American Oil Diplomacy in the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea
MODERN HISTORY AND POLITICS
The Middle East Journal (Washington)
Vol. 58, Iss. 1
Book Review of “American Oil Diplomacy in the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea”
by Gawdat Bahgat. Gainesville, FL: xiii + 173 pages.
Gloss, to p. 178. Notes to p. 192. Bibl. to p. 206. Index to p. 213
By Paul M Mecray III.
American Oil Diplomacy by Professor Gawdat Bahgat of Indiana University
of Pennsylvania is a thorough and sophisticated analysis of geopolitical
events encompassing Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Azerbaijan, and
Kazakhstan. This book is recommended reading for those desiring a
dispassionate history of the region’s oil industry without succumbing to
personal biases – quite an accomplishment for any writer familiar with
the ethnic, religious, and political rivalries in that part of the
world. Dr. Bahgat manages to fill 173 pages with vital statistics, but
still produces a readable, objective narrative. Diplomats, businessmen,
and analysts seeking an in-depth understanding of the
regional alliances and rivalries that will directly impact American
foreign policy, global oil production, and, as a result, both the future
of oil and inflation would do well to read this book.
Particularly helpful is Bahgat’s discussion of the long relationship
that France and Russia have had with Iraq, involved as both have been in
the oil sector and as arms suppliers over the years.
Any treatise on the Middle East becomes dated quickly, and this book is
no exception. Written shortly before the invasion of Iraq in April 2003,
the book discusses reasons for and against launching the war but not the
subsequent chaos. Yet, from a longer term viewpoint, Bahgat does a
superb job explaining regional tensions and rivalries – ranging from the
Arab-Israeli conflict to the continuing friction between Azerbaijan and
Armenia, from pre-war Iraq versus all of its neighbors, Iran’s
relationships with the United States and with Pakistan – and their
implications for the oil industry.
A particularly valuable element of Bahgat’s analysis is his use of
Energy Information Administration (EIA) projections of potential oil
reserves and productive capability for Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran.
These figures are seldom cited by authors, many of whom prefer to use
much lower “official” reserve estimates. Given the ever more
sophisticated oilfield technologies, even the EIA figures cited by
Bahgat may be low. In particular, his projections for Kazakhstan are
clearly too conservative, as new data on the Tengiz and Kashagan fields,
alone, suggest recoverable reserves should surpass 25 billion barrels,
three times the BP estimate cited in this book.
That Kazakhstan’s oil potential is indeed far greater than many experts
had estimated focuses one’s attention all the more on Bahgat’s excellent
discussion of pipeline diplomacy, where the politics of competing routes
from the Caspian via the Black Sea/Bosporus, Baku-Tibilisi-Ceyhan (BTC)
to the Mediterranean, and sales to Iran that free up oil for export
through the Persian Gulf, all illustrate the battle for control between
Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, and the United States. He correctly notes that
Washington initially exaggerated the significance of Caspian oil
potential in order to promote the Baku-Tibilisi-Ceyhan pipeline and thus
greatly reduce Russia’s control of export routes. In this instance, the
United States has been fortunate, for subsequent massive oil discoveries
in Kazakhstan will consume all the Caspian Pipeline Consortium capacity
to Russia’s Black Sea port of Novorossisk as well as that of the BTC
line to the Mediterranean. Both lines will now need to be expanded, and
pressures will grow to negotiate oil swaps with Iran, which heretofore
Washington has opposed.
In sum, Gawdat Bahgat has produced a superb account of the oil
-geopolitics nexus, and of the conduct of American diplomacy in
furthering US strategic interests in the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea
Paul M. Mecray, III, Senior Vice President and Partner, Wellington
Management Company, LLP, has served as a global energy industry analyst
for 36 years.
Copyright Middle East Institute
From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress