Skip to content

Askary Tells Denmark’s “Oasis Plan” Seminar: Peace Through Economic Development is the Only Way Forward

TOM GILLESBERG: Hussein Askary, who is the Schiller Institute Southwest Asia Coordinator will now lead us into the Promised Land with the title, “The Impossible Is Self-Imposed; Peace through Economic Development Is the Only Way Forward in West Asia.”

HUSSEIN ASKARY: Thank you very much. Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, dear Helga, it’s nice to be back in Copenhagen. The reason I joined the Schiller Institute actually is, I was in Oslo; I left Iraq in 1991 after the horrible Kuwait war and the uprising. I ended up as a political refugee in Norway. In Oslo, I was educated as an interpreter and translator, so I learned Norwegian and started working as an interpreter and translator. When the Oslo Agreements were ongoing, I became an interpreter for a delegation of Palestinian children who came with Yasser Arafat, and of course Shimon Peres was there. But at the same time, the Schiller Institute came to town, and they said there will be no peace without economic development. So, I went to the seminar, and I was shocked. For the first time, somebody said economic development should come before political solutions. Coming from Iraq, I had already realized that the problem in Iraq was not Saddam Hussein. The problem in Iraq is much bigger. Therefore, even the conflict now we see in Palestine and Gaza is part of a global system.

By the way, it was not God, Jehovah, who promised the Zionist movement, it was a gentleman in Britain called Lord Alfred Balfour in 1917 under orders of the British Emperor. But the Oasis Plan has three challenges. We have the political challenge, how to resolve the conflict, get political agreement. Helga and His Excellency the Ambassador covered that. We have a technical challenge, which is how you develop an area which is faced with lack of water, for example. That’s easy, as I will show. Then, the most difficult part is the conceptual issue, which Helga said the last three points in her Ten Principles for Global Peace and Development are focused on. Because all conflicts we have in the world today are generated by the concept that, first of all, humans are egoistic and evil; two, that there are limited natural resources to feed everybody and make everybody prosperous, and therefore the powerful should take control of the limited natural resources. I can tell you, there are no limited natural resources; neither on planet Earth, nor in the universe, and we can prove that. So this idea of a zero-sum game, that somebody must win and somebody must lose, because there is not enough for everybody. This was the basis, for example, this comes from the British Empire and Thomas Malthus, who is well known, who said in the 18th Century that the human population grows faster than natural resources, and therefore we should cut the population to be able to continue to live.

Then we have the Nazi lebensraum idea, which says the Aryan race needs a lot of land in Ukraine in order to grow food for the Aryans, because there isn’t enough space for everybody. Therefore, we have to eliminate the population in Eastern Europe and grow food for the Aryan race. It’s the same thing with the Zionist movement, which says there is not enough space for both us and the Arabs in the historical land of Palestine. This is all nonsense! We actually can have many more people on planet Earth than we have now, who would live a much better, higher living standard, better environment, and more space to live. They will live less crowded if we develop the whole world.

So, this is the biggest challenge; to get people to understand that human beings are good, and we are created in the image of God as creative beings, and we can change the world for the better. That’s the most difficult part of the crisis we have today; because most people don’t believe that’s true. I can tell you from the explanation, that if you read our publications instead of listening to the BBC and CNN and Al-Jazeera, poverty in the world is being reduced. We have fewer poor people in the world now. The planet is becoming greener, thanks to China and India first and foremost; this is from a study done by NASA in the last 20 years. There is more green area in the world than we had 40 years ago. But we do have areas where we have desertification, and there’s a political reason for that.

So, our solution to these problems, our optimism is not like— We are not utopians. Our optimism, our ideas are based on historical facts, scientific facts, and facts on the ground. The world has changed and is changing. The centers of productive power in the world have shifted. We have China’s rise, India’s rise, Asia; even in Africa. Look at Ethiopia, for example. Ethiopia is not the Ethiopia you imagined ten years ago; it’s completely transformed now. Yes, there is still poverty, but Ethiopia is transforming into a modern economy. Many nations in Africa— We have the BRICS nations emerging. We have the whole Shanghai Cooperation Organization; you have the Arab world, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. You don’t really know what’s going on there, because economic development taking place there is breathtaking, but that’s not covered in videos; everything you hear about Egypt is that they have a huge debt crisis. But that’s just money, but what happens on the reality, the physical economic reality, is different.

