Israel is secretly buying oil from Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq through the Turkish port of Ceyhan, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported, citing an article by Ellen Wald in the Cairo Review of Global Affairs.
Haaretz describes an unusual situation observed in November by Samir Madani, a Kuwaiti oil trader living in Sweden who created the TankerTrackers.com website, involving the Valtamed oil tanker heading to the Suez Canal from Turkey’s port of Ceyhan, which is supplied by the oil pipeline from the Kurdish area of northern Iraq. The tanker suddenly stopped somewhere in the eastern Mediterranean, off Tel Aviv but outside Israel’s territorial borders, turned off its identification transponder and “resurfaced” a few days later, mysteriously lighter than when it had left Ceyhan.
The Valtamed then sailed to Cyprus and returned to its home base in Turkey, loaded up on oil that had arrived from northern Iraq and repeated the whole journey, including the disappearing act.
“His conclusion was that the Valtamed had been shipping oil that wasn’t recorded anywhere to a country that wasn’t supposed to buy it – in other words, Israel was secretly buying Kurdish oil through Turkey,” according to Haaretz.
Oil was officially discovered in northern Iraq’s Baba Gurgur area in 1927, one of the world’s largest fields, but Kurdish oil needs to be refined and reach the sea, which has been accomplished for years by a pipeline running from Kirkuk to Ceyhan.
After the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) held an independence referendum in 2017 that was condemned by the central Iraqi government, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threatened to impose a blockade on the oil, halting the KRG’s primary source of income and stifling the Kurdish economy by refusing to load the KRG’s oil into tankers at Ceyhan. But to the surprise of many, Erdoğan did no such thing, and Kurdish oil continued to flow unimpeded through Turkey to customers mainly in Greece, Israel, Poland, Cyprus and Croatia. The Iraqi government subsequently took over control of Kirkuk’s oil in a military action supported by Iranian-backed Shia militia.
In another incident, reports Haaretz, “TankerTrackers says a tanker called Kriti Diamond tends to suddenly assume a new identity – Kiton – offload oil in Israel and then resume its original identity before sailing back to Turkey. ‘It is with great pride that we present you the missing KRITI DIAMOND, currently operating under her new pseudonym: KITON,’ the site tweeted on February 16.Four days later, it was followed by another tweet: ‘The MARIKA/KRITI DIAMOND forgot to take off her disguise as KITON after leaving Ashkelon empty’.”
TankerTrackers noticed that another crude oil tanker, the Mabrouk, left Ceyhan, assumed the disguise of Maro – an unknown, unregistered identity – near the Israeli shore, disappeared for a few days and then popped up again as the Mabrouk, said Haaretz.
When asked by the daily for a response, Oil Refineries in Haifa and the Trans-Israel Pipeline company said they do not comment on commercial matters.