Instability in the Middle East has always had important implications for energy flows. The advance of the Islamic State clearly showed that energy resources are an object of interest for various terrorist groups.1 This article focuses on energy infrastructure as an interest of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which can potentially endanger Turkey's position as a regional energy hub and might hamper European diversification efforts. The long-standing conflict between Ankara and the PKK has escalated since 2015, and energy infrastructure is becoming a more frequent target of the group.
This article tries to explain the PKK's strategy towards regional energy supplies: why the PKK attacks energy infrastructure, how important a target it is compared to other targets, and what kinds of consequences these attacks might have in the future. I have chosen the Copenhagen School of security studies as the framework for this analysis,2 as it focuses on regional-security complexes and the process of securitization, showing why and how energy supplies became a security issue.
Terrorists' attacks can be often perceived as speech acts in their own right since their main function is to communicate a message to their enemies and supporters. The referent is not only what is to be protected, but also what is to be threatened. From this perspective, the PKK not only justifies its case by trying to protect Kurdish rights; it also communicates with its enemy — the Turkish government — by threatening Ankara's security. Studies by counterterrorism experts such as Martha Crenshaw, Bruce Hoffman and others help to explain the rationale of the PKK's choice of its enemy's referent objects. Finally, the data of terrorist attacks used for this analysis are taken from the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) maintained by the University of Maryland, and from pro-PKK web resources.3
THE TERRORISTS' STRATEGY
This analysis of energy security and its interrelationship with military security and politics reveals how the PKK's activity in energy security impacts other sectors as well.4 Here we can talk about the regional energy-security complex, which includes the EU, Turkey and a part of the Middle East, forming a single supply chain. The reason energy supplies became a security issue in this case involves the process of securitization.
According to the Copenhagen School, securitization is based on the construction of threats, usually through the discourse and speech acts of relevant actors. However, for securitization to take place, there must be a threat to some material value — for example, physical damage (or a threat of such damage) to a pipeline that would interrupt energy flows, which, in turn, would harm the economy.
Securitization proceeds in the following way. A speech act occurs, showing an audience that the existence of a referent object is threatened. The PKK's actions are aimed at their own audience — their fellow Kurds (supporters and active or potential members as well as undecided Kurds or members of rival Kurdish groups) — as well as at the enemy's audience, Turkey. With respect to referent objects (those entities that are supposed to be protected), there are two of them: something to be defended and something to be attacked. In the latter case, it would be a target. In the case of the PKK, the first type of referent object constitutes its "own" entities — Kurdish national and cultural rights (based on the PKK's interpretation). The second type (the referent object as a target) represents the Turkish military, economic or energy targets. The conflict itself is a form of communication. And for a terrorist group, the best form of communication is a terrorist act.
As Hoffman explains, the terrorist attack is "specifically designed to communicate a message" to "the 'target audience' at which the act is directed."5 The violence itself is symbolic, to "call attention to a political cause." Accordingly, Hoffman continues, a group uses "demonstratively symbolic acts of violence to generate publicity and rally support by underscoring the powerlessness of the government to withstand the nationalist expression that it … champions, and thereby to embarrass and coerce the government into acceding to the group's irredentist demands."6 Physical damage is not the objective; it is to create a psychological impact on the targeted audience.7 Violence is therefore a means of communication, a "speech act."
What kinds of referent objects of the enemy do the terrorists want to threaten? "As nations begin to experience economic growth, stability and demographic change … their positions in the pyramid [of power] change."8 Therefore, "nations are sensitive to issues that have a negative impact on [core components of power]":9 economic capacity, political capacity and demographics.
In this regard, according to C.J.M. Drake, despite the fact that target selection is affected by "resources of the group, the reaction of society to the terrorists' actions, and the security environment," the main motive is based on the ideology, "beliefs, values, principles, and objectives — however ill-defined or tenuous — by which a group defines its distinctive political identity and aims."10 He finds that separatist groups "tend to attack people who are members of, or co-operate with, organisations which they see as representing the 'foreign' occupier" as well as the security apparatus of their enemy.11 This is in contrast to religious terrorist groups that tend to target civilians.
However, to say that terrorists act in accordance with their ideology is not to say that they are fanatics. As Hoffman notes, terrorists are "disturbingly normal" and therefore rational.12 Ideology plays the role of what the strategist Lawrence Freedman calls a "strategic narrative," "a compelling story line which can explain events convincingly and from which inferences can be drawn."13 These narratives are deliberately constructed and present a message to the "friendly" public as well as to the advisory audience in regard to referent objects.14
Therefore, the terrorists' strategic narrative can identify the specific targets (enemies' referent objects) that constitute the components of power to be attacked. As Crenshaw explains, "[t]errorist ideology […] must be taken seriously as a guide to intentions": the main aim of terrorists is to change the actors' environment.15 In the case of the PKK, the energy infrastructure is not as important as many other targets, yet the frequency of its attacks against this type of target increased, along with its ideological significance.
