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Shell’s Troubling Links with Iran Exposed

Posted by John Donovan on 16 May 2023, authored partly in collaboration with a whistleblower source. 

Shell’s Troubling Links with Iran Exposed

Explosive leaked documents uncover Shell’s alarming collaboration with an Iranian regime-connected company through its Iraq joint venture, casting a shadow on the oil giant’s ethical standing.

The damning evidence reveals that Shell’s joint venture in Iraq inked a deal that directly benefits a company closely tied to the Iranian regime, according to documents obtained by Unearthed.

This revelation comes at a time when the international community is shining a spotlight on Iran’s abysmal human rights record, given its brutal repression of protesters and unwavering military support for Russia in the Ukrainian conflict. The documents also shed light on Iran’s increasing dominance in Iraq’s political landscape and infrastructure since the US-led invasion of the country two decades ago.

The Basra Gas Company, established as a partnership between Shell and the Iraqi government, was purportedly created to capture the gas produced in southern Iraq’s massive oil fields, aiming to curb wasteful flaring. However, Iraq remains heavily dependent on Iran for energy, underscoring the dubious intentions behind Shell’s involvement. Shell brazenly claims that Basra Gas’s operations are essential for Iraq’s economic development and future energy independence—a laughable assertion given its connection to a regime known for human rights abuses and international misconduct.

In the summer of 2019, Basra Gas struck a deal with Shamara, an Iraqi company that receives electricity from the Rumaila independent power plant. Here’s the kicker: the plant was constructed by Mapna Group, an Iranian technology company. Disturbingly, leaked documents indicate that a staggering 78% of the plant’s proceeds flow directly into Mapna’s coffers.

While Mapna has been under US sanctions since 2018, Iranian companies operating in Iraq benefit from various carve-outs in the sanctions regime due to the uncomfortably close ties between the two countries. Shell and Basra Gas attempt to distance themselves from Mapna, asserting that they have no relationship with the company. Basra Gas claims to pay the Iraqi electricity ministry for power and insists it has had no contact with Shamara since the 2019 agreement. Shell echoes this denial, emphasizing its alleged compliance with international trade laws and sanctions, while conveniently brushing aside its entanglement with an Iranian entity.

Concerns raised by experts over Mapna’s connections to Iran’s repressive government are not unfounded. Human rights advocates, such as Hadi Ghaemi, executive director at the Centre for Human Rights in Iran, argue that entities like Mapna are instrumental in propping up the Iranian regime, enabling the ongoing suppression witnessed within Iran’s borders. The regime’s shameful record includes a wave of protests resulting in the deaths of over 500 protesters, with thousands more detained, including teenagers.

Mapna’s ties to influential figures in the Iranian regime further expose the unsavoury nature of Shell’s involvement. In 2014, Iran’s supreme leader delivered a speech from Mapna’s headquarters, championing the evasion of sanctions. Testimony provided to the US Congress by a senior fellow from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies reveals that Mapna’s CEO, Abbas Alibadi, served as a faculty member at Emam Hossein University—a known training ground for the Revolutionary Guards, an elite military force within Iran.

Shell’s audacity is laid bare as it touts a hollow commitment to ethical conduct while continuing its operations in Iraq. The company’s presence in the region stretches over a decade, during which Iraq’s flaring problem has persisted, with the country ranking second only to Russia in terms of flaring emissions.

As Unearthed’s in-depth investigation alongside BBC News Arabic revealed in September, methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas, were observed billowing from a Basra Gas facility, raising serious concerns about Shell’s environmental claims.

Nothing new about Shell/Iran subterfuge.

Shell was the biggest buyer of Iranian crude in the period of U.S. sanctions against Iran.  Shell continued to buy oil from the Iranian regime and because of the sensitivity, used subterfuge to disguise shipping movements.


Shell is invited to point out for correction any factual inaccuracies and supply closing comments for publication as part of this article on an unedited basis. 

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