The Possible Effects of Brexit

The Possible Effects of Brexit
Dr Klearchos Kyriakides
Director, ERPIC Rule of Law and Democracy Program

I have been asked to say a few words about the agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community. This agreement has been presented to the Parliament of the United Kingdom on the 26th of November 2018. What this means is that the agreement is subject to approval by the House of Commons and the Houses of Parliament, of which the House of Commons forms a part, in line with the constitutional procedures of the United Kingdom. I don’t want to say too much about this agreement because it’s 599 pages-long. So let me just make five very general comments about this agreement and its implications for the Eastern Mediterranean generally, but more specifically the Republic of Cyprus.

What has happened with the United Kingdom’s decision to trigger the process of withdrawal is that they’ve opened the Pandora’s Box and when the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom triggered the process on the 29th of March 2017, she failed to apply the basic principle of Aesop, which is to look before you leap. What has now happened is that the United Kingdom is on the verge of exiting the European Union on the 29th of March 2019 in extraordinary circumstances. By all accounts, and these accounts may be wrong, the House of Commons is likely to reject the agreement on the 11th of December 2018 when a meaningful vote is going to take place on the floor of the House of Commons, following a debate on the agreement.

Now, if there is a no approval given by the House of Commons, it looks as if the United Kingdom would exit the European Union in the absence of an agreement. And for the United Kingdom to crash out of the European Union in the absence of agreement would cause all sorts of problems for multiple states, multiple commercial actors, and multiple other persons and bodies.

Why is all this of importance to the Eastern Mediterranean? Well, it’s important to the Eastern Mediterranean because this is a case study in how not to go about negotiating agreements and drafting documents. But what the United Kingdom did was they served a notice before they were ready, and after serving the notice which triggered a two-year period for negotiation, they found themselves up against it, and try to cobble together an agreement which would try and satisfy enough people to approve it. And they ended up with an agreement which has been passed by the European Union, but is not being accepted by a large number of people in the United Kingdom.

So, one lesson of this whole sorry saga is that you need to take exceptional care over triggering any processes, especially processes which result in narrow timeframes and extraordinary pressure being put on the parties to negotiate agreements.

A second point I want to make as a result of that initial analysis is that the terminology that’s being deployed in this whole saga is inappropriate. Let me take the very phrase “Brexit”. That phrase is inherently misleading. It’s entered the English language as an alternative, or rather a variation to “Grexit”. That was a word that according to the Oxford Dictionary first came to prominence in 2012 when it looked possible that Greece would exit the eurozone. That phrase has been adopted in the context of the United Kingdom’s proposed exit from the European Union and its current state, which is being on the verge of exiting the European Union. The problem with the phrase “Brexit” is it is inherently misleading for three main reasons. First of all, it’s not Britain alone that is going to exit the European Union. Northern Ireland is going to exit the European Union. The official name of the United Kingdom is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and it’s often forgotten that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, but not part of Great Britain. There is a special protocol built into the withdrawal agreement that was concluded a few days ago, which deals with Northern Ireland, and Ireland. And it’s quite interesting that in the relevant pages in the withdrawal agreement, Ireland and Northern Ireland are separated by a slash. And this has caused enormous problems in the United Kingdom for the reasons I won’t go into, because there is a fear that the withdrawal agreement will result in the splintering away of Northern Ireland from the remainder of the United Kingdom. So that’s one very important point that people need to bear in mind that the terminology is misleading and wrapped to mislead.

Related to that, “Brexit” is not just going to affect the United Kingdom and Great Britain part of the United Kingdom. “Brexit”, to use the phrase, is also going to affect Gibraltar which has a special and rather unsettling relationship with Spain. Brexit, to use that phrase again, is also going to affect the two Sovereign Base Areas that are situated on the island of Cyprus and over which the United Kingdom asserts sovereignty.

So for those reasons alone “Brexit” is misleading because the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union is going to result in the dissolution of the protocols from 2003 which were applied upon the accession of the Republic of Cyprus to the European Union on the 1st of May 2004. What this means in practice is that a special protocol has had to be drafted and woven into the withdrawal agreement. I’m not going to go into that protocol in any detail, but it is of huge significance to both the Sovereign Base Areas and the Republic of Cyprus.

This leads me to my next point. That agreement emerged a few days ago in draft form and then it was formally approved on the 25th of November and then presented to the House of Commons on the following day on the 26th of November. Within the agreement is a protocol, this is it’s full name, “The Protocol Relating to the Sovereign Base Areas of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Cyprus.” That protocol did not emerge until it was released in draft form on the 14th of November. And now people like me and a few other academics are no doubt struggling to make head or tail of that protocol in readiness for this vote on the 11th of December in the House of Commons. But the point is that this protocol, of 20 or so pages long, has not been subject to a proper, fair and transparent consultation exercise. And, therefore, if this protocol is introduced on the 29th of March 2019, if it’s approved before then, it will radically alter the arrangements that affect the Sovereign Base Areas on the island of Cyprus. I’m not making any comment in favor or against the Sovereign Base Areas. I’m not making any comment against or in favor of the protocol. I’m merely pointing out that this process that was adopted in relation to the protocol was in my judgment deeply unfair. It should have been subject to proper transparency, so that everybody affected by this protocol could have had a say in its drafting, or at the very least they could have had a say in the decision-making process resulting in the drafting. As it is, this document has been sprung on us almost at the last minute, and that in my judgment is deeply unfair.

The final point I want to make is to just point out what is going to happen geo-strategically. Now irrespective of whether or not there is a withdrawal agreement, the geostrategic situation in Eastern Mediterranean is going to change. Why? I go back to the 1960 treaty framework relating to the Republic of Cyprus and the Sovereign Base Areas and thus the island of Cyprus as a whole. The 1960 treaty framework was put into place at a time when all four of the parties were excluded from the then European Economic Community. Which were those four parties? Most obviously the Republic of Cyprus, but also Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

On 1st of January 1973 the United Kingdom joined the then European Economic Community. The other three parties to the 1960 treaty framework stayed out. And for the next years the United Kingdom was in the unique position of being the only one of the four parties to the 1960 treaties to be in the then European Economic Community.

What happened in 1981? Greece joined the then European Economic Community alongside the United Kingdom. The Republic of Cyprus and Turkey stayed out of the European Economic Community.

Fast forward a few years to the 1st of May 2004, the Republic of Cyprus joins the now European Union. So since the 1st of May 2004, three of the four parties to the 1960 treaties, that is to say the United Kingdom, Greece and the Republic of Cyprus are in the European Union, and Turkey is the only one in the four that is out, although Turkey is officially a candidate country.

On the 29th of March 2019 the United Kingdom is scheduled to exit the European Union. What will therefore happen will be a complete reversal of the situation between 1973 and 1981. The United Kingdom will withdraw from the European Union and Greece and the Republic of Cyprus will remain in the European Union, and Turkey will stay out, albeit as a candidate country. So the dynamics of the 1960 treaty relationship are going to undergo an extraordinary and indeed unprecedented change. In practice, what does this mean? Let me just offer you three practical implications which will be of relevance to the Eastern Mediterranean.

Firstly, the United Kingdom will inevitably withdraw from the decision-making processes in the EU. Therefore, the Republic of Cyprus and Greece will be making decisions in the European Union which could have consequences for both the United Kingdom and Turkey. The consequences for the United Kingdom in a post-March situation could be even more profound if this withdrawal agreement is approved, because this withdrawal agreement is subject to all sorts of provisions that will lock the United Kingdom into a relationship with the European Union. Rather like ex-husbands are sometimes locked into a relationship with ex-wives pursuant to divorce agreement. But we’re going to have an interesting dynamic at play there. Greece and the Republic of Cyprus which will effectively constitute one-fourteenth of the European Union, will be taking decisions which could affect the United Kingdom. There might be an allegation of reverse colonialism there, but that’s a story for another day.

A second implication, of course, is that the United Kingdom will be extracted from the foreign policy, defense, counterterrorism and policing structures that have evolved within the European Union over the last few years. This could actually have adverse implications for the Republic of Cyprus, and perhaps also for Greece. The United Kingdom is an actor in the Eastern Mediterranean through the Sovereign Base Areas and for other reasons, such as the situation in Syria. But what is now going to happen is that Greece and the Republic of Cyprus will be in the European Union tent, dealing with counterterrorism and other related matters from within the tent, but the United Kingdom will be outside the tent. Time will tell whether that actually gives rise to any difficulties or whether there are any agreements reached which will enable the United Kingdom to be indirectly linked to those counterterrorism policing and other structures. But that is a potential cause for concern.

And the final point that I would make is a broader one. The European Union is now going to become even more dominated by Germany. It could also, of course, be on the verge of disintegrating, because of a situation in Italy, Greece and elsewhere. But on the basis that the European Union’s survives the next few years, the British will not be in the European Union from the 29th of March onwards, and what that means is that Germany will become an even stronger actor. The United Kingdom will therefore find it much more difficult to influence what is happening on the European continent, and the United Kingdom might find itself dominated or influenced, at the very least, by developments on the European continent, which might be in the future led to a greater extent than before by Germany. This, of course, will have knock-on effects on the Republic of Cyprus. Here, the United Kingdom has traditionally been in the lead in various different spheres, such as education, such as cooperation with the Cyprus government and so on. But in the future I foresee, and I may be wrong, Germany exercising far more prominent role in the Republic of Cyprus through a mixture of three forms of power: hard power, smart power and soft power. That could have interesting implications which I’m not going to go into now. And having mentioned Germany, I also have to mention France, of course, because where Germany leads, France normally follows. So I expect to see the French to have a much more pronounced role in the Republic of Cyprus in the post March 2019 époque. On that note I close this contribution. Thank you.

Recent Hydrocarbon Developments in Cyprus

Recent Hydrocarbon Developments in Cyprus
Gary Lakes
Director, ERPIC Energy Program

It’s Tuesday, November 13th, and the Stena IceMax should arrive at the Block 10 drill site which is operated by Exxon Mobile. It’s an important well and most significant about it will be two wells drilled back-to-back by Exxon Mobil. They’re expected to take perhaps two to three months to complete. At the end of that Cyprus should have some idea whether or not there is anything significant in Block 10. What I understand, the target is the carbonate strata that most likely extends from the one that runs through the Egyptian waters where the giant Zohr gas field was discovered. Fortunately, the drillship arrived on site without any interference from Turkey so far. Hopefully, it will remain that way. Block 10 is outside the area that Turkey is claiming as its continental shelf. Block 11 is outside of that as well. However, there have been a lot of warnings from Turkey. Turkish president Erdogan has made a number of comments warning Cyprus and the companies involved in the offshore exploration not to explore in what Turks consider Turkish waters and those that the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is claiming as their own territory.  

