Oil Companies are Security Guarantee for Kurdistan, Experts Say

30/08/2012 RUDAW –  By HEVIDAR AHMED – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is determined to give oil contracts to multinational oil companies despite pressure from the Iraqi government. Observers believe that these oil companies will bring security to the Kurdistan Region. The oil reserve in the Kurdistan Region is estimated to be around 45 billion barrels; foreign oil companies are searching for more oil in Kurdistan.

According to data obtained from Kurdistan’s Ministry of Natural Resources, the KRG has signed 50 oil and gas contracts with foreign companies including the oil giants ExxonMobil, Chevron and Total. The Iraqi government does not recognize the oil policies of the KRG.

Ali Balo, an oil expert and former oil committee chairman in Iraqi Parliament, says these contracts are very important for the Kurdistan Region.

“These three giant oil companies provide a big portion of energy to the world, and right now their interests are in the Kurdistan Region. Sabotaging the interest of these companies is a red line for the superpowers in the world because they provide energy to the world.”

Balo believes that the arrival of these companies to the Kurdistan Region will positively affect the region’s security in the future. “These giant oil companies control the economy of the world and the security of the Kurdistan Region will be vital for their businesses,” he said.After returning from a visit to the U.S., Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani said, “The presence of companies such as ExxonMobil in the Kurdistan Region is equivalent to the presence of 50 military brigades.”

The Iraqi government has tried to prevent these oil companies from coming to the Kurdistan Region, especially ExxonMobil, but so far these efforts have failed.

Responding to a letter sent by the Iraqi government to U.S. President Barak Obama about ExxonMobil’s involvement in Kurdistan, Obama stressed that there needs to be coordination with the government in Baghdad and Iraq needs to pass the oil and gas bill as soon as possible.

Ali Musawai, advisor to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, says, “The contact between ExxonMobil and the Kurdistan Region will be the reason for war, because Maliki thinks it will have dangerous consequences that will lead to the partition of Iraq.”

Ashti Hawrami, the KRG minister of natural resources, previously announced that the Kurdistan Region can produce 1 million barrels of oil a day until 2014, and by 2019 this production rate will be doubled.

Ahmed Safar, a political economy expert from Duhok University, told Rudaw, “The main goal of the oil companies is to make a profit and those giant oil companies coming to Kurdistan are from capitalist states and the governments of those states support their companies in the Kurdistan Region.”

Regarding the threats of the Iraqi government to the Kurdistan Region and oil companies, Safar said, “If a country or a group threatens to attack the Kurdistan Region where the giant oil companies are investing and have businesses, then the superpower countries will interfere to defend their interests without hesitation.”

“These giant oil companies in Kurdistan do not have weapons or armies, but they are influential in global politics. They can create lobbies to influence the decisions of governments,” said Balo.According to Balo, who also worked as an energy advisor for the KRG Ministry of Natural Resources, the energy of the world is controlled by five major companies: ExxonMobil, Chevron, Total, BP and ENI. Three of these companies are currently working in Kurdistan.

“These companies have great influence not only on OPEC members, but also on consumers, and the politics of energy and oil is the most important globally,” Balo said.

He added, “Kurdistan will never be the same, after these companies have started business in the region. It will not be like 1988 where the Kurds were abandoned by the superpowers while they were bombed with chemical gas and murdered in groups. The presence of these companies will become an economic and political support for the Kurds.”Wajid Shakir, an advisor to the Iraqi Oil Ministry and director of Iraqi Institute of Oil in the Kurdistan Region, said, “Forty percent of the Iraqi oil reserve is in Kurdistan.” Adnan Osman, an MP from the Change Movement (Gorran) in Kurdish Parliament, is very critical of KRG oil policies and says it is an illusion to think that the presence of these companies would protect Kurdistan.

“I do not think these oil companies can protect Kurdistan since they have no political or military power. Their presence constitutes no national achievements for Kurdistan and will bring no stability to security in Kurdistan,” he said.