Barely days have passed since Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki hailed the country’s new oil law as a “solid base for unity of all Iraqis”, but Iraqi parliamentarians and oil unions have begun mobilizing against the draft legislation.
They argue it is a desperate attempt by al-Maliki’s government to satisfy Western oil company demands.
So political infighting could scuttle the deal once it goes to a vote in parliament, perhaps early this month. “The feeling is that the law is focused very much on sectarianism,” says Saleh al-Mutlaq, who heads the National Dialogue Front, a small secular party with 11 seats in parliament. “It divides the country and the wealth into groups — Kurds, Sunnis, Shi’ites”.
Despite the grumbling, it is unclear whether opposition to the law is strong enough to kill it. Among the parliamentarians arguing against the law are Moqtada al-Sadr, which fears that foreign oil companies will move into Iraq in force, and stay long after U.S. soldiers have left. “We cannot yet figure out how many people will stand against it,” says Moqtada al-Sadr.
Iraq’s biggest oil unions are among the law’s strongest opponents. Hassan Jum’ah Awwad Al-Asadi, head of Iraq’s Federation of Oil Unions, the largest union group, says he intends to mobilize his 23,000 or so members against the draft. “We want a new, different law, which will be in the interests of Iraqis.”
The next ten days or so could be critical…