The 5th Political Theory – Introduction

(Update: the content of this post and what will follow, is now mirrored in my political blog here)

People used to look to identity as a unifying force around a particular political project, or social endeavour, in order to protect the interest of the group. However, we view identity to be the biggest hindrance to progress in our region, and the most negative heritage that has lead us to conflicts with no end or solution in sight. In fact, it is a drain of resources (human and natural), and it is taking us in the opposite direction of the movement of history.

The Fifth Political Theory is not a project to unite around an identity, but a project to unite around a common future goal, best suited for the progress of our society, to enable us to compete amongst the most advanced nations of the world.

A note on Identity

The conflicts in our region, especially the one initiated by what became known as the ‘Arab Spring’, are conflicts that utilise the instigation of one identity against the other, with policies purposely absent, in order for the policies of others to take advantage of the situation. As a result, instead of different factions debating which policies are best suited to manage their affairs in the region, we have a never-ending struggle of religious and ideological identities. These religions and ideologies, have been emptied of their socio-political essences and revolutionary progressive ideas, so it should come as no surprise that their opinions matter very little to the rest of the world (if they ever show opinions on things that matter!).

When Jesus (as) came to revolt against the status-quo of his time, he didn’t do so by attaching himself to an existing identity. The Christian identity came after people started to follow his teachings. The same applied to the early Muslims of the Arabian Peninsula, who followed Islam, not to become part of an existing identity, but to destroy the status-quo. Islam came as a social project to ‘islamize’  the people, and not to be carried as an identity. The current conflicts in the region revolve around identities, with total absence of their original ‘islamization’ or ‘christianization’, i.e. an absence of a deep and meaningful understanding of why they carry this identity, and as a result, what they could offer in terms of socio-political projects.

The majority of people in our region have inherited an identity, it is but a few who are truly religious.

The Fifth Political Theory is a political, social, economical and humanitarian project. Any reformist project must look back at history, revolt against any negative inheritance that has been accumulated over the years, and learn from the experiences of our ancestors. We are not responsible for our ancestor’s deeds, but we can build on them and work towards more perfect policies and social behaviours, setting an examples to the rest of the world. This cannot be achieved whilst hiding behind an inherited identity. Those who hide behind religious identities, have forgotten or misunderstood the true meaning and message of their faith, and instead are behaving more like infighting tribes.

Religious and sectarian infighting is the beginning of the end of religion (as was the case in the European wars of religion in the 16th century, that lead to the enlightenment and Europe’s eventual secularism).

This project is a revolt against inherited religions, because all that remains today are inherited religious identities, filled with fanaticism, and devoid of any sacred, social, political, or economical essence and intelligence.

Brussels Indulges in Trans-Caspian Pipe Dream Again

After the European Commission has finally realized that major investors (RWE) and transit countries (Hungary) are leaving Nabucco, bureaucrats in Brussels are now trying to revitalize a distressed project – the so-called Trans-Caspian gas pipeline. Their goal is obvious – to find the lacking resources for a shorter version of Nabucco (the so-called Nabucco-West) and prevent its complete failure. Even in Europe many specialists in energy policy understand that without the gas of five Caspian littoral states including Iran, Nabucco will be a mere show of empty pipeline.

European experts in public relations haven’t given Trans-Caspian pipeline (TCP) project a pretentious brand name yet. And they had very good reasons to be cautious. Negotiations between Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and the EU on the construction of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline have been ongoing since the late 90s. Despite extensive talks for more than 10 years, all summits and meetings were inconclusive. The European Union has made no financial commitment to the TCP project. What are the bottlenecks of the controversial pipeline? Why many politicians believe it still remains a distant prospect, not to say just another over-advertized pipe dream of Brussels?

First, legal status of the Caspian is currently unregulated. Therefore, territorial arguments among the littoral states are unavoidable. Even worse, two main stakeholders of the Trans-Caspian project, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, have unresolved disputes concerning gas fields: Baku and Ashgabat disagree over the ownership of the Kapaz/Serdar hydrocarbon deposit, which is needed to fill the pipe. Such issues are not easy to settle in reality, even if the European “big brother” is turning the heat on and demanding to get all the paperwork done in 2013.

Second, even if Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan succumb to the moment and sign a bilateral agreement to please Barroso and Oettinger, any independent analysis must also acknowledge the practical realities of geopolitics. Russia, Kazakhstan and Iran will never sanction the first link of the pipeline to be run under a body of water, because it is unacceptable from an environmental standpoint. The Caspian is a closed system, with no outlets to the world’s oceans. Considering the high seismic activity in the region, the level of potential accident implications of underwater pipeline can be also dramatic. That’s why Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev called the prospects for the TCP «very foggy».

Finally, the questions of Turkmenistan’s proven gas reserves and its future market remain open. By the expert assessment of “McKinsey & Company” the biggest Turkmenian “Galkynysh” field falls into the category of “very complicated fields”. Gas production cost will be one of the highest in the world. Turkmenistan is very well aware of all these issues and thus is committed to the principle of realization of the energy resources at its border. It means that the problems of fundraising, security and development for the project automatically become the problems of its partners – Azerbaijan and the European Commission. The market prospects of Turkmenian gas are dubious. Given the ongoing crisis in the eurozone, it will not be easy to the EU to guarantee that it will buy all the gas. Falling energy consumption in Europe due to crisis may also become a factor of economic inconsistency of the TCP.

