Will the Eastern Mediterranean become the next Persian Gulf? Reuters A worker checks the valve gears in a natural gas control centre of the Turkey's Petroleum and Pipeline Corporation, 35 km 22 miles west of Ankara, May 18, But the discovery of what may potentially be 3, billion cubic meters of natural gas and 1. Turkey and Cyprus have competing interests in tapping the newfound oil and gas and in defending their access to those resources, while Israel and Lebanon continue to dispute their shared maritime boundary and territorial waters.
Against this backdrop, political tensions are escalating in Egypt, Moscow seeks to expand its influence in Syria, and Iran continues to facilitate terrorist activities through its aides in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon. Current US force posture in the Persian Gulf reflects the type of investment that may become necessary in the Eastern Mediterranean as conflicts loom: establishing cooperative security sites with favorable geographic locations, building on-call operating facilities, and establishing pre-agreements with the host nations that permit the US military to utilize the sites.
As Eastern Mediterranean security becomes increasingly important, the United States must bolster its force posture in the region by establishing new cooperative security sites and by helping develop a regional defense partnership.
The United States has for more than two decades taken Eastern Mediterranean maritime security for granted. The triangular relationship between the United States, Israel, and Turkey also provided a foundation of stability. Houston-based Noble Energy Inc. For instance, the prospect of economic cooperation between Israel and Cyprus has led to their diplomatic reconciliation.
But security concerns loom over development plans, as certain exclusive economic zones EEZs are disputed. Israel and Lebanon likewise dispute their maritime boundary, and Palestinians claim a gas field off the Gaza Strip.
Unrest in Egypt and Syria and the activities of Iranian-sponsored terrorist groups only further threaten security. Should Israel and Cyprus develop the oil and gas resources in the Eastern Mediterranean, Europe could potentially reduce its dependence on Middle Eastern oil and Russian gas. While the Persian Gulf littoral states, with few exceptions, profit from gas or oil, Turkey lacks indigenous energy resources.
It has instead sought to cash in on its geographical position, which links the energy-rich Caspian Sea region to the energy-hungry West. All options are on the table; anything can be done. Given its embrace of Hamas and agitation against Israel, the United States can no longer assume Turkey will help encourage stability in the region. Hence, Moscow seeks to use its leverage over Cyprus to increase Russian influence. Already, Lebanese Admiral Nazih Baroudi has laid out ayear strategy that includes defense of offshore platforms. Politics, however, preclude settlement of the dispute between Lebanon and Israel.
Hezbollah may use the disputed waters to justify continued terrorism against Israel and, in turn, to provide an opportunity for Iran to further involve itself in the region. Enter Iran The Iranian government increasingly seeks to expand its naval reach. Iran has made repeated attempts to smuggle weaponry into the Gaza Strip. During its war with Israel, Hezbollah crippled the Israeli warship INS Hanit, which was cruising eight to nine miles offshore, with an Iranian version of the Chinese C missile.
Should Iranian shipping become more frequent in the Red Sea, the risk of IRGC Navy operations, mining, and commando operations will increase and also become possible in the Eastern Mediterranean. Israel achieved border security and Egypt gained control of the Suez Canal. While diplomatic relations between Cairo and Jerusalem remained cool, the two countries cooperated economically. In , Israel and Egypt built, under a year contract, a mile subsea pipeline from gas fields in the northern Sinai Peninsula to Ashkelon, Israel.
Islamist groups mobilized against Israel and pressured the Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company to cancel the year contract, even as Egyptian hard currency reserves dwindled. On August 18, , 12 terrorists dressed as Egyptian soldiers attacked a civilian bus near Eilat close to the Sinai border, killing 8 Israelis and wounding In the wake of the Egyptian coup, Morsi supporters clashed with troops in both Suez and Ismailia alongside the Suez Canal, through which 8 percent of seaborne trade passes.
Further instability could threaten Suez Canal shipping more than any event since the Arab-Israeli war. At present, the Israeli Navy can patrol and conduct basic coastal defense, but with just 3 corvettes, 10 missile boats, 3 operational submarines, and 42 patrol boats, the naval fleet remains too small for wider sustained missions.
This will also require more than just new ships. In recent months, Israel has also installed a Barak-8 antiair and antimissile naval defense system to protect production rigs. However, because Turkey has promised to use its membership in international organizations to hinder broader cooperation with Israel, NATO may not be the platform upon which to base Eastern Mediterranean defense.
There is no indication that Turkey plans to end its attempts to isolate Israel any time soon. US force posture in the Persian Gulf reflects the type of investment that may become necessary in the Eastern Mediterranean. The US Navy has for more than two decades kept at least one carrier strike group in the Persian Gulf at all times, with another nearby in the Arabian or Red Seas.
The main operating base for naval forces is in Rota, Spain, a small port on the Atlantic Coast just outside the Strait of Gibraltar. The British maintain a Permanent Joint Headquarter in square-mile Sovereign Base Areas in Akrotiri—close to Limassol—and in Dhekelia, which they use for electronic intelligence gathering and communications.
The Eastern Mediterranean in will look far different than the Eastern Mediterranean in The United States must be ready for this outcome. Niklas Anzinger niklasanzinger gmail. Notes 1. Jon B. Yuri M. Michael R. Yergin, The Quest, 40— Peter C. Glover and Michael J. Skip to main content Skip to search. Search this site:. Center for Geopolitical Analyses toggle.
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