Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UPI) Dec 1, 2010
The United Arab Emirates has completed a pipeline from its main oil fields in Abu Dhabi to Fujairah on the Gulf of Oman, thus bypassing the chokepoint Strait of Hormuz, a vital oil export route highly vulnerable to closure by Iran.
The 230-mile pipeline, and the opening of a new naval base in Fujairah Oct. 20, is seen as part of a strategic effort by the Gulf Arab states to ensure global oil supplies if hostilities erupt with the Islamic Republic.
The pipeline, built by the International Petroleum Investment Co., is expected to become operational within the next few weeks.
Its initial capacity will be 1.5 million barrels a day from Abu Dhabi's Habshan oil fields, more than half the emirate's daily output, eventually rising to 1.8 million bpd, IPIC says.
Abu Dhabi, the oil-rich emirate that dominates the Gulf federation's economy, exports about 2 million barrels of oil daily. In 2009 it shipped crude worth $70 billion through the strait.
The emirate also plans to construct a new oil refinery at Fujairah with a capacity of handling 500,000 barrels a day.
That facility, built in conjunction with ConocoPhillips of the United States, would make the huge oil export complex an important Iranian target if war broke out.
The United Arab Emirates is building up its naval forces to counter Iran's threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, the only gateway to the Gulf. Tehran has threatened to close the narrow, horseshoe-shaped waterway if Iran is attacked.
The United Arab Emirates navy, second only to Saudi Arabia's in the Gulf, is expected to take delivery of the first of two Faraj 2-class corvettes built by Fincantieri of Italy early in 2011, with an option for two more.
Fincantieri is also building two Abu Dhabi-class anti-submarine frigates, to counter Iran's submarine force, for the emirates navy, with an option for two more.
Meantime, the first of six Baynunah-class corvettes designed by France's Constructions Mecaniques de Normandie is currently undergoing sea trial. The other five will be built by Abu Dhabi Ship Building.
If the emirate continues with its current procurement strategy, it will have the most powerful naval force in the Gulf by the middle of the decade, with protection of energy assets a primary task.
Keeping the Strait of Hormuz open will be part of that mission.
The naval base in Fujairah "will give the emirates more capabilities to protect its economic zone and its strategic facilities, the port down there which will be a major point of export for oil and gas," said Riad Khawaji, director of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai.
Tehran has threatened several times to close the strait if the United States or Israel launches pre-emptive attacks against Iran's nuclear facilities.
This could be done by sinking large ships to block the waterway, in airstrikes or missile attacks, or by closing it with sea mines.
On a typical day, around 15 tankers carrying up to 17 million barrels of oil and oil products, along with dozens of freighters, pass through the strait -- two-fifths of the world's oil supply.
This comprises most of the oil, and liquefied natural gas, exported by Saudi Arabia, the emirates, Qatar and Kuwait, as well as Iran and those from southern Iraq.
Now there is a new threat. On July 28, a Japanese tanker, the M. Star, carrying oil from Ruwais in Abu Dhabi, was hit by a small boat containing explosives. The tanker was damaged near the bow but stayed afloat.
A group calling itself the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, purportedly linked to al-Qaida, claimed the attack and said it was carried out by a suicide bomber.
On Nov. 26 the U.S. Department of Transportation concluded the tanker had been damaged in a failed bombing.
It warned that the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, named after Osama bin Laden's Palestinian mentor in Afghanistan in the 1980s, "remains active and can conduct further attacks on vessels in areas in the Strait of Hormuz, the southern Arabian Gulf and the western Gulf of Oman."
The Gulf holds 55 percent of the world's known oil reserves. So a prolonged closure of the 112-mile strait, whose eastern shore is controlled by Iran, would send oil prices soaring.
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Nigerian troops attack camps, rebels say scores killed
Lagos (AFP) Dec 1, 2010
Nigeria's military said it had raided three camps run by suspected rebels in the southern Delta State on Wednesday in an attack that a militant group said had left more than 100 people dead. "We have not taken a casualty count from the operation yet in the three camps," Colonel Timothy Antigha, a spokesman for the military's Joint Task Force, told AFP. "An unspecified number of people ma ... read more
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