Nabucco Follies: State Department Shills for EU Pipeline to Carry Iranian Gas

Nabucco Follies: State Department Shills for EU Pipeline to Carry Iranian Gas

Last month, a remarkable transformation occurred in the controversial Nabucco gas pipeline project -- or at any rate in the public perception of the project in the English-speaking world. As recently as last fall, in fact, there was barely any public perception of the Nabucco project in the English-speaking world because there was barely any coverage of the project in the English language media. (For a rare exception, see "Iran-Turkey Gas Deal Gives New Hope for EU Nabucco Pipeline" on World Politics Review.) In the central European press, on the other hand, the project was widely heralded as a crucial component of EU energy policy -- which, however, was threatened by U.S. opposition. Nabucco is supposed to transport natural gas through Turkey and three Eastern European countries to the important European natural gas hub of Baumgarten an der March in Austria. The bone of contention? The fact that much of the gas was clearly destined to be supplied by none other than: Iran.

Last month, however, in one English-language media outlet after another Nabucco suddenly became a "U.S.-backed" project. Thus, the AFP ran a story with the headline "U.S. champions EU's Nabucco gas pipeline project." The AP described the project as "EU and U.S.-backed." And Krishnadev Calamur writing in World Politics Review not only described the project as quite simply "a U.S.-backed project," as if EU involvement were a secondary matter, but even went so far as to suggest that the U.S. was applying "pressure" on the EU to pursue it.

But if the U.S. were indeed pushing the EU to pursue the Nabucco project, it would be pushing on a wide-open door. As Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer put it last September -- in response notably to U.S. objections to the project -- "We are going to do Nabucco no matter what." The consortium developing the project is led by the Austrian energy firm OMV, whose principal shareholder is the Austrian state. In early February, the German energy giant RWE became the sixth member of the consortium: thus signaling the trans-European importance accorded to the project, i.e. extending beyond the countries in the path of the new pipeline itself. It should be noted that no American firms are involved.

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