News / Middle East

US Judge: Kurdish Oil Tanker Outside US Jurisdiction

A still image from video taken by a U.S. Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft shows the oil tanker United Kalavyrta (also known as the United Kalavrvta), which is carrying a cargo of Kurdish crude oil, approaching Galveston, Texas, July 25, 2014.
A still image from video taken by a U.S. Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft shows the oil tanker United Kalavyrta (also known as the United Kalavrvta), which is carrying a cargo of Kurdish crude oil, approaching Galveston, Texas, July 25, 2014.
Reuters

A high-stakes dispute over a tanker carrying $100 million in Iraqi Kurdish crude took a surprising turn late 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 100 kilometers (60 miles) offshore, and outside territorial waters, an order she issued late on Monday for U.S. Marshals to seize the cargo could not be enforced.

She said the dispute between Iraq's central government and the autonomous region of Kurdistan should be resolved in Iraq.

Had ordered seizure

Overnight Johnson signed an order directing the marshals to seize the 1 million barrels of crude from the United Kalavrvta tanker anchored in the Gulf of Mexico.

Tuesday she scheduled a conference to give the two sides a chance to state their case.

The ship could simply sail away, though it also could offload its cargo for delivery to another U.S. Gulf of Mexico port outside of Texas, lawyers said.

Baghdad's lawyers had laid claim to the oil in a lawsuit filed on Monday, saying Kurdistan sold the crude without permission from the central government.

Baghdad, which is struggling to contain a Sunni Islamist insurgency that has captured swathes of central and northern Iraq, sees such oil sales as smuggling.

It has cut the KRG's budget since the start of the year over the oil sales dispute.

The latest dispute over exports reflects Iraqi Kurds' emboldened steps toward seizing greater political and economic autonomy, with oil sales seen as central to Kurdish dreams of independence that Baghdad opposes.

Courtroom battle

While the sides fought the legal battle in Houston, they pressed the political fight in the courtroom of public opinion.

Iraq warned companies against trying to buy other shipments of Kurdish crude after it won the seizure order, while Kurdish leaders asserted their right to sell the oil but said they would face obstacles.

"The Ministry of Oil in Baghdad continues to interfere directly and indirectly with KRG oil sales," said Karwan Zebari, an official with the Kurdistan Regional Government's representation in Washington.

A lawyer in Houston for the Kurds said the regional government would file its own claim of ownership for the cargo, a sign the legal standoff might continue.

Meanwhile, a Kurdish government official said export plans would be hurt.

"We have to acknowledge that the ruling of the U.S. court will definitely have negative consequences on the region's attempts to market its oil," he said of the order to seize the cargo. "Buyers now will start to step back and think twice
before purchasing Kurdish crude."

Washington has publicly opposed direct oil sales by the autonomous region, fearing they could contribute to the break-up of Iraq. It has stopped short of banning U.S. companies from buying the oil while warning them of potential legal risks.

US territory

Officials from the State Department and the U.S. Marshals Service said the judge's order could only be applied if the ship entered U.S. territory.

In this case, that would be 12 nautical miles from shore, said Martin Davies, a law professor and the director of Tulane University's Maritime Law Center in New Orleans.

If the oil's owner wants to stay out of U.S. courts, "they just have to order the ship to stay out," he said.

While the rulers of Iraq's northern Kurdish enclave have long aspired to independence, their position has strengthened in recent months as Kurdish Peshmerga troops have outperformed Iraqi soldiers against Islamist militants.

Kurds have also succeeded in cementing their control of land and oil reserves around the resource-rich city of Kirkuk, while Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite Arab who has been an adversary of Iraqi Kurds, has fallen out of favor in Washington.

At least one cargo of Kurdish crude was delivered to the United States in May to an unidentified buyer, and four other cargoes of Kurdish crude have been delivered this year in Israel.

The case is Ministry of Oil of the Republic of Iraq v. Ministry of Natural Resources of Kurdistan Regional Governate of Iraq et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas, No. 3:14-cv-00249.

You May Like

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Dan from: NJ
July 29, 2014 4:29 PM
Why are we not supporting the Kurds in their bid for independence? Maliki and his cronies are no friends of the U.S. Our foreign policy is so idiotic.

by: jaime from: burs on chitown
July 29, 2014 8:16 AM
" siezed"
well it was only a 100 million dollars
but as it is siezed, i wonder who gets the oil and if any money will ever be paid?
airtaz

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More