Haaretz yesterday published what it must have thought was a sensational story of how oil from Kurdistan is coming to Israel:
One day Samir Madani, a Kuwaiti oil trader living in Sweden, noticed something strange. He had always been captivated by oil and its influence on political relations, in peacetime and wartime, so much so that he created the website TankerTrackers.com.
Some might think that watching tankers is boring, given that they usually coast along predetermined routes. But in November 2017, Madani noticed that the oil tanker Valtamed, heading to the Suez Canal from the Turkish port of Ceyhan – which is supplied by the oil pipeline from the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq – suddenly stopped somewhere in the eastern Mediterranean, off Tel Aviv but outside Israel’s territorial borders, and turned off its identification transponder. When it “resurfaced” a few days later, it was lighter, Madani realized.
After mysteriously growing lighter off Israeli shores, the Valtamed sailed to Cyprus, returned empty to its home base in Turkey, loaded up on oil that had arrived from northern Iraq and repeated the whole journey, including the disappearing act. Madani understood that this was something bigger than just a ship going haywire.
His conclusion was that the Valtamed had been shipping oil that wasn’t recorded anywhere to a country that wasn’t supposed to buy it – in other words, Israel was secretly buying Kurdish oil through Turkey.
The thing is, this has been well-known for years. i24News had a 2017 article about Kurdish oil going from its pipeline to Turkey to Israel, and Financial Times noted this clandestine trade back in 2015:
Israeli refineries and oil companies imported more than 19m barrels of Kurdish oil between the beginning of May and August 11, according to shipping data, trading sources and satellite tanker tracking. This would be worth almost $1bn based on international prices over the period.
That is the equivalent of about 77 per cent of average Israeli demand, which runs at roughly 240,000 barrels per day. More than a third of all of the northern Iraqi exports, which are shipped from Turkey’s Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, went to Israel over the period.
The KRG said it did not sell oil to Israel “directly or indirectly”, but ties between Erbil and the country stretch back several decades, with both sides finding common ground as non-Arab, western-allied states.
“We do not care where the oil goes once we have delivered it to the traders,” a senior Kurdish government adviser in Erbil said.
A member of the committee on oil and energy in parliament, Aziz Kazem Alwan, said on Tuesday that the Kurdistan region is selling oil for a discount, and he did not exclude the theft by brokers working for Israel, buying Iraqi oil.
Alwan told Baghdad Today that “his committee does not have any information about the target of the sales of the Kurdistan region of oil,” pointing out that “the lack of control by the federal government means that the region can sell oil to any country, including selling oil for less than its price.”
“It is not out of the question that the oil is being sold from the Kurdistan region to Israel, through Jewish brokers,” he said, stressing the need for “the presence of federal control over the sale of oil from the region, to know where the oil of Iraq goes, and even prevent the theft by Israel, brokers or others.”
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