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Tuesday, August 26, 2003
Josh Marshall:

That should go over well.

Back during the British mandate period, there was a pipeline that shipped oil from Kirkuk to the Israeli port city of Haifa. The pipeline is still there. But, for what are probably obvious reasons, it's sat unused since 1948. As we reported in late April, the possibility of reopening the pipeline was being actively discussed in Israel, by members of Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, and by certain persons in the US government.

Now Ha'aretz has reported that the Israeli Prime Minister's office has asked for and received from a "senior Pentagon official" a telegram asking the Israelis to investigate financial and technical questions relating to refitting and restarting the pipeline. According to Ha'aretz, the Prime Minister's office "views the pipeline to Haifa as a "bonus" the U.S. could give to Israel in return for its unequivocal support for the American-led campaign in Iraq."

Now, given that one of the Iraqis' big suspicions is that we're after their oil, you might think that rerouting almost half of the country's oil through Israel, and using a pipeline last used when Palestine was ruled by the British, might at least create some perception problems.

But that doesn't seem to be all of it. That oil from the Kirkuk oil fields is now transhipped through Turkey. And folks in government circles in Jerusalem seem to think that these American hints about the Kirkuk to Haifa pipeline are, as Ha'aretz says, part of an "attempt to apply pressure on Turkey."

This deserves more attention. Why are we even remotely considering this scheme to send half of Iraq's oil through Israel? And why do we seem to be trying to sow discord between two of our most important allies in the region?

Good point.