sacred book written in Arabic and in the “Sunne” which is the tradition according to the Arab Prophet.
Over almost fifteen hundred years, independently of the Islamic capital being in Damascus, Bagdad, Cairo, Cordoba or Istanbul, the honour of serving and having custody over Mecca and Medina has been in the hands of Sunni Arab clans even though the pilgrims may pertain to the Shiite, Alawite, Zaidite, Ismaelite and other sects. To try to make a Sunni Arab clan illegitimate, that is the Saudis, in order to legitimize a Shiite Persian theocracy as custodian of Mecca and Medina would place the Islamic world over a volcano. The eruption would be produced immediately and all over. A body with its heart removed dies. The Arabs are the heart of Islam. Without them there is no Islam. When religion is used for political ends it usually produces bloody violence.
The storyteller moved then to another point.
Belvedere, the Holy League and present Conflicts, History is not just history
“It was September 1958 in Vienna in the third district, Rennweg, when I first passed by the rear area of a palace with its magnificent gardens,” he said, “Its name Belvedere sounded rather French or Italian – especially when I learned that it used to belong to Prince Eugene of Savoy. But when you are eighteen, questions that are possibly related to political and military history don’t come to your mind.”
For years, the man walked twice daily by Belvedere to take the tramway to the university and back home. With time he visited the art exhibition in the palace and enjoyed walking through the typically Italian and French labyrinth-style of plant arrangement.
He was again in Vienna in 1983 as a tourist and visited an exhibition in the Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien, which was entitled “300 Jahre Die Türken Vor Wien” (300 Years Of The Turks On The Outskirts Of Vienna, 1683). In the introduction of a very well documented book with the same title stood a sentence that attracted his attention. “The Holy League, or Sacra Ligua, gave birth to the first steps towards the idea of forming a European Union.” This led him to enquire about the subject. After all he is a Moslem and has Turkish genes in his DNA. Why Holy or Sacra he asked himself?
In the XVIIth century, the Moslem world, nominally, still had the figure of a Caliph and it was the Ottoman Sultan who attributed himself that honor. This was due to the extension of his Empire in Asia, Europe and Africa and his military might. The Ottoman expansion in Greece, Sicily, Crete, and the Balkans brought millions of Christians, both Catholic and Orthodox, under the rule of a Muslim state. When the Turks advanced for the third time towards the capitol of the Catholic Austro-Hungarian Empire of the Habsburgs, the consciousness of several European nations was awakened.
No single European state could successfully face the formidable Ottoman army. So it was the Vatican under Pope Innocent XI who managed to form an alliance of the Papal States, the Holy Roman Empire under Habsburg Emperor Leopold I, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of John III Sobieski, and the Venetian Republic. On 12th September 1683 under the high command of the Polish King John III Sobieski, Austrian, German and Polish troops obliged the Ottoman army to retreat from the front of Vienna. This event has left a permanent mark on the historical consciousness of several European nations, but at the same time it marked the beginning of European expansion in the Moslem part of the Mediterranean and the Middle East. The present clash of civilizations could have its roots in that confrontation.
And what had all this to do with the old man’s story about Belvedere?
Belvedere was built by Prince Eugene of Savoy, François-Eugène de Savoie, a French military who moved to Austria and transferred his loyalty to the Habsburg Monarchy and had a brilliant action against the Ottoman Turks at the Siege of Vienna in 1683 and the subsequent War of the Holy League.
Perhaps these bloody hostilities had at least the merit of introducing some Oriental products and habits to Europe through Austria – carpets, rugs, coffee and tobacco, for example, that contributed to the emergence of the famous Viennese coffee house culture and Mocha (Mocca) coffee, the name which comes from the Yemenite port of Mucha.
Nevertheless, today the European Union has to solve the question of Poland’s position by not accepting Muslim refugees. The same applies to Hungary and Austria, especially now that the extreme right is in charge of the government in Vienna.
A rebirth of Hitler’s anti-Semitism? After all, Arabs are also Semitic. The story teller is unable to respond to this complex question.
At this point, it is well worth recommending a close reading of what Henry Kissinger in his book World Order, had to say with regard to the Ottoman Empire, the European states and the intra-Muslim rivalries at the time in question: “The Ottoman Empire came into contact with the states of Western Europe as it expanded westward. The divergence between what was later institutionalized as the multipolar European system and the Ottomans’ concept of a single universal empire conferred a complex character on their interactions. The Ottomans refused to accept the European states as either legitimate or equal. … It reflected a judgment about the reality of power relations, for the Ottoman Empire was territorially larger than all of the Western European states combined and for many decades militarily stronger than any conceivable coalition of them…
The Habsburgs leapfrogged the Ottomans to solicit an alliance with the Shia Safavid Dynasty in Persia. Geopolitical imperatives, for a time at least, overrode ideology…
Ottoman assaults on the European order resumed, the most significant of which reached Vienna in 1683. The siege of Vienna, broken that year by a European army led by Eugene of Savoy, marked the high point of Ottoman expansion….”
Islamophobia is just one of its side effects. Any further similarity of this phenomenon could be investigated in Middle Age Crusades, XVth century Inquisition, XVIIth century European and Russian wars against Moslem Ottomans, Russian anti Jewish Pogroms and Nazi Antisemitism in the XIXth and XXth century and nowadays awakening and rebirth of powerful anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim movements that stretch from Russia through most of Europe and is ever growing in the US.
There is more to come the storyteller said…
(To be continued)