Politics, religion, and culture where East meets West

Posts Tagged ‘EU

Iranian oil empire?

leave a comment »

Is Iran, despite economic sanctions, still fashioning itself into the up-and-coming Middle Eastern oil empire? With a chokehold on the strategic Strait of Hormuz; oil smuggling avenues in Iraq worth $20 million a day; Russian, Chinese, and Indian support; and the upcoming cold shoulder to the petrodollar scheduled for March 20th, it certainly seems a possibility.

Now, with that in mind, take into account this carefully orchestrated duo of recent news events:

3/2/12: “Iranian Saudi pipeline explosion claim boosts price of crude”

Brent crude jumped $5.74 to $128.40 per barrel in New York on March 1 after a report on an Iranian state-run news channel that a pipeline had exploded in Saudi Arabia. This was the highest price since July 2008, but prices fell back slightly after Saudi officials denied the reports.

3/3/12: “Iran discovers giant oil field in south”

Iran has discovered one of its biggest oil fields with high quality crude in a southern province, the semi-official Mehr news agency quoted an official as saying on Saturday.

The first event demonstrates Iran’s acknowledgement of—and apparent disregard for—the fragility of the global oil market. While they are most certainly only “keeping up appearances” by haphazardly spreading such rumors, Iran wants everyone to know that, with EU default looming, it holds the cards to Mutually Assured (Economic) Destruction—no nukes needed.

The second event fills in the gap, as if to say: “Sanctions? What sanctions? For anyone who agrees not to trade in dollars (BRICS nations especially welcome), there’s a secure future in Iranian oil.”

Written by M. James

March 5, 2012 at 1:52 am

The solution to Greek debt

leave a comment »

This one’s been going around for at least two years now, but it still makes me chuckle:

Austrian head of Chamber of Commerce suggests selling Greek islands to Turks
Hürriyet; Feb. 22, 2012

Negative European attitude toward the Greek administration could be eased if Athens made the symbolic gesture of selling one of their islands to Turkey, according to the head of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, daily Milliyet reported on its website. 
“Greece will then show that they can give up some of their sovereignty, symbolically,” Christoph Leitl said in a recent interview with Profil magazine. “It would be significant in [expressing gratitude] for all the help they’ve received.”
When asked if he was serious, Leitl repeated his idea and added that it would help toward a solution in the Cyprus conflict as well. 
Leitl said that though the idea may seem insulting to Greece, it would have a positive impact on extremely right-wing people elsewhere in Europe. 
Greek Ambassador to Austria Themistoklis Dimidis, however, expressed “deep sadness” over the idea. “The statement sounds like a bad joke. Greece will never give up its borders.”

Written by M. James

February 22, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Turkey approves South Stream

leave a comment »

According to RT, “There’s no stopping South Stream.” As of yesterday, Turkey has approved the $20 billion natural gas pipeline’s progress through its territorial waters in the Black Sea. Meanwhile, Nabucco, the proposed alternative pipeline (supported by the US and EU, concerned about Russian energy dependency), hovers around $33.7 billion—with considerable complications.

Turkey, of course, “said the two pipelines should complement each other.”

After receiving permission to build South Stream on Wednesday, Gazprom said two long-term gas supply contracts with Turkey would be extended to 2021 and 2025 and pledged to increase deliveries to Turkey in 2012. Turkey told Gazprom in October it would halt imports of Russian gas through a pipeline across Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria after failing to agree a discount on supplies.

In return Gazprom has granted Turkey’s state gas importer Botas a discount on the gas it buys through contracts for 8 bcm a year and 16bcm/yr, and has agreed to an easing of take-or-pay commitments on the contracts, he said confirming that the level of discount is not being made public.

Lest we forget Turkey’s own dependence on Russian energy.

Written by M. James

December 29, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Turkey sells al-Assad short

leave a comment »

With the recent uprisings in the cities of Deraa, Homs, and Banias, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad apparently feels he has everything to lose. Despite Syria’s best efforts to keep journalists out of the country, reports of the ongoing military violence against protestors—as well as imprisonment and torture of civilians—have made their way into mainstream news. Unsurprisingly, the US and the EU have invoked sanctions, and anyone with an interest in political self-presevation has been condemning al-Assad’s “regime.”

This includes Turkey, for which al-Assad can no longer be a legitimate diplomatic partner. No doubt, this ends an era of diplomatic relations between Turkey and Syria, for better or worse.

Turkey’s relationship with Syria has been cold and confrontational for the vast majority of the history of the Turkish republic, marked by continual territorial disputes over southern Turkey’s Hatay province and differing opinions on Israel, among other things. For example, Turkey, projecting power over its downstream neighbor, constructed dams on the Tigris and Euphrates, threatening Syria’s water supply. In turn, Syria harbored and aided Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and bitter enemy of the Turkish republic. During the course of these events Turkey threatened to invade Syria on numerous occasions. It would be understatement to call their status-quo relationship “on the rocks.”

But these difficulties have recently been put on the back burner in favor of more amicable diplomacy. Recent relations have been relatively warm, beginning–perhaps–with the Iraq War in 2003, to which both countries were vehemently opposed.  Since then, Turkey’s relationship with Israel declined (Syria approved), free-trade agreements were signed between Turkey and Syria, and Syria withdrew troops from Lebanon, making Syria a more eligible parter for diplomacy in the eyes of the international community. Things were looking up.

But in its current state, Syria is more frowned-upon by the international community than ever. Ever since his reaction to the uprisings as they became more prominent, President al-Assad has flushed his legitimacy down the drain. In the wake of the fall of Egypt’s Mubarak, and with the eyes of the world on Middle Eastern “autocracies,” al-Assad’s hardline approach will reflect even more poorly on his government than it usually would. And with Turkey publicly—and powerfully—declaring its support for what some have coined the “Arab Awakening” or the “Arab Spring,” supporting Syria and its government is no longer appropriate.

Will al-Assad leave his post in the near future? It’s anyone’s guess, but it has no bearing on Turkey’s policy toward Syria. If Turkey is to “trust the masses” and maintain its role as a supporter of the Arab Awakening, it cannot support a Syrian regime that appears to oppress its citizens, and it must sell al-Assad’s government short—in spite of recent amicability—to retain its legitimacy.

Written by M. James

May 17, 2011 at 9:21 am