Moreover, the problem of Turkmen gas brings China into the game, one of its most important consumers. Is there enough gas for both East and West? According to a Chinese diplomat, as quoted by RIA Novosti, «Beijing does not want Turkmenistan to build a pipeline to the European Union, get a different gas price on the European market and then increase it for China. Beijing will do its best to make sure the Trans-Caspian pipeline project is not developed.» And it should be mentioned that China is one of the major investors in Turkmenistan’s economy.

If one considers all these obstacles to the project, it will be easy to understand that as of today the TCP remains nothing more than a topic for endless negotiations and loud statements for all parties involved. The EU is desperately trying to get political leverage against Russia’s ambitious South Stream, Azerbaijan is always ready to negotiate and Turkmenistan wants to secure investments. No more than a game of politics, as always.

source

Iraq and Iran’s Oil Pipeline Politics

by: Elie Chalhoub, Al Akhbar English

Published Thursday, March 14, 2013

Away from the region’s headlines and wars, plans are being methodically put in place that could redraw the strategic map of the Middle East, erasing one of the region’s key colonial-era features.

Recent moves by Iran and Iraq to press ahead with the construction of a series of new oil and gas export pipelines could be attributed to Iran’s bid to counter international sanctions. The planned pipelines could also reflect Iraq’s economic recovery or perhaps pressure from oil companies for new export routes.

There may be some truth to these explanations. But a closer look makes clear that these schemes are related.

The short-term aims are evident. They include trying to lure Jordan into the region’s “resistance” axis and reducing American influence on Iran’s eastern neighbor Pakistan.

But the long-term objective is more ambitious: to connect the Middle East by way of a web of economic ties that binds them into a regional partnership whose mainstays are Iran and Iraq.

Baghdad is making it increasingly clear where it stands in terms of its regional alignment. In recent months, it has openly supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Damascus, clashed with Ankara, reached out to Cairo, and been at odds with Riyadh and Doha.

The pipeline schemes also underscore Iraq’s chosen course. The country has opted to assume a role consistent with its historical legacy and its economic and strategic clout.

Iran Lures Pakistan

The latest move in this regard was Monday’s pipeline inauguration by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. The pipeline will transport Iranian natural gas to Asian markets via Pakistani territory, providing Pakistan with desperately needed energy supplies.

Negotiations between the two countries began almost a decade ago, but were frequently stalled due to opposition from the US. Washington has long sought to thwart any scheme for transporting oil and gas from or through Iran.During that period, Iran completed its section of the pipeline from the Pars gas field in the south of the country to the Pakistani border town of Multan. It has a capacity of 750 million cubic meters per day.

Tehran has undertaken to cover a third of the $1.5 billion cost of the 780-km Pakistani section of the pipeline, with the Pakistani government funding the rest.

Wooing Jordan and Egypt

Meanwhile, Iraq and Jordan have begun work on building parallel oil and gas pipelines connecting southern Iraq to the Red Sea port of Aqaba, with the possibility of extending the link to Egypt.

The 1,690-km line, which will take two to three years to complete, is to run from Basra to Haditha west of Baghdad then into Jordanian territory and south to Aqaba. Contracts for the Jordanian portion are to be awarded to companies on a build-operate-transfer basis, with ownership reverting to the Iraqi government after 20 years.

Under the agreement, the oil pipeline will provide Jordan with 150,000 barrels of Iraqi oil per day for domestic use at preferential prices (around $20 dollars per barrel below market). Apart from putting an end to Jordan’s chronic fuel crises, the scheme is expected to benefit the country to the tune of $3 billion per year.

A planned second phase of the project envisions the building of a western spur from Haditha through Syrian territory to pump 1.25 million barrels of oil per day to the Syrian Mediterranean port of Banias.

Sustaining Syria

Meanwhile, plans are being developed for a 5,000-km link to transport Iranian gas to Iraq and Syria and on into Europe, providing Iran with an export route that bypasses the Gulf.

Iran and Iraq are due to sign an agreement on the first phase of the project on 20 March. This would enable Iran to pump 25 million cubic meters of gas a day to Iraq. Proposed extensions to the line envision it supplying Jordan and Lebanon with gas.

Iran shares the Pars field – the world’s largest gas field with an estimated 14 trillion cubic meters of gas, around 8 percent of total proven world reserves – with Qatar. The emirate recently unveiled its own plans for a pipeline to carry gas through Saudi, Jordanian, Syrian and Turkish territory to Europe.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Israel, the Syrian uprising and use of the concept the “enemy”

From resistance-episteme (aka Amal Saad-Ghorayeb):

An op-ed today in al-Akhbar referred to Israel as  “the enemy” in Arabic. Although use of this term to describe Israel was once very common in Arab popular parlance and in local media, its use in this context has significantly decreased since the Syrian uprising.  Once a term reserved almost exclusively to Israel, the concept of the enemy from without has been fast replaced by the enemy from within in both pro-government and opposition circles. While government supporters can hardly be faulted for depicting the Zionist-normalizing, NATO-loving FSA as an “enemy” force, especially given its proxy status and military links with Syria’s strategic enemies, as well as its intent to destroy Syria as a state, it is both morally inexcusable and intellectually indefensible for Syrians and Arabs who profess enmity towards Israel, to use this term to describe the Assad government or Hizbullah or Iran, all of whom have paid a high price for confronting the Israeli enemy both politically and militarily.

The danger of such labeling can hardly be overstated in this case; the link between power and language has been well documented by the likes of Michel Foucault and Edward Said. As these thinkers have noted, language creates not only knowledge, but reality itself. The resulting discourse, which becomes internalized by its subjects shapes their assumptions, values and cultural habits. In short, it changes and re-fashions their political identity and beliefs.

