Iraq: Kurdish Seize Oil Fields

A spokesperson for the Oil Ministry in Iraq said the move by Kurdish rebels of seizing two oil fields is a threat to national unity.

Kurdish forces seized two important oil fields outside Kirkuk the disputed city in the north just before dawn on Friday. The forces said they would use some oil production domestically, which further widened the gap with the central government of Nouri al-Maliki the Prime Minister.

The two fields seized were the Kirkuk and Bai Hassan oil fields and were just the latest seizures made by Kurd forces, that have responded to the militant insurgency by the Sunni that has taken over large areas of Iraq through seizing territory itself, which effectively expanded the autonomous Kurdish zone in the country’s north.

Those land grabs have infuriated the government of Maliki while igniting independence sentiment amongst the Kurds.

Peshmerga, as Kurdish fighters are known, pushed into Kirkuk, a major oil industry hub in the north, during the early days of the militant blitz by the Sunni.

However, until Friday, they had left the oil fields untouched. On Friday the fighters took the two fields and expelled all workers said the ministry.

A spokesperson for the Oil Ministry called the Kurds’ move a violation of the country’s constitution and was a treat to the nation’s unity.

The Kurds said they were worried about the government sabotaging the pipeline and therefore took over control of the two fields. They announced that production would not stop and that all staff could return but would be operating under the management of the Kurdish.

The Kurds said that oil production would fill a shortage in the domestic market, which was their reference to a fuel shortage in the region where the Kurds live.

The group also said that the Kurdish regional government would claim its share of the revenue from the oil field as compensation for the central government cutting 17% of the state budget.

The Baghdad government withheld some funds after the Kurds started moving oil from the fields inside its autonomous zone over to Turkey, against the wishes of Baghdad.

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