Iraqi deputies wary of Kurdish ‘expansion’

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By Adel Kadhem

Azzaman, June 27, 2014

So far the Kurds have emerged as the only winners from the crushing defeat of Iraqi armed forces at the hands of militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).

Three weeks into its lightening attack that saw its Jihadists in control of territory stretching for nearly 300 kilometers from Mosul in the north down to the outskirts of Baghdad, there are no signs that the government in Baghdad is capable of turning the tide in its favor.

Iraqi Kurds have utilized the chaos and the vacuum resulting from the withdrawal of Iraqi army troops, sending in their pershmerga forces into the provinces of Kirkuk, Diyala and Nineveh.

But their best prize has been the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and its lucrative oil fields which their forces now control in full.

Their control of Kirkuk and its oil fields as well as more swathes of territory in Nineveh and Diyala not only substantially expands the area of their region but immediately adds at least 500,000 barrels of oil per day to their current production rate of 400,000 barrels.

Kirkuk fields can produce up to 800,000 barrels per day if rehabilitated properly.

If Kurdish exports go ahead without interruption, the Kurdish semi-independent enclave will be able to sell up to 1 million barrels per day next year, making it more than self-sufficient in terms of hard cash earnings.

The region has so far survived financially due to an agreement under which the central government transferred 17% of its oil revenue to Kurdish coffers.

The new geographical map that makes Kirkuk the region’s fifth province after Sulaimaniya, Arbil, Dahouk and Halabja will help Iraqi Kurds earn more hard cash than Baghdad in terms of per capita.

But the new situation is drawing harsh criticism from some Iraq deputies, who have vented their anger at the Kurds.

Hanan al-Fatlawi, a deputy from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s parliamentary bloc accused the Kurds of attempts to weaken the country and using the current crisis for their own benefits.

Fatlawi said the Kurds “are stealing” Iraqi oil and proving their “covetous intentions.”

Abdulmahi al-Khafaji, another deputy, said the Kurdish region and its leadership “are smuggling” Iraqi oil and selling it to Israel.

“The (Kurdish) region persists in its violation of the constitution,” Khafaji said.