Turkey plays a dangerous game in Northern Iraq. Economist

Turkey plays a dangerous game in Northern Iraq. Economist

21:30, 21 December, 2012

YEREVAN, DECEMBER 21, ARMENPRESS: Snaking their way from Kirkuk, a
city 240 north of Baghdad, through Kurdistan and across Turkey’s
eastern region of Anatolia to the Mediterranean are pipes that once
carried 1.6m barrels a day of Iraqi oil to the global market and
yielded fat transit fees to Turkey along the way, Armenpress reports
referring to Economist. The infrastructure underpinned the two
countries’ mutual dependence. But nowadays the balance of power has
shifted. A third party, the Iraqi Kurds, has changed it. It is unclear
who will emerge on top. But Iraq’s central government in Baghdad is on
the defensive.

Wars, saboteurs and, since the 1990s, economic sanctions have left the
Iraqi sections of the pipeline system in a mess. Barely a fraction of
its capacity is used. One of the two parallel lines stands empty and
the source that once fed them, the giant Kirkuk oilfield, is
dilapidated. The oil ministry in Baghdad has vague ideas about
revamping the pipeline but Turkey is hatching a different plan for its
section of the Kirkuk-to-Ceyhan pipeline. Its souring relations with
the government in Baghdad have spurred it to cultivate new ties with
the Iraqi Kurds’ regional government in Erbil, which oversees the oil
and gas that Turkey’s growing economy craves. A wide-ranging energy
deal is in the works that will see state-backed Turkish firms and
Western oil majors plough money into Kurdish infrastructure and
oilfields, connecting them to Turkey and the world beyond. The deal
could eventually allow for up to 2m b/d of Kurdish oil exports to go
through Turkey. Last year, trade between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan
amounted to $8 billion. Turkish money has paid for pristine airports
in Erbil and Dohuk, an Iraqi Kurdish city further north, and for other
large projects. Not long ago, Turkish politicians, wary of their own
large and restless Kurdish minority still fight for autonomy in
eastern Turkey, barely acknowledged Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.

Now Turkey’s government is using its commercial clout to press the
Iraqi Kurds’ president, Masoud Barzani, to help restrain militant
Kurds within Turkey. A stroke recently suffered by Jalal Talabani, a
Kurd who is president of federal Iraq and who has often mediated
between his kinsmen and the rulers in Baghdad may make it even harder
to keep the calm.

Oil and gas are at the core of this warm new relationship between
Turkey and Iraq’s Kurds. `Turkey has made a strategic shift in its
relations with us,’ says an official in a ministry in Erbil. `Whatever
the scenario, our market is in Turkey,’ writes the Economist.