Liquid war: Welcome to Pipelineistan - By Pepe Escobar

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Asia Times Online
Liquid war: Welcome to Pipelineistan
By Pepe Escobar
Mar 26, 2009

What happens on the immense battlefield for the control of Eurasia will provide the ultimate plot line in the tumultuous rush towards a new, polycentric world order, also known as the New Great Game.

Our good ol' friend the nonsensical "global war on terror", which the Pentagon has slyly rebranded "the Long War", sports a far more important, if half-hidden, twin - a global energy war. I like to think of it as the Liquid War, because its bloodstream is the pipelines that crisscross the potential imperial battlefields of the planet. Put another way, if its crucial embattled frontier these days is the Caspian Basin, the whole of Eurasia is its chessboard. Think of it, geographically, as Pipelineistan.

All geopolitical junkies need a fix. Since the second half of the 1990s, I've been hooked on pipelines. I've crossed the Caspian in an Azeri cargo ship just to follow the $4 billion Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline, better known in this chess game by its acronym, BTC, through the Caucasus. (Oh, by the way, the map of Pipelineistan is chicken-scratched with acronyms, so get used to them!)

I've also trekked various of the overlapping modern Silk Roads, or perhaps Silk Pipelines, of possible future energy flows from Shanghai to Istanbul, annotating my own do-it-yourself routes for LNG (liquefied natural gas). I used to avidly follow the adventures of that once-but-not-future Sun-King of Central Asia, the now deceased Turkmenbashi or "leader of the Turkmen", Saparmurat Niyazov, head of the immensely gas-rich Republic of Turkmenistan, as if he were a Conradian hero.

In Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan (before it was moved to Astana, in the middle of the middle of nowhere) the locals were puzzled when I expressed an overwhelming urge to drive to that country's oil boomtown Aktau. ("Why? There's nothing there.") Entering the Space Odyssey-style map room at the Russian energy giant Gazprom's headquarters in Moscow - which digitally details every single pipeline in Eurasia - or the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC)'s corporate HQ in Tehran, with its neat rows of female experts in full chador, was my equivalent of entering Aladdin's cave. And never reading the words "Afghanistan" and "oil" in the same sentence is still a source of endless amusement for me.

Last year, oil cost a king's ransom. This year, it's relatively cheap. But don't be fooled. Price isn't the point here. Like it or not, energy is still what everyone who's anyone wants to get their hands on. So consider this dispatch just the first installment in a long, long tale of some of the moves that have been, or will be, made in the maddeningly complex New Great Game, which goes on unceasingly, no matter what else muscles into the headlines this week.

Forget the mainstream media's obsession with al-Qaeda, Osama "dead or alive" bin Laden, the Taliban - neo, light or classic - or that "war on terror", whatever name it goes by. These are diversions compared to the high-stakes, hardcore geopolitical game that follows what flows along the pipelines of the planet.

Who said Pipelineistan couldn't be fun?

Calling Dr Zbig In his 1997 magnum opus The Grand Chessboard, Zbigniew Brzezinski - realpolitik practitioner extraordinaire and former national security advisor to Jimmy Carter, the president who launched the US on its modern energy wars - laid out in some detail just how to hang on to American "global primacy". Later, his master plan would be duly copied by that lethal bunch of Dr No's congregated at Bill Kristol's Project for a New American Century (PNAC, in case you'd forgotten the acronym since its website and its followers went down).

For Dr Zbig, who, like me, gets his fix from Eurasia - from, that is, thinking big - it all boils down to fostering the emergence of just the right set of "strategically compatible partners" for Washington in places where energy flows are strongest. This, as he so politely put it back then, should be done to shape "a more cooperative trans-Eurasian security system".

By now, Dr Zbig - among whose fans is evidently President Barack Obama - must have noticed that the Eurasian train which was to deliver the energy goods has been slightly derailed. The Asian part of Eurasia, it seems, begs to differ.

Global financial crisis or not, oil and natural gas are the long-term keys to an inexorable transfer of economic power from the West to Asia. Those who control Pipelineistan - and despite all the dreaming and planning that's gone on there, it's unlikely to be Washington - will have the upper hand in whatever is to come, and there's not a terrorist in the world, or even a "long war", that can change that.

Energy expert Michael Klare has been instrumental in identifying the key vectors in the wild, ongoing global scramble for power over Pipelineistan. These range from the increasing scarcity (and difficulty of reaching) primary energy supplies to "the painfully slow development of energy alternatives". Though you may not have noticed, the first skirmishes in Pipelineistan's Liquid War are already on, and even in the worst of economic times, the risk mounts constantly, given the relentless competition between the West and Asia, be it in the Middle East, in the Caspian theater, or in African oil-rich states like Angola, Nigeria and Sudan.

