Oil, the Kurds and the future of Iraq

Oil, the Kurds and the future of Iraq

The U.S. has withdrawn its troops from Iraq. While the last units were leaving Iraq, an important agreement was being signed in the Kurdish region. The Kurdish government has signed an agreement with global giant Exxon Mobil for the development of oil and natural gas resources in the region, despite Baghdad’s objection.

This makes sense beyond an ordinary and simple energy deal, because the agreement gives us important clues to be able to read the future. Moreover, it smooths the way not only for potential political developments and the security situation in Iraq but also to understand the whole region. For example, examining the Iran issue in light of that agreement, we could see how oil companies read the greater picture and future. It also gives important clues about what kind of a political climate and security environment the Arab Spring would create.

Seemingly, the Kurds are applicants not only for gaining economic but also a properly political position. The oil deal sheds light regarding how to tackle the controversial issues of the Iraqi constitution like Kirkuk and regional competition. 

In other words, political analysts of the oil companies are sure providing stability and political integrity in Iraq would be very difficult in the coming years. Curiously enough, until quite recently, it has been argued that oil was the most important factor that would ensure political integrity of Iraq. Apparently, this argument has lost its function according to the recent agreement. 

The argument of Iraq’s potential/capability of preserving its political integrity is losing its meaning not only for the oil companies but also for states. Still-continuing sectarian tension in Iraq and its characteristic overstepping of political borders of countries ease foreign intervention, openly or covertly. Henceforth, conflicts in Iraq have been in a mutated position of typical proxy wars of the Cold War. 

Tension and fights in Iraq are witnessing three interactive competitions. First is the ongoing U.S.-Israel and Iran competition. It is evident Iran has built its response to the U.S. presence and its politics in the region upon Iraq. Second is the regional competition among actors. Incorrigible Shiite/Sunni competition in the Middle East has been continuing in Iraq as proxy war at the moment. Iran continues sending strong messages both to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states and to Turkey through Iraq.

Also, Iran is sending its messages to Turkey, which acts in concert with the U.S. and Great Britain in the competition over Syria and the Sunni world. For example, Turkey’s desire of using Iraq as a main transportation axis following its cutting loose Syria has been rejected unexpectedly by the Iraqi government. The reason for this was made public as new route’s being out of countenance for Syria.

Lastly, age-old sectarian strife, which is full of psychological antagonism and hatred, seems to last for a long time. In the bargain, even if the Iraqi politicians try to overcome the deepening rifts, succeeding in this is not possible. I guess Exxon Mobil and others despair of Baghdad government, which is experiencing/would experience political chaos, and political integrity would continue to strengthen the political position of the Kurdish region. These circumstances are exciting for the Kurds. However, the more the Kurdish region approaches independence, the more it inevitably becomes a target.