(12 Oct 2011)
"Gilad and the Gas are both at stake"
Mideast turmoil boosts oil routes threat Oct. 6, 2011 (UPI) -- The combination of Yemen's looming civil war, chaos in Somalia, trouble in Saudi Arabia's oil province, increased Israeli and Iranian naval activity in the Red Sea, unrest in revolutionary Egypt have heightened the security threat to the region's maritime chokepoints.
The Bab el-Mandeb Strait, at the southern end of the Red Sea; the Suez Canal at the northern tip; and the Strait of Hormuz, the only way in and out of the Persian Gulf, are all strategic arteries for global oil supplies.
Iran has repeatedly threatened it will close the U-shaped Hormuz waterway, through which one-fifth of the world's oil supplies pass every day, if its nuclear facilities are attacked.
Senior officials in Tehran have warned that "any act of aggression or adventure," including inspection of Iranian vessels' cargoes mandated by the United Nations, would trigger an "appropriate response" and close the strait to international shipping.
The Strait of Hormuz is one of the most vital shipping lanes in the world, carrying oil and natural gas to east and west and any shutdown would reverberate throughout the global economy.
"Maritime chokepoints are among the most sensitive locations where geography, trade and politics meet," a July study by the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University stated.
"These points have become increasingly volatile in recent years and especially since the Arab uprisings began" in January, it observed.
"Complications include increased regional instability and aggravation of existing threats, pre-eminently piracy, terrorism and the challenges posed by Iran."
Any closure of the strait by Iran would mean cutting off its own oil exports, its economic lifeline. But opportunities are opening elsewhere.
The Red Sea has become a focus of maritime security concerns, in part because of the pirates plaguing the Gulf of Aden.
The 1,400-mile-long Red Sea is a strategic link between the Mediterranean in the north and the Indian Ocean, where the Bab el-Mandeb -- Arabic for "Gate of Grief" after the navigational hazard it posed ancient mariners -- runs into the Gulf of Aden.
It's been a trading route since 2,500 B.C., the time of the ancient Egyptians who used to maintain commercial links with what is now Somalia, a failed state since 1991 that spawned the current piracy scourge.
Some 3.3 million barrels of Persian Gulf oil pass through the strait every day heading for Suez.
In recent months, the Israeli navy has transited missile corvettes and German-built submarines into the Red Sea from the Mediterranean, while the Iranians sent warships north to Syria, their key Arab ally, via Suez.
It was their first foray into the Mediterranean since the reign of the shah, which ended 32 years ago.
The Israelis have also intercepted what they identified as Iranian arms shipments via the Red Sea to Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. Long-range airstrikes in 2010 reportedly took out three such shipments heading through Sudan to Egypt.
That longtime U.S. ally was thrown into turmoil in an 18-day pro-democracy uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in February.
In any further upheaval, the Suez Canal, a strategic maritime artery, would be vulnerable.
That was underlined in 2009 when a jihadist cell linked to al-Qaida was broken up while plotting to target ships in the waterway and adjacent oil pipelines.
A year later a group run by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah of Lebanon was smashed plotting to hit similar targets.
Now the Sinai Peninsula, which lies on the canal's east bank, has become insecure as Egypt "is experiencing its greatest political challenge in over half a century," the Israeli INSS report said.
Al-Qaida, eager to target Israel, has apparently moved in and recruited disgruntled Bedouin tribesmen who have attacked a pipeline carrying Egyptian gas to Israel and Jordan at least six times since February.
"It's possible the Suez Canal or the Suez-Mediterranean oil pipeline could become targets for future attacks," INSS said.
U.S. intelligence fears the anarchy in Yemen, which overlooks the Bab el-Mandeb, and Somalia across the Gulf of Aden could merge to threaten the vital sea lanes there already menaced by increasingly sophisticated pirates.
Hizbullah Mulls Attacking Israeli Gas Interests
An analyst close to Hizbullah says the terror group will strike Israeli gas interests if Israel doesn't stop drilling in the Tamar field.10/10/2011
Tamar Oil FieldEAPC Photo
A Lebanese strategic analyst close to Hizbullah warned on Monday the terror group will strike Israeli gas-exploration interests if Tel Aviv continues drilling in the Tamar and Leviathan gas fields.
