Three quarters of the oil purchased by Israel in recent months has come from Iraqi Kurdistan according to documents obtained by the media. The Kurds are a controversial group, with their militia’s being deemed terrorists by Turkey.
The documents, which include satellite tanker tracking, shipping and trading data, show Israeli oil companies and refineries have imported 19 million barrels of Kurdish oil worth $1 billion from May 1 to mid August.
According to experts this means one third of all oil exports from northern Iraqi, shipped from the Turkish oil port Ceyhan, have gone to Israel in that period of time and was most probably sold to Israel at a discounted price.
The money from the oil sales to Israel would be a vital income source to the semi-autonomous Kurdish north in its battles against Islamic militants, which the experts say could be the reason Israel had purchased the oil.
Iraq's government has said the oil belongs to Iraq and legally can only be purchased through Iraq’s Petroleum Ministry.
Officials from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) officials denied the sale.
A senior KRG official said “We do not care where the oil goes once we have delivered it to the traders. Our priority is getting the cash to fund our Peshmerga forces against Daesh [ISIS] and to pay civil servant salaries.”
Reuters reported in June 2014 that Israel had started buying oil from northern Iraq after the oil tanker SCF Altai, registered in Liberia delivered one million barrels of crude oil from the Iraqi Kurdistan's pipeline.
Late in 2014 the Kurds and the Iraqi government reached an agreement to end a dispute over the Kurdish oil exports, agreeing to jointly export the oil. However slow payments to the Kurds by the Iraqi Government "forced" the start finding buyers and selling it to them on its own. Israel was a willing customer.
In February the U.S. became tangled in the oil dispute between the KRG and the Iraqi government, when an oil tanker was blocked from unloading its cargo of 1 million barrels of oil from Northern Iraq in Texas, by a Baghdad legal challenge.
After four months the tanker returned to the Mediterranean and delivered the cargo to Israel.
The sale to the USA had been negotiated by the KRG .