ANALYSIS: How Iran has its eyes set on Iraq oil

Iran, sensing the increasing international isolation, has long sketched the necessary blueprints to prevent a future already becoming very bleak. For decades Tehran has maintained this entire country and its vast oil reserves in its crosshairs.

Recent developments in Iraqi Kurdistan prove the Iranian regime’s devious intentions and should alert the international community. The government of Iraq, jockeying to maintain ties with both Washington and Tehran, has unprecedentedly agreed to redirect Kirkuk province’s crude to Iran.

This oil will be supplying a refinery located in the city of Kermanshah, close to the recently earthquake-struck region. This decision follows the retaking of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk from the Kurds in the notorious shadow of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani.

Own backyard

Iran has continuously fueled regional tensions across the board, launching parallel proxy wars in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen against the entire Arab World, with a main focus on Saudi Arabia. After Iran enjoyed 16 years of strategic mistakes and appeasement, the Trump administration has expressed major concerns and is taking major action against Tehran.

Iran is already receiving trucks of Iraqi oil, currently based at 15,000 barrels per day valued at around $1 million, with plans to escalate to 60,000 bpd, a Reuters report citing Iraqi officials indicates.

Considering it its own backyard, Iran has pressed Iraq over an oil pipeline project to ultimately export Kirkuk oil through Gulf ports. Tehran’s ultimate objective is to pump 650,000 bpd of Kurdish oil into refineries across Iran and for export purposes, the report adds citing a senior Iranian official.

Pipes are put in place as the land is cleared from ordnance and mines laid down during the Iraq-Iran war 1980-1988, in the massive Majnoon oil field, some 40 kms from the eastern border with Iran, on February 7, 2012, in southeastern Iraq. (AFP)

 

Feeding off Iraq

While the cover story may seem an ordinary economic agreement between two neighboring countries, Tehran cannot deny a malign past of seeking to take advantage of its crisis-riddled western neighbor.

In April 2012 the London-based International Centre for Development Studies confirmed concerns of Iran stealing large amounts of Iraqi oil. Iran’s efforts involved stealing an annual value of $17 billion worth of oil from fields considered mostly Iraqi and not shared between the two oil-exporting rivals, the report indicated.

Those fields enjoy a reserve of over 100 billion barrels, with the majority laying inside Iraq. Iran was taking an estimated 130,000 barrels of Iraqi oil per day, according to the report. The Iraqi oil fields of Dehloran, Naft Shahr, Beidar West, and Aban were the victims of this vast plundering.

The oil fields of al-Tayeb and Fakka, along with various sections of Majnoun, were also targets of Iranian misuse, adding another 250,000 bpd to the above figure.

Iran was stealing a whopping 14 percent of Iraqi oil revenue, depriving this war-ravaged nation of desperately needed funds that Tehran is likely to allocate to notorious belligerence across the region.

Fallen on deaf ears

Iran has also supported the Popular Mobilization Force (PMF), a conglomerate of mainly Shiite militia groups. This entity, following Iran’s IRGC paramilitary Bassij prototype, stands accused of smuggling oil from wells across to the country to Iran on a daily basis, according to an April 2017 report citing an Iraqi Oil Ministry source.

The Badr militia, Iraqi Hezbollah, Saraya al-Salam militias and al-Fadilah party militants have also gained significant control over the al-Basra and Maysan refineries and A’las, Oujeil and Hamrin oil wells in Salahuddin province of central Iraq. The Iraqi Oil Ministry has remained silent as PMF leaders have been smuggling hundreds of oil tankers to Iran on a daily basis, the source added.

Salahuddin Govenor Ahmed al-Jabouri’s efforts in urging Baghdad several times to protect A’las and Oujeil oil wells located east of Tikrit from such theft have fallen on deaf ears. On a daily basis dozens of oil tankers are stolen and smuggled through Tuz Khurmatu from these oil wells, the report adds.

