Greater Middle East
syria

Gaza: flashpoint for regional war? (redux)

The Pentagon carried out air-strikes on Iran-backed militia forces in Iraq in retaliation for a drone attack on a US airbase in Erbil, while a senior commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps was killed in a presumed Israeli strike in Syria. Israel continues to trade cross-border fire with Lebanon’s Hezbollah, while Yemen’s Houthi armed movement claimed responsibility for drone attacks targeting the Israeli port city of Eilat.¬†Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that Israel is now fighting on “seven fronts”‚ÄĒGaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Yemen.¬†(Image: Pixabay)

Iraq
iraq.pipeline

Iraq-Turkey oil pipeline to resume operation

The pipeline exporting crude oil from Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq to the Turkish port of Ceyhan is ready to resume operation, seven months after it was ordered closed by an international court ruling. The Paris-based International Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of Baghdad against Ankara, finding that the latter breached a 1973 agreement by allowing the Kurdistan Regional Government to begin independent oil exports in 2014. The judgement confirmed that Iraqi national oil company SOMO is the only entity authorized to manage export operations through the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline. The KRG has now acceded to these terms, agreeing to market through SOMO. (Photo via Iraqi News Agency)

The Andes

Oil intrigues behind Ecuador auto-golpe

President Guillermo Lasso dissolved Ecuador’s opposition-controlled National Assembly‚ÄĒjust one day after his impeachment trial began. Lasso is to rule by decree until new elections are held. In the impeachment proceeding, Lasso¬†stood¬†accused of extortion and embezzlement related to alleged corruption at parastatal oil company Petroecuador and hydrocarbons transporter Flopec, allowing unprofitable contracts to benefit “third parties.” The country’s oil industry has been in crisis for nearly a year, repeatedly placed under force majeure by protests and sabotage of the trans-Andean pipeline. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Central Asia
Kashagan

Kazakhstan: environmental suit against Caspian consortium

The government of Kazakhstan has brought a legal action for violation of environmental protection laws against the North Caspian Operating Company (NCOC), the consortium leading development of the country’s massive Kashagan oil field, seeking $5.14 billion in fines. In the complaint, the Ministry of Ecology & Natural Resources cites storage of sulfur on site¬†in excess of permitted limits, burning of crude gas on flares without a permit, improper discharge of wastewater, and other violations. Kashagan is one of the largest oil-fields discovered on Earth over the past 40 years, with recoverable reserves estimated at up to 13 billion barrels. The consortium includes the Italian Eni, French Total, US-based ExxonMobil, Anglo-Dutch Shell, Chinese CNPC, Japan’s Inpex, and KazMunayGas, the Kazakh national operator. (Map:¬†US Energy Information Administration¬†via¬†Jurist)

Europe
Nordstream

Nord Stream pipeline sabotage: rush to judgment

Ukraine is denying involvement in September’s attack on the¬†Nord Stream pipelines¬†following a¬†New York Times¬†report citing anonymous US officials to the effect that an unnamed “pro-Ukrainian group” was to blame. Russia’s online partisans are meanwhile hyping a piece by Seymour Hersh, similarly citing anonymous officials to the effect that the attack was a US covert operation. Rarely has there been a more blatant case of the cyber-commentariat deciding what to believe on the basis of political convenience. (Map:¬†Wikipedia)

Afghanistan

Taliban regime in oil deal with Chinese company

Afghanistan’s Taliban regime has agreed to sign a contract with a Chinese company to exploit oil in the Amu Darya basin in the country’s north. The contract with the Xinjiang Central Asia Petroleum & Gas Co. (CAPEIC) is to be the first major resource extraction deal the regime has signed with a foreign company since taking power in 2021. “The Amu Darya oil contract is an important project between China and Afghanistan,” China’s ambassador, Wang Yu, told a joint press conference with Taliban officials in Kabul. Beijing has not formally recognized the Taliban government but has significant interests in Afghanistan, a country deemed critical for its Belt & Road Initiative. (Map: Perry-Casta√Īeda Library)

