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"An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last."
Sir Winston Churchill

12.19.2006

Want to Know Why the Players Act as They Do in the War on Terror?

Watch the oil:

Relatively quietly, and with tantalizingly few details available, Israel and Turkey have reached agreement on construction of a strategic pipeline linking the Black Sea and Red Sea, traversing Israel to eventually deliver energy resources to Far Eastern markets. If plans proceed to construction and operation, it will represent a major step forward for Israel, and will reinforce Turkey's moderating power among Muslim nations.

Pipelines matter in the balance of world power. A lot. Their importance goes virtually unnoticed by the public, for they are not glamorous and they do not require large numbers of workers once they are completed. But let Russia, for instance, turn off the flow of natural gas to Ukraine in the dead of winter, and a crisis quickly develops for Ukrainians. Russia sees its control of energy resources as an instrument of national power, and is increasingly aggressive in its use.

The Caspian region contains huge oil reserves already discovered and "proven." It is believed that far more oil and gas lies in wait, ready to be discovered and developed. Some believe the region may even surpass the Persian Gulf in its potential. But getting the oil and gas to market is still a challenge. Russia controls most practical overland routes. With one exception.

The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline (BTC) was built connecting the region with Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, where oil could be loaded onto large tankers for transport to European markets. Tanker traffic through the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits, lining the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, is already over 5000 movements per year, and cannot be safely expanded. Construction of this pipeline represented a major victory for American policy objectives, strengthening our allies against the influence of the Russia. They key fact is that this route does not pass through territory controlled by Russia. Already a terminal for other energy projects, Ceyhan is emerging as an important node in the network of world energy flows and markets.

Now comes word that Turkey and Israel have signed a memorandum of understanding on the construction of a $4 billion pipeline linking Ceyhan and Ashkelon, on Israel's Mediterranean coast. From there, gas and oil could be transported through existing and new pipelines to Eilat, Israel's port on the Red Sea. From there, it could flow into tankers, bound for markets in Asia. The exact route has not been specified, but obviously it would have to pass under Mediterranean waters, as Syria and Lebanon cannot be regarded as realistic overland routings.


These pipelines are critically important for several reasons.

First, Iran has continually threatened Persian Gulf shipping lanes, increasing risk to the world oil supply.

Second, pipelines are big money. Russian dictator Vladimir Putin finances his regime off of petrodollars.

Third, pipelines offer control over oil resources. Putin wants to see the Middle Eastern pipeline run from Iran up through the formerly Soviet 'stans to the Black Sea and up through western Russia. He has shown a remarkable ruthlessness in using existing energy pipelines to cow Russia's neighbors into obeisance; how much more power will he have if the main delivery route for Middle Eastern oil to Europe were to run through Russia?

Wars are fought not only over ideologies but over resources. As we watch the sides line up, we ignore this at our peril.

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