By Pepe Escobar
Asia Times Online
July 23, 2013

Amidst the incessant rumble in the (Washington) jungle about a possible Obama administration military adventure in Syria, new information has come to light. And what a piece of Pipelineistan information that is.

Picture Iraqi Oil Minister Abdelkarim al-Luaybi, Syrian Oil Minister Sufian Allaw, and the current Iranian caretaker Oil Minister Mohammad Aliabadi getting together in the port of Assalouyeh, southern Iran, to sign a memorandum of understanding for the construction of the Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline, no less.

At Asia Times Online and also elsewhere I have been arguing that this prospective Pipelinestan node is one of the fundamental reasons for the proxy war in Syria. Against the interests of Washington, for whom integrating Iran is anathema, the pipeline bypasses two crucial foreign actors in Syria – prime “rebel” weaponizer Qatar (as a gas producer) and logistical “rebel” supporter Turkey (as the self-described privileged energy crossroads between East and West).

The US$10 billion, 6,000 kilometer pipeline is set to start in Iran’s South Pars gas field (the largest in the world, shared with Qatar), and run via Iraq, Syria and ultimately to Lebanon. Then it could go under the Mediterranean to Greece and beyond; be linked to the Arab gas pipeline; or both.

Before the end of August, three working groups will be discussing the complex technical, financial and legal aspects involved. Once finance is secured – and that’s far from certain, considering the proxy war in Syria – the pipeline could be online by 2018. Tehran hopes that the final agreement will be signed before the end of the year.

Tehran’s working assumption is that it will be able to export 250 million cubic meters of gas a day by 2016. When finished, the pipeline will be able to pump 100 million cubic meters a day. For the moment, Iraq needs up to 15 million cubic meters a day. By 2020, Syria will need up to 20 million cubic meters, and Lebanon up to 7 million cubic meters. That still leaves a lot of gas to be exported to European customers.

Europeans – who endlessly carp about being hostages of Gazprom – should be rejoicing. Instead, once again they shot themselves in their Bally-clad feet.

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