The Cable

Baghdad’s Oil Deal With Kurdistan Quells Concerns of Iraqi Split

The Iraqi central government agreed to a long-term deal with the country’s autonomous Kurdish region to share the country’s oil riches on Tuesday, a positive indication Iraq will not split as it battles the self-proclaimed Islamic State. The agreement, which represents Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi’s most significant accomplishment to date, settles a long-standing dispute ...

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The Iraqi central government agreed to a long-term deal with the country’s autonomous Kurdish region to share the country’s oil riches on Tuesday, a positive indication Iraq will not split as it battles the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

The agreement, which represents Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi’s most significant accomplishment to date, settles a long-standing dispute between Baghdad and Erbil, the Kurdish capital. It quells fears that Kurdistan would declare itself independent, a major concern following the Islamic State’s territorial advances.

As Iraqi security forces fled from clashes with Islamic State fighters this summer, Kurds took control of many rich Iraqi oil fields and increasingly tried selling oil independently of Baghdad. Kurdish officials argued that they needed the money to pay the Peshmerga — the Kurdish fighters known for their bravery and ferocity — because Baghdad was not providing it. Under the terms of the deal, Abadi’s government will pay the Kurdish soldiers’ salaries and supply them with U.S. weapons.

The agreement requires Kurdistan to give 555,000 barrels of oil daily to Baghdad, which the Iraqi government will then sell and split the profits with Erbil.

The United States has urged Kurdistan and the central Iraqi government to make peace. After the deal was announced, the State Department stated it “will further strengthen both Iraq’s federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government as they work together to defeat” the Islamic State.

Now, with a Kurdish deal in hand, Abadi, a Shiite, faces the much harder task of mending fences with Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority antagonized by former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Relations between this group and Baghdad were so poor under Maliki that many Sunnis welcomed the Islamic State as it charged through eastern Iraq.

On Nov. 20, FP’s Keith Johnson flagged the nascent agreement. Read his story, “Pushed by ISIS, Iraq and Kurds Come Closer to a Deal,” here.

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