It is said that there are always two reasons for people’s behaviour: the reason they give, and the real reason. Throughout history, religious and political reasons have been invented to justify struggles for natural resources: firstly land, and secondly resources passing through or embedded in land.
So we find (in addition to what is essentially a real estate issue) that Israel is keen to commercialise development, production and export of major gas reserves in the Mediterranean and to export surplus gas beyond domestic needs from Mediterranean deep sea bed to EU Market.
Weaponisation of Islam
From the initial discovery of oil in the Middle East the strategy of the successive British & American Empires has been to weaponise, divide and return Islam to the Seventh Century with a view to controlling and extracting resources at minimal financial cost. The rise and fall of ISIS merely represents the latest evolution of this cynical and amoral strategy.
It is increasingly clear that ISIS military hardware and training were funded ultimately by the Saudi dynasty while details are emerging of a secret Israeli- Saudi-U.S. deal on Syria and Iraq with regard to creation and support for ISIS.
Whatever the truth of reports, I always found it hard to believe that US satellites which can read my newspaper were unable to observe columns of brand new ISIS Toyota pick-ups streaming across the Syrian and Iraq deserts, and the ISIS convoys of Syrian road tankers which carried oil & products which funded their expansion and cruel medieval governance.
US strategy has always been based on control of the entire region’s resources using Israel as an armed proxy, where Israel’s proposed annexation of the Golan Heights is based on potential oil & gas reserves in that area. It is with that background that we must view Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to Germany, France and UK after President Donald Trump on May 8 announced America’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.
The Netanyahu reason – “It’s an Iranian Jihad!”
In the same crass and clumsy way that Netanyahu attacked Iran’s motivation in relation to the JCPOA deal in the U.S. Congress, he now attempts to convince a much more sophisticated European audience that Iran wishes to “basically conduct a religious campaign in largely Sunni Syria, but try to convert Sunnis,” as he said at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Continuing
“This will inflame another religious war — this time a religious war inside Syria and the consequences will be many, many more refugees and you know where exactly they will come,”
This cynically and transparently played on the current wave of anti-immigration populism and rise of extreme nationalism in Germany and the EU.
Many regional observers agree that this narrative aims to prepare the ground for further U.S. armed and Saudi funded sectarian war, with the blame laid at Iran’s door.
The real reason – “It’s the gas, stupid!”
The Israeli gas partnerships Tamar and Leviathan, which are owned by Israel’s Delek and U.S. Company Noble Energy, have signed a contract with the Egyptian company Dolphinus as has the Cypriot gas reserve Aphrodite, in which the same companies are partners. Recently the U.S. Navy was forced to protect Exxon ships exploring for gas in the region after Turkish warships blocked explorations for natural gas off Cyprus.
The U.S. and Israel aim (as with the Southern Corridor from the Caspian) to use Mediterranean gas supply to Europe to displace the supply of Mediterranean gas to Europe by Russia and Iran.
Israel’s nuclear hypocrisy:
As Israel works hard to increase diplomatic pressure on Iran, new attention has been focused on Israel’s own nuclear capabilities and the challenges its program poses for peace in the Middle East. Israel began its nuclear program in the mid-1950s and the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) puts Israel’s arsenal at around 200 nuclear warheads. These warheads can be launched by air, by ground (intermediate-range ballistic missiles), or by sea (submarines or ships). Experts say Israeli missiles can reach Iran, or even Russia. It is also believed Israel possesses at least 100 bunker-busting bombs—so-called mini-nukes—which are laser-guided and capable of penetrating underground targets like nuclear labs or storage facilities.
So, while Israel has mastered weapons of mass destruction (WMD), Iran has not and will not, following fatwa by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. To describe the aim of Israeli prime minister’s recent visit to Europe as ‘peace & justice’ is hypocrisy of the highest and most cynical order.
Interfaith support for JCPOA:
All religions ultimately share the same values, even if these values are manifested and implemented in very different ways culturally and socially.
Of course there are divisions within Christianity with regard to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA between 5+1 nations and Iran. The Vatican supported the deal and pronounced it an “important step”, calling for a “commitment to make it bear fruit” and basically affirming the Pope’s wish for peace. It is also the fact that the Pope and Israel are divided on many issues, such as on the value of Iran’s deal, and on the Pope’s views in respect of a Palestinian state. Even the group Catholics for Israel has not opposed the Pope’s position on the Iran deal.
Christian organizations like Sabeel, Christ at the Checkpoint Conference and hundreds of other Christian groups do not believe that there is any threat posed by Iran either to Israel or any other Western country.
