USA Russia & China in the Middle East : Alliances & Conflicts

Iakovos Alhadeff

Table of Contents

 Introduction

 The Middle East as a Geopolitical Arena

 Russia in the Middle East

 China in the Middle East

 United States in the Middle East

 China-Russia

 USA-China

 Regional Powers and the Wars in Iraq

 Foreign & Regional Powers in the Middle East

 The Wrong Explanations of the Wars in the Middle East

 A Reader’s Manual

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Introduction

In order to understand the 21st century policies of the great powers in the Middle East, it is imperative to know what these powers really want from this region. Because there might be many factors influencing their behaviour, but obviously they are not equally important. For the general reader to understand the policies of the great powers in the Middle East, the focus must be only on their most important geopolitical objectives, and that’s exactly what this essay is going to do, because sometimes too much detail can blur the big picture. Once the main geopolitical objectives of the great powers are outlined, one only needs to examine how the objectives of one power complement or compete with the objectives of the other powers.

When I say “great powers”, I mean the countries that can quickly mobilize huge military forces, and such countries are mainly the United States, China and Russia. As you can see in the following Wikipedia link, according to all three sources used by Wikipedia, it is these three countries that have the highest military spending in the world.

Military Spending by Country (Wikipedia)

Image 1

Military Spending  by Country Wikipedia

Πηγή: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditures

Annual military spending amounts approximately to 600 billion dollars in the US, 180 billion dollars in China and 90 billion dollars in Russia. The following article by the Economist, titled “Military Might”, April 2013, confirms these figures. http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2013/04/daily-chart-9

Before I examine the geopolitical objectives of the US, China and Russia in the Middle East, I must say that English is not my first language, so please excuse potential errors.

The Middle East as a Geopolitical Arena

So what is it that the Americans, the Russians and the Chinese really want from the Middle East in the 21st century? Once this question is answered, everything becomes very simple. The US has increased its oil imports from Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, even from Russia, while at the same time it has increased its own oil and natural gas production too, and as a result it has drastically reduced its oil imports from the Middle East. Therefore the US is not dependent on the Middle East for oil in the same way it has been in the past, which was to a large extent what determined the US policies in the Middle East during the 20th century.

In the following Reuters and Financial Times articles, titled “U.S. Seen as Biggest Oil Producer After Overtaking Saudi Arabia”, July 2014, and “US Poised to Become World’s Leading Liquid Petroleum Producer”, September 2014, you can read that in 2014, for the first time, the United States overtook Saudi Arabia and Russia as the largest oil producer in the world. Please note that Saudi Arabia and Russia still have larger oil reserves than the United States. The US simply managed to significantly increase its production.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-07-04/u-s-seen-as-biggest-oil-producer-after-overtaking-saudi.html

 http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/98104974-47e4-11e4-be7b-00144feab7de.html

 However even though the US became the world’s largest oil producer, it remains one of the world’s largest importers of oil. On the contrary, Russia is not only one of the world’s largest producers of oil, but she is also one of the world’s largest exporters. The difference is due to the fact that the Russian economy, with a GDP of only 2 trillion dollars, is a much smaller economy than the American one, which has a GDP of 16 trillion dollars. The Chinese economy is somewhere in the middle with a GDP of 8 trillion dollars. In the following Wikipedia table you can see the world’s ten largest economies, as given by the United Nations.

Image 2

Largest Countries by GDP

Source:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_%28nominal%29

In the following pie chart, of the following National Public Radio article, titled “U.S. Rethinks Security As Mideast Oil Imports Drop”, November 2012, you can see that in 2012 the Persian Gulf accounted for only 22% of US oil imports.

Image 3

Where us Imports its oil from

Source: http://www.npr.org/2012/11/14/165052133/u-s-rethinks-security-as-mideast-oil-imports-drop

As you can read in the following Wikipedia link, the National Public Radio is an American non-profit public radio. It is the association of the American public radios, and it was called the Association of Public Radio Stations before it was renamed to NPR.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NPR

Therefore the Middle East is losing its geopolitical importance as the main oil provider for the US economy, which was the main American interest in the region during the 20th century. However the Middle East remains a region of high strategic and geopolitical importance, since it holds over 50% of the world’s oil and natural gas reserves, and these reserves will be of crucial importance in case of future conflicts.

Many US allies of the Asia Pacific region still count on the Persian Gulf for their oil and natural gas supplies. As you can see in the following pie chart, from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Japan, a major US ally, imports 79% of its oil from the Middle East i.e. Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Iran.

Image 4

Where Japan Imports its oil from

Source: http://www.eia.gov/countries/cab.cfm?fips=ja

Moreover, as you can see at the following pie chart, Japan imports 29% of its natural gas from the Middle East i.e. Qatar, Oman and UAE.

Image 5

Where Japan Imports its LNG from

Source: http://www.eia.gov/countries/cab.cfm?fips=ja

The same is true for many other US allies in the Asia Pacific region. On the following map you can see in red circles the countries that have some kind of military doctrine with the US, i.e. Japan, Australia, South Korea, Thailand and Philippines, and in purple circles you can see the countries that have some kind of more relaxed military cooperation with the US i.e. New Zealand, India, Indonesia and Taiwan. All these countries feel the breath of Chinese communists and are eager to cooperate with the United States of America in order to protect themselves.

Image 6

American Alliances in East Asia

The second, but by far the most important reason the Middle East is strategically important for the US, is because the Americans are hopping that they will eventually manage to construct a pipeline network that will connect the Middle East to Europe through Turkey. This is very important for the Americans and the EU, in order to provide a pipeline network that will reduce the Russian influence over Europe.

The Russians have a very important geographical advantage in the European energy market, and as a result they can exert significant political influence on European governments, by the use of carrot and stick. Sometimes by offering lucrative business deals, and sometimes by increasing the price of natural gas. This is causing great internal conflicts in NATO and the European Union, two traditional western alliances.

The way the Russian natural gas divides Europe and NATO is a very big issue, and I will very soon upload a separate document on the subject. For the time being you can have a look in the following Financial Times article, titled “Russia’s South Stream gas pipeline to Europe divides EU”, May 2014.

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/a3fb2954-d11d-11e3-9f90-00144feabdc0.html

It is only in the Middle East that there are natural gas and oil reserves of comparable size to the Russian ones, which can provide a long term alternative to Russian natural gas and oil. It is true that Norway, Algeria and Libya do have some descent natural gas and oil reserves, and they are already connected to Europe by pipeline networks, but their reserves are peanuts when compared to the Russian ones (see following map).

Image 7

Libya Algeria Pipelines to Europe

It is only Iran, Qatar, Iraq and Turkmenistan that possess natural gas reserves that could provide alternative to the Russian natural gas, and which could also travel to Europe with pipeline networks through Turkey (see following map). When natural gas travels by ships in liquefied form, i.e. LNG, it involves significant costs, and it is very difficult to compete with natural gas sold through pipeline networks, which is the case for the Russian sales in Europe.

Image 8

Richest in Natural Gas Countries

On page 21 of the following Energy Information Administration link, you can see the countries with the largest natural gas reserves in the world.

Image 9

Richest Countries in the World in Natural Gas Reserves

http://www.eia.gov/countries/analysisbriefs/Iran/iran.pdf

Note that figures are given in trillion cubic feet, and in order to convert them to trillion cubic meters one needs to divide them by 35, i.e. Russia has 1.688/35= 48 trillion cubic meters of natural gas reserves. The following table shows the richest countries in natural gas reserves according to the CIA’s World Factbook (given in trillion cubic meters).

Image 10

Largest Countries in the World in Natural Gas CIA

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2253rank.html

Estimating the natural gas and oil reserves can be a very difficult task, since they are changing every year as they are exploited by the countries hosting them. Therefore there are some differences between various rankings, but all the rankings I have seen so far have Russia, Iran and Qatar as the three richest countries in the world in terms of natural gas reserves.

According to BP, Russia has used a large part of its natural gas reserves and it does not have 48, but 32 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, ranking second behind Iran. You can see the BP estimates in page 20 of the following link (see black triangles).

Image 11

Richest Countries in Natural Gas BP

Source: http://www.bp.com/content/dam/bp/pdf/statistical-review/statistical_review_of_world_energy_2013.pdf

The BP estimates are used in the following Business Insider article, titled “The 17 Countries Sitting on the Most Valuable Energy Reserves”, February 2014. The site is ranking Iran as the richest country in natural gas reserves, with 1.187 trillion cubic feet, and Russia second with 1.163 trillion cubic feet. However Business Insider ranks Russia as the richest country in energy reserves overall, because it takes into account oil, natural gas and coal reserves. Russian natural gas, oil and coal reserves have a commercial value of 40 trillion dollars, while Iran is in the second place with a value of total reserves of 35 trillion dollars.

http://www.businessinsider.com/countries-with-most-energy-reserves-2014-2?op=1

Therefore one must keep in mind that it is very difficult to accurately estimate world natural gas and oil reserves, and the available estimates should be only used as an approximation.

Having made this parenthesis about the world’s natural gas reserves, I will return to the subject. I was saying that connecting Middle East and Europe through Turkey with a pipeline network, is by far the most important American geopolitical objective in the Middle East. Actually this was obvious in the way the Americans did not hesitate to cause severe problems in their relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia, their traditional allies in the region, in order to normalize their relations with Iran. Iran is one of the richest countries in the world in natural gas reserves, and as you can see on the above map, Iran is also the country best located in order to send natural gas to Europe through its neighbouring Turkey.

Now what does Russia want from the Middle East? Russia is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of oil and natural gas reserves, and never needed, and will never need the resources of the Middle East for herself. The main aim of Russia in the Middle East is to stop the United States and the European Union from connecting Europe to the Middle East with pipelines. This would cause more competition in the European energy market. This greater competition in the European market would result in lower prices and revenues for Russia, and it would also reduce the geopolitical might of the Russian natural gas and oil, since European countries would be far less dependent on Russia for their energy security.

Russia is a highly corrupted country, and oil and natural gas account for most of her exports. Oil and natural gas sales account for 68% of Russia’s exports, as you can read in the following article of the US Energy Information Administration, titled “Oil and Natural gas sales accounted for 68% of Russia’s total export revenues in 2013”, December 2014.

Image 12

Russia's Natural Gas and Oil Exports

Source: http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=19291

Natural gas accounts for only 14% of the Russian exports, but the importance of natural gas is quickly rising, firstly because the world’s natural gas reserves are expected to last much longer than the oil ones, second because natural gas is much better for the environment, and most countries are trying to substitute oil with natural gas, and finally because natural gas can be used much more effectively than oil as a geopolitical tool, when it is supplied by pipelines and long term contracts. When it is supplied in liquid form by ships i.e. LNG, its geopolitical might is greatly reduced.

For the Russian oil and natural gas exports you can also read the following Telegraph article, titled “Russia faces oil export catastrophe, snared in OPEC price trap”, December 2014, which describes the economic hardships that Russia suffers due to Saudi Arabia’s price war.

1st and 2nd Paragraphs

Vladimir Putin faces a catastrophic shortfall of at least $80bn (£51bn) in oil export revenue over the next year, after Opec kingpin Saudi Arabia signalled there will be no easing in the price war it has launched to recapture market share.

According to US Energy Information Administration (EIA) figures, oil and gas shipments accounted for 68pc of Russia’s total $527bn of gross exports in 2013, when Brent crude – comparable to Russian Urals – traded at an average of $108 per barrel.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/11310312/Russia-faces-oil-export-catastrophe-snared-in-Opec-price-trap.html

In the following Eurostat table you can see Europe’s main oil and natural gas suppliers. It can be seen that in 2012 Europe imported 33.7% and 32% of her oil and natural gas respectively from Russia. Europe’s second biggest supplier is Norway, which is not a member of the European Union. However as I already said Norway’s natural gas and oil reserves are very small when compared to the Russian ones, and therefore Norway cannot provide a long term alternative to Russian gas and oil.

Image 13

Where does Europe Imports its Oil From

http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/File:Main_origin_of_primary_energy_imports,_EU-28,_2002%E2%80%9312_(%25_of_extra_EU-28_imports)_YB14.png

At the following US Energy Information Administration link you can see the best clients, i.e. importers, of Russian oil in 2012.

Image 14

Russia's Oil Exports by Destination

http://www.eia.gov/countries/cab.cfm?fips=RS

Germany is Russia’s best client, followed by the Netherlands. China is Russia’s third best client, followed by another five European countries. In the following article of New York Times, titled “How Much Europe Depends on Russian Energy”, September 2014, you can see how dependent on Russian oil each individual European country is.

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/03/21/world/europe/how-much-europe-depends-on-russian-energy.html?_r=0

The following table shows the Russian natural gas exports to Europe, in billion cubic meters. The figures are taken from Gazprom. Gazprom is the Russian natural gas giant, and it is controlled by the Russian state.

Image 15

Gazprom Gaz Supplies to Europe Part A

Image 16

Gazprom Gas Supplies to Europe PartB

Source: Gazprom http://www.gazpromexport.ru/en/statistics/

At the following link of the CIA’s World Factbook, you can see that total Russian natural gas exports for 2013 were 193 billion cubic meters. As you saw from the Gazprom figures above, 161.5 billion cubic meters of these sales were made to Europe and Turkey. Therefore most of the Russian natural gas sales are made to Europe and Turkey.

Image 17

Largest Natural Gas Exporters in the World

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2251rank.html

It is therefore clear that Europe and Turkey are by far Russia’s best clients, and that’s why Russia’s main objective in the Middle East is to block the connection of Middle East to Europe through pipeline networks that would not be controlled by the Russian government. Such pipeline networks would hurt Russian sales both in Europe and Turkey. It is also important to keep in mind that the importance of natural gas is increasing very fast. Therefore the geopolitical aims of Russia in the Middle East are exactly the opposite from the American ones.

Now what is it that China wants from the Middle East? China sees the Persian Gulf, in exactly the same way the United States did at the end of the Second World War. For China the Middle East is the region that can guarantee her energy security for the next decades. China wants to keep for herself as much as possible from the region’s natural gas and oil reserves, and she wants them in the lowest possible prices.

Therefore USA, China and Russia want very different things from the Middle East in the 21st century. The Americans want to use Middle East to reduce the Russian influence in Europe, the Russians want to protect their prices and market share in the European markets from the Middle East oil and natural gas, and the Chinese want the reserves of the Middle East for themselves at the lowest possible prices.

The following map depicts the pipeline networks that were supported by the Americans and the Europeans as competing to the Russian ones. The red-green line is Nabucco, a natural gas pipeline which was finally abandoned, and the red-purple line is the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline, an oil pipeline that has already been constructed. The Baku-Supsa oil pipeline has also been constructed, and it carries oil from Azerbaijan to Georgia and the Black Sea.

Image 18

Nabucco Baku Ceyhan

Nabucco had the backing of the European Investment Bank, as you can read at the following Deutsche Welle article, titled “Proposed Nabucco Gas Pipeline Gets European Bank Backing”, January 2009

http://www.dw.de/proposed-nabucco-gas-pipeline-gets-european-bank-backing/a-3980038

The European Investment Bank (EIB), is the non-profit bank of the European Union, and its purpose is to finance projects that are of vital  importance to the EU. At the following Reuters article, titled “U.S. throws weight behind EU’s Nabucco pipeline”, February 2008, you can read that the United States of America strongly supported Nabucco too.

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2008/02/22/eu-energy-usa-idUKL2212241120080222

Russia in the Middle East

The case of Russia in the Middle East is very simple, because the only thing that Russia wants is that the Middle East does not mess with the Russian sales in Europe. However it is very difficult for Russia to make friends in the Middle East, because contrary to the US, China and Europe, she is not an importer of oil and natural gas. Russia is an exporter and a natural competitor of the rich in oil and natural gas countries of the region.

It is not a coincidence that the oldest Russian ally in the region is Syria, a country poor in oil and natural gas, at least by the standards of the Middle East. As you can read in the following CNN article, titled “The Moscow-Damascus alliance: A tangled tale”, 2012, Syria has been a Russian ally since the Soviet Era and the 50s.

1st Paragraph

Many observers point to Moscow’s close ties with Damascus going back to the 1950s as a reason for Russia now acting to defend the al-Assad regime in Syria against its many internal and external opponents.

http://www.cnn.com/2012/02/09/opinion/russia-syria-relations/

 Image 19

Map of Syria

Iran and Iraq are two of the richest countries in the world in terms of oil and natural gas reserves, and they are Russia’s natural competitors. However they have been very close to Russia, due to their rivalry with the West. Their rivalry with the West, with the economic sanctions that this rivalry implied, prevented Western multinationals from entering and investing in the Iranian and Iraqi energy markets, and therefore the production in Iran and Iraq could not reach the levels reached by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and UAE.

Moreover, very often these countries could not export to Europe due to economic sanctions. Therefore they were not Russia’s major competitors. In addition Iran and Iraq were very good customers of the Russian armament industry. Russia is also developing the Iranian nuclear program. Contrary to US, China and Europe, which are all importers of oil and natural gas, Russia is a major exporter, and therefore tensions in the region are very good for her, because they drive oil and natural gas prices upwards. While high oil and natural gas prices make governments in USA, Europe and China unpopular, they increase the revenues of the Russian government, and allow it to increase public spending, which is always very popular with the electorate.

But if Iran and Iraq manage to work things out with the West, they will no longer need Russia, and they will no longer have a motive to be aligned with her. These countries only need Russia as long as they are in bad terms with the West. The problem for the West is that it is very difficult to be in good terms with all the rich in oil and natural gas countries of the region, because these countries are very hostile towards each other, in a non-stop fight about who is going to better promote his oil and natural gas.

However it is still correct to say that it is much easier for USA, China and EU, than it is for Russia, to make friends in the region. The United States, even though they increased significantly their oil and natural gas production, they are still one of the world’s largest oil importers. Actually the US was the largest oil importer until 2013, when it became second to China, as you can read in the following article of the Energy Information Administration, titled “China is now the world’s largest net importer of petroleum and other liquid fuels”, March 2014.

http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=15531

The Middle East always welcomes large oil and natural gas importers, as long as they do their shopping in the region of course. Therefore China, the US and Europe will always choose their allies, and Russia will only be able to pick what is left in order to make alliances.

China in the Middle East

Contrary to Russia, China is really hungry for the oil and natural gas reserves of the Middle East, ands she is the best client right now. All the rich countries of the Middle East are looking to China and the other Asian countries in order to sell their goodies, since the US has significantly reduced its purchases from the region, and Europe mainly buys from Russia.

The following table is from the Energy Information Administration article, titled “How much petroleum does the United States import and from where”, which shows from which countries the US imported its oil in 2013. The US still buys from Saudi Arabia, but the US oil imports from Saudi Arabia are expected to fall even more in the future, while exactly the opposite is expected to happen with the Chinese imports.

Image 20

America's oil imports Eng

http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=727&t=6

At the following article of National Public Radio, titled “U.S. Rethinks Security As Mideast Oil Imports Drop”, November 2012, you can see with sky blue the current Chinese, American and European oil imports from the Middle East, and with dark blue what their imports are expected to be in 2035.

Image 21

US European and Chinese Oil Imports from the Middle East

Source: http://www.npr.org/2012/11/14/165052133/u-s-rethinks-security-as-mideast-oil-imports-drop

You can see that the Chinese imports are expected to be very high in the next decades, the American ones are expected to almost disappear, while the European ones will be somewhere in the middle. Therefore the prosperity of the Gulf countries relies to a large extent on China.

China is not only becoming the best customer in the region, but she has also managed to avoid making enemies until now, by keeping her army away from the Gulf, leaving that role to the Americans. Therefore China has managed to be in relatively good terms with all the countries of the Gulf, something that the Americans, the Russians and the Europeans have not managed to do.

China’s aim is to work with all the rich in natural gas and oil countries of the Middle East, without getting militarily involved, which would cost her billions of dollars, and which would make rivalries with the Gulf countries unavoidable. China wants to appear in the region as a peaceful businessman. However as the temperature in the Middle East rises, this becomes increasingly difficult, because all regional players are asking for China’s support.

The United States in the Middle East

The major obstacle for the US and the EU in the Middle East, in order to send natural gas to the EU through Turkey, is that currently they only have at their disposal the large natural gas reserve of Azerbaijan, namely the Shah Deniz field. Azerbaijan is a former member of the Soviet Union, but after the collapse of the Soviet Union Azerbaijan became a NATO friendly country, and at some point it might actually join NATO.

Azerbaijan hosts approximately 1 trillion cubic meters of natural gas. Most of this natural gas is held by the Shah Deniz field, a natural gas field located in the Caspian Sea (red circle in the following map).

Image 22

Map of Shah Deniz gas field

Obviously the 1 trillion cubic meters of Azerbaijani natural gas is not a true rival for the 48 trillion cubic meters of Russian gas. Therefore the Americans need to use the reserves of one of the other countries of the region that are rich in natural gas, i.e. Iran, Iraq, Qatar or Turkmenistan, if they want to send natural gas to Europe (see the following map). The problem is that the Russians, with the help of the Chinese, are making this very difficult for the Americans and the Europeans.

Image 23

Richest in Natural Gas Countries

Iran is a Russian ally, and Iraq and Syria belong to the Iranian sphere of influence. Actually Syria is a Russian ally too. Moreover the Russians were buying the natural gas of Turkmenistan and selling it through Gazprom, until Turkmenistan was connected to China through pipeline networks and long term contracts. Moreover the Russians are trying to help Iran connect to China through the Iran-Pakistan-India-China pipeline, in order to send its natural gas to China, leaving the European market to Russia.

In the following RT (Russia Today) article, a news agency funded by the Russian state, titled “Iran-Pakistan lifeline: Pipeline aims for global power balance”, March 2013, you can read that Russia is an enthusiastic supporter of the Iran-Pakistan pipeline.

1st Paragraph

The pipeline will bring more than simply an economic boost to both countries; it is a crucial guidepost on the path to peace. After generations of conflict, Iran and Pakistan are taking their economic destinies into their own hands – together.

http://rt.com/op-edge/gas-pipeline-pakistan-iran-068/

Russia wants to participate in the construction of the Iran-Pakistan pipeline, as you can read in the following Itar-Tass article, titled “Russia interested in construction of Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline”, September 2014. Itar-Tass is a news agency that belongs to the Russian Federation.

http://itar-tass.com/en/russia/750654

China also wanted to participate in the construction of the pipeline, as you can read in the following Times of Tehran article, titled “China to back Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project”, June 2012

http://www.tehrantimes.com/economy-and-business/98622-china-to-back-iran-pakistan-gas-pipeline-project

In the following Wall Street Journal article, titled “Iran-Pakistan Pipeline Deal Irks U.S.”, February 2013, you can read that the pipeline is a big problem for the US, and the Americans are proposing to Pakistan, India and China the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline, TAPI, as an alternative.