In these early skirmishes of the 21st century, China reacted swiftly indeed. Even before the attacks of September 11, 2001, its leaders were formulating a response to what they saw as the reptilian encroachment of the West on the oil and gas lands of Central Asia, especially in the Caspian Sea region. To be specific, in June 2001, its leaders joined with Russia's to form the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. It's known as the SCO and that's an acronym you should memorize. It's going to be around for a while.

Back then, the SCO's junior members were, tellingly enough, the Stans, the energy-rich former SSRs of the Soviet Union - Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan - which the Bill Clinton administration and then the new George W Bush administration, run by those former energy men, had been eyeing covetously. The organization was to be a multi-layered economic and military regional cooperation society that, as both the Chinese and the Russians saw it, would function as a kind of security blanket around the upper rim of Afghanistan.

Iran is, of course, a crucial energy node of West Asia and that country's leaders, too, would prove no slouches when it came to the New Great Game. It needs at least $200 billion in foreign investment to truly modernize its fabulous oil and gas reserves - and thus sell much more to the West than US-imposed sanctions now allow.

No wonder Iran soon became a target in Washington. No wonder an air assault on that country remains the ultimate wet dream of assorted Likudniks as well as former vice president Dick ("Angler") Cheney and his neo-conservative chamberlains and comrades-in-arms. As seen by the elite from Tehran and Delhi to Beijing and Moscow, such a US attack, now likely off the radar screen until at least 2012, would be a war not only against Russia and China, but against the whole project of Asian integration that the SCO is coming to represent.

Global BRIC-a-brac
Meanwhile, as the Obama administration tries to sort out its Iranian, Afghan, and Central Asian policies, Beijing continues to dream of a secure, fast-flowing, energy version of the old Silk Road, extending from the Caspian Basin (the energy-rich Stans plus Iran and Russia) to Xinjiang province, its Far West.

The SCO has expanded its aims and scope since 2001. Today, Iran, India, and Pakistan enjoy "observer status" in an organization that increasingly aims to control and protect not just regional energy supplies, but Pipelineistan in every direction. This is, of course, the role the Washington ruling elite would like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to play across Eurasia. Given that Russia and China expect the SCO to play a similar role across Asia, clashes of various sorts are inevitable.

Ask any relevant expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing and he will tell you that the SCO should be understood as a historically unique alliance of five non-Western civilizations - Russian, Chinese, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist - and, because of that, capable of evolving into the basis for a collective security system in Eurasia. That's a thought sure to discomfort classic inside-the-Beltway global strategists like Dr Zbig and president George H W Bush's national security advisor Brent Scowcroft.

According to the view from Beijing, the rising world order of the 21st century will be significantly determined by a quadrangle of BRIC countries - for those of you by now collecting New Great Game acronyms, that stands for Brazil, Russia, India and China - plus the future Islamic triangle of Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Add in a unified South America, no longer in thrall to Washington, and you have a global SCO-plus. On the drawing boards, at least, it's a high-octane dream.

The key to any of this is a continuing Sino-Russian entente cordiale.

Already in 1999, watching NATO and the United States aggressively expand into the distant Balkans, Beijing identified this new game for what it was: a developing energy war. And at stake were the oil and natural gas reserves of what Americans would soon be calling the "arc of instability," a vast span of lands extending from North Africa to the Chinese border.

No less important would be the routes pipelines would take in bringing the energy buried in those lands to the West. Where they would be built, the countries they would cross, would determine Liquid war: Welcome to Pipelineistan
By Pepe Escobar

much in the world to come. And this was where the empire of US military bases (think, for instance, Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo) met Pipelineistan (represented, way back in 1999, by the AMBO pipeline).

AMBO, short for Albanian Macedonian Bulgarian Oil Corporation, an entity registered in the US, is building a $1.1 billion pipeline, aka "the Trans-Balkan", slated to be finished by 2011. It will bring Caspian oil to the West without taking it through either Russia or Iran. As a pipeline, AMBO fit well into a geopolitical strategy of creating a US-controlled energy-security grid that was first developed by president Bill Clinton's energy secretary Bill

Richardson and later by Cheney.

Behind the idea of that "grid" lay a go-for-broke militarization of an energy corridor that would stretch from the Caspian Sea in Central Asia through a series of now independent former SSRs of the Soviet Union to Turkey, and from there into the Balkans (from thence onto Europe). It was meant to sabotage the larger energy plans of both Russia and Iran. AMBO itself would bring oil from the Caspian basin to a terminal in the former SSR of Georgia in the Caucasus, and then transport it by tanker through the Black Sea to the Bulgarian port of Burgas, where another pipeline would connect to Macedonia and then to the Albanian port of Vlora.

