Iraq’s cabinet on 19 February gave approval for its oil minister to sign a framework agreement to allow the proposed $10bn Iran-Syria gas pipeline to transit Iraqi territory. An initial deal was signed in July 2011, but the obstacles to realizing such a mega-project are formidable.

Clearly as things stand now, the project cannot progress. There is civil war raging in Syria and both Tehran and Damascus are currently sanctioned by western countries. This in effect means that it would be very difficult to find European buyers for the gas and even more difficult to ensure the financing of the project. In the long-term there are question marks over whether any future Iraqi government would be as pro-Iranian as the current one. Furthermore, there is the issue of popular sentiment in Iraq’s western Anbar province, through which the pipeline would have to pass. This has traditionally been strongly anti-Iranian. Finally, and most significantly there is the very strong likelihood that any future Syrian government, especially one led by the current rebels, might themselves be averse to taking Iranian gas on terms Tehran would accept, given the support the Islamic Republic has given President Bashar al-Asad during the revolt. (CONTINUED - 336 WORDS)