Cyprus was adhering to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea when it drew up its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). And so there have been a number of steps taken by Turkey to basically interfere with that. One is the claim by Turkey to quite a large continental shelf that extends to what it considers to be Egyptian waters. It doesn’t recognize the Republic of Cyprus. It doesn’t take Cypriot EEZ seriously. Then, also to the eastern side of the island and to the south east of the offshore of the Turkish administration of the North has made some claims and awarded those claims to Turkish Petroleum. So, this follows an incident last January when the Italian company ENI made a discovery which could be a six to eight trillion cubic feet (tcf) at the Calypso well in Block 6, which is to the west off the island. It then sent its drillship the Saipem 12000 east to the Block 3 to drill another one and it was confronted there by Turkish warships that prevented it from reaching the drill site and also forced ENI to abandon the plan.

Turkey claims the continental shelf extends from the mainland south to the west of the island. These claims overlap with Cypriot blocks 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7. And the Turkish Cypriot administration claims the offshore area north and east off the island, also south and southeast off the island, and these have been licensed, as I said, to TPAO. The claim overlaps Cyprus blocks 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 12 and 13. But it doesn’t extend as far south as the Aphrodite gas field which is located near the Cypriot, Israeli and Egyptian maritime borders. So, Turks and Turkish Cypriots claim practically everything with the exception of Blocks 10 and 11. Following the statements made by the Turks and the Turkish Cypriots, it seems as if Turkey’s policy is to control exploration production in the Cypriot waters or to stop it, judging by their actions.

So, Cyprus has made it clear to Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots that any benefits received from future gas sales would be shared amongst all the Cyprus citizens. This seems to be a big complaint by the Turkish Cypriots as they feel that they’re not going to be giving any share from these gas resources when, and if, they’re eventually developed. The Cypriot government has repeated several times that all Cypriot citizens, Turkish Cypriots included, will have some share in whatever revenues are received and that they’ll be distributed fairly.

So, last week, speaking at the 14th Economist Cyprus Summit in Nicosia President Anastasiades remarked that Cyprus would have a geostrategic role to play as hydrocarbon resources in the region are developed. He said that future Cyprus policy would be based on the pillars of respect for international law, creation of opportunity and the conviction that hydrocarbon discoveries would lead to closer cooperation amongst all the countries in the region. So, Cyprus has close relations with all countries, he said, except Turkey. And he added that the government would continue with its energy program despite Turkey’s provocations for the benefit of all islands’ legal citizens.

The Foreign Minister Mr. Christodoulides also said at the conference that they advised Turkey to get involved with the exploration in the East Mediterranean. But the ball was in Turkey’s court on this.

The Energy Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis said that Cyprus would be drawn into play if, what he called, the instability came with Turkey over claiming rights in the Cyprus EEZ. He said the Ministry had been operating in close coordination with the license companies in the Cyprus offshore and their main offices, and the government had also been working to solidify good relations with these Mediterranean companies in order to establish the geopolitical stability that those companies seek to work in. So, Lakkotrypis said the focus is now on further exploration and the monetization of gas discoveries, those being the Aphrodite field and the Calypso discovery.

Plans for new wells in 2019 are under discussion and also Block 7 is due to be licensed within the next couple of months. So, a crucial commercial agreement to pipe Aphrodite gas to Egypt for export is under negotiations and in the coming year we should see some important developments in Cyprus and the East Med, and hopefully that will be the case.

On Aphrodite, companies started negotiations with the government to re-frame the production sharing contract and adjust the revenues shares because the partners are saying that it’s going to be quite an expensive undertaking and the return on investment under the current contract will be sufficient. Apart from that, they’re hoping to get a final investment decision by the end of 2020 and then, once development takes place, the gas should flow to Idku LNG plant in Egypt by around 2022.


Offshore Hydrocarbon Developments in Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean

Offshore Hydrocarbon Developments in Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean
Harry Theocharis
Independent MP
Hellenic Parliament
30 October, 2018

Let me start by thanking ERPIC for the opportunity to discuss the Greek oil and gas fields, as well as the role of the Greek companies in the past six months in terms of exploiting the reserves that lie in the East Med basin. Obviously, this is a very wide region and some Greek companies play some role in that and we will discuss it, especially the Israeli gas fields.

The Greek energy sector has continued its growth process during the whole of 2018. The developments lie mainly in two fields.

The first is the internal market, and in the internal market the consortium of TOTAL – Exxon – Hellenic Petroleum S.A. (HELPE) has won the Cretan blocks, while the consortium of Repsol – HELPE has one the Ionian block and they have made significant steps in moving forward the process of developing these fields. The active presence of major American and European companies highlights the prospects of the Greek fields and the dynamic of this area as an alternative to the politically unstable and hostile existent sources that supply Europe. We understand that European policy dictates to diverse as much as we can our resources, obviously within the market framework and the price pressures.

In terms of the second pillar of our discussion, Energean Oil & Gas is deepening its presence in the Israeli fields, advancing with its strategic plan. The Israeli – Greek cooperation in energy issues is strengthened by the fact that Energean has proven to be a very reliable partner of the Israeli state in terms of exploiting and pushing forward the use of the fields that have already been awarded, as well as participating in the process of the five plots that were awarded to the company and will start the process of exploiting those plots as well.

There are many challenges that the oil industry faces, and especially HELPE, which is a Greek incumbent oil corporation and it’s a company that mainly drives the creation of consortia which undertake the responsibility for exploiting the Greek plots.

On one hand we have a very promising acreages (‘frontier’ areas) in many parts of Greece, and the fiscal terms are very competitive and attractive for investments in hydrocarbons exploration and production industry.

On the other hand, however, these offshore fields – especially in the southwest of Crete – display a very complex geological history and are located in ultra-deep waters – the depths exceed 3000 meters in most of this area. So this means that very deep wells are required and correspondingly the cost of both prospecting and finding out whether there are any fields there, and as well exploiting afterwards those fields is significant.

The ‘Ionian’ block, located in the southwest of Corfu Island, covers an extensive offshore area of 6,671 square kilometers and has average water depths of around 1300-1500 meters. This is a shallower area, but still an area which has significant depths. The area is under-explored with few wells drilled so far in nearby locations outside the block. In terms of geological point of view, it is expected that any possible discoveries will be analogue to the ones that have already been found in Albania and Italy which are adjacent to the area.

From a hydrocarbon exploration point of view, offshore Crete represents a frontier area. It’s an area that has a significant hope to bring a number of reserves. The reserves of the greater East Med basin have increased the hope of the industry to find significant finds there. But as we’ve said, the problems are not to be taken lightly, especially the depth. 

In terms of the latest developments of the Cretan exploration, on 5th March 2018, following the ‘Call for Tenders for the exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons Offshore West Crete and Southwest Crete’ (Official Government Gazette 2848/11.08.2017), the consortium of TOTAL E&P Greece B.V. (40%, operator), ExxonMobil Exploration & Production Greece (Crete) B.V. (40%) and Hellenic Petroleum S.A. (20%) has submitted an offer for granting of rights for those areas.

On 3rd July 2018, by Ministerial Decision, the above-mentioned consortium was declared as the Selected Applicant for granting rights of hydrocarbons exploration and production for the two offshore blocks of Crete, West Crete and Southwest Crete.

The exploration stage will be up to eight years, divided into three phases with separate work programs. In the event of a commercial discovery, the production lease will be for twenty five years plus two five-year extensions. 

In the Ionian Sea and more specifically in ‘Ionian’ block, located in the southwest of Corfu island, the consortium of Repsol Exploration S.A. (50%, operator) and Hellenic Petroleum S.A. (50%) has submitted an offer for the offshore block.

This offer is currently in evaluation phase and it is expected to be concluded in the next few months. 

Hellenic Petroleum S.A. has managed through a number of contracts that came out and were won by different consortiums to build up extensive experience in terms of exploration of geological strata that pertain to the Greek morphology. They have developed techniques that with the minimum cost allow to take data, mainly from the regional 2012 PGS seismic survey, and result in the identification of potential exploration targets in the subsurface. 

The growth plan of HELPE in terms of trying to explore the greater East Med basin, is currently hampered by two things. One is the fact that its investment budget is effectively as much as a company can amass – this is an investment budget of more than 1 billion Euros for the next five years, and I think it’s been already two years in terms of the planning phases. And it would be a stretch to add to that investment plan more expansive ideas.   

The second thing is that currently we are in the process of privatization of HELPE and both the investment plans and the strategic plans of the company will be under review of the new owners, as soon as the privatization process finishes in the next few months. 

Moving on to our second subject, which is the role of the Greek company Energean Oil & Gas, which is working with the Israeli government in the Israeli market to explore and help with the production of Israeli gas.

Energean Israel is the Operator of the Karish and Tanin leases, which were awarded to the company due to the High Court decision that forced the Israeli government to open up the market to more players in order to avoid monopolies. It has a 100% working interest in those fields. The Karish and Tanin fields are world class assets with 2.4 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas and about 33 million barrels of light hydrocarbon liquids.

Energean has made the Final Investment Decision for the development project in March 2018, after having signed twelve Gas Sales and Purchase Agreements for 4.2 billion cubic meters (bcm) in total annually and securing financing for the project. It managed to secure the sale of the gas and the financing for the project and made the final investment decision to go ahead with the investment in those two fields.

The Karish main field will be the first asset to be developed in the Karish and Tanin blocks by the Group. Because it is the largest discovery, it is expected to provide the highest yield of liquid per volume and is the closest discovery to shore. So it has all the advantages to be the first one to start the development.

The assets required to develop these fields will be installed and commissioned by early 2021. The second source of gas supply which will be provided by Energean will be operational sometime in 2021 or early 2022.

The gas produced by both those fields is intended to supply the rapidly growing domestic Israeli market.

