It’s the Oil and Gas Stupid

Widely covered in Asia and the Near-East, but not in he United States, was the inauguration of the Ceyhan-Tbilisi-Baku (BTC) oil pipeline, which links the Caspian Sea to the Eastern Mediterranean. This pipeline totally bypasses the territory of the Russian Federation by transiting through the western friendly, former Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Georgia.

But the more sinister implications of this pipeline, are seen when the four partners are revealed and the ultimate destination of the pipeline is reviewed.

The partners are Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and Israel. The destination the Israeli port of Ashkelon, which bypasses Lebanon and Syria utilizing underwater pipelines. However, the ultimate goal is to have back up land based pipelines, which would require Israel, responsible for the security of the pipelines, to have territorial control over the East Mediterranean coastline.

The day after the deal was signed, the Lebanon bombing began.  Step one?

Well it failed miserably.

Back up now to the November 1999, when British G Group (BG) and Lebanon’s Consolidated Contractors International Company (CCC), were granted oil and gas exploration rights in a 25 year agreement signed with the Palestinian Authority, then run by Yassir Arafat.

According to Michael Chossodovsky, researcher for Global Research Canada,

The rights to the offshore gas field are respectively British Gas (60 percent); Consolidated Contractors (CCC) (30 percent); and the Investment Fund of the Palestinian Authority (10 percent). (Haaretz, October 21, 2007).

The PA-BG-CCC agreement includes field development and the construction of a gas pipeline.(Middle East Economic Digest, Jan 5, 2001).
The BG licence covers the entire Gazan offshore marine area, which is contiguous to several Israeli offshore gas facilities. (See Map below). It should be noted that 60 percent of the gas reserves along the Gaza-Israel coastline belong to Palestine.

The problem though, lies in the sovereignty of the gas. Reserves, estimated by British Gas to be of the order of 1.4 trillion cubic feet, are valued at approximately 4 billion dollars. The size of Palestine’s gas reserves could be much larger, according to Chossodovsky.

Unfortunately for Gaza, under Article XI, of the 1994 Gaza-Jericho Agreement,  three Maritime Activity Zones that extended out to sea 20 nautical miles from the coast of Gaza, were established. Two narrow Zones running parallel to the boundaries of Egyptian and Israeli waters were designated No Fishing Areas. Under the terms of the Agreement the larger remaining Zone “will be open for fishing, recreation and economic activities.” The Gazan fishermen operated freely for the next 6 years within this Zone with no major confrontations with the Israelis.

Until gas was discovered 10 to 15 nautical miles from the coast, within those boundaries. In 2002, the UN’s  Bertini proposed the approved location be reduced to an area within 12 nautical miles of the coast. More recently the area available has been reduced to 300 square kilometers.

According to Global Research Canada,

Consequently,since the death of Arafat, the election of the Hamas government and the ruin of the Palestinian Authority, Israel has established de facto control over the gas fields.

With this control, they began negotiating with BG for the gas. They were reportedly close to a deal when Hamas won the elections in 2006. When the newly elected Palestinian government collapsed, and Hamas had control of the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Haniyeh  promptly declared that the natural gas deal would have to be renegotiated.

The Times of India reports that  this prompted the Gaza blockade which resulted in the humanitarian disaster that is Gaza today.

In 2001,

Beginning in late 2000 the Israeli military began a campaign of intimidation and harassment against the fishing boats that ventured near or beyond a 6 nautical mile limit. No formal notice or explanation was ever given to the Palestinians. Instead the regulation was written and enforced by Israeli machine guns and water cannons. At least 14 fishermen have been killed by the Israelis, over 200 injured and numerous boats damaged or impounded.

Initially, BG had negotiated with Egypt to buld an undersea pipeline to import the gas, but under pressure from Tony Blair, were forced to negotiate with Israel instead.

After years of wrangling over prices and getting nowhere, BG closed their Israeli office and again negotiated with the Egyptians.

But the true intent of the Israelis comes to light when viewing the quotes from Israeli and officials.

AfterAriel Sharon was elected Prime minister in 2001, he said he would never buy gas from the Palestinians.

In June of 2008, Israel began preparing for Operation Cast Lead, its latest incursion into Gaza. In the same month, BG was contacted by Olmert with a request to reopen negotiations. They began anew in October 2008, shortly before the commencement of the Gaza invasion.

This does not bode well for Gaza, the Palestinian Authority, who were bypassed in the latest negotiations, or the peace process in general.

Egypt would do well to be very careful in what it does, lest its actions blow back on them from the Arab street.The Moslem Brotherhood is very much sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.

With Israel’s nuclear capability, their alliance with the Turks, and new found wealth from oil and gas revenues, the west should be very careful in how it sees the balance of power in hte Middle East that would result from this venture.

We should all hope that the Europeans in particular, don’t forget the strength of the Ottoman Empire, the dismantlement of which, after WWI, resulted in the establishment of Iraq, Iran, countries of the Middle East, and the ensuing rise of dictators and radicals alike in subsequent years. Would they like to see a similar rise in power again?

I don’t think so.

It’s past time that this issue of Palestine get settled and we find alternative fuels,  not only for the sake of the innocent civilians caught up in the various conflicts, but for the sake of the rest of the citizens of the world whose children will be the cannon fodder for the inevitable wars to follow and whose money will be squandered funding them.

Sources:

Global Research timeline Lebanon War

Times of India

War and  Natural Gas

Oil and Lebanon

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