Newsbud Exclusive- “Natural Gas Pipelines & the Proxy War on Syria: Exaggerated_Motive?”

After six years of war and destruction, there is a widespread consensus in the alternative media that the Syrian debacle is a war on Syria rather, or at least more so, than a civil war between Syrians. Without the foreign support coming from NATO, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Israel from the beginning of the crisis onwards in the form of finances, weapons supply, covert operations, favourable propaganda and the permission of jihadi border-crossing into the ravaged country, the armed opposition could never have conquered and maintained so much Syrian territory. Even though the popularity of the Syrian government constitutes a decisive factor in explaining Syria’s resolve, it might not have survived, and certainly would not have been able to reverse the tide to the extent it has today, without its chief allies Russia, Iran and Hezbollah. As all these outside players have their own reasons for getting involved in the war, the fighting parties on the ground are in many ways pawns on a regional, nay, global geopolitical chessboard.

One theory fits the bill perfectly in explaining the involvement of nearly all foreign players, that of the two contested natural gas pipelines. According to this theory, all regional countries that have in one way or another been crucial in the rise of the armed opposition - Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey - were eager to construct a pipeline from the world’s richest gas repository in Qatar (which the latter shares with Iran) through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Turkey into Europe. While this project was supported by the US, Assad was allegedly the only one standing in the way as he refused to sign the deal in 2009 under Russian pressure and chose to back an alternative pipeline running from Iran’s part of the gas field through Iraq, Syria and possibly Lebanon to the Mediterranean, where it would continue under water to reach the European market. As control over resources and pipeline routes have played a crucial role in many global wars throughout history, especially in the petroleum rich Middle East and Central Asia, this theory sounds appealing to journalists exposing the proxy war on Syria. I myself defined it as one of the primary reasons behind the war back in December 2016,[1] but a myriad of authorities in both the alternative and mainstream media have done the same, from Pepe Escobar in Asia Times,[2] Steve Austin in Oil Price[3] and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. in Politico[4] to Nafeez Ahmed in the Guardian[5] and even the Council on Foreign Relations’ Foreign Affairs.[6]

The two alleged contested pipeline routes © oil-price.net

Upon closer inspection, however, there seem to be some problems with this all-explaining pipeline theory. As Gareth Porter pointed out in Truthout, there is no evidence of Assad refusing the Qatar-Turkey pipeline deal in 2009. All articles claiming otherwise lead back to an August 2013 Agence France-Presse (AFP) article about Moscow’s refusal to drop Assad in exchange for an arms deal proposed by Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, which mentions in passing that “In 2009, Assad refused to sign an agreement with Qatar for an overland pipeline running from the Gulf to Europe via Syria to protect the interests of its Russian ally, which is Europe’s top supplier of natural gas.”[7] This statement, however, was not backed up by a source or citation and was not accredited to the main source of the article, “a European diplomat who shuttles between Beirut and Damascus,” but was rather presented as a given fact. Furthermore, in an interview with a Russian media outlet in 2016, Assad claimed that he did not get any offers before the crisis from Qatar or any other Gulf nation. Pressed specifically to answer whether it is true that Qatar and its allies wanted to establish a gas tube through Syria, Assad said:

“No, they [most likely talking about certain Gulf countries] didn’t talk about it, but because Syria was supposed to be a hub in that regard, of power in general, a tube coming from the east; Iran, Iraq, Syria, Mediterranean, and other one from the Gulf toward Europe. I don’t think the West will accept Syria - this Syria, Syria that’s not puppet to the West - it’s not allowed to have this privilege or leverage, it’s not allowed. So, we think this is one of the factors that they didn’t talk about it directly. After the war, the offer was directly from the Saudis that [...] if you move away from Iran and announce that you disconnect all kinds of relations with Iran, we’re going to help you.”[8]

Moreover, the assertion that only Syria would have obstructed the Qatar-Turkey pipeline is incorrect as well. Saudi Arabia, whose territory the Qatari gas would have to pass through according to the theory, probably had reservations, too. The current Gulf crisis between Qatar on the one hand and Saudi Arabia and a number of other Arab countries on the other shows that the Gulf is not homogenous when it comes to foreign policy. As far as the war on Syria is concerned, both countries indeed fund the armed opposition, but Qatar initially tended to back Muslim Brotherhood-linked groups, while Saudi Arabia from the onset focused its support on hardcore Salafi jihadi’s. As a result, there was a certain element of competition between the two countries inside Syria, especially in the beginning when the Brotherhood was playing a more important role than it does today.[9] Regional competition between the Saudi’s and the Qatari’s have always manifested itself firmly in the realm of energy politics as well. As Paul Cochrane explained in Middle East Eye, Riyadh has a long history of obstructing Qatari pipeline expansion. In the mid-2000s, Saudi obstruction caused planners to redraw the routes of the Dolphin pipeline, which transports gas from Qatar to the UAE. Saudi Arabia was also the principle reason why there is no Qatari pipeline to Bahrain or Kuwait today. Moreover, Saudi opposition to Qatari gas pipelines has been so strong that Doha has switched its strategy over the years away from pipelines to liquefied natural gas (LNG), which is a form you get when gas is converted to liquid and its volume is reduced to 1/600th of its gaseous state, as a result of which it can be transported overseas by tanker to faraway places around the world.[10] Finally, the above-mentioned AFP article itself stated that in his effort to bribe Putin, Prince Bandar bin Sultan assured Russia that “‘whatever regime comes after’ Assad, it will be ‘completely’ in the Saudi’s hands,” but in addition, will also “not sign any agreement allowing any Gulf country to transport its gas across Syria to Europe and compete with Russian exports.”[11] Saudi Arabia’s primary reasons for being involved in Syria thus lay elsewhere.

Porter and Cochrane have confronted me, and many others, with some harsh criticism, criticism that cannot be circumvented. However, they both conclude that natural gas has no role at all in the Syrian crisis. In my opinion, this is a simplified half-truth as well. In this article, I will nuance my previous claims, but maintain that for some actors, control over the natural gas routes to Europe did most likely play a major role in planning a war against Syria.

Europe, hungry for gas

To comprehend the role of natural gas on the geopolitical chessboard, we have to start in Europe, which currently relies for about 25% of its primary energy consumption on natural gas. Due to the increasingly stringent pushes to reduce greenhouse gas emission on the continent, the EU is trying to achieve its decarbonisation aims by heavily subsidising the renewable energy sector, but even with these subsidies, CERA Global Redesign Oct 2012 still estimates that the share of renewables will constitute only 6% by 2030. Natural gas, in contrast, is affordable and a cleaner complement to renewables than coal and oil. Following the disaster in Fukushima, nuclear energy has become less attractive as well. Therefore, natural gas is the sole non-renewable fuel whose use will most likely increase in the future. Its share in the primary energy mix is estimated to grow from 25% in 2010 to 28% by 2030. In addition, domestic production of natural gas, mainly from Norway, the Netherlands and the UK, will further decline. Consequently, there will be a supply gap of 100 billion cubic metres (bcm) per year by 2030, which causes the Gas Technology Institute (GTI) to conclude that Europe will have to find new volumes of gas, either by increasing LNG imports or by pipelines from the east.[12]

Distribution of European primary energy consumption © CERA Global Redesign Oct 2012 / GTI

Russia, possessing the largest known reserves of natural gas on the planet, exports 70% of its gas to Europe, which makes it the continent’s largest gas supplier as Russian pipelines deliver 30% of European gas and oil imports. This energy dependence on Russia gives the country structural power over Europe, which was made abundantly clear when Russia temporarily cut off gas to Ukraine (through which much of Russia’s gas is transported to Europe) over disputes with the country in 2006, 2009 and 2014. This has prompted the EU and its allies in America to attempt to diversify away from Russian gas.[13] Indeed, while the European member states’ gas procurement focuses on economic efficiency in the short term, the EU has developed strategies (with the support of countries that are not dependent on Russian gas) to ensure energy security and push for alternatives in its medium and long-term policies.[14]

Main gas pipelines from Russia to Europe and the amount of dependency on Russian gas of several European states © CNN

