The Times: Iranian soldiers crossed the Iraqi border into disputed territory yesterday, and took control of an oilfield whose ownership has been in doubt since the end of the war between the two countries in the 1980s. The Times
Alice Fordham in Baghdad
Iranian soldiers crossed the Iraqi border into disputed territory yesterday, and took control of an oilfield whose ownership has been in doubt since the end of the war between the two countries in the 1980s.
“At 3:30 this afternoon, 11 Iranian [soldiers] infiltrated the Iran-Iraq border and took control of the oil well. They raised the Iranian flag, and they are still there until this moment,” said Ahmed Ali al Khafaji, Iraq’s Deputy Interior Minister.
The well is one of several in the Fakka oil field, which was part of a group offered to foreign investors in June, but no contract was awarded.
Jawad al Bolani, the Iraqi Interior Minister, made a televised statement declaring that “Iraq will not give up its oil wealth”.
The US played down the incursion into disputed territory, noting that such incidents were not unusual. “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 official in an operating base in southern Iraq said.
The Fakka oil field was tapped in the 1970s, but production stopped as the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War raged along the border. Since the war, negotiations have taken place as to its status between the two countries, but without success.
Iraq’s Oil Ministry last week awarded contracts to seven foreign conglomerates to develop oil and gas fields in the country. Iraq has the third largest known oil reserves in the world, but investors have been deterred in the past from exploiting fields where there are known security issues, including in Baghdad and Kirkuk.
Historically, Iraq has had a troubled relationship with Iran, after hundreds of thousands of soldiers from both countries died in the Iran-Iraq war.
But the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shia Muslim, is close to the leadership of Iran’s Shia regime, and cultivates friendly relations with its leaders.