As for Camp Bondsteel, it was the "enduring" military base that Washington gained from the wars for the remains of Yugoslavia. It would be the largest overseas base the US had built since the Vietnam War. Halliburton's subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root would, with the Army Corps of Engineers, put it up on 400 hectares of farmland near the Macedonian border in southern Kosovo.

Think of it as a user-friendly, five-star version of Guantanamo with perks for those stationed there that included Thai massage and loads of junk food. Bondsteel is the Balkan equivalent of a giant immobile aircraft carrier, capable of exercising surveillance not only over the Balkans but also over Turkey and the Black Sea region (considered in the neo-con-speak of the Bush years "the new interface" between the "Euro-Atlantic community" and the "Greater Middle East").

How could Russia, China, and Iran not interpret the war in Kosovo, then the invasion of Afghanistan (where Washington had previously tried to pair with the Taliban and encourage the building of another of those avoid-Iran, avoid-Russia pipelines), followed by the invasion of Iraq (that country of vast oil reserves), and finally the recent clash in Georgia (that crucial energy transportation junction) as straightforward wars for Pipelineistan?

Though seldom imagined this way in our mainstream media, the Russian and Chinese leaderships saw a stark "continuity" of policy stretching from Bill Clinton's humanitarian imperialism to Bush's "global war on terror". Blowback, as then Russian President Vladimir Putin himself warned publicly, was inevitable - but that's another magic-carpet story, another cave to enter another time.

Rainy night in Georgia
If you want to understand Washington's version of Pipelineistan, you have to start with Mafia-ridden Georgia. Though its army was crushed in its recent war with Russia, Georgia remains crucial to Washington's energy policy in what, by now, has become a genuine arc of instability - in part because of a continuing obsession with cutting Iran out of the energy flow.

It was around the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, as I pointed out in my book Globalistan in 2007, that American policy congealed. Zbig Brzezinski himself flew into Baku in 1995 as an "energy consultant", less than four years after Azerbaijan became independent, and sold the idea to the Azerbaijani elite. The BTC was to run from the Sangachal Terminal, half-an-hour south of Baku, across neighboring Georgia to the Marine Terminal in the Turkish port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean.

Now operational, that 1,767-kilometer-long, 44-meter-wide steel serpent straddles no less than six war zones, ongoing or potential: Nagorno-Karabakh (an Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan), Chechnya and Dagestan (both embattled regions of Russia), South Ossetia and Abkhazia (on which the 2008 Russia-Georgia war pivoted), and Turkish Kurdistan.

From a purely economic point of view, the BTC made no sense. A "BTK" pipeline, running from Baku through Tehran to Iran's Kharg Island, could have been built for, relatively speaking, next to nothing - and it would have had the added advantage of bypassing both mafia-corroded Georgia and wobbly Kurdish-populated Eastern Anatolia. That would have been the really cheap way to bring Caspian oil and gas to Europe.

The New Great Game ensured that that was not to be, and much followed from that decision. Even though Moscow never planned to occupy Georgia long-term in its 2008 war, or take over the BTC pipeline that now runs through its territory, Alfa Bank oil and gas analyst Konstantin Batunin pointed out the obvious: by briefly cutting off the BTC oil flow, Russian troops made it all too clear to global investors that Georgia wasn't a reliable energy transit country. In other words, the Russians made a mockery of Zbig's world.

For its part, Azerbaijan was, until recently, the real success story in the US version of Pipelineistan. Advised by Zbig, Bill Clinton literally "stole" Baku from Russia's "near abroad" by promoting the BTC and the wealth that would flow from it. Now, however, with the message of the Russia-Georgia War sinking in, Baku is again allowing itself to be seduced by Russia. To top it off, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev can't stand Georgia's brash President Mikhail Saakashvili. That's hardly surprising. After all, Saakashvili's rash military moves caused Azerbaijan to lose at least $500 million when the BTC was shut down during the war.

Russia's energy seduction blitzkrieg is focused like a laser on Central Asia as well. (We'll talk about it more in the next Pipelineistan installment.) It revolves around offering to buy Kazakh, Uzbek, and Turkmen gas at European prices instead of previous, much lower Russian prices. The Russians, in fact, have offered the same deal to the Azeris: so now, Baku is negotiating a deal involving more capacity for the Baku-Novorossiysk pipeline, which makes its way to the Russian borders of the Black Sea, while considering pumping less oil for the BTC.

Obama needs to understand the dire implications of this. Less Azeri oil on the BTC - its full capacity is 1 million barrels a day, mostly shipped to Europe - means the pipeline may go broke, which is exactly what Russia wants.

