A worker checks pipelines at Kirkuk's Bai Hassan oil field after control of the site was taken by Iraqi forces in October. File photo: AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Security concerns have caused Iranian officials to delay the implementation of a deal to truck crude oil from Kirkuk to Iran, the head of the Iran-Iraq Chamber of Commerce announced on Monday.
The delay comes a day after a suicide bomber targeted a Hashd al-Shaabi office in Kirkuk and after ISIS killed two police officers at an oilfield in the province on Saturday.
“A large number of ISIS terrorists attacked a post of the oil police force near well 43 in the Khabbaz oilfield, killing two and wounding a third,” a security source told AFP.
Iraq initially announced the deal with Iran in November 2017, negotiated by Iraq’s State Organization for Marketing of Oil (SOMO), to export 30,000 barrels per day to Iran’s Kermanshah province.
Under the deal, Iraq will receive the same amount of refined oil from Iran through its southern borders.
Iraqi Oil Minister Jabar al-Luaibi said last month he expected the plan to begin by the end of January. However, owing to ongoing security concerns, the plan has still not been fully implemented.
“Iran is facing some problems to implement the agreement due to security issues,” said Hamid Hosseini, the Iranian secretary-general of the Iran-Iraq Chamber of Commerce.
“Iran does not have X-ray machines to scan the trucks coming from Iraq,” Hosseini was quoted as saying by ISNA news agency.
Iran is in talks with Iraq to use their X-ray facilities, he added.
The oil-rich Kirkuk province came under Iraqi federal control in October 2017 when Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitaries in Iraq and the Iraqi army gained control of the city and its oil fields.
Shortly thereafter, British Petroleum (BP) began to work in Kirkuk’s oilfields. BP had tried to operate in Kirkuk in 2003, but stopped after the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said operations must take place in coordination with Erbil given the legal status of the province.
With the loss of the oil fields, the Kurdistan Region can no longer export Kirkuk’s oil to global markets through a pipeline that terminates at the Turkish port of Ceyhan.
There are ambitions to build a new pipeline directly linking Kirkuk with Iran. If it goes ahead, it would end the reliance on the road route and Turkish pipeline.
KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani has said the regional government’s revenues “have been slashed by half” since the loss of oil-fields in Kirkuk.