Iraqi Kurdistan has begun selling its oil into international markets in independent export deals that further challenge Baghdad’s claim to full control over Iraqi oil after first signing independent exploration deals with foreign oil majors last year.
The move is likely to enrage the government, which is still locked in a battle with ExxonMobil over its independent deal with Kurdistan last year to explore for oil in six Kurdish blocs. But it also paves the way towards greater Kurdish autonomy as Baghdad has long insisted it alone has the right to market Iraqi oil and gas products.
This has more to do with wider regional politics than first meets the eye.
Even as Turkey cracks down on its own Kurdish population, it cozies up to the government of Iraqi Kurdistan, allowing the Kurds to ship oil through Turkey without going through Baghdad. Not long ago Turkey wanted no problems with the neighbors. Now it’s sticking a finger in Baghdad’s eye. The Syria civil war has turned the region on its head. Ankara and Baghdad have found themselves on opposite sides of the Syria war (Baghdad supports Iran and Butcher Assad even as Turkey helps the rebels), and now the Turks are playing against Baghdad in domestic Iraqi politics.
It’s a complicated world.