Archive for November, 2011

(Why Americans should care about “the rest of the story” in Afghanistan.)

From The Wonders Of Pakistan blog online
24 Nov 2011

“If one looks at the map of the big American bases created [in the Afghan war], one is struck by the fact that they are completely identical to the route of the projected oil pipeline to the Indian Ocean.”

In January 2009, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, then NATO Secretary General, said, “Protecting pipelines is first and foremost a national responsibility. And it should stay like that. NATO is not in the business of protecting pipelines. But when there’s a crisis, or if a certain nation asks for assistance, NATO could, I think, be instrumental in protecting pipelines on land.”

These comments suggest that NATO troops could be called upon to assist Afghanistan in protecting the pipeline. Since pipelines last 50 years or more, this could auger a very long commitment in Afghanistan.

EURASIA’S PIPELINE TANGLE
by Abdus Sattar Ghazali

On November 14, Pakistan and Turkmenistan signed an agreement to build the $7.6 billion Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project under which Pakistan will get 1.3 billion cubic feet per day of gas. The agreement was signed during a visit by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov of Turkmenistan to Islamabad.

The trans-Afghanistan pipeline, first proposed in early 1990s, will transport Caspian Sea natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan and then to India….

The original project started on 15 March 1995 when an inaugural memorandum of understanding between the governments of Turkmenistan and Pakistan for a pipeline project was signed. This project was promoted by Argentinian company, Bridas Corporation.

The U.S. company Unocal, in conjunction with the Saudi oil company Delta, promoted alternative project without Bridas’ involvement. In 1995, Unocal signed an $8 billion deal with Turkmenistan to construct two pipelines (one for oil, one for gas), as part of a larger plan for two pipelines intended to transport oil and gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and into Pakistan. In August 1996, the Central Asia Gas Pipeline, Ltd. (CentGas) consortium for construction of a pipeline, led by Unocal, was formed.

Since the pipeline was to pass through Afghanistan, it was necessary to work with the Taliban. In January 1998, the Taliban regime, selected CentGas over Argentinian competitor Bridas Corporation, and signed an agreement that allowed the proposed project to proceed.

In 1997, representatives of the Taliban are invited to the Texas headquarters of Unocal to negotiate their support for the pipeline. Future President George W. Bush is Governor of Texas at the time. The Taliban appear to agree to a $2 billion pipeline deal, but will do the deal only if the US officially recognizes the Taliban regime. The Taliban meet with US officials.

According to the Daily Telegraph, “the US government, which in the past has branded the Taliban’s policies against women and children ‘despicable,’ appears anxious to please the fundamentalists to clinch the lucrative pipeline contract.”

It was reported that the Taliban met with Enron officials while in Texas. Enron, headquartered in Texas, had a large financial interest in the pipeline at the time.

On April 17, 1998, Bill Richardson, the US Ambassador to the UN, meets Taliban officials in Kabul. (All such meetings were illegal, because the US still officially recognizes the government the Taliban ousted as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan.) US officials at the time call the oil and gas pipeline project a “fabulous opportunity” and are especially motivated by the “prospect of circumventing Iran, which offers another route for the pipeline.” [Boston Globe, 9/20/2001]

On December 5, 1998, Unocal announces it is withdrawing from the CentGas pipeline consortium, and closing three of its four offices in Central Asia. President Clinton refuses to extend diplomatic recognition to the Taliban, making business there legally problematic.

Interestingly, the 9/11 Commission later concludes that some State Department diplomats are willing to “give the Taliban a chance” because it might be able to bring stability to Afghanistan, which would allow a Unocal oil pipeline to be built through the country. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004]

The TAP project was revived less than one month after the 9/11 attacks when US Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin meets (Oct 9, 2001) with the Pakistani oil minister to brief on the gas pipeline project from Turkmenistan, across Afghanistan, to Pakistan, which appears to be revived “in view of recent geopolitical developments.” [Frontier Post – 10/10/2011]

On May 30, 2002, Afghanistan’s interim leader, Hamid Karzai (who formerly worked for Unocal), Turkmenistan’s President Niyazov, and Pakistani President General Musharraf meet in Islamabad to sign a memorandum of understanding on the trans-Afghanistan gas pipeline project.

TAP is consistent with the US declared policy of linking Central and South Asia and diversifying export routes for Turkmen gas.