This can be done either by LNG imports, of which Qatar is by far the largest supplier, or by the construction of new pipelines from North Africa and especially the Middle East into Europe. Given Russia’s strategic location, however, LNG would most likely face strong competition with the existing Russian pipelines.[15] According to a 2003 joint UNDP/World Bank study, liquified gas can only compete with pipelines when they stretch over more than 4.800 kms.[16] There was only one such pipeline in existence in 2011, a pipeline running from Xinjiang to Shanghai in China, far away from Europe.[17] Furthermore, due to the nature of competition for LNG in global markets, the availability of LNG cargoes for Europe relies on the outlook of LNG demand in Asia.[18] German spokesperson for the Nord Stream 2 project Steffen Ebert recently stated that “if Europe places its stake on overseas liquefied gas and rejects the Russian pipeline gas, [...] then the volume of LNG on the world market will quickly decline which will in turn make it much more expensive. It will mean that in terms of a price tag we will have to compete with Asia, so that the LNG tankers can go to European ports, not those in Japan.”[19] Indeed, high Asian demand would mean less available or at least more expensive liquid gas for Europe. A more viable solution to lessen the dependency on Russian gas, therefore, is alternative pipelines.

Iran and pipeline geopolitics in the Middle East

Following Russia with 47,8 trillion cubic metres (tcm), the countries with the second and third largest known natural gas reserves are Iran with 34,02 tcm and Qatar with 24,53 tcm according to the CIA’s 2017 World Factbook. Still, the most long-standing EU- and US-backed pipeline project to diversify away from Russian gas, the Nabucco pipeline, was always centred around other supply countries, like Iraq, Egypt and Azerbaijan, who are ranked at the 12th, 16th and 25th place respectively.[20] The Nabucco project, however, has always been mired in disputes and difficulties, because doubts about its ability to transport the promised amount of 31 bcm of gas per year persisted throughout the negotiating years. In addition, it seems that there never was a final decision from where the gas would eventually come, although it became clear over the years that the Shah Deniz fields in Azerbaijan would in all likelihood be the main source.[21] The transit countries nevertheless signed an intergovernmental agreement in 2009 securing the legal framework to build and operate Nabucco and settled on a common tariff methodology.[22] But still, the project never came to fruition and the European leg - called Nabucco-West - was officially cancelled in 2013 after the Shah Deniz consortium chose the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) for its gas exports instead. This is a much smaller pipeline than Nabucco-West and is part of the Southern Gas Corridor, a set of ambitious infrastructure projects that plan to export Azerbaijani gas to Greece, Albania and Italy. The other two components are the South Caucasus Pipeline (SCP), which is already in use, and the Trans Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP), the construction of which, like TAP, has started in 2015 and is estimated to be completed around the turn of the decade.[23] Not only will the Southern Gas Corridor only supply 10 bcm of gas per year to Europe when finished, however, it will also not be linked to Eastern European countries, who are most dependent on Russian gas.

The cancelled Nabucco-West pipeline and the Southern Gas Corridor comprising SCP, TANAP and TAP © The Business Year

Thus, one of the main reasons Nabucco failed was uncertainty of sufficient gas supply. To solve this major issue, Brussels and Washington contemplated extending the pipeline across the Caspian Sea to Turkmenistan, the world’s sixth largest owner of natural gas, and even further all the way to Kazakhstan, ranked at the 15th place.[24] This expansion, however, would have increased the logistical costs even further at the same time that the Nabucco shareholders had already realised that their project was going to be much more expensive than they initially estimated. An easier solution, of course, would have been Iran. Indeed, Iranian officials had long argued that Nabucco could only be economically viable with its participation. In 2010, Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki even joked that “without Iran’s participation, [Nabucco] would amount to nothing but a pipeline void of gas.”[25] The sanctions against the country, however, succeeded in preventing the easy solution. Foreign expertise and investment was needed to overcome internal challenges, such as high domestic demand, inefficient production and the need to renew the existing pipeline infrastructure to Turkey, but too many international petroleum giants backed away under the pre-nuclear deal sanctions regime spearheaded by Washington and Tel Aviv.[26]

Due to the slimming chances of exporting gas through the Nabucco project, an ambitious Iran sought other options to transport natural gas to Europe, and hence the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline idea was born. Since at least 2008 but accelerating from mid-2010 onwards, the three Middle Eastern nations had been discussing building an “Islamic Pipeline” through their countries and possibly Lebanon, under the Mediterranean and most likely via Greece, into the European market. In February 2011, more than a month before the Arab Spring had reached Syria, the last rounds of preliminary negotiations were held and on 26 July that same year, four months into the Syrian crisis, the deal was officially inked as the Iranian, Iraqi and Syrian oil ministers signed a memorandum of understanding for the construction of the pipeline. Not knowing that the Syrian crisis would escalate due to the increasing support of foreign countries to the insurgents, Iranian Deputy Oil Minister Javad Owji estimated that once funding of the $10 billion project was secured, construction “should take three to five years.”[27] Less than two weeks later, seven unnamed international investors had announced their readiness to finance, design and construct the pipeline, which according to Owji would be able to transport 110 million cubic metres (mcm) gas per day - or 40 bcm per year - to Iraq, Syria and Europe when finished.[28] Despite the unrest in Syria and Iraq, Iran reportedly started building on the first phase of the project in November 2012,[29] and by January 2017, the pipeline infrastructure from Iran to Iraq was inaugurated and the construction of a second pipeline between the two countries was announced.[30]

Iranian plans to bypass Turkey and construct a pipeline through the heart of the Arab world into the European market are thus well documented. Because of the continuation of war in Syria, however, which we should keep in mind was artificial and engineered by outside powers rather than a result of a popular uprising, but also due to the rise of ISIS in both Iraq and Syria, the chances of the project actually succeeding started diminishing from 2013 onwards. And indeed, whereas news about the project is on hand until the beginning of 2013, Iranian officials discussed it far less in the ensuing years. Not giving up on its dream of becoming one of the largest natural gas exporters in the world, Iran then diversified its options of transporting its gas to Europe, including through the Black Sea or Turkey (in spite of the latter’s role in the proxy war on Syria) and even by calling for the revival of the Nabucco project but this time with Iran’s full participation.[31]

Not coincidentally, this redirection coincided with the start of formal negotiations between the P5+1 countries (i.e. the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) and Iran in 2013 and accelerated with the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015, as this increased Iranian hopes of ending its economic isolation after US, EU and UN sanctions on its petroleum sector would be lifted. Despite Washington’s continuing scaremongering, a significant amount of European countries hailed the possibility of importing Iranian gas. Switzerland, for instance, had long sought to transport Iranian gas via Turkey, Greece, Albania and Italy into Europe,[32] and a few months before the signing of JCPOA Iran held meetings with Bulgaria as well as German companies while a TAP spokeswoman proclaimed that the project was open to new shareholders, including Iran.[33] In addition, the representatives of 15 French investors and owners of major energy companies, including Total, met the head of the National Iranian Gas Company on the sidelines of the World Gas Conference in Paris in June 2015 to discuss opportunities in Iran.[34]

This resulted in the signing of Iran’s first energy deal since JCPOA’s signing on 5 July 2017, in which Total and China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) agreed to develop Phase 11 of Iran’s South Pars field, the above-mentioned largest gas repository in the world that Iran shares with Qatar.[35] Two days later, however, Iranian state-owned Press TV reported that suddenly, the country had abandoned its long-standing priority to export natural gas to Europe. Deputy Minister of Petroleum for Trade and International Affairs Amirhossein Zamaninia claimed that Europe’s gas market was already saturated with excessive supplies and had thus lost its priority in Iran’s gas export plans. Instead, gas output would from now on be focused on its neighbours as well as India as these had already provided enough opportunities since the signing of JCPOA and the subsequent removal of sanctions to expand Iranian gas export.[36] A couple of days later, Zamaninia elaborated that “gas exports [to Europe] under the current situation are not cost-effective for Iran due to the international prices of gas.”[37] Perhaps, this is an accuse to hide the fact that the country currently does not have the capabilities to export as many gas as it has claimed in the past, perhaps it was part of the deal with Total and CNPC, or maybe they have just become sick of trying. But whether this argument is genuine or not, or whether there are ulterior motives or not, it is safe to say that the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline is off the table, at least as far as the foreseeable future is concerned.

