The currently stateless Kurds sit astride the Iraq-Syria border on land blessed/cursed with oil, other resources, and geopolitical significance. Is it any wonder that mega-corporations and their client states are looking to use the Kurds, stoke conflict, and exploit the situation?
by Whitney Webb
Part 3 - Creating the divisions needed to justify partition
The big problem for the partition plan, however, was the simple fact that these diverse groups had coexisted with minimal sectarian violence in Iraq for centuries. This meant, of course, that the sectarianism that was needed to justify partition had to be engineered. The U.S., in its invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, happily obliged, sponsoring sectarian violence through the military training – including torture techniques – it gave to Iraqi militias, police and military forces that divided along particular ethnoreligious lines.
Many of these organizations have been found to be repeat human rights offenders and have targeted particular ethnoreligious groups within Iraq. Despite their egregious track record, the U.S. continues to financially support these armed groups.
The U.S. has also worked to create and strengthen ethnoreligious divisions within the country by promoting Iraqi organizations founded on religion or ethnicity rather than along political lines.
Though some analysts believe that the biggest winners in the U.S.-created environment of Iraqi sectarianism were the Iraqi majority population of the Shi’a – which, after all, was given control of the post-invasion government – it was really the Kurds who gained the most as a result of the U.S.’ machinations to divide and conquer Iraq.
The Kurds are the largest group of nomadic people in the world and have long existed without their own state. As journalist Sarah Abed has noted, “This fact has allowed Western powers to use the ‘stateless’ plight of the Kurdish people as a tool to divide, destabilize and conquer Iraq and Syria, where colonial oil and gas interests run deep.” Although the most powerful Kurdish political parties in these countries do not see themselves as pawns, history shows that Western colonial powers have used them that way in the past and continue to do so, often with their willing cooperation.
In recent decades the U.S. government and military have openly supported Kurdish separatist elements, though they have stopped short of recognizing “Kurdistan” as a state completely independent of the Baghdad-based government. This role fell instead to U.S. corporations, such as ExxonMobil, a major force in the fossil fuel industry. In 2011, ExxonMobil unilaterally brokered an oil deal with the Kurdistan region, bypassing Iraq’s central government in the process.
According to ExxonMobil, the move was partly motivated by problems it was having contracting with Iraq’s central government regarding oilfields in southern Iraq. However, the promise of oil reserves in Kurdistan said to be “one of the world’s most promising regions for the future [of] hydrocarbon discovery,” was also a clear motivator. As a result, ExxonMobil sided with the Kurdish separatists over the central government, giving clout to Kurdish goals of greater regional autonomy – and thus furthering their shared goal of a divided Iraq.
Other oil corporations – including Chevron and Gazprom, among others – followed Exxon’s lead..
By 2014, more than 80 foreign energy corporations had struck deals with Kurdistan. Oilman Ray Hunt, whose Hunt Oil Co. signed its own unilateral agreement with Kurdistan in 2007, has consistently heaped praises upon Kurdistan and has also made clear his vision for the future of Iraq: “In the end, you’ll end up with a soft partition of Iraq.”