Posts Tagged ‘Iran’

(Update 29 June 2014 from Debka File online)

iraqsyriaFullMid East is sizzling: Armed US drones over Baghdad, Saudi, Jordanian tanks deploy
DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis June 28, 2014 (IDT)

The Obama administration announced Friday, June 27, that unmanned aerial vehicles flying over Baghdad would henceforth be armed in order to defend the US Embassy in the Green Zone. The embassy was originally assigned the tasks of guardian of Iraq’s central government and symbol of post-Saddam national unity. These roles have remained out of reach ever since the Americans invaded Iraq in 2003.

Today, the armed drones overhead are reduced to holding back the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and its local Sunni allies from overrunning the Green Zone and seizing the embassy, most of whose 5,000 staff were evacuated as a precaution.

President Barack Obama has again decreed that no US soldiers will take part in combat in Iraq. Therefore, American military personnel on the ground will be there to guide the drones to their targets.

Those targets were defined Saturday, June 28, by Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, as striking at ISIS leaders and defending Iraq’s strategic facilities. He did not elaborate.

Debkafile reports that he was referring to the Haditha dam on the Euphrates. ISIS fighters have been battered the town of Haditha on and off for some days.

Its dam is the key to the water supply of most of Iraq, including Baghdad. With its capture, Al Qaeda’s affiliates will have gained control of northern Iraq’s oil refineries and pipeline networks.

US Secretary of State John Kerry in Jordan Friday laid out another piece of the Iraq-Syria imbroglio. He estimated that the Syrian rebel recruits enlisted from among the nearly one million Syrian refugees sheltering in Jordan could be deployed in Iraq for fighting ISIS.

His words were accompanied by the Obama administration’s application to Congress for half a billion dollars to arm and train such a force.

President Obama is therefore in the midst of yet another U-turn on the Syrian-Iraqi war scene – this one involving Israel too.

(Continued)
http://www.debka.com/article/24042/Mid-East-is-sizzling-Armed-US-drones-over-Baghdad-Saudi-Jordanian-tanks-deploy

———————————–
(Here’s some information you probably won’t read in the US mainline media. Long but well worth reading.)

King Abdullah calls up Saudi armed forces on high preparedness. Egyptian troops ready to fly to kingdom.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 26, 2014 (IDT)

Thursday, June 26, the day before US Secretary of State John Kerry was due in Riyadh, King Abdullah summoned a National Security Council meeting “upon the current security events in the region, especially in Iraq,” and ordered “all necessary measures to protect the kingdom against terrorist threats.” This meant a general call-up of military units for a high level of preparedness.

Debkafile’s military sources disclose that Egypt is assembling an expeditionary commando force to fly to Saudi Arabia and bolster its border defenses.

This flurry of Saudi-Egyptian military steps comes in the wake of intelligence gathered by Saudi reconnaissance planes showing Iraqi Al Qaeda-linked Sunni fighters (ISIS) heading for the Saudi border and aiming to seize control of the Iraqi-Saudi crossing at Ar Ar (pop: 200,000).

ISIS and its Sunni allies are still on the march after capturing Iraq’s border crossings with Syria and Jordan earlier this week.

On Wednesday, Kerry warned Mideast nations against taking new military action in Iraq that might heighten sectarian divisions. By then, he had been overtaken by a rush of events, as Debkafile reported this morning.

When the first of the 300 military advisers US President Barack Obama promised the Iraqi government arrived in Baghdad Wednesday, June 25, Iranian and Saudi Arabian arms shipments were already in full flow to opposing sides in embattled Iraq, Debkafile’s military sources report.

At least two cargo planes from bases in Iran were landing daily at Baghdad’s military airport, carrying 150 tons of military equipment. More than 1,000 tons were flown in this past week alone.

Tehran has replicated for the Iraqi army the routine it established for Bashar Assad’s army, furnishing its needs on a daily basis as per its commanders’ requests. Those requests come before a joint Iranian-Iraqi headquarters set up at the Iraqi high command in Baghdad for approval and the assigning of priorities for shipment.

At the same time, Saudi arms are flowing to the Iraqi Sunni tribes fighting alongside the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) against the Iraqi army and the Shiite Nouri al-Maliki’s government.

They are coming in both overland and by airlift. Saudi arms convoys are crossing the border into Iraq with Saudi and Jordanian air force cover and heading north up to the Al-Qa’im district near the Syrian border. There, Sunni and ISIS fighters, after capturing this key Anbar district, have begun refurbishing the bases and runways at H-2, once one of Saddam Hussein’s largest airbases. Situated 350 kilometers west of Baghdad, this air base has two long runways and hangars for fighter planes and helicopters.

Debkafile’s military sources disclose that, on Tuesday June 24, unmarked civilian cargo planes landed at the base, bringing arms shipments from Saudi Arabia.