So anyway, our idea is an idea developed by Lyndon LaRouche and Helga Zepp-LaRouche since the fall of the Berlin Wall, to integrate the whole world with economic development corridors. This predates the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative; it’s congruent with the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, and we are very grateful that China launched that. We tried to explain why this idea is so important. So, the solution for the crisis in Gaza, the other crises in the world, have to have a global solution, because the people involved in the conflict itself are incapable of solving the problem. Therefore, outside forces like the major powers have to agree on a shift of the policy so [that] everybody survives. Because Israel is self-destructing; the United States is self-destructing right now economically, socially, culturally. The EU is self-destructing by creating these geopolitical zero-sum games and ambitions.

The solution which we have proposed is more global, because the source of the problem is global. The Oasis Plan deals with one key issue, but it’s not only that. It is the problem with the lack of water. Actually, Yitzhak Rabin had already mentioned it before those agreements. He said, if we don’t solve the water problem, we will end up in new conflicts. Many of the Israeli wars of occupation were fought to control water resources around it — in the Golan Heights, in southern Lebanon, in the West Bank, and so on. But the problem of desertification and drought is a global problem; it’s part of a larger global system. This is an exaggerated picture of not only desert, these are arid areas, semi-arid areas, and also desert areas that extend from the Atlantic in Morocco and Mauritania all the way to near by Beijing in China, in the Gobi Desert.

We look at this region; it used to be called the Fertile Crescent. This is where agriculture was invented. It’s a bit of a myth, because agriculture was invented in many parts of the world after the Ice Age, simultaneously. But this area is where agriculture started. But it’s no longer a Fertile Crescent; it’s plagued by desert, by sandstorms and dust storms like this [image] taken by satellite, usually start near Iraq, starts in this part of Syria where the Americans are now. But to my knowledge, they are not planting trees to solve this problem, because their hands are tied to the weapons, so they are incapable of planting trees there. This is one of the issues. These things are not national or even regional, because they can extend to many areas. I’m just giving this image to show you that this is not a limited problem. It extends all the way to China and Beijing, the sand and desert storms. But things are being done to mitigate that. The Chinese are greening the deserts. I will give an example of that soon. We have other problems, like Lake Chad in Africa is drying up, and there are seven nations involved around it, and tens of millions of people who rely on the water for grazing and agriculture, and they will have to move somewhere else. We, the Schiller Institute, actually have promoted an idea called Trans Aqua to bring water from the Congo River to Lake Chad.

The solutions to these problems do exist. I will give examples from China, for example, if we have time. But we go back to this idea that Lyndon LaRouche [advanced, who] was in Abu Dhabi in 2002 before the invasion of Iraq. He presented his idea of how this region of West Asia — I don’t like the term Middle East, because it’s a British colonial term. I don’t use it; I don’t recommend that people use it. It’s West Asia, North Africa, and how the development can take place there. With the emphasis on building infrastructure, transport, water, power, and industrializing the region. Oil and gas should be used as industrial materials rather than burned as fuel. Instead, for fuel and electricity, you should build nuclear power; that was his recommendation. Five years later, the United Arab Emirates started their nuclear program, and now they have four nuclear power plants completed in Abu Dhabi, with 4400 MW of power, which is used for desalination, which is another aspect of this plan. But at the same time, Lyndon LaRouche said there is another problem that needs to be solved, which is the question that the global financial and banking system is collapsing. That was before the 2008 crisis, but it’s a systemic crisis; it’s still collapsing. The printing of money is preventing it from total disintegration, but the physical economic realities in the world are different. So, he recommended establishing a new financial system to support economic development. So, we now have alternatives like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the new Development Bank of the BRICS nations. But he also recommended building an Arab development bank, using the enormous resources in the Gulf countries’ wealth funds. We have around $4 trillion of financial resources in the Gulf countries. Traditionally they are invested in Europe, in Britain mostly, in the United States and the financial and banking markets, real estate, but now part of that money is being used for development in Saudi Arabia, in the Emirates, but also investments in Asia, in China, in Africa. So, this is an important source. The question of financing always comes up. How do you finance these things? But there are solutions, which we have presented.

