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Page added on September 28, 2006

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Axis of oil

Confronting the world’s new petro-powers

Earlier this year, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in China — and quickly made himself at home. The occasion was a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a regional group linking China, Russia, and Central Asia. Ahmadinejad seemed to be everywhere. He posed, arms linked, with Russian and Chinese officials, who said nothing as he called for “impartial experts” to investigate whether the Holocaust happened. He delivered a major address on Chinese state television. And he proposed making “the SCO into a strong and influential economic, political and trade institution [to] thwart the threat of domineering powers.”

One guess which “domineering power” he had in mind.

Ahmadinejad’s Shanghai strategy signals a potentially momentous change in the international system. In four key regions of the globe — China; Russia and the former Soviet Union; the Middle East; and Latin America — a toxic combination of factors have combined to create a new, fluid alliance of nations that could potentially oppose the United States and other democracies. In the past five years, all these regions have witnessed rising nationalism and anti-Americanism. In all four regions, leaders fear American power could undermine their autocratic or semi-autocratic regimes. In all four regions, countries have at least flirted with democracy yet recently begun to turn their backs on it. And in all four regions, authoritarian governments have a new weapon, one potentially more powerful than nukes: oil.

Three of these regions are major oil producers, while China’s powerhouse economy has made it the biggest new consumer of oil to emerge in decades. China’s appetite gives these countries an alternative to democratic oil guzzlers.

National Post (Canada)

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