Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Syria's Pipelineistan war

Source: Al Jazeera

The Kurdish enigma

Most of Syria's oil reserves are in the Kurdish northeast - which geographically lies between Iraq and Turkey; the rest is along the Euphrates, down south.

Syrian Kurds make up nine per cent of the population - some 1.6 million people. Even if they're not a sizable minority, Syrian Kurds are already considering that whatever happens in a post-Assad environment, they will be very well positioned in Pipelineistan, offering a direct route for oil exports from Iraqi Kurdistan, in theory bypassing both Baghdad and Ankara.

It's as if the whole region is playing a Bypassing Lotto. As much as the Islamic Gas Pipeline may be interpreted as bypassing Turkey, a direct deal between Ankara and Iraqi Kurdistan for two strategic oil and gas pipelines from Kirkuk to Ceyhan may be seen as bypassing Baghdad.

Baghdad, of course, will fight it - stressing these pipelines are null and void without the central government having its sizeable cut; after all it pays for 95 per cent of the budget of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Kurds in both Syria and Iraq have been playing a clever game. In Syria they don't trust Assad or the SNC opposition. The PYD - linked to the PKK - dismisses the SNC as a puppet from Turkey. And the secular Kurdish National Council (KNC) dreads the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.

So the absolute majority of Syrian Kurds have been neutral; no support for Turkish (or Saudi) puppets, all power to the pan-Kurdish cause. PYD leader Salih Muslim Muhammad has summed it all up: "What is important is that we Kurds assert our existence."

This means, essentially, more autonomy. And that's exactly what they got from that July 11 deal signed in Irbil, under the auspices of Iraqi Kurdistan president Masoud Barzani; the co-administration of Syrian Kurdistan by the PYD and the KNC. That was the direct consequence of a wily strategic retreat by the Assad regime.

No wonder Ankara is freaking out - it sees not only the PKK finding a safe haven in Syria, hosted by their cousins of the PYD, but also two Kurdish de facto statelets, sending a powerful signal to Kurds in Anatolia.

What Ankara could do to minimise its nightmare is to discreetly help the Syrian Kurds economically - ranging from aid to investments in infrastructure - via its good relations with Iraqi Kurdistan.

Read the full article: Syria's Pipelineistan war

Comment: This article by Asia Times's Pepe Escobar places the present struggle going on in Western Kurdistan and Syria into the proposed energy economy of the region, surely one of the key motivators for the Turkish, Iraqi, Iranian and Kurdish players.

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