The Arbil Agreement and the Real World

The following article was published on Saturday by Reidar Visser, an historian of Iraq educated at the University of Oxford and currently based at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. It is reproduced here with the author’s permission. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The Arbil Agreement and the Real World: Time for Some Cold Water

Tomorrow [Sunday] Iraqi leaders will once more meet to make preparations for their next big get-together. When, or if, there is ever a national conference-style gathering in Iraq – possibly to downgrade expectations it is now officially just called a “national meeting” – it is unlikely to turn into the implementation of the far-fetched and shadowy Arbil agreement. At most, the meeting will end in renewed agreement in principle to legislate non-implemented aspects of Arbil (strategic policy council, oil and gas law etc.) whereupon those pieces of draft legislation will come up against the usual stalemates when they actually reach the floor of the Iraqi parliament.

It could be argued that only two items in the Arbil agreement stand out as having some realistic chance for implementation: Cabinet bylaws and the distribution of the security ministries.

Maliki knows perfectly well that the inclusion of the cabinet bylaws as a separate item at Arbil was aimed at restraining himself as a potential strongman. However, unlike many of the other items in the Arbil agreement, on the bylaws one Maliki cannot easily hide behind the claim that the proposed mechanism is outside the constitution. In fact, the constitution specifically demands the adoption of bylaws for the cabinet (85), and not even a parliamentary decision is needed.

What Maliki can do, of course, is to rely on the proven ability of Iraqi politicians to quibble forever over even the most inconsequential details, making it a safe bet to assume that no early adoption of cabinet bylaws is terribly likely.

That aspect should be kept in mind also by those who want to use the upcoming meeting for the purpose of modifying what they see as highhandedness on the part of Maliki. Perhaps they may want to have a look at the second implementable item instead: The allocation of the security ministries.

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