Saturday, July 29, 2006

What's in the pipeline for Lebanon war?

THE day war broke out in Lebanon, Israel's Minister for National Infrastructure, Iraqi-born ex-general Benyamin Ben Eliezer, nicknamed "Fuad", was just back from a trip to the Turkish port of Ceyhan, where he had headed a delegation at the opening of a new pipeline bringing oil from the Caspian to the Mediterranean shore. What connection could this event have with the awful bloodshed in Lebanon?

I'm not inclined to accept simple explanations for world events involving millions of people, in terms of conspiracies by a handful of individuals or corporations, out to grab oil or some other commodity. You know, where the person smiles and shakes their head at your naieve talk of policies and national issues, then leans forward to impart some gem of information, such as there is oil in the Middle East, capitalists want to make money, so what else do you need to know? Quite a lot of things, actually.

Not seeing enough oil in a region, "anti-imperialist" theorists discover plans for pipelines. They did with Afghanistan, oblivious of the fact that US oil companies already had a deal which the Saudis backed Taliban to secure. In former Yugoslavia the pipeline theory gave way to the Trepca metal mines, discovered as "hidden cause" even though Milosevic, having crushed Kosova's autonomy a decade before had begun selling off its mineral resources to capitalist interests well before NATO decided to invade.

Perhaps there were rival interests involved, but that's a complicated thought for those who prefer to generalise about "Imperialism", or "the West".

Sometimes it's simpler than that. "The Americans need Iraqi oil 'cause they drive gas-guzzling cars", one heard from speakers of a Greenish hue. So what were the Iraqis going to do with their oil, drink it? Seemed to me they were making desperate efforts to break through sanctions and sell it for stuff they needed. But one thing Iraq was about to do with its oil was trade in euros instead of dollars, and by a coincidence that was when America decided to invade. Chirac wasn't so keen, not from French "cowardice", but because French ingrates failed to recognise their interest in helping US corporations dominate the world and all it holds.

Taking a leaf from the anti-imperialist notebook, a letter in the Jewish Chronicle this week claims Syria and Iran, being oil-exporting nations, started the war in Lebanon to push up the price of oil. Trouble is, Syria is not in fact one of the world's major oil producers. Besides, Bashar Assad and his intelligence services, as well as Iran's President Ahmadinejad must have been jolly clever to ensnare Israeli chief of staff Dan Halutz into bombing first Gaza and then Beirut, and being able to count on Bush and Blair and the neo-cons chorus to back the war, no questions asked. Maybe they are all in the plot?

Therein lies madness, as I told the earnest people who have mysteriously surfaced proffering pamphlets explaining how 9/11 was all a hoax, or put-up job. But though conspiracies can't explain history, they do occur from time to time, or governments would not have secret services and Official Secrets Acts. Economic interests do underly politics, even though uncovering them does not dispense with the need to trace their contradictory working out in parties, strategies and ideologies, where results are often at odds with each other. For instance, US support to Israel is as crucial as it was when the state was set up in 1948 (when incidentally, Soviet backing also played a vital though now often conveniantly forgotten part). But the Zionist state was long regarded as a costly nuisance by big oil and military figures relying on America's links with right-wing Arab regimes. Despite the coalescence of oil, neo-cons and Israel lobbyists(not least crusading Christians)around the Bush White House today, some of the old disgruntlement survives. But things have changed.

So, without snatching at "explanations", let's look at that oil pipeline and bear it in mind. It is brought to our attention in an article by Michel Chossudovsky, War on Lebanon and the Battle for Oil, published by Global Research and to be found at

Referring to "the world's largest strategic pipeline, which will channel more a million barrels of oil a day to Western markets", Chossudovsky notes that "Virtually unnoticed, the inauguration of the Ceyhan-Tblisi-Baku (BTC) oil pipeline, which links the Caspian sea to the Eastern Mediterranean, took place on the 13th of July, at the very outset of the Israeli sponsored bombings of Lebanon. One day before the Israeli air strikes, the main partners and shareholders of the BTC pipeline project, including several heads of State and oil company executives were in attendance at the port of Ceyhan. They were then rushed off for an inauguration reception in Istanbul, hosted by Turkey's President Ahmet Necdet Sezer in the plush surroundings of the Çýraðan Palace.

"Also in attendance was British Petroleum's (BP) CEO, Lord Browne together with senior government officials from Britain, the US and Israel. BP leads the BTC pipeline consortium. Other major Western shareholders include Chevron, Conoco-Phillips, France's Total and Italy's ENI. (see Annex) Israel's Minister of Energy and Infrastructure Binyamin Ben-Eliezer was present at the venue together with a delegation of top Israeli oil officials. The BTC pipeline totally bypasses the territory of the Russian Federation. It transits through the former Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Georgia, both of which have become US 'protectorates', firmly integrated into a military alliance with the US and NATO", the author writes.

"Moreover, both Azerbaijan and Georgia have longstanding military cooperation agreements with Israel. In 2005, Georgian companies received some $24 million in military contracts funded out of U.S. military assistance to Israel under the so-called "Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program".

"Israel has a stake in the Azeri oil fields, from which it imports some twenty percent of its oil. The opening of the pipeline will substantially enhance Israeli oil imports from the Caspian sea basin. But there is another dimension which directly relates to the war on Lebanon. Whereas Russia has been weakened, Israel is slated to play a major strategic role in "protecting" the Eastern Mediterranean transport and pipeline corridors out of Ceyhan".