American Christians who advocate for the “deal” believe that the time has come to give diplomacy a chance. United Methodism’s Capitol Hill lobby office is one of the church agencies which denounced U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. In a statement they said:
We are deeply disappointed by President Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Iran Deal. Even though we are disappointed, The United Methodist Church will continue to support diplomacy as an effective tool for peace building around the world. As followers of the Prince of Peace, we can do no less. The facts show that the Deal is working, and the International Atomic Energy Agency continues to verify the efficacy of the safeguards in fulfilment of the terms of the Deal…Reinstating sanctions on Iran is concerning on many levels, but most pressing: it will worsen living conditions for the Iranian people. Further, the call for regime change of the Iranian government by high-ranking U.S. officials has all the markings of comments leading to war…We are encouraged that the other signers, including Iran, have signalled a commitment to working together for the continued implementation of the Deal… We continue to pray for peace, wisdom, and an increased priority for diplomacy with Iran and among nations across the world.
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, Presiding Bishop and the Rev. Dr. Stephen P. Bouman Executive Director, Domestic Mission of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in a letter addressed to prominent law professors in Iran Ayatollah Dr. Seyed Mostafa Mohaghegh Damad and Professor Dr. Hossein Mir-MohammadSadeghi have stated that:
“We want you to know how sad we are that our country has walked away from the nuclear accords and is again imposing sanctions against your country. We grieve that this will cause unnecessary suffering to innocent people. We want you to know that Evangelical Lutheran Church in America remains committed to peace with Iran.”
The letter emphasised that: “We share the same God.” and continued: “We will resist the sanctions and call the leaders of our country back to honouring the commitments toward peace we have already made in the nuclear accords.” The letter was addressed as an expression for their solidarity and support for an interfaith gathering of scholars in London during May 2018 and concluded by stating that they seek ways to influence their government to honour the promises it made in the nuclear accords. “We have prayed with you and worked with you to grow our relationship. We stand ready to continue the journey towards peace and understanding with you,” the letter concluded.
Israel’s prime minister drives President Trump’s policies through his use of simplistic and false stories or narratives based on myths and manufactured lies in respect of Iran, while being much more careful in relation to Israel’s relationship with Russia, who have shown their willingness and capacity to intervene in Syria and essentially have a veto on dominance of Syria by any faction.
The U.S. strategy of Energy Dominance declared on June 29, 2017 aims for “America First” global energy markets, through both financial dominance, through the creation of a new global oil market financial architecture, and real world dominance of oil and gas flows by the U.S. and Israeli military machine and regional proxies.
Europe now faces a crucial turning point in their relationship with the U.S., and the next few months will in my view come to be seen as a seminal moment in human history.
Energy for peace
One of the highlights of my career at the Ministry of Petroleum was the supply (not sale) of natural gas to Armenia in exchange for a supply to Iran of power. This evolved into what became known as Energy Diplomacy and an Energy for Peace initiative in Nakhchivan through ensuring energy supply during conflict, for humanitarian reasons.
I asked Chris Cook, energy strategist of University College London, whether Energy for Peace might be achieved in the wider region:
“The writer HG Wells observed that the only thing stronger than the will to power (domination over others) is the will to freedom (from such domination). Having been a friend and adviser to Iran for many years I observe that Iran’s constitution embodies the ‘will to freedom’ in that no branch of governance can dominate the whole, and the Supreme Leader has what is essentially the right of final veto.”
But he further observed: “The problem is that Iran’s sophisticated governance makes necessary action extremely difficult due to internal rivalries & lack of trust; the absence of an agreed strategic mandate; and the absence of legal trust frameworks for collaboration. My research has involved the designed & developed a legal framework agreement which I term ‘Nondominium’ because it is based upon agreement to a common purpose between sovereign individuals, enterprises and nations. When combined with the ability to create, issue and return credits (promises) based directly (rather than through banks) on the use of real world productive assets like land and resources, I believe that Energy for Peace is possible on a global scale.”
Being familiar with his thinking I entirely agree with Mr. Cook and can only add that the principles of fairness in risk, surplus and cost sharing which underpin Nondominium are those which underpin the texts and rules of all the great religions.
My experience with Nakchivan taught me that energy is uniquely value-free and objective, and that neither ideology nor religion has any bearing on the economics of energy cost. That is why I believe that Energy First policies based on energy cooperation will transcend America First policies of energy conflict, and I commend such a strategy to global strategic decision makers, particularly in the EU.
Mahmood Khaghani, now retired, had more than 33 years of service in senior international positions in Iran’s petroleum industry. He held the position of the Director for Energy, Minerals and Environment at the Secretariat of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) during 1996-2000. Mr Khaghani is advisor to Caspian Energy Grid- the ICCIMA Education & Research Institute and RIEMP-University of Tehran.