Neocons Grow Frantic over Iran Progress

With an agreement on constraining Iran’s nuclear program within reach, Official Washington’s neocons are getting apoplectic about the need to rev up new animosities toward Iran, an approach not helpful to real U.S. security needs, as ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar notes.

By Paul R. Pillar

The negotiations between Iran and the consortium known as the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany) about the future of Iran’s nuclear program are inching back into the news after being largely obscured by other diplomatic tasks and events over the past couple of months.

The two sides will be fully engaged in the talks during the remainder of this month, in anticipation of a late-November target date for completing a deal. We are hearing again technical and numerical details about centrifuges and capacity for enriching uranium that represent much of what evidently needs to be resolved for a final agreement.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani celebrates the completion of an interim deal on Iran's nuclear program on Nov. 24, 2013, by kissing the head of the daughter of an assassinated Iranian nuclear engineer. (Iranian government photo)

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani celebrates the completion of an interim deal on Iran’s nuclear program on Nov. 24, 2013, by kissing the head of the daughter of an assassinated Iranian nuclear engineer. (Iranian government photo)

But the significance of an agreement, and thus what is at stake in whether or not one is reached, go far beyond the nuclear minutiae. They extend to the capacity of the United States to address fully and effectively many problems in the Middle East and South Asia.

This week The Iran Project, a group led by former U.S. ambassadors and dedicated to supporting U.S. interests through diplomacy on matters that involve Iran, released a report on likely regional implications of a nuclear deal with Iran. (I am involved with The Iran Project and participated in preparation of the report.)

The report has some 30 signatories and endorsers, including former national security advisers and other former senior officials. A premise of the report is that a successful nuclear agreement, by resolving the issue that has so heavily dominated for years the U.S.-Iranian relationship in particular, is likely to have other repercussions in the Middle East.

This is partly because it would open up opportunities in the U.S.-Iranian relationship itself to address other problems of mutual concern. It is also because, given the importance of the United States to many states in the region, there are apt to be secondary effects involving the relations of those states with Iran.

In anticipating any such regional changes, it is important to distinguish actual interests and likely post-agreement behavior from what regimes may say disingenuously for effect today.

This is most obviously the case with Israel, where smart people concerned about a possible Iranian nuclear weapon realize that the object of their concern is much less likely to materialize with an agreement than without one, but where the right-wing government is doing everything it can to kill a deal in order to keep Iran in the international doghouse, suppress it as a competitor for regional influence and U.S. attention, and retain it as an all-purpose bogeyman to distract attention from things the Israeli government would rather not talk about.

To a lesser degree there is some of the same divergence with the Gulf Arabs and especially Saudi Arabia, whose preferences regarding Iran have long been subject to misinterpretation. Certainly the Saudis have long seen Iran as a competitor for economic and political influence, going back to the days of the shah. But the Saudis also have their own history of rapprochement with Iran, including with the Islamic Republic.

The two big Persian Gulf states, along with the smaller Gulf Arab monarchies, share an interest in not letting instability in their neighborhood spin out of control and threaten, among other things, the oil trade. Over the last several months the Gulf Arabs, probably stimulated by the prospect of better U.S.-Iranian relations, have once again moved toward their own rapprochement with Tehran, as reflected in some high-level visits.

Iran’s own perspectives toward the region have evolved significantly since the first few years after the revolution. In those early days of the Islamic Republic, there was a view that the revolution would not survive if it did not spawn like-minded upheaval in nearby countries. Three and a half decades later, Iranian leaders know that is not the case.

There still is an Iranian sense, more ostentatiously apparent under the shah, of Iran as a nation with a glorious history and rightfully exercising a regional leadership role. But right now the main Iranian goal is to get out of the doghouse and enjoy full and normal relations with the rest of the region. That means all of the region, not just a Shia crescent. As Iranians know, there are more Sunnis that Shiites.

Some of the irreconcilable hard-line American opponents of an agreement have been putting a few more of their cards on the table in the last few months and in effect admitting that what they don’t want is not just a “bad” deal but any deal at all with Iran.

Sign an agreement with Tehran and start lifting sanctions, they say, and Iran will exert more influence in the region, as if that were ipso facto bad. But whether it really would be bad, good, or neutral depends on what that influence would be used for, and how the Iranian objectives relate to U.S. interests.

