Oil tankers dock at the Basra harbor south of Baghdad in 2010. Iraq exports 2.2 million barrels of oil daily.
AFP/Getty Images/File
Oil tankers dock at the Basra harbor south of Baghdad in 2010. Iraq exports 2.2 million barrels of oil daily.

Story highlights

Iraq eyes old pipelines, new projects in case Strait of Hormuz is closed

Oil provides more than 90% of Iraq's budget

About four-fifths of its exports flow through the strait

Editor’s Note: Read this story in Arabic.

Baghdad CNN —  

Iraq may reactivate long-idle pipelines to get its oil to world markets if tensions over neighboring Iran result in the closure of the Strait of Hormuz, a government spokesman said Sunday.

The plans include shipping more oil to Turkey’s port of Ceyhan and reopening pipelines that could deliver Iraqi crude to ports in Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement released from his office.

Iran is resisting international calls to suspend its uranium enrichment work and demonstrate that its nuclear program remains solely peaceful. The Islamic republic has warned that it will close the Strait of Hormuz if threatened, shutting down access to the Gulf.

Oil is the source of more than 90% of Iraq’s budget. About 80% of the 2.2 million barrels of oil Iraq exports daily flows through the strait, along with about 20% of world oil production.

Iraq’s Cabinet approved several recommendations for finding alternatives to shipping oil out of the southern port of Basra through the Persian Gulf, al-Dabbagh said. If the sea route were cut off, Iraq could increase production through its pipeline from Kirkuk to Ceyhan and ship more oil aboard tanker trucks in the short term, he said.

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But in the long run, a government committee recommended reopening a pipeline into Syria and Lebanon that was shut down by the insurgency that followed the U.S. invasion in 2003 and another pipeline to Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea port of Yanbu that has been idled since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. But Iraqi infrastructure deteriorated during the sanctions that followed the invasion of Kuwait, and putting those back into service could take years, Iraq’s oil ministry has said.

The Yanbu pipeline was built during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, when both countries targeted tankers coming in and out of each other’s ports. The committee also recommended building a new pipeline that would connect Iraqi oil fields to Jordan’s port of Aqaba, also on the Red Sea, al-Dabbah said.