Qatar – rich and dangerous – eyes Syria
Faced with a glutted market for its liquefied natural gas, Qatar eyes development of Syrian gas fields as a huge opportunity, if Assad can be forced from power.
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No sooner had Qaddafi been caught and shot, Qatar approached Bashar Al-Assad to establish a transitional government with the Moslem Brotherhood. As you would expect, relinquishing power to the Brotherhood was an offer that he could refuse. It didn’t take long before he heard his sentence pronounced in January 2012 on the CBS television program, 60 Minutes by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani.Skip to next paragraph
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The Emir declared that foreign troops should be sent into Syria. At the Friends of Syria conference in February, Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani said, "We should do whatever necessary to help [the Syrian opposition], including giving them weapons to defend themselves."
Why would Qatar want to become involved in Syria where they have little invested? A map reveals that the kingdom is a geographic prisoner in a small enclave on the Persian Gulf coast.
It relies upon the export of LNG, because it is restricted by Saudi Arabia from building pipelines to distant markets. In 2009, the proposal of a pipeline to Europe through Saudi Arabia and Turkey to the Nabucco pipeline was considered, but Saudi Arabia that is angered by its smaller and much louder brother has blocked any overland expansion.
Already the largest LNG producer, Qatar will not increase the production of LNG. The market is becoming glutted with eight new facilities in Australia coming online between 2014 and 2020.
A saturated North American gas market and a far more competitive Asian market leaves only Europe. The discovery in 2009 of a new gas field near Israel, Lebanon, Cyprus, and Syria opened new possibilities to bypass the Saudi Barrier and to secure a new source of income. Pipelines are in place already in Turkey to receive the gas. Only Al-Assad is in the way.
Qatar along with the Turks would like to remove Al-Assad and install the Syrian chapter of the Moslem Brotherhood. It is the best organized political movement in the chaotic society and can block Saudi Arabia’s efforts to install a more fanatical Wahhabi based regime. Once the Brotherhood is in power, the Emir’s broad connections with Brotherhood groups throughout the region should make it easy for him to find a friendly ear and an open hand in Damascus.
A control centre has been established in the Turkish city of Adana near the Syrian border to direct the rebels against Al-Assad. Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah al-Saud asked to have the Turks establish a joint Turkish, Saudi, Qatari operations center. “The Turks liked the idea of having the base in Adana so that they could supervise its operations” a source in the Gulf told Reuters.
The fighting is likely to continue for many more months, but Qatar is in for the long term. At the end, there will be contracts for the massive reconstruction and there will be the development of the gas fields. In any case, Al-Assad must go. There is nothing personal; it is strictly business to preserve the future tranquility and well-being of Qatar.
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