Egypt, Cyprus, Turkey: Pax Americana crack-up watch

Here it comes.

If you want to know what it will look like for the status quo crack-up to actually happen, as the stabilizing influence of the Pax Americana fades in the rearview mirror, a recent legislative proposal in Egypt is a good place to start.

Elder of Ziyon caught this a few days ago.  According to regional media, the upper chamber of parliament, the Shura Council, last week approved a bill submitted by MP Khaled Adbel Qader Ouda to invalidate Egypt’s 2003 accord with Cyprus on the maritime demarcation of the two nations’ exclusive economic zones (EEZs).  Ouda’s pretext for doing this is reportedly that Egypt was not “present at the signing” of Cyprus’s later (2010) EEZ accord with Israel.

As Elder notes, it is questionable whether the language about third-party coordination in the 2003 agreement means that Egypt had to actually be “present at the signing” in order for the Cyprus-Israel accord to be valid.  What is not in question is that the Cyprus-Egypt accord was concluded by the Mubarak government, eight years prior to the Arab Spring.

In my judgment, Ouda has simply come up with a weasel-worded pretext for proposing to dump the accord with Cyprus.  His real objective is to move on to the next phase, explicitly outlined in the media report:  bringing in Turkey as Egypt’s principal partner in determining access to seabed resources in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Even if it didn’t mention this measure, the Ouda proposal would be laden with meaning for regional power relations.  Egypt’s agreement with Cyprus in 2003 was based on an acceptance, not of any eternal reality about Cypriot rights or power, but of stability in the general distribution of power in the region.  The ascendancy of the EU, tacitly allied in most ways with the United States, was the power context for the 2003 agreement.

Representation of Eastern Med EEZ boundaries (unofficial).  See note.
Representation of Eastern Med EEZ boundaries (unofficial). See note.

In 2003, Egypt would not have considered a partnership with Turkey as a viable alternative to dealing with Cyprus in the context of EU/US power.  Turkey, of course, occupies the northeastern part of Cyprus following a military invasion in 1974, a situation endorsed by no other nation, and certainly not by the EU or US.  The Republic of Cyprus, the recognized nation subsisting on the rest of the island, is a member of the EU.  Bringing Turkey into any diplomatic initiative involving Cypriot national arrangements is effectively a poke in the EU’s eye.  If Egypt were to do it, it would be a signal of alignment with Turkish policies, and against the EU’s, in the Eastern Med.

A great deal of money – income for people and governments in the region – hinges on the EEZ agreements, which divide up the national rights to seabed resources.  Israel and Cyprus are already actively exploiting the oil and gas on either side of their EEZ line, following the agreement between them in December 2010.  Turkey waded into the drilling area with warships in 2011, and has kept up a presence of naval patrols and air surveillance in the 18 months since, continuing to reject the Cyprus-Israel agreement as not having properly considered Turkish rights (theoretically exercised through occupied Cyprus).  Lebanon has objected to the Cyprus-Israel agreement all along, partly on the strength of Beirut’s own refusal to delineate a maritime boundary with Israel.

But while the Pax Americana’s waning sway still holds, the objections are all just noise.  Cyprus and Israel can both drill for oil and gas unmolested.  Egypt can do the same, having a recognized agreement with Cyprus.  Turkey has enormous oil and gas resources under the status quo.  Preventing Israel from drilling and gaining income may be a pipe dream, but no one needs to chafe under restrictions that prevent his own national enrichment.

The question is how long the status quo will hold.  At least one faction in Egypt wants to begin dismantling it – not with military action, but by withdrawing the diplomatic props of the old order and moving to alternative power arrangements.  The alternative power arrangement is the real security issue in this case.

It is no surprise that MP Ouda and the Shura Council look to Turkey – once the seat of the Islamic caliphate, and still populous, wealthy, Sunni, and increasingly Islamist – for a future Egyptian partnership.  The prospect of such a partnership will raise centuries-old alarms in Eastern Europe – and modern ones in Western Europe if it is used to discard and replace an EEZ agreement with an EU member.  It will force nations like Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Algeria to reexamine their own orientations.  It will alarm Russia, interest China, confound NATO, and change Israel’s security calculus for the worse.

