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By Al-Araby al-Jadeed staff
Date of publication: 26 November, 2015
On Spring 2008 Serbia signed two strategic agreement. The one was a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with European Union and the second one was a preliminary energy deal with Russia. The first is since then suspended but the second one got some flesh on the bones on Xmas-week. Both deals are implementing Serbia’s European perspective although from different angels.
SAA could be described as a roadmap guiding Serbia’s way into EU. When implementation really starts it means starting long negotiations where some 80.000 pages of EU regulations are applied to Serbia’s legislation. During the process and especially afterwards with membership the carrots include e.g. access to EU’s structural funds and different (~500) development programmes. With these promises or visions EU is using its sc. “soft power” to integrate the key player of West Balkans under the influence of EU.
Serbia will come to an energy hub of West Balkans
Xmas eve Russian and Serbian Presidents and related companies from both sides signed an umbrella agreement including three parts:
Sure NIS was sold under today’s market prices. However if the two other parts of deal will be implemented the deal will be win-win both to Russia and Serbia.
NIS would also provide Gazprom’s first refineries outside of Serbia. With a network of about 500 gas stations allocated in Serbia (including Kosovo), as well as in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, Serbia’s oil monopoly is strategically significant in the supply of neighbouring regions as well. Also when South Stream is completed and fully operational (est. 2015), the pipeline would make Serbia an energy hub in the region.
More over global energy game in my article “Powerplay behind the new Cold War”.
While EU has used its “soft power” and promises to Serbia Russia has used hard currency. In regards of Serbia’s European Perspective this does not necessary mean any swift from pro-Western to pro-Eastern side. From my point of view the situation and its prospected development will allow to Serbia a more balanced approach to its future. While energy will be on the top of EU’s priorities Serbia will have same time more leverage with its negotiations over SAA and other relations with the EU.
After “Cold War” US has all the while expanded its influence post-Soviet territory with aim to guide those region’s natural resources under US companies. As stakes have been control over the oil and gas of the Caspian Sea/Black Sea/Caucasus basin, and the control of multiple key energy pipelines criss-crossing the region. Economical interests have been linked to political game e.g. Nato enlargement. While EU has been more bystander Russia has during last couple of years weight down the scale in favour of its own interests by series of successful operations.
GUUAM & SRS
GUUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova) Group was founded 1999 with help of US to foster favourable conditions conducive to economic growth through development of an Europe-Caucasus-Asia transport corridor. GUUAM was dominated by Anglo-American oil interests, ultimately purports to exclude Russia from oil and gas deposits in the Caspian area, as well as isolating Moscow politically.
From its part GUUAM was designed to support sc. Silk Road Strategy Act – adopted by US Cogress March 1999 – which defined America’s broad economic and strategic interests in a region extending from the Mediterranean to Central Asia. The Silk Road Strategy (SRS) outlines a framework for the development of America’s business empire through development of an Europe-Caucasus-Asia transport corridor. (More about this in my previous article “War on Pipes” Sep. 2008, in my Archive:Blog )
Now GUUAM is coming to end of its short road. Already earlier Uzbekistan withdraw from it leaving behind a stump GUAM. Then Georgia started its aggressions with false idea of western support leading today’s situation and possibility to escalate to “small intensity war” between present Georgian leadership and separatist regions Abkhazia and South-Ossetia.
Moldova was aiming towards Nato and EU but after conflict in Georgia it started to look other alternatives. Russia has offered its help to solve Moldova’s long term problem with Transdnistria and if a federation model will be accepted by local stakeholders it probably neutralizes Moldova’s position between US/EU and Russia.
Last weekend was also highlight of tendency where political attitudes of Azerbaijan and Russia have approached each other. Russia again took the initiative acting as a mediator between Armenia and Azerbaijan to solve long term conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh and a common memorandum signed 2nd November 2008 is first step of solution.
The last piece of GUUAM is Ukraine, which is deeply divided pro-Russian East and pro-Nato/EU West. When political struggle now has made cracks also inside western orientated part also this last fortress has degenerated to stagnation.
Parallel with Russia’s able foreign policy the US actions have been short-sighted, weak and fruitless. Waiting for elections and financial turmoil have took their part but in energy sector also some states in South-America have now more independent and selfish position than before. Same time Iraq occupation is coming to end when also Alaska can keep its energy reserves when new US President takes his office the perspectives of US energy giants are more foggy than for a long time.
If one would like to see a bright side with this depression – or even knock out – of US foreign/energy policy it could be the need to reduce pollutions and to support alternative energy solutions which at global scale could help to deal with clima change.