There is a huge demand driver for gas because there is a population growth in Israel, an increasing standard of living, a greater use of water desalination, the electrification of the railway system, an increased use of air conditioning, the adoption of electric vehicles and the increased adoption of CNG for transportation – all these drive demands for gas from the Israeli market and Energean is well-poised to help fill that demand together with the main sources that are already in place.

In December 2017 Energean was successfully awarded five new offshore exploration licenses within the Israeli Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). These are blocks 12,21,22,23 and 31, which are located near the currently producing Tamar gas field as well as the Karish and Tanin gas fields. Energean will start moving towards the development of those fields.

All those five licenses are located in the proven “Tamar” sand play fairway and are considered highly prospective for gas. Additional deeper exploration potential has also been identified with the possibility of thermogenic oil.

The next phases will be 3D seismic acquisition and reprocessing of existing datasets. And there is going to be a 3-year exploration phase to try to ascertain if there are any potential fields that could be developed.

Energean as well is willing to acquire and operate the Gaza Marine field. But this acquisition will be conditional on the resolution of the ownership disputes between the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority. This could help, politically as well, to ease tensions between the different Palestinian authorities and between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

The East Med region has been attracting more and more significant interest on the global stage from Exxon, TOTAL, Repsol, Edison. We all know the developments in Cyprus, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan. Their gas reserves and potential for future discoveries could assist Europe diversify its energy supply. Trade war rhetoric and risks, a late cycle energy price increase, and the proliferation of political uncertainty, instability and hostility in a number of oil and gas producing or transiting countries make both Greek, Cypriot, Egyptian and Israeli reserves a pragmatic alternative for the European energy supply. The countries in this region are part of an ever-changing geopolitical landscape, while at the same time a lot of infrastructure needs to be in place in order to maximize the potential of the region.

A 2018 Summer Tour d’Horizon

A 2018 Summer Tour d’Horizon
Air Cdre RAF (Retd.) Andrew Lambert
Director, ERPIC Regional Security Program
8 August, 2018

In British politics the Summer Holiday is known as ‘the silly season’. That is because politicians are all away on holiday, and the Media is short of something to say, so they resort to reporting inconsequential nonsense. But the start of the silly season, as Parliament disbands, is the time for government to announce bad news, news that they hope will pass unnoticed by the general population. As usual, difficult BREXIT announcements were made, as was the closure of RAF Scampton, the home of the Dambusters in WWII, and the home of the Red Arrows today.

But if it’s the silly season in the UK it certainly isn’t in the rest of the world.

2018 will, I am sure, be known as the year of the long hot summer, and I would like to be able to say that it was also the summer when the cause of peace advanced. Sadly, that just wasn’t true; quite the opposite in fact – the world has become a more fractious and volatile place than it has been for some time.

And, very sadly, the cause of world peace is also not being helped by the proliferation of personality-based regimes, with each leader exhibiting varying degrees of megalomania.


From his actions and his words, it seems that President Trump appears to have a purely two-dimensional view of the world. In his view, Washington seems to sit like a big spider at the center of its web, and all events elsewhere in the world shuttle backwards and forwards to greater or lesser extent and to distances out towards the periphery. Bizarrely, this view seems also to chime well with his isolationist Redneck supporters, but it certainly ignores the interconnectivity of the global sphere, where events in one part of the world inevitably have knock-on effects to another, and then to another, before finally coming back to taunt you.


Thus, his politically-motivated, rather simple idea of bullying Iran for finding ways of circumventing the nuclear treaty, principally over the development of ballistic missile technology, has strategic effects that seem to have been largely overlooked in the White House. Of course, the US’ withdrawal from the treaty is a truly US-only unilateralist act, which none of the other 5 signatories are bound or likely to follow.

US sanctions, which began last Monday, 6th August, are to be followed by oil sanctions ninety days later, and they are likely to produce some of the following.

First, the domestic sanctions now imposed will squeeze the very middle and lower classes that the US hopes to enlist in undermining the theocratic regime. As consumer goods and medicines dry up, the only beneficiaries will be Iran’s rich elitist black marketeers with close ties to the regime. At the same time, those citizens that stick their heads above the parapet and complain about the nuclear program and the consequent sanctions will be branded as US-sympathizers, if not traitors.


Second, with China already locked in a bitter trade war with the Trump Administration, and with China’s Asia-focused “One Belt, One Road” policy, it is almost certain that China will use this opportunity to move closer to Iran. If, as a result of US sanctions, Iranian oil has nowhere to go, then both India and China would be extremely foolish not to take advantage of this spare oil – for the right price, of course. And, given China’s oil interest in Iran, it is hard to see Beijing voluntarily reducing its investments elsewhere in Iran, especially those in Iran’s nuclear energy sector.

If China and Iran become closer, then so too must we expect Iran and North Korea. Much of Iran’s ballistic missile technology originated in North Korea, and with both of these renegade countries still pursuing nuclear strategies, it is inevitable that Mr Kim, fresh from his blustery meeting with Mr Trump – (that is if the Putin/Trump meeting is anything to go by) – will seek far closer relations in their aspirations, and in their dealings with Mr Trump. It should come as no surprise, therefore, for listeners to learn of the visit to Teheran yesterday, 7th August, by Pyongyang’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho. These two pariah states will have much to discuss, not least whether to unite in their dealings with the US Administration.

Redundant Militia

Turning now to events elsewhere in the Middle East, I think that one can now confidently predict that, with the help of Russian air power, with help from Hezbollah’s militia, with the help of a number of Iraqi militia, and with the sizeable deployment of Iraqi forces, the war in Syria is likely very soon to come to a bitter end. President Assad has effectively won this war, and the recriminations will no doubt start soon, but he and his Alawite Regime owe a debt of honor to both Hezbollah and Iran, who have not only kept him in power but more tellingly have most likely saved his, and his family’s, lives. He and his regime will have to be compliant, if not enthusiastic, in whatever Iran seeks next.

And the third effect of President Trump’s sanctions will be the question of what will happen to the vast number of newly-redundant Shiite militiamen in the region, all directly or indirectly under the control of Tehran. 

As the FT reported, quoting diplomat Mr Robert Ford, “… nearly all the Iraqi Shia militia understand that the American influence in the region sooner or later will diminish, but Iran will always be their neighbor”.


But if Syria really is pacified, then the piggy in the middle, Iraq, continues to be a basket case. 

Following May’s General Election no one can be sure who will become the true power broker in Iraq. Frustration over failing water supplies, coupled with frequent electricity outages, and little economic progress, has given the largest number of seats to the radical Shiite nationalist cleric Moqtada al Sadr, followed closely by the seats for the 120,000-strong militia party, known variously as Hashd al-Shaabi, the PMU or Fatah, run by the pro-Iranian Mr Hadi al-Ameri. As seems increasingly likely, a coalition between these two large parties would place Iraq increasingly in Iran’s camp, from whence Iran would control 10% of the world’s oil production, as well as the Straits of Hormuz through which over a third of the world’s oil passes.

To say this leaves Iran in a strong geo-strategic position is something of an understatement. Although the Iranian Rial is falling and the economy under pressure, the population have seen all this before and did not crumble; rather it gave them a focus for their hatred and an opportunity for the clerics to crack down on any liberals.

Given Iran’s perceived persecution by the US, and Hezbollah’s antipathy to Israel, the newly unemployed militia will surely turn to something else. As the saying goes, “the Devil makes work for idle hands”!

Israel is particularly vulnerable. Israel’s move of the capital from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, coupled with the US’s move of her Embassy, as well as the continuing bloodshed in Gaza, have all conspired to create a casus belli when things go wrong, as they surely will.

Although Mr Trump is on the verge of revealing his “Ultimate Deal” for Palestine peace, both the Fatah administration in Ramallah as well as the Hamas organization in Gaza have already signaled that it is weighed far too much in favour of Israel. And even with considerable Saudi support, it is difficult to see this ultimate deal as anything more than just one more sterile proposal.


Although I don’t want to appear alarmist, it does seem that the stage is now set for one of the more worrying confrontations than we have seen in recent history. To the north of the Persian Gulf sit the Shiite states, more or less tied by some sort of fealty to Iran, from Alawite Syria, through volatile Iraq, to angry Iran. All supported to a greater or lesser degree by Russia and China. To the south sit the allies of the US: Israel, the Sunni Gulf Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. To the north will soon be unemployed irregular militias spoiling for a fight; to the south are sophisticated nations rich in infrastructure and armed with high technology.

While both Iran and Saudi remain as non-nuclear powers any confrontation across the Gulf could, hopefully, be controllable but, should either, or presumably both, acquire nuclear weapons then the consequences could be unthinkable.


And finally, into this bubbling Middle Eastern cauldron we have Turkey. Hitherto, a staunch NATO ally, one that fought with distinction in the Korean War, Turkey is increasingly in the hands of a Sultan-like figure whose rule is increasingly autocratic and capricious. Over 50,000 Turkish citizens were arrested and, according to Amnesty International, a further 107,000 summarily dismissed from their posts for their supposed involvement in the 2016 coup. Judges are now appointed by decree and freedom of expression and freedom of assembly curtailed. The Media is largely state-controlled.

In 2003 the Erdogan government refused to allow its principal ally to deploy troops from Turkey’s borders, and following years of worsening relations involving amongst other things Iranian sanction-busting by Turkey’s Halkbank, and attacks on the Kurds whose Peshmerga fought ISIS as America’s allies, the Erdogan regime criticized the US for not condemning the 2016 attempted coup quickly enough, and for supposedly harboring its initiator Fetullah Gulen. 

In what increasingly appears a tit-for-tat action, Turkey arrested Pastor Andrew Brunson, a US citizen whom they accused of being one of the plotters. And he remains under arrest despite a trilateral agreement that Israel would release a Turkish national, Miss Ozkan, who had been apprehended smuggling currency to Hamas. After a fractious Trump/Erdogan phone call, the US has now imposed sanctions on the politicians responsible for Brunson’s detainment, the Ministers of Justice and the Interior.

The President of Turkey has now gone further and accused the US President of “psychological warfare”. Meanwhile, the Turkish lira is falling and the banks are under pressure; but, no doubt, Mr Erdogan will portray this as yet another hostile act by the West.

Meanwhile, Turkish relations with Russia have been improving. At a time of growing antipathy between the United States and Turkey, Turkey and Russia agreed to cooperate on Syria, to construct a new gas pipeline to Turkey, and to supply Turkey with the advanced Russian S-400 missile defense system. Understandably, the US has now postponed deliveries of its most advanced F-35 fighter for fear that the technology could fall into the hands of Russia.