Cochrane, however, goes as far concluding that the pipeline was always a “pipe dream.” He quotes Jim Deacons, a Scottish energy consultant who worked in Syria, as stating that “the whole point is that while Syria was actively talking about gas from Iran, Tehran was importing gas from Azerbaijan during the winter months. That really blows the theory of a gas grab out of the window. That Iran would supply gas to Syria was complete nonsense, and I told the Syrian [energy] minister that [at the time].”[38] In my opinion, this statement ignores the role of the years-long sanctions on Iran’s oil and gas sector and the country’s non-access to much-needed Western technology. Besides, Azerbaijan, the main source of both the failed Nabucco project and the Southern Gas Corridor, started to import gas from Iran in 2017.[39] This did not stop the construction of the TAP, however. Rather than focusing on the short term, then, we should look at the potential and take in mind the impact of JCPOA and the first contracts with external petroleum giants after its signing. It of course takes time to develop the huge Iranian gas fields, but in the meantime, the demand for Iranian gas will grow as Iran is gradually crawling out of its isolation. Preventing that potential is the real issue here.

Qatar and pipeline geopolitics in the Middle East

As revealed in the introduction of this article, the prospects for a Qatar-Turkey pipeline are much less clear, but they are documented to a lesser extent nonetheless. That Assad apparently never got an offer regarding a gas pipeline from the Gulf through his country does not exclude the possibility that there might have been covert negotiations between the other transit countries to overthrow Assad and install a more favourable regime in order to establish the pipeline. Still, it is difficult to believe that Saudi Arabia would have agreed to a Qatar-Europe pipeline for the reasons mentioned in the introduction. But before we make conclusions, let’s first examine what we do know.

I previously noticed that Qatar holds the third largest reserves of natural gas on the planet after Russia and Iran. The same 2017 CIA World Factbook that I cited above, however, places Qatar second on the list of natural gas exporters after Russia, while Iran ranks only at the 21st place.[40] Contrary to its Persian neighbour, Qatar has thus succeeded fairly well in exporting its natural resources, partly because it is less isolated from the international community. While the country found its initial riches in the oil industry, it started exporting LNG in 1997 and relatively quickly became the biggest exporter of liquefied gas in the world.[41] In spite of a lack of pipelines to transport its gas, this has made Qatar the richest country in the world by GDP per capita.[42]

Qatar’s rapidly growing LNG exports © Persian Gulf Fund

Unlike Iran, which is more centrally located on the Eurasian land mass, Qatar has more obstacles to overcome to establish pipelines to distant markets. Nevertheless, a 2005 EU study found a gas tube from the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), of which Qatar is by far the main gas exporter, to Europe a viable option. Principal Administrator and Director-General of Energy and Transport of the European Commission Ioannis Samouilidis posited that “with natural gas consumption in the European Union expected to double by the year 2020, there are good prospects for gas transportation by pipeline from the GCC to EU,” adding that “we think pipeline has many advantages; it is cheaper, more reliable and creates stronger links between suppliers and buyers.” Therefore, he concluded, options were being discussed within the GCC-EU cooperation framework.[43]

The next thing we know is that in August 2009, around the time the Nabucco shareholders were desperately searching for supply countries with enough reserves, the Turkish and Qatari energy ministries announced that they would establish a working group to discuss a pipeline carrying natural gas from Qatar to Turkey. Contrary to AFP’s claim that Assad refused a Qatari-proposed pipeline deal, Gulf Times did accredit a source, namely Turkish ambassador to Qatar Mithat Rende, to the statement that “the natural gas pipeline between Qatar and Turkey may hook up with Nabucco after traversing Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria.”[44] Two months later, Murat Yalcintas, the chairman of the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, reiterated Turkey’s wish for Qatari participation in the Nabucco project.[45]

After the establishment of the working group, there came no more news, however. This could mean two things: either the discussions did not materialise into concrete steps, or they continued on a covert level as they began contemplating regime change in Syria. The only extra information I could find was a study by an Ankara-based think tank (with the Turkish Foreign Ministry as its main sponsor) from January 2011, two months before the first Syrian “uprising” was engineered in Daraa, a relatively small city close to the Jordanian border. The 31-page report examined the prospects for a Qatar-Turkey-EU gas pipeline but through a different route, namely through the Persian Gulf and Iraq to Turkey instead of via Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria.[46] This again could mean two things: either Qatar and Turkey had dropped the pipeline idea through Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria as they realised the many obstacles, or they were diversifying their options like Iran did from 2013 onwards. At any rate, the authors realised that the project could only come to fruition if Iraq would become more stable in the near future, which it of course did not due to the rise of ISIS.

According to Porter, the fact that the Shah Deniz consortium opted for the much shorter TAP pipeline from Turkey to Italy instead of Nabucco-West from Turkey to Eastern Europe in 2011 meant that “there was no longer any possibility of such a Qatar-to-Turkey pipeline.”[47] Cochrane made similar statements as he pointed to the failure of Nabucco but did not even mention the TAP pipeline, let alone the Southern Gas Corridor.[48] It was only in 2013 that the final decision to choose TAP over Nabucco-West was made, however, and these claims obscure the idea that, in principle, the Qatari gas - or Iranian gas for that matter - could be pumped further into Europe through the existing pipeline infrastructure in Italy and beyond. Indeed, from the summer of 2018 onwards, it will be possible to transmit gas from Italy through Switzerland to Germany, Belgium and France as the existing pipelines will by then be made bidirectional.[49]

Belgian company Fluxys plans to make TENP and Transitgas bidirectional © Interfax Global Energy

The more pressing concern is the length of the Qatari pipeline. Naser Tamimi, an independent Qatari energy expert, is quoted in Cochrane’s article as saying that “a pipeline has to be economically justifiable and secure demand from buyers in the long term to recover pipeline costs. [...] LNG is cheaper, even in the most expensive scenario.”[50] Given the fact that the toppling of Assad did not turn out to be an easy task and the regime change efforts turned into a prolonged war, in addition to the continued unrest in Iraq, I think it is safe to say that no such security of demand can be promised to buyer countries and potential shareholders. Like the Islamic Pipeline, a Qatar-Turkey-Europe pipeline is therefore unlikely to materialise in the near future. Qatar clearly always kept placing much bigger emphasis on developing its LNG plants, and indeed, in spite of the current Gulf crisis, it has recently announced a plan to raise its LNG output by 30 percent alongside the chief executives of Total, Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil.[51]

Natural gas and the Syrian war: motive for whom?

The Oxford Institute for Energy Studies published a paper in 2012 estimating that the numerous discoveries of gas fields in the Mediterranean throughout the last decade (mainly by Israel and Cyprus) were likely to become a game-changer for local energy systems. In light of these discoveries, Syria tried to attract investors for the exploration of four offshore blocks in 2007. Despite some initial investor interest, the bid ended disappointingly with no licensing awards, however.[52] Coupled with the fact that Syrian onshore gas production did not keep pace with the rapid growth in domestic energy demand, this caused Syria to scrap plans to export gas in 2008 as it turned into a net importer when it began receiving natural gas from Egypt via the Arab Gas Pipeline (AGP).[53] Instead, Assad in 2009 announced a new vision, the “Four Seas Strategy,” an ambitious plan to make Syria into the centre of an energy network that would connect the Mediterranean, the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea and the Persian Gulf. In the north, Ankara and Damascus planned to extend the AGP - a pipeline that transports gas from Egypt to Jordan, Syria and Lebanon - to Turkey, thereby linking it to the Nabucco project; and in the east, Syria negotiated with Iraq to reopen an old oil pipeline from Kirkuk to Syria’s Mediterranean port of Banias.[54]

The Arab Gas Pipeline (AGP) © Middle East Eye

The real game-changer that shattered the fragile equilibrium of the regional geopolitical chessboard and turned Turkey and Qatar - two countries that had relatively good relations with Damascus at the time - against Syria, was the Islamic Pipeline, though. Not only would the consolidation of this project diminish the chances of their rival pipeline to Europe ever succeeding, it also had the potential to directly challenge Qatar’s LNG output to Europe and would bypass Turkey as the main energy bridge between East and West. Indeed, in all other major pipeline projects transporting gas from the Middle East and Central Asia to Europe, Turkey plays a key transit role, but with this one, it would all of a sudden be circumvented. This runs completely opposite to the country’s long-time aspiration of becoming the region’s major gas trading hub.

