Posted tagged ‘Iraqi Kurds’

Kurds win Syrian oil under secret US-Russian deal – prize for Raqqa

October 23, 2017

Kurds win Syrian oil under secret US-Russian deal – prize for Raqqa, DEBKAfile, October 23, 2017

Washington felt that the Kurds also deserved to be compensated for their Iraqi brothers’ loss of the Kirkuk oil city, which was seized last week by an Iraqi force boosted by pro-Iranian Shiite militias.

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US-backed Syrian Kurdish militias reported Sunday, Oct. 22, the capture of Syria’s biggest oil field of al-Omar in the eastern Deir Ez-Zour province.

They were pressing on with their offensive against the Islamic State after capturing Raqqa. Al-Omar is located on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River. The Kurds’ takeover pre-empted its grab by a mixed force of Russian-backed Syrian army contingents and Hizballah, which had halted 6 km short of al-Omar.

While in the hands of ISIS, this field pumped up to 10,000 barrels today and is capable of producing up to 40,000 bpd. If repaired and brought up to scratch, it could potentially yield up to 120,000 bpd.

It now turns out that the Russian command’s secret order to the Syrian/Hizballah forces, exclusively reported by DEBKAfile last week, to halt where they stood after capturing Mayadin in eastern Syria from ISIS – and not  advance on the oil field – was prompted by unpublished talks between US and Russian officers in the area.

The officers reached a deal on the disposition of these oil fields. Under that deal, it was decided to award the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia the richest Syrian field as a prize for its role in leading the SDF in the capture of ISIS’ de facto capital of Raqqa.

DEBKAfile’s sources add that Washington felt that the Kurds also deserved to be compensated for their Iraqi brothers’ loss of the Kirkuk oil city, which was seized last week by an Iraqi force boosted by pro-Iranian Shiite militias. The loss of Kirkuk to Baghdad and Tehran has deprived the Kurdish Regional Government of Iraq of the income from 600,000 barrels of oil a day. The al-Omar field produces a much smaller amount, but its revenue would save the KRG from economic meltdown.

Sources in Damascus, disgruntled over the handover of al-Omar to the Kurds, accused the Syrian Arab tribes who fought in Raqqa of backing the Kurdish militia’s claim to the oil field. They also suggested that ISIS opted to surrender the oil field to the Sunni Kurds, rather than letting it fall into the hands of Assad’s Alawi regime.

Russia’s consent to hand over Syria’s biggest oil field to pro-American Kurds was calculated to yield a quid pro quo in the form of Washington’s support for the Russian oil giant Rosneft taking control of the Kurdish oil pipeline from the KRG via Turkey to the Mediterranean.

Last Thursday, the state-controlled Rosneft reported a deal with the KRG to take majority control of 60 percent in the operation of this pipeline project.

The Iraqi government has demanded clarifications for Moscow’s step.

Strides in the Struggle for an Independent Kurdistan

August 24, 2017

Strides in the Struggle for an Independent Kurdistan, Gatestone InstituteLawrence A. Franklin, August 24, 2017

The regional regime that is in the best position to threaten the drive for a free Kurdish state is that of Iran.

The country that has the most to lose in the event of an independent Kurdistan is Turkey, due to its huge population of ethnic Kurds, some of whom support the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has battled Turkey’s military for decades.

Ironically and thankfully, this combination of recently acquired combat experience on the part of the Kurds — plus widespread unrest in the region, still reeling from the “Arab Spring,” and the loss of Syrian and Iraqi sovereignty over swaths of their territories — improves the chance of a peaceful secession of Kurdistan from Iraq.

On September 25, 2017, the people of Iraqi Kurdistan will vote overwhelmingly in favor of establishing an independent nation-state. All ethnic groups, from Erbil to Zakho — and in other disputed areas claimed by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), such as Kirkuk, Sinjar and Makmoor — are eligible to take part in the referendum.

Although the result of the plebiscite will not be binding, it is likely to enhance existing secessionist sentiment among the populace and increase pressure on KRG officials.

