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Dr David Kelly
In 2003 Dr David Kelly was found dead in the woods. Caught in a political vortex, Dr Kelly had been forced to appear before a televised government committee investigating whether he had accused British government figures of planting in a dossier the questionable claim that WMDs could be unleashed from Iraq in 45 minutes. The Hutton Inquiry concluded that Dr Kelly took his own life. But did he? This blog takes a closer look.... Contact: RowenaThursby@onetel.com
British diplomat David Broucher describes to the Hutton Inquiry a meeting he had with David Kelly in February 2003. An audible gasp goes up when he recalls how the government scientist apparently predicted his own suicide. But evidence subsequently unearthed by Kelly's daughter, shows their one and only meeting actually took place in February 2002 - a whole year earlier. It would have made perfect sense in February 2003 for them to have discussed Resolution 1441, the September dossier and ‘the 45 minutes’ as Broucher claims; but wind back the clock to February 2002 and what do we find? None of them were in existence. Was the whole Broucher-Kelly conversation a fabrication? Had this civil servant been sent to help contrive one of the biggest cover-ups in British history?
THE DAVID KELLY ‘DEAD IN THE WOODS’ PSYOP
by Rowena Thursby
Discovered in July 2003 slumped against a tree with his left wrist slashed, the consensus was that Dr David Kelly had committed suicide after being pushed to the edge by the MoD. Media pundits concurred that being humiliated in front of a televised government committee was for him, the last straw.
But many of his colleagues were incredulous that this steely weapons expert, highly-respected and at the peak of his career, would have crumbled to the point of taking his own life. Kelly was a man ‘whose brain could boil water’; who had, in the course of his career, dealt skilfully with evasive and threatening Iraqi officials. E-mails written just before his disappearance were upbeat, expressing his strong desire to return to Iraq and get on with the ‘real work‘.
Asked by US translator and military intelligence operative Mai Pederson, if he would ever commit suicide, he had replied, ‘Good God no, I would never do that.’ Immediately after his death, Pederson asserted, ‘It wasn’t suicide’. This, for the establishment’s sensitive apparatus, was an alarming statement that could not be allowed to resonate.
Any intimation of state-sponsored killing on British soil was politically seismic. The notion must be quashed, doubters turned. Additional motives had to be found to account for Kelly’s alleged final act. A simple but ingenious plan was devised: a civil servant, skilled in the art of deception, would convey a startling piece of fiction, and convince the world that this ‘suicide’ had been Kelly’s answer to a thorny predicament.
Two days before he went missing on 17th July 2003, Dr Kelly gave evidence before a Kafkaesque Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC). It had been stated in the government’s September 2002 dossier that Iraq was capable of launching an attack on a British base within 45 minutes. The committee was convened to determine whether the weapons expert had been the source of Andrew Gilligan’s allegation on the BBC’s ‘Today’ programme, that in using ‘the 45 minutes’ knowing it to be false, intelligence and facts were being - in the words of MI6’s Richard Dearlove - ‘fixed around the policy‘.
Dr Kelly admitted that he had met Andrew Gilligan to discuss Iraq. However the crux of the issue - whether Kelly had accused the government of taking military action using shaky intelligence - could not be resolved: Kelly denied it, and the FAC construed it unlikely that Kelly was Gilligan’s source. It appeared he was off the hook.
Three days later the world was stunned when David Kelly was found dead on Harrowdown Hill.
Astonishingly, within hours of his body being found, Lord Chancellor and old flatmate of Blair, Charles Falconer, appointed the establishment’s Brian Hutton, to head an inquiry into his death. Normally Inquiries take months to set up; this one took just five working days.
The remit: ‘urgently, to conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr Kelly’ conveniently circumvented the main issue. The ‘elephant in the room’ - whether or not the death was suicide - was skilfully avoided by framing the whole affair in terms of a ‘battle’ between the war-hungry government and Gilligan’s employer, the unrepentant BBC.'
Had there been an inquest, witnesses would have been subpoenaed and cross-examined, their evidence given on oath.
At the Hutton Inquiry, their version of events went unchallenged, no real investigation took place, and at the end of it, no verdict emerged - Hutton merely rubber-stamped the line that Dr Kelly took his own life.