To be more accurate, this discursive onslaught began in 2005 when the Lebanese became divided over whether Syria or Israel was their real enemy, with some March 14 politicians referring to the Zionist entity as “our neighbor”. But irrespective of this semantic divide and March 14’s collaboration with Israel during the July war as Wikileaks documents later revealed, not once did Hizbullah refer to the opposing camp as “the enemy”,” and settled on terms like “ our opponents/rivals” and “the other camp”.  Compare  this to the Syrian opposition camp today, whose leading “intellectuals” and activists in the Arab world have no qualms about speaking of the “Shia enemy” or the “Iranian enemy”, or cheering on the FSA who issue empty threats to attack Hizbullah and assassinate Seyyid Hassan Nasrallah.

By redefining the concept of the “enemy”, both the Syrian uprising and to a lesser extent, its US- engineered counterpart in Lebanon, have succeeded in reversing decades of Arab political socialization, whereby those who prioritize resistance to Israel and the US are mocked and dismissed as old-school anti-imperialists, or more disparagingly by Third Wayers like Bassam Haddad, as “Fumigating Anti-Imperialists”.

  The Arab Spring may not be a revolution in the economic or political sense of the term, but it has achieved a semantic revolution which, if left unchecked by counter-hegemonic forces, will lead to the full intellectual and political colonization of the Arab mind and the Arab identity.

The 15 Oil And Gas Pipelines That Are Changing The World’s Strategic Map

The geopolitical landscape of the world is being remade by the increasing demand for energy resources from rising powers like China and India and preserved leaders, like the United States and Europe.

That demand is resulting in a massive expansion of oil and gas delivery projects which are redrawing the battle-lines of resource conflicts, both in war and in diplomacy.

The oil and gas business is taking advantage of the demand, and we have a rundown of the key pipelines reshaping the global economy.

 

US Influence: TAPI Pipeline

US Influence: TAPI Pipeline

Start: Turkmenistan

Delivery: India

What Will It Carry: Gas

Completion Date: Unknown

Strategic Impact: The key gas pipeline in opposition the Iranian offer in the region. Backed by the U.S. government, this pipeline would further ostracize the Iranians economically by exporting gas to the key emerging economy of India, without involving Iran.

Source: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Wiki

North America: Denali Pipeline

North America: Denali Pipeline

Start: Alaska north slope

Delivery: Alberta, Canada, then onto the American mid-west

What Will It Carry: Natural Gas

Completion Date: Unknown

Strategic Impact: While two major groups are still competing over the project, the impact would be significant for the growth of the natural gas industry in Alaska, further reliance on the energy source in the U.S., and the potential involvement of Russian gas giant Gazprom in the project.

Source: Wiki, Denali

North America: Keystone Pipeline

North America: Keystone Pipeline

Start: Alberta, Canada

Delivery: Illinois and Oklahoma

What Will It Carry: Oil

Completion Date: 2009-2012

Strategic Impact: Extensive use of shale oil on North American continent. Allows for reduced need of oil from non-North American sources. Significant business for U.S. refineries.

Source: TransCanada, Wiki

European Independence: IGI Poseidon Pipeline

European Independence: IGI Poseidon Pipeline

Start: Greece

Delivery: Italy

What Will It Carry: Gas

Completion Date: 2012

Strategic Impact: Provides a connector for gas traveling through other Southern European projects to Italy. Depending on which pipelines it is eventually connected to, could be in the interest of Russia or another supplier.

Source: IGI Poseidon, Wiki

Russian Dominance: Mozdok Pipeline

Russian Dominance: Mozdok Pipeline

Start: Azerbaijan

Delivery: North Ossetia

What Will It Carry: Gas

Completion Date: Operational this year

Strategic Impact: The strategic impact of this site is already being felt, as Russia went to war in the region in 2008. The pipeline also passes through Chechnya, a disputed Russian territory.

Source: Wiki

Russian Dominance: Altai Pipeline

Russian Dominance: Altai Pipeline

Start: Russia

Delivery: China

What Will It Carry: Gas

Completion Date: 2011-2015

Strategic Impact: This pipeline provides a direct link between the Russian natural gas industry, specifically Gazprom, and the Chinese buyer. It creates a further strategic dependence for China on Russia for its energy needs, which could lead to further diplomatic tightening through organizations like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and in combined actions on the UN Security Council.

Source: Wiki, Oil Capital

Russian Dominance: South Stream

Russian Dominance: South Stream

Start: Russia

Delivery: Austria, throughout Southern Eastern Europe

What Will It Carry: Gas

Completion Date: 2015

Strategic Impact: Russia’s move to continue gas dominance over Europe, the pipeline is to offer gas directly to Europe, while bypassing the often troublesome Ukrainian middleman.

Source: South-Stream.info, Wiki

Russian Dominance: Nord Stream

Russian Dominance: Nord Stream

Start: Russia

Delivery: Germany

What Will It Carry: Gas

Completion Date: 2011

Strategic Impact: A sign of a broadening energy partnership between Germany and Russia, this keeps Russia in the European game in a strong way. And also gives them a voice in Brussels via Germany.

Source: Nord-Stream.com, Wiki

Against Russia: TransCaspian Pipeline

Against Russia: TransCaspian Pipeline

Start: Turkmenistan

Delivery: Azerbaijan

What Will It Carry: Natural Gas

Completion Date: Unknown

Strategic Impact: Serves as another route for Central Asian countries to avoid going through Russia to get to Europe to deliver their natural gas reserves. European markets therefore are serviced from more sources, reducing Russia’s grip on the continent.

