[News] US Army report calls for ‘military support’ of Israeli energy grab

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jan 7 10:50:26 EST 2015


  US Army report calls for ‘military support’ of Israeli energy grab

Nafeez Ahmed <http://www.middleeasteye.net/users/nafeez-ahmed>
Thursday 1 January 2015

*http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/us-army-report-calls-military-support-israeli-energy-grab-57185571*

A new report by the US Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute 
emphasises the need for “US security and military support” to its key 
allies in the Eastern Mediterranean, particularly Israel, over access to 
recent vast discoveries of regional oil and gas.

The Army study 
<https://strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pdffiles/PUB1243.pdf>, 
released earlier in December 2014, concludes that extensive US military 
involvement “may prove essential in managing possible future conflict” 
in case of “an eruption of natural resource conflict in the East 
Mediterranean,” due to huge gas discoveries in recent years.

Visible US engagement is also necessary to ward off the regional 
encroachment of “emerging powers and potential new peace brokers such as 
Russia - which already entertains a strong interest in East 
Mediterranean gas developments - and notably China.”


      Fossil fuel bonanza in the Levant

Since 2000, the Levant basin - an area encompassing the offshore 
territories of Israel, Palestine, Cyprus, Turkey, Egypt, Syria, and 
Lebanon - has been estimated to hold as much as 1.7 bn barrels of oil 
and up to 122 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas. As much of the 
region’s potential resources remain undiscovered, geologists believe 
this could be just a third of the total quantities of fossil fuels in 
the Levant.

The new US Army report argues that these hydrocarbon discoveries are of 
“tremendous economic and geostrategic significance,” not just for its 
allies, but for the United States itself. Israel especially stands to 
“gain considerably from their newly discovered gas wealth” in terms of 
cost-effective energy for domestic consumption and revenues from gas 
exports.

But while the discoveries offer the prospect for closer regional 
cooperation, they also raise “the potential for conflict over these 
valuable resources.” The potential for resource conflicts over oil and 
gas relates directly to intractable border conflicts between Israel, the 
Palestinians, Lebanon and Syria, as well as the unresolved Cypriot 
question between Greece and Turkey. US interests are to minimise the 
risk of conflict between its core allies, while maximising their 
capacity to exploit these resources.

“Israel, Cyprus, and Turkey are key strategic US allies,” the report 
says. “Neighbouring Egypt, Syria and Lebanon play important roles from 
the European and US perspective, both as direct neighbours to Israel and 
the Palestinian Territories as well as because of their strategically 
important location as the geographic interconnection between Europe, 
North Africa, and the Middle East.”

The new US Army report is authored by Mohammed al-Katiri and Laura 
al-Katiri. Mohammed al-Katiri was previously research director at the UK 
Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) Advanced Research and Assessment Group 
(ARAG), but now heads up two private intelligence consultancies, MENA 
Insight <http://www.menainsights.com/team1> and the Conflict Studies 
Research Centre <http://www.conflictstudies.org.uk/key-personnel.php>  
(CSRC), both of which provide services to government and commercial 
sectors, including the oil and gas industry.

The Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) which published the report, calls 
itself an Army “think factory” for “commanders and civilian leaders.” 
SSI uses independent analysis to help “develop policy recommendations” 
for the US Army on national security and to “influence policy debate” 
across the military.


      Advancing Israel’s energy empire

The SSI report on the risk of Middle East resource conflicts notes that 
Israel’s massive offshore gas discoveries “have yet to translate into 
proven gas reserves,” but that it’s total of 9.48 tcf of proven and 30 
tcf estimated reserves, positions Israel “ahead of all East 
Mediterranean countries in terms of gas reserves and resource 
prospectivity.”

The Army report also reveals that Syria could hold significant offshore 
oil and gas potential. In 2007, before the outbreak of hostilities, 
President Bashar al-Assad launched a first bidding round to secure 
investment into new exploration efforts, and another in 2012 that was 
cancelled due to deteriorating security conditions.

“Once the Syria conflict is resolved, prospects for Syrian offshore 
production - provided commercial resources are found - are high,” 
observes the report.  Potential oil and gas resources can be developed 
“relatively smoothly once the political situation allows for any new 
exploration efforts in its offshore territories.”

The report also mentions significant gas finds in the offshore 
territories of Lebanon and Palestine, including the Gaza Marine, which 
holds over 1 tcf – production of which has been “obstruction by Israel 
over concerns regarding the flow of revenues to Palestinian 
stakeholders.” But in addition to the Gaza Marine, “Palestinian offshore 
territories near Gaza are believed to hold substantial hydrocarbon 
potential,” whose total quantities are still unknown because a lack of 
exploration there:

“Both Israel and Cyprus are key US allies and pillars of US foreign 
policy in the region: Israel, with its long history of close political 
ties with the United States, historically has stood at the heart of 
American efforts to secure regional peace; while Cyprus forms the most 
eastern part of Europe and is an important strategic location for both 
US and British military interests.”