Throughout all the bids at constructing alternative pipelines, Russia tried to maintain its gas dominance over southeastern Europe, first through the now abandoned South Stream pipeline across the Black Sea to Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia and Austria; and then following the former’s cancellation under EU pressure in December 2014,[55] through the Turkish Stream pipeline which will connect with existing pipeline infrastructure in southeastern Europe after crossing the Black Sea and Turkey. Although Russia suspended negotiations following the Turkish shootdown of a Russian jet in November 2015, the Turkish Stream project was again up and running in October 2016 when Ankara and Moscow inked an intergovernmental agreement confirming their commitment to the execution of the project.[56] Hence, on the surface Russia probably was not happy about the idea of Iranian gas to Europe either, because the Islamic Pipeline would directly rival its own dominance over gas export to the continent. Moscow cannot change the EU’s diversification policy, however. It is a given fact that Europe will try to find other sources for its natural gas, because it would never allow a country it often regards as hostile to install a quasi-monopoly on such an important industry. It is fairly logic, then, that Russia prefers competition with its Iranian ally over gas pipelines from other Central Asian states or Qatar, who are often closer to the US-NATO orbit or with whom bilateral relations are at least more fragile. If Iran and Russia were to become the primary suppliers of natural gas to Europe, on the other hand, they would together as allies have more leverage in the case of political confrontation with the West.

The abandoned South Stream project and the Turkish Stream pipeline © Interfax Global Energy

It is not hard to imagine that this would be disastrous for the globalists in Washington and Brussels, who are clearly preparing for such a confrontation. In my opinion, the Atlanticists were in this geopolitical quagmire in all probability always more concerned with the prevention of the Iranian-proposed pipeline than with the promotion of the economically most beneficial project to diversify away from Russian gas. This is because, as William Engdahl has astonishingly chronicled in his book Myths, lies and oil wars, Anglo-American resource wars throughout history were often aimed at preventing enemy control over natural resources and pipeline routes, more so than opening up oil and gas reserves to the global markets.[57] To fully understand why this is the case in the current conflict between Russia and NATO, a little historical background is needed.

In 1992, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a Pentagon document titled “Defense Planning Guidance,” drafted by then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney and his assistant Paul Wolfowitz, was leaked to the New York Times. The document, otherwise known as the Wolfowitz Doctrine, made the case for a world dominated by America as the sole superpower and argued that US foreign policy should seek to deter any nation or group of nations from challenging American primacy.[58] This policy formulation came on the backdrop of President George H.W. Bush’s 11 September 1990 speech to a joint session of congress in which he called for a “new world order.” In 1997, Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor and former executive director of David Rockefeller’s Trilateral Commission, laid out a detailed strategy for the US to defend this global hegemony by preventing, at all costs, the emergence of a Eurasian economic rival, whether in the form of one strong power or in the form of multilateral ties between several Eurasian nations.[59] According to Engdahl, the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions, as well as a myriad of other Western-backed “colour revolutions” and “humanitarian” interventions over the last two decades from Chechnya, Georgia and Ukraine to Sudan and Libya can be seen as a series of energy wars aimed at securing control over all significant global oil deposits and energy pipeline routes in order to prevent the rise of such a Eurasian economic rival.[60]

In Afghanistan, for instance, American officials and oil companies in the 1990s were weighing options to establish an alternative route for transporting the energy riches of Central Asia to the world market, one that would not have to pass through Russia or Iran. The pipeline that the US eventually wanted to establish would travel south from Turkmenistan across western Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Indian Ocean, but extensive negotiations with the Taliban ended in disarray in 1998, thus obstructing the pipeline’s construction.[61] When Bush was installed in the White House in January 2001, the US started preparing for a military intervention directed against the Taliban, and in July, as later revealed by reports that appeared on the BBC and in the Guardian, the US threatened to resort to military action “before the snows started falling in Afghanistan, by the middle of October at the latest.”[62] Then came 9/11, which conveniently served as a suitable pretext for a war that the Bush administration was already planning before the events of 11 September, 2001. Due to the enduring instability, however, the pipeline has sixteen years later still not been built.

Control over the vast Iraqi oil reserves was a long-held objective of US foreign policy as well. Most of the country’s unexploited oil had been contracted out to select foreign companies by the end of the 1990s, including to Russia’s Lukoil, France’s Total and China’s National Petroleum Company, while American and British companies were kept out.[63] Meanwhile, Washington was facing rising international pressure - not in the least from its co-permanent members of the UN Security Council Russia, France and China, but mostly due to humanitarian concerns - to relinquish the UN sanctions on Iraq, which had held Iraqi oil export in check since 1991. The lifting of the sanctions would have been a major strategic blow to the objective of asserting control over Middle Eastern oil and would have been a boon for China’s energy security,[64] and therefore, the right-wing think tank Project for the New American Century (PNAC) called for a policy of forced regime change against Saddam Hussein in an open letter to President Bill Clinton in 1998.[65] In September 2000, in the run-up to that year’s presidential elections, PNAC reiterated the need for a more permanent American role in the Gulf region in a strategic blueprint for the next president called “Rebuilding America’s defenses,” proclaiming that “while the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.”[66] When Bush entered the White House in 2001, a number of PNAC’s founding members (including Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz) became high-level officials in the new administration. Then, a year after PNAC’s assessment that transformation towards American-led hegemony “is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a new Pearl Harbor,”[67] 9/11 happened and was subsequently used to justify an Iraqi invasion after it had proven successful in legitimising the attack on Afghanistan.

Similarly, like the Afghanistan and Iraq wars were in part aimed at preventing Russian and Chinese access to energy reserves and transit routes, the war in Syria is another episode in this long-term resource warfare to prevent Eurasian rivalry to US-NATO hegemony. By killing the feasibility of the Islamic Pipeline through the creation of organised instability in Syria and Iraq, the prospects of Iranian gas exports to Europe were severely diminished. While Qatar and Turkey were brought on board into the proxy war because they had their own reasons for opposing an Iranian gas tube to Europe, Saudi Arabia and Israel were already staunch enemies of Iran and would thus do anything to prevent the emergence of the so-called Shia Land Bridge from Iran through Iraq and Syria to the Lebanese Hezbollah.

Viewed from this perspective, the proxy war on Syria is successful, because the sustainable stability which is needed in Syria and Iraq for the construction of gas pipelines is unlikely to return soon. Still, in the wake of JCPOA foreign energy companies, including European ones, are lining up to participate in the development of the Iranian natural gas industry, which will eventually turn it into an energy powerhouse. Meanwhile, with the finishing of Nord Stream, Russian gas exports to Europe are hitting all-time highs, a trend that will likely continue in the future with the Nord Stream 2 and Turkish Stream projects in the pipeline.[68] In the long term, the combined energy power of Russia and Iran will thus increase, and with it the power to persuade Turkey and several European countries to invest in Iranian gas to Europe through Turkey, or if stability returns to Syria and Iraq, through the Islamic Pipeline. This has the possibility to drive a wedge between the Atlanticist globalists on the one hand, who will always object such a direction, and countries that might perhaps be willing to increase trade with Iran and Russia, such as Germany and France for instance. If the latter option reigns supreme, this could lead to the demise of the Western-led “new world order” and the emergence of a Eurasian world order. The question, of course, is if this is necessarily a better one.

