Pulling Rabbits out of the Magician’s Hat… The “Arab” Pipeline as an Indicator of the Phase’s Nature
In the article entitled “7 Questions Regarding the ‘Arab’ Gas Pipeline”, published on September 8, Kassioun raised a set of questions about the so-called “Arab” gas pipeline, its relationship to US behavior in the region, especially the Caesar’s Act, as well as a number of other questions about the French roles and the nature of the Zionist position on the issue.
In this article, we will try to answer a basic question: What does the timing of proposing the “Arab” gas pipeline mean; with regard to the international situation, then the situation of the region, and finally the Syrian situation?
The Project’s Identity, Internationally
The project, according to what has been said about it so far, includes an energy and electrical connection among a group of countries: Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. Indirectly added to them is the Zionist entity, because it is originally linked in an energy sense with Egypt and Jordan (and linked from the position of an exporter). In addition, the energy/political interconnection of some of these countries is openly linked with the Zionist entity within the so-called “East Mediterranean Gas Forum”, which established in Cairo in September of 2020 and includes: Egypt, “Israel”, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, and Jordan, and which the US joined on March 9, 2021 as a permanent observer.
Merely looking at the map of the pipeline, and the nature of the international interconnections to which we have referred, provides for the emergence of a clear conclusion that the international identity of the project, despite its “Arab” name, is a Western one at its core.
This implies that it goes against the “Belt and Road” project and the “Eurasian” project, and that it is completely opposite to moving east.
Since proposing the project coincides with the US military retreat and withdrawal from the region, it is not difficult to compare it to the traditional narrative of direct military colonialism leaving through the window and entering through the economic window.
The Project’s Identity, Regionally
If some argue that the Zionist entity is not part of the project, neither overtly nor covertly, and if we want to be “well intentioned” and agree with this, what is difficult to argue about are the following:
1- The pipeline’s alignment with the entire western borders of occupied Palestine and its entire eastern borders, in addition to the numerous bombings of the line in its Egyptian portion during the past few years, which were attributed to “terrorist groups”, and led “miraculously” to openning the way for a direct energy connection between the Zionist entity and Jordan (the connecting 65-km line to the Jordanian Mafraq Governorate), a project that was announced in 2016, through which pumping started last year.
Additionally, the line connecting Egyptian al-Arish and occupied Ashkelon was initially an export pipeline from Egypt to the Zionist entity, and its direction was reversed in 2019. All of these things lead to a clear conclusion: the line as a whole will be at the mercy of the Zionist who (if we assume is not a covert part of the game) will be in a position to be a bully in the pipeline project: “Either I am part of the project or there is going to be no project”.
2- The two gas links between the Zionist entity and each of Egypt and Jordan are, respectively: Egyptian al-Arish and Jordanian Mafraq, which are also located on the “Arab Gas Pipeline” path. These two countries import gas from the Zionist entity through them, and we will need a lot of evidence to make sure that they will not pass the gas stolen from Palestine towards Syria and Lebanon, because the two countries at issue, as proven by their actual behavior, have no principled objection to doing so.
3- The maximum capacity of the “Arab” gas pipeline, based on the diameter of the pipeline, is 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year. The capacity of the two pipelines through which “Israel” exports gas to Egypt (al-Arish) and Jordan (Mafraq) – which are located on the Arab Gas Pipeline – are respectively 7 + 3 = 10 billion cubic meters.
4- According to Lebanese researcher, Dr. Shadi Nohra: “On October 1, 2018, Haaretz announced that Israeli company Delek had purchased 39% of the East Mediterranean Pipeline to export Israeli gas from Ashkelon to al-Arish. The news added, without details, that Delek also bought the Arab Gas Pipeline linking al-Arish (Egypt) with Aqaba (Jordan). On October 5, Egypt signed an agreement to export Egyptian gas to Jordan, from al-Arish to Aqaba, which can only be done through the Arab Gas Pipeline”.
5- The idea of the project as a whole is based on the export of Egyptian natural gas through Jordan and Syria to Lebanon. Statements indicate that part of the gas will be converted into electricity in Jordan and sent through the Jordanian network, then the Syrian, then the Lebanese to solve the electricity crisis in Lebanon. However, the project as a whole will contribute at best only 5.5 additional hours of electricity in Lebanon, which raises serious questions about the economic feasibility of the project if the only source of gas therein is the Egyptian one. It then raises questions about its political objectives. (Within this same article we dedicate a section titled “Numbers and Calculations” to discuss this point).
6- Egyptian Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Tarek El-Molla, said in his statements on Friday, September 10, while hosted on the Al-Hekaya program with the media personality Amr Adib: “There have been recent discoveries of gas not only in Egypt but in Israel, and there may be in Lebanon and Gaza. There were discoveries a few years ago there and in Cyprus and all countries. The discoveries that these countries have are greater than their needs, and they cannot benefit from this discovery that is under the water. They must sell it and they do not have networks or means to spend this gas, so we were the most appropriate, most ready, and fastest solution. Yes, we are self-sufficient, and we export from our own, but we have the capabilities to import and re-export. Thus, we work in trading, importing, exporting, operating, and being a center for gas trade and circulation”.
7- The French and Emirati mediation and encouragement of the project, as well as the cooperation of the World Bank (according to Ghajar), in addition to all of the above, makes wondering about the relationship between this project and the normalization processes with the Zionist entity an urgent and legitimate question.
