After meeting at Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani's home, couple of weeks ago, Iraqi political leaders agreed to put an end to months of political deadlock. In the last few months, Iraq's political process has grounded to a halt because of heated debates over the allocation of security ministries and the implementation of the power-sharing deal signed by the political blocs last year.
The latest agreement comes after nine months of political deadlock between the political parties, as there were no clear winners in the Iraqi general Election. Although a power-sharing deal was reached back in December 2010, the Iraqi government could not agree on the appointment of the three key minters and the government have been paralysed by political infighting. Moreover, progress has not been made on legislations like the Hydrocarbon laws and implementation of Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution dealing with the disputed territories.
Al-Iraqiya List has repeatedly accused Iraqi PM, Nouri Al-Maliki, of, not abiding by the terms of the power-sharing agreement. Part of the Erbil deal was to keep the President, Talabani and Maliki, in their posts, and create the National Council for Strategic Policies, headed by Iraqiya List leader, Ayad Alawi.
While Maliki's government has been limping and only managed to submit his government legislative programs to the Iraqi Parliament forthright ago. So far, the National council to be headed by Alawi has not been formed and this has created much resentment from Iraqiya block. Moreover, Maliki has rejected Al-Iraqiya candidates -put forward by Alawi- for defence minister on several occasions.
The animosity between the two sides has played out in parliament -by Paralysing it- and lead to many vocal exchanges in the media. Clinton, US Secretary of Sate has also waded in this week asking for a speedy appointment f defence minister as the deadline for US withdrawal looms.
One of the key points in the recent agreement is to implement what they(politicians) have said they will do nine month ago which is to appoint the all important defence minister and establish the promised post for Alawai. The other more significant agreement coming out of the Talabani's summit is to allow Maliki's government to negotiate US withdrawal and the extension to stay in Iraq beyond the 2011 deadline.
The more pressing issues, which were not mentioned in the discussions, are the future of the oil and gas industry in Iraq and the implementation of Article 140. It appears that the issues either still being negotiated or delayed once again. Furthermore, the leaders meeting failed to address the current Iranian aggression -shelling the Kurdistan Region- which has resulted in many deaths and over 1000 refuges.
After the submission of the manifesto to parliament by Maliki's Government, Kurdish MPs from Gorran Bloc (Kurdish Opposition, Change) complained about the content of the legislative programs and said it does not include many of the 19 points of Erbil agreement, lead by Masu'd Barzani (Kurdistan Region President). The other crucial issue absent from the manifesto is the oil contracts entered by KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) as the Iraqi government declared them unconstitutional in the past.
Although members of Kurdistani List have been quoted saying that these issues is not in the manifesto because it is politically very sensitive. Shorsh Haji, the head of the Kurdish Change List (Gorran) in Iraqi parliament, was quoted by Niqash website: "The manifesto does not include any of the conditions upon which Kurds agreed to participate in the current government". Meanwhile, Burhan Mohammed Faraj, Kurdish Alliance MP, agreed that the manifesto did not contain most of the 19 Kurdish conditions and told Niqash; "these conditions were documented in bilateral political agreements that were made between the Kurdish Alliance and the coalition. Those political agreements are our guarantees. It is not a serious threat if they are not mentioned in the ministerial manifesto."
Meanwhile, Kurdish Alliance MP, Mahmoud Othman, issued a statement after the submission of the manifesto saying "The programme (Manifesto) neither include the hanging issues between the Kurdistan Region & Baghdad, nor the 19 Kurdish points ..." he added:" The meetings ... did not include any discussion on the Kurdish demands or the Iranian - Turkish bombardment of the Kurdistan Region...".
Investors and companies operating in Kurdistan Region are looking at the political development closely as it appears that most important issues like hydrocarbon law, revenue sharing and disputed territories would be decided in the back rooms rather than in the open and through Parliament.
While Baghdad is still falling short of recognising the Kurdish PSCs (Production Sharing Contracts), the KRG has gone ahead last month, and awarded new hydrocarbon contracts. Meanwhile, the outspoken Iraqi Deputy PM for Energy, Hussein Al-Shahristani, has made no comments so far, which could indicate a realisation that these matters are better to be dealt with in the backrooms than playing out on the air waves, as the KRG have shown no desire to back down and amend the contracts awarded.
The Iraqi politicians argue that the public is not ready for compromise and sensitive issues like the above, as these issues needs to be dealt with pragmatically and away from the public. This approach may have some merits but it will only contribute to the growing mistrust towards politicians in Iraq and more uncertainty for investors and companies wanting to participate in rebuilding Iraq.