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The Great Afghan Oil Pipeline Disaster

Comic Relief For a War-Torn World

By Jared Israel
[Posted 6 March 2003]

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[ www.tenc.net ]

We have received several emails questioning my observation that there is *still* no pipeline being built through Afghanistan. This observation was made in the article, "Zalmay Khalilzad: Envoy for Islamic Terror." [1]

Readers point to reports from Pakistan and elsewhere, supposedly contradicting me. These reports supposedly state that a pipeline *is* being built.

Several points on this.

First, just for the sake of accuracy, the pipeline in question is a gas pipeline. Nobody is talking about building an oil pipeline through Afghanistan.

Second, the news reports do *not* say a pipeline is being built. Indeed, the recent press conference of the consortium of Central Asia governments *wishing* to have a gas pipeline made it clear that so far, all they are having is problems. More on that in a moment.

Third, according to the news reports, the people who want the pipeline are the governments of *Central Asian states*. Not the oil companies. No oil company is ever mentioned for the good reason that none has expressed any interest.

This is very important. At issue is the claim made by those arguing that the recent Afghan war was fought to make money for Unocal and or other oil companies by building a gas pipeline through Afghanistan. Note that they do not say the war was fought because Central Asian governments wanted a pipeline. They say oil companies wanted the pipeline.

Yet here are the Central Asians pushing - with some desperation, as we shall see in a moment - for a pipeline, but they have as yet no oil company suitors! Why would the U.S. fight a war to get oil companies something for which they manifest so little desire? [2]

I have posted the full text of the TAP press conference concerning the pipeline, as reported by Pakistani Newswire. It can be read at footnote [7] at the end.

TAP stands for Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is the regional organization of governments trying to get a pipeline through Afghanistan, with the intent of selling Turkmenistan's natural gas to somebody. Maybe India.

I have taken an excerpt from the TAP press conference report, summarizing the facts. I've broken it into four little parts, thus permitting me to comment, point by point.

Here is the first part of the excerpt. (You can read the excerpt in context at footnote [7] at the end)

1) "He [i.e., Pakistani Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Nouraiz Shakoor - EC] said as per the protocol, the three countries agreed to complete feasibility report of the project before September this year."

----------------------

* My Comment *

Huh? They don't even have a feasibility study yet?

  • feaˇsiˇble (fęšze-bel) adjective
    1.
    Capable of being accomplished or brought about; possible: a feasible plan. See synonyms at possible.
  • So. As yet, there is no business plan showing that a pipeline is *possible*.

    ----------------------

    * Back to the excerpt *

    2) "The Minister said that the meeting was told that draft of pre-qualification document for formation of the consortium would be ready by end of March this year. 'The draft will be issued to oil and gas companies in April while it will be submitted for qualification by July this year', he added."

    ---------------------

    * My Comment *

    They expect to *start* seriously trying to get backing from some oil company or companies in *April*. And keep in mind - there will be no feasibility study until the fall...or so they hope...or maybe winter...or...

    ----------------------

    * Back to the excerpt *

    3) "The Minister said [that] since the viability of the project depends upon the extension of the pipeline to India, it was agreed that the parties acting jointly, would formally forward the documents of the TAP to government of India, inviting them to join the project."

    ----------------------

    * My Comment *

    Ah yes; India is the potential customer. Turkmenistan produces the gas; it passes through Afghanistan and Pakistan and gets sold to India. Anyway, that's the hope. The reality is: no customer, no project. That's why Minister Shakoor says, "...the viability of the project depends upon the extension of the pipeline to India..."

    But TAP is only now going to approach India.

    Why have they waited so long?

    The Australian Financial Review answered this question in an article entitled, "Pipeline Plan Another Casualty." [3]

    [Start Excerpt from "Pipeline Plan Another Casualty"]

    But India will not take the simple option of piping Pars gas across Pakistan.

    "We have not spoken to Pakistan on this and we are not going to talk to them," India's Petroleum Minister, Ram Naik, said last week.

    Instead, India intends to pursue the more expensive and technically challenging option of an undersea pipeline.

    This is a striking demonstration of the cost of the Kashmir dispute not just to India and Pakistan but to other countries in the region

    [End Excerpt from "Pipeline Plan Another Casualty"]

    Without India (the customer) the plan is not viable. Obviously TAP has been hesitant to publicly ask India because they have known from behind-the-scenes contact (and common sense!) that India, which is in a nuclear stand-off with Pakistan(!), would say, "No!"

