[JURIST] Negotiations have collapsed in Iraq over a controversial oil bill [JURIST news archive] that would govern the distribution and refinement process and give the national government control over oil revenue, the New York Times reported Thursday. The bill, which the Iraqi cabinet approved [JURIST report] in February, is now in jeopardy due to a conflict between the Iraqi oil minister and officials from the Kurdish north, where most Iraqi oil is located. In recent weeks, Kurdish officials have signed oil contracts with foreign companies even though the federal oil law is not in place, prompting others to doubt Kurdish commitment to following the federal law. Kurds have proceeded to sign contracts pursuant to their own regional oil law, which they say is constitutional under Article 112 of the Iraqi Constitution [constitution text]; according to that article, regional law preempts federal law when a conflict arises between the two. Kurdish officials also say their regional law is constitutional under Article 109, which decrees that "oil and gas is the property of all the Iraqi people in all the regions and governorates." The New York Times has more.
The oil law is one of 18 benchmarks established by the US Congress to measure US success in the Iraq mission. Several recent reports, including the White House's Initial Benchmark Assessment Report [text; JURIST report] and a report [text, PDF; summary] released in September by the US Government Accountability Office, conclude that the Iraqi Government has not met most of the legislative, security, and economic benchmarks. In March, associates of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [BBC profile] said passage of the draft law is key to continued US support [JURIST report] of the current government.