Kurdistan Region energy profile
Since the 1991 Gulf War and the Kurdish uprising against the regime in Baghdad, the Kurds in the north of Iraq have enjoyed increasing autonomy. With the settlement of the Kurdish civil war and the fall of the Baath party in the wake of the US-led invasion in
2003, this autonomy increased, leading to developed and autonomous institutions, including a parliament, and fast-developing trade and diplomatic relationships with other countries. This led several scholars to conclude that the Kurdistan Region governed by the Kurdistan Regional Government manifests itself as a “state-like entity” (Stansfield
2013, 259–260), de facto state (Gunter 1992, 2011b), or a quasi-state (Natali 2010). In addition, the KRG has control over its own security forces in- cluding a 100,000 strong Kurdish army.
However, the Kurdistan Region’s budget still comes from the government in Bagh- dad. During verbal disputes, especially around oil dealings, Baghdad repeatedly withheld the region’s budget as part of its sovereign power-games.1 Although formally Kurdish parties have been part of the federal government since its implementation in 2005, the federal government is commonly perceived as a Shia-controlled entity following its own interests. Presently, the Kurdistan Region is entitled to 17 percent of Iraq’s total oil reve- nues, and this constitutes the vast majority of the region’s budget (in reality, according to Johnson , the revenue share is closer to around 12 percent). This reliance on Iraq’s oil revenues leaves the region vulnerable to the government in Baghdad.
If Kurdistan developed their own export routes, then 83 percent of the revenues would still go to the central government. However, the vision of the KRG is to include a Turkish bank or company in the process. Right now 100 percent of all revenues go to Baghdad from where, in theory, 17 percent flow back to the Kurdistan Region. With a Turkish mediator, 17 percent would go straight to the KRG without the detour via Baghdad. With the development of oil and gas export routes through Turkey, the Kurdistan Region would become less vulnerable to the crippling halts of payments from the central government in Baghdad that were witnessed in early 2014, as some of the revenues would bypass the central government. Thus, starting to self-govern oil exports is yet another step toward increased independence and the solidification of the de facto state discourse as Baghdad loses its main pressure point on the Kurdistan Region.
Geographically, the Kurdistan Region refers to the three governorates: Duhok, Erbil, and Sulaymaniya, which are governed by the KRG. In addition, the Kurdistan Region claims the three so-called disputed territories: the Nineveh Governorate, the Kirkuk Governorate, and the Diyala Governorate, as well as the Makhmur District (which is part of the Erbil governorate) as part of their region (see Figure 2) (Bartu 2010; Natali 2008; Romano 2007; Wolff 2010).