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We are all 9/11 victims now

Millions the world over have suffered from the wars, terrorism and curtailment of liberty that have formed central elements of American foreign and domestic policy since 9/11. One Belt–One Road which was launched in 2013, by contrast, offers the world an escape route from the ominous cloud of post-9/11 American hegemony.

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September the 11th, 2001 was a dark day for the United States and since then, this darkness has enveloped the world like an ominous cloud, leaving behind it a seemingly perpetual trail of blood that shows no signs of abating.

Like previous American tragedies, most notably the assassination of former US President John F. Kennedy, few Americans or indeed individuals in the wider world still believe the official state narrative about what happened on 9/11. The precedent set by the discredited Warren Commission Report on JFK’s demise, indicates that those seeking answers and justice in respect of 9/11 may have to wait all too long before getting the answers they deserve.

What is clear however, is that the aftermath of the events of 9/11, continues to haunt the world.

On 9/11, even in corners of the world that were generally opposed to American hegemonic power, there were generally outpourings of sympathy for the victims of a horrific event.  This included sympathy from Russia, a country which subsequently erected a large memorial to the 9/11 victims which still stands in New York, but which receives almost no recognition in the media.The demonization of Russia in the US media in the years following 9/11 does not accurately reflect Russia’s steadfast solidarity that Russia showed the United States after 9/11.

While 9/11 could have been an isolated tragedy used to create a more united definition of terrorism by responsible world powers, it instead became the consummate excuse for the United States to wage illegal, deadly and counterproductive war abroad while strangling the individual liberties of Americans in the land of their birth.

Illegal NATO War on Yugoslavia 

In many ways, the US response to 9/11 was all too foreseeable. In this sense the concept of ‘9/11’ did not begin in 2001 but on the 23rd of March 1999. On that day, NATO launched unilateral,illegal airstrikes on Yugoslavia. In the process of the illegal war, the US destroyed civilian homes, civilians as they drove in their cities, hospitals, orphanages, a civilian television station and the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. It was a brazen act of criminality in which US General Wesley Clarke ordered his troops to fire on Russian peacekeepers at Pristina Airport. It was only a refusal of a UK General to execute the order that prevented what could have been a war between Russia and the United States.

NATO’s destruction of civilian targets in Belgrade

Adding insult to supreme injury, the US actions in Yugoslavia were fought on behalf of the terrorist group KLA, an organisation which fostered radical Sunni supremacist ideology and a group whose puppet regime in occupied Kosovo and Metohija, now includes a stead stream of ISIS fighters in their most concentrated numbers anywhere in Europe.

It was in 1999, that the then British Prime Minister Anthony Blair articulated a new doctrine of warfare during a lengthy speech in Chicago, a doctrine which retrospectively ought to be called the ‘9/11 doctrine’. Blair who in many ways masterminded the war on Yugoslavia, articulated a belief that western countries were in a unique, virtually divine position to make war abroad in order to push a unilateral agenda which western leaders tended to self-define as universally moral.

‘9/11 doctrine’ author Anthony Blair, former British Prime Minister

Before George W. Bush was even an internationally household name, Anthony Blair had declared 9/11 over the embers of a smouldering Yugoslavia.

Afghanistan

Shortly after 9/11, George W. Bush ordered the bombing of Afghanistan in order to remove the Taliban from power, who had ruled the South Asian country since 1996. This was the beginning of the longest war in American history, one which continues to rage and one in which the Taliban are widely perceived as the faction likely to ultimately win, even 16 years after Bush’s original seemingly temporary regime change war against them.

A US Marine stands in Afghanistan, the only war in US history in which both fathers and sons will soon see combat action in the same war.

The irony that the US funded Mujaheddin war against Afghanistan and its Soviet ally in the 1980s, helped bring the Taliban to power was an irony of history seemingly lost on many in the US after 9/11.