Georgia 08/08/08 is the date when headlines in Western mainstream media started to tell how big, bad aggressive Russia attacked to tiny, democratic, good Georgia. After that the West continued accusations about occupation a free sovereign state started rethink enforcing its frontlines around Russian border in new cold war era. Al this despite the fact, that day earlier 7th August 2008 Georgia had started the moths before planned war against its separatist province (look my article “OSCE report fault Georgia – one trivial statement more from EU summit” 4th Sept.2008 from my archives right). All this despite he fact, that USA had already showed the way how to break international law e.g. by bombing Kosovo and orchestrating the quasi-independence of that separatist province.
While speaking about new confrontation between East and West the (mostly western) political commentators have used first nice, warm words like freedom, democracy, sovereignty, humanitarian catastrophe to justify their planned harder actions to response Russia’s aggression. However if we scrub the soft spoke for dummies – sorry for public – we can find the hard reality and bigger game behind recent headlines of Caucasus or Balkan events. I try next to highlight few aspects with this power play.
First element I would like to mention is energy. Georgia is part of a NATO military alliance (GUAM) signed in April 1999 at the very outset of the war on Yugoslavia. It also has a bilateral military cooperation agreement with the US. These underlying military agreements have served to protect Anglo-American oil interests in the Caspian Sea basin as well as pipeline routes. (The alliance was initially entitled GUUAM, Uzbekistan subsequently withdrew and the name was changed to GUAM: Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and Moldova). More you may find from my article 9th Sep.2008 “War on Pipes: Transport corridors as core of US-Russia confrontation” where I write about GUUAM and SRS (Silk Road Strategy Act). Article one may find from my Archives right.
To reduce reliance on Persian Gulf oil, the Bush Administration has sought to strengthen relations with other non-OPEC, oil-rich countries. For example when (then) Defense Secretary Rumsfeld visited Kazakhstan, his main agenda was to promise security assistance for Kazakhstan’s oil pipelines and facilities on the Caspian Sea, where an estimated 7-9 billion barrels of oil were recently discovered (the largest oil discovery anywhere in 30 years). Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey recently signed a U.S.-backed deal to build an oil pipeline to bring that oil to ports on the Mediterranean. The U.S. has military ties with each. U.S. oil demand is huge and increasing.
Today, the U.S. has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, yet it consumes more than 25 percent of global oil production-about 20 million barrels per day (mbd). Oil is the dominant fuel in the U.S. energy market, meeting almost 40 percent of total U.S. energy needs. Most of this is consumed by the transportation sector. If current U.S. oil demand trends continue, by 2025, the US. will be consuming over 29 mbd. More larger and heavier cars and trucks- with bigger engines, driven more miles each year- will account for most of this growth. All tolled, today, the world is consuming a little over 80 mbd (30 billion barrels per year). By 2030, global demand is expected to grow by 50 percent to 120 mbd (45 billion barrels per year).
After August events in Georgia everything did not happen according US plan. Russia could warm its relationship with Azerbaijan which was clearly to seen when Dick Cheney made his travel around Caucasia and came back empty hands. Also the situation in Ukraine developed away from US hopes.
Paul Goble concludes in his “Window on Eurasia” Sep. 5th 2008 following: “With Iran’s declaration that it opposes the construction of any undersea pipelines in the Caspian on “ecological grounds” and thus will block any delimitation of the seabed that allows for them and Baku’s decision not to back the West’s push NABUCCO project, Moscow can claim its first major political victory from its invasion of Georgia.” (Source)
These actions mean that the Russian government will now have full and uncontested control over pipelines between the Caspian basin and the West which pass through Russian territory and will be able either directly or through its clients like the PKK to disrupt the only routes such as Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan that bypass the Russian Federation.
Second let me mention “military-industrial complex”. When Russia’s invading forces choked roads into Georgia with columns of armoured vehicles and struck targets from the air, it instantly bolstered the case being made by some that the Defence Department isn’t taking the threat from Russia and China seriously enough. It was said that “Christmas Comes Early For the Military Industrial Complex”.
The Military-industrial Complex has been one of the biggest players in US foreign policy since President Eisenhower. Details about Iraq killing Iranians with US-supplied chemical and biological weapons significantly deepens our understanding of the current hypocrisy. It began with “Iraq-gate” — when US policy makers, financiers, arms-suppliers and makers, made massive profits from sales to Iraq of myriad chemical, biological, conventional weapons, and the equipment to make nuclear weapons. Reporter Russ Baker noted, for example, that, “on July 3, 1991, the Financial Times reported that a Florida company run by an Iraqi national had produced cyanide — some of which went to Iraq for use in chemical weapons — and had shipped it via a CIA contractor.” This was just the tip of a mountain of scandals.
