Kareem Zair, Azzaman
April 15, 2008
Iraqi Kurds have won two major concessions from the central government in Baghdad one on oil and the second on the state of their militias known locally as Peshmerga.
Regarding oil, the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has agreed to give the Kurdish regional administration in the north the right to sign oil development deals on its own.
This is one of the biggest concessions the government makes for the Kurds and meets one of their long-standing and most important demands, analysts say.
The deal, they said, comes as Maliki is under immense pressure not only from his former Shiite allies like Moqtada al-Sadr but also from the disgruntled Sunni parties.
According to a new draft of the Oil and Gas Law, which the parliament has yet to pass, Maliki has accepted a Kurdish request to adopt a former version which gave them additional rights.
Under the new agreement, the 15 oil deals signed by Kurds with foreign firms would be legal while previously the Oil Ministry denounced them as null and void.
The agreement may signal to the hitherto reluctant foreign oil firms to start developing fields in Iraqi Kurdistan in earnest.
Maliki has also agreed to integrate Kurdish militias into the country’s security apparatus, a move that will add them to the payrolls of the interior and defense ministries.
But Kurdish militiamen, registered in the Kurdish regional government, number more than 190,000, almost as many as the number of troops under Iraqi government disposal.
The pact on Kurdish militias means that from now on the central government will pay the Peshmerga instead of the Kurdish regional government.