Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Qatar - The United States’ Main Priority in the Middle East

Before saying anything I want the reader to remember one all encompassing point. If you get confused or lose track with anything in the following article go back and reference the next statement. Everything that happens in the Middle East revolves around energy.

Ok, now that we’ve got that out of the way…

Ever since the Arab Spring kicked off in December of 2010 I’ve been curiously following the Muslim Brotherhood. That obviously got me very interested in the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 and I looked on in amazement as the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi became President. The most interesting thing for me was how The United States and the Arab media dominated by Al Jazeera backed this new regime so intently.
Almost every Middle Eastern nation has an outright ban on the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood infiltrates a nation from the inside, incites populist uprisings, and attempts to topple governments. Egypt was their crowning achievement. So why is Qatar, who runs the Al Jazeera news network, the only nation in the Middle East not scared of the Muslim Brotherhood? Why was the United States so fully committed to Morsi’s government? It seems more evident as time goes by that the Muslim Brotherhood is a geopolitical tool being used by The United States and Qatar.

Why Qatar? Calling Qatar a country is a bit of a stretch. With a population of around 1.8 million only 250,000 of these are actual citizens. Citizens pay zero income tax and enjoy the highest per capita GDP in the world at 106,000. Qatar is an absolute monarchy ruled by the Al Thani family. The current Emir is Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. I think it’s more accurate to look at Qatar as a large LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) company and the Emir is the CEO. The rest of the Al Thani family are the board members. This set up makes for a perfect relationship with the business minded Americans.

The relationship between the U.S. and Qatar took a big step forward in 1991. In an effort to diversify away from oil as their main cash crop a United States construction firm named Bechtel supervised the construction of the North Dome natural gas field off the Northeast coast. ExxonMobile stepped right up and became the largest foreign investor in the North field. Two U.S. companies were overseeing the development of the infrastructure and the drilling. In fact, the U.S. and other western nations provide the pink slips for all of the technology used in the North Field and in the GTL (gas-to-liquids) technology which makes it possible to ship LNG via the sea lanes.
The power of Qatar’s natural gas reserves is insane. They’re #3 in the world behind Russia and Iran respectively. The big difference is that Qatar only has 1.8 million inhabitants with only 250,000 of them being citizens. It’s a ridiculous amount of power all in the hands of the Al Thani family.

So in 1991 we have Bechtel and ExxonMobile developing the third largest gas reserves in the world. Later in that decade the Thani’s constructed the Al Udeid Air Base just south of Doha. Kind of interesting since Qatar didn’t even have an air force at the time. In steps the United States Army Corps of Engineers who begin constructing what would now be called United States Central Command.
It’s interesting to note that Qatar’s “military” is little more than a show piece. They have roughly 11,000 men to protect their borders and assets. How many Americans are at Al Udeid? Well, the exact number is classified. I’ve been there and it looked like a lot to me. It’s well known that in 1999 the Emir approved 10,000 U.S. personnel to be permanently stationed there. That’s almost as many as there are in the entire Qatari armed forces. Basically you can say that USCENTCOM is the guaranteer of Qatari security. We’ve never come out and actually said that but that’s what we’ve done. You can’t say the same for any other U.S. ally in theater...Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, not even Israel!

We’ve doubled down on Qatar and have slowly been alienating our traditional allies in the Middle East. It’s all about who controls the flow of energy. Qatar will be a major supplier to much of the world. They’re already the main supplier of LNG to Asia. Asia’s consumption is set to explode over the next 10-20 years.Qatar LNG exports map.gif
The primary route for Asia’s LNG is across the Indian Ocean and up through the South China Sea. Kind of puts into perspective why China is building up their naval presence there. Currently if you want to shut down China all you have to do is blockade ships coming from the Indian Ocean up through the South China Sea. Right now, Qatar and the United States control that flow of energy.
This brings us back to Egypt. The use of the Arab Gas Pipeline is a major strategic goal for both Qatar and the U.S. Access to that pipeline would enable Qatar to supply gas all the way into Syria.arab gas pipeline.png
Depending on who wins the current Syrian Civil war the Arab Gas Pipeline could extend up into Turkey where it would then link up with the South Caucasus Pipeline, the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline, and the Trans Adriatic Pipeline. Qatar’s North Field along with Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz gas field would pump more natural gas into Europe than Russia does. This puts into perspective why Qatar has been funding the Syrian Opposition with weapons. It also shows why Russia is so adamant that they do not let Assad lose the country.

We’re out of the Cold War and into the Fossil Fuel War. Whoever controls the flow of energy controls the world. Right now the United States is going all in to ensure Qatar is the main supplier of natural gas to the planet. The current crises in Ukraine, the civil war in Syria, and even higher tensions in the South China Sea are all due in some part to this war. A chessboard that saw it’s pieces laid in the early 90’s is nearing its mid-game stage. The conclusion is still far from over.

In the end regardless of whether they tell you that the issue is either human rights, pro democracy, chemical weapons, etc….Everything that happens in the Middle East revolves around energy.