According to Bloomberg, Iraq claims that Iranian forces crossed the border into Iraq and seized an oil field in al-Fakah.  It comes as the world already has Iran under scrutiny for its pursuit of nuclear weapons.  But would they be so foolish as to give the West a perfect provocation for military action?

Iranian forces yesterday entered Iraqi territory at dawn, and occupied well number 4 in the East Maysan field in al-Fakah region, 450 kilometers (280 miles) south of Baghdad, Border Guard General Zaser Nazmi said. The Iranian forces positioned tanks around the well.

The border guard’s comments couldn’t be immediately verified independently.

“They positioned tanks around it and dug trenches,” Nazmi said by phone from Basra. “They are still there, they raised the flag.”

East Maysan in southern Iraq is an old oil field that is no longer in production, according to Nazmi. Iraq is the third largest oil producer in the Middle East after Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Energy analysts and traders were surprised at the news, which comes days before Iran and Iraq meet fellow members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries at a Dec. 22 meeting in Luanda, Angola.

But why would the Iranians invade Iraq just to seize an oil field, especially a dormant one?  They produce more than enough to export themselves in their own country.  Their main problem is domestic refining capacity, and the sanctions proposed aims to hit them hard at that point by cutting off gasoline imports.  They don’t need more crude, they need more refineries — and they certainly don’t need to provide the US with an excuse for launching a military attack against their nuclear production sites, although it’s unlikely that Obama would take the bait anyway.

As crazy as the Iranian mullahs are, they’re not stupid.  This sounds either like a hoax or some kind of miscommunication.  It could be an Iranian-backed Iraqi insurgent group in the Shi’ite south that seized the oil field, perhaps.

I’d guess that the Bloomberg story changes significantly over the next few hours, because this makes no sense at all. (h/t HA commenter Wethal)

Update: Via Twitterer Just A Grunt (also blogs at JWF), Iran has already withdrawn its forces, while Iraq denies the incident took place at all:

An unknown number of troops crossed the border and raised an Iranian flag over the Fakkah oil field, a US military spokesman told the AFP news agency.

They are understood to have stayed for several hours and then withdrawn back across the border.

“This news is not true,” Deputy Interior Minister Ahmed Ali al-Khafaji told the Reuters news agency.

“This field is disputed and now it is neglected by both sides. There was no storming of the field. It’s empty, it’s abandoned. It is exactly on the border of Iraq and Iran.”