Oil spoils:

The quickening pace of oil deals between Kurdish regional leaders and foreign companies is another sign that Iraq is spinning out of control and the Bush administration has no idea how to stop it. President Bush set enactment of a national oil law that centralises development and ensures an equitable division of the profits as a key benchmark of progress. Iraq’s leaders, who have little interest in equity or reconciliation, have blithely ignored it. So the Kurds have taken matters into their own hands, signing nine legally questionable exploration deals with foreign companies.

The administration has complained “needlessly elevated tensions” between the Kurds and the central government. But it apparently hasn’t leaned very hard on the one American oil company involved, Hunt Oil of Dallas, which has close ties to the White House. Iraq’s oil ministry, meanwhile, has warned that the contracts will be either ignored or considered illegal. The White House needs to send a clearer warning to these companies — American and foreign — about the dangers of their course. It should also urge the companies to bring their own pressure on Iraqi officials to adopt a law that ensures that whatever system emerges is transparent, accountable and profitable for all Iraqis. Ignoring that is a recipe for continued chaos.