το Όνειρο της Ανεξαρτησίας...
_Πόσοι στην Ελλάδα είναι ενήμεροι για τα παρακάτω, που δημοσιεύονται στο τελευταίο τεύχος του περιοδικού "Energyworld";
_Και όμως από τέτοια στοιχεία κρίνονται τα γεγονότα σε όλη την περιοχή, και στη δική μας γειτονιά...
_Και ενώ εμείς μιλάμε για νεκρούς και πρόσφυγες, άλλοι μιλούν για εκατομμύρια βαρέλια πετρέλαιο αξίας εκατομμυρίων δολαρίων, και πώς αυτά θα περάσουν στα χέρια τους...
KURDISH OIL FEEDS THE DREAM OF INDEPENDENCE
George PavlopoulosEnergyworld / September-October 2014
In July, Massoud Barzani, the emblematic leader of 7 the million Iraqi Kurds, pledged a referendum on independence, as the first tankers with Kurdish crude had already sailed from the Turkish port of Ceyhan. In the following weeks, the Jihadi militants of the Islamic State, a Sunni organization aiming at establishing a "chalifate" in Syria and Iraq, marched to the gates of Erbil, the Kurdish capital in Northern Iraq. US and Baghdad rushed to help the "peshmerga" forces from facing a humiliating defeat. The dream of Kurdish independence froze and so did oil exploitation efforts in their region. But, sooner or later, the geopolitical map of Iraq and the Middle East will change...In mid-August, as the Kurdish forces in northern Iraq - the so-called "peshmerga" - battled the Jihadi militants of the Islamic State, just a few kilometers from their capital Erbil, the question about the future of the oilfields in their territories was "frozen'. But it remained untouched, ready to emerge as soon as the battles are over and the status of the area is cleared - at least for some time.According to existing estimates, the region has reserves of about 45 billion barrels of crude oil and as much as 6 trillion cubic meters of natural gas. These numbers represent 32% and 5.5% of the total Iraqi reserves respectively. And it is no secret that oil (and gas) wealth is seen as the biggest asset of the Kurds in their efforts to establish their own independent state, transforming the geopolitics of the Middle East. A prospect that, at the same time, amounts to a nightmare for the rest of the peoples of Iraq and the central government in Baghdad, but also for Turkey, Syria, Iran and the United States.All of them have every reason to fear that a Kurdish state would not only accelerate the breakup of Iraq, but it would also multiply and intensify the conflicts in the whole region, which is already in flames, with the ongoing civil wars in Syria and Iraq, the new Israeli invasion in the Gaza Strip, the deadly tensions in Lebanon and Jordan. But to be honest, they also understand that - regardless of what happens now - it is impossible to bury forever the will of 31 million Kurds (6-7 million of them live in northern Iraq, while the rest are spread between Turkey, Iran and Syria) to create their own state. And, of course, to exploit the oil wealth which belongs to them.In this context, the latest efforts of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to export big amounts of oil without the mediation of the Baghdad authorities are of great importance. It is well known that Kurdish crude is already flowing for months to the Mediterranean Turkish port of Ceyhan, at a rate of around 120,000 barrels a day and, so far, the KRG has pumped about 6.5 million barrels to Turkey, according to the energy ministry in Ankara. More important is the fact that Kurdish leaders have the ambition to quadruple this amount by December and raise it to one million barrels by the end of 2015.But on May 22, something happened which could potentially be a game- changer. The United Leadership crude oil tanker, carrying a $100 million cargo of one million barrels of Kurdish crude, set sail from Ceyhan into the Mediterranean. After almost two weeks, it stuck off the Moroccan coast, unable to deliver its cargo, as the US and the central Iraqi government threatened with serious legal setbacks.But KRG didn't stop there. In June, three more tankers loaded with Kurdish oil sailed from Ceyhan. One of them, sailed from Ceyhan to Malta to Cyprus and then crossed the Suez Canal towards Sri Lanka. Another one, the United Kalavryta, reached the port of Galveston, in Texas, by the end of July, trying to deliver the crude it was carrying to a US refinery. But the US authorities seized the cargo, after a judge approved a request from Baghdad, which threatened "to sue any company, refinery or trader that buys the Iraqi crude that KRG is illegally offering".The US government acted to comply with the court ruling, but there is no doubt that its stance was also politically motivated - and, at the same time, it is obvious that the Americans try to keep all ways open. "We have made people aware that whatever they buy entails certain risks, and we have consistently told them about that', said Carlos Pascual, head of the US State Department's Energy Bureau, referring to the incident with United Kalavryta, to add immediately after that: "At some point, Baghdad and Erbil have to come to an understanding of how the development and the export of those resources can contribute to Iraq's overall development". In other words, the following message was sent: if you don't reach an agreement on Kurdistan's oil wealth, then the breakup of the country might be inevitable and Washington might think to eventually support the Kurds in their efforts.The stance of the Turkish government, which provides KRG with the port of Ceyhan to export the Kurdish oil independently, was also politically motivated. Ankara fears an independent Kurdish state but, at the same time, keeps in mind that in case it is created, it would be better to keep it under control and not to be viewed as an enemy by the 17 million Turkish Kurds.The choice of the Israeli government to silently reach a deal with KRG and buy the cargo of another tanker that sailed from Ceyhan in the beginning of June, is also clearly political. According to information published in the Wall Street Journal on July 23, the United Emblem sailed from Ceyhan to Malta on June 9 - the same day that the gunmen of the Islamic State were storming the city of Mosul. A week later, anchored in international waters, it transferred its cargo to another tanker, the SCF Altai, "completing the first sale of Kurdish oil, according to people familiar with the transaction", as the WSJ wrote, although no authorities confirmed the buyer's identity.The Altai then sailed east, to the opposite direction, docking after some days in the Israeli port of Ashkelon, where the oil was unloaded into a storage facility. After that, the Kurdish energy ministry trumpeted the move as a diplomatic and political victory, "accomplished despite almost three weeks of intimidation and baseless interferences from Baghdad". Finally, as the WSJ suggests, "two days after the oil was unloaded, S93 million appeared in the KRG's account at Turkiye Halk Bankasi AS, the state- owned Turkish lender".Undoubtedly, this transaction is of great significance, but it cannot solve by itself the serious problems the Kurdish authorities are facing, neither can it fill their (almost empty) bags with fresh money. The gamble is still open and, among others, it costs KRG a lot, as it is obliged to pay thousands of dollars on a daily basis, in the form of insurance premiums for the other ships that remain at sea.
==============In the months before the latest developments in Iraq, US tried to broker a deal between Baghdad and Erbil for Kurdish oil. Under the agreement, Baghdad would have to pay KRG the 17% of its total budget and the Kurds would be given more say in their oil sales. But negotiations broke up well before the April 30 national elections, which lead to a deadlock. So, by August, the central government has refused to pay the Kurds, as well as to release the frozen payments which amounted to more than $5 billion.The answer of the KRG was to intensify the efforts to sell its oil independently. "The KRG has the right to sell oil if Baghdad continues to cut KRG budget, disrupt the livelihood of its people and impose an embargo", said on July 29 Sherko Jawdat, head of the Kurdish parliament's energy committee.==============