It’s been reported that Washington is planning a meeting on the struggle against ISIS, including representatives of at least 68 countries in late March. As it’s been reported by Reuters, with special reference to an unnamed source in the Trump administration, Russia is not going to be invited. It is expected that the meeting will be chaired by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, with no additional details being revealed so far.
At the end of February, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US Armed Forces, Joseph Dunford, announced a new plan on combating ISIS, while leaving all answers about the possible role of American military personnel in Iraq and Syria in this operation unanswered. At the same time, he noted that the Pentagon and the Russian Defense Ministry are not cooperating in anti-ISIS operations.
But, despite such a veil of silence, it is not difficult to comprehend the true reasons behind such a large-scale offensive against ISIS, and the goals that the Trump administration pursues in this “intensification of the struggle against the Islamic State”. It won’t be much of a surprise for those closely following geopolitical events that Washington is pursuing regional energy ambitions, seeking to seize the most lucrative and important aspects of the EU hydrocarbon market.
Today, Europe has been transformed into a major gas market that shows record numbers in gas consumption. Yet, Russia remains the major gas supplier of this market since it’s capable of delivering hydrocarbons to Europe rapidly, by taking advantage of a wide network of gas pipelines. The US wants a share of this major market now by trying to compete with Russian via liquefied natural gas (LNG) supplies.
Russia has been showing record numbers in the history of its gas exports to the EU recently. It occupies some 34% of the EU hydrocarbon market and analysts from Royal Dutch Shell are convinced that Russia will remain the largest energy exporter of hydrocarbons to the EU until 2035, with Europe being forced to import up to 75% of its hydrocarbon demand to cover the growing needs of the EU economy. A similar position was voiced by the representatives of energy giant BP last January.
However, in order to undermine Russia’s position in European gas markets, Washington has been supporting virtually all projects that could allow it to displace Russia’s gas dominance in Europe, and, at the same, seeks ways of preventing the strengthening of Russian positions in the Middle East.
So it should come as no surprise that US interests are abusing and coercing European politicians and media sources that they are in control of attempt to push the idea of “the need of creating preconditions for achieving European energy independence.” However, since this objective is virtually unattainable due to the problems that Dutch gas producers have been facing, along with the depletion of Norwegian natural resources, the US has been actively demanding the EU to begin buying American LNG “to be more secure”. As gas production levels soared last year in the US, Washington has been taking all sorts of steps in forcing the EU to turn its back on Russian gas which is some 30-40% cheaper than is supplied by American LNG companies.
Therefore, the high logistical costs can only be compensated in one way – by undermining all the prospects of new pipelines being constructed by competitors. That is why Washington has torpedoed the construction of the so-called Islamic gas pipeline from the super gas field in North-South Pars, that was planned by Qatar and Turkey. Although Qatar has increased its share in Europe from 1 to 6 percent, as a result of the failure of the Islamic gas pipeline, it can retain its share in the market only via LNG shipments to Europe. But in this field it faces tough rivalry with US companies and eventually it is going to lose this struggle.
The prospects of the Pan-Arab gas pipeline, which was supposed to transport gas across Syria and Turkey to Europe, also looks slim. It is for this reason that a significant portion of North African gas is now being “cut off” from the European market.
Therefore, the so-called “fight against ISIS” today acquires a new meaning for the White House. Previously, Washington couldn’t care less about fighting ISIS, since it was using this terrorist organization, just like it used to take advantage of Al-Qaida, to attain strategic goals across the Middle Eastern region and beyond, pursuing regime change in certain countries, among which one may find both Syria and Iraq. However, these days the “fight against ISIS” can fundamentally affect the role and place of each player in both the Middle Eastern and in European energy markets. Therefore, Russia, which is the main competitor of the United States in this area, despite the impressive results that it has demonstrated in the destruction of terrorist groups in Syria, is not being invited to attend the aforementioned meeting organized by Washington.
So we can safely conclude that if for the Obama administration the struggle against ISIS was more of a question of ideology, then Donald Trump, as a businessman, will only seek ways to inflict financial losses to Russia, along with seeking business benefits for American special interests by pursuing this “new fight against the ISIS” .
Martin Berger is a freelance journalist and geopolitical analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”