Al-Sharq al-Awsat [The Middle East] reports in Arabic that 11 Iranian troops occupied a small oil well on the Iraqi side of the border in Maysan province east of Amara, and raised the Iranian flag over it. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called the Iranian ambassador on the mat about this action, demanding an explanation and pledging to pursue diplomatic rather than military means to resolve the dispute.
Alone of the sources I read in Arabic, al-Sharq al-Awsat notes that the border between Iraq and Iran at that juncture is still unsettled and that a binational commission is attempting to draw a definitive border. Although Iraq has been pumping oil from the disputed al-Fakka well since 1974, it is therefore possible that Iran considers the well on the Iranian side of the unsettled border. The border between the two countries goes back to Ottoman times and so often was not specified with precision. The 8-year-long Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988 also involved the border being pushed back and forth by long army lines.
Interestingly, Iran denied the reports.
My guess is that if the incident occurred, it is a form of bargaining over the final shape of Iran-Iraq borders and an attempt to extract from Iraq some war reparations of the sort that the international community awarded Kuwait but not to Iran, which Iraq invaded in a naked act of aggression in September 1980. There are also still tensions between the two countries over the border through the Shatt al-Arab waterway, as well.
Or, it could have been intended to raise oil prices, which it did, and which benefits Iran.
Or it could have been a reminder to Israel and the US and China that the world economic recovery could rather be derailed if Iran started pressing historic claims to territory in the Gulf and so caused oil prices to skyrocket as they did in 2008. I.e., world economic recovery depends on Iranians being happy campers.
Or it could be a way for Tehran to pressure Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki to back off his virulent campaign against Syria, a close Iranian ally.
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