While the Taliban were certainly far from an angelic group, they objectively had nothing to do with 9/11 and nor did any Afghan. Furthermore, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the Taliban regime) offered to effectively hand al-Qaeda elements living in Afghanistan over, so that their culpability in 9/11 could be explored in a court of law.

Alexander Mercouris recently wrote the following in The Duran,

“In 2001 the great majority of Taliban commanders, and the overwhelming majority of Afghanistan’s Muslim clergy, were appalled at the way Al-Qaeda deceived them and abused their hospitality by using Afghanistan without their knowledge or permission as a base from which to launch terrorist attacks against the US.

Afghanistan’s Muslim clergy – the ulema – asked Osama bin Laden to leave Afghanistan immediately, and there is no doubt that that was what most Taliban commanders also wanted.  Several of them actually contacted the US via Pakistan and told the US as much.

The Taliban’s leader – Mullah Mohammed Omar – was reluctant to hand Osama bin Laden over to the US,  Osama being Omar’s personal friend, and Omar being influenced by Osama’s personal assurances that he had not been involved in the 9/11 attacks.

However under intense pressure from his commanders and from Afghanistan’s Muslim clergy Omar eventually relented and made it known that he would accept the ‘guidance’ of the ulema, with the caveat that Osama should leave Afghanistan ‘voluntarily’ ‘of his own accord’ for trial before an Islamic court in some other Muslim country.

Given a little patience the deal that could have been done is plain to see.

Osama and his followers would have had no option but to leave Afghanistan ‘voluntarily’ if Omar and the Taliban had withdrawn their protection and told them it was their ‘wish’ to see them go.

As soon as Osama and his followers left Afghanistan they would have been arrested by the authorities of whatever Muslim country they had gone to.  In 2001 that would undoubtedly have been Pakistan.

Since Osama and his followers would in effect have been publicly expelled from Afghanistan there would have been no question of them going to ground or entering Pakistan in secret.  On the contrary their transfer from Afghanistan to Pakistan would undoubtedly have been negotiated by the Taliban and the Pakistani authorities”.

Instead Afghanistan went from an effective hermit state into a perpetually failed state which it remains to this day.

But the war on Afghanistan was merely a prelude to something even bigger, something the American leaders were already planning prior to the war on Afghanistan.

The War on Iraq 

The United States was once a steadfast ally of Saddam Hussein, even though prior to that time, Iraq had generally been close to the Soviet Union. During the 1980s, the United States and her allies handsomely armed Saddam Hussein and encouraged Iraq’s war against the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The Iran-Iraq war ended in 1988 and in 1990, it was the US and its other allies who invaded Iraq.

While the Iraqi President was not removed after 1990, Iraq was subject to crippling sanctions during the 1990s and yet another US bombing campaign in 1998.

But it was in 2003 that the US compiled the most absurd list of false claims against Iraq and its President which paved the war for the most infamous 9/11 war to date.

The following false claims were made about Saddam Hussein’s Iraq by the US and UK in 2003.

George W. Bush’s Secretary of State Colin Powell lies to the UN Security Council about Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction

–Iraq was responsible for 9/11

This was an abject falsehood. Saddam Hussein’s secular Ba’athist regime was a sworn enemy of both Sunni terrorists like al-Qaeda and theocratic Shi’a governments like that of Revolutionary Iran. Since 1966, Iraq and Syria were effectively enemies after a split in the Ba’athist leadership.

–Iraq specially harboured al-Qaeda 

There was not a single al-Qaeda element in Iraq prior to 2003, but there have been many in Iraq since and there still are.

–Iraq had weapons of mass destruction 

UN weapons inspector Hans Blix warned the US not to make such unverified claims and that instead, inspectors should continue their investigation. In the event, they were not given that opportunity and not a single weapon of mass destruction was ever discovered on Iraqi soil.

–Iraq strike Europe with weapons of mass destruction in 30 minutes 

No such delivery systems existed.

–Iraq is a dictatorship 

Iraq was one of the most secular and pluralistic countries in the Middle East. After 2003, secularism effectively died in Iraq. Since 2003, Iraq’s literacy rates have gone down, women’s rights have been lessened, food has become more scarce, housing has been destroyed and Iraq’s safety went from virtually absolute to a hive of terrorists groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda.

