In the summer of 2011, just weeks after the crisis broke out in Syria, the Tehran Times released a report entitled, Iran, Iraq, Syria Sign Major Gas Pipeline Deal.
The report provided details on how Iran planned to export its vast natural gas reserves to Europe through a pipeline that traversed both Iraq and Syria.
This Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline would be the largest gas pipeline in the Middle East and would span from Iran’s gas-rich South Pars field to the Mediterranean coastline in Lebanon, via Iraq and Syria. But the pipeline won’t stop there.
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The 6,000-kilometre pipeline, which has a massive price tag of $10 billion, will have an estimated capacity of 100-120 million cubic feet of gas per day, with a projected completion date sometime near 2018. As of this writing, the construction of this proposed pipeline has not begun and the question of who will finance the project has not been addressed.
However, in July 2013, leaders from Syria, Iran, and Iraq met to sign a preliminary agreement on the pipeline with the hopes of finalizing the deal by the end of the year. Like its Turkish neighbour, Syria’s geographic location on the Mediterranean Sea makes it an obvious export
For this reason, Syria’s strategic location, and its warm water port on the Mediterranean have placed it near the
The major players of this Western-approved pipeline include Saudi Arabia and Qatar, among other Gulf nations. Syrian President Assad has since rejected the Arab Gas Pipeline and has instead begun working closely with Iran on Iran’s proposed gas pipeline, dubbed the Islamic Pipeline. This proposed pipeline would obviously compete directly with the Arab Gas Pipeline and its goal of delivering Mideast natural gas to Europe.
Most Arabs view the Islamic Pipeline as a Shi’ite pipeline serving Shi’ite interests. After all, it originates in ‘Shi’ite Iran’, passes through ‘Shi’ite Iraq’, and flows into ‘Shi’ite controlled Syria’. Therefore, the Sunni-dominated Gulf nations have both an economic and to a lesser extent, a religious reason, for stopping the Islamic Pipeline from becoming a reality.
So far, the Gulf nations have violently opposed Syria’s adoption of the Islamic Pipeline by arming opposition fighters within Syria in order to destabilize the nation. While the ultimate goal is to topple the Assad regime, these hopes appear to be diminishing as Assad remains strong and defiant in the face of recent opposition.
Despite his firm grip on power, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad is opposed by many powerful actors within the Middle East, including Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. Al-Qaeda also strongly opposes the Assad government and has joined other rebel factions in an effort to overthrow Assad and to install a more Sunni-friendly (and perhaps more importantly, a Western-friendly) government