Gas ‘n Oil, Syria, Russia, Turkey, NATO/EU and US

It is a volatile, dangerous mix. The money, weapons and foreign fighters that have flowed into Syria are part of a bigger story of religion and gas/oil supplies, of pipelines through a secular or new religious Syria… it’s about secular Russia versus Salafi-Wahhabism and the House of Saud and its allies. It’s about petrodollars and one prize that’s at stake: who will be supplying gas/oil to Europe through Turkey.


Via Washington Post, Nov 26

  • Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev calls for tough sanctions against Turkey that could bite into more than $30 billion in trade ties between the two countries
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin describes the shootdown as “a stab in the back from the accomplices of terrorists.”
  • At a cabinet meeting, Medvedev says that joint investment projects with Turkey would be frozen or canceled. Negotiations over a proposed preferential trade regime with Turkey would also be scrapped.
  • Russian Economic Development Minister Alexey Ulyukaev at the same session said that economic sanctions would affect Turkstream, the planned gas pipeline from Russia to Turkey announced by Putin last December, and the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, Turkey’s first nuclear power plant, which it signed an agreement with Russia to build in May 2010.

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As  we consider the actions of Turkey against the Russian Federation, we reconsider the problem of entangling alliances and provocative actions. History is replete how provocation, planned or random, can drag nations into war as a spark becomes a flare-up, a provocation is followed by misjudged but legally required responses that in turn become a rapid succession of actions and reactions. Dominoes can fall and pieces on a grand geopolitical board can rapidly scatter.

In the case of the Mid East, the actions by Turkey’s government as a member of NATO ordering the shoot down of a Russian plane on its border is more than a spark and provocation. It is a challenge to those in office and running for office. It brings out the neoliberal and neoconservative foreign policy perspective in the U.S. and it reveals policy. Distinct from the dominant strategic perspectives in the U.S. is another evolving strategic perspective which Strategic Demands is developing, one that takes into account global trends, including environmental change and shared risks.

Forward deployed in Turkey are tactical nuclear weapons [1] 2

This global perspective is not much in evidence in the US, whether neoliberal or neoconservative, a group of candidates for commander-in-chief jostle to position themselves as the most forceful in the face of Mideast conflict.

Apart from Rand Paul, who speaks of the downing of the Russian plane as a dangerous moment between nuclear superpowers, few are questioning Turkey and asking why Turkey acted as it did.

Rand Paul: Downed Russian Jet Could Lead to Nuclear War, National Review, November 24:

“The shooting down of a Russian fighter jet illustrates precisely why we need open lines of communication with Russia and should resist calls from some presidential candidates to isolate ourselves from discussions with our adversaries,” Paul said in a statement released by his presidential campaign. Paul’s relatively dovish foreign-policy views have left him in a lonely political position of late, as international crises and terrorist attacks created an opening for hawkish rivals such as Senators Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R., Texas). But this morning, Turkish fighter jets shot down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 near the Syrian border, and Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that there would be consequences, leading Paul to argue that aggressive U.S. intervention in the Syrian Civil War would put the country at risk of a full-scale military confrontation with Russia — or worse. “Those who are calling for a no-fly zone need to realize that shooting down other countries’ fighter jets will be the result and a war between nuclear superpowers a possibility.”

Behind the headlines, as in many prior historic conflicts, are deep conflicts that act to determine moves of nations in their national interest. Why has Turkey been acting as it has? Why has Turkey chosen to take on Russia, with whom it has negotiated a potential major Black Sea pipeline to Europe? Gazprom’s move early this year was in lieu of the Southern Route pipeline avoiding Ukraine to supply Europe.

Russian gas_to_eu

The stakes here between Russia and Turkey are high, although potentially it seems that Turkey’s ‘fall back’ position is to push forward with the Interconnector pipeline and its Caspian/Euro partners aiming to deliver to Europe and additionally deal with the Sauds and UAE, the Qatar-Turkey pipeline as it called. There is is much more to this move toward the EU/NATO. It is an Anglo-EU-US ‘southern route’ alternative to Russian gas/oil to Europe. The Qatari pipeline would have to pass through Syria, but Syria’s Assad has refused. Instead, it signed up for the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline. We need not add a reference to the rivalry between Sunni and Shia, or Saudi Arabia and Iran, but the increasing closeness between Iran-Russia-China needs to be emphasized, as well as proposals to an alternative to reliance on petrodollars as the currency of record in global transactions.

The largest natural gas producer on the planet, Gazprom, has signed agreements with some of their biggest customers to switch payments for natural gas from U.S. dollars to euros.