If there is insufficient pushback from the EU or the US on a gambit like this, its implications could become quite real for Israel and Cyprus very quickly, including the threat of armed interference with their commercial activities at sea, and emerging pretexts for armed intervention of various kinds, by anyone.

Alternatively, the potential for the Ouda gambit being deployed could become a new bargaining chip for Egyptian diplomacy – a category of chip with endless possibilities for other nations across the Middle East.  Could Egypt get the EU to pay through the nose to keep Egypt in the EEZ bargain with Cyprus?  International relations have been greased in such ways for centuries.  How long would such a bargaining dynamic remain stable?  Good question.

I don’t know that Mohammed Morsi is ready just now to lob this flaming missile at the EU.  The timing may not be right; certainly Cypriot officials are downplaying the reports about it.  But this is how the Pax Americana is likely to crack up.  If it isn’t this particular issue, it will be another one.  The cracks have been showing for a while, and now they are being probed.

Note:  EEZ map reproduced from The Muqata.  Not all the EEZ representations on the map are formally agreed to by the relevant parties.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard online. She also writes for the new blog Liberty Unyielding.

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53 thoughts on “Egypt, Cyprus, Turkey: Pax Americana crack-up watch”

  1. as not all the parties presently agree to the accuracy of the EEZ map, I move that it formally be withdrawn from the opticon’s post.

    I realize that my motion, as with all my movements, is laden, if not larded, with grave implications for the power arrangements of the blog… but what the heck, it’s only show business.

          1. have you been? did you get coal for Christmas?

            I hadn’t noticed any notable nastiness from you…..but I’m rather desensitized to such.

            My late mother-in-law was naaaasty. 4’10” of unrelieved bile and aggression. 90 years old and in a nursing home she slugged her roommate and broke her jaw.

            used to hit her kids with a cast iron frying pan. broke more than one of their bones.

            1. Sorry bout yer mother in law. Just felt I overdid it with your comments in previous posts. Something just didn’t feel right about it, that’s all. Wanted to let you now.

              1. actually, jg, i appreciate that quite a heck of a lot.

                please be assured that we’re squared away and keep posting without worry.

                I respect your comments and opinions and if you think I deserve the occasional slap, don’t fret over it.

  2. Yup, I did enjoy that.

    You are absolutely correct. Barring any (serious) blunders on the part of the Greeks (both mainland and Cypriot) or Israelis, no one can impede the development of offshore reserves in Cypriot or Israeli EEZ’s. That’s a done deal. Too many big leaguers USA,, France, Russia, Italy/S.Korea have stakes in the game now. The transit routes for natural gas pipelines remain to be sorted out. That’s going to be little complicated. Actually it is in the Egyptian (not to mention Lebanese and Syrian) national interest to join Cyprus, Greece and Israel in joint development/transit of the East Mediterranean basin hydrocarbon reserves. It’s even in the Turkish national interest, but they prefer playing the role of regional hegemon.and as such, desire a bigger piece of the pie than their entitled to.

    Sooner or later the attention will focus on the Greek island of Megisti/Kasteorizo. How this island’s EEZ is delineated will determine the extent of Turkey’s EEZ in the EMED. The Greeks, as usual, are turning this dispute into an Europe vs. Turkey affair. They are publicizing the potentially enormous hydrocarbon reserves as indigenous European energy resources. UNCLOS mostly supports the Greek position on the EEZ dispute, Turkey for obvious reasons hasn’t signed the treaty.

    If the Turks don’t succeed in cowing the Greeks into accepting their view on delineating EEZ’s or derailing a future EEZ accord between Greece (not Cyprus) and Egypt, then the hydrocarbon party in the EMED is over for them.

    “Turkey has enormous gas reserves under the status quo ” What area of Turkey are you referring to?

