Fourth, federalism is not a precursor to the breakup of Iraq, but instead is a prerequisite for a united country and better governance. Federalism allows a strong central government to exercise the powers of a sovereign state, while enabling regional bodies to make decisions that protect the interests of local populations.
Fifth, it is in the fundamental interests of all Iraqi communities -- and of the region -- that Iraq stays a united country. This shared objective creates space for compromise across ethnic and religious divides and for the steady growth of national institutions.
From the L.A.Times, "Kurdish Oil Deal Shocks Iraq's Political Leaders"
BAGHDAD — A controversial oil exploration deal between Iraq's autonomy-minded Kurds and a Norwegian company got underway this week without the approval of the central government here, raising a potentially explosive issue at a time of heightened ethnic and sectarian tensions.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party, which controls a portion of the semiautonomous Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq, last year quietly signed a deal with Norway's DNO to drill for oil near the border city of Zakho. Iraqi and company officials describe the agreement as the first involving new exploration in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
Drilling began after a ceremony Tuesday, during which Nechirvan Barzani, prime minister of the Kurdish northern region, vowed "there is no way Kurdistan would accept that the central government will control our resources," according to news agency reports.
In Baghdad, political leaders on Wednesday reacted to the deal with astonishment.
"We need to figure out if this is allowed in the constitution," said Adnan Ali Kadhimi, an advisor to Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari. "Nobody has mentioned it. It has not come up among the government ministers' council. It has not been on their agenda."
The start of drilling, called "spudding" in the oil business, is sure to be worrisome to Iraq's Sunni Arab minority. They fear a disintegration of Iraq into separate ethnic and religious cantons if regions begin to cut energy deals with foreign companies and governments. Sunnis are concentrated in Iraq's most oil-poor region.
Iraq's neighbors also fear the possibility of Iraqi Kurds using revenue generated by oil wells to fund an independent state that might lead the roughly 20 million Kurds living in Turkey, Iran and Syria to revolt.
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