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June 10, 2008

Land for Oil Revenues
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

I heard a fascinating idea recently from someone who has spent some time in Iraq working on political issues, about a couple of the central elements which stand in the way of political reconciliation.  The first is the Article 140 issue concerning the disputed territories in the North between the Kurds and the Sunnis.  The second major question is on how to distribute oil revenues and whether those funds should be controlled by the central government or by the local provincial and regional governments. 

On Article 140 the Kurds and the Sunnis are both vying for as much control as possible over a set of disputed territories in the North, with the Sunnis wanting as much as possible to be controlled by the Iraqi Central Government, while the Kurds want it to be controlled by the Kurdish Regional Government.  On the question of oil revenues, the Sunnis want the revenues to flow through the center and then be distributed, while the Kurds want the revenues to go directly to the regions and provinces.

Iraq_oil_2003_mbig_2 The interesting thing is that the two maps that I’ve included in this post indicate that the issues are completely linked.  The first map outlines Iraq’s oilfields and the second looks at the ethnic breakup of Iraq.  The disputed Article 140 territories roughly approximate the area labeled as the Sunni / Sunni Kurd regions.  Almost all of the oil in the North lies in the disputed territories and the Kurdish Regional Government controls very little of its own oil. Iraq_ethnoreligious_1992_4

This means that you can basically link the two issues together.  The Kurds can either have greater control of the oil revenues in exchange for an outcome on Article 140, which more heavily favors the Sunnis or vice versa.  Either way, this would eliminate the Kurds’ ability to completely split off from Iraq, which is really what the Sunnis are most concerned about.  But at the same time, it does give the Kurds a healthy chunk of what they want and a good deal of independence.  When I heard this suggestion, I thought it was pretty clever.

Of course, there are always complications.  First of all, right now negotiations on the major issues have been mostly stove-piped.  There is no forum to comprehensively address all the issues at once, which means that on every separate point of contention the parties take a maximalist position instead of trying to horse trade.  You could change this either through a new constitutional convention or some kind of open forum where broader negotiations could take place.  Also, there is the question of what the various Shi’a groups want.  If all the main Shi’a factions were on the same side of this argument and fully threw their support behind either the Kurds or the Sunnis, it’d be hard to imagine getting any kind of an agreement.  But again, you’d imagine that ISCI would be for decentralization and the Sadirsts would be for centralization, which might mean that there is an opportunity for some kind of negotiated solution.  Finally, there is the question of whether the parties are actually ready to deal and believe they have to.  Since Bill Clinton laid out the Clinton Parameters before leaving office, everyone has pretty much roughly known what type a deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians would probably look like.  But it’s been eight years since then and we’re they’re not any closer.

Still, despite all of the problems it’s nice to know that there at least seems to be a possible solution to this problem and that people are thinking creatively about how to make it happen.


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Nice job, Ilan.

Thank you for your sharing! I like i very much!

Iraq has been home to continuous successive civilizations since the 6th millennium BC. These civilizations produced the earliest writing, literature, sciences, mathematics, laws, and philosophies of the world; hence its common epithet, the "Cradle of Civilization". Iraq was home to the earliest known civilization on Earth, the Sumerian civilization, which arose in the fertile Tigris-Euphrates river valley of southern Iraq in the mid 6th millennium BC. It was here in the late 4th millennium BC, that the world's first writing system and recorded history itself were born.

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