EVIDENCE AGAINST SUICIDE
But did he? A detailed analysis of Hutton evidence by the Kelly Investigation Group indicated that Dr Kelly‘s body was moved - twice; and that ‘haemorrhage’, listed as the primary cause of death, was almost certainly a mistake.
It is known that doctors rarely agree. But in this case, nine doctors - four of them surgeons - concurred that from a single transected ulnar artery Dr Kelly would have lost no more than a pint of blood: the tiny artery would have immediately constricted and retracted, and blood-clotting would have ensued. This is consistent with the paramedics‘ observation that there was remarkably little blood at the scene. As for the secondary cause - co-proxamol ingestion - tests revealed that the amount in his blood was only a third of what is normally fatal - and there was no alcohol in his system.
The Coroner nonetheless declared himself ‘satisfied’ with Lord Hutton’s conclusion that the government scientist took his own life.
‘I WILL PROBABLY BE FOUND DEAD IN THE WOODS’
The Hutton Inquiry was for the most part a pedestrian affair, with civil servants, politicians and reporters obediently recounting their connections to Dr Kelly. But on 21st August 2003 one particular appearance set the proceedings alight.
David Broucher, Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, was relaying an account of a meeting with David Kelly which he declared took place on 27th February 2003.
The court heard how Broucher and Kelly had talked over the problem of achieving Iraqi compliance with the 1972 Convention on Biological Weapons. Resolution 1441 had been passed, putting pressure on the Iraqis to give up their weapons. They discussed the government’s September 2002 dossier, and all the difficulties with ‘the 45 minutes’. It seemed a straightforward account - but one phrase electrified the court.
When Broucher asked Kelly what he thought would happen if Iraq were invaded, Broucher said the weapons-expert responded:
‘I will probably be found dead in the woods'
According to Broucher, Kelly had promised the Iraqis that the West would not bomb, as long as Iraq complied with weapons inspections. The diplomat said he had thought Kelly believed Iraqi intelligence might have him killed if he reneged on his promise. But now, in the light of the scientist’s apparent suicide, Broucher ‘realised’ Kelly meant he might be shamed into taking his own life.
It was a breathtaking piece of courtroom drama: such prescient words from the grave!
But there is a massive problem with Broucher’s story. There is strong evidence that this meeting did not take place on 27th February 2003 - as he claimed - but on 18th February 2002.
Everything hinges on this date. If Broucher’s meeting took place in February 2003 then its content would be plausible. But since, as Hutton concedes in his report, it almost certainly took place in 2002, and not 2003, then none of the following makes sense:
Resolution 1441 was not passed until 8 October 2002 . So it was not, as counsel Dingemans said, in force at the time, ‘The September dossier’ was not even at the draft stage in February 2002, and was not published until the September of that year, ‘the 45 minutes’ with all the problems it incurred, did not exist in February 2002 - it was not introduced until August of that year.
Rather than be mesmerised by the magic phrase, ‘I will be found dead in the woods’, we must question whether the words were ever uttered.
Suspecting the substance of this meeting was invented to exert a particular effect, let us examine how and why it was done.
NO HEAD FOR DATES?
David Broucher had been a civil servant for nearly forty years - surely he would have kept careful records. Not this time it seems. His meeting with Kelly, he tells us, was convened at short notice, and so was not in his diary.
Doing ‘the best that [he] can’ as Dingemans prompts, he dons the cloak of a gauche amnesiac who must dig into a ‘very deep memory hole’ to dredge up the content of a rendezvous which, he maintains, took place only 5 months before.
He tells the inquiry he had only one meeting with Kelly, and to the best of his knowledge, this took place on 27th September 2002. But then, in trying to work out when the weapons expert could have been in Geneva at the same time as himself, he corrects that to 27th February 2003. Matters are further confused when he says they had tried to meet on 8th November 2002, but that had not proved possible; 27th February 2003 is his final date.
But Broucher’s date is wrong - and he knows it.