The response was swift. Syrian warplanes, on their first bombing mission inside Iraq, tried to damage the partially repaired runways at H-2 to prevent any more Saudi air shipments from landing.

Military sources in Washington confirmed Wednesday June 25 that those air strikes were conducted by the Syrian Air Force “in Anbar province” and left at least 57 people dead and 120 wounded – most of them Iraqi civilians. They declined to say what was attacked, referring only to ISIS-related targets.

That incident was a striking demonstration of the tight operational sync between the Iranian command centers in Damascus and Baghdad, which are attached respectively to the high commands of the Syrian and Iraqi armies.

This coordination offers Tehran the flexibility for its command centers in both Arab capitals to send Iranian drones aloft from Syrian or Iraqi airbases to feed those centers with the intelligence they need for the strategic planning of military operations to be conducted by the Syrian and Iraqi armies.

Iranian command centers in Baghdad and Damascus are fully equipped therefore to decide which Syrian, Iraqi or Hizballah force carries out a planned operation in either Syria or Iraq. Both are now pushing back against further ISIS advances towards its goal of a Sunni caliphate spanning both countries.

This is just what US Secretary of State John Kerry meant when he said in Brussels Wednesday June 25, after two days of talks in Iraq, that “the war in Iraq is being widened.”

He had good reason to sound worried. Shortly before he spoke, the first group of US military personnel, out of the 300 that President Obama had promised, had arrived in Baghdad. But neither Tehran nor Riyadh had consulted Washington before they organized heavy arms shipments to their respective allies in Iraq.

The Iraqi battle arena is become a veritable Babel of war. So far, six countries are involved in varying degrees: the US, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

http://www.debka.com/article/24034/King-Abdullah-calls-up-Saudi-armed-forces-on-high-preparedness-Egyptian-troops-ready-to-fly-to-kingdom

Advertisements

I’m still interested in the Caspian Sea. (See https://tapister.wordpress.com/category/caspian-sea-oil/) While oil and gas are still my primary interests, today I’m also curious about water. Who owns the water in the Caspian Sea? Can Iran just siphon it off, without getting permission from the other littoral states? Or the major gas/oil conglomerates operating there? I’ve done an internet search about it and really didn’t find anything that addresses that question. Here’s some of what I did find today.

Its Great Lake Shriveled, Iran Confronts Crisis of Water Supply
New York Times online
JAN. 30, 2014

LakeUrmiaIranLAKE URMIA, Iran — An abandoned ship rusts in the mud on the south shore of Lake Urmia, where only 5 percent of the water remains, Iranian environmental officials say. Morteza Nikoubazl for The New York Times.

After driving for 15 minutes over the bottom of what was once Iran’s largest lake, a local environmental official stepped out of his truck, pushed his hands deep into his pockets and silently wandered into the great dry plain, as if searching for water he knew he would never find.

Just an hour earlier, on a cold winter day here in western Iran, the official, Hamid Ranaghadr, had recalled how as recently as a decade ago, cruise ships filled with tourists plied the lake’s waters in search of flocks of migrating flamingos.

Now, the ships are rusting in the mud and the flamingos fly over the remains of the lake on their way to more hospitable locales. According to figures compiled by the local environmental office, only 5 percent of the water remains.

Iran is facing a water shortage potentially so serious that officials are making contingency plans for rationing in the greater Tehran area, home to 22 million, and other major cities around the country. President Hassan Rouhani has identified water as a national security issue, and in public speeches in areas struck hardest by the shortage he is promising to “bring the water back.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/31/world/middleeast/its-great-lake-shriveled-iran-confronts-crisis-of-water-supply.html?_r=0

Iran’s parliament approves project on transfer of water from Caspian Sea
Trend online magazine
Jan 23, 2014

Iranian parliament has approved the project on transfer of water from the Caspian Sea to the deserts in the country’s central parts, Iranian Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian said, Mehr News Agency reported on Jan. 23. The minister noted that funds have been allocated from Iran’s state budget for this project.

Commenting on the Lake Urmia revival project the minister added that a committee was created for saving the lake. The committee will be chaired by Iranian First Vice President, Eshaq Jahangiri.

In April 2012 the former president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attended the foundation-laying of an irrigation system designed for transferring of water from the Caspian Sea. However Iranian MPs and some economic experts considered this project ineffective and demanded suspension of its implementation, after which construction was delayed.

The project for transfer of the Caspian Sea waters to the central regions of Iran includes: construction of hydroelectric power stations, a desalination plant, pumping stations, power lines, water pipes and tanks, according to the message.

The headquarters of Khatam-ol-Anbia, affiliated with the Islamic Republic of Iran Guard Corps (IRGC) will control the project’s realization, according to the message.

http://en.trend.az/news/politics/2233429.html

Deputy FM in Astana to Participate in Caspian Sea Working Group
Tasnimnews.com
January 29, 2014

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Deputy Foreign Minister for Asian and Pacific Affairs Ebrahim Rahimpour left Tehran for Kazakhstan capital city, Astana, Wednesday to participate in the 35th meeting of the special working group of the Caspian Sea.