Anyway, if you look at this region, this is the crossroads of the continents and the oceans. This is the most interesting geographical area; it also has enormous natural resources and human resources. If we take a circle around the whole region, including Ethiopia, we’ll have more than 500 million people, mostly young people. So, this is an enormous resource that can be invested in, if we industrialize this region.

So, the idea of all these lines you see on our maps, these are not just a camel caravan or a railway which brings goods from China to Europe. We are talking about development corridors. A development corridor is about 100-150km wide; a belt. That’s why the Chinese are interesting; President Xi Jinping talks about an economic belt of the Silk Road. This is the idea; that you have infrastructure, you have a river or water canals, you have highways, you have high-speed rail, oil and gas pipelines, electricity lines. And around them, you build new urban, industrial, and agricultural centers, because in many parts of Eurasia you have natural resources, but you don’t have water. You have water, but you don’t have minerals. You have human population, human resources, but you don’t have energy resources. So, you need to bridge these gaps and bring development to every part. This is also part of our idea for the development of Africa—building a large number of development corridors.

But water is essential. So, going back to this Oasis Plan, Lyndon LaRouche, as Helga mentioned, already presented this in 1975, before the Lebanon civil war started by instigation of Henry Kissinger. This region was kept in turmoil; it was kept burning the whole time for global strategic reasons. It’s not about Jews and Muslims or Christians and Arabs; this is all created by major geopolitical powers which have this cynical idea about human beings and nature. The idea, especially for Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, even Egypt. The idea was to create new water resources, because it’s not enough to share the water in the region. There isn’t enough water in the region to be shared by the people and the population, which is growing. So, you have to create new resources. This is my point. We humans are created in the image of God the Creator because we can create new resources. We don’t depend on nature. Because if we let nature decide, none of us would be here today; even our ancestors would have disappeared a long time ago. Because humans don’t adapt to nature; we adapt nature to our needs. We change the environment around us by building infrastructure, both to protect ourselves, but also to increase our ability to feed and clothe and have housing for more and more people. It doesn’t mean we have to destroy nature, but we have to have this symbiosis with nature. But we are the ones who decide, because otherwise this desert doesn’t stop now. These deserts and the desertification are actually a natural phenomenon which started with the end of the Ice Age. This entire region I showed in Africa, these were lakes and forests, and there were animals and all kinds of things happening there. But if we allow nature to take its course, it becomes very destructive. So we need to control the powers of nature. Like, for example, with the water; you have the Jordan River. The annual flow of the Jordan River is 1.2 billion cubic meters; a cubic meter is 1,000 liters. By the time the Jordan River reaches the Dead Sea, it’s almost dry. Now, compare this to Saudi Arabia’s desalination of seawater, which is 2.2 billion cubic meters; that’s twice the Jordan River. So, Saudi Arabia is actually creating new Jordan Rivers already, but they use oil and gas to power the desalination. That’s not a smart idea if you can build nuclear power, because that’s cleaner; and also, the oil and gas you can use for high-value industrial purposes. So, the idea of the Oasis Plan is to create new water resources.

Just to give you one example of nature and man, because people say, “Oh, you have to adapt to nature to fulfill your needs. You cannot surpass what is in nature.” There are countries in the region, in Kuwait for example, it uses 2500% more than what Kuwaitis get from nature, because it almost never rains in Kuwait. So, how do they do that? They surpassed the natural resources they have by 2500%, because they desalinate seawater; they don’t depend on nature, because if it doesn’t rain, you die.