A PBS Frontline episode, “The Arming of Iraq” (1990) detailed much of the conventional and so-called “dual-use” weapons sold to Iraq. The public learned from other sources that at least since mid-1980s the US was selling chemical and biological material for weapons to Iraq and orchestrating private sales. These sales began soon after current Secretary of State, Donald Rumsfeld travelled to Baghdad in 1985 and met with Saddam Hussein as a private businessman on behalf of the Reagan administration. In the last major battle of the Iran-Iraq war, some 65,000 Iranians were killed, many by gas.Coming back to present days one could easily find out how the US government borrows heavily to cover its off-the-charts defence spending—$587 billion this year. Spending in Iraq and Afghanistan is from 2.9 – 5.0 bn$ per week or 280.000 – 500.000 $ per minute.
The five largest American Defence contractors are Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and General Dynamics. They are being followed by Honeywell, Halliburton, BAE Systems and thousands of smaller defence companies and subcontractors. Some, like Lockheed Martin in Bethesda (Maryland) and Raytheon in Waltham (Massachusetts) draw close to 100 percent of their business from defence contracts. Some others, like Honeywell in Morristown (New Jersey), have important consumer goods divisions. All, however, stand to profit when expenditures on weapons procurements increase. In fact, U.S. defence contractors have been enjoying big Pentagon budgets since March 2003, i.e. since the onset of the Iraq war. As a result, they have posted sizable increases in total shareholder returns, ranging from 68 percent (Northrop Grumman) to 164 percent (General Dynamics), from March ’03 to September ’06.
For war profiteers, soldiers returning maimed or in caskets, and an over $500 billion Pentagon budget paid for by the taxes of ordinary citizens, are externalities — costs and consequences borne by others.
NATO became even more threatening to Russia because, at the same time, the alliance shifted its mission from defending the soil of member countries to offensive missions outside the treaty area – for example, bombing Bosnia, Kosovo, and Serbia.
The trend toward autocracy in Russia is maybe horrible for some Russian interest groups, but it is little threat to the United States. Even autocracies have legitimate security concerns, and Russia has been invaded several times through Eastern Europe, which is why the Russians are worried about a hostile alliance on its borders. Empirical evidence shows that authoritarian regimes aren’t necessarily externally aggressive – for example, the dictators in Burma – and that democracies are no less belligerent than autocracies in their foreign policies. In fact, data show that the most aggressive nation on the planet after World War II has been the United States – not the Soviet Union – with more than 100 military or covert interventions in other countries.
If we make contrast to today’s’ financial turmoil one should remember following. Wall Street analysts concur that “war is good for business” particularly during a period of “economic slowdown”. The top five U.S. defence contractors generated almost $129 billion in revenues and $8 billion in profits in 2006, double the revenue and profits in 2000 when George Bush became President. I bet that they want this to continue.
Third there are lobbyists. Their business turnover is minimal compared two above mentioned elements but they are important glue between business and public affairs. Lobbyists can channel business money as donations or bribes to political figures or parties who then can facilitate the needs of donors.
In Georgia case most famous is Randy Scheuneman. Top McCain foreign policy advisor, Randy Scheuneman, was paid $200,000 recently by Georgia for consulting services, about one day before McCain issued a policy statement backing and emboldening the Republic of Georgia in its grab for disputed regions. And it now appears that McCain may have signalled that the US would essentially have Georgia’s back if it tried to assert possession of the territories. Since 2004 Scheuneman got $900.000 from Georgia. Recently US promised over 1 bn$ taxpayers money to Georgia – god investment I must say, for Georgians.
In the mid-1990s at the stint of the Clinton administration the United States launched the process of involving “former Soviet satellite nations” into both the European Union and NATO with an eye at securing a more efficient control over their political activities. The rapid expansion of the North Atlantic alliance was a part of the strategy of a “new American age” worked out by R.Cheney and his team. In 1996, Bruce Jackson, one of Cheney’s close friends and a top manager of the military-industrial corporation “Lockheed–Martin” took the reins of the influential lobbyist organisation “American Committee on NATO Expansion”. Bruce Jackson was appointed as head of the US Committee on NATO by President Clinton and put in charge of integrating the Eastern European countries into NATO in spite of assurances that had been given to Soviet leader Mikhael Gorbachev that this would not be done. This integration involved selling US weapons systems to these countries so that they would be compatible with ours.
Lobbying can have also win-win effect to players. E.g. Bruce Jackson founded the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq in 2002, a few months after retiring from Lockheed Martin. One can image, as the war in Iraq grinds on at a cost of some $250-400 million per day, and another contractor-heavy organization, the Iran Policy Committee, calls for a pre-emptive strike against Iran, how US Foreign politics is guided.
