Syria: Assad “Lifeline” of Iraqi Oil From Egypt on Iran’s Tankers

By Scott Lucas – EAworldview – 24-12-2013 – Reuters reported on Monday that the Assad regime, desperately needing oil, received substantial imports of Iraqi crude from an Egyptian port between March and May.

Amid Western sanctions, Iran has been the Syrian regime’s most prominent saviour, sending oil under a $3.6 billion line of credit extended in July. Citing shipping and trade documents, two sources, and satellite tanker tracking data, Reuters claims at least four shipments by four tankers — operated by the National Iranian Tanker Company — carrying Iraqi oil from Egypt’s Mediterranean port of Sidi Kerir to Syria. The four tankers have all been renamed in recent few years and were flying Tanzanian flags when they loaded in Egypt.

Documents show that the Lebanon-based trading firm Overseas Petroleum Trading invoiced Syria for arranging at least two of the shipments and was involved in a third, while an Egypt-based firm, Tri-Ocean Energy, was responsible for loading Iraqi oil into at least one. OPT supposedly arranged the shipments with Syria’s State oil company, Sytrol, invoicing it for almost $250 million for the two deliveries of Iraqi crude to the Baniyas refinery. Sytrol used Ayman Jaber, a businessman close to Assad as the intermediary to transfer money to OPT, according to the documents. Jaber is on US and European Union sanctions blacklists. Both OPT and Tri-Ocean deny any role in the shipments. There was no evidence of involvement by either the Iraqi or Egyptian Governments.

Syria imported up to 17 million barrels of crude oil between February and October, of which roughly half came directly from Iran and half from Egypt’s Sidi Kerir port, according to the Middle Eastern shipping source.