How Turkey, Iran, Russia, And India Are Playing The New Silk Roads

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

A pacified Syria is key to the economic integration of Eurasia through energy and transportation connections...

Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hassan Rouhani will hold a summit this Wednesday in Sochi to discuss Syria. Russia, Turkey and Iran are the three power players at the Astana negotiations – where multiple cease-fires, as hard to implement as they are, at least evolve, slowly but surely, towards the ultimate target – a political settlement.

A stable Syria is crucial to all parties involved in Eurasia integration. As Asia Times reported, China has made it clear that a pacified Syria will eventually become a hub of the New Silk Roads, known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – building on the previous business bonanza of legions of small traders commuting between Yiwu and the Levant.

Away from intractable war and peace issues, it’s even more enlightening to observe how Turkey, Iran and Russia are playing their overlapping versions of Eurasia economic integration and/or BRI-related business.

Much has to do with the energy/transportation connectivity between railway networks – and, further on the down the road, high-speed rail – and what I have described, since the early 2000s, as Pipelineistan.


The Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, a deal brokered in person in Baku by the late Dr Zbigniew “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski, was a major energy/geopolitical coup by the Clinton administration, laying out an umbilical steel cord between Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.

Now comes the Baku-Tblisi-Kars (BTK) railway – inaugurated with great fanfare by Erdogan alongside Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, but also crucially Kazakh Prime Minister Bakhytzhan Sagintayev and Uzbek Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov. After all, this is about the integration of the Caucasus with Central Asia.

Erdogan actually went further: BTK is “an important chain in the New Silk Road, which aims to connect Asia, Africa, and Europe.” The new transportation corridor is configured as an important Eurasian hub linking not only the Caucasus with Central Asia but also, in the Big Picture, the EU with Western China.

BTK is just the beginning, considering the long-term strategy of Chinese-built high-speed rail from Xinjiang across Central Asia all the way to Iran, Turkey, and of course, the dream destination: the EU. Erdogan can clearly see how Turkey is strategically positioned to profit from it.


Of course, BTK is not a panacea. Other connectivity points between Iran and Turkey will spring up, and other key BRI interconnectors will pick up speed in the next few years, such as the Eurasian Land Bridge across the revamped Trans-Siberian and an icy version of the Maritime Silk Road: the Northern Sea Route across the Arctic.

What’s particularly interesting in the BTK case is the Pipelineistan interconnection with the Trans-Anatolian Gas Pipeline (TANAP), bringing natural gas from the massive Azeri gas field Shah Deniz-2 to Turkey and eventually the EU.

Turkish analyst Cemil Ertem stresses, “just like TANAP, the BTK Railway not only connects three countries, but also is one of the main trade and transport routes in Asia and Europe, and particularly Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan ports. It connects Central Asia to Turkey with the Marmaray project in Istanbul and via the Caspian region. Along with the Southern Gas Corridor, which constitutes TANAP’s backbone, it will also connect ports on the South China Sea to Europe via Turkey.”

It’s no wonder BTK has been met with ecstatic reception across Turkey – or, should we say, what used to be known as Asia Minor. It does spell out, graphically, Ankara’s pivoting to the East (as in increasing trade with China) as well as a new step in the extremely complex strategic interdependence between Ankara and Moscow; the Central Asian “stans”, after all, fall into Russia’s historical sphere of influence.

Add to it the (pending) Russian sale of the S-400 missile defense system to Ankara, and the Russian and Chinese interest in having Turkey as a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

From IPI to IP and then II

Now compare the BTK coup with one of Pipelineistan’s trademark cliff-hanging soap operas; the IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India), previously dubbed “the peace pipeline”.

IPI originally was supposed to link southeastern Iran with northern India across Balochistan, via the Pakistani port of Gwadar (now a key hub of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, CPEC). The Bush and Obama administrations did everything to prevent IPI from ever being built, betting instead on the rival TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) – which would actually traverse a war zone east of Herat, Afghanistan.

TAPI might eventually be built – even with the Taliban being denied their cut (that was exactly the contention 20 years ago with the first Clinton administration: transit rights). Lately, Russia stepped up its game, with Gazprom seducing India into becoming a partner in TAPI’s construction.

But then came the recent announcement by Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak: Moscow and Tehran will sign a memorandum of understanding to build a 1,200km gas pipeline from Iran to India; call it II. And Gazprom, in parallel, will invest in unexplored Iranian gas fields along the route.

Apart from the fact of a major win for Gazprom – expanding its reach towards South Asia – the clincher is the project won’t be the original IPI (actually IP), where Iran already built the stretch up to the border and offered help for Islamabad to build its own stretch; a move that would be plagued by US sanctions. The Gazprom project will be an underwater pipeline from the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean.

From New Delhi’s point of view, this is the ultimate win-win. TAPI remains a nightmarish proposition, and India needs all the gas it can get, fast. Assuming the new Trump administration “Indo-Pacific” rhetoric holds, New Delhi is confident it won’t be slapped with sanctions because it’s doing business with both Iran and Russia.

