Amidst sec­tar­ian flames, Iraqi se­cu­rity and marginal­i­sa­tion poli­cies should be in the lime­light, not Kur­dish oil ex­ports

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS - Bash­dar Pusho Is­maeel

As the Is­lamic State (IS) with the help of sev­eral Iraqi Sunni groups waltzed into Iraq seiz­ing large swathes of ter­ri­tory, the goal­posts in Iraq com­pletely changed. Iraq as we know it ceased to ex­ist.

Yet amidst the grave cri­sis in Iraq that Iraqi forces have failed to ex­tin­guish, Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Nouri al-Ma­liki seemed more in­tent to turn fo­cus away from the se­cu­rity night­mare and to in­crease the al­ready wide gaps in the re­la­tions with the Kurds into an un­sur­mount­able gulf.

Kur­dis­tan Re­gional Govern­ment (KRG) and Baghdad have been at log­ger­heads for years over con­trol of oil in­clud­ing rev­enue shar­ing and oil ex­ports, how­ever, mat­ters took ex­tra sig­nif­i­cance with IS break­ing the sta­tus-quo.

Baghdad has threat­ened for­eign com­pa­nies deal­ing with KRG over oil for many years, but this has not stopped oil ma­jors flock­ing to the re­gion. Last month, Baghdad is­sued yet another state­ment threat­en­ing le­gal ac­tion against such for­eign com­pa­nies "Any com­pany that deals with or han­dles the cargo, we will not deal with it… Any dis­charge au­thor­i­ties, any port au­thor­i­ties, any party at all deal­ing with the cargo com­ing from Kur­dis­tan with­out ap­proval from the fed­eral govern­ment, the oil min­istry will take ac­tion with them."

Only this week, the United Kalavrvta tanker, car­ry­ing 1 mil­lion bar­rels of oil, was an­chored in in­ter­na­tional wa­ters off the port of Galve­ston, Texas, af­ter Baghdad launched a pe­ti­tion to a US court to seize the oil.

The US judge could not take any ac­tion as it lacked ju­ris­dic­tion. In the mean­time, the KRG launched its own counter le­gal pro­ceed­ings to the Texas court warn­ing "There is no merit what­so­ever to the al­le­ga­tions of the Min­istry of Oil; to the con­trary, it is the fed­eral govern­ment of Iraq that has acted wrong­fully and that will have to an­swer to the KRG's sub­stan­tial counter-claims."

KRG Min­is­ter of Nat­u­ral Re­sources, Ashti Hawrami, fur­ther warned “The fed­eral govern­ment can­not win, be­cause our crude is le­gally pro­duced, shipped, ex­ported, and sold in ac­cor­dance with the rights of the Kur­dis- tan Re­gion as set forth in the Iraqi con­sti­tu­tion.”

Af­ter Baghdad threat­ened for­eign com­pa­nies with le­gal ac­tion for deal­ing with Kur­dish crude, a de­ter­mined KRG had threat­ened to sue buy­ers of Iraqi oil on the ba­sis that they are com­plicit in vi­o­lat­ing the Iraqi con­sti­tu­tion with Baghdad fail­ing to pay the KRG share of the bud­get.

Mean­while, in light of the lat­est dis­pute, the United States has main­tained the same out- dated rhetoric. U.S. State De­part­ment spokes­woman Jen Psaki stated "Our pol­icy cer­tainly has not changed; we be­lieve that Iraq's en­ergy re­sources be­long to the Iraqi peo­ple and cer­tainly have long stated that it needs to go through the Iraqi govern­ment."

Even as Iraq has un­rav­elled be­fore their eyes, the US has clung to an out­dated be­lief in the unity of Iraq with­out judg­ing the dis­putes be­tween the KRG and Baghdad in its historic con­text and the chang­ing re­al­i­ties on the ground.

Deputy Spokesper­son for the US State De­part­ment, Marie Harf, re­cently stated “There is no US ban on the trans­fer or sale of oil orig­i­nated from any part of Iraq… Our pol­icy on this is­sue has been clear, Iraq’s en­ergy re­sources be­long to all of the Iraqi peo­ple. These ques­tions should be re­solved in a man­ner con­sis­tent with the Iraqi con­sti­tu­tion.”

The US one-sided pol­icy that favours Baghdad in the hope of pre­vent­ing the col­lapse of Iraq, fails to ac­knowl­edge that the Iraqi Hy­dro­car­bon law has been gath­er­ing dust on the Iraqi po­lit­i­cal shelves since 2007. Fur­ther­more, fun­da­men­tal ar­ti­cles in the same Iraqi con­sti­tu­tion that US con­stantly refers to have been ig­nored or ne­glected since 2005.

The Iraqi con­sti­tu­tion does not need to be ne­go­ti­ated, only im­ple­mented and the US should sup­port the Kur­dish view as they have not gone be­yond the le­gal terms stated in the con­sti­tu­tion and it is Baghdad that has been un­law­fully with­hold­ing the KRG bud­get en­ti­tle­ment.

The key ques­tion re­mains, what res­o­lu­tion over oil rights can be ap­plied be­tween the KRG and Baghdad af­ter years of dis­putes and pro­tracted ne­go­ti­a­tions? Kurd- is­tan can­not re­main idle with no funds for months upon end wait­ing for sen­ti­ment to change in Baghdad.

The dis­putes have been has­tened by IS but it of­ten gets over­looked in in­ter­na­tional cir­cles that the Kur­dish share of the na­tional bud­get, that Kurds al­lege now amount to $7 bil­lion, have not been paid since Jan­uary.

Tankers car­ry­ing Kur­dish crude at times re­ceive cov­er­age like it is ex­ported via the black mar­ket. This is the same crude that is pumped via of­fi­cial pipe­lines to the port of Cey­han with full sup­port of Turkey.

This is the same crude that would see Baghdad re­ceive a lions-share (83%) un­der the terms of the con­sti­tu­tion. The mat­ter is not a lack of rev­enue for Baghdad but the strength­en­ing of the Kur­dish hand with their new in­de­pen­dent oil in­fra­struc­ture and eco­nomic self-suf­fi­ciency.

The buyer of Kur­dish crude be­comes the ob­ject of much con­tro­versy and mys­tery, which is es­pe­cially ironic giv­ing that Iraq, is en­gulfed in sec­tar­ian flames and since it was same mar­gin­sa­tional poli­cies that Ma­liki at- tempts on the Kurds that reignited the lat­est Sunni in­sur­gency.

In a blow to the KRG, Lyon­del­lBasell, re­cently con­firmed that it had pur­chased the oil off Texas but would not ac­cept de­liv­ery of the con­tested cargo. Their state­ment fell in line with the rhetoric of Wash­ing­ton, "We have can­celled fur­ther pur­chases and will not ac­cept de­liv­ery of any of the af­fected crude un­til the mat­ter is ap­pro­pri­ately re­solved."

How­ever, ul­ti­mately as more oil tankers are pre­pared for ship­ping, the Kurds will not back down and ex­port Kur­dish crude can­not be halted. The road ahead will have its own fair share of bumps, but when the Iraqi con­sti­tu­tion is judged on its own mer­its, not just on the ba­sis of Baghdad threats and the eco­nomic em­bargo on Kur­dis­tan by Baghdad is taken into ac­count, even the US will fail to jus­tify its ac­tions against Kur­dish oil ex­ports.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Iraq

© PressReader. All rights reserved.