The New York Times reports that the Iraqi US Ambassador Ryan Crocker's office say “This is an important step in this Iraqi process,” as the rather exiguous Iraqi Cabinet (Only 24 of the Cabinet's 37 members voted on the Bill as the Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front and the Sadrist Shiite blocs have boycotted the Cabinet because of other disputes) passed the first part of the legislative package, known officially as the hydrocarbon framework law, and sent it to Parliament yesterday.
However life is never simple in Iraqi Parliamentary affairs and Mohammed Abu Bakr, head of parliament's media office, said the law had first to go to the energy and oil committee....
"We need seven days to get the draft on the agenda of parliament to discuss it,"The United States Congress has demanded progress on this oil law before it authorizes additional money for Iraq - most of which will of course be re-cycled to US military / commercial interests. Iraq oil production has fallen from 3.5 million barrels a day to 2 million since the U.S. invasion , due to theft, pipeline damage and exhaustion of wells. Oil provides 95% of the foreign earnings for Iraq.
As the oil being currently pumped is based in Kurdish and Shiite there is a ticklish problem of rerconciling their interest with the Sunni elements. The Kurdistan government, has been very active entering into contracts with external companies oil field exploration and development and is relatively content with things as they are. Likewise the regional control over oil contracting is also vitally important to Iraq’s Shiites, whose ideal is Shiite dominated region in the south with access to the Persian Gulf and operating in the fashion that Kurdistan has been opearting for some time.
Fundamental to the new measures is the establishment of a supreme National Oil Council, which will oversee contract awards. The law (as drafte but which is not publicly available) also permits foreign participation in oil field development.
Whilst there was an draft / initial agreement in February, this was sent for consideration to the Shura Council, whose leisurely consideration has been notionally to consider how the prosed legislation is the Iraqi constitution and with current / existing oil laws.
As soon as President Maliki announced that the legislation could be forwarded to Parliamanet The Kurdish Regional Government (see Bloomberg / Voice of America) report that they claim they have yet to review the final text and would withhold its endorsement until its experts had read it. The Kurdish Government states it will reject the latest text it it has "material and substantive changes" to the previously agreed text on it's website
"We have not seen the final text of the law that the Iraqi Cabinet says it will
put to parliament," "We hope that the Cabinet is not approving a text with which
the (Kurdish administration) disagrees because this would violate the
constitutional rights of the Kurdistan region."
Kurds who make up about 20% of the population control 53 of the 275 Parliamentary seats. They agreed previously with the Shiite, Sunni blocs to accept 17% of the distribution of national revenues, - after deducting federal government expenditures - basically a built in tax.
The Parliamentary Sadrist bloc, with 30 seats, said the law must state that no contracts may be signed with firms from countries with troops in Iraq, an official said and have consequently rejected the draft as it stands.
Saleem al-Jubouri, who claims to speak for the Accordance Front, said his group believed the cabinet had agreed to the changes too hastily and would seek amendments,.. adding that they were not trying to derail the measure.
The hardline Sunni Arab clerical body, the Muslim Scholar's Association, has issued a fatwa saying the draft was "religiously prohibited" because it would allow foreigners to exploit Iraq's oil wealth.
Other Sunni problems threaten to delay parliamentary scrutiny, Salim Abdullah of the Tawafiq Suinni group said “We are astonished at the government’s rush to submit the law to Parliament,”
The Sunnis are also protesting about an arrest warrant against the Culture minister and insist that the speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashadani, a Sunni Arab, who had been asked to step aside by a majority in Parliament is re-instated.
Parliament has extended it's sitting time but will go on holiday at the end of the month for a month - General Petraus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker are required to present a report for Washington in the middle of September on Iraq's security and political progress.
All this lengthy disputatious wrangling continues whilst violence rules onthe city streets ;
US troops had a gun battle on Donkey island in the Sunni controlled western city of Ramadi leaving 23 "insurgents" dead.
1. On Monday a U.S. military Kiowa spotting helicopter was brought down south of Baghdad the day before. An Apache helicopter rescued the two pilots.