The New Defence Agenda (NDA) is part of Brussels growing military-industrial complex. Set up in 2003, it is funded by arms producers Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems in order to promote higher European military spending. Others arms industry lobby groups include the European Association of Aerospace Industries (AECMA) and the European Defence Industries Group (EDIG). The arms industry is also using the Lisbon Agenda and competitiveness to argue their case for increasing the EU?s current defence spending of about 3 percent of GDP to the US level of 6 percent.
New and Old Europe
Discussing about transatlantic relationship with Russia I can see a triangle drama with “western” camp. US has found stalwart allies from “New Europe” Polish-Lithuanian tandem as its spearhead, who are serving as America’s watchmen on Europe’s periphery as well cannon fodder in demanding theatres. The tandem with some wingmen (Estonia, Latvia) have their role in expanding Western military ties to East Europe and checking Russia’s energy grip on Europe.
We have “Old Europe” like Germany, Italy some cases Spain and France also, who are more interesting about strategic political and business partnership with Russia. Old Europe countries are also developing bilateral cooperation with Russia when they see its advantages.
While some “New Europe” countries still have some post-Soviet trauma, US is tied to her self-caused conflicts and “Old Europe” is wondering how the Union will look in future, it is demanding task to find a common approach to relationship with Russia. While Russia also considers its options I can only hope that some neutral forum for dialogue could be found.
Yes I hope that one or more forums can accommodate different dialogs. Europe schizophrenia will be cured either in some common forum or with two rail development where new and old Europe maybe are going with different speeds and maybe also different directions – the trauma symptoms maybe are similar in new and old Europe countries but the cause/motivations differ. Post-Soviet new ones maybe have more emotional cause for their actions, US maybe have more economical priorities as well some old EU states.
When speaking about interests of West I would like to make a difference between US – or Anglo-American -interests and EU interests. After “Cold War” US has all the while expanded its influence post-Soviet territory with aim to guide those region’s natural resources under US companies. GUUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova) Group was founded 1999 with help of US to foster favorable conditions conducive to economic growth through development of an Europe-Caucasus-Asia transport corridor.
As pointed out by Michel Chossudovsky in his book America’s ‘War on Terrorism,’ (presentation of Anglo-American war policy from the 1990s Balkans to the present), GUUAM has been “dominated by Anglo-American oil interests, ultimately purports to exclude Russia from oil and gas deposits in the Caspian area, as well as isolating Moscow politically.”
More specifically, the US-led military invasion – in close liaison with Britain-responds to the interests of the Anglo – American oil giants, in alliance with weapons producers, private security organizations and service providers (like Halliburton). One could say that the “Anglo-American axis” in defense, foreign policy and especially corporate capital is the driving force behind the military operations in Balkans, Central Asia and Middle East.
Just five days before the bombing of Yugoslavia (19 March 1999), the US Congress adopted the Silk Road Strategy Act, which defined America’s broad economic and strategic interests in a region extending from the Mediterranean to Central Asia. The Silk Road Strategy (SRS) outlines a framework for the development of America’s business empire through development of an Europe-Caucasus-Asia transport corridor.
The stakes involved with the current conflict are identical to those of the previous war: control over the oil of the Caspian Sea/Black Sea/Caucasus basin, and the control of multiple key oil pipelines criss-crossing the region. The most critical pipeline, the infamous Baku-Ceyhan pipeline supported by the US government and a consortium of US-allied transnational oil interests (including Royal Dutch Shell, Unocal, and BP) takes oil from the Caspian Sea across Azerbaijan (another US-supported regime), whereby it crosses Georgia (bypassing Iran and Russia), then on to the Black Sea, where the oil is carried to Western Europe, and the rest of the world.
The Baku-Ceyhan pipeline has been viewed by the Bush/Cheney administration as one of its brightest geostrategic successes. All of the Anglo-American empire’s pipelines and oil facilities, including Baku-Ceyhan, are threatened, if the conflict escalates. Same time the successful implementation of the SRS requires the concurrent “militarization” of the Eurasian corridor as a means to securing control over extensive oil and gas reserves, as well as “protecting” the pipeline routes on behalf of the Anglo-American oil companies.
Power play and EU
The effect of Nato enlargement is to swing the Iron Curtain to the east. Russia”s opposition to NATO expansion has only increased in recent years. On economical field Russia’s “South Stream” looks more successful so far than Nabucco while the leverage of the United States government over Russian foreign policy has decreased dramatically during last years. US policy is turning into a zero-sum competition with Russia for influence in the post-Soviet regions.
For EU the situation brings few questions such as
I am not sure if EU would like to answer to these questions, however my point is that this background may have some influence – more than official concern about human rights, rule & law etc. – to EU policy in Balkans and Caucasus.