Is It All About The Money?
The reported willingness of Arab Gulf states to fund a U.S. military campaign in Syria – announced by Secretary of State John Kerry in a hearing earlier this week – may stem from their interests in oil and gas. The U.S., Russia, Turkey, and Arab states stand to gain trillions of dollars in energy revenue in deals that involve Syrian territory.
Qatar, home to the world’s largest gas field along with Iran, has proposed a gas pipeline from the Gulf to Turkey that would traverse Syria to the Mediterranean, with the gas then being shipped to Europe. However, Assad in 2009 refused to go along with the plan, instead inking deals with Russia and Iran.
Syria is currently the site of the proposed construction of a massive underground gas pipeline that, if completed, could drastically undercut the strategic energy power of Qatar and would also cut Turkey out of the pipeline flow. Dubbed the “Islamic pipeline,” the project may ultimately favor Russia and Iran against Western energy interests.
Iran, Iraq, and Syria signed a deal in 2010 to construct a 3,480-mile natural gas pipeline connecting Iran’s South Pars field to European customers. It is set to open in 2016. Iranian Deputy Oil Minister Javad Oji announced that the pipeline would ultimately have the capacity to pump 3.9 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. A key portion of the Islamic pipeline is concentrated on the Syrian ports, which would export directly to Europe out of the Eastern Mediterranean.
The Islamic pipeline is viewed as a major threat to Turkey, which has long desired to become the main bridge for natural gas and oil between the East and the West. Turkey, however, is a key player in the Nabucco natural gas pipeline, which is being constructed to transit natural gas to Europe from the Central Asia and Caspian regions. The pipeline is set to traverse Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary, and end in Austria.
Turkey has been a key supporter of the rebels fighting Assad’s regime, while Qatar has reportedly been supplying arms and training to the rebels. If Assad can be deposed, Turkey and Qatar would like the Nabucco pipeline to run through Syria.
Samantha Power Wielding Her Influence Once Again
UN Ambassador Samantha Power is urging President Obama to strike Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces in Syria, according to informed Middle Eastern diplomats.
Power was notably absent during an urgent UN Security Council meeting last month concerning Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons, and her name barely pops up in news media coverage of the crisis in Syria. Power’s most visible reaction to events in Syria so far has been a Tweet accusing Bashar al-Assad of using chemical weapons.
Yet behind the scenes, Power is a central player pushing Obama to launch a military campaign in Syria, the diplomats told this column. The diplomats said Power has been working with Syrian foes Turkey and Saudi Arabia, as well as with key Syrian opposition figures, in trying to convince the White House to act sooner in Syria.
The diplomats said that last week Power recommended that Obama strike in Syria without first consulting Congress, a move from which the president clearly seems to have backed away.
Power’s central involvement may be telling. As this column reported last week and in the past, Power served on the advisory board that created the “Responsibility to Protect,” or R2P doctrine, that would be used to justify U.S. strikes in Syria.
Jihadists To Storm Syria If U.S. Strikes
Thousands of jihadist fighters have mobilized in Turkey and Jordan, ready to storm into Syria if the U.S. begins a bombing campaign, according to informed Middle Eastern security officials.
The Islamic militants, fighting alongside the Syrian rebels, are being directed in part by Turkish, Saudi, and Jordanian military staff, according to the security officials.
The security officials said the jihadists waiting to advance into Syria include members of the al Qaeda-affiliated Jihadiya Salafiya group.
Iranian and North Korean experts, meanwhile, are directing an operations room for the Syrian army ahead of a possible showdown with Western powers, according to informed Middle Eastern security officials.
The Iranians and North Koreans, based inside Syria, are focusing their efforts on ensuring the viability of Syria’s air defense systems while maintaining the embattled country’s vast missile arsenal, the officials said. The officials said Iran has gone so far as to pledge soldiers to Syria if such mercenaries are needed in a confrontation.