Why Are We So Pessimistic?

Well, it would be because we believe this will pave the way for western (i.e., US) control of Iraqi oil, which is just what Iraq doesn’t need.

Iraqi Draft Law on Oil Revenue Appears Close
By JAMES GLANZ
Published: January 19, 2007

BAGHDAD, Jan. 19 — After months of tense bargaining, a cabinet-level committee has produced a draft law governing Iraq’s vast oil fields that would distribute all revenues through the federal government and grant Baghdad wide powers in exploration, development and awarding of major international contracts.

The draft, described today by several members of the committee, could still change and must be approved by the Iraqi cabinet and Parliament before it becomes law. Negotiations have veered off track unexpectedly in the past, and members of the political and sectarian groups with interest in the law could still object as they read it more closely.

But if approved in anything close to its present form, the law would appear to settle a longstanding debate over whether the oil industry and its revenues should be overseen by the central government or the regions dominated by Kurds in the north and Shiite Arabs in the south, where the richest oil fields are located.

The draft comes down firmly on the side of central oversight, a decision that advocates for Iraq’s unity are likely to trumpet as a triumph. Because control of the oil industry touches so directly on the interests of all Iraq’s warring sectarian groups, and therefore the future of the country, the proposed law has been described as the most critical piece of pending legislation.

“This will give us the basis of the unity of this country,” said Ali Baban, the Iraqi planning minister and a member of the Sunni-dominated Iraqi Islamic Party who serves on the negotiating committee. “We pushed for the center in Baghdad, but we didn’t neglect the Kurds and other regions,” Mr. Baban said.

Negotiators said that the final weeks of wrangling on the draft focused on a federal committee that will be set up to review the oil contracts. Kurdish, and to some extent Shiite, parties wanted to maintain regional control over the contracts, while Sunni Arabs, with few oil resources in territories they dominate, insisted that the federal committee have the power to approve contracts, rather than just reviewing them and offering advice.

The negotiators appear to have finessed that issue by allowing the regions to initiate the process of tendering contracts and by drawing up an exacting set of criteria to govern the deliberations of the committee rather than simply relying on its independent discretion. And in a bow to the Kurds, who objected to the use of the word “approve” in describing the committee’s duties, the draft law says instead that the committee may review and reject contracts that do not meet the criteria.

Read the rest here.

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