by Stephen Lendman
At issue is scrambling for Africa's resources. They're vast. They're some of the world's largest and richest.
They include oil, gas, gold, silver, diamonds, uranium, iron, copper, tin, lead, nickel, coal, cobalt, bauxite, wood, coltan, manganese, chromium, vanadium-bearing titanium, agricultural lands, and offshore fishing.
AFRICOM was established to pursue them. Resource/mineral wars define America's agenda.
Mali is strategically located. It's West Africa's largest country. It's more than double the size of France. It borders on seven nations. They include Algeria, Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Guinea, and Cote D'Ivoire (Ivory Coast).
Its northwestern area is largely arid desert or semi-desert. The Sahel runs through its central region. Rainfall and rivers make southwestern territory marginally more lush than the rest of the country.
The Niger River is its most important geographic feature. It traverses the Sahel and southeastern region. It's a major transportation artery.
Mali's resources matter. They comprise a treasure trove of discovered and yet to be developed riches.
They include gold, diamonds, phosphates, bauxite, lignite, kaolin, salt, limestone, gypsum, granite, marble, diatomite, hydropower, iron ore, manganese, tin, lead, zinc, copper, oil, gas, and uranium.
Mali is Africa's third largest gold producer after South Africa and Ghana. It's rich in uranium. It has an estimated 5,000 tons or more. It's neighbor Niger is the world's fourth largest producer.
In 2007, Algeria's state oil company Sonatrach and Canada's Selier Energy signed oil and gas exploration deals. In mid-2012, drilling began. Other companies are involved.
Taoudenni is a remote northern Malian salt mining region. It's large area includes part of Mauritania and southern Algeria. It's oil deposits are potentially large.
They're untapped. They remain to be developed. Four other sedimentary basins have potential worth exploring.
Mali matters. It's worth contesting for. France drafted a UN resolution. In 2011, It was Washington's lead attack dog on Libya. It's serving the same role against Mali.
Doing so lets Obama keep a low profile. Make no mistake. Mali is America's operation. US special forces are involved. Washington's supplying logistical, air, and intelligence support.
US military personnel will arrive this weekend. They'll train and direct Malian forces. Expect supportive drone attacks.
Libya was Washington's war. So is Syria. Mali matters. Washington wants unchallenged African dominance.
It wants the entire continent colonized, exploited and controlled. It wants China, Russia, and other potential rivals largely shut out.
AFRICOM was established to rape the continent's riches.
War on terror fear-mongering preceded France's involvement. Pretexts are easy to invent. Freeing northern areas from Al Qaeda-linked rebels was used as justification for France's intervention.
French President Francois Hollande said "terrorist elements" must be confronted.
"The terrorists must know that France will always be there when it is a matter not of its fundamental interests, but of the rights of a population, that of Mali, (that) wants to live freely in a democracy."
Saying so is a false on its face. France is a NATO country. It's Washington's imperial ally. It's involved in America's wars. Its "fundamental interests" include colonization and resource exploitation.
From 1892 - 1960, Mali was a French colony. France's former colonial empire included Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Middle Congo (Congo-Brazzaville), Chad, Gabon, and other parts of Africa.
Neocolonialism remains policy. Expect Hollande to involve France in other imperial adventures. He's Washington's junior partner. He's doing Obama's bidding. At the same time, he's furthering French interests. Sarkozy did the same thing in Libya.
On December 20, the Security Council unanimously approved intervention. Why Russia and China concurred, they'll have to explain.
In mid-January, French aircraft and ground troops attacked. Candidate Hollande promised kinder, gentler policies. He suggested foreign interventions would end.
He lied. Other priorities take precedence. He declared open-ended war on Mali. He said conflict will last "as long as necessary."
Earlier he suggested French involvement for only "several weeks." Britain said the same thing when troops arrived in Northern Ireland. They stayed for decades.
Israel claimed its 1982 Lebanon invasion would be short-lived. It controlled the country's south until 2000. Palestine's been occupied for decades.
America arrives to stay. Permanent Afghanistan and Iraq occupations are planned. Rhetoric belies policy.
Rebel forces control northern areas large as Texas. The Los Angeles Times  said Pentagon officials "warn(ed) that without more aggressive US action, Mali could become a haven for extremists."