And then there was another key development coming out of Putin’s recent visit to Tehran: the idea – straight out of BRI – of building a rail link between St. Petersburg (on the Baltic) and Chabahar port close to the Persian Gulf. Chabahar happens to be the key hub of India’s answer to BRI: a maritime trade link to Afghanistan and Central Asia bypassing Pakistan, and connected to the North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), of which Iran, India and Russia are key members alongside Caucasus and Central Asian nations.

You don’t need a weatherman to see which way the wind blows across Eurasia; integration, all the way.


BobEore MonetaryApostate Fri, 11/24/2017 - 10:02 Permalink

Ah yess... I gather you refer to the (re-arrival)of the dromedary caravan, the passenger pigeon, the "Jonah"-style travel by maritime mammal - all ways of moving about -about as likely to appear as the fantasies of our friend, the Brazilian Burbler - now bursting at the seams to regale us promise of projects promoted by various neo-liberal 'governments' whose track records in the 'truth' department things DERAILED some considerable time ago.A as "correspondent" who used to be a reliable reporter of what was developing in the Asian world... our man shows little 'correspondence' with that former frame of reference I fear - preferring a 'fact-lite' and/or fact-free regimen of over-the top pronouncements as divorced from the reality on the ground as 'organs of state' like Granma and Pravda used to be!The egregious errors which now dot pretty much every piece he writes are too numerous to assign to simple bad research or hasty writing - the pattern is now obvious... stitch together some unconnected elements - pipes, tracks, planes, ... etc., and then,COUNTING upon your occidental audiences COMPLETE lack of familiarity with the territory - and TOTAL willingness to be mislead by design... weave a grand tapestry of tales which start to fray at the edges immediately upon use.How else to explain the incredible LACK of knowledge the Brazilian Buffoon displays in once small piece - about the BTK railway for instance... about which... NO BODY IS going gaga in Turkey -except the agit prop regime media .... and.... PEPE it seems.

What is the real situation of the "unbroken, uninterrupted" railroad from Asia to Europe? Can it really be an alternative to the Russian route?There are still some difficulties on the BTK leg. Cargo departing from China faces the first interruption when it reaches the Caspian Sea via Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. Here, trains are transferred to the Port of Baku at Alat via roll-on/roll-off ferries. Then by rail they pass through Georgia to reach Turkey. Trains halt at Istanbul’s Pendik district before reaching Istanbul's city center.There are also unsolved problems in the passage from Asia into Europe. Turkey’s project to upgrade the Sirkeci-Halkali line on the European side has been dragging on for 13 years. There simply is no line operating yet on the 47-mile route. There are financing problems, and it appears nobody knows when it will be completed.And then there are questions about whether the 8-mile-long Marmaray Tunnel under the Bosporus will be able to handle heavy cargo trains. In the meantime, nobody is mentioning the infrastructure problems between Kars and Ankara in Turkey. Lots of upgrades and repairs are required on this single-track route. Of course, such connection and infrastructure issues can be overcome over time, but today a train from Beijing cannot reach London without interruptions. 
Moreover, the claim that the BTK will be an alternative to the Russian route is exaggerated. Today, trains from Beijing can already"…

"You don’t need a weatherman to see which way the wind blows across Eurasia" = maybe so... but you Do need to wipe the sand outta your eyes... and wake up from dreamland now and agin! But EVEN MOAR serious is the man's absence of understanding the basics of the dynamics in play - China has stayed completely away from that project... and has serious political issues with the Turks and their allies over the latters encouragement of Islamic terrorism in the Sinitic Far West. More serious than is understood let alone written about in the western "fake news" media!...aka 'alt-media'' brands of the ONE MEDIA.a CHECK LIST of other factual problems with Pepe's presentation would exceed any reasonable room for a comment sized display. We hope what is above will however serve to allow the careful reader a chance to back away from bogus baloney salesmen... and their frenetic fanbouy fringe! 

In reply to by MonetaryApostate

css1971 Fri, 11/24/2017 - 03:48 Permalink

The middle East was the hub of East West trade historically. With Russia getting involved it's essentially a commercial encirclement of the EU.People are looking East now, not West.

Crazy Or Not css1971 Fri, 11/24/2017 - 05:01 Permalink

>People are looking East now, not WestThis is the Impirical fear of the "Greater" US (Hedgemon) economy. MAGA is, by necessity an external as well as an internal force. The more I look at it the more I entertain the notion that the Generals are giving Trump (Mil. Intel. + muscle) co-operation with his antcorruption take down in a Rest of the World take down quid pro quo US Hedgemon - expansion exchange (Mattis' plan)....and possibly - just possibly the Dem's /DNC are so dysfunctional now that TPTB/Deep State/ (((Them))) are willing to cut a deal to give the perception of a clean slate, with a few choice Moloch sacrifices thrown in. If so Syria is the (fairly long established - but now taking shape and happening) Beach head for Russian toe to toe. and is the why to keeping and upgrading 8 US Syrian airbases.(I don't believe US will ever fully "take" Russia - because its to large a territory to "hold" - but it would never be necessary, only to sedate it, and take/control/disable it's strategic assets to tame the beast, and in doing so contain/control the real threat - China). I can't say I believe this would be a great plan, but without it loosing Global dominance to a merging Rus. China pact is looking more and more likely. Because an increasingly domininat China will never sit well in DC and elsewhere.