In Central Asia, some of the biggest stakes revolve around the monster Kashagan oil field in "snow leopard" Kazakhstan, the absolute jewel in the Caspian crown with reserves of as many as 9 billion barrels. As usual in Pipelineistan, it all comes down to which routes will deliver Kashagan's oil to the world after production starts in 2013. This spells, of course, Liquid War. Wily Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev would like to use the Russian-controlled Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) to pump Kashagan crude to the Black Sea.

In this case, the Kazakhs hold all the cards. How oil will flow from Kashagan will decide whether the BTC - once hyped by Washington as the ultimate Western escape route from dependence on Persian Gulf oil - lives or dies.

Welcome, then, to Pipelineistan! Whether we like it or not, in good times and bad, it's a reasonable bet that we're all going to be Pipeline tourists. So, go with the flow. Learn the crucial acronyms, keep an eye out for what happens to all those US bases across the oil heartlands of the planet, watch where the pipelines are being built, and do your best to keep tabs on the next set of monster Chinese energy deals and fabulous coups by Russia's Gazprom.

And, while you're at it, consider this just the first postcard sent off from our tour of Pipelineistan. We'll be back (to slightly adapt a quote from Terminator). Think of this as a door opening onto a future in which what flows where and to whom may turn out to be the most important question on the planet.

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times Online and an analyst for the Real News. This article draws from his new book, Obama does Globalistan. He is also the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. Pepe may be reached at

(Copyright 2009 Pepe Escobar.)

The game behind the headlines

Good find, McJ. Energy is power in more ways than one. And as Escobar says it's as much about who doesn't get the oil and gas as who does.
The overthrow of the Shah must give the Neocons and Zionists indigestion every time they think about it. "If only, if only! If only we could pipe that Caspian oil down through Iran. It'd be Game Over. AAAAhhhhggg!!" (bit of poetic liscence there) No wonder they hate the Iranian regime and can't wait to replace it or at least vent their anger at it with a few (nuclear) bombs.
And all the new troop build-up in Afghanistan has to be about the pipline from the Caspian.
The Iranians were close to a deal with Pakistan and India to build (by the Russians!) a gas pipeline through Pakistan to India and then onto China. Don't know what has happened to it. It has to have been a factor in the Mumbai bombings, though.
The BTC pipeline from Baku via Georgia to Ceyhan was built (by BP who also built the leaking pipeline in Alaska) in a hurry and on the cheap, I believe, and will no doubt be high maintenance in the future.

I think where guys like Brzezinsky screwed up is that they never thought everyone would look at the US/UK/Israel differently after the invasion of Iraq. They didn't realise that everybody else would see their only hope of retaining any sovereignty was to unite against the Coalition of the Witless. Everybody knew what Putin meant when he warned against the Unipolar world. Well everybody, that is, except dickheads like Saakashvili. (He still hasn't learnt his lesson even after they pushed him out into the traffic on the end of stick to see if the trucks would stop!)

McJ's picture


I also added his book. "Globalistan:How the Gloablized World is Dissolving Into Liquid War" ( ) to the forum. There is a decent map of the Baku - Ceyhan pipeline on page 56. You can see it fairly well if you use the fullscreen mode and zoom in.

"If only we could pipe that Caspian oil down through Iran. It'd be Game Over."
No Kidding! Seeing a map of it makes that point pretty clearly.
The map also highlights the importance of Turkey and especially Georgia to the whole scheme of things. I can't tell from the map but does the pipeline go thru Ossetia?

"He still hasn't learnt his lesson even after they pushed him out into the traffic on the end of stick to see if the trucks would stop!"
laughing out loud laughing out loud

"The most unpleasant truth in the long run is a far safer travelling companion than the most agreeable falsehood." Emerson

McJ's picture

Answered my own question :)

Here's Escobar on the Russian - Georgia conflict and a screen clip of a map of the pipeline.


"The most unpleasant truth in the long run is a far safer travelling companion than the most agreeable falsehood." Emerson

Spitting distance

"I can't tell from the map but does the pipeline go thru Ossetia?"

No, but very close. Only a few kilometers.

Thanks for the book. Now I'm groaning about all the reading! smiling

McJ's picture


Well, I haven't read it yet's goin on my list... but it looks like a keeper!

"The most unpleasant truth in the long run is a far safer travelling companion than the most agreeable falsehood." Emerson


You're right. I confused the BTC line with the one to the Black Sea.
Here is a very good map (doesn't show South Ossetia, unfortunately)

Have you got the youtube address for Escobar on the Russian/Georgian conflict? I can't pick it up from the screen.

McJ's picture

youtube link

youtube link =

Thanks, that is a good map !