Source: Wiki, SRAS.org

Against Russia: White Stream

Against Russia: White Stream

Start: Georgia

Delivery: Romania, and then on to Western Europe

What Will It Carry: Gas

Completion Date: 2016

Strategic Impact: Circumventing Russian dominance of gas markets, this pipeline would further compete with Russian power and give great E.U. connectivity to its neighbor, Georgia.

Source: Emportal.rs, Wiki

European Independence: Nabucco

European Independence: Nabucco

Start: Turkey

Delivery: Austria, South Eastern Europe

What Will It Carry: Gas

Completion Date: 2015

Strategic Impact: Reducing the influence of Russia in European energy markets by supplying a link for the continent to Central Asian gas supplies. Broadens Turkish partnerships with Europe, and could eventually make use of Iranian gas reserves.

Source: Nabucco-pipeline.com, Wiki

SCO Growth: Kazakhstan-China Pipeline

SCO Growth: Kazakhstan-China Pipeline

Start: Kazakhstan

Delivery: China

What Will It Carry: Oil

Completion Date: Completed, further portion in 2011

Strategic Impact: China’s first direct oil import link, the pipeline serves to broaden ties between China and its Central Asian neighbors. These energy moves feed into a broader economic story evidenced by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s growth in the region.

Source: SRAS.org, Wiki

Russia-China Partnership: ESPO Pipeline

Russia-China Partnership: ESPO Pipeline

Start: Russia

Delivery: China (potentially also Japan)

What Will It Carry: Oil

Completion Date: 2014

Strategic Impact: ESPO has the impact of tying China into its strategic partnership with Russia as it draws more from its neighbor’s energy reserves. If Japan remains out of the equation, it may serve to bolster the China-Russia partnership, the SCO organization they both lead, and continue to ostracize US allied Japan.

Source: Reuters, Wiki

Iran: Pars Pipeline

Iran: Pars Pipeline

Start: Iran

Delivery: Turkey

What Will It Carry: Gas

Completion Date: 2014

Strategic Impact: Would give Iran access to European markets, competing with Russia for the gas trade. Completion would apply a strategic broadening between Turkey and Iran, as well as a reduction of U.S. strength in the region.

Source: lngpedia.com, Wiki

Iran-Pakistan-India Pipeline

Iran-Pakistan-India Pipeline

Start: Iran

Delivery: India and Pakistan

What Will It Carry: Gas

Completion Date: 2015

Strategic Impact: A definite power move for Iran if it pulls it off. With the potential to serve both Pakistan and India, both strategic U.S. partners with large populations and growing economies, with natural gas could broaden its protections from sanctions and keep its regime safe.

Source: Harvard.edu, Wiki

Syria, Turkey, Israel and a Greater Middle East Energy War

…by F. William Engdahl 

Pipeline Roulette

On October 3, 2012 the Turkish military launched repeated mortar shellings inside Syrian territory.

The military action, which was used by the Turkish military, conveniently, to establish a ten-kilometer wide no-man’s land “buffer zone” inside Syria, was in response to the alleged killing by Syrian armed forces of several Turkish civilians along the border.

There is widespread speculation that the one Syrian mortar that killed five Turkish civilians well might have been fired by Turkish-backed opposition forces intent on giving Turkey a pretext to move militarily, in military intelligence jargon, a ‘false flag’ operation.[i]

Turkey’s Muslim Brotherhood-friendly Foreign Minister, the inscrutable Ahmet Davutoglu, is the government’s main architect of Turkey’s self-defeating strategy of toppling its former ally Bashar Al-Assad in Syria.[ii]

According to one report since 2006 under the government of Islamist Sunni Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his pro-Brotherhood AKP party, Turkey has become a new center for the Global Muslim Brotherhood.[iii] A well-informed Istanbul source relates the report that before the last Turkish elections, Erdogan’s AKP received a “donation” of $10 billion from the Saudi monarchy, the heart of world jihadist Salafism under the strict fundamentalist cloak of Wahabism. [iv]

Since the 1950’s when the CIA brought leading members in exile of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood to Saudi Arabia there has been a fusion between the Saudi brand of Wahabism and the aggressive jihadist fundamentalism of the Brotherhood.[v]

The Turkish response to the single Syrian mortar shell, which was met with an immediate Syrian apology for the incident, borders on a full-scale war between two nations which until last year were historically, culturally, economically and even in religious terms, closest of allies.

That war danger is ever more serious. Turkey is a full member of NATO whose charter explicitly states, an attack against one NATO state is an attack against all. The fact that nuclear-armed Russia and China both have made defense of the Syrian Bashar al-Assad regime a strategic priority puts the specter of a World War closer than most of us would like to imagine.

In a December 2011 analysis of the competing forces in the region, former CIA analyst Philip Giraldi made the following prescient observation:

NATO – Has it become a geopolitical energy army now?

NATO is already clandestinely engaged in the Syrian conflict, with Turkey taking the lead as U.S. proxy. Ankara’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, has openly admitted that his country is prepared to invade as soon as there is agreement among the Western allies to do so.

The intervention would be based on humanitarian principles, to defend the civilian population based on the “responsibility to protect” doctrine that was invoked to justify Libya. Turkish sources suggest that intervention would start with creation of a buffer zone along the Turkish-Syrian border and then be expanded. Aleppo, Syria’s largest and most cosmopolitan city, would be the crown jewel targeted by liberation forces.

