South Atlantic: Britain may provoke new conflict with Argentina – Rick Rozzof

9 diciembre, 2010 § Deja un comentario

On February 22 two major developments occurred in the Americas south of the Rio
Grande. The two-day Rio Group summit opened in Mexico and Great Britain started
drilling for oil 60 miles north of the Falklands Islands, known as Las Malvinas
to Argentina.

The meeting in Mexico was identified as a Unity Summit
because for the first time the 24 members of the Rio Group (minus Honduras, not
invited because of the illegitimacy of its post-coup regime) – Argentina,
Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican
Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico,
Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela – were joined
by the fifteen members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM): Antigua and
Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti,
Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the
Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago. (Haiti, Jamaica and Suriname are
members of both organizations.)

Ahead of the summit the Financial Times
wrote, “The Mexican-led initiative, a clear sign of Latin America’s growing
confidence as a region, will exclude both the US and Canada. Some observers
believe it could even eventually rival the 35-member Organisation of American
States (OAS), which includes the US and Canada and has been the principal forum
for hemispheric issues during the past half century.” [1]

In fact on the
first day of the summit Bolivian President Evo Morales called for a “a new
US-free OAS,” [2] stressing Washington’s centuries-long history of perpetrating
military coups, blackmail, looting of natural resources and, over the past
generation, the scourge of neo-liberalism in the Americas.

In 1986 the
Rio Group grew out of the four-member Contradora Group consisting of Colombia,
Mexico, Panama and Venezuela which was formed in response to Washington’s Contra
and death squad campaigns in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala in the 1980s.
Part of the legacy Bolivia’s Morales was referring to.

Coinciding to the
day if not the hour of the beginning of the summit, the British Desire Petroleum
company began exploring for oil and gas off the Falklands/Las Malvinas, seized
from Argentina by Britain in 1833 and fought over by the nations in a 74-day war
in 1982. “Neighbouring Argentina, which lays claim to the islands, is fiercely
opposed to the drilling. Earlier this month, the Argentinian government filed a
formal protest with the British government.” [3]

Britain lost 255
soldiers in the conflict, the highest wartime fatalities it had suffered since
the Korean War and the Malayan conflict. The British death toll in Afghanistan
recently surpassed that number.

London’s energy grab in the South
Atlantic did not go unnoticed in Mexico, where 26 presidents and prime ministers
were among the participants at the Unity Summit. Argentine President Cristina
Fernandez denounced the British actions as “unilateral and illegal” [4] and a
breach of her nation’s sovereignty.

She further stated “There continues
to be systematic violation of international law that should be respected by all
countries….In the name of our government and in the name of my people I am
grateful…for the support this meeting has given to our demands.” [5]

Fernandez characterized the unanimous backing provided her at the summit
as an “exercise in self-defence for all” [6] and blasted nations with permanent
seats in the United Nations Security Council – she undoubtedly meant Britain,
the United States and France – for “continu[ing] to use that place of privilege
to disregard international law.” [7]

Her Venezuelan colleague President
Hugo Chavez, indicating the dangerous dimension a new British-provoked
altercation with Argentina can escalate into, said, “The English are still
threatening Argentina. Things have changed. We are no longer in 1982. If
conflict breaks out, be sure Argentina will not be alone like it was back then.”
[8]

Before the summit began he said, “We support unconditionally the
Argentine government and the Argentine people in their complaints. That sea and
that land belongs to Argentina and to Latin America.” [9]

He reiterated
that position during his speech on February 22. While highlighting the military
threat posed by Britain off the coast of Argentina,  he alluded to a British
submarine site in the Falklands/Las Malvinas and said “we demand not only [that]
the submarine platform…be removed, but also [that] the British
government…follow the resolutions of the United Nations and give back that
territory to the Argentine People.” [10]

Nicaragua’s President Daniel
Ortega, also in attendance at the summit, stated “We will back a resolution
demanding that England return Las Malvinas to its rightful owner, that it return
the islands to Argentina.” [11]

The Times of London quoted Marco Aurelio
Garcia, foreign policy adviser to Brazil’s President Lula da Silva, as adding:
“Las Malvinas must be reintegrated into Argentine sovereignty. Unlike in the
past, today there is a consensus in Latin America behind Argentina’s claims.”
[12]

The comments by Venezuela’s president, addressing as they did the
threat of a new military confrontation between Britain and Argentina, bear
particular scrutiny in light of recent actions by London and statements by its
head of state.