The war in Iraq has killed over a million people and the death toll continues to this day as disenfranchised Sunni regions which once were secular and stable have become hotbeds of al-Qaeda and the child of al-Qaeda known as ISIS or Daesh.

From Arab Spring to ISIS Winter 

In 2008, Barack Obama won a US election on a message of “hope and change”. This was in large part, a reference to George W. Bush’s war in Iraq which by 2008, most Americans including future President Donald Trump, openly regarded as a disaster.

Barack Obama’s winning campaign poster

While Obama campaigned on a ticket of peace, he merely shifted US aggressive policies from a war on Ba’athist Iraq, to a war on a large number of Arab and Muslim countries whose government did not march in lock-step with US geo-strategic interests.

Invoking the ‘9/11 doctrine’ of Anthony Blair, Obama withdrew support for long-time US ally, the flawed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a miscalculation which in-turn unleashed the banned Muslim Brotherhood on Egypt. This ushered in an era of Sunni extremism that continues to haunt Egypt’s minorities, particularly Christians, even as secular rule has once again been restored.

Later in 2011, the United States coined the term Arab Spring, as a by-word for largely Sunni extremist terrorist threatening secular or Shi’a governments.

Like Saddam Hussein before him, Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafi was on good terms with the United States beginning in 2003 when he agreed to forgo his weapons programme in return for the opening up of business opportunities with the US and its allies.

However, shortly before 2011, Gaddafi was set to create a pan-Africa Dinar backed by gold, a move which as Wikileaks revelled was a prime motivation for the US war on Libya.

The ‘9/11 doctrine’ was invoked and the Hillary Clinton authored war on Libya saw the secular revolutionary leader Muammar Gaddafi replaced by rival governments and terrorist organisations, a process which has turned the wealthiest country in Africa into a failed state built on top of the world’s largest terrorist training camp.

It was also in 2011, that the US began funding Sunni extremists in Syria, in order to foment ‘regime change’ against the secular Ba’athist government in Syria which happens to be led by a man who is an Alawite Muslim, a branch of Shi’ism.

Into these battlefronts against both secularists and Shi’as, groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda flowed in. George W. Bush’s war, supposedly against al-Qaeda, had become Obama and Clinton’s war for al-Qaeda and their clones.

Meanwhile, the so-called Arab Spring wasn’t allowed to blossom in Bahrain where the US supported a pro-Saudi regime in its violent crushing of Shi’a demonstrators.

In reality, there was no Arab Spring, there was merely an ISIS winter.

A barbaric ISIS beheading in occupied Syria

The Death of Liberty 

Ordinary Americans have also suffered because of the post-9/11 realities forced upon them by increasingly tyrannical leaders.

Shortly after 9/11, the US Congress passed the Patriot Act which allowed for indefinite detention without trial, paved the way for the opening of a gruesome concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay which continues to operate, turned once welcoming US airports into weaponised fortresses, limited financial liberty for ordinary Americans and created an atmosphere where free speech whether political, comedic/satirical or simply ordinary conversation began to become increasingly censored.

Even innocent pop songs were not safe from the post-9/11 dictatorial mindset.

READ MORE: How western elites conspire to kill free speech–The Clear Channel Memorandum

Meanwhile, Muslims became increasingly victimised for things they did not do, while others who adopted a similar anti-free speech mindset, though in the cause of a different narrative, slammed anyone questioning more about the nature of security in the modern world as ‘Islamophobic’.

It was a lose-lose situation, except if you were Benjamin Netanyahu who said of 9/11,

“We are benefiting from one thing, and that is the attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon, and the American struggle in Iraq”.

Throughout this period, Congressman Dr. Ron Paul warned against endless wars overseas and war on liberty in America, only to be shunned by the mainstream of both the Republican and Democratic parties, even as his popularity among ordinary Americans continues to grow.

