Russia, China, Iran Defeat U.S. in the "Pipeline Wars"

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A major reason for the US.-led invasion and occupation of Afghanistan was the building of a pipeline through the country that would take natural gas from Turkmenistan to India and Pakistan. Canada and the other 44 Western countries occupying Afghanistan are supporting this U.S. objective by bolstering Washington's military position in the country.

Turkmenistan, which borders Afghanistan, contains the fourth largest reserves of natural gas in the world. The U.S. has been trying to set up the pipeline for a decade, having first negotiated the venture with the previous Taliban government. Two months after these negotiations broke down, Washington overthrew the Taliban in October 2001 when it invaded Afghanistan.

Since then, the U.S. has persuaded India, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, and Afghanistan to sign an agreement aimed at constructing the pipeline, but the war in Afghanistan and the U.S.'s failure to defeat the Taliban stalled actual work on this project. Washington's occupation of Afghanistan and pipeline plans are part of its strategy to gain control of Central Asia's and the Caspian Sea area's energy riches and divert them away from Russia, China, and Iran.

As Richard Boucher, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, stated in September 2007: "One of our goals is to stabilize Afghanistan so it can become a conduit and hub between South and Central Asia so that energy can flow to the south. . . and so that the countries of Central Asia are no longer bottled up between the two enormous powers of China and Russia, but rather that they have outlets to the south as well as to the north and the east and the west."

However, as the Indian diplomat M.K. Bhadrakumar put it in an article for Asia Times, "The United States' pipeline diplomacy in the Caspian, which strove to bypass Russia, elbow out China and isolate Iran, has foundered."

Recently, the U.S.'s Turkmen-Afghan pipeline plans have suffered what appears to be a fatal blow. On January 6, Turkmenistan committed its entire gas exports to China, Russia, and Iran with the inauguration of the DauletabadSarakhs-Khangiran (DSK) pipeline which connects Iran's northern Caspian area with Turkmenistan.

As Bhadrakumar explains, Turkmenistan "has no urgent need of the pipelines that the United States and the European Union have been advancing." The operation of the DSK pipeline, along with the launching of another one between China and Turkmenistan in December 2009, has "virtually redrawn the energy map of Eurasia and the Caspian," he maintains. "We are witnessing a new pattern of energy cooperation at the regional level that dispenses with Big Oil [private Western multinational oil companies]. Russia traditionally takes the lead. China and Iran follow the example. Russia, Iran, and Turkmenistan hold, respectively, the world's largest, second-largest, and fourth-largest gas reserves. And China will be consumer par excellence in this century. The matter is of profound consequence to U.S. global strategy."

Bhadrakumar has served in diplomatic posts for India in the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Russia and Turkmenistan have also agreed to build an eastwest pipeline connecting all of the latter's gas fields to one network so that the pipelines going to Russia, Iran, and China can take gas from any of the fields.

Three weeks before the opening of the DSK pipeline, China and Turkmenistan inaugurated a major natural gas pipeline between the two countries. The presidents of China, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan attended the opening ceremony of the 1,833-kilometre pipeline on December 14, 2009. The pipeline will transport natural gas from the SamanDepe field in eastern Turkmenistan through Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to China's Xinjiang province, from where it will go to 14 Chinese provinces and cities. By 2012, the pipeline will deliver 40 billion cubic metres of gas per year, which is more than half of China's present gas consumption. …