Since January, when George Bush announced his latest sure-fire plan for victory in Iraq, one of the key benchmarks for success was to be when the Iraqi government passed legislation on oil revenue sharing. As Bush described it that night:
To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country's economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis.
And since then, Bush has cited that benchmark as proof that progress was being made. In February he said:
They're in the process of finalizing a law that will allow for the sharing of all revenues among Iraq's peoples...making it clear to the Iraqi people that they have a stake in the future of their country by having a stake in the oil revenues.
And in March he said:
As we help the Iraqis secure their capital, their leaders are also beginning to meet the benchmarks they have laid out for political reconciliation. Last month, Iraq's Council of Ministers approved a law that would share oil revenues among Iraqi people.
Then came April:
The Council of Ministers recently approved legislation that would provide a framework for an equitable sharing of oil resources --
The council of ministers has approved legislation that would provide a framework for equitable sharing of oil resources. We strongly believe...that a good oil bill will help unite the country.
In June the tone changed a bit:
At home, most of the attention has focused on important pieces of legislation that the Iraqi Parliament must pass to foster political reconciliation -- including laws to share oil revenues...I speak to the Prime Minister and I speak to the Presidency Council quite often, and I remind them we expect the government to function, and to pass law.
And apparently all the Iraqi government needed was a reminder, because two days ago, Tony Snow announced that Bush:
...had phone calls with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the three members...They do report that they have now transmitted to the council of representatives, their legislature, the oil law, and are hoping quite soon to have a related piece of legislation, one that has to deal with the distribution of oil and hydrocarbon revenues, before the legislature quite soon.
Quite soon lasted until yesterday:
Attempts to pass a key oil law sought by the U.S. were snarled once more Wednesday by deep differences among Iraq's Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders, delaying parliament debate despite the prime minister's claims of a breakthrough.
But it was probably just some little glitch, some minor detail to be ironed out, right?
The influential Sunni organization, the Association of Muslim Scholars, issued a fatwa, or religious edict, blasting the bill as "religiously forbidden" and warned that those who back it "anger God for usurping public money." [...]
But the Kurds also objected, fearing concessions had been made to the Sunnis. The Kurdistan Regional Government warned it would oppose the bill if it made "material and substantive changes" to an outline agreed upon during weeks of negotiations. [...]
Meanwhile, the Shiite party loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, which opposes too much decentralization, outright rejected the draft, saying it "left nothing of Iraq's unity."
Yes, getting this oil revenue sharing law passed should be a cakewalk. And then all the violence will end.
Update: Read more about the fatwa in Savage's diary.