Iran, oil and the March solar eclipse
    Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.  - George Santayana:

A South News commentary February 23 2006
 by Dave Muller

 The month of March is shaping up as real crunch time in the history of the Middle East. Iran is to be taken to the UN Security Council by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on its nuclear program with the possibility of punitive sanctions. Iran plans on its New Year on March 20 to begin an oil bourse trading in Euros which poses a direct threat to the monopoly of oil pricing enjoyed by the New York and London exchanges and hence to the status of the U.S. dollar itself as the principal world reserve currency. Israel has a general election scheduled for March 28 which could determine the course of the Palestinian peace process for years to come.

The U.S. and Israel has plans afoot for a military strike possibly using mini nukes with military planners paying as much attention to the waxing and waning of the moon as mythical werewolves. A dark sky with little or no visible crescent is a premium time to launch an aerial attack continuing a long military tradition of surprising the enemy in the dead of night.

On Wednesday 29th March not only will no moon be visible but the Sun will temporarily vanish in the sky by a total solar eclipse. The 1991 Gulf War was launched Jan 17 a day after the central solar eclipse the day before.
2006 Total Solar Eclipse Path Animation (by British astronomer Andrew Sinclair)The shadow of the Moon will sweep a band starting from Brazil, through Atlantic Ocean, Gold Coast of Africa, Saharan Desert, Mediterranean Sea, Turkey, Black Sea, Georgia, Russian Federation, northern shores of Caspian Sea, Kazakhstan; ending in Mongolia. The duration of totality will be less than 2 minutes near the sunrise and sunset limits, but will be as long as 4 minutes and 7 seconds in Libya, at the moment of greatest eclipse. The 1991 Gulf War annular eclipse lasted 7 minutes 53 seconds.

2006 Total Solar Eclipse Path Animation (by British astronomer Andrew Sinclair)

Is history about to repeat itself?
We are all familiar with the recurrence of  natural phenomena such as the daily sunrise and sunset, the annual cycle of seasons and the monthly waxing and waning of the moon. Such recurrence in nature gives us a sense of time and calendars in charting cultural festivals and birthdays and invoking a sense of history.

While solar and lunar eclipses  regularly occur every 6 months they do so asymmetrically in time and place and do with different physical characteristics and geometry. But there is a longer eclipse period of time of natural recurrence. There is the Meton cycle of 19 years, where eclipses occur of the same day of year within hours. Despite this synchronicity  the eclipses have neither the same physical geometry nor occur in the same region of the Earth. Then there is the Exeligmos or a triple Saros (54 years and 34 days) when the shadow of the moon returns to the same place and time on the globe with the same geometry and characteristics. - 1898, 1952 and 2006, etc.

Thus it useful to examine  the total solar eclipse of  February 25  1952 and the political events at that time to see if human history has learnt anything since then.

1952 'cold war' total solar eclipse
The path of totality eclipse of February 25  1952 passes over some of the world largest oil fields -  Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, and the former Soviet Union’s oil fields, now Turmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan. The eclipse directly passing over Tehran and Baku as key oil capitals.

1952 was also a crunch year for Iran when President Mohammed Mossadaq nationalised the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in order to ensure that oil profits remain in Iran instead of flowing into British and American oil corporation coffers. British oil professionals left Iran and Britain ordered a boycott of Iranian oil, effectively shutting down the oil industry in Iran for the time being. The Iranian economy headed towards bottom as foreign exchange withered away and oil revenues went to nil  Mossadaq realises that Britain will attempt to overthrow his government, so he closes the British Embassy and sends all British civilians, including its intelligence operatives, out of the country.

On the day of this 1952 eclipse, Prime Minister Winston Churchill announces that his nation has an atomic bomb as perhaps a veiled threat to Tehran but it was only later in the year to 1957 that Britain actually conducted 12 major nuclear tests in Australia and Monte Bello islands. Later in 1952, the US successfully detonates the first hydrogen bomb at Eniwetok island in the Bikini atoll located in the Pacific Ocean.

Britain challenged the legality of  Iran’s oil nationalisation. However the International Court of Justice in The Hague finally ruled in favor of Iran on July 22nd. (1) Despite appeals  Britain finds itself with no way to stage the coup it desires, so it approaches the American intelligence community for help. Their first approach results in abject failure when Harry Truman throws the British representatives out of his office, stating that "We don’t overthrow governments; the United States has never done this before, and we’re not going to start now." After Eisenhower is elected in November 1952, the British have a much more receptive audience, and plans for overthrowing Mossadaq are produced (2).

