BAGHDAD – Iraq deployed security forces Saturday near a remote oil well seized by Iran, officials said, and its government pressed Tehran to withdraw its forces from the area along their disputed southern border.
U.S. officials applauded Iraq for standing its ground against Iran – an uneasy ally that analysts said was aiming to remind its neighbor of its economic and political pull in its takeover of the oil well Thursday. The site is in one of the largest oil fields in Iraq and has about 1.5 billion barrels in reserves.
The standoff was a dramatic display of the occasionally tense relations between the two oil-rich nations that fought an eight-year war in the 1980s but now share common ground in Shiite-led governments.
“Again, we ask Iran to be committed to the good relations that they announced with Iraq and its nation, and to withdraw its forces immediately,” Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told Al-Arabiyah TV. “This is the demand of Iraq, and we call Iran to be committed with that.”
Iran, however, appeared undeterred. In a statement, the Iranian military denied it violated Iraq’s sovereignty and cited a 1975 border agreement in claiming the oil well as part of Iran’s territory.
“Our forces are on our own soil and, based on the known international borders, this well belongs to Iran,” the Iranian military said in a statement to Iran’s Arabic-language Al-Alam satellite television.
The standoff spurred an emergency meeting of Iraq’s national security council and diplomatic talks between Baghdad and Tehran.