    Is this a business deal or the romantic tribulations of high school students? ("I don't want to ask her for a date 'cause I *know* she hates me!)

    ----------------------

    * Back to the excerpt from the TAP press conference *

    4) "He [i.e., Pakistani Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Nouraiz Shakoor] however, made it clear the project would continue even if the Indian government decides to stay away from the project."

    ----------------------

    * My Comment *

    Knowing, as of course they do, that India *has* said it will "stay away from the project," because it won't touch any pipeline passing through Pakistan, TAP adds this point about continuing "even if" India says no! Which is all well and good, but didn't the Pakistani Minister just say, in the sentence before, that without India the plan is not viable?

  • viˇaˇble (věše-bel) adjective
    Capable of success or continuing effectiveness; practicable: a viable plan; a viable national economy. See synonyms at
    possible
  • I mean it is admirable to continue on the automobile journey, come what may, but how far can one get without wheels?

    How are they going to approach these oil companies which have so far expressed zero interest? Shall they address them as follows:

    "O Esteemed Oil Barons! Sponsor us! By fall we shall have with certainty a feasibility study of the plan to sell our splendid gas, for which we promise, there will be no customers!"

    ========================================================

    What if they offered a pipeline and nobody came?

    ========================================================

    The US-led Empire has a *very* good reason to want a pipeline through Afghanistan. It is a political - not an economic - reason. That reason is Turkmenistan. [4]

    As Mr. Khalilzad told the LA Council on World Affairs three years ago, a pipeline through Afghanistan would be helpful for luring Central Asian states away from Russia. [5]

    That's because the Central Asian states *would love* such a pipeline - not because oil companies would love it.

    That being the case, it is remarkable that so far the Empire has been unsuccessful in forcing some oil company to get involved in this deal.

    What's the matter with these oil companies? Why don't they get with the program?

    They do not get with the program because a) they like to make money and so far there is no customer for Turkmenistan's gas and b) Central Asia is beset with low-intensity war.

    Nobody wants to build a pipeline where you are liable to get shot during the opening ceremony after which terrorists blow the pipeline to smithereens. (Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?)

    Regarding this small matter of getting shot at, note that the TAP press conference includes the following remarkable passage:

    "Replying to a question, [the] Afghan Minister for Mines and Industries dismissed security fears about the safety of the pipeline. 'As far as security of the pipeline is concerned, we don't consider it as an issue,' he said stressing that the situation was *improving* in Afghanistan." [7] [My emphasis.]

    Ahh, improving.

    Since when is an "improving" security situation one about which there should be no concern? Is any oil company going to build an oil pipeline in the *hope* that by the time they're ready to pump gas through the thing, Afghanistan will be safe? Is this a press conference or a showcase for the three stooges?

    [Note added March 7th: Perhaps my humor above is inappropriate. I did not make the connection between the Afghan Minister for Mines and Industries, who made the comments about security, and Jumma Mohammad Mohammadi: they are one and the same.

    Mr. Mohammadi died along with 7 other people when their Cessna crashed two days after the press conference. Of course, the crash may be a coincidence. But it does provide an unfortunate backdrop to the late Jumma Mohammad Mohammadi's comments that as far as Afghan security is concerned, "...we don't consider it as an issue."]

    ========================================================

    Meanwhile, Back in Russia...

    ========================================================

    The Russians are doing a good deal better. On February 28th, World Gas Intelligence reported the following: [6]

    [Start Excerpt from Article in World Gas Intelligence]

    As part of a campaign to pull Turkmen gas back into the supply-short Russian system after years of excluding the Central Asian producer, Gazprom is trumpeting a plan to build a new 700 kilometer, 30 billion-40 billion cubic meter per year pipeline to carry the volumes that the Russian gas company aims to purchase from Turkmenistan beginning in 2007.

    This would provide an alternative to the proposed but problem-ridden scheme to build a 1,400 km gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan and perhaps on to India (WGI Jan.8,p5).

    [End Excerpt from Article in World Gas Intelligence]

    No comment.