In fact there are conspicuous parallel interests that the United States and Iran share in the region, and they have just gotten more conspicuous and parallel with the surge of alarm about ISIS.

The parallel interests are most apparent in the countries immediately adjacent to Iran, to its east and its west. To the east is Afghanistan, where after 9/11 and the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom, U.S. and Iranian officials worked very effectively together in forging a new and moderate Afghan political order under Hamid Karzai, until the George W. Bush administration slammed the door in the Iranians’ face by declaring them to be part of an axis of evil.

The United States and Iran continue to share interests in a stable Afghanistan in which extremists such as the Taliban do not rule, religious and ethnic minorities have their rights respected and share in political power, violence is not exported, and the drug trade is curtailed.

To the west in Iraq, the principal Iranian objective is never again to see a regime that would, as did Saddam Hussein in 1980, launch a war of aggression. The Iranians do not want endless instability on their western border. They want Iraqi Shiites to have power commensurate with their majority numbers, while they realize, as indicated by their welcoming the departure of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, that narrowly sectarian or authoritarian rule does not serve either Iraqi stability or their own interests.

They definitely oppose the rise of Sunni fanatics such as those of ISIS, as indicated by the very active support that Iran is giving to the Iraqi government in opposing ISIS. All of these objectives are consistent with and even supportive of U.S. interests. And on the last topic, they are directly supportive of what has come to be seen in the United States as a pressing policy priority.

The potential for, and the need for, greater coordination and communication between the United States and Iran should be obvious, and a nuclear agreement would open the door to more such coordination and communication. Evidently it is not obvious, however, to some of the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who questioned Secretary of State John Kerry this week and wanted to make darned sure that the United States was not coordinating with Iran about confronting ISIS.

Evidently some members, however much they may be fired up about anti-ISIS measures, believe that uncoordinated measures are better than the coordinated variety. Iran is more evil than ISIS, explained one member. Such attitudes are directly detrimental to the pursuit of important U.S. interests in the Middle East.

If the negotiators succeed in reaching a deal, by all means let us evaluate it according to the specific declared purpose of making an Iranian nuclear weapon less likely, and let us discuss whether the agreement does a better job of that than the absence of an agreement would. But let us also weigh an agreement versus no agreement according to all the other U.S. interests in the region that might be affected.

Movement toward a more normal U.S.-Iranian relationship would be a step toward making possible the practice of U.S. regional diplomacy without having one hand tied behind our back, tied by ourselves because we have subordinated so much else to the nuclear obsession.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)

17 comments for “Neocons Grow Frantic over Iran Progress

  1. Abe
    September 22, 2014 at 12:12

    The Iran Project report was signed and endorsed by Zbigniew Brzezinski. What did Zbig do, check the spelling?

    The Glossary is chock-full of acronyms, starting with AIPAC. Aber natürlich. No mention of SCO or BRICS.

    And not a whisper about the Iran-Iraq-Syria Friendship Pipeline from the South Pars field. Thanks ISIS. Hey, not to worry, the authors think Turkey would be a swell place for a pipeline from Iran.

    Oh yes, there’s plenty of surrealism in the Policy Recommendations. Par exemple:

    2.3 Syria

    Since there is no military solution to the Syrian civil war the U.S. should develop a political strategy that could achieve short-term humanitarian objectives leading toward a long-term solution combined with steps that could defeat ISIS in their home bases in Syria. After a nuclear agreement, the United States should consult with the United Nations and with other states to convene a Geneva III meeting, with the aim of achieving immediate humanitarian aid, a cease-fire in western Syria and a long-term solution to maintain Syria as a unitary state. The constitution would guarantee civil and legal rights for its citizens and at some point internationally-supervised elections. In such a process, the United States should seek the participation of Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iran, Turkey, and representatives of the moderate Syrian opposition. The inclusion of Iran would be a crucial addition that would increase the possibility of success. Now that Assad has begun to direct his military might against ISIS he should also be invited. Without these key players, especially Iran and the Syrian government, another international meeting would be fruitless.

    Um, hello, on 3 June, Syria had the first multi-candidate presidential election in decades since the Ba’ath party came to power. Observers from more than 30 countries issued a statement saying the election were “free, fair and transparent”. Predictably, the Gulf Cooperation Council, the European Union and the United States all dismissed the election as illegitimate. (But the 25 May Ukrainian presidential election was. Right.)

    “Moderate Syrian opposition”? Maybe Zbig did more than check the spelling.

