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Kurdish Oil Pipeline Could Split Iraq

By Daniel J. Graeber | Tue, 22 May 2012 23:22 | 3

Nearly 10 years of oversight from the U.S. military in Iraq has done little to erase simmering sectarian issues in Iraq. A trilateral democratic government composed of Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish leaders was expected to keep Iraq self-contained and out of trouble. Many of the initial sectarian issues left over from the early stages of the U.S.-led conflict are still on the table, however. Though oil production is gaining ground, the country still lacks a comprehensive hydrocarbon law. Now, Kurdish leaders in the semi-autonomous north aim to defy Baghdad by exporting oil to Turkey through a new pipeline by 2013. Given simmering acrimony between the Kurdish government and Baghdad, that pipeline may be the tether that formally pulls Iraq in two.

A delegation from the International Energy Agency met with Iraqi delegates in Istanbul early this month for an informal session on policy-making in the Iraqi energy sector.  The IEA is in the process of preparing a special report on Iraq, which is due out in October. In December, the IEA said crude oil production in Iraq could reach an average of 4.36 million barrels per day by 2016. That same month, Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accused his Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi of operating a death squad. Hashemi, the subject of a Red Notice issued by Interpol, is now sitting comfortably in the Turkish capital, where he enjoys widespread support.

Kurdish President Massoud Barzani, in April, said he felt the charges against Hashemi were part of a ploy by Maliki to consolidate his power in Baghdad. When Maliki visited the northern city of Kirkuk early this month, Kurdish leaders said they were frustrated that the Shiite prime minister's government "failed to even make any mention" of the territorial issues that have stoked internal rivalries. Now, Kurdish leaders said they could start exporting oil through a new oil pipeline through Turkey by next August. The Kurdish government already stopped exporting crude oil because of payment disputes with Iraq and, if the pipeline does move forward, the Kurdish government make be making its pledge of allegiance to Ankara rather than to Baghdad.

Barzani hinted in April that secession wasn't out of the question, though not much is new there. Without the buffer of the U.S. military, however, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of overt pressure to keep the country united. Ankara, since U.S. forces left the country in December, has moved closer to the Kurdish north. Though Kurdish officials, in their discussions of pipeline developments, referred to the oil as "Iraq's oil," it may be the start of a de facto separation. Rightfully so, the IEA, in its December report, warned that a fractured political system in Iraq could get in the way of significant developments in the energy sector. Though Iraqi political developments are exceedingly slow, to find hints at secession in the IEA report later this year won't be too much of a surprise. And, given the simmering tensions in the waters to Iraq's south and growing concerns of global energy security, secession, when it comes to oil, might not be the worst outcome for a post-Saddam Iraq.

By. Daniel J. Graeber of Oilprice.com

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  • Tony on May 23 2012 said:
    Hmmm, the Turks buddying up with the irredentist Kurds? Oil does strange things to states.
  • GeneralSherman on May 28 2012 said:
    Tony, what are you babbling about? "Irredentist"? That implies that the kurds have any claim to anything. They don't. The "kurdish" ethnic group and kurdish nationalism are the inventions of 19th century european imperialists. Read christopher dickey's "bordering on insanity". The "kurds" in Turkiye, iraq, syria, and iran are all genetically dissimiliar and liguistically incoherent. The reality is that they are iranic offshouts from india who have always lived on other people's land. Even then the kurds in northen iraq have haplogroup J in frequencies of higher than 40 % making them more Arab than some Arabs. The kurds in Turkiye didn't even inhabit Eastern Anatolia until the Ottoman sultan defeated the Persian shah and gave a large amount of land to a kurdish servant of his. Historically, the "kurds" defined their allegiance by tribe, faith, or the nation to which they were stealing the culture from. Even kurdish nationalists admit that one-hundred years ago "kurdish" was mostly Turkish, Persian, and Arabic.
  • Philip Andrews on May 28 2012 said:
    GeneralSherman

    You know all this how? From what sources? Or are you a professor of Near Eastern Cultures at some distinguished University (Yale, Harvard, Princeton...?)

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