Today, It’s Still About the Oil, Stupid

Here’s how Juan Cole puts it: The Iraqi government is putting the final touches on petroleum legislation, which will allow contracts to be signed by the oil majors. Up until now, legal uncertainties kept them away. My guess is that James Baker crafted the Iraq Study Group report so as to have the least possible negative impact on such petroleum negotiations.

Iraqi committee making progress in drafting new oil law
The Associated Press
Published: December 9, 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq: A government committee drafting a new law to resolve the politically charged question of distributing Iraq’s oil wealth has made significant progress, the panel’s chairman said Saturday.

The distribution of oil revenues, the mainstay of Iraq’s economy, is at the heart of some of Iraq’s most contentious political issues at present, including the push by Shiite leaders to allow the oil-rich south of Iraq to set up a self-rule region a similar to a Kurdish one in the north.

“We have reached important agreements. I cannot put a timeframe on when it will be ready, but we are very keen on achieving that as soon as possible,” Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh, a Kurd who chairs the committee, said. “We hope that we will reach a comprehensive agreement that will enhance the oil sector and make oil a unifying factor to all Iraqis.”

He said, however, that key issues still need to be resolved, including “the administration of the oil sector, deals and contracts.”

“We hope to reach an agreement that will please all parties,” he said.

Underlining the sensitivities involved, Nechirvan Barzani, the Kurdish region’s prime minister, said Thursday that talks he held with the Baghdad government this month failed to produce an agreement on his demands for control of oil resources in the region.

Read the rest of this International Herald Tribune article here.

There is also more extensive treatment at the NY Times, including discussion of the composition of the committee and analysis of what is implied; access it here.

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