# # # #

Bas Spliet, Newsbud Contributing Analyst, is a bachelor’s student History and Arabic at the University of Ghent, Belgium. He is interested in geopolitics, focusing most of his time in getting a better understanding of wars in the Middle East. His analyses can be found atwww.scrutinisedminds.com. He can be reached at bas.spliet@gmail.com.

Notes

[1] Bas Spliet, “The proxy war on Syria - part 5: the culprit and their intentions,” Scrutinised Minds, 27.12.2016, http://scrutinisedminds.com/2016/12/27/the-proxy-war-on-syria-part-5-the-culprits-and-their-intentions/.

[2] Pepe Escobar, “Pipelineistan and the New Silk Road(s),” Asia Times, 31.05.2013, http://atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/CEN-01-310513.html.

[3] Steve Austin, “Oil prices and the Syrian civil war,” Oil Price, 14.10.2014, http://oil-price.net/en/articles/oil-prices-and-syrian-civil-war.php.

[4] Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., “Why the Arabs don’t want us in Syria,” Politico, 23.02.2016, http://politico.eu/article/why-the-arabs-dont-want-us-in-syria-mideast-conflict-oil-intervention/.

[5] Nafeez Ahmed, “Syria intervention plan fueled by oil interests, not chemical weapon concern,” Guardian, 30.08.2013, http://theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2013/aug/30/syria-chemical-attack-war-intervention-oil-gas-energy-pipelines.

[6] Mitchell A. Orenstein and George Romer, “Putin’s gas attack: is Russia just in Syria for pipelines?”, Foreign Affairs, 14.10.2015, http://foreignaffairs.com/articles/syria/2015-10-14/putins-gas-attack.

[7] Gareth Porter, “The war against the Assad regime is not a ‘pipeline war’,” Truthout, 21.09.2016, http://truth-out.org/news/item/37685-the-war-against-the-assad-regime-is-not-a-pipeline-war.

[8] Daria Aslamova, interview with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Komsomolskaya Pravda, 12.10.2016, http://kp.ru/daily/26594/3609878/.

[9] Tim Anderson, The dirty war on Syria: Washington, regime change, and resistance (Montréal: Global Research, 2016), 36.

[10] Paul Cochrane, “The ‘pipelineistan’ conspiracy: the war in Syria has never been about gas,” Middle East Eye, 10.05.2017, http://middleeasteye.net/essays/pipelineistan-conspiracy-why-war-syria-was-never-about-gas-144022537.

[11] “Moscow rejects offer to drop Assad for arms deal,” Ynetnews, 09.08.2013, http://ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4415701,00.html.

[12] Denis Bonhomme, et. al., Competition: pipeline gas and LNG in Europe (Gas Technology institute, release date unknown), http://gastechnology.org/Training/Documents/LNG17-proceedings/6-3-Denis_Bonhomme.pdf.

[13] Zuzanna Nowak, Jakub Godzimirski and Jaroslaw Cwiek-Karpowicz, “Russia’s grand gas strategy - the power to dominate Europe?,” Energy Post, 25.03.2015, http://energypost.eu/russias-grand-gas-strategy-power-dominate-europe/; Steve Austin, “Russian gas pipelines and hacking the elections,” Oil Price, 17.01.2017, http://oil-price.net/en/articles/russian-gas-pipeline-hacking-elections.php; these conflicts have also caused Europe to decrease the amount of Russian gas import through Ukraine, which has happened with the construction with new pipelines such as Nord Stream, a volumous pipeline that transports gas straight from Russia to Germany.

[14] K. Fujishima, European strategies on gas supply security (Institute of Energy Economics Japan, October 2009), http://saber.eaber.org/sites/default/files/documents/IEEJ_Fujishima_2009.pdf.

[15] Bonhomme, et. al., Competition: pipeline gas and LNG in Europe, 13-9.

[16] UNDP and World Bank Energy Sector Management Assistance Programme, Cross-border oil and gas pipelines: problems and prospects, June 2003, 3-4, http://esmap.org/sites/default/files/esmap-files/03503.Cross_Border%20Oil%20and%20Gas%20Pipelines_Problems%20and%20Prospects.pdf.

[17] William Pentland, “World’s longest natural gas pipelines,” Forbes, 17.06.2011, http://forbes.com/sites/williampentland/2011/06/17/worlds-longest-natural-gas-pipelines/#67352ab578ea.

[18] Tamer Badawi, “Exporting Iranian natural gas to Europe in the post-JCPOA era: determinants and restraints,” al-Sharq Forum, 17.05.2017, http://sharqforum.org/2017/05/17/exporting-iranian-natural-gas-to-europe-in-the-post-jcpoa-era-determinants-and-restraints/.

[19] “Gas war: Germany takes on EU, US for Nord Stream 2 pipeline project,” Sputnik International, 08.07.2017, http://sputniknews.com/world/201707081055358998-russia-nord-stream-gas-pipeline-washington/.

[20] “Proved natural gas reserves,” World by Map, 02.02.2017, http://world.bymap.org/NaturalGasReserves.html.

[21] Ian Traynor, “EU and Turkey settle Nabucco dispute,” Guardian, 12.07.2009, http://theguardian.com/business/2009/jul/12/nabucco-gas-pipeline.

[22] Jürgen Grönner, abstract of presentation on Nabucco pipeline project (5th Pipeline Technology Conference, 2010), http://pipeline-conference.com/abstracts/nabucco-pipeline-project.

[23] Austin, “Russian gas pipelines and hacking the elections.”

[24] Bahman Aghai Diba, “Iran and Nabucco,” Payvand Iran News, 23.11.2009, http://payvand.com/news/09/nov/1240.html.

[25] “Can the $11,4bn Nabucco pipeline work without Iran?”, Global Research, 12.01.2010, http://globalresearch.ca/can-the-11-4bn-nabucco-pipeline-work-without-iran/16937; Diba, “Iran and Nabucco.”

[26] Badawi, “Exporting Iranian natural gas to Europe in the post-JCPOA era: determinants and restraints.”

[27] “Iran, Iraq start new round of gas talks,” Mehr News Agency, 28.07.2010, http://en.mehrnews.com/news/41018/Iran-Iraq-start-new-round-of-gas-talks; “Iran to export gas to Iraq,” Mehr News Agency, 30.07.2010, http://en.mehrnews.com/news/41036/Iran-to-export-gas-to-Iraq; “Iran, Syria discuss energy ties,” Mehr News Agency, 21.09.2010, http://en.mehrnews.com/news/41458/Iran-Syria-discuss-energy-ties; “Islamic Pipeline states to meet in Tehran,” Mehr News Agency, 08.02.2011, http://en.mehrnews.com/news/44529/Islamic-Pipeline-states-to-meet-in-Tehran; “‘Islamic pipeline’ seeks Euro gas markets,” United Press International, 25.07.2011, http://upi.com/Business_News/Energy-Industry/2011/07/25/Islamic-pipeline-seeks-Euro-gas-markets/UPI-13971311588240/; “Iran, Iraq, Syria sign major gas pipeline deal,” Mehr News Agency, 26.07.2011, http://en.mehrnews.com/news/47151/Iran-Iraq-Syria-sign-major-gas-pipeline-deal.

[28] “Tahran: about 7 intl. Investors eyeing Iran-Iraq-Syria-Europe pipeline,” Syria Oil, 07.08.2011, http://syria-oil.com/english/?p=1513.

[29] “Iran starts building gas pipeline to Syria,” Mehr News Agency, 20.11.2012, http://en.mehrnews.com/news/52881/Iran-starts-building-gas-pipeline-to-Syria.

[30] “Tehran, Baghdad to inaugurate joint gas pipeline,” Mehr News Agency, 22.01.2017, http://en.mehrnews.com/news/122911/Tehran-Baghdad-to-inaugurate-joint-gas-pipeline; “Iran to construct new gas export pipeline to Iraq,” Mehr News Agency, 25.01.2017, http://en.mehrnews.com/news/123008/Iran-to-construct-new-gas-export-pipeline-to-Iraq.

