Despite the fall of the regime of President Saddam Hussein,
Syria continues to receive hundreds of thousands of barrels of free oil from
Western intelligence sources said the Iraqi-Syrian oil pipeline
continues to operate amid the fall of Baghdad and coalition operations in
the north. The sources said the pipeline from the Iraqi city of Kirkuk to
the Syrian port of Banyas pumps about 250,000 barrels of oil a day.
"As of Monday, there's been no change in the pipeline and it is running
as usual," a senior intelligence source said.
Last week, the Kuwaiti Al Rai Al Aam daily reported that U.S. forces
bombed the pipeline and terminated Iraqi oil supplies to Syria. U.S.
officials have refused to confirm the report, although they acknowledged
coalition air strikes on Iraqi targets near the Syrian border.
On Thursday, U.S. officials reported that a force of American special
operations forces and Kurdish fighters have reached the oil fields around
the northern city of Kirkuk. They said the oil fields had not been sabotaged
by the Saddam regime.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Wednesday that the northern
oil fields, which have some 40 percent of Iraq's oil wealth, have probably
been wired for destruction by the Saddam regime. Rumsfeld also warned Syria
to halt the supply of Russian-origin weapons to Iraq's military.
But U.S. officials said President George Bush has reassured Arab and
Middle East regimes that Washington does not plan to expand the current war
in Iraq to include Syria or Iran. Iran and Syria are now regarded as the
leading developers of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.
"We believe that all of these nations Ñ Syria, Iran, others Ñ should
realize that pursuing weapons of mass destruction, supporting terrorist
activities, is not in their interest," U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell
told The Los Angeles Times in an interview on Thursday. "That doesn't mean
that war is coming to them. It just means that the world is changing."