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Iran Revives Transboundary Oil Pipeline Through Iraq

Iraq barrels and pipeline (copyright by Maxx-Studio/Shutterstock)

Amid heightened tension in the Persian Gulf related to American displeasure with Iran's growing nuclear program, Iran has offered to help build a major oil pipeline across the Nineveh Plain to transport Iranian oil to Syria.

In addition to the segment crossing northern Iraq and entering Syrian territory through Deir al-Zour province, leading to the Syrian coast, 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.

Lebanon is keen to see this pipeline built to help assuage a persistent energy crisis in the country.

The concept is by no means new: Discussions on its construction stem all the way back to the 1950s when a 804 km oil pipeline linking Kirkuk in northern Iraq to Baniyas in Syria was commissioned. But the frequent onset of regional wars interrupted the project, and ultimately a U.S. led airstrike destroyed the pipeline during the 2003 Iraq war.

Iraq has yet to formally respond to Iran's offer. It seems likely, given long-simmering tensions in the area, that any resumption of this pipeline would invite similar responses as in the past from various local actors, particularly Israel and the United States. In a favorable geopolitical environment completion of this project would take an estimated two years.

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