ERBIL, Iraq, July 14 (UPI) -- Kurdistan, an ethnic territory in Iraq threatening secession, claims it has the world's ninth largest oil reserve and will use it to power a potential drive for independence.
On Friday, Kurdish military forces seized two major oil fields near the predominately Kurdish city of Kirkuk, a blow against what it considers a repressive and undemocratic Baghdad government. The Kurdish regional government in Erbil claims it has attempted unsuccessfully to negotiate oil profits with Baghdad, and that it has been shortchanged in receiving the constitutionally-mandated 17.5 percent of Iraq's oil revenues.
"It's Iraq that is disintegrating. Our independence is the result of Iraq's collapse," said Sardar Aziz, a senior adviser to the cross-party energy committee of Kurdistan's Parliament. "Overall Iraq's economy is wasting resources. The corruption and patronage in Baghdad is sky high."
With a call for an upcoming referendum on independence, and the invasion of the militant Sunni group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria effectively partitioning the country, Kurdistan is leaving hints it considers self-determination -- and independence from the rest of Iraq -- its only recourse.
"A greater Kurdistan is the dream of every Kurd. But for now we want to set up a state in this country," said Dr. Farsat Sofi, a Iraqi Parliament member. "We never wanted to be in Iraq in the first place. It's been forced upon us."
Independence has been an emotional touchstone for Kurds since Iraq was formed in 1920 from the fallen Ottoman Empire. Hemin Hawrami, the head of the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party's foreign relations committee, claims 40 million to 50 million barrels of oil lie beneath territory controlled by the Kurds, and that 125,000 barrels daily are sent by pipeline to Turkey.