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SPECIAL REPORT: ISIS Oil? Follow the Money (Back to Europe)

Regional Militarization, Resources, Cash, and Iraqi Kurdistan (KRG): Independence, Profit, and Motives within the Middle East Warfare and Terror

(Image: Oil and Gas People)

Randy Johnson
21st Century Wire

While it might be beneficial to not live in the past and focus on the future, today did not get here without a steady amount of yesterdays. 

In the current age of impulsive #hashtag history and sound-bite ‘solutions’, we would all do well to refocus on how things actually got to where they are today. This tends to be perennially true in the Middle East, and yet politicians and mainstream media are always too eager to pave-over any historical context, instead favoring a boiled-down version of events, normally reduced to overly simplified, binary components like “good guys” and “bad guys”.

The situation in Syria and the Middle East intensified greatly last month after NATO member Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24 fighter, allegedly for violating Turkish airspace. Ever since that moment, the hot subject of investigation has been the black market oil trade of the so-called Islamic State, and more importantly, what is Turkey’s role in either allowing, or facilitating this and other dark enterprises that could be fueling the violent jihadist conclave currently infesting both Syria and Iraq.

If you are still relying on the mainstream media for your information, then what we will reveal below in this report might come as a shock to you. When you follow the ISIS oil money, it traces straight back to the west.

The constant coverage of terror and warfare of the region may subside or rise like the tide, but just like the ocean it always seems to be there.  You see the surface and stare out at the horizon and can start to wonder what is really going on down there. To fully understand the full scale and scope of this issue, we will first briefly lay out the historical and geopolitical parameters in this region – but also look at how the story that is being sculpted by western media and political operatives – differs from the reality on the ground.

One key region that drifts in and out of the Middle Eastern narrative with western news coverage is Kurdistan, specifically the Regional Government of Kurdistan in Iraq, commonly referred to as the ‘KRG’. To understand how important Kurdistan is in this story, let’s also look at the wider region.

Since 2003, Iraq has been one of the world’s premier money pits. The billions upon billions of US dollars, money, arms, ‘aid’, contracts, bombs, in essence warfare — whether or not under that name, and endless reams of rhetoric out Washington D.C., London, and Paris – all unfold incessantly on the nightly news.

Everything tried up to now seems to have unilaterally failed to alleviate tensions in the area, and many have rightly argued that western intervention has actually propagated tension. With the endless variables of peoples, interests, tribalism, religious factions and new governments, juxtaposed with allegiance-shifting and double-dealing, all from nations within and outside of the region itself, it can easily stop making sense. Simply put, the Middle East, ISIS, and the crisis in Syria is complexity at its most complex.

Behind the US, other European players have willingly joined the party too. Recently, France has increased its air campaign against ISIS after the recent Paris attacks and within the context of public angst built-up over months from what Europeans perceived as a refugee wave and ‘migrant crisis.’ Britain’s Parliament also voted to start their own ISIS bombing campaign within Syria as reported by 21st Century Wire, and the jets were hitting targets in Syria within hours. Each of these international players has some economic and geopolitical stake in the region.

On top of this, United States is also “taking new steps” against ISIS with its conventional military on the heels of an alleged ISIS-linked attack in San Bernardino, California.

The Arab Spring That Wasn’t

As the Arab Spring made its way to Syria in early 2011, early opposition demonstrations quickly gave way to violence – on both sides of the political divide, protesters and the government forces. Hoping for a repeat of Egypt and Tunisia, the opposition failed to oust Syrian President Assad out of power, and the opposition’s armed insurgency rapidly gave way to a fully internationalized Syrian Conflict which, nearly 5 years later, still has not removed President Assad (much to the frustration of central planners in Washington, London and Paris). Out of these efforts, and from dubious arming of militants in the region for ages, the world now has ISIS and a myriad of other armed Jihadist and Salafist terrorist groups to contend with.

So what became of the Arab Spring?  In his article, Shifting Priorities: The Rise and Fall of Arab Revolutionary Discourse, Ramzy Baroud writes:

“The Arab world, and the Middle East, in general, has not experienced such a major geopolitical upheaval since the early 20th Century, when Ottoman territories were divided among old colonial European powers, all the way to War World II. The outcome of this upheaval is likely to be as earth shattering as these past experiences, if not more, due to the popular element in these conflicts. But one of the most defining shifts of “Arab Spring” priorities is the reversal of the narrative from its basic, innocent, unifying, empowering and popular articulation, into a complicated, cunning, disuniting, disempowering and elitist one, where the people do not matter, in the least.

