Tuesday, February 20, 2007

New Iraq Oil Law To Open Iraq's Oil Reserves to Western Companies

The Iraqi blogger Raed Jarrar has obtained a copy of the proposed oil law and has just translated it into English. He discusses the new law with Antonia Juhasz, author of "The Bush Agenda: Invading the World One Economy at a Time.”

Democracy Now!
With Amy Goodman

"What would this new law mean for Iraq? With me now from Washington DC is Raed Jarrar - He is the Iraq Project Director for Global Exchange. He has obtained a copy of the proposed oil law which he translated from Arabic and posted on his website. And Antonia Juhasz is on the phone with us -- She has written extensively about the economic side of the US occupation of Iraq and is the author of the book, “The Bush Agenda: Invading the World One Economy at a Time.” Antonia is a Tarbell Fellow at Oil Change International. We welcome you both to Democracy Now!......

AMY GOODMAN: And explain what it says, now that you’ve finished translating it.

RAED JARRAR: It said so many things. I don’t think we can summarize it this short, because it’s a very long document, around thirty pages. But majorly, there are three major points that I think we should talk about. Financially, it legalizes very unfair types of contracts that will put Iraq in very long-term contracts that can go up to thirty-five years and cause the loss of hundreds of billions of dollars from Iraqis for no cause.

And the second point is concerning Iraq's sovereignty. Iraq will not be capable of controlling the levels -- the limits of production, which means that Iraq cannot be a part of OPEC anymore. And Iraq will have this very complicated institution called the Federal Oil and Gas Council, that will have representatives from the foreign oil companies on the board of it, so representatives from, let’s say, ExxonMobil and Shell and British Petroleum will be on the federal board of Iraq approving their own contracts.

And the third point is the point about keeping Iraq’s unity. The law is seen by many Iraqi analysts as a separation for Iraq fund. The law will authorize all of the regional and small provinces’ authorities. It will give them the final say to deal with the oil, instead of giving this final say to central federal government, so it will open the doors for splitting Iraq into three regions or even maybe three states in the very near future......

AMY GOODMAN: Raed Jarrar, what is the response of Iraqis, of people in Iraq?

RAED JARRAR: No one in Iraq knows about the law. The law has been kept in a very low profile, and there is a huge propaganda campaign by the government trying to portray the law as straight and good for Iraq, a law that will turn Iraq into heaven on earth, because it will bring all of the foreign investments. Even parliamentarians in the Iraqi government, the ones who will have the final say to pass this law, haven’t received a copy of this law yet. I sent them the copy three or four days ago, and I sent a copy to many of the other Iraqi bloggers and journalists, because I think it’s very important to raise awareness about this and make it an issue. The Iraqi government and the Bush administration are trying to keep a very low profile in Iraq on this law. I think they’re planning just to, you know, surprise the parliamentarians one morning and have them vote on it without any knowledge of what the law actually causes.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk, Raed Jarrar, about the control, the dispute over federal or regional control of oil in Iraq?

RAED JARRAR: Most of the control will be under the regional and provincial authorities. They have all of the authority of monitoring and even dealing with small disputes. Now, there is this bigger council that is very complicated, very bureaucratic. This council just has the authority to veto what the regional and provincial authorities decide. So in case the council just stayed silent, everything can go without any interruption. So, you can see that this council is kind of controlled by foreign companies, as well, so the possibilities of the council vetoing what’s happening on the regional level will be very small. So we end up having a situation where Iraqis in different provinces will start signing contracts directly with foreign companies and competing between themselves, among themselves, among different Iraqi provinces, to get the oil companies to go to there without any centralized way in controlling this and thinking of the Iraqi interest and protecting Iraq as a country......."

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