No Fracking Way

Syria’s Gas Pipeline War: “Operation Gas Pains”

by Chip Northrup on September 7, 2013

Update October 2015 – Russia enters Syrian Gas Pipeline War on  side of Russia ! What a surprise ! They immediately bomb the US and Saudi proxies that are fighting for the Arabian gas pipeline route, against the Iranian proxies who are fighting for the Iranian gas pipeline route in Pipelinestan. 

Leaving the US in tacit support of Saudi Arabia’s most effective Sunni proxies, the Sunni Caliphate. Surprise.

Update here: the US and its allies (France, the UAE, Saudi, etc.) are entering this gas war on the side of the loyal Sunni partisans that have been bankrolled by the gulf states gas pipeline consortium (see below) against the the rogue Sunni partisans (the Caliphate) for the same Sunni gas pipeline – that their paymasters in Qatar have lost control over, because the Islamic State has stolen enough oil fields and sells $3Million a day on the black market to be self-supporting. As well as against the Shiite and Alawite proxies that have been fighting for Iran’s gas pipeline through Syria. Clear ?

The US has finally been drawn into this conflict, conveniently on the Sunni side of the street – in tactical and air support of Saudi proxies fighting Assad and his Iranian & Russian backers – over a gas pipeline concession. 

The Sunni Caliphate, on the other hand, ran into a force they had not reckoned with – the Kurds. Who introduced a word to the Western lexicon that some Crusaders actually feared: Saladin.  

Read on . .

Iraq wasn’t about “weapons of mass destruction.” It was about oil. We borrowed the money from the Chinese so that we could make it safe for the Chinese and Exxon to frack Iraq. Bombing Syria is not about a “chemical weapons of mass destruction.” It’s about the rivalry between competing gas pipeline projects – one that has been proposed to take gas from Quatar to Europe – via Syria and Turkey. The other proposed from Iran, via Iraq, Syria and Lebanon: The Battle of Pipelineistan – fought by US troops – on behalf of Quatar, Israel, Turkey, Europeans – everybody but Americans – to resolve who gets the gas line concession through Syria. It was about that simple. Until one of the rebel groups – bankrolled by the Saudis – morphed into a self-supporting extortion gang.

The key “chemical weapon” involved in this conflict is natural gas.

Quatar wants a gas pipeline to Europe – through Syria. The Turks want the Quatar pipeline to Europe – through Turkey and Syria. Assad has blocked this pipeline. So now the Turks and Quatar both support the imported al Qaeda fighters who are trying to overthrow Assad.

Iranian Gas Lines in Yellow

Iranian Gas Lines in Yellow.  Arab Line in Green 

Iran does not want the Quatar pipeline to Europe. They want their own pipeline to Europe – via Syria. So the Iranians are supporting Assad. But this proposed line goes through Lebanon (and then under sea to Europe) bypassing Turkey – who now want to get rid of Assad.

Russia does not want the proposed Quatar gas pipeline to Europe, where they export most of their gas. So they have supported the Assad military dictatorship, their client and puppet, who has blocked it on their behalf – until Assad agreed to the Iranian pipeline to Europe.

That’s when his troubles began: By signing on to the Iranian pipeline, Assad angered his benefactors the Russians, his neighbor, Turkey, and Quatar. Leaving Iran his only friend in the region. The USA (and the Israelis) do not want the Iranian pipeline project to go through. But the Americans will look the other way on the pipeline if Iran drops its nuclear bomb program.

That’s what Pipelinestan is all about.

Civil war broke out shortly after the Assad regime signed on for the Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon route, cutting Quatar and Turkey out and elevating Iran. The Syrian rebels were subsequently bankrolled by Quatar and supported logistically by Turkey. The CIA started supplying arms to the Syrian rebels via Turkey and Jordan after Assad cut the pipeline deal with Iran. (Who is making also making nice in the US to get a pipeline through Pakistan to China)

Once Assad is gone, Quatar and Turkey will get their pipeline to Europe. Mission accomplished. The same way that US troops died to get Exxon the northern Iraqi oil concession. For Assad to stay, his benefactor, Iran has to get the pipeline concession -by giving up its nuclear bomb program.  The geopolitical significance of these competing and contentious pipelines is old news in the oil and gas industry. It is understood that’s what drives matters.

We are dependent on Arab oil. The Turks are our allies, the Iranians are our enemies. So the Obama Administration has supported Quatar in opposition to Assad and Iranians – over the ‘preferred’ route of a gas pipeline. For which Obama now proposed to bomb Syria – in lieu of a diplomatic resolution of the matter – because the US defense department has had Assad teed up for years. But thickens the plot if Iran gives up the nuclear card to get its pipeline.