In late December Britain conducted a two-day military
operation off the coast of the Falklands/Las Malvinas which included the use of
Typhoon multi-role fighters and warships. The exercises, code-named Cape
Bayonet, “took place during a tour of the Falklands by British forces ahead of
the start of drilling in the basin in February 2010” and “simulated an enemy
invasion….” [13]

A news report at the time added, “Britain has
strengthened its military presence in the Falklands since the [1982] war and has
a major operational base at Mount Pleasant, 35 miles from the capital
Stanley.

“The prospect of the islands transforming into a major source of
oil revenue for Britain has raised the military’s argument for more funding to
beef up the forces in South Atlantic.” [14]

Four days before British
drilling began off the islands, Prime Minister Gordon Brown stated “We have made
all the preparations that are necessary to make sure that the Falkland Islanders
are properly protected,” [15] although Argentine officials have repeatedly
denied the possibility of a military response to British encroachments and
provocations in the South Atlantic Ocean.

On the same day, February 18,
Argentina’s Vice Minister of Foreign Relations Victorio Taccetti accused Britain
of “a unilateral act of aggression and subjugation” [16] in moving to seize oil
and gas in the disputed region. Buenos Aires has prohibited ships from going to
and coming from the Falklands/Las Malvinas through Argentine waters.

What
is at stake are, according to British Geological Survey estimates, as many as 60
billion barrels of oil under the waters off the Falklands/Las
Malvinas.

In late January a Russian military analyst explained that even
that colossal energy bonanza is not all that Britain covets near the
Falklands/Las Malvinas and further south.

Ilya Kramnik wrote that “along
with the neighboring islands controlled by the U.K., the Falklands are the de
facto gateway to the Antarctic, which explains London’s tenacity in maintaining
sovereignty over them and the South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, as
well as territorial claims regarding the South Shetland and South Orkney Islands
under the Antarctic Treaty.”

Regarding Antarctica itself, “Under the ice,
under the continental shelf, there are enormous mineral resources and the
surrounding seas are full of bio-resources. In addition, the glaciers of
Antarctica contain 90% of the world’s fresh water, the shortage of which becomes
all the more acute with the growth in the world’s population.” [17]

A
Chinese analysis of over two years earlier described what Britain in part went
to war for in 1982 and why it may do so again: Control of broad tracts of
Antarctica.

“The vastness of seemingly barren, ice-covered land is
uncovered and exposed to the outside world, revealing a ‘treasure basin’ with
incredibly abundant mineral deposits and energy reserves….A layer of Permian
Period coal exists on the mainland, and holds 500 billion tons in known
reserves.

“The thick ice dome over the land is home to the world’s
largest reservoir for fresh water; holds approximately 29.3 million cubic
kilometers of ice; and makes up 75% of earth’s fresh water supply.

“It is
possible to say that the South Pole could feed the entire world
with its
abundant supplies of food [fish] and fresh water…[T]he value of the South Pole
is not confined to the economic sphere; it also lies in its strategic
position.

“The US Coast Guard has long had garrisons in the region, and
the US Air Force is the number one air power in the region.” [18]

The
feature from which the preceding excerpts originated ended with a warning:
“[T]he South Pole [Antarctic] Treaty points out that the South Pole can only be
exploited and developed for the sake of peace; and can not be a battle ground.
Otherwise, the ice-cold South Pole could prove a fiercely hot battlefield.”
[19]

Two days before the May 13, 2009 deadline for “states to stake their
claims in what some experts [have described] as the last big carve-up of
maritime territory in history,” [20] Britain submitted a claim to the United
Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf for one million square
kilometers in the South Atlantic reaching into the Antarctic Ocean.