"In case the enemy steals Lebanon's oil, Hezbollah will have the right to strike its oil installations and facilities," Feisal Abdossater told Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency.
"Zionists' plot to find control over Lebanon's sea wealth has a high potential for clashes between the two sides and is likely to have dire consequences," he stated.
"The Lebanese Islamic resistance will not tolerate any kind of aggressions against the country's sovereignty," he reiterated, and added, "Hezbollah views the oil resources in Lebanon's water as a treasure for the Lebanese nation and has declared its position in this regard very transparently."
"Hezbollah will cut the hands of anyone who targets Lebanon's sovereignty," the analyst continued.
Nasrallah's comments prompted Israeli officials to deploy armed UAVs over the disputed gas fields to protect Israeli gas interests in the Mediterranean.
Israel and Lebanon have never had formally set borders, and instead relied on the 1949 Armistice lines, or "Green Line," as a de jure border until 2000.
In 2000, when Israel withdrew from the buffer zone it had created in southern Lebanon, it redeployed its forces along the "Blue Line," set by UN Security Council in Resolution 425. Lebanon declined to participate in the talks that determined the Blue Line.
Israel submitted a map dillineating its sea boundary with Lebanon to the United Nations in answer to a similar submission by the Hizbullah-dominated government of Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati earlier this year.
Observers at the time noted Israel's map took into account the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) set by Lebanon and Cyprus in 2007, which have already been accepted by the United Nations and United States, as its likely future border. Israel drew its boundary from the Blue Line on the coast to Point 1, the southernmost extension of Lebanon's EEZ with Cyprus.
Lebanon, however, drew its border 17 kilometers to the south of Point 1 so that they would cut into the disputed D, E, and F blocks of the Tamar and Leviathan fields. While Beirut's economic agreement with Cyprus did allow for Point 1 to be adjusted based on future negotiations with Israel, no such negotiations have been undertaken.
Last month an Israeli consortium, in conjunction with Houston-based giant Noble Energy, began drilling in the A, B, and C blocks to the south of the Lebanese-claimed zone.
Also Monday, Beirut said it was dispatching doplomats to Nicosia to renegotiate its boundary with Cyprus. Nicosia, however, has been conducting closed-door meetings with Jerusalem over the development of gas fields in its own terriotry since last month.
Tiny Qatar’s Big Plans May Change Mideast: Oct.4/2011
Oct. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Qatar, a country of fewer than 2 million people set on a peninsula smaller than Connecticut, seems an unlikely candidate to become a regional power. Yet with little fanfare and less warning, tiny Qatar has emerged as one of the Middle East’s most influential states.
As the U.S. struggles to understand and predict the new contours of the region, it would be wise to pursue even closer ties to this regional maverick.
Even with its demographic and geographic limits, Qatar has several assets that turn out to be in short supply elsewhere in the Middle East and to be of strategic value, given the tumult in the region.
First, it is home to al-Jazeera, the Arabic-language news network that has transformed how Arabs get their news. Many give the television channel more credit for spurring on the Arab Spring than Facebook or Twitter. By bringing the revolutions into the homes of every Arab, al-Jazeera drew regional attention to early events in Tunisia and helped boost the number of Egyptians on the streets from the thousands to the hundreds of thousands. Al-Jazeera gives Qatar “soft power” well beyond its size.
Second, Qatar has resources. Last month, the International Monetary Fund released data demonstrating that Qatar is the richest country in the world. With a per-capita income of more than $88,000, Qatar’s citizens are better off than those of Luxembourg and are almost twice as rich as those of the U.S. This wealth -- and the annual growth rate of 16 percent that goes with it -- is a reflection of Qatar’s vast riches.
Qatar’s natural-gas reserves of more than 900 trillion cubic feet are the third-largest in the world, and the country is reaping the benefits of an ambitious program to monetize those resources. Estimates suggest earnings from its liquefied natural-gas in 2011 will increase by more than 50 percent from last year.