Unmarked NATO warplanes are arriving at Turkish military bases close to Iskenderum on the Syrian border, delivering weapons from the late Muammar Gaddafi’s arsenals as well as volunteers from the Libyan Transitional National Council who are experienced in pitting local volunteers against trained soldiers, a skill they acquired confronting Gaddafi’s army.

Iskenderum is also the seat of the Free Syrian Army, the armed wing of the Syrian National Council. French and British special forces trainers are on the ground, assisting the Syrian rebels while the CIA and U.S. Spec Ops are providing communications equipment and intelligence to assist the rebel cause, enabling the fighters to avoid concentrations of Syrian soldiers. [vi]

____________________________________

Israel mobile artillery on the move during exercise

Little noted was the fact that at the same day as Turkey launched her over-proportional response in the form of a military attack on Syrian territory, one which was still ongoing as of this writing, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) undertook what was apparently an action to divert Syria’s attention from Turkey and to create the horror scenario of a two-front war just as Germany faced in two world wars.

The IDF made a significant troop buildup on the strategic Golan Heights bordering the two countries, which, since Israel took it in the 1967 war, has been an area of no tension.[vii]

The unfolding new phase of direct foreign military intervention by Turkey, supported de facto by Israel’s right-wing Netanyahu regime, curiously enough follows to the letter a scenario outlined by a prominent Washington neo-conservative think tank, the Brookings Institution.

In their March 2012 strategy white paper, Saving Syria: Assessing Options for Regime Change, Brookings geo-political strategists laid forth a plan to misuse so-called humanitarian concern over civilian deaths, as in Libya in 2011, to justify an aggressive military intervention into Syria, something not done before this.[viii]

The Brookings report states the following scenario:

Israel could posture forces on or near the Golan Heights and, in so doing, might divert regime forces from suppressing the opposition. This posture may conjure fears in the Assad regime of a multi-front war, particularly if Turkey is willing to do the same on its border and if the Syrian opposition is being fed a steady diet of arms and training.[ix]

This seems to be precisely what is unfolding in the early days of October 2012. The authors of the Brookings report are tied to some of the more prominent neo-conservative warhawks behind the Bush-Cheney war on Iraq.

Their sponsor, the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, includes current foreign policy advisers to Republican right-wing candidate Mitt Romney, the open favorite candidate of Israel’s Netanyahu.

Haim Saban – A lot to smile about

The Brookings Saban Center for Middle East Policy which issued the report, is the creation of a major donation from Haim Saban, an Israeli-American media billionaire who also owns the huge German Pro7 media giant.

Haim Saban is open about his aim to promote specific Israeli interests with his philanthropy. The New York Times once called Saban, “a tireless cheerleader for Israel.”

Saban told the same newspaper in an interview in 2004, “I’m a one-issue guy and my issue is Israel.” [x] The scholars at Saban as well as its board have a clear neo-conservative and Likud party bias.

They include, past or present, Shlomo Yanai, former head of military planning, Israel Defense Forces; Martin Indyk, former US Ambassador to Israel and founder of the pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a major Likud policy lobby in Washington.

Visiting fellows have included Avi Dicter, former head of Israel’s Shin Bet; Yosef Kupperwasser, former Head, Research Department, Israeli Defense Force’s Directorate of Military Intelligence.

Resident scholars also include Bruce Riedel, a 30 year CIA Middle East expert and Obama Afghan adviser; [xi] Kenneth Pollack, another former CIA Middle East expert who was indicted in an Israel espionage scandal when he was a national security official with the Bush Administration. [xii]

Why would Israel want to get rid of the “enemy she knows,” Bashar al-Assad, for a regime controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood? Then Israel’s security would seemingly be threatened by the emergence of hard-line Muslim Brotherhood regimes in Egypt to her south and Syria to her North, perhaps soon also in Jordan.

The geopolitical dimension

 

Will the little people fight and die over oil for the big people?

The significant question to be asked at this point is what could bind Israel, Turkey, Qatar in a form of unholy alliance on the one side, and Assad’s Syria, Iran, Russia and China on the other side, in such deadly confrontation over the political future of Syria? One answer is energy geopolitics.

What has yet to be fully appreciated in geopolitical assessments of the Middle East is the dramatically rising importance of the control of natural gas to the future of not only Middle East gas producing countries, but also of the EU and Eurasia including Russia as producer and China as consumer.

Natural gas is rapidly becoming the “clean energy” of choice to replace coal and nuclear electric generation across the European Union, most especially since Germany’s decision to phase out nuclear after the Fukushima disaster. Gas is regarded as far more “environmentally friendly” in terms of its so-called “carbon footprint.”

The only realistic way EU governments, from Germany to France to Italy to Spain, will be able to meet EU mandated CO2 reduction targets by 2020 is a major shift to burning gas instead of coal. Gas reduces CO2 emissions by 50-60% over coal.[xiii]

Given that the economic cost of using gas instead of wind or other alternative energy forms is dramatically lower, gas is rapidly becoming the energy of demand for the EU, the biggest emerging gas market in the world.

Huge gas resource discoveries in Israel, in Qatar and in Syria combined with the emergence of the EU as the world’s potentially largest natural gas consumer, combine to create the seeds of the present geopolitical clash over the Assad regime.

_______________________

Syria-Iran-Iraq Gas pipeline

Is our navy fighting for oil interests?

In July 2011, as the NATO and Gulf states’ destabilization operations against Assad in Syria were in full swing, the governments of Syria, Iran and Iraq signed an historic gas pipeline energy agreement which went largely unnoticed amid CNN reports of the Syrian unrest.

