Peshmerga forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) moved into the production facilities of two major oil fields near Kirkuk today, seizing control of the sites as part of their continuing takeover of the region.
Combined, the oil fields produce 195,000 barrels of oil per day. The KRG says the move was aimed at preventing any attempts by the Iraqi Oil Ministry to “sabotage” the fields or the adjoining pipeline, which goes through Kurdistan into Turkey, and is expected to be the primary source of revenue for an independent Kurdish state.
The Oil Ministry issued a furious statement accusing the Kurds of expelling all Arab workers, and encroaching on “the national wealth.” The KRG insisted no workers were ousted at all, but rather that the Peshmerga took de facto control over the sites.
The central government and the KRG are in a major political battle over a number of issues, but most prominently the fate of Kirkuk. The KRG is also complaining that the Oil Ministry has stopped all payments of oil revenue shares to them, violating a profit-sharing agreement in the Iraqi constitution.
The KRG has been making efforts to sell oil abroad on its own in the absence of the revenue sharing, though so far legal threats from the Maliki government has scared off most potential customers. One Kurdish tanker successfully transferred oil to an Israeli port, part of a deal for an as-yet-unknown customer.