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Was the war in Lebanon fought over oil?

by Joel Bainerman
August 16th, 2006

In the second week of July 2006, Arab Knesset member Talab El-Sana told the Israeli press:

“The war in Lebanon is an American war. Israel is nothing more than a US subcontractor, doing America's work in the Middle East. The United States is using Israelis and Lebanese to further its own ends. The US has nullified Israel's ability to make independent decisions.”

Could the war in Lebanon had more to do with protecting oil pipelines than and America’s geo-strategic goals than Hezbollah shooting rockets into northern Israel?

A Canadian economics professor thinks so.

“Virtually unnoticed, the inauguration of the Ceyhan-Tblisi-Baku (BTC) oil pipeline, which links the Caspian sea to the Eastern Mediterranean, took place on the 13th of July, at the very outset of the Israeli sponsored bombings of Lebanon,” Michel Chossudovsky, of the University of Ottawa and Director of the Center for Research on Globalization.

One day before the Israeli air strikes, the main partners and shareholders of the BTC pipeline project, including several heads of State and oil company executives were in attendance at the port of Ceyhan. They were then rushed off for an inauguration reception in Istanbul, hosted by Turkey's President Ahmet Necdet Sezer in the plush surroundings of the Çýraðan Palace. Also in attendance was British Petroleum's (BP) CEO, Lord Browne together with senior government officials from Britain, the US and Israel, including . Minister of Energy and Infrastructure Binyamin Ben-Eliezer. BP leads the BTC pipeline consortium. Other major Western shareholders include Chevron, Conoco-Phillips, France's Total and Italy's ENI.”

OK, just a coincidence, right?

Chossudovsky doesn’t think so. He claims that what is important about the BTC pipeline it that it bypasses the territory of the Russian Federation. It transits through the former Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Georgia, both of which have become US "protectorates", who are already in a military alliance with the US and NATO. Moreover, both Azerbaijan and Georgia have longstanding military cooperation agreements with Israel.

“There are strategic objectives underlying the Lebanon war which are tied to oil and oil pipelines,” he points out. “By bypassing Russia, Russia has been weakened. Now, Israel is slated to play a major strategic role in "protecting" the Eastern Mediterranean transport and pipeline corridors out of Ceyhan. Also, Israel will increase dramatically the import of oil from the Caspian sea.

Chossudovsky, , whose international best seller "The Globalization of Poverty " has been published in eleven languages, insists that the bombing of Lebanon is part of a carefully planned and coordinated military road map and that the next stage of the war which would include attacks against Iran and Syria- are already in the works by Israeli and American military planners which will be done on behalf of oil interests- not because of any need to bolster Israel’s security. The end result is Israeli territorial control over the East Mediterranean coastline. With this pipeline, the Eastern Mediterranean will now have an “energy corridor”, as Chossudovsky calls it, to the Caspian sea basin. What is important to remember is that all of the participants in the pipeline are US allies- including Israel, Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan.”

For Israel, Chossudovsky’s conclusions are chilling: Israel is now part of what he says is “an Anglo-American military axis which serves the interests of the Western oil giants in the Middle East and Central Asia.”

And yet the Israeli public has no idea that these aims are what might have motivated its government. Most Israelis believed that the IDF tried to do what they could in order to safeguard the security of the Israeli public- and simply failed. Didn’t do the job right.

Perhaps it was deemed that Israel was to be weakened- so that Hezbollah can score a victory- of some sorts- and thus keep not only southern Lebanon unstable for years to come- but much of north western Lebanon and south western Syria along the Mediterranean coastline. (In the same way that the Oslo Accords strengthen the Palestinians- weakened Israel- and led to ten years of unprecedented instability in Israel). The end result will likely be the US insisting that US or Israeli troops be stationed along this shoreline- not to protect the pipeline- but to “ensure regional stability”.

Terrible- because the Israeli public will be duped into providing the security and protection for a private pipeline deal? Well, not really. There are huge rewards for Israel.

While the official reports state that the BTC pipeline will "channel oil to Western markets", Chossudovsky says that the guts of the deal will be that oil from the Caspian sea would be directly channelled towards Israel. An underwater Israeli-Turkish pipeline project would link Ceyhan in Turkey to the Israeli port of Ashkelon (a distance of 400 km) and then through an existing pipeline between Ashkelon and Eilat which was shut down in the late 70s after the fall of the Shah and the loss of Iranian oil.

Economically, a deal like this would be a major long term benefit to Israel’s energy economy. As it can be assumed the price of oil will continue to rise- if Israel can be guarantee a reasonable price for its oil and gas in the way of a 30- 50 year supply contract- it would not only make the cost of acquiring Israel’s energy resources much more cheaper and efficient, but also Israeli economic planners could better plan decades in advance for Israel’s needs if the country knew the amount and supply the economy had guaranteed access to for decades to come.

Also involved in this project is a pipeline to bring water to Israel, pumping water from upstream resources of the Tigris and Euphrates river system in Anatolia. Yet another huge benefit for Israel. Chussudovsky reports that in April 2006, Israel and Turkey announced plans for four underwater pipelines, which would bypass Syrian and Lebanese territory

“Diverting Central Asian oil and gas to the Eastern Mediterranean- under Israeli military protection-, for re-export back to Asia, serves to undermine the inter-Asian energy market, which is based on the development of direct pipeline corridors linking Central Asia and Russia to South Asia, China and the Far East,” he says. “Ultimately, this design is intended to weaken Russia's role in Central Asia and cut off China from Central Asian oil resources. It is also intended to isolate Iran.”

The downside of the deal?

Chossudovsky contends that Moscow has responded to the US-Israeli-Turkish design to militarize the East Mediterranean coastline with plans to establish a Russian naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus: A naval base in Tartus will enable Russia to solidify its positions in the Middle East and ensure security of Syria. Moscow intends to deploy an air defense system around the base - to provide air cover for the base itself and a substantial part of Syrian territory. (S-300PMU-2 Favorit systems will not be turned over to the Syrians. They will be manned and serviced by Russian personnel.)

“Moreover, Moscow and Damascus have reached an agreement on the modernization of Syria's air defenses as well as a program in support to its ground forces, the modernization of its MIG-29 fighters as well as its submarines- as was reported in Kommerzant, on 2 June 2006. In the context of an escalating conflict, these developments have far-reaching implications.”

Professor Chossudovsky points out that these underwater pipeline routes do not overtly encroach on the territorial sovereignty of Lebanon and Syria. On the other hand, the development of alternative land based corridors (for oil and water) through Lebanon and Syria would require Israeli-Turkish territorial control over the Eastern Mediterranean coastline through Lebanon and Syria. The implementation of a land-based corridor, as opposed to the underwater pipeline project, would require the militarization of the East Mediterranean coastline, extending from the port of Ceyhan across Syria and Lebanon to the Lebanese-Israeli border.

“Is this not one of the hidden objectives of the war on Lebanon? Open up a space which enables Israel to control a vast territory extending from the Lebanese border through Syria to Turkey.

"The Long War"?”

by Joel Bainerman
August 16th, 2006

Joel Bainerman has been reporting on Middle East political and economic developments since 1983.

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