A very nice article from Al Monitor. See “How the PKK is entering energy wars”, March 2017. The article says that Turkey wants to use the 5 trillion cubic meters of natural gas that the Kurds of Iraq have (KRG), in order to get rid of Russia. The Turks and the Kurds of Iraq are planning to have the new gas pipeline ready by 2019, and Al Monitor says this is a very convenient date for Turkey, because the major natural gas agreements between Turkey and Russia expire on 2020.
Map 1 Kurdistan
The Kurdish-Turkish gas pipeline will initially carry 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas, and will soon double the quantity to 20 billion c.m. Therefore Turkey will replace the 16 billion cubic meters of gas she imports from Russia with the Blue Stream Pipeline, and she will replace another 4 billion c.m. from the Russian gas she imports through Ukraine and the Trans-Balkan Pipeline. Turkey currently imports approximately 50 billion cubic meters of gas, 30 from Russia, 10 from Iran, and another 10 mainly from various countries, mainly Qatar and Algeria.
According to Al Monitor, on the 9th of February 2016 Turkey received the first offers for the Iraq-Turkey gas pipeline, and one day later the Kurds of Syria (PYD and YPG) officially inaugurated their office in Russia, with photographs of Abdulah Ocalan on the walls. Ocalan is the leader of the Kurds of Turkey (PKK), and he is responsible for many terrorist attacks that have been carried out in Turkey in the previous decades. He is currently imprisoned in Turkey. The PKK is Turkey’s number one security concern. The Kurds of Syria and Turkey do not have oil and gas and cooperate with Russia against Turkey, while the Kurds of Iraq need Turkey to export their oil and gas.
One week later, the PKK announced it will not accept the Iraq-Turkey gas pipeline, and it also attacked the oil pipeline that carries oil from Iraqi Kurdistan to Turkey, for domestic consumption, but also for export through the Port of Ceyhan. The pipeline remained closed for 23 days and it cost the Kurds of Iraq approximately 300 million dollars. The PKK had sabotaged the pipeline in July 2015 too, which cost the Kurds of Iraq another 250 million dollars.
Al Monitor also mentions that Iran rushed to take advantage of the situation, and offered the Kurds of Iraq to construct a pipeline in order to export their oil through Iran, instead through Turkey. The article also mentions that the PKK targets the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline too (TANAP), which will carry to Turkey 36 billion of Azeri gas every year, 21 of which will end up to Europe. The PKK has already attacked a cargo with construction materials for TANAP, and in August it also attacked twice the South Caucasus Pipeline (Azerbaijan-Georgia), with a cost of 200 million for Azerbaijan.
Map 2 The South Energy Corridor i.e. South Caucasus-TANAP-TAP Pipelines
Map 3 Competing Pipelines
One very important point is the coordination between Russia and Iran against Turkey on the issue of the Kurdish-Turkish pipelines. On one hand the PKK, which is supported by Russia, blocks the Kurdish-Turkish pipelines by sabotaging them, and on the other the Iranians are offering the Iraqi Kurds an alternative in order to export their oil through Iran instead through Turkey.
Map 4 (Iran+Russia) VS Turkey
The Kurds of Iraq are economically dependent on their oil exports to Turkey, and they hope that things will get better when they also export their gas through Turkey. By blocking their way to Turkey the Russians and the Iranians are suffocating them financially, and they also cut a part of the Turkish oil supplies. But they go further by offering the Kurds an alternative route for their oil exports, in order to put the Kurds of Iraq on the same axis with the Kurds of Syria and Turkey. Turkey took the above moves very seriously, and after too years the Turkish Prime Minister visited Iran, and said that Turkey and Iran must find a solution in Syria. See Al Monitor “Davutoglu attempts to get back to zero problems with Iran”, March 2016
The main concern for the Russians and the Iranians is not whether the Iraq-Turkey oil pipeline will remain operational, because is has been working for years, and they have accepted it. They mainly care about Syria, and whether the Turks and the Arabs will use the Sunni part of Syria to construct oil and gas pipelines, and whether the Turks and the Kurds of Iraq will go ahead with their gas pipeline which is suppose to be ready by 2019.
Sunni-Alawite-Shia-Kurdish Parts of Syria and Iraq
The pipeline that the Iranians are proposing to the Kurds of Iraq is not a good solution neither for the Kurds of Iraq nor for the Iranians. The Iranians are very rich in oil and gas, and the Kurds of Iraq would prefer to work with the Turks who are very poor in oil and gas rather than depend on the Iranians for their exports. But many diplomatic moves mainly aim in putting pressure on the other side. The Iranians are more interested in putting pressure on Turkey than to go ahead with the Kurdish-Iranian Pipeline.
