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23 July 2013

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Matthew

Col: So the Shia Crescent is a commercial threat to the Sunnis? It certainly is to Qatar.

BTW, is Cordesman's calculus based on the belief that Russia won't do anything? It's almost as if he doesn't perceive them to be an actor.

robt willmann

At the Senate hearing last Thursday, Senator Carl Levin asked Gen. Martin Dempsey to give an unclassified assessment of using military force in Syria. Gen. Dempsey replied in a letter dated 19 July 2013.

http://www.levin.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/gen-dempsey-responds-to-levins-request-for-assessment-of-options-for-use-of-us-military-force-in-syria/?section=alltypes

You have to click on the link in the second paragraph of the web page to get Gen. Dempsey's letter in the pdf format. It speaks to costs of $1 billion per month at least and candidly states that the "decision to use force" is "no less than an act of war".

Then on 19 July, Senators Levin and McCain sent Gen. Dempsey a letter with six questions about Syria and five about Afghanistan. The letter is reproduced on the following web page and can also be obtained as a pdf file from a link on the web page--

http://www.levin.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/levin-mccain-seek-gen-dempseys-assessment-on-syria-afghanistan-policy-questions/?section=alltypes

Some of the questions call more for a political evaluation than a military one.

Tony

“Then it could go under the Mediterranean to Greece and beyond….” I am sure someone has done the homework, but wouldn’t the cost be way too much if the pipeline is to go under the Mediterranean? Wouldn’t Israel sabotage such a pipeline given its animosity toward Iran (and such a pipeline may pose a direct competition to Israel’s export of natural gas)? A pipeline through Turkey makes much more sense.

William R. Cumming

Russia is opposed to the proposed pipeline referenced!

The Twisted Genius

So there's an economic aspect to this mess in addition to the Gulf dreams of Wahabbist expansion and the Israeli dream of an isolated and destitute Iran. Something for everyone. General Dempsey's letter to Congress is excellent. I don't think it needs any editorializing. However, I doubt many in Congress have the intellect or attention span to carefully read this three page document. As a good friend of mine said, "Like pigs looking at a wristwatch, a little curiosity but precious little comprehension." The letter is available at scribd.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/155494643/Dempsey-Letter

Those responsible for our foreign policy can't think past a campaign slogan or war cry. Just look at the mess that came from "Anybody but Saddam." Although "Perdicaris alive or Rasouli dead!" does have a certain poetic ring to it

JohnH

Such a pipeline would provide enough gas to put pressure on prices, putting Israel's deep water gas projects in question. Could that be a major reason Israel that is so exercised about Iran's non-existent nuclear weapons program.

Also hurt would be Noble Energy, a company that hired Bill Clinton as its lobbyist.

turcopolier

WRC

I guess that is it then. pl

Fred

Isn't that "Israeli deep water gas" actually off the coast of Palestinian Gaza?

The Twisted Genius

WRC,

"Russia is opposed to the proposed pipeline referenced!"

And yet Russia is not keen to see the region in absolute chaos and turmoil in pursuit of their economic interests. Perhaps they, like General Dempsey, find the idea of rushing into war without adequate reason to be absurd. Or they may be more concerned about enabling the jihadists than we are.

Eliot

The pipeline would cut the Russians out, no?

Amir

No as the pipeline would divert the Iranian gas to Iraqi and Syrian markets rather than European and East Asian markets. LNG is a long way from home and building a pipeline to Europe would take another 20 years. Also remember that GECF is in full swing and it is a supplier world not a buyer's.

The Twisted Genius

Earlier this year Russia and China signed some major oil and gas deals. I doubt a gas pipeline from Iran to Europe would cause too much consternation in the Kremlin.

JerseyJeffersonian

If this proposed pipeline were to be built, perhaps it might indeed cut into Russia's sales to Europe. But then, there might be other customers quite willing and able to take up the slack: 1) China, which faces horrendous particulate pollution problems from its reliance on coal-fueled power production; 2) Japan, where the populace - justly, in my estimation - have little faith in a return to such a heavy reliance on nuclear power plants for energy production. There are countervailing forces against increased uses of natural gas in both of these nations, of course, both political and economic; but the Chinese would be wise to hedge their bets in any event, since the continued supply of natural gas from Iran could be interrupted in the event of hostilities, and Japan is still learning the cost of the disaster at Fukujima that originated in a reliance upon a mortally dangerous technology for a nation beset with earthquakes and tsunamis. Nuclear plants require ready access to coolant water, and this makes it seem logical to locate by the ocean. As is now being learned, proximity to an ocean when you live in a highly active tectonic environment can throw issues at your engineers beyond their skills. But even if you have confidence that the engineering is sufficient to anticipate and to build in multiple redundancies to obviate the inherent dangers of the situation, actually constructing to that standard might be just too expensive to be cost effective.

