Monday, May 7, 2007

Preserving Iraq's 'Patrimony'

by Michael Schwartz and Tom Engelhardt

"......Ever since, oil has played a remarkably small part in the consideration of, coverage of, or retrospective assessments of the invasion, occupation, and war in Iraq (unless you lived on the Internet). To give but a single example, the index to Thomas E. Ricks' almost 500-page bestseller, Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, has but a single relevant entry: "oil exports and postwar reconstruction, Wolfowitz on, 98." Yet today, every leading politician of either party is strangely convinced that the key "benchmark" the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki must pass to prove its mettle is the onerous oil law, now stalled in parliament, that has been forced upon it by the Bush administration. In the piece below, TomDispatch regular Michael Schwartz follows the oil slicks deep into the Gulf of Catastrophe in Iraq. He offers a sweeping view of the role oil, the prize of prizes in Iraq, has played in Bush administration considerations and what role the new oil law is likely to play in that country's future.......

It seems clear that what the oil law has the power to do is substantially escalate the already unmanageable conflict in Iraq. Active opposition by the parliament alone, or by the unions alone, or by the Sunni insurgency alone, or by the Sadrists alone might be sufficient to defeat or disable the law. The possibility that such disparate groups might find unity around this issue, mobilizing both the government bureaucracy and overwhelming public opinion to their cause, holds a much greater threat: the possibility of creating a unified force that might push beyond the oil law to a more general opposition to the American occupation.

Like so many American initiatives in Iraq, the oil law, even if passed, might never be worth more than the paper it will be printed on. The likelihood that any future Iraqi government which takes on a nationalist mantel will consider such an agreement in any way binding is nil. One day in perhaps the not so distant future, that "law," even if briefly the law of the land, is likely to find itself in the dustbin of history, along with Saddam's various oil deals. As a result, the Bush administration's "capture of new and existing oil and gas fields" is likely to end as a predictable fiasco."

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