IRAQ: Thirty-two MPs in the Kurdistan Regional Parliament demand clarification of oil deal with Turkey

ANKAWA, Iraq — Thirty-two MPs in the Kurdistan Regional Parliament of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) officially demanded that Prime Minister Masrour Barzani appear before the body to answer questions about a 50-year agreement to sell oil to Turkey.

The MPs also demanded an explanation of the agreement details and for the full content of the agreement to be made public. According to the MPs, the agreement was signed without consulting with the Parliament and details of the deal have not been made public.

The deal reportedly was not discussed with officials in Baghdad, either, and stipulates the KRI sell oil to Turkey at below market price.

Including the disputed, and oil rich, area of Kerkeslokh (Kirkuk), roughly one-third of Iraq’s proven oil reserves are located within the KRI. Control over the country’s oil resources is a powerful tool in the hands of the Barzani and Talabani families who dominate the KRG which can be used as leverage against Baghdad.

Neighboring countries like Turkey and Iran, both of which have major Kurdish populations, exploit the division between Erbil and Baghdad, as well as internal Kurdish divisions, to both prevent a stronger, more independent Iraq and a full Kurdish independence.

Turkey in particular has made the KRG, specially the Barzani family’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), financially independent from Baghdad — and financially dependent on itself — through trade, oil and construction deals, and major government loans. The KDP, for all intents and purposes, runs the KRG. Prime Minister Masrour Barzani and President Nechirvan Barzani, both from the KDP and Barzani clan, are cousins.

Turkey’s influence over the KDP has allowed Ankara to pursue military operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) deep within KRG territory with no push-back from the ruling KDP.

Iranian influence is mostly centered around the Talabani family’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party which dominates the KRI’s second city, Sulaymaniyah. While Iran has its own issues with PKK affiliated groups, namely the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK), it does little about the guerrilla presence in the Qandil mountains, home to the PKK’s headquarters. With Turkey’s latest military operations in the region, however, Iran has agreed to engage in joint operations with Turkey against the PKK.

Since mid-June, Turkey and Iran have engaged in cross-border military operations ostensibly targeting the PKK and PJAK.

The PKK has been in armed conflict with the Turkish state since the 1980s and PJAK with the Iranian state since 2004.

However, Turkish drone and air strikes have repeatedly targeted areas without a PKK presence, according to locals.

The remnants of a car with four civilian passengers targeted by a Turkish air strike on 13 August 2020. (Image: Rudaw)

Human Rights Watch has criticized Turkey for the carelessness of its military operation which has killed over a dozen civilians and displaced thousands more, many of whom are Christian Chaldeans–Syriacs–Assyrians and Yezidis.

A fact-finding committee set up by Baghdad visited various border areas in Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, Halabja, Nohadra (Duhok), and Shengal (Sinjar). The reports showed that Turkey has entered into Iraqi territory up to 15 km from the border.

The committees also counted 504 villages evacuated due to repeated shelling and air strikes by Turkish forces, including many ChaldeanSyriac–Assyrian villages. Moreover, Turkish military operations have resulted in dozens of deaths and injuries of civilians in various areas of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.