The Carnage of Syria need never have happened

Syria: the carnage of unmitigated greed.

" According to Oil & Gas Journal, as of January 1, 2011, reserves of natural gas in Qatar were measured at approximately 896 trillion cubic feet... 14% of all known natural-gas reserves, as the world's third-largest reserves, behind Russia and Iran.[1]... While Qatar is a member of the OPEC and is a significant oil producer, the government has devoted more resources to the development of natural gas in the contemporary era, particularly for export as liquefied natural gas (LNG). In 2006, Qatar reportedly surpassed Indonesia to become the largest exporter of LNG in the world.[2] " Wikipedia says that by 2012 output was 6 times higher than in 2005 after a major expansion of its facilities. In other words, gas production and export is a major plank of Qatar's economic plan having invested heavily in its rapid development. Given that oil prices are nearly half what they were, the importance of gas for Qatar in maintaining its financial ascendency cannot be underestimated.

Gas is a vital commodity especially for developed nations in the northern hemisphere where heat is an essential part of society. Europe is heavily dependent on gas as was shown very dramatically when, in

According to Reuters, Norway only topped Russia in supplying gas to the Western EU countries in 2015, while still remaining the main supplier for Europe as a whole, dropping just one percent to 42% over the previous year. The seriousness of Eruopean dependence on Russia for gas became clear in 2009. On January 7 all Russian gas flows through the Ukraine were halted for 13 days as part of a dispute over payments from the Ukraine, with the result that large parts of eastern Europe were cut off from supplies of gas. This proved not only catastrophic for the running of societies during a period of intense cold weather, but even in a number of mortalities.Slovakia even declared a state of emergency. A similar crisis in 2006 had affected all of Europe, with France for example facing a loss of 25% on the gas it needs, leading northern and Western European countries to begin a process of diversification of supply so as not to be so at the mercy of Russia.

The gas crisis has, at its centre, the Ukraine. A mixture of basic economic motives, Ukrainian nationalism, Russian imperialism converged to create a situation where the cessation of gas was used by the Russians to bring political pressure on Europe to in turn lean on Ukraine to giving way to Russian demands. That Ukraine was increasingly pro Europe and cool to Moscow underlines the sharpness of such a situation, with the European leaders being blackmailed into turning on their erstwhile ally, not something any proud nation, let alone group of nations, enjoys doing. Western European nations, with more financial room for maneuver, began diversification to regain their freedom from Moscow's grip and this gave them significant protection when the second crisis developed, a process which the figures about Norway indicate has not stopped.

Yet Russia still supplies 43% over all of Europe's gas, which in some countries in the East is much higher. And the last crisis lasted just 13 days; if a serious crisis developed between the EU and Russia, such as a war, that period would be indefinite and over several weeks would bring significant social and economic problems to the very heart of the whole European project.

Thus Europe have every reason to want to access cheap, freely available gas other than Russia.  Besides Russia only Iran and Qatar have the capacity to deliver on Europe's needs.  As Iran is pretty much out in the cold, and inclined towards Russia diplomatically, and Israel with its heavy diplomatic hand in Europe being so intractable in its determination to isolate Iran, there is little hope of any real agreement there. This then leaves Qatar which has an abundant supply as well as a very cosy relationship with Europe, in particular its own colonial power Britain.

Gas can be shipped but that's slow and limited. The only way you could realistically hope to provide around 30-40% of Europe's needs would be via pipeline. As the map shows, pipelines network the Middle East, but to get one from Qatar to Europe the route would need to go through Turkey - a member of NATO and keen to strengthen its ties with Europe - Saudi Arabia again a key Western ally, and either Iraq or Syria. According to the Armed Forces Journal, among others, Assad was approached to agree to such a pipeline in 2009. but instead he refused and sought agreement to build a pipeline linking gas supplies in Shia Iraq and Iran with Europe.

