Foreign Policy Blogs

Oil and business deals protect Kurdistan

Oil and business deals protect Kurdistan

After Kurdistan held a referendum for independence, the US administration has come out against it, stressing that they support a “united, democratic and prosperous Iraq.” The problem with this position is that the present Iraq is anything but united, democratic and prosperous. To the contrary, it is an undemocratic failed state on the verge of collapsing that is increasingly divided along sectarian lines and commits massive human rights abuses on a daily basis. Since the Kurds are opposed to this and sought to separate from Iraq as a result, the central government in Baghdad is presently uniting together with Iran and Turkey against Kurdistan’s citizens. They recently held a joint military exercise along Kurdistan’s border together with Iran and Turkey.

It is critical to note that the present Iraqi government is nothing more than a proxy regime for Iran, and Iran is threatening the Kurds on a daily basis. Iran is opposed to Kurdistan’s independence for it is a direct threat to the Shia Crescent and Iran’s colonial ambitions in the Middle East region. With Iraqi oil, Iran is number one in oil. Without Iraqi oil, OPEC ranks Iran as number 3. This means that if they control Iraq, they will have one third of the world’s energy resources in their hands.

Syrian Kurdish dissident Sherkoh Abbas illustrated that Iranian influence in Iraq creates a number of problems for Western countries: “They can increase the price of oil and harm the European and American economies especially in times of need. Also when economies are trying to get out of recession, they can put them back in recession. It is a threat to the international community. They can promote Iranian terrorism around the world. They can intimidate countries that make deals with them. They can black-mail and throw their weight around.” Abbas warned that if Iran also gets access to the Kurdish areas in Northern Iraq, the situation can potentially return to what it was in the 1970’s, with people waiting miles in line to get gas due to Iranian threats.

The only way to prevent this threat from coming into fruition is to support an independent Kurdistan. The Kurds will have an open oil policy and won’t use their resources to threaten other countries. Under the KRG leadership, the Kurds have nationalized their oil, have instituted a free market economy and have managed to sell it to Turkey. Kurdistan is now the second biggest market for Turkish investment and many Turkish companies are based in Iraqi Kurdistan. Kurdistan’s Prime Minister Nichervan Barzani has also used the oil to build relationships with other countries as well. The Kurds have utilized this resource in order to build the fundamentals of a state. They have not used their resources to threaten others. Due to the clean oil the Kurds provide, many major oil companies prefer to do business in Kurdistan rather than to work in other areas of Iraq. If the Kurds are granted independence, the threats posed by Iran gaining access to much oil can be significantly reduced.

Nevertheless, despite this reality, the US has remained silent in the face of Iranian threats against Kurdistan in addition to opposing Kurdistan’s referendum. For the first time, democratic countries and non-democratic countries are uniting against Kurdistan’s democratic right, which is the referendum. The US has not done anything to help the people who fight ISIS alone. Right now, only the oil and business trade protects them. If the US continues to keep silent, then Iran will win the game. As a result, the Kurds are angry with American policy makers for they seek American protection. An anonymous Kurdish source stressed: “The US has not done anything for us. Russia is better than the US for they changed their policy towards Kurdistan. They respect the decision of the Kurdish people and they asked Turkey not to put sanctions on us. They support an oil pipeline from Kurdistan to Turkey to the Mediterranean Sea. If Turkey decides to block the pipeline, then Russia is working to help us use Syria. If the US does not change policy, the Kurds will become pro-Russia. The US will lose if this happens. Right now, it is not in our interest for we want the US to help us and not Russia.” However, if the Kurds are pushed into a corner, they may have to move away from America.

As Kurdistan’s Prime Minister Nichervan Barzani proclaimed, “Once again, we reiterate our willingness to engage in serious dialogue and we are against resorting to violence in order to address disagreements. All standing issues should be dealt with through negotiations and peaceful means. Our calls for dialogue and negotiations must not be answered with threats, amassing forces and preparations for war.”

 

Author

Rachel Avraham

Rachel Avraham is a political analyst working at the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights. For 7 years, she has been an Israel-based journalist, specializing in radical Islam, abuses of human rights and minority rights, counter-terrorism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Syria, Iran, Kurdistan and other issues of importance. Avraham is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media," a ground-breaking book endorsed by Former Israel Consul General Yitzchak Ben Gad and Israeli Communications Minister Ayoob Kara that discusses how the media exploits the life stories of Palestinian female terrorists in order to justify wanton acts of violence. Avraham has an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University. She received her BA in Government and Politics with minors in Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.

Great Decisions Discussion group