      *Regional war*

The region faces four main potential arcs of conflict. Firstly, in 
Israel-Palestine, the US Army study warns that “the presence of valuable 
natural resources in disputed territory may further feed the conflict.”

Secondly, rival claims between Israel and Lebanon over maritime 
boundaries could “complicate” the development of regional offshore 
hydrocarbon resources and result in military confrontation.

Thirdly, that risk has, in turn, delayed efforts to define 
Cypriot-Israeli and Cypriot-Lebanese exclusive economic maritime zones.

Fourthly, in 2013 Israel granted oil exploration licenses in the 
Syrian-claimed Golan Heights, spelling “potential for another armed 
conflict between the two parties should substantial hydrocarbon 
resources be discovered.” According to a report to the UN Security 
Council in early December, Israel has been in regular contact with 
Syrian rebels, including Islamic State fighters 
<http://www.ibtimes.co.in/un-report-israel-regular-contact-syrian-rebels-including-isis-616404>, 
raising the question of Israel’s role in supporting anti-Assad 
extremists to cement its control of Golan’s potential fossil fuel resources.

The US Army study highlights a real risk that tensions across these 
flashpoints could escalate into a wider regional conflict:

“In the case of an armed conflict between Israel and Lebanon, the 
security of the wider Levant region could once again be at stake, with a 
possible escalation of the conflict into neighbouring Syria and the 
Palestinian Territories, as well as (with historical precedents) Jordan 
and Egypt. In combination, the pre-existing political problems in all of 
these countries – Syria destabilizing into de facto civil war, Egypt in 
the midst of political instability, the Palestinians and Lebanese 
lacking stable political cores – the potential for a new, escalating 
regional war is a threatening scenario indeed.”


      War for peace (for gas)

To stave off this disturbing prospect, the US report recommends that 
Israel and other Levant gas hubs like Lebanon and Cyprus play a key role 
in exporting Eastern Mediterranean gas to their Arab neighbours, such as 
Egypt, Turkey and Jordan, given that Middle East demand for gas is 
projected to rise dramatically in coming decades.

Further, the report highlights the possibility of Israel piping gas to 
Turkey, where it can be exported to European markets, making Turkey a 
regional gas transhipment hub. This would allow both Turkey and Europe 
to wean off their Russian gas dependence, and integrate instead into a 
“peaceful” US-Israeli dominated regional energy architecture.

As has been confirmed by Quartet Middle East envoy Tony Blair’s energy 
advisor, Ariel Ezrahi, Gaza’s offshore gas resources are seen as a 
potential bridge 
<http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/israel-s-looming-gas-empire-requires-final-solution-gaza-1582434143> 
to overcome popular Arab public opposition to gas deals with Israel. 
“Israeli as well as Palestinian offshore hydrocarbon resources could 
play a significant role in facilitating mutual trust and the willingness 
to cooperate,” the US Army study suggests, “including between Israel and 
a few of its other Arab neighbours, Jordan and Egypt.”

But ultimately this architecture cannot be installed without extensive 
US intervention of some kind. “US diplomatic and military support has a 
pivotal role to play in the East Mediterranean’s complex geopolitical 
landscape, and its importance will only grow as the value of the natural 
resources at stake increases,” concludes the Army report:

“US security and military support for its main allies in the case of an 
eruption of natural resource conflict in the East Mediterranean may 
prove essential in managing possible future conflict.”

Diplomatically, the US could play a significant role in mediating 
between the various parties to facilitate successful oil and gas 
development projects across the East Mediterranean, not just for 
“Israel’s sake,” but also to shore-up allies like Jordan and Egypt with 
“low-cost Israeli gas,” contributing to regional economic and thus 
political stability:

“US support - diplomatic and, where necessary, military - can form a 
potentially powerful element in the safeguarding of these long-term 
economic benefits, at little cost in relative terms.”

If regional tensions escalate though, the report warns that “the United 
States also holds an important military position that could have an 
impact in securing the East Mediterranean,” including “military training 
and equipment support” to defend Cyprus and Israel from attacks on 
“their energy infrastructure and gas developments.”

This Orwellian document thus reveals that in the name of maintaining 
regional peace, a new Great Game is at play. To counter Russian and 
Chinese influence while cementing influence over its Arab allies, US 
military strategists are contemplating the threat of war to redraw the 
Middle East’s energy architecture around Israel.

*/ - Nafeez Ahmed/ */PhD, is an investigative journalist 
<http://www.nafeezahmed.com/>, international security scholar and 
bestselling author who tracks what he calls the 'crisis of civilization 
<http://www.crisisofcivilization.com/>.' He is a winner of the Project 
Censored Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism for his Guardian 
reporting on the intersection of global ecological, energy and economic 
crises with regional geopolitics and conflicts. He has also written for 
The Independent, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Scotsman, Foreign 
Policy, The Atlantic, Quartz, Prospect, New Statesman, Le Monde 
diplomatique, New Internationalist. His work on the root causes and 
covert operations linked to international terrorism officially 
contributed to the 9/11 Commission and the 7/7 Coroner’s Inquest./

-- 
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