1st Paragraph

 In what has been widely perceived as a pre-election stunt, Pakistan has pushed ahead with a controversial pipeline deal with Iran –  a move that has irritated the U.S. and that could lead to economic sanctions if Islamabad begins imports of Iranian gas.

4th, 5th Paragraphs

The U.S. has opposed the pipeline since its inception, promoting the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline as an alternative that keeps Iran firmly out of Asian energy markets.

Washington has made it clear that it will impose economic sanctions on Islamabad if it begins to buy gas from Iran. In a written reply to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. embassy in Islamabad reiterated the U.S.’s position stating: “Our policy on Iran is well known. We have made it clear to all of our interlocutors around the world that it is in their interests to avoid activities that may be prohibited by UN sanctions or sanctionable under U.S. law.”

9th Paragraphs

While the pipeline could bring relief to energy-starved Pakistan, analysts say that the deal reveals more about the geopolitical dynamics between the U.S., Pakistan and Iran than about the government’s commitment to address the energy crisis.

http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2013/02/20/iran-pakistan-pipeline-deal-irks-u-s/

 Image 24

Map of Iran Pakistan Pipeline and TAPI

In the end, with a generous loan from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan agreed to cancel the Iran-Pakistan pipeline, as you can read in the following Asia Times article, titled “Saudi grant kills Iran-Pakistan pipeline”, March 2014

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/SOU-02-210314.html

The Iran-Pakistan-India China Pipeline is a great geopolitical concern for the US, but it is an even bigger economic concern for the Saudis, because the Iranians and the Saudis are competing for the Indian, Pakistani and Chinese markets, and the Iran-Pakistan-India-China pipeline would give the Iranians a clear advantage over the Saudis, because the Saudis cannot connect to these countries by pipeline networks, and they have to use the sea lanes in order to export their oil.

You should not believe though, that the Americans are trying to block the pipeline because they want to sell to China and India themselves. By their efforts to normalize their relations with Iran, the Americans are causing severe problems in their relations with the Saudis, and all the American energy companies are working in Saudi Arabia. The Iran-Pakistan pipeline is a geopolitical concern for the US, while it is an economic concern for the Saudis. The truth is that the Americans need the Iranians, to counter the Russian influence in Europe.

However it is anyway difficult for the Iranians to supply Europe with sufficient quantities of natural gas right now, even if they reach an agreement with the West over their nuclear program. You might want to have a look at the following article of Trend, an Azeri site, titled “Delivering Iranian gas to EU unlikely, even in long time”, December 2014. The article explains that even if Iran is willing to supply Europe with natural gas, it will take many years of investments in order to bring the Iranian production to a level that would be adequate for the European demand.

http://en.trend.az/business/energy/2346522.html

Very often Iran does not even manage to cover its own natural gas needs, and imports more natural gas than it produces, as you can read in the following Reuters article, titled “Iran a net importer of gas from Mar 2011-Jan 2012”, January 2012.

1st, 2nd Paragraphs

“Iran, holder of the world’s second largest gas reserves, imported more natural gas than it exported over the last 10 months, Fars News Agency quoted the head of the National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC) as saying.

The semi-official news service reported NIGC director Javad Oji saying Iran had imported nearly 9 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas in the 10 months since the start of the Iranian year on March 21, 2011, up 35 percent year on year”.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/18/iran-gas-imports-idAFL6E8CI2NZ20120118

Therefore even though the Iranians hold the second largest natural gas reserves in the world, it will take many years before they are ready to supply Europe, and that would be made much harder if in the meantime the Iranians were connected to China through pipelines and long term contracts, which is what the Russians are trying to do.

Another problem for the Americans is that as long as Iran is a Russian ally, and as long as Iraq and Syria belong to the Iranian sphere of influence, the Americans cannot even use the Qatari natural gas reserves to supply Europe through Turkey. A potential Qatar-Turkey pipeline would stop on a geographic “wall” formed by Iran, Iraq and Syria (see following map).

Image 25

Iran Iraq Syria as a Wall

By financing and supporting Jihadists, Turkey and Qatar are trying to break this “wall” in Syria and Iraq. The rebels in Syria and Iraq are also funded by Saudi Arabia, which feels threatened by the increasing Iranian influence in the region, since Iran is her most important rival in the Middle East. You can read in the following article of France 24, titled “Iraq’s Maliki accuses Saudi Arabia of supporting terrorism”, March 2014, that the Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Maliki accused Qatar and Saudi Arabia of funding the terrorists in Iraq.

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In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of supporting global “terrorism” and seeking to destabilise Iraq.

http://www.france24.com/en/20140308-france24-exclusive-interview-iraq-maliki/

You can also read about the accusations of the Iraqi Prime Minister in the following Reuters article, titled “Iraqi PM Maliki says Saudi, Qatar openly funding violence in Anbar”, March 2014.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/09/us-iraq-saudi-qatar-idUSBREA2806S20140309

Therefore even though it is not easy for the Americans and the Europeans to send the Iranian natural gas to Europe, one should never forget that Iran is a natural competitor for Russia, and it would be very good for Iran to sell its natural gas and oil to Europe. Another reason the Iranians want to cut a deal with the West, is because the abolition of the western economic sanctions will allow the big Western multinationals to enter and invest in the Iranian energy market, which would dramatically increase the Iranian production and revenues, as you can read in the following Reuters article, titled “Iran lures oil majors with new contracts pledge”, January 2014.

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Iran will have a new, attractive investment model for oil contracts by September, its president and oil minister told some of the world’s top oil executives here on Thursday, part of its drive to win back Western business.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said their new administration was keen to open up to Western investments and technology, executives who attended the meeting said. They also stressed the importance of fossil fuel, with global energy demand rising.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/23/us-iran-rouhani-davos-oil-idUSBREA0M0JD20140123

Gazprom is developing some Iranian fields, but Russia is a natural competitor of Iran, and she will never invest in Iran the way the Western multinationals would. Moreover the Western multinationals have superior technology, and they are the ones who revolutionized the production techniques that allowed the extraction of natural gas and oil from shale rock.

China-Russia

The main geopolitical objective of the Chinese is to ensure that in the next decades as much as possible of the oil and natural gas reserves of the Middle East will be available for China’s energy security. This objective is very well served by the main geopolitical objective of the Russians, which is to send the energy of the Caspian Sea and the Middle East to China, in order to stop it from reaching Europe through Turkey. In addition the Chinese want to have good relations with Russia, because they count on Russia too for their energy security. Russia is a very rich country in oil and natural gas reserves, and the two countries share common borders (see following map).

Image 26

Map of Russia and China

China and Russia recently signed a 400 billion dollar agreement, according to which Russia will supply China with approximately 35 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year, for the next 30 years.

The case of Turkmenistan is a very good example of Russian-Chinese cooperation. The Russians were pushing Turkmenistan to sell its natural gas through Gazprom, in order to prevent Turkmenistan from sending its natural gas to Europe through Azerbaijan, if the Trans-Capsian pipeline was ever built. At the following article of the Chronicles of Turkmenistan, titled “Is Russia Abandoning Turkmenistan”, January 2014, you can read that Russia is not buying the natural gas of Turkmenistan anymore, but she does not worry about it either, because Turkmenistan is now connected to China through pipelines and long term contracts leaving the European market to Russia.

http://www.chrono-tm.org/en/2014/01/is-russia-abandoning-turkmenistan/#comment-279404

With the red line in the following map, you can see what would be the Trans-Caspian pipeline, if it had it been built. This pipeline would connect Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, but until December 2014 it has not been built. On the contrary Turkmenistan is already connected to China with a pipeline network that runs through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

Image 27

Map of Trans Caspian Pipeline

The same has been the case with Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan does not have the rich natural gas reserves of Turkmenistan, but it is very rich in oil. Kazakhstan is also sending a large part of its oil production to China through pipeline networks, while the Americans and the Europeans are hopping that Kazakhstan can send a part of its oil to Europe through Azerbaijan and the Trans-Caspian pipeline.

Richest Countries in Oil Reserves

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Richest Countries in Oil Reserves Wikipedia

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_proven_oil_reserves

As you can see in the relevant Wikipedia link, the above figures are taken from OPEC 2011 figures. These figures should be used as an approximation, because shale rock has been included for some countries i.e. Canada, while it has not been included for some other countries.

A natural question would be why Russia does not mind the countries of the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea supplying China with natural gas and oil, while at the same time she prevents them from doing the same thing for Europe? The answer is that the rich in oil and natural gas countries of the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea need to sell somewhere their natural gas and oil.

Of course it would be better for Russia if the countries of the Gulf and the Caspian Sea did not exist, or if they were very poor in natural gas and oil reserves. However the countries of the Gulf and the Caspian Sea do exist and they have some of the richest oil and natural gas reserves in the world. Therefore these countries will either sell to Europe or Asia, and for Russia it is much better if they sell to Asian countries than if they sell to the European ones.

Russia faces much less competition in Europe than she faces in Asia. Asian countries have many choices. They are next to the Persian Gulf, next to the Caspian Sea, next to Russia, and next to Australia. Australia is becoming a significant exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Moreover Russia needs the countries of the former Soviet Union to depend on her for natural gas and oil, in order to be able to exert some geopolitical influence.

 To better understand the Middle East, one must also take into account that the level of production is not only a function of the available reserves. There are also technological limitations about how much oil and natural gas can be produced from a given field.  For instance there might be a natural gas field of 1 trillion cubic meters, which can only produce 1 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year. Therefore there is not only competition about who is going to control this field in the future, but there is also competition about who is going to buy the 1 billion cubic meters of natural gas this year.

A good example is the Nabucco pipeline, which was supported by the EU and the US, and which was supposed to transfer each year to Europe 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Azerbaijan through Turkey. The Nabucco plan was aborted because it was very difficult to find these 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas.

That’s the basic story between Russia and China. Russia is trying to block the connection of the Middle East to Europe through Turkey, and that’s very useful for the Chinese, since it leaves more resources for China, and less selling options for the countries of the Middle East and the Caspian Sea, and less competition means lower prices for the Chinese. From their part, the Chinese are trying to suck the region’s resources, and this is very convenient for the Russians, because these resources will not end up in Europe competing with the Russian oil and natural gas.

 However the above does not mean that the Chinese and the Russians do not have conflicting interests too. First of all Russia is a major exporter of oil and natural gas, while China is a major importer. Therefore China, similarly to the US and the EU, who are also importers, wants low oil and natural gas prices, while Russia wants high oil and natural gas prices, and this is something that greatly affects a country’s policies.

In addition, the Russians and the Chinese very often compete for the same resources abroad, since both of them want to have access to foreign resources, the Russians in order to have more power as sellers, and the Chinese in order to achieve better deals as buyers. The case of Central Asia i.e. Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan is a good example. It is good for Russia that the oil and natural gas of these countries end up in China instead of Europe, but China’s influence in these countries is rising, and that’s definitely not good for Russia, because Russia used to be the dominant power in Central Asia.

Moreover China and Russia are two neighbouring super powers, both claiming the role of the regional leader. They are united when it comes in reducing the American influence in their neighbourhood, but that does not automatically resolve their own issues. After all it was only in 1969 that the two countries went to a mini war for the last time. On the question of whether China and Russia are friends or enemies, many analysts reply that they are the best “frenemies”. Three very good articles about the thorns in the Sino-Russian relations are the Financial Times article “Russia and China – Friends or ‘frenemies’?”, December 2014, the Economis’s “China and Russia: Best Frenemies”, May 2014, and Huffington Post’s “Russia-China Gas Deal”, May 2014. You can read these articles at following links.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/aurelia-condrat/russia-china-gas-deal_b_5395214.html

http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/2014/12/11/guest-post-are-russia-and-china-friends-or-frenemies/

http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21602695-vladimir-putin-pivots-eastward-should-america-be-worried-best-frenemies

 USA-China

The most interesting duet in the Middle East is by far the USA-China one. USA and Russia do not presently have much room for cooperation, while China and Russia have plenty. However USA and China have room for both cooperation and confrontation. While the global interests of US and China are moving in opposite directions, it is possible that the realities of the Middle East will force the two countries to reach a minimum consensus for cooperation.

As I already said the US is no longer very dependent on the oil of the Middle East, and it will become even less dependent in the future, while exactly the opposite is true for China. As you can read in the following article of the National Public Radio, titled “U.S. Rethinks Security As Mideast Oil Imports Drop”, November 2012, the Americans are facing a great dilemma. On one hand they do not want, and cannot afford, to finance their military presence in the Persian Gulf, in order to safeguard oil that mainly goes to Asia. On the other hand the Americans do not want the Chinese to have total control of a region that is of such strategic importance, as it is the case with the Middle East.

http://www.npr.org/2012/11/14/165052133/u-s-rethinks-security-as-mideast-oil-imports-drop

The Americans realize that the Chinese need the region to secure their energy supplies, in the same way the Americans did in the past, and they have no problem with that. What they want from the Chinese though, is to stop backing the Russians all the time, and share with the US a part of the military cost associated with the Middle East. Moreover the Chinese would have to accept the American plan of connecting Middle East to Europe through pipeline networks, something that the Russians do not accept at the moment.

The Chinese have already made a move towards this direction, by abandoning the plans for the Iran-Pakistan pipeline, as you can read in the following article of the Express Tribune, titled “Gas import: China abandons IP project, eyes TAPI pipeline”, April 2014. As you can read in the article the Chinese are willing to go for the TAPI pipeline (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) instead of the Iran-Pakistan one. The Express Tribune is Pakistan’s only international newspaper, and it cooperates with the international edition of the New York Times.

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In a strategic move, China has shelved a plan to be part of the Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline that faces the threat of US sanctions and has come up with an offer to join the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline to meet its growing energy needs.

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Earlier, the official added, China had expressed interest in becoming a member of the IP project, but changed its stance later as the future of the venture looked uncertain in the face of influence from a Gulf Arab country and threat of US sanctions.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/701979/gas-import-china-abandons-ip-project-eyes-tapi-pipeline/

If the Iran-Pakistan pipeline is not built, it is much easier for the Americans to send Iranian natural gas to Europe. Moreover there have been some efforts to achieve some minimum cooperation between the navies of the two countries, as you can read in the following Wall Street Journal article, titled “China Pushes Limits to Closer Ties With U.S. Military”, July 2014:

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China is seeking greater access to U.S. aircraft carriers and guidance on how to operate its own first carrier, the Liaoning, testing the limits of a newly cooperative military relationship the two sides have tried to cultivate in the past year.

The latest Chinese request came last week when U.S. Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, chief of naval operations, visited China to explore new areas of cooperation, despite recent maritime tensions and the presence of an uninvited Chinese spy ship at naval drills off Hawaii.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/china-pushes-limits-to-closer-ties-with-u-s-military-1405964884

In the first three paragraphs of the following Wall Street Journal article, titled “Middle East Oil Fuels Fresh China-U.S. Tensions”, October 2013, you can read that China buys from the Middle East more oil than the United States, and this causes tensions between the two countries, because the Americans feel they are paying to protect oil that ends up in Asian countries, and they are pushing China to back a bit more their foreign policy.

Even though the article does not say so, by “backing the American foreign policy”, it means to adopt a more neutral stance between the US and Russia, and to help with the connection of the Middle East to Europe. Don’t forget that China can influence countries like Iran and Syria, which are beyond Washington’s influence. In the past, China has backed all of Putin’s policies, like Qaddafi in Libya, Assad in Syria and Sisi in Egypt.

However China did so in a more diplomatic and a less military way than Russia did. The article also says that China does not have the military means to safeguard the Persian Gulf by herself, and that Zhang Guobao, the former head of the Chinese National Energy Association, said that it is better for the Chinese if the Americans keep safeguarding the Middle East.

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China is overtaking the U.S. as a buyer of Middle East oil, adding fuel to diplomatic tension between the nations over security in the region.

China surpassed the U.S. as importer of Persian Gulf crude several years ago, by some measures. Now it is on track to overtake the U.S. this year as the world’s No. 1 buyer of oil from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, the largely Middle Eastern energy-exporting bloc.

The turnabout has added to tensions because it leaves the U.S. military securing China’s growing oil shipments in the region at a time Beijing resists U.S. pressure on it to back American foreign policy in the Middle East.

 4th, 5th, 6th Paragraphs

For years, China and other oil-consuming nations have benefited as Washington spent billions of dollars a year to police chokepoints like the Strait of Hormuz and other volatile parts of the Middle East to ensure oil flowed around the globe.

But the rise of North America’s shale oil and gas industry has put the U.S. on track to pass Russia this year as the world’s largest combined producer of oil and gas, if it hasn’t done so already, according to a recent analysis of global data by The Wall Street Journal.

That rise, combined with flat U.S. oil consumption, is making America far less dependent on imported oil, including from the Middle East, even as China’s reliance on the region’s oil grows.

 15th, 16th, 17th Paragraphs

Signs of tension are surfacing. Beijing has asked for assurances that Washington will maintain security in the Persian Gulf region, as China doesn’t have the military power to do the job itself, according to people familiar with recent discussions between the countries.

In meetings since at least last year, Chinese officials have sought to ensure U.S. commitment to the region isn’t wavering, particularly as the Obama administration has pledged to rebalance some of its strategic focus toward East Asia, said people familiar with those discussions.

In return, U.S. officials have pressed China for greater support on issues such as its foreign policy regarding Syria and Iran. U.S. officials in private discussions have pressed China to lower its crude imports from Iran, for example, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions.

 20th Paragraph

At an April Brookings Institution conference in Washington, D.C., when the former head of China’s National Energy Administration, Zhang Guobao, was asked whether China could assume a greater role in protecting the region’s shipping lanes, he responded: “Why don’t the Americans do the job for now.”

http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324755104579073283948517714

 It is not only the economic cost that scares China when it comes to safeguarding the Middle East. China also worries about the geopolitical costs associated with becoming a referee in the regional oil and natural gas wars. Until now the Chinese have been backing Russia, but they did so mainly with diplomatic means. If however they become a major military power in the Gulf, the Chinese will have to pursue a more active policy, and they will lose the advantage of appearing as a peaceful businessman, which is very important in order to work with all the countries of the region. This is an advantage that is not enjoyed by the Americans, the Europeans or the Russians.

On the other hand the Chinese cannot permanently avoid a significant military presence in the region, because they need to protect their multi billion dollar investments. In the following Financial Times article, titled “China’s strategic dilemma in the Middle East”, August 2014, you can read that if the Americans stick to their new doctrine of no more American “boots” in the Middle East, the Chinese will not have any other choice than to increase their military presence.

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The third option is hardly more palatable. That is to recognise that as a trading nation China has a direct stake in the stability of the countries with whom it conducts its trade, especially in key raw materials. If, as seems likely, the US continues to resist the idea of putting American boots back on the ground in the Middle East, the Chinese could find themselves forced, however reluctantly, to become a guarantor of stability for the regimes which matter to them. From that starting point the slippery slope to greater engagement begins. But as the Americans – once the nation most hostile to imperialism – has found over the last century, empires are often created unintentionally, as the cumulative result of immediate responses to one event after another.

http://blogs.ft.com/nick-butler/2014/08/17/chinas-strategic-dilemma-in-the-middle-east/

At the following Forbes article, titled “What Happens When America No Longer Needs Middle East Oil?”, March 2012, you will read that the Americans look like the English did  in the 1970’s, when they could no longer finance their military presence in the Middle East, and they left this role to the United States. The article also says that a decreasing American presence in the region will mostly benefit Iran, which will emerge as the strongest regional power, while Saudi Arabia and Israel will be the losers, because they will not have the American protection anymore. The Chinese will also lose because they will have to assume a significant cost for safeguarding the region.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/lorenthompson/2012/12/03/what-happens-when-america-no-longer-needs-middle-east-oil/

 Many people do not realize that it is very easy for wars to break out in the Middle East, because the regional powers are competing so hard about who is going to sell more oil and natural gas. If there is not a large foreign power in the region, whether that is USA or China, the likelihood of wars will be higher and not lower. Therefore sooner or later China will have to be a big military power in the region irrespective of whether she cooperates or competes with the US.

The US and China will have to decide how they are going to resolve this dilemma. None of them want to assume all the military cost required for safeguarding the Gulf, but at the same time they are the biggest importers of oil in the world, and they have a common interest in keeping oil prices low. The problem is that they are not allies as was the case with the English and the Americans in the 70s, and it is difficult for them to cooperate. In the following article of the CNBC, titled “China’s Arab march”, June 2014, you can read that as the US will be decreasing its military presence in the Middle East, China will have to increase hers, in order to protect her multi-billion dollar investments in the region.

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Unsurprisingly, energy has been a key factor in economic ties with the Arab world. From 2004 to 2013, China’s crude oil imports from Arab countries grew by more than 12% annually, on average, reaching 133 million tons per year. And China’s “march west” strategy furthers its goal of safeguarding access to these resources. As the director of the State Council’s Development Research Center, Li Wei, pointed out in February, at the current rate, China will be consuming 800 million tons of oil annually, and importing 75% of its petroleum, by 2030.

 In this sense, China’s trajectory contrasts sharply with that of the United States, where the rapid growth in output of shale oil and gas, together with energy-saving measures, has brought energy independence closer than ever – a point that President Barack Obama emphasized in his most recent State of the Union address. In fact, according to the US Energy Information Administration, China surpassed the US as the world’s largest net oil importer earlier this year.

 Moreover, the US is gradually disengaging strategically from the greater Middle East, creating a vacuum that China seeks to fill. To succeed, China will need to become more attentive to the region’s complex dynamics; find creative ways to participate in conflict-resolution efforts; and respond enthusiastically to Middle Eastern governments’ growing desire to connect to Asia.

http://www.cnbc.com/id/101792181

In the following article of Al-Monitor, titled “Navy exercises bring Iran, China closer”, October 2014, you will read that on the 20th of September 2014, China sent warships in the Persian Gulf, for a joint exercise with the Iranian Navy, and this was the first time that Chinese warships entered the Persian Gulf.

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On Sept. 20, China dispatched ships to the Persian Gulf for a joint exercise with the Iranian navy — the first time that Chinese warships have ever sailed in the Gulf. The Chinese missile destroyer Changchun and missile frigate Changzhou of the 17th Naval Fleet took part in a five-day joint training drill, the aim of which was “establishing peace, stability, tranquility and multilateral and mutual cooperation,” according to Adm. Amir Hossein Azad, commander of Iran’s First Naval Zone.

http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/ru/originals/2014/10/iran-china-navy-persian-gulf-us.html

At the following article of the National Interest, titled “Time for a U.S.-China Partnership in the Middle East”, September 2014, you will read that while the Americans and the Chinese are globally moving in opposite directions, the Middle East is an exception, and there is room for an American-Chinese cooperation.

