Kurds and Iraq reach sig­nif­i­cant deal to share oil rev­enues

PM Barzani: pri­or­ity has al­ways been to reach so­lu­tion with Bagh­dad

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS - By Salih Wal­ad­bagi

The Iraqi Gov­ern­ment agreed to a long-term ac­cord with the au­ton­o­mous Kur­dish Re­gion to share the coun­try’s oil wealth and mil­i­tary re­sources in a far-reach­ing deal that helps re­unite the coun­try in the face of a bit­ter war with Is­lamic ex­trem­ists.

The deal set­tles a long dis­pute be­tween Bagh­dad and Er­bil, the Kur­dish cap­i­tal, over oil rev­enue and bud­get pay­ments.

In a news con­fer­ence here Tues­day, Nechir­van Barzani, the Kur­dish Re­gion’s Prime Min­is­ter, al­luded to the ten­sions of the Ma­liki era and praised Abadi.

“Abadi’s de­sire to reach an agree­ment was mo­ti­va­tional,” he said. “We hope to turn this into a new chap­ter in the re­la­tions be­tween Bagh­dad and Er­bil, and we never ac­cepted the threat­en­ing tone which was com­monly used be­fore.”

Barzani added that the agree­ment in­cludes 200 bil­lion Iraqi di­nars for the Kur­dish Pesh­merga forces. “The money which will be sent by Bagh­dad will not be counted on the KRG bud­get but on the bud­get of Iraqi De­fense Min­istry,” he re­vealed.

“What we have done is not enough but it is a good be­gin­ning for solv­ing other pend­ing is­sues,” Barzani said. “I am happy with the agree­ment and it is a good achieve­ment for all the par­ties.”

As the ji­hadists marched to­ward Bagh­dad in June, rout­ing Iraqi Army forces, the Kurds took con­trol of Kirkuk and its rich oil fields. And they in­ten­si­fied ef­forts to mar­ket Kur­dish oil in­de­pen­dently, argu- ing that the gov­ern­ment had with­held pay­ments to Kur­dis­tan that were badly needed to keep up the fight against the Is­lamic State in the army’s ab­sence.

Now, Prime Min­is­ter Haider al-Abadi’s Gov­ern­ment has agreed to pay the salaries of Kur­dish se­cu­rity forces, known as the Pesh­merga, and will also al­low the flow of weapons from the United States to the Kurds, with the gov­ern­ment in Bagh­dad as in­ter­me­di­ary.

“Now the pri­or­ity re­ally is to con­front ISIS,” Hosh­yar Ze­bari, Iraq’s Fi­nance Min­is­ter, said in an in­ter­view after emerg­ing from the cab­i­net meet­ing to com­plete the deal after sev­eral days of talks.

In reach­ing a deal, Abadi, who has been Prime Min­is­ter for less than three months, has fur­ther dis­tanced his gov­ern­ment from a legacy of bit­ter sec­tar­ian and eth­nic di­vi­sion un­der his pre­de­ces­sor, Nuri Ka­mal al-Ma­liki. As the Prime Min­is­ter, Ma­liki deeply alien­ated the Kurds and en­raged Iraq’s Sunni Arab mi­nor­ity with his con­fronta­tional per­son­al­ity and poli­cies that were seen as ex­clu­sive and abu­sive.

“The new team, un­der Abadi, is a co­op­er­a­tive team, a pos­i­tive team,” said Ze­bari, a Kur­dish politi­cian who was Iraq’s For­eign Min­is­ter in the Ma­liki Gov­ern­ment.

With re­la­tions with Kurds now nom­i­nally mended, Abadi’s Shi­ite-led gov­ern­ment faces a tougher task, but a crit­i­cal one, in reach­ing an ac­com­mo­da­tion with the Sun­nis. Re­la­tions had grown so hos­tile in re­cent years that many Iraqi Sun­nis wel­comed Is­lamic State ji­hadists as their de­fend­ers against the Gov­ern­ment and the Ira­nian-backed Shi­ite mili­tias al­lied with it.