REGIONAL ENERGY SECURITY
The energy-security complex consists of countries and regions that form a single supply chain. The interruption of supply in one part of the region will affect the other parts. This paper will briefly outline the key countries and regions whose energy security can be negatively impacted by the PKK's terrorist activity: the EU as a large energy consumer, Turkey as a consumer and a transit country, and Iraqi Kurdistan as a significant producer.
The European Union
The region where the PKK operates is potentially important for the European Union in its quest for stable gas supplies. Today almost 50 percent of EU gas imports come from Russia (153.4 billion cubic meters per year).16 The long-term goal of the European Commission is to create a liberalized internal gas market, so it tries to diminish Russia's dominant position. This strategic goal became especially relevant after the 2006 and 2009 gas crises, in which Russian supplies through Ukraine were interrupted. Therefore, the Commission actively promotes the search for alternative sources of natural gas, one of which should be the so-called Southern Gas Corridor from the Caspian region, the Middle East and the eastern Mediterranean.17 One of the flagship projects of this corridor was the Nabucco pipeline, which was supposed to bring 31 billion cubic meters a year (bcm/y) to Baumgarten, Austria, from the Caspian Sea region.18 Yet, because no substantial volumes of gas were being transported through this pipeline, the project was replaced by the less ambitious Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), which will transport 10 bcm/y from Azerbaijan starting in 2020.19 The commission aims to increase the supplies from the corridor to 80-100 bcm/y.20 The potential sources of these supplies are Iran, Turkmenistan, Israel and even Iraqi Kurdistan.21 As Turkey will play an important transit role, the PKK's activity must be taken into account in these diversification projects.
The growth of Turkey's economy has led to an increase in energy consumption. However, its domestic energy reserves are fairly limited. Domestic oil production is located in the southeastern provinces of Batman and Adiyaman and can satisfy about 9 percent of domestic consumption, about 886,000 barrels per day (b/d). The country's main crude and condensate supplies come from Iraq (41 percent), Iran (20 percent), Russia (11 percent) and Saudi Arabia (9 percent).22
Turkey is already an important transit state: its territory crosses the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline with a capacity of 1.2 mb/d, transporting oil from Azerbaijan; the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline, transporting oil from Iraqi Kurdistan (1.5 mb/d); and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) pipeline, connected to the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline at the Turkish-Iraqi border (0.7 mb/d). Additionally, about 2.4 mb/d cross the Black Sea Straits. Ceyhan has become an important port for oil exports to international markets: in 2015, it handled about 0.65 mb/d of Caspian crude and about 0.4 mb/d of crude from Iraq.23 Ceyhan can also become an important energy hub for natural gas, as it plans to handle supplies from Iraqi Kurdistan (about 10 bcm/y) that will be liquefied and exported to international markets.24
As regards natural gas, today Turkey consumes 43 bcm/y. About 50 percent of its consumption is supplied by Russia (through the Blue Stream and Trans-Balkan pipelines), 20 percent by Iran (through the Tabriz-Dogubayazit pipeline), and 10 percent by Azerbaijan (through the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum pipeline); the rest arrives in the form of LNG.25 Ankara tries to conclude new agreements with the suppliers, not only to ensure its own energy needs, but for gas re-export. Additional supplies from Iran are under consideration, along with supplies from Israel.
Meanwhile Russia is building a new gas pipeline, Turkish Stream; the first section is aimed at the Turkish domestic market (presumably replacing Trans-Balkan transit). The second section will deliver gas to the hub on the Turkish-Greek border. The total capacity will be 31 bcm/y, and it is designed to limit the transit of Russian gas through Ukraine.26 From the perspective of energy security, among the important gas pipelines are also the TANAP and the TAP, currently under construction, to deliver about 10bcm/y from Azerbaijan to Europe around the year 2020 (able to be expanded up to 23 bcm/y by 2023).27
In 2016, the average oil production of Iraqi Kurdistan was 587,646 b/d (about 13 percent of the overall total), most of it exported via Turkey.28 The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) plans to increase its production to 1 mb/d. One of the problems of the Iraqi energy sector is that, after the disruption of the Strategic Pipeline, the fields in the southern and northern parts of the country are not interconnected. Hence, the export from the south is conducted from Basra, while oil from the fields in the north is exported through pipelines via Turkey.29
During the advance of ISIS in 2014, the KRG's forces took control of Kirkuk, where major oil fields are located. However, in October 2017, after the Kurdish independence referendum, Iraqi security forces reclaimed the city and seized control of the oil fields. The KRG exports its oil through two pipelines: the KRG pipeline (capacity, 0.7 mb/d), which transports oil from the Khurmala Dome and Taq Taq fields, and the DNO-KRG connection to the Turkey pipeline (capacity, 0.2 mb/d), which transports oil from the Tawke field on the border with Turkey. Both pipelines are connected to the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline at Fishkhabur, a town at the Iraqi-Turkish border that is under KRG control.
