No one can deny that one of the most important energy sources today is natural gas. The demand for oil has declined significantly especially in Europe because gas is more environmentally friendly and cleaner than burning oil, in addition to the fact that there is a market decline of oil reserves around the world while the price remains relatively high. Some believe that controlling the natural gas supply is the war of the 21st century, therefore anyone who controls it, will win economically.
However, conflicts between super powers are no longer fought with traditional wars and military might. This is of course very unfortunate to the 20th century’s super powers, as well as super powers’ partner states that are rich in oil. Gas wars are not military battles, but are much more complicated. Countries have already started a struggle over gas supplies and supply routes, and this is the main reason wars have started in key countries to those two factors (supply or route).
Conflicts and wars have sparked from Ukraine to Africa, from Central Asia to Syria (which has both, a large reserve of gas as well as being an important route being between 3 continents).
Briefly, all kinds of conflicts began with the supply of gas, its pipelines and the obstacles for their sale. According to several observers and analysts of the energy sector, the events in the last decade or so in the Middle East are primarily related to natural gas. The wars on Syria, Libya, Yemen aimed to control the gas markets and fields, especially after discovering over 100 trillions of cubic feet of gas in the east Mediterranean (Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel).
Generally, because natural gas is the world’s most strategic energy source, America, China, Russia and the leader of the European Union, Germany, have shown great interest in energy sources, especially gas, in the Gulf states, the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa.
Recent research and studies show that the United States began focusing on a project linking gas sources in a large number of countries to feed Western Europe ten years ago. Thus America’s influence continues as an international energy guardian, and the success of this tutelage continues only with the downfall of its influence in some countries, including Syria and Algeria. However, there will be six gas projects feeding Europe outside US influence from countries closer to Russia and its allies. The sale of gas is not only in the hands of Russia, it may not even be in dollars, but rather in currencies agreed by the BRICS. This guarantees Moscow’s influence over Caspian riches and the erosion of US influence in Africa, Asia and Europe and weakening the US dollar.
Gas production and distribution lines are directly linked to global geopolitics. But according to the International Energy Agency’s 2011 report, the world entered the “golden age of gas” during the first decade of the millennium. The geopolitical implications of this development and its expected impact on global demand remain uncertain. If we add America’s dominant naval power in the seas and oceans, its political and military influence around the world, and the fact that its economy is 15 times the size of Russia’s economy, all this leads Washington to believe that the upper hand will be in any confrontation over energy sources and markets. Oil resources and markets of the coming dozens of century.
By contrast, Russia and many gas-producing countries have strategic reserves, but they suffer unilaterally in the dependency of their economies. In the light of the distribution of the gas map between Russia and its neighbors, there are intertwined regional and international interests around the Caspian Sea, and its parties are Russia, America, and Iran (whose sale was directed towards Asia due to Western boycott) and Turkmenistan.
Basically, in the eastern Mediterranean there are 122 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and this wealth is a conflict between “Israel”, Lebanon, Cyprus, Syria, Turkey, Egypt and Palestine (the government of the Gaza Strip).
Natural gas may have serious geopolitical dimensions. The problem is also in the economy and lies in the laws of supply and demand. Gas resources in the world are limited and cannot be renewed even if their consumption is slowly rationalized. Gas resources are under threat of rising demand. This demand must be rare and depleted one day. This economic factor – rare – leads us to gas wars where global demand for gas exceeds the quantities offered.
This demand has made gas war a major pillar in the military, economic and political strategic planning of the world and presents a model for future battles. It is from this nook that the logic of the war in Yemen and the war in Syria and elsewhere in the region is revealed as a conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran or between Sunnis and Shiites, or it is the war of the rise of political Islam to be seen as economic wars related to the control of the world’s energy resources, Even if it comes to the destruction of historical and cultural achievements of countries and peoples such as Iraq and Syria for looting and domination.