The pipeline, envisioned to cost $10 billion and take three years to complete, would run from the Iranian Port Assalouyeh near the South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf, to Damascus in Syria via Iraq territory. Iran ultimately plans then to extend the pipeline from Damascus to Lebanon’s Mediterranean port where it would be delivered to EU markets. Syria would buy Iranian gas along with a current Iraqi agreement to buy Iranian gas from Iran’s part of South Pars field.

South Pars, whose gas reserves lie in a huge field that is divided between Qatar and Iran in the Gulf, is believed to be the world’s largest single gas field. [xiv] De facto it would be a Shi’ite gas pipeline from Shi’ite Iran via Shi’ite-majority Iraq onto Shi’ite-friendly Alawite Al-Assad’s Syria.

Iran and Qatar – head to head – but with Qatar having big brother

Adding to the geopolitical drama is the fact that the South Pars gas find lies smack in the middle of the territorial divide in the Persian Gulf between Shi’ite Iran and the Sunni Salafist Qatar.

Qatar also just happens to be a command hub for the Pentagon’s US Central Command, headquarters of United States Air Forces Central, No. 83 Expeditionary Air Group RAF, and the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing of the USAF.

In brief Qatar, in addition to owning and hosting the anti-Al-Assad TV station Al-Jazeera, which beams anti-Syria propaganda across the Arab world, Qatar is tightly linked to the US and NATO military presence in the Gulf.

Qatar apparently has other plans with their share of the South Pars field than joining up with Iran, Syria and Iraq to pool efforts.

Qatar has no interest in the success of the Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline, which would be entirely independent of Qatar or Turkey transit routes to the opening EU markets.

In fact it is doing everything possible to sabotage it, up to and including arming Syria’s rag-tag “opposition” fighters, many of them Jihadists sent in from other countries including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Libya.

Further adding to Qatar’s determination to destroy the Syria-Iran-Iraq gas cooperation is the discovery in August 2011 by Syrian exploration companies of a huge new gas field in Qara near the border with Lebanon and near to the Russian-leased Naval port of Tarsus on the Syrian Mediterranean.[xv]

Pepe Escobar

Any export of Syrian or Iranian gas to the EU would go through the Russian-tied port of Tarsus. According to informed Algerian sources, the new Syrian gas discoveries, though the Damascus government is downplaying it, are believed to equal or exceed those of Qatar.

As Asia Times’ knowledgeable analyst Pepe Escobar pointed out in a recent piece, Qatar’s scheme calls for export of its huge gas reserves via Jordan’s Gulf of Aqaba, a country where a Muslim Brotherhood threat to the dictatorship of the King is also threatening.

The Emir of Qatar has apparently cut a deal with the Muslim Brotherhood in which he backs their international expansion in return for a pact of peace at home in Qatar.

A Muslim Brotherhood regime in Jordan and also in Syria, backed by Qatar, would change the entire geopolitics of the world gas market suddenly and decisively in Qatar’s favor and to the disadvantage of Russia, Syria, Iran and Iraq. [xvi] That would also be a staggering negative blow to China.

As Escobar points out,

“it’s clear what Qatar is aiming at: to kill the US$10 billion Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline, a deal that was clinched even as the Syria uprising was already underway. Here we see Qatar in direct competition with both Iran (as a producer) and Syria (as a destination), and to a lesser extent, Iraq (as a transit country). It’s useful to remember that Tehran and Baghdad are adamantly against regime change in Damascus.”

He adds, “if there’s regime change in Syria – helped by the Qatari-proposed invasion – things get much easier in Pipelineistan terms. A more than probable Muslim Brotherhood (MB) post-Assad regime would more than welcome a Qatari pipeline. And that would make an extension to Turkey much easier.” [xvii]

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The Israeli Gas dilemma

 

Was the peak oil hype nothing more than a price rigging psy ops?

Further complicating the entire picture is the recent discovery of huge offshore Israeli natural gas resources.

The Tamar natural gas field off the coast of northern Israel is expected to begin yielding gas for Israel’s use in late 2012. The game-changer was a dramatic discovery in late 2010 of an enormous natural gas field offshore of Israel in what geologists call the Levant or Levantine Basin.

In October 2010 Israel discovered a massive “super-giant” gas field offshore in what it declares is its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). [xviii]

The find is some 84 miles west of the Haifa port and three miles deep. They named it Leviathan after the Biblical sea monster.

Three Israeli energy companies in cooperation with the Houston Texas Noble Energy announced initial estimates that the field contained 16 trillion cubic feet of gas—making it the world’s biggest deep-water gas find in a decade, adding more discredit to “peak oil” theories that the planet is about to see dramatic and permanent shortages of oil, gas and coal.

To put the number in perspective, that one gas field, Leviathan, would hold enough reserves to supply Israel’s gas needs for 100 years.[xix]

Energy self-sufficiency had eluded the state of Israel since its founding in 1948. Abundant oil and gas exploration had repeatedly been undertaken with meager result. Unlike its energy-rich Arab neighbors, Israel seemed out of luck.

Then in 2009 Israel’s Texas exploration partner, Noble Energy, discovered the Tamar field in the Levantine Basin some 50 miles west of Israel’s port of Haifa with an estimated 8.3 tcf (trillion cubic feet) of highest quality natural gas. Tamar was the world’s largest gas discovery in 2009.

Israel discovered huge gas in Levantine Basin with Noble Energy. Source: Noble Energy map

At the time, total Israeli gas reserves were estimated at only 1.5 tcf. Government estimates were that Israel’s sole operating field, Yam Tethys, which supplies about 70 percent of the country’s natural gas, would be depleted within three years.

