Previously, when looking at the real underlying national interests responsible for the deteriorating situation in Syria, which eventually may and/or will devolve into all out war with hundreds of thousands killed, we made it very clear that it was always and only about the gas, or gas pipelines to be exact, and specifically those involving the tiny but uber-wealthy state of Qatar.
Needless to say, the official spin on events has no mention of this ulterior motive, and the popular, propaganda machine, especially from those powers supporting the Syrian “rebels” which include Israel, the US and the Arabian states tries to generate public and democratic support by portraying Assad as a brutal, chemical weapons-using dictator, in line with the tried and true script used once already in Iraq.
On the other hand, there is Russia (and to a lesser extent China: for China’s strategic interests in mid-east pipelines, read here), which has been portrayed as the main supporter of the “evil” Assad regime, and thus eager to preserve the status quo without a military intervention. Such attempts may be for naught especially with the earlier noted arrival of US marines in Israel, and the imminent arrival of the Russian Pacific fleet in Cyprus (which is a stone throw away from Syria) which may catalyze a military outcome sooner than we had expected.
However, one question that has so far remained unanswered, and a very sensitive one now that the US is on the verge of voting to arm the Syrian rebels, is who was arming said group of Al-Qaeda supported militants up until now. Now, finally, courtesy of the FT we have the (less than surprising) answer, which goes back to our original thesis, and proves that, as so often happens in the middle east, it is once again all about the natural resources.
The tiny gas-rich state of Qatar has spent as much as $3bn over the past two years supporting the rebellion in Syria, far exceeding any other government, but is now being nudged aside by Saudi Arabia as the prime source of arms to rebels.
The cost of Qatar’s intervention, its latest push to back an Arab revolt, amounts to a fraction of its international investment portfolio. But its financial support for the revolution that has turned into a vicious civil war dramatically overshadows western backing for the opposition.
In dozens of interviews with the FT conducted in recent weeks, rebel leaders both abroad and within Syria as well as regional and western officials detailed Qatar’s role in the Syrian conflict, a source of mounting controversy.
Just as Egypt and Libya had their CIA Western-funded mercenaries fighting the regime, so Qatar is paying for its own mercenary force.
The small state with a gargantuan appetite is the biggest donor to the political opposition, providing generous refugee packages to defectors (one estimate puts it at $50,000 a year for a defector and his family) and has provided vast amounts of humanitarian support.
In September, many rebels in Syria’s Aleppo province received a one off monthly salary of $150 courtesy of Qatar. Sources close to the Qatari government say total spending has reached as much as $3bn, while rebel and diplomatic sources put the figure at $1bn at most.
For Qatar, owner of the world’s third-largest gas reserves, its intervention in Syria is part of an aggressive quest for global recognition and is merely the latest chapter in its attempt to establish itself as a major player in the region, following its backing of Libya’s rebels who overthrew Muammer Gaddafi in 2011.
That, sadly, is not even close to half the story. Recall from Qatar: Oil Rich and Dangerous, posted nearly a year ago, which predicted all of this:
Why would Qatar want to become involved in Syria where they have little invested? A map reveals that the kingdom is a geographic prisoner in a small enclave on the Persian Gulf coast.
It relies upon the export of LNG, because it is restricted by Saudi Arabia from building pipelines to distant markets. In 2009, the proposal of a pipeline to Europe through Saudi Arabia and Turkey to the Nabucco pipeline was considered, but Saudi Arabia that is angered by its smaller and much louder brother has blocked any overland expansion.
Already the largest LNG producer, Qatar will not increase the production of LNG. The market is becoming glutted with eight new facilities in Australia coming online between 2014 and 2020.
A saturated North American gas market and a far more competitive Asian market leaves only Europe. The discovery in 2009 of a new gas field near Israel, Lebanon, Cyprus, and Syria opened new possibilities to bypass the Saudi Barrier and to secure a new source of income. Pipelines are in place already in Turkey to receive the gas. Only Al-Assad is in the way.
Qatar along with the Turks would like to remove Al-Assad and install the Syrian chapter of the Moslem Brotherhood. It is the best organized political movement in the chaotic society and can block Saudi Arabia’s efforts to install a more fanatical Wahhabi based regime. Once the Brotherhood is in power, the Emir’s broad connections with Brotherhood groups throughout the region should make it easy for him to find a friendly ear and an open hand in Damascus.
A control centre has been established in the Turkish city of Adana near the Syrian border to direct the rebels against Al-Assad. Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah al-Saud asked to have the Turks establish a joint Turkish, Saudi, Qatari operations center. “The Turks liked the idea of having the base in Adana so that they could supervise its operations” a source in the Gulf told Reuters.