The working group session on the Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea will be held in Astana for two days with the special representatives and deputies minister of the five littoral countries of the Caspian Sea.

The deputy foreign ministers of Iran, Russia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan will in the meeting discuss the latest developments regarding the legal regime of the Caspian Sea and prepare a report for the upcoming ministerial meeting due to be held in Russia this spring. Moscow will also host The Caspian Sea Littoral States Summit late in summer.

The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed water body on earth by area, variously classed as the world’s largest lake or a full-fledged sea.

The Caspian Sea Convention will determine the territorial rights of littoral states- Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan – as well as other matters related to the world’s largest landlocked body of water.

The Caspian Sea legal regime is based on two agreements signed between Iran and the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1921 and 1940. The three new littoral states, established after the collapse of the Soviet Union, have not recognized the prior treaties, triggering a debate on the future status of the sea.

http://www.tasnimnews.com/English/Home/Single/263554

BP Starts Production at West Chirag in Caspian Sea
Wall Street Journal online
Jan. 29, 2014

CaspianOilFieldsLONDON—Oil major BP PLC said Wednesday that production has started at the West Chirag platform of the Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli field in the Azerbaijan sector of the Caspian Sea, completing the Chirag oil project which was sanctioned in 2010.

West Chirag production began from a pre-drilled well called J05 on Jan. 28 and will increase throughout this year as other pre-drilled wells are brought on line, BP said without indicating volumes. However, BP said the new platform has a capacity for 183,000 barrels a day with a gas export capacity of 285 million standard cubic feet a day.

“The startup of Chirag oil project marks a major milestone in the development of the super-giant ACG [Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli field],” Gordon Birrell, BP’s Regional President for Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey said.

“To date the ACG field has produced over 2.3 billion barrels of oil and with future continual major investments in new technologies and facilities, like the one we have today started up, it will continue to produce as a world-class reservoir for many decades,”, Mr. Birrell added.

BP is operator of the field with a 35.8% interest. Partners in the field include SOCAR with 11.6%, Chevron CVX -4.14% Corp with 11.3%, Inpex Corp with 11%, Statoil AS STL.OS -1.46% A with 8.6%, Exxon Mobil Corp with 8%, TPAO with 6.8%, Itochu 8001.TO +0.56% Corp with 4.3% and ONGC Videsh Ltd. with 2.7%.

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304428004579350491065104568

BP Seeks ACG Extension to Maintain Output at Largest Azeri Field
Bloomberg News
Jan 29, 2014

BP Plc (BP/) is seeking to extend its oil contract on the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli field beyond 2024 to allow more investment and sustain output at the largest Azeri deposit after its local partner last year said there weren’t such plans.

The Caspian Sea field produced 32.5 million tons of oil in 2013, down from 32.9 million tons. While the new $6 billion West Chirag platform that started output yesterday will help offset natural decline, BP said at least one more is needed by 2021.

“We are talking to State Oil Co. of Azerbaijan about the next phase,” Gordon Birrel, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey manager, said in Baku, the Azeri capital. “But we have no fixed and agreed plans at this point. This field needs investment and at least one more platform to maintain production.”

West Chirag is estimated to produce about 60,000 barrels a day, or 3 million tons, this year, he said. The platform will have at least 14 wells, with six running this year, Birrel said. It’s the largest and most technologically advanced of the eight current platforms in Azerbaijan’s section of the Caspian Sea, he said. The site has a capacity of 183,000 barrels of oil a day.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-29/bp-seeks-acg-extension-to-maintain-output-at-largest-azeri-field.html

Middle East afire

Posted: September 14, 2012 in Egypt, Iran, Israel, Middle East
Tags: , ,

The 2012 anniversary of 9-11 brought violent, murderous protests across the “Arab Spring” nations in the Middle East.

Current “anti-film” protests include countries of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon and Jordan, while protestors in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Philippines and Indonesia rallied after prayers. Protests were also held in Kenya, Nigeria, Yemen, Kuwait, and Qatar, among others.

While they were /are supposedly protesting against an anti-Muslim film, I believe these attacks against US Embassies and American personnel were pre-planned, if not coordinated. Why do I believe that? The beliefs of someone else — Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

After running afoul of the religious leaders in Iran, he is in somewhat of a dilemma at present, about to lose his influence when his presidential term ends in 2013. That means he needs to fulfill his “destiny” sooner rather than later — to bring about the return of the Hidden Imam by creating global chaos and especially the destruction of Israel and the United States.

Middle East unrest and The Hidden Imam (the 12th Imam)

The Shiite Muslim President of Iran, Ahmadinejad, is deeply committed to the Islamic Messiah (al Mahdi). He claims that he is to personally prepare the world for the coming Mahdi. In order to save the world, it must be in a state of chaos and subjugation. Ahmadinejad claims that he was “directed by Allah to pave the way for the glorious appearance of the Mahdi.”