"The most unpleasant truth in the long run is a far safer travelling companion than the most agreeable falsehood." Emerson

More maps

Thanks for the youtube link, McJ. Pepe doesn't mince words, does he?

Here's some more maps:-
First, Ralph Peters' map of "The New Middle East" in particular "New Pakistan"
and then, This one with PNAC's "pipe dream" overlaid (link via Moon of Alabama & Niqnaq)

US has been funding separatists in Baluchistan - where there's oil, gas and other mineral resources, of course - for some years now.

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Re: Maps

I added all the maps you linked to the forum here.

I like the 'pnac pipe dream' map with the "blocking Chinese access to persian gulf energy" plastered across the whole map!

"The most unpleasant truth in the long run is a far safer travelling companion than the most agreeable falsehood." Emerson

wow! you guys rock!!

I'm still hampered with physical problems so it's great to see so much good stuff going on here. Thanks again on behalf of myself and all the readers who never say anything.

McJ's picture

Thanks for the thanks and thanks

Thanks for the thanks laughing out loud
You look after your health and we'll hold down the fort.

And I have to say thanks again to NJT for hosting this awesome space for us. It has so-o-o much potential that we have hardly begun to tap. I wonder sometimes if casual readers even know about the forums.

"The most unpleasant truth in the long run is a far safer travelling companion than the most agreeable falsehood." Emerson

admin's picture

you're welcome and thanks

thanks McJ for keeping things active around here - I must confess to being one of the readers who doesn't say much these days. I wish I knew more what to say (and do!), beyond just complaining about the state of the world. I guess I can fall back on the excuse that my "offline" life has been increasingly busy these days. But I do enjoy your posts and the perspectives james has been posting. Not to mention the suggested reading.

Do you think I should move the forum links up to the top of the right sidebar, to give them a little more visibility?

McJ's picture


"Do you think I should move the forum links up to the top of the right sidebar, to give them a little more visibility?"

I have pondered what would work to make the Forum's link more visible. You could cut down the number of "Recent blog posts" showing to five or six (with the "more" link below it). Then add "Recent Forum Posts" below that with two or three posts showing and a "more" link below that.

Or you could just put a Forum link in the large bold font above Recent Blog Posts without showing any of the recent posts (in red) below so it doesn't take away from the visibility of the Blog Posts? Like so:

Recent Forum posts
Recent blog posts

Just a couple of suggestions, I think I prefer the first one. Maybe others will have some suggestions.

Maybe two or three active

Maybe two or three active forums headlined across the top of the page below the header bar? Otherwise, I wouldn't change the lay out. It works!

No worries, WP.

I enjoy bouncing off McJ. (Visual thinking can be a curse at times!) You got that "Pain Free" book yet?! smiling

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Bounce :)

woohoo! woohoo!

"The most unpleasant truth in the long run is a far safer travelling companion than the most agreeable falsehood." Emerson

Follow the Pipelines (maps included!)

Three very enlightening articles on water and oil pipelines to Israel. The critical fact behind these articles is that Israel needs to exploit foreign resources to survive. They can't afford them and their neighbours need them themselves anyway, so they have to take them i.e. war.
Israel's continued existence means more wars.
Links via Kenny's Sideshow-

McJ's picture


I added the Atheo news article on water as a strategic resource in the mid-east, to the forum as well as the maps of the Kirkuk to Haifa pipeline. I also stumbled upon an essay by a Mike Ammons from the U of Texas, Austin titled Water and the Arab-Israeli peace process. It has some good history in it so I added it to the forum as well. You can find it here.

"The most unpleasant truth in the long run is a far safer travelling companion than the most agreeable falsehood." Emerson

That article by Mike Ammons

That article by Mike Ammons has some very valuable history. And the British and French swanning around now positioning themselves as peacemakers when they set this whole whirlwind in motion. No shame, no guilt, no consci. . . . . say . . . this reminds me of something!

Any chance of archiving the short post by Xymphora I linked to? I feel strongly that it will prove prescient. Thanks for your efforts here. excellent!

Hey, how 'bout da judge, eh? party time!

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Xymphora and the Red/Med/Dead Canals

"Any chance of archiving the short post by Xymphora I linked to? I feel strongly that it will prove prescient."

I added the Xymphora post to the Middle East forum. I also added a couple more maps and an Al Jazeera article ( on the proposed Red to Dead 'Peace' Canal (so called by Peres). Just looking at the map of where they propose to run this thing (the middle map) I can't help thinking that the Jordanians have got to be crazy to go along with this. Considering the Xymphora take on the Kirkuk to Haifa pipeline and Israel's past behavior and long history of stealing land it looks very suspicious to me. And Peres calling it the 'Peace Canal' and the 'Peace Valley' is just way too Orwellian smiling. The Med/Dead proposals (top Map at link above) appear to be a more practical solution so I am wondering why they are rushing ahead with the Red/Dead?