In the US Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy continued his witch hunt attempting to discredit the Truman administration. A wave of anti-communism, known as "McCarthyism," swept the country. On April 10, film director Elia Kazan testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee, naming 15 of his former colleagues as members of the Communist Party

With the Korean war not going well on February 25, the day of this eclipse, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff hand-delivered a secret order JCS directive (JCS #1837/29) to Gen. Ridgeway to large scale test use of germ warfare against N Korean and Chinese forces. The American flyers were given brief lectures on germ warfare. They were told that germ warfare was a top secret and that disclosing it to anyone would lead to a court-martial and if convicted, death as the likely penalty.

On March 15, 1952, The People's Daily in Beijing printed nine photographs it claimed were proof that the United States was waging germ warfare in China. They showed clumps of dead flies, close-ups of other insects, microscopic images of bacteria and smudges identified as bluish impurities, among other things. The captions described poisonous insects, meningitis double globular bacteria, ulcerous cylindrical bacteria and flies that could crawl but not fly.

A recent publication by two prominent historians, Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman, (3) provided convincing documentary evidence for America's secret germ warfare in Korea and China during 1951-53

(1) International Court of Justice, Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. case (United Kingdom v. Iran). Judgment of July 22nd, 1952.
(2)  On June 16, 2000, the New York Times published on its Web site PDF files of a secret CIA report: "CLANDESTINE SERVICE HISTORY, OVERTHROW OF PREMIER MOSSADEQ OF IRAN, November 1952-August 1953," an operation planned and executed by the CIA and British SIS:
       Secrets From the Early Cold War and Korea.
       By Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman.1998  Bloomington: Indiana University Press


Saros 139
Eclipses are classified as belonging to a particular genus or family, known as a Saros series because of their similar geometry and physical characteristics with a periodicity of 223 new moons. The March 29th solar eclipse of 2006 is the 29 eclipse of Saros 139. Occurring on the moon's ascending node the moon shadow of totality moves globally from the south-west  to the north-east from the Gold Coast of Africa, the Middle East to the Caspian Sea.

Successive eclipses in a Saros (18 years 11 days 8 hours) series, while similar, the time of maximum totality is shifted by 8 hours so that successive eclipses are about 120º apart in longitude.

Thus for the eclipses of February 14  1934 and  March 18 1988 the moon path of totality runs from the Indonesian oil fields through the Philippines northwards through the pacific to end off the coast of Alaska, with degrees of partiality occurring in Indo-China Korea, Japan and China. Whereas for the eclipses of February 3  1916 and March 7 1970 the moon path of totality runs from the Pacific through Latin America close to New York to the northern Atlantic.
 1970 Nixon escalates Vietnam war to Cambodia
Oil Tanker wars of 1988
The most recent eclipse in Saros 139 occurred 1988 March 18. In the Persian Gulf, during the Iran-Iraq war, at this time with Iran blocking the Straits of Hormuz to oil tankers leaving Arab ports.
On April 14, 1988, the frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts was badly damaged by an Iranian mine. U.S. forces responded with Operation Praying Mantis on April 18, the United States Navy's largest engagement of surface warships since World War II.

In the course of these escorts by the U.S. Navy, the cruiser USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655 with the loss of all 290 passengers and crew on July 3, 1988. The American government claimed that the airliner had been mistaken for an Iranian F-14 Tomcat, and that the Vincennes was operating in international waters at the time and feared that it was under attack. It has since emerged, however, that the Vincennes was in fact in Iranian territorial waters, and that the Iranian passenger jet was turning away and increasing altitude after take-off. The U.S. paid compensation but never apologised.

Through all of this, members of the Reagan Administration had at the same time, also been secretly selling weapons to Iran - first indirectly ( through Israel) and then directly. It claimed that the administration hoped Iran would, in exchange, persuade several radical groups to release Western hostages. (for details see the Iran-Contra Affair). The money from the sales was channeled to equip the Nicaraguan Contras, right-wing rebels. Oliver North and Vice-Admiral John Poindexter are indicted on charges of conspiracy on March 16- a day before this eclipse.

Gassing of Kurds in Halabja

According to several accounts, on the evening of March 16/17 Iraq uses US-supplied Bell helicopters to deploy chemical weapons during its campaign to recapture lost territories in its war with Iran. One of the towns that is within the conflict zone is the Kurdish village of Halabja, with a population of about 70,000. Between 3,200 and 5,000 Halabja civilians are reportedly killed by poison gas. But  the story gets murkier: immediately after the battle the United States Defense Intelligence Agency investigated and produced a classified report, which it circulated within the intelligence community on a need-to-know basis. That study asserted that it was Iranian gas that killed the Kurds, not Iraqi gas.

