What is happening in North West Africa known as Arab Maghreb and down south in Sahel i.e. Sahara region, is the beginning of a new colonial style era to wrest and control vast resources of these poor nations, i.e. Libya, Mali, Algeria, Mauritania, Niger, Chad and others. Still mostly untapped - not even fully mapped - it is a vast region with Mali twice as large as whole of France.
Neo-Imperial power, USA, now fading economically and almost bankrupt, in cahoots with former colonial exploiters of the region, equally bankrupt, are in competition with the Chinese who are using their vast wealth accumulated by hard work to invest in and buy African raw materials. West wants to acquire the resources by military force.
The article at the end by a widely travelled and respected journalist Pepe Escobar very clearly explains what is happening in a region about which there is so little knowledge. He has travelled by road and boat in Mali in early 21 century and knows the area.
I was posted in Algiers in 1964 and 65, soon after a fierce war of independence. It was still very tense and disorganized. When I transited Algiers and Oran in end 1980 it was aglitter with its energy wealth. While posted at Dakar, Senegal (1978-81) I was concurrently accredited to Mali and went by road to Segou and Mopti and then by boat to Timbuktu in 1979.
Way back in 2005 I had written on the “emerging, strategic, nuclear environment”:
“While posted at Dakar in Senegal in West Africa ,I commenced in October 1980 the first leg of my travelathon crisscrossing continents on an Air Algeri flight which after a brief halt at Nouakchott, Mauritania, zigzagged East to Niamey, Niger's throbbing capital (thanks to uranium). Looking down from the plane, the journey across Sahara, crossing river Niger, over Timbuktu and Gao was fascinatingly dull.
I wondered if all these little known places and Bamako (Mali), N’djamena (Chad) and Bangui (Central African Republic) might become household words like Kuwait, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, once the reportedly buried uranium wealth underneath were mined to fuel energy needs of last decade of this century and early 2lst century.
But in spite of wake up calls in 1970s of hydrocarbon energy shortage, the corporate interests in oil and gas, which is so profitable, did little to develop nuclear or other means of energy. So Niger has become notorious for its uranium mines for weapons use, and sometimes for its famines. President George W. Bush used alleged attempts by Saddam Hussein, proved concocted, to get uranium from Niger for weapons, as one of the causes belli to invade Iraq.
However, it was the Bhopal (India) born Pakistan national and German trained metallurgist and nuclear scientist and a globalizer in nuclear weapons technology, Dr. Abdul Qadir Khan, who last year brought into world focus, Timbuktu, which even the much traveled Indian journalist Khuswant Singh thought was a only a verbal expression, when I told him about it. For in November 1979 after presenting my letters of credence in Bamako, saying now or never, I undertook a journey by road and by boat on river Niger, to sample some romance of the earlier travelers, to the famous Eldorado, where during medieval centuries a pound of salt fetched an ounce of gold, attracting traders, invaders and scholars making Timbuktu a great center of Islamic culture and civilization.
Who would have ever thought in 1979 that Khan would love Timbuktu so much that he would even invest in a hotel there (It appears that Hotel La Colombe (?) has been named for his wife -shades of a minor Shah Jehan). But even Dr Watson would tell Sherlock Holmes why, so that he could travel from Pakistan to Timbuktu and back and supervise transfer of yellow cake to Pakistan and elsewhere. One can easily fly east from Timbuktu to Niger or go by road or river. He went around openly, flying around to Morocco, Mali, Chad, Sudan and everywhere the maker of the Islamic bomb was a welcome hero.”
Do not be fooled by Washington whistling in the dark that US will become an energy exporting nation, which many ill-informed US proxies are hawking in India.
Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed in his article “Oil optimism relying on fudged statistics” in Asia Times writes:
“Headlines about 2012's World Energy Outlook (WEO) from the International Energy Agency (IEA), released mid-November, would lead you to think we are literally swimming in oil.