… he proclaims he must prepare the world for the coming Mahdi by way of a world totally under Muslim control. He is working hard to bring about the world-wide horrors that must be in place for their al Mahdi to bring peace.

http://www.allaboutpopularissues.org/12th-imam.htm

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in his Own Words
September 9, 2012

“Today, interactions in the international arena make it fully evident and clear that the leaders of this small [international Zionist] party make all of its decisions and imposes them on European leaders. [The Zionists] imposed World War I on Europe and today those countries are forced to admit their wrong doings. We are certain that the world will soon be rescued from the hand of the Zionists.”

http://www.adl.org/main_International_Affairs/ahmadinejad_words.htm

Timely articles from the Voice of America online.

Clinton: US Increasing Help for Syrian Rebels
July 24, 2012

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton 24July2012Image: Secretary of State Hilary Clinton 24 July 2012.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States is increasing its efforts to help Syrian rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

Clinton gave no details, but she said Tuesday that the U.S. is giving such non-lethal aid as medical and communications support. She said Washington is working outside of the U.N. Security Council, where Russia and China have vetoed three resolutions that would have taken strong action against the Assad government.

The secretary said the Syrian opposition is seizing control of more and more territory, which she says will eventually become a safe haven and a base for more operations.

She said the opposition must be ready to start work on an interim government that protects the rights of all Syrians and safeguards the stockpile of chemical and biological weapons.

Opposition Demands Assad Step Down

The spokesman for the Syrian National Council says the main opposition grouping is still demanding President Bashar al-Assad leave power, denying that the coalition would consider having someone from the current government temporarily lead a political transition.

Syrian National Council spokesman George Sabra told VOA by phone from Paris Tuesday that he had been misquoted in an earlier news report in which he was reported to have said the SNC would agree to the departure of President Assad and the transfer of his powers to a regime figure, who would temporarily lead a transitional period.

“There is not any change with the position and opinion of SNC about the regime and the transition period,” he said. “The transition period should start after leaving Bashar al-Assad and his regime the power.

“And the principle of this transition period has been announced in a document issued by the most parties of the opposition in that meeting which has been held two weeks ago in Cairo,” Sabra said. “So nothing new about this thing.”

Opposition Squabbling

The opposition meeting earlier this month in Cairo was marked by squabbling among delegates. But ultimately a plan emerged for a framework for a post-Assad political transition period that includes an interim government and parliament. SNC spokesman Sabra indicated that talks continue within the opposition about the way forward if and when President Assad leaves power.

“We are discussing now between us in the council, and also with the Free Syrian Army, about the idea of the transition document,” he said.

Fierce Fighting

Meanwhile, Syrian jets flew overhead while helicopters fired missiles Tuesday in a new government push to put down the rebellion in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city.

The exact situation on the ground is not clear. But witnesses report heavy fighting in the streets. Opposition reports say thousands of Syrian troops are heading toward Aleppo from their positions near the Turkish border.

Aleppo was relatively calm until late last week when the rebels launched their operation to take the city.

The opposition-run Local Coordination Committees also reported Tuesday that government forces were shelling areas outside Damascus, as well as in Homs, and in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor.

Chemical Weapons

On Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama joined other world figures in warning Syria against using chemical weapons.

Obama’s comments came after a Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said the government would never use chemical weapons against its own people, but would unleash them against what he called foreign invaders. He said the military is securely guarding the nation’s weapons stockpile.

Syrian activists say more than 19,000 people have been killed since the uprising began in March of last year.

http://www.voanews.com/content/syrian-activists-report-continued-aleppo-clashes/1444072.html

————————————

Top US Security Envoy Holds Talks in Beijing
July 24, 2012

Image: U.S. National Security Advisor Tom Donilon (L) and China’s President Hu Jintao during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, July 24, 2012.

The U.S. National Security Advisor is in Beijing to meet with China’s top leaders and to discuss military and security issues as well as the China’s position on the Syrian conflict and Iran.

Thomas Donilon held talks on Tuesday with Chinese President Hu Jintao and State Councilor Dai Bingguo. Donilon told Hu that President Barack Obama is “fully committed to building a cooperative partnership with China” on issues in the region and the globe.

China’s Xinhua news agency quoted Dai Bingguo as saying that the U.S. envoy’s visit is “important considering the timing, the background and the mission.”

Jin Canrong, associate dean of the school of International Relations at Renmin University, says that although the U.S.-China relations are generally stable, the two countries have to work out conflicting opinions on a range of matters.

“The two sides do not trust each other. Donilon’s role as a national security advisor is important in defusing doubts between the two countries,” Jin said.

