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Context of 'February 15, 2007: Draft Iraqi Oil Law Undergoes Additional Changes'

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July 2006: Draft of Iraq Oil Law Completed

A draft for a new Iraq oil law is completed. The proposed law was drawn up by three Iraqis—Tariq Shafiq, Farouk al-Qassem, and Thamir al-Ghadban—who have been working on it for three months. Shafiq is the director of the oil consultant firm Petrolog & Associates and was the founding director of Iraq’s National Oil Company in 1964. Ghadban recently served as the country’s oil minister (see June 2004). [United Press International, 5/2/2007] One provision in the draft law lists production sharing agreements (PSAs) as one type of contract that could be used to govern private sector involvement in the development of Iraq’s oil sector. Under PSAs, oil companies would claim up to 75 percent of all profits until they have recovered initial drilling costs, after which point they would collect about 20 percent. These terms are more favorable to investors than typical PSAs, which usually give about 40 percent to the company before costs are recovered and only 10 percent afterwards. Even when the price of oil was as low as $25 per barrel, the lower paying PSAs were profitable for companies. Critics say that the oil companies want to negotiate and sign the PSAs with Iraq before the country is stabilized so they can argue that the political risk of doing business in Iraq warrants higher profit shares. But then they would wait until after the situation has improved before moving in. Iraq would be the first Middle Eastern country with large oil reserves to use PSAs. Other countries have avoided PSAs because they are widely thought to give more control to companies than governments. James Paul of the Global Policy Forum will tell the Independent: “The US and [Britain] have been pressing hard on this. It’s pretty clear that this is one of their main goals in Iraq.” The Iraqi authorities, he says, are “a government under occupation, and it is highly influenced by that. The US has a lot of leverage… Iraq is in no condition right now to go ahead and do this.” Critics also suggest the companies’ shares of profits should be lower than typical PSAs, if anything, since Iraq’s oil is so accessible and cheap to extract. Paul explains: “It is relatively easy to get the oil in Iraq. It is nowhere near as complicated as the North Sea. There are super giant fields that are completely mapped, [and] there is absolutely no exploration cost and no risk. So the argument that these agreements are needed to hedge risk is specious.” [Independent, 1/7/2007] Immediately after this draft is completed, it is shared with the US government and oil companies (see July 2006). In September it will be reviewed by the International Monetary Fund (see September 2006). Iraqi lawmakers will not see the document until early 2007. The provision mentioning PSAs will be axed from the final draft due to Iraqi opposition (see February 15, 2007).

Entity Tags: Thamir al-Ghadban, Farouk al-Qassem, Tariq Shafiq

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

Iraq’s Oil Committee (see October 2006) agrees on what is said at this time to be the final draft of the oil law. Instead of specifying the use of production sharing agreements, as a previous draft did (see July 2006), this draft calls for the creation of a federal committee that would determine what kinds of contracts can be used for hiring oil companies to help develop Iraq’s oil sector. The next step is for the law to be approved by the Iraqi cabinet. [Iraq Oil Committee, 1/15/2007; Reuters, 1/17/2007] This happens on February 15 (see February 15, 2007).