  2. Hillary
    September 22, 2014 at 09:26

    Does anyone realize what an enormous task is was to create Israel ?
    The question is have these “forces” increased in power ?
    neocons representing mainly 80% of Jews who are Ashkenazi rule the US agenda.
    They have orchestrated the wars in Iraq , Syria , Libya but their main objective has always been Iran.
    Who dares do ANYTHING if Israel attacks Iran ? certainly not the US.
    The 0.2% percent of the world’s population with their nuclear might rule.

    • Masud
      September 22, 2014 at 14:43

      “The 0.2% percent of the world’s population with their nuclear might rule.”

      Work harder, don’t be jealous!

    • Abe
      September 22, 2014 at 23:00

      Since 1949 the U.S. has given Israel a total of $83.205 billion. The interest costs borne by U.S. tax payers on behalf of Israel are $49.937 billion, thus making the total amount of aid given to Israel since 1949 $133.132 billion. This may mean that U.S. government has given more federal aid to the average Israeli citizen in a given year than it has given to the average American citizen.

      Here’s why we “stand by Israel”:

      So shut up Americans, work harder, don’t be jealous.

  3. Joe Tedesky
    September 22, 2014 at 02:06

    You may all recall that it was about one year ago when the Neocon’s were crying out how this was a Neville Chamberlain MUNICH Moment! Weren’t they just the best of times, listening to their moans. Like Chamberlain’s not going straight to war to avoid war…Neocon think this means we drop the first bombs. This is really smart if that is your method of obtaining power. So why not?

    Ask a Neocon if we had drops bombs on Syria a year ago would we be erecting peace type infrastructure there now? Would the Syrian people be dancing in the streets, while waving American flags?

    If this p5+1 summit someday proves out to be a good diplomacy model will the Neocon’s learn something? The answer will be more about profits than anything else.

    There is a great battle for control. This control spans the whole globe, and all the way down to the local neighborhoods. Look around you, and you see more militarization than ever before. We stand in lines to go on planes, to get to games, to enter parks, etc., etc.,. If there is a pendulum well it better soon swing the other way. When it’s one its an idea, when its two its a conversation, when it becomes three its a revolution…keep the faith? Luke I am your father! What ever works, have a great day….Joe Tedesky

  4. Abe
    September 22, 2014 at 01:30

    Iran and Its Neighbors: Regional Implications for U.S. Policy of a Nuclear Agreement


    Ambassador Thomas Pickering, former U.S ambassador to Israel and the Russian Federation, mentioned that in the event a nuclear agreement is reached with Iran, the United States should enhance its ties with the Arab states of the Persian Gulf in order to ease any concerns they may have and more closely associate with Israel to highlight the benefits of the deal to the country.

    Ambassador Frank Wisner, former U.S. ambassador to India, Egypt, and the Philippines, argued that Syria can be an area of potential U.S. cooperation with Iran, given the significant role Iran plays in that country. He stressed that Iran’s positions on Syria are not frozen, and that while it seeks to maintain access to Syria, it is not wedded to the outcome. He also explained that similar to Iraq, an inclusive political structure is needed to end the civil war that has engulfed Syria.

    Paul Pillar, former National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia, argued that Iran’s priority vis-à-vis Iraq is to avoid a hostile government in Baghdad that could repeat the Iran-Iraq War. He said the Iranians are willing to compromise to achieve a stable political situation in Iraq. Pillar further posited that ISIS represents an area of shared interests between Iran and the United States, and that a nuclear deal would improve communication and coordination between the two sides in combatting the group.

    Barnett R. Rubin, Director and Senior Fellow at the Center on International Cooperation of New York University, contended that Iran wants Afghanistan stabilized, but not by Sunni extremists or through U.S. military presence. He delved into the history of Iran cooperating with the United States in Afghanistan and argued that with the current political crisis in Afghanistan, cooperation between Iran and the United States is necessary.

    During the question and answer session, Wisner maintained that the United States will have to make it clear that it has no intentions of diminishing its security structures in the Persian Gulf, which gives the Arab states a central position.

