U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack denounced
Europe's deal with Iran for a new gas pipeline -
why is this any of America's business?
Whoever named the Nabucco pipeline project, which moved a significant step closer to reality in mid-July 2007 with an agreement between the Iranian and Turkish governments, has a fine sense of irony.
The part that everyone knows from Verdi's opera Nabucco is of course Va Pensiero - the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves, and news of major progress in the deal to supply billions of cubic metres of Iranian natural gas to Europe was met by a predictable chorus of complaint from people who (as readers may have noticed) are no longer slaves, but can rely on servile mouthpieces in Washington.
Construction is likely to begin next year on the proposed Nabucco pipeline, with the first gas coming on stream in 2011. Eventually the pipeline will supply more than 30 billion cubic metres (bcm) of natural gas from Iran and Turkmenisatan to Europe each year, which will meet around 20% of the predicted increase in the European Union's annual demand.
Partners in the Nabucco consortium include state gas companies from Austria, Hungary and Romania as well as Turkey. One important motive for the EU is to reduce its dependence on Russia, which currently supplies more than 40% of European gas imports.
Almost all of Russia's gas industry is controlled by one company - Gazprom - which has had a tangled and controversial relationship with Russia's notorious 'oligarchs', the mostly Jewish businessmen, including several godfathers of organised crime, who took over the industrial assets of the old Soviet Union when communism collapsed.
Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller - a long term
Jewish ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin
In 2005 Gazprom bought control of the Russian oil giant Sibneft from leading oligarch and Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich. The $13bn deal was the largest corporate takeover in Russian history. Gazprom's chief executive Alexei Miller is a Jewish economist who, unlike some of the Jewish oligarchs, has maintained a close alliance with Russian President Vladimir Putin since they worked together in St Petersburg during the early 1990s.
European governments are understandably concerned by the projected increase in Gazprom's dominance over their energy supplies. During 2006 both Belarus and the Ukraine suffered from Gazprom's strong arm tactics and were threatened with the cutting off of gas supplies. A recent study by the Swedish Defence Research Agency reveals that since 1991 Russia has either cut off or threatened to cut off energy supplies to its neighbours on 55 occasions - of which 44 were for reasons of political / diplomatic blackmail.
The benefit to Europe from the Nabucco pipeline's contribution to diversifying supply of natural gas is therefore obvious.
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan was scathing in his reaction to attempted U.S. interference with Nabucco:
Should we not think of our country's interests at this point? Is the United States going to ask why we did not seek their permission?
A few days after the signing of the Turkish-Iranian agreement, Erdoğan's government won re-election with a landslide majority. Polls indicated that 81% of Turkish voters disapproved of U.S. foreign policies, with only 7% in favour of the Bush White House line.
Recep Erdoğan in front of a portrait of
Kemal Atatürk, whose foreign policies he may be reversing
The bold assertion of independence in Ankara, at a time when the U.S. Congress is considering imposing sanctions on any foreign company that does substantial business with Iran, could be a major turning point in European geopolitics. Ottoman Turkey effectively lost the ability to operate as a serious independent player in European power politics during the 1870s, and at the Congress of Berlin in 1878 Turkish interests were mere pawns in diplomatic games played by foreign statesmen such as Germany's Otto von Bismarck, Russia's Prince Gorchakov, Austria's Count Andrássy, and Britain's Benjamin Disraeli.
Modern Turkey's architect Kemal Atatürk imposed a policy of non-intervention in Middle Eastern affairs which his country is only now beginning to amend. The Nabucco deal needs to be seen in this context, especially bearing in mind parallel discussions between Turkey and Iran over their common security interests regarding Kurdish terrorism.
Previous Turkish governments gave staunch support to the U.S. during the Cold War with the Soviet Union, and more recently at the time of the first war with Iraq, but increasing Kurdish influence in Iraq - especially after the fall of Saddam Hussein, has increased the threat from the PKK, the Kurdish terrorist group whose attacks on Turkey have led to 35,000 deaths.
While security cooperation between Ankara and Tehran has increased during the last three years, the U.S. has consistently failed to deliver on promises to curb the PKK.
This is only one aspect of the astonishing American hypocrisy over Turkey and Iran's new relationship. At present the third largest supplier of natural gas to Europe is Algeria, a country whose military overturned the results of its democratic elections in 1991 when those elections were won by the Islamic Salvation Front.
The U.S. has no problem with anti-democratic Algeria supplying gas to Europe, but prepares to threaten sanctions against those who sign gas agreements with Iran - a country which unlike Algeria respected the results of its elections.
Similar double standards on democracy and human rights have been evident in U.S. attempts to strike deals with several post-Soviet governments in efforts to promote an alternative pipeline to Nabucco which would run under the Caspian Sea, avoiding Iranian territory.
But perhaps the most sickening aspect of American hypocrisy can be seen by looking back to the 1980s. One of the reasons for discouraging investment in Iran according to the Bush White House is the supposed nuclear threat from Tehran. Yet in late 1983, at the bloodiest moment of the tragic conflict between Iran and Iraq, when Saddam Hussein had recently deployed chemical weapons, the U.S. itself promoted the idea of an oil pipeline from Iraq to Aqaba in Jordan.
This pipeline was to be built by Bechtel, the giant San Francisco based construction firm which has long had close ties to Washington's political and intelligence establishment, and which today enjoys lucrative contracts amid the wreckage of Iraq.
In 1983 former Bechtel president George Shultz was Secretary of State in the Reagan administration, and he appointed Donald Rumsfeld as a special "peace envoy" to Iraq. Rumsfeld (later notorious as the main architect of the war against Saddam) adopted a far more friendly approach to the Iraqi leader as he tried to win him over to the Bechtel oil pipeline plan back in 1983.
Donald Rumsfeld meets Saddam Hussein on behalf of Bechtel's
proposed oil pipeline, December 1983
Saddam indicated to Rumsfeld that he needed guarantees that Israel would not attack the pipeline - hardly surprising as Israeli bombers had destroyed Iraq's Osiraq nuclear power station two years earlier.
To secure a potential $2 billion deal for Bechtel, Shultz looked to a Swiss Jewish financier called Bruce Rappaport to fix a deal with the Israeli government. Bechtel agreed that Rappaport would get a discount on oil from the pipeline and that millions of dollars of Rappaport's profits from this discount would go the Israeli Labour Party, whose leader was Rappaport's friend Shimon Peres, then Prime Minister.
(A 1985 memo recording this Bechtel-Rappoport deal can be seen here, while a handwritten letter from Shimon Peres about the pipeline can be seen here.)
Bruce Rappaport with his wife Ruth. Rappaport was at the centre of American and Israeli deals relating to an oil pipeline from Saddam's Iraq.
Eventually the Aqaba pipeline deal collapsed, but it remains a remarkable insight into Washington's hypocrisy, which should be considered every time the Americans attack this latest Iranian gas pipeline deal.
For now the various partners in the Nabucco consortium seem determined to stand up to American pressure - a clear vote of confidence in the Iranian government, which Western propagandists have recently been presenting as in terminal crisis.
Perhaps the real terminal crisis may yet strike Washington and Tel Aviv, who can no longer command unquestioning obedience from former allies.