November 30, 2013

Updates On Syria [11.30]: Washington Fears Iraq's Disintegration In Wake of Historic Turkey-Kurdistan Oil Deal, FSA Turns To Extortion To Survive, UN Calls Attack On Russian Embassy In Damascus An Act of Terror

1. An excerpt from, "Washington on edge as Kurds flex their muscle" by Tim Arango and Clifford Krauss, International New York Times, November 30:
The sharp, dry mountains that run between Turkey and Iraq have long marked a front line in the battle between the Turkish government and Kurdish separatists, where cross-border attacks have taken many lives on both sides.

But now, though a rapprochement has calmed the border, the United States fear stability may be in even greater danger. The problem is not war - but commerce. Iraqi Kurds are selling oil directly to Turkey, infuriating the central government in Baghdad, and Washington, which fear that oil independence could lead Kurds to declare broad independence and fracture the nation.

"The Kurdistan deal with Turkey is a huge violation against the Iraqi Constitution, because they didn't make the deal with the coordination of the central government," said Ali Dhari, the deputy chairman of the Iraqi Parliament's oil and gas committee. "This means the stealing of the Iraqi wealth and we will not allow it."

The oil accords with Turkey are part of a broader effort by the Iraqi Kurds in recent years to cut their own energy deals --- including exploration agreements with foreign companies like Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Gazprom --- that sidelined the central government. The Kurds, and the Turks, say they will pay Baghdad its fair share. But officials in the capital have long claimed such arrangements are illegal, and over the last year and a half American diplomats quietly mounted an intensive effort to convince the Turks to back off.

Even as spillover from the civil war in Syria brought a rise in sectarian killing across Iraq, and Iraqi fighters were drawn into battle there, American officials in Baghdad signaled a greater concern over the flow of oil to Turkey as a potential risk to Iraq's cohesion.

But the American diplomatic effort failed, and Turkey and the Iraqi Kurdish region recently agreed to an ambitious new set of oil deals. Not only will trucks continue to travel daily from the Kurdish region to two Turkish cities on the Mediterranean coast, but the parties plan to build a second pipeline, although officials have kept the details secret. The pursuit of those deals, over the persistent objection of the United States, reflects the limits of American influence these days in the region.
The impact of this deal extends beyond Iraq's national interests. It affects regional politics on a number of levels, including in Syria, where the main Kurdish party in control of mostly Kurdish territory is facing a blockade imposed by the authorities in Turkey and the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government).

The strengthening of economic ties between Turkey and the KRG means it is more likely that they will continue to work together on a cross-border level to suppress the Kurdish rebellion in northern Syria, which is led by their joint political rival the PKK. Turkish and Kurdish leaders in Iraq have looked the other way as al-Qaeda has attacked Kurdish towns and cities. Turkey has encouraged this trend by allowing Jihadist fighters from around the world to invade Syria, and what's known as West Kurdistan.   

For more details about this story, read: "Exclusive: Turkey, Iraqi Kurdistan ink landmark energy contracts" (Reuters, November 29).

2. An excerpt from, "Syria dispatch: from band of brothers to princes of war" by Ruth Sherlock, The Telegraph, November 30:
But in northern Syria, the FSA has now become a largely criminal enterprise, with commanders more concerned about profits from corruption, kidnapping and theft than fighting the regime, according to a series of interviews with The Sunday Telegraph.
The FSA has long been a collection of fanatics and criminals with no real leadership to direct its activities. One rebel group wants to chop off your head if you don't agree with their religious views, and the other rebel group will leave you alone if you give them everything you have. And the West still wonders why the majority of the Syrian people and the Kurds have rejected the leadership of these so-called "rebels"?   

3. An excerpt from, "UN Security Council condemns attack on Russian embassy in Damascus as ‘terrorist act’" RT, November 28:
The UNSC has strongly condemned an attack on Russia’s Damascus embassy, describing it an “act of terrorism.” A mortar shell hit Russia’s diplomatic mission compound on Thursday while another landed nearby, killing one local person and injuring nine.

A top UN body issued a statement, expressing condolences to the family of the victim and sympathy to all those injured in this “heinous terrorist act.”