Friday, March 23, 2007

Perspective: Protecting Iraq's oil supply

The frigate HMS Cornwall is on patrol as the lead ship of Combined Task Force 158, whose UN-backed mission is to protect Iraq's oil platforms and exports against pirates, smugglers, and terrorists.

The platforms are critical to the economic and political reconstruction of Iraq, the Ministry of Defence said yesterday. They pump out oil that accounts for 90% of the country's GDP. An attack in 2004 led to a two-day shutdown costing up to $28m (£14.2m), the MoD said. The knock-on effect was a spike on the world oil market, causing a further loss of some $6bn.

Sailors and Royal Marines operate with US and Australian ships and the Iraqi navy on security operations centred around the Khawr al Amaya and Al Basra oil terminals just south of the Al Faw peninsula, home to Iraq's largest port, Umm Qasr.

The northern Gulf is strategically and economically important for both Iran and Iraq, aggravating the genuine difficulties in marking boundaries. As the Cornwall's commanding officer Commodore Nick Lambert put it said yesterday: "The extent and definition of territorial waters in this part of the world is very complicated."

Read the rest at the Guardian