Syria, Sarin and Oil

War drums beat for US/NATO intervention (air war) in Syria, supposedly to punish the Bashar al-Assad regime (the government) over the use of chemical weapons, blamed on it instead of rebel forces.

Were hundreds of Syrian civilians killed with chemical weapons in a government attack out of desperation, or by a surreptitious rebel attack as a provocation? Gwynne Dyer’s op-ed states the reality of the situation in Syria very clearly (link below).

My article though “old” is still useful to show what is theoretically possible as a minimally violent resolution of the Syrian Civil War that is based around the destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles (link below also).

But, such a resolution is not realistically possible because none of the numerous combatants nor their rich and powerful sponsors really care about the global public health, safety and security concerns regarding chemical weapons, nor the regional issues of establishing non-authoritarian (democratic or non-dictatorial) governments and regional peace. They each want power, absolutely.

The political power sought (or trying to be maintained) in Syria is that which can be exercised by wealth, and the richest form of wealth for buying power is materially tied to the earth as petroleum: fossil fuel economics.

Syria is a conflict between two combines:

— the Sunni Persian Gulf oil kingdoms and NATO capitalism, who support rebel forces that include al-Qaeda militias (can we call these Wahhabi militants?), and

— a loosely connected Shiite regional bloc of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the Alawite centered Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, probably the sympathies (and more?) of the Iraqi Shiite dominated government, the full involvement of Iran, and the diplomatic (and perhaps other technical) support of Russia and China.

The control of fossil fuel resources is the major super-power or geo-political obsession of our time. Global warming and climate change be damned, it’s all about hydrocarbon-based chemical energy providing industrial-strength economic and military power, and that being turned to political advantage internationally, ultimately, I think, out of pure ego. Gorillas thump their chests as warnings and displays of power, we (in the form of our governing elites) do this.

The combines at war in Syria have rival schemes for piping Central Asian oil wealth:

— Iranian and Iraqi oil could be piped west through Syria to the Mediterranean, to feed (addict?) the hungry NATO market, and potentially northeast from Iran through a cooperative Afghanistan directly to China.

— A US-favored route for extracted Central Asian oil would be south (from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan) through Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Arabian Sea, where this oil would be loaded onto tankers to join the shipping traffic from the Arabian Peninsula.

— Another US-favored route involves its NATO partner Turkey: pipelines west from Central Asia across or around the Caspian Sea north of Iran, across Azerbaijan and Georgia, west across Turkey, and from there to Europe.

— Pipelines from Asiatic Russia could transport oil west, through Belarus and Ukraine (assuming cooperation) to Europe, or veer south to the Black Sea, and then be transferred to tankers which would have to pass through the Turkish-controlled choke point of the Bosphorus (the Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles strait together form the Turkish Straits). A pipeline from Caucasian Russia (east of Turkey) south through Georgia and Azerbaijan (assuming cooperation) or, further east, across the Caspian Sea could connect to pipelines radiating out of Iran.

For its deep-pocket foreign sponsors, the Syrian Civil War is a local and visible flash-point in their much larger and often quiet and discrete global oil chess game.

Gwynne Dyer: An appalling attack and an unwinnable war

Sarin In Syria
14 May 2013


2 thoughts on “Syria, Sarin and Oil

  1. A note on today’s developments regarding Syria [9 September 2013]:

    Syria agrees in principle to relinquish its chemical weapons stockpile in exchange for avoiding attack by US forces, and overthrow as an inevitable direct or indirect result.

    The Syrian government has consistently denied using chemical weapons, and one report (which I only saw briefly) suggested that Syrian military commanders may have used sarin munitions without authorization from the political leadership. So, it is possible that President Assad is narrowly correct in stating that his government did not use chemical weapons — intentionally — because the actual use was by forces not under government control. Such as-of-now non-government forces could be: rebels (of course, the immediate first assumption), or disobedient and thus mutinous Syrian Army commanders, whom we must then suppose are now under arrest, or being sought, or have already been shot by the Assad regime. We cannot expect President Assad to publicly admit that parts of his command-and-control structure over “government” military forces may be disintegrating under the pressure of the rebellion.

