There is a hidden thin red thread connecting the recent US Congress’ sanctions against Iran and now the Russian Federation, with the decision of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies to sanction Qatar. That red thread has nothing to do with a fight against terrorism and everything to do with who will control the largest natural gas reserves in the world as well as who will dominate the world market for that gas.
For more or less the past Century, since 1914, the world has been almost continuously at war over control of oil. Gradually with the adoption of clean energy policies in the European Union and most especially in China’s agreeing to significantly cut CO2 emissions by reducing coal generation, itself a political act not a scientific one, as well as advances in natural gas transport technologies, notably in the liquefaction of natural gas or LNG, natural gas has finally become a globally traded market as is oil. With this development, we now are in an era not only of wars for control of major oil reserves around the world. Now we have the dawn of the age of natural gas wars. Fasten your seatbelts, ladies and gentlemen.
In terms of geopolitical actors, no political power has been more responsible for launching the recent undeclared gas wars than the corrupt Washington cabal that makes policy on behalf of the so-called deep state interests. This began markedly with the Obama Presidency and is continuing with a vengeance under the current Trump-Tillerson dog-n-pony show. Donald Trump’s recent trip to Riyadh and Tel Aviv to nudge along the idea of a Sunni Arab “NATO” to fight “terrorism,” which Washington now defines as Iran, has ignited a new phase in the emerging US global gas wars.
Burning the house to roast the pig
The Trump Administration policy in the Middle East–and there is a clear policy, rest assured–might be compared to that of the ancient Chinese fable about the farmer who burnt down his house in order to roast a pig. In order to control the emerging world energy market around “low-CO2” natural gas, Washington has targeted not only the world’s largest gas reserve country, Russia. She is now targeting Iran and Qatar. Let’s look more closely at why.
I’ve written before about the infamous meeting on March 15 2009 between then-Qatar Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani in Qatar with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, at that time still considered a reliable friend of the Emir. Reportedly when Sheikh Hamad proposed to Assad construction of a gas pipeline from Qatar’s huge Persian Gulf gas field through Syria’s Aleppo Province on to Turkey aimed at the huge EU gas market, Assad declined, deferring to his long-standing good relations with Russia in gas issues and to not wanting to undercut Russian gas exports to the EU with Qatari gas.
That Persian Gulf gas field, the Qatari part called North Dome and the Iranian called South Pars, is estimated to be the largest single gas field in the world. As fate would have it, the field straddles the territorial waters between Qatar and Iran.
Then in July 2011, reportedly with Moscow’s nod of approval, the governments of Syria, Iraq and Iran signed a different gas pipeline agreement called “Friendship Pipeline.” That agreement called for construction of a 1,500 km long gas pipeline to bring the untapped vast Iranian South Pars gas to the emerging EU market via Iraq, Syria and to the Mediterranean by way of Lebanon. That pipeline is obviously on hold since NATO and the Wahhabite reactionary Gulf states opted to destroy Syria after 2011. They opted to destroy Assad and a unified Syrian state through various false flag terror entities they have variously named Al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria, then called the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, then simply IS, or in Arabic DAESH. For NATO and the Gulf Arab states a Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline would have changed the energy geopolitical map of Eurasia, and the political influence of Iran over Saudi Wahhabite domination.
Not surprising, when the mysterious ISIS exploded onto the scene in 2014, it moved to occupy Aleppo where the pipeline to Turkey from Qatar was planned. Coincidence? Not very likely.
The proposed Qatar-Syria-Turkey-EU pipeline (blue) would go through Aleppo Province and the alternative Iran-Iraq-Syria (red) via Lebanon to the EU gas markets.
The year 2011 was the point that Qatar began pouring as much as $3 billion into her war against Assad, backed then by Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni Gulf Arab states, and then also by Turkey, which saw its geopolitical European and Asian gas hub ambitions vanishing. The very next month after announcement of the Iran-Syria “Friendship Pipeline” agreement, in August, 2011, in the UN Security Council the US demanded that Syria’s Assad step down. US Special Forces and CIA began covertly training “Syrian opposition” terrorists recruited from around the Sunni Wahabite-influenced world at secret NATO bases in Turkey and Jordan to drive Assad out and open the door for a Saudi-controlled puppet regime in Damascus friendly to their gas pipeline ambitions with Qatar.
Geopolitical stupidity in Washington and Riyadh
How does that all fit the demonization today by Trump and by Saudi Prince Salman of Iran as “the number one sponsor of terrorism” and Qatar as a backer of terrorism?
