Friday, June 20, 2014
Iraqi hydrocarbon prize of U.S. invasion in danger
By Nicola Nasser*
Excluding “boots on the ground” and leaving combat missions to local and regional “partners,” President Barak Obama and his administration say the United States keeps “all options on the table” to respond militarily to the terrorists’ threat to “American interests” in Iraq, which are now in “danger.”
Similarly, former UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, on TV screens and in print has recently urged western governments to “put aside the differences of the past and act now” and to intervene militarily in
the future” because “we do have interests in this.” Iraq
Both men refrained from indicating what are exactly the “American” and “western” interests in
that need military intervention to defend, but the major prize of their
in 2003 was the country’s hydrocarbon assets. There lies their “interests. Iraq
On June 13 however, Obama hinted to a possible major “disruption” in Iraqi oil output and urged “other producers in the Gulf” to be “able to pick up the slack.”
The United States has already moved the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush, escorted by the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea and the guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun, from the northern Arabian Sea into the Arabian Gulf (Persian according to Iran) “to protect American lives, citizens and interests in Iraq,” according to Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, on June 14. Media is reporting that
U.S. intelligence units and
air reconnaissance are already operating in . Iraq
The unfolding collapse of the
proxy government in Baghdad has cut short a
process of legalizing the
de-nationalization of the hydrocarbon industry in , which became within reach
with the latest electoral victory of the Iraqi prime minister since 2006, Noori
Anti-American armed resistance to the
proxy ruling regime in ,
especially the Baath-led backbone, is on record as seeking to return to the
status quo ante with regard to the country’s strategic hydrocarbon assets, i.e.
De-nationalization and privatization of the Iraqi oil and gas industry began with the U.S.-led invasion of the country in 2003. Al-Maliki for eight years could not pass a hydrocarbons law through the parliament. Popular opposition and a political system based on sectarian distribution of power and “federal” distribution of oil revenues blocked its adoption. Ruling by political majority instead by sectarian consensus was al-Maliki’s declared hope to enact the law.
Al-Maliki’s plans towards this end together with his political ambitions for a third term were cut short by the fall to armed opposition on this June 10 of Mosul, the capital of the northern Ninawa governorate and second only to Baghdad as Iraq’s largest metropolitan area.
Three days on, with the fighting moving on to the gates of
Baghdad, “the most
important priority for
right now is to secure its capital and oil infrastructure,” a Stratfor analysis
on June 11 concluded. Baghdad
The raging war in
now will determine whether
Iraqi hydrocarbons are a national asset or multinational loot. Any Iraq U.S. military support to the regime it installed
should be viewed within this context. Meanwhile this national wealth is still
being pillaged as spoils of war. Baghdad
Al-Maliki is not now preoccupied even with maintaining Iraq as OPEC’s No. 2 oil producer, but with maintaining a level of oil output sufficient to bring in enough revenues to finance a defensive war that left his capital besieged and his government with southern Iraq only to rule, may be not for too long.
Even this modest goal is in doubt. Al-Maliki is left with oil exports from the south only, the disruption of which is highly possible any time now.
Worries that fighting would spread to the southern city of
Basra or have already sent oil prices to
nine-month high on Thursday. Baghdad
Legalizing the de-nationalization of Iraqi hydrocarbon industry has thus become more elusive than it has ever been since 2003.
On June 1 forty two years ago the process of the nationalization of the hydrocarbon industry kicked off in
. Now Iraq is
an open field for looting its only strategic asset. Iraq
On April 15 last year the CNN, reviewing “The Iraq war, 10 years on,” reported: “Yes, the Iraq War was a war for oil, and it was a war with winners: Big Oil.”
“Before the 2003 invasion,
domestic oil industry was fully nationalized and closed to Western oil
companies. A decade of war later, it is largely privatized and utterly
dominated by foreign firms,” the CNN report concluded, indicating that, “From
ExxonMobil and Chevron to BP and Shell, the West's have
set up shop in Iraq .
So have a slew of American oil service companies, , the Texas-based firm Dick Cheney ran before becoming
George W. Bush's running mate in 2000. Iraq
The international rush for the Iraqi “black gold” by trans-national oil and gas corporations is at its height with no national law or competent central authority to regulate it.
