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Abdul-Mahdi: Now real work begins for Baghdad, Erbil

Although the oil deal between Baghdad and Erbil is a positive development, Turkey is sidelined by it and risks becoming a “geopolitical bystander” because of Russia's decision to cancel the South Stream gas project.
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Adel Abdul-Mahdi, Iraq’s former vice president and current oil minister in Haider al-Abadi's government, spotted me aboard a flight from Beirut to Istanbul. He was in a rush, on his way back to Baghdad after the Nov. 27 OPEC meeting in Vienna. I met up with him Dec. 1 around midnight at his hotel in Istanbul, before his early flight to Baghdad. During our tour d’horizon, he hinted about the upcoming, fateful meeting he would be having with Iraqi Kurds waiting to see him in Baghdad to strike an oil deal.

I have known Abdul-Mahdi for a long time and can attest that there is no other Arab politician in Iraq closer to the Kurds than he is. The warm and close friendship he developed with Jalal Talabani, the former Kurdish president of Iraq, during his exile in Damascus when Saddam Hussein held power, makes him an indispensable Iraqi oil minister in Erbil's eyes. “Massoud Barzani told me,” Abdul-Mahdi said, “if they cannot come to terms even with me, they probably never can with anybody else in Baghdad.”

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