Such actions by Turkey, coupled with Mr Erdogan’s stated intention of joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a full member – a body which both China and Russia aspire to make into the Asian version of the EU and NATO – place considerable doubt on Turkey’s continuing reliability as an ally.


So, with the Anti-ISIS glue, which for the past 5 years has kept all these very disparate groups if not together, then at least in some form of co-operation, with that glue now fast coming unstuck, what does the future hold for the Middle East in particular, and the world in general?

If History teaches us anything, it is to beware the power of a populist nationalist leader with an over-inflated ego. Every time one has been thrown up – and one can think of Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, Napoleon to name but a few, then bloodshed has ensued, and the resulting chaos took decades, if not centuries, to sort out.

Between the two World Wars, there were two, or arguably three, such idolized personalities.

Now, we have at least four in major positions of power, together with a whole host of petty autocratic acolytes. Can they all live in harmony in this world of eight billion people? I wonder!

Where have all the true statesmen gone when you need them?  Or are they all on holiday?

Israeli Counterintelligence Discipline: Theory and Practice


Israeli Counter Intelligence Discipline: Theory and Practice
Dr. Avner Barnea
Head, Competitive Intelligence, Corporate Security Crisis Management studies, MBA program, Netanya Academic College
2 August, 2018

I would like to speak today about the Israeli counterintelligence and discipline theory and practice. And in order to explain and to give more information about it and to emphasize later the current situation I have to go back to the early days of the Israeli state in 1948.

As some of you may know, Israel got independence from the British mandate in 1948, and immediately after the British left and the formal launch of the State of Israel more than 10% of the population in the new state were Arab, most of them Muslims, which at that time were considered, as I will call it, hostile population. Because before the independence of Israel we were engaged in war with Arab states and also with the local population, the Palestinians, between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. And when the war was over, still around 10% of the Arab Muslims living in State of Israel stayed and wanted to live here. But it was quite complicated, a challenge for the State of Israel because there was no clear understanding of how loyal they were to the new state. And that was the reason why in 1948 the Israeli government took a decision to impose a military regime on the Arabic population in Israel. And this actually lasted for eighteen years – until 1966. So at this time, at these eighteen years the Arab population was living in Israel, they were under military regime, as I said. And they had to get a lot of approvals for many activities they have done at that time because the State of Israel wasn’t sure that they are loyal and would behave as loyal citizens. And in 1968, after a long discussion between the heads of the political parties in Israel and the military, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) a decision was taken to stop this military regime.

At that time, at these eighteen years, the Israeli Security Agency (ISA), which is the intelligence agency for counterintelligence, was responsible, I would say, to cover this population and to make sure that they do not become a threat to the existence of Israel. So, Israel has had a lot of experience in activities of counterintelligence for such a long time.

And a year after, in 1967, there was a well-known Six-Day War when Israel actually won the war against the Arab states around us, and we got new territories. And the most populated were in the West Bank – Judea and Samaria – that was before under the regime of the Jordan Kingdom, and the Gaza Strip which until ‘67 was under the regime of Egypt.

In 1967 the Six-Day War, when Israel won the war against the Arab neighbors, was a turning point for the State of Israel, as well as for the ISA – the Israeli Security Agency. Suddenly, Israel took control of millions of Palestinians which were living in Judea and Samaria, what’s called also West Bank, which was the west bank of the Jordan in the Jordan Kingdom, and the Palestinians in Gaza Strip. Nowadays the numbers in Gaza Strip are approximately two million Palestinians, and in the West Bank – Judea and Samaria – around three millions.

So, the ISA had to get ready to get involved in what was going on in this territory which immediately after the war became again under military regime. But the decision was taken that the military will just be the overall responsibility, while the counterintelligence, mainly counterterrorism, activity will be done by the ISA. Just a few months after the end of the Six-Day War, the first terrorist attacks against Israel started from the West Bank as well as from Gaza Strip, and since then, since 1967 up to now the ISA has been a major arm for counter terrorism coming from Gaza Strip and Judea and Samaria.

We also have to remember that during this long period of fifty years there were not only terrorist attacks against Israel from these territories; there were a lot of attacks against Israeli installations outside Israel, mainly embassies, consulates, the Israeli national airlines and so on. So, actually the ISA became not just responsible for the counterterrorism in attacks coming from the West Bank and from the Gaza Strip, but also to take the security measure for protecting the Israeli institutions outside Israel, as I said, mainly diplomatic stations, embassies, and the Israeli airlines, and also Israeli shipping national cooperation and so on. So, if we look at the situation, if the ISA before ‘67 was more focused on countering political subversion, since ‘67 the focus is on anti-terrorism and counterterrorism. And actually I don’t think that there was one day in the last fifty years when there was no terrorist attempt or terrorist activity that from the Palestinian point of view was successful. So it’s an ongoing battle against the terrorist attacks when actually the main problem is that it’s very difficult to forecast who is going to be the next terrorist. And in order to prevent it, you need a very close monitoring of the population in order to be able to get information – intelligence – before the terrorist activity actually has been executed.

So, this is the history of the Israeli counterintelligence for the last seventy years since the independence of Israel. And it’s a major challenge, and obviously we are lucky. Partly because, let’s say, unlike other countries in the world that have a counterintelligence responsibilities, In our case, Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip are actually surrounded by Israel and these areas are closed areas, and that makes them more easy to cover with intelligence means.

So, this is the history. And we’ve had not just terrorist attacks. We had two major Intifadas. Intifada is actually an uprising, popular uprising, that’s not done by, as in terrorist attacks, specific people acting as terrorists. The first Intifada in 1987 and the second in 2000 were actually the whole population revolting against the control of the Israeli regime. It was quite complicated; it took Israel a long time to bring the situation back to kind of a control.

And there was another major event in that time. Israel had an agreement with the Palestinian Authority in 1993 when at that time it was seen as if Israel and the Palestinians are coming to agreement to split this area for two states, what we call a two-state solution: the Israeli state and next to it the Palestinian state. But because of many reasons that I don’t want to discuss now, we don’t have the time, mainly because the religious fractions of the Palestinians, mainly the Hamas, who is now by the way responsible for the Gaza Strip, didn’t accept the signature of Chairman Arafat at the time for this kind of reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinians. And the whole thing actually had been broken away – what we call the Oslo Agreements. And they are not actually practical, they don’t exist anymore.

In 2002 the Israeli government took a decision to bring to the Parliament of Israel a new law called the “Israeli Security Agency (ISA) Law”. It is a security agency law that has actually defined what the responsibilities of the ISA are, what this organization is allowed to do and not allowed to do. Up to 2002 the ISA would usually act by government decisions and by internal procedures between the ISA and the military and the police. But since 2002 there is a very brief and clear law which defines exactly what the ISA is allowed to do, what is expected to do, what it’s not allowed to do. By the way, similar laws exist also in Canada, in Australia, in the UK. And so Israel actually took this what was written in laws in other Western countries and tried to build a combination of all of its laws into something which will be good and relevant for the Israeli challenges.

So, if we look at the challenges of the counterintelligence in Israel, we see three major challenges. The most important one is, obviously, the counterterrorism which we are involved with in the last fifty years. So, Israel has a lot of experience with counterterrorism, not only internally in Israel, but also, as I said before, terrorist activity outside Israel, regarding Israeli interest and institutions. The second one is the countering of extreme political subversion, meaning that organizations that do not accept the Israeli law, the Israeli independence, actually, they are opposing many of the major rules of the State of Israel. And so they are not involved in terrorism, but we can say that there are some fractions, some groups that are thinking of changing the democratic status of Israel. And the third challenge of the counterintelligence in Israel is counterespionage, which was, by the way, a very major challenge before 1967. And if we look now at the last few years at counterespionage, we can see a new modus operandi of counterespionage, when states like Russia, China and Iran are trying to gather information in Israel through a cyber activity. Offensive cyber activity became a major activity by countries that get information about Israel and this has actually demanded Israel to develop cyber-security capabilities which a few years ago were not existing in Israel. And in the last, I would say, four, five years Israel became quite significant power in cyber security.

So if we look now at counterespionage and also counterterrorism, we will see that suddenly cyber became a tool for attacking Israel. But the conventional modus operandi of terrorism, like bombs and shootings, and throwing Molotov bottles, and so on, still happens in the area. But we are seeing now a change when the conventional terrorist attacks, although many of them are still going on as it was before, are becoming more sophisticated and we have to be ready for countering cyber attacks. And this is making the ISA much more technology-oriented organization than it was before. If before it was like the conventional counterintelligence organization, as we had known them for so many years, nowadays counterintelligence becomes a highly technological organization. The old modus operandi of attacks and tourist attacks and so on still exists, but we have to be ready for these new tools that are threatening Israel, as they threatening many other countries in the world.

I would like to say a few words about the control of the counterintelligence in Israel. Usually, counterintelligence organizations are quite strong organizations, because they are involved in the internal security of the state. In Israel the cabinet minister who is responsible for the ISA is the Prime Minister himself. That’s also mentioned and defined in the ISA law that I mentioned before. And so this organization can be, or has the potential to be a very strong factor in all kinds of events that happen in the democratic state.

And so the ISA is controlled, first of all, by the government. We have a government controller, which is a very high position in Israel, and this office can control every state organization in Israel. So this is one organization which controls and looks at the activity of the ISA. The second one, there is a special committee in the Israeli Parliament which is responsible for overall control of the ISA as well as the Israeli foreign intelligence organization – the Mossad. And inside the ISA there is a control organization which actually is independent in the organization, and this unit can look at every activity that the ISA is doing in order to see if it’s right or wrong, if it’s according to the law, according to the rules, according to the procedures. And no one can get involved with them and tell them what they have to do or what is not allowed to do. They are very independent. So actually if we look at the situation of the control of the ISA, there is quite a good governmental control, as I said before, including also internal control, which is very independent.

