Oil, a major contributor to violence in Iraq in the past, is about to find its own natural course through decentralization of its management, exploration and extraction.
Unfortunately, the old ruling mentality still exists in Baghdad, unable to accept the new Iraq under a new constitution. Such thinking tries to play by the old rules and pushes the country to its disastrous past by insisting on centralized power over natural resources.
What is more unfortunate here is the position of the US Department of State about how oil should be managed in Iraq. The State Department continues to make statements in support of Baghdad’s authority over the country’s oil and gas without any concrete legal grounds. This harks back to the way Britain supported the Iraqi government against Kurdish aspirations during its reign in Iraq.
Of course, the US has been a big contributor to the realization of Kurdish aspirations. It has assisted the Kurds in getting the status they have today. Washington may fear that disturbing the status quo in Iraq may lead to a bigger conflict -- a view that in fact might be wrong.
The current situation in the country seems to be untenable, given the security, sectarian, social and political issues that have riddled Iraq. Let us make sure that the oil issue does not get mixed up with this, such that natural resources are blamed for unwanted consequences.
In what is happening now, one can see some parallels between the US policy on Erbil-Baghdad issues and British policies in Iraq during the first half of the 20th century.
When Britain formed Iraq, oil was a major factor in condemning the Kurds to be unwillingly attached to the current state of Iraq. Then Britain sided with Baghdad and continued its unconditional support for the government it formed, without considering the demands of the Kurds.
Had Britain implemented a balanced approach towards the demands of the Kurds and its puppet government in Baghdad, Iraq might not have gone through this continuous vicious cycle of violence for decades.
There are lessons here for the United States. If this 80-year-old failed policy does not change, the consequences could be unbearable for everyone in the years to come.
So, let us not blame oil for much of the curse, but rather wrong policies. Should oil be given its neutral role and the right policies are prescribed, it would only result in peace and prosperity between Erbil and Baghdad.
* Yerevan Saeed, graduate of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Boston.