Ron Paul ran for President of the United States twice in the post-911 era. His voice for peace was unique among a crowded field of pro-war candidates

From 9/11 darkness to the sunlit uplands of One Belt–One Road 

While must of the world still suffers from America’s endless 9/11, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

During the period between 2001 and the present day, US power has declined while Russia and China have risen to once again become two superpowers who can shape the world using a vision that is antithetical to the endless 9/11 doctrine.

While in 2011, it looked as though Ba’athist Syria would fall to the likes of al-Qaeda and ISIS, thanks largely to Russian assistance of its Syrian ally and thanks to the fortitude of the Syrian Arab Army, secular Syria’s victory against Wahhabi terrorism is now assured.This in turn has assured the rights of religious and ethnic minorities against ISIS terrorists and was as assuring the rights of women in Syria.

 

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad meets his ally in the real war against terrorism, Russian President Vladimir Putin

Likewise, in 2013 China announced One Belt–One Road, the most far-sighted trading and commerce initiative in modern history.

China’s New Silk Road seeks to link the flourishing economies of East Asia with South East Asia, South Asia, Eurasia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe in an effort which will utilise modern commerce to create new opportunities for prosperity in parts of the world that have been left behind by the American financial monolith.

Crucially, One Belt–One Road differs from the American way of doing business insofar as it does not make any requirements on societies to change their long standing socio-economic traditions. Likewise One Belt–One Road makes no demands on partner nations to change their internal styles and methods of governance.

China’s One Belt–One Road

Chinese President Xi Jinping welcomes world leaders to the 2017 One Belt–One Road Forum in Beijing

One Belt–One Road is a truly modern initiative based on mutual respect–working towards a goal of mutual prosperity, which in turn offers the world a chance to achieve greater peace among people and nations.

While One Belt–One Road is still very young, it is a testament to the fact that there is an escape route from American hegemonic power which continues to be haunted by the spectre of 9/11.

CONCLUSION

Since 9/11, not only have China and Russia rebelled against US hegemonic power, but so too have many in the west. The election of Donald Trump is a testament to the fact that many people in the west are hungry for something new, even if Trump may prove to be anything but the answer.

People the world over want the 9/11 epoch to end so that the tears may dry, the wars might end, the money might be spent in more positive ways and so that with or without a clear explanation about what really happens on 9-11-2001, the victims from New York to Baghdad, Aleppo to Paris, might find that which all men and women deserve: peace.

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Republicans call Justice Department’s Bruce Ohr to testify, but where is British Spy Steele? (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 78.

Alex Christoforou

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Representative Mark Meadows tweeted Friday…

“DOJ official Bruce Ohr will come before Congress on August 28 to answer why he had 60+ contacts with dossier author Chris Steele, as far back as January 2016. He owes the American public the full truth.”

Lawmakers believe former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr is a central figure to finding out how the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid PR smear firm Fusion GPS and British spy Christopher Steele to fuel a conspiracy of Trump campaign collusion with Russians at the top levels of the Justice Department and the FBI.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) said Sunday to Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo…

So here you have information flowing from the Clinton campaign from the Russians, likely — I believe was handed directly from Russian propaganda arms to the Clinton campaign, fed into the top levels of the FBI and Department of Justice to open up a counter-intelligence investigation into a political campaign that has now polluted nearly every top official at the DOJ and FBI over the course of the last couple years. It is absolutely amazing,

According to Breitbart, during the 2016 election, Ohr served as associate deputy attorney general, and as an assistant to former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and to then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. His office was four doors down from Rosenstein on the fourth floor. He was also dual-hatted as the director of the DOJ’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.

Ohr’s contacts with Steele, an ex-British spy, are said to date back more than a decade. Steele is a former FBI informant who had helped the FBI prosecute corruption by FIFA officials. But it is Ohr and Steele’s communications in 2016 that lawmakers are most interested in.

