the winner is...1,032,212 Barrels of Crude Oil

This is a fascinating case for a lot of reasons, not least the bold Kurdish move to use oil as the means of constructing a basis for their justifiable independent sovereignty and the corresponding reminder of the limits of U.S. jurisdiction in oceanic space.

The case is officially called "Ministry of Oil of the Republic of Iraq v. 1,032,212 Barrels of Crude Oil Aboard the United Kalavrvta and the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Kurdistan Regional Governate of Iraq," in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Galveston). The ship is flagged in the Marshall Islands

The U.S. had planned to seize the load of oil (worth $100 million) as a means of maintaining the status quo in Iraq. In other words, in stifling Kurdish independence in pursuit of failed Bush-era policies built upon failed post-WWI era imperialist reorderings.

The LA Times apparently buys this idea, headlining its piece "Iraq and its Kurds fight over oil tanker off the Texas coast"  Its Kurds?

From Reuters (which everyone from Aljazeera to the Maritime Executive reprinted)

"A high-stakes dispute over a tanker carrying $100 million (59 million pounds) in Iraqi Kurdish crude took a surprising turn on Tuesday when a U.S. judge said she lacked jurisdiction given the ship's distance from the Texas shore and urged that the case be settled in Iraq

Federal magistrate Nancy K. Johnson said that because the tanker was some 60 miles (100 km) offshore, and outside territorial waters, an order she issued late on Monday for U.S. Marshals to seize the cargo could not be enforced.

Though the Houston Chronicle reports

"By Monday afternoon, the Marshall Islands-flagged tanker had yet to offload any crude, said Jamie Webster, senior director of global oil markets for IHS, an energy analyst firm. He based the observation on ship-tracking data that showed the vessel's draft hadn't changed since it anchored.

He said legal threats may deter any U.S. vessels from touching the shipment, forcing the tanker to travel elsewhere to unload.

"It wouldn't surprise me if it ends up sitting there for a little while or ends up going to another port," Webster said....

Coast Guard crews boarded the vessel Sunday to conduct routine safety inspections and determined it met all safety requirements, paving the way for the tanker to begin offloading crude, said Petty Officer Andy Kendrick, a spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard Houston-Galveston sector.

Because of the political sensitivity of the transaction, the Coast Guard worked closely with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the State Department and the National Security Council but no additional measures were necessary, Kendrick said.

The U.S. government, which backs a unified, central government in Iraq, discourages companies from buying crude from the Kurdish Regional Government, warning such deals pose significant legal threats.

But the government hasn't banned the purchases, Webster said.

The U.S. State Department declined to intervene, calling the matter a private transaction.

If the crude does sell, the deal could mark a significant economic leap toward independence for the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq, said Ed Hirs, who teaches energy economics at the University of Houston.

"Without economic hard currency and established trading partners, it would be very difficult for the Kurdish region to become separate, autonomous and sovereign, or basically secede from Iraq," he said.

So it does make one wonder why it would leave purchase as an option.The limits of sovereign jurisdiction at 12 miles allows the Kurdish tanker to float freely outside of U.S. power, which is

I am especially interested to see what happens in the Kurds decide to sell these 1,032,212 Barrels oil to Israel or China, two options with some interesting geopolitical repercussions.

And the historian in me is wondering about analogous episodes of secessionist areas not involved in a civil war seeking to use this kind of commodity leverage not just for funding but as a political tool.


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