"The most unpleasant truth in the long run is a far safer travelling companion than the most agreeable falsehood." Emerson

Just from reading the

Just from reading the articles you put up, McJ, I'd say that the reason for the Red/Dead pipeline is this- "The project, which will alleviate pressure on renewable and nonrenewable water resources in the region by providing about 850mcm of potable water annually, entails the construction of a 200-kilometre canal from Aqaba on the Red Sea to the Dead Sea." from the second article. No further explanation is given. Presumably the Israelis would then pump ALL the water out of the Jordan River instead of most of it. But from the figures given this wouldn't account for all or even most of the additional water gained. The answer to that would prove enlightening, I'm sure. What this project is not about, you can be sure, is any of the stated reasons.

Also from the second article--
"The two companies provide monthly progress reports to the project's steering committee, which includes representatives from the World Bank and the project's three parties (Jordan, Palestine and Israel)."

The three parties mentioned plus the World Bank all take their marching orders from the international bankers who own the Zionists. My guess is that the World Bank is involved to pay for it (and pass on the costs to other governments), the PA and Jordan are involve to share (probably the bulk of) the running costs. The two companies mentioned are doing the "environmental studies" and would likely be beholden to the same bankers, IMO.

The pipeline is proposed to be in Jordanian territory for the "Xymphora" reasons plus if there is a break, the seawater will polute Jordanian territory and not Israeli territory (I think it is desert down that way anyway, though I'd have to check that). The Jordanians will go for it because they always do what they're told. The Kingdom and it's royal family owe their existence historically to the British and in present days to the Americans and the Israelis. The Jordanian elite is 100% bought and paid for!

The Israelis wont be concerned at the far greater costs of this pipeline over alternative proposals because they wont be paying for it in the end. Everybody else will be. That is, afterall, the essence of banking and also of the attitude of Israel right from the beginning.

Anyway, that's my take on what is most likely to be going on, McJ.

McJ's picture

Well, thanks James

Well, thanks James

How can they pump all the water out of the Jordan River - will they damn it - or do you mean that's where they will be taking it from?

"My guess is that the World Bank is involved to pay for it (and pass on the costs to other governments), the PA and Jordan are involve to share (probably the bulk of) the running costs. The two companies mentioned are doing the "environmental studies" and would likely be beholden to the same bankers, IMO."

Good point...another of those privatized profit socialized costs kinda deals.

"What this project is not about, you can be sure, is any of the stated reasons."
I figured that much out. laughing out loud

"The most unpleasant truth in the long run is a far safer travelling companion than the most agreeable falsehood." Emerson

Arava Valley

McJ, I was just guessing that they might pump all the water out of the Jordan R and then fill the Dead Sea with seawater from the Gulf of Aqaba. Just a punt.

The Arava Valley is dry and only 5 to 15 km (3 - 10ml) wide with arid mountain ranges either side. The Jordanian border runs right down the middle as does the most seismically active faultline in the Middle East! It is sparsely populated.

There is an interesting Israeli report on its feasibility here-

The valley rises 230m then falls a total of 650m (2000ft) to the Dead Sea. Though there's no mention of it (strange!), I would think this is a prime opportunity to generate hydropower and also desalinate the water. This might be where the extra 850mcm of water is coming from. There's a lot not being said, I think.

Also not being said is the existence of a once active oil pipeline that went from the port of Eilat on the Gulf of Aqaba through to, I think, Haifa. I can't find any mention of it so far in reports of this Red/Dead Pipeline proposal (which is a bit of a flag to me). It went out of use after the fall of the Shah in Iran. Iran used to ship oil (very cheaply) to Eilat and the Israelis piped it from there up the Arava Valley. When the Shah fell, the (cheap) oil stopped and Israel also fell on hard times and has been struggling ever since.

One of the aspects of the BTC pipeline from the Caspian through Turkey is that the oil will be further piped offshore along the coast to Haifa and then some of it piped to Eilat and onto tankers for Asia. This should be a nice little earner for them. It can only go down the Arava Valley.

All this talk of a Peace Pipeline is Orwellian, as you say. I think there is more afoot here as Sherlock might have said!

McJ, is is possible for you email me? I supplied my address to the site when registering (I think). Are you able to access that information? Or is there some other way we can do it?