Emails handed over to Congress by the Justice Department show that Ohr, Steele, and Simpson communicated throughout 2016, as Steele and Simpson were being paid by the Clinton campaign and the DNC to dig up dirt on Trump.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the role Bruce Ohr played in Hillary Clinton’s Deep State attack against the Presidency of Donald Trump, and why the most central of figures in the Trump-Russia collusion hoax, British spy for hire Christopher Steele, is not sitting before Congress, testifying to the real election collusion between the UK, the Obama White House, the FBI and the DOJ.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Via The Washington Times

Republicans in a joint session of House committees are set to interview former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr this month to gauge whether a complex conspiracy against Donald Trump existed among Hillary Clinton loyalists and the Justice Department.

“DOJ official Bruce Ohr will come before Congress on August 28 to answer why he had 60+contacts with dossier author Chris Steele as far back as January 2016. He owes the American public the full truth,” tweeted Rep. Mark Meadows, North Carolina Republican and member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

His panel and the House Judiciary Committee plan to hold a joint hearing to interview Mr. Ohr, according to The Daily Caller.

FBI documents show that the bureau bluntly told dossier writer Christopher Steele in November 2016 that it no longer wanted to hear about his collection of accusations against Mr. Trump.

But for months afterward, the FBI appeared to violate its own edict as agents continued to receive the former British spy’s scandalous charges centered on supposed TrumpRussia collusion.

 

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The US-Turkey Crisis: The NATO Alliance Forged in 1949 Is Today Largely Irrelevant

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Authored by Philip Giraldi via American Herald Tribune:


There has been some reporting in the United States mass media about the deteriorating relationship between Washington and Ankara and what it might mean. Such a falling out between NATO members has not been seen since France left the alliance in 1966 and observers note that the hostility emanating from both sides suggests that far worse is to come as neither party appears prepared to moderate its current position while diplomatic exchanges have been half-hearted and designed to lead nowhere.

The immediate cause of the breakdown is ostensibly President Donald Trump’s demand that an American Protestant minister who has lived in Turkey for twenty-three years be released from detention. Andrew Brunson was arrested 21 months ago and charged with being a supporter of the alleged conspiracy behind the military coup in 2016 that sought to kill or replace President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan has asserted that the coup was directed by former political associate Fetullah Gulen, who lives in exile in Pennsylvania, but has produced little credible evidence to support that claim. In the aftermath of the coup attempt, Erdogan has had himself voted extraordinary special powers to maintain public order and has arrested 160,000 people, including 20 Americans, who have been imprisoned. More than 170,000 civil servants, teachers, and military personnel have lost their jobs, the judiciary has been hobbled, and senior army officers have been replaced by loyalists.

Gulen is a religious leader who claims to promote a moderate brand of Islam that is compatible with western values. His power base consists of a large number of private schools that educate according to his curriculum, with particular emphasis on math and sciences. Many of the graduates become part of a loose affiliation that has sometimes been described as a cult. Gulen also owns and operates a number of media outlets, all of which have now been shut by Erdogan as part of his clamp down on the press. Turkey currently imprisons more journalists than any other country.

It is widely believed that Erdogan has been offering to release Brunson in exchange for Gulen, but President Donald Trump has instead offered only a Turkish banker currently in a U.S. prison while also turning the heat up in the belief that pressure on Turkey will force it to yield. Washington began the tit-for-tat by imposing sanctions on two cabinet-level officials in Erdogan’s government: Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu and Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul. Ankara has now also been on the receiving end of a Trump tweet and tariffs have been placed on a broad range of Turkish products, to include steel and aluminum.

The view that economic pressure will force the Turks to yield could be mistaken and demonstrates that the Administration does not include anyone who knows that Americans have been unpopular in Turkey since the Gulf War. The threats from Washington might actually rally skeptical and normally pro-western Turks around Erdogan but U.S. sanctions have already hit the Turkish economy hard, with the lira having lost 40% of its value this year and continuing to sink rapidly. Foreign investors, who fueled much of Turkey’s recent economic growth, have fled the market, suggesting that a collapse in credit might be on the way. Those European banks that hold Turkish debt are fearing a possible default.