Pepe Escobar has been putting the pieces together on Pipelineistan for some time. All this back story is understood as a given in Europe (via the Guardian) in the Mideast (via al Jazeera), and in the oil and gas business, which has been focused on the pipelines as the real objects of contention in the region:

And meanwhile back in the States, who gets the first LNG export concession to ship US shale gas to Europe ? Quatar Petroleum International and Exxon. Quatar, who bankrolls the Syrian rebels. And Exxon, who shares the Iraqi oil concession with the Chinese.

Chemical Weapons of Mass Destruction is the now familiar excuse that chicken-hawks in Washington are using as a pretext to embroil US troops in the 3rd Hydrocarbon War of the 21st Century. Meaning send US troops off to die based on a fracking lie. If you know anyone that is about to deploy, might send them a thank you card: You Will Die For Quatar’s Preferred Pipeline Route.The Good Folks of Quatar Thank You.” If they served in Iraq, can pin it next to their “I Took A Bullet Looking For Weapons of Mass Destruction That Actually Weren’t There So That Exxon and The Chinese Could Frack Iraq.”  A real souvenir item.

So Syria is not a localized conflict between Muslim sects and ethnic groups ? You bet it is. But what part of the Moslem Mideast is not ? Chemical weapons ? Would a Russian client regime be caught without them ?  A proxy war between Israel and Iran ? Of course. But the outside influence  and interest of Russia, Quatar, Turkey , Saudi, Iran and the United States is all about the Big Money  – those gas pipelines.

Who do you think gets to build that pipeline if the US intervenes ? Bechtel ? Who handles logistics ? Halliburton ?  Just a wild guess. . .

What should the US do about all this ?  Use diplomacy. No troops, no planes, no drones, no naval deployments.  No grandiose military operations with catchy names: “Operation Gas Pains.”  “Operation Pipe Fitter” ?  It would be more productive abroad and more therapeutic domestically to drop a large supply of Congressmen, Senators, John Kerry and some New York Times editors onto Syria instead of bombs. That would at least help clear the air on the matter.

Who in Washington supports sending you, your son, daughter, friends and relatives to Pipelinestan ? Since this is yet another war over oil & gas, just follow the money.


“Why has the little nation of Qatar spent a lot of money to support the rebels in Syria?  Could it be because Qatar is the largest exporter of liquid natural gas in the world and Assad won’t let them build a natural gas pipeline through Syria?  Of course.  Qatar wants to install a puppet regime in Syria that will allow them to build a pipeline which will enable them to sell more natural gas to Europe. 

Why is Saudi Arabia spending huge amounts of money to help the rebels and why has Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan been “jetting from covert command centers near the Syrian front lines to the Élysée Palace in Paris and the Kremlin in Moscow, seeking to undermine the Assad regime”?  Well, it turns out that Saudi Arabia intends to install their own puppet government in Syria which will allow the Saudis to control the flow of energy through the region.

On the other side, Russia very much prefers their client the Assad regime for a lot of reasons. One of those reasons is that Assad is helping to block the flow of natural gas out of the Persian Gulf into Europe, thus ensuring higher profits for Gazprom.

Now the United States is getting directly involved in the conflict.  If the U.S. is successful in getting rid of the Assad regime, it will be good for the Saudis, Qatar, Turkey and Israel, and it will be bad for Russia and Iran.

This is a strategic geopolitical conflict about natural resources, and money, and it really has nothing to do with “chemical weapons”.

It has been common knowledge that Qatar has wanted to construct a natural gas pipeline that will enable it to get natural gas to Europe.  The following is an excerpt from an article from 2009

Qatar has proposed a gas pipeline from the Gulf to Turkey in a sign the emirate is considering a further expansion of exports from the world’s biggest gasfield after it finishes an ambitious programme to more than double its capacity to produce liquefied natural gas (LNG).

“We are eager to have a gas pipeline from Qatar to Turkey,” Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the ruler of Qatar, said last week, following talks with the Turkish president Abdullah Gul and the prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the western Turkish resort town of Bodrum. “We discussed this matter in the framework of co-operation in the field of energy. In this regard, a working group will be set up that will come up with concrete results in the shortest possible time,” he said, according to Turkey’s Anatolia news agency.

Other reports in the Turkish press said the two states were exploring the possibility of Qatar supplying gas to the strategic Nabucco pipeline project, which would transport Central Asian and Middle Eastern gas to Europe, bypassing Russia. A Qatar-to-Turkey pipeline might hook up with Nabucco at its proposed starting point in eastern Turkey. Last month, Mr Erdogan and the prime ministers of four European countries signed a transit agreement for Nabucco, clearing the way for a final investment decision next year on the EU-backed project to reduce European dependence on Russian gas.

