Turkey

Learning to Love Tehran?

Posted by Cutler on August 26, 2007
Iran, Russia, Turkey / No Comments

When I’m not musing on the news, I’m waiting for it.

In this instance, I’m waiting for Cheney to embrace the Iranian regime.

In a recent post, I suggested that a Russia hawk like Cheney could easily learn to love the Iranians:

From Cheney’s perspective, it might even be argued (as he did during the 1990s), that Iran–as a Caspian regional power–would do well to align itself not with Russia or China, but with the United States.

The sub-headline of a recent article in The Economist helps make the point.  The article is entitled, “Too energetic a friendship – Turkey and Iran: An attempt to bypass Russia annoys the United States.”

An attempt to bypass Russia annoys the United States.  Huh?

Only folks Cheney used to decry as “sanctions happy” local politicians beholden to the Israel lobby would forfeit a shot to bypass Russia in the quest to deliver Caspian energy to Europe.

As The Economist explains, this is the “paradox” of US policy toward Iran.

Cocking a snook at America seems an odd way to launch a second term in office for a government eager to prove its pro-Western credentials. Yet that is what Turkey’s mildly Islamist Justice and Development party (AK) appears to be doing, just weeks after its landslide victory in the July 22nd parliamentary election.

Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, dispatched his energy minister, Hilmi Guler, to Iran last week where he concluded a raft of deals. They include the establishment of a joint company to carry up to 35 billion cubic metres of Iranian natural gas via Turkey to Europe, and the construction of three thermal power plants by Turkish companies in Iran.

America swiftly complained. “If you ask our opinion, do we think it’s the right moment to be making investments in the Iranian oil and gas sector, no we don’t,” sniffed a State Department spokesman.

Mr Erdogan’s critics have seized on his dealings with Iran as proof that he is trying to steer Turkey away from the West. In fact, they have just the opposite aim…

EU countries import half their energy, with around a fifth of their oil and gas coming from Russia’s state monopoly, Gazprom….

Russia’s use of its energy riches to flex its muscles on the world stage is one reason why America is lobbying so hard for the creation of an east-west energy corridor—a network of oil and gas pipelines running from former Soviet Central Asia and Azerbaijan via Turkey, and on to European markets…

Turkey has turned to Iran, according to Necdet Pamir, a veteran Turkish energy analyst. Iranian gas would not only help to fill the Nabucco pipeline, another mooted conduit from the Middle East or Central Asia, bypassing Russia, but would also reduce Turkey’s own dependence on Russian supplies: over half of Turkey’s natural-gas demand is met by Gazprom….

The paradox for America is that Iran is the only country other than Iraq that can truly undermine Russia’s [energy] supremacy,” observes Mr Pamir.

Funny, the Russians seem to understand this and are allegedly quite concerned about the Iranian-Turkish pipeline deal.

So, what prevents Cheney from reverting to his old position in favor of doing business with Iran, especially after Putin’s recent Caspian coup?

One possible answer: the power of the Israel lobby, especially in a Congress controlled by Democrats.

Or maybe his Right Zionist allies–very hawkish on the incumbent Iranian regime, at least for now–will revert to their old position in favor of an anti-Arab tilt toward the revolutionary Iranian regime.

For now, I’m just waiting for news of that shoe to drop.

Unless it is the bomb that is going to drop.

Cheney’s Man on the Seine?

Posted by Cutler on May 07, 2007
France, Great Power Rivalry, Turkey / No Comments

Is French President-elect Nicolas Sarkozy Bush’s lapdog?  Cheney’s man on the Seine?  A Right Zionist in Paris?

In the context of great power rivalry, Sarkozy says he favors the US over Russia.  When he made the comment in mid-April 2007, RIA Novosti took notice:

“If you want to know which one is closer to me – the U.S. or Russia, which we saw in action in Chechnya – I will say the U.S.,” the candidate said…

“I tell great powers, including the U.S., that they are mistaken because they have not signed the Kyoto Protocol and that they are wrong in Iraq. But we have common values, such as democracy,” Sarkozy said.

Setting aside perfidious talk about “common values” regarding democracy, Sarkozy and Cheney may yet find at least enough common ground upon which to lay gas pipelines, specifically the so-called NABUCCO pipeline.

The Moscow Times says “Russia Faces Rougher Ride After French Vote” and notes that Sarkozy–like his defeated opponent–favors NABUCCO.

Sarkozy… support[s] the participation of state-owned Gaz de France’s participation in the Nabucco pipeline, which would reduce Europe’s dependency on Russian natural gas.

In a mid-April debate among the three top contenders for the French presidency, Sarkozy was the most outspoken in his support for NABUCCO.  Reuters reported:

The [three candidates] all expressed support for the Nabucco pipeline project, due to ship Caspian natural gas from Turkey to Austria, reducing Europe’s energy dependence on Russia.

Sarkozy went further, saying he was prepared to accelerate the project, led by Austrian oil firm OMV.

But Sarkozy is going to have to do a bit of backtracking from the campaign if he is going find a place for France along the NABUCCO pipeline.

Sarkozy’s relatively pro-American stance was decidedly not a “populist” way to distinguish himself from fellow “Union for a Popular Movement (UMP)” Gaullists, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and President Jacques Chirac.

Instead, Sarkozy established his populist foreign policy bona fides by bashing Turkey and the idea of Turkish membership in the EU.

There will have to be some fence mending with Turkey–especially among the fiercely the nationalist military leaders that forced Turkey’s Islamic-backed foreign minister Abdullah Gul to withdraw his Presidential candidacy–if Sarkozy is going to restore plans for Gaz de France to join the NABUCCO consortium.

NABUCCO is a Turkish dream for transporting Caspian Sea gas.  It is strongly supported by the US and the EU:

If it is built and made functional by 2012 as intended, Nabucco can provide an estimated 15 percent of EU demand. The Baku-Tiblis-Ceyhan pipeline was translated into reality from a dream. But what are the chances at this stage for the Nabucco Pipeline Project? The idea was conceived in 2002, within the EU’s Common Energy Security policy. It will start from Georgia’s border with Turkey, then run a 3300 kilometer stretch crossing Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary, ending in Austria… Five energy companies have already signed up to build the pipeline, namely BOTAS from Turkey, Bulgargas, Transgaz from Romania and Mol of Hungary.

BOTAS Turkish state-owned pipeline company, has led the opposition to Gaz de France participation.

If Sarkozy is going to position France as a core member of an anti-Russian bloc in the EU, look for him to become decidedly more “pragmatic” in relations with Turkey.