Sunday, 24 January 2016

Argentina vs Britain and Corbyn vs Cameron: The Falklands and Oil.

The reason Argentina has become concerned with staking out claims to share sovereignty over the Falklands is the prospect of Britain developing the great oil wealth that lies offshore. Before the discovery of oil in 2010 and after the military defeat of 1982, Argentina was simply was not as interested in Las Malvinas

Corbyn's calls for a 'power sharing deal' with Argentina rests on a rather dubious comparison between Northern Ireland and the Falklands. Northern ireland broadly had two historic communities, one Catholic Irish and stressing its Irish identity and the other Protestant and 'Ulster', emphasising its British identity.

There is no comparison as regards the population of the Falklands where all its inhabitants are British and overwhelmingly voted to remain attached to Britain. If self determination means anything, then the message of the referendum in 2013 could not be clearer, in which case the question is one of power politics.

It could be that Corbyn supports self determination only when those claims are being made against 'Imperialist' and 'colonialist' powers; Palestinian claims are against Israel and, by extension, the US and 'the West' and so politically correct. The Falklanders are for Imperial power and, therefore, politically incorrect.

But Corbyn tends to look favourably with romantic zeal towards Latin American radical nationalism, whether Hugo Chavez's socialist populism in Venezuela or Cristine de Kirchner's attempts to wrest control over Argentina's economy and resources by renationalising the YPF out of the hands of Spain's Repsol.

Between 2012 and her electoral defeat in November 2015, President Kirchner attempted to resort to assertive nationalism, in the tradition of Peron, to boost her electoral fortunes and derive greater benefit from its shale oil reserves, as well as threatening to sue British oil companies exploring for off the Falklands.

It appears odd Corbyn is chose in late 2015 to express solidarity with the outgoing government and his idea of a 'power sharing deal', not least as the incoming President Macri has made plain he wants sovereignty disputes over territorial seas to be solved 'peacefully' through tactful diplomacy.

That was quite the reverse of Kirchner's accusations of 'British colonialism' and the Falkland islanders being nothing more than 'squatters', the implication being that they could at a future stage be removed from Argentinian property and expelled. That loathing was returned by denunciation of the 'Botox Queen'.

It would appear Kirchner's Justicialist Party value Corbyn as an asset given his other call for 'reasonable accomodation' as regards the Falklands. The Argentinian ambassador to London was quick to hail Corbyn as 'one of ours',a phrase that curiously sounds like Margaret Thatcher's 'one of us'

Of course, Thatcher's war in 1982 against the Argentine military junta's invasion and occupation was followed by he comments that the enemy without had been defeated and that with the hard left opposing her-including Jeremy Corbyn MP elected in 1983-it was time to take on 'the enemy within'.

Corbyn's comments could be portrayed as part of a determination to cosy up with populist and national forces opposed to Britain and the West's in Latin America now that President Macri has declared he wants a more global 'investor friendly' Argentina and struck a deal with US energy firms to develop its shale oil.

In practice, there should be no reason why Britain and Argentina could not cooperate the exploit the oil wealth in the region given that BP has previously been courted as a potential partner in developing the shale oil reserves. Corbyn seems to have assumed there is an actual ongoing conflict over the Falklands.

It could be Corbyn is wants shared sovereignty in place of the unilateral assertion of the Falklanders and Britain's right to develop all offshore oil reserves. That would make sense in the context of PM Cameron's staunch claim at Davos on January 21 2016 that there would be absolutely no negotiation on sovereignty.

Corbyn did not mention oil and neither did Cameron, though this is the real issue at stake, part of a New Global Great Game, what Michael Klare calls The Race for What's Left and a potential trigger for future resource wars as the Great Powers increasingly vie over access to energy and control over energy flows.

Given depleting gas reserves in the North Sea since 1999, the outbreak of war in eastern Ukraine, as a result of the contest between the West and Russia its taking of Crimean oil reserves, and the continued stalemate in Syria, control over Falkland reserves offers Britain the possibility of future energy security.
As Ministry of Defence made clear,
"By 2029 there is expected to be a considerable increase in demand for energy. In particular gas will be of increasing importance as states struggle to maintain energy supplies, Many boundary disputes, such as those in the Arctic, Gulf of Guinea and the South Atlantic will become inextricably linked to the securing of energy supplies."
It also offers the possibility of conflict if mishandled. However, that appeared to be a far more likely possibility under a government such as Kirchner's. Even so, the press release of Corbyn's talks with Alicia Castro on the day Hilary Benn, his rival as Shadow Foreign Secretary, declared his support for the Falklanders is curious,

Benn's interview in the Sunday Telegraph came just three days after Cameron declared at Davos that there would be no renegotiation of the sovereign status of the Falkland Islands and without Corbyn even having been asked for his own position in the light of the renewed press attention on his talks with the embassy.

Whatever is thought about Corbyn's position, it does seem there is an attempt to portray him as a 'national security threat' for challenging various shibboleths of British foreign policy that date back to the 1980s from the Falkland Islands to the supposed continuity in 2016 with the Cold War struggles against Russia.

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