The Project’s Identity, Domestically
If we put together the international and regional sides, and look at the nature of the influential forces in Syria, the immediate conclusion is that the project goes against the entire Astana trio (Russia, Turkey, and Iran), in addition to its conflict with the “Belt and Road” project.
Perhaps more importantly, under the pressure of US sanctions, and the pressure of internal great corruption and economic collapse, this project is presented as if it were a rabbit that the magician pulls out of his hat at the last moment. The most obvious, and perhaps the least danger of this game is turning Syria into an energy corridor subject to “Israeli” bullying, at best, and at worst, into an energy corridor for stolen Palestinian gas.
It is not difficult for those who follow the Syrian situation details, and the attempts of the extremists to evade the political solution in any possible way, to expect that the West has no problem in keeping things as they are, and even pushing them to deteriorate further under two conditions: the continuation of the chaos on the one hand, and filling the void of the imminent American withdrawal with the “Abraham Accords”.
The Project as an Indicator of the Phase’s Nature
Everything we have stated previously, including information and assumptions, discusses – in our opinion – hoped-for Western scenarios. This does not mean in any way that they are inevitable or sustainable scenarios, but rather that the possibilities of their realization and sustainability are derived from the actual strength of their owners (now and later), not only at the domestic level, but also the regional and international levels. Therefore, they are still within the framework of “desires”.
However, perhaps the most important conclusion regarding the Syrian situation is that the conflict has moved from one phase to a completely new phase. After the phases of the security-military-political conflict, and then economic, we see today that the conflict has transcended the phase whose first objective was the destruction of Syria, to a stage where the conflict has become over the mechanism of its reconstruction.
In other words, it is a struggle over the nature of Syria’s economic, political, and geopolitical positioning within major global and regional projects. This same matter means an implicit struggle over the imminent political solution, between a camp that wants to bypass the political solution and make it superfluous by perpetuating the fait accompli or by making ornamental changes that would put Syria on the Solidere Beirut road, and between a camp that wants to implement a political solution and take Syria east towards a productive economy and economically equal relations, and certainly towards a functional role that is hostile to Zionism and Western projects.
Numbers and Calculations
• The electrical energy that can be produced from one cubic meter of natural gas, (using a combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT)), which is among the highest efficiency in the industry at 60%, is 6.6 kWh.
• Lebanon’s annual electricity needs are estimated between 3000 and 3500 megawatts (as capacity), of which it produces at best 1800 megawatts, meaning that the deficit ranges between 1200 and 1700 megawatts. As for the energy deficit, it is the capacity deficit multiplied by time (and here it is a year), that is between 10.5 and 15 TWh.
• Thus, the amount of natural gas that Lebanon needs for a complete solution to the electricity problem, assuming the use of CCGT turbines, is between 1.6 and 2.3 billion cubic meters of natural gas.
• According to BP’s annual report issued this year, “Statistical Review of World Energy 2021”, Egypt’s total exports of natural gas in 2020 amounted to 1.8 billion cubic meters. This is knowing that the difference between its production and consumption in the same year, i.e. the exportable surplus, is only 0.7 billion cubic meters, which means that the figure of 1.8 billion cubic meters for export includes an increase of 1.1 billion that is likely to be exports of the Zionist entity through Egypt, and this is not confidential information, i.e., “Israel’s” export of gas through Egypt, which was announced by the Egyptian Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Tarek El-Molla, on August 9.
• If Egypt’s exports are 1.8 billion cubic meters annually, this means that all of its exports, if converted to electric energy, were transferred to Lebanon, can hardly make up for the existing deficit.
• The project as a whole does not talk about a full solution to the electricity deficit in Lebanon, but rather a partial solution, depending on importing 200 to 250 megawatts of electricity from Jordan through the Syrian network (which means an additional connection to electricity in Lebanon of 1.3 to 2 hours maximum). This part would not start before about 6 months (according to the Jordanian Minister of Energy in an interview with the American channel Al-Hurra on September 9). This would be in addition to 450 megawatts (3 to 3.5 hours of additional connection as a maximum) to be generated at the Lebanese Deir Ammar plant using natural gas supposed to be imported from Egypt through the pipeline (according to statements by Lebanese Minister Raymond Ghajar in an interview he also gave to Al-Hurra on September 5). That is, the entire project is supposed to contribute to increasing the average number of hours of electricity connection in Lebanon by 4.3 to 5.5 hours as a maximum. It should be noted that many parts of Lebanon currently get electricity between zero and 3 hours per day.
• Our previous calculations are confirmed in the aforementioned interview with Lebanese Energy Minister Raymond Ghajar, in which he said that if the Lebanese Deir Ammar plant goes into operation, this would mean generating “450 megawatts on gas, and with this we will be able to convert Iraqi oil to operate various stations, which means an increase in energy savings of up to four additional hours”.
• If we assume that Jordan will not depend on Egyptian or “Israeli” gas to generate the 200 to 250 megawatts that it is supposed to sell to Lebanon through the Syrian network; and if we assume that Syria will not take any share, neither from the gas nor from the electricity; then generating 450 megawatts using Egyptian gas in the Lebanese Deir Ammar plant, requires about 0.6 billion cubic meters of gas. That is, almost all the Egyptian surplus of gas, and to increase electricity generation in Lebanon for a maximum period of 3.5 hours. Does this supposed increase match all this commotion and these “suspicions” and risks? Also, are there no other solutions that would be easier and more economical… and clearer?