Accusations are flying about oil
smuggling in Iraq's Ninevah province, and many accusers say government
officials, armed factions and other powerful parties are involved.
Representatives of the province, including parliament member Ahmed al-Jubouri, have said recently that
oil is being smuggled from the Ninevah wells.
That news coincided with Osama al-Nujaifi, head of the Iraqi Decision Coalition, telling the media
Feb. 1, "Security forces sent out military vehicles to halt the
smuggling operations, but armed parties controlling the wells stood in
Jubouri said in a Jan. 26 statement that
the Islamic State (IS), which controlled Mosul from mid-2014 until
mid-2017, used to smuggle oil from more than 72 oil fields in Qayyarah
in south Mosul, but now
"armed groups continue smuggling an average of 100 tankers of crude oil per day."
He told Al-Monitor by phone that there are smuggling operations, but
refused to go into detail or name the parties he suspects.
"Parliament tasked me with presiding over the fact-checking committee regarding smuggling operations in Mosul.
Parliament ordered committee
members to suspend media statements until the report is drafted."
On Jan. 20, parliament member Ghaleb Mohammad told parliament,
the Cabinet and intelligence officials that he has
"visual proof exposing the oil smuggling operations to Turkey through a secondary pipeline connected to the main one."
The allegations from Jubouri and Mohammad made it seem strange when
Mohammad Ibrahim, head of the Ninevah Provincial Council's Security
Committee, issued a statement Feb. 2 saying oil field supervisors tell
investigators there are no smuggling operations in the area.
Victory Alliance party member Ali al-Suneid isn't surprised that some
parties deny there is smuggling.
He told Al-Monitor,
"The most dangerous problem facing attempts to halt the smuggling operations is that the armed groups and political parties implicated deny these accusations."
"political blocs, families and armed groups affiliated with powerful parties of stealing oil."
"Powerful armed groups in oil regions are stronger than the power of the law, and they smuggle oil to Turkey and Iran through various outlets, mainly the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, and using tankers or pipelines" after changing the pipelines' course.
A key source in the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) told Al-Monitor
on condition of anonymity,
"The exchange of accusations ... in oil smuggling operations dates back to the political conflict between Ninevah Gov.
Nofal al-Akoub and parliamentarians of the province, in
their battle for influence in Sunni areas."
The smuggling of Iraqi oil didn't begin overnight.
It's been going in southern and northern Iraq since the United States invaded the country in 2003.
Hakim al-Zamili, a former head of parliament's Security and Defense
Committee and a leader in the Sadrist movement, told Al-Monitor,
"There is a form of systematic smuggling of oil and its derivatives among Iraqi provinces and outside the country.
Some political parties are covering
up the operations because they are benefiting. Besides, security
authorities guarding the oil areas are implicated in the smuggling."
"Smuggling is taking place in oil regions in Basra and Amarah in the south, and in the north in Qayara in [Ninevah] and Alas in Salahuddin."
His statements align with Ninevah parliament member Hassan al-Alou's Facebook posts
Jan. 25 that "70 to 100 oil tankers are stolen daily from Qayara fields
in Mosul [Ninevah province] and smuggled to neighboring countries, with
the knowledge of the security and administrative forces."
"The administrative forces support smugglers by securing the smuggling route ... with governmental vehicles to facilitate smugglers' passage."
The state-owned North Oil Co. published a report Feb. 2 in which it denied oil
is being smuggled from Ninevah fields and said all the fields and
stations are managed by the company, as per administrative and technical
Oil Ministry spokesman Assem al-Jihad suggested that Al-Monitor
contact the Energy Police Directorate,
"which has the information and power to talk about the topic,"
seeming to indicate that the Oil Ministry didn't want to discuss the matter.
The Facebook page of the directorate documents the almost daily smuggling operations of oil and its derivatives.
Oday Awad, a member of parliament's Oil and Power Committee, told
"The parliament failed recently in forming investigative
committees to expose the oil smuggling operations, due to pressure from
political parties in the south and north."
Suneid said the solution is to
"form independent and professional committees whose members aren't affiliated with any party or political bloc, to expose those implicated."
Iraqi legal expert Tarek Harb, a former judge, told Al-Monitor,
"Those people [found guilty of smuggling] should be sentenced to jail for life or execution because the law considers oil smuggling a terrorist crime, not just theft."
Finally, it seems any step in the war on smuggling mafias won't be
successful as long as
"the authority is weak and the parties and influential figures play a role in these operations,"