Iraqi Kurdish Region Pushes Limits On Oil, Autonomy

From Turkish Weekly

By Mark Snowiss

 

With Kurds asserting themselves throughout the Middle East, Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region has stepped up its profile on the world’s oil scene.

A series of recent petroleum deals signals a direct challenge to Baghdad’s claim of total control over the country’s oil exports and a possible step by the Kurds toward their longstanding aspirations for increased autonomy, or outright independence.

Within the last few months, Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, has begun construction on a major international oil and gas pipeline project with neighboring Turkey that would allow the Kurds direct access to world markets via the Mediterranean.

The KRG has also expanded exploration deals with foreign oil majors and boosted a growing crude-for-products trade with Turkish companies.

The moves reveal that Iraqi Kurds want to make their own economic choices.

Deals cause tensions

The deals have not only rankled Iraq’s central government but also deepened the diplomatic rift between Ankara and Baghdad.

And they present internal problems for energy-hungry Turkey, too, which is fighting terrorism among its Kurdish minority who have long pushed for more freedoms.

Ankara faces enormous risks were it to throw its economic support solely behind Iraq’s Kurds.

“Turkey wants to retain Iraq’s territorial integrity and political stability. It doesn’t want to encourage any kind of autonomy in Turkey or with any of the other Kurdish populations nearby,” said former U.S. international energy envoy David Goldwyn.

“Also, Kurdistan’s economic prosperity keeps Kurds happy there and is a significant commercial opportunity for Turkish companies. So [there are] complicated, mixed interests on both sides,” he said.

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