McJ's picture

James, Here are a couple of


Here are a couple of excerpts from sites I stumbled upon, while googling, that talk about desalination and generating hydro electricity from the drop in elevation to the dead Sea. Also a report on Middle East Water Conflicts by Wolfe whom Ammons references in the article I posted to the forum - at link -

I'll send you an email. Let me know here in comments if you don't get it. smiling

From The Green Prophet:
Regional Environmental Hazards and the Red-Dead Peace Conduit

Jun 27th, 2008 by Rachel Bergstein

Earlier this week, Michael Green wrote about Shimon Peres’ “Peace Valley” project, which will create a canal from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, as well as a huge tourist complex in the Arava dubbed the “Las Vegas of the Middle East.” Although the Peace Valley is relatively new, plans to either build a channel between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea or the Red Sea and the Dead Sea have been around for decades. These plans picked up steam at the World Summit in Johannesburg in 2002, where Israel and Jordan introduced the “Peace Conduit,” a Red-Dead canal. The Palestinian Authority subsequently gave its support for the plan. The plans for the Conduit have kept right on rolling within the last few months, as the World Bank began a two-year feasibility study on the project.

Many environmentalists are concerned that the Peace Conduit will have adverse environmental impacts. First of all, the system will require an enormous amount of energy. As water flows downward from the Gulf of Aqaba to the Dead Sea it will produce enough hydro-electricity to power the desalination plants that are to be built near the Dead Sea.

Eilat, however, is elevated, so the water will need to be pumped over Eilat before it can flow downwards toward the Dead Sea. Under the agreement, Jordan will receive the majority of the desalinated water; Amman’s elevation, however, is 1400 meters higher than that of the Dead Sea, so another massive quantity of input will be necessary to pump the water to Jordan. It is unclear where this energy will come from; potentially, Israel, Jordan, and Palestine are setting themselves up for a gross dependence on fossil fuels – with all of their ecological consequences – in order to power this project.

Secondly, although proponents of the project argue that it will “Save the Dead Sea,” it is entirely possible that the project will actually harm the rapidly-fading landmark. Initial scientific predictions reveal that the 2 billion cubic meters of water that will be pumped from the Red Sea every year will just sit on top of the Dead Sea – instead of mixing in – and will cause growth of algae and gypsum. Furthermore, it is unclear where the brine from the desalination plants will be dumped. If they are to be dumped in the Dead Sea, they could potentially alter the ecology of the water.

The Dead Sea is a huge tourist destination in both Israel and Jordan because of its therapeutic qualities, so if the Peace Conduit changes the composition of the water it could have disastrous results for the tourist industry. This is also extremely significant to the Palestinian Authority, who also control a portion of the Dead Sea, and who will need opportunities to improve their floundering economy as they build their future state.

Lastly, the Peace Conduit could be quite damaging for the Arava Valley. The valley contains underground aquifers. The pipe will run through the valley, so seawater from the Red Sea leaks out of the pipe, it could contaminate the aquifer, rendering it unusable. Additionally, the Arava Valley is located in the Great Seismic Valley. Earthquakes could greatly harm the Conduit, which poses another threat for contamination of groundwater. Since the Arava is a highly productive agricultural center, this is another risk that is both ecological and economic.

Although Jordan’s King Abdullah does not appear to be too pleased about Peres’ “Peace Valley” shenanigans, leaders from Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority are all in agreement on their support for the Peace Conduit, which could be equally as damaging. For now, we will have to wait for the World Bank feasibility results, and hope that our leaders do the same.


And from The United Nations University:

Central Eurasian water crisis: Caspian, Aral, and Dead Seas
Edited by Iwao Kobori and Michael H. Glantz
© The United Nations University, 1998

...Conceptual design

The 400 m drop at the Dead Sea could be used not only for hydropower generation but also for reverse osmosis desalination. This single pressure of 40-60 kg/cm2 would be directly used to convert sea water for drinking purposes at a reasonable treatment cost of less than US$1/m3. The topography and geology of the Red-Dead route do not favour the combination of hydropower generation with a reverse osmosis desalination plant in a single-pressure pipeline system that requires terminal end pressure of 40-60 kg/m2. The Med-Dead conduit route (Gaza-Masada), on the other hand, is ideal for adding a reverse osmosis desalination plant at the end of the pressure pipeline system on the existing design.

Co-generation refers to the use of waste heat from a conventional (oil or coal) energy-producing plant for the desalination of sea water. The co-generation scheme was first conceived to provide both hydroelectricity and fresh water from reverse osmosis sea-water desalination plants in the early 1980s (Glueckstern, 1982). The use of a part of the hydro potential to make reverse osmosis desalination cost-effective was shelved, however, owing to high costs and a poor understanding of membrane technologies at the time (WPDC, 1980, 1983).