With Tamar, prospects began to look considerably better. Then, just a year after Tamar, the same consortium led by Noble Energy struck the largest gas find in its decades-long history at Leviathan in the same Levantine geological basin. Present estimates are that the Leviathan field holds at least 17 tcf of gas. Israel went from a gas famine to feast in a matter of months.[xx]

Now Israel faces a strategic and very dangerous dilemma. Naturally Israel is none too excited to see al-Assad’s Syria, linked to Israel’s arch foe Iran and Iraq and Lebanon, out-compete an Israeli gas export to the EU markets. This could explain why Israel’s Netanyahu government has been messing inside Syria in the anti-al-Assad forces.

However, a Muslim Brotherhood rule in Syria led by the organization around Mohammad Shaqfah would confront Israel with far more hostile neighbors now that the Muslim Brotherhood coup by Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi has put a hostile regime on Israel’s southern border.

Dalia Mogahed

It is no secret that there is enmity bordering on hate between Netanyahu and the Obama Administration. The Obama White House and US State Department openly back the Muslim Brotherhood regime changes in the Middle East.

Hillary Clinton’s meeting with Turkey’s Davutoglu in August this year was reportedly aimed at pushing Turkey to escalate its military intervention into Syria, but without direct US support owing to US election politics of wanting to avoid involvement in a new Middle East debacle.[xxi]

State Department Deputy Chief of Staff Huma Abedin has been accused by several Republican Congress Representatives of ties to organizations controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Dalia Mogahed, Obama’s appointee to the Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, also a member of the US advisory council of the Department of Homeland Security, is openly linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and an open foe of Israel as well as calling for the toppling of Syria’s al-Assad. [xxii]

Obama’s Washington definitely seems to be backing the Muslim Brotherhood horse in the race for control of the gas flows of the Middle East.

__________________________________

And the Russian role

 

Washington is walking a temporary tightrope hoping to weaken al-Assad fatally while not appearing directly involved. Russia for its part is playing a life and death game for the future of its most effective geopolitical lever—its role as the leading natural gas supplier to the EU.

This year Russia’s state-owned Gazprom began delivery of Russian gas to northern Germany via Nord Stream gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea from a port near St. Petersburg.

Strategically vital now for the future role of Russia as an EU gas supplier, is its ability to play a strategic role in exploiting the new-found gas reserves of its former Cold war client state, Syria. Moscow has long been engaged in promoting its South Stream gas pipeline into Europe as an alternative to the Washington Nabucco pipeline which was designed to leave Moscow out in the cold. [xxiii]

Already Gazprom is the largest natural gas supplier to the EU. Gazprom with Nord Stream and other lines plans to increase its gas supply to Europe this year by 12% to 155 billion cubic meters. It now controls 25% of the total European gas market and aims to reach 30% with completion of South Stream and other projects.

Rainer Seele, chairman of Germany’s Wintershall, the Gazprom partner in Nord Stream, suggested the geopolitical thinking behind the decision to join South Stream:

“In the global race against Asian countries for raw materials, South Stream, like Nord Stream, will ensure access to energy resources which are vital to our economy.” But rather than Asia, the real focus of South Stream lies to the West.

The ongoing battle between Russia’s South Stream and the Washington-backed Nabucco is intensely geopolitical. The winner will hold a major advantage in the future political terrain of Europe”.[xxiv]

Erdogan – Knows Turkey is at the cross roads of history

Now  a major new option of Syria as a major source for Russian-managed gas flows to the EU has emerged. If al-Assad survives, Russia will be in the position as savior to play a decisive role in developing and exploiting the Syrian gas.

Israel, where Russia also has major cards to play, could theoretically shift to back a Russian-Syrian-Iraqi-Iran gas consortium were Israel and Iran to reach some modus vivendi on the nuclear and other issues, not impossible were the political constellation in Israel to change after the coming elections.

Turkey, which is presently in a deep internal battle between Davutoglu and President Gül on the one side and Erdogan on the other, is dependent on Russia’s Gazprom for some 40% of gas to its industry.

Were Davutoglu and his faction to lose, Turkey could play a far more constructive role in the region as transit country for Syrian and Iranian gas.

The battle for the future control of Syria is at the heart of this enormous geopolitical war and tug of war. Its resolution will have enormous consequences for either world peace or endless war and conflict and slaughter.

NATO member Turkey is playing with fire as is Qatar’s Emir, along with Israel’s Netanyahu and NATO members France and USA. Natural gas is the flammable ingredient that is fueling this insane scramble for energy in the region.

______________________________

  • F. William Engdahl is author of Myths, Lies and Oil Wars. He may be contacted through www.williamengdahl.com .

Editing: Jim W. Dean

[i] Reuters, Turkish artillery strikes on Syria continue for second day: Several Syrian soldiers killed in overnight attack; Turkey launched artillery strikes after mortar bomb fired from Syria killed five Turkish civilians, October 4, 2012. Accessed in http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/turkish-artillery-strikes-on-syria-continue-for-second-day-1.468142

[ii]  Hüsnü Mahalli, Davutoglu  Betting on the Fall of Assad, Al Akhbar English, August 7, 2012, accessed in http://english.al-akhbar.com.

