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Pipeline politics

Keith Parkins | 11.08.2003 12:50 | Analysis | Globalisation | Repression

US foreign policy is determined by access to and control of resources, mainly oil, but not exclusivley so, and access to markets. One of the few remaining untapped regions of oil supply is the Caspian.

US foreign policy is determined by access to and control of resources, mainly oil, but not exclusivley so, and access to markets.

Since the 1950s, the US has had to import a growing percentage of its oil demand, reaching a crisis in the 1970s, with petrol prices at the pumps doubling overnight and long queues at the filling stations.

The obvious solution is to reduce demand, but instead the US chooses to use its miltary might to take what it finds anywhere in the world and call its own. Dependent as it is on the unstable Middle East, the US is looking to diversity of supply.

One of the few remaining untapped regions of supply is the Caspian. [BVEJ newsletter #0020 January 2002]

Clinton spent much of his presidency wooing Azerbaijan. He convinced them they needed multiple pipeline routes for their own security. A route through Russia already existed, a route through Iran was out of the question, which only left a route through Georgia, under the Caspian sea and through Turkey. Apart from the hostile regions through which the pipleine would pass, there was the question of cost.

BP were asked to head a consortium, but were not interested. As late as 1999, BP were passionately opposed, by 2000 they were passionately in favour, and now head a consortium to build the pipeline.

A consortium of oil companies led by BP plans to build a 1,777km long oil pipeline from Baku in Azerbaijan, to Ceyhan, Turkey via Georgia, so that Caspian Sea oil can be exported to the US. [BVEJ newsletter August 2002 & BVEJ newsletter October 2002]

What changed their mind? During this period BP took control of two US oil companies, Amoco and Arco. BP is now an Anglo-American multinational. Like BAE Systems, which is greedily looking to US defence contracts, what is in the interest of US, is also in the interest of US companies.

There are also sweeteners. Turkey has offered to build at fixed cost the Turkish pipeline (back door credits to Turkey?). World Bank funding and European funding is being sought (BP given the nod and the wink?). We are currently in the 120 days consultation period for this funding. [BVEJ urgent action #0014, BVEJ newsletter #0039 August 2003]

Azerbaijan offers a strategic location for Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and southern Russia. US military planners no longer want large US military bases, too vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Instead they require base facilities into which they can move rapid reaction forces with less than 24 hours notice. Azerbaijan is willing to maintain such facilities for US use. Azerbaijan recognises real politik, orders now come from Washington, not Moscow.

US is providing military assistance to Georgia and will have rights to patrol the pipeline. In Turkey human rights will not apply along the pipeline, though it would be a mistake to assume they apply elsewhere in Turkey. Under Clinton, the US poured massive military aid into the region to subjugate the Kurds.

US has appointed a Special Envoy for the Caspian region, though his only role appears to be to oversee the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline.

Work on the pipeline has already started in Azerbaijan.

Keith Parkins, Oil and Turkey, Indymedia UK, 31 August 2002

Keith Parkins
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