“For this aim, I think a gas pipeline between Turkey and Qatar would solve the issue once and for all,” Mr Erdogan added, according to reports in several newspapers. The reports said two different routes for such a pipeline were possible. One would lead from Qatar through Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq to Turkey. The other would go through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and on to Turkey. It was not clear whether the second option would be connected to the Pan-Arab pipeline, carrying Egyptian gas through Jordan to Syria. That pipeline, which is due to be extended to Turkey, has also been proposed as a source of gas for Nabucco.

Based on production from the massive North Field in the Gulf, Qatar has established a commanding position as the world’s leading LNG exporter. It is consolidating that through a construction programme aimed at increasing its annual LNG production capacity to 77 million tonnes by the end of next year, from 31 million tonnes last year. However, in 2005, the emirate placed a moratorium on plans for further development of the North Field in order to conduct a reservoir study.

As you just read, there were two proposed routes for the pipeline.  Unfortunately for Qatar, Saudi Arabia said no to the first route (which bypasses Syria) and Syria said no to the second route.  The following is from an article in the Guardian

In 2009 – the same year former French foreign minister Dumas alleges the British began planning operations in Syria – Assad refused to sign a proposed agreement with Qatar that would run a pipeline from the latter’s North field, contiguous with Iran’s South Pars field, through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and on to Turkey, with a view to supply European markets – albeit crucially bypassing Russia. Assad’s rationale was “to protect the interests of [his] Russian ally, which is Europe’s top supplier of natural gas.”

Instead, the following year, Assad pursued negotiations for an alternative $10 billion pipeline plan with Iran, across Iraq to Syria, that would also potentially allow Iran to supply gas to Europe from its South Pars field shared with Qatar. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the project was signed in July 2012 – just as Syria’s civil war was spreading to Damascus and Aleppo – and earlier this year Iraq signed a framework agreement for construction of the gas pipelines.

The Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline plan was a “direct slap in the face” to Qatar’s plans. No wonder Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, in a failed attempt to bribe Russia to switch sides, told President Vladmir Putin that “whatever regime comes after” Assad, it will be “completely” in Saudi Arabia’s hands and will “not sign any agreement allowing any Gulf country to transport its gas across Syria to Europe and compete with Russian gas exports”, according to diplomatic sources. When Putin refused, the Prince vowed military action.

If Qatar is able to get natural gas flowing into Europe, that will be a significant blow to Russia.  So the conflict in Syria is actually much more about a pipeline than it is about the future of the Syrian people or “weapons of mass destruction.”  In a recent article, Paul McGuire summarized things quite nicely…

The Nabucco Agreement was signed by a handful of European nations and Turkey back in 2009. It was an agreement to run a natural gas pipeline across Turkey into Austria, bypassing Russia again with Qatar in the mix as a supplier to a feeder pipeline via the proposed Arab pipeline from Libya to Egypt to Nabucco (is the picture getting clearer?). The problem with all of this is that a Russian backed Syria stands in the way.

Qatar would love to sell its LNG to the EU and the hot Mediterranean markets. The problem for Qatar in achieving this is Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have already said “NO” to an overland pipe cutting across the Land of Saud. The only solution for Qatar if it wants to sell its oil is to cut a deal with the U.S.

Recently Exxon Mobil and Qatar Petroleum International have made a $10 Billion deal that allows Exxon Mobil to sell natural gas through a port in Texas to the UK and Mediterranean markets. Qatar stands to make a lot of money and the only thing standing in the way of their aspirations is Syria.

This is to set the stage for US involvement in the Natural Gas market in Europe while smashing the monopoly that the Russians have enjoyed for so long. What appears to be a conflict with Syria is really a conflict between the U.S. and Russia.

The main cities of turmoil and conflict in Syria right now are Damascus, Homs, and Aleppo. These are the same cities that the proposed gas pipelines happen to run through. Qatar is the biggest financier of the Syrian uprising, having spent over $3 billion so far on the conflict. The other side of the story is Saudi Arabia, which finances anti-Assad groups in Syria. The Saudis do not want to be marginalized by Qatar; thus they too want to topple Assad and implant their own puppet government, one that would sign off on a pipeline deal and charge Qatar for running their pipes through to Nabucco.

If the U.S. does get involved, we will actually be helping al-Qaeda terrorists that have beheaded mothers and their infants

Al-Qaeda linked terrorists in Syria have beheaded all 24 Syrian passengers traveling from Tartus to Ras al-Ain in northeast of Syria, among them a mother and a 40-days old infant. Gunmen from the terrorist Islamic State of Iraq and Levant stopped the bus on the road in Talkalakh and killed everyone before setting the bus on fire.

Is this really who we want to be “allied” with in the First Mideast Gas Pipeline War ?