Nothing changed since except that the “rush” was accelerating and the de-nationalization process was taking roots, squandering the bloody sacrifices of the Iraqis over eighty two years to uproot the foreign hold on their major strategic asset. The ongoing fighting is threatening to cut this process short.
Tip of iceberg
Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in
Iraq has been awarding hydrocarbon contracts to
foreign firms independently without reference to the central government in . Baghdad
Since early 2014, it has been pumping crude to
own independent pipeline built last December. On this June 4, Turkey Turkey
and the KRG announced the signing of a 50-year deal to export Iraqi oil from
Kurdistan via . Turkey
deputy prime minister, threatened legal action against firms that purchased
"smuggled oil" via the Turkish-KRG arrangements; he accused of
“greed” and trying “to lay (its) hands on cheap Iraqi oil. Turkey
The dispute between
on the one hand and Turkey
and the KRG on the other is only the surfacing tip of the iceberg of the “gold rush–style” looting of ’s
national wealth. Iraq
One of the main priorities of al-Maliki all along has been to legalize the de-nationalization and privatization process.
Muttitt, author of Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq, wrote a few months before al-Maliki assumed his first premiership that American and British governments made sure the candidates for prime minister knew what their first priority had to be: To pass a law legalizing the return of the foreign multinationals. This would be the vital biggest prize of the
2003 invasion. U.S.
Al-Maliki is the right man to secure a pro-privatization government in
Thomas L. Friedman described him in the New York Times on this June 4 as “our
guy,” “an American-installed autocrat” and a “big gift” the Baghdad U.S. occupation “left behind in .” Iraq
Various drafts of hydrocarbon privatization laws failed to gain consensus among the proxy sectarian parties to the U.S.-engineered “political process” and the “federal” entities of
U.S.-drafted constitution. Iraq
Al-Maliki’s government endorsed the first draft of a privatization law in February 2007 and on August 28, 2011 endorsed an amended draft which the parliament has yet to adopt.
Iraqi trade unions, amid popular protests, opposed and fought the privatization draft laws. Their offices were raided, computers confiscated, equipment smashed and their leaders arrested and prosecuted. Nonetheless, the parliament could not pass the law.
Al-Maliki government began awarding contracts to international oil and gas giants without a law in place. They are illegal contracts, but valid as long as there is a pro-privatization government in
Former British and
leaders of the invasion of ,
Tony Blair and George Bush junior, were on record to deny that the invasion had
anything to do with oil, but the U.S. President Barak Obama has just refuted
their claim. Iraq
On last May 16, Obama signed an Executive Order to extend the national emergency with respect to
for one year. His predecessor
Bush signed this “order” for the first time on May 22, 2003 “to
deal with the … threat to the national security and foreign policy of the Iraq United States posed by obstacles to the continued
reconstruction of .” Iraq
Details of Bush’s Executive Order (EO) No. 13303 are still kept out of media spotlight. It declared that future legal claims on
wealth constitute “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security
and foreign policy of the .” United
Section 1(b) eliminates all judicial process for “all Iraqi petroleum and petroleum products, and interests therein, and proceeds, obligations or any financial instruments of any nature whatsoever arising from or related to the sale or marketing thereof, and interests therein, in which any foreign country or a national thereof has any interest, that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the
States, or that are or hereafter come within the
possession or control of persons.” United
EO 13303 was rubber-stamped by the UN Security Council Resolution No. 1483, which protected the U.S.-controlled governmental institutions in
Muttitt wrote in August 2012: “In 2011, after nearly nine years of war and occupation,
finally left .
In their place, Big Oil is now present in force.” Iraq
“Big Oil” is now the only guarantor of the survival of the
U.S. proxy government in , but the survival of “Big Oil” itself
is now threatened by the escalating and rapidly expanding armed opposition. Baghdad
Obama said the “threats” and “obstacles” to U.S, interests in
Iraq have not
changed eleven years after the invasion; has not enacted yet a
hydrocarbon law to legalize the privatization of its oil and gas industry. Iraq
The developments of the last week in
Obama’s renewal of EO 13303. The Iraq U.S. war
is not over and it is not won yet. Hence Obama’s recent extension of the
national emergency with respect to Iraq for one year. Iraq
its restricted independence in 1932, the nationalization of Iraqi oil wealth
was the national and popular battle cry for complete sovereignty. It is now the
battle cry of the armed opposition. Iraq
* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. firstname.lastname@example.org.