Iraq's cabinet yesterday approved changes to the draft Oil Law and sent it to parliament for immediate debate. The original draft was approved by cabinet in February, but held up by wrangling with Kurds.
The Iraqi parliament has extended its current session to the end of July, before legislators take a month off:
That leaves little time before the U.S. military commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker have to present a report to Washington in the middle of September on Iraq's security and political progress.This is what the "surge" is really all about. If the Iraqi government approves the law, Big Oil will take over the role of the US military, with support from rabid mercenary groups like Blackwater. US troops will draw back to their huge bases, ready to strike whenever a pipeline is threatened. Mission accomplished.
The report is being viewed as a political watershed, with U.S. President George W. Bush under mounting pressure to show his Iraq strategy is working and with campaigning in the 2008 U.S. presidential race already well under way.
Bush spoke separately by telephone to Iraq's top leaders on Tuesday including Maliki, the country's president and the two vice presidents, the White House said.
There are still some nasty details to be haggled out, but nothing that some massive bribes to regional leaders should not be able to sort out. The real question is whether the Iraqi insurgents will be able to continue blocking significant production.
UPDATE: Juan Cole pours water on the prospects of a genuine deal:
AP reports that the Iraqi cabinet reported out a draft of the petroleum bill for consideration of the parliament.
But this story turns out to be a non-story. Only 24 of 37 cabinet ministers were present. Although AP says this is in part because of the Sadr Bloc boycott of PM Nuri al-Maliki's government, that seems unlikely, since those 6 ministers have been replaced by technocrats. At least 6 of the 13 absent ministers, though, were from the Sunni Iraqi Accord Front, which is also boycotting the government these days.
Although the cabinet had a quorum, those voting were hardly representative of the country as a whole. And then a further difficulty arose:
A top Kurdistan oil official is denying that there is a deal on a federal petroleum law. It was reported Monday that a deal had been reached and a draft approved by the cabinet, to be taken up by parliament on Wednesday. But the Kurds are now saying that they haven't seen the draft and might vote against it.
So, a decision may or may not have been made, which is a more accurate way of describing what happened.