[31] “EU willing to import Iran gas,” Mehr News Agency, 09.08.2014, http://en.mehrnews.com/news/103570/EU-willing-to-import-Iran-gas; “Iran gas has EU giants agog,” Mehr News Agency, 06.06.2015, http://en.mehrnews.com/news/107717/Iran-s-gas-has-EU-giants-agog; “Turkey ready to transfer Iran’s gas to Europe,” Mehr News Agency, 05.11.2015, http://en.mehrnews.com/news/111683/Turkey-ready-to-transfer-Iran-s-gas-to-Europe; “Iran ready to meet Europe’s gas need,” Mehr News Agency, 19.01.2016, http://en.mehrnews.com/news/113708/Iran-ready-to-meet-Europe-s-gas-need; Post-sanction Iran calls for reconsidering Nabucco pipeline,” Mehr News Agency, 02.03.2016, http://en.mehrnews.com/news/114928/Post-sanction-Iran-calls-for-reconsidering-Nabucco-pipeline; “Tehran revisits plans for 3,300km Persian pipeline from Gulf to Europe,” Eurasian Business Briefing, 09.07.2016, http://www.eurasianbusinessbriefing.com/tehran-revisits-plans-persian-pipeline/; “Iran likely to join Nabucco pipeline,” Mehr News Agency, 11.07.2016, http://en.mehrnews.com/news/118003/Iran-likely-to-join-Nabucco-pipeline; “Iran studying Europe gas export plans,” Press TV, 11.09.2016, http://presstv.ir/Detail/2016/09/11/484240/Iran-studying-options-to-export-gas-to-Europe.

[32] “Swiss-Iranian pipeline deal buried,” Swiss Info, 22.02.2016, http://swissinfo.ch/eng/foreign-trade_swiss-iranian-pipeline-deal-buried/41976742.

[33] “Iran invites German companies to South Pars,” Mehr News Agency, 27.04.2015, http://en.mehrnews.com/news/106872/Iran-invites-German-companies-to-South-Pars; “TAP pipeline open to other shareholders, including Iran,” Euractiv, 09.04.2015, http://euractiv.com/section/energy/news/tap-pipeline-open-to-other-shareholders-including-iran/.

[34] “Iran’s gas has EU giants agog,” Mehr News Agency, 06.06.2015, http://en.mehrnews.com/news/107717/Iran-s-gas-has-EU-giants-agog.

[35] Arash Karami, “Iran signs first energy contract since nuclear deal,” al-Monitor, 05.07.2017, http://al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/07/iran-total-france-south-pars-gas-deal-criticism.html.

[36] “Iran says Europe not on agenda of gas exports,” Press TV, 07.07.2017, http://presstv.ir/Detail/2017/07/07/527692/Iran-says-Europe-not-on-agenda-of-gas-exports.

[37] “Intl. firms negotiate $200 billion of oil deals in Iran,” Press TV, 12.07.2017, http://presstv.ir/Detail/2017/07/12/528225/Iran-oil-gas-foreign-investment-South-Pars.

[38] Cochrane, “The ‘pipelineistan’ conspiracy.”

[39] Nailia Bagirova and Margarita Antidze, “Azerbaijan, future gas supplier to Europe, faces shortfall at home,” Reuters, 24.02.2017, http://reuters.com/article/us-azerbaijan-gas-shortage-idUSKBN1630SE.

[40] “Natural gas exports,” World by Map, 17.01.2017, http://world.bymap.org/NaturalGasExports.html.

[41] “Qatar - the biggest exporter of liquid gas in the world,” Persian Gulf Fund, http://persiangulffund.com/qatar-the-biggest-exporter-of-liquid-gas-in-the-world/.

[42] “The richest countries in the world,” World Atlas, 18.05.2017, http://worldatlas.com/articles/the-richest-countries-in-the-world.html.

[43] “Study finds GCC-EU gas pipeline a viable option,” Alexander’s Gas & Oil Connections, 08.02.2005, http://gasandoil.com/news/middle_east/edd023536d477f9c108b3a30161e9580.

[44] Andy Sambridge, “Qatar discusses LNG pipeline project with Turkey,” Arabian Oil and Gas, 18.08.2009, http://arabianoilandgas.com/article-6031-qatar-discusses-lng-pipeline-project-with-turkey/.

[45] “Turkey supports Qatar’s participation in Nabucco,” Trend News Agency, 05.10.2009, http://en.trend.az/business/energy/1552936.html.

[46] Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies, report no. 23: Is the Qatar-Iraq-Turkey-Europe natural gas pipeline project feasible? (Ankara, January 2011), http://web.archive.org/web/20160113084906/http://www.orsam.org.tr/en/enUploads/Article/Files/2011110_orsam.katar.eng.pdf.

[47] Porter, “The war against the Assad regime is not a ‘pipeline war’.”

[48] Cochrane, “The ‘Pipelineistan’ conspiracy.”

[49] Annemarie Botzki, “Oil price drop could spur Italian reverse flows,” Interfax Global Energy, 24.02.2015, http://interfaxenergy.com/gasdaily/article/15351/oil-price-drop-could-spur-italian-reverse-flows.

[50] Cochrane, “The ‘Pipelineistan’ conspiracy.”

[51] Ron Bousso and Dmitry Zhdannikov, “Exclusive: energy giants court Qatar for gas expansion role despite crisis,” Reuters, 06.07.2017, http://reuters.com/article/us-gulf-qatar-lng-exclusive-idUSKBN19Q2HA.

[52] Hakim Darbouche, Laura el-Katiri and Bassam Fattouh, East Mediterranean gas: what kind of game changer? (Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, December 2012), 3.

[53] Darbouche, el-Katiri and Fattouh, East Mediterranean gas, 10.

[54] Darya Korsunskaya, “Putin drops South Stream gas pipeline to EU, courts Turkey,” Reuters, 01.12.2014, http://reuters.com/article/us-russia-gas-gazprom-pipeline-idUSKCN0JF30A20141201.

[55] “Turkey, Russia strike strategic Turkish Stream gas pipeline deal,” Hurriyet Daily News, 10.10.2016, http://hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-russia-strike-strategic-turkish-stream-gas-pipeline-deal.aspx?pageID=238&nID=104822&NewsCatID=348.

[56] “Turkey, Russia strike strategic Turkish Stream gas pipeline deal,” Hurriyet Daily News, 10.10.2016, http://hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-russia-strike-strategic-turkish-stream-gas-pipeline-deal.aspx?pageID=238&nID=104822&NewsCatID=348.

[57] William Engdahl, Myths, lies and oil wars (Wiesbaden: edition.engdahl, 2012).

[58] Patrick E. Tyler, “U.S. strategy plan calls for insuring no rivals develop,” New York Times, 08.03.1992, http://nytimes.com/1992/03/08/world/us-strategy-plan-calls-for-insuring-no-rivals-develop.html?pagewanted=all.

[59] Zbigniew Brzezinski, The grand chessboard: American primacy and its geostrategic imperatives (New York: Basic Books, 1997).

[60] Engdahl, Myths, lies and oil wars, 135-223.

[61] Patrick Martin, “US planned war in Afghanistan long before September 11,” World Socialist Web Site, 20.11.2001, http://wsws.org/en/articles/2001/11/afgh-n20.html.

[62] George Arney, “US ‘planned attack on Taleban’,” BBC, 18.09.2001, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/1550366.stm; Jonathan Steele, Ewen MacAskill, Richard Norton-Taylor and Ed Harriman, “Threat of US strikes passed to Taliban weeks before NY attack,” Guardian, 22.09.2001, http://theguardian.com/world/2001/sep/22/afghanistan.september113.

[63] Carrie Satterlee, “Facts on who benefits from keeping Saddam Hussein in power,” Heritage Foundation, 28.02.2003, http://heritage.org/middle-east/report/facts-who-benefits-keeping-saddam-hussein-power.

[64] Engdahl, Myths, lies and oil wars, 183-5.

[65]PNAC, “Open letter to President Bill Clinton,” 19.02.1998, reprinted on Z Facts, http://zfacts.com/metaPage/lib/98-Rumsfeld-Iraq.pdf; George Packer, “PNAC and Iraq,” New Yorker, 29.03.2009, http://newyorker.com/news/george-packer/pnac-and-iraq.

