How the U.S. got mixed up in a fight over Kurdish oil — with a unified Iraq at stake

The Washington Post reports: Sixty miles off the coast of Texas sits a crude-oil tanker fully loaded with years of antagonism between the Kurdish region of Iraq and the central government in Baghdad.

The United Kalavrvta, a tanker the length of three football fields, is carrying about 1 million barrels of crude oil from the Kurdish region of Iraq. It set sail for Galveston, but it never got there.

The central government of Iraq, despite recent military setbacks, dispatched its American lawyers to do battle in the federal court in southern Texas, where a judge ruled that the tanker’s cargo, worth about $100 million, should be seized if it came within Texas state waters.

The core of the dispute: The Iraqi government says that the crude cargo belongs to the Baghdad Ministry of Oil and that it was never the property of the Kurdistan Regional Government. But the Kurds argue that the Texas court doesn’t have jurisdiction, and they filed a motion Monday in the court to lift the restrictions on the oil. Michael Howard, an adviser to the Kurdish minister of natural resources, said in an interview that “it’s a constitutional issue that should be determined in Iraq and shouldn’t be exported to U.S. courts.” [Continue reading…]

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