Pepe Escobar at Asia times takes a look at the new Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline (BTC)

The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline (BTC) - conceived by the US as the ultimate Western escape route from dependence on oil from the Persian Gulf - is finally in business.

This is what Pipelineistan is all about: a supreme law unto itself - untouchable by national sovereignty, serious environmental concerns (expressed both in the Caucasus and in Europe), labor legislation, protests against the World Bank, not to mention mountains 2,700 meters high and 1,500 small rivers. BTC took 10 years of hard work and at least US$4 billion - $3 billion of which is in bank loans. BTC is not merely a pipeline: it is a sovereign state.

BTC would be impossible without the usual, strategically positioned US-supported dictator - in this case old, ruthless Caucasus hand Heydar Aliyev, who died in December 2003. A dynastic dictatorship is even better, since his son Ilham became the successor in fraudulent elections in October 2003. It also helped that Ilham, a former playboy, happened to be the head of the state oil company, SOCAR. Azerbaijan was never about "liberty and democracy" or color-coded revolutions in the style of Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. Just last Saturday in Baku, Azeri police beat up and arrested more than 100 opposition protesters demanding "Freedom!" and "Free elections!" This is a regime that according to Transparency International ranks 140th out of 146 in the global corruption index. From Washington's point of view, the Aliyev dynasty in Azerbaijan performs the same role as Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan: they are "our" dictators.

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