- Two months ago, the White House was deliriously happy
with the official opening of the first new pipeline of the Caspian Pipeline
Consortium - a joint venture including Russia, Kazakhstan, Oman,
ExxonMobil and a bunch of other minor players.
- This $2.65 billion pipeline links the enormous Tengiz
oilfield in northwestern Kazakhstan to the Russian port of Novorossiysk
on the Black Sea: from there, the sky - ie the world market - is the limit.
Bush II, according to the White House, is developing "a network of
multiple Caspian pipelines that also include the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan,
and Baku-Novorossiyisk oil pipelines, and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas
pipeline". So one of the key nodes in the American petrostrategy is
composed by Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.
- The pipeline consortium for Baku-Ceyhan, led by British
Petroleum, is represented by the law firm Baker & Botts. The principal
attorney is none other than Texan superstar James Baker - secretary of
state under Bush I and chief spokesman for the Bush II 2000 campaign when
all gloves were off to shut down the Florida vote recount.
- Texas-based, scandal-prone Enron, together with Amoco,
Chevron, Mobil, UNOCAL and British Petroleum, were all spending billions
of dollars to pump the reserves of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.
Baker, Scowcroft, Sununu and Cheney have all closed major deals directly
and indirectly on behalf of the oil companies. But now the Enron scandal
has just exploded right in the face of the oil industry - and Bush II's
administration. It will be very enlightening to see what the American
of investigative journalism will make of all this.
- Enron once had a market value of $70 billion. It filed
for bankruptcy in December 2001 after admitting it ovestated its profits
by almost $600 million. Paul Krugman wrote that "Enron helped Dick
Cheney devise an energy plan that certainly looks as if it was written
by and for the companies that advised his task force". The Enron
crooks - close pals of Cheney and Bush II - dwarf any Asian "crony
capitalists" Americans were carping about before and after the Asian
- There's no shortage of crooks in the oil industry.
and Azerbaijan have intimate relations with Israeli military intelligence.
A so-called "former" Israeli intelligence agent, Yousef Maiman,
president of the Mehrav Group of Israel, is nothing less than "Special
Ambassador", official negotiatior and even policymaker responsible
for developing the enormous energy resources of Turkmenistan.
- Maiman is a citizen of the gas republic by presidential
decree - signed by the Turkmenbashi himself, the fabulously megalomaniac
Saparmurad Niazov, former member of the Soviet Politburo. Maiman, according
to the Wall Street Journal, is actively involved in advancing the
goals of both the US and Israel" in Central Asia. He certainly does
not beat around the bush: "Controlling the transport route is
the product." Nobody knows where Mehrav's money comes from.
- Mehrav's planned pipelines bypass both Iran and Russia.
But after the conquest of Afghanistan, oil sources in Singapore say Mehrav
may consider dealing with Iran. It's all to do with the importance of the
Turkish market. Russia and Turkmenistan are fiercely competing to conquer
the Turkish gas market. Considering the strategic relationship between
Turkey and Israel, the Israeli game remains preventing Turkish strategic
dependence on Iran. Turkey is a NATO member and a key US ally. The US and
Britain routinely strike against Iraq from Turkish bases - from which they
patrol the unillateraly-declared Iraqi "no-fly zones". These
"no-fly zones" are obviously not sanctioned by the UN.
- Mehrav is also involved in a murderous project to reduce
the flow of water to Iraq by diverting water from the Tigris and the
rivers to southeastern Turkey. And Magal Security Systems, an Israeli
is also involved with Turkey: it will provide security for the 2,000
oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea to the Turkish Mediterranean port of
- Crook-infested Enron - the biggest donor to the Bush
campaign of 2000 - was ubiquitious: it conducted the feasibility study
for the $2.5 billion trans-Caspian pipeline being built under a joint
signed almost three years ago between Turkmenistan and Bechtel and General
Electric. The go-between in the deal was none other than the Mehrav Group.
Chairman Maiman spent a fortune hiring the Washington lobbying firm Cassidy
and Associates to seduce official Washington with the trans-Caspian
- The intrincate relationship between Israel, Turkey and
the US means that as much as the trans-Caspian pipeline, the Baku-Ceyhan
pipeline is also absolutely crucial. It could be extended to bring oil
directly to thirsty Israel. During the Clinton years, oil giants were under
tremendous pressure to build East-West pipelines. But all of them preferred
to build North-South pipelines - much cheaper, but with the inconvenience
of crossing Iran, an absolute anathema for Washington.
- Russia already has a contract with Turkmenistan to
30 billion cubic meters of gas a year. This represents a big blow to the
US field of dreams, the trans-Caspian gas pipeline. This also means that
Russia will never let go of its sphere of influence without a tremendous
fight. The Central Asian republics are on its borders, Russia has dominated
them for centuries and they are home to millions of Russians. Russian is
still the language they all use to do business with each other.
- Thanks to master political chess player Vladimir Putin,
Russia is now on the cosiest terms possible with Washington - and US-Iran
antipathy is apparently receding. Russia may eventually become a partner
in at least some of Washington's petrostrategy games in Central Asia -
like the Caspian Pipeline Consortium. The regional map also reveals that
Iran, besides holding important gas reserves, offers the best direct access
from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf, where oil and gas can be quickly
exported to Asian markets.