AFRICOM commander General Carter Ham said "if left unaddressed, (they'll) obtain capability to match their intent - that being to extend their reach and control and attack American interests."
He referred to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). It raises most concern, he said. "It is clear to me they aspire to conduct events more broadly across the region," he added.
Washington is very much involved. Pentagon spokesman Major Robert Firman said US C-17 cargo jets are ferrying hundreds of French troops and equipment to Mali. Surveillance, intelligence, and other assistance are supplied.
Mali risks becoming another Afghanistan. Hollande may regret getting involved. Body bags coming home may turn French people against him.
Months after being elected, his popularity declined significantly. Intervening in Mali helped. Most French people support it. Protracted conflicts aren't popular. They take their toll.
Sentiment usually changes. Domestic priorities matter most. Hollande promised austerity. Doing so defies popular interests. Anti-austerity strikes and protests affect France and other European countries.
Foreign interventions change the subject. For how long is at issue. Economic priorities matter most. Eventually they trump other concerns. Hollande may suffer the consequences.
For now, targeting Mali takes precedence. Bombing continues. French ground troops arrived. Around 2,500 or more will participate.
Nigeria, Niger, Burkino Faso, Senegal, Togo, and Benin promised support. They'll provide thousands more troops. Greater numbers may supplement initial contingents. Foreign interventions escalate this way.
Hollande said France's "operation has three goals:”
(1) "halting terrorist aggression;"
(2) preventing it from taking control Mali's capital and largest city - Bamako; and
(3) helping Mali "recover its territorial integrity."
Malian intervention serves French interests. Fighting terrorism, respecting Mali's territorial integrity, and furthering democracy conceal dark intentions.
Contesting for the country's north won't be easy. It's mountainous, rugged, and vast. It replicates France in size. It's long enjoyed considerable autonomy. Protracted conflict looks likely.
It's already taken a toll. Algeria's involved. Rebel fighters seized its In Amenas gas facility. Hundreds of hostages were taken. Hollande defended France's intervention, saying"
"What's happening in Algeria justifies even more the decision I took in the name of France to go to Mali's aid." Saying so is duplicitous doublespeak.
French intervention was planned months ago. It was done jointly with Washington. At issue is defending mutual interests. Imperial priorities matter most.
The Algerian gas facility standoff continues. Many hostages were freed. Others are still held. It's unclear how many died. Conflicting reports suggest dozens.
Rebel fighters demand negotiations. They want Malian intervention ended. They proposed hostages exchanges. They want US political prisoners Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman and Aafia Siddiqui freed.
Both were wrongly convicted. Abdel-Rahman is a former CIA asset. He's known as the blind sheikh. He was given a US visa and green card. He was protected as long as he was valued.
Later he was targeted. He was convicted on spurious charges. In 1996, he was sentenced to life in prison.
Aafia Siddiqui got 86 years for being Muslim in America at the wrong time. Her conviction and sentencing reflect gross miscarriage of justice hypocrisy.
In US and proxy Pakistani hands, she was abducted, imprisoned, tortured, prosecuted, and convicted on bogus charges.
Stepped-up US intervention looms. On January 18, Hillary Clinton  said "it is absolutely essential that we broaden and deepen our counterterrorism cooperation going forward with Algeria and all countries of the region."
White House press secretary Jay Carney  suggested greater US involvement, saying:
"(W)e're obviously very interested in and focused on terrorist groups and terrorist actions in the region and around the world."
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta  said:
"Terrorists should be on notice that they will find no sanctuary, no refuge - not in Algeria, not in North Africa, not anywhere."
"We're concerned any time Al Qaeda establishes a base of operations," he added. Washington is considering how to "bring our military assets to bear."
He referred to resolving the Algerian crisis. Implied is greater US Malian and regional involvement.
Claiming concern about "terrorist" involvement don't wash. Washington uses Al Qaeda and similar groups as strategic allies and adversaries. It's been done for decades. It's to advance America's imperium.
It was 2011 Libyan strategy. It's ongoing in Syria. Rhetoric belies reality. Expect stepped up Malian intervention.
Washington will get more involved. So will other NATO partners and regional allies. France will remain lead belligerent.
Protracted conflict continues. Another quagmire looms. Where it ends who knows.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.