Over time, the most democratic of displays have given way to the most undemocratic of intentions.”

What are those intentions, and have they been there all along?

Regime Change Road Show

In his speech on August 18th, 2011, US President Barack Obama used his position to delineate the western foreign policy goal of regime change, articulated through a mainstream narrative of ‘democracy’ and ‘the rights of the people’.  That very same day, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a globalist think tank, also called for regime change.  Is it coincidence, or is it coordination?

To understand how this was all shaping-up at the time, this article is a must read, accurately reported on over 4 years ago by 21st Century Wire.

To be clear, despite the endless rhetoric and insistence by western media and politicians, defeating ISIS is not the number one objective in Syria and Iraq. Whether its Obama, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, David Cameron, Francois Hollande, or Recep Tayyip Erdogan – no matter who is giving the speech – each and every time the Syria discourse advances, a regime change caveat of ‘Assad must go’ is always inserted as the prime objective before anything else. It is this western caveat which many believe all but guarantees a further protracted conflict in the region.

Syria: Anatomy of a Secular Nation State

How did the Middle East, particularly the area in and around modern Syria, become such a ethnic, cultural and religiously diverse place, and the “free-for-all” we see today? Was it prior colonial planning or merely opportunity, or both?

Below is a quick primer, or perhaps a refresher, utilizing maps, as drawn by history’s victors. One can definitely go back further in time, and many veritable libraries have covered the subject, but let’s use the Ottoman Empire as it looked on a map just prior to World War I as a starting point.

The region in 1914: In existence since the year 1299, the Ottoman Empire expanded and contracted over 700 years but looked something like the following around 1914.

Around 100 years ago there was no Syria, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, or a host of others (Image:  World War I Today)

World War I is considered to have officially ended on 11 November 1918, with the post war arrangements worked out in the Treaty of Versailles; however, regional plans for the Middle East were already in the works, as Europe’s grand neocolonial, modern map-making exercise, embodied in the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement.

Here is a Sykes-Picot influenced map after the end of World War I, in 1918.

An area to divide once conquered? (Image: BritishEmpire.co.uk)

Not really designated outwardly on the above map, below is a better look at the region in terms of ownership – after World War I, and further negotiations could be seen within the League of Nations Mandates.

(Image: NPR)

Note the French and English areas of influence marked, along with Saudi Arabia which became a nation in 1920 within the parenthesis on the above map.

The Middle Eastern map was literally drawn out of plans dating back to the Sykes-Picot Agreement two years before World War I ended. A Smithsonian Magazine article about the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement between states:

Besides carving the region into British and French ‘spheres of influence,’ the arrangement specified various commercial relations and other understandings between them for the Arab lands … Indeed, the treaty set aside the establishment of an independent Arab state or confederation of Arab states, contrary to what had previously been promised, giving France and Britain the rights to set boundaries within their spheres of influence, ‘as they may see fit.”

Ever since then, western powers have literally been busy “mapping the future of the Middle East” — pun intended. Regime changes of recent times, like Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Libya’s Mummar Gaddafi, and currently with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, seem to be preliminary attempts to erase, and then re-draw lines within regions long considered spoils of war and possessions of conquerors.  A resource dependent, and ally-switching form of Gerrymandering which requires sustained military and geopolitical muscle.

In light of the above, it is interesting that besides Russia (invited to assist in anti-terror operations by the Syrian Government) and United States, the most active nations in the region today are France and the United Kingdom.

As the map changes, or has the potential to, particularly if Syria falls (even partially), the warfare can also be time with territorial opportunity. Bear this in mind as US leaders all insist on establishing a ‘Safe Zone’ (aka No Fly Zone) along the Turkish border in Northern Syria. This is the first step necessary in first balkanizing and then eventually redrawing the region map.

Enter Kurdistan.

One area and group of people left out of original Western considerations, perhaps intentionally, was Kurdistan. Map drawing parties excluded the Kurds despite being seen in earlier Arabic maps which note its existence. While not given much in the ways of national boundaries on any maps, Kurdistan and the Kurds where there for hundreds of years and well before World War I. Being left off maps by Westerners and without a territory to call its own on is different than merely not being there, as was the case with Israel after the Balfour Declaration and prior to its creation in 1947.

There are many “versions” of what Kurdistan today really is. One version is seen below.

(Image: WikiCommons)

Spanning primarily across Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, to include geographically isolated pockets between Syria and Turkey, Kurdistan is anything but “united” as it stands today; it is in fact a geo-cultural region, instead of a country.

