Tehran has offered to help Iraq resume the operation of a major oil pipeline linking the country with the Syrian port city of Biniyas on the Mediterranean Sea, al-Sumaria television channel has reported, citing a source said to be familiar with the proposal.
According to the source, the cross-Iraq pipeline would enable Iran “to circumvent US sanctions and avoid using the Hormuz Strait amid growing concerns about its closure in the event of direct military clashes between the United States and its allies against Iran.”
The proposal is said to have been extensively discussed in previous years, with negotiations frozen after 2014, when Daesh (Islamic State)* seized wide swathes of western Iraq and eastern Syria.
According to the source, two options for the pipeline are on the table – a new 1,000 km pipeline running through Iraq into Syria, or repairs by the Iranian side to the Kirkuk-Baniyas pipeline, an 800 km pipeline first commissioned in the early 1950s stretching from the northern Iraqi city to Syria, but whose operation was stopped in 1982 during the Iran-Iraq War, and which was severely damaged by airstrikes during the 2003 US invasion of Iraq.
It’s estimated that the overall capacity of that pipeline would be about 1.25 million barrels of oil per day, which could theoretically account for nearly half of the country’s pre-sanctions crude oil exports.
Baghdad has yet to respond to Iran’s proposal, the source said, noting that Iraq can export its own crude oil to Baniyas and on to neighbouring Mediterranean countries, and as a major energy power itself, may not consider the project to be economically advantageous.
An unnamed lawmaker from the oil and gas committee in Iraq’s parliament confirmed that the project was being discussed, and said it envisions the delivery of both oil and gas to Syria and Lebanon.
Iraqi economist Assad al-Adli told The New Arab newspaper that if it was approved, a project of this scale would take at least two years to complete. The economist stressed such a project would be a “historic achievement” for Iran if completed, since it would provide the country with “direct access to the Mediterranean countries,” while creating “a new competitive port” in Syria. Iraq, meanwhile, might only stand to gain a competitor, and may be pressured by the US to prevent the project from being realised, al-Adli noted.
*A terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.