In the over two decades that an American-installed puppet ruled over Iran prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran and Israel maintained friendly ties. In 1968, the two countries set up a joint venture known as the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Co. (EAPC) to transport Iranian oil to the Mediterranean, primarily after Egypt blocked the Suez Canal. This move hindered Iranian oil exports at the time. Iran was already supplying Israel with the bulk of its oil prior to the formation of EAPC but did so secretly to avoid tension with the Arab world.
For about a decade, the pipeline carried Iranian oil from the Red Sea for export to Europe. Following the fall of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1979, the Iranian leadership has been demanding their share of revenue and assets that remained in Israel, no longer a country recognized by the Islamic Republic.
According to Business Insider, no one knows how much profit the EAPC has made or how much it is worth because it is protected in a similar way to Israel’s intelligence agencies through the use of gag orders. The source of its oil, while suspected to be mainly from former Soviet states, is also protected by the gag orders. Even Business Insider’s report states that the article had to pass through the military censor prior to publishing. However, we do know that the EAPC has reportedly become the largest distributor of oil in Israel with ambitions to become a major hub in the Mediterranean.
In 1994, Iran began pursuing an arbitration case against Israel, first in France and then in Switzerland. In 2016, the Swiss court handling the matter determined that the Israeli government owed Iran $260,000 for oil sent to Israel prior to the fall of the Shah in 1979 as part of a wider $1.2 billion owed to Iran (plus interest). Israel was also required to pay Iran’s legal fees of $208,000. Israel denied it was required to send money to an “enemy country,” but given that sanctions against Iran were supposed to have been lifted under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015, the Swiss Court also ruled there were no legal obstacles preventing Israel from sending payment to Iran.
Now, the EAPC will continue to operate secretly following an Israeli parliamentary committee ruling at the end of December. It is now known as the Europe Asia Pipeline Co. (EAPC-B), a company owned by the Israeli government. The gag order protecting the pipeline has been extended five more years, and breaches of the gag order can incur a 15-year jail sentence.
Israel’s ability to punish people who document its energy-related ambitions far exceeds the power of a domestic gag order. In July 2014, the Guardian published journalist Nafeez Ahmed’s blog, which claimed Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza at the time was rooted in a desire to control Palestinian gas. The Guardian axed his blog not long after and released the following statement:
“Nafeez Ahmed is a freelance journalist who self-published blog posts on our environment blogging network for just over a year as a regular contributor. He has never been on the staff of the Guardian. His Guardian blog – Earth Insight – was about the link between the environment and geopolitics, but we took the decision to end the blog when a number of his posts on a range of subjects strayed too far from this brief.”
As journalist Jonathan Cook explained, the Guardian’s motives were all too apparent:
“Interestingly, Ahmed’s article went viral, becoming the most shared of any of the paper’s stories on Operation Protective Shield. But readers appear to have had better news judgment than the Guardian’s editors. Rather than congratulate him, the Guardian effectively fired Ahmed, as he details in the link below. No one has suggested that there were errors in the story, and no correction has been appended to the article.”
Ahmed also wrote in the Guardian on a separate occasion detailing how the Syrian war was also similarly fueled by a natural gas pipeline dispute, which undoubtedly also affected Israel in its bid to become a major player in the gas industry.
Israel barely has enough energy resources of its own to maintain even 50 percent of its exports. In 2000, there was a discovery of 1.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas off the Gaza coast, valued at $4 billion. Israel also later made other monumental discoveries of gas in Syria and Lebanon, as well, two known adversaries of the Israeli government. Israel is eager to intervene in both countries (for completely unrelated reasons, of course).
Anyone who tells you that natural resources like oil and gas do not play into Israel’s regional ambitions is either lying to you or grossly misinformed. Israel is even reportedly attempting to revive a century-old railway to connect the country to the wider Middle East – including Saudi Arabia – with the intention of outmaneuvering Iran and creating a fully-fledged anti-Iran axis based solely on trade.
Clearly, Israel’s infatuation with Iran has little to do with baseless claims about Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons and everything to do with money and resources. Israel was happy to do business with a brutal Iranian dictator some decades ago, only to pretend to care about human rights now when Iranians take to the streets to protest an equally questionable regime.