Iraq's cabinet has approved a draft of a national oil law that would share revenues from the country's vast oil reserves among its ethnic groups.
Prime Minister Nouri Maliki described the agreement as a "gift to all the Iraqi people".
Iraq's Shia majority and Sunni and Kurdish minority groups have squabbled over how to distribute oil revenues since the US-led invasion in 2003.
The draft bill must now be submitted to Iraq's parliament for a vote.
There may be some grandstanding in parliament, but it is basically just an up-and-down rubber stamp. Dick Cheney has won. Big Oil will control Iraq's oil for generations to come. The new law states that the oil belongs to "the Iraqi people" but EXTRACTION RIGHTS will belong to Big Oil. This effectively puts big Oil in control of the tap, which they can switch on or off at will. The law, which was written by Big Oil consultants to the US, UK and Iraqi governments, is also intentionally vague about revenue sharing.
This is NOT a victory for the Iraqi people, it is a tragedy, a travesty and a disgrace. Expect major protests across Iraq and neighbouring countries.
Here's Chris Floyd:
The New York Times notes (in the next-to-last paragraph) that Iraq’s oil will controlled by the iron fist of a “central body called the Federal Oil and Gas Council” which will have “a panel of oil experts from inside and outside Iraq” as part of the operation… without telling us that these “oil experts” will in fact be executives and representatives of American and other Western oil companies.And Pepe Escobar has more at Asia Times Online:
The law was in essence drafted, behind locked doors, by a US consulting firm hired by the Bush administration and then carefully retouched by Big Oil, the International Monetary Fund, former US deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz' World Bank, and the United States Agency for International Development. It's virtually a US law (its original language is English, not Arabic).UPDATE: The media treatment of this story has been tragic. WaPo buried it in a general report on Iraq. But a big hello to all the bleating, mindless fools who read the crap posted at RedState.com:
Scandalously, Iraqi public opinion had absolute no knowledge of it - not to mention the overwhelming majority of Parliament members. Were this to be a truly representative Iraqi government, any change to the legislation concerning the highly sensitive question of oil wealth would have to be approved by a popular referendum.
In real life, Iraq's vital national interests are in the hands of a small bunch of highly impressionable (or downright corrupt) technocrats. Ministries are no more than political party feuds; the national interest is never considered, only private, ethnic and sectarian interests. Corruption and theft are endemic. Big Oil will profit handsomely - and long-term, 30 years minimum, with fabulous rates of return - from a former developing-world stalwart methodically devastated into failed-state status. ..
A whole case can be made of SCIRI delivering Iraq's Holy Grail to Bush/Cheney and Big Oil - in exchange for not being chased out of power by the Pentagon. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the SCIRI's leader, is much more of a Bush ally than Maliki, who is from the Da'wa Party. No wonder SCIRI's Badr Organization and their death squads were never the target of Washington's wrath - unlike Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army (Muqtada is fiercely against the oil law). The SCIRI certainly listened to the White House, which has always made it very clear: any more funds to the Iraqi government are tied up with passing the oil law.
Bush and Cheney got their oily cake - and they will eat it, too (or be drenched in its glory). Mission accomplished: permanent, sprawling military bases on the eastern flank of the Arab nation and control of some of largest, untapped oil wealth on the planet - a key geostrategic goal of the New American Century.
A big question in all of this is how the contracts with the foreign oil companies will be structured. Will there be "revenue sharing" to compensate for investment, or will investors have a clear equity stake in the industry? Given the distress of the left at the announcement of the draft law (my favorite is "CHENEY WINS!" and here's a little more from a brief visitor to our RedState community), I suspect the latter, which will have the added advantage of encouraging investment. And perhaps the left should cheer up. Economic imperialism isn't all bad. As nice as it would be for the Iraqis to harvest their oil with their own hands and not contribute a penny (or rather a dinar) to the corrupt and bloated coffers of Exxon and Halliburton, this is simply not a realistic option and Iraq desperately needs to start the flow of foreign capitol into the country...Redstate.com does not allow comments from non-members, so I will just say the following:
No, the emergence of a free and independent Iraq might not be happening on our schedule or to our exact specifications, but the crafting of a viable and equitable oil law demonstrates that it is happening. For goodness' sakes, people, let's give it a chance and what the heck, we might even make a buck--not to mention foster a strong democratic ally in the heart of the middle east--in the process. Is it really just Mr. Cheney who has won here?
1. The theory that Iraqis are "just feckless children we are encouraging to remain dependent on us" has been coming from the right as well as the left in US politics. In either case, it is a disgraceful abdication of responsibility from an occupying power, and a wilfully misleading interpretation of the facts.
2. Saddam might have been able to channel bribes from companies like the Australian Wheat Board into his own coffers, but it was basically a decade of sanctions that stopped Iraq investing in "infrastructure and maintenance". Then the USA came along and bombed everything. And what the USA did not bomb (esp. oil pipelines) the insurgents did bomb. So to pretend that Iraq's current sorry state is all Saddam's fault is just ridiculous.
3. Many if not most major Middle East oil-producing nations have state-run industries which manage to extract and sell their oil without the need for "help" from US-based Big Oil.
4. Do you really think it is fair that Iraqi law stipulates that foreign oil companies have exclusive rights to extract oil from Iraqi sands, or that foreign oil executives should sit in judgement on all decision-making regarding Iraq's oil? How would YOU feel if a foreign nation exercised the same power over US resources? And how can you still pretend that Iraq is anything like "free and independent"? And how can you dare suggest that this reprehensible oil law is anything like positive proof of that?
5. You people are sick, stupid, dangerous and deranged. The USA's reputation has gone down the toilet and YOU are the main reason for it. Bush's incompetent, corrupt and murderous administration is a direct reflection of your own personal greed, stupidity and moral vacuity. If you don't have the intellect to see things in a more rational and humane light, or the courage to atone for your right-wing idols' murderous misdeeds, at least have the decency to admit your intellectual bankruptcy, walk away from political activism forever, and exercise your democratic right NOT to vote. The world will thank you for it.
UPDATE: It sounds like the Iraqi Cabinet pushed through a half-cooked law because the US was putting huge pressure on them and that is all the factions could agree on. Maybe my initial reaction was overly pessimistic. I certainly hope so. More here.