The Kurds’ dream of a separate state is more than a century old. Yet geography and the imperialist designs of outside forces have conspired to render that goal a nightmare. Predictably, the most vehement opposition to the establishment of an independent state for the Kurds comes from the major powers with large Kurdish minorities — including Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria. Apparently fearing that a Kurdish state would heighten irredentist sentiment among the Kurdish minorities within their territories to merge with a “Greater Kurdistan,” the governments of these countries view any form of Kurdish independence as a national-security threat. It is thus quite possible that one or more of the KRG’s neighbors will move militarily to prevent a Kurdish secession from Iraq.

The regional regime that is in the best position to threaten the drive for a Kurdish Free State is that of Iran. It already employs small pro-Iranian militias — the Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq and the Badr Organization — on KRG territory, operating under the rubric of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). Should Iran decide to take military action to prevent a Kurdish secession from Iraq, it will likely deploy the PMF to do so.

However, while the political and military asymmetry between Iraq’s Kurdish region and outside regional powers have seemed fixed, the historical inequality no longer exists. Currently, in fact, no state in the region easily could crush a determined effort by the Kurds to sever the artificial ties that have bound them, disadvantageously, to the Arab people of Mesopotamia.

This is chiefly due to the Peshmerga (“those who defy death”), Kurdish fighters who have become combat-hardened warriors; so much so that, with NATO air support in August 2014, they fought the Islamic State fighters to a standstill outside the gates of their regional capital, Erbil. In the event of a confrontation against the Peshmerga, even the pro-Iran PMF militias would pay a heavy price.

Greater Zab River near Erbil Iraqi Kurdistan. (Image source: jamesdale10/Wikimedia Commons)

Most of Iran’s Kurds live in the western part of the Islamic Republic, in Kordestan, West Azerbaijan and the Kermanshah provinces. Although regionally concentrated, they are not in a position to secede from Iran, due mainly to the efforts of Tehran’s intelligence services to suppress Kurdish irredentism by eviscerating rebel organizations. That could change, however, if Iraq’s Kurds are successful in seceding from the central government in Baghdad. For one thing, it might buoy Iran-based Kurdish groups — such as the Komela (Society of Revolutionary Toilers of Kordestan), the Kurd Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) and the Free Life Party of Kordestan (PJAK) — and spur them to rise up against the regime in Tehran.

The country that has the most to lose in the event of an independent Kurdistan is Turkey, due to its huge population of ethnic Kurds, some of whom support the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has battled Turkey’s military for decades.

Although Turkey is also the greatest obstacle to Kurdish independence, Turkish troops have become entangled in the Syrian civil war. They have also not recuperated from the failed coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the summer of 2016, an act that resulted, among other things, in a massive purge within the Turkish military.

To allay Istanbul’s apprehensions that an independent Kurdish state on its borders might energize Turkey’s Kurds to seek autonomy, KRG political leaders are likely to forswear any assistance to the PKK, at least publicly. Kurdish spokesmen will probably also point out that Turks could benefit from a stable Kurdistan’s pledge to keep the oil flowing to Turkey from Kurdish fields around Kirkuk.

Syria also has a Kurdish minority, making up about 10% of the general population, most of whom reside in the north and northeast — where they have established the Democratic Administration of Rojava. Due to the raging civil war, Damascus currently cannot spare the troops and resources it would take to suppress this Kurdish enclave. Nor does the Assad regime have the current capability to dismantle the Kurdish military opposition in Syria, particularly the effective Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). In additions, tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds — along with Syria-based Turkmen, Arabs, Assyrians and Armenians – have banded together to form the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which have been fighting ISIS, particularly in Raqaa.

Even if the Assad regime survives the bloody war, now in its sixth year, it will be too weak initially to suppress secession from its own Kurds.

Furthermore, the Syria that eventually emerges is likely to be a good deal smaller than its current size, which would force it to rely its Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah allies to conquer Rojava. Such a scenario would be thick with dangers, including a possible American military response.

Ironically and thankfully, this combination of recently-acquired combat experience on the part of the Kurds — plus widespread unrest in the region, still reeling from the “Arab Spring,” and the loss of Syrian and Iraqi sovereignty over swaths of their territories — improves the chance of a peaceful secession of Kurdistan from Iraq.

Dr. Lawrence A. Franklin was the Iran Desk Officer for Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. He also served on active duty with the U.S. Army and as a Colonel in the Air Force Reserve, where he was a Military Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Israel.