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A strategic game-changer in the Near East? A recipe for war? Or both?


**Posted by Phineas

I wrote last June about major oil and natural gas finds in the Eastern Mediterranean that would be a boon to Israel if they played out.

Today at (the renamed) PJMedia, Jonathan Spyer interviews Israeli journalist Amiram Barkat regarding other major natural gas (and maybe oil) finds under the nearby Mediterranean seabed — an area claimed by Israel and its new friend Cyprus, on the one hand, and increasingly Islamic-fascist Turkey and Lebanon (1) on the other. While discussing the enormous economic and strategic implications for Israel, Barkat talks reviews the geopolitical dangers:

PJM: What are the latest developments regarding the dispute between Turkey and Cyprus over exploratory drilling for offshore gas deposits off the coast of Cyprus? Are Turkish Navy ships still in the area?

In late September this year, Noble Energy, a Houston-based company, started drilling the Aphrodite prospect within a maritime area known as Block 12. Noble, the company that has made all the significant gas discoveries in Israel, received the drilling license in Block 12 from the Cypriot government in 2008.

Turkey had threatened to use military force should drilling commence, but refrained from action. Turkey has two major claims regarding Cyprus exploration plans: first, as the protector of the rights of the Turkish minority in Cyprus, it aims to guarantee that the Turkish Cypriots gain a share in the future revenues from any discovery. Second, Turkey doesn’t recognize the Cypriot EEZ and claims that parts of it are actually in Turkish waters.

PJM: Is there a realistic possibility that this could lead to conflict between Israel and Turkey? Or has Turkey, as a NATO member, been warned against escalating the situation?

The strengthening ties between Israel and Cyprus underpinned by mutual interests in the export of natural gas could make the possibility of regional conflict involving Turkey a realistic one, though not in the near future. Israel is aware of this and an internal debate has been going on regarding Cyprus.

Looking from Nicosia, the choices seem simpler. Recent developments in the area have clearly weakened Cyprus’s geopolitical position vis-à-vis Turkey. Greece, Cyprus’ patron, is practically bankrupt. Egypt and Libya, traditional allies within the Arab world, are both undergoing a revolutionary process.

Against this backdrop Cypriot government officials openly invited the Israeli military to play an active role defending Cypriot interests. In private talks Cypriot officials are supportive of letting the Israeli Air Force use Cypriot bases.

As you can imagine, the simultaneous occurrence of new valuable resources and political upheaval in the region is as recipe for military conflict at some point — and, in the Middle East, that could come at any time. While one naturally hopes that the parties involved would come to an amicable arrangement, factors besides those mentioned above line up against it:

  • Turkey is under an increasingly Islamist government, and their prime minister may well be an antisemitic nut.
  • Hizbullah-dominated Lebanon cut a deal with the hated Jews? Barack Obama will sooner embrace Thomas Sowell.
  • The natural broker for such a dispute is the United States, due to our history of alliance with both Israel and Turkey, but, thanks to incompetent diplomacy Smart Power, we’ve increasingly alienated Israel and played the fool for Turkey, which is actively working to advance the Islamist cause. Now one doesn’t trust us and the other thinks (rightly) it can use us.

This is not a recipe for the lion to lie with the lamb any time soon.

Footnote:
(1) And letting Hizbullah (and, by extension, its Iranian patrons) get any share of the revenues from these new fields is a Bad Idea(tm).

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Phineas
Sister Toldjah

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