KRG forces Baghdad with Turkey pipeline

KRG forces Baghdad with Turkey pipeline

BAGHDAD - Reuters
Sparks fly as workmen weld together a pipeline set to carry crude from the self-ruled Kurdistan region of Iraq to Turkey, defying the central government and shifting the energy balance of power in the region.

Some 600 km away, Iraqi officials in Baghdad’s heavily fortified oil ministry are threatening dire consequences if the pipeline is completed, but appear powerless to prevent the Kurds exporting oil without their consent.

Turkey’s courtship of the Kurds has strained relations with Baghdad, which says the pipeline would set a precedent for other provinces to pursue independent oil policies, potentially leading to the break-up of Iraq.

“They tell us to finish it as soon as possible because they don’t want the Iraqi government to do something... (but) it cannot do anything,” said an engineer at the site in the northern Kurdish province of Duhok. “This is very important for Kurdistan because it will benefit the economy.”

At an estimated cost of $200 million, the 281 kilometres pipeline will reduce the autonomous region’s reliance on Baghdad.

For the Turks, it will open up a new energy corridor and allow them to scale back their dependence on Russia and Iran for oil and gas.

Neither side has been deterred by the United States, which has urged both the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Turkey to abandon the project.

“The export of oil and gas is not a monopoly of any single entity to be decided in Baghdad,” KRG Natural Resources Minister Ashti Hawrami said in a speech in London last month. “Indeed, it is our duty as Iraqis under the federal constitution to pursue export routes for oil and gas to secure our future.”

‘Last-minute decision’

A trench dug through fields parched by summer heat marks the future course of the pipeline, which was initially designed to supply gas but later converted for oil and re-routed toward Fishkhabour, a strategic point where the borders of Iraq, Turkey and Syria converge. It is a highly sensitive region in the eye of three overlapping storms: civil war in Syria, the contested frontier between Arab Iraq and Kurdistan, and a three-decade-long conflict involving with Kurdish rebels in southeastern Turkey.

Workmen now laying the final stretch of the pipeline are on track to finish in September, with initial flows of 200,000 (bpd) expected.