The PMF was initially established in response to the attack staged by Islamic State terrorists. Their activities, however, have expanded to Iraq’s political affairs and the PMF also stand accused of flagrant human rights violations. To make matters even more complicated for Iran, Soleimani was spotted near the Iraq-Syria border alongside the PMF, making quite a stir in the media.

Fueling division

The entire history of Iran stealing Iraqi oil can be described as a chapter of Tehran’s silent growth of influence, especially during the years of Obama’s appeasement. Qassem Soleimani, running the IRGC’s international branch known as the Quds Force, is also known to be the right hand of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Alongside the military campaign he runs across the Middle East through Iran-backed proxy militias, Soleimani also has Iran’s oil business heavily on his mind. A September visit to Iraqi Kurdistan by Soleimani came prior to the Iraqi army’s recapture of Kirkuk, resulting from a rift in Kurdish forces leading to the city’s fall into Baghdad control.

“… the presence of Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, exacerbated tensions among the Kurds and the government in Baghdad,” US Senator John McCain said in Washington recently.

Iraqi porters sit on their carts as they wait for customers overlooking Iran bound oil tankers at the new Zurbatia checkpoint, 120 km southeast of Baghdad November 17, 2007. (Reuters)

 

Iran has since 2003 been known to fuel division across Iraq and Soleimani’s recent stop in Kurdistan came after a referendum that Iran vigorously opposed, and was followed suspiciously with Kirkuk’s sudden fall. “The recapture of Kirkuk was coordinated with Soleimani,” according to the abovementioned Reuters report.

This can lead to a conclusion that Iran, sensing harsh times ahead, is providing increasing control to the IRGC over the vital oil sector in its already troubled economy.

This may seem a flawed decision by Tehran considering the IRGC’s recent terrorist designation by Washington. Yet it also sheds light on Iran’s dependency on the IRGC to further advance domestic and regional policies.

Changing times

Iran will resort to further such desperate measures in the coming future, comprehending how the tide is changing drastically against its interests.

A possible agreement between the US and Russia over Syria following a recent meeting between President Donald Trump and his counterpart Vladimir Putin; the surprising resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his visit to Paris; France raising the tone against Iran’s ballistic missile program; and growing domestic unrest witnessed following the recent earthquake in western Iran are all tallying Tehran’s deepening concerns.

Conditions are shifting fast, and Tehran believes desperate times call for desperate measures. Vital now is for the international community to increase the velocity of restrictions damning this regime. With ISIS’s days of authority coming to an end Iraqi Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jubouri has called on Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to disband the PMF.

Sunday’s Arab Summit session in Cairo ended in a statement describing Iran as a “dangerous dagger”in the region, especially in its approach towards Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries.

“Ballistic missiles fired at Saudi Arabia have amounted to 76 rockets, all Iranian-made, and therefore we affirm our full solidarity with Saudi Arabia in everything it takes to protect its national security,” said Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit during the emergency meeting. The entity went as far as saying it will not declare war on Iran at this stage.

US President Donald Trump signaling future pressure on Iran’s oil exports, Congress passing a billaimed at blocking the sale of commercial aircraft to Tehran and the Bahrain Interior Ministry revealing further details of an Iran-linked terrorist cell are also further steps in this direction.

This is the nature of measures needed against Iran these days.

Make Iran Pay a Price for Regional Meddling

There is no doubt that the Middle East is in turmoil like never before. And this is highly due to the disastrous engagement/lead-from-behind policy adopted by the Obama administration, despite its claim it sought to lessen tensions.

Iran is taking advantage by expanding its sphere of influence through proxy groups in Iraq, propping the Assad regime in Syria by dispatching a conglomerate of militia shock troops and fueling the Yemen war by providing arms, money and logistical support to the Houthis. However, the days of Iran’s advances are numbered.

As the Trump administration continues to place its crosshairs on ISIS in Syria, Tehran is busy in a land-grab campaign, already thinking about the post-ISIS Levant. Iran has also through the years ordered its offspring, Lebanese Hezbollah, to dispatch thousands of its members to Syria.