Syria, Iran diplomatic issues

Last week China again joined Russia in vetoing a U.N. resolution calling for sanctions on Syria. China perceives such a move as an interference in Syria’s internal affairs. Western countries, including the United States, strongly criticized China’s decision, calling the vote “deplorable”.

Jin Canrong says officials are likely to discuss Syria, but Chinese authorities are unlikely to be persuaded to adopt a more interventionist stance.

The two sides are also expected to discuss Iran, which is now subjected to tough economic sanctions that deter third countries’ imports of Iran’s crude oil. Last month, and in a surprising move, the Obama administration added China, Iran’s top customer of oil, to a list of exempted countries allowed to purchase oil from Iran for 180 days without incurring economic repercussions from the United States.

“But the exemption is of only 6 months, after that what will they do?” Jin said, suggesting that Donilon’s visit could help define what the two countries’ will do next.

On Tuesday, Chinese media widely reported on Japanese protests against a U.S. military aircraft, the Osprey V-22, that had just arrived in Japan where it will be deployed to the American military base of Okinawa. Japanese opposition came from local officials and citizens concerned about the plane’s safety record.

China did not release any official statement on the matter and Jin Canrong thinks that Donilon’s visit will not prompt China’s leaders to express their view on the subject. “It’s a tactics’ weapon that does not change the strategic balance,” he said adding that China still views it as a U.S-Japan issue.

North Korea, China Sea issues

Other areas of discussion might include North Korea and conflicts over disputed territory in the East and South China Sea.

Donilon is scheduled to meet other Chinese senior military and state officials on Wednesday, including Xu Caihou, vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, foreign minister Yang Jiechi, Vice Premier Wang Qishan, and Xi Jinping, the current vice president and Hu Jintao’s most likely successor after the next Party Congress scheduled for this fall.

After China, the U.S. envoy will fly to Japan to consult with senior Japanese officials on U.S.-Japan security cooperation and other bilateral issues.

http://www.voanews.com/content/top-us-security-envoy-holds-talks-in-beijing/1444109.html

—————————-

Fighting Rages in Syria, Turkey Closes Key Crossings
ONCUPINAR, Turkey, July 25, 2012

Image: A Syrian rebel takes position as a helicopter hovers over the northern city of Aleppo, July 23, 2012.

Fierce fighting continued in Syria on Wednesday. Rebels sent reinforcements to the battered historic city of Aleppo as government forces stepped up attacks with helicopters and machine guns.

Activists say rebels set fire to a police station near Aleppo. They also say clashes and heavy shelling have continued in regions including Homs, Hama, Deir el-Zour and the Damascus suburbs as President Bashar al-Assad tries to maintain his grip on power.

The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 40 people have been killed across Syria on Wednesday.

Turkey Closes Border

Neighboring Turkey has closed key border crossings to commercial traffic from Syria but says they remain open for refugees.

Ankara says it is taking the measure due to security concerns. Last week, Turkish drivers said their trucks were looted and burned as rebels captured the Syrian side of the Cilvegozu crossing from government forces. Analysts say the closures will affect Syria’s economy by hitting cross-border trade.

At the Kilis refugee camp near Oncupinar, Syrian refugee Abu Hasan expressed support for Turkey’s policy. “I think this is an appropriate decision,” he said. “Turkey is making the decision to protect its border as well as to protect us.” The Killis camp houses more than 11,000 Syrians.

Refugees Increasing

The number of refugees is increasing, with most using clandestine smuggling routes over the border. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay says more than 44,000 refugees are now sheltered in Turkey.

“There is an expectation that more people may come in,” he said. “Therefore, today we have decided to build new camps in several locations including Osmaniye, Kahramanmaras and Nizip.”

The Arab League has pledged $100 million to help the Syrian refugees. Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal says Turkey welcomes donations of equipment, but does not need personnel.

“Some of this assistance has arrived, in the sense of material assistance, and we are ready to receive more of the selected items that we have announced,” he said. “And our open door policy will continue.”

Reducing the U.N. Mission

Meanwhile, U.N. observers in Syria say their mission is dwindling. Herve Ladsous, the head of U.N. peacekeeping operations, said the Syrian operation continues on a “reduced basis.” He told reporters in Damascus on Wednesday that the security situation in many parts of the country is “extremely delicate.”

On Friday, the U.N. Security Council approved a resolution renewing the observer mission for up to 30 days. The resolution allows for a pullout if the violence does not stop.

Earlier this week, the European Union decided to strengthen its arms embargo against the Syrian regime, blacklist nearly 30 government-associated people and companies, and ban the Syrian national airline from landing in EU countries.

On Wednesday, Russia’s foreign ministry expressed opposition to the EU sanctions, saying they could be seen as a “blockade” of the country.

http://www.voanews.com/content/syria-adds-troops-to-aleppo-fight/1444737.html

(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.

