Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A New - and Big! - Oil Discovery in Iraqi Kurdistan

News of a major new oil find in Iraqi Kurdistan by a small Canadian company. Great news for the Kurdistan Regional Government, of course, but it begs the question: How - or if - the central government in Baghdad and the KRG are going to deal with who gets how much of the revenues.

This issue has been a major sticking point in relations between the two, and its resolution is no closer now than it was three years ago. If anything, a resolution is even farther away now. The Kurds are increasingly wary of their Arab Iraqi "brothers." The Maliki government has increasingly been insisting on its prerogatives to call the shots for the nation of Iraq, at the Kurds' expense; and the resurgence of Sunni groups (like the new al-Hadba party) - some of them with ties to Saddam's Baathist regime - in Nineveh and Diyala provinces, likewise at the expense of the Kurds, has resurrected decades-old Kurdish fears of being dominated - even exterminated - by the Arabs. Saddam's al-Anfal campaign of 1987-1989, and the horrific poison-gas attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja, are seared into the memories of Iraq's Kurdish citizens.

Mr. Maliki is going to insist that the central government receive a major cut of future revenues from this field. The KRG leaders will want to make him sweat for it, if not deny it to him altogether.

From such tinder do civil wars erupt.

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