This is a recently produced image, just to focus on Palestine, Israel, and Jordan. These ideas actually existed in the Oslo Accords. For example, the canal from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. Also, there is an idea to build a canal — these canals are not for navigation; Mr. Netanyahu doesn’t know what he talks about when he talks about the Ben-Gurion Canal. To dig a canal as large as the Suez Canal through this region; that is an insane idea. What we are talking about is aqueducts; water transfer pipelines or streams. The idea is to use the difference in elevation between the Red Sea, the Mediterranean, and the Dead Sea; because the Dead Sea is the lowest point on the planet in terms of land. It’s 400 meters below sea level. Therefore, when you bring water from the Mediterranean and the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, you can use the difference in elevation to generate hydropower. Then you can use part of that power for electricity, you can use the rest for desalination of water so you can create more water resources. So, this actually existed in the agreements with Jordan, for example, but the Israelis refused to finance this project.

Now we add another dimension to this and say, “Well, you have also to build nuclear power plants both on the coast of Israel, Palestine, even in Gaza, and Aqaba in Jordan.” That’s the other issue. This is more difficult than getting a ceasefire in Gaza. People say, “How can you talk about nuclear power? It’s dangerous. There’s all this radiation.” It’s actually difficult to convince people in the peace movement, because they have this Green ideology that nuclear power is not beneficial. So, this is a very difficult concept. But without nuclear power, we will have no chance to generate the electricity and the heat to desalinate the water.

Now there are many nations in the region, as I said — the United Arab Emirates has nuclear power; Egypt is now using nuclear power, they have a Russian plant. In Abu Dhabi it was the Koreans. Russia is also engaged with Turkiye to build a nuclear power plant. Many nations in Africa now are opening their eyes for this. China is building nuclear power plants in Pakistan; they don’t talk about it so much, because it’s sensitive. Even in Pakistan, I asked my parents, “Is the nuclear power plant in Karachi finished?” They said, “Shush! Don’t talk about it. Yes, it’s finished now; it’s generating power. But we talk about solar energy, because the Europeans and Americans would be angry with us.” This is the future.

Now, as Helga said, we can go one step further. Instead of this current fission nuclear reactor, we can go to fusion power. This would give humanity an endless source of power for thousands of years; that’s possible. So, this is combining this water — we have already, I don’t want to push too much the technical aspects. I just want to present the concept. Because without increasing the resources, it’s very difficult to have peace in the region. For example, how do you solve the problem of the settlers in the West Bank? Well, they can go to the Negev, where the Israelis are very good at planting in the desert. You can build new cities in the Negev, actually. That’s quite viable. You don’t have to kill the settlers, you can move them. Like you move them from Gaza, you can move them to the Negev. They can have a very good life there, and the Israelis are very good at desert agriculture. It’s these conceptual issues which I think are the most difficult for people to absorb and clarify.

We will have more studies of course. We are talking with engineers, with economists in Israel, in Arab countries, in France. We are pulling together all the ideas necessary for how to make a viable Palestinian state with [the] economic resources to exist.

I want to give one example. I said the world has changed, but it’s not covered on BBC or CNN. They give you a picture that the world is becoming poorer, the environment is more destroyed now; life is impossible, there are too many storms and hurricanes. But actually the world has changed dramatically, and very few people have noticed it. China is the best example; 800 million people pulled out of poverty. This is a miracle. And as Helga said, China has greened an area which is larger than Germany in the past 20 years.

So, I was in Xinjiang, this western region of China which everybody has heard very horrible stories about. Almost all of it is unsubstantiated; most Arab and Muslim countries support the Chinese policies in Xinjiang to establish security. Because Xinjiang and [inaud; 27:09] were rocked with horrific terrorist actions by Islamic terrorist groups, but also separatist groups. This is very seldom reported. There were terrible terrorist attacks from 1995 to 2016. This region is a neighbor of some of the most unstable areas — Jammu Kashmir, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and also Tajikistan and these countries that are stable now, but these others are unstable. So, what did the Chinese do to solve this political problem? Well, they did take security measures, but they didn’t bomb villages and weddings and funerals like NATO did in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They picked up the extremist elements, but then they focused enormously on economic and social development. That was more important than the security measures which were taken. And they did not wait to stop the terrorism in 2016 to start economic development. They already started the Go West strategy in 2007-8. So, the development of the western regions of China, the leadership saw that this was imperative. We cannot have stability, in Xinjiang especially, without economic development. Therefore, the Chinese government is pouring enormous resources into this region to develop it and give the population — I don’t have time to show you all of the films. Some of the cities I saw, like Urumtsi and Korla, which I will show, these are the most advanced. They are at a European level of urban centers.