According to an entry in one of Kelly’s diaries, discovered afterwards by his daughter Rachel at his home, this meeting did not take place in February 2003, but in February 2002. Could there have been a mistake? All the evidence suggests not. Rachel informs the inquiry that her father painstakingly recorded events in his diary after they happened. She relays a number of examples where her father’s original plans had changed, and the correct entry was made after the event. The one entry in Kelly’s diary mentioning Broucher reads:
'Monday 18th February 2002, 9.30, David Broucher, US mis' [mission]
Rachel goes on to say that this entry gives details of her father’s flights both into Geneva on 17th February and out of Geneva on 20th February.
Lord Hutton writes in his report:
‘Therefore it appears to be clear that Dr Kelly's one meeting with Mr Broucher was in February 2002 and not in February 2003‘.
It can therefore be established with some confidence that Broucher met Dr Kelly not on 27th February 2003, but on 18th February 2002. And the start time was not ‘noon’ as Broucher claims for his 27th February 2003 meeting, but 9.30 a.m.
To tighten this up further, let us see where Kelly was on February 27th 2003 - the day Broucher claims they met.
According to Kelly’s half-sister, Sarah Pape, the day after his daughter Ellen’s wedding on Saturday 22nd February 2003, he flew out to New York. Puzzled by Broucher‘s evidence, Pape remarks to the inquiry, ‘he certainly did not mention he was going to be flying almost straight back to visit Geneva.’
Broucher: … he [Kelly] did not attend a meeting in Baltimore on 28th February that he was due to attend, so my feeling is that he probably returned to Geneva - to Europe early and that he came to Geneva, because I did see him there.’
But according to another of Kelly’s diaries published on the Hutton website, on 27th February he was still in New York on UNMOVIC business. There is no entry to indicate that he had a meeting in Baltimore on Friday 28th February as Broucher claims - the diary entry records that on Friday 28th February he was on leave in New York, and that he did not return to London until Sunday 2nd March.
In the diaries Rachel found, there was no entry for Broucher in 2003, and no mention of any trips to Geneva that year.
In a nutshell, neither Rachel’s diaries nor the Hutton website diaries contain an entry for Broucher or Geneva in 2003, whereas the entry in Rachel’s 2002 diary shows a meeting time, date and flight details. Thus there is convincing evidence that the Broucher/Kelly meeting took place on 18th February 2002.
Let us now review the contents of their alleged conversation.
THE CONVERSATION THAT NEVER HAPPENED
Had reporters been alert, they might have questioned how, despite Broucher’s poor recall of dates, he was nonetheless able to squeeze from his memory every twist and turn of his professed conversation with David Kelly. If he did not keep a record of the date of the meeting, presumably he did not keep contemporaneous notes. If he had, he would have dated and filed them. So how was he able to provide such a vivid and detailed account?
Broucher claims Dr Kelly phoned him while in Geneva and suggested a meeting at very short notice. But why would Kelly have stopped off in the centre of Europe on the off-chance that Broucher would be free to see him - or that Broucher would even be in Geneva? Curious too that Kelly allegedly instigated this meeting, since it was Broucher who was ‘keen to pick his brains’ knowing him to be ‘a considerable expert on these issues in relation to Iraq.'
According to Broucher, the meeting lasted about an hour. They began by discussing Iraq’s biological weapons capability. Counsel Dingemans then raised the question of Resolution 1441 which ordered Iraq to allow weapons inspections within 45 days.
Dingemans: 'And at this stage, we know that Resolution 1441 has been passed and there had been further subsequent inspections; Dr Kelly was not part of that team.'
However when this meeting actually took place - February 2002 - 1441 had not been passed by the Security Council; it did not come into force until 8 November 2002.
The alleged discussion then moved on to the possible use of force in Iraq. Broucher ventured he did not understand why the Iraqis were courting disaster by refusing to give up whatever weapons remained.
Kelly said the Iraqis were concerned that revealing too much about their state of readiness might invite an attack, but he had tried to reassure them that if they co-operated with weapons inspectors they would have nothing to fear. However, he also believed that the invasion might go ahead anyway, which would put him in a morally ambiguous position, for the Iraqis would consider he had lied to them.
Thus we are provided with the first new suicide motive: guilt.