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Under President Xi Jinping, China and the United States have pledged to forgea new type of great-power relationship. To date, this effort has largely focused on strengthening bilateral cooperation in the Asia-Pacific. This is sensible insofar as Asia is the most important region for both the United States and China, and especially for interactions between them. At the same time, it is also the region where their interests are most at odds, and thus where cooperation is most likely to remain elusive.

By contrast, America’s and China’s major interests in the Middle East are nearly perfectly aligned. Foremost among these is the free flow of oil. Since at least the 1970s, the free flow of oil in the Persian Gulf has been a core U.S. national interest. Although the United States is becoming increasingly energy independent, its interest in a prosperous global economy makes the free flow of oil a continued priority.

Even as America’s dependence on Middle Eastern oil wanes, China’s dependence on it grows. This year China is expected to surpass the United States as the largest petroleum importer, and Beijing will soon get over 60 percent of its oil supplies abroad. The Middle East will remain the focal point of China’s efforts to secure foreign oil. Already, the region accounts for over half of China’s oil imports. Despite China’s best efforts to diversify its energy sources, Beijing’s spiking demand will force it to rely on the turbulent region for the foreseeable future. Giving China a stake in the region is essential for reducing Beijing’s sense of vulnerability.

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Still, Beijing can complement U.S.-led political and military engagements. For example, China maintains working relationships with a number of important governments in the region that the United States shuns, such as Syria and Iran. The Palestinians also view China as a more impartial actor than the United States, and Beijing’s active involvement in the Middle East peace process could help unfreeze negotiations.

Similarly, while China cannot independently support long-term military interventions in the Middle East, it will be increasingly capable of participating in U.S.-led operations in the years ahead. This would not only reduce the burden America bears for these interventions, but would also help to improve mil-to-mil ties between China and the United States.

http://nationalinterest.org/feature/time-us-china-partnership-the-middle-east-11318

 The good thing is that USA and China are two of the richest countries in the world in terms of shale rock. The new production technologies allow the production of oil and natural gas from shale rock, which might relieve some of the tensions in the future. The following table shows the richest countries in the world in shale rock as given by Wikipedia.

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Richest Countries in Shale Rock

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_recoverable_shale_gas

 I must also say that even though China and the US will be the two big rivals in the 21st century, there are also some factors that bring them together. The Americans are a much bigger trading partner than the Russians for China. Moreover, the US and China are major importers of oil, and contrary to Russia they both want low energy prices. Therefore the Americans, the Chinese and the Europeans, want the countries of the Middle East to produce as much oil as possible, while the Russians want the contrary.

In the past the Americans managed to keep oil prices low, through their alliance with Saudi Arabia. Now that the Chinese are the big customer of the region, and they are more popular than the Americans, they have to use their influence to make sure that as much oil as possible flows from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran and the other countries. However in the same way that an appetite for low oil prices bring the US and China together, an appetite for high oil prices bring Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia and Qatar together.

The oil and natural gas producing countries have a motive to act as a cartel, in order to reduce production and increase prices. Actually that’s the role of OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries). As you can read in the first two paragraphs of the following Guardian article, titled “Russia, Iran and Qatar announce cartel that will control 60% of world’s gas supplies”, October 2008, Russia, Iran and Qatar are holding 60% of the global natural gas reserves, and they are making efforts to create a natural gas cartel, similar to what OPEC is for oil.

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“Western concerns about global energy markets hit new heights last night when Russia, Iran and Qatar said they were forming an Opec-style gas cartel.

The move by the three countries, which control 60% of the world’s gas reserves, was met with immediate opposition from the European commission, which fears the group could drive up prices”.

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2008/oct/22/gas-russia-gazprom-iran-qatar

It is very important to take into account the common interests that the importing and exporting countries have when it comes to prices. Countries that export oil and natural gas compete about their market shares, but at the same time they want high energy prices. Countries that import oil and natural gas compete about who is going to control the rich in oil and natural gas regions, but they all want low energy prices. At the following two CIA tables you can see the biggest importers and exporters of oil in the world.

Largest Exporters of Oil

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Largest Oil Exporters in the World

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2242rank.html

Largest Importers of Oil

Image 31

Largest Importers of Oil in the World

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2243rank.html

Therefore to analyze the Middle East one needs not only to take into account the antagonism between oil and natural gas exporters, but also the common interests between them. And the same is true for the countries that are oil and natural gas importers. At the following Itar-Tass article, titled “Lavrov goes to Saudi Arabia to discuss situation in Syria, Iraq”, June 2014, you can read that Saudi Arabia and Russia were discussing the possibility of cooperation between the two countries in the energy sector, including nuclear energy. Itar-Tass is a news agency that belongs to the Russian Federation.

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The two countries also develop economic cooperation, including in the energy sphere. On June 18, Russia and Saudi Arabia agreed on a draft intergovernmental framework agreement on cooperation in peaceful uses of nuclear energy and subsequent steps in preparing the agreement for signature.

http://itar-tass.com/en/russia/736939

Saudi Arabia is the country that together with the Americans fought the Soviet Union for decades. And as soon as the Americans are not the best customers and they need the Iranians, the Saudis and the Russians are trying to cooperate against them, while the Iranians who have traditionally been Russian allies, want to sell oil and natural gas to Europe, something that would hurt the Russian interests. That shouldn’t surprise anyone, because international relations are about money and not about friendship.

Regional Powers and the Wars in Iraq

The geopolitical objectives of the US, Russia and China in the Persian Gulf, which I just described, is the first geopolitical axis that should be taken into account in order to understand the Middle East. The second geopolitical axis that must be taken into account are the objectives of the rich in oil and natural gas countries of the region. The very rich countries of the Persian Gulf are Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Qatar, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates, as you can see in the two following tables of the US Energy Information Administration.

Richest Countries in Natural Gas Reserves (Page  21 of the following link.

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Richest Countries in Natural Gas

http://www.eia.gov/countries/analysisbriefs/Iran/iran.pdf

Richest Countries in Oil Reserves (page 10 of the following link)

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Richest Countries in Oil

http://www.eia.gov/countries/analysisbriefs/Iran/iran.pdf

Until about a decade ago, before Saddam Hussein was overthrown, there were three main blocks in the Persian Gulf. The first one was Saudi Arabia with her allies i.e. the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait. These countries were participating in the Gulf Cooperation Council, which among other things, was a military doctrine against Iran and Iraq.

The second block was Iraq. In Iraq the majority of the population are Shia Muslims, but Saddam Hussein, the country’s former dictator, was a Sunni Muslim. Saddam Hussein did not care too much about religion, because he was a national socialist leader, like Qaddafi in Libya, Assad in Syria, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and others. National socialists believe in a secular state, contrary to the Islamist leaders of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran, who believe in a religious state and the Islamic law. National Socialism is a combination of nationalism and socialism, while communism, at least in theory, believes in socialism without national borders. National socialists believe in the dominance of a national working class, while communists believe in the dominance of an international working class.

The third main block in the Persian Gulf were the Iranian Islamists, with Syria as their main ally.

Image 34

Map of Persian Gulf

The Saudis were in very bad terms with Iraq and Saddam Hussein, but Iran was an even greater enemy for them. Saddam Hussein was the Iraqi leader during the brutal Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988. The Saudis and their allies were funding Saddam Hussein during this war, because they considered Iran as their main enemy. Actually that was the reason that in 1991, during the military operation Desert Storm, after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, the Americans, the Saudis and their allies, did not overturn Saddam Hussein, literally stopping outside Bagdad.

As you can read at the following CNN article, titled “Massive firestorm targets Iraqi leadership”, March 2003, the Americans and their allies had destroyed the Iraqi army, and needed 2 to 4 days to enter Bagdad. And yet they decided to stop without overturning Saddam.

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With Iraqi resistance nearing collapse, Bush declared a ceasefire on February 28, ending the Persian Gulf War. According to the peace terms that Hussein subsequently accepted, Iraq would recognize Kuwait’s sovereignty and get rid of all its weapons of mass destruction (including nuclear, biological and chemical weapons). In all, an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 Iraqi forces were killed, in comparison with only 300 coalition troops.

Rodgers, who is accompanying the 3rd Squadron of the 7th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, lead element of the 3rd Infantry Division, said the U.S. forces could reach Baghdad in two to four days. (Slide show,On the scene)

http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/meast/03/21/sprj.irq.war.main/

Why did the US and their allies decide not to overturn Saddam Hussein? The reason was that by overturning Saddam Hussein, it would be easier for Iran to gain influence in Iraq, because the majority of the Iraqi population are Shia Muslims, and the same is true for Iran. If Iraq was to fall in the Iranian sphere of influence, the Iranians would reach the Saudi borders, since Iraq and Saudi Arabia are neighbouring countries.

I believe this is also the main reason that Saddam Hussein had the nerve to ignore the U.S., the Saudis and their allies and invade Kuwait. He knew that it would simply make things worse for the Americans and the Saudis to overturn him. He also had a strong army and he decided to take his chances and go for the oil of Kuwait. And Saddam was right. He did not manage to control the oil of Kuwait for more than a year, but his opponents did not overturn him even though he set Kuwait’s oil fields on fire before retreating, and even though he spilled tons of oil in the Persian Gulf, in order to burn any American troops that would attempt to invade Iraq from the sea. And yet the Americans and their allies decided not to touch him.

Image 35

Map of Iraq and Kuwait

As you can read in the following CNN article, titled “Kuwait still recovering from Gulf War fires”, January 2003, Saddam Hussein sent engineers to set Kuwait’s oil fields on fire, and it took seven months before these fires were finally extinguished. Over 1 billion barrels of oil were burnt in these fires. Saddam was accusing Kuwait of producing too much oil in order to keep the price of oil low, which he perceived as an oil war on Iraq.

1st and 2nd Paragraphs

In the waning days of the Persian Gulf War, as Iraqi forces retreated to Baghdad, Saddam Hussein sent a team of engineers into the Kuwaiti oil fields and blew up hundreds of wells.

Over the next seven months, more than 1 billion barrels of oil went up in flames, and Kuwait and much of the Persian Gulf was engulfed in a poisonous smoke, creating a large-scale environmental disaster.

http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/meast/01/03/sproject.irq.kuwait.oil.fires/

 Even though the United Stated decided not to overturn Saddam in 1991, they had no problem of doing so in 2003. Why? What was different in 2003? The difference in 2003 was that Saudi Arabia was no longer the ally she used to be for the Americans in 1991. The Americans blame the Saudis for the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Centre. Fifteen out of nineteen terrorists of the 9-11 attack were Saudis as you can read at the last part of the following CNN article, titled “September 11th Hijackers Fast Facts”, September 2014.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/27/us/september-11th-hijackers-fast-facts/

The Americans are not the good customer they used to be for the Saudis. They do not buy as much oil as they did in the past. At the same time, due to Saudi Arabia’s alliance with US, China has stronger connections with Iran. Iran has been the traditional US rival in the region, and as expected Iran was the country mainly approached by China. This is a very big problem for Saudi Arabia, a country that counts on China for her future sales, and therefore seeks a stronger connection with China. As you can read in the following article from the site of the state owned China Network Television CNTV, titled “Closer military ties between China, Saudi Arabia”, February 2012, the Saudis are looking for closer military ties with the Chinese.

http://english.cntv.cn/program/newsupdate/20130402/106790.shtml

As you can read in the following article of the Wall Street Journal, titled “Saudi Arabia, China Sign Nuclear Cooperation Pact”, January 2012, Saudi Arabia wants China to develop her nuclear program. This has very important implications in the American-Saudi relations, since China will be the major rival of the US in the 21st century.

http://www.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052970204468004577164742025285500

The Saudis and the Chinese have jointly made multi-billion dollar investments in the energy sector, as you can read in the following Bloomberg article, titled “Sinopec Buys Saudi Yanbu Refinery Stake for $562 Million”, October 2014.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-10-30/sinopec-to-buy-saudi-yanbu-refinery-stake-from-parent.html

What I am saying is that since the US is no longer the best customer for Saudi Arabia, and with China’s role as a buyer and as an investor in the region increasing, the Saudi-American relations cannot be what they once were. It should be very natural to expect some members of the Saudi elites to see the US as an obstacle to their relations with the Chinese. Moreover the Saudis always accuse the Americans for not solving the Arab-Israeli conflict, something that the Iranians have always used in order to attack Saudi Arabia as a US ally, thus increasing the Iranian appeal in the Arab and Muslim populations.

Therefore the Americans did not hesitate to take Saddam Hussein out, since they care much less about Saudi Arabia. The American military bases have been moved to Qatar in 2003. By overturning Saddam Hussein, a strong autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan was created in Northern Iraq. Iraqi Kurds are the majority of the population in Northern Iraq, and they are very friendly towards the West. Moreover in the past they have been severely oppressed by Saddam Hussein. Kurdistan lies in four countries, Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria (see following map).

Image 36

Map of Turkmenistan

In addition, an Iraqi Kurdistan not controlled by the Iraqi government, could in the future supply the Nabucco pipeline and Europe with natural gas and oil, reducing the Russian influence in Europe. The region of Iraqi Kurdistan is one of the richest regions in the world in terms of oil and natural gas. As long as Saddam Hussein was in power, the West could not buy Iraqi oil, because Saddam would use the revenues to buy Russian arms. That’s the reason the West introduced the “oil for food programs”, according to which the West was buying Iraqi oil in exchange for food and medicine, so that Saddam could not use the money to buy Russian arms.

But nobody cares if the Iraqi Kurds use their oil revenues to buy arms, since they are allies of the Western world. Iraqi Kurds are already exporting oil through Turkey, something that infuriates the Iraqi government of the south, as you can read at the following Reuters article, titled “Iraqi Kurds sell third major oil cargo, fourth heads to Croatia”, August 2014.

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Iraqi Kurdistan has delivered its third major cargo of crude oil out of a Turkish port and a fourth is sailing to Croatia, showing the autonomous region is finding more buyers despite legal pressure from Baghdad and setbacks in the United States.

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/08/15/iraq-security-oil-kurds-idUKL6N0QL31Q20140815

Moreover the overturn of Saddam Hussein, and his replacement with a pro-Western government, allowed the economic sanctions against Iraq to be abolished, something that greatly increased the Iraqi oil production and kept oil prices low. The Americans had always counted on Saudi Arabia for keeping oil prices low. With the relations between the two countries deteriorating, the Americans could no longer count on the Saudis. An increase in Iraqi oil production would help the cause of low oil prices. One should never forget that Al-Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister of the period 2006-2014, was pro-American, even though he was an Iranian ally, and the Saudis were accusing him of being an Iranian agent.

Moreover the increase in Iraqi oil production, reduced competition between USA and China. As you can read in the following article of the New York Times, titled “China Is Reaping Biggest Benefits of Iraq Oil Boom”, June 2013, China has greatly benefited from Saddam’s overturn, since state owned Chinese energy companies are taking 50% of the Iraqi oil production.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/03/world/middleeast/china-reaps-biggest-benefits-of-iraq-oil-boom.html?pagewanted=all

At the following article of the Washington Post, titled “Why it’s good news for the U.S. that China is snapping up Iraq’s oil”, June 2013, you will read that even though China is taking the biggest part of the Iraqi oil, the US is still better off, because the Iraqi oil helps in keeping oil prices down, and because the increased oil production reduces competition between USA and China in other rich in oil countries.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/06/03/why-its-good-news-for-the-u-s-that-china-is-snapping-up-iraqs-oil/

Therefore the overturn of Saddam Hussein was a very positive thing for the Americans. The only negative consequence was that a large part of Iraq came under Iranian influence, but since the Saudis were not a reliable US ally anymore, that was not a big problem for the Americans. Actually it cannot be a coincidence that it was in 2001, after the 9-11 attack, that the US tried for the first time the Qatari air bases, and in 2003 the Americans moved their headquarters from the Saudi base Prince Sultan to the Al Udeid base in Qatar.

In the 16th paragraph of the following New York Times article, titled “U.S. to Move Air Base to Qatar”, April 2003, you can read that the Americans used the Qatari bases for the first time in 2001. The article also says Qatar paid 1 billion dollars built its air bases, in order to lure the US to move its headquarters there.

1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Paragraphs

The United States is shifting its major air operations center for the Middle East from Saudi Arabia to Qatar, the first step in what is likely to be a significant reduction of American forces in Saudi Arabia and a realignment of American military presence in the region, senior military officials said today.

The day-to-day responsibility for overseeing hundreds of air missions in Iraq and the Middle East will be transferred this week from Prince Sultan Air Base near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to a backup headquarters the United States built last year at Al Udeid Air base in Qatar, senior officials said.

A formal decision about whether to make this arrangement permanent has yet to be made by President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

But with the war in Iraq winding down and continued unease in Saudi Arabia about a large American military presence in the kingdom, American commanders believe that the time is right to see if the Qatar base can serve as the United States Central Command’s air operations center of the future.

 8th and 9th Paragraphs

Senior Bush administration officials sought to emphasize that shifting the location of the command center should not be interpreted as an indication that the United States was ending its military relationship with Saudi Arabia, which has involved efforts to train Saudi forces, as well as the use of Saudi air bases.

“We are not leaving Saudi Arabia,” a senior administration official said today.

 16th Paragraphs

Qatar built Al Udeid Air Base in 1996 at the cost of more than $1 billion. The nation did not have an air force at the time, but it wanted to encourage the United States military to base its aircraft there.

The United States did not begin to use the base until Sept. 29, 2001, when the Air Force needed to get aircraft in position for its war against the Taliban and the Al Qaeda terrorist network in Afghanistan.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/28/international/worldspecial/28BASE.html

 In his article, titled “The real target of the war in Iraq was Saudi Arabia”, August 2003, Jeffrey Sacks, a professor at Columbia University, writes that the US secret services take it for granted that behind the 9-11 attack were the Saudis, and they attacked Iraq in order to find new grounds that were friendly to them, in order to overcome their problems with the Saudis. The friendly region to the US could be the Iraqi Kurdistan.

He writes in the first paragraph:

“The crucial question regarding Iraq is not whether the motives for war were

disguised, but why. The argument that Iraq posed a grave and imminent

threat was absurd to anybody not under the spell of round-the-clock White

House and 10 Downing Street spin. But the actual reasons for launching the

war remain obscure. The plot thickened with the release last month of the

US Congressional investigation into September 11. It seems increasingly

likely that Iraq was attacked because Saudi Arabia was deeply implicated in

the terrorist attacks”.

 And he continues in the 6th paragraph:

“Second, a substitute had to be found for the US military bases in Saudi

Arabia. Like Saudi oil, the bases too were now under threat, especially

because the US presence in the Saudi kingdom was known to be the

principal irritant for al-Qaeda. Iraq would become a new base of US military

operations. Paul Wolfowitz, deputy defence secretary, has already explained

during an interview with Vanity Fair”.

http://www.earth.columbia.edu/sitefiles/file/Sachs%20Writing/2003/FT_2003_RealTargetWarwithSaudiArabia_08_13_03.PDF

Iraq, after Saddam Hussein, should not be seen as an independent block but as an Iranian ally. However a third block was created and that was Qatar. Qatar is the third richest country in the world in terms of natural gas reserves, and it also has some descent quantities of oil. Once the Americans moved their military bases there, Qatar started following an independent foreign policy without having to consult Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates anymore.

Qatar is in the middle of Saudi Arabia and Iran, both geographically and metaphorically. Qatar and Iran share the richest natural gas field in the world, namely the South Pars/North Field. The Qatari part of the field is the North Fields, which holds almost all of Qatar’s natural gas, and South Pars is the Iranian part, which holds about 2/3 of the Iranian natural gas reserves.

Image 37

Map of South Pars North Field

As you can read at the following Reuters article, titled “Gas-rich Qatar annoys Arabs with pro-Iran policy”, April 2009, the Arab countries are annoyed with Qatar’s good relations with Iran. Moreover the article says that due to the geography of the South Pars/ North Field, the Iranians could easily knock out the Qatari economy if they wanted to.

4th Paragraph

With its liquefied natural gas investments now paying dividends, Qatar has the second highest per capita income in the world, although its population has doubled in five years to 1.5 million. Only 250,000 of those are nationals.

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“Inviting Ahmadinejad was promotion, not mediation. But you only have to look at the map of the north fields to understand it: the Iranians could knock the economy out for 10 years easily,” the diplomat said.

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2009/04/01/us-qatar-iran-arabs-idUKTRE53035W20090401

But we should not see Qatar as an ally of Iran. The two countries have many differences too, as we recently saw with the Qatari funding of the Syrian rebels, in order to overthrow the Syrian dictator Bassar al Assad, the strongest Iranian ally in the Middle East, as you can read in the following Financial Times article, titled “Qatar bankrolls Syrian revolt with cash and arms”, May 2013.

1st and 2nd Paragraph

The gas-rich state of Qatar has spent as much as $3bn over the past two years supporting the rebellion in Syria, far exceeding any other government, but is now being nudged aside by Saudi Arabia as the prime source of arms to rebels.

The cost of Qatar’s intervention, its latest push to back an Arab revolt, amounts to a fraction of its international investment portfolio. But its financial support for the revolution that has turned into a vicious civil war dramatically overshadows western backing for the opposition.

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/86e3f28e-be3a-11e2-bb35-00144feab7de.html

Qatar is an Arab country, and has a lot in common with the other Arab countries of the Persian Gulf, but it also shares with Iran the South Pars/North Field. Note that Iran is not an Arab country. The Iranians are Persians.

Qatar is also investing heavily abroad, in order to buy political influence. If you google the words “Qatar Foreign Investments”, or “Qatar Investment Authority”, you will be very impressed about the magnitude of Qatari investments, especially in Europe. Only to host the World Cup of 2022, Qatar promised to invest 200 billion dollars in infrastructure, as you can read in the following Yahoo article, titled “Qatar reportedly spending $200 billion to build infrastructure necessary for 2022 World Cup”, July 2013. Qatar will be the first Arab country, and the first country of the Middle East, to host the World Cup.

http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/soccer-dirty-tackle/qatar-reportedly-spending-200-billion-build-infrastructure-necessary-183809206.html

Many people believe that what determines the political influence of a country abroad is its military potency. They are very wrong. European socialists do not care about whether Qatar or Iran has a stronger army. What they care about is who is going to invest more in their country and who is going to pay them more. And the champion in foreign investments is Qatar. Qatar has only 300.000 Qatari citizens to support, since the rest of the population are foreigners who simply work there. Moreover Qatar hosts the largest American military bases in the Middle East, and it does not have to worry too much about its defence. Therefore Qatar has plenty of cash to buy socialists in foreign parliaments and Jihadists in the battlefields.

Therefore the three main blocks of the Middle East today, are Saudi Arabia, Iran and Qatar, instead of Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq that used to be the case until 2003. As I already said the relations between the countries of the Persian Gulf are very simple. They are competing with each other about who is going to sell more oil and natural gas. The rich in oil and natural gas countries also compete for influence in the neighbouring countries, not only to sell their oil and natural gas there, but also to use them to construct their pipeline networks.