The ‘Colder War’ and the End of the Petrodollar — Forbes, May 2014

It is time to drill down and look at Syria more closely as a gathering struggle between Russia and its allies and the Saudis and their allies. With major new sources of gas/oil having recently been discovered in the eastern Mediterranean the challenge ratchets up as OPEC plays new cards, not at all up on the table.

The object of the gas/oil supplier struggle going through Syria and Turkey involves Russian reserves and hundreds of billions of dollars, an annual revenue stream that will come from providing energy supplies to Europe.

Will this be the Russian Federation and Iran gas/oil or Saudi/UAE gas/oil and new pipeline through Syria, Turkey and across the Dardenelles into Europe?

A new ‘Southern Route’ is a core confrontation here, one that will, strategically, provide energy security to Europe until the next generation of renewable energy resources…

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What is Turkey’s strategic interest in breaking away from Russia?

What is Europe’s strategic interest in looking away from Turkey’s acts enabling ISIL?

What are the Saudis strategic interests in supporting, financially and otherwise, extremists in Syria?

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Pipelines in the Middle East, Overview via Southfront

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Let’s review an excerpt from Medium, an open-source, “crowd-funded investigative journalism” article looking at deeper threads rarely covered by mainstream media:


Much of the strategy currently at play was candidly described in a 2008 US Army-funded RAND report, Unfolding the Future of the Long War (pdf). The report noted that “the economies of the industrialized states will continue to rely heavily on oil, thus making it a strategically important resource.” As most oil will be produced in the Middle East, the US has “motive for maintaining stability in and good relations with Middle Eastern states.” It just so happens that those states support Islamist terrorism:

“The geographic area of proven oil reserves coincides with the power base of much of the Salafi-jihadist network. This creates a linkage between oil supplies and the long war that is not easily broken or simply characterized… For the foreseeable future, world oil production growth and total output will be dominated by Persian Gulf resources… The region will therefore remain a strategic priority, and this priority will interact strongly with that of prosecuting the long war.”

Declassified government documents clarify beyond all doubt that a primary motivation for the 2003 Iraq War, preparations for which had begun straight after 9/11, was installing a permanent US military presence in the Persian Gulf to secure access to the region’s oil and gas.

The obsession over black gold did not end with Iraq, though — and is not exclusive to the West.

“Most of the foreign belligerents in the war in Syria are gas-exporting countries with interests in one of the two competing pipeline projects that seek to cross Syrian territory to deliver either Qatari or Iranian gas to Europe,” wrote Professor Mitchell Orenstein of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University, in Foreign Affairs, the journal of Washington DC’s Council on Foreign Relations.

In 2009, Qatar had proposed to build a pipeline to send its gas northwest via Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria to Turkey. But Assad “refused to sign the plan,” reports Orenstein. “Russia, which did not want to see its position in European gas markets undermined, put him under intense pressure not to.”

Russia’s Gazprom sells 80% of its gas to Europe. So in 2010, Russia put its weight behind “an alternative Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline that would pump Iranian gas from the same field out via Syrian ports such as Latakia and under the Mediterranean.” The project would allow Moscow “to control gas imports to Europe from Iran, the Caspian Sea region, and Central Asia.”

Then in July 2011, a $10 billion Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline deal was announced, and a preliminary agreement duly signed by Assad.

Later that year, the US, UK, France and Israel were ramping up covert assistance to rebel factions in Syria to elicit the “collapse” of Assad’s regime “from within.”

“The United States… supports the Qatari pipeline as a way to balance Iran and diversify Europe’s gas supplies away from Russia,” explained Orenstein in Foreign Affairs.

An article in the Armed Forces Journal published last year by Major Rob Taylor, an instructor at the US Army’s Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, thus offered scathing criticism of conventional media accounts of the Syrian conflict that ignore the pipeline question:

“Any review of the current conflict in Syria that neglects the geopolitical economics of the region is incomplete… Viewed through a geopolitical and economic lens, the conflict in Syria is not a civil war, but the result of larger international players positioning themselves on the geopolitical chessboard in preparation for the opening of the pipeline… Assad’s pipeline decision, which could seal the natural gas advantage for the three Shi’a states, also demonstrates Russia’s links to Syrian petroleum and the region through Assad. Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as well as al-Qaeda and other groups, are maneuvering to depose Assad and capitalize on their hoped-for Sunni conquest in Damascus. By doing this, they hope to gain a share of control over the ‘new’ Syrian government, and a share in the pipeline wealth.”