In 2014, Turkey and the KRG signed a 50-year oil-export agreement.30 Ankara is also interested in potential gas supplies from Iraqi Kurdistan.31 The strong Turkish economic presence in Iraqi Kurdistan is clear: the KRG is now the third-largest export market for Turkey.32 Meanwhile, the Iraqi government strongly opposes any independent export of Kurdish oil without an agreement with Baghdad. After the conclusion of the agreement between Erbil and Ankara on oil and gas exports, Baghdad, in early 2014, suspended federal budget transfers to the KRG.33 Before that deal, Erbil received $13 billion per year; after the Baghdad decision, due to the decline of oil prices in 2014 and 2015, Erbil's revenues from oil exports fell below $6 billion. Hence, Erbil has difficulty paying not only oil contractors, but also civil servants as well as its peshmerga. Accordingly, the U.S. Congress allocated $480 million to the peshmerga for the fiscal year 2017. Yet, in light of the referendum in September 2017, it threatened to cut off this assistance if the KRG declared independence from Iraq.34
One of Iraq's latent potentials is natural gas, estimated at 3.7 trillion cubic meters (tcm), about a quarter of them located in Iraqi Kurdistan. If the required infrastructure is built, it can potentially become part of the European Southern Gas Corridor, to be either transported to Ceyhan for liquefaction or linked to the TANAP system. Yet it is not expected that Iraqi Kurdistan will be able to supply more than 10 bcm/y by 2020.35
THE PKK ROLE
The Kurdistan Workers' Party was established in 1978 by a group of radical students led by Abdullah Öcalan. It is on the EU and U.S. lists of terrorist organizations but is also an ally of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the leading Kurdish force in Syria, which is also supported by the United States in its fight against the Islamic State (the PYD and the PKK have a strong ideological affinity).36 At the same time, the PKK is in opposition to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which was led by Masoud Barzani, a former leader of the Kurdish Regional Government. After an unsuccessful independence move, Masoud Barzani resigned as a party leader and as the president of the KRG. Today the head of the KDP is Masoud's nephew, Nechirvan Barzani, the prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government. The position of KRG presidency remains vacant, but Masoud Barzani presumably still plays a crucial role in Kurdish politics.
The KDP, for its part, is in conflict with another major faction in Iraqi Kurdistan, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Until recently, the PUK was led by Jalal Talabani, who died on October 3, 2017, having served as Iraq's president from 2004 to 2014 (his successor, Fuad Masum, is also a PUK member). Consequently, the PUK and the PKK have a common interest in limiting Barzani's influence. The PKK is also helping Yazidis, who are in opposition to the KDP, to establish their own militia in the Sinjar region on the border with Syria.37 One of the main PKK safe havens is the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan, which have faced Turkish airstrikes. Turkey also intervened in Syria in order to fight the Islamic State, but one of its aims was to limit the advance of the PYD. This very brief geopolitical outline shows the dynamic and complicated regional security situation.
From an ideological perspective, the PKK has always been a Marxist organization with a nationalistic core. Its aim was the creation of an independent classless Kurdish state. From their perspective, they were fighting a pro-American "fascist" regime and thus centered their ideology on anti-imperialism, making the Soviet Union a natural ally. As the Turkish government was regarded as a colonial oppressor, the PKK allied itself with other national liberation groups in the Third World. It was also able to benefit from Syrian-Turkish rivalry when Damascus provided them with support and a safe haven.38 Only in 1998 did Syria, under Turkish pressure, end its assistance to the PKK and expel its leader, Abdullah Öcalan, who was soon arrested.
In the late 1990s, the Turkish military was finally able to crush PKK resistance, and Öcalan, in prison, declared a ceasefire that the organization accepted. Öcalan is still considered as leader, and, due to a powerful strategic narrative, the PKK has survived harsh Turkish counterterrorist measures, including displacement of the Kurdish population. The PKK still maintains strict organization, which, as Paasche notes, "tolerates little or no deviation from its official line."39 The PKK also revised its strategic narrative, dropping the demand for full independence. Instead it now will settle for a democratic confederalism that would recognize Kurdish cultural rights within adjusted national boundaries.40
In other words, Öcalan and the PKK changed not only their strategic goal, but also their tactics. As Öcalan himself explained: "The approach I took in my interrogation and trial should be evaluated as offering a political road."41 Yet, Öcalan's Marxist understanding of world politics and the idea of the nation state, which he criticizes, have remained in place. As he clearly declares, "A separate Kurdish nation-state does not make sense for the Kurds […]. The solution to the Kurdish question, therefore, needs to be found in an approach that weakens the capitalist modernity or pushes it back."42
The PKK clearly indicated the logic of its behavior when it responded to changes in the environment by adapting its strategic narrative. The PKK successfully used its terrorist attacks to mobilize the Kurdish population. Similarly, the changing conditions prompted the group to declare ceasefires as well as to resume hostilities.
