As RAF warplanes screech from their Cyprus bases to blast Syria to Hell and back with Brimstone missiles, they fly over a block of gas fields. By ironic chance, Block 12 forms the shape of an aircraft (see graphic below); it includes the (misnamed) Aphrodite gas field. Calling a Cypriot gas field after the Greek Goddess of beauty is incongruous, but at least the temptation to dub the missiles ‘Cupid’s Arrows’ has been resisted.
US firm Noble Energy has sold half its Mediterranean licences to Israel’s Delek Group. Britain’s BG Group has agreed to pay Noble $165million for a 35% stake in a consortium with rights over Block 12 and Aphrodite, which contains a gross resource of 4.5 trillion cu.ft of natural gas. BG Group itself has been taken over by Royal Dutch Shell in a deal worth a reported £47billion. Shell is set to shed 2800 Scottish jobs in the merger.
Eastern Mediterranean Sea gas fields are expected to supply a significant amount of natural gas to Western Europe in the years to come. A pipeline to Egypt is planned.
Cairo, Athens and Nicosia aim “to have visible and tangible results through the joint projects”
With Scottish parents, Ian Taylor is CEO of commodity trader Vitol, one of the biggest trading companies on the planet and the ninth largest corporation in the world in terms of revenue. Vitol ships thousands of tonnes of major commodities and raw material around the planet – diesel, aviation fuel, benzene, bitumen, ethanol, methanol, coal, iron ore, liquid natural gas, sugar, maize, wheat, rice, soybeans and rapeseed. Vitol pulls the levers of the global economy. Vitol has amassed even greater profits during the crude oil price slump through storage and commodity trading, a process called contango.
Vitol is now working on a supply contract with Libya’s state oil company National Oil Corporation (NOC), which is based in Tripoli, Western Libya. As the sole legal supplier of fuels to all of Libya, NOC is seen and valued as an independent force for peace and stability, especially by the oil traders. It’s Vitol business, but someone’s got to do it. They’ll be meddling in Syria, mark my words. The stakes are high.
Anthropomorphising public bodies and organisations is ridiculous, although obviously charities do a lot of good. When giant corporations and commodity traders are attributed qualities and epithets like ‘philanthropic’, sentience suffers a blow-out. Fire ‘pinkwashing’ into a search engine. Vitol wants NOC ‘to continue to be independent’. Vitol helped the rebels to overthrow Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. Now it is taking sides against the official administration in the eastern city of Tobruk: guess why.
There are two rival Libyan government administrations following Western approved regime change – the internationally recognised government in Tobruk, and Tripoli which is largely under Islamic lines of control. OPEC member Libya has Africa’s largest oil reserves and requires guaranteed fuel delivery for its hospitals, desalination and power plants. The Tobruk administration is threatening to stop oil tanker deliveries and fuel exports.
“The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advise against all travel to Libya due to the ongoing fighting, threat of terrorist attacks and kidnap against foreigners (including from ISIL-affiliated extremists), and a dangerous security situation throughout the country. The British Embassy in Tripoli has closed.” Foreign Office advice issued on November 29th 2015.
With Libya and Iraq scorched examples of recent Western intervention in the Middle East, let’s return to Syria. According to US orthodoxy and thus propaganda, Russian military activity is primarily aimed at protecting President al-Assad against moderate opposition forces. The so-called coalition (US, Britain, France) was preparing to attack Assad’s government two years ago. More refugees are fleeing armed conflict and persecution from Assad and disparate forces than are being terrorised by self-proclaimed Islamic State. Indeed more are escaping intolerable drought conditions, just as mass social unrest and the Arab Spring were driven in part by an agricultural collapse which caused food prices to triple.
In November 2015’s Red Pepper magazine, Kara Moses wrote: ‘We should not be afraid to draw the links between the attacks and climate change, widening the narrative to a much broader systemic framing. The terrorism that fuelled the attacks in Paris, Beirut and Baghdad and elsewhere is not an unrelated, separate issue from climate change. They are underpinned by the same geopolitical and economic dynamics and the connections are being made with the refugee crisis, inequality, war, colonialism, racism and fossil fuel dependency.’
Saudi Arabia and Turkey fund the opposition fighting Assad and protect convoys delivering arms, smuggled oil and supplies to Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria. The Taliban loved the opium trade. Warships clutter the Mediterranean Sea. Congested airspace poses further logistical and military nightmares. A Russian airliner was scattered over the Sinai desert: Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet. The (first, planned) targets for the RAF Tornado jets who bombed eastern Syria within hours of a majority UK Parliament vote in favour of military action were oilfields and installations seized and under the control of Islamic State. Worth £500million a year, oil this is vital business, employing and supplying, as well as raising the funds to buy arms.
Russia is the only nation invited to be in Syria, which is a member state of the United Nations, supposedly protected under the UN Charter from “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”.
Not in our name – only two of Scotland’s MSPs supported military action. Bear that in mind as Eurofighter Typhoons depart Lossiemouth. The Chilcot report has been on hold until Cameron reversed the previous Syria vote in 2013. Blair’s dossier – ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction ready to go in 45 minutes’ – overshadows any debate. Bombing is no solution; it’s a simplistic, murderous response and should play no part in what is (in parts) a fractured complex geopolitical situation.
‘Tony Blair helped to create a powerful movement: unfortunately that movement was Islamic State’ – Frankie Boyle
In over 1000 words I’ve hardly touched on the 2013 Cyprus bailout, bogus batallions of 70,000 foot-soldiers (the ‘Free Syrian Army’; close to collapse, according to Pentagon sources), Iran, Afghanistan or Palestine.
On Thursday 24th December Syrian government air raids on a rebel-held suburb of Damascus killed at least twenty people, according to activist groups. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that the attacks targeted the suburb of Hammouriyeh. The group, which tracks the Syrian conflict through a network of activists, says there were women and children among the casualties. The Local Coordination Committees, another activist group, said the air raids hit residential areas, killing twenty-three and wounding many civilians. Nigh on 300,000 Syrian civilians have died in five years and 11 million citizens have been displaced. This is genocide and a barely-rivalled humanitarian crisis.
Peace talks – National newspaper article by Tom Miles, posted on 30th January 2016