The Great Game: Syria Edition

The mental midgets of American foreign policy are convinced the war in Syria is about freedom and democracy, despite the fact the rebels are probably worse than Assad. Those rebels would not exist without Saudi and GCC money and arms. On the other hand, Assad would be sleeping with Muhamar Qaddafi if not for Iranian money and arms. There are reports that Iran has sent revolutionary Guard units to bolster Assad’s army. Put another way, without Iran and Saudi Arabia, this civil war never happens. Therefore, it is not about the specific actors and everything about the money men backing the actors. As the saying goes, the men with the gold make the rules. In this case, it is Iran and Saudi Arabia, Shia and Sunni.

This piece from the Financial Times goes into the other level of the game. The Euros, Russians and Chinese are not involved because they have an ideological interest. They are not there to promote freedom and democracy. The question no one asks and the FT piece skips past is why are these players so deeply concerned about a sewer in a land of sewers? The reason is natural gas. The Russians, through Gazprom, control about a third of the natural gas supply to Europe. They control most of it to eastern Europe. They want to control a larger share, particularly to Germany. History, you see, is the nightmare from which the Russians never awake.

What does that have to do with Syria?

Iran shares an enormous natural gas field with the GCC countries. They would like to sell it to Europe. Building facilities to liquify it and ship it over sea to Europe is not practical. That puts them in competition with everyone else and the Iranians are not going to out compete the world technologically. Instead, running a pipeline north to the Russian subject states and to the Black Sea is a cheaper and faster option. Running through Iraq to Syrian ports on the Mediterranean would be even better. Russia would then have a customer for their arms, regain Iraq as a client and dominate the natural gas market into Europe.

Following the money makes it easy to see the Russian interests. On the other side, the Saudis have a similar set of interests. The Saudis understand better than anyone that oil is going to be replaced by gas as the primary energy source in the world. Within a decade refineries will be on-line that produce gasoline from natural gas at prices cheaper than crude. The massive gas fields popping up all over means the peak oil crowd will need to find a new hobby. The only reason the House of Saud exists is oil. Take that away and they go away. Therefore they, along with the GCC countries, are looking to build their own natural gas pipeline to Europe.

Their pipeline could head in two different routes. 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. I don’t think you have to be that clever to see why the Saudis and GCC are invested in Syria. If their ideological buddies win then it makes building their pipeline a better option than the Iranian pipeline. Inevitably, money and resources would swing in their favor. It also has the benefit of cutting the legs out from under Iran and their push for nuclear weapons.

The one player I have not mentioned is the United States. That’s because the American foreign policy elite is crippled by a combination of sectarian hatred and self-inflicted stupidity. On one side is the forever war crowd led by Bush holdovers and John McCain. Their heads are full of fantasies about spreading democracy, which is lunacy on stilts. John McCain has been wrong about everything in the last three decades, but he just waves his POW-MIA flag and everyone runs for cover. The major players in Syria see him as a senile old fool who serves no purpose. On the other side we have Obama and his collection of naive amateurs. The only thing they know how to do is pronounce foreign words in a foreign accent. Otherwise, they are completely ignorant of the world beyond our shores.


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