Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Ideology Trumps Economic Efficiency, as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline Opens

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Ideology Trumps Economic Efficiency, as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline Opens

Article excerpt

"[Eaku-Ceyhan] would allow Israel to draw oil from Ceyhan (Turkey), the only Middle East government with which Israel has good relations."

-George Chantunia, president of the Georgia State oil Company

The presidents of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey met near Baku, the Azerbaijani capital, on May 25 to mark the opening of the Azerbaijan section of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline. U.S. Energy secretary Samuel Bodman also was present "as an early champion of the project for geopolitical reasons," according to the May 26 Financial Times.

The project had been pushed relentlessly by Israel-and thus by the United States-to demonstrate to Turkey that its alliance with Israel "pays off." The completion of Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan-which is scheduled to be fully operational this fall-represents a notable victory for Israel.

All of the international oil companies active in the Caspian region, including British Petroleum, at first favored an oil pipeline that would transit Iran and terminate on salt water on the Persian Gulf. Such a line would have been shorter and much less expensive to build than BakuCeyhan. BP suddenly changed its mind, however, and was accused of doing so for political reasons. Lord Browne, chief executive of BP which has a 30 percent stake in the project, said in a May 26 Financial Times article that the project was "an important piece of the jigsaw of the world energy market."

Here at home the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Israel's powerful Washington, DC lobby, thwarted the trans-Iranian route with the incessant charge that Tehran supported terrorism by aiding Lebanon's Hezbollah-which, in fact, fought successfully Israel's illegal occupation of southern Lebanon.

In 1994 AIPAC launched its anti-Hezbollah campaign in Congress. Two years later, in 1996, President Bill Clinton signed an executive order imposing sanctions on Iran. …

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