  5. Peter Sukontaraks
    September 22, 2014 at 01:19

    The opinions here are so refreshing. You guys need to get a job in Washington. Neocons should know that they don’t own and cannot control the Middle East. If at last Washington would realize that then we could start to work toward real peace. Violence and terrorism starts from paranoia. If not from the threat of religious extremism, communist expansion then capitalistic world domination. If we concentrated on what was mutually beneficial to all, everyone would win. I can’t help but think that the US sounds so out of touch using lofty rhetoric about LEADING a coalition of nations against an EVIL enemy. I could see diplomats from other countries rolling their eyes, probably thinking HERE WE GO AGAIN! as our Secretary of State tried to stir the emotions of a call to duty. The world is not our backyard. We can OFFER to mow it, but not tell the residents of the Middle East HOW it will be done.

  6. Abe
    September 22, 2014 at 01:05

    Robert Newman – A History of Oil

    There is in our own time an absolute taboo among the corporate news media and the political class against mentioning anything to do with the strategic and economic reasons for war.

    … because your good war, your just war has always been presented as a one off. A discrete event was no more connected to other wars than consecutive production in the same musical because otherwise all the ‘just war’, ‘good cause’, ‘humanitarian arguments’… they begin to unravel if ever a war is seen to be part of a continuous foreign policy that has remained absolutely consistent for a decades.

  7. Zachary Smith
    September 22, 2014 at 00:27

    My remarks are going to focus on the linked Iran Project report. As I read it, I noted some parts deserving comment.

    Iran bears substantial responsibility for the mutual hostility that characterizes relations between our two countries.

    Whoever penned that needs the Ann Landers treatment of “forty lashes with a wet noodle.”

    There are profound moral and legal reasons to retain a policy of trying to rid Syria of Assad, which is only likely to come through political means supported by military pressure.

    Unfortunately the author of THAT one didn’t consider some of the other monsters the US cozies up with. And Iran isn’t going to allow that outcome if it can possibly prevent it. So why the daydreaming?

    U.S. commanders appear more concerned by continued ISIS expansion than by Assad’s retention of power.

    This one bothered me: I don’t think it’s a good idea to consult “U.S. commanders” about US policy.

    Any nuclear accord that includes significant relief from sanctions will have to deal with the fact that some sanctions against Iran enacted by Congress have been keyed to terrorism. Thus removing Iran from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list would be difficult.

    This is a fact, and why on earth would Iran agree to anything with a serious impact on itself knowing Israel OWNS the US congress – both houses and would prevent the US from holding up its end of the deal?

    The United States and Europe would benefit from encouraging Iran to develop its enormous gas reserves and eventually provide Europe with an alternative source.

    Somebody has been daydreaming of using Iranian gas exports as a way to harm Russia and to drive a wedge between the two nations.

    I saw some mighty wacko stuff in the report. The bit about Iran being in an earthquake zone implied that their building nukes for electrical power was crazy. Maybe so, but did that stop the US from permitting plants to be local “earthquake zones”?

    Some of the writing may have been outsourced to Israel, for the drumbeat about Iranian nukes was ceaseless. There are worse things than Iranian nukes – Israeli nukes would be a good example.

    Recent news reports have Iranian leaders wanting nothing to do with the US efforts to recruit them (and Syria!) to do the heavy lifting against ISIS. I’m surely no expert, but dangling non-existent sanctions relief before Iran isn’t going to change that.

    Russia is slowly and silently removing sanctions against Iran. That’s bound to accelerate, especially if numbskull NATO efforts begin to harm the Russian economy. Iran’s population is more than half that of Russia, and the two outcasts would seem to be a natural pair. And from the report:

    In June 2013, Deputy Prime Minister Jamil revealed that $500 million in monthly aid was being sent by Iran, Russia, and China in the form of oil and credit.

    China hasn’t been making a lot of noise in recent months, but they obviously understand the final goal is for them to be in the crosshairs. Little tidbits like most of the US Navy being shifted to the Pacific to confront them. Japan being encouraged to fully rearm. So while they may be silent, they’re not being passive.

    A China/Russia/Iran axis is something the neocons and bankers are desperate to break apart before it becomes fully established. Their future dealings won’t be in Dollars, and such dealings must be prevented at all costs.

  8. September 21, 2014 at 22:10

    The future of all people and that of the new generations depends on how 9/11 is intended. A new and diversified World entity should investigate in regard to the authors of 9/11. There is no more need for another US led Commission like the last one. Also another investigation should be launched on Senator John Mc Cain from the same World panel after it has been revealed that he met with the founder of ISIS.

    “Here’s the problem. He [Sen. John McCain] did meet with ISIS, and had his picture taken, and didn’t know it was happening at the time.” —Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), in an interview with the Daily Beast, Sept. 16.

