Iraq moved on Sunday to diversify its oil export routes to reduce the impact of a potential closure of the Strait of Hormuz by Iran on Baghdad’s oil-dependent income, as well as the world economy.
The plans, recommended by the cabinet’s energy and economics committees, include efforts to ramp up exports along a pipeline to Turkey, increase the amount of oil transported by road, and “urgently” fix disused transport pipelines, according to a statement from government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh.
He said Iraq’s cabinet on Sunday adopted the recommendations which also included working to reopen the Banias-Tripoli pipeline that runs from Syria to Lebanon but has been closed since 1990, and, if thawing Iraq-Saudi relations continue to improve, a disused pipeline through Saudi Arabia as well.
The committees “also recommended that in the short term there be more efforts to convince the Iranian and American sides of the necessity of avoiding the closure of the Strait of Hormuz because it will damage the global economy, and Gulf countries especially.”
Iran has threatened retaliation for fresh Western sanctions over its nuclear programme, including a possible disruption of shipping through the Strait of Hormuz, a Gulf chokepoint for global oil shipments, including 80 percent of Iraq’s oil exports.
Dabbagh told AFP in an interview last month that Iraq was worried by US-Iran tensions and would be one of the worst countries affected if the strait were closed to shipments of crude oil.
Planning Minister Ali Yusuf al-Shukri also said last month that Iraq was mulling its options in case Iran blocks the vital waterway.
Iraq currently produces more than three million barrels per day (bpd), with exports averaging about 2.1 to 2.2 million bpd. Crude sales account for the lion’s share of Baghdad’s government income.