All these countries want to sell their oil and natural gas to Europe and Asia. Africa is a poor client and it also has its own resources. The Gulf countries are currently selling more oil and gas to the Asian countries, because the Europeans import mainly from Russia. As you can see in the following map, Iran has a great geographical advantage over Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Image 38

Map of Iran-Iraq Pipeline and TAPI Pipeline

Syria, Iraq and Lebanon belong to the Iranian sphere of influence, and therefore Iran can construct the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline, sending natural gas and oil to the Mediterranean Sea and Europe, avoiding Red Sea and the Straits that increase transport costs. Moreover Iran can send natural gas and oil to Europe through Turkey with pipeline networks. Finally Iran can send natural gas and oil to China through Pakistan and India.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar do not have these options, and they can only sell to these regions by using the sea lanes. As long as Iran is in bad terms with the West, this is not a very big problem, because many countries cannot buy from Iran. Moreover the Western oil and natural gas multinationals are not allowed to invest in Iran. Therefore the Iranian production is low, and Iran is also excluded from many markets.

But now all this is changing because Iran is in a process of normalizing its relations with the West, because the US and the EU want to send Iranian oil and natural gas to Europe in order to reduce the Russian influence. This is very dangerous for all Arab countries, but the situation is a bit better for Qatar, since Qatar and Iran can jointly exploit the South Pars/North Field and send its gas to Europe and Asia.

It must also be taken into account how the countries of the Middle East behaved during the Arab Spring. To a large extent, the Arab Spring was financed by Qatar. The major protagonist of the Arab Spring was the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood is an organization of Islamists that has supporters in all countries of the Middle East and North Africa, and its main financial supporter is Qatar, while Turkey is its main adviser in military issues.

The Arab Spring and the Muslim Brotherhood attacked the national socialist dictators of the Middle East and North Africa, that were either pro-Russian, as was the case with Qaddafi in Libya and Assad in Syria, or that were controlled by Saudi Arabia as was the case with Mubarak in Egypt. As you can read in the following Times article, titled “Saudis told Obama not to humiliate Mubarak”, February 2011, the Saudis asked Obama to support Mubarak. I do not think that Obama paid much attention to the Saudis’ request.

1st and 2nd Paragraphs

Saudi Arabia has threatened to prop up President Mubarak if the White House tries to force a swift change of regime in Egypt.

In a testy personal telephone call on January 29, King Abdullah told President Obama not to humiliate Mr Mubarak and warned that he would step in to bankroll Egypt if the US withdrew its aid programme, worth $1.5 billion annually.

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/world/middleeast/article2905628.ece

Islamists and national socialists have many years of clashes in these countries. During the Arab Spring, the Islamists, with Qatari funding, Turkish military training, American tolerance, and the pretext of elections, managed to cause major problems to the local dictators. I refer to the issue of elections as a “pretext”, because it was not about a true democratic reform. Hamas, the Brotherhood’s subsidiary in Gaza, won with Qatari funding the elections in 2006 but never organized elections again. Similarly, the Brotherhood’s candidate in Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, won with Qatari funding the elections in 2012, and then gave himself powers that put him above the country’s judicial system.

The same is true in Turkey, where the Islamists Erdogan and Davutoglu, the Turkish President and Prime Minister, two supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, are gradually reducing whatever rights and freedoms Turkish people enjoyed under the national socialist regime that existed before Erdogan came to power in 2003.

Even though the Arab Spring made a good start for Qatar and Turkey, it finally went sour. In Libya, even though the pro-Russian dictator Qaddafi was overthrown, the Muslim Brotherhood did not manage to take control of the whole country. In Egypt, even though the Brotherhood’s candidate Mohamed Morsi managed to defeat the Saudi controlled dictator Hosni Mibarak, he was later overturn by General Sisi, who was heavily funded by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

In Syria, Assad is still in power, controlling a part of the country, even though in the beginning it looked like the pro-Russian dictator was going to be overturned. Even though the Americans initially were very enthusiastic about overturning Assad, in the process they have not supported the rebels as much as Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia had hoped for, because they are trying to normalize their relations with Iran, a major ally of Assad. Moreover the Russians really stood for Assad, and some European countries did the same thing, so it was difficult for the Americans to overturn Assad anyway.

Moreover the Arab Spring created a major internal conflict in the Arab world, since Qatar was the only Arab country that supported the Muslim Brotherhood, together with Iran and Turkey. As you can read in the following BBC article, tilted “Gulf ambassadors pulled from Qatar over interference”, March 2014, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain pulled their ambassadors from Qatar.

1st Paragraph

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE have withdrawn their ambassadors from Qatar after alleging that it has been meddling in their internal affairs.

13th, 14th and 15th Paragraphs

Oil- and gas-rich Qatar has been an increasingly vocal diplomatic player. It strongly supported Egypt’s now-ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and is a key backer of Islamist rebel groups in Syria.

The state is home to the influential al-Jazeera news network, which broadcasts across the world and has been critical of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.

Anti-Saudi programmes broadcast by al-Jazeera were thought to have been a major reason for Riyadh’s decision to withdraw its ambassador to Qatar from 2002 until 2008.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-26447914

In the following CNN article, titled “Muslim Brotherhood leader: Qatar asked us to leave”, September 2014, you can read that Qatar had to finally ask the Muslim Brotherhood leaders to leave the country, in order to normalize its relations with the other Arab countries.

http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/14/world/meast/muslim-brotherhood-qatar/

The Muslim Brotherhood members that were expelled from Qatar, found refuge in Turkey, as you can read in the following New York Times article, titled “Turkey Open to Bids for Refuge by Muslim Brotherhood Exiles”, September 2014.

1st Paragraph

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey said on Monday that several exiled leaders of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood who fled to Qatarbut lately have come under pressure to leave that Persian Gulf monarchy could perhaps find a new refuge in his country.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/16/world/europe/turkey-open-to-bids-for-refuge-by-muslim-brotherhood-exiles.html

Another good article about the Arab Spring is the Financial Times’ “Fall of Egypt’s Mohamed Morsi is blow to Qatari leadership”, June 2013. You can read that Qatar gave Egypt 8 billion dollars, in order to support the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohamed Morsi, and that his overturn was a major blow to Qatar.

3rd Paragraph

Qatar has poured $8bn of financial support into Egypt, and has been the main Gulf backer of Mr Morsi’s government even if it began its support before he took over.

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/af5d068a-e3ef-11e2-b35b-00144feabdc0.html

In the following Telegraph article, titled “Saudi and UAE ready $20bn boost for Egypt’s El-Sisi”, June 2014, you will read that Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates were ready to finance with 20 billion dollars General Sisi, the man who overturn the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/10868522/Saudi-and-UAE-ready-20bn-boost-for-Egypts-El-Sisi.html

At the following RT (Russia Today) aritcle, a news agency funded by the Russian government, titled “Arab spring: Western-backed exported Islamist revolution”, January 2012, you will read that the Arab Spring was funded by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and it was backed by the West, in order to establish pro-Western Islamist governments in the Middle East and Northern Africa. The article mentions both Saudi Arabia and Qatar, because both Saudi Arabia and Qatar attacked the pro-Russian dictators Qaddafi and Assad, even though they funded different rebel groups.

1st Paragraph

The string of uprisings in the Arab world boils down to Saudi Arabia and Qatar using money and influence to hijack public dissent and bring Sunni Islamists to power, says John R. Bradley, British author and expert on the Middle East.

http://rt.com/news/arab-spring-islamist-revolution-723/

At the following Reuters article, titled “Saudi Arabia is playing chicken with its oil”, December 2014, you will read that while Saudi Arabia and Qatar are funding the rebels in Syria, the Iranians and the Russians are arming Assad in order to keep him in power. The article also says that through its late oil war, Saudi Arabia wants to squeeze the American companies that produce shale oil, but also to squeeze Russia and Iran, in order to make it harder for them to support the Syrian dictator, Bassar al Assad.

6th, 7th and 8th Paragraph

While Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been arming many of the Syrian rebels, the Iranian regime—and to a lesser extent, Russia—have provided the weapons and funding to keep Assad in power.

The kingdom has two targets in its latest oil war: it is trying to squeeze U.S. shale oil—which requires higher prices to remain competitive with conventional production—out of the market. More broadly, the Saudis are also punishing two rivals, Russia and Iran, for their support of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the Syrian civil war. Since the Syrian uprising began in 2011, regional and world powers have played out a series of proxy battles there.

The conflict is now a full-blown proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which is playing  out across the region. Both sides increasingly see their rivalry as a winner-take-all conflict: if the Shi’ite Hezbollah gains an upper hand in Lebanon, then the Sunnis of Lebanon—and by extension, their Saudi patrons—lose a round to Iran. If a Shi’ite-led government solidifies its control of Iraq, then Iran will have won another round.

http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2014/12/15/saudi-arabia-is-playing-chicken-with-its-oil/

A very good article about why the Saudis are keeping oil prices down is “Why Saudis Decided Not to Prop Up Oil”, December 2014, by Wall Street Journal.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/why-saudis-decided-not-to-prop-up-oil-1419219182

 Another alliance in the Middle East that is very important is the one between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Israel and Saudi Arabia are deeply hurt by the West rapprochement with Iran. Iran is the deadliest enemy for both countries. Israel has a much stronger air force than Iran, and Iran has a much stronger navy than Israel. As long as Israel and Turkey were allies, Israel could use Turkey in order to attack Iran with its superior air force. But Turkey is now one of Israel’s toughest enemies, and the Israelis can no longer use Turkey in order to reach Iran. However Israel could attack Iran through Saudi Arabia, as you can see in the following map.

Image 39

Map of Israel

Actually Saudi Arabia is the only possible route for Israel, since Syria and Iraq belong to the Iranian sphere of influence, and Turkey is a very hostile to Israel country. As you can read in the following RT (Russia Today) article, titled “Israel working with Saudi Arabia on Iran’s nuclear contingency plan”, November 2013, the Saudis would be willing to help Israel attack the Iranian nuclear facilities.

3rd Paragraph

It was also revealed that the Saudis were willing to assist an Israeli attack by cooperating with the use of drones, rescue helicopters, and tanker planes. “Once the Geneva agreement is signed, the military option will be back on the table. The Saudis are furious and are willing to give Israel all the help it needs,”an unnamed diplomatic source told the paper.

http://rt.com/news/israel-saudi-iran-nuclear-846/

Keep in mind that Jordan, which lies between Israel and Saudi Arabia, is a Saudi ally, and is not in the sphere of influence of Iran or Qatar. Qatar tried to take control of Jordan by supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, but the Brotherhood leader in Jordan was finally arrested, as you can read in the following New York Times article, titled “Brotherhood Leader’s Arrest in Jordan Is Seen as Warning From Monarchy”, December 2014, the Brotherhood leader in Jordan was arrested.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/08/world/brotherhood-leaders-arrest-in-jordan-is-seen-as-warning-from-monarchy.html?_r=0

Moreover, if the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline is ever built, in order to carry Iranian and Iraqi oil to the Mediterranean Sea, the Saudis could use a pipeline that would run from Saudi Arabia to Israel through Jordan, in order to sell their own oil to the Mediterranean Sea too (see the following map). For the Saudis the good thing about the Israelis is that they will never be under Iranian influence.

Image 40

Saudi Arabia and Israel Alliance

As you can read in the following i24news article, titled “As oil prices dive, Saudi Arabia looks to Israel for new market”, December 2014, the Saudis are thinking about selling oil to Israel. If they finally decide to sell oil to Israel, what would stop them from using Israel to export their oil too? Note that i24news is a 24 hour Israeli TV network that broadcasts in three languages. I have to say that the Saudis have never recognized Israel as a country until now, and all these cannot happen tomorrow. But the geopolitical shifts in the Middle East are huge, and things are changing very quickly.

http://www.i24news.tv/en/news/international/middle-east/53031-141201-as-oil-prices-dive-saudi-arabia-looks-to-israel-for-new-market

I must say that neither Israel nor Saudi Arabia is afraid that the Americans will turn against them. They are afraid that by normalizing their relations with Iran, the Americans will adopt a more neutral stance and therefore Israel and Saudi Arabia will not enjoy the same level of protection that they used to.

Another big problem for the Israelis is that if the West’s economic sanctions against Iran are dropped, the big Western oil multinationals will be able to invest in the Iranian energy sector, and this will dramatically increase the Iranian production and revenues. Therefore the Iranians will be able to buy and develop better arms, and also supply Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon with more and better guns.

For the Israelis it is a big deal to make an alliance with Saudi Arabia against Iran, otherwise they cannot reach the Iranian borders. On the contrary, Iran can reach Israel through Syria, a major Iranian ally, but also through Lebanon, since Hezbollah, the terrorist organization that runs Lebanon, is an Iranian subsidiary. Moreover Iran has very good relations with Hamas, the terrorist organization that controls Gaza and is mainly funded by Qatar. Therefore Iran can reach Israel through Syria, Lebanon and Gaza, while the only possibility for the Israelis to reach Iran is through Saudi Arabia.

Image 41

Map of Israel

As you can read in the following article of USA Today, titled “Two powers, Qatar and Iran, try to sway Hamas”, November 2012, Qatar and Iran were competing about who was going to control Hamas. Iran was supplying Hamas with rockets and Qatar with money. In the end Hamas became a Qatari subsidiary, but it was also in very good terms with Iran, until the moment Hamas supported the rebels that were fighting Assad in Syria.

1st, 2nd and 3rd Paragraphs

The courtship of Hamas between rivals Iran and Qatar has been one of the Middle East’s intriguing subplots of the Arab Spring. The bloodshed in Gaza has now sharpened their competition for influence with the Palestinian militant group and the direction it takes in the future.

Qatar has sought to use its vast wealth to win over Hamas with investments and humanitarian aid and encouraging Arab partners to do the same — part of the hyper-rich U.S. allied nation’s broader campaign to bring under its wing Islamist movements that have risen to power in the region the past two years. Qatar’s influence with Hamas could edge it away from armed action toward diplomacy.

Iran, meanwhile, is invigorating its longtime role as the builder of the rocket arsenal for Hamas’ military wing.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2012/11/23/qatar-iran-hamas/1723165/

Foreign and Regional Powers in the Middle East

The last geopolitical axis that must be taken into account is the interaction between the great powers and the regional players. The Russians want to block the connection of the Middle East to Europe, and they can do so in two ways. The first one is by blocking pipelines not controlled by the Russian government, and the second one is by controlling the pipelines that send oil and natural gas from the Middle East to Europe, in order to control supply and prices.

An example of a pipeline that was blocked by the Russians was the Qatar-Turkey pipeline, which would carry Qatari natural gas to Europe through Turkey, following the route Qatar – Saudi Arabia – Iraq – Syria -Turkey or Qatar – Kuwait – Iraq – Syria – Turkey (see following map).

Image 42

Map of Qatar Turkey Pipeline

At the following Guardian article, titled “Syria intervention plan fuelled by oil interests, not chemical weapon concern”, August 2013, you can read that the Syrian dictator Assad refused to allow the Qatar-Turkey pipeline to pass through Syria, because as he said it would hurt the Russian interests in Europe.

17th Paragraph

These strategic concerns, motivated by fear of expanding Iranian influence, impacted Syria primarily in relation to pipeline geopolitics. In 2009 – the same year former French foreign minister Dumas alleges the British began planning operations in Syria – Assad refused to sign a proposed agreement with Qatar that would run a pipeline from the latter’s North field, contiguous with Iran’s South Pars field, through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and on to Turkey, with a view to supply European markets – albeit crucially bypassing Russia. Assad’s rationale was “to protect the interests of [his] Russian ally, which is Europe’s top supplier of natural gas.”

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2013/aug/30/syria-chemical-attack-war-intervention-oil-gas-energy-pipelines

 An example where the Russians tried to take control of a pipeline themselves was the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline. As you can read at the following CNBC article, titled “How Vladimir Putin and Russia Hope to Win Big in Syria, February 2013, Gazprom would construct and manage the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline. CNBC is one of the largest American TV networks, and this article has a great analysis of the cold war between Russia and United States in the Middle East and North Africa, and I suggest that you read the whole thing.

2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th Paragraphs

The Soviet Union acquired the Tardus Naval Port in Syria in 1971 without any real purpose for it. With their ships welcomed in Algeria, Cuba or Vietnam, Tardus was too insignificant to be developed. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia lacked the funds to spend on the base and no reason to invest in it.

The Russian return to the Middle East brought them first to where the Soviet Union had had its closest ties. Libya had been a major buyer of arms and many of the military officers had studied in the Soviet Union. Russia was no longer a global power, but it could be used by the Libyans as a counter force to block domination by the United States and Europeans.

When Gaddafi fell, Tardus became Russia’s only presence in the region. That and the discovery of vast gas deposits just offshore have transformed the once insignificant port into a strategic necessity.

Earlier at the United Nations, Russia had failed to realize that Security Council Resolution 1973 that was to implement a new policy of “responsibility to protect” cloaked a hidden agenda. It was to be turned from a no-fly zone into a free-fire zone for NATO. That strategic blunder of not vetoing the resolution led to the destruction of Gaddafi’s regime and cost Russia construction contracts and its investments in Libyan gas and oil to the tune of 10 billion dollars.

8th and 9th Paragraphs

“What Russia lost through the anti-Al-Assad alliance was the possibility to control the natural gas market across Europe and the means to shape events on the continent. In July 2011, Iran, Iraq, and Syria agreed to build a gas pipeline from the South Pars gas field in Iran to Lebanon and across the Mediterranean to Europe. The pipeline that would have been managed by Gazprom would have carried 110 million cubic meters of gas. About a quarter of the gas would be consumed by the transit countries, leaving seventy or so million cubic meters to be sold to Europe”.

Violence in Iraq and the Syrian civil war has ended any hope that the pipeline will be built, but not all hope is lost. 

http://www.cnbc.com/id/100496808#

For the Qatar-Turkey and the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipelines, you can also read the article of the Russian news agency RT (Russia Today), titled “Energy ballet-2: Syria, Ukraine & Pipelineistan”, August 2014. You can read in the article that the Emir of Qatar visited Syria in 2009, in order to convince Assad to allow the Qatar-Turkey pipeline to pass through Syria, but Assad refused, because the pipeline would hurt Russian and Syrian interests. Moreover the article says that the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline had already been agreed.

3rd, 4th, 5th Paragraphs

The Obama administration’s Syria master plan was ‘Assad must go’; regime change would yield a US-supported Muslim Brotherhood entity, and a key plank of Pipelineistan – the $10 billion Iran-Iraq-Syriagas pipeline – would be forever ditched.

The Emir of Qatar himself had taken the road to Damascus in 2009 to negotiate a Qatar-Syria-Turkey gas pipeline. Bashar al-Assad though, said no; his excuse was his unwillingness to jeopardize Syria’s energy deals with Russia.

And yet, in 2001, an agreement went ahead for a rival Iran-Iraq-Syria project. So the writing was on the wall – or on the (steel) pipes arriving one day in the Eastern Mediterranean. The gas for prospective European customers would in fact come from Iran’s South Pars field, contiguous to Qatar’s North Dome; together, they form the largest gas field on the planet.

 7th Paragraphs

Thus the key economic rationale for the whole ‘Assad must go’ disaster; a war OF terror largely financed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, with logistical support from Turkey, with Ankara, the CIA and the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) gang running a ‘secret’ weaponizing airlift of so-called ‘good’ jihadists using Saudi, Qatari and Jordanian military cargo planes since 2012.

23rd Paragraphs

Nabucco’s idea was to bring gas to the EU via Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria. Bur where from? Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan were finally ruled out. It could be Azerbaijani gas, but that requires a fortune in extra investment. The Iraqi industry won’t be ready anytime soon. And Iran will be finally in play only if a nuclear deal is clinched till the end of 2014, and sanctions lifted in 2015 (all this a major ‘if’).

http://rt.com/op-edge/182816-energy-wars-ukraine-syria/

Now let’s turn to the Americans. The Americans want to connect Middle East to Europe through Turkey, in order to reduce Russian influence in Europe. This can be done if the Jihadists of Qatar and Turkey win in Syria and Iraq, so that the Qatar-Turkey pipeline can be built, or if the Iraqi Kurds send natural gas and oil to Europe through Turkey, or finally if the Americans manage to reach an agreement with Iran, which I think would be the most convenient way for the Americans to supply Europe with natural gas and oil. They could also use a combination of all the above.

The Arab Spring was very convenient for the Americans, because it would bring to power in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa Islamist leaders controlled by their allies, Qatar and Turkey, and therefore the Russians would not be able to control the pipelines connecting Middle East and North Africa to Europe.

Finally China is trying to ensure its energy security by investing billions of dollars in all countries of the Middle East. China has heavily invested in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar, Iraq and United Arab Emirates. However the traditional ally of China in the Middle East is Iran, because Iran has been a traditional American enemy. It is Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar that are under pressure, in order to convince China to move away from Iran and towards them, because they all desperately need to sell oil and natural gas to China.

What I am going to say now is irrelevant to the subject but it is important in order to combat socialist propaganda. According to socialist propaganda, the Arab countries do not have an independent foreign policy, and they do as they are told by the Americans. You should examine the foreign policy of the Arabs in relation to China, which is a geopolitical rival of the US, but a great customer for the Arabs, and not the Arab foreign policy in relation to Russia, which is a geopolitical rival of the US, but a great competitor of the Arabs too. At the following pie charts you can see the best clients of Saudi Arabia.

Image 43

Saudi Arabia's Export by Country

http://www.eia.gov/countries/cab.cfm?fips=SA

Therefore whenever a socialist tells you that the Arab countries do as they are told by the Americans, you should talk to him about the Arab foreign policy towards China, which is a rival for the US and a customer for the Arabs, and also explain to him that when it comes to Russia, the Arab countries are behind the Americans because Russia is a great competitor for them in the oil and natural gas markets. I say so because above all this booklet aims in combating Communist and Nazi propaganda, and the only way this can be done is by explaining to the people what is really going on.

The way Saudi Arabia and Iran are approaching the US and China is actually very interesting. The Saudis are mainly selling to Asia, and therefore they want to turn away from the US. The US is no longer their best customer, and the Americans are not even willing to intervene in the Saudi-Iranian conflicts in the same way they used to do in the past, because they want to normalize their relations with the Iranians. Therefore the Saudis want to turn towards the best client, which is China. For the Saudis China would be the perfect customer and patron.

