What Progress Looks Like: Iraq Oil Law On Cusp Of Failure (Again)

So you know the deal by now.  True progress in Iraq doesn’t happen without political reconciliation.  When we look at the fact that a vast majority (to the point of near consensus) of the fighting in Iraq stems from sectarian or(if you’re going to buy into the narrowed definitions of the administration) sectarian and sub-sectarian tensions, then it becomes clear that the only actual lasting solution is for Iraqis to come together in a political capacity and settle their differences.

Sadly this isn’t happening, and one of the largest bits of evidence for this is the pending failure of the Iraqi Oil Law.

The significance of the law particularly in way of marking political progress in Iraq has been ingrained in our national psyche by the Bush administration and the media, and rightly so.  Oil stands to provide the single largest income to the new Iraqi government and the people who live there, and stewardship and ownership of the oil fields is highly contested among the multitude of factions that live there.

But the Oil Law is something of a double edged sword, or more aptly put, a single edged sword facing the wrong direction.

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of sitting in on a conference call with Antonia Juhasz.

According to Ms. Juhasz, the Iraqi Oil Law is, “A law that originated most distinctly in the US State Department… The Bush administration US State Department and the Iraq Study Group.” The primary function of this legislation drafted not by Iraqis but by the brain trust of the Bush Administration was to transform the “oil system from a national system to a privatized system.”

How exactly was this supposed to happen? The results of the work of the State Department and the ISG was to develop a packet of laws commonly referred to as the “Iraq Oil Law,” or “Iraq Hydrocarbon Law”, that would open “at least two thirds of Iraq’s oil fields for foreign investors.”

This would give foreign oil companies ownership and control over Iraqi oil for up to thirty years in one go

Ah, there we go, privatization; familiar territory.  It’s almost like comfort food, really.  The point is that control over Iraq’s oil fields is still highly contested among the inner factions of the Iraqi peoples, particularly amongst the Kurds and the Shias with the Sunni’s kinda on the outside looking in.  Meanwhile, this Oil Law seeks to export Bush’s ownership society to Iraq.

Only the rub is that foreigners would be the ones who end up owning the oil trade.  Foreigners like us.

While it may sound like a good idea for us to take control of the oil in Iraq, such a maneuver is, believe it or not, not conducive to a peaceful and stable Iraq, nor is it conducive to establishing the US as an impartial entity within the nation whose primary goal is to establish and maintain peace and stability.

No wonder this little law has had so much problems finding its way into the books.

In truth, this is a classic example of setting the Iraqis up for failure.  At a time when political reconciliation is absolutely, positively the single most important thing in regards to fixing Iraq, we are balancing that reconciliation on a highly divisive bill that undermines our own position by tipping our hand on “why we’re really there.”

With friends like us…

5 Responses to “What Progress Looks Like: Iraq Oil Law On Cusp Of Failure (Again)”

  1. Kathy says:

    Yeah! Another voice crying in the wilderness about the source of this bill!

    US media are NOT talking about this. I’ve written about this 3-4 times now. See US-Orchestrated Iraqi Oil Bill Stalled

    Ds and Progressives should not be touting this bill!

  2. Hey Kathy! All things considered, it’s nice to make at least one of my readers happy. No the bill is disastrous, and it only underscores a major point. Us licking our chops at Iraqi oil does not really help us much in resolving the conflict in Iraq.

    Nor, from what I’ve seen, does actually passing this bill look like it will result in any kind of reconciliation, but instead only deepen the rift, especially between Shias who are trying to consolidate their burgeoning power within Iraq, Kurds who actually have a posession is nine/tenths hold on oil fields, and Sunnis who look like they are primed to get the short end of the stick in the least comfortable place to get it.

  3. Kathy,

    Now for some shameless self promotion. Seeing as how my good friends at BOPNews are long since gone, what would the chances be of our little slice of heaven taking their place in your Liberal Blogroll? 😉

  4. Mike, Pittsburgh, PA says:

    I also find it incredible how few articles in the mainstream media even mention that the Iraqi oil
    bill sets rules for privatizing Iraq’s oil industry. After all, at $60/barrel, we’re talking about
    royalties on 6 trillion dollars, an immense amount of money, and these guys are talking about 20%
    royalties

    I mean, I’m not asking for the news to say this is good or bad, but it should be mentioned.

    I’m still waiting for even *one* candidate for President to say something about it.

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