The report forecasts that the United States will outstrip Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil producer by 2017, becoming "all but self-sufficient in net terms" in energy production - a notion reported almost verbatim by media agencies worldwide, from BBC News to Bloomberg.
-- But all the media attention was on the oil man's oil-funded report. Tverberg's peer-reviewed study in a reputable science journal, with its somewhat darker message, was ignored.
What happens when the shale boom goes boom?
These scientific studies are not the only indications that something is deeply wrong with the IEA's assessment of prospects for shale gas production and accompanying economic prosperity. Indeed, Business Insider reports that far from being profitable, the shale gas industry is facing huge financial hurdles.
"The economics of fracking are horrid," observes US financial journalist Wolf Richter. "Production falls off a cliff from day one and continues for a year or so until it levels out at about 10% of initial production."
The result is that "drilling is destroying capital at an astonishing rate, and drillers are left with a mountain of debt just when decline rates are starting to wreak their havoc. To keep the decline rates from mucking up income statements, companies had to drill more and more, with new wells making up for the declining production of old wells. Alas, the scheme hit a wall, namely reality."
Similarly Pepe Escobar’s piece elucidates on what West is up to in NW Africa and Sahara region in his article “Burn Burn – Africa’s Afghansitan” in Asia Times
One's got to love the sound of a Frenchman's Mirage 2000 fighter jet in the morning. Smells like... a delicious neo-colonial breakfast in Hollandaise sauce. Make it quagmire sauce.
Apparently, it's a no-brainer. Mali holds 15.8 million people - with a per capita gross domestic product of only around US$1,000 a year and average life expectancy of only 51 years - in a territory twice the size of France (per capital GDP $35,000 and upwards). Now almost two-thirds of this territory is occupied by heavily weaponized Islamist outfits. What next? Bomb, baby, bomb.
So welcome to the latest African war; Chad-based French Mirages and Gazelle helicopters, plus a smatter of France-based Rafales bombing evil Islamist jihadis in northern Mali. Business is good; French president Francois Hollande spent this past Tuesday in Abu Dhabi clinching the sale of up to 60 Rafales to that Gulf paragon of democracy, the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The formerly wimpy Hollande - now enjoying his "resolute", "determined", tough guy image reconversion - has cleverly sold all this as incinerating Islamists in the savannah before they take a one-way Bamako-Paris flight to bomb the Eiffel Tower.
French Special Forces have been on the ground in Mali since early 2012.
The Tuareg-led NMLA (National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad), via one of its leaders, now says it's "ready to help" the former colonial power, billing itself as more knowledgeable about the culture and the terrain than future intervening forces from the CEDEAO (the acronym in French for the Economic Community of Western African States).
Salafi-jihadis in Mali have got a huge problem: they chose the wrong battlefield. If this was Syria, they would have been showered by now with weapons, logistical bases, a London-based "observatory", hours of YouTube videos and all-out diplomatic support by the usual suspects of US, Britain, Turkey, the Gulf petromonarchies and - oui, monsieur - France itself.
Instead, they were slammed by the UN Security Council - faster than a collection of Marvel heroes - duly authorizing a war against them. Their West African neighbors - part of the ECOWAS regional bloc - were given a deadline (late November) to come up with a war plan. This being Africa, nothing happened - and the Islamists kept advancing until a week ago Paris decided to apply some Hollandaise sauce.
Not even a football stadium filled with the best West African shamans can conjure a bunch of disparate - and impoverished - countries to organize an intervening army in short notice, even if the adventure will be fully paid by the West just like the Uganda-led army fighting al-Shabaab in Somalia.
To top it all, this is no cakewalk. The Salafi-jihadis are flush, courtesy of booming cocaine smuggling from South America to Europe via Mali, plus human trafficking. According to the UN Office of Drugs Control, 60% of Europe's cocaine transits Mali. At Paris street prices, that is worth over $11 billion.