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US lawmakers urge Biden to support 'economically strangled' Kurdistan

September 19, 2023 at 5:12 pm

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the “Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law 60th Anniversary” event at the White House in Washington D.C., United States on August 28, 2023 [Celal Güneş – Anadolu Agency]

A new US approach is needed to facilitate the re-opening of a pipeline between Iraq’s northern semi-autonomous Kurdistan region and Turkiye, a trio of US congressmen urged President Biden in a letter seen by Reuters.

The pipeline contributes about 0.5 per cent of global oil supply, and has been shut since March, costing the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) roughly $4 billion in lost exports, according to two sources familiar with the matter. 

Turkiye halted flows on Iraq’s northern oil export route this year after an arbitration ruling by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) ordered Ankara to pay Baghdad damages for unauthorised exports by the KRG between 2014 and 2018.

READ: Iraq loses $5.5bn due to halt in oil exports through Turkiye

With global oil supplies being restricted by OPEC+ and prices rising, the United States would also benefit from the resumption of flows from northern Iraq’s oil sector.

The KRG has served as one of the United States’ most reliable partners in the Middle East, said the letter signed by three members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Monday.

However, the closure of the pipeline has cut the region off from the majority of its revenue, the letter said, citing a communiqué to Biden this month in which KRG Prime Minister, Masrour Barzani, warned the economic drain on the region could trigger its collapse.

The KRG is being

economically strangled, politically and legally pressured … and militarily threatened by Iran and Iran-backed elements in Baghdad

added the letter from congressmen Michael Waltz, Michael T. McCaul and Joe Wilson.

It called for a “new Iraq strategy” to help fix the crisis, but did not detail what that should be.

The letter came ahead of a meeting between Iraqi Prime Minister, Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani and US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, in New York.

Blinken during the meeting “underscored US support” for the re-opening of a pipeline.

READ: Iraq: Prime Minister invited to meet with Biden at White House