Kurdish forces seize control of two key Iraqi oil fields

The Wall Street Journal reports: Kurdish Peshmerga forces took control of production facilities at two key oil fields near the northern city of Kirkuk Friday, in a politically-charged move that is likely to worsen already frayed relations between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Baghdad.

In statements that cast dramatically opposing views of the event, the central government and KRG confirmed Kurdish Peshmerga forces had taken control of oil fields around Kirkuk on Friday morning, and expelled employees of Iraq’s central-government controlled North Oil Company.

The move places Iraq’s prize northern oil field in the hands of the KRG; the Kirkuk field alone could add 250,000 barrels a day to the region’s oil production capacity. Though Kurdish forces have held control of the disputed and oil-rich town of Kirkuk since insurgents overran the nearby town of Mosul, until now they have not sought control of the oil infrastructure.

However, the KRG claimed it moved to secure control of the oil fields Friday after learning that Baghdad planned to sabotage recently-built infrastructure that could help transport oil from the northern oil fields through Kurdistan to Turkey for export.

“This morning’s events have shown that the KRG is determined to protect and defend Iraq’s oil infrastructure whenever it is threatened by acts of terrorism or, as in this case, politically motivated sabotage,” the KRG said in a statement. [Continue reading…]

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