I went to many parts of Xinjiang — it was in April — but the most mind-boggling part was going to Korla. It’s next to the second-largest shifting sand desert on the planet. Even I, who thought I knew something about China, I thought I would come to a dry, dusty old town. That was the most shocking experience I had. This was one of the most advanced cities I ever saw. OK, it’s challenged by Xinjiang and others, but the environment there is extremely interesting. Anyway, in this region you have one of the major productive areas of cotton production and fruit production. You can imagine, it’s very dry. The amount of precipitation — rain and snow — in Xinjiang region is 150 ml per year. This is equal to Saudi Arabia. It’s half of what it rains in Afghanistan, for example. In Denmark, the precipitation per year is 800 ml per year; so, it’s six times more. But despite that, they have enormous agricultural development taking place in this region, thanks to the use of modern infrastructure, modern water technology, including Israeli drip irrigation and Japanese fumigation technologies which they learned and are implementing.

I just want to finish with showing a video. I’m doing a series of videos from my trip. I’ve already written an article about the economic development in the region, but I will do articles and videos. This is not edited, and therefore it’s a bit long, but I can fast forward it.

[VIDEO]: Speaking to you from the south of the city of Korla in Xinjiang, which is not such a long distance to the second-largest desert in the world, which is the Takla-Makan Desert. But surprisingly, what you find here is that they have enormous agricultural activity in Xinjiang. It’s very interesting that the farm is called the Oasis Farm. New technologies, machines, robots are revolutionizing the agricultural process, using drones, using modern sensors of the soil temperature, soil humidity.

ASKARY: This is the desert area; bordering the desert in Yulin County. It’s the same region, but you can see already from the side of the road, you have these manholes. Because you have roads, you have power lines, and you have water pipes built already, before there is agriculture and urban centers. But the infrastructure is already there to have a new civilization there; to settle people there. A lot of the land is being reclaimed for agriculture, especially for cotton production. This is what it looks like in parts of Iraq or parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. But the difference is that you start with building the infrastructure I talked about — power, water, transport. Then you bring the farmers in. These things are happening now; they have already happened. This is not something in the future; the future is already here. That’s what people have to think about. Because if we follow just the news the whole time, the horrible news about the world, we forget about the fact that things are changing and change is possible. But my point is that in Xinjiang, without this enormous economic development and social development and even cultural development which will be a shock to many people. Because the Chinese government is trying to preserve the Uighur and other ethnic groups’ cultures. I will show that in a special video.

But I will just end by showing this city which I thought was just lying on the side of the desert. This is Korla; I thought this would be a dusty, desert place. But it’s one of the most modern cities, and it’s green. Besides, they have built an artificial river in the middle of the city, where people take sightseeing ferries, which I did. So, you can transform, in a really mind-boggling way, using technology, using creativity, using the available natural resources which everybody thinks is impossible. Then you can transform it into — Korla is known for the pear; the world’s largest producer of pears.

I will just end with these images, but my point is, that what is challenging for people is to understand that we can actually change things. We are creative; we are good. We can do good in the world, and this should be the principle for achieving peace for example in Palestine and Gaza. Yes, we do have political challenges, we have technical challenges, all these things. But, as I said, when I was in Oslo in 1994, the choice was to build for peace in Palestine if you don’t do— One thing which Rabin said, which I think killed him, was that we have to change our axioms. Which means we have to change the way we think about ourselves, about others, and about nature. I think that was the most dangerous thing Rabin said, because without changing the axioms we have that are dominating the world geopolitical system—that might makes right; the powerful take it all; there are only winners and losers; there are limited natural resources; we should not change nature. All these axioms that get planted in our minds should be removed so we can actually build peace, security, and development. Thank you very much.