Sunday, February 17, 2013

Turkey's role in destabilizing Iraq for energy could backfire

    Sunday, February 17, 2013   No comments

The Turkish prime minister has expressed resolve to continue to purchase oil from Iraq’s Kurdish region, maintaining that the Iraqi constitution bestows on the Kurds the right to export oil and gas, but the issue of legality seems to be a rather controversial one.
“Mr. [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan’s interpretation appears to be an extremely loose one, which is unlikely to be supported by the Iraqi Supreme Court,” says Joost Hiltermann, a senior Iraq analyst from the International Crisis Group (ICG) based in Brussels.

Turkey, which aims to knit closer ties with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq in an effort to decrease the enormous size of the bill it pays for energy imports while at the same time diversify its energy sources, has been getting, since last year, oil by the truckload from the Kurdish region despite protests by the Iraqi central government, and opposition from the US.

“The US says, ‘You are acting wrongly.’ No, we are saying, the [Iraqi] constitution allows this, because the Kurdish region is entitled to dispose of 18 [sic] percent [of the country’s natural resources],” Prime Minister Erdoğan said on his return flight from the Czech Republic about two weeks ago, once again affirming Turkey’s position on the issue.

While the US is concerned that Turkey’s efforts may pave the way for an already fragile Iraq to break up, pushing Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki further towards Iran, the Iraqi central government’s opposition is a legitimate concern. The central government, which maintains that, as per the constitution, all energy deals and exports of oil and natural gas need the authorization of the central government, describes the Kurds’ trade with Turkey as illegal.


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