Saturday, December 09, 2006

Iraq Nearing Oil Revenue Sharing Deal

If the Iraqis can figure out how to distribute oil revenues to the various ethnic and religious groups, they could go a long way to solving the key issues that have thus far divided the country along sectarian lines:
Iraqi officials are near agreement on a national oil law that would give the central government the power to distribute current and future oil revenues to the provinces or regions, based on their population, Iraqi and American officials say.

If enacted, the measure, drafted by a committee of politicians and ministers, could help resolve a highly divisive issue that has consistently blocked efforts to reconcile the country’s feuding ethnic and sectarian factions. Sunni Arabs, who lead the insurgency, have opposed the idea of regional autonomy for fear that they would be deprived of a fair share of the country’s oil wealth, which is concentrated in the Shiite south and Kurdish north.
A census needs to be taken in order to accurately reflect the population of the country. Sunnis like to say that they're 60% of the population, despite the fact that most estimate that they're only about 20% of the population, while Shi'ites make up 60% and Kurds 20%.

There have been reports that the refugee crisis is accelerating given the increased violence of late. That trend might be reversed if the various leaders realize that getting people to remain in the country will help their efforts to secure their slice of the oil revenues. In other words, the oil revenues might actually help stabilize the Iraqi situation.

The problem is that the same forces that might encourage people to remain in the country could accelerate attacks that force other groups to get out - if you reduce the numbers of the other groups, you gain a greater share of the oil revenues.

The trick will be getting the various groups to recognize that it is in their best interests to secure the country against the insurgents rather than continue the violence.

Others blogging: Don Surber and Poliblogger.

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