Israeli Dreams of Iraqi Oil

by AKIVA ELDAR

National Infrastructures Minister Joseph Paritzky has requested an assessment of the condition of the old oil pipeline from Mosul to Haifa, with an eye toward renewing the flow of oil in the event of friendly post-war regime in Iraq.

Paritzky explained to Haaretz yesterday that resurrecting the pipeline to Haifa could save Israel the high cost of shipping oil from Russia. He is certain that the Americans would respond favorably to the idea, since the pipeline would bring Iraqi oil directly to the Mediterranean.

The flow of oil from Mosul was redirected from Haifa to Syria after the British Mandate for Palestine expired in 1948. There were several attempts to renew the flow of oil to Haifa in subsequent years. One such effort occurred during the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s, after Syria acceded to a request from Iran to block the flow of Iraqi oil to the Mediterranean. (Iran was then preventing oil tankers from moving Iraqi oil via the Persian Gulf.) The prime minister at the time, Yitzhak Shamir, proposed to Iraq to renew the flow of oil through the pipeline to Haifa.

Hanan Bar-On, then the deputy director-general of the Foreign Ministry, confirmed yesterday that Israel was involved in talks during the mid-1980s on a plan for an Iraq-Jordanian pipeline to the Red Sea port of Aqaba. Among the participants in these talks was Donald Rumsfeld, then an adviser to U.S. president Reagan and currently secretary of defense. The American corporation Bechtel was slated to build the pipeline. According to the deal, which eventually fell through, Israel was to receive about $100 million a year via former Israeli businessman Bruce Rappaport in return for a commitment not to oppose the construction or operation of the new pipeline.

In 1987, energy minister Moshe Shahal reportedly looked into the idea of helping Iraq export its oil via the Golan Heights to Haifa. But this plan also failed to materialize.

Bar-On recalled that during the same period, the possibility of laying a pipeline along the Jordan Valley and Arava, and then along the Egyptian border to the Mediterranean. "We wanted to ensure the economic interests of the Iraqis, Jordanians, and Egyptians in order to create motivation to preserve the stability in the region and as a foundation for peaceful relations."

AKIVA ELDAR writes for Ha’aretz.

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