Jun 20 2012
Azzaman, June 20, 2012
The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is getting tougher and tougher on Kurds for what it says are their violations of the constitution.
The Kurds are hammering Maliki and openly siding with his opponents who are bent to oust him.
And in Iraq, like any other oil-producing country in the Middle, it is the black gold that counts more than anything else. The two sides better than anyone else realize how important Iraqi oil riches are for their own future and power.
But it is the Kurds who are ‘pestering’ Maliki with their insistence to go ahead with the oil development through foreign firms and paying lip service to central government’s objections.
The Kurds have signed scores of oil contracts with foreign firms and now claim an output capacity of more than 200,000 barrels a day.
Both sides are threatening to use their oil resources as a weapon. The Kurds have suspended exporting oil through Iraqi national pipelines, thereby denying the national budget of billions of dollars.
The central government has warned it will stop paying the Kurds their share of oil royalties which amount to 17 percent of the value of each barrel Iraq sells.
Without central government assistance the Kurds cannot export their oil via pipelines. They use oil tankers to smuggle crude and by products via Iran and Turkey.
But tensions rose when reports surfaced that the regional Kurdish government was to strike a deal with U.S. Exxon Mobil to develop newly discoursed fields in an area which both sides claim their own.
The area administratively belongs to Mosul and it is outside the Kurdish semi-independent enclave but it is said to hold up to 20 billion barrels of oil reserves.
These are massive riches and Maliki has warned that he will resort to whatever means in order to stop the Kurds from spreading their control over these fields.
That means, Maliki is ready to send in troops to put an end to Kurdish covetous intentions in these areas which suddenly are found to sitting on massive riches.
If Exxon Mobil yields to central government pressure to suspend operations, Maliki would win one of his most important battles of integrity and leadership.
If the company goes ahead despite his warnings, it is difficult to see how he is going to swallow his pride by giving in to threats from his nemesis, the Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani.
But even if the vitriolic is merely a war of words, the Arab-Kurdish feud in Iraqi will not be over so long as Barzani acts as if he was ‘real’ head of state.
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