    When will it be the right time to neutralize the traitors of the Human race?
    These are not some of the many dishonest politicians or simple criminals of some kind. They deserve a category on their own.
    Who must be waiting what to change Direction?
    A World War has already been planned behind the backs of all people.

    Obama is under strong pressure from all media and from the many US politicians on payroll of Israel (like Mc Cain) to commit US troops on the ground against ISIS and to begin this War on behalf of Israel.

    The US president recognizes the Zionist trap and is resisting for now from sending those combat troops but will he recognize the next trap?

    This next World War would want to appear like one between two blocs: US, UK and Israel at the helm of a western bloc versus Russia, China and the Arab States for a presumed eastern bloc.

    The Conflict instead must be redefined from the beginning and fought only pro or against Equality without distinctions for Religion, race or Country.

    That is the only Solution

    • hillary
      September 23, 2014 at 09:24

      “The future of all people and that of the new generations depends on how 9/11 is intended.”
      wavettore on September 21, 2014 said:

      wavettore please explain …
      This is the second time I inquire as my first was not allowed.

  9. Joe Tedesky
    September 21, 2014 at 19:58

    The 1976 movie ‘Network’ has a seen where actor Ned Beatty says it all.

    Video is 4:44 minutes long

    • Joe Tedesky
      September 21, 2014 at 20:30

      Scene ….not seen.

      Sometimes the fingers work faster than the brain!

    • Joe Tedesky
      September 22, 2014 at 00:07

      “You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won’t have it! Is that clear?! Do you think you’ve merely stopped a business deal? That is not the case. The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they must put it back! It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity! It is ecological balance! You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multi-variate, multi-national dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds, and shekels. It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today”……

      “There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM and ITT and AT&T and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today. What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state – Karl Marx? They get out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories, minimax solutions, and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments, just like we do. ”

      Arthur Jensen – Ned Beatty, movie “Network” 1976

  10. incontinent reader
    September 21, 2014 at 18:34

    A most welcome article, and thank you for the link to the report. (And thanks also to Abe for his cogent remarks.)

    At least the adults have been weighing in- though, an interesting mix it is that includes Zbigniew Brzezinski at the top of the list. I suppose any coalition for this project would need his support, despite (or maybe because of) his curious Cold War pathology, if it is to be to accepted by the cynics and demagogues in Congress.

    I’ve always seen him at odds with the AIPAC neocons over the issue of Iran, whether because of his obsessive Russophobia, or loyalty to his former (and perhaps current) patron, Chase Bank that did so well by the Shah. I’ve thought that for him normalization of relations with Iran was not only a way to profit his patron, but also to woo Iran away from, and weaken, Russia- for example, by setting the two to compete over the sale and delivery of natural gas (and oil), and then inviting Iran to use a resuscitated Nabucco pipeline running to Eastern Europe, in order make redundant and/or derail Russia’s South Stream project, something the US and Brussels have been trying hard to do for a while.

    Whether or not Iran signs on to Nabucco- and with everything in such flux, right now it’s a long shot- Russia has already gotten a head start over the US in building a long-term relationship with Iran. (Consider, for example, the Putin-Rouhani love fest at the recent SCO Summit with Russia declaring its support for Iranian SCO membership, or, the recently announced agreement for Russia to build power plants in Iran, including two commercial nuclear plants.)

    On the other hand, for the US, even if it gives its blessing to a nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1, and US-Iranian relations are thereby ‘normalized’, it could take a long time for the U. S. to gain the trust of the Iranian leadership. After all, the sanctions have always been viewed as unfair and punitive- and they have hurt Iran, even though the country has managed to stay on its feet. After all, the sanctions were, and still are, based on the fiction derived from faux evidence (likely fabricated by the Israelis) that Iran had, and still has, a WMD program- and such lies and hurts don’t die easily. Moreover, the US has had a history of negotiating in bad faith with Iran, whether by making impossible demands it would keep bringing back to the table, or by ramping up sanctions, or, worse, by conspiring to overthrow the regime, facilitate terrorism by the MeK, assassinate Iran’s nuclear scientists, and contaminate and disable its computer systems, etc., etc. After all what kind of trust can you expect if it is clear you are trying to do in your ‘negotiating partner’?