Far from united, Greater Kurdistan is also rife with its own numerous infighting and competing interests and splinter government structures, but this report will focus on Kurdistan within Iraq, otherwise known as the Kurdish Regional Government or (KRG).  This is the portion of Kurdistan that is interfacing directly with international super powers and their transnational corporations, and are involved in defense, and many offensives against ISIS who have surrounded its territory which includes some ground lost by Iraq.

Kurdistan: From Autonomy to Independence

While oil makes the KRG’s relationship with Baghdad a finicky and contentious one, it is also these profits that are keeping it buoyant and still attractive to direct foreign investment. The more the KRG deal with their oil and do not treat it as a “squatters rights” profit share with Iraq, the more they do become their own nation which is unquestionably their desire.

KRG President Barzani pulls no punches as we read from a BBC article in July 2014.

“In the past month, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have moved into previously disputed areas that have been abandoned by Iraqi security forces in the face of Isis’s advance, such as the oil-rich region of Kirkuk.

‘Everything that’s happened recently shows that it’s the right of Kurdistan to achieve independence,’ Mr. Barzani told the BBC.

‘From now on, we won’t hide that that’s our goal. Iraq is effectively partitioned now. Are we supposed to stay in this tragic situation the country’s living? It’s not me who will decide on independence. It’s the people. We’ll hold a referendum and it’s a matter of months.’”

More recently, during a trip to the United States in 2015 that included closed door meetings with American President Barack Obama, KRG’s President Barzani stated that a referendum for independence “will take place when the security situation is resolved” which implies at least the elimination of ISIS near the KRG borders. Any potentially real estate gained by ousting of Assad in Syria or strong-arming pressure on Baghdad to allow it for the people will likely contribute to popular sentiment for the KRG’s assistance against ISIS and appetite to do business.

Unquestionably, there is much money to be made here, so an arrangement could be worked out.

President Barzani’s drive towards KRG independence was definitely thought out under his leadership since 2005. The KRG are absolutely in the business of bringing in foreign companies and profiting off of oil, as do many others in the region, using the wealth of of other nations to invest and develop KRG-held oil and gas fields.

In certain respects, some maps of Kurdistan look like NASCAR sponsorship ornamentation, as seen below.

A number of western firms, including Genel Energy, are prominent within the landscape (Image: Northern Iraq Info)

Business partners. The fastest way to “un-muddle” the region is to look at everything as a business relationship, or even like a mafia organization complete with kick-backs.  The KRG is definitely a business partner with the world, in particular the United States and the United Kingdom.

There have been reports from an oil industry news source in 2010, GEO ExPro, who have reported on energy research into the Iraqi-Kurdistan area as far back in 2004, with western powers literal fawning over the potential of billions of barrels of oil on tap.

Are these gentlemen avid GEO ExPro readers?

Billionaires United: Why are these men smiling?  Left to Right: Mehmet Sepil, Tony Hayward, and Nathaniel Rothschild (Image:  BloombergBusiness)

Back in September 2011, Bloomberg Business reported how joint-British oil firm, Genel Energy opened a pipeline into Turkey for eventual export in 2014 and they state they have produced about 90,000 barrels of oil in the first half of 2015.

Vallares Plc, the investment vehicle led by [British Petroleum] BP Plc’s former Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward, will merge with Turkey’s Genel Energy International Ltd. in a $2.1 billion deal to gain oil fields in Iraq’s Kurdistan region …Vallares, a so-called “blank check” company founded by Hayward, financier Nathaniel Rothschild and [Goldman Sachs] banker Julian Metherell, raised 1.35 billion pounds ($2.2 billion) from investorsMehmet Sepil, Genel’s CEO and owner of 29 percent of its shares, will become president of the new company.

As far as globalist pedigree goes, Genel Energy is in the elite class for sure, led by Anthony Bryan “Tony” Haywood, and banking scion Nathaniel Philip Victor James “Nat” Rothschild, along with their ‘local partner’ Turkish billionaire Mehmet Sepil (who coincidentally ‘retired’ from Genel in October, good timing).

Tony Hayward, of BP Deep Water Horizon oil spill fame in the Gulf of Mexico, can be heard singing the praises of his new petroleum mother load stating, “’These are world scale producing fields,’ Hayward said on a conference call today. Kurdistan is one of the ‘last great frontiers in the oil and gas industry, with low finding and development costs, and proximate to significant markets.”

