Iranian Forces Seize Iraq Oil Well

CNN just sent out a Breaking News alert about an incident on the Iran-Iraq border.

An Iraqi worker walks at the Halfaya oil field near the southern city of Amara on December 12. Iranian forces have taken control of a southern Iraqi oil well on a disputed section of the border, US and Iraqi officials have told AFP. (AFP/Essam al-Sudani)

An Iraqi worker walks at the Halfaya oil field near the southern city of Amara on December 12. Iranian forces have taken control of a southern Iraqi oil well on a disputed section of the border, US and Iraqi officials have told AFP. (AFP/Essam al-Sudani)

Iranian forces took control of a southern Iraqi oil well on a disputed section of the border on Friday, US and Iraqi officials told AFP.

“There has been no violence related to this incident and we trust this will be resolved through peaceful diplomacy between the governments of Iraq and Iran,” a US military spokesman told AFP at Contingency Operating Base Adder, just outside the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah. “The oil field is in disputed territory in between Iranian and Iraqi border forts,” he said, adding that such incidents occur quite frequently.

An official of the state-owned South Oil Co in the southeastern city of Amara, and west of the field, said: “An Iranian force arrived at the field early this morning (Friday). “It took control of Well 4 and raised the Iranian flag even though the well lies in Iraqi territory,” the official added. “An oil ministry delegation is to travel to the area on Saturday to assess the situation.”

The national security council was due to hold an emergency meeting on Friday chaired by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, Iraqi state television said quoting the minister of state for national security, Shirwan al-Waili. The council also groups the ministers of interior, defence, foreign affairs, justice and finance.

This is a bizarre development, which naturally raises concerns with American troops on the hook for Iraqi security. But, apparently, this is rather routine.

The field is about 500 metres (yards) from an Iranian border fort and about 1 kilometre from an Iraqi border fort, US Colonel Peter Newell said, adding that it falls on the Iraqi side of a border agreed between the two countries. There are five other similar fields that also fall into disputed territory, he said.

“What happens is, periodically, about every three or four months, the oil ministry guys from Iraq will go … to fix something or do some maintenance. They’ll paint it in Iraqi colours and throw an Iraqi flag up. “They’ll hang out there for a while, until they get tired, and as soon as they go away, the Iranians come down the hill and paint it Iranian colours and raise an Iranian flag. It happened about three months ago and it will probably happen again.” He added that the Iraqis are “very concerned about the Iranians pulling oil out of fields underneath Iraq.”

Readers over a certain age will recall that the Iraqis used a “disputed” oil field as justification for invading Kuwait in 1990, sparking the U.S. to launch what would become Operation Desert Shield and then Operation Desert Storm.    That led, of course, to a whole series of other Operations (Provide Comfort, Southern Watch, Northern Watch, and Desert Fox just off the top of my head) that ultimately coalesced into the 2003 invasion called Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. mpw280 says:

    Mullahs felling their big swinging balls after their latest missle test? They actually believing their Rev Guard advisors that they are the strongest cats in their little corner of hell? Good luck with that, it should take about 20 minutes to teach them a little lesson about missile defense and missile offence as well as something called air superiority which Iran is woefully short of in both pilots and airframes. mpw

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    I didn’t post on this for the very reason you cite: this is a lot more routine than the headline might lead you to believe. Unless something else materializes there’s not really much to see here.

  3. davod says:

    Normal, unless the Mullahs are looking for something to take the protestors minds off them.