The most telling indication that Broucher’s account is a falsehood, is his claim that he and Kelly discussed the dossier and ‘the 45 minutes’. The September dossier was published on 24 September 2002. A paper on WMD capabilities was commissioned in February 2002, and another followed in March; but the early papers were not for public consumption. Broucher’s says his task was to ’sell’ the dossier to the UN - this did not apply to the early papers. The dossier referred to by Broucher and Kelly - in which ‘every judgement… had been closely fought over’ - was clearly the September dossier.
As for ‘the 45 minutes’, according to both Lord Butler and Lord Hutton, this piece of intelligence was submitted to MI6 on 29 August 2002 - 6 months after the actual date of the Broucher-Kelly meeting - February 2002. Thus there is no way Broucher and Kelly could have discussed it.
We can infer therefore, that the following passage is a complete fiction:
‘We did discuss the dossier. I raised it because I had had to… it was part of my duties to sell the dossier, if you like, within the United Nations to senior United Nations officials; and I told Dr Kelly that this had not been easy and that they did not find it convincing. He said to me that there had been a lot of pressure to make the dossier as robust as possible; that every judgement in it had been closely fought over; and that it was the best that the JIC could do. I believe that it may have been in this connection that he then went on to explain the point about the readiness of Iraq’s biological weapons, the fact they could not use them quickly, and that this was relevant to the point about 45 minutes.’
Broucher reminds us here of Kelly’s concern over the 45 minutes - as would later be conveyed to the BBC’s Andrew Gilligan.
He then throws something else into the mix: he tells us that Kelly felt undervalued at the Ministry of Defence and would have preferred to go back to Porton Down:
‘He felt that when he transferred into the Ministry of Defence they had transferred him at the wrong grade, and so he was concerned that he had been downgraded.’
New suicide motive number two: job dissatisfaction because of unfair downgrading.
Broucher has thus given us two new motives: guilt over a promise Kelly knew might be broken, and unhappiness with his position at the MoD.
The diplomat then introduces the stunningly theatrical line he attributes to Kelly:
'I will probably be found dead in the woods.’
He terms this a ‘throwaway’ remark, affecting not to have thought it significant at the time. But far from being ‘throwaway’, it was actually designed as the climax of the whole drama: it suggested that Kelly was, in a sense, predicting his own suicide.
Broucher was implanting the idea that 5 months in advance, Kelly would, under certain circumstances, contemplate suicide. However, since the actual date of this meeting was February 2002 (not 2003), it was not 5 months ago, but 17. Are we seriously to believe that way back in early 2002 David Kelly was predicting that a promise to senior Iraqis he had not yet made might have to be broken, possibly driving him to take his own life? He would not have been making any promises to the Iraqis at the time - the previous round of inspections ended in 1998.
While war was secretly on the agenda, it was not officially so. A secret memo to Tony Blair, dated 14 March 2002, revealed that UK Foreign Policy Advisor David Manning reported telling George W Bush at a dinner, that the Prime Minister ‘would not budge in his support for regime change’ in Iraq - an embarrassing revelation for Blair, who was outwardly insisting the reason for invasion would not be regime change, but failure to comply with weapons inspections. Publicly, an invasion of Iraq was barely on the cards in Britain at the time, and weapons inspections did not resume until 18 November 2002.
In summary, Broucher’s ‘conversation’ was a fabrication from start to finish. His ineffectual persona was a cover. The confusion he sowed around dates was to protect him from future ’blowback’. This diplomat was less the bumbling fool, more the conniving fox.
Oxford-educated barrister James Dingemans - Hutton‘s choice - took a soft-glove approach to witnesses, glossing over inconsistencies in their evidence. He and Broucher make an extraordinary duo. Nowhere else in the inquiry do we find such stilted language and tedious repetition.
After a blow by blow account of the alleged conversation, with its ‘memory hole’ and ‘throwaway remark’, we are forced to go back over it when Broucher reads from an e-mail he wrote to press officer Patrick Lamb at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to alert him to the conversation he supposedly had with Kelly.
Once again we are told, absurdly, of Broucher’s ‘straining’ to dig up details of the meeting from a ‘very deep memory hole.’ Six more times we hear that ‘I will be found dead in the woods’ was a ‘throwaway remark’.
By referring to it as an inconsequential throwaway remark, Broucher implies he was under no obligation to report it at the time. The casualness of the phrase belies the fact that this ‘throwaway remark’ was a pivotal part of the psyop; its purpose, to remind us of the primary newly-supplied motive - guilt.
