Friday, October 05, 2007

The oil law is not relevant

I laughed this morning when I read the following lede from Reuters:
Iraq's Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) has signed new oil deals in defiance of Baghdad's wishes but the landlocked region still needs central government approval before it can export any oil.

The semi-autonomous KRG approved four oil and gas production sharing agreements with international oil companies this week, as it moved ahead with plans to lift output to a million barrels per day (bpd) from just a few thousand bpd in about five years.

Iraq's Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani said last week that all deals signed by the KRG since February were illegal and that crude from the deals could not be exported legally.
al-Shahristani is speaking as if the writ of law and power that emenates from the Green Zone means much of anything more than three hundred miles away. There is always a good question of the writ of the Maliki government three miles away from the Green Zone too, but the oil law is not the relevant hard constraint on the export of Kurdish oil to Turkey.

It is the willingness of Sunni Arab groups to NOT blow up the oil pipeline network both to the refineries and the export system that is the critical bottleneck on Kurdish ability to export significant quantities of oil. And even after an oil law is passed in Parliament, the law is irrelevant as long as a small proportion of the Sunni Arab population thinks it is getting screwed in the deal or there is no horizontal escalation value of blowing up the pipeline in regards to other goals.

The oil law and the writ of the Baghdad central government will only be relevant trailing indicators, not coincident or leading indicators of either complete victory by one side or another or robust and resilient power/resource sharing agreements with all relevant stakeholders.

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