So Syria becomes the only stumbling block to lots of cheap, abundant, non-Russian natural gas for Europe. Low and behold we then get not just an Arab Spring but a full fledged civil war with one United aim - to bring down Assad who until this point has gained lots of qudos for not being a violent and ruthless dictator like his father, and indeed much less barbaric that what the likes of Saudi Arabia and Iran were living under. Suddenly Assad was no longer the sunflower shining on the West's wall but a man of monstrous evil proportions. The popular revolution of the people, that is in fact mostly the Sunni people, didn't gain traction, and the mostly secular democracy activists, who had received so much encouragement to stand up and overthrow the dictator, became suddenly overwhelmed by radicalized, vicious Islamicist thugs.

Meanwhile, the West does a deal with Iran in the teeth of Israeli opposition, and Putin ferments revolution in Ukraine, annexing part, imposing civil war on the rest, while the West seeks to prevent Ukraine slipping further from its grip. All the big European leaders seek to bring as much pressure as they can on Russia to back off and on poor little Ukraine to stand firm against Russian aggression, but always in the knowledge that Putin can simply turn off the gas.

Except that Russia needs the cash from its gas sales. With the US and the Europeans waging economic warfare, Russia's currency has been crushed at a time when the price of its oil reserves have been halved. For Russia to wield the gas supply weapon would thus be a moment of self destruction, even if it brought Europe crashing down with it. Thus Europe has a window of opportunity to outflank Russian gas dominance by continuing a proxy war in the Ukraine, effectively halting Putin's dominance in the region there, and in pursuing the overthrow of Assad.

That's were it seemed to be heading, but now Russia has thrown the dice again, upping the stakes by sneaking into the West's anti Isis camp only to then turn and strike at the West's secular rebel allies. Why?

If you look at a map of Syria today, for example in the Guardian, you will see that if the stalemate was to be resolved by dividing Syria the rebel held areas are tantalizingly close to providing a land corridor from Saudi Arabia to Turkey, providing of course that ISIS was out of the way. Russia air strikes seem to have been directed to pockets of rebels whose presence could be used to justify such a contiguous presence, and certainly provide a distraction for any assault upon the rebels major hold on the north.

Turkey meanwhile has been playing a fast game of bluff and double bluff. All the international jihadists come to ISIS freely through Turkey, flying in on holiday jets and just wandering off to the border city where they simply pass over into the jihadists version of hell on earth. Turkey, a NATO power with a powerful army and brutal security force, has simply let these blood lusting fanatics pour over their border unhindered. It launches supposed air attacks on ISIS but they are very, very late in coming, cause minimum damage, and seem to have been more a momentary retaliation for the death of. Turkish soldier rather than a state of war against the whole of ISIS. Turkey seems determined to protect ISIS almost at any cost, which makes me suspect we have here a conspiracy.

Turkey wants that gas pipeline, it doesn't want Assad in power, and ISIS seem the only force likely to achieve that. After several years of conflict the rebels are divided, under funded and without any social media success. ISIS on the other hand are flooded with weapons, technology, and wealth. Their social media presence is stunning and they have caught the popular imagination for both good and ill, recruiting across the West some of the most educated and professionally trained of the Muslim communities there.Turkey provides the jihadists with easy passage, as well as a nice route in for weaponry, while someone else provides the cash for it all. Qatar and Saudi are notorious for their plentiful supply of cash, as well as hell bent on securing Assad's demise and the irradiation of any Iranian influence.

Meanwhile the United States holds back, blathering between support for the rebels and procrastination about crushing ISIS which has turned into a public relations disaster about their time in Iraq and their exit. Europe on the other hand has been quite clear - regime change, though now that line is softening as the ISIS issue won't go away and Europe finds its borders besieged by millions of homeless Syrians.

Syria is the current playground for geo politics of the most aggressive, selfish and engrandising kind. Vicious, callous, manipulative, arrogant the power brokers of the Middle East have played cynical games with the poor, beleaguered Syrian people. It needn't have turned out like this. Assad would have eased towards democracy with a little encouragement. Syria could now be flourishing, stable and a place of culture. Millions of people's lives needn't have been disrupted, their homes and businesses destroyed, a nation crushed. There was another way, but not one vastly rich men and women could possibly choose.


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