  3. Could Turkey use the same play they seem to use with Greece : Prevent anyone, including themselves, of touching the EEZ riches with the idea that in the long term the Greece will not be able to afford the Naval and Air assets to defend their claims. Basically forfeit present wealth for future territorial gain.

    1. Any move into the EMED by Turkey is historically met with a response from a coalition of European Powers both Western and Orthodox Christian. I see no factor on the horizon that would change that in the current case. No serious energy firm would contemplate drilling in EMED offshore blocks licensed by Turkey that are disputed by EU nations. Not today nor in the future.

      As for the defense of Greek claims, military assets are not the only means at Greece’s disposal. Actually they are not even the primary ones.. Greek policy has always been to force Turkey into having to deal with the consequences of not respecting European interests. Greece’s EEZ is the European Union’s EEZ., sooner or later the EU will wish to develop this wealth for its own benefit. It is difficult to see Turkey risking a head on collision with the US, EU and Russia for the sake of Greece’s EMED gas reserves, regardless of how large they might theoretically be.

      Now, if I could only implement the plan to get Israel into the EU….that would finish the job 🙂

      1. You sir are a twisted mind on par with Dr Doom! XD

        Israel in the EU would solve so many problems. They are already in the Eurovision 😉

        1. Israel wouldn’t be eligible to become a member-state of the EU because it doesn’t observe the minimum standards required by the EU treaties for membership of the Union. Israel’s ethnocentric legal-system and failure to abide by liberal-democratic rule-of-law norms would disqualify it for starters. Moreover, she would have to extend the four freedoms which are the legal bedrock of the EU to its occupied Palestinians. This would be completely unpalatable to the shower who are currently in power in Israel. In any case, I could hardly see the EU wanting Israel as a member until and unless its dispute with its Palestinian neighbour is permanently resolved because it would only be inviting an ongoing war into its bosom. Incidentally, Turkey and the Ukraine (two other states like Israel with less than perfect democratic credentials (though improving – unlike Israel) are also members of Eurovision.

          1. Here again you are in error , dear Paulette.

            Under the right circumstances all your objections could be circumvented,

            Thank Heaven you were never my lawyer.

            1. Under the right circumstances these objections could indeed be circumvented. To comply with the EU treaties those circumstances would have to include the complete removal of all legal preference for Jews. The institution of the rule-of-law. The equal protection of property. Adoption and observance of the rights ennumerated in the ECHC. Adoption of the four-freedoms (movement, establishment, labour, and capital). An end to unlawful territorial claims. These matters are all explicitly part and parcel of EU membership. Compliance by Israel with these minimums would indeed be wonderful and welcome. It is what the civilized world has been urging on Israel for years. And not only would it mean that Israel could apply for EU membership, she would also be welcomed back into the comity of civilized Western democracies.
              So when can we expect the necessary reforms?

        1. Yes CV, the Greeks will stay in the EU, so will every other member state. The block will remain intact, current serious financial difficulties notwithstanding. There is no turning back, there is no alternative. And it’s in crunch time when rational people start to remember why the EU was formed to begin with.

          1. There are alternatives. Ask Norway, Switzerland and Turkey. All doing quite well outside the EU, thank you.

            However, the countries comprising the Eurozone (a subset of the EU) are slowly sorting out the consequences of the banking and credit melt-down within the Community structures. Ireland is well on the road to recovery and about to exit the programme that is supporting its banks.

            1. Turkey is not a European country. Norway’s saving grace is its large North Sea oil and gas reserves in relation to population. That is the reason EU membership was rejected in Norway’s referendum. Chances are Norwegians will reevaluate their position on membership when oil revenues begin to dwindle, however long that takes. Switzerland has a long tradition of neutrality and can be considered an exception. All the above would not enjoy any of the prosperity you attribute to them without close trade relations with the EU. You’re welcome

              Yes, the Eurozone crisis will pass, the EU will remain. Ireland would be experiencing a tragedy near the scale of the potato famine had she not had the solidarity of her EU partners. Certainly there was no alternative to the EU in the case of Ireland, other than possibly another wave of death and mass emigration.

