Friday, August 19, 2016

Syria's Pipeline

The Socialist Party often asserts that the roots of conflict have economic causes and little to do with the supposed motives of the war. The Syrian civil war is an example. The conflict in Syria is not just a civil war, but the result of larger international players positioning themselves on the geopolitical chessboard. Much of the media coverage suggests that the conflict in Syria is a civil war, in which the Alawite (Shia) Bashar al Assad regime is defending itself (and committing atrocities) against Sunni rebel factions (who are also committing atrocities). The real explanation is simpler: it is about money. Oil and natural gas pipelines bring large amounts of wealth to states which control them, thus attracting international attention, intrigue, and in many instances, terrorist activity.

Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia wanted to build a pipeline through Syria, but Assad rejected it. In 2009, Qatar proposed a pipeline to run through Syria and Turkey to export Saudi gas. Assad rejected the proposal and instead formed an agreement with Iran and Iraq to construct a pipeline to the European market that would cut Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar out of the route entirely. Since, Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia have been staunch backers of the opposition seeking to topple Assad. Collectively, they have invested billions of dollars, lent weapons, encouraged the spread of fanatical ideology, and helped smuggle fighters across their borders.

The Iran-Iraq pipeline will strengthen Iranian influence in the region and undermine their rival, Saudi Arabia — the other main OPEC producer. Given the ability to transport gas to Europe without going through Washington’s allies, Iran will hold the upper-hand and will be able to negotiate agreements that exclude the U.S. dollar completely.

The Syrian conflict is little different from many other conflicts that originate in competition for resources. The tremendous wealth from the natural gas flow, enough to transform regional economies, has drawn in competing regional players.