Energy Deals Inked With Iran
As an answer to frequent power outages in Baghdad, the Iraqi Electricity Ministry has granted a critical power plant contract to Iran. The deal, announced by the Iraqi electricity minister on Oct. 16, 2007, has caused concern in Washington that Iran will use the project to further penetrate Iraq with its intelligence and spy forces.
The Iranians are to build a 160-megawatt plant in Sadr City, a Shiite enclave inside Baghdad. Tehran has also agreed to provide inexpensive electricity from the Iranian grid to southern Iraq and to build a power plant between Karbala and Najaf.
The Iraqi government has also awarded a contract for a $940 million, 1,300-megawatt plant to China.
One U.S. military official said that the military was concerned about the expansion of Iranian interests in Iraq. “We are of course carefully watching Iran’s overall presence in Iraq. As you know, it’s not always what it appears. Their Quds force routinely uses the cover of a business to mask their real purpose as an intelligence operative,” the official said, referring to an elite unit Tehran has been using to destabilize Iraq (New York Times, Oct. 19, 2007).
According to an international energy expert involved in Iraq’s electricity sector, the Sadr City plant was originally Iran’s idea and came to fruition despite initial disinterest from Iraq’s Electricity Ministry. Iraq’s Commission on Public Integrity, responsible for probing corruption, has indicated it will look into the matter.
Iran’s influence in Iraq has burgeoned since America overthrew the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein; Iranian mullahs are mentors to many of Iraq’s Shiite leaders, some of whom lead Iraqi terrorist organizations. Iran has been a key facilitator of many of the weapons, intelligence and even militants themselves flowing into Iraq.
The point is, Iran already wields growing influence over Iraqi politics, as well as national security. If Iranian companies build key infrastructure in Iraq, it will only extend Iran’s presence in the country and enhance its ability to counter U.S. efforts to construct a stable, pro-Western government in Baghdad.