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Monday, November 4, 2013

Another Way Point on the Collapse of Iraq

Nations rarely collapse overnight. Rather there is a series of events spanning years and decades that each inch a nation toward collapse and fall from power. I think of the British Empire as such an example. By the end of the Second Boar War in 1902, the British Empire was at its height, having put down any challenges to its right to dominate the seas and the world. However, a decade later, the Empire collapsed with the advent of World War I. Of course, the Empire didn't collapse right away--there was yet another World War to fight, and countless humiliating defeats and conciliations in its former colonies, as piece-by-piece and little-by-little it was forced to give up the pieces of its Empire.

You would have thought that by giving up its Empire, it would reach a stable point where no further contraction was necessary. But, in fact, it hasn't. After loosing most of its overseas Empire (other than a few small chunks of rock here and there, which it may still lose in the next few years), it is beginning to shed its domestic empire: it has lost much of its sovereignty to Europe, it gave up much of Ireland, and there is a growing faction seeking independent for Scotland; and many of its larger cities have become damp versions of the Middle-East.

The same events took over the Ottoman Empire. After WWI, the Ottoman Empire was broken up into regions intended to be dominated by the European powers. But at the same time, the European powers were likewise collapsing (albeit, 30 years behind the Ottoman Empire). So, by the 1950's and 1960's, what were intended to be client states had become unstable independent states that did not take into account historical and ethnic ties and rivalries. The status quo that survived for nearly a half-century, started to fall apart with the destruction of Saddam Hussein. With Hussein gone, the ethnic rivalry splitting the country erupted. Although the United States was finally able to get it under control, the United States has left, and there is no one to impose peace and order.

The Kurds have long been a thorn in the side of Iraq's government. Frankly, it was only the influence of the United States and the dependence on the rest of Iraq to keep the Kurds in the fold, so to speak. Even that, however, is disappearing. Bloomberg reports that the Kurds are planning to build a pipeline to pump oil out through Turkey rather than deal with Baghdad.

Iraqi Kurdistan plans to build a million-barrel-a-day oil pipeline to Turkey’s Ceyhan port in as little as 18 months, providing an export link that totally bypasses Iraq’s existing network. 
“Between 18 months to two years from now the new pipeline from our region to Ceyhan will be ready,” Ashti Hawrami, the Kurdish Regional Government’s natural resources minister, told reporters at an energy conference in Istanbul today. 
A new pipeline running from Iraqi Kurdistan to Turkey would bypass Baghdad, with which the KRG is embroiled in disputes over export revenue, and require Turkey’s approval. No one at the Turkish energy ministry including Minister Taner Yildiz was immediately available to comment when calls were placed to their offices today. 
Kurdistan will complete a 40-kilometer (25-mile) line by year-end that will link to Iraq’s main export pipeline extending from Kirkuk to Ceyhan. With a capacity of 300,000 barrels a day, it won’t meet export needs, he said. 
Kurdistan, whose economy has boomed with oil exploration since Saddam Hussein’s ouster in 2003, expects exports to soar more than 40-fold to 2 million barrels a day by 2020 after the pipeline network is completed. Producers including Genel Energy Plc (GENL), the region’s largest, are shipping oil on trucks through Turkey and Iran to international buyers, Hawrami said.
 Iraqi Kurds already enjoy a fair amount of self-autonomy. However, as they enjoy greater economic independence, they will likely demand even more autonomy and, perhaps, even independence.

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