Washington must come to understand more action is needed against Iran’s moves in Syria. Tehran is also seeking to raise the stakes for the US in the all-important region of southeastern Syria. A series of incidents all clearly indicate the escalating tensions on the ground and in the skies:

—         US fighter jets targeting Iran-backed militias nearing a base of America-backed forces in al-Tanf on the Syria-Iraq border,

—         US warplanes shooting down two Iranian-made drones and a Syrian Sukho-22 jet targeting allied Kurdish forces on the ground,

—        Iran launching medium-range ballistic missiles from its soil to Deir Ezzur in eastern Syria.

The most recent White House warning to Assad not to resort to a chemical attack raised the temperature even higher. It is obvious Assad would need permission from Iran and Russia for such a move. Thus Washington was sending an “on notice” message to Damascus, Tehran and Moscow.

Iran’s objective is clear: establishing a land corridor passing through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, and reaching the Mediterranean shores. On both sides of the Syria-Iraq border, Tehran has militia proxies seeking to push ISIS out of the region and prevent any US-backed forces, be it the Kurds and Sunni Arabs advancing upon Raqqa, or the Free Syrian Army in the southeast, from gaining any further foothold in Syria after the fall of ISIS.

Iran seeks full control over the Syria-Iraq-Jordan borders and will not tolerate any US presence in the area. Iran has also ordered Hezbollah to stretch its activities to Daraa in southern Syria close to the Israeli border.

While the Trump administration has taken unprecedented military action to protect its interests, White House statements explaining US-led coalition forces do “not seek to fight” Iran-backed forces will be viewed by Tehran as a window of opportunity to continue their belligerence in a highly-hostile flashpoint area.

And while we are here, Russia declaring a freeze on deconfliction agreements with the US is nothing but a bluff considering the fact that Moscow has already accomplished more than its expectations in Syria: fortifying a naval and air base, and establishing a major foothold in the Middle East after decades of absence.

It is high time for Washington to begin defining and taking steps in the direction of its broader post-ISIS Middle East policy. It is imperative to understand Iran’s threats will only further increase and the end of ISIS will not mean the end of violence or Tehran’s destructive meddling.

Iran’s actions in Iraq after 2003 should provide a very disturbing vision. Tehran dispatched its mullahs and flooded the country with money to launch “cultural centers.” This was the beginning of Iran spreading its tentacles and injecting its disparaging mentality to fuel sectarian wars that continue to haunt Iraq and wreak havoc in the country.

Shiite militias have been harassing the Sunni minority for over a decade as Tehran seeks to change the complete social fabric of Mesopotamia. The Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), known as the Hashid al-Sha’bi in Arabic, are a replica of the mullahs’ Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and Iran’s influence in Iraq has reached the point of this entity being legalized by the Iraqi Parliament.

As ISIS routed the classic Iraqi army thanks to the disastrous policies of former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Iran began justifying PMF presence in battles for Falluja, Ramadi, Salahaddin, Tikrit and now Mosul.

Firstly, it is a dire necessity for the US and its regional allies, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey and all Gulf Cooperation Council states, to quickly remedy the Qatar crisis and prevent Iran from taking advantage of such a rift.

Secondly, as ISIS is being eradicated, all attention must be focused on Iran and its devastating meddling in the region. One very imperative measure to curb Iran’s influence and bring an end to its reach across the region is for the US, European Union and Arab nations to designate the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization.

Finally, Sunni Arab states should be involved in rebuilding the devastated lands of Iraq, Syria and Yemen to prevent Iran from again taking advantage of such an initiative for its deceptive objectives.

Iran must come to learn that the days of meddling in the region without paying the price are over.

Iran’s latest terrorist plots

Iran is continuing its blatant belligerence against the international community, especially the Middle East, despite President Donald Trump and his administration threatening to take major action. During the past month alone Iran has test launched a number of ballistic missiles enjoying the capability of delivering a nuclear payload. This includes last weekend’s pair of ballistic missile launches.