If you think that the Obama Administration would never send U.S. troops into Syria, think again.  In fact, according to Jack Goldsmith, a professor at Harvard Law School, the proposed authorization to use military force that has been sent to Congress would leave the door wide open for American “boots on the ground”

The proposed AUMF focuses on Syrian WMD but is otherwise very broad.  It authorizes the President to use any element of the U.S. Armed Forces and any method of force.  It does not contain specific limits on targets – either in terms of the identity of the targets (e.g. the Syrian government, Syrian rebels, Hezbollah, Iran) or the geography of the targets.  Its main limit comes on the purposes for which force can be used.  Four points are worth making about these purposes.  First, the proposed AUMF authorizes the President to use force “in connection with” the use of WMD in the Syrian civil war. (It does not limit the President’s use of force to the territory of Syria, but rather says that the use of force must have a connection to the use of WMD in the Syrian conflict.  Activities outside Syria can and certainly do have a connection to the use of WMD in the Syrian civil war.).  Second, the use of force must be designed to “prevent or deter the use or proliferation” of WMDs “within, to or from Syria” or (broader yet) to “protect the United States and its allies and partners against the threat posed by such weapons.”  Third, the proposed AUMF gives the President final interpretive authority to determine when these criteria are satisfied (“as he determines to be necessary and appropriate”).  Fourth, the proposed AUMF contemplates no procedural restrictions on the President’s powers (such as a time limit).

I think this AUMF has much broader implications than Ilya Somin described.  Some questions for Congress to ponder:

(1) Does the proposed AUMF authorize the President to take sides in the Syrian Civil War, or to attack Syrian rebels associated with al Qaeda, or to remove Assad from power?  Yes, as long as the President determines that any of these entities has a (mere) connection to the use of WMD in the Syrian civil war, and that the use of force against one of them would preventor deter the use or proliferation of WMD within, or to and from, Syria, or protect the U.S. or its allies (e.g. Israel) against the (mere) threat posed by those weapons.  It is very easy to imagine the President making such determinations with regard to Assad or one or more of the rebel groups.

(2) Does the proposed AUMF authorize the President to use force against Iran or Hezbollah, in Iran or Lebanon?  Again, yes, as long as the President determines that Iran or Hezbollah has a (mere) a connection to the use of WMD in the Syrian civil war, and the use of force against Iran or Hezbollah would prevent or deter the use or proliferation of WMD within, or to and from, Syria, or protect the U.S. or its allies (e.g. Israel) against the (mere) threat posed by those weapons.

Would you like to send your own son or your own daughter to fight in Syria just so that a natural gas pipeline can be built to compete with the Russians ?”

Why not send some Congressmen, “Swift Boat” John Kerry, some Exxon execs, Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader John Boehner, assorted defense industry lobbyists and some Senators – McCain & Schumer – instead ?

Or just let the suicidal Sunnis ‘Allahu akbar’ themselves on video – until they run out of bombs or oil.

That would work too.

bomb syria over a gas pipeline

exploding gas pipeline


{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave September 7, 2013 at 10:15 am

WMD 2.0 WTF? Fool me once shame on you Fool me twice shame on me!


Chip Northrup September 7, 2013 at 10:27 am

“Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice . . . . uh, I forget”

GW Bush


Gary Allsopp September 12, 2013 at 5:54 am

The pipeline may be in Europe & the Middle East but you can be damn sure that US corporations are heavily involved.


Bash War in Syria September 12, 2013 at 1:22 pm

It iѕ impossible fоr mе tо credit thаt Obama dоеѕn’t knоw thаt thе minute hе attacks Syria, аll thе sins аnd crimes оf thе Bush years will соmе dоwn оn hiѕ head. Thе US hаѕ bееn lооking fоr years nоw fоr a wау tо stuff Iraq аnd Afghanistan dоwn thе memory hole, аnd deny thе cost оf thеѕе wars. Whу Obama ѕееmѕ ѕо determined tо еnd uр аѕ Bush’s fall guy, I’ll nеvеr know.


Bill September 18, 2013 at 10:14 pm

When one puts the petrodollar and the pipeline dollars in a nice little package it paints a pretty sad picture of US policy and the greed of the internationalists who use our military for their own ends. Perpetual war in Syria as in Afghanistan….. who benefits?


Y. Dia konov September 20, 2013 at 10:04 am

Excellent, correct, analasis, but far removed from the propaganda-zombified public to make any political difference. Military power and it’s application will be the only deciding factor as to who controls the resources of the Middle East. Complicated situation, because any outright military exchange with Russia will endanger the centers of commerce and financial power i.e., New York, London, Israel, bringing the total demise of western efforts for a unipolar-hegemonized world. A confidential report indicates that the east would survive the catastrophic consequences of such a nuclear exchange, whereas the US, permenently detached from its economic corporate tributaries, would be regulated to an non-entity. Rolling the dice against a resurgent Russia, China and Iran will get you either, snake-eyes, boxcars, or little joe.


Chip Northrup October 7, 2015 at 8:09 am

And now Russia has entered the war in Pipelinestan on the side of . . . Russia


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