The pipelines would access not just gas in the Iran-Qatari field, but also potentially newly discovered offshore gas resources in the Eastern Mediterranean — encompassing the offshore territories of Israel, Palestine, Cyprus, Turkey, Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon. The area has been estimated to hold as much as 1.7 billion barrels of oil and up to 122 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, which geologists believe could be just a third of the total quantities of undiscovered fossil fuels in the Levant.

A December 2014 report by the US Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute, authored by a former UK Ministry of Defense research director, noted that Syria specifically holds significant offshore oil and gas potential. It noted:

“Once the Syria conflict is resolved, prospects for Syrian offshore production — provided commercial resources are found — are high.”

Assad’s brutality and illegitimacy is beyond question — but until he had demonstrated his unwillingness to break with Russia and Iran, especially over their proposed pipeline project, US policy toward Assad had been ambivalent.

State Department cables obtained by Wikileaks reveal that US policy had wavered between financing Syrian opposition groups to facilitate “regime change,” and using the threat of regime change to induce “behavior reform.”

President Obama’s preference for the latter resulted in US officials, including John Kerry, shamelessly courting Assad in the hopes of prying him away from Iran, opening up the Syrian economy to US investors, and aligning the regime with US-Israeli regional designs.

Even when the 2011 Arab Spring protests resulted in Assad’s security forces brutalizing peaceful civilian demonstrators, both Kerry and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insisted that he was a “reformer” — which he took as a green light to respond to further protests with massacres.

Assad’s decision to side with Russia and Iran, and his endorsement of their favoured pipeline project, were key factors in the US decision to move against him.

Europe’s dance with the devil

Turkey plays a key role in the US-Qatar-Saudi backed route designed to circumvent Russia and Iran, as an intended gas hub for exports to European markets.

It is only one of many potential pipeline routes involving Turkey.

“Turkey is key to gas supply diversification of the entire European Union. It would be a huge mistake to stall energy cooperation any further,” urged David Koranyi, director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasian Energy Futures initiative and a former national security advisor to the Prime Minister of Hungary.

Koranyi noted that both recent “major gas discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean” and “gas supplies from Northern Iraq” could be “sourced to supply the Turkish market and transported beyond to Europe.”

Given Europe’s dependence on Russia for about a quarter of its gas, the imperative to minimize this dependence and reduce the EU’s vulnerability to supply outages has become an urgent strategic priority. The priority fits into longstanding efforts by the US to wean Central and Eastern Europe out of the orbit of Russian power.

Turkey is pivotal to the US-EU vision for a new energy map:

“The EU would gain a reliable alternative supply route to further diversify its imports from Russia. Turkey, as a hub, would benefit from transit fees and other energy-generated revenues. As additional supplies of gas may become available for export over the next five to 10 years in the wider region, Turkey is the natural route via which these could be shipped to Europe.”

A report last year by Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustainability Institute (GSI) warned that Europe faced a looming energy crisis, particularly the UK, France and Italy, due to “critical shortages of natural resources.”

Coal, oil and gas resources in Europe are running down and we need alternatives,” said GSI’s Professor Victoria Andersen.

She also recommended a rapid shift to renewables, but most European leaders apparently have other ideas — namely, shifting to a network of pipelines that would transport oil and gas from the Middle East, Eastern Mediterranean and Central Asia to Europe: via our loving friend, Erdogan’s Turkey.

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Read More:

Strategic Gas/Oil European Union Issues Re: Russian Pipelines to Europe and Other Options


Trans Adriatic Pipeline

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Germany’s phasing out its nuclear fleet—are boosting demand for natural gas in the electricity sector.

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Europe depends on Russia for about 30 percent of its natural gas. Trade between Europe and Russia largely consists of gas/oil fuel. In 2013, the EU imported 166.3 billion euros of fuels from Russia, accounting for about 80 percent of Russia’s total exports to the EU.

“Many of Europe’s biggest corporate entities are directly involved in importing fuel from Russia, and that the rest of Europe’s biggest entities—utilities, power-hungry manufacturers, car manufacturers, transportation systems, anyone who uses electricity—are engaged in purchasing Russian fuel…”

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The Russian Eurasia-Asia pivot



Escalating Geopolitics: Eurasia

A Contrarian Point of View: Turkey’s ‘Islamisation’, Turkish opposition to the Kurds, and Russian preemption of a “Jihad Highway between Aleppo and Grozny”…

TeleSur Opinion from Pepe Escobar

Pepe Escobar writes for Al Jazeera, RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch

The New Great Game Between China and the U.S / November 22, 2015

Pipelineistan Eurasia

Pipelineistan Europe