Business is good, as Bloomberg Business continues:

“The founders are set to receive 6.67 percent of the company’s share capital on completion of the Genel transaction, valued at $286 million. Hayward contributed 8 percent of the founders’ capital, putting him in line to receive $22.9 million of shares. Rothschild contributed 80 percent, yielding him a $100 million profit on his 80 million pound ($128 million) investment.”

These are the individuals involved, and the numbers are truly staggering. It’s good to read GEO ExPro and have a few hundred extra million hanging around. One probably does not throw around that kind of money without assurances.

Big names attract big investors in search of the next “sure thing”. Forbes ran a feature entitled, ‘How To Invest With A Rothschild – In Iraqi Oil’, excited over the prospect of parking your money with an elite rock star like Nat Rothschild.

But is it all really above board?

Blood for oil for cash

Now for the dark side of this trade. It’s also the most profitable too. ISIS is stealing oil in Syria and Iraq, and dumping it on the blackmarket cheaply for quick and easy cash. Whoever is buying this oil can then sell it for double or triple the profit.

In a recent report, investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed explained who and what is involved here:

“The [British] Foreign Office meetings included three receptions hosted by British Petroleum (BP), including a “high level dinner” to discuss “global energy challenges”; a Genel Energy annual reception; and a lunch meeting with Centrica Energy “on business prospects in the Middle East.”

British firms BP and Genel are heavily invested in Iraq. BP is involved in the giant Rumailah oil field and the huge northern Kirkuk field in the Kurdish region, while Genel is invested primarily in Iraqi Kurdish fields of Taq Taq and Tawke.

An exclusive investigation in July by INSURGE intelligence uncovered startling evidence that the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and Genel are tied to local firms secretly facilitating black market Islamic State (ISIS) oil sales. The Foreign Office did not respond to requests to comment on these findings.

In a sister report to this, the author adds:

Using a carefully cultivated network of intermediaries and ‘middlemen’ in the Kurdish region of Iraq, as well as in Turkey, ISIS has been able to produce a phenomenal 45,000 barrels of oil a day, raking in as much as $3 million a day in cash by selling the oil at well below market prices.

But the sheer scale and impunity of this oil smuggling network has caused local politicians to ask whether certain officials in the KRG and Turkey are turning a blind eye to these operations.

Many believe that this sophisticated smuggling network directly implicates the embattled Turkish leader Tayyip Erdogan.

So ISIS is battling Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in Northern Iraq, as ISIS moves its oil through Kurdish territory into Turkey for sale, while Turkey wages airstrikes against Kurdish PKK militias in Kurdistan, Iraq? The inter-workings of these relationships are much more complex than most people would care to know, or any western politician or new anchor would ever want to admit.

Earlier in 2011, KRG Barzani and Turkey’s Erdogan met in Irbil. The KRG’s website proclaimed:

In his speech at the opening of the new consulate, Prime Minister Erdoğan said, ‘Last year Turkey did more than $7 billion worth of business in Iraq, and more than half of that with the northern provinces [KRG controlled]. There are more than 20,000 Turkish workers currently holding permits to work in Erbil governorate,’ … As this demonstrates, there is a strong economic relationship between Turkey and this region, he said. The consulate already issues visas to Iraqi citizens, which has helped to strengthen ties.  Following the public events, President Barzani and Prime Minister Erdoğan held a private meeting to discuss bilateral relations, economic ties and cooperation on energy.”

One wonders. Did Genel Energy and pipeline security ever come up?

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a historic visit today became the first Turkish premier to visit the Kurdistan Region. Together with President Masoud Barzani, they officially opened Erbil International Airport (EIA) and Turkey’s Consulate in Erbil (Image Source: Kurdish Regional Government website)

Opportunity knocked in 2011, or planned much earlier? Remember, the Arab Spring and Syrian Civil War, all got going in Syria around 2011.

The Pipelines

Back in October of 2012, 2b1st Consulting published an update regarding Genel Energy:

Genel energy is reviewing its plans to deploy its oil export pipelines in Kurdistan. A first pipeline is under construction by the Kurdish KAR Group between the Taq Taq field to Khurmala Dome in the northern Kirkuk field.  To be commissioned at the end of the year, this pipeline should connect Genel Energy to the Erbil refinery and the Iraq-Turkish export pipeline system.  A second pipeline is planned between Khurmala Dome and the Feys Khabour pumping station at the Iraq-Turkey border.”

Note the planned oil pipeline on the map is dated 2007 (Image: 2b1stConsulting.com)

The eventual pipeline has allowed the KRG to move oil outside of the covetous eyes of Baghdad.

Why is this important?

