News You Really Need To See: “How the U.S. Got Mixed Up in a Fight Over Kurdish Oil”

“How the U.S. Got Mixed Up in a Fight Over Kurdish Oil”

The Washington Post, August 5, 2014, p.A1–with-a-unified-iraq-at-stake/2014/08/04/4a00a6e2-1900-11e4-9e3b-7f2f110c6265_story.html

“Sixty miles off the coast of Texas sits a crude-oil tanker fully loaded with years of antagonism between the Kurdish region of Iraq and the central government in Baghdad. … The central government of Iraq, despite recent military setbacks, dispatched its American lawyers to do battle in the federal court in southern Texas, where a judge ruled that the tanker’s cargo, worth about $100 million, should be seized if it came within Texas state waters.  The core of the dispute: The Iraqi government says that the crude cargo belongs to the Baghdad Ministry of Oil and that it was never the property of the Kurdistan Regional Government.  But the Kurds argue that the Texas court doesn’t have jurisdiction, and they filed a motion Monday in the court to lift the restrictions on the oil. … The drama in Texas is just part of a global play being made by the Kurdistan Regional Government, which is desperately seeking money in the midst of turmoil in Iraq.  The Kurds, many of whom have long sought an independent state, say the central government in Baghdad has stopped providing the northern region with its share of the national budget.  And without the ability to sell their own oil, Kurdish officials argue, they cannot protect themselves from violent militants or provide government resources. … But if the Kurds could sell their own oil, they would also potentially secure the financial base they need to finally declare their independence.  At stake is the U.S. goal of a unified Iraq, and the Obama administration is stuck in the middle of the dispute.  Having invested tremendous effort in securing Iraqi federalism and its constitution — which says oil belongs to the entire republic — the administration has been discouraging companies and countries from buying the Kurdish oil cargoes.  Revenue-sharing accords in Iraq are supposed to provide 17 percent of oil revenue to the Kurdistan Regional Government.”

Quickie Analysis:  The borders of modern Iraq were a post-WWI creation.  It seems time to admit that Iraq’s, like a number of other post-WWI borders, didn’t work out — and that US nation-building in Iraq also didn’t work out.  To borrow from Alexander Solzhenitsyn: “It is not because the truth is too difficult to see that we make mistakes.  It may even lie on the surface; but we make mistakes because the easiest and most comfortable course for us is to seek insight where it accords with our emotions — especially selfish ones.”

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