Oil and the Syrian Crisis Come Between Kurdistan and Maliki |
Al Hayat - 02 August, 2012
Author: Randa Takieddine
Disputes between the Iraqi region of Kurdistan and the central government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad are becoming exacerbated, as a result of Maliki’s policy that he wishes to follow as a client of Iran; he is making grave errors in his dealing with international oil firms. The concentration of Iraqi Army troops in the Khabur and Zammar regions, near the Syrian border, and the opposition by the Peshmerga to this deployment, show that the Iraqi prime minister wants to prevent the movement of Syrian rebels to the region, in order to protect the regime of Bashar Assad. The Maliki government’s dependency on Iran makes it defend a regime that is more brutal than the regime of Saddam Hussein, which Maliki himself fought. Saddam Hussein, like Bashar Assad, liquidated his opponents from among the Iraqi people. However, when the regime fell there was no one there to help it, as in the case of the assistance that comes to the Syrian regime from Maliki, Iran, Russia and China. Maliki’s administration of Iraq is extremely bad. Political stalemate, for example, has led to the delay in the issuing of a law on petroleum for the country, and seen international oil giants, such as Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Total, sign contracts for exploration and purchase 35 percent of the US firm Marathon’s shares for exploration in this region. Exxon Mobil has signed two contracts for exploration in Iraqi Kurdistan, which prompted Maliki to write a letter of protest to President Barack Obama, who responded in vague fashion, saying that the United States supported the unity and stability of Iraq. Maliki then announced that it was a letter of support for him vis-à-vis Exxon’s arrangements with Kurdistan, but the White House quickly issued a clarification, affirming the independence of US companies and the non-interference by the American government in their affairs. The Iraqi government removed Exxon from the management of a large-scale project to pump water from fields in the south, which delayed the launch of this necessary project. A few days ago, Chevron signed two contracts for exploration in Kurdistan and Norway’s Statoil is also searching for contracts there, while Total is about to sign exploration contracts in Kurdistan, and has informed the Iraqi government of its intentions.
Certainly, the conditions for work and the contracts with foreign companies in the south of Iraq have encouraged international oil giants to search for gains in contracts in Kurdistan, where there are expansive areas for exploration, and where the conditions are much better than in the south.
For example, Norway’s Statoil pulled out of a contract in the south and sold its participation to Russia’s Lukoil, and preferred to search for contracts in the north, in Kurdistan. The companies say that as long as there is no oil law, they are not working outside a legal framework.
The problem of areas that are in dispute between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Baghdad will not be solved if Maliki pursues his policy of deploying troops in these areas, to prevent the entry of Syrian rebels and the Free Syrian Army; the complaint of some Kurds about the Iraqi Army, and their marginalization, are only increasing division in the country. It is clear that Kurdish elements in Maliki's government do not support Assad's murder and oppression of his people, as evidenced by various statements and stances by Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zibari. However, his comments differ from the policy of the prime minister, who is allied with the Syrian and Iranian regime, despite the influence of the United States in Iraq. Iran's control over Maliki is stronger than that of the American government; or, it serves the US in the long run, because this country has vague stances on what is going on in a number of countries, especially under the Obama administration. Even though the US continues to have a tangible presence in Iraq, the White House appears to be unconcerned by Maliki's alliance with Iran, or his support for Assad's regime. Maliki's policy appears to be aimed at encouraging the partition of Iraq and the exclusion of the Kurdistan region from the country. Are there those who want to divide the country, and perhaps the entire region?