ALMONITOR, in August 2015, stated, “The Kurdish government [KRG] will pay oil producers $75 million this month and plans to make regular payments for exports in future, it said in a statement last week. It exported 34.5 million barrels of oil valued at a total $2.87 billion through Turkey, bypassing Baghdad. The government received $2.1 billion in cash and $775 million worth of oil products.

Iraq’s contentious relations with the KRG over signing its own deals with other major players in the oil industry, to include Exxon leaked late in 2011 right on the heels of the Genel Energy deal; Exxon already signed a $25 billion deal with the Iraq government in West Qurna field so this direct relationship drew the ire of Baghdad. However, direct deals seem to increase the chances for KRG autonomy and independence and are considered to be security insurance with regards to KRG strength by President Barzani.

The current list of companies doing business within Iraqi Kurdistan, or KRG is as follows.

Austria: OMV
Canada: Groundstar Resources, Niko Resources, Shamaran Petroleum, Talisman Energy, Vast Exploration, WesternZagros
China: Addax Petroleum
Hungary: MOL
India: Reliance Industries
Norway: DNO International
Papua New Guinea: Oil Search
Russia: Gazprom
South Korea: Korea National Oil Company
Turkey: Dogan Enerji, Genel Energy, Petoil
United Arab Emirates: Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (TAQA)
United Kingdom: Genel, Afren, Gulf Keystone Petroleum, Perenco, Sterling Energy
United States: Aspect Energy, Chevron, Hess, Hunt Petroleum, Murphy Oil Corporation

President Barzani’s tapestry of business partners, some with icy relations amongst each other, does appear to be a way to hedge his bets as a sort of “mutually assured” down payment on autonomy and security. Who would want to harm the oil and gas rich people without a country?  Besides, areas in the South of Iraq are making exponentially more money anyway, producing upwards of 4 million barrels a day.

Business deals and monetary gains in terms of hundreds of millions of barrels and hundreds of billions of dollars make things in the Middle East, locally and outside of the region, a little more transparent.

The CFR has been at work educating everyone on how Kurdistan is friendly with the West and simply want autonomy as any group of people would desire. This angle cannot be denied — but is the human story driving the business side of the KRG, or is it the other way around? Watch:

Looking at the Middle East a bit more discerningly, it helps to understand that it has been militarized and set against itself. Kurdistan, and the KRG, is no exception.

Only a year ago, Kurdistan and the real estate of its business-partners were at risk as we see below.

(Image: Stratfor.com)

This entire situation of course feeds into the military-industrial complex by arming every side of a conflict, stoking geopolitical fears of insecurity, and since at least 2001 — the exporting of terror.  It also serves a myriad of other goals such as, securing assets and resources, or by taking them over.

For a veritable “blueprint” of Syria, the Middle East, and the western narrative of the ‘ISIS crisis’ today, written back in 2008, one could do worse than checking the Rand Corporation’s document entitled, The Unfolding Future of The Long War found here.

In this Rand Corporation document, the Long War “has been described by some as an epic struggle against adversaries bent on forming a unified Islamic world to supplant Western dominance, while others characterize it more narrowly as an extension of the war on terror.”

Within the Rand Corporation document you will find a literal course of action primer, or “trajectory”, for the way Middle Eastern nations have been handled by the West. If you have any reservations that Middle Eastern nations and cultures have not been analytically and scientifically reduced to assets or obstacles towards resource acquisition and profit, this document is likely to remove them.

International Racketeering

War for profit is not a new concept either, and resource grabbing and business deals are simply a way to diversify portfolios even beyond the scope of the defense industry.

Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler is famously attributed the words, “War is a racket. It always has been.  It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious.  It is the only one international in scope … It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many.”

When wars are fought on a large enough scale, victory can be a time of opportunity for the winners.  The benefits of carefully planning national boundaries, selecting allies, and creating amicable trade partners for financial gain, has set up national leaders and their citizens for generations.

War, if maximized to its full potential by the shrewdest politicians, is not unlike organized crime in which loyalty has its rewards. After a resounding victory planned by a nation’s politicians and executed by its citizens, the “trickle down profiteering” can keep the average person complacent or happy with their leaders for lifetimes.

Since World War I, nations within the region and world powers have been ratcheting up their rhetoric and converging in on the nation that is still, for the moment, known as Syria, for some time now.

As militarization, “good business partners”, and control goes in the Middle East, so goes the ever-changing narrative.

These are the folks with the good human interest story and a lot of oil right? (Image Source: Thome Review)

READ MORE SYRIA NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Syria Files




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