[66] PNAC, Rebuilding America’s defenses: strategy, forces and resources for a new century (Washington, DC, September 2000), 14.

[67] PNAC, Rebuilding America’s defenses, 51.

[68] Priyanka Shrestha, “Gazprom’s gas exports to Europe hit record high in 2016,” Energy Live News, 26.01.2017, http://energylivenews.com/2017/01/26/gazproms-gas-exports-to-europe-hit-record-high-in-2016/; “Russian gas exports to Europe & Turkey surge 12% year-on-year,” Russia Today, 17.07.2017, http://rt.com/business/396530-gazprom-output-export-growth/.

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Comments

  1. A very detailed history and analysis. Great work!

  2. spiro skouras says:

    Bravo Bas,

    This is a great article, very interesting I learned a lot thank you!

    Spiro

  3. Luutzen Nijdam says:

    Great article by Bas, very detailed, sources easily verifiable and nice graphs. I am waiting for the VIDZ. 😀
    A clear overview of the oil/gaz pipeline wars by Wallstreet and the interest of all parties.

    Since US congress almost unanimously voted anti-Russia, -Iran and -North-Korea sanctions into Law, with many pertaining to the energy market,the economic rift will be between EU and the US!
    Will Merkel defend German corporate interests! The German civilian interest for sure NOT! She loves immigrants and sending Dolphin class subs to Israël for more nukes.

    • Bas Spliet says:

      Hi Luutzen, thanks. Judging from your last name, you are likely a EU citizen yourself, just like me? Interesting time ahead of us. Indeed, with the renewed sanctions, especially the punishment of European companies for Nordstream II, it is all but sure that Europe is gonna keep the Atlanticist side.

      • Luutzen Nijdam says:

        De naam is uit Friesland en Luutzen komt waarschijnlijk van La lutte of luchar of Luchino. Vandaar mijn “conspiracy” neigingen. 😀
        Ik zag in je intro dat je ook Arabisch kent. En dat voor een Belg! Vanwaar deze interesse?

        • Bas Spliet says:

          Aha, mijn oma was van Sneek! Heel mijn familie langs vaderszijde is Nederlands. Haha, dat verklaart het. Nenee, om één of andere reden kom ik op het net veel meer “wakkere” Nederlanders dan Belgen tegen…

          Mijn Arabisch is nog maar in de opstartende fase. Goh, het inrollen in de “conspiracy”-wereld ging bij mij gestaag gepaard in een geleidelijk groeiende interesse in de Arabische wereld. Voor mij is het dan ook echt begonnen bij Syrië. Sinds dit jaar ben ik naast mijn opleiding geschiedenis dan ook Arabisch beginnen leren, maar zoals ik al eerder zij, zit ik nog maar in de startblokken.

          • MaxHavelaar says:

            Nu een mooiere naam Max Havelaar! (change display name)

            In mijn ogen NL’s eerste conspiracy theorist avant-la-lettre, van kolonialisme en de koningstaat: “Er ligt roofstaat aan de zee, tussen West-Friesland en de Schelde”! in de Max Havelaar.

          • Bas Spliet says:

            Mooi zo! Ik weet jammer genoeg enkel van zijn bestaan, maar daar stopt mijn kennis 🙂

          • MaxHavelaar says:

            Watch Max Havelaar (2:45 h):

  4. victor friese says:
  5. Andreas Hedqvist says:

    The pipeline drama is certainly one reason for interest in Syria but it is not ‘the’ explanation for the war. This is much bigger as was the Iraq and Libya Invasions and ruining. Behind the energy facade is the true reason why the United States needs world dominance – it’s currency. Today we all understand what a monumental shift Nixon and Kissinger made by ‘temporarily halting the convertibility’ of the Dollar while signing up the Gulf states to lock their business with oil to the dollar – what has become known as the PetroDollar recycling system. The US was teetering on default back in the early 70’s but found a new way of continuing living off the rest of the world without anyone (aside from some European countries) giving it much thought. Today we are in a similar situation but this time those countries who do not want to fall in line behind the US Dollar system are targeted for ‘democratization’ using depleted uranium and phosphorous ordnance. The sad part of this story is that there was another way which was abandoned a long time ago – that of providing a win-win deal for everyone where true intentions of prosperity, fair play and constructive deal making. In retrospect it looks incredibly foolish why this road was not taken but the answer to that probably lies in the greed and corruption of leaders in D.C. When criminality pays off it will continue and escalate to where we are today. Trump’s plan to drain the swamp is admirable but I seriously doubt he is able to pull it off, I get the feeling he is now drowning in it instead. The solution to this current mess is perhaps to let the US economy simply implode and be rebuilt from scratch. The question is where all the cockroaches will scurry to when that happens.

    • Bas Spliet says:

      Hi Andreas, true. The point of the article is that it is certainly not the only, and likely not the primary reason. I think it is a blend of that larger picture that you’re talking about, energy and, perhaps above all, balkanisation of the Middle East: https://www.newsbud.com/2017/04/23/newsbud-exclusive-the-balkanization-of-syria-iraq-the-roadmap-to-us-israeli-hegemony-in-the-middle-east/.

      • Andreas Hedqvist says:

        Hi Bas, first of all thanks for a very good article. Yes I agree, the balkanization of the Middle East is clearly a strategy that is in play as is the large influx of migrants into Europe. Looking back to when UN representatives came to visit the government in my home country Sweden I didn’t suspect nor question their motives, remember that this was a or a few years prior to the large number of people arriving. Now in retrospect I think it is quite obvious that this was coordinated and to some extent even instigated by organizations controlled by people like George Soros. This is what upsets me the most – the deception and hidden motives by these people, even using the good will of countries to undermine them in order to serve their own covert agenda of forging more international (UN/EU/NATO) control. Knowledge and insight is finally spreading through media outlets like Newsbud and well informed writers like yourself and I’m more hopeful now than before that people will start to see the big picture and ask the important questions. I think the entire world could do with a leadership replacement and to something that at least tries to resemble transparent democracies. What worries me the most right now is the attack on free speech and altering views. If we don’t fight against this internet censorship that is taking place there will soon be generations that don’t even remember what true freedom is really all about.

      • Bas Spliet says:

        I remember Geroid ó Colmain doing an eleven-part series about the planned refugee crisis two years back, but I don’t recall what it was called. You might find it on his website.

        Agreed, it’s the internet censorship, though cloaked under security reasons, that scares me the most for now…

    • MaxHavelaar says:

      William Engdahl in his book: God’s of money calls it resource war’s. Ultimately, cheap planetary resources for extra Wallstreet profits is the goal of US foreign policy.

      The US Billionaire class (oligarchs, patriarchs, plutocrats, whatever) use “Full spectrum dominance” to achieve this. Or, to put it simply: use all means availalble to the US state:

      -700- 900 foreign US military bases for direct invasions and threats. Also, still, in Germany!
      -IMF/Worldbank projects – debt enslavement, high interest and opening up internal markets to Wallstreet megacorps for cheap access to resources
      -CIA/DEA covert regime destabilization actions and International cocaïne/heroïne worldwide trade and illegal arms trade.
      -NSA – worldwide cyberattacks on hostile nations (Stuxnet attack Iran nucleair facilities)
      -economic warfare: keep goldprices down to protect the dollar from collapse; the illegal Syrian oil trading routes thru Turkey, Israël – Texas, to bring the oil price down. This to attack oil/gas-based economies: Russia, Venezueala and Iran.
      -the megacorporate controlled Western media always portray Wallstreet/EU megacorps as the shining example in the West, and never the fascism of their supergrand shareholders (the Billionsir class).

      – megacorporate

      • Andreas Hedqvist says:

        Absolutely. Engdahl’s writings are also well sourced and researched. Another book that touches on this subject is John Perkin’s ‘Confessions of an economic hitman’ which spills the bean on the whole diabolical plan. I wonder why it is so hard for those in positions of power to understand that mutual beneficial agreements create longer lasting, better and more positive leveraged outcomes for everyone. It is almost as if they go out of their way to destroy and skew business, policies and agreements. I find it puzzling how clearly incompetent they are as leaders.

