First sale of Kur­dish oil un­veils a new era in the Kur­dish na­tional re­nais­sance

The Kurdish Globe - - OPINION - By Bash­dar Pusho Is­maeel

Kurds.

This lever­age was clearly on dis­play when Bagh­dad failed to pay Kur­dish salaries and the Kur­dish share of the na­tional budget as pun­ish­ment for the Kur­dish move to build and ex­port oil to Turkey via its new in­de­pen­dent oil pipe­line.

Bagh­dad filed for ar­bi­tra­tion against Ankara al­most im­me­di­ately at the In­ter­na­tional Cham­ber of Com­merce, but in re­al­ity Turkey knew and openly ac­cepted that the con­se­quences with Bagh­dad were sec­ondary to the strate­gic en­hance­ment of their ties with the Kurds.

The stor­age ca­pac­ity at Cey­han was close to the limit, Bagh­dad ap­peared un­will­ing to give the Kurds the con­ces­sions it de­manded and af­ter months of ne­go­ti­a­tions a break­through was not about to take place any­time soon. All the while, the Kurds were in an ironic predica­ment. Kur­dis­tan, with its bil­lions of bar­rels of oil re­serves and with mil­lions of bar­rels stored in Cey­han wait­ing to be sold to many in­ter­na­tional suit­ors, were at the mercy of Bagh­dad and couldn’t even pay salaries.

When you have masses of oil and wealth un­der your feet, which govern­ment in any part of the world would ac­cept been dic­tated, un­der­mined and held to ran­som by a third­party?

In­stead of wait­ing for hand-outs from Bagh­dad, the Kurds could soon sur­pass the value of their 17% share of the na­tional budget with their own ex­ports.

Turk­ish En­ergy Min­is­ter Taner Yildiz con­firmed that 1.4 mil­lions of oil was loaded via tankers and cru­cially backed fur­ther ex­port of Kur­dish oil as more oil is in­evitably pumped.

In the same way as threats to in­de­pen­dent ex­port of oil, Bagh­dad con­tin­u­ously warned against oil ma­jors en­ter­ing the re­gion and threat­en­ing to pun­ish and black­list such com­pa­nies. In the end oil ma­jors ac­cepted the risks and af­ter Exxon-Mo­bil en­tered the fray in 2011, a flock of ma­jors sim­ply couldn’t sit on the side­lines and waste unique op­por­tu­ni­ties.

In re­al­ity, Kur­dis­tan wouldn’t have taken such a bold step with­out sup­port not just from Turkey but also Euro­pean pow­ers over its con­sti­tu­tional rights. The oil was not sold on the black mar­ket but in an in­ter­na­tional, open and trans­par­ent mar­ket and to Euro­pean cus­tomers.

Al­most im­me­di­ately af­ter the first in­de­pen­dent ex­port of Kur­dish oil, Kur­dis­tan Pres­i­dent Mas­saud Barzani went on a sched­uled tour of Europe. The mes­sage from Barzani was clear – if Bagh­dad did not change its poli­cies to­wards the Kurds, the Kurds could de­ploy other op­tions it has on the ta­ble.

France clearly sup­ported the Kurds in their move to mar­ket oil in­de­pen- dently and ac­cord­ing to Falah Mustafa, the head of Kur­dis­tan Re­gion’s Depart­ment of For­eign Re­la­tions, France “showed their will­ing­ness to sup­port us in the next stage”.

It’s the not the first time that Kurds have threat­ened to take ac­tion against the cen­tral­ist poli­cies of Bagh­dad. Af­ter con­tin­u­ous failed prom­ises by Ma­liki, the tim­ing of the move echoed through the Iraqi po­lit­i­cal cham­bers that Kurds mean busi­ness and will match ac­tion with rhetoric.

The oil ex­ports were cru­cially done be­fore the es­tab­lish­ment of the next govern­ment in Bagh­dad, af­ford­ing the Kurds a more pow­er­ful ne­go­ti­at­ing po­si­tion. They will not be duped into a new coali­tion with prom­ises of al­low­ing Kur­dish oil ex­ports. In­stead the right of the Kurds to ex­port oil be­comes a pre­req­ui­site as op­posed to a de­mand.

The Kur­dish his­tor­i­cal move is all the more sig- nif­i­cant that it was sup­ported by Turkey, mark­ing a dra­matic turn­around in for­tunes from a time when any no­tion of Kur­dish na­tion­al­ism was met with threats, harsh rhetoric and red lines.

Oil ex­ports can only in­crease from these lev­els and serves as the fuel for in­de­pen­dence – lit­er­ally. Of course, Turkey ac­knowl­edges what oil ex­port pipe­lines and sales means for the fu­ture of Kur­dis­tan.

Yet, Turkey has so much to gain from a Kur­dish friend with grow­ing strate­gic and eco­nomic im­por­tance than an un­cer­tain Bagh­dad lean­ing more to­wards Tehran, es­pe­cially as the sec­tar­ian fires con­tinue to rage in Iraq.

The Turk­ish po­si­tion is even more ironic giv­ing the U.S. re­sis­tance and un­ease of grow­ing Kur­dish in­de­pen­dence, ex­port of its oil and the grow­ing ties be­tween Er­bil and Ankara that the US tried so hard to fos­ter in the first place.

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