Saturday, February 27, 2010

The real reason Israel wants to bomb Iran? Outstanding legal judgement against Israel for long-ago oil business deal gone bad today worth billions

Inside Intel / The story of Iranian oil and Israeli pipes
(Haaretz) -- By Yossi Melman --

In recent months, Israel and Iran have been playing a game of cat-and-mouse. This is not the predictable game of intelligence, counter-espionage and field security. Such games have been taking place for years. Israel's intelligence community tries to obtain information about the development of Iran's nuclear program, and is preparing in case it has to attack Iran; while Iran tries frustrate these efforts.

But alongside this routine game, Israel and Iran are working feverishly in an entirely different area: Iran is trying to locate property and assets belonging to the Israeli government and three Israeli oil firms abroad, and Israel is trying to thwart it. This affair arises from an international arbitration that determined more than three years ago that the Paz, Sonol and Delek oil companies must compensate the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) hundreds of millions of dollars.

The three companies were government-owned in the 1970s, but since then have been privatized. The oil companies have appealed the arbitration decision and are trying to create a delay, and are succeeding for now. The NIOC has not yet succeeded in enforcing the ruling and in collecting the debt. Parallel to this appeal, legal proceedings are still continuing in another two arbitrations on similar issues.

All these legal proceedings have been taking place in Europe (in Switzerland and Holland) for more than 20 years, and are related to the activity of a legal entity called Trans-Asiatic Oil. This was a top-secret partnership that existed between the Israeli government and the NIOC during the period of the Shah. This partnership operated the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company, the oil terminals in Eilat and Ashkelon, and a large fleet of giant tankers for transporting oil. After the Shah was expelled from Iran and Khomeini came to power, in February 1979, the Islamic Republic cut off all ties with Israel and stopped shipping Iranian oil.

In 1985, the NIOC filed huge lawsuits (today worth several billion dollars) against Israel and the oil companies. The lawsuits were discussed in three separate arbitrations. The NIOC claims that Israel owes it huge sums for the partnership. Haaretz first reported on the Iranian victory in December 2006, and now Prof. Uri Bialer of Hebrew University in Jerusalem is publishing a study on the circumstances under which Trans-Asiatic Oil was established...MORE...LINK

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