Not to rain on anyone's parade, but given how poorly other official government actions have gone, and no doubt the strong American thumbprint over
Not to rain on anyone's parade, but given how poorly other official government actions have gone, and no doubt the strong American thumbprint over this, I'm not sure that this is the panacea the ISG claims it will be.
Iraqi officials are near agreement on a national oil law that would give the central government the power to distribute current and future oil revenues to the provinces or regions, based on their population, Iraqi and American officials say.
If enacted, the measure, drafted by a committee of politicians and ministers, could help resolve a highly divisive issue that has consistently blocked efforts to reconcile the country's feuding ethnic and sectarian factions. Sunni Arabs, who lead the insurgency, have opposed the idea of regional autonomy for fear that they would be deprived of a fair share of the country's oil wealth, which is concentrated in the Shiite south and Kurdish north.
The Iraq Study Group report stressed that an oil law guaranteeing an equitable distribution of revenues was crucial to the process of national reconciliation, and thus to ending the war.
Without such a law, it would also be impossible for Iraq to attract the foreign investment it desperately needs to bolster its oil industry.
Officials cautioned that this was only a draft agreement, and that it could still be undermined by the ethnic and sectarian squabbling that has jeopardized other political talks. The Iraqi Constitution, for example, was stalled for weeks over small wording conflicts, and its measures are often meaningless in the chaos and violence in Iraq today.[..]The major remaining stumbling block, officials said, concerns the issuing of contracts for developing future oil fields. The Kurds are insisting that the regions reserve final approval over such contracts, fearing that if that power were given to a Shiite-dominated central government, it could ignore proposed contracts in the Kurdish north while permitting them in the Shiite south, American and Iraqi officials said.
The national oil law lies at the heart of debates about the future of Iraq, particularly the issue of a strong central government versus robust regional governments. The oil question has also inflamed ethnic and sectarian tensions. Sunni Arabs, who preside over areas of the country that apparently have little or no oil, are adamant about the equitable distribution of oil revenues by the central government.
↓ Story continues below ↓
On the drafting committee, Sunni Arabs have allied with the Shiites against the Kurds, who have sought to maintain as much regional control as possible over the oil industry in their autonomous northern enclave. Iraqi Kurdistan has enjoyed de facto independence since 1991, when the American military established a no-flight zone above the mountainous region to prevent raids by Saddam Hussein.
Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the senior American commander here, and Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador, have urged Iraqi politicians to put the oil law at the top of their agendas, saying it must be passed before the year's end.
The drafting committee is made up of ministers and politicians from the main Shiite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish blocs in government. They began talks months ago, but the pace picked up recently, said an American official tracking the negotiations, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not want to give the appearance of Western interference in sovereign Iraqi matters.Read on...