It is a spectacle of one NATO member driving another NATO member’s economy into the ground over a political dispute. Erdogan has responded in his autocratic fashion by condemning “interest rates” and calling for an “economic war” against the U.S., telling his supporters to unload all their liquid valuables, gold and foreign to buy the plummeting lira, a certain recipe for disaster. If they do that, they will likely lose everything.

Other contentious issues involved in the badly damaged bilateral relationship are conflicting views on what to do about Syria, where the Turks have a legitimate interest due to potential Kurdish terrorism and are seeking a buffer zone, as well as Ankara’s interest in buying Russian air defense missile systems, which has prompted the U.S. to suspend sales of the new F-35 fighter. The Turks have also indicated that they have no interest in enforcing the sanctions on Iran that were re-imposed last week and they will continue to buy Iranian oil after the November 4th initiation of a U.S. ban on such purchases. The Trump Administration has warned that it will sanction any country that refuses to comply, setting the stage for a massive confrontation between Washington and Ankara involving the Turkish Central Bank.

In terms of U.S. interests, Turkey, which has the second largest army in NATO, is of strategic value because it is Muslim, countering arguments that the alliance is some kind of Christian club working to suppress Islam in the Middle East. And it is also important because of its geographic location close to hot spots where the American military is currently engaged. If the U.S. heeds Trump’s call to cut back on involvement in the region, Turkey will become less valuable, but currently, access to the Incirlik Airbase, near Adana and the Syrian border, is vital.

Indeed, Incirlik has become one of the flashpoints in the argument with Washington. Last week, a group of lawyers connected politically to Erdogan initiated legal action against U.S. officers at Incirlik over claimed ties to “terrorists” linked to Gulen. The “Association for Social Justice and Aid” has called for a temporary halt to all operations at the base to permit a search for evidence. The attorneys are asking for the detention of seven named American Colonels and Lieutenant Colonels. General Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command based in Germany is also cited. If the lawyers are successful in court, it will mean a major conflict as Washington asserts the rights of the officers under the Status of Forces Agreement, while Turkey will no doubt insist that the Americans are criminals and have no protection.

Another trial balloon being floated by Erdogan is even more frightening in terms of the demons that it could be unleashing. Abdurrahman Dilipak, an Islamist columnist writing in the pro-government newspaper Yeni Atik, has suggested that there might well be a second terrorist attack on the United States like 9/11. Dilipak threatened that if Trump does nothing to reduce tension “…some people will teach him [to do] that. It must be seen that if internal tensions with the United States continue like this that a September 11 is no unlikely possibility.” Dilipak also warned that presumed Gulenist “U.S. collaborators” inside Turkey would be severely punished if they dared to go out into the streets to protest in support of Washington.

If recent developments in Turkey deteriorate further it might well suggest that Donald Trump’s instinct to disengage from the Middle East was the right call, though it could equally be seen as a rejection of the tactic being employed, i.e. using heavy-handed sanctions and tariffs to compel obedience from governments disinclined to follow Washington’s leadership. Either way, the Turkish-American relationship is in trouble and increasingly a liability for both sides, yet another indication that the NATO alliance forged in 1949 against the Soviet Union is today largely irrelevant.

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Is This The Most Important Geopolitical Deal Of 2018?

After more than 20 years of fraught diplomatic efforts, the five littoral Caspian nations agreed upon a legal framework for sharing the world’s largest inland body of water.

The Duran

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Authored by Olgu Okumus via Oilprice.com:


The two-decade-long dispute on the statute of the Caspian Sea, the world largest water reserve, came to an end last Sunday when five littoral states (Russia, Iran, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan) agreed to give it a special legal status – it is now neither a sea, nor a lake. Before the final agreement became public, the BBC wrote that all littoral states will have the freedom of access beyond their territorial waters, but natural resources will be divided up. Russia, for its part, has guaranteed a military presence in the entire basin and won’t accept any NATO forces in the Caspian.