        • MaxHavelaar says:

          I cannot see it otherwise then: the Billionaires GREED. Very well filmed by Oliver Stone in his Wallstreet movies: Gordon Gekko’s.

          Marx: power is corrupting. From the Bible: a Jesus Christ may turn into a Satan when accepting wordly pleasures only (historic materialism).
          Capitalist greed leads to a Satanic world of unnecessary Wars for Wallstreet market expansions and monopoly price fixing.

        • Bas Spliet says:

          I both add them to my reading list 😉 I’m now in the course of reading his ‘Seeds of destruction’ on GMOs and the corrupted science and Rockefeller agenda behind them. Also a recommendation!

  6. Great article, Bas. A very comprehensive analysis which definitely expanded my knowledge on the complexities of the pipeline politics far beyond what I’d already understood about the interests driving the tragic wholesale destruction of Syria, Iraq, and the region at large. Although challenging to absorb, I appreciated the technical background on the specifics of the different types of energy (LNG etc), reserves, infrastructure, and competing as well as common interests between players, routes, and markets. The use of infographics/charts is very helpful too, making the article one I’ll probably return to periodically as a reference.

    I also appreciate your extensive utilization and listing of the citations used to support your analysis. Although I didn’t actually examine any of the links, the fact that they appear so abundantly throughout the article inspires a sense of confidence for me as a reader that the logic behind some of your overall assessments of the three dimensional aspects of what’s driving some of the moves on the two dimensional geopolitical chessboard are sound.

    It’s not hard to imagine how the hubris, particularly on the part of the United States, in pursuing a Wolfowitz Doctrine style implementation of absolute hegemonic supremacy through war, proxy war, and sanctions will ultimately weaken the hand of the US, straining alliances between other NATO members such as Germany and France, who’ve been adversely affected economically by the aggressive and hypocritical sanctions regime targeting Russia. The isolationist policy is already strengthening ties between Russia and China.

    I can’t help wondering whether, or in which fashion, this shift is a strategy that’s playing out by design on the 3D chessboard. I’m not holding out hope on the benevolence of the rise of and realignment of a “new world order” but I am holding out some hope in the capacity of the common good of humanity to utilize information and technology as some sort of means to resist the expansion of any sort of full scale conventional war. I know that’s setting the bar kind of low, but the underlying idea is definitely worth holding onto.

    • Bas Spliet says:

      Thanks, the compliments are much appreciated! The abundant citations are kind of a result of my growing frustration that some authors sometimes just put some information out there, without any kind of reference. While their point may be correct, there is nothing to cross-reference for the skeptic. I especially realised its importance when I was facing scrutiny by friends or acquaintances who are not common to the alt-media about straightforward issues. As the main task consists of drawing those kind of people in the movement as far as I’m concerned, I decided to reference as much as possible and only make statements of my own in the concluding remarks.

      Yes, that’s exactly what I’m thinking. I myself cannot stop wondering that some of the NATO-led “new world order”‘s actions are just becoming so blatant that they have become very effective in strengthening alt-globalists into a new kind of supercentralisation, one that in some aspects might even be worse. Perhaps the American empire, the very first one not to have its heart in Eurasia, is the antithesis of the ultimate trauma.

      I sure hope so too. It’s the only was in my opinion.

  7. victor friese says:

    I finally read this.

    Thoughts:

    1) Russia wins just as much as or more than the U.S. does by the destruction of the mid east and is only using this cluster fuck as an opertunity to consolidate its own control over the region while benefitting from the monopolization effects while playing hero. Makes so much sense.

    2) Turkey benefits by being a stable regime in the region meaning others have to deal with it while its enemies are weakened. It will always be on the table as a hub.

    3) It looks like they are all likely interested in their own particular form of “Broke up Syria”. Russia may not want it stable, but it does want its presence there and can keep it by playing hero. Turkey is the same even if people view it as the evil one.

    4) Please do not use terms like latter and former in articles this complex. I have a hard enough time keeping this mess upright in my mind. Right at the end you said the latter option would begin the decline of American power. Which one were you referring to? Because to me it seems that American power will decline no matter what and that Russia wins no matter what. America is doing Russia’s work for it while America takes the flak and Russia plays the hero and continues to monopolize power over Europe.

    5) Russia is now expanding its influence in the region to consolidate its power. It is spending money there playing the role of the preferable option to U.S. influence at the butt of a DU shooting gun. If it can get away with this it will own the whole damned oil chess board.

    …So, is the North Korea mess the last big American lunge for power? America’s final attempt to draw the power lines in its favor? It looks utterly futile and desperate after reading this article. The U.S. never should have attacked the middle east. It should have installed nice people instead of dictators and should have increased its business influence, not its blowing up and murdering influence. It really does almost look like internal sabotage of U.S. power… I mean… blowing up the middle east to control it and keep it out of the hands of others… it looks so disgustingly stupid and desperate. I think at least some withing U.S. intelligence and military got played hard. Real hard.

    Oh, and on that note, I wonder if Russia ever really collapsed. I recall looking at the video of the Duma being shot by tanks and not seeing big holes, but instead seeing little streams of smoke from windows. Could the U.S. intelligence apparatus have played right into Russian long term strategic plans while Russia played possum? I need to watch that vid again.

    This is amazing. Please keep this up!

    I think Eurasia formation is inevitable. America is dead. And this next global war will be its death nell. Can you cover the real reasoning behind wanting war with North Korea and whether or not it will happen.

    You always handle the big pictures so well… I vastly prefer that to all the little weekly bits and pieces. Keep writing the big articles and don’t do a weekly type thing. This sort of work you are doing is much more important.

  8. victor friese says:

    1993coup: Russian White House burns after being bombarded by tanks youtube.com 1:12
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=y5GVL3xN4KI

    Black October ’93: Tanks in Moscow, Blood on Streets (RT Documentary)
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=CnkCu7N-J0M

    On the second one watch around the 2:35 mark. In both these vids all that is seen is smoke and smashed windows. No way tank shells would have only done that. There would be large chunks missing from the building with tank shells doing it. You see explosions in some vids, but never big chunks missing from the building.

    • Bas Spliet says:

      Wow Victor, intersting comments, but much to absorb 😉 Gonna have to give the latter part (sorry ;)) about the Russia collapse some time to look into. Your input is always appreciated. It is largely thanks to you that I realised the importance of trying to understand the motives not just of the American empire, but also of Russia, Iran, Turkey, the Gulf States, and most importantly, the differences between the latter ones (sorry again ;)). Indeed, I intend to keep my focus on big projects; I not only think it is just as important, I kind of like doing it more as well. For now, my thoughts on this:

      1, 2 and 3) Yes, fully agreed on Russia. While it is obvious it would rather see an Iranian pipeline than one originating from the Gulf or Central Asia, none at all is of course preferable. In that aspect, it might also be interesting to think of Zionist influence (especially Israel’s plan at balkanising the Middle East into infighting microstatelets) converging with this in Russia. Keep in mind that Russia is not opposed to federalisation in Syria, while Iran of course is. I think one can compare this merging with the neocon war on Iraq, in which oil and Zionist interest converged together into one agenda as well. For that, read Jonathan Cook’s ‘Israel and the clash of civilisations: Iran, Iraq and the plan to remake the Middle East.’

      Indeed, I think Iran is the only player that really wants Syria strong again, and now we know why.

      4) The latter = if France and Germany and other European countries turn against their American buddies. You have a point, but if Europe clings on to their Atlanticist Bidlerbergism, it will at least postpone it, or more worrisome, make the clash between East and West a bigger fight, with more trauma, and thus with more problem-reaction-solution mechanisations possible for the elite to divide and conquer world citizenry with.

      5) Intersting take on Korea. I’m contemplating it surely. But contrary to the Arab world, I’m still not knowledgeable enough. But I am gradually assembling the info I need.

  9. victor friese says:

    Hey, when are you going to post a new article?

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