There’s a million barrels of oil floating around the Mediterranean that no one wants.
More precisely, they’re aboard the United Leadership, a Suezmax oil tanker currently (as of June 20) sitting off the coast of Morocco. It left the Turkish port of Ceyhan on May 22, and has been traveling around the Mediterranian trying to find a buyer for its full hold of crude oil since then (you can track its progress through vesselfinder.com).
Why, when the price of crude oil is spiking up above $115 per barrel, will no one buy this oil? Because it comes from Iraqi Kurdistan.
The US and Iraqi governments have opposed allowing thus ship to dock and offload its oil, out of fear that doing so would give legitimacy to to Kurdish government to sell its oil without sharing revenue with the Iraqi central government.
However, events on the battlefield should change that. Whereas Iraqi Army forces have melted away before the ISIS onslaught in northern Iraq, the Kurdish Peshmerga has stepped into the breech and is holding Kirkuk against the advancing extremist forces.
When facts change, our position should change. This crisis shows that the only stable government capable of defending itself from hostile forces – a crucial aspect of sovereignty – is that of the Kurdistan Regional Government.
Several months ago, the oil majors had split over this question, with Exxon and Chevron choosing to invest in Kurdistan, while others like BP invested with the Iraqi central government – who refused bids from companies that worked with the KRG.
I think it’s pretty clear that the tide of history is on the side of Kurdistan and its time for the US to acknowledge that the only functioning state in the area from the Mediterranean coast to the Iranian border is one that not yet it’s own state at all.
Kurdistan will eventually be independent- we should work now to ensure its viability, that it emerges peacefully, and that it can be a model for the development of other new states from that region.
It is time allow the Kurds to sell their oil. The Israeli government just allowed the second tanker of Kurdish crude shipped from Ceyhan to dock at Ashkelon. It is time for the U.S. to do the same.