ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi has been smuggling crude oil from Kirkuk and using the revenue to strengthen itself amid silence from the Iraqi government, a Kurdish Member of the Iraqi Parliament told Kurdistan 24 in an interview on Thursday.
Ashwaq Jaff, a Kurdish MP in the Iraqi government, claimed the Hashd al-Shaabi factions, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), are smuggling oil from Kirkuk and other areas under their control into Iran.
“Various [PMF] factions are responsible for the security of different places in Kirkuk and surrounding areas away from the surveillance of the Iraqi government,” she stated.
According to Jaff, the absence of official Iraqi military forces in those areas has allowed the Shia militia factions to smuggle oil from the regions they control.
She also said the oil smuggling was not a secret and that Iraqi MPs have been expressing their concerns over the issue on a daily basis.
“These forces [Hashd al-Shaabi] are looking to enrich themselves financially by smuggling and exporting oil to get funds for the upcoming parliamentary elections in May,” the Iraqi MP revealed.
She added that the revenue from the smuggled oil goes into the pockets of military commanders without it being accounted for.
Asked about the role of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in halting the “oil smuggling,” Jaff said he did not “have control over these forces; thus, he has been silent about it as he cannot hold [the militia groups] accountable.”
On Oct. 16, the Iraqi army and Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi attacked Peshmerga forces in Kirkuk and other disputed territories, taking control of the oil fields previously managed by the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Ministry of Natural Resources.
Shakhawan Abdullah, a Kurdish MP in Baghdad from oil-rich Kirkuk, confirmed the oil smuggling by militia groups. He said there was an agreement between the militia’s commanders and Iranian authorities to export and sell the oil to Iran at a low price.
“After the Oct. 16 events, a group of mafias began exporting oil from Kirkuk and the areas they control to Iran without returning the revenue to the Iraqi government,” Abdullah told Kurdistan 24.
He said he had discussed the matter with Prime Minister Abadi and Oil Minister Jabar al-Luaibi, but noted the government was incapable of stopping the PMF who do not answer to anyone.
According to a police source, the Iran-backed militia leaders had shut down an investigation into the oil being smuggled from Kirkuk fields in Iraq to Iran.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany