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By Jerry Robinson
In the summer of 2011, just weeks after civil war broke out in Syria, the Tehran Times released a report entitled, Iran, Iraq, Syria Sign Major Gas Pipeline Deal. The report provided details on how Iran planned to export its vast natural gas reserves to Europe through a pipeline that traversed both Iraq and Syria. This Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline would be the largest gas pipeline in the Middle East and would span from Iran’s gas-rich South Pars field to the Mediterranean coastline in Lebanon, via Iraq and Syria.
Syria’s strategic location, and its warm water port on the Mediterranean, have placed it near the center of a major effort by Western nations to pump cheap Middle East gas supplies to Europe and beyond.
Syrian President Assad has since rejected the Arab Gas Pipeline and has instead begun working closely with Iran on Iran’s proposed gas pipeline, dubbed the Islamic Pipeline. This proposed pipeline would obviously compete directly with the Arab Gas Pipeline and its goal of delivering Mideast natural gas to Europe.
But what about Russia? Why are they choosing to side with Syria despite the massive propaganda push by the West? Russia’s economy is predominantly based upon its enormous energy supplies. Much of Europe is dependent upon Russian oil and gas, and this dependency is growing. Russia has the world’s largest reserves of natural gas. Which country has the second largest reserves? Iran.
Iran, however, is isolated with no current ability to export its vast energy supplies to Europe. Russia has its eye on the potential profits of bringing Iranian oil and gas online for Europe. For this reason, (among a myriad of others) it has sought to solidify its relations with Iran. Of course, the most direct route for moving Iran’s energy supplies to Europe is right through the heart of Iraq and into Syria. So, it appears that Russia’s alliance with Syria has less to do with Syria and much more to do with the Iranian gas that may soon flow into Syria.
In the end, these conflicts in the Middle East are all about controlling the flow of energy resources.
Read more: Why Syria? A Story Of Competing Pipelines