Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) have been granted a highly profitable gift by Iraqi Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi, as their reward for planning and executing the seizure of Kirkuk and its oil fields from the Kurdish Republican Government on Oct. 4. DEBKA Weekly’s Middle East sources disclose that the Guards have been awarded control of a new pipeline to be laid for diverting the oil of Kirkuk from next-door Turkey to the Gulf port of Bandar Abbas, a distance of more than 1,700km. Baghdad and Tehran are planning to pump one million barrels of oil per day through the projected pipeline.
The Guards will not only administer the new pipeline but also pocket its revenues. But over and above this financial reward, Iran will net three strategic gains from its role in bringing Iraq’s Kurds to heel and commandeering their oil fields:
- The United States will lose its stake in Kurdish oil resources – and therefore its clout for brokering a deal between Baghdad and Irbil for the sharing out of income from Kirkuk oil exports. The US mediation effort is still ongoing.
- The new pipeline will divert Kirkuk oil from its outlet to Turkey and the Mediterranean and cut Ankara out of its involvement in Iraq’s oil trade.
- Israel will lose the oil supplies from Kurdistan which it received through the Turkish pipeline.
Iraq’s oil minister Jabbar al-Luaybi was clear about Baghdad’s intentions in comments he made on Monday, Nov. 13.
When the new pipeline is constructed, “Iraq aims to double the output of oil fields in the northern province of Krikuk retaken from the KRG to one billion barrels per day.” He said. “The priority meanwhile is to resume oil exports from Kirkuk through the Iraqi-Turkish pipeline once it has been rehabilitated – or replaced by a new one,” he said. ”For now, 30,000 bpd will be shipped to Iran on tanker trucks… and meanwhile, the sides will take measures to construct a pipeline to transfer the oil to Iran.”
Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh added details. He called the transaction with Iraq an oil swap. Until the new pipeline was laid, he said “Kirkuk oil would be carried by road tankers to refineries in northern and northwestern Iran, including Arak, Kermanshah, Tehran and Tabriz. In return, Iran will deliver the same amount of oil to Iraq through its southern borders.” The figure could reach 60,000 bpd.
Iran is therefore the big beneficiary from its Iraqi Shiite proxies’ lead role, under Iranian command, in the military defeat of Iraqi Kurdistan. Meanwhile Iraq and Iran are building on this breakthrough to strengthen their ties through oil deals for mutual interdependence.
Oil trade sources estimate that the first oil to be trucked across the border from Kirkuk to Iran in the coming days will deliver 15,000 barrels per day, worth nearly $1 million, and gradually rise to 60,000 bpd.
They also reveal that, ten months ago, the Iraqi and Iranian oil ministers secretly signed a memorandum for Kirkuk oil to be piped to the two Iranian ports of Bandar Abbas and Bandar Imam Khomeini – the first on the southern coast near the Strait of Hormuz and the second in the northern part of the Persian Gulf near the Iraqi border and Kuwait. Crude would be exported from the two ports to Asia, either with one stopover at Fujairah in the UAE or at other emirate ports.