New Turk­ish oil ven­ture sig­nals grow­ing clout of Kur­dis­tan

The Kurdish Globe - - NATIONAL - By Bash­dar Pusho Is­maeel

As the Mid­dle East­ern so­cio-po­lit­i­cal land­scape has un­rav­eled in re­cent years, it has trans­formed the one-time frosty re­la­tions be­tween the Iraqi Kurds and Tur­key into one of the most im­por­tant al­liances in the re­gion.

The Arab Spring and the rapidly chang­ing power makeup of the Mid­dle East may have played a key part, but money and the power of econ­omy have echoed louder. Trade be­tween the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion and Tur­key is reach­ing un­prece­dented heights, none more so than in the field of en­ergy.

The boom­ing econ­omy of Kur­dis­tan is un­der­pinned by its sta­tus as the last great oil fron­tier. Kur­dis­tan has bil­lion of bar­rels of oil re­serves and re­mark­ably with the ma­jor­ity of the oil not even dis­cov­ered.

With the oil rush in Kur­dis­tan, Tur­key, with an ever-grow­ing thirst for oil to fuel its heated econ­omy, does not want to re­main idle while global play­ers cap­i­talise on im­mense op­por­tu­ni­ties on its door step.

The grow­ing en­ergy ties be­tween Ankara and Er­bil, has not only re­sulted in strate­gic and his­toric con­tracts be­tween the two gov­ern­ments set­ting the stage for a rapid rise in trade, but it has slowly led to in­ter­twined des­tinies of the Turks and Kurds. This drive has led to great un­ease in Wash­ing­ton, who iron­i­cally, only few years ago were fran­ti­cally try­ing to rec­on­cile both par­ties.

The win-win part­ner­ship on an eco­nomic scale is in tune with the need to re­draw strate­gic al­liances and po­lit­i­cal bal­ance of power in the Mid­dle East. Tur­key needs the sta­ble, sec­u­lar and Western-lean­ing Kur­dis­tan, in the midst of a Syr­ian civil war that threat­ens Tur­key at ev­ery turn, Shi­ite dom­i­na­tion in Bagh­dad rekin­dling an­i­mos­ity and in­sur­gency amongst Sun­nis and not for­get­ting Iran with its nu­clear am­bi­tions and its hands deep in re­gional strug­gles.

While Syria took center stage in the diplo­matic flur­ries of re­cent days, lead­ing to the visit of Turk­ish Prime Min­is­ter Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan to Wash­ing­ton, the an­nounce­ment by Er­do­gan as he left on the plane for Wash­ing­ton of a part­ner­ship be­tween the state run Turk­ish Petroleum (TPAO) and US gi­ants Exxon-Mo­bil to jointly ex­plore for oil in Kur­dis­tan, has sig­nif­i­cant long-term ram­i­fi­ca­tions.

Not only does Kur­dis­tan and Tur­key have the ba­sis for di­rect ex­ports with the im­ple­men­ta­tion of new oil pipe­lines, but this places Tur­key di­rectly at the grass-roots of the Kur­dish oil drive.

Ac­cord­ing to Er­do­gan “there's noth­ing more nor­mal, more nat­u­ral than Tur­key… to take a step that is based on mu­tual ben­e­fit." In re­cent months Ankara has strongly de­fended their agree­ments with the Kur­dis­tan Re­gional Gov­ern­ment (KRG) and has also in turn backed the Kur­dish rights un­der the cur­rent Iraqi con­sti­tu­tion.

The Kur­dish oil boom is long the source of Bagh­dad ire, which views con­trol of oil ex­ports and un­re­solved na­ture dis­puted of ter­ri­to­ries, as the last pla­centa by which they can reign in and in­flu­ence Kur­dis­tan. With con­tracts with some of the big­gest oil com­pa­nies in the world and strate­gic agree­ments with Tur­key, Bagh­dad’s un­ease has gone into over­drive.

In re­al­ity, the oil ma­jors and Tur­key know fully well the risks. The ire of Bagh­dad is con­sid­ered sec­ondary to their lu­cra­tive op­por­tu­ni­ties and the strate­gic and po­lit­i­cal ben­e­fits that such moves harness.

Th­ese par­ties are essen­tially choos­ing Kur­dis­tan over Bagh­dad and such mea­sures only makes the KRG more con­fi­dent in its eco­nomic growth, its re­gional stand­ing and in its stand-off with Bagh­dad.

Bagh­dad may have been play­ing hard­ball over pay­ments to for­eign oil com­pa­nies, con­sti­tu­tional in­ter­pre­ta­tions and na­tional bud­get as well as over dis­puted ter­ri­to­ries, but with its hands full in the fresh Sunni up­ris­ing, main­tain­ing a shaky na­tional coali­tion and na­tional elec­tions around the cor­ner, it needs the Kurds and Nouri al-Ma­liki’s gov­ern­ment may have to re­think its poli­cies on Kur­dis­tan.

Kur­dis­tan’s mes­sage is sim­ple, it will drive on with its na­tional pro­gramme and lofty goals, with or with­out Bagh­dad.

This pic­ture shows an oil com­pany in Er­bil.

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