Syr-aq and oil

This last weekend, on June 21, I heard both an NPR reporter and a Guardian reporter argue that the border between Syria and Iraq had disappeared, and the conflict is now a single conflict spanning both countries. Humvees which had been supplied by Americans to the Iraqi government were abandoned during their hasty retreat, and are now being redeployed by ISIS (and I suspect its affiliates) in both Iraq and Syria.

Today, the Iraqi government officially lost control of the oil refinery at Baiji, just north of Baghdad. That is important for getting oil out of ISIS/Kurd areas via Turkey.

To explain this I need to correct a previous post (I will let that one stand in error): the Kurds may have good relations with the U.S. and Turkey, but the pipeline from Kirkuk north through Turkey passes through Baiji. This weekend I plotted out the pipelines I could find on the internet:

140623_Syria-Iraq

Put simply, there are six pipelines in this region that travel from east to west, to the Mediterranean. I think all four of the southern pipelines are closed now, because they travel through parts of Syria that are in conflict. The northernmost two, which run in parallel through southern Turkey, terminate near Iskenderun, at Dorytol (I have not researched this oil terminal yet). One of these two is the Dorytol-Kirkuk pipeline, 40 inches in diameter. I have highlighted it in the map below:

140623_Pipeline

If the data I found is indeed current, then it seems that ISIS and the Kurds depend upon each other not to disrupt this pipeline, in order to get oil out to world markets via Turkey. If, in fact, this pipeline is playing a major role in the strategic economic considerations of both groups, then I suspect that the Kurds did not oppose the ISIS takeover of Baiji. Now both groups can get oil out from their respective oilfields near Kirkuk and Mosul. I suppose they could also refine it into lighter products as well, now that they control the refinery at Baiji.

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