Iranian government causes delays in the construction of the Basra-Aqaba oil pipeline in Iraq

Iran is trying to block this project through political and governmental forces on the pretext that Iraq aims to supply oil to Israel and other nations

AFP/HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALI  -   Oil refinery in the southern city of Nasiriyah, Iraq

The Basra-Aqaba pipeline project in Iraq is taking longer than expected. This idea, conceived several years ago and with several stalls due to Iraq's war against Daesh, is once again under pressure and hampered by growing pressure from pro-Iranian forces. It appears that Iran is beginning to exert its political muscle in the Iraqi government to stall the project.

Iraq's Oil Minister Ihsan Abdul Jabbar issued a statement revealing that the project was stalled as it is still under study. It is a project that would establish a major national and international economic expansion. It allows the country to establish new oil export ports and would improve its economic situation.

REUTERS/ESSAM AL-SUDANI - ExxonMobil-operated West Qurna-1 oil field in the Iraqi city of Basra.

Iran has a strong influence on the country and is therefore trying to stop the project as much as possible. The pipeline would be a push to let Iraq have more integration with other Arab countries. To this end, they are using pro-government political forces and militias in the nation to block it, as the Iraqi government is very vulnerable to this pressure.

"Currently there are changes in the project and therefore there is a new economic schedule, and a new consultant, Wood International Oil Services, has been assigned to this task. The Oil Ministry is looking at it very carefully whether it meets the Ministry's requirements, and if there are obstacles to the project, we will be clear to the cabinet and MPs," Abdul Jabbar said.

The study of this pipeline, which was planned to begin to become a reality, has provoked reactions from pro-Iranian forces, who have attacked the project. According to Qais al-Khazal, secretary general of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq brigades, this project could benefit Israel and is not in Iran's objectives or interests. "I refuse to extend the pipeline to feed Israel," he said. 

For his part, Nouri al-Maliki, former prime minister and leader of the State of Law coalition, issued a statement supporting the Iranian idea. "The decision of the government, a constitutionally incomplete business government, to proceed with the contract for the construction of the Basra-Aqaba pipeline is a violation of the constitution, and it is an explicit legal violation that I asked the Federal Court to stop it and to stop all decisions and laws issued by this government," he said. 

AFP/HAIDAR MOHAMMED  -   Oil refinery in Iraq

"We ask the government to wait, not to proceed with the project and to leave it in the hands of the next executive," he continued. In addition, he also suggested balancing the export of oil and reviewing where it ends up.

This project has been underway for years and aims to export one million barrels of crude oil. In 2013, it was revived after agreements were signed between Iraq, Jordan and Egypt to extend the pipeline by 1,665 km. Then in 2017, it was paralysed following Iraq's war against Daesh, which made it difficult to carry out and took over several areas of control in the country. Then, in 2018, it was restarted by the government of Haidr al-Abadi, but was once again knocked down. 

Added to this is the new pressure being exerted by the West on Iraq's oil production. According to the Oil Ministry, the West is sending messages to the Gulf state to increase oil production. This could not be done, as it is outside the OPEC (Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) agreement.

Europe and the US would find themselves looking at the Iraqi opportunity in the wake of the Ukrainian conflict and the international blockade in Russia. As gas and fuel prices rise, Western nations are seeking to export products from elsewhere. But having been rebuffed by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, one of the world's largest exporters, they are trying to turn to lesser countries. OPEC has been forced to say that right now "there is balance and that the market is governed by the rules of current supply and demand".