In reply to by css1971

Lost in translation Fri, 11/24/2017 - 03:56 Permalink

If the world looks East, turning its back on the West, what will become of the FRN?

A rhetorical question.

As I pass to and fro driving on the local freeways, I wonder if the people around me in their Monster Trucks, assorted luxury sedans, 8-cyclinder SUVs, oversized RVs, and the like, have any idea what a post-Petrodollar world will do to their consumer lifestyles...

delmar Jackson Lost in translation Fri, 11/24/2017 - 07:11 Permalink

The west was seduced by consumerism to give up their identities so as to lower the price of pickles. Many Americans would gladly give up their shiny toys if they could keep from being turned into an atomized identical resource unit for the global corporations. better to give up the SUV and ride a bike and still be part of a nation of people who shared the same culture and history and language than be turned into a global citizen. A lot of bitter clingers on the bottom have not seen any wage increases since 1973. They will get by better than you think as they do not have that much to loose. Hurry sundown.

In reply to by Lost in translation

swmnguy house biscuit Fri, 11/24/2017 - 08:04 Permalink

So, rather than adjust your lifestyle to economic reality, you'd just pull down and sabotage those who have.  Rather than take the initiative in your own life, you'll go down protecting those who have exploited you, and go after those who have bothered to observe what's happening rather than the propaganda and respond accordingly.  That's the true mark of broken-spirited slaves everywhere, throughout history.At least you're honest about it.

In reply to by house biscuit

b-sugar Fri, 11/24/2017 - 03:59 Permalink

What an effort to try to talk about this subject without saying the truth; china is doing it, china is paying for it, china want it done by 2025. turkey is the next venezuela, they don't have time nor money to do any of that shit, india will never allow a share goal with pakistan and iran? what the fuck are they even doing in the title in the first place!  

old naughty b-sugar Fri, 11/24/2017 - 04:13 Permalink

it may be worthwhile to take another look at Turkey, Stratfor has an earlier piece claiming Turkey, joined by Japan will become significannt in the next go around (100 years)?The latest geopolitical events have Turkey in just about every recent development, no?It needs money alright, in whatever/whoever silk money. Who is providing $, hummmmm ?

In reply to by b-sugar

b-sugar old naughty Fri, 11/24/2017 - 05:15 Permalink

Those (100+ years) pronostics are shit, simply look at tukey FOUNDER, he said turkey needed to let go of ancient religion and culture to enter the new world and to succed they needed to adopt our civilization. ( Mustaka Kemal Ataturk) maybe in 100years they dominate the world but in 5 to 10 years they will hike interest rates, start going mental about religion and jail opposition while printing a hell fucking lot of money. turkey is out, erdogan choose stupidity. 

In reply to by old naughty

Vigilante Fri, 11/24/2017 - 04:06 Permalink

Good luck to the Chinese with this project.They will end up like the US ,policing a vast stretch of Asia tryin to keep the 'roads' open....and a mostly muslim region to boot.Herding cats anyone?  

Joe A Fri, 11/24/2017 - 04:19 Permalink

Remember Palmyra? That has historically always been a part of the ancient Silkroad. That is why they (IS and its backers) tried to conquer that place and hold it.

Andrew-Winter Fri, 11/24/2017 - 09:23 Permalink

The Silk Road/RoadsI have been looking hard at that ever since we invaded Afghanistan in, what, 2002/03.   Our first big objective was Marzar-i-Sharif which is one of oldest fixed fortifications on the Silk Road out side of China.People often complain about how "The West" dominates the world.   Well the technological jumps that put "The West" in that position began when Islam closed The Silk Roads by conquoring Constantinople/Istanbul.The European economies were loosing it because they had no access to trade with the Spice Islands in the East, and the Silks out of Korea and China.    The response was Henry the Navigator and his clutch of early explorers who found the sea routes around Africa, and later the son of one of his guys tried the direct route by sailing west.    Columbus never found his direct route to the Far East but he did find something significant didn't he?Anyway.    I have been wondering for over 15 years now when people would realize that the money connections fueling muslim terror organizations, rogue nacent nuclear powers etc, et al. were all situated along the terminal points of The Silk Road.I have  been convinced since we decided to stay in Afghanistan that it is the intel opportunities available from places like Mazar-i-Sharif and Bhagdad that have kept our boots on the ground in those areas.   If that is the case, I like it.   It's the first honest to Gawd real "good move" the Unite States has made in developing real HUMINT networks in this world.Even Reagan had to rely on someone eles's HUMINT network to crack the Soviet Union.   His partnership with Vatican Resources is legendary.

I Feel a littl… Fri, 11/24/2017 - 15:57 Permalink

"Anyway.    I have been wondering for over 15 years now when people would realize that the money connections fueling muslim terror organizations, rogue nacent nuclear powers etc, et al. were all situated along the terminal points of The Silk Road."Fuck me, I never knew Washington DC and Tel Aviv were on the silk route. LOL. What a fucking maroon.