At the end of World War 1, many nations studied the war to learn its lessons. The nations so interested naturally included Germany and Japan. One key maxim they carried into their Grand Strategies by 1935, was the absolute need for access to oil. Admiral Yamamoto tried to warn the Regime of Tojo, that if America pursued a long war with Japan, that Japan could not possibly win. The reason Hitler sent Rommel, his best general, to the Middle East, was because he understood that without access to the largest reserves of refined petroleum, the Nazis were doomed. While the Liberal cry of “War for Oil” is misplaced in the present conflict, it has a valid place in the rationale for many other conflicts in the past century.
Josef Stalin has been compared to Adolf Hitler in a number of valid ways, including his murderous hatred of Jews and a paranoid foundation of Geopolitical strategy. Stalin also understood the need for access to oil, but perceived that the Soviet Union would not be well received in most Arab countries. To address this problem, the Politburo developed a three-level plan to insure they would not be cut off from the Middle East. First, the Soviet Union offered agreements to countries which would guarantee delivery of oil products to the USSR as its prime client. Second, the USSR moved military forces into any country it could, such as the 1946 incursion into Iran, which led to a crisis between Stalin and Truman. And third, beginning in the 1950s the USSR began to sponsor groups to destabilize countries under the control or influence of Western powers, such as Indonesia, Algeria, and Egypt. When Nasser came to power in Egypt, this was in part due to Soviet provocations, and the success there fed later initiatives. While the Soviets never controlled the PLO, they did provide money and weapons to the group through indirect channels, hoping to destabilize Israel.
The use of state-sponsored terrorism is not limited to the 20th Century, but what happened with the PLO is distinctive. In 1972, the Black September faction held the Israeli delegation to the Olympics in Munich hostage, but later investigation revealed links to suggest that Black September had been initially trained and supplied by the PLO. This demonstrated the strategy of the PLO, to spread out and influence other groups to both common purpose and to disperse law enforcement efforts (as the anti-terrorism fight was then focused) across different groups. Then, in 1974, the PLO seized the offices where the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was holding a conference, including a number of countries which had sponsored PLO actions in the past. The act was both a test of the PLO’s independence, and a bold move to seize financial independence, and it worked. After a ransom estimated between 100 and 150 million dollars was paid, the PLO was a truly independent player, no less violent but now free to choose its own targets. This established the viability of a stand-alone Global Terrorist organization.
(to be continued in further articles)