Socialist Worker

Oil at the heart of Falklands tensions

by Patrick Ward
Issue No. 2290

Tensions between Britain and Argentina increased last week as Argentinian foreign minister Hector Timerman accused Britain of “militarising” the Falkland Islands region.

Timerman also accused Britain of sending a nuclear submarine into the Falklands area, which is a nuclear-free zone.

This is the most recent salvo in a mounting war of words between Britain and Argentina. Underlying it is an ongoing dispute over the sovereignty of the Falklands, or the Malvinas as the islands are called in Argentina.

Britain has deployed HMS Dauntless, one of its most advanced warships, to the region. Prince William has been sent to the region with the RAF in another roll of the propaganda dice. Britain spends some £62 million a year on defending the islands.

David Cameron recently complained that Argentina was acting like a “colonial power” with regards to the Falklands. Argentina’s Timerman ridiculed these claims, saying such talk was “the last refuge of a declining power”.

The booming oil industry on the islands is one reason behind the tensions. More than eight billion barrels of oil are thought to be beneath the British controlled waters.

The 30th anniversary of the Falklands War, which began in April 1982, is rapidly approaching.

That pointless war was an attempt by then British prime minister Margaret Thatcher to gain credibility and popularity after Argentina invaded the islands.

The conflict lasted 74 days. It killed 800 Argentinians, mostly conscripts, and 255 British soldiers.

Just 1,800 people lived on the islands at the time. The Falkland Islands are 8,000 miles from Britain. Yet the British government still controls them as a colony.

There is unlikely to be another war between the two countries any time soon. Britain is still embroiled in Afghanistan, and will want to keep its options open for potential conflicts with Syria and Iran.

But it is ridiculous that the islands are under British rule. Considering Britain’s track record elsewhere in the world, Cameron’s talk of “self-determination” for the islands rings hollow.

Britain sees the islands as an opportunity to maintain its position as an imperial power—and to keep a limited military presence in the area.

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Tue 14 Feb 2012, 17:36 GMT
Issue No. 2290
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