The proposed 1,680 kilometres pipeline could carry one trillion cubic metres of Turkmen gas over a 30-year period, according to Turkmen Oil and Gas Minister Bayramgeldy Nedirov. But the route, particularly the 735 kilometres Afghan leg, presents significant security challenges.

In January 2009, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, then NATO Secretary General, said, “Protecting pipelines is first and foremost a national responsibility. And it should stay like that. NATO is not in the business of protecting pipelines. But when there’s a crisis, or if a certain nation asks for assistance, NATO could, I think, be instrumental in protecting pipelines on land.”

These comments suggest that NATO troops could be called upon to assist Afghanistan in protecting the pipeline. Since pipelines last 50 years or more, this could auger a very long commitment in Afghanistan. [Journal of Energy Security, March 23, 2010]

The trans-Afghanistan pipeline (TAPI) agreement has been signed at a time when Washington is pressing Islamabad to abandon the pipeline project to supply Iranian gas to Pakistan.

Washington has never tried to hide its opposition to Pakistan`s plans for importing gas from Iran and has always pressured it to seek alternate options. The purpose has been to isolate Tehran in the region over its nuclear program. Apparently, it was under US pressure that India decided to opt out of the project in 2009. In return, New Delhi successfully secured US cooperation for its civil nuclear power projects in 2008.

In January 2010, the United States asked Pakistan to abandon the pipeline project. If canceling the project, Pakistan would receive assistance from the United States for construction of a liquefied natural gas terminal and importing electricity from Tajikistan through Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor. [Times of India – Sept 7, 2009]

On April 12, 2010, Iran announced that it has completed construction of 1,000 kilometers of the pipeline out of the 1,100 kilometers portion on Iranian soil. On this Iranian ambassador to Pakistan said that “Iran has done her job and it now depends on Pakistan”. The construction of the pipeline on Iranian side is on pace to be completed by 2011.

….

According to newspaper reports on 17 June 2011, Iran has given up talks with India on the pipeline and is pursuing the pipeline bilaterally with Pakistan. In July 2011, Pakistani minister for petroleum and natural resources announced that Iran has finished its work on laying the pipeline and Pakistan would start the work for building the pipeline within the next six months.

In November 2010, a Wikileaks cable disclosed that American diplomats had said it was “unlikely that Iran would build a gas pipeline to Pakistan.” Washington opposes the deal because of the economic benefits for Tehran, which has been subject to the United States and international community’s sanctions against Iran. The diplomatic cable noted that the planned pipeline would not move forward because, “the Pakistanis don’t have the money to pay for either the pipeline, or the gas.” [Wikipedia]

The 2,775-kilometre (1,724 mi) pipeline will be supplied from the South Pars field. It will start from Asalouyeh and stretch over 1,100 kilometres (680 mi) through Iran. In Pakistan, it will pass through Balochistan and Sindh. In Khuzdar, a branch would spur-off to Karachi, while the main pipeline will continue towards Multan. From Multan, the pipeline may be expanded to India.

Commenting on the TAPI agreement, Pakistan’s leading newspaper The Nation said: “Pakistan seems to have succumbed to US pressure and sacrificed its national interest in pursuit of the American desire to bypass Iran.”

The paper said, apart from the relative merits of the projects, one of the biggest services the present government can perform for the USA is to give the impression that the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline is in any way a substitute for the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline.

The Nation emphasized that Pakistan needs both the projects if it is to meet the gas shortages that have already hit the country in the past, and which will further worsen, reaching new heights this winter.

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The writer Abdus Sattar Ghazali is Executive Editor of the online magazine American Muslim Perspective: http://www.amperspective.com email: asghazali2011 (@) gmail.com

http://wondersofpakistan.wordpress.com/2011/11/24/the-politics-of-gas-pipelines-in-asia/#more-25322

SkyNews online
8 November 2011

A general view of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, some 1,200 km (746 miles) south of Tehran October 26, 2010. Iran has begun loading fuel into the core of its first nuclear power plant on Tuesday, one of the last steps to realising its stated goal of becoming a peaceful nuclear power, state-run Press TV reported on Tuesday.

An attack by Israel on Iran’s nuclear programme has lurched from doomsday scenario closer to reality. The change has been prompted by the publication of a report by the International Atomic Energy Authority which shows that Iran has been working on a nuclear weapon and the means to deliver it.

