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KRG oil sales and its bid for independence

By Paul Iddon 30/8/2015
AFP photo
AFP photo

A report in the Financial Times last week indicated that in recent months most of Israel's oil has come from the oil fields of Iraqi Kurdistan, part of which is piped from Kirkuk to Ceyhan in Turkey and from there sold to the international market. 

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has unequivocally stated that they are not selling oil directly to Israel. The report quoted one KRG official declaring that Erbil does “not care where the oil goes once we have delivered it to the traders. Our priority is getting the cash to fund our Peshmerga forces against Daesh and to pay civil servants' salaries.”

The emphasis by that Kurdish official brings to mind the case of Iran’s oil sales to Israel all the way back in 1973. The Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci broached the question to Iran's Shah and his explanation was essentially the same as the KRG one today. The oil is simply sold on the international market and doesn’t matter whoever buys it from there, or as the Shah put it at the time, “Our oil goes everywhere: why not Israel too? And why should I care if it goes to Israel? Where it goes, it goes,”

For quite some time Israelis have been sympathetic to the Kurdish cause. In the 1960s they supported Kurdish forces in their war against the regime in Baghdad.

When the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist organization blitzed across Iraq in mid-2014 and threatened Iraqi Kurdistan, the Kurdish president said he was once again open to the idea of a referendum for independence after the ISIS threat was eliminated.

The response of two states to that proposal was very telling. Erbil's neighbour Tehran opposed it and Israel's premier Benjamin Netanyahu openly endorsed it. Israelis are reasoning that by buying Kurdish oil off of the market and keeping a demand for it they could in turn help Erbil deal with some of its expenses.

Iraqi Kurdistan understandably wishes to remain on cordial, even friendly, terms with all of its neighbours which is one reason it would want to downplay any interaction or association with Israel given the enmity between those two countries and the fact that Tehran would likely take issue with having a neighbour on its frontier maintaining open ties with a declared enemy.

In 2012 the Iranian Kurdish journalist Mawlud Afand, whose magazine 'Israel-Kurd' promoted the fostering of greater relations between Israel and Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, disappeared. Iran was the prime suspect and the suspected motive for doing so stems from their aversion to close and open relationship between Erbil and the State of Israel on their doorstep.

While the Israeli government may be sympathetic to the cause of Kurdish independence in Northern Iraq and in deepening their ties with Erbil one can understand why Erbil is reluctant to undertake open and friendly relations with Israel, especially if it seeks to placate its powerful immediate neighbours which could be deeply irked by such relations – remember Turkey and Israel, former allies, haven't been on very friendly terms since 2010.

Likewise as the KRG pushes its bid for independence it's doing the best it can to ensure its immediate neighbours that it will be a peaceful and non-threatening state, and that includes any relations with Israel or any other state in the region.

Paul Iddon is a freelance journalist and political writer who writes on Middle East affairs, politics, developments and history.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rudaw.


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M Gonzales
M Gonzales | 30/8/2015
One thing I don't get is the insistence on waiting until Isis is defeated. Won't Baghdad be a lot more powerful at that point and stop you Kurds from leaving or at the very least seize Kirkuk and it's oil fields. I've said it before and I'll say it again, y'all are stupid too wait. Just declare your independence now and tell Baghdad you'll split any Kirkuk oil fields oil 50/50 since that's all they really care about. But no, your going too wait until it's too late and then cry too little too late.
Carl | 30/8/2015
The problem is Iran because Turkey is not that bothered with Kurdish Israeli relations anymore, it benefits Turkey economically and politically against Iran. As for Iran they're more bark than bite if you ask me, for 30 years USA was the "great Satan" for Iran, now they're doing business with them and are talking about deepening their cooperation in the war against IS. Likewise they'll do business with Israel if they see fit so don't buy in to their "evil Zionism, poor palistinians" BS.
ProceedCarefully | 30/8/2015
There should not be rash rush for independents, it should be meticulously thought out, not an instrument used by one political party to garner more support and attention. If you go for independents and you cannot pull it off or land in the same situation that KRG is in with Budget crisis, then you have essentially made a big blunder. Kurds have more enemies than one can count and it would be their pleasure to try to destroy what progress that have been made in KRG.
kardox | 30/8/2015
A pretty superficial and provocative article composed of loose journalistic phraseology. Comparing KRG with Iran under shah in 1973 is tasteless and archaic. It seems that the author of the article lives in the bygone history and revoke the very old notion about the Jewish state, Israel in the region, something that is common among the leftover of lefties and spectrum of islamist fundamentalists from moderate to extremist one. I wonder as why the Jewish state of Israel is the focal point of author’s mind. He should have been aware that animosity towards Israel is the main breeding ground for islamist extreme provided and strength by Israeli’s atrocity towards Palestinian Arab. The issue of normalising the relationship with Jewish state of Israel in the region is in fact the order of the day, the only one indeed, and KRG is absolutely right in this regard. Arab and in particular Palestinian Arab will be the main benefactor of such trend in case it succeed.
beetleking | 30/8/2015
Yes you can easily port your oil everywhere but dont expect other people accept it. Some people dont like Israel because they think Israel build illegal settlements and terrorise Palestine areas.. You are literally supporting Israel government and their army with this deal.
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