The politics of energy may lead to some major reassessments of many nations' long term interests. The past will no longer be prologue in that event. Our erstwhile swaggering behaviors on the world stage will be even more maladaptive in these changed circumstances. Arrogance not only loses you friends and influence, it renders you heedless to preventable errors.

Bill H

Yes. The idiots in Congress will read the letter as saying simply, "Yes, we can do it," and treat it as a blessing to encourage the President to declare war on Syria. Note that they should do the war declaration themselves, of course, but Congress long ago ceded that power to the executive branch.

taras

I guess we know who won the war.

eakens

Russia is also opposed to the Israeli dream of resurrecting the Mosul-Haifa pipeline. Their preference is that neither pipelines come to fruition, but take a guess which one they prefer even less so.

b

@WRC "Russia is opposed to the proposed pipeline referenced!"

Only as long as Gazprom isn't involved. For a share of 25.1% plus an exclusive license to drill for gas along the Syrian (and Lebanese) coast Gazprom and Russia will happily support the project.

William R. Cumming

The argument that "oil" is fungible meaning a world wide market should be of interest to all. IMO I don't believe it. The Western Hemisphere is largely self sustaining in oil if correctly produced and distributed. OPEC membership of interest always but it does appear that the Eurasian Continent for varoius reasons does need MENA oil for the next 100 years. I am fascinated that key figures and statistics on oil are seldom available to the public. But wondering how much time, effort and money is spent by the IC on "oil" issues. I long ago concluded that the civil agencies in the US government, including the DoE lack oil expertise and rely on organizations like API for their basic statistical inputs. It is also clear that the FEDERAL RESERVE and Treasury Department have not a clue as to "oil" issues. Does STATE DEPT.? Not sure! ODDLY the real expertise on BIOFUELS does exist in the Department of Agriculture. The Western Hemisphere is the real player on BIOFUELS.

confusedponderer

Without a reason?! What hyperbole, Sir!

Isn't beating Iran over the head plenty reason enough by itself? As long as there is one country in the region not inferior militarily to Israel, and not under Saudi influence, and not submissive vis a vis America that country must be put down!

Because it is that spark of independence that lets Leviatan sleep restless - after all, the absence of complete full spectrum dominance (and if possible beyond, just to be super safe) is the seed of future disaster. Did I say disaster? Holocaust!

If the Iranians have their way, build the pipeline, sell their natural gas tomorrow, they will thwart US efforts to economically cripple Iran, making the US lose face, suggesting US weakness. Since the appearance of weakness is tantamount to a devastating defeat, and scratches the egos of politicos building their career on calls to bomb this, that or that other country, this must not stand (be it only to not provide attack ad material to the opposition)!

I went though something similar in Kindergarten, it left me scarred for life. Just kiding.

That said, that sort of infantile nuttiness is something equally manifest in D.C. as it is in Netanyahoo's fever ravaged brain.

What about Turkey's abandoned "no problem with the neighbours" policy as a template for the Middle Easter? Wouldn't that be stunningly sensible (and isn't that sadly utterly unrealistic)?

confusedponderer

Dictated by geography, inevitably so.

"... to start in Iran's South Pars gas field (the largest in the world, shared with Qatar), and run via Iraq, Syria and ultimately to Lebanon."

confusedponderer

In face of Israel's naval blockade, the Palestinians can't enforce their right to these oil and gas fields, and don't have the capability to exploit them, so the Israelis firmly hold them at the throat.

From an Israeli point of view, judging by their record on building settlements on occupied lands, that probably means they see the fields as up for grabs and keeps.

Internsational law is in this regard not an Israeli concern. The Israelis have to the best of my knowledge not signed UNCLOS, so that's out. The US will protect them at the UN, and they will not consent to international jurisdiction over the matter.

jonst

I get the sense that if this nation is buffaloed into any misadventures in Syria, in the face of clear (albeit weakly stated)opposition from JCS, and ambiguous opposition out of SOME parts of the Executive Branch, the President, ostensibly leading this ambiguity, if we get in in Syria in the face of this opposition, we will have crossed some kind of Rubicon. And Carter would be correct...we no longer have a functioning democracy.

breathdair

OT, my apologies.

Col Lang, have you read the articles in the Sydney Herald and Telegraph about disillusioned defectors from the rebels to Assad?

turcopolier

breathdair

Is there a website? pl

The Twisted Genius

PL,

http://www.smh.com.au/world/syrian-rebels-defect-to-government-20130724-2qig1.html

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