Hard to tell what this is all about or where it might be headed, but….
BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iranian soldiers have crossed into Iraqi territory and taken up position at a southern oilfield whose ownership is disputed by Iran, an Iraqi official said on Friday. Deputy Interior Minister Ahmed Ali al-Khafaji, reversing statements made earlier in the day, said the incursion on Friday was the latest in a series this week.
“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,” he told Reuters.
He said the Iraqi government had taken no military action but stressed it would seek a measured, diplomatic response to the situation. “We are awaiting orders from our leader.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, oil prices have spiked as a result. “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 U.S. military spokesman told AFP.
Bloomberg reports confirmation from an Iraqi military official, Border Guard General Zafer Nazmi:
The Iranian forces positioned tanks around the well, which is in the al-Fakah region, 450 kilometers (280 miles) south of Baghdad. The two neighbors have disputed the border of southeast Iraq for decades.
“They positioned tanks around it and dug trenches,” General Nazmi said by phone from Basra. “They are still there, they raised the flag.”
Iran’s leadership may be feeling so much heat internally from the continued protests that they’re looking to pick a fight with outsiders as a distraction. Just conjecture though. Stay tuned….
UPDATE, 11:35: Iraqi officials seem to taking this in stride in so far.
“We are coordinating with the Oil Ministry regarding this issue. This is not the first time that the Iranians have tried to prevent Iraqis from investing in oil fields in border areas. Tomorrow, we might summon the Iranian ambassador to discuss this issue,” Mahmoud told The Associated Press.
The al-Fakkah field is considered a shared field between Iran and Iraq, meaning both nations are able to pump oil from it, but the Iraqis consider oil well No. 4 theirs.
In Washington, a U.S. official said that although Iranians have crossed the border before, they had not previously ventured this far.
Iraqi security forces were in the area, but there are no reports of any fighting or that any shots were fired, he said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.
No U.S. troops were in the area. And the Iranians are believed to have left the area, he said.