control of oil
Months of Turkish air-strikes in northeast Syria have left more than a million people without power and double that number with no reliable access to water. Beyond the numbers, the cascading impacts have hit almost all parts of life, from homes and restaurants to petrol stations, buses, and bakeries.
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Jan. 29 officially accepted the credentials of the envoy to Beijing from Taliban-ruled Afghanistan—a clear step toward recognition of the regime. A month before that, Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister, visited Kabul to meet with Taliban foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi—the highest-level meeting between China and the Taliban regime since its return to power in 2021. China has already struck hydrocarbon deals with the Taliban, and has been eyeing Afghanistan's lithium, copper and rare-earth metal mines. This is in line with Beijing's perceived design to establish control over the planet's rare earth minerals. (Eurasian Times, CNBC)
President Joe Biden is pledging undefined retaliation after three US troops were killed and dozens more injured in a drone strike Jan. 28, being blamed on one of the Iran-backed militias that have been harassing US-led coalition forces in Iraq and Syria since eruption of the new Gaza conflict. It is widely reported that the target was a site in Jordan known as Tower 22, which provides logistical support for the US outpost across the border at al-Tanf, Syria—near where the borders of Jordan, Syria and Iraq intersect. However, a communique that day from the umbrella group for Iran-backed factions known as the Islamic Resistance in Iraq did not mention Tower 22, but claimed responsibility for drone strikes on three sites within Syria. These are al-Tanf, the nearby border outpost of Rukban, and Shaddadi—over 200 kilometers away in Hasakah governorate, in the northeastern corner of Syria, near oil fields that are under the control of US-backed Kurdish forces. (See map) (AP, LWJ)
Residents of a disputed neighborhood in Iraq's northern city of Kirkuk staged a sit-in Dec. 15 to protest eviction orders and criminal charges filed against them by a state-owned oil company. Hundreds of Kurdish families who were pushed out of Kirkuk during Saddam Hussein's Arabization campaign returned to the city following the fall of his regime in 2003. With their former homes now occupied by Arab families, many took up residence in a residential complex in Arafa neighborhood, previously inhabited by functionaries of Saddam's Baath party. Now, the North Oil Company is claiming ownership of the residential complex, and ordering the Kurdish families to vacate. Arrest orders have been issued against residents who have refused to comply. (Rudaw)
In Episode 205 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg looks at the recent re-escalation and (hopefully) denouement of the dispute over Esequibo—an oil-rich territory controlled by Guyana and claimed by Venezuela. Ironically, this claim was first asserted by the conservative, anti-communist Venezuela of the 1960s to help destabilize the anti-imperialist Guyana of Cheddi Jagan. Today, the left-populist but increasingly nationalistic regime of Nicolás Maduro even entertains hubristic claims to sovereignty over Venezuela's other much larger neighbor, Colombia. But this revanchism appears to mask the fact that "revolutionary" Venezuela largely remains a petro-state with a rentier economy, vulnerable to drops in the global oil price, even if Chinese corporate exploiters have been replacing gringo ones. With the recent easing of sanctions, US giants like Chevron have even returned to Venezuela—while the extractivist model results in indigenous resistance. Contrary to the dogmas of left and right alike, the real root of the Venezuelan crisis is that the country is insufficiently socialist.
Senior Houthi official Mohammed Al-Bukaiti issued a statement Dec. 19 saying the Yemeni armed movement would not stop its military operations in the Red Sea unless Israel stops what he referred to as "genocide crimes" in Gaza and allows humanitarian aid to enter the Strip. The move comes despite the US announcement of a new naval coalition to counter the attacks.
The legislature of the Canadian province of Alberta invoked the controversial Alberta Sovereignty Act on Nov. 27 in response to new federal environmental policies. The provincial legislature passed a resolution resolving to "urge the Government to use all legal means necessary to oppose the implementation and enforcement of the Federal Initiative in Alberta." The initiative refered to is Canada's proposed Clean Energy Regulations, which the resolution says mandate "a set of emissions standards and timelines that are unattainable within the context of Alberta's electricity industry and available energy resource," and would have "an extreme chilling effect on investment in Alberta's electricity generation industry."
The pipeline exporting crude oil from Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq to the Turkish port of Ceyhan is ready to resume operation, seven months after it was ordered closed by an international court ruling. On March 23, the Paris-based International Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of Baghdad against Ankara, finding that the latter breached a 1973 agreement by allowing the Kurdistan Regional Government to begin independent oil exports in 2014. The judgement confirmed that Iraqi national oil company SOMO is the only entity authorized to manage export operations through the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline. The KRG, based in Erbil, has now acceded to these terms, agreeing to market through SOMO.