GeoPolitics: Are Syria and Pakistan Pieces of the Puzzle for Assembling a Mega Gas Pipeline to China?Submitted by RobHino on Tue, 09/03/2013 - 18:20
The conflict in Syria has insistently been tied to the interests of Iran and, to a lesser degree, to Russia. Little, however, has been said about China. Beijing has a major stake in the entire Syrian venture, based on its thirst for energy. The Chinese, along with the Indians, have made investments in the Syrian energy sector. They will also be the main benefactors of Syria’s share of Eastern Mediterranean natural gas exports in the future.
In 2007, after the Turkmenbashi Agreement was signed, through a tripartite agreement between the republics of Turkmenistan, Russia, and Kazakhstan, and the Caspian Sea Summit was held in Tehran, between the Republic of Azerbaijan, Iran, and the former three, it became clear that “[a] Eurasian-based counter-alliance, built around the nucleus of a Chinese-Russian-Iranian coalition [made a] war against Iran an unpalatable option that could turn the globe inside-out” (Nazemroaya 2007). What was not too clear was that “[a]cross Eurasia strategic energy corridors [were] being developed” (Ibid.). It should be noted that “the leaders of Turkmenistan, Russia, and Kazakhstan also planned the inclusion of an Iranian energy route, from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf, as an extension of the Turkmenbashi Agreement” (Ibid.).
Iran began constructing an enormous liquid natural gas (LNG) plant, complete with storage facilities and loading terminals, in 2007. The location of the LGN processing plant has been in Port Tombak, off the coast of the Persian Gulf. The LGN plant was made with China in mind, and an agreement with the Chinese was made for future LGN exports.
In the same year, Syria was also a part of the broader Eurasian energy strategy that united Iran, Russia, and China (Ibid.). This is why both Iran and Russia were involved in natural gas projects and exploration in both Lebanon and Syria. The positions and interests of Tehran and Moscow and their relationship to Syria can be summarized in the following passage:
Russia and Iran are also the nations with the largest natural gas reserves in the world. This is in addition to the following facts; Iran also exerts influence over the Straits of Hormuz; both Russia and Iran control the export of Central Asian energy to global markets; and Syria is the lynchpin for an Eastern Mediterranean energy corridor. Iran, Russia, and Syria will now exercise a great deal of control and influence over these energy corridors and by extension the nations that are dependent on them in the European continent. This is another reason why Russia has built military facilities on the Mediterranean shores of Syria. The Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline will also further strengthen this position globally (Ibid.).
It was estimated in 2007 that approximately 96.3 percent of the amount of projected natural gas which would be “imported by continental Europe would be controlled by Russia, Iran, and Syria under such an arrangement” (Ibid., emphasis added).
By the same token, the interests of the United States and its NATO and Arab petro-sheikhdom allies in Syria can be articulated hence:
The transformation of Syria into a client state would not only help erode the Resistance Bloc [comprised of the Palestinians, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq], but it would give control over the Levantine energy corridor in the Eastern Mediterranean to Israel and the NATO powers. A direct land bridge would connect Israel and Turkey, and Iran would be cut off from its smaller Levantine allies in Lebanon and Palestine, which would weaken their resistance to Israel. The Mediterranean Sea would become a full NATO lake and a north-south energy transit route in the Levant would fall under Atlanticist control. The Levantine Basin, extending from Gaza to Alexandretta, has several large natural gas reserves that have been the subjects of regional tensions over extraction and ownership rights. Israel has been at odds with both Lebanon and the Palestinians in Gaza over the issue. Both Iran and Russia — the world’s two largest proprietors of natural gas — have interests in these natural gas reserves and have been involved in projects to help Lebanon and Syria exploit and develop their gas reserves. With control of Syria or parts of a fractured Syria secured, these natural gas reserves would totally be encompassed by the Atlantic Alliance and the Iranians and Russian would be pushed out (Nazemroaya 2012:324-325).
The geo-political reality in Syria also worked against the Nabucoo Pipeline and Turkish interests.
In context of this Eurasian energy strategy, what should become clear with the announcement of the construction of the Iran-Iraq-Syria Pipeline, after the Iraqi government gave Baghdad’s February 2013 green light to the project, are the connections between Syria and Pakistan with one another and with China via Iran. The Iran-Iraq-Syria Pipeline, which will also pass through Lebanon, has been presented as a route to export Iranian natural gas to the shores of the Eastern Mediterranean. The direction of the flow of natural gas, however, can be reversed. Eastern Mediterranean natural gas from the coasts of Lebanon and Syria, possibly even the Gaza Strip and Egypt, can be exported eastward through the pipeline and channeled through Pakistan to China. In part, aside from its own vast reserves of natural gas, this would also explain Iran’s mega LNG infrastructure projects, which aim to make Iran an international hub of natural gas processing and trade.