I would like to say a few words about teaching, about the academia, and teaching counter-intelligence in the academia. In many countries, especially United States, there are universities that have intelligence studies and among the classes of intelligence studies there is usually also a class, or a lesson, for counterintelligence. In Israel, first of all, we don’t have a very structural organization for intelligence studies. We have intelligence studies in various universities. But in Europe or in the United States you can have an MA in intelligence studies – we don’t have it in Israel. In Israel, if you want to learn intelligence, you do it usually through lessons in political science, or international relations or in government. And up to now, there have been only very few universities in Israel which have lessons on counterintelligence. One of these lessons I am reading in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem when we have lesson course called counterintelligence in democratic societies, which is for the third-year students for BA in Political Science, and I have been teaching this lesson for the last three years. And, obviously, it’s based on open-source intelligence. There are no secrets there, they are no hush-hush activities in this course – it’s all open and according to what was discovered, what was revealed about the ISA, its success stories, also its failures. And we have a few lessons about the effectiveness of the control by the state and by checks and balances of this organization by other organizations, and the cooperation with other government organizations, including courts, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Defense. And so it’s more to make the students aware that in many democratic states in the world there is a counterintelligence organization which is a quite powerful organization, and to explain to them what it’s expected to do, what it’s doing, what’s the history, how other counterintelligence organizations in Western countries are operating, and so on. And I feel that this is quite an important value for the making counterintelligence known and appreciated by the citizens and not something that nobody would like to speak about because it is a clandestine activity. There is an aspect of clandestine activity but still a lot of what I say it is doing is well known to the population and we have to explain it to students, and especially when many of them are looking also to be employed by the ISA when they will graduate from the University.

So this is actually what I have to say about the experience of Israel with counterintelligence. I think that we are keeping an organization, a very effective organization, which is countering terrorism quite successfully. You can’t be always successful but I would say that if you come to visit Israel and you see that we are behaving like any other country and the atmosphere is quiet and people don’t feel under a lot of security pressure, and one of the reasons actually is the efficiency of the ISA which makes living in Israel easy and not under security threat. And as the ISA is so successful, it gives also the government the ability to discuss future agreements with the Palestinians not under the threat of terrorist attacks and in fears of the population, but to look at the situation in a very calm and balanced way which couldn’t be, if there was no control of the terrorist activities in Israel.

Thank you very much for listening.

Turkey’s Political and Economic Future under Erdogan

Turkey’s Political and Economic Future under Erdogan
Marcus Templar
U.S. Army Cryptologic Linguist, and All-Source Intelligence Analyst of the Defense Intelligence Agency (Retd.)
30 July, 2018

The Hellenic Cultural Commission sponsored a panel discussion on July 25th in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The panel discussion transpired during the Convention of the Family Supreme of the American headquarters for the American-Hellenic Educational Progress Association, or AHEPA. The moderator of the panel was Mr. Lou Katsos and the participants in the discussion were professor Alexander Kitroeff, former ambassador Karolos Gadis, and I. The subject of the discussion was “Turkish Irredentism and the Finlandization of the Eastern Mediterranean”. As it is known, finlandization is the process or result of being obliged to favor for economic reasons, or at least not to oppose the interests of the great power, as in the case of Finland, the interests of the former Soviet Union despite not being politically allied to it.

The panellists suggested and discussed several points of view from historical, political, diplomatic, and psychological aspects of Turkey and its present leadership, especially of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Some of the opinions expressed below were also communicated during a radio program and individual conversations. The core of the discussion was Erdogan and the new Turkey as he has envisioned it. And to implement his vision even before he took an oath as president he issued a published 143 page dictum changing the operation of every single ministry and other agencies under the ministries.

After that Erdogan continued issuing decree after decree making the Republic of Turkey a fully functional dictatorship that Ataturk would be jealous and the Sultan disgusted. Controlling all political life, Erdogan could essentially become president for life whose psychopathic cruelty would make Francois Duvalier of Haiti, and also known as Papa Doc, a cub scout. The man fundamentally caused unchecked, wicked authority as Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Hungary’s Viktor Orban. They all use democracy to expand their influence in the same manner that the Communists had done in the past.

But Erdogan’s vision for Turkey is magnificently ambitions and costly. Because the Straits are getting shallower and narrower, Erdogan is determined to open a canal from the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara near Küçükçekmece, 25 kilometres west of Istanbul. The name of the canal is Kanal İstanbul and Erdogan is determined to make the canal the rival of Suez and Panama. He has brushed around aside legal, environmental and budgetary questions to make the canal a central plank of his re-election bid in June 24th.

But the Financial Times stated that according to Erdogan one of his first projects in the new era will be to start building Kanal İstanbul. There might be a Suez somewhere, a Panama somewhere else, but the Kanal İstanbul will send the world a message. The problem is that when Erdogan announced the canal in 2011, the estimated cost was 13 billion US dollars. Today it has increased to 15 billion US dollars and by the time the project ends its price could reach 20 billion US dollars. That’s very expensive.

Also, Erdogan wants to build at least one runway long enough to take care of the taxiing needs of F-35 aircraft. However, it always depends on specific variants as whether Turkey will be trusted to own such an aircraft, the capacity for such a heavy and costly aircraft to manoeuvre, like turn, climb, run, the specific models of the aircraft like traditional takeoff, landing, versus vertical takeoff, landing, guns, and a few other variants. With a price tag of 94,6 million US dollars each, for only the basic F-35A; the price for a more advanced model of F-35 could include and increase its cost to 132,44 million US dollars.

If we add the grand plan for the Istanbul Airport that Erdogan has in mind we can quickly add the cost of 12 billion US dollars as he wants to improve the airport by adding six runways across a strip-like land. It will take about a decade to complete with a projection of making the busiest airport not just in the region but also on the planet. The projected number of passages could hit 200 million people annually.

However, in a global economy which is afflicted gradually by worries from an unfolding trade war to higher oil prices, Turkey could be very close to comfort. Turkish economy is 22nd in the world, below that of the state of Illinois of the United States, which is 20th, and below Russia, which is 13th in the world.

Starting a business is not an easy venture, but including family in the government is unwise. Yet in a country whose finances constitute a bubble ready to burst, the worst thing anyone wants to do is having a relative as finance minister. Berat Albayrak is a Turkish businessman and politician, but also Erdogan’s son-in-law. The question is whether Erdogan will listen to his relative or he will tell his son-in-law to implement his personal policies. As a Bloomberg business week out it, it is abundantly clear that the president’s whim will appraise the all future strategic decisions taken about anything in Turkey and the new cabinet will function purely as the rubber-stamping forum.

The only constraints set to be imposed on Erdogan are those likely to derive from bond and currency markets which may inhibit any overtly reckless economic polls-making. The chances in the function of the government are expected to have a severe impact on Turkish assets and it is assumed that Turkish assets to remain under pressure, unless policy measures address the country’s high inflation and external dependence, it won’t make it.

The Central Bank has not raised rates enough like some other countries given the government’s focus as GDP growth rather than inflation or currency stability. On the other hand, Turkey is likely to face more challenges ahead and it is running a massive fiscal deficit but don’t have savings to fund it.

So, Erdogan atop of it was the only one who actually decided Turkish monetary policy keeping the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey captive. He has prevented any recent Central Bank constraints and in the last two years under Erdogan’s control, because he helped the Turkish voters to do better by offering cash bonus and other trading methods.

Turkey has had an extraordinary loose both monetary and fiscal policies. Turkey is facing the variety of issues. The Turkish lira has declined, the inflation rate is in the area of 12%, although the target was 5%, and also Erdogan’s restriction of the Central Bank’s independence. Setting interest rates which opt in for a monetary policy that prioritizes growth over controlling the inflation, is a real problem. Nevertheless, the voters preferred the man, who as a mayor of Istanbul had cleaned this  city, even if their first choice was a bit shaky – and that is an understatement.

Democracy in Turkey suffered since its inception, oscillating from the socialism of Ataturk to the right-wing Islamists of Erdogan, and that includes about 1.5 million people who live abroad, most of them in Germany. The burst of the economic bubble and the consequent implosion of the present political survival of Turkey is not a matter of supposition but a matter of time.

A Strategic Vision for the Eastern Mediterranean

A Strategic Vision for the Eastern Mediterranean
Colonel (res) Dr. Eran Lerman
The Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies
27 July, 2018

Within the last few years against the background of the so called Arab Spring – that is by the way a very absurd term given the extent of the bloodshed and destruction we have been witnessing – and against the background of the rise of very dangerous, very ambitious, very radical Turkish policies and actions, we have been seeing the emergence of new dynamics in the Eastern Mediterranean. Already we are talking about a very close system of consultation and cooperation in the Israeli-Greek-Cypriot triangle. We are already looking at very similar patterns of cooperation and consultation in the Egyptian-Greek-Cypriot triangle, including series of trilateral summits. There has been already one trilateral summit of Jordan, Cyprus and Greece. So the two Hellenic nations are driving a policy that is leading to the emergence of what could be described as an alliance of likeminded forces in the Eastern Mediterranean. This has economic dimensions, specifically in the field of energy, given the discovery of major energy sources of gas and possibly even oil in the Eastern Mediterranean, in the EEZs of the three countries and of Egypt. So we are talking about four countries here. And, moreover, we are talking about great potential for economic and technological cooperation along very broad range of issues. Israel, for example, can bring to the table very impressive achievements in the field of water management, desalination, conservation, reuse, which, I think, is very relevant, particularly for the Greek islands, or Cyprus and, possibly in not too distant future, even for Egypt, when the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is fully erected and there is a change in the Nile water supply.

All of these are important elements, but there is also clearly a security dimension: exercises, agreements on cooperation, technological solutions to security challenges and a pattern of close cooperation and coordination, including trilateral meetings at the level of Ministries of Defense. So, we are looking at something which is new, dramatic, significant, and I assume that given the challenges that we all face in the Eastern Mediterranean are long-term challenges. Islamist radicalization, the bid by Iran to get a foothold on the Mediterranean coast, the existence of very radical Islamist groups like offshoots of Islamic State (ISIS) in Sinai. At some point there was a hold on the Mediterranean in Libya which was destroyed in battle, but the game is not over.

And, of course, the third challenge, side by side with Iran and ISIS, is the challenge of the Muslim Brotherhood supported by Turkish and Qatari policies. These are all long term persistent threats which require long-term persistent efforts to stop them, to turn them back, to defeat them, and to ensure stability and security for our respective nations.