The problem for the Saudis is that even though China has invested billions in Saudi Arabia, she has much stronger ties with Iran than she has with Saudi Arabia. Therefore it is not easy for Saudi Arabia to completely abandon the US and turn to China. At the following analysis of the Wilson Centre, one of the major American think tanks, titled “Iran’s Rouhani Puts U.S.- Saudi Ties to the Test”, October 2013, you can read that two former Saudi foreign ministers, Prince Bandar bin Sultan and Turki al-Faisal, said that whether the Saudis like it or not, they cannot abandon the Americans completely. As I just said the problem for the Saudis is that China has stronger bonds with Iran than Saudi Arabia, and Russia, the other big player, is a major competitor of Saudi Arabia in the oil markets. Moreover the Americans are still buying Saudi oil.

5th Paragraph

In fact, the Saudi view of the U.S. track record in the Middle East since President George W.Bush’s “freedom agenda” to promote democracy and then his 2003 decision to invade Iraq amounts to a long indictment of American missteps and misjudgments for which Saudi Arabia has paid the cost and Iran collected the dividends. The U.S. invasion of Iraq resulted, in the words of Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, in a pro-Iranian Shiite government that “handed Iraq to Iran on a silver platter.”

 7th and 8th Paragraphs

Then came the 2011 “Arab Spring” in the name of democracy, which the Obama administration tried awkwardly to embrace along with the Muslim Brotherhood and similar Islamic groups that won elections in Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco. Worst yet, it touched off unresolved civil wars in Yemen and Syria. The Saudis have never forgotten, or forgiven, that the Brotherhood backed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein during the 1990-91 Gulf War after the Saudis had offered thousands of Brotherhood members a place of refuge from persecution in Egypt and Syria.

The bitter Syrian civil war has become the latest bone of contention in the fraying U.S.-Saudi relationship. Since Iran and its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, are backing Syrian President Bashar alAssad and Saudi Arabia is backing his overthrow, Syria has become another test of American fidelity

 12th and 13th Paragraphs

The problem now for Saudi Arabia is how to protect itself from the fallout of a U.S.-Iranian thaw and possible long-term rapprochement. In the mid-2000s, King Abdullah sought to diversify the kingdom’s foreign friends away from Washington, taking his first trip abroad as king to China in January 2006. The Chinese had provided Saudi Arabia with medium-range DF-3 missiles, capable even of carrying nuclear warhead to protect it from Iran in the late 1980s. The IHS Jane’s Intelligence Review reported in July 2013 that China has sent more missiles and helped the Saudis built a second launching site with its Chinese missiles aimed at both Iran and Israel.

The Saudis know, however, that China is no substitute for the United States when it comes to ability, or political readiness, to project military power in the Middle East. So, the kingdom is in the process of purchasing $60 billion worth of all kinds of U.S. weaponry, including 84 more F-15s and an updated missile defense system. This has locked Saudi Arabia into the American security umbrella for decades to come.

 15th and 16th Paragraphs

Two former American-educated Saudi ambassadors to Washington, Princes Bandar bin Sultan and Turki al-Faisal, both came to the same conclusion after decades of dealing with Saudi foreign policy: like it or not, “the only game in town” for the Saudis was the United States. Whether this attitude will survive a U.S.-Iranian opening remains to be seen. The Saudi leadership has become used to coping with serious differences with Washington over the years. Its strategy has been to isolate and prevent them from upending the overall close security relationship.

http://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/iran_rouhani_puts_us_saudi_ties_test_ottaway.pdf

On the other side, Iran wants to sell its oil and natural gas to Europe, which is the best client, but it is afraid that this might cause problems to its relations with China and Russia. And maybe destroying its alliance with Russia is not a big deal for Iran, but it is when it comes to China, because China is a major buyer of Iranian oil.

Qatar is trying to lure China too. As you can read in the 4th paragraph of the following Al Arabiya article, titled “Qatar looks East: Growing importance of China’s LNG market”, November 2014, China is Qatar’s fourth largest client, following Japan, India, and South Korea. In the 8th paragraph of the following article you can read that when it comes to liquefied natural gas, Qatar is the world’s largest exporter. That is if natural gas sold by pipelines is not taken into account. When all natural gas sales are taken into account, Russia is the world’s largest exporter.

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/business/2014/11/24/Qatar-looks-East-Growing-importance-of-China-s-LNG-market.html

At the following Reuters article, titled “Qatar to become first Middle East clearing hub for China’s yuan”, November 2014, you will read that China created in Qatar her first hub for clearing transactions in Chinese Yuan, in order to reduce her dependency on the dollar.

1st, 2nd and 3rd Paragraphs

“Qatar will become the Middle East’s first hub for clearing transactions in the Chinese yuan, in a step that could over the long run help Gulf oil exporting countries reduce their dependence on the U.S. dollar.

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China’s Doha branch has been appointed as the clearing bank for yuan deals in Qatar, China’s central bank said on Tuesday.

“The signing of the MoU and the appointment of the renminbi clearing bank will increase the strong ties between China and Qatar and position Qatar as the regional centre for renminbi clearing and settlement,” the Qatari central bank said”.

11th Paragraph

Qatar, which has some $43 billion in net foreign currency reserves and an estimated $170 billion in its sovereign wealth fund, is the biggest supplier of liquefied natural gas to China.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/04/china-offshore-yuan-idUSL4N0SU3KV20141104

At the following Reuters article, titled “China’s CNPC, Qatar Petroleum planning JV in China”, January 2011, you can read about the joint investments that the state owned China National Petroleum Corporation CNPC, and the state owned Qatar Petroleum are planning in Qatar and China.

1st, 2nd and 3rd Paragraph

China and Qatar will strengthen cooperation in the oil and gas industries and the top oil companies of the two countries plan joint venture projects in China, the government said on Thursday.

During a meeting between visiting Qatar Oil Minister Abdullah al-Attiyah and Wang Yong, the head of state-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC), the two sides vowed more communication and joint development.

“Both sides talked about planned joint venture projects in China between China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) and Qatar Petroleum (QP),” the SASAC said on its website http://www.sasac.gov.cn.

http://in.reuters.com/article/2011/01/13/china-energy-qatar-idINTOE70C06920110113

However Qatar would not want to see the American army leaving the country, because that would make Qatar very vulnerable to Saudi Arabia and Iran. Qatar would stop being an independent player if it stopped hosting the American military bases. When it comes to buying political power abroad Qatar is the number one country, but in military terms Qatar is very weak when compared to the Saudis and the Iranians. It is one thing to buy socialists in foreign parliaments, and another to face the Saudi and the Iranian armies. The first one requires money and the second one requires guns.

The Wrong Explanations of the Wars in the Middle East

All the wars in the Middle East are about oil and natural gas. Divisions between Sunni and Shia Muslims, Muslims and Jews, Arabs and Jews, Islamists and secularists, Arabs and Persians (Iranians), and so on, are of only secondary importance to these wars, and I want to give some examples to demonstrate that this is so.

The first example is the Kurdish people who are both Sunni and Shia Muslims, but they are united because they consider their Kurdish identity as more important than their religious identity.

The second example is that Erdogan’s Sunni Turkey had very good relations with Syria, which is governed by Assad, an Allawite Muslim, until Assad agreed with Iran and Iraq to construct the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline. From that moment on Erdogan started treating Assad as a great enemy, constantly pressing for his overturn. Allawites are an off shoot of Shia Islam. However this did not bother and did not stop Erdogan from having very good relations with Assad, until the latter agreed to the construction of the Iran-Iraq-Syria Pipeline, which would bypass Turkey as an energy hub.

The third example is the Iraqi elections of 2010. In these elections, Saudi Arabia, which is a predominantly Sunni and a theocratic country, supported Ayad Allawi, a Shia Muslim and a secular nationalist. The Sunni Saudis, decided to support a secular Shia Muslim, in a country that has a Sunni population of around 35%. They did so because the majority of the population in Iraq are Shia Muslims, and they thought they had better chances to gain influence in Iraq by supporting a Shia candidate. Moreover Ayad Allawi was not in good terms with Iran, and Iraq would not fall in the Iranian sphere of influence if he was to become the next president. However he did not win the elections.

The fourth example is Iran, Qatar and Hamas. The Iranians, who are Shia Muslims, had very good relations with Hamas, the Sunni terrorist organisation that controls Gaza, which is mainly funded by Sunni Qatar. Even though Sunni Qatar and Shia Iran disagree on many issues, they are both very rich in natural gas, and they are united against Israel which started selling natural gas, harming the interests of both Qatar and Iran. At the following map you can see how Qatar and Iran, that are both very rich in natural gas, can cooperate in order to attack Israel, Qatar by using Hamas, its subsidiary in Gaza, and Iran by using Hezbollah, its subsidiary in Lebanon.

Image 44

Map of Gaza

Qatar and Turkey are the main allies of Hamas, as you can read in the following Time article, titled “Hamas Still Has Some Friends Left”, July 2014:

4th Paragraph

Hamas has two clear allies, according to Middle East experts: Qatar and Turkey. Both have given Hamas their public support and financial assistance estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

http://time.com/3033681/hamas-gaza-palestine-israel-egypt/

For Iran and Hezbollah you can read the following BBC article, titled “Who are Hezbollah”, July 2010

1st, 2nd Paragraphs

Hezbollah – or the Party of God – is a powerful political and military organisation in Lebanon made up mainly of Shia Muslims.

It emerged with financial backing from Iran in the early 1980s and began a struggle to drive Israeli troops from Lebanon.

23rd Paragraphs

The party was long supported by Iran, which provided it with arms and money.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4314423.stm

The fifth example is Sunni Saudi Arabia and the Sunni organization of Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia recently designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation as you can read in the following Reuters article, titled “Saudi Arabia designates Muslim Brotherhood terrorist group”, March 2014

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/07/us-saudi-security-idUSBREA260SM20140307

However in the past, Saudi Arabia used to give shelter to the members of the Muslim Brotherhood that were exiled from their countries. But now that the Muslim Brotherhood is funded by Qatar and has good relations with Iran, and it went against Mubarak in Egypt, the Saudis designated it as a terrorist organization.

Moreover the Muslim Brotherhood accuses Saudi Arabia for its relations with the Americans, and at the same time the Brotherhood is mainly funded by Qatar, which hosts the largest American military bases in the Middle East.

The sixth example is the Gaza war of July 2014. Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which are all Sunni Muslim countries, blamed the Sunni Muslims of Hamas and not the Israeli Jews. The reason is that Hamas is a subsidiary of the Muslim Brotherhood and it also has strong ties with Iran. You can read the following New York Times article, titled “Arab Leaders, Viewing Hamas as Worse Than Israel, Stay Silent”, July 2014.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/31/world/middleeast/fighting-political-islam-arab-states-find-themselves-allied-with-israel.html

Therefore Middle East wars are, and have always been, energy wars. That does not mean that the Sunnis love the Shias, or that the Arabs love the Jews, or that Islamists love secularists and so on. It simply means that Middle East countries do not go to painful and expensive wars for such reasons. They go to wars for oil and natural gas, and they do not hesitate to form alliances with groups of any nationality, religion or ideology in order to prevail in these energy wars. All countries of the Middle East use religion, nationality and ideology as tools, in order to prevail in the oil and natural gas wars. I want to give the example of Iran and Israel.

Iran has used the war against Israel in order to gain influence in the Sunni Arab world, at the expense of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia was a US ally, and the Americans were protecting Israel. The Iranians are not even Arabs, they are Persians. They are also Shia Muslims in a Muslim world that is predominantly Sunni. Sunni Muslims are 85%-90% of all Muslims, as you can read at the following BBC article, titled “Sunnis and Shia in the Middle East”, December 2013.

3rd Paragraph

The majority of Muslims are Sunnis – estimates suggest the figure is somewhere between 85% and 90%.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-25434060

Therefore the Iranians had a great disadvantage over the Saudis, because they are Shia and Persians. By fighting Israel, the Iranian prestige in the Sunni Arab world was greatly enhanced at the expense of Saudi Arabia. If both the Iranians and the Saudis were in good terms with the Americans, and Israel was not blocking about 1/3 of their exit to the Mediterranean Sea, who would really care about Israel? As you can see on the following map, Israel is blocking a large part of the Saudi, Iraqi, Qatari and Iranian exit to the Mediterranean Sea.

Image 45

Map of Israel

If Israel was located where I have made the red circle on the above map, and both the Saudis and the Iranians were in good terms with the Americans nobody would care about Israel.

Another recent example about how the Muslims are using Israel to achieve their geopolitical goals is what the Turkish President Recep Erdogan did. Erdogan had very good relations with Israel, but as soon as the Israelis recognized the Cypriot exclusive economic zone, in order to jointly exploit their natural gas with the Cypriots, Erdogan has become one of Israel’s outspoken enemies.

Image 46

Map of Israeli Natural Gas Fields

After the Israelis recognized the Cypriot exclusive economic zone, Erdogan sent the Gaza Freedom Flotilla with Mavi Marmara, which caused the diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey to collapse. By fighting Israel Erdogan became a hero in the Arab and Muslim world. Israel also put forward the issue of the East Med pipeline, a natural gas pipeline that would run from Israel to Europe, through Cyprus and Greece, bypassing Turkey as an energy hub.

Image 47

Map of East Med Pipeline

For the East Med pipeline you can read at the following Reuters article, titled “Greece, Cyprus and Israel to explain Med pipeline vision to EU”, December 2014.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/02/eastmed-natgas-europe-idUSL6N0TM47J20141202

You can also read the following Natural Gas Europe article, titled “EC Grants Conditional Support to East Med Pipeline”, December 2014

http://www.naturalgaseurope.com/ec-grants-conditional-support-east-mediterranean-pipeline?utm_source=Natural+Gas+Europe+Newsletter&utm_campaign=f7158b98b2-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c95c702d4c-f7158b98b2-307785513

The problem for the Israelis is that after they decide to exploit their natural gas reserves, it is no longer only the US enemies that are attacking them, but also the US allies, as it is the case with Turkey and Qatar. In the past the US allies used to tolerate Israel, even if they didn’t like it. But now Israel is an economic rival for both Qatar and Turkey, and they use their organization in Gaza to attack it.

Moreover the Israelis are true economic competitors for the Iranians. In the past the Iranians simply used Israel to increase their appeal in the Sunni Arab world against Saudi Arabia. But now things are different. Israel is a true economic competitor for Iran. Maybe the Israeli gas reserves are peanuts when compared to the Iranian and Qatari ones, but the two deals that the Israelis singed with the Egyptians and the Jordanians involved 45 billion dollars, and that’s a lot of money.

For the natural gas agreement between Israel, Egypt and Jordan, see the following FT article, titled “Israel gas supply deals to Egypt and Jordan draw closer”, May 2014.

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/02ea38aa-e0e2-11e3-a934-00144feabdc0.html?siteedition=intl

See also my essay “The Israel-Egypt-Jordan Natural Gas Agreement and the July 2014 War in Gaza”. Saudi Arabia is mainly concerned about oil and not about natural gas, and she could use Israel to sell her oil to the Mediterranean Sea, and she is much softer on Israel as I said.

A Reader’s Manual

This booklet should not be used as a tool to understand the Middle East, because everyday new alliances are formed, and new conflicts appear. As I write this document in December 2014, Qatar has declared its support to the Egyptian president Al-Sisi, in order to normalize its relations with the other Arab countries, as you can read at the following Yahoo article, titled “Qatar gives ‘full support’ to Sisi’s Egypt”, December 2014.

http://news.yahoo.com/qatar-gives-full-support-sisis-egypt-181059129.html

At the same time the Saudis have met with the Iranian Foreign Minister, in an effort to normalize the relations between the two countries, as you can read in the following article of the Times of Iran, titled “Saudi Arabia invites Zarif to come and talk peace”, December 2014.

http://iran-times.com/saudi-arabia-invites-zarif-to-come-and-talk-peace/

Maybe there are many other changes that I am not aware of. What I am trying to say is that alliances and conflicts in the Middle East change every day. What remains constant is oil and natural gas. Therefore what a person reading this booklet should keep in mind, is that the Middle East should always be examined under the prism of oil and natural gas. All other information is only important for someone who wants to become a specialist in the or an academic. For all of us who simply want to understand the wars in the Middle East, oil and natural gas will do the job.

Middle East or an academic. For all of us who simply want to understand the wars in the Middle East, oil and natural gas will do the job.

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The Crisis in the American-Turkish Relations and the Creation of an Independent Kurdistan

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Iakovos Alhadeff

Turkey and Syria

Turkey is one of NATO’s strongest members, and has for many years been a traditional US ally. However Turkey’s ambitious energy policy is putting this relationship to the test. Turkey is fighting with all its might, in order to become the absolute energy hub between the Middle East and Europe.

That was clear from the way Erdogan slammed Israel, a former ally, when Israel, together with Cyprus, started exploiting its natural gas reserves in the Mediterranean Sea, which could provide Europe with an alternative source of energy, which would bypass Turkey.

Turkey’s ambitions became even clearer when Erdogan became one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the overthrown of another former ally, the Syrian dictator Bashar al- Assad. Erdogan became one of the major enemies of the Assad regime, after the Syrian dictator agreed in 2011 for the construction of the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline, which would transfer Iranian natural gas and oil to the Mediterranean Sea, and which would bypass Turkey (see green line on the following map). The end of this pipeline would also be near the Turkish port of Ceyhan in the Mediterranean Sea, which is the end of the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline that brings Azeri oil to the Mediterranean Sea through Turkey.

Previously, in 2009, Assad had refused to allow the Qatar-Turkey pipeline, which would transfer Qatari gas to Europe through Turkey, to pass through Syrian territories, because as he said this would harm the interests of Russia and Gazprom. The truth is that the Qatar-Turkey pipeline would harm the interests of both Assad’s allies, i.e. the interests of both Russia and Iran.

In the following article of the Turkish Weekly, titled “Turkey and Qatar Agree to Build a Natural Gas Pipeline”, you can read that Qatar and Turkey agreed on 2009 to a Qatar-Turkey natural gas pipeline that would transfer Qatari natural gas to Europe. However they needed Syria.

http://www.turkishweekly.net/news/87212/turkey-and-qatar-agree-to-build-a-natural-gas-pipeline.html

In the 2nd line of the 5th paragraph before the end of the following Guardian article, titled “Syria intervention plan fueled by oil interests, not chemical weapon concern”, August 2013, you can read the following:

“In 2009 – the same year former French foreign minister Dumas alleges the British began planning operations in Syria – Assad refused to sign a proposed agreement with Qatar that would run a pipeline from the latter’s North field, contiguous with Iran’s South Pars field, through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and on to Turkey, with a view to supply European markets – albeit crucially bypassing Russia. Assad’s rationale was “to protect the interests of [his] Russian ally, which is Europe’s top supplier of natural gas”.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2013/aug/30/syria-chemical-attack-war-intervention-oil-gas-energy-pipelines

At the following article of Today’s Zaman, a Turkish newspaper, titled “Erdogan: Assad is a good friend, but he delayed reform efforts”, dated May 2011, you can read that in May 2011 the first strains in the Erdogan-Assad relationship had already appeared, but Erdogan was still calling Assad a friend.

http://www.todayszaman.com/diplomacy_erdogan-assad-is-a-good-friend-but-he-delayed-reform-efforts_243660.html

What Erdogan meant by ‘reforms’ in Syria, was for Assad to go to elections. What Erdogan meant by ‘reforms’ in Syria, was for Assad to go to elections. Note that Sunni Muslims account for about 65% of the Syrian population. Therefore if Bashar al-Assad, the Iranian ally, was to go to elections, it should be easier for Sunni Turkey and Sunni Qatar, than for Shiite Iran, to gain influence in Syria. Assad is an Alawi Muslim. Alawi Muslims are an off shot of Shiite Muslims. Note that Shiite Muslims are also called Shia Muslims. However at this point Erdogan had not openly asked for Assad to step down, and he was calling him a friend.

At the following Wall Street Journal article, titled “Iraq, Iran, Syria Sign $10 Billion Gas-Pipeline Deal”, June 2011, you can read about the Iranian-Iraqi-Syrian pipeline deal in June 2011, which infuriated Erdogan.

http://online.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424053111903591104576467631289250392

As you can read at the following Reuters article, titled “Turkish Prime Minister calls on Syria’s Assad to quit”, November 2011, a few months after the agreement for the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline was signed, Erdogan openly asked for Assad to step down.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/22/us-turkey-syria-idUSTRE7AL0WJ20111122

Of course Erdogan will never openly admit that his problem with the Assad regime is the Iran-Iraq-Syria and the Qatar-Turkey pipelines. He will pretend that their differences are based on human right violations in Syria, as it usually happens in the international arena. More specifically, Erdogan claims that Assad’s human right violations cause Syrian people to flee the country, and these people enter Turkey, and therefore Assad has to go, in order for these people to stop leaving Syria and entering Turkey.


Turkey and Iran

As it was expected, the Turkish attack on Assad, who had previously agreed on the Iranian pipeline project, infuriated the Iranians, since the Turkish attack on Assad was an attack on the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline too, and a support to the Qatar-Turkey pipeline. Iranians were so furious with Erdogan, that a few months later, in 2012, they rejected Constantinople (Istanbul), as the proposed venue for the nuclear talks between the great powers and Iran.

Given that it was Turkey and Brazil who had made huge efforts in the previous years, for an agreement between Iran and the West, over the Iranian nuclear program, the Iranians must have been extremely angry with Erdogan in order to reject Instabul as the proposed venue for the event, something that would be very prestigious for Erdogan’s role as an international mediator.

Obviously Erdogan was not trying to lift the sanctions against Iran due to his love for Iran. Instead, Erdogan wanted the sanctions lifted, so that the Iranians could send their natural gas to Europe through Turkey, something that cannot be done as long as there are economic sanctions against Iran. What Erdogan wants in return for his intermediation between Iran and the West, is that the Iranian energy passes through Turkey and not through Syria.

At the following Reuters article, titled “Turkey, Brazil seal deal on Iran nuclear fuel swap”, May 2010, you can read how Turkey and Brazil, as mediators between the West and Iran, almost cut a deal on behalf of Iran with the major world powers, over the Iranian nuclear program in 2010.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/05/16/us-iran-nuclear-deal-idUSTRE64F29P20100516

In the first and the second paragraphs of the following Bloomberg article, titled “Iran Officials Reject Istanbul as Talks Venue Over Syria”, April 2012, which is about the Iranian rejection of Instabul as the proposed venue for the international talks over the Iranian nuclear program due to Erdogan’s actions against Assad, you can read the following:

“Iranian officials say Turkey isn’t a suitable location for nuclear talks expected in mid-April as the neighbors clash over unrest in Syria, Iran’s ally.

“Given Turkey’s unprincipled policies, it isn’t beneficial for the upcoming negotiations between Iran and the 5+1 countries to be held in Istanbul,” said Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee. “Iranian lawmakers have many times said that negotiations need to take place in another spot and in a country that is a friend of Iran,” he told the Tehran-based Etemaad newspaper in a report published today”.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-05/iran-officials-reject-istanbul-as-talks-venue-amid-syria-discord.html

I have to say that the Turkish attack on Assad and the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline was not personal or irrational. It was simply a business decision. Erdgogan is doing everything he can to lure the Iranians to send their energy to Europe through Turkey. Erdogan follows a stick and carrot policy towards the Iranians.