              1. You presuppose that the nations of the EU wouldn’t have close trading relations with each other in the absence of the EU. In fact your implicit assertion that these non-EU nations enjoy their prosperity because of their trading rellationship with their EU neighbours completely undermines your argument that European prosperity depends on the EU. Think about it.

                As for Ireland. Ireland is still one of the richest (and most free, according to nations in the world. To imagine that it was somehow facing famine because of its property crash and resulting banking melt-down, is sheer nonsense. The issue for Ireland was absorbing the economic fallout with the least damage to the (high) standard of living of its population. Ireland had the option of allowing its banks default on their property debts. The possibility of this is caused panic in the European Central Bank (ECB) because most of the debt was Euro-denominated and held by German and French banks, and a knock-on banking crisis within the Eurozone was feared. The ECB prevailed on Ireland to convert its bank debt into soverign debt in return for the ECB/EIF/IMF (“Troika”) amortizing and underwriting it. The consequences for Ireland resulting from its banking crisis has been a loss of about 10% of its national wealth. A national catastrophe – until you realize that post-crash Ireland still has an average income well above the EU average (Even including the 15% (and now falling) of the working age population claiming unemployment benefits). Incidentally, Ireland exports more than 2/3rds of the food it produces. Hardly a recipe for a famine in any imaginable circumstances.

                1. Your first paragraph adds nothing to the debate. Think about it.

                  Your second paragraph , on the virtues of Ireland, an Ireland within the EU of course…which you conveniently omit, is worthless as well. The same modified argument can be made by the Southern European economies as well, albeit from their point of view.

                  1. My first paragraph adds nothing to the debate only if you aren’t bright enough to get it.

                    After the economic downturn, Ireland has twice the income per-capita of Spain, three times that of Portugal and Greece, and slightly more than that of France.
                    Ireland is back in the private bond-markets. The credit situation of Portugal, Spain, and Greece, is still treading water or deteriorating.
                    You don’t seem to know much about the EU either, do you?

                    1. Greece and Ireland are the largest per capita beneficiaries of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. That might have a little to do with Irish food exports. In other words, the success of Ireland’s agricultural sector is due in no small part to the subsidies received from EU taxpayers. Subsidies I wonder where she would get, had she not been a member of the EU.

                    2. Agricultural produce comprises only about 20% of the value of Ireland’s total exports, and far less than service-sector or pharmaceutical exports. The per-capita value of EU subsidies to Irish agriculture is roughly the same as to France. The figures can be downloaded from the OECD web-site. Ireland has also been a net contributor to the EU since 2002 (ie. the VAT levy paid into EU coffers has been greater than the sum of single agricultural payments and structural fund payments)

                    3. If dimwits as my self could shred your supposed arguments, I do feel sorry (for you) as to what persons on par with your brilliant grasp of the issues in question would have unleashed.
                      Small piece of advice, reread, and for Heaven’s sake re-familiarize yourself with the meaning of Hubris

                2. Simple questions. Why doesn’t Ireland leave the EU? i Since things are so rosy outside the flock?

                  1. Because Ireland is a trading nation and on balance it considers it more advantageous to be inside the tent than outside it. However, if you think that Ireland would perish outside the EU you are thinking nonsense.
                    You should know that the Irish twice (by referendum) rejected EU treaty changes that her people believed were an excessive infringement on her soverignty.

                    1. You should know both the referendums, in 2001 and 2008, were overturned in subsequent polls. So much for that excessive infringement on sovereignty.

                3. I should also add what a sc**bag I think you really are for thin thinking that you can single out the Irish from the rest of the EU from going through a very tough time. It shows what kind of garbage you really are Mikey

                  You’re probably insulated somehow and don’t realize the affront.

                  1. Your type always reverts to true form – and abuse – when you are losing an argument.

                    1. It is not important to me whether I win or lose on argument in Opcon’s blog. I leave that for others to decide in any case.

                      My point was there is no alternative to the EU for European states. Nothing you have written disputes that. Even you’re pet example Ireland, opted for a bailout of her financial problems, whatever the cause, FROM the EU, and she remains WITHIN the EU.

