Three recent New York Times stories note a series of new pipelines either under construction or in planning by Russia, China and Iran—which together point to the emergence of a new Eurasian bloc in opposition to Western designs on the supercontinent’s hydrocarbon resources. An Oct. 13 story, “Russia Gas Pipeline Heightens East Europe’s Fears,” noted that the new Nord Stream pipeline, passing under the Baltic Sea to Germany, will allow Russia to cut off natural gas supplies to its former satellites while still maintaining the flow to Western Europe. “Yesterday tanks, today oil,” said Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, former head of Poland’s security service.
This is being augmented by a South Stream pipeline, which will run under the Black Sea. This will still have to pass through the Balkan countries, but strategically by-passes Ukraine.
An Oct. 14 story, “China Signs Deal for Gas in Trade Talk With Putin,” noted a “framework” deal between Gazprom and the China National Petroleum Corporation announced along with $35 billion worth of trade agreements signed by Vladimir Putin and Wen Jiabao during Putin’s visit to Beijing. The deal calls for the supply of nearly 2.5 trillion cubic feet of gas per year via two potential routes through Siberia. (We have noted that one route passing within a kilometer of Lake Baikal has already been the subject of litigation in Russia due to environmental concerns.)
A Sept. 30 story, “China’s Ties With Iran Complicate Diplomacy,” notes a $5 billion deal signed in June between the CNPC and Tehran to develop the South Pars natural gas field. In July, Iran invited Chinese companies to join a $42.8 billion project to build seven oil refineries and a 1,019-mile trans-Iran pipeline. And in August, Tehran and Beijing struck a $3 billion deal for China to help Iran expand two more oil refineries. This last deal was signed just as leaders of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee arrived in Beijing to request that China close ranks with the diplomatic pressure to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
“Their threat perception on this issue is different from ours,” said Zalmay Khalilzad, who as US ambassador to the United Nations under President Bush helped persuade China to approve limited sanctions against Iran. “They don’t see Iran in the same way as we do.” (This strikes us a dramatic understatement.)
The text doesn’t make clear which trans-Iran pipeline China has agreed to invest in, but there are at least two. We have argued before that the US war drive against Iran is fueled by plans for a pipeline to deliver Caspian Basin oil and gas through the country. We have also noted that the US has pressured India to drop out of a plan for Iran to export its own natural gas via a pipeline across the Subcontinent.