One missing element is an anchor in the European system and I would have hoped to see Italy come in as a key player given their investment in Egyptian stability and given their involvement in the regional energy markets. And given the fact that Italy basically faces both sides of the Mediterranean, so if we are talking about the Eastern Mediterranean basin, it should be a very important anchor. The problem may be for the immediate and intermediate future that Italy has a serious problem putting its own political house in order. But having said so, I think we should look towards a future in which we can build a loose but effective consultative framework that I would think of in terms of 3+3: Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Jordan, Israel and Egypt. And, of course, open to further accessions in the future, for example some Adriatic nations – the Adriatic is an adjunct of the Eastern Mediterranean basin that could find a place there. Certainly, Croatia markets itself as a Mediterranean as it used to be, and, of course, now when they have won some respect and glory in Russia, in soccer, they are entitled to be considered as part of this broader Eastern Mediterranean equation.
Albanian governments have resisted the temptation to be drawn into the Islamic or Islamist category and they could certainly find their place there. And of course this should be open to a different Turkish leadership if Turkey changes course. Right now that doesn’t look like a very likely proposition. Erdoğan has quite convincingly secured his powers for the foreseeable future.

The template can be borrowed from what already exists in the Western Mediterranean – in addition to the pan-Mediterranean organization umbrella, the UFM, the Union for the Mediterranean, Barcelona Process, which sits in Barcelona and provides, theoretically at least, framework for all Mediterranean countries and for all European countries to come together. There is also the 5+5 consultative structure, loose, without director, without a permanent establishment, but nevertheless an institutionally established framework that includes the five relevant European countries. One of them, Portugal, is an honorary Mediterranean – it is an entirely Atlantic country. But obviously being an Iberian nation it is part of the south-western arc of Europe. So it is Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and Malta, all members of the EU, and five North African countries, countries of the Maghreb Arab Union. Again, Mauritania is a fully Atlantic nation but it is counted as part of the various Mediterranean dialogues, the NATO-Med and the Euro-Med. So it is Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya – to the extent that you can speak of Libya as a nation nowadays.

So, the parallel to the 5+5 could start as a 3+3 and then, possibly, be broadened. But what makes the 3+3 relevant is the fact that currently they are like-minded on all major issues. Italy used to be Turkey’s friend. It turned around under the impact of Erdoğan’s behavior in the Libyan crisis. It certainly has, despite the friction with Egypt over the Regeni case, at the end of the day it has a vested interests in the Egyptian stability. It has vested interest in putting an end to chaos in the eastern Mediterranean that could also have an impact on immigration. It certainly has a vested interest in curbing the spread of Islamist ambitions.

And so the six do already have a firm base in common. On energy, Italy has already joined Greece, Cyprus and Israel in planning for a possible integration of our energy capabilities in the Eastern Med. In terms of security cooperation, two of the important building blocks of such a cooperative system could also be the Israeli-Jordanian relationship which is almost overt – Israel even sold weapons to this Arab neighbor of ours. So you get this general sense that this is not a part of the Arab – Israeli conflict anymore. In fact, since 1970’s Israel and Jordan have been working pretty closely together against various challenges. Egypt clearly is part of what I would call the camp of stability in the region at large. The position that Sisi talked about in his famous speech on the 1st of January 2015 on the question of turning back the tide of Islamist totalitarian fantasies is a very important text for all of us.

So we are looking essentially at a group of like-minded nations with a common agenda and the obvious next step should be closer regional integration. Thank you.

Israeli Perception of the Iranian Threat

Israeli Perception of the Iranian Threat
Dr. Ehud Eran
Assistant Professor of International Relations University of Haifa
17 July, 2018

My name is Ehud Eiran. I’m an Assistant Professor at the University of Haifa at the Department of International Relations. I want to thank Erpic for this opportunity to talk today about Israel’s perception of the Iranian threat and how it has changed over time. In part, because it may form some of the significant security-related events that may unfold in Syria, specifically the potential for a direct Israeli confrontation on Syrian soil as the Syrian civil war is coming to an end.

So I want to make three big points this afternoon. One is that Israel traditionally perceived Iranian threat as stemming from Iran’s nuclear project, but we have seen a shift in the last few months to the focus on Iran’s conventional or strategic threat, specifically the position it’s gaining in Syria – that’s my first point. The second point is the triangle between Israel, Iran and Russia. The point there is that Israel is trying to work with the Russians to contain, or control, or constrain the Iranian role in Syria. And finally, to point at the recent developments from the last six weeks in which Israel is essentially hinting at its interest in regime change in Iran, which is also a change in Israeli policy. So, from nuclear to conventional, from a two-player game to, perhaps, a three-player game with Russia, and finally, sort of a new Israeli approach towards a regime change which also comes to new tools, mostly – surprisingly – through YouTube videos.  

So let me start with the notion of a threat. Israel has been concerned for a long time, at least two decades, with the military aspect of the Iranian nuclear program. Israel’s insistence, which is supported by a lot of facts, that Iran had a program to develop its nuclear program into a militarized nuclear capability.

If we look at the notion of threat, if we unpack it, it actually has, in my view, four separate sets of threats. That’s important to understand, because any future arrangement or an effort to deal with these threats may entail a separate solution for each type of threat. The first threat is existential. So in the 2012 poll, 77% of Israelis said that if Iran has the bomb they would perceive it as an existential threat to Israel. So this is the most primordial, atavistic fear that once your foes have the capability to destroy you, they will do so. Israelis who hold to this position point to Iran’s ideological commitment grounded in its interpretation of Islam, which calls for the destruction of the state of Israel. The previous president, especially, Ahmadinejad, was known for some statements that came to this effect. And of course, it’s informed by experiences that the Jewish people went through long time ago and far away from here, namely the Holocaust, in which a third of the Jewish people were destroyed, were annihilated by the Germans from the early 1940s until 1945. So a lot of rhetoric that comes out from Israel, especially from Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, alludes to the Holocaust: “They have tried to destroy us and they will try to do so again”. In a famous speech in 2008 Prime Minister Netanyahu said: the year (he referred to that time frame) is 1938 – the eve of the Holocaust – and Iran is Germany. So, part of the interpretation of the existential threat in fact stems from Israeli and Jewish historical experiences. So that’s one set of threats.

The second one is highlighted not so much by politicians, but mostly by professionals, by the security establishment. This is focused on the here and now, very realist, materialist, if you will – that is, what I would call, a strategic threat, the notion that once Iran has the bomb, Israel’s dominance as a nuclear hegemon (although never publically stated but largely believed to be the state) will shaken up. And the element of the strategic threat is that Iran will be emboldened to be much more assertive once it has the bomb (although we see it’s quite assertive even without the bomb), that there will be, what the experts call, a cascade effect. In other words, once Iran has the bomb, other regional actors, like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, maybe Turkey, will strive for their own bomb, making Israel’s strategic environment much less calm, much more prone to instability. Another strategic element that’s mentioned is that Iran’s allies – Syria, Hezbollah – will feel more emboldened and will take more risks in confronting Israel once they know they are supported by a nuclear power.

The third set of concerns, not as dominant on the discourse but I think largely there, is what I would call a social-economic threat. The idea is: Israel has boomed economically in the last fifteen years, largely due to a big stream of foreign direct investments. Israelis are proud to say that Warren Buffet’s single biggest investment outside of Israel is in the Israeli company – the Iscar Technologies. The high-tech sector that is driving the Israeli economy is largely funded by investments from abroad – we know Google bought Waze, for example, and other deals along those lines. The argument goes: if Iran has a nuclear bomb and threatens to destroy Israel in a matter of a few minutes, foreign investors will be cautious to invest.

And finally – and I would not disregard it as an ideological identity-based threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon – here the story is: Israel promised to be a safe haven for Jews. It was a solution, if you will, to security threats Jews have been facing in Eastern Europe since the late 19th century culminating in the Holocaust, and so the promise was here of a safe Jewish fortress, where the Jewish lives will be protected. But what happened, what does it mean ideologically, if this fortress can be destroyed in a ten-minute notice and become a nuclear desert. That’s the first point.

What has happened the last year, the Syrian civil war is coming towards the end. We had the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) – the agreement that Iran agreed to halt its nuclear program in 2015. And so the notion of threat shifted a bit from existential – nuclear and so on – to the more conventional one, specifically Iran’s allies: Bashar al-Assad, with massive Iranian, Russian, Hezbollah and so on support seems to be winning the civil war. Syria is entering the phase where the arrangements for the structure of the future Syrian state and the way power will be distributed there are being organized now. As may be expected the winners with the invested effort from outside, the Iranians, want to hold positions close to Israel, potentially deployed forces, built bases, created a real conventional deterrent close to the border by deploying missiles. Israel was very vocal in rejecting that and trying to push an arrangement in which the Iranians will be deployed kilometers away – 40-50 kilometers. The rumors say that Israel and Russia agreed for such a deal, in which the Russians will guarantee that the Iranians will be deployed further away in return for Israel’s acquiescence for Assad forces deployed closer to the border. It’s not clear, partly because of the nature the actors, specifically the Russians, if this deal will come through. But Israel already demonstrated its willingness to use force to enforce this sort of red lines by attacking Iranian and pro-Iranian targets in Syria on quite a large scale. So, we’ve moved from a nuclear to a conventional threat. The Americans pulling out from JCPOA recently means that the nuclear file may reopen. It’s not clear if Iran will keep its part of the deal once the Americans are out. If there is a better deal, as Trump is hoping of course, I think the Israeli, at least the security establishment, will of course support it. I’m not sure what will be the Prime Minister’s position. If there is no deal and the Iranians go back to an active program, we may see escalation over this because this has been defined essentially as a red line for Israel.

And finally, my last point. I want to draw the listeners’ attention to a new tack in Israeli behavior. Up until now, Prime Minister and other Israeli elites advocated on the international arena, employed force, employed covert action to try to stop the Iranian advances in the region. Since late May Prime Minister Netanyahu took a new direction by releasing three clips directed at the Iranian people, essentially highlighting that Israel’s issue is with the Iranian regime rather than the Iranian people. It’s a much more nuanced approach, conveyed through a new medium. Israel traditionally, specifically Netanyahu, was a great believer in dramatic speeches on institutionalized world forums like the Security Council of the United Nations, and in government-to-government dialogue. Netanyahu now, perhaps in the populist spirit of Trump, or maybe acquiescing to the new realities of the new media, is producing these short clips in English to the Iranian public, saying how wonderful the public is, how horrible the regime is, and in fact reminding the Iranians why the regime is bad for them, focusing on issues that seem to be of interest to the public, for example the water prices in Iran. So Netanyahu starts a clip by drinking some water and telling the Iranians that Israel has a technology that can help them, but it is their evil leaders who are preventing it. And in fact, consequently, Israel launched an internet site in Farsi, which has some information and knowledge of how to deal with water shortages. This also plays into this Israeli recent image of the start-up nation advanced technologically, and so on.

