Israel and Iraqi Oil
January 30, 2006
For the Americans, to lay their hands on Iraqi oil is getting more difficult. The hope they had placed on Ahmed Chalabi who had promised marvel to the US oil lobby and the Israelis has vanished. It is rather obvious that they cannot protect the pipeline designed to flow oil from Iraq to Haifa. Furthermore, the Arabs and the Turkmen will not be easily expelled from Kirkuk (1).
The neo conservator project of carving a "zone of prosperity" in the Middle East financed by Iraqi oil to benefit essentially the Israelis, has been swept over. The United States may have an alternative solution though as much uncertain. It boils down to toppling the regime of Bashar Al Assad and setting up a Kurdish State in the north of Iraq.
In May 2001, the Energy Policy Development Group headed by Dick Cheney demanded that the "energy security" be a prime objective of the foreign and trade policy of the Administration. It thus provided a justification in the name of "vital interests" for the forthcoming aggression against Iraq. Since then, the United States are at war….and they shall stay at war for, according to James Woolsey, director of the CIA under Bill Clinton " several decades …for oil" (2). To-day, despite its downward oil production, Syria has become a target because it stands in the way of the crossing of Kurdish pipelines which purportedly will turn Haifa into a Mediterranean Rotterdam and because the Syrian leadership is not prepared to recognize Israel.
Ever since 1948 when Israel was created, Israeli politicians have been dreaming of the reopening of the Kirkuk-Haifa pipeline and they tried their best to succeed even to the point of dealing with the "devil" that is…Saddam Hussein himself (3).
When Syria closed the pipeline Kirkuk-Baynas, in 1982, in order to back Iran in its war against Iraq, Yitzak Shamir seized the opportunity to suggest to Baghdad that it should export its oil through Haifa. The Iraqi president refused.
Hanan Bar-on, under-director at the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs, came up again two years later by endorsing a Bechtel project to build a pipeline Kirkuk-Aqaba which Donald Rumsfled went to "sell" to Saddam Hussein in December 1983 and March 1984. The latter turned it down once more.
In 1987, Moshe Shahal, Israeli minister of Energy, had a survey made on the possibility of exporting oil to Haifa but, this time, through the Golan. The outbreak of the Gulf war of 1991 put an end to it.
It is only with the vote of the Iraq Liberation Act under Bill Clinton in October 1998 that the question of the transport of Iraqi oil was again on the agenda. The opposition groups to Saddam Hussein were from thereon officially financed and the Israelis set their heart on Ahmed Chalabi who had been dropped by the CIA and the State Department and who was eager to start a new career. They invited him to Tel Aviv where he promised to enter into diplomatic relations with Israel when in power and to reopen the Kirkuk-Haifa pipeline. His nephew, Salem – later in charge of the debaasification - struck a friendship with Benjamin Netanyahou with whom he agreed to pay compensation to the Jews who had left Iraq in the 50’s. It is said that 30 billions dollars was the figure earmarked to be paid in oil.
"Shekhinah" and "Matador" Operations
Along with the bombing of Baghdad in 2003, the US Command launched the "Shekhinah" Operation, (God Presence in Hebrew) (4) to get hold of the portion of the Haifa pipeline. British and Australian SAS and US Special Forces took up positions near the pumping stations H1 and H3, between Al Haditha and the Jordanian border. After the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, their quarters were turned into military bases and both H1 (renamed Haifa 1) (nicknamed "the Korean Village") and H3 (Haifa 3) have a small airport.
However, in Iraq, nothing goes according to the wishes of the neo-conservators. The star of Ahmed Chalabi is on the wane and his nephew accused of murder is compelled to flee Baghdad. Diplomatic relations are no longer the order of the day. The growing strength of the resistance jeopardizes the restoration of the pipeline to Haifa and leads the Israelis to revise their schemes. They bet on the "Syrian option", that is a change of regime in Damascus. Two projects popped up: the Mossul-Haifa pipeline and the section of the pipeline linking the terminal to Kirkuk-Banyas which would be connected behind the Syrian border or at the level of Homs.
In June 2005, the Americans carried out the "Matador" Operation near the Syrian border in the neighbourhood of Al Qaim as well as in the North, along the route Mossul- Tell Afar-Sindjar allegedly to eliminate "Zarqaoui" and his followers. They cleared all around the H1, H2 and H3 bases to be used in the event of an invasion of Syria. The battle of Tell Afar actually directed against the Turkmen hostile to the looting of their natural resources by the Kurds turned out to be a massacre of civilians like in Fallujah.
The Kurdistan or the 6th World Oil Power ?
Setting up an independent Kurdish State in the north of Iraq is part and parcel of the US "Big Middle East" project. However it is common knowledge that a viable Kurdish State needs to include Kirkuk, its oil and gas fields. Therefore, Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, - the two Kurdish leaders reconciled for the time being- hold as priorities that the Kurdish region comprise Kirkuk, the Sulimaniya-Sindjar region be " ethnically cleansed" and the oil exploration be extended.