However for a diplomatic move to be effective it must have even a small possibility of materialization. And the Kurdish-Iranian pipeline is such a move. Because it might not be an optimal solution for the Kurds and the Iranians, but if the Kurds of Turkey block the pipelines of the Kurds of Iraq, with the help of Russia of course, the Kurds of Iraq will have no other choice but to discuss the possibility with Iran. And the Iranians might not be thrilled with a Kurdish-Iranian pipeline, but they might consider it in order to hurt Turkey.
Now there is also the question of who is right and who is wrong. There is not an answer to that. It depends on how one wants to see it. For example the Turks and the Arabs might say that they are entitled to use the Sunni part of Syria in order to construct the Turkish-Arab pipelines. Russia on the other hand will say that Syria is a single country and a traditional Russian ally, and she cannot be used to hurt vital Russian economic interests.
The Turks and the Arabs might also say that the Alawite regime in Syria i.e. Bashar al Assad, is a minority autocratic regime, and the Russians will say that the Arab-Turkish networks through Syria will put Russia on her knees. Moreover the Russians will say that if the Turks and the Arabs of the Gulf help the Sunnis of Syria to revolt, in order to go ahead with the Sunni Pipelines, the Russians will help the Kurds of Turkey to revolt in order to block the pipeline networks from the Caspian Sea and the Middle East to Turkey.
What is important is that there are no courts to solve that kind of differences. There are courts to solve the differences between two companies, but which court will say that Russia will not be allowed to help the Kurds of Turkey, or that the Turks and the Arabs will not be allowed to help the Sunnis of Syria? There are no courts that can do that. Turkey and Russia can only solve their differences through direct negotiations, and through war if negotiations fail.
Putting aside the issue of “right” and “wrong”, we can say that the new neo-Ottomanism doctrine promoted by the Turkish Islamists, has made Turkey more aggressive, and now everybody is afraid of Turkey. Even the Russians, the Americans, the Chinese and the European Union are afraid of Turkey. But the doctrine of neo-Ottaminism has made Turkey less safe.
The Turkish Kemalists had forgotten about Turkey’s influence in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia, and had focused on internal security. That way they managed to keep the Kurdistan of Turkey under Turkish control for almost 100 years. Now it does not seem a sure thing that the Kurdistan of Turkey will remain under Turkish control. The greater the Turkish-Russian rivalry the more the Russians will arm and support the Kurds of Turkey.
Therefore what should be done? Should the pipelines promoted by Turkey carry oil and gas to Turkey and Europe? I guess they should, but in a way that they do not hurt Russia too much. What is too much and too little? I don’t know. But what I do know is that when we talk about energy, what is important is not what is “right” and “wrong”, but how a word war can be avoided.
At the other side, the Europeans have made some progress. The Germans, the French, the British, the Austrians and the Dutch, have all agreed to the German-Russian pipelines (Nord Stream 2), due to the stakes the Russians gave them in the project. With the energy union promoted by the European Union, the countries of the European Union will not be allowed to charge transit fees to other EU members. Therefore the Germans will not charge transit fees to send the Russian gas to the French and the British, in order to keep energy prices low for everybody. If ENI joins the Nord Stream 2 project, as the Italians wants, things will get better.
Map 6 Nord Stream VS Southern Energy Corridor
However the French, the British and the Italians would still have to pay higher prices than the Germans for the Russian gas, because the gas would have to travel more in order to reach them, and there is a cost associated with this longer travel. I guess the great European powers must somehow share this cost, in order for all of them to have similar energy prices. Actually the Germans are already paying the French and the Italians billions of euros in economic aid.
Then there is the problem of Turkey. The Southern Energy Corridor is the main geopolitical objective of Turkey, and Turkey is very angry with the Nord Stream project. I guess the Germans will have to pay the Turks a few billions each year, if they do not want to see the Turkish Islamists using the Turks of Germany to create troubles in Germany. There are approximately 3 million Germans of Turkish origins in Germany, and half of them have double nationality. See
“Erdogan Urges Turks Not to Assimilate”, February 2011
Well, it has to be something like that. Or it will be World War 3.
For the Al Monitor Article see
“How the PKK is entering energy wars”, March 2017