28east

Politics, religion, and culture where East meets West

Posts Tagged ‘oil

Bhadrakumar on Syria

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In the following article, M. K. Bhadrakumar posits that Syria is moving toward the decisive phase, and that Israel—rather than Turkey—will be entrusted with the lion’s share of post-Assad security. Furthermore, many actors in the region are being brought together by an energy opportunity involving the U.S., Iraqi Kurdistan, Syria, and Turkey.

Is this the solution to Turkey’s “Kurdish problem” in Syria?

The rise and fall of Turkey’s Erdogan
M. K. Bhadrakumar; Asia Times Online; Jul. 24, 2012

In the ultimate analysis, the US holds many trump cards, finessed through the Cold war era, to manipulate Turkish policies. This is quite evident from the centrality attached by Washington to the Iraqi Kurdish leader, Massoud Barzani, in the overall US strategy.

Obama received Barzani in the White House recently. Barzani has become a “lynchpin” in the US-Turkish policies on Syria. This was within months of ExxonMobil signing up in October to develop the fabulous oil fields located in the Kurdistan region controlled by Barzani, ignoring protests from Baghdad that such a deal with a provincial authority bypassing the central government would violate Iraq’s sovereignty.

Last week, the US oil giant Chevron announced that it too has acquired an 80% controlling share in a company operating in the region covering a combined area of 1,124 square kilometers that is under Barzani’s control.

The entry of ExxonMobile and Chevron is a game-changer in the regional politics over Syria. The point is, the best transportation route to the world market for the massive oil and gas deposits in Kurdistan will be via the Syrian port city of Latakia on the eastern Mediterranean. Indeed, an altogether new dimension to the US-Turkish game plan on Syria comes into view.

Siyah Kalem, a Turkish engineering and construction company, has bid for the transportation of natural gas from Kurdistan. Evidently, somewhere in the subsoil, the interests of the Anatolian corporate business (which has links with Turkey’s ruling Islamist party) and the country’s foreign policy orientations toward Syria and Iraq are converging. The US and Turkish interests overlap in the geopolitics of northern Iraq’s energy reserves.

But Barzani is not only a business partner for Washington and Ankara but also a key agent who could leverage Turkey’s Kurdish problem. With Washington’s backing, he has launched a project to bring together the various Kurdish factions – Turkish, Iraqi and Syrian – on to a new political track.

He held a meeting of the Kurdish factions in Arbil last month. Plainly, Barzani tried to bribe the leaders of various Kurdish factions with funds provided from Ankara. He claims he has succeeded in reconciling the different Kurdish groups in Syria. (The Kurdish insurgency in Turkey is led by ethnic Syrian Kurds.) He also claims to have persuaded the Syrian Kurds to snap their links with Bashar and line up with the Syrian opposition.

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Written by M. James

July 25, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Posted in News, Politics, Turkey

Tagged with , , , ,

Sectarian perils in the Kingdom

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“The United States should in its own, and in the Gulf States’, interest push for a real reconciliation between the Shiites of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and their governments. Otherwise, sectarianism will come to dominate the Gulf, to the detriment of all.”

All except Iran.

Saudi Arabia’s Shi’ite Problem
Toby Matthiesen; Foreign Policy; Mar. 7, 2012

At least seven young Shiite Muslims have been shot dead and several dozen wounded by security forces in Eastern Saudi Arabia in recent months. While details of the shootings remain unclear, and the ministry of interior claims those shot were attacking the security forces, mass protests have followed the funerals of the deceased. These events are only the latest developments in the decades-long struggle of the Saudi Shiites, which has taken on a new urgency in the context of 2011’s regional uprisings — but have been largely ignored by mainstream media.

The Eastern Province is home to virtually all of Saudi Arabia’s oil and to a sizeable Shiite minority, estimated at between one and a half and two million people or around 10 percent of Saudi Arabia’s citizen population. The Wahhabi creed of Sunni Islam that the state sponsors in Saudi Arabia has developed a special hostility toward the Shiites. Saudi Shiite citizens in turn have long complained of discrimination in religious practice, government employment, and business, and overall marginalization.

As the protests in Bahrain and particularly in Qatif receive only limited attention on Gulf-owned channels like Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, local Shiites are forced to watch the Iranian-sponsored Arabic-language Al Alam channel, Lebanese Hezbollah’s Al Manar, Iraq’s Ahlul Bait TV, or increasingly other pro-Assad channels to receive updates on the situation in their areas. The new cold war in the Middle East has turned into a fully-fledged media war, in which media outlets are either with the protests in Bahrain and Qatif and for Assad’s regime, or with the protests in Syria and against the allegedly sectarian protests in Bahrain and Qatif.

The alienation of Shiite youth foments a perfect breeding ground for a new Gulf Shiite opposition movement and plays into the hands of the Iranian regime. Even without external help for the local Shiite protesters, the area looks ripe for a return to the tense sectarian politics of the 1980s. The United States should in its own, and in the Gulf States’, interest push for a real reconciliation between the Shiites of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and their governments. Otherwise, sectarianism will come to dominate the Gulf, to the detriment of all.

Written by M. James

March 11, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Iranian oil empire?

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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

Hedging against a new Iran

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Underlying the ramped-up rhetoric, military mobilization, and escalating espionage in Iran is a hidden economic war against Iran’s currency. The implication of this economic war is that the U.S. seeks to avoid military conflict with Iran. In fact, dollarizing Iran—which is what the U.S. is seeking to do with its economic sanctions—would be a hedge against an up-and-coming Iranian oil empire. Israel, unhappy with this prospect, seeks to start a conflict.

