Article 140: The Elephant At The Negotiating Table As Kurds and Iraqis Reach Oil Deal
Over the past week or so, there have been many congratulatory articles written about the fact that Baghdad and Iraqi Kurdistan seem to have come one step closer to resolving long standing differences. But, observers say, there is one very important topic that has been left out of all the discussions: Article 140.
This legislation is meant to force a decision on Iraq’s “disputed territories”. Leaving it out of the current conversation could cause even more problems in the long run.
In early December authorities in the semi-autonomous, northern region of Iraqi Kurdistan signed a deal with the federal Iraqi government in Baghdad. In return for a daily shipment of 250,000 barrels of oil from fields inside Iraqi Kurdistan and 300,000 barrels from the disputed territory of Kirkuk, currently held by Iraqi Kurdish military forces, the Iraqi federal government will pay the semi-autonomous region the 17 percent of the federal budget that is due to it.
For some time now the money due to be paid to Iraqi Kurdistan has been withheld, leading Iraqi Kurdish politicians to describe it as a “financial blockade” by Baghdad. The blockade has had serious consequences for the Iraqi Kurdish region’s economy.
Both parties were quick to celebrate their deal, a thorn in both governments’ sides for some time now. However, as observers were quick to note, while authorities gladly spoke about oil and money, there was absolutely no mention of another of the two parties’ most contentious issues: Article 140.
Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution is supposed to deal with the country’s disputed territories – that is, land that Iraqi Kurdistan says is part of its quasi-independent region but which Baghdad says belongs to Iraq proper.
This includes the much disputed area of Kirkuk. Article 140 outlines a series of steps that should be taken in order to resolve who exactly the disputed territories belong to – these are, firstly, normalization – a return of Kurds and other residents displaced by Arabisation – followed by a census taken to determine the demographic makeup of the province’s population and then finally, a referendum to determine the status of disputed territories. Obviously whether a territory is home to mainly Kurds or mainly Arabs will have an effect on who can lay claim to the area.