————————————

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

Several areas where Syria has been viciously cracking down on protestors have particular significance. Note these quotes from the previous article:

“The IAEA in 2011 assessed that Syria’s al Kibar facility in Deir al Zour, destroyed by an Israel air strike in 2007, was very likely a covert nuclear reactor built with North Korean assistance.”

“August 13, 2011: The Iranian regime agreed to provide $23 million to construct a military base in Latakia, Syria following a June 2011 meeting in Tehran between Syrian deputy vice president Muhammad Nasif Kheirbek and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force commander Qassem Suleimani.

The base, to be built by the end of 2012, will house IRGC officers who will coordinate weapons shipments from Iran to Syria. According to a Western security official, ‘The direct route is being set up to make it easier to pass advanced Iranian weapons and equipment to Syria.'”

Assad says he has now stopped his attacks on these areas, despite evidence to the contrary. See today’s article below.

—————————————-

Assad says Syrian operations have stopped
Aljazeera online 18 Aug 2011

(However…) “Activists said that security forces were continuing their assaults on the eastern city of Deir ez-Zor and in areas of the coastal city of Latakia, despite state media reports of troop withdrawals. Those reports were also disputed by Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, who said Syrian soldiers were still in Deir ez-Zor and other towns. Dozens of people are reported to have been killed in Deir ez-Zor and Latakia since the weekend.”

Military and police operations against protesters in Syria have stopped, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the world body said in a statement.

The announcement comes ahead of a UN Security Council meeting on Thursday at which the UN’s human rights chief, Navi Pillay, could call for Syria’s crackdown on protesters to be referred to the International Criminal Court, according to diplomats.

In a phone call with Assad on Wednesday, Ban “expressed alarm at the latest reports of continued widespread violations of human rights and excessive use of force by Syrian security forces against civilians across Syria, including in the Al Ramel district of Lattakia, home to several thousands of Palestinian refugees,” the United Nations said in a statement.

“The Secretary-General emphasised that all military operations and mass arrests must cease immediately. President Assad said that the military and police operations had stopped,” the statement added.

The government’s crackdown in Syria is estimated to have killed at least 2,000 civilians since the protests began in March. According to activists, Assad has unleashed tanks, ground troops, snipers and warships in an attempt to retake control in rebellious areas.

Activists said that security forces were continuing their assaults on the eastern city of Deir ez-Zor and in areas of the coastal city of Latakia, despite state media reports of troop withdrawals. Those reports were also disputed by Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, who said Syrian soldiers were still in Deir ez-Zor and other towns.

Dozens of people are reported to have been killed in Deir ez-Zor and Latakia since the weekend.

http://english.aljazeera.net//news/middleeast/2011/08/201181834547755984.html

Why should the current turmoil in Syria matter to U.S. interests? (Other than strictly moral issues.) Lots of oil and natural gas sources? Not much there. Those would help explain American business and political interests in many Middle East conflicts, but Syria hardly produces enough for its own use.

So why then, should we care if the Syrian government is violently cracking down with mass murderous attacks on its own citizens?

The answer in one word: Iran. This recent article helps us understand that Syria Matters

———————————————-

Syria-Iran Foreign Relations
By Will Fulton, Robert Frasco, Ariel Farrar-Wellman
IranTracker.org online
August 15, 2011

[Further analysis on Iran-Syria relations: Iranian support for Syrian repression during the Arab Spring]

Iran and Syria have maintained close ties since the early years of the Islamic Republic and Syria now serves as Iran’s key Arab ally and partner in the region. The advent of the Iran-Iraq War provided Syria with an opportunity to gain another regional ally against Saddam Hussein. In contrast with nearly all other Arab countries, Syria supported Iran during the Iran-Iraq War.

In 1982 the two states brokered a deal allowing Syria to receive shipments of subsidized Iranian oil, and in return, Syria shut down Iraq’s oil pipeline through its territory.

Syrian support for Iran wavered in 1986 when President Hafez Assad suggested that Syria would not accept Iran as an occupying force in Iraq. Soon after, Minister of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Mohsen Rafiq-Dust and President Assad met in Damascus to restore relations. Syrian officials, however, would not affirm Iran’s goal of “liberation of Iraq.”

With the absence of an Iraqi threat since 2003, relations between Syria and Iran have deepened, sustained by their shared support of terrorist organizations Lebanese Hezbollah and Hamas, and their enmity toward Israel. Both Tehran and Damascus have continuously provided Hezbollah with funding, training, materiel, and political support since its creation in the 1980s.

According to a 2008 Congressional Research Service report, “Syria is an important interlocutor between Iran and its Hezbollah protégés; Iranian weapons transit through Syria on their way to Hezbollah caches in Lebanon.” Joint assistance for and advocacy on the behalf of Palestinians in the region is also an integral component of bilateral relations between Iran and Syria, with officials from both countries often stridently criticizing Israel on a host of Palestinian issues.

