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.