Rec­on­cil­ing Sun­nis with the Cen­tral Gov­ern­ment is widely seen as an es­sen­tial step to re­tak­ing land from the Is­lamic State. Mr. Abadi has backed a plan, sup­ported by the United States, to set up lo­cal Na­tional Guard forces that would fight along­side the Iraqi army. But that plan has stalled, as have in­ter­me­di­ate steps to arm Sunni tribes in the face of op­po­si­tion by some Shi­ite fac­tions. Those fac­tions worry that the Gov­ern­ment would be rais­ing a Sunni army that could then turn on the Shi­ites.

The oil deal, which put a fi­nal im­pri­matur on a tem­po­rary pact that was agreed to three weeks ago, also rep­re­sented a sig­nif­i­cant vic­tory for the United States, which has made a pri­or­ity of push­ing the Kurds and the Cen­tral Gov­ern­ment to set­tle their po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic dif­fer­ences.

Amer­i­can of­fi­cials had ex­pressed fear that if the two par­ties did not reach an ar­range­ment, the coun­try would break up, with the Kurds push­ing for­ward on long­stand­ing am­bi­tions for in­de­pen­dence.

Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry, who was at­tend­ing a NATO con­fer­ence in Brussels along with Abadi, praised the agree­ment. “This has been a long time in com­ing, and it is a very sig­nif­i­cant step for­ward,” Kerry said.

The deal also ap­peared to be a blow to the am­bi­tions of Turkey, which had po­si­tioned it­self as the saviour of the Kurds by reach­ing deals dur­ing the im­passe of the Ma­liki years in which the Kurds would ex­port their oil and gas uni­lat­er­ally through Turkey. Those agree­ments were con­sid­ered il­le­gal by Bagh­dad and the United States.

The rap­proche­ment be­tween Bagh­dad and the au­ton­o­mous Kur­dish re­gion also ap­peared to val­i­date one el­e­ment of Pres­i­dent Obama’s strat­egy in con­fronting the Is­lamic State: the push for a more in­clu­sive leader of Iraq. When the ex­trem­ists swept into Mo­sul, Obama de­cided that Ma­liki had to go be­fore the United States would ramp up its mil­i­tary ef­forts against the Is­lamic State.

After pro­tracted ne­go­ti­a­tions and high po­lit­i­cal drama over the sum­mer, with the United States and Iran play­ing ma­jor roles, Ma­liki was re­placed by Abadi.

So far, Abadi has proved to be a more in­clu­sive fig­ure than Ma­liki, in style and sub­stance. He has re­moved cor­rupt of­fi­cials and mil­i­tary of­fi­cers who were seen as loy­al­ists to Ma­liki, and has reached out to Sunni Arab coun­tries like Saudi Ara­bia that has his­tor­i­cally been hos­tile to the Shi­ite-led gov­ern­ment here. He has even re­duced his salary and those of his min­is­ters, in a bow to pub­lic anger over the com­pen­sa­tion for law­mak­ers.

Un­der the deal, the Kur­dis­tan re­gion will pro­vide 550,000 bar­rels of oil a day that will be sold through gov­ern­ment chan­nels, with the pro­ceeds di­vided be­tween Bagh­dad and Er­bil. This in­cludes 300,000 bar­rels a day from the dis­puted re­gion of Kirkuk, which the Kurds took con­trol over in June after the on­slaught by the Is­lamic State forced the re­treat of Iraq’s Army.

At a time when oil rev­enue is so crit­i­cal to Iraq, the un­lock­ing of those oil ship­ments may ac­tu­ally have a tem­po­rar­ily neg­a­tive ef­fect for the coun­try as a whole: with prices re­cently hit­ting a five-year low, adding more Iraqi oil to a glut­ted mar­ket may drive them down even fur­ther, in­dus­try ex­perts say.

The deal signed also stip­u­lates that Bagh­dad will per­ma­nently re­sume pay­ments to the Re­gion — which had been halted un­der Ma­liki — that amount to 17 per­cent of the na­tional bud­get, and another $1 bil­lion to pay for salaries and weapons for the Pesh­merga, who are on the front lines fight­ing ISIS, some­times with Iraqi se­cu­rity forces and Shi­ite mili­tias.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Iraq

© PressReader. All rights reserved.