I'd have thought Turkey, as a reliable longstanding NATO member, could look after its own pipeline and ports, but Chossudowski, citing Russian sources, sees an important Israeli role. "[The BTC pipeline] considerably changes the status of the region's countries and cements a new pro-West alliance. Having taken the pipeline to the Mediterranean, Washington has practically set up a new bloc with Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and Israel, " (Komerzant, Moscow, 14 July 2006) Israel is now part of the Anglo-American military axis, which serves the interests of the Western oil giants in the Middle East and Central Asia. While the official reports state that the BTC pipeline will "channel oil to Western markets", what is rarely acknowledged is that part of the oil from the Caspian sea would be directly channeled towards Israel. In this regard, an underwater Israeli-Turkish pipeline project has been envisaged which would link Ceyhan to the Israeli port of Ashkelon and from there through Israel's main pipeline system, to the Red Sea.The objective of Israel is not only to acquire Caspian sea oil for its own consumption needs but also to play a key role in re-exporting Caspian sea oil back to the Asian markets through the Red Sea port of Eilat.

'The strategic implications of this re-routing of Caspian sea oil are farreaching. In April 2006, Israel and Turkey announced plans for four underwater pipelines, which would bypass Syrian and Lebanese territory.

"Turkey and Israel are negotiating the construction of a multi-million-dollar energy and water project that will transport water, electricity, natural gas and oil by pipelines to Israel, with the oil to be sent onward from Israel to the Far East, The new Turkish-Israeli proposal under discussion would see the transfer of water, electricity, natural gas and oil to Israel via four underwater pipelines.
“Baku oil can be transported to Ashkelon via this new pipeline and to India and the Far East.[via the Red sea]"

"Ceyhan and the Mediterranean port of Ashkelon are situated only 400 km apart. Oil can be transported to the city in tankers or via specially constructed under-water pipeline. From Ashkelon the oil can be pumped through already existing pipeline to the port of Eilat at the Red Sea; and from there it can be transported to India and other Asian countries in tankers. (REGNUM )

'Also involved in this project is a pipeline to bring water to Israel, pumping water from upstream resources of the Tigris and Euphrates river system in Anatolia. This has been a long-run strategic objective of Israel to the detriment of Syria and Iraq. Israel's agenda with regard to water is supported by the military cooperation agreement between Tel Aviv and Ankara.

'Diverting Central Asian oil and gas to the Eastern Mediterranean (under Israeli military protection), for re-export to Asia, serves to undermine the inter-Asian energy market, which is based on the development of direct pipeline corridors linking Central Asia and Russia to South Asia, China and the Far East. Ultimately, this design is intended to weaken Russia's role in Central Asia and cut off China from Central Asian oil resources. It is also intended to isolate Iran. Meanwhile, Israel has emerged as a new powerful player in the global energy market. Prior to the bombing of Lebanon, Israel and Turkey had announced the underwater pipeline routes, which bypassed Syria and Lebanon. These underwater pipeline routes did not overtly encroach on the territorial sovereignty of Lebanon and Syria. On the other hand, the development of alternative land based corridors (for oil and water) through Lebanon and Syria would require Israeli-Turkish territorial control over the Eastern Mediterranean coastline through Lebanon and Syria'.

Without entirely swallowing Chossudowsky's arguments or analysis, he does raise issues which should be taken into account. Sometimes the very lack of attention given to some aspects of a problem by our news media might lead us to wonder whether there is something important they would rather hide. We can guess that Russia's rulers aren't happy about the new exploiters of Baku pushing them aside, and this may give their versions of events a certain slant. Russian intelligence on the Middle East has been misleading before.

But how come British media have so little to say about British companies' achievements in some troubled parts of the world? Is it modesty, or the fear that people might start seeing connections we're not supposed to think about?

There's more than oil to the Middle East. There's people, struggling to survive and be free, and to build a better future for generations to come. We should never let that get lost in discussions about pipelines and maps. But it is important for people's lives who controls the oil wealth, and increasingly the water that everyone needs. While Britain and the US have been with Israel the lone opponents of a cease fire in Lebanon, the kind of "lasting peace" that Condoleeza Rice is supposedly working on seems to involve Turkish troops, Israel's ally, entering Lebanon as "peacekeepers" while Israeli forces kept in the south. Sometimes even the players, at regional level, might not have seen the stakes in the whole game.



At 11:10 PM, Blogger Charlie Pottins said...

FROM STEVE M. in OXFORD (who had trouble direct posting):

see Uri Avnery has been pushing this one too. But I would take it with a
pinch or two of salt.

Chossudovsky btw was I recall one of those pushing the 'Kossovo pipeline'
conspiracy theory. The source for this story is the Mayor of Antalya and an
Israeli official. But at the moment all that is happening is a feasibility
study by the EIB.

Meanwhile Israel's war in Lebanon and the US drive for regime change in
Syria can be explained in their own terms without this pipeline theory. And
why can the oil from a terminal in Turkey not get to Asia through the Suez
canal? Once the oil gets to Eilat it would have to be put into tankers to
get to the Far East anyway.

If the Suez canal becomes unsafe in future through an anti-Western regime
taking over in Egypt then western influence in the ME is pretty well f*cked
in any case, and a pipeline through the Negev would be a tempting target for


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