By John Lee.

Private investors from Iraq and Turkey have reportedly held preliminary negotiations with Iran to expand and modernize its fuel stations.

According to a report from Petrol Plaza, there are 3,600 fuel stations and 2,400 compressed natural gas (CNG) stations in Iran which need renovation and investment.

To date, more than 250 state-controlled fuel stations have been privatized in the country.

(Source: Petrol Plaza)

(Picture credit: Asadi S)

Iraqi Oil Minister Jabar Ali al-Luaibi [Allibi, Luiebi] said on Sunday that a deal signed with Tehran to swap up to 60,000 barrels per day of crude produced from the northern Iraqi Kirkuk oilfield for Iranian oil is for one year.

This is an agreement for one year and then we will see after that whether to renew it,” Luaibi told reporters in Kuwait City on the sidelines of an Arab oil ministerial meeting, Reuters reported.

The agreement signed on Friday by the two OPEC countries provides for Iran to deliver to Iraq’s southern ports “oil of the same characteristics and in the same quantities” as those it would receive from Kirkuk.

The deal in effect allows Iraq to resume sales of Kirkuk crude, which have been halted since Iraqi forces took back control of the fields from the Kurds in October.

Between 30,000 and 60,000 bpd of Kirkuk crude will be delivered by tanker trucks to the border area of Kermanshah, where Iran has a refinery.

The two countries are planning to build a pipeline to carry the oil from Kirkuk, so as to avoid trucking the crude.

The pipeline could replace the existing export route from Kirkuk via Turkey and the Mediterranean by pipeline.

(Sources: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence; Iraqi Ministry of Oil)

A top Iranian energy official unveiled plans for a rise in natural gas exports to neighboring Iraq next year.

In an interview with Tasnim on Saturday, Managing Director of the National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC) Hamid Reza Araqi said the country’s exports of natural gas to Iraq will increase during the spring and summer of 2018.

Iran’s gas exports to Iraq, which now stand at 14 million cubic meters a day, are planned to reach the maximum capacity within three years, he added.

On June 22, at the beginning of summer, Iran started to export natural gas to Iraq after years of negotiations and settlement of financial problems.

Iran’s daily gas exports to Iraq are to reach 35 million cubic meters at the final stage.

Tehran and Baghdad signed a deal on the exports of natural gas from the giant South Pars Gas Field in 2013.

Under the deal, the Iranian gas is delivered to Sadr, Baghdad and al-Mansouryah power plants in Iraq through a 270-kilometer pipeline.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

By Mustafa Saadoun for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

The conflict between the United States and Iran has taken a new turn toward escalation against the Iranian-backed armed Shiite factions in Iraq. But this step might harm Washington’s interests in Baghdad and engage the Iraqi government in a crisis with the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU).

While Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is trying to strike a balance to tame armed Shiite factions and earn US support, Washington is seeking to add armed factions affiliated with the PMU to the list of terrorist organizations.

The US House of Representatives introduced a bill in early November called “Iranian Proxies Terrorist Sanctions Act of 2017,” which calls for imposing terrorism-related sanctions on Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba and Asaib Ahl al-Haq. The bill was referred Nov. 3 to the Foreign Affairs committee.

Before Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba was formed in 2013, the United States designated its leader Akram al-Kaabi as a terrorist in 2008 per Executive Order No. 13438, on the grounds of “causing chaos in Iraq and threatening the stability and security of the alliance forces which were in Iraq before retreating completely in 2011.”

Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba was blacklisted less than a month after spokeswoman for the US State Department Heather Nauert described Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of the PMU, as a terrorist.

After Muhandis, Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba and Asaib Ahl al-Haq were blacklisted, statements of various US Congress members indicated that the United States intends to designate additional Shiite factions as terrorist organizations.

While a harsher tone is being adopted in Iraqi statements against Washington, member of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee Hanan al-Fatalawi called on the Iraqi Foreign Ministry Nov. 17 to summon the US ambassador to Baghdad to find out the reasons behind “the future US war” on the PMU.

By John Lee.

Iraq has invited international oil companies (IOCs) to bid for contracts to explore and develop nine new oil and gas blocks.

The blocks are along the borders with Iran and Kuwait, with one located in the territorial waters.

According to Reuters, the bidding terms will be finalised by the end of May, with bids to be opened on 21st June 21, 2018.

The terms are expected to be different from previous service contracts, which remunerate companies regardless of oil prices fluctuations.

(Sources: Ministry of Oil, Reuters)

From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Rescue teams have been deployed to the regions struck by Sunday’s 7.3 magnitude earthquake on the Iran-Iraq border; initial assessments are that some eight Iranian villages have been affected.

At least 207 people have died so far, with an estimated 1800 others injured.