Russia and the Gas War and the Russian military presence in Syria
The gas wars are not limited to the countries that export them, but to the countries that are crossed by their transport lines. They have become the life arteries of states and entities, means of pressure and compromise to achieve political and military objectives, which have become the main targets of regional and global powers.
Normally, the Gulf States occupy the world’s leading oil and gas shelf life. Saudi Arabia is the largest oil producer in the world and reserves of 264 billion barrels. The balance of power has begun to shift from west to east and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. The world is alerted to the importance of the Mediterranean route. It is much faster than passing through the Panama Canal at the end of the Earth or circling the Cape of Good Hope to South Africa which will increase shipping costs. Also, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has returned in the last ten years to strengthen its global influence either in its natural wealth and energy sources or in its geopolitical role in the Levant, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe. After the dramatic absence of Russia, it seemed to the world that Russia was still suffering from the repercussions of the Soviet Union.
As a result of its weakness at the time, Russia left America occupying Afghanistan in 2001 and occupying Iraq in 2003. Russia saw how American influence penetrated Central Asia and Eastern Europe and its countries joined NATO one by one, especially its neighbor the Ukraine in 2004.
Now since 2005, Russia has been waking up with new leaders. It has not been late in any war that threatens energy markets before it fought a war in Georgia to thwart a Western plan to export gas from the Caspian basin to the west through Azerbaijan and Georgia to Turkey. And then fought a war with Ukraine, which wanted to monopolize vital transit corridors between Russia and Europe.
The leader of this vigilance was President Vladimir Putin, who founded Gazprom. His arrival and his team in power were a blow to Washington’s policies toward Russia for the first time since the end of the Cold War, marking the beginning of the rise of Russian gas as a strategic commodity in the international economy. The Europeans seemed assured that Russian gas was guaranteed, secure and geographically close comparing to the import of oil and gas from countries as distant as America or from countries suffering wars such as Iraq and crises such as Venezuela. In 2009, an official Russian report revealed the purchase of 32 European countries for Russian gas, although relations with a number of these countries are stumbling, not rupture and others neutral in his relations in Russia.
The location of Syria and Lebanon in the gas war
Hezbollah threatened Israel with targeting its nuclear and gas facilities if it attacked the Lebanese fields
As for Lebanon’s position in the gas war, “the Mediterranean basin is one of the important spots in the gas wars, where the gas wealth is distributed between Egypt, Cyprus, Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria, Cyprus and Israel are exporting gas, followed by Egypt, Of this invasive wealth. ”
Syria has begun drilling work on land and announced by the Syrian Oil Minister that is discovered a gas field in the continent in the vicinity of the city of Homs. Syria is one of the main sources of conflict between NATO and Russia and the Russian interest in protecting its military base in Tartous to preserve its influence and economic interests.
If expectations are right, Lebanon’s gas wealth could be twice the reserves of the occupied Palestinian coast, exploited by Israel. Lebanon’s income is expected to be $300 billion, which exceeds Lebanon’s $90 billion debt.
However, On Aug. 17, 2010, the Lebanese parliament approved the oil and gas exploration law, while Israel announced the discovery of a huge gas field off the coast of Haifa dubbed “Leviathan” and threatened to use force to protect what it considers sovereign rights. Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah responded to the Israeli threat, warning that “anyone who extends his hand to this area will steal Lebanese wealth in Lebanese waters. Anyone who believes in the idea of striking Lebanese oil installations will be his target.”
The threat of the Lebanese resistance was enough to deter Israel, after Hezbollah’s warning to fire its missiles at any Israeli facilities built on Lebanese and occupied land water spaces, this fear by Israeli companies, pushed the Israeli government to abandon the construction of a gas liquefaction plant on the occupied Palestinian coast and export gas directly from the fields of “Tamar” and “Lephthan” to Turkey and Europe.
The information and opinions stated above are those of the author only and not necessarily that of Eurasia Future