The Middle East Policy Council published my new briefing yesterday on the Turkish prime minister’s upcoming visit to Washington. Titled “Erdogan’s Case for KRG Oil Exports,” the article skips the issues that the U.S. and Turkey agree on, and instead focuses on a much thornier problem. By all indications, the Obama administration opposes future energy deals between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan. The White House is afraid that any comprehensive deal could supercharge Kurdish aspirations for independence, dissolve Iraq, or at the very least heighten the risk of conflict. Although American anxiety is sincere, the Turks and Kurds believe it is misplaced. They are convinced an energy deal will benefit all Iraqis–even if Baghdad appears irreconcilable for now. To paraphrase the KRG’s Minister of Natural Resources, who spoke this week at the Atlantic Council, “Baghdad will be more reasonable after they get their cut.”
From the section Erdogan’s Challenge:
If Erdogan is serious about pursuing a comprehensive energy deal, then he will have to explain the Kurdish side of their dispute with Maliki and point to the absence of the U.S. as an honest broker. As long as the U.S. and other members of the UN Security Council take Baghdad’s side in the dispute, any KRG exports to world markets could be rigorously challenged by Baghdad in various judicial venues. Erdogan’s case is made stronger by other negative developments in Iraq that reflect poorly on Maliki.