Iraq fixes northern export pipeline
The pipeline is the only route to market from Iraq's norther oilfields
Iraqi engineers are at last fixing the country’s main pipeline to Turkey after it was shut down for nearly three months in attacks by a rebelcell, causing a total collapse in exports from northern oil fields worth billions of dollars, according to Reuters.
Iraqi officials say repair crews finally reached the pipe this week, a month after forces killed the leader of a reberl group blamed for repeatedly blowing it up and attacking engineers sent to fix it.
Reopening the pipeline - and keeping it open - are among the biggest challenges facing Iraq's government, five months into a new war with insurgents who have seized control of cities in the west and countryside in the north.
Government officials blame oil smugglers and corrupt local security officers for helping fighters close the pipeline, costing the government at least $3 billion so far this year.
But they say that the arrival of new commandos in the north has improved the situation, allowing repair crews to safely reach the pipeline at last.
"Security is better now and we managed to reach some damaged sections of the pipeline on May 19," said an oil official in Mosul. Multiple teams were being sent out to repair 30 breaches along the pipeline.
"If all goes as planned, we will finish repairs in 10-15 days from May 20," the official said.
The pipeline to the Turkish port of Ceyhan is the only route to market for most of the oil produced in Iraq's northern fields. It has been repeatedly attacked throughout years of conflict, but the stoppage since March is the longest time it has been off-line since the days of sanctions in the 1990s.
The pipeline route has already been bombed 50 times this year, nearly equal to the 54 attacks in all of 2013.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki dismissed a 300-man local security unit in March and sent an 800-strong unit from the south to replace them.
On April 17 the newly-arrived commandos killed the local ISIL leader in a three-hour gun battle when they surrounded his hideout in Nineveh province northwest of Mosul, based on a tip from an informant. Twelve soldiers and eight insurgents died in the shootout.
"Eliminating the group’s leader has contributed remarkably to further weakening terrorist groups in Ain al-Jahash," said a military intelligence general at the Nineveh military command, referring to insurgent-infested badlands known in English as Donkey Springs, where the pipe crosses the desert.