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November 20, 2014

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GEOPOLITICS - Greece & The Poker Game in the Mediterranean & M.East

The following analysis was written by Antonis Karakousis and featured in the Sunday print edition of To Vima.

Over the past few days American drones (unmanned spy planes) have been zipping through the Greek skies to unknown destinations. Greek authorities have been providing the necessary amenities for these spy missions, following relevant American requests, which are not as obvious as many may think.

Those who closely follow international developments are aware that the interest in the greater Southeastern Mediterranean, the Middle East, Turkey, the Caucasus, the Caspian region and Southern Russia is increasing. It is not just the threat of the Islamic State that is generating this interest, there are many other factors at play.

When called upon to analyze what is going on this greater region, reliable diplomatic sources do not hide the fact that the oil and natural gas reserves in these regions and their transportation routes greatly define this new interest.

They cynically confess that with natural energy sources being limited and not expected to last until 2050, the strategic importance of this region only intensifies. The importance of the Eastern Mediterranean and especially of these energy sources is significant for the super powers as well as is critical in determining the conditions for  long-term stability.

Presently the region is dominated by upheaval, which makes the transition to a stable phase quite difficult, let alone time-consuming. But let us not kid ourselves, this transition is not going to take a lot of effort and strength and will likely cause conflicts and upheavals.

Reliable diplomatic sources warn that the region's future will not be rosy.

The geopolitical poker game that is being played has many dangers and threats for everyone. There are many undetermined factors and parameters that will influence the control of energy sources and establishing long-term stability in the greater region is also a challenge.

For example, the Americans have many reasons to be interested in the region, and they recognize that ISIS is a threat. They also understand Turkey's Islamic games, but their overall stance towards these two issues -especially Turkey- does not really define their policies. The Americans recognize the geostrategic location of our neighbor, accept Turkey's role in the transportation of oil and natural gas from the Caspian and treat Ankara as a key country against Russia, which they cannot trust following the developments in Ukraine.

The US would like to take advantage of Iran's hostility towards the jihadists, but in no way do they want to see a purely Shi'ite alliance between Tehran and Beirut because that would pose a threat to their traditional ally in the region, which is none other than Israel.

They would much rather prefer that a new Kurdish state emerge as a wedge between Iran and Lebanon.

Of course this is where things start to get complicated.

A unified Kurdish state, which would sit between Iran and Israel, cannot emerge without Turkey ceding territory from its southeastern corner.

Our neighbors across the Aegean would never accept such a development. They have spent countless resources and lost thousands of men over the past few decades in order to get the Kurdish areas in the south east under their control. It is therefore only wise to conclude that they are not going to accept the creation of Kurdish state without a fight because they would lose territory.

The oil fields of Mosul could provide a solution, but that is probably not enough and does not suit the imperial profile that Sultan Tayyip Erdogan has been developing over the past few years.

The same diplomatic sources note that the mere ascertainment of a potential threat, much less a direct expression of such intentions, would automatically trigger Turkey's claims on the western front.

Turkish provocations in Cyprus are already being treated as a response to the pressure Ankara is experiencing on its eastern front.

It has been reported that Turkey has suffered many defeats, political and diplomatic, on its eastern front, so the Ankara establishment is vying for quick victories on other fronts.

Greece, which is hoping to evolve into an energy player, cannot obviously stand idle with a geopolitical chess game being played out in the greater Mediterranean and Middle East areas. Our country must secure itself against all potential dangers, liberate itself from  financial dependence, seek out strong and stable alliances, exhaust all possibilities on coming to an agreement with Turkey and finally we need to develop a strategy that is going to protect our national interests.

Foreign diplomats associate this strategy with supporting the Greek Armed Forces and are essentially preparing the domestic political classes for a new expensive arms race. They point out that you cannot take advantage of oil and natural gas without reliable Armed Forces. The same officials do not hesitate to warn that “without international alliances and strong Armed Forces, oil can quickly turn from a blessing into a curse”.

In any case, and beyond the financial crisis which is now being overcome, Greeks have to realize that our country sits on the edge of an area that suffers (and gives way) to major conflicts and upheavals. A region, where changes in borders are the dominant element.

So as you can see, a geopolitical poker game is being played in the greater Mediterranean and Middle East. There are many players and Greece now has a seat at this table...


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