Iran seeks to revive oil pipeline across Iraq to Syria

Tehran has discussed with Baghdad the possibility of reopening a pipeline linking Iran and Syria through Iraqi territory to avoid using the Strait of Hormuz for oil transportation in the Persian Gulf.

The pipeline would link Iran with the Syrian port city of Biniyas on the Mediterranean Sea, al-Sumaria television channel reported, citing a source said to be familiar with the proposal. The trans-Iraq pipeline would allow Iran to sidestep the Strait of Hormuz for oil transportation and circumvent US sanctions “amid growing fears [the Strait of Hormuz] may be closed in case of direct military confrontation between the United States and its allies with Iran.”

According to the source, the pipeline would consist of two parts. First, Iran would construct a new 1,000km pipeline through Iraq into Syria, going through the Nineveh plain in northern Iraq and entering Syrian territory through Deir al-Zour province, leading to the Syrian coast. Secondly, Iran would reopen the Kirkuk-Baniyas pipeline, which was shut in 1982 during the Iran-Iraq War. It was revived for three years in 2000 but was severely damaged by airstrikes during the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. The proposal provides that both the construction of the pipeline and its maintenance would be carried out by Tehran.

The overall capacity of the pipeline is estimated at about 1.25 million barrels of oil per day, which equates to nearly half of Iran’s pre-sanctions crude oil exports, although it is at least 10 times less than the overall volume of crude currently transported through the Strait of Hormuz.

The source pointed out that Baghdad may not consider the project to be economically beneficial, noting that Iraq can export its own crude oil to Baniyas and on to neighboring Mediterranean countries. However, the news outlet stated that Baghdad has not yet officially responded to Iran’s proposal. In fact, Iran previously proposed the pipeline plan to Iraq, but talks on the project were halted in 2014 when Islamic State (IS, previously ISIS) captured large swathes of land in both Syria and Iraq.