Syria: Ultimate Pipelineistan War
By Pepe Escobar
December 09, 2015 "Information
Clearing House" - "SCF"
- Syria is an energy war. With the heart of the matter
featuring a vicious geopolitical competition between two proposed
gas pipelines, it is the ultimate Pipelinestan
war, the term I coined long ago for the 21st century imperial energy
It all started in
2009, when Qatar proposed to Damascus the construction of a pipeline
from its own North Field – contiguous with the South Pars field,
which belongs to Iran – traversing Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria
all the way to Turkey, to supply the EU.
chose in 2010 to privilege a competing project, the $10 billion
Iran-Iraq-Syria, also know as «Islamic pipeline». The deal was
formally announced in July 2011, when the Syrian tragedy was already
in motion. In 2012, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed
Until then, Syria was
dismissed, geo-strategically, as not having as much oil and gas
compared to the GCC petrodollar
club. But insiders already knew about its importance as a regional
energy corridor. Later on, this was enhanced with the discovery of
serious offshore oil and gas potential.
Iran for its part is
an established oil and gas powerhouse. Persistent rumblings in
Brussels – still unable to come up with a unified European energy
policy after over 10 years – did account for barely contained
excitement over the Islamic pipeline; that would be the ideal
strategy to diversify from Gazprom. But Iran was under US and EU
That ended up turning
into a key strategic reason, at least for the Europeans, for a
diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear dossier; a
«rehabilitated» (to the West) Iran is able to become a key source of
energy to the EU.
Yet, from the point of
view of Washington, a geostrategic problem lingered: how to break
the Tehran-Damascus alliance. And ultimately, how to break the
The «Assad must go»
obsession in Washington is a multi-headed hydra. It includes
breaking a Russia-Iran-Iraq-Syria alliance (now very much in effect
as the «4+1» alliance, including Hezbollah, actively fighting all
strands of Salafi Jihadism in Syria). But it also includes isolating
energy coordination among them, to the benefit of the Gulf
petrodollar clients/vassals linked to US energy giants.
strategy so far of injecting the proverbial Empire of Chaos logic
into Syria; feeding the flames of internal chaos, a pre-planed op by
the CIA, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with the endgame being regime
change in Damascus.
pipeline is unacceptable in the Beltway not only because US vassals
lose, but most of all because in currency war terms it would bypass
the petrodollar. Iranian gas from South Pars would be traded in an
alternative basket of currencies.
Compound it with the
warped notion, widely held in the Beltway, that this pipeline would
mean Russia further controlling the gas flow from Iran, the Caspian
Sea and Central Asia. Nonsense. Gazprom already said it would be
interested in some aspects of the deal, but this is essentially an
Iranian project. In fact, this pipeline would represent an
alternative to Gazprom.
Still, the Obama
administration’s position was always to «support» the Qatar pipeline
«as a way to balance Iran» and at the same time «diversify Europe’s
gas supplies away from Russia.» So both Iran and Russia were
configured as «the enemy».
Qatar’s project, led
by Qatar Petroleum, predictably managed to seduce assorted
Europeans, taking account of vast US pressure and Qatar’s powerful
lobbies in major European capitals. The pipeline would ply some of
the route of a notorious Pipelineistan
opera, the now defunct Nabucco, a project formerly headquartered
So implicitly, from
the beginning, the EU was actually supporting the push towards
regime change in Damascus – which so far may have cost Saudi Arabia
and Qatar at least $4 billion (and counting). It was a scheme very
similar to the 1980s Afghan jihad; Arabs financing/weaponizing a
multinational bunch of jihadis/mercenaries, helped by a strategic
go-between (Pakistan in the case of Afghanistan, Turkey in the case
of Syria), but now directly fighting a secular Arab republic.
It got much rougher,
of course, with the US, UK, France and Israel progressively
turbo-charging all manner of covert ops privileging «moderate»
rebels and otherwise, always targeting regime change.
The game now has
expanded even more, with the recently discovered offshore gas wealth
across the Eastern Mediterranean – in offshore Israel, Palestine,
Cyprus, Turkey, Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon. This whole area may hold
as much as 1.7 billion barrels of oil and up to 122 trillion cubic
feet of natural gas. And that could be a mere third of the total
undiscovered fossil fuel wealth in the Levant.
point of view, the game is
clear: to try to isolate Russia, Iran and a «regime-unchanged» Syria
as much as possible from the new Eastern Mediterranean energy
And that brings us to
Turkey – now in the line of fire from Moscow after the downing of
actually obsession, is to position Turkey as the major energy
crossroads for the whole of the EU. 1) As a transit hub for gas from
Iran, Central Asia and, up to now, Russia (the Turkish Stream gas
pipeline is suspended,
not cancelled). 2) As a hub for major gas discoveries in the Eastern
Mediterranean. 3) And as a hub for gas imported from the Kurdistan
Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq.
Turkey plays the role
of key energy crossroads in the Qatar pipeline project. But it’s
always important to remember that Qatar’s pipeline does not need to
go through Syria and Turkey. It could easily cross Saudi Arabia, the
Red Sea, Egypt and reach the Eastern Mediterranean.
So, in the Big
Picture, from Washington’s point of view, what matters most of all,
once again, is «isolating» Iran from Europe. Washington’s game is to
privilege Qatar as a source, not Iran, and Turkey as the hub, for
the EU to diversify from Gazprom.
This is the same logic
behind the construction of the costly Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan (BTC)
pipeline, facilitated in Azerbaijan by Zbigniew «Grand Chessboard»
Brzezinski in person.
As it stands,
prospects for both pipelines are less than dismal. The Vienna peace
process concerning Syria will go nowhere as long as Riyadh insists
on keeping its weaponized outfits in the «non-terrorist» list, and
Ankara keeps allowing free border flow of jihadis while engaging in
dodgy business with stolen Syrian oil.
What’s certain is
that, geo-economically, Syria goes way beyond a civil war; it’s a
vicious Pipelineistan power play in a dizzying complex chessboard
where the Big Prize will represent a major win in the 21st century
Pepe ESCOBAR is an
independent geopolitical analyst
© Strategic Culture Foundation