An
article in this series written five days afterward detailed the new scramble for
Antarctica initiated by Britain and Australia, the second being granted 2.5
million additional square kilometers in the Antarctic Ocean in April of 2008.
[21]

A newspaper in the United Kingdom wrote about London’s
million-kilometer South Atlantic and Antarctic ambitions beforehand that “Not
since the Golden Age of the Empire has Britain staked its claim to such a vast
area of land on the world stage. And while the British Empire may be long gone,
the Antarctic has emerged as the latest battleground for rival powers competing
on several fronts to secure valuable oil-rich territory….The Falklands claim
has the most potential for political fall-out, given that Britain and Argentina
fought over the islands 25 years ago, and the value of the oil under the sea in
the region is understood to be immense. Seismic tests suggest there could be
about 60 billion barrels of oil under the ocean floor.” [22]

Last autumn
a Russian news source warned about the exact initiative of this February 22 in
stating “Many believe that the 1982 war between Britain and Argentina with
almost 1,000 servicemen killed in the hostilities was all about oil and gas
fields in the South Atlantic. In this sense, Desire Petroleum should certainly
think twice before starting to capitalize on what was a subject of the bloodbath
in 1982….”

Regarding the territorial claims submitted by Britain last
May (still in deliberations at the UN Commission on the Limits of the
Continental Shelf), the report pointed out London’s “eagerness to expand its
Falkland Islands’ continental shelf from 200 to 350 nautical miles, which would
enable Britain to develop new oil fields in South Georgia and the South Sandwich
Islands,” and ended with a somber warning:

“Given London’s unwillingness
to try to arrive at a political accommodation
with Buenos Aires, a UN special
commission will surely have tougher times ahead as far as its final decision on
the continental shelf goes. And it is only to be hoped that Britain will be wise
enough not to turn the Falkland Islands into another regional hot spot.”
[23]

Unlike the first South Atlantic war of 1982, when the regime of
General Leopoldo Galtieri garnered no support from other Latin American nations,
a future standoff or armed conflict between Argentina and Britain over the
Falklands/Las Malvinas will see Latin American and Caribbean states acting in
solidarity with Argentina.

If the United Kingdom succeeds in provoking a
new war, it in turn will appeal to its NATO allies for logistical, surveillance
and other forms of assistance, including direct military intervention if
required. In addition to the U.S. and Canada, Britain’s NATO allies in the
Western Hemisphere include France and the Netherlands with their possessions and
military bases in the Caribbean and South America.

Britain is playing
with fire and if it ignites a new conflict it could rapidly spread far beyond
the waters off the southern tip of South America.

Notes

1) Financial Times, February 19, 2010
2) Prensa Latina, February 22,
2010
3) Radio Netherlands, February 22, 2010
4) Associated Press, February
22, 2010
5) Reuters, February 22, 2010
6) Deutsche Presse-Agentur,
February 22, 2010
7) Ibid
8) The Times (London), February 23, 2010
9)
Reuters, February 22, 2010
10) Xinhua News Agency, February 23, 2010
11)
The Times, February 23, 2010
12) Ibid
13) United Press International,
December 28, 2009
14) Ibid
15) Reuters, February 18, 2010
16) Xinhua
News Agency, February 19, 2010
17) Russian Information Agency Novosti,
January 28, 2010
18) People’s Daily, December 4, 2007
19) Ibid
20)
Reuters, October 7, 2007
21) Scramble For World Resources: Battle For
Antarctica
Stop NATO,  May 16, 2009
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/08/28/scramble-for-world-resources-battle-for-antarctica
22) The Scotsman, October 23, 2007
23) Voice of Russia, September 16,
2009

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