The Importance of Energy Infrastructure
The most active period for the PKK was between the end of the 1980s and the mid-1990s. In 1992, it committed over 300 attacks, making it impossible for the Turkish army to control the southeast of the country. However, in the second half of the 1990s, the Turkish government launched a massive military campaign that included forced displacement of the Kurdish population — allegedly over 300,000 people — and managed to arrest Öcalan.43 During his trial, he declared a ceasefire and radically reviewed his strategy. Thus, during the period of 1999-2004, the activity of the PKK almost ceased, but the organization survived.44
Its members retreated to Iraq and accepted Öcalan's ceasefire. In 2004, however, the power inside the PKK shifted towards its military wing, which revoked the ceasefire under the pretext that it was not being respected by Turkey. The number of its terrorist attacks increased, peaking in 2012. The following year, the Turkish government successfully negotiated another ceasefire with Öcalan. Therefore, a negotiating strategy revealed itself: the attacks on Turkish referent objects were intended to convince Ankara to stop its military activity and negotiate peace. However, in 2015, the ceasefire collapsed again, and today the scale of the attacks is comparable to that of the early 1990s. In 2016, the PKK committed over 350 attacks, the majority in the southeast of the country, where the Kurdish population is concentrated.
The PKK as a separatist movement primarily attacked the main sources of Turkish power — the military and the police. Later, the PKK attacked "private citizens and property" and business targets. In the case of these non-military targets, the attacks have usually been directed against the Kurdish population itself, which is accused by the PKK of collaboration with the Turkish state. Thus, compared to other types of attacks, the PKK's attacks against energy infrastructure (utilities) are rather limited (see figure 1).
The PKK's Targets (including suspected attacks) in 2016
Source: Author; data based on the Global Terrorism Database, accessed September 20, 2017, http://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/.
The Number of PKK Attacks against Energy Infrastructure
Source: Author; data based on the Global Terrorism Database, accessed September 20, 2017, http://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/.
Nevertheless, in the last few years, their number has increased. Between 1988 and 2016, 44 attacks against energy infrastructure (utilities) were recorded (see figure 2). Of this number, 24 happened in the period 2012-16. The vast majority of the attacks against energy infrastructure are attributed to the PKK; however, it does not always claim responsibility for them and sometimes accuses the Turkish intelligence of orchestrating them to discredit the PKK.
As was explained, PKK ideology is a mixture of Kurdish nationalism and modified Marxism. However, its attacks against energy infrastructure are not a manifestation of left-wing radicalism and the fight against the capitalist system. The group's leftist orientation is rather manifested in its attacks against private citizens and property. The PKK targets and attacks not only alleged collaborators, but also wealthy landowners (land in the Kurdish region is unequally distributed). Kurdish nationalism plays a much more important role than ideology. The PKK publicly declares that its main target is the Turkish regime. These attacks represent some sort of speech act, representing a message to the government and the Kurds that Turkey's position as a powerful regional actor and NATO member state is not secure at all (NATO is perceived as an instrument of imperialism), and Turkish oppression of the Kurdish population (the PKK's referent object) will be met with resistance. PKK attacks on military and police targets therefore reinforce Turkey's position as a regional power in the military-security sector.
Thus, PKK attacks against military and civilian targets are a result of strategic calculations (with the purpose of inflicting damage on the enemy) and symbolic signaling to both friendly and hostile audiences. Until recently, attacks against energy infrastructure lacked this type of ideological component. Nevertheless, in February 2016, the PKK political leadership openly expressed its discontent with the agreement between Ankara and Erbil on oil supplies and the prospective gas supplies from Iraqi Kurdistan to Turkey. PKK motivation was to a great extent ideologically framed. Their representative declared that this agreement would empower the Turkish government, which, as they said, "[is] committing massacres in northern Kurdistan [southeastern Turkey]." According to the PKK, the Turkish government wants "to use the natural resources of Kurdistan as a source of life for the Justice and Development Party (AKP)."45 Shortly after this declaration, an explosion occurred on the Kirkuk-Ceyhan oil pipeline.
In this context, it makes strategic sense for the PKK to weaken its enemy economically, and these sorts of attacks are legitimated in its appeal to Kurdish nationalism. As PKK military commander Murat Karayilan declared in October 2007, "We have no specific policy on pipelines, but we are now waging a defensive war. … Since pipelines that cross Kurdistan provide the economic resources for the Turkish army's aggression, it is possible [that] the guerrillas target them."46 Therefore, the PKK wants, first, to securitize Turkey's position as an important energy hub and harm its economic capabilities, and, second, to harm its Kurdish rival, the KRG.
