In the following you will find our translation of an article from FBA Ekonomika segodnya with commentary and notes [in brackets] by Vince Dhimos. With lucrative energy deals, Iraq would appear to be the next plum to fall into the Russian basket, after Syria and Iran. But Lebanon is not far behind. Once Russian influence is firmly established in Iraq, and then Lebanon, the ducks will all be lined up for Moscow, and Washington will have very little wiggle room in the Middle East.
The “bait” is oil and gas cooperation. Lebanon shares offshore gas deposits with Israel and is auctioning off sectors. Russia is a likely purchaser. Russia once aided Lebanon militarily but relations cooled later. However, Russia recently already sold ammunition to Lebanon, initially for military use, but the ever-meddling US nixed the deal and the ammo went to the Interior Ministry instead. However, Israel’s missile attack on the country may well push Lebanon into Russia’s embrace. I reported on recent events in Russia-Lebanon relations here and here. It must be noted that China is also investing heavily in Iraq, including in energy. The US appears to have a diminishing role.
After Israel’s missile attack on Iraq, the already-tenuous US-Iraq relations are on tenterhooks. A major parliamentary bloc has already made Israel and the US co-responsible for the attack and has called it a “declaration of war.” Trump’s cosiness with Israel will garner him points with Tel Aviv, but the latter is not exactly where the power is centred in the Middle East.
Remember that all major news from the Middle East is inter-related and the bad news generally has Washington’s bloody footprints all over it.
The solution to the "Kurdistan problem" opens up new prospects for Russia in Iraq
September 10, 2019
The problem of Iraqi Kurdistan, which was trying to promote the idea of broad autonomy, was solved by Baghdad by having all contracts go through the central government. According to Boris Dolgov, senior researcher at the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia is now facing new prospects in Iraq.
Cooperation between Russia and Iraq
Iraq expects to expand the participation of Russian companies in the development of oil fields in the republic. This was stated by the Deputy Foreign Minister of Iraq, Muayed Saleh, at a meeting with the head of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Federation Council, Konstantin Kosachev. According to Saleh, one of the Russian companies is already starting to develop deposits in the Ramadi area, so Baghdad expects an increase in investment by 2030 to $45 billion. [The Ramadi area contains deposits of both gas and oil]
For its part, the Federation Council intends to continue to develop cooperation with Iraq at the political level. In the very near future, the issue of a visit to Russia by the head of the Iraqi parliament Mohammed al-Halbusi will be decided. Russian lawmakers are seriously interested in a regular working dialogue with Iraqi colleagues who are involved in international issues and bilateral relations with Russia.
“Indeed, we are witnessing a rapprochement between Russia and Iraq, and we must speak, first of all, about cooperation in the economic and political spheres. There are strong historical roots between Iraq and Russia, because since the Soviet times we have been closely cooperating with this country. It is worth noting that a large number of Iraqi citizens have studied both in the USSR and in Russia, and some of them still occupy fairly high posts in Iraq.
Cooperation and friendly relations were interrupted at one time by several tragic events, including aggression against Iraq, regime change in this country and the fight against ISIS (a terrorist organization banned in the Russian Federation, Ed. FBA). As a result, largely thanks to the participation of the Russian Federation in Iraq, victory over the terrorists was nevertheless achieved,” Boris Dolgov explains. [While most Western journos have given short or no shrift to the subject of Russian assistance in counter-terror in Iraq (you know why), we managed to find one exception in the Fiscal Times]
Russian companies really have big contracts with Iraqi business, whose representatives have repeatedly come to our country. According to our interlocutor, Russian companies continue to develop contacts and implement projects in Iraq. The proposed visit of Iraqi parliamentarians and statesmen is a continuation of Russia's policy towards Iraq, which remains an influential country in the Middle East and one of the richest in the world in terms of oil reserves.
Oil and gas projects in Iraq
In turn, the most important territory for the implementation of oil and gas projects in Iraq is Iraqi Kurdistan. According to some reports, Iraqi Kurdistan has the sixth largest oil reserves in the world, amounting to 45 billion barrels, and up to 60% of all Iraqi oil is already produced here.
Rich mineral resources are attracted by the world's leading oil companies, including Exxon, Total, Chevron, Talisman Energy and others. At the same time, industrial production actually began only in 2006, when the Norwegian energy company DNO drilled the first well since the invasion of Iraq.
Russian companies could not help but participate in the development of the deposits. The most interesting thing for Russian oil companies here is that the operating costs of hydrocarbon extraction are quite low. As Alexander Frolov, deputy director general of the National Energy Institute, previously suggested, perhaps the largest reserves of cheap oil in the world today are located in Iraqi Kurdistan. The greatest interest here is demonstrated by the oil companies of the Big Three.
The solution to the problem of Iraqi Kurdistan
“Iraqi oil is really very high in quality, and its production does not require the highest costs, which makes the fields extremely attractive for any oil companies. The Iraqi side is also interested in attracting investment. The good news is that Iraq’s policies are balanced between relations with the West as a whole and with Russia.
All this productively affects economic ties. Iran has broad ties with Iraq, which is also a positive factor that opens up new prospects for Russia in Iraq. Relations between Iraqi Kurdistan and the central government of Iraq remain an important issue, but Baghdad still has managed to resolve the most acute disagreements.
At one time, Kurdistan leaders tried to promote their idea of broad autonomy, and even held a referendum on the independence of Kurdistan. But the central government of Iraq came out firmly enough, and Kurdistan remained part of Iraq, living by common laws. Recent decisions of the central government are regulated in such a way that any contracts with foreign countries for the development of deposits in the country, including in the territory of Kurdistan, must be concluded through Baghdad,” Dolgov explains
Serious money is being invested in the Iranian [sic] oil industry by Russian companies, but the matter is not limited to them. In addition to production, educational projects are also underway; Russia helps to train local personnel in the oil and gas industry. There are also plans for the development of local processing, but this is already a distant prospect. Both parties are satisfied with the cooperation, and it continues to develop.