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Kurds and Crude
What You Need To Know About Kurdish Oil Ambitions

Map by Lindsey BurrowsFor more than a month, Iraqi Kurdistan has been piping oil across its northern border to Turkey, against the wishes of the central Iraqi government. The oil exported so far is sitting in storage tanks, but Irbil is moving closer to selling the crude to Ankara, going against Baghdad’s explicit wishes. To this point, the Erdogan government has been wary of straining its relations with the Iraqi government and has hesitated to formalize imports of Kurdish crude. But as Reuters reports, some in Baghdad believe the Turks will side with Irbil:

“Turkey must now choose either to turn its back on Baghdad and go ahead with its deal with the Kurds, or suspend direct exports from the region until an agreement is reached between the central government and Arbil,” said a senior Iraqi official who asked not to be named.

“Unfortunately, facts on the ground show that Ankara eventually will go ahead with their deals with the Kurds at the expense of their relations with Baghdad.”

This is a complex situation with a lot of moving parts, but this Reuters piece paints a nice overview and is worth taking the time to read the whole thing. If you’d rather not, here’s the long and short of it: oil exports are bringing long-simmering tensions between Baghdad and Irbil to a head, and what happens next will affect Turkish-Iraqi relations for years to come.

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  • TommyTwo

    Not to mention the hilarious aspect of a Turkish government siding with an independence-minded Kurdish entity. And to think some people denigrate oil! 🙂

    • Andrew Allison

      Surely you are not suggesting that the Turkish government would put low-cost oil ahead of its concern about the Kurdish independence movement [sarcasm alert]? A more intriguing line of thought is whether Turkey, given the prospect of relatively cheap oil, might decide that rather than continuing an endless fight with the PKK it might make more sense to support a Greater Kurdistan. From a geopolitical standpoint, this would be a win-win for everybody except Iran. What a pity.

      • TommyTwo

        Current demographic trends of ethnic Turks vs Kurds put the Turkish leadership in a very difficult position, and I have no advice to give.

        “From a geopolitical standpoint, this would be a win-win for everybody except Iran.”

        I’m not necessarily convinced, but this would be ironic, given former Iranian support for Iraqi Kurds.

        • Andrew Allison

          It’s absolutely fascinating. The irony is that Kurds are (what are today) an Iranian people. Ethnic Turks came out of the Steppes, and the Anatolian plain was the cradle of European civilization. A map of what might be called “Greater Kurdistan” suggests that the Kurds pushed NW into Turkic territory from Mesopotamia.

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