Attacks against pipelines that transport oil from Iraqi Kurdistan cause significant economic damage to the KRG, which was fighting against the Islamic State. However, the attacks in southeastern Turkey have also had a negative impact on the economic development of the Kurdish region. Moreover, maps provided by the Russian Ministry of Defense show that the PYD, a close ally of the PKK, was involved in the oil trade with the Islamic State (along with the Iraqi Kurds).47 Therefore, the PKK's moralizing about defending Kurdish interests in the political context of the energy trade can differ from their actions. In any case, these sorts of public declarations and the PKK's threats, as well as actual attacks, against energy infrastructure aim not only to cause economic damage to Turkey, but to harm and delegitimize the competing Kurdish movement.
Hence, compared to other targets, the energy sector has had a tactical or operational importance for the PKK rather than a strategic one. Its decision making is based exclusively on a cost-benefit analysis of a specific approach towards the energy sector at a specific moment in a specific geographical area. The Kurdish ideology and the fight against the Islamic State, therefore, do not hinder them from trading in oil with one of their main enemies and at the same time trying to discredit the rival Kurdish group for doing exactly the same thing. Yet, as the volumes of oil and gas supplies from Iraqi Kurdistan to Turkey increase, we can expect the energy sector to become part of the PKK's strategic narrative.
Impact of PKK Attacks on Energy-Security Sector
Based on findings from the Global Terrorism Database (GTD), we can draw the following conclusions.48 The first wave of PKK attacks against energy infrastructure occurred in the period 1992-94, when the PKK attacked primary Turkish production facilities and refineries in Batman Province and the Kirkuk-Ceyhan oil pipeline. There were seven attacks against these targets during this period. Although pipelines are very vulnerable, in 1994 there were only four attacks on pipelines out of 120 terrorist incidents in the area. The aim of these types of attacks is not to cause casualties, but to impose economic damage, though there can be some casualties due to the explosions. The exceptions are attacks against the military and police forces that guard energy installations. Incidents of kidnapping for ransom were absent in this case.
Yet, throughout the whole period of observation, the vast majority of attacks targeted pipeline infrastructure, the most vulnerable part of the energy sector. Therefore, attacks against energy infrastructure primarily affect soft targets. In this regard, the PKK did not commit any sophisticated attacks against energy infrastructure with the aim of destabilizing the whole sector.
After 2012, we can observe the growing intensity of PKK terrorist attacks against energy infrastructure, reflecting the overall increase of PKK activity. Compared to the previous period, these attacks are now more frequent. Yet, they still represent only a minority of PKK attacks (9 out of 360 in 2015). Notably, the PKK has moved beyond pipelines and is now also targeting hydroelectric and coal power plants, an indication that the PKK might try to destabilize the Turkish energy system as a whole. In the Global Terrorist Database, we can see that the most prevalent targets in the period of observation (1987-2016) are the Kirkuk-Ceyhan oil pipeline (18 attacks), the gas pipeline from Iran to Turkey (10 attacks) and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline (4 attacks). The small number of attacks against the last target is presumably due to the fact that it goes through a territory further to the north than the typical area of the PKK's activity.
On the other hand, as was indicated, the PKK does not always take responsibility for such attacks and occasionally accuses "groups affiliated with the Turkish Intelligence Agency" of committing them, "to create tensions between different Kurdish groups in a time when the Kurdish movement was gaining momentum."49 These sorts of declarations are rather surprising, since web resources affiliated with the PKK regularly publish a list of attacks, including those on energy infrastructure. This might indicate that, as we argued, the PKK still does not have a coherent policy towards energy infrastructure.
One should also be aware that the GTD database is not fully reliable; there are some attacks the PKK takes responsibility for that are not the list (such as the August 14, 2015, attack against the Iran-Turkey gas pipeline or the August 13, 2015, attack on the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline).50 If we look exclusively at terrorist attacks the PKK has claimed responsibility for, in the last five years the majority occurred in the following four areas: (1) Midyat in Mardin Province (five attacks against the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline), (2) neighboring Sirnak (two attacks against the same pipeline), (3) Doğubayazıt in Ağrı Province (four attacks against the gas pipeline from Iran), and (4) the Sarıkamış district in Kars Province (three attacks against the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum pipeline).51
These results suggest that supplies from Iran and Iraq are potentially insecure. Moreover, after the collapse of the ceasefire in 2015, the intensity of all the attacks is comparable to that of the early 1990s and growing. This can pose a significant problem for Turkey, and its aim of becoming a key transit country and energy hub that links flows from the Caspian Sea, the Middle East and Russia on their way to Europe. From this perspective, the PKK has a rational motivation to undermine Turkey's image as a reliable transit state. These sorts of attacks might have a negative impact on investments and could increase the costs of building and maintaining energy infrastructure.