Knowing its military capabilities are outdated and limited, Iran is resorting to a range of different terrorist measures in an attempt to maintain the leverage gained through the preposterous concessions they enjoyed during the Obama years.

The most recent scenario involves fast-attack vessels approaching a U.S. Navy surveillance ship in the Strait of Hormuz in a threatening manner described as “unsafe and unprofessional” in a recent statement.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, under major discussion in Washington to be designated as a foreign terrorist organization, has suffered a major blow after the discovery of a terrorist network in Bahrain. This unveils, yet again, further aspects of Iran’s unbridled meddling in the region.

The IRGC Bahrain network consists of 54 members focusing on planning and executing terrorist plots. To date, 25 such individuals have been arrested. These individuals were coordinating with Tehran to assassinate, terrorize, and target Bahrain security forces.

Following their raids, Bahrain authorities announced a significant cache of arms, explosives, and ammunition were also confiscated.

All individuals are reportedly Bahrain natives, further indicating the sophistication of Iran’s blueprints in using locals for such plots. Following their arrest, it was revealed the cells received support from both Iran and Lebanon, procuring arms or coordinates where such logistics were hidden. In the past weeks Bahrain witnessed two bomb blasts killing and injuring civilians, and most specifically, Shiite Muslims. This can be assumed as an attempt to instigate Shiite dissent in the small Gulf island.

It is crystal clear how the IRGC commanded this proxy group, as the individual calling the shots is currently in Iran. Other members of this group are even stationed in Iraq and directly involved in the attacks carried out in Bahrain.

Iran also has intentions to increase its use of suicidal drone boats in Yemen through the Houthi militias. The U.S. Navy command issued a recent warning over this threat against ships in the Red Sea. This warning follows a recent revelation of the Houthis obtaining drone boats in their attack against a Saudi Navy frigate.

Vice Adm. Kevin Donegan, commander of the Bahrain-based U.S. Fifth Fleet and head of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, accused Iran of supporting the Houthis in preparing such boats.

This new development can pose a major threat to shipping lines in strategic naval routes, Donegan said in an interview with Defense News, adding that terrorist groups can now obtain such lethal boats.

It is worth noting that the attack on the Saudi frigate Al-Madinah on January 30th was carried out with a remote-controlled drone suicide boat packed with explosives. This was the first such attack resembling actual suicide attacks in the past.

The U.S. has recently issued a warning that the Iran-backed Houthis and forces loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Salah are placing underwater mines in the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait passage near the entrance of Port Mokha.

The Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, narrowing to 25 kilometers in width at some points, is of grave importance for global shipping lines, providing access to the Red Sea, the Suez Canal, and the Mediterranean Sea. Much of the world’s oil and other goods are transferred through these very strategic waterways.

More than 60 ships containing commercial goods pass through the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait each day, carrying around 3.3 million barrels of crude oil. The U.S. Navy’s warning indicates the closing of such a crucial water passage can lead to major financial costs and a significant rise in global oil prices.

Further reports also indicate that Iran is having a tough time digesting a series of defeats suffered by the Houthis in Yemen. In response, Iran is weighing the possibility of dispatching Shiite militias from Iraq to Yemen, according to Khalij Online. As the fighting has decreased in Iraq, Tehran may dispatch units of the 140,000-strong Popular Mobilization Front, consisting of 54 different sectarian militia groups, to Yemen.

In an international scene undergoing drastic changes, all of them threatening Iran’s short and long-term interests, the mullahs in Tehran are desperately searching for a method to both keep a straight face and maintain their previous leverage across the Middle East.

Such developments gain even more importance as we inch closer to Iran’s presidential elections in May, when the regime in its entirety will face a major test.

Read more: http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2017/03/irans_latest_terrorist_plots.html#ixzz4auM5Tpth
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