Oil began flowing from fields in Iraqi Kurdistan to Turkey over the weekend. The recently completed pipeline connects fields in northern Iraq with Turkey’s pipeline network for the first time, and is being welcomed by both Irbil and Ankara alike as a much better deal than transporting oil by truck convoy. But while Turkey and the KRG both stand to benefit from a robust pipeline network, Baghdad is concerned and displeased. The FT reports:
The central government in Baghdad argues that under the Iraqi constitution the KRG does not have the right to sign unilateral deals with oil groups, make decisions on exports or manage revenues. After months in which Baghdad protested against Turkey’s planned involvement in Northern Iraq, which also includes investment in Kurdish oilfields, formal consultations between Turkey, the KRG and the Iraqi central government only recently began.Against that backdrop, Taner Yildiz, Turkey’s energy minister, sought to play down the significance of this weekend’s flow of oil. “It was a test flow,” he says. “Part of the pipeline had not been used for a long time, so needed to see how much corrosion damage there had been . . . The test will continue for a while.”
As Ofra Bengio pointed out in a piece for the American Interest last week (worth a full read as a backgrounder on Kurdistan), pipelines like this one are not just efficient hydrocarbon conveyors; they provide the KRG with a path toward economic and, one day, political independence.