Nonetheless, Turkey plans to start receiving supplies of gas from Iraqi Kurdistan as soon as 2019. These supplies shall initially bring it 10 bcm/y; later these volumes should triple.52 Turkey plans to build a gas pipeline from Sirnak on the border with Iraqi Kurdistan to Mardin. The pipeline would be roughly along the Kirkuk-Ceyhan oil pipeline, where natural gas would enter the existing grids. The most frequent terrorist attacks happen exactly in these areas. One of them, against the Kirkuk-Ceyhan oil pipeline, on July 29, 2015, caused losses of $250 million in oil revenues for the Kurdish Regional Government.53 Another attack occurred on February 17 of the next year in Sanliurfa Province. The outage lasted 23 days and led to $350 million in lost revenues (no group claimed responsibility).54
Hence, attacks against the pipeline infrastructure have a direct impact on the KRG. Iraqi Kurdistan finds itself in geographic isolation. It is landlocked and in a conflict with Baghdad that also involves disputes over the redistribution of oil revenues. About 80-90 percent of Iraqi Kurdistan's budget depends on oil revenues, and the only export route is through Turkey.55 Today Erbil has a problem paying the salaries of civil servants (about every sixth inhabitant) while also paying off its debts to international oil companies. But in order to keep up its current level of production, the KRG must prioritize payments to the oil companies at the expense of the population.56 If the KRG is not able to secure its income from the export of oil and, potentially, gas, it is difficult to imagine the economic viability of Kurdistan as an independent (or semi-independent) state. The negative impact of this inter-Kurdish competition is the decline of the capacities and resources of the KRG to maintain its security apparatus, along with other budgetary expenditures. On the other hand, in case of a declaration of independence by Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey's military response, we can expect changes in the military alliance: "The PKK has already declared that it stands ready to defend the Iraqi Kurds against all attacks."57 Nevertheless, it is likely that the Turkish response will not go beyond rhetoric, and current energy relations will remain in place. (One should remember that, in 2005, there was another independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan.)
In the context of the current geopolitical situation in the region, the pipelines from Iraqi Kurdistan present an attractive target for the PKK, which not only undermines Turkey's image as a reliable transit country, but also delegitimizes the KRG and damages Barzani's position. The PKK's securitization of oil and gas exports from Iraqi Kurdistan occurs at the level of rhetoric, when it accuses the KRG of treason against Kurdish interests, as well as at the level of actual terrorist attacks.
There is a clear interdependence between the energy-security sector and the military and political security sectors in the case of Iraqi Kurdistan (namely, in the case of the stability of Barzani's position). This interdependence is clearly acknowledged by the PKK, which, in December 2013, warned that any oil or gas flows from and through Kurdistan are "under the control of Kurdish guerillas; that is to say [they move through] a wide geography over which neither the United States, nor Qatar, nor the KDP […] can guarantee security." Therefore, "any plan to implement peace and a solution [to the Syrian civil war] in which the KCK, [the] PKK and [the] PYD — who are real parties in the ongoing war in the region — do not participate is imaginary and impossible."58 This threat was issued in a protest against the exclusion of the aforementioned organizations from the Syrian peace talks in Geneva. This clearly shows that, although the PKK attacks happen inside Turkey, they can be felt far beyond its borders; the PKK along with its Syrian allies, the PYD, actively use these attacks.
From the perspective of the European Union, PKK activity can pose a threat to the Southern Gas Corridor, which will run from Azerbaijan and, potentially, other countries (including Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan) through Turkish territory. If the existing or potential gas pipelines (such as TANAP or any other future pipelines from Iraqi Kurdistan or Iran) were objects of attacks similar to those that occurred along the Kirkuk-Ceyhan oil pipeline, the outage could last over 20 days, a much longer period than during the 2009 gas conflict between Russia and Ukraine (13 days). Yet, it was exactly the problem of the "gas wars" between Russia and Ukraine that prompted the European Commission to seek alternative sources of supply. Nonetheless, from the perspective of the regional-security complex, the PKK's terrorist attacks against energy infrastructure today present a much greater threat to the region itself than to the EU. They threaten the stability of Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan, and this would have a negative impact on the EU — if not in its energy sector, then surely in its military sector.
From an ideological perspective, attacks against energy infrastructure are much less important than attacks against targets such as military and police forces, alleged collaborators and wealthy landowners. In the case of attacks against pipelines that bring resources from Iraqi Kurdistan to Turkey, we can notice some ideological justification. However, these attacks are also wholly rational and pragmatic. The PKK undermines not only Turkey's position as a regional energy hub, but also the position of the Barzani clan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party. The appeal to Kurdish nationalism shall thus legitimize their terrorist activity in the eyes of the Kurdish population, which may not support attacks that harm their economic interests and wellbeing. This is an important part of the strategic narrative that the PKK wants to "sell" to the Kurdish population. Thus these attacks have an important geopolitical component, and their importance would grow proportionally with the volumes of oil and gas going through Turkey.
