It has not even reached parliament, but the oil law that U.S. officials call vital to ending Iraq's civil war is in serious trouble among Iraqi lawmakers, many of whom see it as a sloppy document rushed forward to satisfy Washington's clock.This is the Hydrocarbon Law that was so ballyhooed a few weeks ago, even though it had only made it through an executive committee and not the Parliament. It was hailed as a breakthrough achievement, since oil redistribution is one of the key political concessions necessary if we are ever to achieve anything we can even dishonestly call "victory in Iraq." Now even the hope of saving face is slipping away.
Opposition ranges from vehement to measured, but two things are clear: The May deadline that the White House had been banking on is in doubt. And even if the law is passed, it fails to resolve key issues, including how to divide Iraq's oil revenue among its Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni regions, and how much foreign investment to allow. Those questions would be put off for future debates.
The problems of the oil bill bode poorly for the other so-called benchmarks that the Bush administration has been pressuring Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's government to meet. Those include provincial elections, reversing a prohibition against former Baath Party members holding government and military positions and revision of Iraq's constitution.
Things can get worse in Iraq.