Although the Israeli cabinet has been split over whether it would authorise a unilateral attack on Iran, the IAEA report will immediately strengthen the case of the hawks.

Its publication has come after weeks of intelligence ‘chatter’ which has raised the spectre of an attack on Iran by Israel – and even the possibility that both the US and United Kingdom would be involved.

While some of the activities identified in the Annex have civilian as well as military applications, others are specific to nuclear weapons. Read the full IAEA report here: www1.sky.com/news/irangov2011-6.pdf

Whitehall sources have denied there are plans to get Britain involved in an attack on Iran – even ruling out the use of special forces commandos. But they admit the West and Israel had been “spooked” by recent intelligence that indicated Iran was “considerably further advanced in developing a nuclear weapon than we had realised”.

“The window of opportunity to attack it and kill off a nuke programme is rapidly closing,” said one western intelligence source.

According to the IAEA, Iran had modelled the delivery of a nuclear warhead using a Shabab 3 ballistic missile, which is easily capable of reaching Israel from Iranian territory. The report says Iranian scientists had been working on computer simulations of a nuclear weapon being exploded in the air and on impact with the ground.

It stated: “As part of the studies carried out by the engineering groups under Project 111 to integrate the new payload into the re-entry vehicle of the Shahab 3 missile, additional work was conducted on the development of a prototype firing system that would enable the payload to explode both in the air above a target, or upon impact of the re-entry vehicle with the ground.”

Iran, the report says, was shown this information, and dismissed it as “an animation game”.

Annex 1 of the IAEA report draws heavily on evidence from member states, which indicates that Iran has been building the facilities to test nuclear weapons, researching how to turn highly enriched uranium (HEU) into metal form which would firm the core of a warhead, and how to cause a chain reaction using an advanced multipoint detonator.

“As the conversion of HEU compounds into metal and the fabrication of HEU metal components suitable in size and quality are steps in the development of an HEU nuclear explosive device, clarification by Iran is needed in connection with the above,” the report says.

Israel attacked a suspected Syrian nuclear facility at al Kibar in 2006.

And assassins have been working their way through Iran’s nuclear scientists, killing one and wounding his wife last November. Another scientist was attacked in the same way 20 minutes later, when a motorcyclist attached a magnetic mine to his car. The mystery attacks have prompted Iran to put a special security detail on its nuclear workers.

But if Benyamin Netanyahu – Israel’s prime minister and leading hawk – prevails over his cabinet, then Tehran will be looking to the skies to defend itself.

http://news.sky.com/home/world-news/article/16106334

Clara Moskowitz, SPACE.com Senior Writer
04 November 2011

A powerful solar flare that erupted Thursday (Nov. 3) from a huge blemish on the sun’s surface has been classified as an X1.9 flare, ranking it in among the most powerful types of storms from our star can unleash.

The flare originated in a humongous sunspot that was sighted earlier this week, which ranks as one of the largest sunspots seen in years. The event began at 4:27 p.m. ET (2027 GMT).

The flare “triggered some disruption to radio communications on Earth beginning about 45 minutes later,” NASA officials wrote in a statement. “Scientists are continuing to watch this active region as it could well produce additional solar activity as it passes across the front of the sun.”

A flare is a powerful release of energy that brightens the sun, and is often associated with an area of increased magnetic activity on the solar surface. This magnetic activity can also inhibit the flow of heat to the surface in a process called convection, creating darkened areas on the face of the sun called sunspots.

The huge active region on the sun right now, called AR11339, is about 50,000 miles (80,000 km) long, several times wider than the Earth.

“This large and complex active region just rotated onto the disk and we will watch it for the next 10 days,” astronomers with NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite wrote in an update.

Later on the same day as the flare, in another area of the sun, a burst of charged particles called a coronal mass ejection released from the surface. This eruption came from the back side of the sun and is headed toward the planet Venus, so should not pose any risk to Earth.

Because NASA has a suite of spacecraft observing the sun at all times from many directions, the agency was able to observe the coronal mass ejection as well as the solar flare.

Scientists say we probably haven’t seen the last of activity from this dynamic region of the sun.

“The large, bright active region remains potent,” officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). “Odds are good there’s more to come.”

And recent events are just part of a larger ramping up of action on the sun lately, as our star moves toward the peak of activity in its 11-year cycle around 2013.

http://www.space.com/13517-giant-sunspot-unleashes-massive-solar-flare.html