Kurdistan Oil: The Past, Present and Future
The Kurdistan region is oil rich. Its territory is hosted by four countries: Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey, all nations that count oil as a major player in their own economies. Kurdistan oil and other natural resources make the land valuable to other actors and countries, and make it difficult for Kurds to establish power and economic independence.
With a whopping 45 billion gallons of Kurdistan oil reserves, the Iraqi-Kurds hold almost a third of all of Iraq’s 150 billion gallons of untapped black gold. If the KRG autonomous region were a nation-state, it would rank 10th in the world for largest petrol reserves, coming in just after Libya. (source) This makes Kurdish land a hot commodity in an already politically fiery region.
The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Northern Iraq has more autonomy over their own oil politics and economics than other Kurdish regions. This independence can be attributed to the weakness of the post-war Iraqi government. Many argue that the KRG holds a more functional economic climate than its host. (source).
Influence on Alliances and Regional Identity
Kurdistan and oil issues are inherently intertwined. Some view oil as fueling the United States’ recent support of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in their fighting off Islamic State (ISIS) campaigns on the city, though the US has also flown aid to help trapped Yazidis and others in the ISIS-besieged Mount Sinjar region. (source)
Much of Kurdistan’s oil enterprise anchors itself at Erbil, the stable strong-hold of the KRG in Northern Iraq. With extraction beginning in 2007, Erbil hosts Chevron, Exxon Mobile, Hess, Total and many other major petroleum players. (source). A new pipeline began running in early 2014, which exists in fully recognized KRG territory. It connects the Khurmala oil field south of Erbil across the Turkish border and onto a port at the Mediterranean Sea for foreign trade. (source). Petroleum spurs a boom for the region: Iraqi-Kurdistan’s gross GDP grew significantly since the 2007 oil liberalization, jumping from from $800 a decade ago to $5,600 in 2012. Currently producing 350,000 million barrels of oil per day, by end of 2015, KRG will produce 1 million barrels of oil per day, according to KRG statement released in November 17th. (source)