The AP reported yesterday that secular, Sunni and Shiite political groups have chastised the Kurdish North for what they call "over-reaching" in a joint statement.
The declaration avoided mentioning the Kurdish government by name, but could create a new source of tension between Sunni Arab, Shiite and Kurdish groups, especially because a major Shiite party is now lobbying for the creation in southern Iraq of a self-ruled region modeled after the Kurdish one.That the Kurds, who refuse to fly the Iraqi national flag and are happily making their own oil deals, have worried nationalist Iraqis from both the other major power blocs should come as no surprise. Those oil deals may well be a major stumbling bloc on any path to reconcilliation because it is very unclear that the Kurds would be willing to share the revenue from private deals with the rest of the Iraqi nation.
``There must be a formula for maintaining the unity of Iraq and the distribution of its wealth,'' said secular lawmaker Osama al-Nijifi, reading from the declaration at a news conference. ``Oil and gas are a national wealth and we are concerned about those who want to go it alone when it comes to signing deals,'' he said.
With a proposed national oil and gas law bogged down in dispute between the Kurds and the government over who has the final say in managing oil and gas fields, the Kurds have signed 15 production-sharing contracts with 20 international oil companies, most of them obscure.And so it is that the US supposed greatest allies in iraq are the ones doing most to hold up what the US sees as probably the most important bit of Iraqi reconcilliation legislation. However, the Kurds were always just cozying up to the US as a defense against Turkey - and that didn't work out so well despite millions of dollars spent lobbying mostly conservative figures in Washington. Now, the Kurds are looking after the Kurds and the Bush administration's wishes can go hang.
Those contracts are considered illegal by the Iraqi Oil Ministry, which has threatened to exclude and blacklist participating international oil companies from future opportunities in other parts of Iraq.
The ministry has said it would stop all crude exports to South Korea if that nation proceeds with a deal last November between a state-owned consortium and the Kurdish government.
A spokesman for the Kurdish region, Jamal Abdullah, said Sunday the contracts are legal and that no one has the authority to annul them.
``We are going forward to develop this sector to serve our people, and anyone who has any complaint should file it to the federal court,'' he told The Associated Press.
Abdullah also said Kurdish officials are negotiating with two Canadian firms on a joint venture to construct an oil refinery and continue work on a second one.
But what's really interesting is the list of those who have issued this joint statement.
An unlikely mix of Shiite religious parties and Sunni Arab groups signed on to Sunday's declaration. Among the Shiites, they included supporters of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and a faction of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa party. Among the Sunnis were one of the three parties that make up the Iraqi Accordance Front, parliament's largest Sunni Arab bloc with 44 of the house's 275 seats. Also signing on was the Iraqi List, a secular and mixed bloc of 25 seats led by former prime minister Ayad Allawi.That is exactly the make-up of a nationalist coalition which has been touting for some time the posibility of unseating Maliki's government by legal, political means. However, they have competition from a competing power bloc that is composed mainly of the most pro-Iran Shiite political groups, including SCIRI.