Iraq, Syria pledge pipeline reactivation

Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hosheyar Zebari met with officials in Damascus Dec. 12, with both governments agreeing to speed reactivation of the oil pipeline from the Kirkuk fields to Syria’s Banias terminal on the Mediterranean. The Syrian government pledged to help Baghdad secure the pipeline route from insurgent attack, and new oil deals are said to be in the offing. “There is a Russian company performing surveys and what this pipeline needs,” Zebari said.

The pipeline, which last operated before the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, would expand Baghdad’s limited export options. Syria, faced with declining oil production and isolation by the West, is eager to earn currency from transit fees. Nearly all Iraqi oil is now exported via the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline to US ally Turkey, or the Basra pipeline linking the southern oil fields to the Persian Gulf. Both these lines, but especially the northern one, have been crippled by relentless insurgent attacks.

The US bombed the Kirkuk-Banias pipeline, built in the 1950s, during the 2003 invasion. Before that, Saddam Hussein had used it in defiance of UN sanctions during the last years of his rule, exporting 100,000-200,000 barrels per day. The pipeline’s capacity is 300,000 bpd. (Reuters, AlSumaria, Dec. 12)

It is instructive that as Iraq’s oil industry struggles to recover, it is Syria and Russia that seem poised to gain—while the pipeline to Israel favored by the neocons when the invasion was planned five years ago remains a mere pipe-dream.

See our last posts on Iraq and the oil struggle, and Syria.

  1. Crackdown on Syrian dissidents
    Interesting. Just as Syria angles to get a cut of Iraq’s oil (with the Russkies waiting in the wings), Damascus cracks down on a new dissident coalition whose recent formation had been hailed by the White House in a press release. We must warn the “National Declaration of Damascus Council,” as we recently had to warn Burmese dissidents, to beware becoming pawns in Bush’s oil wars… From AFP, Dec. 14:

    WASHINGTON — US President George W. Bush called on Syria Friday to immediately release dozens of opposition activists reportedly arrested this week amid events marking International Human Rights Day.

    “All those detained should be released immediately,” Bush said in a statement days after human rights groups said Syria issued summonses and arrested dozens of opposition activists on Sunday and Monday.

    The crackdown targeted around 30 people who signed the 2005 Damascus Declaration calling for “radical change” in Syria and took part in a 163-person protest held on December 1, the groups said.

    Security officials visited the home of writer and protester Akram Bunni, who was elected as secretary of the National Declaration of Damascus Council on December 1, the rights groups and a member of his family added.

    In April, his brother, human rights lawyer Anwar Bunni, was jailed for five years after signing the declaration on relations between Lebanon and Syria, its former powerbroker.

    The declaration called for Syrians to work in a peaceful manner for radical change and saying the creation of a “national democratic regime” was the way to achieve this change.

    Bush applauded the creation of the council, saying “the brave men and women who formed this council reflect the desires of the majority of Syrian people to live in freedom, democracy, and peace, both at home and alongside their neighbors in the region.”

    “The Syrian regime continues to deny its citizens fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression, freedom of movement, and the right to elect a representative government responsive to their needs,” he said.

    “The formation of the National Council is an encouraging sign to all people who support freedom and democracy. We support the National Council’s principles of non-violent struggle and open membership to all the people of Syria who believe the time has come for change,” said Bush.