Clogging the Funnel
Iraq has a very short coastline along the Gulf. Not surprising then that with the recent sabotage of a significant pipeline, this is enough to shut off the flow of oil.
How fast does oil get transported through a pipeline that hypothetically supplies 1 million barrels of crude per day (about 1/20 of the US daily consumption)?
It comes out to approximately 12 barrels of oil per second in flow rate. To compare this to a river's flow, which are usually measured in m3/sec, this is equivalent to 2 m3/sec. Note that this is a typical flow rate of a creek. And remember from nature films how a busy beaver can dam up a creek in short order? Well, that is what they are dealing with, in trying to protect the pipelines. Basically, monitoring a bunch of busy beavers spread out along 100's of miles of pipeline.