Byline: STEPHEN WHITE
MILITARY spending by the American government has now risen to a massive pounds 237billion a year.
And a glance at a map of the Middle East, right, will show you where a huge chunk of that is spent.
According to defence experts, 20 per cent goes towards defending oil reserves - and two thirds of the world's supplies are in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran.
The US maintains a presence in almost every country that either has oil or borders an oil producing nation.
The Persian Gulf is a mass of US troop deployment, and the major oil pipelines are within reach of its air bases.
And yesterday in Kuwait, 10 miles from the Iraq border, the American 3rd Infantry division was lining up tanks and artillery. In the next two weeks another 16,000 US troops will arrive. And an estimated 20,000 British troops are scheduled to be deployed in the area in mid-January.
The Pentagon says 60,000 troops are already in the Persian Gulf region. This number could double in coming weeks - the biggest build up since the Gulf War in 1991.
The roots of this build-up can, perhaps, be traced back to ex-President George Bush Snr, after his 1991 victory in the Gulf.
Only months after turning from "wimp to winner" in the eyes of his country, his presidency was undermined when US motorists faced a 15p per gallon rise in petrol prices. His days in the White House were numbered.
Is George Bush Jnr now desperate to avoid such a "defeat in victory"?
DOES the world's most powerful oilman want to secure the world's most important energy source for his country, for ever?
In old mines under Mexico, Texas and Louisiana, millions of gallons of crude oil have been pumped into vast caverns.
They will now be full to their 700 million barrel capacity, helping to keep oil prices high - above $30 a barrel.
And if there is a war, these reserves could stop the price of oil rocketing and protect the economy.
But is Iraq the only target?
The Rand corporation has briefed the Pentagon on its concerns about Saudi Arabia, the holder of the world's largest oil reserves at almost 300 billion barrels. If radical Islam should oust the Saudi royal family, who would take control? …