To that end, Kurdish militias keep on terrorizing unwanted populations- Arabs, Turkmen, Assyrians, Bedouins, Chammars- to make them understand that they have no place in to-morrow Kurdistan. A common ground is being sought with the Yezidis which Barzani considers as Kurds, but who first of all control the Sindjar mountainous area overlooking the route of the Mossul-Haifa pipeline.
The ethnic balance in Kirkuk has already been modified in view of the next local referendum on the fate of the city due in December 2007. Yet it is difficult to forecast how the Kurds, -without resorting to violence- can drive the Turkmen out of the region. They number 2 to 3 millions across an area of 25 000 sq2 from the Iranian border, south of Halabja- to Kut and Tell Afar (5). Furthermore, Turkey will never accept it.
The new Kurdish State, if it comes into being, will rank 6th in the oil industry. .At least, this is what the Kurdish oil experts pretend. In that perspective, the development of fields discovered by the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC) in the 50’s and 60’s is hurriedly carried out without Baghdad having a say, specially in Chamachamal (to the east of Kirkuk), Raq Taq 1 and 2 (near Koi Sinjak) and Demir Daagh (15km to the north-west to Erbil)
As early as May 2003, Jalal Talabani who rules the Sulemaniya region has allowed Petoil and General Energy, both Turkish companies, to set up offices at Taq Taq. They later on took as partners the Kurdish group Eagle and Heritage Oil Corporation, a Canadian company headed by Micael Gulbakian, grand son of the mythical Callouste Gulbakian, nicknamed "Mister 5%", to extend their exploration. In November 2005, a new stage was crossed with the permit granted by Massoud Barzani to the Norwegian company DNO for prospecting at Tawuke a field covering forty kilometres to the east of Zakho which would fulfil all expectations.
Jalal Talabani, though "President" of Iraq, remained unmoved when Hussein Al Sharistani, adviser to the Ayatollah Sistani (6) and spokesman of the "National Assembly" threatened to consider as nil and void all contracts for exploration and production signed without the consent of the Iraqi Ministry of Oil (7). He knows that he has the full backing of the United States and of Israel.
Destabilization of Syria
The destabilization process against Syria becomes very clear against the US-Israel plans for the transport of Iraqi oil. So it goes for the position of France. As in Afghanistan where the war was conducted for the sole purpose of letting a passage for a pipeline, the United States want to have an allied regime in Damascus which will ensure that the Haifa terminal is well provided in "Kurdish" oil.
Under these circumstances, the question raised is whether the murder of Rafiq Hariri has something to do with oil. A section of the Kirkuk-Banyas pipeline ends up at Tripoli where the Americans are pressing for the construction of a strategic military base. The former Lebanese Prime Minister was said to be opposed to the project (8). Sheikh Abdel Amir Kabalan, vice-president to the Higher Shia Council of Lebanon was right in advising the Belgian Magistrate Serge Brammertz, taking over from to Detlev Mehlis, "to open all files and in all directions, without the burden of the inquiry being on one party alone" (9).
(1) La poudrière de Kirkouk, Gilles Munier, (AFI-Flash N° 40, 27-1-05 (The Kirkuk thinderbox, Gilles Munier )
(2) Report on the Annual Policy Forum of the American Council on Renewal Energy (ACORE)
(3) The Pipeline to Haifa , Minister Dreams of Iraqi Oil par Akiva Eldar (April 2001) http://www.counterpunch.org/eldar04012003.html
(4) The operation was inspired by an Israeli project postponed in 2003. This is the reason why its code name was taken from the Torah. It goes back to the "Shekhinah" who would have gone back to Heavens after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple by the Mesopotamian King Nabuchodonosor, in 567 B.C
(5) Letter of Dr. Hassan Aydenly- President of the Defence Committee for the Rights of the Iraqi Turkmen to the daily Le Monde. http://members.lycos.nl/soitum/Le_monde.pdf
(6) Adviser to the Iraqi Commission for Atomic Energy up to 1979. He offered his support to Colin Powell who accused Saddam Hussein of having weapons of mass destruction. In an interview in Al Sharq Al Awsat (15/4/2001), he stated that, save for the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq would have disposed of the atomic bomb "within six months". http://www.voltairenet.org/article9210.html
(7) Kurds challenge Baghdad over oil-exploration rights, David Axe (The Washington Times- 14/1/2006). http://www.uruknet.info/?s1=2&p=19630&s2=15
(8) Who then killed Rafic Hariri? Gilles Munier (AFI-Flash n° 42- 21/12/05) http://www.oulala.net/Portail/article.php3?id_article=1701&v
(9) L’Orient-Le Jour (21/1/2006)
Courtesy and Copyright Gilles Munier