It all fits together when we realize that the current Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, son of Sheikh Hamad, being a more pragmatic sort and realizing that Qatari dreams of a pipeline through Aleppo into Turkey on to the EU had gone up in flames once Russia stepped into the Syrian war, quietly began talks with…Teheran.
This past spring, Qatar began talks with Teheran about finding a compromise on exploitation of the shared South Pars-North Dome gas field. Qatar lifted its moratorium on exploiting the field and carried out discussions with Iran over its joint development. Reportedly Qatar and Iran had come to an agreement on joint construction of a Qatar-Iranian gas pipeline from Iran to the Mediterranean or Turkey that will also carry Qatari gas to Europe. In exchange, Doha agreed to end its support for terrorism in Syria, a huge blow to the Trump-Saudi plans to balkanize a destroyed Syria and control the gas flows of the region.
To prevent that geopolitical catastrophe as Washington and Riyadh and Tel Aviv view it, the unholy three have teamed up to blame Iran and Qatar, ironically home to the Pentagon’s most important bases in the entire Middle East. Qatar they announced is the ‘Evil Knievel’ of world terrorism, with US Defense Secretary “Mad Dog” Mattis actually declaring that Iran was the world’s “biggest state sponsor of terrorism,” while Qatar’s crime allegedly was as key financier of Hamas, Al Qaeda and ISIS. That was maybe then. Today Qatar is pursuing other aims.
Washington conveniently whitewashes the role of Wahhabite Saudi Arabia which has reportedly funneled more than $100 billion in recent years to build networks of fanatic Jihadi terrorists from Kabul to China, from Bosnia-Herzegovina to Kosovo and Syria and even in Iran and Russia.
Doomed to Fail
Like most recent neo-con Washington strategies, the Qatar-Teheran demonization and sanctions is blowing back in the faces of its backers. Iran responded immediately with offers of emergency food and other aid to break the blockade, reminiscent in a very different context of the 1948-49 Berlin Airlift.
As well Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has just met with the Qatari Foreign Minister in Moscow and China and the Chinese Navy has just landed in an Iran port to engage in joint Iran-China naval exercises in the hyper-strategic oil chokepoint at the Strait of Hormuz. The Strait of Hormuz between Oman and Iran at the opening from the Persian Gulf to the Sea of Oman, is undeniably the most strategic water choke-point in today’s world with more than 35% of all seaborne oil passing through it to China and other world markets.
Iran is a candidate to become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization now that US and EU sanctions have been semi-lifted, and is already an invited strategic participant in China’s One Belt, One Road, earlier known as the “New Economic Silk Road,” far and away the world’s most impressive infrastructure project to create economic linkages across the states of Eurasia including the Middle East.
Qatar too is no stranger to either China or Russia. In 2015 Qatar was officially recognized by the Peoples’ Bank of China as the first Middle East center for clearing transactions in the Chinese currency, the yuan, now accepted by the IMF in its SDR basket of currencies, a major boost to international acceptance of the renminbi or yuan. That renminbi clearing status allows Qatari companies to settle their trade with China, for example in natural gas, directly in renminbi. Already Qatar exports significant LNG to China.
According to recent reports out of Amsterdam, Qatar is already selling China gas denominated in renminbi rather than US dollars. If true, that spells a major tectonic shift in the power of the US dollar, the financial basis of its ability to wage wars everywhere and run a federal deficit and public debt over $19 trillion. Iran already refuses dollars for its oil and Russia sells its gas to China in rubles or yuan. Were that to significantly shift in favor of international bilateral trades in renminbi or Russian rubles and other non-dollar currencies, that would be twilight for America’s global superpower. Lights out, basta!
It ain’t easy to be the world’s Sole Superpower today, not at all as it was, say, in the 1990’s. Not even psychopathic generals with nicknames like Mad Dog can scare others into falling back in line when Washington barks her orders. Back as recent as the 1990s it was, so to say, a piece of cake. Run a war in Yugoslavia, destabilize the Soviet Union after a long war in Afghanistan, loot the former Communist economies of all Eastern Europe. Worse still, the world seems not to appreciate Washington’s wars of destruction anymore. Now that’s real ingratitude after all that Washington has done for them in recent years…
Could it be that the American Century, viewed by future historians, will have its obituary written around the time in 2017 when Washington lost control of the “strategic prize” as Dick Cheney called the energy-rich Middle East?
F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”