Discussion of the MDS in the early 1980s might not have sufficiently emphasized the idea of shared resources and the benefit of joint development, given political limitations at the time. Indeed, until now, there had been no attempt at comprehensive development of the Jordan River system, which includes the linkage of MDS and the Al-Wuheda dam on the Yarmouk tributary. This new co-generation approach to the MDS scheme thus takes into account both recent innovative developments in membrane technology for reverse osmosis (RO) desalination, which aim to save energy and to make reverse osmosis desalination more cost-effective, and recent changes in the Middle East political situation following the Gulf War in March 1992, the Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles in September 1993, and the Jordan-Israel Treaty of Peace in October 1994, which may make comprehensive basin development not only technically and financially feasible but politically desirable and, indeed, urgent.

Hydro-powered sea-water reverse osmosis desalination for co-generation would exploit the elevation difference of 400 m between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea (see figs. 11.1 and 11.2). The Dead Sea water level would be maintained at a steady-state level with some seasonal fluctuations of about 2 metres to sustain the seawater level between 402 m and 390.5 m below mean sealevel, during which inflow into the Dead Sea should balance evaporation.

The bilateral (or trilateral) development plan of the Israel/Palestine (Jordan) Mediterranean-Dead Sea conduit scheme (IJMDS) is a co-generation alternative that would combine a solar-hydro scheme with a hydro-powered sea-water reverse osmosis desalination plant as illustrated in fig. 11.2. The IJMDS scheme would have six major structural components:

- an upstream reservoir (the Mediterranean) at zero sealevel, with essentially an infinite amount of water,

- a sea-water carrier by tunnel, canal, and pipeline, with booster pumping station,

- an upper reservoir and surge shaft at the outlet of the sea-water carrier to allow or regulate the water flow,

- a storage-type hydroelectric unit capable of reverse operation to allow the system to work also as a pumped-storage unit, if required,

- a downstream reservoir (the Dead Sea), at a present surface elevation of approximately 400 m below sealevel,

- a hydro-powered reverse osmosis desalination plant, including a pre-treatment unit, a pressure control unit, the reverse osmosis unit, an energy recovery unit, a post-treatment unit, and regulating reservoirs for distribution.

....The Peace Drainage Canal scheme and eco-political decision-making

The lower Jordan system (including the Dead Sea), which is shared by three riparians - Israel, Palestine (West Bank), and Jordan (East Bank) - will be an area of focus to demonstrate the willingness for peace through economic development. The "Peace Drainage Canal" (PDC) scheme, which would salvage brackish water, including saline spring water and irrigation return in the Jordan Valley, is proposed not only to protect the water quality of the lower Jordan mainstream but also to produce new fresh potable water (Murakami and Musiake, 1994). The PDC scheme would have an 85 km drainage canal along the lower Jordan River in either the West Bank or the East Bank, and a brackish water reverse osmosis desalination plant with an installed capacity of 200,000 m3 day at the terminal end of the canal system (fig. 11.4). The reverse osmosis desalination plant would convert useless or harmful saline waters into safe potable water at reasonable cost, taking into account incentives generated by ecopolitical decision-making to share the resources and benefits among the three riparians.

...Reverse osmosis desalination

The heart of the Peace Drainage Canal project is the reverse osmosis desalination plant to salvage brackish water. The treatment process includes three phases: pre-treatment, processing, and post-treatment.

"The most unpleasant truth in the long run is a far safer traveling companion than the most agreeable falsehood." Emerson

"Under the agreement, Jordan

"Under the agreement, Jordan will receive the majority of the desalinated water". Just can't see that happening somehow!

There are three functioning oil pipelines between Haifa/Ashkelon and Eilat but they dont appear to go down the Arava Valley . See map here Click on "Pipelines map"

"TIPline (TransIsraelPipeline) will allow crude to run from the Israeli port of Ashkelon on the Mediterranean coast to Eilat on the Red Sea. The pipeline was built in 1968 to carry oil shipped up the Red Sea from Iran to Eilat and from there to the Mediterranean on its way to Europe. The 1979 revolution in Iran ended Iranian relations with Israel, but following the signing of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty Israel upgraded the pipeline and expanded its capacity to handle two-way traffic of 400,000 barrels per day enabling Egyptian oil to flow from Eilat to the Mediterranean. Due to a deterioration in Egypt-Israel relations since the outbreak of the intifada, these exports have also been terminated.

Now TIPline has been revived. Russian tankers bringing crude from Novorossiysk on the Black Sea can be unloaded in Ashkelon. Their oil will then cross Israel to Eilat, to be reloaded onto tankers and shipped to Asia. The route provides a much shorter link between the Mediterranean and Asia than the traditional route used so far around Africa. The only other passage to the Red Sea, the Suez Canal, is restricted to vessels of around 130,000 tons deadweight, about half the size of the average supertanker."
More here