In the 8th and 9th paragraph of the following BBC article, titled “Iran nuclear programme ‘solely civilian’ – Turkish Prime Minister”, dated March 2010, you can read the following:

“In an interview with the BBC’s Nik Gowing, Mr Erdogan said he believed it was Iran’s “most natural right” to develop a nuclear programme for civilian purposes.

It was, he added, “unfair” of nuclear-armed countries to “manipulate the facts” about Turkey’s neighbour while at the same time not telling Israel to dispose of its nuclear weapons”.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8570842.stm

How could Erdogan do it better for the Iranians? He said that the Iranian nuclear program was not dangerous, and he blamed Israel. He couldn’t make it any sweeter for the Iranians. And yet in 2012 the Iranians rejected Istanbul as the venue for the international talks over the Iranian nuclear program, because the Iran-Iraq-Syria and the Qatar-Turkey pipelines are very important for the Iranians and the Iranian economy. For the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline see also Wikipedia at the following link.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran-Iraq-Syria_pipeline

One of the reasons that Turkey is so tough in its energy policy, and she is willing to even risk her friendship with the Americans for its shake, is that she is very poor in energy resources, and she has to import most of her energy. Turkey currently imports most of her energy from Russia.

However she is hoping that if Iran is dependent on Turkey, that is if Turkey is the shortest way through which Iran can send its oil and natural gas to Europe, Iran will be forced to offer discount energy prices to Turkey. The increase in Turkey’s geopolitical significance as the region’s only energy hub is obviously a very important factor too. As long as Assad, an Iranian ally, rules in Syria, Iran will have more bargaining power. And as I already said, the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline would be very close to the end of the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline, which would mean lower revenues for Turkey, and a decrease in her geopolitical significance.

Controlling Iraq and Syria is also very important for Iran, in order to block the Qatar-Turkey pipeline. Actually in case Iran reaches an agreement with the West, blocking the Qatar-Turkey pipeline will be more important than constructing the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline for the Iranians, since Iran will be able to send its energy to Europe through Turkey. At the end of the day every Middle East battle for an energy corridor has two purposes. The first one is to sell your own energy, and the second one is to block the sales of your competitors.

Which of the two is more important depends on the individual cases and it also depends on how things are going to evolve. For instance if Iran reaches an agreement with the West, controlling Syria and Iraq will be more important for the Iranians in order to block the Qatar-Turkey pipeline. If the Iranians do not reach an agreement with the West, controlling Syria and Iraq will be more important for the Iranians in order to construct the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline.

That’s the reason Turkey and Iran are in bad terms, since Turkey is fighting Iran’s major ally in Syria, and also Iran’s friends in Iraq, in order to block Iran’s exit to the Mediterranean Sea, and to open the corridor for the Qatar-Turkey pipeline. However at the same time the two countries are trying to have a working relationship, since Turkey needs the Iranian energy to pass through Turkey, for the reasons I already mentioned, and in order to decrease Turkish dependency on Russian energy, and Iran needs Turkey to send its natural gas to Europe through a pipeline network. The Turkey-Iran relationship is a “love to hate” relationship. Or to be more accurate it is a “hate and business” relationship because there isn’t much love in it.

If Iran wants to send its natural gas to Europe through a pipeline network and not through the sea, the only other option besides Turkey would be Russia. However Russia is the larger exporter of natural gas in the world, and Iran would not want its main competitor to control its natural gas. The problem is that Turkey does not want Iran to have any other alternatives, and it also wants the Qatar-Turkey pipeline, and the Iranians do not like Erdogan bullying them.

In the following Reuters article, titled “Turkey’s Erdogan visits Iran to improve ties after split over Syria”, January 2014, you can read the following:

First and Second Paragraphs

“Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan visited Iran on Wednesday to bolster trade and energy ties, state TV said, in what also looked like a bid to defuse tensions over Syria by capitalizing on Tehran’s diplomatic opening to regional rivals and the West.

Iran has been a strong strategic ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since the start of the uprising against him, while Turkey has been one of his fiercest critics, supporting his opponents and giving refuge to rebel fighters.

Fourteenth and Fifteenth Paragraph

“Erdogan’s delegation repeated Turkey’s demand for a discount on the price of natural gas from Iran, a senior Turkish official said. A senior Iranian official then told Reuters: “This issue was discussed but further talks will take place on the issue of discount. No decision has been made yet.

Turkey depends on imports for almost all of its natural gas needs and the $60 billion energy bill Ankara must foot annually has been the biggest driver of its ballooning current account deficit, regarded as the main weakness of its economy.”

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/29/us-iran-turkey-erdogan-idUSBREA0S11T20140129

As I said Erdogan has also very good relations with Qatar, and they both support the Muslim Brotherhood. If the Sunni Muslims of the ISIS army win enough regions in Syria and Iraq, so that they manage to create a connection between Qatar and Turkey, Qatar and Turkey should be able to construct the Qatar-Turkey natural gas pipeline, which would transfer Qatari natural gas to Europe through Turkey, if of course Saudi Arabia or Kuwait agree to that too.

At the same time they can block the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline. Turkey would again receive lots of money in transit fees, and maybe discount energy prices from Qatar. The following map shows what ISIS would need to achieve, in order to enhance the Qatar-Turkey pipeline and to block the Iran-Iraq-Syria one. If you google a map with the areas controlled by ISIS today, you will see that this has almost been achieved.

Qatar Turkey Pipeline Isis

We therefore see that Turkey follows a very aggressive and ambitious energy policy, and she is almost an independent regional power. Turkey attacks anyone who dares to overcome her as an energy hub between Middle East and Europe, and she is in a constant bargaining process with the rich in energy countries. However the Americans and the Europeans do not seem to feel comfortable with having to rely on Turkey for the energy supply of Europe.


Turkey and the United States

Turkey is indeed a country with great strategic significance for Europe and the US, since it is only through Turkey that a pipeline carrying Iranian, Qatari or Turkmen natural gas can reach Europe, offering and alternative to Gazprom, something that would reduce the Russian influence over Europe (red, yellow and white lines). Note that Iran, Qatar and Turkmenistan are the 2nd, 3rd and 4th richest countries in the world respectively, in terms of natural gas reserves, with Russia being the richest. For the richest countries in natural gas reserves see page 21, of the following U.S. Energy Information Administration report, titled “Country Analysis Brief : Iran”.

http://www.eia.gov/countries/analysisbriefs/Iran/iran.pdf

The problem for the Americans is that Turkey has become too important and too powerful, and it is an independent regional power, and not an ally of the West. Therefore the West cannot rely on Turkey in the same way it used to do in the past.

Iran Pipelines

The Assad regime, is a major dispute not only between Turkey and Iran, but also between USA and Turkey. Assad is a traditional Russian ally, and he is not the best option for the Americans. Actually the Americans were very positive towards his overthrown sometime ago. However I do not thing that the replacement of Assad by a Sunni candidate who would be controlled by Turkey would be a better solution for the US. It would probably be worse, given that the United States have managed to significantly improve their relations with Iran, which is Assad’s major ally. If the United States normalize their relations with Iran, Assad should not be a big problem for them even though he is very close to Russia.

As you can read in the following Wall Street Journal article, titled “U.S., Iran Relations Move to Détente”, October 2014, the American-Iranian relation have significantly improved. More specifically, in the 8th paragraph of the following article you can read the following:

“This shows that although we see Turkey and Arab states as our closest allies, our interests and policies are converging with Iran’s,” said Vali Nasr, dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and a former Obama administration official. “This is a geostrategic reality at this moment, more than a conscious U.S. policy.”

http://online.wsj.com/articles/u-s-iran-relations-move-to-detente-1414539659

The relationship between Iran and the West is far from perfect. But it seems that the West is ready to overlook some things in order to buy Iranian oil and natural gas. And as you can read at the following Telegraph article, titled “Iran offers Europe gas amid Russian energy embargo fears”, May 2014, the Iranians seem ready to supply this natural gas to Europe.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/10808037/Iran-offers-Europe-gas-amid-Russian-energy-embargo-fears.html

Therefore if the US-Iranian relations normalize, it would be much better for the US to have an option for providing energy to Europe, which would not involve Turkey, otherwise Turkey could become extremely demanding. And if Turkey controls Syria, this alternative will be gone. That should explain why the US is reluctant to overthrow Assad. Besides the Americans cannot hope to normalize their relations with Iran while they are chopping their major allies in Iraq and Syria.

I am not saying that this is the only reason. The Americans would also have to go against the Russians and many Europeans in order to overthrow Assad, but I believe that these considerations are of secondary importance to explain the change in the Obama policy towards Assad.

In the 7th paragraph of the following article of Public Radio International, titled “Did Barack Obama just signal a shift in US policy toward Syria?”, May 2014, you can read the following:

“He (Obama) seems to be signaling a potentially significant change in Syrian policy,” said Fredric Hof, who served as President Obama’s special representative for Syria in 2012. “But without spelling out in great detail what that change is exactly, or pledging that he would try to do something big enough to alter the situation on the ground decisively in Syria.”

http://www.pri.org/stories/2014-05-28/did-barack-obama-just-signal-shift-us-policy-toward-syria

What we read in most newspapers is that Obama needs Iran and Assad in order to combat the Jihadists of the ISIS army in Syria and Iraq. That can’t be true. ISIS and the Islamic State are mainly funded and supported by American allies i.e. by Qatar and Turkey, even though Qatar and Turkey would not admit so. But it is mainly in the Qatari, Saudi and Turkish interests to break Iran’s influence in Syria and Iraq, since that would stop the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline, and would also allow the construction of the Qatar-Turkey pipeline. For the Qatar-Turkey pipeline see the following Wikipedia link.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qatar-Turkey_pipeline

Moreover when they are telling us that they are bombing ISIS, we do not know what exactly they are bombing, and if ISIS has or has not been informed before hand about the strikes. I am not saying that everything is a theater. I am saying that the Americans might be simply controlling ISIS with their strikes. If the Americans really wanted to take ISIS out they should have been able to do so by now. In the 3rd paragraph of the following article of the Telegraph, titled “How our allies in Kuwait and Qatar funded Islamic State”, September 2014, you can read the following:

“Islamic State (Isil), with its newly conquered territory, oilfields and bank vaults, no longer needs much foreign money. But its extraordinarily swift rise to this point, a place where it threatens the entire region and the West, was substantially paid for by the allies of the West. Isil’s cash was raised in, or channelled through, Kuwait and Qatar, with the tacit approval and sometimes active support of their governments”.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/kuwait/11077537/How-our-allies-in-Kuwait-and-Qatar-funded-Islamic-State.html

At the following Reuters article, titled “Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki says Saudi, Qatar openly funding violence in Anbar”, March 2014, you can read about the Iraqi president accusing Saudi Arabia and Qatar for funding ISIS.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/09/us-iraq-saudi-qatar-idUSBREA2806S20140309

If you google “ISIS funding” you will find many sources arguing that it is the Persian Gulf States that are funding ISIS. Actually it is these states that have the economic incentive to destroy the Iranian zone of influence i.e. Iran-Iraq-Syria-Lebanon, which is actually what ISIS is doing. When Saddam Hussein was ruling Iraq, Iraq and Iran were in very bad terms. After the US attack on Iraq on 2003, and the overthrown of Saddam Hussein, Iraq came increasingly under Iranian influence, with Nouri al Maliki, the Prime Minister of Iraq from 2006 to 2014, being a man very close to Iran.

However until now the Americans have been very tolerant towards ISIS. ISIS makes the Qatar-Turkey pipeline possible, and also until very recently the Americans considered Iran as an enemy. The Qatar-Pipeline can send Qatari natural gas to Europe, if the US-Iranian rapprochement does not work out, in order to reduce the Russian influence. Under different scenarios, ISIS, the Kurds, Turkey, Qatar, Iran, they could all help to reduce Russian influence, and maybe Chinese influence, and the Americans are not closing any doors. The problem is that there are so many conflicting interests in this region, that it is very difficult for the Americans to keep all doors open at the same time.

I believe this is the main reason of the American-Turkish conflict. The Americans want to have all doors open, while the Turks want the Americans to overthrow Assad and put all their bets on Turkey, something that both the Americans and the Europeans do not want. Moreover there is a lot of trade between the Turks and the Russians.

At the following Deutsche Welle article, “Russia and Turkey agree on South Stream pipeline project”, August 2009, you can also read that in 2009, Erdogan singed an agreement with the Russian President Putin, in order to allow the South Stream, a Russian natural gas pipeline, to pass from Turkish waters in order to reach Europe.

http://www.dw.de/russia-and-turkey-agree-on-south-stream-pipeline-project/a-4548193

The Russians wanted to avoid Ukrainian waters, since the Russian-Ukrainian relationship is very problematic. The Russian pipeline South Stream (red line), was in 2009 the competitor of the Nabucco pipeline. The Nabucco pipeline (black line) was the pipeline supported by the Americans and the Europeans. I guess that Turkey would receive transit fees and even discounted energy prices from both the Russians and the Americans for accepting their pipelines, or maybe that’s what the Turks were hoping for.

South Stream Nabucco

However the geopolitical shifts are very quick nowadays, and tomorrow the US-Turkish relations might improve, while the US-Iranian ones might collapse. If the American-Iranian rapprochement effort collapses, the Americans might have to turn against Assad again. But the West needs Iran’s energy, and Iran wants to sell this energy to the West, so it is difficult to see how in the end they will not manage to find a way to work things out.

And if the US-Iran relations do not deteriorate, it is difficult to see how the US-Turkey relations will improve, unless Turkey accepts that it will not be the one and only energy hub of the region. Many analysts say that this is not the first crisis between US and Turkey, and that the two countries can overcome it as they have done in the past.

I also want to include a few articles that describe the deteriorating relation between the Americans and the Turks. The following RT (Russian Today) article, titled “Turkey disappointed that Obama does not overturn Assad”, describes Erdogan’s frustration about the American refusal to overthrow Assad.

http://rt.com/usa/174700-erdogan-talk-obama-syria/

To emphasize the deterioration between the US-Turkish relations I will also mention the following Financial Times article, titled “Turkey to buy $4 billion air defense system from China”, September 2013. In the 6th and 7th paragraph of the article you can read the following:

“Western diplomats said they were surprised and disappointed by Ankara’s preference of the Chinese group…..and emphasised their worries that the system would not be interoperable with Nato’s defence architecture.”

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/326c5442-278c-11e3-8feb-00144feab7de.html

The following article of CBC says that Turkey, a prominent NATO member, was very silent during the crisis in Ukraine, and it mentions the large sums that are involved in the Russian-Turkish energy trade.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/ukraine-crisis-why-turkey-is-silent-as-nato-operations-ramp-up-1.2625991

In the 3rd paragraph of the following Guardian article, titled “Turkey denies new deal reached to open airbases to US in fight against Isis”, October 2014, you can read the following:

“On Sunday, the US said Turkey had agreed to let US and coalition forces use its military bases, including the key Incirlik airbase close to the southern city of Adana…But Turkish officials insisted that no decision had been taken on Incirlik”

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/13/turkey-denies-agreement-open-air-bases-us-isis

At the following CNN article, titled “Russia to build first nuclear plant for Turkey”, May 2010, you can read that Russia and Turkey agreed to build a nuclear plant in Turkey.

http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-444748

I must also say that the shift in the Obama policy towards Assad, which is a byproduct of the US-Iran rapprochement, is not harming only the US-Turkish relations. Qatar, who hosts the American bases in the Persian Gulf, has spent approximately 3 billion dollars hopping to overthrow the Assad regime.

In the first paragraph of the following Financial Times article, titled “Qatar bankrolls Syrian revolt with cash and arms”, May 2013, you can read the following:

“The gas-rich state of Qatar has spent as much as $3bn over the past two years supporting the rebellion in Syria, far exceeding any other government, but is now being nudged aside by Saudi Arabia as the prime source of arms to rebels”.

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/86e3f28e-be3a-11e2-bb35-00144feab7de.html

Therefore even though Qatar wants badly to overthrow Assad, their partner, the United States, will not do them the favor for the moment. However the trauma in the American-Qatari relations due to the American-Iranian rapprochement is nothing compare to the trauma of the American-Saudi relations. After all the Qataris are hopping to find a solutions with the Iranians, in order to jointly exploit the South Pars/ North Field natural gas filed, that lies in the Persian Gulf between Iran and Qatar. This is the largest natural gas field in the world, and you can see a rough sketch at the following map (red diagram).

South Pars North Field

As I said the problems between the Saudis and the Iranians is much more severe, because Iran is the main economic competitor of Saudi Arabia, a traditional US ally since 1945. The American-Iranian rapprochement is causing Saudi Arabia to look eastwards, towards its best client i.e. China. In the first paragraph of the following Reuters article, titled “Saudi Arabia warns of shift away from U.S. over Syria, Iran”, October 2013 you can read the following:

“Upset at President Barack Obama’s policies on Iran and Syria, members of Saudi Arabia’s ruling family are threatening a rift with the United States that could take the alliance between Washington and the kingdom to its lowest point in years”.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/22/us-saudi-usa-idUSBRE99L0K120131022

The US-Israel relations are another victim of the change of the American policy in the Middle East. The Israelis do not really mind whether Syria is under the influence of Iran or under the influence of Turkey and Qatar, since in both cases it would have to face a very hostile regime. However what really matters for the Israelis, is the rapprochement between USA and Iran, which is the true cause for the tolerance of the Assad regime on behalf of the USA.

The American-Israeli relations are at their lowest point in decades, and the Israelis are looking towards Russia. Russia has very good relations with Iran, but if Iran makes peace with the West and start selling its natural gas to Europe through Turkey, it would be tough competition for Russia’s Gazprom, and therefore the Russian-Iranian relations should deteriorate.

Therefore the tolerance towards the Assad regime is a byproduct of the American effort to reach an agreement with Iran. The fact that the Americans overlook the problems their rapprochement with Iran is causing in their relationships with their traditional allies in the region, shows how important Iran is for the US.


Kurdistan

The deterioration in the American-Turkish relations make the Americans and the Europeans to see very positively the establishment of an independent Kurdistan. Which are the exact borders of Kurdistan is an open question, but as you can see on the following Wikipedia map, the regions that historically have large Kurdish populations, expand from Iran to almost the Mediterranean Sea. However the Kurds are not the majority of the population in all these regions.

Kurdistan Map Wikipedial

Source: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurdistan#mediaviewer/File:Kurdish-inhabited_area_by_CIA_(1992).jpg

Kurdistan (2)

The Kurds are probably the West’s best friend in the Muslim world. Kurdistan lies in four countries, Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. None of these countries want an independent Kurdistan, which makes the Kurds a natural ally for the Western world. There are 30 million Kurds in the world, and they are the largest ethnic group without a homeland, which gives rational for an independent Kurdistan, which is something that seems to suit western interests.

An independent Kurdistan would not be as big as the one on the above maps of course, but it would greatly strengthen the presence of the West in the region, especially in case the relations between US and Turkey at some point collapse. Moreover Kurdistan is next to Iran, which would again be a great help for the West in case the rapprochement between Iran and the West does not bear fruits. Moreover the Kurds would be extremely happy to have American military bases in their territories.

In the first paragraph of the following Reuters article, titled “Turkey’s U.S. relations show strain as Washington’s patience wears thin”, October 2014, you can read the following:

“The U.S. decision to air-drop weapons to Kurdish forces in Syria on the same day Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan dismissed them as terrorists is the latest false note in the increasingly discordant mood music coming out of Washington and Ankara.”

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/23/us-mideast-crisis-turkey-idUSKCN0IC1Z520141023

Erdogan calls the Kurds terrorists, and the Americans drop weapons at them. At the following Wall Street Journal article, titled “Building the U.S.-Kurdistan Special Relationship”, July 2014, you can read the following:

2nd and 3rd Paragraph

“The time has come for America and the West to support Kurdish independence and, simultaneously, to set up U.S. bases in Iraqi Kurdistan that would make it America’s military hub in the region.

After all, this country-in-the-making has proved to be a haven of stability, relative security and pro-American, pro-Western sentiment ever since it broke free from Saddam’s misrule.”

And the article continues in the 12th and 13th paragraphs

“U.S. military planners can’t assume that our alliance with Turkey won’t decline further. Nor should they assume as given Turkey’s military cooperation with NATO for missions against adversaries in places like Syria and Iran.

And it would be even more foolish for American policy makers to assume that U.S. forces will always be able to use bases in Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain. All three countries are dictatorships vulnerable to upheaval. So far, adroit use of their fantastic wealth has protected these countries’ rulers against the resentments of their subjects, but this may not always be the case.”

http://online.wsj.com/articles/the-u-s-should-guarantee-kurdish-independence-1405020652

Finally the title of the following Guardian article says it all. The title of the article is “US and Turkey’s push and shove diplomacy has Kurds in the middle. Washington wants Erdogan to do more to back the Kurds in Kobane, while Ankara insists Assad should be removed first”.

The title says the whole story, because what Erdogan is really saying to the Americans is the following:

“I am willing to help the Kurds, I am willing to help you with ISIS, but Assad, which is the Iranian ally in Syria, must go first. Only if Syria is controlled by me (Erdogan), and Iran is totally dependent on me (Erdogan again), I can fight ISIS and help the Kurds”. Of course Erdogan does not say that openly, but that’s what he is thinking and everybody knows it. The problem is that the West does not like the way he is thinking, and it does not like that Turkey has become such an important player.

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/oct/07/us-turkey-diplomacy-isis-kurds-kobani

In the following Financial times article, titled “Turkey demands US target Assad as price of co-operation”, October 2014, you can read that Erdogan demands Assad’s overturn in order to help the Americans with the Kurds.

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/a0da17d2-4d71-11e4-bf60-00144feab7de.html

A natural question is why would Erdogan help the Kurds at all, given that there are millions of Kurds in Turkey asking for an independent Kurdistan? Obviously Erdogan would not like to help the Kurds at all, but he simply can’t ignore them, especially when the West sees them favorably. But we should not see the Kurds as one solid group. The two main Kurdish political parties are Ocalan’s PKK in Northern Kurdistan (Turkey), and the Barzani’s KDP in Southern Kurdistan (Iraq).

