Diplomatic sources in Moscow have told the Iraqi TV network Al Sharghia that Iran played a key role in mediating the recent visit of Iraqi oil minister Hossein Al Shahrestani to Moscow. The Russians were demanding that the current Iraqi government honor a memorandum of understanding that had been signed between Russia and Saddam Hossein. The prize is some of the most lucrative contracts to explore the southern Iraqi oil fields (Al Sharghia, 11 August).
For their part in enticing the Iraqi oil chief to visit Moscow and to sign the contract, Iranians are expected to receive Russia’s help in delaying and watering down the third round of UN sanctions over the country’s nuclear program. The maneuvers are yet another reminder that in the Middle East oil controls politics.