Iraqi Kurds Eye Kirkuk Mosul Oil Fields

Iraqi Kurds eye Kirkuk, Mosul Oil Fields

Commander Hamid Efendi, the top-ranking Kurdish militia commander in Northern Iraq, said Saturday that he was committed to taking Kirkuk and Mosul for Kurdistan if the US went to war against Iraq. Kirkuk and Mosul are where the petroleum is, and possession of them would shift the balance of power in a post-Saddam Iraq toward the Kurds. Brian Murphy reported this for the Associated Press.

Hamid Efendi’s ambitions, which must mirror those of the Kurdish civilian leadership, hold many dangers for the region and for the US. The US would not welcome a diversion from the campaign for Baghdad and for regime change.

Turkey’s foreign minister has bluntly threatened to invade Iraqi Kurdistan if the Kurds capture Kirkuk and Mosul. Turkey has long had a Kurdish problem in eastern Anatolia and fears dismemberment if uppity Iraqi Kurds get petroleum riches and hook up with their cousins under Turkish rule across the border. Kurds secretly want their own state, but are forced by political considerations to say they just want an autonomous region of a federal Iraq.

If Turkish-Kurdish fighting broke out in the midst of the US attack on Iraq, it could be a disaster. The US needs Incirlik airbase and other Turkish facilities, as well as fly-over rights from Turkey. Turkish-Kurdish fighting could endanger all that.

Turkey wants the oil fields given to a Turkmen enclave in northern Iraq (there is also a small Turkic community in the region). Some speculate that the US would go along with such a plan, with an eye to securing good deals for US oil companies in the aftermath and as a way of blocking Kurdish ambitions. But how the US would induce the Kurds to stand down is the question.

US Vice President Dick Cheney, while CEO of Halliburton, did considerable business in the area, especially with regard to supplying equipment to refurbish the Iraq-Turkey oil pipeline. Armen Georgian speculates in “In these Times” that Halliburton and other US energy companies are eyeing the Kirkuk and Mosul fields hungrily. The implication, that Cheney wants the war in order to lift the boycott on Iraq and allow some serious money-making for his former company, seems to me a little conspiratorial. But who knows? The stated reasons for the US going to war are so thin that there must be *some* other reason.

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