The announcement this month that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) was exporting oil independently of the Iraqi central government was an attempt to impose a new reality on the ground before proceeding with negotiations on the formation of a new Iraqi government.
This move, however, will have an impact on the negotiations that goes beyond relations between Baghdad and Erbil. It not only annoyed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — who described the move as an operation to steal oil — but it also had a negative effect among some of the forces that have good relations with the Kurds.
Suhad al-Obeidi, a member of parliament in the Mutahidoun bloc, which is led by parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, said that no one can accept the unilateral export of oil by the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. It seems that a number of Sunni politicians, especially those representing disputed areas between Erbil and Baghdad such as Kirkuk, were put in an awkward position because the Kurds raised the ceiling of their demands and acted unilaterally. Some of these politicians told Al-Monitor that the Kurdish step came as a surprise and confused most of the Iraqi political forces.
This is especially true since it was followed by statements from Arif Tayfour, a Kurdish leader and deputy speaker of parliament, calling for the annexation of the Kirkuk province to Iraqi Kurdistan, after the elections proved that the Kurds, who received a majority of parliamentary seats in the province, maintain a demographic majority in Kirkuk.
Kurdish officials believe that the Maliki government did not adhere to the promises made to them when the current government was formed under the Erbil Agreement in April 2012. They feel the government has taken hard-line stances toward their demands, represented in recent months by halting payment of the Kurdistan region’s budget due to disputes between the two sides over oil policies and contracts the region signed with international oil companies without consulting the Iraqi government.