Iraqi forces will soon begin a plan to secure border areas near Iran in order to develop an oil export route to its neighboring country, according to a new report by Kurdistan24.
A pair of anonymous Iraqi officials told Reuters that the plan to strengthen Baghdad’s presence in the Hamrin mountain range, between Kirkuk’s oil fields and the border Iranian town of Khanaqin, will begin this week. The “White Flag” militia, composed of Sunni fighters fighting the Iraqi government, is rumored to have a base there, Kurdistan24 said.
Iraqi oil minister Jabbar al-Luiebi said earlier this month that the country will start exporting oil to Iran from its northern Kirkuk oil fields by the end of January. About 30,000 barrels per day will be trucked to Iran’s Kermanshah refinery in the first set of shipments.
Shipments of oil from Kirkuk has been halted since Iraqi forces took back control of the oil fields from Kurdish forces in October, following the regional government’s independence referendum that Baghdad rejected. Kurdish forces had seized the oil fields during the military campaign that drove Islamic State militants from the area. Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), disapproves of shipping Kirkuk’s oil to Iran because it undermines its authority in the region.
Oil from the fields around Kirkuk was shipped to the Turkish port of Ceyhan via a pipeline owned and operated by the Kurdistan Regional Government. However, after the September independence referendum in Kurdistan, Iraqi troops took control of disputed Kirkuk, which falls outside of the autonomous region’s boundaries, and the surrounding fields. Iraq wants to build a new pipeline to replace an old and damaged section of the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline, which crosses the border with Turkey in the Fish-Khabur area.