    ***
    Jared Israel
    Editor
    Emperor's Clothes

    [Footnotes Follow The Appeal]

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    Footnotes and Further Reading

    ========================================================

    [1] "Zalmay Khalilzad - Envoy for Islamic Terror," by Jared Israel at
    http://emperors-clothes.com/archive/khalilzad-facts.htm

    [2] I am not saying oil and gas are irrelevant to the efforts of the U.S. Empire. I am saying that the Empire is motivated by big political goals, not by petty profits. To this end, oil and gas may be used as a weapon, a point that was illustrated in remarks made by Elizabeth Jones, Undersecretary of State for Eurasian Affairs, at Harvard:

    "The Ambassador remarked on a change in the way the new Administration talks about the oil pipeline that will run from Baku, Azerbaijan through Tbilisi, Georgia, to the Turkish port of Ceyhan. Jones made it clear that while the pipeline *itself* is not an American strategic interest, the U.S. Government promoted and continues to promote it—as a commercially viable project—because it is seen as one of several ways to implement these U.S. strategic goals. 'The BTC pipeline *is*,' she continued, 'a strategic interest of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey.'" [My emphasis]
    http://216.239.57.100/search?q=cache:Uyw2atQcTZoC:ksgnotes1.
    harvard.edu/BCSIA/Library.nsf/pubs/AmbJones+%22Ambassador
    +remarked+on+a+change+in+the+way+the+new+Administration+
    talks+about+the%22&hl=en&ie=UTF-8

    A thorough discussion of why the US went into Afghanistan can be found in the article, "Afghanistan: It's Not 'About Oil'" by Jared Israel, at
    http://emperors-clothes.com/articles/jared/oil.htm

    [3] Australian Financial Review; "Pipeline Plan Another Casualty"; By Nick Hordern; February 28, 2003 Friday; News; International News; Pg. 28;
    * Full text posted at *
    http://emperors-clothes.com/news/aus-gaz.htm

    [4] Turkmenistan is colored yellow on this very clear map of the region. (It borders Iran, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.)
    http://www.askasia.org/image/maps/asia.htm

    [5] The relevant part of Khalilzad's speech is posted at
    http://emperors-clothes.com/archive/khalilzad-facts.htm#turk
    which also provides a link to the full text, posted at the L.A. World Affair Council Website.

    [6] World Gas Intelligence; "Gazprom Plans New Turkmenistan; Pipe"; .February 28, 2003; Section: What's New
    * Full text posted at:
    http://emperors-clothes.com/news/aus-gaz.htm

    [7] Here is the full text of the Pakistani Newswire report of the TAP press conference February 28th.

    February 23, 2003 Sunday
    SECTION: Nationwide International News
    LENGTH: 426 words
    HEADLINE: Protocol on US 3.5 billion gas pipeline project signed
    DATELINE: ISLAMABAD, Feb 23
    BODY:

    Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan (TAP) on Saturday here signed a protocol for a US $ 3.5 billion gas pipeline project passing through the three countries.Giving briefing to newsmen, Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Nouraiz Shakoor said the meeting reviewed the updated progress on the project and expressed satisfaction over the initiatives taken by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) as well as member States for the speedy implementation of the project. He said the Steering Committee considered the technical and commercial aspects relating to the route, construction and operation of the Project. Matters relating to formation of consortium comprising international oil and gas companies as well as banks and government's guarantees also came under discussion, he added. The Minister said that Steering Committee also discussed the various risks involved and its mitigation requirements.

    *He said as per the protocol, the three countries agreed to complete feasibility report of the project before September this year. The Minister said that the meeting was told that draft of pre-qualification document for formation of the consortium would be ready by end of March this year. "The draft will be issued to oil and gas companies in April while it will be submitted for qualification by July this year", he added. The parties would be short listed in August 2003, which is ahead of schedule by two months, he said. The Minister said since, the viability of the project dep upon the extension of the pipeline to India, it was agreed that the parties acting jointly, would formally forward the documents of the TAP to government of India, inviting them to join the project. He, however, made it clear the project would continue even if the Indian government decides to stay away from the project.

    He further added that the 1460 km pipeline would use gas reserves at Dauletabad fields in Turkmenistan, which has world's fifth largest reserves, while passing through Afghanistan into Pakistan. Nouraiz Shakoor said the next meeting will be held on April 8-9, 2003 at ADB headquarters, Manila. Replying to a question, Afghan Minister for Mines and Industries dismissed security fears about the safety of the pipeline. "As far as security of the pipeline is concerned, we don't consider it as an issue," he said stressing that the situation was improving in Afghanistan. Turkmenistan Deputy Prime Minister Qurbanmuradov, representatives of Asian Development Bank and Secretary Petroleum, Abdullah Yousaf were also present.

    Copyright 2003 Pakistan Press International * Posted for educational use only


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