Sunday, November 4, 2007

Iraqi invasion: oil perspective

The British built the Kirkuk-to-Haifa pipeline in 1927. In 1934, they completed a 12-inch pipeline from the Kirkuk fields to Al-Haditha on the Euphrates River. At that point the pipeline forked. One branch went through Syria to Tripoli (Lebanon). The other went across Jordan to Haifa. The British built refineries at both Tripoli and Haifa to handle this Iraq oil. (In World War II, Germany wanted to get control of this oil.)

In 1945 the British added a parallel 16-inch pipeline in Syria.

When Jews started to invade Palestine in 1945, Syria shut down its branch to Tripoli. Iraq shut down all oil from from Kirkuk to Haifa. At that point, most of northern Iraq’s oil went to the Turkish port city of Gihan, which was OK with the US, since Turkey was a US ally against the USSR. Turkey collect transit fees for this oil.

In 1947 the British oil refinery at Haifa still handled trickle of oil from miscellaneous areas, and still employed some 1,700 Arab workers, plus 360 Jewish employees. The Arab and Jewish workers formed a union to oppose British tyranny. Then Israel was created. Immediately Irgun (commanded by Menachem Begin), the Hagana and other terrorist groups moved in. Irgun had bombed the King David Hotel the year before, and they started massacring Arabs in Haifa and elsewhere.

In 1952, western oil companies built two new lines through Syria to Tripoli. The pipeline to Haifa was allowed to decay. Pieces of it were dismantled. Various interests used the pieces to build water pipelines.

In 2003, Bush invaded Iraq, partly to topple Saddam Hussein, partly to revive the pipeline to Haifa (Kirkuk oil fields were said to contain perhaps 40% of Iraq’s oil), and partly to bring oil deals to his personal friends, such as Ray L. Hunt. Small American oil companies like Hunt Oil will extract Kurdish oil as soon as and if Mosul and Kirkuk are broken off from Iraq (17 November 2007). Mosul is the first stop for Kirkuk oil.

When the Haifa pipeline opens back up, only Jordan (not Israel) will collect hefty transit fees. Kurdish oil will go to Europe via Israel, not Turkey. This might be a reason why Turkey is threatening to invade. The minute Bush invaded Iraq, the Turkish realized that the pipeline to Haifa would be opened back up. Therefore Turkey tried to make deals with Central Asian states (such as Azerbaijan) to get new pipelines to Turkey, but now Iran and Russia have foiled Turkish plans by forming the new alliance of Caspian Sea states. Turkey feels squeezed. This is yet another reason why they are threatening to invade northern Iraq.

Shortly after the 2003 invasion, Benyamin Netanyahu (the then Israeli finance minister) boasted, “Soon you will see Iraqi oil flowing to Haifa. It is just a matter of time until the pipeline is reconstituted, and Iraqi oil will flow to the Mediterranean. It's not a pipe dream.”

Under a 1975 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) the US guaranteed all Israel's oil needs in the event of a crisis. This MoU is quietly renewed every five years. It commits US taxpayers to maintain a strategic US reserve for Israel, equivalent to $3 billion in 2002 dollars. Special legislation was enacted to exempt Israel from restrictions on oil exports from the US. Moreover, the US government agreed to divert oil from the US, even in case of oil shortages in the US. The US government also guaranteed delivery of oil in US tankers if commercial shippers become unable or unwilling to carry oil from the US to Israel.

Israel can wrench lot of oil from the region if the pipeline were used again and Kurds were willing to sell the oil. It would also make Kurds dependent on Israelis for oil revenues and thus give a greater leverage to Israelis over Kurds of the region...

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