    As an aside, I find it curious that on the one hand the report points out the competitive opportunities or advantages the US might gain over Russia, while on the other, urging the type of regional cooperation Russia and its Foreign Ministry have been advocating for a long time.

    If the U.S. wants to cash in, why not seek a normalization of relations that is meaningful and real, and not only with Iran, but also Syria- and Russia and China? There’s enough to go around for everyone to prosper if one accepts the premise that there’s much to do, and much to do it with, so that everyone can be a winner, but it will be slim pickings if we insist on winning to the exclusion of everyone else.

    • Brendan
      September 22, 2014 at 04:51

      Iran will be even less likely to trust the West if it’s been observing the dishonest and devious behaviour towards Russia regarding Libya and Ukraine.

      Russia was convinced not to block UN support for intervention in Libya because that was meant to be a humanitarian mission. That campaign that they were fooled into lending credibility to turned out to be regime change by military means.

      In Ukraine the Western foreign ministers signed an agreement with the president for a national unity government and early elections. The ink was barely dry on that document when the president was overthrown. The West quickly supported the coup leaders.

      The west’s recent thawing of relations with Iran is mostly due to the realisation that it cannot acheive regime change in Teheran. It can’t even stop the nuclear program now that Iran has massively increased its level of enrichment, quantity of nuclear fuel and number of centrifuges. All the West can do now is try to drive a wedge between Iran and Russia but its recent behaviour has had the opposite effect.

      Russia and Iran might be rivals for supplying oil and gas and
      do not have great cultural or historical links apart from a common western enemy. I’m sure though that they see one another as far more reliable trading and political partners than any western country.

  11. Abe
    September 21, 2014 at 16:53

    So many of these analyses of ‘security’ concerns in Syria, Iraq and Iran, including the vicissitudes of the Iranian nuclear issue, tend to conveniently sidestep the geopolitics of oil and gas in the region.

    The neo-con regime change projects in the Middle East all have aimed at restructuring the regional energy regime to benefit key actors. Iran remains the neo-cons’ ultimate target because it is a major producer.

    The Geopolitics of Gas and the Syrian Crisis
    By Dmitry Minin

    A gas pipeline from Iran would be highly profitable for Syria. Europe would gain from it as well, but clearly someone in the West didn’t like it. The West’s gas-supplying allies in the Persian Gulf weren’t happy with it either, nor was would-be no. 1 gas transporter Turkey, as it would then be out of the game. The new «unholy alliance» which formed between them shamelessly declared its goal to be «protecting democratic values» in the Middle East, although logically speaking the U.S. and its allies ought to begin this with their own partners in the coalition against Syria from among the monarchies of the Persian Gulf, which are questionable in this regard.

    The Sunnite countries also see the Islamic Pipeline from the viewpoint of interconfessional contradictions, considering it a «Shiite pipeline from Shiite Iran through the territory of Iraq with its Shiite majority and into the territory of Shiite-friendly Alawite Asad». As renowned researcher on energy issues F. William Engdahl writes, this geopolitical drama is intensified by the fact that the South Pars field lies in the Persian Gulf directly on the border between Shiite Iran and Sunnite Qatar. But tiny Qatar, which is no match for Iran in power, makes active use of its connections with the military presence of the U.S. and NATO in the Persian Gulf. On the territory of Qatar are a command node of the Pentagon’s Central Command of the U.S. Armed Forces, the headquarters of the Head Command of the U.S. Air Force, the No. 83 Expeditionary Air Group of the British Air Force and the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing of the U.S. Air Force. Qatar, in Engdahl’s opinion, has other plans for its share in the South Pars gas field and is not eager to join efforts with Iran, Syria and Iraq. It is not at all interested in the success of an Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline, which would be completely independent of the transit routes of Qatar or Turkey leading to Europe. In fact, Qatar is doing all it can to thwart the construction of the pipeline, including arming the «opposition» fighters in Syria, many of whom come from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Libya.

    Qatar’s resolve is fed by the discovery by Syrian geological exploration companies in 2011 of Syria’s own large gas-producing area near the Lebanese border, not far from the Mediterranean port of Tartus which Russia leases, and the detection of a significant gas field near Homs. According to preliminary estimates, these discoveries should substantially increase the country’s gas reserves, which previously amounted to 284 billion cubic meters. The fact that the export of Syrian or Iranian gas to the European Union could take place through the port of Tartus, which has ties to Russia, is unsatisfactory to Qatar and its Western patrons as well.

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