An Eastern Mediterranean Oil War?

It seems that a pipeline is now being completed that will oil from the Caspian basin to Turkey, totally bypassing Russia.

Colonel David Eshel explains all,

[..] In April 2006, Israel and Turkey announced plans for four underwater pipelines, transporting water, electricity, natural gas and oil to Israel, by-passing Syrian and Lebanese territory. The pipeline is aimed bringing water to Israel, by pumping water from upstream resources of the Tigris and Euphrates river system in Anatoli has been a long-run strategic objective of Israel to the detriment of Syria and Iraq.

In its context, the BTC pipeline dominated by British Petroleum and American interest, has dramatically changed the geopolitics of the Eastern Mediterranean, which is now linked , through an energy corridor, to the strategic Caspian sea basin. But there is more at stage here.

The geographical fact is that Ceyhan and the Mediterranean port of Ashkelon are situated only 400 km apart. Oil can be transported to that port in tankers or through a 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, which had been very active during betters days between the Shah’s Iran and Israel during the Sixties. From Eilat oil it can be transported to India and Far Eastern countries in tankers, thus outflanking the vulnerable Hurmoz straits.

Last May, the Jerusalem Post published an article that 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. Antalya Mayor Menderes Turel mentioned this in a press conference. The project, which would likely receive foreign economic backing, is currently undergoing a feasibility study sponsored by the Luxembourg-based European Investment Bank.

The United States’ ultimate strategic design is intended primarily to weaken Russia’s role in Central Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean, while isolating Iran from this important energy source.

Iran being not only a major oil producing country is also a direct stepping stone between the Caspian region and the Persian Gulf. As such, it would certainly like to see Caspian oil flowing through its territory rather than through Turkey. Moreover, having full control over the Persian Gulf shipping lanes, through its military control on the strategic Hormuz strait, Iran could virtually strangle, at will, all international oil supplies, if political pressure on its nuclear program intensifies.

Iran’s claim to Caspian oil dates back to the last century when the Russian Empire and Persia, later Iran signed agreements in 1921 and 1940 recognizing the Caspian Sea as a lake belonging to and divided between them. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Iran wanted this agreement to continue despite assertions of independence by the breakaway states of Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan.

Five years ago, the official Iranian news agency IRNA quoted a statement of the Iranian Oil Ministry as saying that it protests prospecting by foreign companies in Iran’s claimed 20 percent sector of the Caspian Sea. The warning came a day after Iran summoned Azerbaijan’s charge d’affaires in Tehran to protest plans by the state-run oil company of Azerbaijan, Socar, to carry out oil exploration studies with foreign companies at the Alborz oil field “in Iran’s sector of the Caspian Sea.” Iran even threatened with military action if its warnings would remain unheeded and indeed, on July 23, 2001 in blatant violation of international law, an Iranian warship and two fighter jets forced a research vessel working on behalf of British Petroleum (BP)-Amoco in the Araz-Alov-Sharg field out of that sector.

In fact, the BTC pipeline is far from secure by itself. Western intelligence reports indicate that Iran republican guards (IRGC) are carefully expanding support for subversive elements in Armenia, a country which is still technically at war with Azerbaijan. It is well known, that in the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh the conflict between Armenian and Azeris is still going on. Armenian nationalists might decide to attack the BTC in order to hurt Azerbaijan, which derives most of its income from oil sales. The pipeline route passes through or near seven different war-zones. Its route passes just 10 miles from Nagorno-Karabakh, the area of Azerbaijan occupied by Armenia, where a bloody conflict killed at least 25,000 people It passes through Georgia, which remains unstable, with separatist movements in Abkhazia and South Ossetia – movements which the Georgian government tried to violently suppress during the 1990s. Just across the border into Russia, and still only 70 miles from the BTC pipeline route, the horrific conflict in Chechnya continues. The region also saw related conflict in neighboring Dagestan in 1999, and fighting between the Russian republics of North Ossetia and Ingushetia in 1992. In Turkey, the BTC route passes through the edge of the area of the conflict between the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), now known as Kongra-Gel. And Russia, by all means, is unlikely to view this new American strategic move without adequate response.

Moscow defense ministry sources pointed out recently, that the planned Russian naval base in Tartus will enable Russia to solidify its positions in the Middle East under the pretext to ensure security of Syria. Moscow intends to deploy an air defense system around the base – to provide air cover for the base itself and a substantial part of Syrian territory. It could also conduct underwater activities to sabotage submerged pipelines, or at least threaten to do so, if its demand will not be adhered to. A dangerous situation could emerge, if Israeli and Russian activities in the Eastern mediterranean could clash with each other on matters of highly strategic interests.

February 18, 2007 | 1 Comment »

Subscribe to Israpundit Daily Digest

1 Comment / 1 Comment

  1. I and others have been warning for some time that Putin has placed Russia’s chips on the Arab nations to give Russia a presence in the Middle-East. A “friendly” “cold war” has developed between the US and Russia, Putin has determined it a key element to control energy supplies. It is obvious by the moves that Russia has made to consolidate power and control oil at its source in the Middle-East.

    This relates to the part of the paragraph that Ted added bold emphasis to,

    ……the planned Russian naval base in Tartus will enable Russia to solidify its positions in the Middle East under the pretext to ensure security of Syria. Moscow intends to deploy an air defense system around the base – to provide air cover for the base itself and a substantial part of Syrian territory.

    Why does Russia believe Syria needs protection, and from who? The answer is obvious of course – but why does Russia choose to take up the task to provide the protection to such a degree? It is just more evidence that a line has been drawn in the sand in the M.E. conflict and that Russia is the dark horse that many of us have been warning about.

    Do not believe that any Islamic military aggression against Israel is without logistical support from Russia, they have chosen a side in the Middle-East conflict, don’t think they have not – And this pipeline that by-passes them will give them more reason to take the other side.

Comments are closed.