Oil victim of Turkey, Kurd fight (Turkey)

WASHINGTON, DC, United States (UPI) -- Iraq`s already-fragile northern oil sector could be the victim -- along with Iraqis and Turks -- if Ankara gives the green light for troops to invade northern Iraq on the hunt for the Kurdistan Workers Party.


The PKK -- the party's Turkish acronym -- is considered a terrorist organization by the United States. It`s accused of slipping into Turkey from bases in Iraq's Qandil Mountains to plant mines and detonate bombs. Sixteen PKK fighters were killed in the Kurdish area of Turkey Sunday and Monday by Turkish soldiers.
Turkey has threatened to invade Iraq before -- and did numerous times in the decades before the 2003 invasion -- to chase the PKK. (It also issued such threats if Iraq`s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region declared independence.)

But exchanges over the past two weeks between Turkish military officials and politicians and Kurdistan Regional Government leaders have escalated, including threats Iraqi Kurds would interfere in Kurdish Turkey if Turkey interfered in the politics surrounding Kirkuk. (Kirkuk is officially outside the KRG area. Historically, Kurds were the majority with Turkmen, Christian and Arab inhabitants. Most Kurds were forced out by Saddam Hussein. The KRG is demanding the referendum outlined in the 2005 constitution be held by the end of this year to decide whether Kirkuk, with its large amounts of oil reserves, is annexed. Turkey, Iran and Syria fear this will embolden independence-minded Kurds in their countries.)
The top Turkish general said he favors military action in northern Iraq, though he added it was a political decision to be made.

Alsumaria TV reports KRG President Masoud Barzani called for Iraqi Kurdish troops to line its border with Turkey.

"If the Turks intervene and there are pitched battles in the north -- the Turks chasing the PKK and the Iraqi Kurds taking a stand against it -- then clearly it`s bound to affect not just the transportation but also the production of oil," said Bulent Aliriza, a Turkey and Caspian oil expert at the Washington-based Center for Strategic & International Studies, where he is director of the Turkey Project.

Most of Iraq`s 2 million barrels a day of production are pumped from oilfields in the south, though more than a third of Iraq's 115 billion barrels of proven reserves are located in the north. Iraq's entire oil infrastructure needs major investment to update its aging system to produce at full capacity. And while violence in most of the country prevents such investment -- as does the lack of a hydrocarbons law governing the oil resources, including possible foreign investment -- the KRG is ready.

With an unofficial slogan of "Tourism not Terrorism,"which a business leader promoted at a reconstruction conference in Washington last fall, the KRG has signed numerous oil development and other economic deals -- including with Turkish firms.

Although investment in the north of Iraq is easier to shore up than investment in the more violent parts of the country, the new bluster across its northern border is a sure threat.
"It`s clearly a short-term loss for the Iraqi oil industry, whatever happens, whether the Turks invade or just threaten to invade," said Alex Turkeltaub, managing director of Frontier Strategy Group, a global natural-resource consultancy. "It will certainly harm production if there were military action."

All of Iraq's oil exports -- from which Iraq funds 93 percent of its federal budget -- are shipped from the port of Basra in the south. A pipeline from Kirkuk to Ceyhan, Turkey, is attacked so often when it dips into Sunni areas it`s considered inoperable. (Royal Dutch Shell, in partnership with the state-owned Turkish Petroleum Corp., wants to build another more direct pipeline.)

"The sector is so bad that you don`t need to do much to hurt it now," said Gal Luft, co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, which publishes the Iraq Pipeline Watch Web site that tracks attacks on Iraq`s oil sector (at least 399 from June 2003 to Feb. 27, 2007). 'Anything that adds uncertainty or lack of security will just make things worse.'
The Turkish army is reportedly massing on the border and making special forces moves into Iraq, according to The Jamestown Foundation. Aliriza said the United States, European Union, Arab states and Iraq would all oppose an incursion, though, which Ankara must weigh heavily.

"Nothing can be ruled out indefinitely," said Yasar Yakis, former Turkish foreign minister, a founder of the ruling Justice and Development Party and current chairman of the Parliament`s European Union committee. "Turkey's security and stability is at stake, but a military solution has to be regarded always as the last resort," he told United Press International Monday during a Washington visit.

"Neither Iraq nor America is doing enough" to stop the PKK attacks, Yakis said.

Qubad Talabani, the KRG`s Washington representative, called for dialogue, echoing many Iraqi and Turkish politicians.

"We are neighbors, brothers even," he said. "Iraqi Kurdistan today stands as Iraq`s only stable and successful region, and that stability and prosperity will be seriously jeopardized if Turkey invades Iraqi Kurdistan."

"Make no mistake about it, however," Talabani said. "We are ultimately the guardians of our people`s safety and security. It is our responsibility, and those of Kurdistan`s defense forces, to protect our people, and we will do so if they are threatened in any way."

Von: 18.04.2007 by Ben Lando, news.monstersandcritics.com

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