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Oil ‘behind foreign intervention’

Oil 'behind foreign intervention'
Industry news

The more oil a country produces, the more likely a foreign power will intervene in its internal conflicts, according to new research.

The study by the universities of Portsmouth, Warwick and Essex has found that oil is often the reason for interfering in another country’s civil war – confirming the beliefs of many conspiracy theorists.

The researchers found that the decision to interfere was dominated by the interveners’ need for oil over and above any historical, geographical or ethnic ties.

Among the findings, published in the Journal of Conflict Resolution, are that the more oil a country has, the more likely a third party will intervene in their civil war and the more oil a country imports, the greater the likelihood it will intervene in an oil-producing country’s civil war;

Dr Petros Sekeris, of the University of Portsmouth, said: “We found clear evidence that countries with potential for oil production are more likely to be targeted by foreign intervention if civil wars erupt.

“Military intervention is expensive and risky. No country joins another country’s civil war without balancing the cost against their own strategic interests and what possible benefits there are.

“We wanted to go beyond conspiracy theories and conduct a careful, nuanced analysis to see whether oil acts as an economic incentive in the decision on whether to intervene in an internal war in another country.

“The results show that outsiders are much more motivated to join a fight if they have a vested financial interest.”

Dr Vincenzo Bove, from the University of Warwick, said the Islamic State (IS or Isis) situation in northern Iraq and Syria acted as an example of the findings.

He said: “Before the Isis forces approached the oil-rich Kurdish north of Iraq, Isis was barely mentioned in the news. But once Isis got near oil fields, the siege of Kobani in Syria became a headline and the US sent drones to strike Isis targets.

“We don’t claim that our findings can be applied to every decision made on whether to intervene in another country’s war, but the results clearly demonstrate supply of and demand for oil motivates a significant number of decisions taken to intervene in civil wars in the post-World War II period.

“The ’thirst for oil’ is often put forward as a near self-evident explanation behind the intervention in Libya and the absence of intervention in Syria. Many claims are often simplistic but, after a rigorous and systematic analysis, we found that the role of economic incentives emerges as a key factor in intervention.”

The research also found that a third party country was more likely to intervene if they were a major power, the rebels were strong and well-armed there were close ethnic ties between the two countries and/or the civil war took place during the Cold War, a period of global competition between superpowers.

The researchers highlighted the USA’s involvement in conflicts in oil-rich Angola, Guatemala, Indonesia and the Philippines and pointed out the lack of intervention in countries such as Zimbabwe which have no oil reserves.

The researchers also said that oil-rich states including the Gulf States, Mexico and Indonesia have no history of military intervention in other countries’ civil wars, even if they have advanced and well equipped military forces.

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