Wednesday, May 02, 2007
we know where we get the oil from:
Hussein Shahristani, Iraq's oil minister, announced that the long-awaited, much-heralded oil law has cleared the cabinet. The law centralizes control of Iraq' oil under a state-owned company, and the Kurds -- who have fought very hard for ownership of their prospective oil fields -- came out on Monday with a fresh denouncement of the proposal. Shahristani, for his part, stated that the Kurds "are very happy with the draft law."

If so, they'll clarify that soon enough. Alternatively, Shahristani is sending the oil law to parliament as a way of giving Nouri al-Maliki something to show the Sunni autocrats during the regional confab in Egypt. Whether it will actually pass -- and, for that matter, hold support during implementation -- is irrelevant, since it allows Maliki to say, "See? I'm not trying to hand-deliver Iraq's oil wealth to Iran. Fret not, King Abdullah, over your position in OPEC." Sweat the details later.

Slogger's overview makes the point that nearly everyone not in line with Maliki in general have clucked their teeth at aspects of the bill, either for overall overcentralization (the Kurds), under-centralization in contracting (Sunnis) or giving away the store to foreign companies (more Sunnis and Sadr). Sadr has already pulled out of the Maliki government. The Sunni Accordance Front is considering doing the same. Perhaps Shahristani has secured some so-far-unannounced Sunni buy-in. But though the oil law is considered in the Sunnis' interest -- that's kind of the whole point -- it's not beyond the realm of possibility that the they could join with disaffected Shiites and Kurds to hobble Maliki with a jumble of attacks on the law. They don't have the burden of writing a replacement draft, after all. The outcome here should be a good barometer of Maliki's relative strength and whether reconciliation efforts can actually, you know, reconcile people.
--Spencer Ackerman