Finally, Qatar has comparatively uncomplicated politics, a rarity in the Middle East today. The country is run by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, an emir who, in his late 50s, is decades younger than his counterparts in the gulf. While advised by a powerful prime minister (who is also a cousin), the emir is the ultimate authority in Qatar, streamlining decision-making. Partially on account of its small size, wealth and security service, Qatar has avoided the political turmoil of some other Middle Eastern states. Its government feels -- and is -- comparatively secure.
While the domestic politics of many other countries in the Arab world are forcing the attention of their leaders inward, Qatar has marshaled its assets and has embarked on an aggressive plan to shape the region.
In recent years, Qatar focused its energies on being a neutral party facilitating diplomatic compromises. It worked diligently to help broker the accord between Fatah and Hamas; it helped resolve a Lebanese impasse over the formation of the government in 2008; it even gets credit from the Sudanese for assisting in a political understanding over Darfur.
Such behavior was consistent with the obvious needs of a small country in a dangerous and difficult part of the world. Qatar sought to establish relationships with as many countries and parties as possible, and endeavored to prove its indispensability without ever taking sides on the region’s many sensitive matters.
But since the onset of the Arab Spring, Qatar has adopted a more aggressive and potentially more risky foreign policy. It no longer seems satisfied with balancing its relationships with the greater powers -- be they the U.S., Iran or Saudi Arabia. Instead, it sees a window to steer and shape events, senses its comparative strengths, and has embarked upon a series of bold endeavors.
In Libya, Qatar was the first Arab state to vocally endorse military intervention against Muammar Qaddafi, prodding the Arab League to make the statement that ultimately gave the North Atlantic Treaty Organization political cover for its support of the revolutionaries. Going beyond rhetoric, Qatar provided six mirage jet planes to the fight -- offering Arab credibility to the military operation. In Syria, Qatar has lent the weight of al-Jazeera to those seeking to end the Assad regime.
Even the priorities of its $100 billion sovereign-wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority, have changed. Formerly focused on trophy investments such as Harrods Department Store Co.(london) or “passive” ones intended primarily to collect returns, Qatar is now turning to strategic investments in companies and countries with which it intends to build cooperative ventures and wield influence. For example, electricity-hungry Qatar bought a stake in Spain’s largest power utility, Iberdrola SA, for more than $2 billion earlier this year.
Qatar seems committed to shaping the political and economic outcomes that will emerge from the regional volatility it is helping create. Already, it is actively aiding the Libyan National Transitional Council as it thinks through reforming that country’s national oil company, and there is talk of Qatar helping Libya explore its gas reserves. A Qatari-Libyan gas partnership would help Qatar address one of its primary strategic worries: the loss of markets for its gas in Europe.
In Egypt, Qatar has planted a flag with the announcement it intends to invest $10 billion there in the coming years. And in Sudan, Qatar will play a role in enforcing the new “Doha Document for Peace in Darfur,” which was accepted by Sudanese parties as the framework for conflict resolution.
The key question for the U.S. is what does a region with a strong Qatari guiding hand look like? What kind of Arab world is Qatar seeking to achieve?
The answers aren’t entirely evident. One could make the case that a more active Qatar, which is already home to the U.S. military’s Central Command, is good for American interests. Qatar -- with its large investments in Western-style higher education, its relatively pragmatic approach to Israel, and its (still-too-modest) allowance of women’s participation in municipal elections -- might be a moderating force in the region.
Yet one might make an equally compelling case that Qatar has little interest in political liberalization in the Middle East (given its own closed system and its support for Saudi troops in Bahrain) and that its activism is grounded in a desire to supplant global energy markets with state-to-state bilateral deals. After all, Qatar’s long-term well-being rests on global gas consumption and the nation’s ability to capture highly competitive markets. Although Qatar has shown little interest in Iran’s entreaties for the formation of an OPEC-like gas cartel, a change of heart in this direction could harm America’s allies, if not America itself, which is almost self- sufficient in terms of natural gas.
