Israel has become a major importer of oil from Iraqi Kurdistan, and thereby a key underwriter of their struggle against Islamic State, according to a report in the British-based Financial Times.
In the past few months Israel has imported about three-quarters of its oil from the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, the paper said.
“The sales are a sign of Iraqi Kurdistan’s growing assertiveness and the further fraying of ties between Erbil and Baghdad, which has long harbored fears that the Kurds’ ultimate objective is full-scale independence from Iraq. The imports highlight the significant inroads that oil from Iraqi Kurdistan is making into world markets, with Italy, France and Greece also emerging as big buyers. It is a trade conducted through secretive pre-pay deals brokered by some of the world’s largest oil trading companies, including Vitol and Trafigura,” the FT says.
Israeli refineries and oil companies bought more than 19 million barrels of Kurdish oil between the beginning of May and August 11, worth an estimated $1 billion. The estimate is based on shipping data, trading sources and satellite tanker tracking.
The trade carries on despite the fact that Iraq has no official ties with Israel.
A “senior Kurdish adviser” was quoted as saying, “We do not care where the oil goes once we have delivered it to the traders. Our priority is getting the cash to fund our Peshmerga forces against Daesh [ISIS] and to pay civil servant salaries.”