Monday, December 07, 2009

Kurds staking a potentially explosive claim on Kirkuk's oil

Patrick Martin and Shawn McCarthy write in the Globe and Mail published Friday, Dece. 04, 2009, that "Kirkuk and its resources are at the centre of a power struggle between Iraqi Kurds and Arabs that threatens the fragile stability of the entire country."

The Kurds reside in northern Iraq, in a mountainous area once the home of the ancient Medes. It was the Median and Persian empires, combined under Cyrus the Great, that conquered the Babylonian empire under Nabonidus in 539 BC. The Kurds "have built a prosperous enclave in war-battered Iraq, and now maintain their own, semi-autonomous state within a state", according to the Globe and Mail article, operating as the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

"In the Kurdish provinces, (some) oil companies have been dealing directly with the regional government", writes Martin and McCarthy. But oil companies should "deal (directly) with the central government, not the KRG", insists Iraqi Oil Ministry spokesman Asim Jihad. Although a revenue-sharing agreement is supposed to be in place, the Iraqi government has failed to pay the KRG any proceeds from KRG oil exported abroad. "How can we approve payment when we have no knowledge of the terms of their contracts?" asked Mr. Jihad.

Kurdish administrators have been helping relocate thousands of Kurds back to Kirkuk region, one of Iraq's major oil-producing centers. "Kirkuk is our Jerusalem," says Jalal Talabani, leader of the political party the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and also the current President of Iraq. The PUK militia, the Peshmerga, took control of Kirkuk in the 2003 coalition invasion of Iraq, and continues to provide security for it to this day.

But Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has ordered a massive Iraqi troop buildup in the province. IHS Global Insight's Samuel Ciszuk, a Middle East energy expert, says Kirkuk has become "the main flash point in Iraq." "These [major oil] fields would be smack-bang in the middle of high tensions between the Kurds, being the most organized single faction, and the central government."

Prophet Jeremiah foresaw this tension, and predicted its outcome: "(The LORD is) going to arouse and bring up against Babylon a horde of great peoples from the land of the north, and they will draw up their battle lines against her; from there she will be taken captive... And Chaldea will become plunder; all who plunder her will have enough" (Jer. 50:9-10).

After the burning of the cities up next, the coalition forces will abandon their reconstruction efforts. Then the battle for her "treasures" (Jer. 50:37) will take place between her army and those of the "Medes" (Jer. 51:27-29), and her army will be defeated, and her treasures "plundered."

Then the flood, then the drought, and finally, the complete desolation.

As prophesied.

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