Rescue teams have been deployed towards the epicentre, 30km southwest of the Iraqi town of Halabjah.

Al Jazeera‘s Charlotte Bellis reports:

A delegation of senior executives from Iraq’s National Oil Company visited senior officials with the National Iranian Drilling Company (NIDC) to discuss cooperation in drilling projects in Iraq.

Cooperation and facilitation of NIDC’s presence in Iraqi projects were discussed during the Monday meeting of the two companies.

A high-profile delegation from Iraq comprising executives of the Iraq National Oil Company and provincial officials from Iraq’s Zigar province paid a visit to NIDC in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, Khuzestan.

The two sides discussed views on facilitation of NIDC’s presence in Iraq, said Saeid Heidarian, an NIDC official.

Securing a toehold in the Iraqi drilling market has always been on NIDC’s agenda, he added.

(Source: Shana)

By John Lee.

Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) has reportedly confirmed that talks are ongoing between Baghdad and Tehran to export crude oil from Kirkuk to the Kermanshah refinery (pictured) in Iran.

SOMO Director Alaa al-Mussawi is quoted as saying that trucks would initially supply 15,000 barrels of crude oil per day (bpd) to the refinery, increasing to 25,000 bpd.

Kirkuk oil has until recently been exported to international markets via the Ceyhan port in Turkey.

(Source: Kurdistan 24)

By Mustafa Saadoun for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

Iraqi-Saudi relations have witnessed significant improvement after years of boycott that had worsened during Nouri al-Maliki’s rule between 2006 and 2014. On Oct. 22, the establishment of a Coordination Council between the two countries was announced.

Iran, which is seeking to expand its influence in Iraq, might not like this rapprochement, especially following the latest meeting between Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud that took place with US blessing when US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson attended the launching of the Coordination Council.

Former Iraqi Ambassador to the US Lukman Faily told Al-Monitor, “Over the past years, the US attempted to take serious steps to mend ties between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. With this development, the region’s geopolitics will change.”

Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat reported that the Iraqi-Saudi rapprochement will “curb the appetite of the parties that cause stability,” in a clear reference to Iran, which Saudi Arabia always accuses of “destabilizing the situation in the region.”

The results of the US-brokered Iraqi-Saudi rapprochement started appearing when Tillerson asked Iranian militias to leave Iraq, saying that the Iraqi-Saudi rapprochement will “counter some of the unproductive influences of Iran inside of Iraq.”

Hashem al-Haboubi, the deputy secretary general of the Iraqi National Accord movement spearheaded by Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi, told Asharq al-Awsat that the Iraqi-Saudi rapprochement might help Iraq break free from Iranian control.

The Iraqi-Saudi rapprochement does not include the Iraqi state in its explicit form only, but also expands to political parties that are at odds with Iran such as the Sadrist movement led by Muqtada al-Sadr, who visited Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates two months ago and headed to Jordan recently to visit King Abdullah.

By Fazel Hawramy for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

For now, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has pushed the separatist Kurds back and extended the power of the federal government once again to the areas considered disputed under the Iraqi Constitution. The Kurds are beaten. But the key question is how long this equilibrium will last.

The Kurds in Kirkuk and other disputed areas are disillusioned with the Kurdish parties, including the leadership of both the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). No Kurdish leader has come forward to apologize to their constituents for what went wrong, let alone attempt to explain what really happened on Oct. 15-16, when thousands of peshmerga retreated and left the people of Kirkuk to their own devices.

Meanwhile, the Turkmens in Kirkuk and nearby Tuz Khormato have become united through their opposition to the Sept. 25 Kurdish independence referendum and other perceived Kurdish excesses. But as the effect of Baghdad’s victory over the Kurds wears off, the old animosities and the regional states’ rivalries in Kirkuk are bound to resurface.

The Turkmens are divided along sectarian lines. The Shiite-dominated Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) that are protecting the Shiite Turkmens in the south of Kirkuk and the city of Tuz Khormato — the major Kurdish-Turkmens flashpoint — are directly linked to Tehran. On the other hand, most of the Sunni Turkmens in Kirkuk rally behind the Iraqi Turkmen Front, which has strong links to Ankara.

“There is no denying that, more than all groups in Iraq, the Turkmens are supported by Turkey. We are part of the Turkish people,” Ali Mahdi, the spokesperson for the Iraqi Turkmen Front told Niqash in May. “And we have always called upon them [Turkey] to play a role in developments taking place here.”

In 2014, the Turkmens failed to agree on a Turkmen candidate for the head of the Kirkuk provincial council, which could have prevented the Aug. 29 inclusion of the disputed city in the Sept. 25 Kurdish independence referendum. In parallel, the deep-rooted tension between the Kurds and the Turkmens, particularly in Tuz Khormato, has intensified as the threat of the Islamic State (IS) has receded.