On hearing of Kelly’s death, Broucher ‘realised’ that the scientist had not meant that he might be killed by the Iraqis, but ‘may have been thinking on rather different lines’ - an oblique way of inferring that Kelly was foreseeing he might be driven by his own conscience to take his own life. Thus we are lured into accepting the idea that Kelly had been envisaging suicide for months.
Then, nauseatingly, Dingemans reinforces the ‘throwaway remark‘ and the ‘very deep memory hole’ yet again:
Dingemans: 'In terms of strength of recollection, you have suggested that it was, as you thought at the time, a throwaway remark, and you have shown on the e-mails a very deep memory hole. Is that reasonable to characterise the way in which you had approached it at the time?'
The hypnotic effect of this deliberate repetition allowed the new message to be implanted within the public mindset.
THE SYSTEM TRIUMPHS?
Given that we now know the actual conversation took place in 2002, it is clear that the whole David Broucher/dead-in-the-woods ‘event’ was staged to offer more persuasive grounds for David Kelly’s ‘suicide‘. The new message: that after the invasion of Iraq, David Kelly, deeply unhappy with his lot at the MoD, and sick with guilt at having betrayed the Iraqis, had finally been driven to take his own life. Thus his ‘suicide’ was not simply a desperate reaction to government pressure, but a response to the dictates of his own conscience.
It was a slick and clever operation, and the world fell for it. But as with most deceptions there was a flaw: the planners had not foreseen that Rachel Kelly would publicly highlight the relevant diary entry at the Hutton Inquiry - and send Broucher’s edifice of deceit toppling like a house of cards.
Since they had met in 1998, Mai Pederson had become Kelly‘s close friend, introducing him to the Baha’i religion. After his death she told her Baha’i associates, ‘There will be more coming out on this… Don’t believe what you read in the papers.’ Her optimism was misplaced. Denied the right to have her identity disguised at the Hutton Inquiry, she was whisked out of sight.
No more came out, no one else ‘talked‘. History had been suitably revised. The ‘dead-in-the-woods’ psyop- in conjunction with MoD silencing tactics - had been a success.
But why take the risk in setting up such an operation? Maybe Pederson was right in saying, ‘It wasn’t suicide’.
At a highly-charged press conference in Asia after Kelly’s death, Blair was stunned by the question: ‘Is there blood on your hands, prime minister?’ We may never know.
But as his plane flew back to Britain, a TV journalist overheard Alastair Campbell ranting:
'This is what you wanted, you asked for this, so play the game Tony.'* ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- * It has been recently confirmed that this exchange between Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell did take place as described.
If you have comments or information on the Kelly story, please either leave your post below or send your e-mail in confidence to: RowenaThursby@onetel.com
Group: J7 Forum Team
Member No.: 235
Joined: 6-November 06
Friday, February 22, 2008
"Without access to the evidence we can only work on likelihoods"
The Strange Death of Dr Kelly. Interview with Rowena Thursby
Some of the credit for not ever letting the Dr Kelly issue drop goes to a lady by the name of Rowena Thursby. In the wake of the unquestioned suicide verdict and the one-sided nature of the Lord Hutton report, Ms Thursby had the resolve to piece together the many voices of dissent. She posted articles on her blog and won the backing of a number of health professionals and medical experts who were increasingly sceptical of the investigative process as well as the official verdict. Ms Thursby kindly accepted to help me explore the issue and answered a few questions.
"I had never been particularly interested in politics", she told me, "but for me 9/11 was the catalyst for extensive reading, as I attempted to comprehend the political processes behind it. It became clear that the PNAC neoconservative think tank had been set on controlling the massive resources in the Caspian Sea basin long before 9/11 -- and capturing control of Iraq was central to their geopolitical plan".
Her analysis on the months leading to the Iraq invasion would only be questioned by all but a handful of people. No doubt two would be Tony Blair and Alistair Campbell:
"During 2002 it became increasingly clear that the American government was intent on invading Iraq and looking for a pretext. Searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq provided one. So when Dr David Kelly insisted upon accuracy when talking about WMDs, he eventually found himself in a perilous situation. There can't have been many intelligent people around who did not wonder, when he was found dead in the woods two days after being hauled in front of the Foreign Affairs Committee, if he had been 'dealt with'.Joseph Wilson, mindful of his own safety, was one of them".
