Iraqi Unions Oppose New Oil Law

I am not sure what power these unions have. THere is almost no reporting about union activity in Iraq in the mainstream press.

This is from Worker's Liberty (London UK)

Iraqi labour movement opposes new oil law
Submitted on 21 January, 2007 - 07:43 :: Iraq | Iraqi trade unions
The Iraqi labour movement has been campaigning for a long time now against the principle of privatising and contracting out Iraqi oil. A joint statement in December 2006 by all the main union federations declared:
"We strongly reject the privatisation of our oil wealth, as well as production sharing agreements... there is no room for discussing this matter".
But on 17 January al-Jazeera reported that an Iraqi government committee had finally reached agreement on a draft oil law.
The Independent (7 January) has reported the law will allow foreign oil companies to take up to 75 per cent of the profits until they have recouped initial drilling costs, and, after that, about 20 per cent.
The nationalisation of Iraq's oil in 1961 - after decades of exploitation by British-based oil companies - was a major landmark in the country's history, and millions of Iraqis outside the labour movement will support the unions' stand on this.
If the unions can use this issue to mount an active united campaign, and draw wider sections of the population behind them, they can begin to turn round the catastrophic situation in Iraq.
The draft law had been long delayed by haggling among Iraqi politicians. It is, however, a measure of the task that the haggling was not about privatisation. It was about who should have the right to sign the contracts with the multinationals - regional authorities or central government - and who should get the revenues.
The Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq has already signed deals with Norwegian and Turkish oil companies, without waiting for a law. Foreign oil company are unlikely to venture into southern Iraq for some years yet, until they can see a stable government there.
According to al-Jazeera, "the new law will establish a mechanism for centralising oil revenues and distributing them to the regions.
"Regions will negotiate contracts with multinational oil companies for sales and for new drilling, but the central government must approve them".
The US government will see the draft law as a "victory" - not so much for the principle of privatisation, which was agreed, at the level of the Iraqi government if not the Iraqi people, a long time ago, but as a plausible deal to pacify the sectarian regional lobbies.
Whether the draft actually does that is yet to be seen. In the meantime, the US's renewed hammering-away at Iraq is unlikely to produce anything other than more bloodshed and more sectarian strife.
Two days later, on 19 January, the Sadr bloc of deputies in Parliament, who had walked out in protest at Maliki's meeting with George W Bush on 29-30 November 2006, announced that they would return to participating in the United Iraqi Alliance (the ruling Shia-Islamist coalition).
Bush's new plan for Iraq suggests a new war between US forces and the Sadrists, like the one which sputtered between April and June 2004 before ending in a de facto victory for the Sadrists. There have been several small clashes between US troops and the Sadrists, and on 18 January US forces arrested Abdul Hadi Darraj, one of Sadr's main deputies.
Sadr's forces have been making gains in the Shia-vs-Sunni sectarian battle for control of districts in Baghdad, and, rather than put that at risk, they apparently intend to ensure Maliki's support and thus to duck, rather than confront, Bush's new plan.
Maliki owes his position as prime minister to Sadr's support. If Bush goes ahead with the offensive against Sadr, it will probably not only bring increased bloodshed (with little possibility of lasting gains, since the USA has no potential allies against Sadr in his stronghold of Sadr City, a huge Shia suburb of Baghdad) but also wreck the Maliki government.
Meanwhile, the simmering sectarian civil war continues, with the death toll from the bombings on Tuesday 16 January at Mustansiriya University (in a Shia district of Baghdad) rising to 70, many of them 17 and 18 year-old girls.
General George Casey, the top US commander in Iraq, said he did not expect significant results from the new US push "to contain insurgent and militia violence" until summer at the earliest. So far the US's attempts to pacify Baghdad by putting more US troops on the streets have only led to increased sectarian violence and increased US troop casualties



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