PMF deputy head Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis meets with Iraqi oil minister Jabbar al-Luaibi on Monday. Photo: Hashd media office
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) claim they will play a greater role in maintaining the security of Kirkuk's oil fields, while Baghdad has announced plans to boost production in the disputed province.
Hashd media reported deputy commander of the PMF Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis met with Iraqi Oil Minister Jabbar al-Luaibi to discuss "the mechanism of protection of the oil wells in the province of Kirkuk... and the needed provisions..."
Luaibi and Muhandis also discussed "strengthening cooperation between the PMF and security forces to protect oil wells and facilities."
There was no confirmation of the talks on Monday from the Iraqi oil ministry, although the Hashd media posted a photo of the meeting.
Iraqi forces are currently working to secure the route for the Kirkuk pipeline that Baghdad plans to rehabilitate in order to export oil via Turkey.
Maj. Gen. Ali Fazil Omran, commander of the Iraqi Tigris Operation whose forces entered Kirkuk on October 16, said in a statement on Monday that his forces are carrying out an extensive operation through Hawija and the Hamrin mountains. They have so far cleared 152 explosive devices as they work to secure the pipeline route.
Luaibi announced on Monday that Iraq plans to double Kirkuk’s oil exports to 1 million barrels per day (bpd).
“The priority is to resume oil exports from Kirkuk through the Iraqi-Turkish pipeline once it has been rehabilitated or replaced by a new one,” Luaibi said during a visit to Kirkuk’s oil fields.
British oil giant BP may possibly assist in boosting Kirkuk’s output, he added while standing beside Rakan Ali al-Jabouri, who was appointed Kirkuk's governor by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in October.
At the moment, Iraq is exporting 30,000 bpd via tanker to Iran.
The oil ministry announced a preliminary trade deal with Iran last week to send some of Kirkuk's oil to Kermanshah by truck in exchange for imports into Iraq's southern provinces.
The province is one of many Kurdistani or disputed provinces claimed by both the KRG and Baghdad.
The PMF, whose largest faction is the Hashd al-Shaabi, includes brigades of Iran-backed Shiite militias from Iraq. They along with traditional Iraqi army forces entered Kirkuk province in October and took federal control from forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
In the years after the 2003 US-led invasion, Muhandis led the Hezbollah Brigades. Muhandis is designated a “terrorist” by the United States for his membership in Hezbollah and targeting of US, Coalition and Iraqi forces in 2009.
His real name is Jamal Jaafar Ibrahim, but he’s better known by his nom de guerre.
When the ISIS attacked Iraq in 2014, Muhandis was one of the first Shiite figures to call for arms against the group and invited veteran militiamen and jihadis to visit his office in Baghdad to form a front.
Muhandis is often seen with the Iranian general Qassem Soleimani who heads the Quds force and is an advisor to the PMF.
A member of the Daawa party since the 1970s, Muhandis, would like to form an Iraqi version of the Iranian Quds, the Wall Street Journal detailed in a 2016 article.
“From the beginning the Islamic revolution was his motivation” WSJ quoted Iraq’s former national security advisor Mofaq al-Rubaiyee as saying.