Sunday, September 15, 2013

Syria, what is really at stake?

Recent events draw me into writing an opinion about Syria. It has mostly been the abundance of misinformation on the topic that motivated me to start the writing.

As we all know, in spite of the rhetoric of the media, the whole point is not about protecting neither the lives of the innocents nor US national security.

Since the beginning of time the super powers at play, although changing over time: from the Persians to the Roman Empire, through to Great Britain and now the USA, have given proof over and over that what counts is not justice but POWER: its acquisition or its protection. 

We therefore need to look at history, even recent past to be able to use the “right” yardstick to measure the reach of the events, and to look at them behind the right “lenses”.

Therefore, lets wear the “power” glasses and start analyzing some of the interests revolving around Syria. I believe that this approach is going to get us quite a bit more perspective than the usual “freedom” arguments.

The government of Syria is one of the last allies of Iran, supported by Hezbollah, and an official ally of Russia. The latter has a military base in the country that gives access to the Mediterranean, and still the latter is providing military supplies.

The country is small with negligible oil supplies. The population numbers unappreciable as its overall size economy.

It happens to be sitting on the path of a potential gas line connecting Qatar to Turkey which would be a game changer both for Turkey and eventually for Europe (news among others: Please don’t forget that Turkey’s cost of petrol is some of the highest in the industrialized world (#4 highest prices as of the latest available stats:

There are current many attempts to carry gas and oil into Europe bypassing Russia, but so far the ability to turn those into reality have met significant challenges. Please refer also to the Nabucco pipeline that is supposed to connect Azeri oil with Turkey via Georgia. 

Let’s also identify some of the key factors defining who is supporting who in the conflict:
  1. Gas & Oil: Qatar & Saudi Arabia on the supply side and Turkey and France/UK on the demand side against the Syrian government;
  2. Access to the Mediterranean: Russia is supporting the Syrian government to preserve key assets in an important geography;
  3. Containment of Iran and protection/appeasement of Arabian Gulf States (Qatar, Saudi Arabia & UAE mainly): USA in contraposition to the Syrian government.

Let’s analyze point 3 in a little bit greater detail because I believe that some of the current discourse is failing to point out the true geopolitical reach of the shale gas development in the USA and its implications for the Middle East. 

We all know that the discovery and exploitation of shale gas in the USA is accelerating by the month. This is a significant variable that is bound to change the geopolitical strategy of the USA moving forward.
News are telling us that the USA is bound to be energetically independent by 2020, just 6 years away.
At that point the USA will no longer need oil resources coming from the Middle East changing radically some of the key relationships with the Gulf States that are currently supplying the US with their oil (although not as much as thought by mainstream people).
The players that will require most of Middle Eastern oil will remain China, India, few countries in South East Asia. 

The US involvement in the region is not bound to lessen though as it will be necessary for the superpower to exercise its political and military influence to control the oil supply into third countries like China and India, the former perceived as a country to contain. Price and access will be defined by many factors, and political stability in the region will be a key factor. The ability to influence the stability (or instability) of the region is going to act as a price gauge and therefore an economic control over the countries that are bound to import energy resources.

Therefore, instability in the region might be considered an advantage for the US on two counts: manage the cost of economic resources for the countries to contain: China as well as continue selling all necessary military hardware to the players in the region: see Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain.

Russia and China are completely aware of the stakes and can’t let go of Syria. Too much at stake after having let the Libyan affair take place.

To our readers: please go behind the surface. 
Sirya is just a symbol of a new geopolitical order in the making. Energy resources and control is the name of the game. 

Russia's involvement and diplomatic leadership shown recently is bound to bring stability to a very volatile situation. The red line after all seems to have been drawn by Mr. Putin more than by Mr. Obama in this case. A resolution of the latest tension is bound to benefit the stability in the region.

We reassert our opinion that while the Middle East remains a complicated region it is also one of the regions that mostly favor foreign direct investment and that has been successfully shaken off the 2008 crisis showing proper growth over the past few years.