The fighting is likely to continue for many more months, but Qatar is in for the long term. At the end, there will be contracts for the massive reconstruction and there will be the development of the gas fields. In any case, Al-Assad must go. There is nothing personal; it is strictly business to preserve the future tranquility and well-being of Qatar.
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. It recently extended the ban for two years to 2013.
Specifically, the issue at hand is the green part of the proposed pipeline: as explained above, it simply can’t happen as long as Russia is alligned with Assad.
So there you have it: Qatar doing everything it can to promote bloodshed, death and destruction by using not Syrian rebels, but mercenaries: professional citizens who are paid handsomely to fight and kill members of the elected regime (unpopular as it may be), for what? So that the unimaginably rich emirs of Qatar can get even richer. Although it is not as if Russia is blameless: all it wants is to preserve its own strategic leverage over Europe by being the biggest external provider of natgas to the continent through its own pipelines. Should Nabucco come into existence, Gazpromia would be very, very angry and make far less money!
As for the Syrian “rebels”, who else is helping them? Why the US and Israel of course. And with the Muslim Brotherhood “takeover” paradigm already tested out in Egypt, it is only a matter of time.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which tracks arms transfers, Qatar has sent the most weapons deliveries to Syria, with more than 70 military cargo flights into neighbouring Turkey between April 2012 and March this year.
Perhaps it is Putin’s turn to tell John Kerry he prefer if Qatar was not “supplying assistance to Syrian mercenaries”?
What is worse, and what is already known is that implicitly the US – that ever-vigilant crusader against Al Qaeda – is effectively also supporting the terrorist organization:
The relegation of Qatar to second place in providing weapons follows increasing concern in the West and among other Arab states that weapons it supplies could fall into the hands of an al-Qaeda-linked group, Jabhat al-Nusrah.
Yet Qatar may have bitten off more than it can chew, even with the explicit military Israeli support, and implicit from the US. Because the closer Qatar gets to establishing its own puppet state in Syria, the closer Saudi Arabia is to getting marginalized:
But though its approach is driven more by pragmatism and opportunism, than ideology, Qatar has become entangled in the polarised politics of the region, setting off a wave of scathing criticism. “You can’t buy a revolution,” says an opposition businessman.
Qatar’s support for Islamist groups in the Arab world, which puts it at odds with its peers in the Gulf states, has fuelled rivalry with Saudi Arabia. Qatar’s ruling emir, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, “wants to be the Arab world’s Islamist (Gamal) Abdelnasser,” said an Arab politician, referring to Egypt’s fiery late president and devoted pan-Arab leader.
Qatar’s intervention is coming under mounting scrutiny. Regional rivals contend it is using its financial firepower simply to buy future influence and that it has ended up splintering Syria’s opposition. Against this backdrop Saudi Arabia, which until now has been a more deliberate backer of Syria’s rebels, has stepped up its involvement.
Recent tensions over the opposition’s election of an interim prime minister who won the support of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood has also driven Saudi Arabia to tighten its relationship to the political opposition, a job it had largely left in the hands of Qatar.
What Saudi Arabia wants is not to leave the Syrian people alone, but to install its own puppet regime so it has full liberty to dictate LNG terms to Qatar, and subsequently to Europe.
Khalid al-Attiyah, Qatar’s state minister for foreign affairs, who handles its Syrian policy, dismissed talk of rivalry with the Saudis and denied allegations that Qatar’s support for the rebels has splintered Syria’s opposition and weakened nascent institutions.
In an interview with the Financial Times, he said every move Qatar has made, has been in conjunction with the Friends of Syria group of Arab and western nations, not alone. “Our problem in Qatar is that we don’t have a hidden agenda so people start fixing you one,” he says.
Sadly, when it comes to the US (and of course Israel), it does have a very hidden agenda: one that involves lying to its people about what any future intervention is all about, and the fabrication of narrative about chemical weapons and a bloody regime hell bent on massacring every man, woman and child from the “brave resistance.” What they all fail to mention is that all such “rebels” are merely paid for mercenaries of the Qatari emir, whose sole interest is to accrue even more wealth even if it means the deaths of thousands of Syrians in the process.
A bigger read through of the events in Syria reveals an even more complicated web: one that has Qatar facing off against Syria, with both using Syria as a pawn in a great natural resource chess game, and with Israel and the US both on the side of the petrodollars, while Russia and to a lesser extent China, form the counterbalancing axis and refuse to permit a wholesale overthrow of the local government which would unlock even more geopolitical leverage for the gulf states.
Up until today, we would have thought that when push comes to shove, Russia would relent. However, with the arrival of a whole lot of submarines in Cyprus, the games just got very serious. After all the vital interests of Gazprom – perhaps the most important “company” in the world – are suddenly at stake.
Finally, one wonders just what President Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan were really talking about behind the scenes.