Shale Revolution Changing US Middle East Policy
A horrific civil war in Syria has been allowed to rage for two years without the Obama administration intervening because a booming domestic shale gas industry has lowered US reliance on Middle East energy reserves, the US ambassador to Australia says.
Jeffrey Bleich said that since the domestic shale gas industry in the US has boomed, the Obama administration’s policy towards Middle Eastern countries “that have been cobbled together during the colonial era” has been to leave them alone to resolve their internal issues.
Washington would now intervene in the Middle East only if certain “red lines” had been crossed — such as moves towards genocide, the spread of weapons of mass destruction and threats to US allies in the region.
The ambassador did not mention Iraq, but said the US intervened in Libya only when “there was a threat to butcher 100,000 people in Benghazi”.
“(Shale gas) has freed us up in order to identify what our vital interests are in the Middle East, as opposed to being drawn into aspects that would normally not be of core interest to the United States,” Mr Bleich told a Committee for the Economic Development of Australia lunch in Adelaide.
He said military responses had been disciplined and justifiable.
“In Libya, we didn’t get involved in the dispute until there was a threat to butcher 100,000 people in Benghazi — and at that point we used a limited strike,” he said. “Similarly in Syria, we’ve had an ongoing civil war for two years, which is a horrific thing. But it was not a vital interest to the US . . . up until now, when a red line has been crossed.”
Mr Bleich said it was fair to use the word “revolution” to describe the shale gas boom in the US. About 500,000 new manufacturing jobs were created because of the boom, which has seen energy costs for businesses plummet.
“It has freed up our foreign policy, it has changed our global leadership on reducing carbon in the atmosphere, and it has revitalised our economy,” Mr Bleich said.