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 4 - Corporate connection to Trump’s change of heart on Iraq partition
Over the years since these deals were struck, the Kurdish separatist parties in Iraq have benefited immensely, though more recently they have been hit hard by the global drop in oil prices. In 2014, they were exporting 280,000 barrels of oil every day. And, despite troubles with foreign companies brought on by falling oil prices and the rise of Daesh (ISIS), the Kurds – as of the end of 2016 – were exporting nearly 600,000 barrels a day.
Though Daesh was painted by the media as a scourge to the Kurds, they have in fact benefited from Daesh’s invasion of large swaths of Iraq. Indeed, the Kurds – trained, armed and provided with airstrike support by the U.S. and Israel – have taken control of many former Daesh territories and have thereby expanded the size of their own territory.
The U.S. and its regional allies have said that the Kurds’ ability to confront Daesh essentially entitles them to “have their way.” As Sadad Ibrahim al-Husseini, former head of exploration and development for the Saudi state oil company Aramco told The New York Times in 2014: “At the end of the day, the Kurds will have their way, because they are the only credible Sunni group that can confront ISIS.”
Not surprisingly, the Kurd’s oil riches have brought them into direct conflict with Iraq’s central government, which has since cut off national funding for the Kurdish region and threatened any country or company buying Kurdish oil with legal action for violating the nation’s constitution by not sharing its oil sale revenue equally among all Iraqis.
However, countries like Turkey and Israel continue to buy significant amounts of oil, as well as natural gas, from the Kurds. Turkey’s case is particularly interesting given Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s well-known hatred of the Kurds and opposition to Kurdish independence in Syria. However, when it comes to Iraqi Kurdistan at least, economic factors have won out, with Turkey’s ruling party having stated that Kurds in Iraq have the right to self-determination.
Kurdish control of Iraq’s oil-rich north is key to the partitioning plan. As Michael Makovsky, a former Pentagon official, told The New York Times: “I think Iraqi Kurdish independence is inevitable, at least eventually. They have natural allies in the United States because of the oil companies involved in drilling there. And the Turks and Europeans need their gas.”
Though candidate Trump had not voiced support for a partition of Iraq, spurred by his administration’s strong ties to the oil industry, Washington has become even more friendly to the Kurds – and to the idea of Kurdish secession – since Trump took office.
However, when the State Department was asked by journalist Nafeez Ahmed whether it still stood by the traditional position of supporting a unified Iraq, a department spokesperson answered: “With respect to the unity of Iraq, you’re right; that is something we make a point of saying. But ultimately, these are all internal political discussions that Iraq needs to have with all ethnic groups resident in the country.” As Ahmed notes, this is the first time that the State Department has officially announced the U.S.’ willingness to consider the partition of Iraq.