Joseph Wilson's, the US former ambassador to Niger, is an interesting case in point. Like Kelly, he became one of the whistleblowers of the lies behind the Iraq invasion. In an article for the New York Times, he stated that the George W. Bush administration had distorted intelligence to "exaggerate the Iraqi threat". A week later, the US Government unleashed its revenge. Wilson's wife's covert CIA identity as "Valerie Plame" was outed in a Washington Post column, putting her safety at risk and obviously setting an abrupt end to her career. No wonder Joseph Wilson wrote, "I too wondered about Kelly's death…I was horrified that I could actually harbour suspicions… that a democratic government might actually do bodily harm to an opponent".
Ms Thursby, did you ever feel hampered as you began your work to find out more?
"When I was in the thick of it - around the time of the Hutton Report -3,000 e-mails related to the Kelly investigation vanished from my Outlook Express inbox".
But shouldn’t journalists ask the questions that yourself and Norman Baker dared to?"
I lament the fact that there is hardly any investigative journalism nowadays. Few journalists appear to be willing to sink their teeth into a story and stay with it. I suspect many journalists are selected for their tendency to stick to the straight and narrow. Those with more maverick inclinations find they do not have the resources to investigate at a meaningful level".
Do you believe Norman Baker's book can help reopen the case or at least re-focus public opinion? I have the feeling the "it's-the-usual-loonie-conspiracy-theorists" has been already unleashed with a vengeance...
"To make any real difference it needs a whistleblower to come forward with convincing evidence - sufficient to convince not only the Coroner but also Mrs Kelly, who believes it was suicide".
How can her position be explained? Did you speak to her?
"I spoke to Mrs Kelly about the possibility of bringing a judicial review on the Coroner's decision not to re-open the inquest in 2004. She was dead against it because she firmly believes her husband committed suicide. I find her certainty puzzling".
Norman Baker's book ends with a theory. Iraqi hitmen may have been involved in Dr Kelly's 'wet disposal'. Some people dismiss it as conspiracy theory yet it's also true that conspiracy theories arise when a case is shrouded in secrecy.
"Without access to the evidence, we can only work on likelihoods. While it is possible Iraqi hitmen were responsible, I doubt they would have been able to act beneath the radar of British/American intelligence. George Galloway was of the view that the Iraqis barely sneezed without US permission. To set up a suicide scene would require knowledge of the pills, the jacket and the knife -- and the opportunity to take them from the Kelly household such that no one would know they were missing; it seems unlikely that Iraqis would be able to accomplish that without assistance".
From the details coming out of Ashgabat in Turkmenistan and Moscow over the weekend, it is apparent that the great game over Caspian energy has taken a dramatic turn. In the geopolitics of energy security, nothing like this has happened before. The United States has suffered a huge defeat in the race for Caspian gas. The question now is how much longer Washington could afford to keep Iran out of the energy market.
Gazprom, Russia's energy leviathan, signed two major agreements in Ashgabat on Friday outlining a new scheme for purchase of Turkmen gas. The first one elaborates the price formation principles that will be guiding the Russian gas purchase from Turkmenistan during the next 20-year period. The second agreement is a unique one, making Gazprom the donor for local Turkmen energy projects. In essence, the two agreements ensure that Russia will keep control over Turkmen gas exports.
The new pricing principle lays out that starting from next year, Russia has agreed to pay to Turkmenistan a base gas purchasing price that is a mix of the average wholesale price in Europe and Ukraine. In effect, as compared to the current price of US$140 per thousand cubic meters of Turkmen gas, from 2009 onward Russia will be paying $225-295 under the new formula. This works out to an additional annual payment of something like $9.4 billion to $12.4 billion. But the transition to market principles of pricing will take place within the framework of a long-term contract running up to the year 2028.
