Thursday, April 26, 2007

US and the Iraq oil law

Even in the funding Bill the Iraqi Oil Law appears. As the article notes US media absolutely ignores this. Never mention oil and Iraq except to say that the war is not about oil. But then why have the oil law as a benchmark?


From Kathy Gill,
Your Guide to U.S. Politics: Current Events.
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Congress Ties Iraq Deadline To Funding; Bill Endorses US-Drafted Iraqi Oil Legislation
On Wednesday, Congress set the stage for an explosive confrontation with the White House by passing an appropriations bill that also sets a deadline of 1 October for the President to begin pulling troops from Iraq.
The House passed (218-208) the HR1591 conference report on a partisan vote, with 13 Democrats voting "no" and 2 Republicans voting "yes." It now moves to the Senate, where it is expected to pass on Thursday.

The President has promised a veto; the Senate does not have the votes to override. But everyone can use their vote as a chit come November 2008.

It seems ironic that Congress came one step closer to a showdown with the White House over Iraq on the same day that the Bill Moyers-produced show, "Buying the War," indicted Beltway media for their role in setting the stage for war.

Mainstream media are also failing to report the scope of this bill. For example, it explicitly endorses a US-orchestrated plan to restructure Iraq's oil industry, which is 70 percent of its economy. The beneficiaries? Global oil companies.

SEC. 1904. (f) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, 50 percent of the funds appropriated by title I of this Act for assistance to Iraq under each of the headings "Economic Support Fund'' and "International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement'' shall be withheld from obligation until the President has made a certification to Congress that the Government of Iraq has enacted a broadly accepted hydro-carbon law... As I reported earlier, the proposed Iraqi legislation is not "broadly accepted." (It's not even been introduced in Parliament.) And it's one of the benchmarks the White House has put forth for the al-Maliki government.

This law would reverse 35 years of state-control over Iraq's primary natural -- and economic -- resource. As Antonia Juhasz reported in the NY Times earlier this year, today more than three-quarter of the world's oil is owned and controlled by governments. But before the '70s oil crisis, seven western predecessor companies to today's big four -- ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell and BP -- controlled most of the world's oil. They want it back, and Iraq's oil fields are seen as prime.

White House Oil Ties
America has had no Administration with deeper ties to oil than this one. President Bush claims Texas heritage and was, for a short time, head of an oil company.

Vice President Cheney led the National Energy Policy Development Group, which developed a new national energy policy. The group released a report in May 2001. It (pdf) devoted more pages to recommendations for securing foreign oil than for encouraging conservation or expanding domestic production. Before accepting the Vice Presidency, Cheney headed up Halliburton, a firm that sold oil equipment to Iran, Iraq and Lybia during his tenure. And Cheney was Secretary of Defense in the prior Bush Administration, where he spearheaded the first Iraq War.

Yet US media make no mention of this US-sponsored bill, White House benchmark or Congressional complicity in their coverage of Senate and House debate over the appropriations bill. Heck, they barely talk about the (domestic) pork included in the bill.

"Radical Departure"
This law would be a "radical departure" for Middle Eastern or developing countries, the Independent (UK) reported in January. "Saudi Arabia and Iran, the world's number one and two oil exporters, both tightly control their industries through state-owned companies with no appreciable foreign collaboration." Iraq, at number three, would be giving 30 years leases to firms like the big four.

And although the US says that the new law is needed to ensure that all Iraqis profit from the exploitation of the resource, that's not how they game is currently being played. The US and Britain co-sponsored UN Resolution 1483, "which gave the US and UK control over Iraq's oil revenues ... [and which] continued to make deductions from Iraq's oil earnings to pay compensation for the invasion of Kuwait in 1990."

MSNBC is running a WaPo story that mentions the law in the context of Iraqi "benchmarks" -- but with no analysis of how the law would change the status quo. The language used to introduce it follows the Administration rhetoric: it's a new way to "share" oil resources. Halfway into the story, the WaPo notes it's a US-drafted bill.

Ten weeks into the security plan, even as U.S. lawmakers propose timelines for a U.S. troop withdrawal, there has been little or no progress in achieving three key political benchmarks set by the Bush administration: new laws governing the sharing of Iraq's oil resources and allowing many former members of the banned Baath Party to return to their jobs, and amendments to Iraq's constitution...

In February, Iraq's cabinet passed a U.S.-backed draft law that would give the central government control over Iraq's oil reserves, the third largest in the world. President Bush and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a presidential contender, cited it as a sign of political progress.

But the legislation has yet to be introduced in parliament... One wonders what the people at Voice of America are thinking (drinking? smoking?) with this blurb:

By the end of this month, the Iraqi parliament is expected to decide on a new oil law. If passed, the legislation will allow Iraq to sign contracts with foreign companies for the exploration and production of the country's vast untapped reserves. Hello? There are four days left in the month and the legislation has not been introduced in Parliament. There's not a snowball's chance in you-know-where for this legislation to be passed by 1 May. Iraqi leaders are talking a minimum of two months debate, once legislation is introduced.

Pre-War, Oil Was Savior
Of course, it's not the first time that media have been wrong about Iraq (as Moyers detailed) or Iraqi oil. Remember the pre-war run-up? When Iraqi oil was going to pay for reconstruction costs? If you've forgotten, try Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Fleischer.

Last week, CBS called the Iraqi oil bill a "hotly debated draft" and said it was going to be introduced this week. The author (unnamed) alleges that the law is "perhaps the most important piece of legislation for Iraq's American patrons."

On that last point, I believe they've hit the nail on the head.

Thursday April 26, 2007 | comments (1)
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