18 hours ago
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Iraqi officials are discussing plans to revive Iraqi oil export lines to Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, in an attempt to bypass what has been described as acts of extortion by Turkey, which continues to refuse to resume Iraqi oil exports from the Kurdistan fields to the Turkish port of Ceyhan.
But the question that still occupies the circles concerned with these plans in the three Arab countries is: Are Iraq's plans merely an attempt to respond to Turkish blackmail with a counter-blackmail, or are they serious plans of strategic importance for Iraq? This is in addition to the extent to which Baghdad is able to provide the necessary funds for the implementation of these projects.
Turkey decided to stop exporting 450,000 barrels of oil per day, since the International Commercial Court in Paris approved that Ankara pay compensation to Iraq amounting to 1.5 billion dollars for illegal oil exports that took place through that line, regardless of Baghdad's approval. The operations of those exports were arranged in coordination between Erbil and Ankara without the approval of Baghdad as well, and included exaggerated price cuts, and it is believed that they were part of multi-headed corruption deals.
Turkey is trying to evade paying compensation, but stopping exports causes damage to Iraq amounting to about 31 million dollars every day, or the equivalent of one billion dollars every month. The line has been suspended since mid-March.
The strategic aspect related to the three Arab pipelines meets Baghdad's ambition to find alternative and permanent outlets for its oil exports, allowing an increase in production to 8 million barrels per day by 2027. However, each of the proposed pipelines requires funds ranging between 2 and 8 billion dollars. Economists say it is a small cost compared to the benefits that Iraq can achieve. Because exporting 8 million barrels of oil per day will increase Iraq's revenues to more than $200 billion annually, or the equivalent of twice its current revenues. Only the additional revenues can provide the Iraqi treasury with the opportunity to implement other investment projects, which the current revenues cannot cover.
The advisor to the Iraqi Prime Minister for Foreign Relations, Farhad Aladdin, says that there are negotiations to revive the oil pipeline with Saudi Arabia, which existed in the seventies, and that there is thinking about activating an oil pipeline through Syria, in addition to the Basra-Aqaba pipeline under study by the advisors. currently.
The Basra-Aqaba pipeline project underwent several studies, including details of financing and ownership plans, but they were hampered by pressure from pro-Iranian groups that claimed that the arrival of Iraqi oil at the port of Aqaba would make Israel benefit from it. This is something that Jordanian officials considered a lie that has nothing to do with logic, because the port of Aqaba is under Jordan's sovereignty.
Iraq currently exports about 3 million barrels of oil per day through the ports of Basra. The Aqaba line can increase exports by one million barrels per day.
On April 17, 2022, the government of Mustafa Al-Kazemi postponed taking the decision to implement this line, and it was referred to the next government. The search for it was renewed after Turkey's decision to stop Iraqi oil exports to the port of Ceyhan.
The cost of the Basra-Aqaba pipeline project is about $8.5 billion, with a length of 1,665 kilometers. The project was one of the outputs of the fourth Jordanian-Egyptian-Iraqi tripartite summit held in Baghdad in June 2021. The idea of this project dates back to 1983. The Iraqi Ministry of Oil says that the project is investment, economic, strategic and developmental, and aims to strengthen economic relations with neighboring countries and the region. To serve common interests and lead to more stability and development of relations in all fields.
As for the Basra line to the Saudi port of Yanbu on the Red Sea, Iraqi officials say that there are now serious negotiations to revive it. This line was effective in the seventies and eighties. It was extended to diversify Iraq's export outlets, especially in light of Iran's attack on Iraqi oil tankers in the Gulf at that time, prior to and during the Iran-Iraq war (from September 1980 to August 1988). Saudi Arabia closed the line in 1990 after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
Experts estimate that reviving this line could provide Iraq with an outlet to export an additional million barrels of oil, and that the costs of its development do not exceed $2.5 billion, which can be considered an easy option. However, it is feared that the obstacles set by pro-Iranian groups, with the aim of obstructing the Basra-Aqaba line, towards the Basra-Yanbu line, will be repeated under other pretexts.
Aladdin says, "There is also thinking about activating an oil pipeline through Syria, in addition to a pipeline with Jordan."
The only obstacle standing in the way of this line are the costs, which are estimated at about $ 8 billion. And while Syria does not have the money to invest in it, the US sanctions against Damascus pose another obstacle. As for the pro-Iranian groups, they welcome this project.
The length of the line linking the fields of Kirkuk and the port of Baniyas in Syria is about 800 kilometers, and its pumping capacity was 300,000 barrels per day when it was opened in April 1952, and it continued to operate until disputes between the two governments led to its suspension in the eighties, and its work was resumed again. However, during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, it was severely damaged by US airstrikes, and has been out of service since that time.
Within the framework of the pro-Iranian groups welcoming the project, on December 17, 2007, on the sidelines of a visit by then Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to Syria, it was agreed to rehabilitate the line. But it turned out later that the cost of rehabilitation is higher than the cost of building a new pipeline. It was agreed in September 2010 to build two new pipelines, the first with a capacity of 1.5 million barrels per day to transport heavier crude oil, while the capacity of the second pipeline reaches 1.25 million barrels per day, and it is to transport lighter crude oil.
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