The panic and distraction of the security crisis should not be used as cover for handing Iraq's wealth to foreigners
Friday August 3, 2007
".......That said, the administration - particularly the vice-president, Dick Cheney - and the oil lobby are enraged that the oil law is stalled. The main reason is not that the Iraqi government and parliament are a lazy bunch of Islamist incompetents or narrow-minded sectarians, as is often implied. MPs are studying the law more carefully, and have begun to see it as a major threat to Iraq's national interest regardless of people's religion or sect.
This is the second bit of good news from Iraq. Civil society, trade unions, professional oil experts and the media are stirring on the oil issue and putting their points across to parliament in the way democracy is meant to work. The oil unions have held strikes even at the risk of having leaders and members arrested.
The pervasive outside image of Iraq as a country in free-fall where violence on a mass scale is an ever-present threat is not wrong. But it can mask the fact that "normal life" and indeed "normal politics" are still possible. The real reason why the Bush administration wanted the oil law rushed through was that it feared public discussion, and was worried that the more people understood what the law entails, the greater the chances of its defeat.......
The law that Washington and the US oil lobby really want would set the arrangements for foreign companies to operate in Iraq's oil sector. Independent analysts say the terms being proposed are far more favourable for foreign oil companies than those of any other oil-producing state in the region, including Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. They all impose some safeguards for the national interest, whether it is having a national company that controls production; specifying in contracts the maximum level of foreigners' profits; limiting foreigners to a small number of fields; or insisting that disputes are arbitrated in local rather than international tribunals......
As a staunch supporter of the current international financial architecture, Gordon Brown is unlikely to press for a relaxation of these unfair terms. More's the pity, since the best way for Iraq to prosper once the occupation is over and it finally solves its sectarian crisis is to have maximum control over its major natural resource. Most Iraqis believe the invasion of 2003 was largely about oil. Peace is also about oil, and it surely makes sense not to let the panic and distraction of the current security crisis be used as a cover for handing the country's wealth to foreigners."