Cheat-Seeking Missles

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Buying The Sunni Peace

Jonathan Morrow has an interesting piece in today's USA Today, focusing on Iraq's oil -- not a war for oil peace, but a peace by oil piece.

He points out, as many observers have, that the Sunnis, who represent about 20% of Iraq's population live in a region with nothing but sand. The Shiites live over a sea of oil, as do the Kurds. While Sunnis are fighting in part to try to hold onto their Saddam-era power, they also fight for fear of being squeezed out -- not just politically, but economically.

Morrow focuses on Article 110 of the new Iraqi constitution, which states that oil revenues must be shared equally throughout the country, and puts forth the idea that the desire for these revenues could buy peace:

So will Sunnis start to put a dollar figure on their demands? That remains to be seen. For all their toughness, al-Hakim, the Kurds and the new Iraqi powerbrokers realize that, sooner or later, they need to assure Sunni Arabs that the new constitutional order will be just. In particular, they know that they will need to transfer oil value to Sunni provinces. To defuse Sunni fears - and the insurgency - Kurds and Shiite politicians should also agree to constitutional amendments to improve the transparency of Iraq's oil sector.

If we are looking for peace in Iraq, then let the oil negotiations begin. Let the Sunni Arab leaders forget about any return to a centralized Iraq, but let them also put a robust, even aggressive, set of demands for oil revenue on the table. It may not be too late.

It might not influence the hard-core Baathists, but money, lots of money, might cut the legs out from under them. The Sunni Arab Street will see money pouring into their coffers again -- and as we learn constantly in our democracy, elected representatives can work out all manner of compromise, so long as there's big bucks for their home district involved.