Africa
Lundin

Swiss oil CEO faces trial for Sudan war crimes

The Supreme Court of Sweden¬†ruled that the trial of Alex Schneiter, a Swiss citizen and former CEO of Lundin Oil charged in connection with war crimes in Sudan between 1999 and¬†2003, may proceed in the Swedish courts. While Lundin Oil is a Swedish-based company, Schneiter claims that he cannot be tried in Sweden because he is neither a citizen nor a resident. The high court held that Schneiter’s alleged crimes are subject to “universal jurisdiction,” which allows anyone to be prosecuted anywhere in the world for serious international crimes. The case concerns an area called Block 5A in southern Sudan, which was then wracked by a pro-independence insurgency.¬†The¬†indictment holds that Lundin demanded that government forces and allied militias provide security for its operations, knowing that this would¬†entail deadly force and enflame the conflict.¬†(Map via Rixstep)

Europe
Nordstream

Russia ‘weaponizes’ gas supplies to Europe

Russian energy giant Gazprom cut off the flow of natural gas to Germany and other European markets via the Nord Stream pipeline, calling it a three-day shut-down for maintenance. But Western governments charge that Russia is “weaponizing” gas supplies amid the Ukraine war. Days earlier, Germany’s government broached allowing the blocked Nord Stream 2 pipeline to begin pumping Russian gas. Wolfgang Kubicki, vice president of the Bundestag, said the move is necessary so “people do not have to freeze in winter and that our industry does not suffer serious damage.” His comment prompted a harsh response from Kyiv, where Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that “addiction to Russian gas kills.” (Map: Wikipedia)

Europe
druzbha

Transnistria blasts signal spread of Ukraine war

A series of blasts tore through the building of the de facto “Ministry of State Security” in Tiraspol, capital of Moldova’s Russian-backed separatist enclave of Transnistria. Officials said the building was fired on by unknown assailants with grenade launchers. Ominously, the attack came one day after a Russian military commander openly broached extending Moscow’s war in Ukraine to neighboring Moldova, to “give the Russian army access to Transnistria.” The blasts also came on the same day as large explosions in Bryansk, a Russian town near the Ukrainian border which is serving as a key staging area for the invasion. Bryansk is a hub on the Druzhba oil pipeline, and the flames engulfed a petroleum depot. Russian officials are speculating that Kyiv’s forces were behind the blasts, while Ukrainian officials speculate they were Russian “false flag” operations. (Photo of Druzhba blasts: Anonymous Operations)

Afghanistan
kunar

Pipeline plans threatened by Af-Pak border clashes

Afghanistan authorities say some 60 civilians, including five children, were killed as Pakistan launched air-strikes across the border on Khost and Kunar provinces. The strikes follow a series of attacks on security forces by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Pakistan’s borderlands. The escalation was harshly condemned both by the Taliban regime and the Afghan permanent mission in the United Nations‚ÄĒthe loyalty of which remains unclear more than six months after the Taliban takeover. The new tensions come a week after top diplomats from China, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and other regional states met for a summit in China’s Anhui province on reviving the long-stalled Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, which would deliver Central Asian gas to world markets through Afghan territory. (Photo via¬†Khaama Press)

Planet Watch
fracking

Ukraine war windfall for US fracking industry

US President Joe Biden and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced a joint Task Force to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian hydrocarbons and “strengthen European energy security as President Putin wages his war of choice against Ukraine.” The press release states: “The United States will work with international partners and strive to ensure additional LNG volumes for the EU market of at least 15 bcm [billion cubic meters] in 2022, with expected increases going forward.” This means liquified natural gas from the US fracking industry.¬†Environmental group¬†Global Witness¬†reacted with alarm to the announcement, stating: “If Europe truly wants to get off Russian gas the only real option it has is phasing out gas altogether.” (Image: FracTracker)

Planet Watch
Tengiz

Ukraine war portends new oil shock

Long-depressed oil prices are suddenly soaring in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with impacts already being felt globally. Exports from Kazakhstan and the Caspian Basin are virtually paralyzed, as the Black Sea¬†pipeline terminal delivering the crude to Western markets is incurring a prohibitive “war risk insurance premium.”¬†Berlin has suspended the¬†Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is to carry Russian gas under the Baltic Sea to Germany‚ÄĒand¬†Russia has retaliated by threatening¬†to cut gas supplies to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 line.¬†In his executive order barring Russian oil and gas imports to the US, President Biden issued a warning to the oil companies, urging that the war should not serve as an excuse for¬†price-gouging.¬†But¬†it is actually the oil futures market that plays a determinant role in fixing the international price. There’s a big psychological element involved, which is why every escalation in the Middle East (without fail)¬†jacks up oil prices. A war in Europe will almost certainly mean another oil shock, with grim implications for the world economy and Biden’s political chances. (Photo of Kazakh oil-field via Wikimedia Commons)