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With Hillary Clinton pushing for a no-fly zone over Syria that is almost guaranteed to start a shooting war with Russia and Donald Trump saying one thing while his Party’s platform says another, it would be helpful at this point if the public understood the bigger picture behind the fighting.

Is the conflict in Syria really about where ISIS stands on the battlefront? And how does oil, which the West still depends on for energy needs, fit into the picture?

Dr. Richard Lobban, a Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Rhode Island College and adjunct lecturer at the Naval War College in Newport, shared with me a series of maps that show that ISIS’s combat presence is generally in close proximity to oil and natural gas fields.

Start with this map, which Phil Ebersole posted several years ago on his blog. This is a proposed multi-national pipeline would go from Syria through Iraq into Iran.

070207_oilmap2jpgEbersole wrote “The Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline is an economic threat to Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf oil sheikdoms, who are the main financiers of the Syrian revolt. It would enable Iran to export oil even if the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf were closed. The proposed pipeline also is contrary to the economic interests of Turkey, whose government supports the Syrian revolt.

Next, take a look at where these offshore oil and natural gas fields are in the region.

This section in the territorial waters of Syria has been subdivided into three sections for exploration and drilling.
This section in the territorial waters of Syria has been subdivided into three sections for exploration and drilling.
The Levant Basin,is a major new oil and natural gas field that is opening in the next year for drilling.
The Levant Basin is a major new oil and natural gas field that is opening in the next year for drilling.

That’s prime real estate for the Saudis and for the bloc of countries that align in the conflict with Syria, Russia, China, and Iran.

Now take a closer look. This map shows potential underwater pipelines that could connect North Africa, the Middle East, and Southern Europe together.

levant-basin-3Now we come to the locations of ISIS.

The location of Daesh and other forces in the Levant.
The location of Daesh and other forces in the region.

Gee, how ironic that ISIS just so happens to be massed around the areas that the Saudis want to gain control of for their fossil fuel cartel. Golly, I wonder if any of those maniacal princelings affiliated with the House of Saud might be funneling money to ISIS?

Look, Russia, China, Iran, and Syria are not led by the choirs of seraphim that are known for late-night serenades of shepherds in this part of the world.

But there are two things at play here that are worth understanding.

First, Russia has a naval base located at Tartus dating back to 1971. Putin feels that Syria is within Russia’s sphere of influence as a regional superpower. (That doesn’t mean he’s right to feel that way, it’s just an observation of how Russia sees the situation.)

Second, as Professor Stephen Cohen explained on CNN in July, we are in a New Cold War with Russia, which has been largely instigated by the United States and has been furiously stoked during the presidential campaign. As always when it comes to foreign policy, the effort to secure fossil fuels and pipeline routes is an issue that is part of the bigger picture. Cohen went as far as to say that we are in a Cuban missile crisis type situation now due to the confrontation in Syria — which is being destroyed in the process — as well as provocations at the Russian border by NATO this summer.

And sadly, the only mainstream presidential candidate who is saying anything remotely interesting about this issue has just has been caught yet again in a public case of verbal vomiting.