No matter how hard the wind howls at the mountain, the mountain never bows

Evin Cheikosman

By Evin Cheikosman:

As per my previous blog post, If you control the oil, you control the country, South Kurdistan has decided to push forward with independent petrol exports to the international community through Turkey’s port, Ceyhan. This decision hit a nerve for the Baghdadi government which has threatened to take legal action against Turkey and any additional countries who decide to accept oil from Kurdistan. At first this threat appeared to be bluff, a harmless threat with no basis. But now this threat has turned into a serious obstacle for Kurdish petrol exports, affecting every potential buyer thus far.

In coordination with Turkey, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) sold its first shipment of 1.3 million barrels of oil to anonymous buyers on May 22.

Thereafter, the United Leadership oil tanker, filled with Kurdish petrol, set course for the U.S. Gulf coast last week, according to ship-tracking sources; however, once knowledge of this reached Baghdad, the Iraqi government slammed a load of legal pressure and condemnation onto the US government. This made the U.S. order the United Leadership tanker to turn around. According to a U.S. State Department official, the United States does not support the oil sale absent the appropriate approval of the federal Iraqi government. This, of course, is bogus given the fact that the U.S. has in the past imported small quantities of Kurdish oil, although not from the new pipeline. Anyway, the State Department went on to stress that it would remain neutral on the issue in the hope of an agreement between Kurds and Baghdad.

However, by no means is the U.S. genuinely neutral, given the fact that there is absolutely no mandate in the Iraqi constitution to authorize Baghdad the sole power to sell oil – and the U.S. government knows this. Thus for the U.S. to condemn Kurdish oil sales as an “arbitration” of Iraq solidarity and an “obstruction” of Iraqi law is indirectly pledging loyalties to Baghdad. Put whatever political spin you want, but that is the plain truth.

Kurds have the right. Kurdistan is independent from Baghdad and their new pipeline is their own. We are way past the era of serfdom, if I farm my land with my own two hands, it’s my land. How is it right to say that it is anyone else’s?

It is understandable that a great nation like the United States, a nation that is vastly respected and extremely powerful in the world, does not want to get wrapped up in the beginning stages of Iraqi-Kurdish petrol wars. However, what i cannot fathom is that the U.S. bowed out so quickly; without a bit of hesitation. Kurdistan is a strategic player in world politics today; to turn a blind eye away from this reality is not only counterproductive to future relations with this emerging nation, but also damaging to Kurdistan’s ability to export their oil to other countries.

This is evidenced by the fact that America’s order to turn The United Leadership oil tanker away has set a pattern of rejection along the path towards every country that this tanker has managed to reach. Of course, Baghdadi legal threats play a huge part of this – purposely targeting the economic and political links these potential buyers have with Baghdad – but the United States is the all-powerful player in this game, a game where everyone follows the lead of the winner so as not to end up a loser. It is very likely that, if the United States would have allowed the oil tanker to reach its port, the other countries this tanker would subsequently reach would have followed America’s lead.

But now, America’s rejection has set a red flag and made Kurdish oil homeless.

Additional examples of Kurdish oil being turned eschew:

Just recently the Italian Industry Ministry released a letter that they received from Iraq’s oil marketing arm SOMO, which states: “SOMO reserves the right to take legal action against the buyer of such a cargo.” While the letter stopped short of saying Italian refineries would be banned from buying the oil, it is the first sign that European countries are responding to pressure from Baghdad. With that said, Italy has also rejected Kurdish oil from reaching their ports.

Then we have Morocco, a country that outright thwarted the United Leadership oil tanker from reaching its borders this past Thursday. According to the director general for the National Ports Agency, Nadia Laraki, “The United Leadership moved into international waters yesterday upon a request from Moroccan authorities, the issue is out of our hands. It has not docked and therefore has not unloaded a single cubic meter.” She added that the tanker is now in international waters, about 34 miles from the Moroccan coast.

Now, with that said, it is a wonder whether the KRG will eventually encounter a buyer for their more than 2.5 million barrels of crude oil. I mean, the prospects are appearing dimmer with each rejection of a potential petrol sale. Is Baghdad winning? Do they control oil sales in the country after all? Answer: No.

According to a statement last week in parliament by the KRG’s Prime Minister, Nechirvan Barzani, “There is no going back… if we cannot reach a shared understanding, we have other options and we cannot wait forever. Why did we begin selling oil? In order to make Baghdad realize that we can do it.” This statement is very powerful. The obstacles that Kurdistan is facing right now are just part of a bigger picture. There are more pages to our story and it does not stop here. No matter how hard the wind howls at the mountain, the mountain never bows. To my point, Baghdad can whine and play the big bad guy all it wants, but Kurdistan will prevail. If not tomorrow, soon, because last time I checked, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is making an uphill bid for a third term following elections last month, cannot fulfill the ambition of keeping his job without political support from the Kurdish bloc in parliament. There is enough civil strife in the country as it is; will continuing this immature game further his popularity and secure his place at the “throne?” I think not.

Evin Cheikosman is a Kurd living in Los Angeles, CA, A recent graduate in International Politics from the University of California, Santa Barbara, she has studied abroad in Berlin, Germany and will soon be traveling to Zhuhai, China on a teaching assignment. Thereafter she will be pursuing a masters degree in foreign affairs. During her free time, Evin posts facts and opinions concerning Kurdish politics on her blog: Minority Politico

2 Responses to No matter how hard the wind howls at the mountain, the mountain never bows
  1. KIM
    June 8, 2014 | 11:35

    To the US Delegation that had just arrived in Hawler: You are not welcome in South ! Leave and come back when corrupt Obamas admin is over! Your president is fake!

  2. Bajdar
    June 8, 2014 | 17:50

    I agree with you KIM . If they ( Americans ) don’t support Kurdistan’s independence, we should not grant them any concessions. I am certain majority of nations sympathize with Kurdish struggle for emancipation under the yoke of fascist Iraqi Arab rule.

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