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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"Assad Pulls a Keystone" (Updated and Bumped)

Many people look askance at articles at InfoWars. However, InfoWars recently published an article attempting to explain why Qatar and Saudi Arabia were willing to spend so much money to overthrow Assad, and Russia's adamant opposition to intervention. Its conclusion was that it had to do with Assad blocking construction of a pipeline through Syria that would have allowed Qatar to pump natural gas to Europe, thus undermining Russia's sales of natural gas. It would also reduce Europe's dependence on Russia, and perhaps even result in lower natural gas prices, thus explaining everyone's actions (except the United States'). David Henderson, writing at the Economics & Freedom blog, finds this explanation to be reasonable, writing:
Normally, I'm not a fan of that site but this article is pretty factual. Moreover, an economist friend who regularly deals with military people in the Middle East told me months ago, after returning from a trip to Jordan, that a huge part of the support of various outsiders in the conflict is over the protagonists' position on the pipeline. 
I don't vouch for the last line in the quote above [that chemical weapons are irrelevant to the players' actions], and nothing in what leads up to the last line suggests that chemical weapons are irrelevant. But it is pretty clear that Putin does not want the new competition in Europe that a pipeline across Syria would create. It seems, therefore, that preventing the pipeline is one of Putin's main motives in supporting Syria's Assad.
Update: Abraham Miller joins in the discussion at PJ Media:

The first thing that is vital to understanding the Middle East under Obama is that Obama has bet on Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan as our man in the region. The second thing to note is that Turkey is Russian Gazprom’s second biggest customer, right after the European Union. 
Gazprom owns the world’s largest network of pipelines and, in Eastern Europe, is often the sole distributor of gas and oil.  As Belarus learned, Russia has no problem using Gazprom to apply political pressure. Fail to do what Russia wants and your energy supplies will be cut off or your prices will be raised. 
For the EU, Gazprom is a potential nightmare, even though the EU gets energy elsewhere.  For Turkey, Gazprom is both an asset and a liability.  Turkey dreams of becoming the China of the Middle East and a terminus for Gazprom transmission to Europe. But Turkey is also aware that to run afoul of Russia is to run afoul of Gazprom. 
Enter Bashar Assad and his Four Seas policy of using oil-poor but geographically rich Syria as a conduit for two pipelines — the planned pipeline from the Gulf states to Europe and an existing one from the Caspian Sea to Europe.  Syria might not have oil, but it has geography. 
Turkey and Syria integrated their pipelines, giving Turkey another play, besides Gazprom,in the pipeline game. But this is the Middle East and a deal is just never quite a deal.  Syria then cut a separate deal with Iran and Iraq for a pipeline (the Islamic gas pipeline, IGP) terminating in Syria that went nowhere near Turkey. 
Asad, in a stroke of the pen, foiled Turkey’s economic dreams and potentially brought Iranian oil and gas into the European market by an estimated increase of thirty percent. From a policy perspective, Bashar Assad upset American policy to both isolate Iran and to create a NATO ally, Turkey, as the major crossroads for oil and gas pipelines feeding Europe. 
With Syria in turmoil, Turkey becomes a more likely terminus for oil and gas from Iraq,  Iran, and the southern tier of the former Soviet Union. Moreover, Turkey becomes an equal to Iran in the race for political and economic hegemony in the region. Turkey needs to undo Assad and his IGP deal. Russia needs to resuscitate Assad. For Russia, it is better to have a new Iran/Iraq terminus at the leased Syrian port of Tartus than anywhere in NATO-aligned Turkey. 
Nothing of strategic interest takes place in the Middle East without a concern for energy. 
What is happening in Syria may have nothing to do with poison gas, overlooked in other conflicts, but a lot to do with where “pipelinestan” ends up before feeding Europe.
 Read the whole thing.

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