A year ago, such questions would have been for curious minds or academic interest. Today, with the Arab world in tumult and Qatar in high gear, it is of high strategic importance.
The U.S. is, no doubt, trying to do more than read the tea leaves -- or rather, the coffee grounds -- in the region. It needs to build and strengthen new strategic partnerships with regional actors, especially those that have the resources and imagination to shape events beyond their borders. Qatar should be on or near the top of its list. U.S.-Qatari relations are cordial and positive. But the warmth and strength of this relationship has been limited by Qatar’s need to balance its ties with Iran, with which it shares an enormous gas field.
In recent months, the small emirate has moved away from a foreign policy based on hedging, toward a bolder and riskier approach. This seems to butt up against, or even challenge, some of Iran’s most central interests. Qatar’s encouragement of the revolution against Bashar al-Assad in Syria and its support of the status quo in Bahrain are two cases in point. This shift -- while opening Qatar to a possible Iranian backlash -- could provide the U.S. with an opening to strengthen ties.
What can the U.S. do? First, it might build on the meeting between President Barack Obama and the emir in April, and schedule more high-visibility encounters between U.S. and Qatari officials. This may seem insignificant to Americans, but such sessions hold great importance for Qataris, who prize prestige and recognition.
Second, the U.S. should trade in its ambivalence about Qatar’s regional diplomacy in exchange for a warm embrace of it. Qatar’s tendency to have relationships with everyone -- friend and foe, including the Taliban when it ruled Afghanistan -- has historically made the U.S. uncomfortable. But in a transformed region, Qatar’s Rolodex may allow it to shape the region -- ideally with the quiet support of America.
Third, the U.S. should work with Qatar, and possibly other Gulf states, to craft economic support packages to post- revolutionary states. The U.S. might lend expertise and organization in Egypt and Libya, while Qatar foots more of the bill.
Finally, the U.S. should cultivate greater links between Qatar and American businesses. Qatar plans $100 billion in infrastructure projects in the run-up to its hosting the 2022 soccer World Cup; many U.S. companies could profit from these ambitions. This is how the fabric of closer bilateral ties is woven, and the payoff goes well beyond corporate profits.
Al Jazeera news media to be used by the AntiMessiah big time.
P.Charles is way ahead with his contacts.-
Qatari royal aide 'deliberately deleted emails on Prince Charles's Chelsea barracks role' June 16, 2010
Witnesses in a bitter court battle over an unsuccessful £3billion scheme to redevelop Chelsea Barracks lied under oath to cover up the involvement of Prince Charles and the Emir of Qatar, a court has been told.
The United States wants to fall back on Saudi Arabia oil in case of dramatic rises @ the pump.
And I've posted this over and over,
Auditor: Turkmenistan has second-largest gas field 10/11/11
ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan (AP) — The Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan is sitting on top of the second-largest natural gas field in the world, according to figures unveiled Tuesday by an independent British auditor.
It could fuel the global race for access to the country's resources.
Auditor representative Jim Gillett said in a presentation in the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat, that South Yolotan holds up to 21.2 trillion cubic meters of gas, putting it only behind the South Pars field, shared between Iran and Qatar.
They are also in a very Seismic Active Region. Of the 10 Worst Earthquakes of the World, they underwent no.9.
Number 9.) The Ashgabat Earthquake.
On October 5, 1948, a 7.3, 100 Mega-ton earthquake hit near Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, which was the Soviet Union back then. The earthquake caused extreme damage to Ashgabat and surrounding areas like Darrah Gaz, Iran. Multiple sources say that the death toll was around 10,000, but later releases in 1988 estimate the the death toll was above 110,000. Even later, in 2007, the State News Agency of Turkmenistan release a startling fact. The report estimated that over 176,000 people died during the earthquake.
Netanyahu Announces Deal to Free Shalit October 11, 2011
Mr. Netanyahu said that the upheavals in the Arab world made it important to move forward now since in the future it might be impossible to conclude such a deal.