Thursday, March 20, 2008

Today's puzzle

Reuters quotes cryptic US officials in Baghdad who "see the provincial powers law as one way to help clear a logjam of other laws, including a vital oil law..." In other words, US officials said the withdrawal by Adel AbdulMahdi of his objection to the provincial powers law could be part of a pattern of quid-pro-quo horse-trading between factions that could also involve the oil and gas law. The Reuters piece doesn't explain exactly how the US officials see that deal working.

Azzaman is a little less cryptic, but not what you could call clear either. The headline over their top story today says: "An allocations deal hovers over the confirmation of the provincial powers law..." By which they mean that "an atmosphere of horse-trading surrounds this move..." Their story leads off like this:
The leader of the Kurdish Alliance Mahmoud Othman told Azzaman that Masoud Barzani, president of the Kurdish Region, accepted an invitation from Dick Cheney to visit Washington in the near future in order to complete discussions with the Americans respecting the guarantees that the Kurds are demanding before they will support the Oil and Gas Law in parliament.
Barzani told Cheney the main demand is for
... a guarantee of no attacks from neighrboring countries, by which he meant Turkey and Iran, and for the US to not remain silent as happened last month with respect to Turkish invasion of the northern part of the Kurdish region; along with implementation of Clause 140 [of the Iraqi constitution] respecting Kirkuk."
So far so good. The Kurdish bloc wants American security and other guarantees before it will commit to support the American-promoted Oil and Gas Law. This would be a Barzani-Bush trade. The question is how this relates to the Supreme Council agreement to let the Provincial Powers law pass, right after meeting with Cheney. Because what the Reuters quote and the Azzaman headline intimate is a connection between the Barzani-Bush trade on the one hand, and the Cheney-SupremeCouncil trade on the other. How would that work?

Okay, says the Azzaman journalist, what was behind the withdrawal by the Presidency Council of its objection(s) to the Provincial Powers Law? First of all he quotes the Kurdish representative Othman who told Azzaman: "Vice President Adel AbdulMahdi has asserted that one of the aims of the Cheney visit was to prevail upon [missing grammatical object] for the Provincial Powers law. And he said AbdulMahdi withdrew his objection, which aided in causing it to pass." So what was behind the move was Cheney. But we already knew that. The question is why Mahdi and the Supreme Council went along with this.

Later on in the Azzaman article, after a discussion of the Bush speech and other matters, the journalists return to this question of what the deal(s) are.
The surprising withdrawal by the Presidential Council of its the objection to the Provincial Powers the first [move] of its kind, and it opens the door to pressures to withdraw objections to other laws passed by Parliament, without offering any explanation for such withdrawal. The withdrawal by the Presidency [Council] of its objection to the Provincial Powers law came one day after the completion by Cheney of his surprise visit to Iraq, during which he asked the Presidency Council and the president of the Regional Government of Kurdistan Masoud Barzani to work for the implementation of reconciliation via the passage of important laws.
And the journalist adds that the question of jurisdiction over Kurdish-region oil contracts has been the major stumbling block to passage of the Oil and Gas law.

My solution to the puzzle: The US official's "clearing the logjam" remark, and the Azzaman "atmosphere of allocation-dealing" comment are explainable as a planned pair of trades: Cheney-Barzani to get the Oil law passed, and Cheney-SupremeCouncil to get the Provincial Powers law passed. And what exactly would the underlying Barzani-SupremeCouncil agreement be? Possibly nothing but a common interest in pleasing Cheney, going under the name of "reconciliation".


Anonymous Shirin said...

Ah yes! The vital oil and gas law! Vital to whom, though? NOT Iraqis, that is for certain.

11:16 AM  
Blogger badger said...

vital to Cheney, naturally !

(I did sort of wonder why Azzaman would be using this kind of language ("vital") ("reconciliation") to describe passage of the Oil Law, almost as if they were cheneyites themselves--who knows how that works...)

12:08 PM  

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