Israel eyes Iraqi pipeline project

By Atul Aneja

DOHA April 10. Even as the U.S. military campaign in Iraq is yet to wrap up, early signs are emerging of how the Washington's allies — Israel, Jordan and Kuwait are planning to engage a post-war Iraq in a commercial and political network that would have far-reaching ramifications on the region.

As the battle for Baghdad began, the Israeli Minister for Infrastructure, Yosef Paritzky, brought on the agenda, the revival of oil pipeline from Mosul in northern Iraq to the Israeli Mediterranean port of Haifa that has been in disuse since 1948.

The original pipeline from Mosul reached the Israeli port via the Syrian mainland. But with Syria in the firing line, both from Israel and recently from the U.S., there is talk about diverting this pipeline's route.

Instead of heading towards Syria, the Mosul pipeline, it is now proposed, could transit into Israel via Jordan.

In case this idea materialises, the reward for Jordan, which has clearly sided with the U.S. in the war against Iraq would be enormous.

Not only would the transit of this pipeline yield hefty revenues, Jordan's position as a strategic lynchpin in the post-war West Asian political order would become fully established.

Analysts point out that the importance of this oil route is not just regional, but global in scope.

This is because the Mosul pipeline would take Iraqi oil, not to the Persian Gulf, but to the Mediterranean Sea. This will particularly suit the U.S., which has been worried about receiving the bulk of its oil supplies from oil terminals in the potentially turbulent Persian Gulf area.


Key beneficiary

The revived pipeline proposal also gives the U.S. the realistic option of lowering its energy dependence on key Persian Gulf States such as Saudi Arabia by introducing a pro-Washington Iraq as a formidable player in the global energy market.

With Washington, expected to be the key beneficiary from this proposal, it is likely that the revamped Mosul-Haifa pipeline would turn out to be a giant enterprise. The attempt of reinforcing post-war Iraq's links to the Mediterranean also masks efforts to undermine Baghdad's traditional linkages with the Persian Gulf.

Think tanks in Washington and London are veering to the view that like Turkey, Iraq's destiny should be tied more with the Levant countries rather than the Persian Gulf.

It is felt that the inordinate influence of Iraq, which is likely to be resurrected by the U.S. as a "model democracy" on the States belonging to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), that have fallen behind on the democracy road, can be destabilising. In other words, Iraq diverted towards the Levant and relatively insulated from the rest of the Persian Gulf can help in promoting regional stability. Apart from Jordan, Kuwait has emerged as a key beneficiary of the Iraq war.

It is now likely that Kuwait, backed by U.S. and British military power, will establish a permanent presence at Umm Qasr, on the mouth of the Persia Gulf and in close proximity to Iran.

For the first time after the 1956 Suez crisis, Britain is expected to acquire a permanent foothold east of the Suez canal in Basra.

Copyright 2000 - 2002 The Hindu

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