[iii] Steven G. Merley, Turkey, the Global Muslim Brotherhood, and the Gaza Flotilla, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2011, accessed in http://www.jcpa.org/text/Turkey_Muslim_Brotherhood.pdf. See also for more ties between Erdogan’s Turkish AKP and the Musllim Brotherhood, GlobalMB, Syrian Ambassador Names Associate Of Turkish Prime Minister As Muslim Brotherhood Leader, May 25, 2011, accessed in http://globalmbreport.org/?p=4496

[iv] The figure of $10 billion was relayed in a private discussion with the author by a Turkish businessman and political figure who asked to remain anonymous. Indian diplomats, including H.E. Gajendra Singh, former Ambassador to Ankara, have independently confirmed Saudi funding of the Turkish AKP. Presumably like most $10 billion cash grants, it came with heavy strings attached from Riyhad.

[v] F. William Engdahl, Salafism+CIA: The winning formula to destabilize Russia, the Middle East, Voltairenet.org, 13 September, 2012, accessed in http://www.voltairenet.org/article175801.html

[vi] Philip Giraldi, NATO vs Syria, December 19, 2011, The American Conservative, accessed in

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/nato-vs-syria/.

[vii] Linda Gradstein, Israel fears Syrian violence spilling over Golan Heights border, October 4, 2012, accessed in http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/10/04/israel-fears-syrian-violence-spilling-over-golan-heights-border/

[viii] Daniel Byman, Michael Doran, Kenneth Pollack, and Salman Shaikh, Saving Syria: Assessing Options for Regime Change, The Brookings Institution, Washington D.C., March 2012, accessed in http://www.scribd.com/doc/108893509/BrookingsSyria0315-Syria-Saban

[ix] Ibid., p. 6.

[x] Andrew Ross Sorkin, Schlepping to Moguldom, September 5, 2004, accessed in http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/05/business/yourmoney/05sab.html?ei=5088&en=9eb8c2a72c2b5e7d&ex=1252123200&partner=rssnyt&pagewanted=print&position&_r=0; see also Source Watch, Haim Saban, accessed in  http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Haim_Saban.

[xi] M. J. Rosenberg, AIPAC Cutout: The Rise & Fall Of The Washington Institute For Near East Policy, Talking Points Memo (TPM), 11 April 2010, accessed in http://cosmos.ucc.ie/cs1064/jabowen/IPSC/php/art.php?aid=126218

[xii] Nathan Guttman, Bush officials subpoenaed in AIPAC trial, Jerusalem Post, March 13, 2006, accessed in http://www.jpost.com/International/Article.aspx?id=15860

[xiii] Alexander Medvedev, Role of Gas in a Sustainable Energy Future, 2nd Ministerial Gas Forum, Doha, Qatar, 30 November, 2010.

[xiv] Hassan Hafidh and Benoit Faucon, Iraq, Iran, Syria Sign $10 Billion Gas-Pipeline Deal, The Wall Street Journal, July 25, 2011, accessed in http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903591104576467631289250392.html

[xv] Daily Star, Syria Announces Gas Discovery, August 17, 2011, accessed in http://www.naturalgasasia.com/syria-homs-gas-discovery.

[xvi] Pepe Escobar, Why Qatar Wants to Invade Syria, Asia Times, September 27, 2012, accessed in http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/NI28Ak03.html.

[xvii] Ibid.

[xviii] F. William Engdahl, The New Mediterranean Oil and Gas Bonanza – Part 1: Israel’s Levant Basin—a new geopolitical curse?, VoltaireNet.org, 20 February, 2012, accessed in http://www.voltairenet.org/article172827.html

[xix] Ibid.

[xx] Ibid.

[xxi] The Economist, Turkey’s political in-fighting: Erdogan at bay: The Turkish prime minister faces new enemies both at home and abroad, Feb 25th 2012; see also Hillary Clinton, Remarks With Foreign Minister Davutoglu After Their Meeting, Conrad Hotel Istanbul, Turkey, August 11, 2012, accessed in http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2012/08/196358.htm

[xxii] CSP,  Center Report Reveals Radical Islamist Views and Agenda of Senior State Department Official Huma Abedin’s Mother, Washington, Center for Security Policy, July 22, 2012, accessed in  http://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/p19045.xml?genre_id=3. See also  Aaron Klein, Muslim Brotherhood endorses Obama faith adviser: Gives thumbs up to ‘Sister Mogahed’ for Twitter post on dead journalist, WorldNetDaily, April 29, 2012, accessed on http://www.wnd.com/2012/04/muslim-brotherhood-endorses-obama-faith-adviser/.

[xxiii] F. William Engdahl, Moscow’s High Stakes Energy Geopolitics, Voltairenet.org, 15 November, 2011, accessed in http://www.voltairenet.org/article171902.html

[xxiv] Ibid.

CIA busted by Hizbullah in Lebanon

From the horse’s mouth:

The CIA found itself in some rough waters in the Middle East last week. On Thursday, an influential member of Iran’s parliament announced that the Islamic republic had arrested 12 “CIA agents” who had allegedly been targeting Iran’s military and its nuclear program. The lawmaker didn’t give the nationality of the agents, but the presumption is that they were Iranians recruited to spy for the CIA. The agency hasn’t yet commented, but from what I’ve heard it was a serious compromise, one which the CIA is still trying to get to the bottom of.

Even more curious was the flap in Lebanon. In June, Hizballah’s secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah announced that the movement had arrested two of its own members as CIA spies. But it wasn’t until last week that the story got traction in Washington. The CIA confirmed that operations in Beirut had been compromised but declined to offer details. As in the case of the alleged Iranian debacle, it’s no doubt still doing a “damage assessment” — a process that can take years. Even then, it will be difficult to determine exactly what happened.