Friday, August 13, 2010

Iraq’s Northern Pipeline Attacked Again In Turkey

Iraq’s northern pipeline that travels through Turkey is becoming a favorite target of insurgents and oil smugglers on both sides of the Iraq-Turkey border. In the last four months it has been attacked and tapped six times.

The latest incident was on August 8, 2010 when members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) blew up a section in southeastern Turkey. The attack killed two civilian bystanders and halted the flow of oil for around four days. On July 3, the PKK bombed the line as well, which also resulted in it shutting down. 

In June and April, Iraqi insurgents and oil smugglers also targeted the pipeline. On April 22 there was an attack on the line in Ninewa that halted the flow of petroleum for 5-6 days and help up 200,000 barrels of oil. The incident cost $30 million in repairs and lost revenues. In June, a bomb hit the pipeline in Salahaddin causing it to shut down for another five days, smugglers tapped into it in Tamim, and on the 29th another bomb went off in Baghdad with just minor damage that time. 

These were the first attacks upon Iraqi and Turkish oil infrastructure in years. The April and June incidents marked the first times that the Pipeline Exclusion Zone, which protects most of the northern line, was penetrated since its completion in the fall of 2007. Until then the line was largely out of commission due to insurgent activity. Today it carries around 25% of Iraq’s oil exports. In July for example, an average of 374,000 barrels flowed through the line per day, compared to 1.436 million barrels per day in the south. On the Turkish side, negotiations between Ankara and the PKK halted fighting for over a year. Those talks recently broke down and PKK fighters have returned to the field. In both cases, insurgents are looking for targets of opportunity to undermine their governments. In Iraq, petroleum is the main source of revenue, and militants have obviously found a way to penetrate the Exclusion Zone or found areas unprotected by it. Carrying out operations in the rural areas where the pipeline travels through are also safer for insurgents since there are fewer soldiers and police around. Attacks upon the northern line are likely to continue until the Iraqi forces find out a way to counter them, and the insurgents move on to something else.

SOURCES

Agence France Presse, “Iraqi oil flow resumes after fire,” 8/12/10

Alsumaria, “Blast hits oil pipeline on Iraq borders,” 8/11/10

Hafidh, Hassan, “Iraq July Oil Exports -0.16% On Month At 1.820 Million B/D – Official,” Dow Jones 8/9/10

Reuters, “PKK bombs Iraq-Turkey pipeline,” 7/4/10

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress,” 7/30/10

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