These two groups are competing for influence and in the past they have actually been fighting each other. Erdogan is obviously favoring Barzani’s KDP in Northern Iraq, and not Ocalan’s PKK in Turkey. Actually to make things worse for the Kurds, Erdogan is helping the Iraqi Kurds of KDP to export oil from the oil fields they control in Northern Iraq. He does so in order to make it harder for Iraqi Kurds to unite with Turkish Kurds. In the first two paragraphs of the following France 24 article, titled “Kurdish factions unite in fight against jihadists in Iraq”, August 2014, you can read the following:

“Fighters from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a Kurdish guerilla faction in Turkey, joined forces with the regular Peshmerga forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq to oust radical Sunni extremists from the town of Makhmour. FRANCE 24’s special correspondents in Iraq report that the battle of Makhmour marks the first time the PKK and KRG forces have fought side by side. Despite years of infighting, both factions want to prevent Islamist militants from gaining a foothold in Kurdish territories and redrawing the borders of the region”.

http://www.france24.com/en/20140813-video-kurdish-factions-unite-fight-against-isis-peshmerga-pkk-islamic-state/

In the first and second paragraphs of the following American Center of Democracy article, titled “Kurdistan Oil Export: A game changer”, June 2014, you can read the following:

“In late May 2014 Turkish officials announced that oil from Iraqi Kurdistan had just been exported to international markets……..The May 2014 announcement that a million barrels of Kurdish oil had been exported to Europe through Ceyhan seems to have caught everyone by surprise”.

http://acdemocracy.org/kurdistan-oil-export-a-game-changer/

In the first paragraph of the following article of the Kurdistan Tribune, titled “Ocalan v. Barzani: Two contradictory worlds”, May 2013, you can read the following:

“The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and its legendary leader, Abdulla Ocalan, pose a strong challenge to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and its leader, Masoud Barzani. The PKK is no longer a party just for northern Kurdistan: Today it also impacts significantly on the other parts of Kurdistan – something the KDP cannot tolerate”.

http://kurdistantribune.com/2013/ocalan-v-barzani-two-contradictory-worlds/

Therefore we should not see the Kurds as a solid group, because they have their differences and Erdogan is trying to make it harder for them to unite, by having Iraqi Kurds to depend on him for exporting their oil, through the Turkish port of Ceyhan in the Mediterranean Sea. If Iraqi Kurdistan was an independent country, it would be approximately the 10th richest region in the world in terms of oil reserves (not oil production). The red diagram in the following map is a very rough sketch of Kurdistan, and the export route for Kurdish oil in Northern Iraq.

However even though the Kurds are not as solid as a rock, it seems that the conditions for the establishment of an independent Kurdistan are very favorable since the Western countries see them very positively.

The Kurds have also Israel on their side. The Kurds are for Israel a natural ally, because the Kurds are not Arabs, they are not Persians, they are not Turks, and they are moderate Muslims. Ocalan’s PKK is a Marxist Leninist party, and religion should not be important at all.

Moreover the Kurds can take lands, and therefore weaken, four of Israel’s greatest enemies i.e. Iran, Syria, Turkey, Iraq. That’s the reason Israel is openly asking for an independent Kurdistan. For the Kurds too, even though they are Muslims in a Muslim region, Israel should be a natural ally, since the countries that surround them do not see an independent Kurdistan positively. And if in the past, the excellent relations between Israel and Turkey prevented Israel to openly support an independent Kurdistan, now there is nothing to stop them.

At the following two articles, one from the Guardian, titled “Israel’s prime minister backs Kurdish independence”, June 2014, and one from Reuters, titled “Israel’s Netanyahu calls for supporting Kurdish independence”, June 2014, you can read that the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu openly asks for Kurdish independence and Kurdish statehood.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/29/israel-prime-minister-kurdish-independence

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/06/29/us-iraq-security-kurds-israel-idUSKBN0F40R520140629

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The First World War for Oil 1914-1918: Similarities with the 2014 Oil Wars 100 Years Later

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Iakovos Alhadeff

Introduction

With this essay I want to provide a summary of why oil was the main cause of the First World War (1914-1918), which could be also called the First World War for oil, and also compare this oil war with the oil wars of 2014 one hundred years later. The main alliances of WW1 were England, France and Russia on one side, known as the ‘allies’, and Germany, Austro-Hungary and Italy on the other side, known as the “central powers”. See the following, very rough, map.

Picture 1 Alliances

The British and German Empires

At the beginning of the 20th century (1900) England was what the U.S.A. is today. England was an empire extending from Canada and East Africa, to India and Australia, covering most of the globe as you can see on the following rough map (green colour).

Picture 2 British Empire

However after her victory against France in 1871, Germany established itself as one of the great powers, and with its rampant industry she became England’s main competitor. In a sense Germany was for England what China is for the U.S.A. today. The most important problem in the Anglo-German relations was Germany’s wish to extend her influence to the Persian Gulf through the Ottoman Empire.

Picture 3 Middle East

Even though the shaky Ottoman Empire had lost most of her lands, she was still extending to the Persian Gulf through what today are Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia (parts of the green area on the above map). The alliance between the German Empire, the Empire of Austro-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire, was a great threat for the English interests.

Picture 4 Threat to England

As you can see from my rough (red) diagram, the alliance between Germany, Austro-Hungary, Bulgaria and Ottoman Empire, would form a solid block extending from Germany to the Persian Gulf, since Syria and Iraq were Ottoman territories. A large part of the Balkans was also part of the Ottoman Empire at the time, and it was possible for the German Empire to connect to the Ottoman Empire and the Persian Gulf through Austro-Hungary, as you can see on the following 1912 map of the Balkans.

The Balkans in 1912

Picture 5 AustroHungary Borders Turkey

The above situation was a threat for the control of the Persian Gulf, which is the richest region in the world in terms of oil reserves, it was a threat for the control of the Caspian Region, which is the second richest region in the world in terms of oil reserves, and which was controlled by the Russians, it was a threat for India, which was England’s most important colony, and it would also bring the Germans very close to the Suez Canal and Egypt as you can see on the following map.

Picture 6 Middle East

The Suez Canal and Egypt were under British Control, and were crucial for the control of India in South Asia, since the Suez Canal was cutting almost in half the distance between England and India. The Suez Canal (black circle) was inaugurated a few decades earlier (1869).

Picture 7 Suez India

The Triple Alliance Between England, France and Russia

Facing the rising German influence in the Middle East, the English tried and managed to close their long and significant disputes with the French and the Russians, in order to form an alliance against the Germans and their allies. The major disputes between the French and the English concerned their colonies in Africa (see the following map).

Picture 8 Colonies

At the beginning of WW1, France was controlling almost all of West Africa (yellow colour), and England was controlling almost all of East Africa (red colour), and therefore Africa was a source of disputes between the English and the French.

However when confronted with the German ‘threat’, the French and the English rushed to close their disputes with a series of agreements known as ‘Entente Cordial’. As you can read at the following Wikipedia link, with Entente Cordial in 1904, England and France closed 1000 years of disputes and wars.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entente_cordiale

Among other things, with this agreement England accepted France’s control over Morocco, which was crucial for controlling the Straits of Gibraltar, and France accepted England’s control over Egypt, which was crucial for controlling the Suez Canal (see lines 1 and 2 on the following map).

Picture 9 Earth 3D

Moreover, with their alliance with the English and the Russians, the French were hoping to take their revenge for their defeat from the Germans in 1871, and regain control of the rich in iron and coal area of Alsace and Lorraine, which was lost during this war. Coal was in the 19th Century what oil became in the 20th Century, and even the navies were using coal, until coal was finally replaced by oil in the early 20th Century (1900). Indeed after the defeat of the Germans in 1918, the French regained control of Alsace and Lorraine.

Picture 10 Alsace Lorraine

Moreover, with the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the English promised that in case of victory they would offer the French some of the Ottoman Empire territories. According to this agreement, England would take the oil rich Iraq, and France would take Syria. Actually there was no Iraq and Syria at the time. The Ottoman territory that would be taken by the English with this agreement was later given the name ‘Iraq’, and the Ottoman territory that would be taken by the French with the same agreement was later given the name ‘Syria’.

This is the reason that the members of the ISIS army (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) are saying that they are destroying the Sykes-Picot Agreement by reuniting Syria and Iraq. You can see the Sykes-Picot Agreement on the following rough map.

Picture 11Sykes Picot Agreement

You can also read about the Sykes-Picot Agreement at the following Wikipedia link.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sykes%E2%80%93Picot_Agreement

Moreover with the Anglo-Russian Entente in 1907, the English and the Russians closed their centuries’ long disputes for the control of Central Asia and the Middle East (Iran, Afghanistan and Tibet). You can read at the following Wikipedia link, that in 1907, the English and the Russians agreed to split Iran, Afghanistan and Tibet in spheres of influence.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Russian_Entente

The agreement between the English and the Russians allowed them to stop antagonizing each other and turn their attention to the Germans and the Ottomans who were a threat for the control of the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea.

However from their alliance with the French and the English, the Russians did not simply expect to protect the oil rich Caspian Sea region from the German and Ottoman threat, but were also hoping to gain control of Constantinople, the Bosphorus Straits and the Dardanelles, which were controlled by the Ottomans, and which would give the Russians uninterrupted access to the Aegean and the Mediterranean Seas (see maps below).

Constantinople

Black Sea Dardanelles

At the following Wikipedia link you can read that with the Constantinople Agreement, the English, the French and the Russians, agreed that in case of victory, Russia would take control of Constantinople, the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constantinople_Agreement

However even though the allies did finally win the war, Russia did not get Constantinople (today Istanbul), because Russia collapsed in 1917 and exited the war, since she entered a painful civil war between the tsarists and the Communists.

 By agreeing with the Russians to split Iran into spheres of influence, the English would gain control of the Persian Gulf while the Russians would retain the undisputed control of the Caspian Sea, and together they could fight the Germans and the Ottomans. You can see on the following map that Iran is the region between the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea, holding itself a very large amount of oil and natural gas reserves. Iran is the second and fourth richest country in the world in terms of natural gas and oil reserves respectively.

Iran Brown

However at the time most of the region’s oil was coming from Iraq and Baku, since oil in Iran was only discovered in 1908.

The Anglo-Franco and the Anglo-Russian alliances, together with the Franco-Russian alliance, encircled Germany and her allies (see following rough map).

Picture 1 Alliances

The Role of the Balkan Countries in WWI

One of the reasons there was so much tension in the Balkans before the outbreak of World War 1, was that the Balkans was the connection between Germany and her allies with the Ottoman Empire and the Persian Gulf. The following map shows the Balkans before the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913.

The Balkans Before the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913

Picture 5 AustroHungary Borders Turkey

It can be seen on the above map, that with the status quo that existed before the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913, Germany would have no problem to connect to the Persian Gulf by railway, using the Austro-Hungary-Ottoman Empire corridor.

However with the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria and Albania, managed to annex almost all the European territories of the Ottoman Empire. Greece, Serbia and Romania, all of which were on the side of the allies during the First World War, formed a wall between Germany and the Ottoman Empire as you can see on the following map, (Bulgaria finally entered the war on Germany’s side in WWI).

The Balkans after the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913

New Borders Balkans

The German plan was to construct the famous Baghdad Railway, that would connect Berlin to the Persian Gulf (see later sections), and Greece, Serbia and Romania were forming a wall against the Baghdad Railway Project. It is not a coincidence that World War I broke out on the 28th of July 1914, with the Austro-Hungary declaring war to Serbia, with all other countries running behind these two countries. The following map shows the Balkans today.

Balkans today

It can also not be a coincidence that the Balkan Wars took place in 1912 and 1913, and the First World War broke out in 1914. When I am saying that the Balkan Wars were not a coincidence, I do not mean that Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria attacked the Ottoman Empire because they wanted to prevent Germany from connecting to the Persian Gulf. These countries did want the Ottoman territories, and they were supported by England, Russia and France, in order to prevent the German-Ottoman connection. The Ottoman territories were simply their rewards.

As you can read in section ‘Reaction Among the Great Powers During the Wars’ of the following Wikipedia link, Germany was already heavily involved in the internal politics of the Ottoman Empire, and officially opposed the attack on the Ottoman Empire, but because it was obvious that the shaky Ottoman Empire could not protect for long her European territories from Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia, Germany was supporting Bulgaria from the opposite camp, which was called the ‘Balkan League’’. And in the end, Bulgaria did indeed join Germany’s camp in WW1.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balkan_Wars#Reactions_among_the_Great_Powers_during_the_wars

In the same Wikipedia link, you can also read that Russia was the primary mover of the Balkan League countries i.e. Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria against the Ottoman Empire. This seems very natural, since Russia not only wanted to prevent Germany from obtaining access to the Caspian Sea, but she was also a traditional enemy of the Ottoman Empire and wanted to gain control of Constantinople, Bosphorus and the Dardanells, which would allow the Russian Navy to access the Mediterranean Sea, as I already said.

Black Sea Dardanelles

You can also read in the same Wikipedia link that Austria-Hungary was totally opposed to the advancement of the Balkan countries, Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria, in the region. France, a Russian ally, informed Russia that she was not ready for a war. England, even though a supporter of the Ottoman Empire, encouraged the advancement of the Balkan countries. That’s what Wikipedia says about the reactions of the Great Powers during the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913.

We therefore see that Germany and Russia were supporting the sides we would expect them to support in the Balkan Wars. However things were a bit more complicated for England. Because on one hand England was facing the threat of German expansion to the Persian Gulf and India, and on the other hand she was facing the threat of Russian expansion through the Straits of Bosphorus and the Dardanelles to the Mediterranean Sea, which could pose a threat for the sea corridor between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean i.e. the Suez Canal and the Red Sea

Red Sea

Red Sea 2

The following map depicts the situation for the English. The purple arrows represent the German threat to the Persian Gulf and India, and the red arrows represent the Russian threat to the Suez Canal.

The German threat for the English (purple lines), and the Russian threat for the English (red lines)

Germans Russians OttomansJPG

England perceived the collapsing Ottoman Empire as less dangerous than the Russian Navy for the control of the Suez Canal and Egypt. However in the end, under the German threat for the Persian Gulf and India, England accepted Russian control over the straits of Bosphorous and the Dardanelles in case of victory. With the Constantinople Agreement as I already said, France, England and Russia agreed on the control of Constantinople and the Straits by Russia.

Another factor that helped England and Russia to reach an agreement was that around 1880, England had taken control of Cyprus, Egypt and the Suez Canal, and was feeling more confident that it could prevent the Russians from taking control of the Suez Canal.

Before I close the section on the Balkans, I must mention that the ‘wall’ formed by Greece and Serbia in 1914 against Germany and the Baghdad Railway, which prevented the Germans from connecting by railway to the Ottoman Empire and the Persian Gulf, was still there 80 years later. Greece and Serbia, two traditional Russian allies, were forming a wall in the 90’s against the Americans and the Europeans, who wanted to bring oil and natural gas from Azerbaijan to the Adriatic Sea and Italy through the AMBO pipeline.

The Greek-Serbian wall was broken first by the creation of the state of FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) in 1991, and by the NATO war on Serbia and the autonomy of Kosovo in South Serbia on 1998 (see following map). You can read more about the NATO attack on Serbia and the AMBO pipeline in my essay ‘The NATO attack in Yugoslavia – Another Energy War’.

Serbia War

Arab Nationalism

While in the Balkans the Russians were helping the Greeks, the Serbs and the Bulgarians to attack the Ottoman Empire and annex her territories, in order to prevent the Germans from connecting to the Ottoman Empire through the Baghdad railway, and in order to gain control of Constantinople, the English were organizing an Arab revolt against the Ottomans.

The English were organizing the Arabs at the Southern parts of the Ottoman Empire, the regions that today are Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Syria, in order to push the Ottomans away from the Persian Gulf. Therefore we see that the allies were helping the local populations both at the Balkans and in the Arab world, in order to turn them against the Ottomans and prevent Germany to connect to the Persian Gulf through the Baghdad railway. For the Arab revolt, 1916-1918, see the following Wikipedia link.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab_Revolt

Therefore by supporting Balkan Nationalism, the allies managed to block the connection between the German and Ottoman Empires (black line), and at the same time, by supporting Arab nationalism in Syria and Iraq, they managed to block the connection between the Ottoman Empire and the Persian gulf (red line).

Blocks to Germany

The Oil Factor in the First World War

From all the above it can be said that the main cause of World War I was the Germans’ wish to use the Ottoman corridor in order to expand to the Middle East, which threatened the British interests in the Middle East and India. The importance of oil can be also seen from the fact that the English, the French and the Russians that had centuries’ long disputes, managed to put these disputes aside, in order to form an alliance against the rise of Germany.

It is of course no coincidence that just before the outbreak of the First World War, oil engines had started replacing coal engines, dramatically increasing the geopolitical importance of the oil rich regions. Note that both England and Germany were very rich in coal but very poor in oil. At the following Wikipedia link, at section ‘Lord of the Admiralty’, you can read that in 1911 Winston Churchill, as the head of the British Navy, ordered the replacement of the coal engines with oil engines, something that would soon become the norm for all navies and armies, making the 20th Century the century of oil. The use of oil would ensure greater speed for the British Naval ships. Moreover smoke would stop exposing their position.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winston_Churchill#First_Lord_of_the_Admiralty

 The Baghdad Railway

Since the Baghdad Railway was a very important German project for the connection of Germany with the Persian Gulf (see red line on the following map) I must say a few words about it.

Berlin BasraJPG

Berlin Baghdad

Note! Even thought the Baghdad Railway would follow the route of what today is Germany- Czech Rep-Austria-Hungary-Serbia-Bulgaria-Turkey-Syria-Iraq, and would pass from Baghdad and Basra, my red lines on the maps are rough and not exact lines.

For some people the Baghdad Railway was the real cause of the First World War, since it is this very railway that would connect Germany to the Persian Gulf, also bringing Germany close to India. I think it seems more appropriate to consider Germany’s wish to expand to the Persian Gulf as the cause of the war, than to consider the Baghdad Railway as the cause of the war.

What was important was the decision of the Germans to expand to the Persian Gulf, not the actual way they would do so. Whether this connection would be achieved by the Baghdad Railway or some other means, it seems to be of secondary importance. However nobody can deny that the Baghdad Railway was very important, and therefore I will provide some Wikipedia sources to demonstrate that this is so.

You can read at the following Wikipedia link that the construction of the Baghdad Railway started in 1903 and was completed in 1940, and its aim was to connect the German Empire to the Persian Gulf, because the Germans wanted to acquire control of a port in the Persian Gulf. Please note that the project started in 1903, and the English and the French closed their differences with the Entente Cordiale in 1904, and the English and the Russians closed their differences in 1907.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baghdad_Railway

At the end of the 3rd paragraph of the following Wikipedia link, you can read that the Germans had managed to obtain ownership of some oil fields in Iraq, and with a railway to Basra they could obtain oil supplies while avoiding the sea lanes and the Suez Canal, where the British Navy was dominant. At the same time, they could use the Persian Gulf to export their products to Asian countries.

Therefore this railway would have two roles. The first one would be to supply the German industry and the German army with oil, and the second to transport the German products to the Persian Gulf, and from the Persian Gulf to export them to the Asian countries, India included.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baghdad_Railway

More specifically, according to Wikipedia:

The Germans gained access to and ownership of oil fields in Iraq, and with a line to the port of Basra would have gained better access to the eastern parts of the German colonial empire, by avoiding the Suez Canal”.

 In the beginning of the 4th paragraph of the following link, you can read that the Baghdad Railway had become a source of tension in the years before WW1.

 “The railway became a source of international disputes during the years immediately preceding World War”. 

 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baghdad_Railway

 In the first paragraph of the following Wikipedia link, in section ‘Overview’, you can read that the Baghdad Railway would offer the German Empire safe access to oil by avoiding the British Navy.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baghdad_Railway#Overview

At the second paragraph of the same Wikipedia link, you can read that the Baghdad Railway was also a threat to Russia, since it would offer the German Empire access to the Caucasus Mountain. Caucasus is located next to the oil rich Caspian Sea region, which was controlled by the Russians.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baghdad_Railway#Overview

Cacausus

Moreover in the beginning of the 4th paragraph of the following Wikipedia link, it is mentioned that as early as 1871, geologists had already discovered rich and high quality oil fields in the area of Mesopotamia (Iraq), which was at the time part of the Ottoman Empire.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baghdad_Railway#Overview

At the paragraph before the last one in the following Wikipedia link, you can read that as early as 1903 there was unrest in France, England and Russia for the beginning of the Baghdad Railway.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baghdad_Railway#The_Baghdad_Concession

In the first line of section ‘After the War’ of the following Wikipedia link, you can read that after the end of WW1, with the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was stripped from the ownership of the Baghdad Railway (Deutsche Bank was a larger investor in this project).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baghdad_Railway#After_the_war

In the last line of the 3rd paragraph of the following Wikipedia link, you can read that there were negotiations between the English and the Germans before WW1 regarding the Baghdad Railway, and the Germans had agreed to allow some Englishmen in the board of directors, in order to ensure that the railway would not rich the Persian Gulf.

This is actually the reason that some people believe that this railway was not the cause of WW1, since the Germans and the English had an agreement about it. However I do not think that a paper agreement would make the English and the Russians feel very secure.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causes_of_World_War_I#International_relations

And like if all these disputes for the Iraqi and the Baku oil were not enough, in 1908 oil was discovered in Iran too, as you can read in the following Wikipedia link, further increasing the geopolitical importance of the region.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Persian_Oil_Company

If you wonder why Saudi Arabia, which is the king of oil, is not mentioned at all in my essay, it is because the first important oil field of Saudi Arabia was discovered in 1938. As you can see on the following map, at the beginning of WW1 the interior of the Arabian Peninsula (Saudi Arabia) was not controlled by any great power since oil had not been discovered yet. The Ottomans and the English were only controlling its outer parts which were important for controlling the sea lanes.

Picture 6 Middle East

As you can read in section ‘Before the discovery of oil’ of the following Wikipedia link, the consensus at the beginning of the 20th Century (1900), was that there was not oil in the Arabian Peninsula.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_oil_industry_in_Saudi_Arabia

As you can read in section ‘Discovery of Oil’ of the following Wikipedia link, oil was finally discovered in Saudi Arabia in 1938.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_oil_industry_in_Saudi_Arabia

The Second World War for Oil 1939-1945

The Second World War for oil cannot be considered as an independent event from the First World War for oil. After wining the war, the allies imposed extremely hard conditions on Germany. The German people suffered, and this led a lunatic to power, and as soon as Germany was strong enough she stroke back. According to historians, the decisive battle of WWII was the Battle of Stalingrad (blue circle). Stalingrad was later renamed to Volgograd.

Stalingrad

As you can see on the map, if Hitler had won in Stalingrad, he would have marched to Baku, and he would have secured oil reserves for his army. Today we can easily go to a gas station and get fuels, so it is difficult to imagine that an army can actually run out of fuel. And yet it was very often the case for whole army divisions to run out of fuels in the Great Wars. And it was the allies that were controlling both the Caspian and the Middle East oil.