The second agreement stipulates that Gazprom will finance and build gas transportation facilities and develop gas fields in Turkmenistan. Experts have estimated that Gazprom will finance Turkmen projects costing $4-6 billion. Gazprom chief Alexei Miller said, "We have reached agreement regarding Gazprom financing and building the new main gas pipelines from the east of the country, developing gas fields and boosting the capacity of the Turkmen sector of the Caspian gas pipeline to 30 billion cubic meters." Interestingly, Gazprom will provide financing in the form of 0% credits for these local projects. The net gain for Turkmenistan is estimated to be in the region of $240-480 million.
From all appearance, Gazprom, which was headed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for eight years from 2000 to May 2008, has taken an audacious initiative. It could only have happened thanks to a strategic decision taken at the highest level in the Kremlin. In fact, Medvedev had traveled to Ashgabat on July 4-5 en route to the Group of Eight summit meeting in Hokkaido, Japan.
Curiously, the agreements reached in Ashgabat on Friday are unlikely to enable Gazprom to make revenue from reselling Turkmen gas. Quite possibly, Gazprom may now have to concede similar terms to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, the two other major gas producing countries in Central Asia. In other words, plain money-making was not the motivation for Gazprom. The Kremlin has a grand strategy.
Coincidence or not, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin traveled to Beijing at the weekend to launch with his Chinese counterpart, Vice Premier Wang Oishan, an energy initiative - a so-called "energy negotiation mechanism". The first round of negotiations within this framework took place on Saturday in Beijing. There has been an inexplicable media blackout of the event, but Beijing finally decided to break the news. The government-owned China Daily admitted on Monday, "Both China and Russia kept silent on the details of the consensus they reached on energy cooperation in the first round of their negotiation in Beijing on the weekend."
Without getting into details, China Daily merely took note of the talks as "a good beginning" and commented, "It seems that a shift of Russia's energy export policy is under way. Russia might turn its eyes from the Western countries to the Asia-Pacific region ... The cooperation in the energy sector is an issue of great significance for Sino-Russian relations ... the political and geographic closeness of the two countries would put their energy cooperation under a safe umbrella and make it a win-win deal. China-Russia ties are at their best times ... The two sides settled their lingering border disputes, held joint military exercises, and enjoyed rapidly increasing bilateral trade."
It is unclear whether Gazprom's agreements in Ashgabat and Sechin's talks in Beijing were inter-related. Conceivably, they overlapped in so far as China had signed a long-term agreement with Turkmenistan whereby the latter would supply 30 billion cubic meters of gas to China annually for the 30-year period starting from 2009. The construction work on the gas pipeline leading from Turkmenistan to China's Xinjiang Autonomous region has already begun. China had agreed on the price for Turkmen gas at $195 per thousand cubic meters. Now, the agreement in Ashgabat on Friday puts Gazprom in the driving seat for handling all of Turkmenistan's gas exports, including to China.
Russia and China have a heavy agenda to discuss in energy cooperation far beyond the price of Turkmen gas supplies. But suffice it to say that Gazprom's new stature as the sole buyer of Turkmen gas strengthens Russia's hands in setting the price in the world gas (and oil) market. And that has implications for China. Moscow would be keen to ensure that Russian and Chinese interests are harmonized in Central Asia.
Besides, Russia is taking a renewed interest in the idea of a "gas cartel". Medvedev referred to the idea during the visit of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to Moscow last week. The Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported on Friday that "Moscow finds the idea of coordination of gas production and pricing policy with other gas exporters to be too tempting to abandon". The daily quoted Miller as saying, "This forum of gas exporters will set up the global gas balance. It will give answers to the questions concerning when, where and how much gas should be produced."
Until fairly recently Moscow was sensitive about the European Union's opposition to the idea of a gas cartel. (Washington has openly warned that it would legislate against countries that lined up behind a gas cartel). But high gas prices have weakened the European Union's negotiating position.
The agreements with Turkmenistan further consolidate Russia's control of Central Asia's gas exports. Gazprom recently offered to buy all of Azerbaijan's gas at European prices. (Medvedev visited Baku on July 3-4.) Baku will study with keen interest the agreements signed in Ashgabat on Friday. The overall implications of these Russian moves are very serious for the US and EU campaign to get the Nabucco gas pipeline project going.