Russian energy companies can explore the Caspian’s 50 billion barrels of oil and its 8.4 trillion cubic meters of natural gas reserves, Turkmenistan can finally start considering linking its gas to the Turkish-Azeri joint project TANAP through a trans-Caspian pipeline, while Iran has gained increased energy supplies for its largest cities in the north of the country (Tehran, Tabriz, and Mashhad) – however, Iran has also put itself under the shadow of Russian ships. This controversy makes one wonder to what degree U.S. sanctions made Iran vulnerable enough to accept what it has always avoided – and how much these U.S. sanctions actually served NATO’s interests.

If the seabed, rich in oil and gas, is divided this means more wealth and energy for the region. From 1970 until the dissolution of the Soviet Union (USSR) in 1991, the Caspian Sea was divided into subsectors for Azerbaijan, Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan – all constituent republics of the USSR. The division was implemented on the basis of the internationally-accepted median line.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the new order required new regulations. The question was over whether the Caspian was a sea or a lake? If it was treated as a sea, then it would have to be covered by international maritime law, namely the United Nations Law of the Sea. But if it is defined as a lake, then it could be divided equally between all five countries. The so-called “lake or sea” dispute revolved over the sovereignty of states, but also touched on some key global issues – exploiting oil and gas reserves in the Caspian Basin, freedom of access, the right to build beyond territorial waters, access to fishing and (last but not least) managing maritime pollution.

The IEA concluded in World Energy Outlook (WEO) 2017 that offshore energy has a promising future. More than a quarter of today’s oil and gas supply is produced offshore, and integrated offshore thinking will extend this beyond traditional sources onwards to renewables and more. Caspian offshore hydrocarbon reserves are around 50 billion barrels of oil equivalent (equivalent to one third of Iraq’s total oil reserves) and 8.4 trillion cubic meters of gas (almost equivalent to the U.S.’ entire proven gas reserves). As if these quantities were not themselves enough to rebalance Eurasian energy demand equations, the agreement will also allow Turkmenistan to build the Trans-Caspian pipeline, connecting Turkmenistan’s resources to the Azeri-Turkish joint project TANAP, and onwards to Europe – this could easily become a counter-balance factor to the growing LNG business in Europe.

Even though we still don’t have firm and total details on the agreement, Iran seems to have gained much less than its neighbors, as it has shortest border on the Caspian. From an energy perspective, Iran would be a natural market for the Caspian basin’s oil and gas, as Iran’s major cities (Tehran, Tabriz, and Mashhad) are closer to the Caspian than they are to Iran’s major oil and gas fields. Purchasing energy from the Caspian would also allow Iran to export more of its own oil and gas, making the country a transit route from the Caspian basin to world markets. For instance, for Turkmenistan (who would like to sell gas to Pakistan) Iran provides a convenient geography. Iran could earn fees for swap arrangements or for providing a transit route and justify its trade with Turkey and Turkmenistan as the swap deal is allowed under the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA, or the D’Amato Act).

If the surface water will be in common usage, all littoral states will have access beyond their territorial waters. In practical terms, this represents an increasingly engaged Russian presence in the Basin. It also reduces any room for a NATO presence, as it seems to be understood that only the five littoral states will have a right to military presence in the Caspian. Considering the fact that Russia has already used its warships in the Caspian to launch missile attacks on targets within Syria, this increased Russian presence could potentially turn into a security threat for Iran.

Many questions can now be asked on what Tehran might have received in the swap but one piece of evidence for what might have pushed Iran into agreement in its vulnerable position in the face of increased U.S. sanctions. Given that the result of those sanctions seems to be Iran agreeing to a Caspian deal that allows Russia to place warships on its borders, remove NATO from the Caspian basin equation, and increase non-Western based energy supplies (themselves either directly or indirectly within Russia’s sphere of geopolitical influence) it makes one wonder whose interests those sanctions actually served?

By Olgu Okumus for Oilprice.com

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