Friday, September 28, 2007

The Great Game heats up

Once again (I know I repeat myself a lot here), the indefatigable and indispensable M K Bhadrakumar shines a light on the current maneuvers in Central Asia.

The central player in today's episode is Turkmenistan, who possesses some of the largest natural gas deposits in the world. Back in the spring, it seemed that Russia had sewn up control of distributing its gas to Europe through a pipeline through Russia, but the Turkmenistan leadership seems to have pulled back from that commitment, and to be playing its suitors, Russia, the US and EU, China, and Iran, if not against each other, at least as equals. The Chinese also have an agreement for Turkmenistan gas that might be in jeopardy. Iran wants a pipeline as well, while the ultimate consumers, apart from the Chinese, is the EU. The EU has clearly thrown in their lot with the US, who is trying to develop a complicated pipeline that will run under the Caspian, through Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and the Balkans to Europe.

Understanding these relationships is key to understanding how and why things unfold in the news, but without knowing the background it's easy to believe the hype and misinformation that the media dished out. I believe that the current hype against Iran can be linked most directly back to these issues, not the bogeymen of nuclear bombs and Iranian support for insurgencies.

The incredibly mistaken attempt by the US to control the area by invading Iraq is part of the same equation. The US has established its giant footprint closer to the action, but rather than being a way of projecting power in the region, it sucks it out of the US. Despite this, the administration has managed to keep the Europeans on board, as well as the major oil companies.

Bhadrakumar concludes:
It may be twilight in the White House in Washington. A highly controversial era may be coming to a close. Bush's friends may be beginning to desert him. Der Spiegel wrote this week, "Sixty corporate CEOs [chief executive officers] who had previously donated primarily to the Bush campaigns - including John Mack of Morgan Stanley, Rupert Murdoch of News Corporation and Terry Semel of Yahoo - are now giving more money to the Democrats ... It is all too apparent that the political energy is seeping out of the West Wing of the White House."

But Der Spiegel's list of the 60 renegade US corporate giants cannot include the oil majors. Cheney and Rice have just about ensured that.


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