Friday, December 01, 2006

Was Lebanon another oil war?
By Joel Bainerman November 30, 2006

Could the war in Lebanon been more about protecting oil pipelines and America's geo-strategic goals than Hezbollah shooting rockets into northern Israel?

A Canadian economics professor thinks so.

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, the day after the war began. Michel Chossudovsky, of the University of Ottawa and Director of the Center for Research on Globalization, reports that just 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 for a reception hosted by Turkey's President Ahmet Necdet Sezer. Among the invited guests BP's CEO, Lord Browne, and senior government officials from Britain, the US and Israel, including Minister of Energy and Infrastructure Binyamin Ben-Eliezer. BP heads the BTC pipeline consortium. Other major shareholders include Chevron, Conoco-Phillips, France's Total and Italy's ENI. Chossudovsky points out that what is so important about the BTC pipeline it that it 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", who are already in a military alliance with the US and NATO. Azerbaijan and Georgia have deep military cooperation agreements with Israel.

"I believe that there are strategic objectives underlying the Lebanon war which are tied to oil and oil pipelines," Chossudovsky says. "By bypassing Russia, Russia has been weakened. Now, Israel is slated to play a major strategic role in 'protecting' the Eastern Mediterranean transport and pipeline corridors out of Ceyhan. Also, Israel will increase dramatically the import of oil from the Caspian sea for its local economy." Chossudovsky, whose international best seller "The Globalization of Poverty " has been published in eleven languages, insists that the bombing of Lebanon was part of a carefully planned and coordinated military road map and that the next stage of the war which would include attacks against Iran and Syria- which he says will be done on behalf of oil interests- not because of any need to safeguard the stability of the region. "The end result is Israeli territorial control over the East Mediterranean coastline. With this pipeline, the Eastern Mediterranean will now have an 'energy corrido' to the Caspian Sea basin. What is important to remember is that all of the participants in the pipeline are US allies- including Israel, Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan."

For Israel, Chossudovsky's conclusions are chilling: Israel is now part of what he says is "an Anglo-American military axis which serves the interests of the Western oil giants in the Middle East and Central Asia." And yet the Israeli public has no idea that these aims are what might have motivated its government. Most Israelis believed that the IDF tried to do what they could in order to safeguard the security of the Israeli public- and simply failed. Didn't do the job right. One might even conclude that the plan could have involved Israel being weakened (we couldn't have been any worse- could we?)-- so that Hezbollah can score a victory of some sort and thus keep not only southern Lebanon unstable for years to come but much of north western Lebanon and south western Syria along the Mediterranean coastline.

Think of this in the same way that the Oslo Accords strengthened the Palestinians --while weakening Israel -- and led to ten years of unprecedented instability in Israel. The same future may have been deemed for Lebanon with the recent war just the first act in the play. The end result will likely be the US insisting that its Israeli troops be stationed along this shoreline- not to protect the pipeline- but to "ensure regional stability". This is terrible because the Israeli public will be duped into providing the security and protection for a private pipeline deal? Well, not really. There are huge rewards for Israel. The BTC pipeline will channel oil to Western markets via an underwater Israeli-Turkish pipeline that will link Ceyhan in Turkey to the Israeli port of Ashkelon (a distance of 400 km) and then through an existing pipeline between Ashkelon and Eilat which was shut down in the late 70s after the fall of the Shah and the loss of Iranian oil. Israel will undoubtedly collect some fee on each barrel of oil that is transhipped over its territory on the way to foreign markets. As it can be assumed the price of oil will continue to rise -- if Israel can be guarantee a reasonable price for its oil and gas in the way of a 30-50 year supply contract -- it would not only make the cost of acquiring Israel's energy resources much cheaper and efficient, but also Israeli energy and economic planners could plan, decades in advance, for Israel's hydrocarbon needs. Also involved in this project is a pipeline to bring water to Israel, pumping from upstream resources of the Tigris and Euphrates river system in Anatolia -- yet another huge benefit for Israel. In April 2006, Israel and Turkey announced plans for four underwater pipelines, which would bypass Syrian and Lebanese territory

The downside of the deal? The pipeline deal directly assails Russian interests at a time when Israel-Russian economic and political relations are warming and deepening. "Diverting Central Asian oil and gas to the Eastern Mediterranean under Israeli military protection, for re-export back 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," says Chossudovsky. "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." Chossudovsky points out that Moscow has responded to the US-Israeli-Turkish design to militarize the East Mediterranean coastline with plans to establish a Russian naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus: Moscow also 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. "Moreover, Moscow and Damascus have reached an agreement on the modernization of Syria's air defenses as well as a program in support to its ground forces, the modernization of its MIG-29 fighters as well as its submarines (as was reported in Kommerzant, on 2 June 2006). In the context of an escalating conflict, these developments have far-reaching implications." Chossudovsky points out that these underwater pipeline routes do 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. "The implementation of a land-based corridor, as opposed to the underwater pipeline project, would require the militarization of the East Mediterranean coastline, extending from the port of Ceyhan across Syria and Lebanon to the Lebanese-Israeli border. Is this not one of the hidden objectives of the war on Lebanon? Open up a space which enables Israel to control a vast territory extending from the Lebanese border through Syria to Turkey?"

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