If Hitler had taken control of Baku, he would have oil supplies to launch a Panzer attack to the Middle East. And if he had won the English in the Middle East, the war in Europe and North Africa would be over. This is the reason that the battle of Stalingrad is considered as one of the most decisive battles of WWII.

It seems strange that Hitler turned against Stalin and the Soviet Union, his former ally in 1941, since until then it was the Communists who were supplying the Germans with the oil and minerals they badly needed. As you can read in section “Later Events and Total Trade”, of the following Wikipedia link, the Communists supplied the Nazis with 900.000 tons of oil in the period 1940-1941, that is before the Nazi attack on Russia.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German%E2%80%93Soviet_Credit_Agreement_(1939)

At the end of the first paragraph of the same Wikipedia link, you can read the following:

“The Soviets fulfilled their obligations to the letter right up until the invasion, wanting to avoid provoking Germany. All these agreements were terminated when Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, in violation of the treaties between the two countries.”

However the oil that the Communists were supplying was not enough for Hitler who was fighting a global war, and he needed total control of the Baku oil. The Nazis were not crazy to terminate the Nazi-Communist alliance which would mean a giant enemy on their east. They simply needed more oil than the Communists were supplying.

In the second paragraph of the following encyclopedia.com link, you can read that according to the Nazi-Communist Economic Agreement that was signed on the 20th of August of 1939 by Karl Schnurre and  Yevgeny Babarin, the Communists would supply the Nazis with raw materials i.e. oil, wood, manganese etc, and the Nazis would supply the Communists with manufactured goods.

http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3404101270.html

You can read about how the Communists were feeding the Nazi war machine at the Marxist site www.marxist.org, at the following link.

http://www.marxists.org/history/etol/writers/vance/1941/01/russia1.htm

In the 5th paragraph of the following article of The Guardian, you can read the following:

The pact eventually extended to the economic sphere, with Germany providing military equipment in exchange for raw materials such as oil, grain, iron and phosphates”.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/aug/06/devils-alliance-hitlers-pact-stalin-1938-1941-roger-moorhouse-review

For the importance of the Nazi Communist Economic Agreement, you can also read the article of the historian Heinrich Schwendemann, “German-Soviet Economic Relations at the Time of the Hitler-Stalin Pact 1939-1941”, at the following address:

http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/cmr_1252-6576_1995_num_36_1_2425

Similarities of WWI with the Oil Wars of 2014

Today, 100 years after the First World War for oil in 1914, we see the oil and natural gas wars in Syria and Iraq, in Ukraine and in Libya, and we can assume that nothing has changed. The wars in Libya, Ukraine, Iraq and Syria, are the first flames of the Third World War for oil, and of course everybody hopes that these first flames will not become a big fire like it happened in the previous World Wars for oil. However since the current wars take place in three continents, i.e. Ukraine in Europe, Iraq and Syria in Asia, and Libya in Africa, we can assume that we are already in a mini World War for oil.

The situation in the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea is very similar to the situation in these regions in 1914. The difference is that the Americans have replaced the English, and the Chinese have replaced the Germans. In WW1 it was the British Navy that was dominating the seas, and it was Germany that was trying to exploit its geographical advantage in order to avoid the British Navy and connect to the oil rich region through the Ottoman Empire and the Baghdad Railway, since Germany was much closer than England to the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea (black line).

China GermanyJPG

Today, instead of Germany, it is China that is trying to exploit its geographical advantage in order to circumvent the American Navy and connect to the Persian Gulf, except that due to technological advancements the Chinese are not using railways but oil and natural gas pipelines.

The Chinese have already connected to the Caspian Sea by a pipeline network that connects China to the rich in oil Kazakhstan and the rich in natural gas Turkmenistan (red lines), and they are trying to construct a pipeline network that will connect China to Iran and the Persian Gulf. The war in Afghanistan is definitely relevant to the Chinese effort to connect to Iran and the Persian Gulf, since Afghanistan is very poor in oil and natural gas. What makes Afghanistan important is its position between Iran and China (see my essays ‘The 21st Century War for Iran’s Oil’ and ‘Why the U.S.A. Invaded Afghanistan’ for more information on the connection between China and Iran).

The other similarity between the First World War for oil in 1914 and the 2014 oil wars is the Baghdad Railway and the Qatar-Turkey Pipeline. In 1914 Germany wanted to construct the Baghdad Railway in order to connect to the Persian Gulf and obtain oil, but Greece and Serbia were blocking her. Or to be more accurate nobody was blocking her, since the European territories of the Ottoman Empire bordered Austro-Hungary, but with the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, the English and the Russians helped Greece and Serbia to absorb the European territories of the Ottoman Empire in order to block the Baghdad Railway that would connect Germany to the Ottoman Empire and the Persian Gulf (black line).

Baghdad Railway Qatar TurkeyJPG

In 2014, actually earlier since the war in Syria started in 2011, Qatar and Turkey wanted to construct a Sunni natural gas pipeline that would transport Qatari natural gas to Europe through Turkey (red line), but  the Shiite Iraq and Syria were blocking this pipeline, and as a result the wars in Iraq and Syria broke out. The wars in Iraq and Syria also broke out to prevent the Shiite pipeline (green line), which would transport Iranian oil and natural gas to the Mediterranean Sea through Iraq and Syria (see my essay ‘The Energy War Between U.S.A. and Russia).

We therefore see that everything is almost the same. Serbia and Greece were blocking the Baghdad Railway in 1914, and Austro-Hungary declared war on Serbia in 1914, while in 2011 the Shiite Iraq and Syria were blocking the Qatar-Turkey pipeline and were promoting the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline, and the wars in Syria and Iraq broke out. Therefore the wars that broke out in Syria and Iraq in 2011, have a lot of resemblance to the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913.

The story is the same for Russia too. Russia has always been invading and controlling the countries around the Caspian Sea. This region was under Russian occupation during the Russian Empire era i.e. during the tsarist Russia, and nothing changed during the Communist era.

Former Soviet Union Map

Soviet Union

The Russian Communists kept the Caspian countries under Russian control until the fall of the Soviet Union, as you can see on the above map of the former Soviet Union. Actually the Caspian Region i.e. Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan is comprised of 90% Muslim populations, which are much more similar to the Turks rather than the Russians who are Christians.

However Russia has always been the strongest country, she has been on the winning side in both World Wars, and therefore the oil rich Caspian region has always been under her control. The Communists, exactly like the tsarists, did not grant these countries independence because of the oil riches of these countries, which were very important for Russia’s energy security.

At the following Wikipedia link you can read how Russian Communists invaded Azerbaijan in 1920.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Army_invasion_of_Azerbaijan

At the following Wikipedia link you can read how Russian Communists invaded Georgia in 1921.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Army_invasion_of_Georgia

In section ‘Kazakhstan under Soviet Rule’ of the following Wikipedia link, you can read the following:

During the 1930s, many renowned Kazakh writers, thinkers, poets, politicians and historians were killed on Stalin’s orders, both as part of the repression and as a methodical pattern of suppressing Kazakh identity and culture”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kazakhstan#Kazakhstan_under_Soviet_rule

At the following Economist’s article about Central Asia titled ‘Stalin’s Harvest’, you can read the following:

After the October revolution of 1917, new autonomous republics were created. In 1924 Stalin divided the region into different Soviet republics. The borders were drawn up rather arbitrarily without following strict ethnic lines or even the guidelines of geography.

The main aim was to counter the growing popularity of pan-Turkism in the region, and to avoid potential friction. Hence, the fertile Fergana Valley (formerly ruled by the Khanate of Kokand) was divided between Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Some of these borders were redrawn several times until 1936. After 1991, this led to lively demarcation disputes among the newly independent countries”.

http://www.economist.com/node/16377083

In the First World War for oil, the Russian tsar was trying to prevent the Germans from approaching Baku. In the Second World War for oil, the Russian Communists were again trying to prevent Hitler from getting the Baku oil. Note that the very rich oil reserves of Kazakhstan were discovered much later than the ones in Baku.

Today, in the Third World War for oil, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Putin is trying to keep a firm hand on the Caspian countries, in order for Russia to have monopolistic power in the European natural gas markets (see my essay ‘The Energy War Between U.S.A. and Russia’).  Actually the war between Russia and Georgia and the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan were Russia’s revenge for the cooperation of Azerbaijan and Georgia with the Americans on the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline. To retaliate, the Americans supported the Chechens, and the Russian Chechen war broke out (see my essay ‘The Three Wars for the Baku-Ceyhan Pipeline’.

As you can read in the second half of following article of the Guardian, Vladimir Putin threatened the Kazakhstan sovereignty after the Kazakh President and dictator, Nursultan Nazabayev, threatened to quite the Eurasian Economic Union.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/01/kazakhstan-russian-neighbour-putin-chilly-nationalist-rhetoric

Here there is one more article on Putin’s pressure on Kazakhstan.

http://www.eurasianet.org/node/69771

In the First World War for oil in 1914, Russia was on the side of the country that had the advantage in the seas i.e. Great Britain. In the Second World War for oil in 1939, the Russians were initially on the German side, that is on the side of the country that had the geographical advantage, with the famous Nazi-Communist alliance which came into effect with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in 1939, according to which the Nazis and the Communists were splitting Eastern Europe into zones of influence. For the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact see the following Wikipedia link.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molotov%E2%80%93Ribbentrop_Pact

For the Nazi-Communist alliance you can also read the following link of Encyclopaedia Britannica. In the third paragraph you can read the following:

To this public pact of nonaggression was appended a secret protocol, also reached on August 23, 1939, which divided the whole of eastern Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence”.

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/230972/German-Soviet-Nonaggression-Pact

In the first paragraph of the same Britannica link, you can also read the following:

The Western democracies’ hesitance in opposing Adolf Hitler, along with Stalin’s own inexplicable personal preference for the Nazis, also played a part in Stalin’s final choice”.

Therefore one should not be misled to think that the Russian Tsars or the Russian Communists were better than the Americans or the British. They were simply located next to the richest region in oil and natural gas reserves in the world. And Russia has many more oil and natural gas reserves than the Caspian ones. Russia is the richest country in the world in terms of natural gas reserves, and one of the richest countries in the world in terms of oil reserves. Please note that the countries with the richest reserves are not necessarily the ones with the largest production, since production also depends on technology and other factors.

Today, in what I call the beginning of the Third World War for oil, Russia is closely working with China, that is with the country that has the geographical advantage, and not with U.S.A. which is the country that dominates the seas.

The Famous Phrase ‘History is Repeating Itself’

When examining the First World War for Oil, and comparing it with the oil wars of 2014, one tends to think about the very famous phrase which says that history is repeating itself. We have heard this phrase so many times that it is very difficult to examine the oil wars without thinking about it.

However this is a very silly phrase which is used all the time by the so called intellectuals. In reality it is not history that is repeating itself, but rather the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea remaining the richest regions in the world in terms of oil and natural gas reserves. From the beginning of the 20th Century, when oil replaced coal, the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea became the heart of the world economy.

On the following map it can be seen how small this region is in comparison to the whole world. When it is taken into account that this region holds between 50-65 per cent of the world’s oil and natural gas reserves, it is no surprise that people have been, and will keep killing each other around it.

persian caspian

World Map

This will not change, unless huge amounts of oil and natural gas reserves are found somewhere else, or until oil and natural gas are replaced by some other form of energy. Therefore the phrase “history keeps repeating itself” must be replaced by the phrase “the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea remain constant”.

The reason witticisms of the “history repeating itself” kind are always popular, is because intellectuals do not want to explain to us what is really happening. And one wonders why this is so, why is it that intellectuals never help us think?

Murray Rothbard used to say that it is the responsibility of the intellectuals to convince us that we need all these bureaucrats. I think he is right. The responsibility of the intellectual is not to help us think, but rather to convince us that we need the bureaucrats, because as Murray Rothbard used to say, intellectuals have a special relationship with the state, and most of the time they are directly financed by the state. Therefore their job is to convince us that we cannot live without their employer, and they are very good at it.

It is therefore very natural that intellectuals do not help us think, because that’s not at all their job. Nowadays everybody seems to wonder where were the intellectuals before the economic crisis? How could the intellectuals let us fall into this crisis? However this is again a very silly question. This crisis occurred exactly because the intellectuals did their job very well, and they convinced us that we needed their employers i.e. all these bureaucrats. This is how this crisis came about as I explain in my essay ‘The Socialist Myth of Economic Bubbles’.

Ayn Rand used to say it should not be expected from intellectuals to be ideologically independent since they are financially dependent on the state and the bureaucrats. However the internet is changing all that. With the internet we, the intellectual off springs of Murray Rothbard and Ayn Rand, can attack the intellectuals. And they know that they do not have the arsenal to confront us, that’s why you already hear socialist countries planning to build their own internet networks. Russia and Latin America want to build their own internet networks, and China does not allow its citizens to use the internet.

Most socialists and intellectuals support such decisions. The reason is not that they are afraid of espionage as they say. The reason is that they know that they cannot confront us in the age of the internet. It is like a race. We have to finish them off before they have the time to unplug us. And we have to do it not only because it is in our interest to do so, but also because it is extremely fun.

The problem is that the first flames of the Third World War for oil are already here, and war is always the best excuse for statists and socialists to take total control of a country. It is the best excuse for the state to take over everything. It was with the First World War that American statists destroyed the American liberal economic model of the previous centuries and introduced the socialist ideals.

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Ayn Rand on Oil Monopoly

Iakovos Alhadeff 

Journalist: You do not believe in government intervention. You believe in the free market. Do you therefore believe that the oil rich countries, which have monopoly power in the oil market, should be able to sell their oil to us at any price they wish?

Ayn Rand: Not at all. I believe exactly the opposite. These countries have monopoly power because we allowed them to steal oil that belonged to American companies, we allowed them to steal our oil. That’s how they obtained monopoly power.

Journalist: What do you mean by ‘our oil’? We do not own Saudi Arabia or Iran.

Ayn Rand: Of course it was our oil. American companies owned the oil facilities by contracts. These countries broke these contracts by literally killing us, and nationalized what was the property of American companies. That’s how they obtained monopoly power.

The oil was there for centuries and they were not able to do anything with it. They asked for our help, they signed contracts, and then they attacked us and stole our property.

Journalist: Do you suggest that we should have used force to prevent them from nationalizing the oil facilities?

Ayn Rand: Of course we should have. They were not even capable of running our facilities and they had to hire Americans to do so. They were primitive societies that could have not done anything with their oil without our help.

Note! I lightly changed the conversation to make it a bit shorter, but I did not change at all the Ayn Rand spirit. You can see the full interview at the following link.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rydsea_Y8xI

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The Israel-Egypt-Jordan Natural Gas Agreement and the July 2014 War in Gaza

You can download a free copy of this essay in pdf, mobi and epub format from Smashwords at

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/476001

You can also download a free copy of this essay from Apple’s ibook sotre at

https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/iakovos-alhadeff/id840901147?mt=11

Or you can download a free copy for Nook devices from Barnes and Noble at

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/iakovos-alhadeff?store=allproducts&keyword=iakovos+alhadeff

Iakovos Alhadeff

The following Financial Times article of 21st Mai 2014, reported that Israel was very close to signing agreements with Egypt and Jordan for exporting Israeli natural gas to these countries, from Leviathan, Israel’s largest natural gas field.

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/02ea38aa-e0e2-11e3-a934-00144feabdc0.html?siteedition=intl

(you can click on the picture to enlarge it)

Israel Egypt Jordan PA

At the following article of Haaretz, which is as you can see at the following Wikipedia link, Israel’s oldest newspaper, and its English version is published with the New York Times,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haaretz

it was reported on 30 June 2014 that Israel did finally sign an agreement to export to Egypt 30 billion dollars of natural gas in the next 15 years. That is 2 billion dollars of natural gas each year, and it amounts to 20% of Leviathan’s capacity.

http://www.haaretz.com/business/.premium-1.601980

At the following article of the Times of Israel, an electronic newspaper that is published in 3 languages, it was reported on 3 September 2014, that Israel did finally sign an agreement to export to Jordan 15 billion dollars of natural gas in the next 15 years.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-signs-15-billion-gas-deal-with-jordan/

What happened in the time between the Financial Times article on 21 Mai 2014, which reported that Israel was close to signing the agreements and the Haaretz article on 30 June, which reported the actual 30 billion dollar agreement between Egypt and Israel?

Well what happened is that the 3 Israeli teenagers were abducted by Hamas on 12 June 2014, as you can read at the first line of the following Wikipedia link, in section “Immediate Events”.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Israel%E2%80%93Gaza_conflict#Immediate_events

At the first paragraph of the following Wikipedia link, you can read that on 7 July 2014, one week after the agreement between Israel and Egypt, Hamas took responsibility for the teenagers’ abductions and at the same time it launched 40 rockets to Israel. One day later, on the 8 July 2014, the Israeli army entered Gaza.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Israel%E2%80%93Gaza_conflict

It is well known that Hamas is funded by Qatar. Hamas won the elections in 2006 by providing financial help to the people of Gaza. In a sense Qatar bought a military camp at the Israeli borders. Qatar is the 3rd richest country in the world in terms of proven natural gas reserves, after Russia and Iran, and could have easlily provided the natural gas to Egypt and Jordan instead.

One of the main reasons that Qatar funded and wholeheartedly supported  the Muslim Brootherhood candidate in Egypt, Muhammad Morsi, is that if Morsi was in power he would have never made a deal with Israel, since the Muslim Brotherhood is supported by Qatar.

At the following Wikipedia link, section ‘Aftermath’, 2-3 lines before the end of the section, where the consequences of the Arab Spring on the Egypt-Israel 1978 Peace Agreement are examined, you can read that the deputy chief of the Muslim Brotherhood said that the Brotherhood does not recognize Israel’s right to exist.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egypt%E2%80%93Israel_Peace_Treaty#Aftermath

At the following BBC article you can read how much Qatar supported the Muslim Brotherhood and its candidate Morsi. In the 6th and 7th paragraph you can read that Qatar did not give all that money for nothing, but instead to make sure that Egypt would buy natural gas from Qatar. I copy these two paragraphs.

“….But this was not a charitable giveaway. It was in the nature of an investment. A Qatari economist told the BBC: “We couldn’t stand by and let Egypt collapse”, but the billions came with an expectation – “I’ll give you the money, show me the outcome,” he said.

The Qataris had already secured a lucrative deal to sell their gas to the Egyptians and they were proposing to heavily invest in the redevelopment of the Suez Canal…”.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-23185441

Many socialists that are financed by Qatar say that the Brotherhood was democratically elected. As you can read in the 3rd paragraph of the following Wikipedia link, as soon as he was elected, Morsi started changing the law to rule as a dictator. I copy from the link.

“…As president, Morsi granted himself unlimited powers and the power to legislate without judicial oversight or review of his acts….”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohamed_Morsi

Moreover you can read at the following Haaretz article that the Israelis have agreed to sell to the Palestinian Authority in West Bank 1.2 billion dollar in natural gas. But this is a small amount compared to the 45 billion dollar deals with Egypt and Jordan, and Qatar would have not probably minded. As you can see the deal was singed in January 2014 and there was no war in Gaza. It was before the agreements with Egypt and Jordan that the war broke out. Nobody starts a war for 1.2 billion dollars.

http://www.haaretz.com/business/1.567216

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Israel’s Diplomatic Relations with the Arab World and the Socialist Propaganda

Iakovos Alhadeff

We all hear European socialists who are heavily funded by the Arabs, accusing Israel of being aggressive towards its Arab and Muslim neighbours. At the following Wikipedia link you can see that 32 countries of the United Nations do not recognize Israel as a country.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_relations_of_Israel#No_recognition_or_diplomatic_relations

You can also read that 18 out of 22 members of the Arab League do not recognize Israel. And one should not be misled to think that these countries originally recognized Israel and something changed in the process. These countries hated Israel right from its birth in 1948, and they have been consistently trying to destroy it, and they would have already succeeded it if it wasn’t the U.S.A.

Israel faces Hamas on its southern borders, a terrorist organisation owned by Qatar, which openly asks for the elimination of Israel, and on its northern borders it faces Hezbollah, another terrorist organization, this one owned by Iran, which is very similar to Hamas.

Israel has two kinds of neighbours. The ones who openly admit and try to eliminate it and the ones who would like to eliminate, but they do not say so openly, and some of them also believe that they have to accept Israel in order to avoid war. Israelis do not have any neighbours who wholeheartedly accept their right to exist as a nation.

Unfortunately European people fall for the propaganda of their Arab funded socialist leaders. The following map shows countries in which Islam is the main religion i.e. the majority of the population in these countries are Muslims (green countries), and the only country in the world where Judaism is the main religion i.e. Jews constitute the majority of the population (red country).  Israel has 8 million inhabitants six of whom are of Jewish religion.

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An Update for the Conflict Between Turkey and Israel

Iakovos Alhadeff

In my essay ‘The Real Causes of the Conflict Between Turkey and Israel’, I was describing how this conflict is nothing more than another ‘cold’, for them moment, energy war. I would now like to update the above essay, or say with fewer words what I was saying in this essay.

https://iakal.wordpress.com/2014/08/23/the-causes-behind-the-conflict-between-turkey-and-israel/

Cyprus Israel Turkey100

It is a well known fact that Turkey imports most of its oil and natural gas, and it therefore wishes to become the absolute energy hub that will connect Asia to Europe (red lines) as a remedy to this problem. This will generate billions in terms of transferring fees, and a dramatic increase in Turkey’s geopolitical significance.

This is the reason that Turkey is so aggressive towards Israel and Syria who tried to provide an alternative route of energy to Europe (black lines), Israel by exploiting its natural gas reserves and Syria by agreeing to the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline, which would bring Iranian natural gas and oil to the Mediterranean Sea, and from there to the European markets. I have written many times about these issues so I will not repeat myself.

The question was why the Israelis could not avoid the conflict with this regional superpower that has an army of 1 million men, since it was fully aware of Turkey’s energy strategy. The answer is quite simple. Israel is surrounded by enemies and it considers of vital importance to have its own energy supplies, for energy security reasons first of all, and for the obvious economic benefits.

However in order to exploit its natural gas reserves, Israel had to make an agreement with Cyprus, on the Exclusive Economic Zones of the two countries i.e. which sea parts belong to one country and which to the other, as you can see on the map above which was taken from the following Foreign Affairs article (only the dark part of the map without the colouring which is mine).

http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/139069/yuri-m-zhukov/trouble-in-the-eastern-mediterranean-sea

The problem is that Turkey has occupied the northern part of Cyprus in 1974 (red circle), and claims a part of the island’s natural gas reserves. However the occupied territory is not internationally recognized, and therefore any deal between Israel and Turkey would have been illegal. The only option Israel had in order to exploit its natural gas reserves was to ignore its ex-ally, and strike a deal with Cyprus, and that’s exactly what it did. Turkey did not forgive Israel for that.

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