Even relatively sparse attacks against energy infrastructure can result in significant economic losses, as was the case with the Kirkuk-Ceyhan oil pipeline. This can impact Barzani's ability to maintain his position as a leader (though informal) of the KRG, and the KRG's ability to ensure its military security in a volatile region. This shows the interdependence the energy, military and political-security sectors in this regional security complex. For now, the PKK's activity is a local problem (in the energy sector perhaps this is an even greater problem for the KRG than for Ankara). Today, there is no direct significant threat to the interests of the EU, but these attacks increase the costs of diversification. Since the Southern Gas Corridor was supposed to be an alternative to Russian gas supplies, the frequent attacks undermine the rationale of the EU's strategy. If the southeastern EU member states eventually decrease their contracted volumes of Russian gas in favor of the Southern Gas Corridor, their energy security might be negatively affected.
1 Fazel Hawramy, Shalaw Mohammed, and Luke Harding, "Inside Islamic State's Oil Empire: How Captured Oilfields Fuel Isis Insurgency," The Guardian , November 19, 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/19/-sp-islamic-state-oil-emp….
2 Barry Buzan, Ole Wæver, and Jaap De Wilde, Security: A New Framework for Analysis (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1998).
5 Bruce Hoffman, Inside Terrorism (Columbia University Press, 2006), 229.
6 Ibid., 232.
7 Gabriel Weimann, "The Theater of Terror," Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma 9, no. 3-4 (2005): 379-90.
8 Okon E. Eminue and Henry U. Ufomba, "Modeling Terrorist Target Selection: Organski's Power Transition Theory," Defense & Security Analysis 27, no. 4 (2011): 376.
9 Ibid., 378.
10 C. J. M. Drake, "The Role of Ideology in Terrorists' Target Selection," Terrorism and Political Violence 10, no. 2 (1998): 54-55.
11 Ibid., 63.
12 Hoffman, Inside Terrorism, xv.
13 Lawrence Freedman, The Transformation of Strategic Affairs (Routledge, 2006), 22.
14 Ibid., 23.
15 Martha Crenshaw, "Theories of Terrorism: Instrumental and Organizational Approaches," Journal of Strategic Studies 10, no. 14 (1987): 15.
16 British Petroleum, "BP Statistical Review of World Energy" (66th edition, June, 2017), https://www.bp.com/content/dam/bp/en/corporate/pdf/energy-economics/sta…; and "Delivery Statistics," Gazprom Export, accessed September 20, 2017, http://www.gazpromexport.ru/en/statistics/.
17 "Gas and Oil Supply Routes," DG Energy, accessed September 20, 2017, http://ec.europa.eu/energy/en/topics/imports-and-secure-supplies/gas-an….
18 "Project Description," Nabucco Pipeline (archived June 18, 2008), accessed September 20, 2017, http://web.archive.org/web/20091216080340/http://www.nabucco-pipeline.c….
19 "A Tale of Two Pipelines: Why TAP Has Won the Day," Natural Gas World, July 2, 2013, https://www.naturalgasworld.com/southern-corridor-strategic-importance-….
20 "Gas and Oil Supply Routes," DG Energy, accessed September 20, 2017, http://ec.europa.eu/energy/en/topics/imports-and-secure-supplies/gas-an….
21 Gareth M. Winrow, "The Southern Gas Corridor and Turkey's Role as an Energy Transit State and Energy Hub," Insight Turkey 15, no. 1 (2013): 145-63.
22 U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Iran," 2007, https://www.eia.gov/beta/international/analysis.cfm?iso=TUR.
25 U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Turkey," 2017, https://www.eia.gov/beta/international/analysis.cfm?iso=TUR.
26 "TurkStream," Gazprom Export, accessed September 20, 2017, http://www.gazpromexport.ru/en/projects/.
27 Georgi Gotev, "Race Between Nabucco and TAP Pipeline Hots Up," Euractiv, January 31, 2013, http://www.euractiv.com/section/energy/news/race-between-nabucco-and-ta….
28 "Iraqi PM Says Kurds Exporting More Oil Than Allocated," Reuters, January 4, 2017, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-oil-kurds/iraqi-pm-says-kurds-ex….
29 U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Iraq," 2016, https://www.eia.gov/beta/international/analysis.cfm?iso=IRQ.
30 "Turkey, Iraqi Kurdistan Agree on '50-year Energy Accord,'" Hurriyet Daily News, June 5, 2014, http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-iraqi-kurdistan-agree-on-50-yea….
31 "EXCLUSIVE-Turkey, Iraqi Kurdistan Clinch Major Energy Pipeline Deals," Reuters, November 6, 2013, http://uk.reuters.com/article/turkey-iraq-kurdistan/exclusive-turkey-ir….
32 Soner Cagaptay, Christina Bache Fidan, and Ege Cansu Sacikara, "Turkey and the KRG: An Undeclared Economic Commonwealth," Washington Institute, March 16, 2015, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/turkey-and-the-….