    The exchange of the chemical weapons stockpile for political (and personal) survival was suggested at least 4 months ago; details follow.

    The Washington Post:
    Syria says it ‘welcomes’ Russian proposal on securing chemical weapons
    Updated: Monday, September 9, 10:58 AM
    By Will Englund, Debbi Wilgoren and Karen DeYoung

    MOSCOW — The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday said it welcomed a Russian proposal to avert U.S. military strikes by having Damascus turn over control of its chemical weapons to international monitors.

    On Monday [September 9], while meeting with [Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem], Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said his country would ask Syria to relinquish control of its chemical weapons to international monitors to prevent a U.S. strike. Lavrov also called on Syria to sign and ratify the Convention on Chemical Weapons, which outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons.

    Moualem said Syria “welcomes the Russian initiative,” but he did not say whether his country would agree to what Russia was asking. “We also welcome the wisdom of the Russian leadership, which is trying to prevent American aggression against our people,” Moulaem said.

    Four months ago:

    A Syrian government that believed it had any kind of future — even if only an escape — would not initiate chemical warfare, but if it was driven to extremes and convinced it was doomed then it could see its chemical weapons as a means of inflicting a parting vengeance on its victory-bound enemies.

    The only suggestions I can offer regarding US policy toward Syria are these five items:

    1. Support UN relief operations on behalf of Syrian refugees in Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.

    2. To President Obama: be very very skeptical of Pentagonal optimism. Whatever the estimate, it will always be pi (3.14159…) times worse.

    3. Develop a combined US-Russian diplomatic effort to influence Bashar al-Assad to:

    – not use chemical weapons,

    – allow Russian inspectors to inventory and monitor the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal,

    – not resist Russian troops securing biological and chemical weapons if the Syrian Army falters,

    – begin negotiations on a ceasefire agreement with the rebel coalition (perhaps via intermediaries),

    – accept that a future Syrian state would have to allow for power-sharing through elections,

    – accept being a political leader of a party participating in Syrian multi-party politics,

    – exchange the chemical weapons arsenal for personal security and subsequent political viability.

    …(skip 4 & 5)…

    Contemplation of the horrible potentialities that might come to pass anywhere in the world as a result of the free circulation of sarin chemical weapons from Syria, or from malicious improvisation, may focus enough minds to cooperate on non-violent alternatives that resolve as many of the interlacing conflicts of the Syrian Civil War as possible.

    As suggested above, one possible resolution to the Syrian Civil War would be for international unanimity to assure the security and political survivability of the Bashar al-Assad faction as one political party in a Syrian multi-party power-sharing successor state, in exchange for immediately bringing Syria into compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993 (CWC): a viable political future in exchange for destruction of Syrian chemical weapons (and ideally biological weapons also, though they are not covered by the CWC).

    “Currently 188 of the 196 states recognized by the United Nations are party to the CWC. Of the eight states that are not, two have signed but not yet ratified the treaty (Burma and Israel) and six states have not signed the treaty (Angola, North Korea, Egypt, Somalia, South Sudan and Syria).” (

    The world is nearly unanimous in its concern for public safety by the elimination of chemical weapons, so it may be possible to base a united (and minimally violent) approach to quelling the Syrian Civil War on that basis.


    Sarin in Syria
    May 14, 2013

    They should have listened to me sooner.

  2. Syrian forces may have used gas without Assad’s permission: paper
    BERLIN | Sun September 8, 2013 8:17am EDT

    (Reuters) – Syrian government forces may have carried out a chemical weapons attack close to Damascus without the personal permission of President Bashar al-Assad, Germany’s Bild am Sonntag paper reported on Sunday, citing German intelligence. Syrian brigade and division commanders had been asking the Presidential Palace to allow them to use chemical weapons for the last four-and-a-half months, according to radio messages intercepted by German spies, but permission had always been denied, the paper said. This could mean Assad may not have personally approved the attack close to Damascus on August 21 in which more than 1,400 are estimated to have been killed, intelligence officers suggested… Bild said the radio traffic was intercepted by a German naval reconnaissance vessel, the Oker, sailing close to the Syrian coast.

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