Iran’s nuclear program has received a lot of attention in the last few weeks. While this attention may accompany legitimate concerns—and this may be an appropriate time to voice such concerns—careful observers should be uneasy about the apparent convenience of focusing on the “Axis of Evil” at this time. With (1) an Iraq devoid of American police and (2) a stubborn Syrian regime that feels an increasing affinity toward Iran, Iran stands to gain a lot (see my previous post, “Why Syria?”). And if Iran stands to gain, then Saudi Arabia (and its oil hegemony), the United States (and its reliance on Saudi oil hegemony), and Israel (and its mere existence) have a lot to be afraid of.

The headlines of the past few weeks have, of course, demonstrated this fear. But there is one news item in particular that I’d like to point out, just as an example of the absurdity of the rhetoric. For some, it may be déjà vu, though it isn’t being reported that way:

Iran starts enriching uranium to 20 pct – IAEA

In summary: “The International Atomic Energy Agency officially confirmed that Iran has started enriching uranium to the 20-percent level…”

But this same headline can be traced back to at least February of 2010, almost two blissful years ago. Here’s one from May 17th, 2010:

Iran says will continue 20 percent enrichment

Notice the word “continue.” This is nothing new. Credibility is all but lost when old news becomes, when reprinted, a sign of “further escalation” (read: casus belli):

“This is a further escalation of their ongoing violations with regard to their nuclear obligations,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.

Public subterfuge.

Cold War
As ZeroHedge artfully phrases it (here): “The geopolitical foreplay is getting ridiculous. At this point it is quite obvious that virtually everyone involved in the US-Israel-Iran hate triangle is just itching for someone else to pull the trigger.” And reading about the overt espionage, public subterfuge, and military muscle-flexing going on between the US and Iran, it may very well seem that itchy trigger fingers abound.

But while there are, quite clearly, warmongers in our midst, I don’t think it’s quite fair to characterize the standoff between Iran and the United States so simply. That’s because neither side really wants a war. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by M. James

January 19, 2012 at 2:03 am

Posted in News, Politics

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C is for Cyprus

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I mentioned Turkey’s “Plan C” in relation to Israel in this post. The following is from Reuters (a few weeks ago already). Two birds with one stone?

Some Turkish and Israeli commentators have suggested Turkey might use the feud with Israel to build up naval patrols in seas between the Jewish state and the divided island of Cyprus.

Turkey has bitterly complained about recent Cypriot-Israeli energy deals and the presence of Turkish ships would have a menacing effect.

Turkey and Cyprus have been at odds for decades over the ethnically split island, whose internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government is an EU member. Turkish Cypriots live in a breakaway state in northern Cyprus only recognized by Turkey.

Asked about exploratory drilling for natural gas by Greek Cypriots, Egemen Bagis, Turkey’s European Union minister, told Turkish media last week: “It is for this (reason) that countries have warships. It is for this (reason) that we have equipment and we train our navies.”

Written by M. James

September 25, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Posted in News, Politics, Turkey

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Istanbul Island

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There is little, if any, disagreement: Come Sunday, the AKP will waltz away with a comfortable majority in Turkey’s 550-seat parliament. Whether or not everyone’s favorite conservative “Islamist” party will have free rein by winning the necessary 367 seats (two-thirds of parliament) is still in question, but there is still no denying that “Papa Tayyip” and his crew will be around for a while. What this truly means for Turkey’s future is anyone’s guess, but we can probably expect a familiar political trajectory for the next few years.

In short, the show will go on.

But that’s enough well-tempered thought. As Turkey’s 17th general election draws near, it is time to reflect on the true meaning of the election season, extravagant promises. Preferably expensive. And as far as big expensive campaign promises go, Erdoğan is hard to beat.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by M. James

June 10, 2011 at 6:55 pm

Fukushima and the East-West energy corridor

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The failure of the light water reactor in Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture to withstand the March 2011 tsunami will (whether it is a sensible reaction or not) discourage new ventures in nuclear power. The newest big-time player in energy—natural gas—will become even more essential in the West and, as a pipeline for the ever-expanding market, so will Turkey.

According to this report:

In the near term, as world economies begin to recover from the downturn, global demand for natural gas is expected to rebound, with natural gas supplies from a variety of sources keeping markets well supplied and prices relatively low.

Among these sources is “Russia and the other countries of non-OECD Europe and Eurasia” (read: Caspian) with an increase in production of 6 trillion cubic feet from 2007 to 2035. With well-supplied markets and low prices, financing pipelines as an efficient means of transportation will become a critical interest for energy companies with stakes in natural gas. This will be of especial interest to nations such as Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, which are slated, along with Russia, for further natural gas production. By piping liquefied natural gas to Turkey’s nearest high-capacity Mediterranean port, Ceyhan (as they do with oil), the Caspian nations would be able to reach a large Mediterranean and European market—without relying on Russia or Iran for right-of-way.

Russia, displeased by these prospects, may have even further troubles in the future with its own increased natural gas production. If Russian supply exceeds Eastern European demand, which is believable, a wider market will be desirable. But with the Turkish Straits already jam-packed with Russian oil tankers, there is no room for the liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers that would be necessary for Russia to export to the Mediterranean (there were 200+ tanker collisions/incidents in the ’90s alone). The solution? Turkey would propose the use of overland routes similar if not identical to those used by other Caspian Sea nations. This may be, for Russia, the only solution (and would be a source of extra pocket change for Turkey). But it will only have to be a “solution” if Turkey doesn’t absorb the remainder of Russia’s export all by itself before it can reach the Mediterranean market—another believable scenario.

Regardless, the Caspian won’t stop producing any time soon, and for Turkey, the West, NATO, and opportunistic supervillain daughters of oil tycoons, a Turkish East-West energy corridor for natural gas is a promising, and lucrative, possibility.

Written by M. James

May 24, 2011 at 2:20 am