            2. I was hoping that you would explain to us why Turkey is a European nation.

              I was also hoping you would show why I was in error concerning Switzerland and Norway.

              I’m willing to further the discussion on Ireland if you wish.

  4. Turkey’s illegal occupation of Northern Cyprus is no more illegal than Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank. At least the Turkish occupation is supported by the people who actually live in the occupied area of Cyprus. More than can be said for the West Bank. It seems you like to dine a-la-carte on your illegal occupations!
    As for Turkey: I haven’t noticed any alarm in the EU at the prospect of Turkey becoming a major producer of oil and gas. After all, Turkey is part of the wider European trading-block (though not an actual EU member-state) and abides by its rules, and is a reliable trading-partner of the EU – having in particular close relations with Germany. I suspect your concern is solely on behalf of Israeli interests. Those concerns are not the priority of most Americans or Europeans. Nor should they be. Nor are they the concern of Egyptians since the overthrow of the Israel-compliant despot, Muberak.

    1. What data can you provide to support your claim that you know what the concerns are of the American and European people in the stated matter above?
      “Nor should they be.” You would make quite an impression as a Dictator there Paul.
      It seems as if some of the folks in Eqypt are are not happy with the current muslim brotherhood despot.
      If you will answer the first question in a straight forward way, I will buy you ice cream.

      1. The proof is in the absence of any concern voiced in the media or political comment on the subject beyond that expressed by notorious supporters of Israel.

        1. Well there you have it. you can’t come up with a shred of evidence, it must be true.
          How about the rest of us low key supporters of Israel? I guess I could get a bumper sticker. “IDF Rules”
          You could quote Chuck Hagel I guess. I bet he watched a lot of Ed Wynn as a child.
          It was going to be Rocky Mountain Road Ice Cream. Mmmmmm.

              1. I am going to need a little time to organize my footnotes to respond to you Fuster.
                Why don’t you and Paul talk amongst yourselves until I finish my background information.

    2. I suggest we sends Irish cows, subsidized by the EU of course, to further your incredibly astute notions on diplomacy.

    3. It’s incredible that the likes of you and your supposed humanitarian underpinnings can support ethnic cleansing on a selective basis, just as long as it furthers your stated agenda

    4. This is another one of the incredibly disgusting comments even you have ever attempt to print.

      Turkey invented “ethnic cleansing” sc**bag. I guess you were too busy milking subsidized cows to learn that in law school.

      The Turkish invasion eventually displaced more that half the population of indigenous Turkish Cypriots (now mostly living in England) in addition to the Greeks in the Northern part of the island. Those you say are in favor of the results of the invasion are Central Anatolian settlers, idiot.

  5. Incidentally, your pals in Muqata seem obsessively dedicated to a literalist interpretation of the relevant UN Conventions in pressing their claims for Israel in the Eastern Med (with a few strategic map-adjustments in Israel’s favour). Pity the same shower of settler shills isn’t similarly punctilious in their attachment to the UN Conventions which deem their presence in the West Bank illegal.

  6. The discrepancy between the Israeli and Lebanese positions on their respective EEZ’s could be solved relatively simply, if the internal Lebanese political situation allowed for it. In any case the Cypriots, due to their good relations with both Israel and Lebanon, have been quietly facilitating a solution. If it doesn’t pan out, it will be more because of internal Lebanese disagreement (encouraged by some Lebanese faction’s foreign backers) than an unwillingness on the part of Israel to find an equitable solution to the issue.

  7. For Paula

    Your silence is deafening,

    Please don’t tag my posts in the future (a civilized request), Express your opinions separately, it is your right.. Being in direct contact with the likes of you is a distressing thought from now on..

    1. For Paula

      i believe my last debunks your assertion that Ireland is is a “net contributor to the EU budget since 2002”. Kindly stay on topic in the future… it will save you future embarrassment

  8. And..Right or wrong Optcon… thanks for having the guts to supply the hospitality 🙂

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