EU lifting arms embargo on Syria won’t win the war for the rebels

The bloodbath in Syria continues apace and the decision by the European Union to provide arms to some rebel groups ensures that fighting will grow only more intense.

The hotly contested removal of the embargo on arming Syrian rebel groups will provide the rebels with much-needed assistance. However, it is unlikely to be decisive in tipping the war in their favour.

At the same time, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s Ba’athist regime has continued to receive extensive material support from its allies in Moscow and Tehran that will serve to harden and sustain its own efforts.

Spearheaded by France and Germany, the European decision to allow the arming of moderate opposition forces is aimed at putting political pressure on the Assad regime to come to the negotiating table, as well as counteracting the increasingly central role played by sectarian jihadist groups in the conflict.

European arms support for Syrian rebel forces will join similar efforts already in place by Turkey, Jordan and Gulf Cooperation Council states, notably Qatar, who have been sending arms into the combat zone for many months.  

Syria group ‘pledges allegiance’ to al-Qaeda

Mystery Sponsor Of Weapons And Money To Syrian Mercenary “Rebels” Revealed

(Zero Hedge) – Previously, when looking at the real underlying national interests responsible for the deteriorating situation in Syria, which eventually may and/or will devolve into all out war with hundreds of thousands killed, we made it very clear that it was always and only about the gas, or gas pipelines to be exact, and specifically those involving the tiny but uber-wealthy state of Qatar.

Needless to say, the official spin on events has no mention of this ulterior motive, and the popular, propaganda machine, especially from those powers supporting the Syrian “rebels” which include Israel, the US and the Arabian states tries to generate public and democratic support by portraying Assad as a brutal, chemical weapons-using dictator, in line with the tried and true script used once already in Iraq.

On the other hand, there is Russia (and to a lesser extent China: for China’s strategic interests in mid-east pipelines, read here), which has been portrayed as the main supporter of the “evil” Assad regime, and thus eager to preserve the status quo without a military intervention.

From the FT:

    “The tiny gas-rich state of Qatar has spent as much as $3bn over the past two years supporting the rebellion in Syria, far exceeding any other government,  but is now being nudged aside by Saudi Arabia as the prime source of arms to rebels.

    The cost of Qatar’s intervention, its latest push to back an Arab revolt, amounts to a fraction of its international investment portfolio. But its financial support for the revolution that has turned into a vicious civil war dramatically overshadows western backing for the opposition.”

More below the fold …

Just as Egypt and Libya had their CIA Western-funded mercenaries fighting the regime, so Qatar is paying for its own mercenary force.

    “The small state with a gargantuan appetite is the biggest donor to the political opposition, providing generous refugee packages to defectors (one estimate puts it at $50,000 a year for a defector and his family) and has provided vast amounts of humanitarian support.

    For Qatar, owner of the world’s third-largest gas reserves, its intervention in Syria is part of an aggressive quest for global recognition and is merely the latest chapter in its attempt to establish itself as a major player in the region, following its backing of Libya’s rebels who overthrew Muammer Gaddafi in 2011.”

That, sadly, is not even close to half the story. Recall from Qatar: Oil Rich and Dangerous, posted nearly a year ago, which predicted all of this:

    “Why would Qatar want to become involved in Syria where they have little invested?  A map reveals that the kingdom is a geographic prisoner in a small enclave on the Persian Gulf coast.

    It relies upon the export of LNG, because it is restricted by Saudi Arabia from building pipelines to distant markets. In 2009, the proposal of a pipeline to Europe through Saudi Arabia and Turkey to the Nabucco pipeline was considered, but Saudi Arabia that is angered by its smaller and much louder brother has blocked any overland expansion.

    Already the largest LNG producer, Qatar will not increase the production of LNG.  The market is becoming glutted with eight new facilities in Australia coming online between 2014 and 2020.”

Some more on the strategic importance of this key feeder component to the Nabucco pipeline, and why Syria is so problematic to so many powers. From 2009:

Qatar has proposed a gas pipeline from the Gulf to Turkey in a sign the emirate is considering a further expansion of exports from the world’s biggest gasfield after it finishes an ambitious programme to more than double its capacity to produce liquefied natural gas (LNG).

“We are eager to have a gas pipeline from Qatar to Turkey,” Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the ruler of Qatar, said last week, following talks with the Turkish president Abdullah Gul and the prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the western Turkish resort town of Bodrum. “We discussed this matter in the framework of co-operation in the field of energy. In this regard, a working group will be set up that will come up with concrete results in the shortest possible time,” he said, according to Turkey’s Anatolia news agency.

Other reports in the Turkish press said the two states were exploring the possibility of Qatar supplying gas to the strategic Nabucco pipeline project, which would transport Central Asian and Middle Eastern gas to Europe, bypassing Russia. A Qatar-to-Turkey pipeline might hook up with Nabucco at its proposed starting point in eastern Turkey. Last month, Mr Erdogan and the prime ministers of four European countries signed a transit agreement for Nabucco, clearing the way for a final investment decision next year on the EU-backed project to reduce European dependence on Russian gas.

NY Times – An Arms Pipeline to the Syrian Rebels

Qatar-Iraq-Turkey-Europe natural gas pipeline: from dreams to reality

ANKARA, Turkey (Today’s Zaman) Jan. 25, 2011 – Qatar is relying on being a major natural gas provider to fund its World Cup investments. In this context, it will be eager to boost its natural gas exports in the next 20 years. Qatar has the third-largest natural gas reserves after the Russian Federation and Iran. Qatar’s confirmed natural gas reserves were around 25.25 trillion cubic meters as of Jan. 1, 2009. This accounts for approximately 15 percent of the world’s natural gas reserves. A significant portion of its reserves are located in the massive North Field, a former marine field.

Qatar exports natural gas to Europe in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG). It has developed new projects in order to improve the yield of LNG to natural gas transformation. The LNG method includes the costs of liquefaction of natural gas, its handling in liquid form via special tankers, and its eventual gasification. Additional calculations will be needed to assess whether it is more economical to use the LNG method or pipelines to export natural gas from the producer (Qatar) to consumers (the European Union).

The sheer size of natural gas reserves suggests that pipeline projects may be implemented in addition to the LNG method.

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