33 "Analysis: Iraqi KRG Faces Obstacles to Maintain Crude Oil Export Quality," Platts, March 16, 2017, https://www.platts.com/latest-news/oil/dubai/analysis-iraqi-krg-faces-o….
34 Bryant Harris, "Congress Threatens to Cut Payments to Iraqi Kurds if They Break with Baghdad," Al-Monitor, June 28, 2017, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/06/congress-threat-payme….
35 "Kurdistan Ties Important, but Ankara Won't Recognize Independence: Spokesperson," Rudaw, August 16, 2017, http://www.rudaw.net/english/middleeast/turkey/160820171.
36 "Foreign Terrorist Organizations," U.S. Department of State, accessed September 20, 2017, https://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/123085.htm; Council Decision (CFSP) 2017/1426 of August 4, 2017, Updating the List of Persons, Groups and Entities Subject to Articles 2, 3 and 4 of Common Position 2001/931/CFSP on the Application of Specific Measures to Combat Terrorism, and Repealing Decision (CFSP) 2017/154.
37 Paasche, "Syrian and Iraqi Kurds: Conflict and Cooperation"; Amberin Zaman, "Turkey Fumes as Sinjar Yazidis Declare 'Democratic Autonomy'," Al-Monitor, August 21, 2017, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/08/independence-iraqi-ku….
38 Aliza Marcus, Blood and Belief (NYU Press, 2009).
39 Paasche, "Syrian and Iraqi Kurds: Conflict and Cooperation," 78.
40 Mustafa Gürbüz, Rival Kurdish Movements in Turkey Transforming Ethnic Conflict (Amsterdam University Press, 2016); and Till F. Paasche, "Syrian and Iraqi Kurds: Conflict and Cooperation," Middle East Policy 22, no. 1 (2015): 77-88.
41 Marcus, Blood and Belief, 288.
42 Abdullah Öcalan, Democratic Confederalism (International Initiative Edition, 2011), 19.
43 Christopher Paul, Colin Clarke, Beth Grill, and Molly Dunigan, Path to Victory: Lessons from Modern Insurgencies (RAND Corporation, 2013), 55.
44 Marcus, Blood and Belief.
45 James Burgess, "PKK Attacks Turkey-KRG Oil Pipeline," Oil Price, February 18, 2016, http://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/PKK-Attacks-Turkey-KR….
46 "Kurd Rebels Say May Hit Turk Pipelines if Attacked," Reuters, October 19, 2007, http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSL19752599.
47 "Speech of the Chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoy," Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation, accessed September 20, 2017, http://syria.mil.ru/en/index/syria/news/more.htm?id=12070708@cmsArticle.
48 "Global Terrorism Database," accessed September 20, 2017, http://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/search/Results.aspx?expanded=yes&casualtie….
49 "HSM: Turkish Intelligence Carried Out the Attack on the Oil Pipeline," ANF News, March 3, 2016, https://anfenglish.com/kurdistan/hsm-turkish-intelligence-carried-out-t….
50 "At Least 35 Soldiers Killed in an Action by Guerrillas in Tatvan," ANF News, March 16, 2015, https://anfenglish.com/kurdistan/at-least-35-soldiers-killed-in-an-acti…; "Guerrilla Actions in Various Locations," ANF News, August 14, 2015, https://anfenglish.com/kurdistan/guerrilla-actions-in-various-locations…; "Turkey – Explosion Hits Shah Deniz Gas Pipeline," Fire Direct, August 14, 2015, http://www.firedirect.net/index.php/2015/08/turkey-explosion-hits-shah-….
51 These data are based on information from the PKK-affiliated website ANF News: https://anfenglish.com/.
52 John Roberts, "Turkey, Kurds in Duel over Energy," Natural Gas Europe, February 19, 2016, http://www.naturalgaseurope.com/turkey-and-the-kurds-energy-security-28….
53 "KRG Says PKK Oil Pipeline Sabotage Cost $250M," Rudaw, April 8, 2015, http://www.rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/030820152.
54 Patrick Osgood, "Oil Exports to Turkey Resume," Iraq Oil Report, March 11, 2016, http://www.iraqoilreport.com/news/oil-exports-turkey-resume-18307/.
55 "Why Iraqi Kurdistan Is Struggling to Pay Its Bills," Stratfor, January 28, 2016, https://www.stratfor.com/analysis/why-iraqi-kurdistan-struggling-pay-it….
57 Amberin Zaman, "Turkish Bluster Hides Shaky Leverage over KRG," Al-Monitor, October 2, 2017, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/10/turkish-media-pushes….
58 Ferda Çetin, "The War in Rojava Has Carried over to Geneva," ANF News, December 3, 2013, https://anfenglish.com/news/the-war-in-rojava-has-carried-over-to-genev….