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With Kurdish oil comes the tantalising possibility of a new Middle Eastern axis

    It would be premature to herald the offloading in Israel of a million barrels of oil from Kurdish Iraq last weekend as the start of a grand new alliance in the Middle East.

    It is still unclear whether this was a one-off sale or the first shipment of many. And while it is inconceivable that the deal would have gone ahead without high-level approval on both sides, for now it has more to do with internal politics within Iraq than any change in the regional balance.

    But the fact that Israel has become the first buyer of Kurdish oil does point to a number of intriguing possibilities.

    While the Kurdish government is not officially pushing for full independence, its standing within a rapidly disintegrating Iraq, with jihadist Isis conquering new towns almost daily, could undergo a fundamental change.

    The Kurds have been arguing with the government in Baghdad for years over what share of profits from the oil in north-western Iraq should remain in their region. The Iraqi government has warned other countries that Kurdish oil is "illegal" and, fearful of legal repercussions, they have so far stayed away. Israel has no relations with Iraq and is therefore free to purchase.

    For years until 1975, Israel assisted the Kurdish rebels (via Iran) against the Iraqi army, but the alliance ended with the Algiers Accord between Iraq and Iran. In the years that followed, Israel's strategic alliance with Turkey ruled out further aid to the Kurds. Recent developments, however, especially the Turkish interest in serving as the main conduit for oil and natural gas out of Kurdistan and the Caucasus, have changed matters.

    The Kurdish oil came through Turkey's massive Ceyhan oil terminal which was also the outlet used for the oil Israel buys from Azerbaijan, which in recent years has become a major trading partner with Israel, much to Iran's chagrin.

    Despite the dire state of Israel's relations with the Erdogan government, the oil shipments have continued through Ceyhan without disruption. The prospect of a new Kurdish supply through Turkey, along with plans for an undersea pipeline to Ashkelon, usher in the prospect of a thaw between Jerusalem and Ankara, with Baku and Erbil as possible co-partners in a new regional alliance.

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