The two states also cooperate militarily beyond their support for proxy militias, with the Islamic Republic supplying arms, ammunition and military technology to Syrian security services.

In the wake of the Arab Spring, which has led to widespread unrest in Syria and posed a formidable challenge to Assad’s regime, Iranian officials have dispatched IRGC Qods Force advisors, training personnel, and other resources to reinforce Assad’s assault on anti-regime protesters.

After a June 2011 meeting between Qods Force Commander Qassem Suleimani and Syria’s Deputy Vice President for Security Affairs Muhammad Nasif Kheirbek, Iran agreed to provide $23 million to Syria for the construction of a military base in Latakia, in order to facilitate direct arms shipments from the Islamic Republic to Syria.

Syrian officials have consistently expressed their support for Iran’s right to a peaceful nuclear program and emphasized the need for a diplomatic solution to the dispute. Nuclear cooperation between the two allies, however, has extended beyond rhetoric.

In 2011, the UN Security Council Panel of Experts tasked with monitoring sanctions on Iran accused Syria of refusing to cooperate with its efforts. The two cooperated in 2008 in an unsuccessful effort to gain Syria a seat on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board of governors.

That same year, an Israeli official accused Iran of helping Syria build its own covert nuclear program. The IAEA in 2011 assessed that Syria’s al Kibar facility in Deir al Zour, destroyed by an Israel air strike in 2007, was very likely a covert nuclear reactor built with North Korean assistance.

Economic relations between Iran and Syria have remained strong, though neither state contributes significantly to the other’s economy. According to 2008 data, Iran is not among the top thirty recipients of Syrian goods nor is it among the top thirty importers of goods to Syria.

An increase in economic cooperation may occur, however, as Syria and Iran are increasingly isolated by the international community. In July 2011 Iran, Syria, and Iraq signed a $10 billion natural gas deal amidst growing unrest within Syria.

Nuclear:

June 23, 2011: The UN Security Council issued a report in which it accused Syria of refusing to cooperate with its Panel of Experts established in June 2011 to monitor sanctions on Iran. According to the report, Syria’s refusal to cooperate was in “serious violation of its obligations under relevant Council resolutions.”

February 20, 2010: According to Iran’s Press TV, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem expressed support for a “constructive dialogue between the two parties [Iran and the West] in order to reach a peaceful solution” to the conflict over Iran’s nuclear program.

December 3, 2009: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met with Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in Damascus. Following the meeting, Assad affirmed “the right of Iran and other countries that are signatories to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to enrich uranium for civilian purposes.” Jalili also held a joint press conference with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, in which Muallem expressed Syria’s desire for a “political solution” to the conflict between the West and Iran over its nuclear program.

October 1, 2008: Iran abandoned attempts to gain a seat on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board in order to support Syria’s bid for a seat. Iranian envoy to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh made the announcement.

June 25, 2008: An adviser to Israel’s national security council accused Iran of helping Syria develop its covert nuclear program. According to the adviser, “The Iranians were involved in the Syrian program. The idea was that the Syrians produce plutonium and the Iranians get their share. Syria had no reprocessing facility for the spent fuel. It’s not deduction alone that brings almost everyone to think that the link exists.”

Economic:

July 25, 2011: Iran, Iraq and Syria signed a $10 billion natural gas agreement. According to the agreement, the three countries will construct a pipeline running from Iran’s natural gas fields to Syria, and eventually to the Mediterranean, via Lebanon. Iraq would initially receive 20 million cubic meters per day, and Syria 20 to 25 million cubic meters per day.

July 15, 2011: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei expressed support for a proposal by Iran’s Center for Strategic Research (CSR) to provide Syria with $5.8 billion in aid.

May 25, 2010: Iran and Syria agreed to set up a joint bank in Damascus. The initial capitalization of the bank was said to total $30 million, with Iran owning 60 percent of the bank.

April 30, 2010: Iranian First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi and Syrian President Bashar al Assad met in Damascus to discuss establishing a regional economic bloc. Rahimi was in Syria to attend the Iran-Syria 12th Joint High Commission meeting.

The meeting concluded with the signing of a 17-article agreement containing measures for furthering cooperation in “trade, investment, planning and statistics, industries, air, naval and rail transportation, communication and information technology, health, agriculture, [and] tourism.”

September 22, 2009: The joint Iran-Venezuela oil company VENIROGC announced plans to build an oil refinery in Syria capable of producing 140,000 barrels per day.

August 19, 2008: Iranian Minister of Industries and Mines Ali Akbar Mehrabian claimed that the Islamic Republic has “$1.3 billion worth of various projects” underway in Syria.

Diplomatic:

August 2, 2011: Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast warned Western countries to refrain from interfering in Syrian domestic affairs. Mehmanparast advised “the West to learn [its] lesson from its previous mistakes and interference in different countries and not to enter new issues to complicate the problems in the region.”

