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Kirkuk: Asking the Next Big Questions

financialsense.com / STRATFOR / 10/18/2017

Will the Kurdish Government Join Forces With the Central Iraqi Government in Baghdad to Govern Kirkuk?

Before the ISF staged its operation, there had been rumors that the faction of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party led by the Talabani family proposed jointly governing Kirkuk province with Baghdad. In seeming support of the rumors, the Talabani faction ordered Kurdish peshmerga fighters to withdraw and to allow ISF to retake some of the energy installations in the city. It’s still uncertain, however, if there’s a deal in place between the PUK and Baghdad to jointly manage the province’s government or its oil and natural gas resources. That a deal would exist makes sense given the longstanding divisions between the PUK and rival Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which controls much of the economy in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Will Baghdad Maintain Control of Kirkuk’s Oil Exports?

It almost certainly will, at least in some capacity. For the last three years the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has been able to export oil produced at the Bai Hassan oil field and the Avanah and Baba Gurgur formations of the Kirkuk oil field, given it had effectively appropriated and incorporated the fields into its own energy sector. The federal government is now in control of those fields and could use them in negotiations with the KRG. But, though Baghdad plans to rebuild its own pipeline to export oil from Kirkuk, right now all export infrastructure from the city goes through the Kurdish-controlled territory, which could complicate Baghdad’s ability to sell the oil Kirkuk produces. Baghdad, recognizing its constraints, could offer the KRG joint administration of the oil resources or continue transit contracts with it to distribute Iraq’s oil wealth. Alternatively, it could shut off production in Kirkuk to increase financial pressure on the Kurdish government. Thus, there’s the chance that Iraq’s northern oil exports — which amount to around 550,000 barrels per day — could decline by as much as 300,000 bpd. In the long run, Baghdad hopes to boost Kirkuk’s production to above 1 million bpd.

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