It seems that this new tack is coordinated with the Americans and there are some hints that Israel and the US are quietly creating a working group to try and think more concretely about changes in Iran. This is not fully public, but it was mentioned in the press that Israeli officials that spoke to the press were careful and calibrated in the expectations saying, “We know we cannot change the regime, but this creates some leverage”.

Nevertheless, it’s interesting, because Israel has been traditionally very cautious to get involved in internal affairs of other countries. The few times Israel did intervene are perceived here as a failure and a cause of a greater problem. Iran, of course, is a specific case, in which the West is very careful about, partly because of the 1953 Mossadegh coup, in which the CIA and the British were able to reinstate the Shah through their involvement, but this led to this resentment and suspicion toward the West for a long time.

Some of these issues are discussed in other places and the listeners are welcome to read them. I had a piece in The Washington Quarterly 4-5 years ago with my colleague Martin Malin analyzing the notions of threat. And recently, I’ve been contributing to a blog at the Atlantic Council site that deals with Iran – the IranSource. You can read mine and other people’s thoughts about the current situation in Iran.

So, thank you for this opportunity. I want to thank Erpic again, and I look forward to future engagements.   

The Aftermath of the 2018 Turkish Elections


Aftermath of the 2018 Turkish Elections
Marcus Templar
U.S. Army Cryptologic Linguist, and All-Source Intelligence Analyst of the Defense Intelligence Agency (Retd.)
16 July, 2018

The elections in Turkey were nothing more than the continuation of Erdogan’s grasping of all the powers he could and more in Turkey since the coup two year ago. Last year they had the referendum which changed the political system and this year he actually took officially, I would say, the radar of Turkey in his hands. He has more powers than Kemal had and definitely has more powers than our President, because in our democracy in the United States there is a balance of powers. Erdogan doesn’t have any balance. He controls everything and he has put either relatives in cabinet posts or very close friends and associates – the Minister of Finance that is very important for a country is in the hands of his son-in-law Berat Albayrak.

And then we have a number of others that are already known in Turkey and they are very rich people, like the Minister of Education, who is the owner of a private college, the Minister of Health owns a chain of pharmacies, and the Minister of Culture and Tourism has a successful travel agency. So the whole thing is now in his hands. He has control over sixty five boards, commissions, committees, established with laws and other regulations and are merged in nine entities, namely social policies council, law policies, security  and foreign policies, local governments, health and food, economy, education and science, technology and innovation. Now, the President is on a chair in these boards, but at the same time he has already installed other chairs because he cannot be President everywhere, he has his own representatives in the same boards. So, these boards, according to the new system, propose policies, oversee implementation of the policies, make decisions, long-term strategic decisions and these decisions are beyond the responsibilities of the ministers. So, in essence Erdogan controls even the ministries.

He has installed eight directorates which include the Directorate of General Staff, Directorate of National Intelligence, Directorate of Religious Affairs, and for the first time Turkey sees the Directorate of Strategy and Budgeting. So, how it is going to work? I am not sure and I don’t believe anybody can be sure, but also he has the Directorate of Communications which actually will organize media and communications activities. In essence, he is going to control even the press and he has already thrown to prison a lot of journalists, religious people who are against him, other politicians, and that’s how he got actually elected, because he didn’t have any real opposition to begin with.

So, slowly he’s trying to become a modern sultan and he hopes to get the caliphate again. But in my opinion he has a problem with that because the caliphate was a product of occupation of lands, and since he had occupied all the Islamic centres and mostly Sunni people, he became himself a caliph, like the Pope, if I could say, like the Ecumenical Patriarch, this kind of a thing. There is no democracy in that caliphate. So, what he wants to do is to control even the religion of other countries, and through the religion of other countries impose his own power to other countries, his own influence. And that would be Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Kosovo in Europe, and also he could control the Muslims in Greece, in Thrace especially, the Dodecanese islands, the occupied territory of Cyprus in the north and also Saudi Arabia, all the Arab countries, Iran, Afghanistan, Western India and Pakistan. So, this is what he wants to do. The problem he has with that is that he is not in political control of those countries. Also, most Arabs, most Muslims, I should say, do not consider the Turks to be real Muslims. And this is because they gamble a lot, which is against the Quran, and also they drink alcoholic beverages, which is also against the Quran. So, that’s what we have on the religious side. I don’t believe he’s going to make it.

At the political side, I think he might keep the power for a few years but I don’t see him staying, because the world is unlike when Kemal was, or sultans before. Today, even if he controls the social media, there is always a way for people to find out what is happening outside of the country and to get to be influenced from outside of the country.

I don’t believe that he will be able to control the Muslims in Western Europe, although I’m sure he will send his own people to agitate, I would say, other countries, mostly Germany, and I say that because in Germany, in the west, most of the Muslims there that come from Turkey are not Turks – they are Kurds and that would be a problem.

Also in Constantinople most of the Muslim inhabitants, the non-Greeks of Constantinople, are Kurds – they are not Turks. So, I believe it is a matter of time. He is not going to stay like that and I do believe that Turkey, because of the control he has, might not be able to sustain the economy it has right now. Some people say it will be stronger. I am not an economist, but I don’t believe in a controlled economy. I cannot see how a controlled economy can flourish. Economy requires innovation, education is very important. And if these two are controlled, investments are controlled, I don’t see how can the economy become better.  Again, I’m not an economist – that is just my belief.  In a free economy you have movement of ideas, movement of economic culture, businesses come and go, if they don’t like what they see they can always change the product, they change the way it works. When you control the economy like that, I don’t know how he can make it better, allow the economy to grow. That’s my belief as a non-economist.

Turkey is losing its importance. Turkey kept importance all these years because of the location.  The Straits do not have the importance they used to have. Never mind that people say they still do. They don’t. And number of reasons is supporting this. One is that they are getting shallower and shallower, while the ships are getting bigger and bigger, so you cannot pass through the Dardanelles big ships like they used to pass one hundred years ago, because the ships were smaller and the bottom of the Dardanelles were deeper. At the same time we have different weapons that we didn’t have a hundred years ago like missiles – you do not need to be close, let’s say, to Crimea if you want to bomb it. You can do it from Chicago. So, they have lost that. And Erdogan has realized that and I’m sure he wants to open a canal, the Istanbul Canal, which will be actually a line from Küçükçekmece down south, up north – I don’t remember the town today. But it’s like an alternate route which is going to be dug like a regular canal.

Also, he wants to expand the airport in Istanbul, Constantinople, which is actually outside in Yeşilköy, and some other airports, so that he can buy the F-35s. Personally, I don’t believe the United States will sell F-35s to Turkey, but Turkey has a very strong lobby. It has a very strong lobby because it pays money to lobbies. I was reading the other day that the President of PSEKA (The International Coordinating Committee “Justice for Cyprus”), Mr. Christopher, stated that Turkey spent a hundred and two million dollars just in lobbying. Greece, for example, has spent nothing.

The problem now would be that if Turkey continues to be the way Erdogan wants it to be, it is going to come in opposition mainly of Germany, and this is because Germany would never allow Turkey to direct traffic, if I can say that. I don’t know how NATO is going to take care of that because he is becoming more of a liability as he goes and against NATO standards. To be a NATO country you have to follow the OSCE, and have democracy, and Turkey is losing it. The question I have is how NATO is going to handle this, because to my knowledge there is no mechanism to kick a country out, just like in the EU. I have not seen anywhere a mechanism that allows the other party members to say to the country, to Turkey or whosoever, “We don’t want you, you are a liability to us, you don’t serve anything, get out of here.” But, again, that would be related to how Russia is going to act. And to tell you the truth, I’m not really sure about the United States because it seems to me that the exception of the President all the others are against Russia and our President now says, “Russia is our friend.” That makes a few countries, especially in the Baltic Sea, nervous because they used to be under the Russian occupation since 1918, or so. I don’t know how that is going to work. It is a matter of, I think, a guessing game right now. But as long as Erdogan is pushing the West, the West is going to react against him. And I don’t know how Russia and Turkey are going to work together or against each other, because now they have the problem in Syria, the problem of Kurdistan in Iraq, in part of Syria. I’m sure in few years we are going to see the tiles will fall where they may and we will see how it’s going to go.

Hydrocarbon Developments in the Eastern Med

Hydrocarbon Developments in the Eastern Med
Dr. Charles Ellinas
Non Resident Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council Global Energy Center
10 July, 2018

Fitst of all, in Cyprus it is hoped that when the Turkish elections are over, the Cyprus negotiations will start. And we’ve had some developments recently, and hopefully that will lead to the resumption of the negotiations, which is going to help, eventually, hydrocarbons, especially if there is a solution. The big event will be the drilling by Exxon Mobile in Block 10, in October or November. We will talk about it later on.

In Egypt, development of Zohr gas and market liberalization have been the big events in this year and they will continue being the big events later this year and next year. In addition to that, though, Egypt is embarking on new licensing rounds, in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, and even the Nile of Delta, which will increase exploration and lead to more gas finds. In fact, in August ENI intends to start drilling in a new prospect called Nour, which all indications show that it may be very big – as big as Zohr. But obviously, the drilling needs to be done to see what happens.

In Israel, there was a deal to export gas to Egypt, but will it happen? That’s a question.

In Lebanon, exploration has started but there are EEZ disputes.

On top of all these things the global energy markets and prices are very challenging.

So, let’s start with the developments in Egypt. Egypt has just issues its last LNG import tender. And the second half of this year will be the time when LNG imports will stop, and beginning of 2019 Egypt will start exporting LNG using surplus gas from various gas fields led by Zohr. Zohr – the first gas was developed in December and production is increasing this year, and it’s expected to reach a plateau sometime next year, and achieve much as 27 billion cubic meters (BCM) per year or a bit more, maybe even 30. Yet to find gas in Egypt, it’s estimated to be between 50 – 150 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of gas. This can more than double production. If that happens, the chances for Egypt exporting large amounts of gas increase dramatically. Egypt has also liberalized its gas market. And a program has already started to achieve that, and it will be fully in place by 2032. This has led ENI, SHELL, EDISON, BP to announce plans to expand existing activities and investment in Egypt. Egypt also aspires to become East Med’s energy hub, and in that respect it has a support of the European Union, which in May signed a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) to support Egypt. The EU is quite interested in the idea of LNG imports from Egypt, but also interested in helping Egypt to develop its renewables resources.

