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Dec 18th, 2009

Iranians Seize Iraqi Oil Well, Iraq Official Says

Baghdad in talks to decide next move with Tehran

Image: Al-Fakkah oil field
Gas is vented from the al-Fakkah oil field near Amara, Iraq, Dec. 8, 2009. Iraq said Iran had seized one oil well in the field. (Photo credit: Atef Hassan / Reuters)

Dec. 18, 2009

BAGHDAD — Iranian troops have crossed into Iraqi territory and seized an oil well that lies in a disputed area along the two countries’ southern border, Iraq’s deputy foreign minster said Friday.

The deputy minister, Mohammed Haj Mahmoud, said Iranian troops seized oil well No. 4 Thursday night in the al-Fakkah oil field, located about 200 miles southeast of Baghdad. The oil field is one of Iraq’s largest.

Oil prices rose slightly after news of the incident.

“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.

Such incidents have happened before along the Iran-Iraq border, which was never clearly delineated after the brutal war between the two countries in the 1980s. …

The deputy foreign minister said he did not know whether the Iranians were still in control of the oil well. The U.S. military said it did not have any information on the incident. …

According to Iraq’s state-run Iraqiya television, the National Security Council, headed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, was meeting Friday night to discuss the issue. …


Late update

Iranians Seize Iraqi Oil Well on Border, Iraq Says

Dec. 18, 2009

BAGHDAD — Iranian forces crossed into Iraq and seized an oil well just over the two countries’ disputed border, Iraq’s government said Friday, prompting a protest from Baghdad and providing a dramatic display of the sometimes tenuous relations between the wary allies.

The incident could trouble Iraq’s drive to attract the international investment needed to develop its beleaguered oil sector, analysts said, and it raised questions about the two countries’ ties, which had improved greatly after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

According to Iraq’s deputy foreign minister, Mohammed Haj Mahmoud, Iranian troops crossed into Iraqi territory on Thursday and seized oil well No. 4 in the al-Fakkah oil field, located in Maysan province about 200 miles southeast of Baghdad. The oil field is one of Iraq’s largest. …

Relations between the two countries have improved dramatically since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam, who in the ‘80s attacked Iran and started an almost decade-long war. Since Saddam’s ouster, however, both countries have had Shiite-led governments, a rarity in the mostly Sunni Middle East. …

Iranian soldiers carrying rifles seized the well Thursday night in a 25-car convoy and ordered the Iraqi workers to leave the area, according to a worker at the site who did not want to be identified for fear of retribution. The soldiers then mounted an Iranian flag inside the well, he said.

There were no reports of violence during the incident, and Iranian forces left the well on Friday, leaving the flag behind, the worker said. His account could not be immediately confirmed.

Analysts said it was too early to say whether the incident would mushroom into greater tension but said it could raise concerns with oil companies looking to invest in Iraq. Oil prices rose slightly after news of the incident. …


12/20/09 Update

Iraq says Iranian troops left disputed oil well (AP, Dec. 20, 2009) — A standoff between Iraq and Iran over a remote oil well ended peacefully Sunday as Iranian forces pulled back from the disputed site. … Full report



Car Bomb Near Central Baghdad Restaurant Kills 3


Suicide blast kills 3 in Baghdad (MSNBC, Dec. 18, 2009) — At least three people are dead after a suicide bomber exploded outside a popular restaurant in Baghdad.’s Dara Brown reports. (00:29)

Dec. 17, 2009

BAGHDAD — A car bomb exploded outside a popular restaurant in central Baghdad on Thursday night, killing three people and wounding 16 as diners were out enjoying the start to their weekend, police and hospital officials said.

The explosion happened around 7:10 p.m. outside the City Chef restaurant in the Karradah neighborhood. Diners were among those injured, police said. …

The attack happened just days after three car bombs were detonated across the Tigris River, outside the Green Zone, and a week after suicide bombers killed 127 and wounded more than 500 in Baghdad. …

At an hourlong news conference Wednesday, al-Maliki cited the continuing investigation of the Dec. 8 attacks. He said several security forces were involved in the probe.

He also appeared to say that some of the alleged plotters were connected to security forces, telling a news conference: “The investigation is continuing and different security bodies have played a role in revealing the involved net, which is a big one — 24 from a security body, 13 from another body and eight or nine from another one.” …

The prime minister is running for re-election in March on a campaign of restoring security in Iraq, but has recently come under criticism after a series of blasts targeting government institutions in downtown Baghdad. The attacks have called into question the government’s ability to protect itself and its citizens.


Pentagon: Insurgents Intercepted Spy Videos

By Pauline Jelinek

Dec. 17, 2009

WASHINGTON — Insurgents in Iraq have hacked into live video feeds from Predator drones, a key weapon in a Pentagon spy system that serves as the military’s eyes in the sky for surveillance and intelligence collection.

Though militants could see the video, there is no evidence they were able to jam the electronic signals from the unmanned aerial craft or take control of the vehicles, a senior defense official said Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence issues.

Obtaining the video feeds can provide insurgents with critical information about what the military may be targeting, including buildings, roads and other facilities. …

Full report


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — December 18, 2008

Iraq Coup d’État Foiled?

One-year retrospective: One year ago today, I reported that at least 25 Iraqi interior ministry officials had been arrested, including several accused of planning a coup; that the Iraqi government accused U.S. forces of killing at least three Trade Ministry employees in a pre-dawn raid on ministry property in Baghdad; and that attackers shot and beheaded Nahla Hussein al-Shaly, 37, leader of the women’s league of the Kurdish Communist Party, reportedly because she promoted women’s rights in Iraq.

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