The agency did find that each side used gas against the other in the battle around Halabja. The condition of the dead Kurds' bodies, however, indicated they had been killed with a blood agent — that is, a cyanide-based gas — which Iran was known to use. The Iraqis, who are thought to have used mustard gas in the battle, are not known to have possessed blood agents at the time

[New York Times, 1/31/03; Johnson and Pelletiere, 12/10/1990; International Herald Tribune 1/17/03; Weinstein and Rempel, 2/13/1991 cited in Hurd and Rangwala, 12/21/2001; Washington Post, 3/11/1991]

2006 eclipse path of totality

While the 1991 Gulf War eclipse of midnight (GMT) Jan 15/16 belonged to Saros series 131 the total eclipse of 2006 March 29 is the 29th eclipse of  71 members that belong to Saros series 139.

The eclipse track begins in eastern Brazil, where the Moon's shadow first touches down on Earth at 08:36 GMT. Traveling over 9 km/s, the umbra quickly leaves Brazil and races across the Atlantic Ocean for the next half hour. Sweeping in from the Gulf of Guinea totality encounters the coast of Ghana at 09:08 GMT. Moving inland totality enters Togo at 09:14 GMT. Continuing northeast, the shadow's axis enters Nigeria at 09:21 GMT.

Nigeria is the United States' fifth-largest supplier of foreign oil . The eclipse takes about sixteen minutes to cross western Nigeria before entering Niger.  

During the next hour, the shadow traverses some of the most remote and desolate deserts on the planet. Niger, an impoverished nation on the western edge of the Sahara desert, is the world's third largest producer of uranium.

One of the chief arguments used by the Bush administration to justify the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 was that Iraq was "reconstituting its nuclear weapons programs." Central to this argument was the claim that Iraq attempted to obtain processed uranium from Niger.

When it  reaches northern Niger, it briefly enters extreme northwestern Chad before crossing into oil rich Libya. Maximum duration of totality lasts for about 4m07s in southern Libya where the shadow width is about 184 km wide and travels at about 0.7 km/sec .Here totality will occur at 10:10 GMT

Totality over the eastern Mediterranean will occur about 40 minutes later with only a slightly shorter duration .Passing directly between Crete and Cyprus, the track reaches the southern coast of Turkey at 10:54 GMT.

Crossing mountainous regions of central Turkey, the Moon's shadow intersects the path of the 1999 Aug 11 total eclipse.

At 11:10 GMT, the shadow axis reaches the Black Sea along the northern coast of Turkey. Six minutes later, the umbra encounters the western shore of Georgia, entering once again a sensitive oil region Moving inland, the track crosses the Caucasus Mountains, which form the highest mountain chain of Europe. As the shadow proceeds into Russia, it engulfs the northern end of the Caspian Sea and crosses into Kazakhstan.

In the remaining seventeen minutes, the shadow rapidly accelerates across central Asia while the duration dwindles. It traverses northern Kazakhstan and briefly re-enters Russia before lifting off Earth's surface at sunset along Mongolia's northern border.

Lessons of history

The inception of U.S. imperialism is generally traced to 1898, and the acquisition of an overseas empire (Puerto Rico, the Philippines) as spoils of the Spanish-American War. This accompanied the rise of the Rockefeller oil dynastry and its later grab in the Middle East.

Today the U.S. is really bogged down in Iraq and its imperial star in the Pleiades is fading worldwide. Geo-politically, the 7 sisters no longer control the world oil as Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez is demonstrating with his subsidising of heating oil to the U.S. poor.

George W. Bush's popularity is reaching new lows as did those of Nixon in the 1970 when he escalated the Vietnam war into Cambodia. But given the US and its media propaganda are set on surgical strikes on Iran all we can say that the geography is not on its side. The Iranians need only retaliate against two or three major oil installations, besides sinking enough tonnage to make the Straits of Hormuz perilous to navigation and world oil markets.

So - called  'surgical' strikes will transform a nuclear program that is ambiguous into an unambiguously military program designed to obtain nuclear weapons at any  cost, and will accelerate rather than prevent, Iran developing nuclear weapons.  Even talk of military action inevitably pushes the Iranian government toward the nuclear  weapons.

Unfortunately, the message is still not sinking in that George W Bush is not Theodore Roosevelt. It is 2006 not 1898.

    What experience and history teach is this -- that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles.      G. W. Hegel

Last updated March 14 2006