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Charles Kennedy

Charles Kennedy

Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com

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Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Petro-Political ‘Peace’ for Syria

Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Petro-Political ‘Peace’ for Syria

We’ve got an extremely muddled peace process going on for Syria right now, and petro-politics defines agendas and actions. A US-Russian “peace” conference will be held later this month, and Qatar and Saudi Arabia have tabled a controversial resolution at the UN.

The Qatar-Saudi resolution accuses the Syrian regime of using chemical weapons, which is not true even according to a UN investigating committee, which demonstrates that chemical weapons were more likely used by certain rebel forces.

The resolution clearly lays the foundation for handing over Syria’s UN seat to Western-GCC-supported Syrian opposition figures (and basically, Sunni radicals under the al-Nursa/al-Qaeda umbrella).  The resolution does not call for dialogue (if you read between the lines. It calls for Assad’s surrender to the National Coalition of the Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces).

The only result of this resolution can be to decisively push Assad away from any dialogue attempts. This is clear, of course, to both Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The vote at the UN will be today, but if passed, it is more than likely that it would not be implemented or acted upon in any way until after the US-Russian peace conference at the end of this month. The US-Russian force has been clearer about an actual dialogue between the Syrian rebel forces and the Assad regime.

And this is exactly the problem as far as Qatar and Saudi Arabia are concerned—the US specifically has gotten cold feet now that it has helped to build up an al-Qaeda force in Syria that represents a significant threat. As the “rebels” aren’t winning, and the outcome is increasingly unclear. The timing of the Qatari-Saudi resolution at the UN table is significant. It’s specifically meant to head off any US-Russian “dithering” over the situation that might lead to a dialogue that would actually include Assad.

It’s an act of desperation, and the chemical weapons are the scare tactic for getting the UN to agree.

This brings us back around to the petro-politics, which the mainstream media either willfully ignores or isn’t up to the task of puzzling through.

But it’s simple, really, and here’s the short version:

In March, the stakes were raised, especially for Qatar, when Iraq signed an agreement with Iran for a pipeline to bring gas from the latter’s massive South Pars field through Iraq into Syria. It is important to understand that it was this very same pipeline specter that launched Qatar’s design to shape the conflict in Syria, which not coincidentally started about the same time that the initial agreement for the pipeline was reached. You see, the pipeline would give Iran a major outlet for its gas because it could also be extended beyond Syria, for instance to Lebanon, or perhaps to Europe. Qatar shares the Pars field with Iran, so this is a race to the finish line to get that gas to international markets. Neither the Qataris nor the Saudis (certainly not the Israelis) want Iran to have access to this market through such a pipeline. Pipelines are power. Of course, Russia doesn’t want it either, because in the end it could challenge its own gas hegemony over Europe. 

The Qataris want to build their own pipeline through Syria, and that’s what the tiny kingdom’s furious lobbying is all about. That and egotistical legacy.

Then we have the Levant Basin, which is shaping up to be a major playing field for oil and gas, with massive discoveries in Israeli, Lebanese and Cypriot portions of this Mediterranean goldmine. Syria’s portion of this largesse remains virtually unexplored, and there are a number of external actors that would like to get their hands on this. Israel’s already licensed out its sweet Leviathan and Tamar fields, and the latter has already begun production. Lebanon has opened up bidding on its first offshore blocks, and exploration in Cyprus is well underway. That leaves Syria—an open playing field that depends on who comes out on top in the conflict.


As such, Israel’s recent bombing inside Syria, targeting weapons it says were destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon, is petro-politics at its best. The weapons-for-Hezbollah ruse is a red herring. The Syrian regime needs these weapons—they weren’t going to Hezbollah. Israel wants to make sure that Iran doesn’t get its pipeline, now that Israel’s got its own gas riches to get to market.

By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com

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  • Martin H Katchen on May 15 2013 said:
    I don't entirely agree with Jen Alic's conclusions regarding Israel. The Israelis don't want iran's oil to get to Western markets UNLESS Iran radically changes it's attitude toward Israel. Which Iran could. Under the Shiite Sharia system, Ayatollahs possess the power of Ijtihad--innovation. An Ayatollah like Khamenei COULD find sections in the Koran legitimating Israel's right to exist and COULD have a rapprochement with Israel. It would be difficult, but all Shia Muslims that hold by that Ayatollah and consider that Ayatollah their "marja-i-taqlid" would go along with such a ruling.And Iran would neither have to give up Vilayet-i-faquih (Clerical input into government) nor nuclear weapons. A friendly to Israel Iran that justified it's nuclear program because of Sunni and American threats would be no threat to Israel--if Israel would align with Iran, Russia and the Shanghai Cooperation Group, letting Gazprom market it's exportable natural gas, which Israel has said it will do.
    The Sunnis have no such flexibility because Sunni interpretation of Sharia closed the door to ijtihad (innovation) during the 1000s. And the Sunnis have no overarching religious authority. So if an imam were to make such a ruling, it would not be listened to nor obeyed.
    What this means is that unlike Iran, Saudi Arabia CANNOT be a friend or ally of Israel for very long and Saudi Arabia's peace proposals for Israel cannot be trusted. It is simply not possible for fundamentalist Sunni Muslims to make any more than a short term truce (hudna) with Israel and remain true to their belief system.
    Which helps explain why despite Benjamin Netanyahu's protestations regarding Iran's nuclear program, Israel has not weighed in on either side of the Syrian civil war. And why I believe that the ultimate destination of those missiles Israel destroyed were Israeli oil platforms.

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