2. On the same day an Iraqi army lieutenant colonel and an Interior Ministry intelligence officer were killed in separate drive-by shootings
3. An Iraqi Police Colonel's convoy was hit by an IED killing 2 and wounding 17 civilians.
A car bombing in a Shi'ite district of Baghdad killed at least 18 people and wounded 35 more on Monday.
4. U.S./ coalition forces killed 3 terrorists, including an al-Qaida in Iraq leader, and detained 29 others during a raid in Taji.
5. 7 people were killed by a suicide car bomber today , including 3 policemen, when he drove into a police patrol that had pulled up at a restaurant for lunch in Baiji, 180 km (120 miles) north of Baghdad.
6. In US / Coalition Air strikes over the weekend 25 "gunmen" were killed during a 3 day clash in Diyala province north of Baghdad that ended on Monday.
7. On Tuesday, Interior Ministry commandos, ( mostly Shiite ), stopped a car with 4 guards for the Sunni Arab planning minister, Ali Baban at a checkpoint near a US base. Mahdi militiamen appeared and said they wanted to take the guards and IM commandos allowed them to.
8. A bomb exploded in the lobby of Baghdad's Mansour Hotel just outside the Green Zone on Monday and 6 Sunni Muslim sheiks planning to talk with their Shiite Muslim counterparts in the hotel's lobby.
9. "The Iraqi government totally rejects US military operations conducted without prior approval from the Iraqi military command," Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said in a statement on 1 July after 2 pre-dawn raids in Sadr City the previous day by US troops, killing 26 "terrorists" who had attacked troops with rocket-propelled grenades and roadside bombs, but an Interior Ministry official, Lt-Col Mahmoud Shakarchi, said all the dead were innocent civilians.
Several women and children were among the dead and injured, according to Lt-Gen Shakarchi. Three women have also disappeared during the raids; witnesses said they were arrested by some Iraqi police officers. The body of one of the women was found on the morning of 1 July in the outskirts of the city. She had been sexually assaulted before being shot, Shakarchi said.
10. Reuters obtained under an FOI request figures from U.S. Department of Labour show 990 deaths of civilian military contractors — 917 in Iraq and 73 in Afghanistan - up the end of March — by the end of March. A further 16 have died in Iraq and 2 in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile as the UK give jobs to Iraqi trained doctors ..
Dr Abdul-Rahman Osman Younis, the Kurdistan Health Minister, has issued a global plea for medical supplies.He said many of the region's 48 hospitals and 672 primary health care centres lack the basic medicines and medical supplies needed to treat wounds or provide basic care.
"Our children suffer from one of the world's highest rates of heart disease and
leukemia and we lack the facilities to treat them here in Kurdistan," he said.
"With the current situation in the south of Iraq, and particularly Baghdad,
it is very hard for us to get the materials, equipment, and pharmaceuticals that
Doctors at Sadr City Hospital continually call for urgently neded medicines and emergency kits, “We cannot cope with the number of casualties. They should send us materials to fully equip our hospital before people start to die for lack of medicines. “We need needles, pain-killers, antiseptic and cotton. Also our X-ray machine is nearly broken and needs to be repaired urgently,”
Yesterday Iraqi Health Ministry officials warned of waterborne diseases among children (see pic) and the elderly during the summer's hottest month of July. Water and sewage networks have not been repaired and this could exacerbate the problem, which has been further highlighted by five cases of cholera in chuildren under 12, reported in Najaf 200 miles south of Baghdad in southern Iraq, the officials said.
Ahmed Assad Naji of Baghdad's health directorate is reported saying -
"Many cases of viral hepatitis, diarrhoea, typhoid and bacterial infections have
been registered in Baghdad due to polluted drinking water," "Water is an
enormous need, and people take it where they can get it, and they are getting it
from places where it is not always clean.
...and commentators wonder why Iraqi's want to strike back at their invaders., having raped the people they now queue up to steal their oil.