In terms of impact of all of these developments on Egypt’s gas sector, Egypt’s gas production will reach close to 80 BCM of gas per year by 2019, exceeding consumption by over 10 BCM of gas. That is the basis of resuming exports. So that will happen next year. An organization based in Paris, OME, whose members are all the international oil companies operating in Egypt, has gathered all the data, and according to them, gas production can reach 120 BCM per year maybe by 2035, but it will keep increasing between now and then. That will also mean that the surplus gas in Egypt will keep increasing and could be as much as 20-30 BCM per year surplus gas which will feed exports. That means that the two LNG plants in Egypt, Idku and Damietta, will reach a full utilization probably early 2020s. And that utilization, the capacity of the plants is 17,5 BCM per year. And this is what is of interest to the European Union. Because these plants were feeding gas to Europe before they ran out of gas. And now, once the surplus happens, they will be able to resume export to Europe. That has been confirmed by Egypt’s Petroleum Minister, who said that the priority is to resume uninterrupted LNG supply contracts to Europe. So, Egypt is underway to achieve all of these things, with more investment, with more exploration, with more development of renewable resources, and so on.

All these things will have an impact on Israel and Cyprus. Both Israel and Cyprus have been aspiring to export their gas to Egypt for liquefaction and export. And more recently, we’ve heard that SHELL is negotiations to buy Aphrodite gas and the Leviathan gas for liquefaction at Idku and exports. The problem is commercial. By the time gas from Cyprus and Israel comes to Egypt, is liquefied and exported to Europe, it will arrive in Europe at prices higher than the average prices in Europe and as a result it will be difficult to find buyers of that gas. This is why, despite the fact that these negotiations have been going on for a while now, they have not concluded. And now, with Egypt’s opportunity to sub-export its LNG itself they may not be concluded, unless they find a cheaper way of getting the gas to Egypt.

NOBLE and DELEK signed an agreement to sell to Egypt 64 BCM of gas over  a 10-year period for an Egyptian company called Dolphinus. And this deal was supposed to be completed fairly soon. But it is facing major challenges. One of the challenges is how do you get the gas to Egypt? There is still a need to find a credible pipeline. The second is that a few years ago there was an arbitration award against Egypt for stopping gas supplies to Israel in 2012 and that arbitration award was over 2 billion dollars. Egypt has made it clear that nothing is going to happen until that is resolved, which hasn’t happened yet. There are also security issues and political issues, and as a result, even though the deal has been signed, it has not been put into place yet.

Success, when Exonn Mobile drills in Block 10 in October in Cyprus, can transform our fortunes, and I will talk about that in a minute.

Let’s talk briefly about Israel. Leviathan’s phase 1A construction is about two-thirds complete. It’s progressing well, and they still expect to start producing gas by the end of next year. However, ENERGEAN has come into the equation in Israel, acquired two fields called Tanin and Karesh, and they have proceeded to develop these fields. And there have been undercutting Leviathan gas on price. Tamar and Leviathan gas is being sold to customers in Israel at about 6 dollars per Mbtu. ENERGEAN is selling its gas at less than 4.5 dollar. Very low. So as a result it has been very successful in signing deals for all the gas from these two gas fields, 4.2 BCM per year, and they have secured finance, they have secured investments from Israel and they went for an IPO (Initial Public Offer) in London, and they’ve got another half a billion dollars – more than enough to fund the project. As a result, earlier this year they reached FID (Final Investment Decision), and they are proceeding with developing these two gas fields, with exports expected to start in 2020.

On the part of this, actually ENERGEAN has also made an offer to Cyprus to export gas from these two gas fields to Cyprus cheaply. It could reach Cyprus at 6.5 dollar per Mbtu. This is quite cheap in comparison to Cyprus plans to import LNG, which will be announced very soon. LNG imports, by the time they are completed and the gas arrives to EAC (Electricity Authority of Cyprus) for electricity generation, it will cost between 10 and 11 dollars, which is substantially more than ENERGEAN offers, which should be taken more seriously.

The idea of exports from Israel to Turkey has receded. With political problems and the animosity between Netanyahu and Erdogan it’s not going to happen. In any case, it is commercially challenged as well. And so is the famous East Med gas pipeline – I call it the East Med ‘pipe dream’. It probably won’t happen, simply because it is commercially non-viable. If it will become commercially viable, the prices of gas in Europe reach 8 dollars per Mbtu – something highly unlikely to happen.

As a result, Israel has limited export options, this is the reason why its first licensing round was more or less a flop. They are talking about another round, I think they will face similar problems. Unless there are secure export routes, convincing export routes, customers won’t be interested to come and invest in Israel.

Prospects in Lebanon are better. However, and Lebanon, as you know, have allotted Blocks 4 and 9 to TOTAL, ENI and NOVATEK, however part of Block 9 is in an area disputed by Israel, and that has led to a lot of threats exchanged between Israel and Lebanon, and it could be a problem in future exploration.

TOTAL has approved plans to start exploring and drilling, and these plans have been approved, and the first well is expected to be drilled next year. Lebanon is also preparing for a second offshore licensing round. But they need to have, first of all, political stability within Lebanon, no more changes in government. And second, the differences that between Israel and Lebanon with regard to the EEZ boundary need to be resolved. Hopefully, they will be resolved to enable peaceful development of the gas. Without it, there may be future challenges.

In Cyprus the news has been good. ENI has been successful in drilling in Block 6 with Calypso, which probably has between 6 to 8 TCF of gas – that’s what the ENI’s CEO has said. It is a sizeable amount of gas. However, the bad news is that Turkish intervention stopped ENI drilling in Block 3, in February, and Turkey itself may drill in Cyprus EEZ with its new drilling rig called Fatih. These are difficult times, it remains to be seen what happens after Erdogan’s win in Turkey and hopefully as he sets up his new government and settles down into his new term, he will see light and cooperate with countries in the region to develop resources of the region peacefully. I’m not very hopeful. Turkey also has threatened to stop all activity in Cyprus EEZ, simply because they say they are supporting Turkish Cypriots’ interests in the region, and that remains to be seen as to how it is converted into action.

ENI said in April that it is evaluating data so far, and it will be considering a resumption of drilling in 2019. However, they have not given us a firm timetable as to what exactly they are going to do and when.

And TOTAL, positively, is interested in farming-in in ENI’s Block 8, and possibly 2, 3 and 9. That is a vote of confidence that TOTAL has that there is future for gas in Cyprus and they want to be part of it. However, all of these things still depend very much on how the Cyprus problem can be negotiated and can be resolved. Without it harassment by Turkey probably will continue and will make it difficult. The big news is expected to come later in the year or probably early next year, with EXXON MOBIL’s drilling in block 10. There are good indications of a possible sizable find in Block 10. If that is confirmed, and it is quite substantial, then all games are on, basically it would change prospects in Cyprus EEZ. As you’ve probably heard, EXXON MOBIL said last year they are very keen to develop an LNG plant in Cyprus for exports of LNG. And that is how Exxon Mobil operates – they like to operate independently, develop their own projects, they have the technology, they have the might, and they have the finance to do it. The difficulty will be, first of all, to discover a substantial gas field – hopefully they do – and the second would be the political problems. Even mighty Exxon Mobil requires finance to proceed with major projects. A discovery in Block 10 and building a sizable LNG plant will probably need 15 billion dollars finance. Substantial part of that, two-thirds, will have to come from investors, and banks and financial institutions. They are risk-averse. If Turkey threatens the project, it may have an impact on securing the finance and as a result it may cause delays in developing the plant, even though the plant will benefit all Cypriots: Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. So the sooner we sort out the Cyprus problem, the better it is for the future of these possibilities and these projects.

Cyprus is going to import LNG, as I said before, and I think it’s misguided, it’s not the right way forward taking on ENERGEAN’s offer. Liberating renewables and expanding the development of renewables would be a better way to go forward.

The global markets and prices are challenging. Even though prices have gone up recently, they are still very difficult. For example, during the International Petroleum Week in London in February, BP’s CEO said specifically, that there are abundant global energy resources and supplies, and as a result low oil and gas prices will continue in the longer term. That is an important factor that effects the development of the East Med gas, which is expensive to develop, and if it is going to succeed, it means to be able to reach these markets and sell at the prices that prevail globally on average, and not just the high prices that develop that we have now. The world is awash with oil, gas and LNG. And with US shale coming up and up, and the preparation of renewables is unstoppable. And coal is holding its own – the use of coal in India and China is increasing, not decreasing. As a result, competition to secure markets will be fierce. Prices will be dictated by renewable, which are become cheaper, and by coal, which is much cheaper than gas. And we need to be aware of these things. The international oil companies are aware of these things. We need to be patient, we need to work with international companies to make sure that development of the gas in Cyprus and the East Med is competitive to benefit from the potential export markets.

So in conclusion, the East Med and the Middle East regions are geopolitically volatile. Developing and exporting oil and gas is a challenge, especially in the prevailing low-demand, low-price environment globally. Disputes are often the result of competing oil and gas interests and unresolved borders and EEZ disputes, particularly in the East Med. And more often than not diplomacy is sidelined by aggressive action. Turkish warship introversion in Cyprus EEZ has now altered the balance and has increased the risks in the region. With the US reinforcing sanctions on Iran it may complicate the picture even further. Egypt is successful in exploiting its hydrocarbon resources and liberalizing its energy markets. The solution of the Cyprus problem could go a long way in improving regional geopolitics in the East Med. With Turkish elections over, negotiations are hopefully expected to resume, and hopefully they will lead to a solution. As we saw earlier, we need that to develop the resources in the region. East Med oil and gas plans need to be tempered with a dose of reality. Fierce competition to secure markets is there, and will stay and not go away. Low gas prices are imposing their own challenges and aspirations to export the East Med gas, and we need to find ways to work within this low-price environment. The key conclusion is that the East Med still has reasonable prospects for more gas discoveries. But securing export markets and prices will be the key factors.