May 27, 2011: Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi held consecutive meetings with his Syrian and North Korean counterparts, Walid Muallem and Pak Ui-chun, in Bali. All parties refused to discuss the contents of the meetings with the press.

July 15, 2010: Former IRGC commander and current military advisor to Ali Khamenei, Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, said “Iran has no strategic allies in the region save for Syria and Turkey which are to some extent close to us but they are not considered as Iran’s allies in real terms.”

July 2, 2010: Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa and Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani met in Damascus to discuss events in Iraq and the Gaza Strip.

June 23, 2010: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with Syrian First Vice President Farouq al Sharaa in Tehran. During the meeting Ahmadinejad stated, “Today the affinity, companionship and unity between Tehran and Damascus have deterred all the plots of the arrogant powers.”

Iranian First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi also met with al-Sharaa and asserted, “Iran and Syria share common positions on the Palestinian issue and they should expand their relations and cooperation with other countries, like Turkey and Iraq to foil the ominous plots of the Zionists.”

April 18, 2010: Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem met with Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili to discuss regional cooperation.

February 26, 2010: Secretary General of Lebanese Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad in Damascus.

February 26, 2010: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad held a joint press conference in Damascus. During the conference Ahmadinejad asserted that the U.S. desires “to dominate the region, but they feel Iran and Syria are preventing that…. We tell them that instead of interfering in the region’s affairs, to pack their things and leave.” Assad similarly attacked what he termed as the “new situation of colonialism” in the Middle East.

February 25, 2010: Iranian President Ahmadinejad and his Syrian counterpart Bashar al Assad met in Damascus to discuss “international and regional issues.”

January 7, 2010: Syrian Parliament Speaker Mahmoud al-Abrash met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei in Tehran to discuss relations between the two states.

May 5, 2009: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Syrian counterpart Bashar al Assad expressed their mutual support for “Palestinian resistance” during a meeting in Damascus. Ahmadinejad added that “Syria and Iran have been from the very beginning united and in agreement to stand on the side of the Palestinian resistance…. They will continue to do so. We see that the resistance will continue until all occupied territories are liberated.”

Military:

August 13, 2011: The Iranian regime agreed to provide $23 million to construct a military base in Latakia, Syria following a June 2011 meeting in Tehran between Syrian deputy vice president Muhammad Nasif Kheirbek and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force commander Qassem Suleimani.

The base, to be built by the end of 2012, will house IRGC officers who will coordinate weapons shipments from Iran to Syria. According to a Western security official, “The direct route is being set up to make it easier to pass advanced Iranian weapons and equipment to Syria.”

June 23, 2011: Martin Briens , the French representative from the UN Security Council’s Panel of Experts to monitor UN sanctions on Iran, expressed concern over the reported “violations of the arms embargo [on Iran], including three new examples of illegal arms transfers which, shockingly, revealed Syria’s participation.”

March 23, 2011: Turkey’s government seized Iranian cargo bound for Syria. The shipment, which included light weapons, including automatic rifles, rocket launchers and mortars, violated U.N. sanctions that ban the export of arms from Iran.

March 15, 2011: Israel’s navy seized a weapons shipment from Syria in the Mediterranean Sea. The contents of the shipment included strategic shore-to-sea Chinese-made C-704 missiles likely destined for Palestinians militants in the Gaza Strip.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that the weapons came from Iran: “The only certain thing is the source of the weaponry was Iran, and there was a Syrian relay station as well.”

December 10, 2010: A UN Security Council sanctions committee report cited Iran for two separate violations of UNSCR 1747, including one that involved a container of T4 explosives originating from Iran and destined for Syria. Italian customs authorities seized the container.

June 30, 2010: Israeli and U.S. officials reported that Iran had provided Syria with a “sophisticated radar system” capable of detecting a preemptive strike launched from Israel against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

An Israeli military official elaborated, “Iran is engaged in developing Syrian intelligence and aerial detection capabilities, and Iranian representatives are present in Syria for that express purpose…. Radar assistance is only one expression of that cooperation.”

October 13, 2009: U.S. soldiers discovered containers of 7.62mm rounds aboard a German cargo ship traveling from Iran to Syria. The shipment was rerouted to Malta under U.S. direction.

January, 2008: Cypriot authorities intercepted an Iranian vessel carrying arms bound for Syria.[44] Monchegorsk, the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL)-chartered vessel flying under a Cypriot flag, originated in Bandar Abbas and was reportedly transporting bullet shells, high-explosive gun charges, and other weapons supplies.

July 22, 2007: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad offered to provide $1 billion in military aid to Syria.

June 16, 2006: Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar and his Syrian counterpart Hassan Turkamni signed a defense agreement designed to increase military cooperation. Without giving specifics on the agreement, Najjar stated that Iran “considers Syria’s security its own security, and we consider our defense capabilities to be those of Syria.”

http://www.irantracker.org/foreign-relations/syria-iran-foreign-relations