Tensions along the Iraq-Iran border in Eastern Maysan Province have somewhat been relieved as Iranian forces left oil well number four following two days of military presence that outraged Iraqi officials and left US military in the region speculating that it might lead to a resumption of the long-dead conflict between the two nations.
A day after the alleged invasion Iraqi forces massed along the border. Iranian forces have since left the well, but Iraqi government spokesman Ali Dabbagh maintains that they are still inside Iraqi territory along the ill-defined border. The Iraqi forces remain at their position near the field as well.
Iran confirmed the pullback but maintains that they were inside Iranian territory the entire time. Officials say the soldiers only went to oil well number four to take down a barricade built illegally by Iraqi soldiers.
Ownership of the abandoned field has long been disputed, and negotiations between the two sides for a joint development have so far failed. Iraq’s governments has attempted to sell rights to develop the field unilaterally, but have so far been unsuccessful, likely because bidders don’t want to be brought into a conflict over their dubious control of the field.
The recent escalation of the dispute is one of the few indications that the relationship between Iran’s Shi’ite theocracy and the post-US occupation government of Iraq, also Shi’ite dominated, is anything but strong.