Nabucco, which would run from Turkey to Austria via Bulgaria, Rumania and Hungary, was hoping to tap Turkmen gas by linking Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan via a pipeline across the Caspian Sea that would be connected to the pipeline networks through the Caucasus to Turkey already existing, such as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline.
But with access denied to Turkmen gas, Nabucco's viability becomes doubtful. And, without Nabucco, the entire US strategy of reducing Europe's dependence on Russian energy supplies makes no sense. Therefore, Washington is faced with Hobson's choice. Friday's agreements in Ashgabat mean that Nabucco's realization will now critically depend on gas supplies from the Middle East - Iran, in particular. Turkey is pursuing the idea of Iran supplying gas to Europe and has offered to mediate in the US-Iran standoff.
The geopolitics of energy makes strange bedfellows. Russia will be watching with anxiety the Turkish-Iranian-US tango. An understanding with Iran on gas pricing, production and market-sharing is vital for the success of Russia's overall gas export strategy. But Tehran visualizes the Nabucco as its passport for integration with Europe. Again, Russia's control of Turkmen gas cannot be to Tehran's liking. Tehran had keenly pursed with Ashgabat the idea of evacuation of Turkmen gas to the world market via Iranian territory.
There must be deep frustration in Washington. In sum, Russia has greatly strengthened its standing as the principal gas supplier to Europe. It not only controls Central Asia's gas exports but has ensured that gas from the region passes across Russia and not through the alternative trans-Caspian pipelines mooted by the US and EU. Also, a defining moment has come. The era of cheap gas is ending. Other gas exporters will cite the precedent of the price for Turkmen gas. European companies cannot match Gazprom's muscle. Azerbaijan becomes a test case. Equally, Russia places itself in a commanding position to influence the price of gas in the world market. A gas cartel is surely in the making. The geopolitical implications are simply profound for the US.
Moreover, Russian oil and gas companies are now spreading their wings into Latin America, which has been the US's traditional backyard. During Chavez's visit to Moscow on July 22, three Russian energy companies - Gazprom, LUKoil and TNK-BP - signed agreements with the Venezuelan state-owned petroleum company PDVSA. They will replace the American oil giants ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips in Venezuela.
At the signing ceremony, Medvedev said, "We have not only approved these agreements but have also decided to supervise their implementation." Chavez responded, "I look forward to seeing all of you in Venezuela."
Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.
This post has been edited by The Antagonist on Jul 29 2008, 11:32 PM
I have been approached by Johnny Miller, producer of a television show to be transmitted on Sky next Thursday. Norman Baker is to be on the panel - one of four, two for each side; other participants have yet to be decided. It is rumoured that Tom Mangold may be selected for the other side, so it will need strong voices to combat his.
Although not a mainstream channel, this show will be up on You Tube for millions around the world to view. So it is an excellent opportunity to put pressure on the authorities to agree to a full inquest into Dr Kelly's death.
While similar to the BBC's Question Time, audience particpation is very important. Arguing with panelists is actively encouraged. To quote Johnny Miller:
The audience is a big part on the show and if we have some people in the audience raising important questions and putting their views it can be as powerful as a 5th panelist.
Here’s a link of a recent show if you’d like to see the format, ironically hosted by Andrew Gilligan.
PLEASE ATTEND IF YOU POSSIBLY CAN. Audience members are collected from the tube at 5.15pm and taken to the studio for 6.00pm. A gift of ten pounds is paid to audience members to help with travel expenses. Please click on return and I will supply all the details.
Kind regards Rowena
For latest developments in the Dr Kelly story, see:
“The strange death of Dr David Kelly: Why do questions still remain?”
Invitation to Press TV's Forum
Thursday 30th July 2009, from 17.15 to 19:30pm
Press TV Ltd
3 Burlington Lane
London W4 2TH
Press TV is pleased to invite you to join the audience for a TV current affairs debate show called Forum. The programme is part of a weekly series of televised debates on various contemporary political issues.
The hour long show taking place on Thursday, 30th July, 2009 and hosted by Derek Conway MP, will feature 4 specialist panellists who will be asked the question:
“The strange death of Dr David Kelly: Why do questions still remain?”
So far confirmed on the panel is Norman Baker MP
If you are interested in attending the event and would like to put a question to the panellists on air please click the following link