Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat – Sources in Iraq’s Border Security force confirmed that four armed clashes have taken place along the border between Iranian and Iraqi security personnel after the Iraqis sent Ministry of Oil staff to inspect the joint Iranian-Iraqi oil wells.
However, the Iraqi Ministry of Oil denied that any clashes had taken place, and confirmed that the Iraqis have utilized a number of the joint Iraqi-Iranian oil fields for months without any problems arising between the two countries.
The report issued by the Iraqi Oil Ministry confirmed that one of the reasons for the decrease in Iraqi oil production is that the oil fields along the border with Iran are not being utilized by Iraq, and instead these oil fields are being used by neighbouring countries. This report – a copy of which was obtained by Asharq Al-Awsat – revealed that Iraq has three oil fields on the border with Iran that are in a state of advanced production, seven oil fields that have been drilled, and eleven oil fields which have been discovered by seismic surveying but are yet to be drilled.
The report also revealed that the previous policy of conflict with the neighbouring countries had a negative impact on oil production in Iraq, and that the neighbouring countries have done everything that they can to invest in oil production, intensifying their activities regarding exploration, drilling, and oil production particularly in the operational oil fields in the south, such as the Ratqah, Safwan, Abu Gharb, and Al Fakkah oil fields. Kuwait has also developed a new oil field in Ratqa. Iranians fired upon and arrested [Iraqi] Maysan Oil Company staff that were carrying out maintenance operations in the areas of Al Fakkah, Bazargan, and on other joint oil fields.
A source from the border patrol revealed that the border police along with the security force of the Iraqi oil installations clashed with Iranian forces after the Iranians took control of an oil field on the outskirts of Basra; this is the fourth oil field to be claimed by the Iranians.
Ali Hussein Balou, the chairman of the Iraqi Parliamentary Oil and Gas Committee, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that border clashes between Iran and Iraq have taken place over the past six years over the joint oil fields. Balou said that these clashes included the Iranians firing on Iraqi Ministry of Oil staff and members of the Iraqi Border Patrol. Balou also pointed out that Iraqi Ministry of Oil, Hussein Shahristani, had justified these clashes before parliament by saying that the borders between the two countries had not been formalized, saying that this was the reason that Iranian forces were able to transgress onto Iraqi soil and prevent Iraqi Ministry of Oil staff from performing their duties.
Balou called for the formalization of the Iraqi-Iranian border, and also called for the Oil Ministry to prioritize the joint oil fields and open discussions with the Iran and Kuwait in order to determine the rights of all parties involved. However, according to Balou, the Oil Ministry has failed in this regard.
For his part, Iraqi Oil Ministry spokesman Isam Jihad denied the existence of any border problems with Iran with regards to the joint oil fields. Jihad also confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the statements made by the border patrol and the members of parliament are “incorrect.” He said, “I personally made inquiries to the Director of the Maysan Oil Company on the existence of such [border] conflict and he denied this. Even if problems arose between the border forces, these are actions taken by individuals and have nothing to do with the [oil] wells.”