- Iran assumes, not entirely without reason, that it is
the rightful guardian of Central Asia because of centuries of ethnic,
linguistic and religious ties. And Iran is very conscious that American
military links and now physical presence in Central Asia are part of a
strategy to encircle it. But even amid so many geopolitical and ideological
pitfalls, the fact remains that as long as the US is militarily involved
in Afghanistan, there will be some sort of US-Iranian diplomatic
- Under the control of the China National Petroleum
(CNPC), pipelines from Central Asia will also reach China's Xinjiang. Oil
sources in Singapore stress that this will certainly spell a slump for
the sea routes across the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. Washington is more
than aware through its think tanks of the consequences: an extremely likely
strategic realignment between China, Japan and Korea.
- The Chinese have their sights on only one terrifying
prospect: the encirclement of China by the US. UNOCAL is dreaming about
profits. Washington is thinking about the robust Chinese economy. Whatever
"war against terror" distractions, China remains the key
competitor to the US in the 21st century. With Afghanistan in the bag,
UNOCAL dreams of monster profits in the Asian market - much higher than
in Europe - while Washington closely monitors the Chinese economy: growth
of 8 percent in 2000, 7 percent in 2001, and needing all the oil and gas
it can get. Chinese strategists are working around the clock to develop
local forms of energy production.
- What happens next will be closely linked to the
of the Shanghai Five, now Shanghai Six, or more burocratically, the
Cooperation Organization (SCO): China and Russia, plus four Central Asian
republics (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Takijistan and Uzbekistan). Manouvering
with extreme care, China is using the SCO to align Russia economically
and politically towards China and northeast Asia. At the same time, Russia
is using the SCO to maintain its traditional hegemony in Central Asia.
The name of the game for solidifying the alliance is Russian export of
its enormous reserves of oil and gas.
- Since the NATO war against Yugoslavia and the de facto
occupation of Kosovo - where America built its largest military base since
the Vietnam War - China and Russia have their minds set on Chechnya and
Muslim Xinjiang. For the moment, at least, America has absolutely no way
of interfering in these domestic problems, since China and especially
are endorsing the war against terrorism.
- The Taliban were never a target in the "war against
terrorism". They were just a scapegoat - rather, a horde of medieval
warrior scapegoats who simply did not fulfill their contract: to insert
Aghanistan into Pipelineistan. All the regional players now know America
is in Central Asia to stay, as Washington itself has been stridently
these last few weeks, and it will be influencing or disturbing the economy
and geopolitics of the region. The wider world is absolutely oblivious
to these real stakes in the New Great Game.
- The US at the time of the Gulf War did not show any
in replacing "Satan" Hussein. That would seriously compromise
the American design to establish bases on the Arabian peninsula on the
convenient pretext of helping poor Arab sheikhs against the Iraqi Evil
Monster. More than a decade later, Satan Hussein is still there, Bush I
is now Bush II, and assorted Pentagon hawks are still fuming, trying to
fabricate any excuse to blow Saddam back to Mesopotamian ashes. But Saddam
will not be attacked, because Saddam is the ultimate reason for American
military bases in the Gulf - a splendid affair because on top of it all
it is a free ride, the expenses being paid by the ultra-flush sheikdoms.
Now, after the (also unfinished) New Afghan War, American forces are
establishing themselves in Central and South Asia to once again
the interests of the free world".
- It is never enough to remember that after the end of
the communist regime in Afghanistan, the American strategy was to
let Islamic extremism go wild - a perfect way to scare the unstable regimes
in the Central Asian neo-republics. Islamic fundamentalism has always been
a key card in the American strategic design since the Cold War days when
the CIA subcontracted to the Pakistani ISI the arm-them-to-their-teeth
policy regarding the mujahideen. It is always easy to forget that the
were once were hailed by Ronnie Reagan himself at the Oval Office as
moral equivalent of the founding fathers". America has been trying
hard to "get" Afghanistan - the heart of Asia in Antiquity, the
Pipelineistan crossroads of Asia nowadays - for more than 20 years. In
the process, the mujahideen transformed Afghanistan, with CIA blessing,
into the world's leading producer of heroin, opening the crucial and
drug pipeline Afghanistan-Turkey-Balkans-Western Europe. More than a
oil-arms-drugs is the classic CIA cocktail. This "Drugistan"
road has just been spetacularly reopened after the fall of the
- Pipelineistan is not an end in itself. Oil and gas by
themselves are not the US's ultimate aim. It's all about control. In
Belgian writer Michel Collon wrote: "If you want to rule the world,
you need to control oil. All the oil. Anywhere." If the US controls
the sources of energy of its rivals - Europe, Japan, China and other
aspiring to be more independent - they win. This explains why pipelines
from the Caucasus to the West have to be America-friendly - ie Turkish
or Macedonian - and not "unreliable", meaning Russian-controled.
Washington, always, has to control everything: that's what Brzezinski and
Henry Kissinger always said. The same goes for the military bases in Saudi
Arabia, and now in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
- There's no business like war business. Thanks to war
against Iraq, the US has its military bases in the Persian Gulf. Thanks
to war against Yugoslavia, the US has its military bases in Bosnia, Kosovo
and Macedonia. Thanks to war against the Taliban, the US is now in
Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Not to mention the base in Incirlik,
Turkey. The US is also in the Caucasus - in Georgia and Azerbaijan. Iran,
China and Russia are practically encircled. There's no business like show
business. Raise the curtains. Enter Pipelineistan. (Applause). ((c)2001
Asia Times Online Co, Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact
for information on our sales and syndication policies.)