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

Changes are again made to the draft of the proposed Iraqi oil law. [Asia Times, 2/28/2007] According to this draft:
bullet Foreign corporations would have access to nearly every sector of Iraq’s oil and natural gas industry, including service contracts on existing fields that are already being managed and operated by the Iraqi National Oil Company (INOC). For fields that have been discovered, but which are not currently being developed, the law would require INOC to be a partner in developing these fields. But the new oil law does not require participation of the INOC or any private Iraqi companies in contracts for fields that have not yet been discovered. In such cases, the new law would permit foreign companies to have full access. [Iraqi Council of Ministers, 2/2007; Inter Press Service, 2/28/2007; Asia Times, 2/28/2007]
bullet Companies contracted to develop oil fields would be given exclusive control of fields for up to 35 years, and would be guaranteed profits for 25 years. Foreign companies would not be required to partner with an Iraqi company or reinvest any of its profits in the Iraqi economy. Nor would they have to employ or train Iraqi workers, or engage in any other effort to transfer technology and skills to the Iraqis. [Iraqi Council of Ministers, 2/2007; Asia Times, 2/28/2007]
bullet An Iraqi Federal Oil and Gas Council would be established and given the ultimate decision-making authority in determining what kinds of contracts could be used to develop Iraq’s oil and what would be done with the existing exploration and production contracts already signed with French, Chinese, Russian, and other foreign companies. The law states that council members would include, among others, “executive managers from important related petroleum companies.” As an article in the Asian Times notes, “[I]t is possible that foreign oil-company executives could sit on the council. It would be unprecedented for a sovereign country to have, for instance, an executive of ExxonMobil on the board of its key oil-and-gas decision-making body.” There is no language in the law that would prevent foreign corporate executives sitting on the council from making decisions about their own contracts. And there is no requirement that a quorum be present when making decisions. The Asian Times article notes, “Thus, if only five members of the Federal Oil and Gas Council met—one from ExxonMobil, Shell, ChevronTexaco and two Iraqis—the foreign company representatives would apparently be permitted to approve contacts for themselves.” The new law does not specify what kind of oil agreements could be signed between Iraq and private firms to develop Iraq’s oil. Rather it leaves this question to the council, which would be permitted to approve and rewrite contracts using whatever type is agreed upon by a “two-thirds majority of the members in attendance.” Previous drafts of the law had specifically mentioned production sharing agreements (PSAs), a controversial type of contract that is favored by the oil companies. [Asia Times, 2/28/2007] That model, favored by the US and by oil companies, was opposed by many Iraqis, including Iraqi oil professionals, engineers, and technicians in the unions. The Iraqis prefer technical service contracts, like the ones used in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. Under such contracts foreign companies would be allowed to participate in the development of oil fields, but only for a limited time. [Democracy Now!, 2/20/2007] The companies would be paid to build a refinery, lay a pipeline, or offer consultancy services, but then would leave afterwards. This type of arrangement would help transfer technical expertise and skills to Iraqis. “It is a much more equitable relationship because the control of production, development of oil will stay with the Iraqi state,” notes Ewa Jasiewicz, a researcher at PLATFORM, a British human rights and environmental group that monitors the oil industry. She notes that no other country in the Middle East that is a large oil producer would ever sign a PSA because it’s “a form of privatization and… it’s not in their interests.” Critics also note that the signing of PSA agreements with US oil companies would add fuel to the unrest in Iraq and that the US would attempt to legitimize its continuing presence in Iraq with assertions about the need to safeguard US business interests. [Inter Press Service, 2/28/2007]
bullet Iraq’s national government would not have control over production levels. Rather, the contractee developing a field—e.g., the INOC, or a foreign or domestic company—would be able to decide how much oil to produce. However, the document does say: “In the event that, for national policy considerations, there is a need to introduce limitations on the national level of petroleum production, such limitations shall be applied in a fair and equitable manner and on a pro rata basis for each contract area on the basis of approved field-development plans.” But it does not specify who has the authority to introduce such nation-wide limitations or how production levels might be lowered in a “fair and equitable manner.” The language appears to signify that Iraq would no longer work with OPEC or other similar organizations. [Iraqi Council of Ministers, 2/2007; Asia Times, 2/28/2007]
bullet Oil revenues would be distributed to all of Iraq’s 18 provinces according to their population sizes. Regional administrations, not Iraq’s central government, would have the authority to negotiate contracts with foreign oil companies, monitor contracts, and deal with small disputes. But the ultimate authority would lie with the Federal Oil and Gas Council which would be able to veto decisions made by regional authorities. Critics say this arrangement almost encourages the split of Iraq into three different regions or even three different states. According to Raed Jarrar, Iraq Project Director for Global Exchange, a situation like this would mean that “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… there without any centralized way in controlling this and thinking of the Iraqi interest and protecting Iraq as a country.” [Iraqi Council of Ministers, 2/2007; Inter Press Service, 2/28/2007]

Entity Tags: United States, Ewa Jasiewicz, Iraq, Raed Jarrar

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

Iraq’s cabinet approves the February 15 draft of the proposed Iraqi oil law (see February 15, 2007). The law has not yet been seen by Iraq’s parliament. The only parties that have reviewed the law, aside from its authors, have been nine international oil companies, the British and US governments, and the International Monetary Fund. The cabinet expects that the law will be quickly passed by Iraq’s parliament and implemented by the end of May. [Associated Press, 2/26/2007; Inter Press Service, 2/28/2007]

Entity Tags: United Kingdom, International Monetary Fund, United States

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

The Iraqi Centre for Strategic Studies hosts a conference in Amman, Jordan attended by prominent Iraqi parliamentarians, politicians, ex-ministers, and oil technocrats. At the conference, attendees urge Iraqi legislators to reject the proposed oil law (see February 15, 2007), saying that it will only further divide the country. Mohammed Bashar al-Faidhi, spokesman of the Association of Muslim’ Scholars, says: “We call on members of the parliament to reject this law. This critical draft law would revive foreign companies’ control on Iraqi oil wealth that Iraq had gotten rid of years ago.” Saleh al-Mutlak, head of the National Dialogue party, similarly states: “Iraqis are suspicious that if the law is passed at this critical time that Iraq is passing through, they would think it would be passed in order to serve the interest of foreign companies. This law would also further divide the Iraqi people because most of them would oppose it.” Issam al-Chalabi, former Iraqi oil minister during the government of Saddam Hussein, notes that prominent Iraqi oil experts were not permitted participate in the drafting of the law and that it has never been reported on by the media so Iraqis are unaware of its implications. “Enough time should be given to draft the law before submitting it to the parliament for approval,” al-Chalabi says. [Dow Jones Newswires, 3/10/2007]

Entity Tags: Saleh al-Mutlak, Issam al-Chalabi, Mohammed Bashar al-Faidhi, Iraqi Centre for Strategic Studies

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

A close associate of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki tells the Associated Press that certain US officials have warned al-Maliki that continuing White House support for his government is contingent on an end to sectarian violence and passage of the oil law (see February 15, 2007) by the close of this parliamentary session on June 30. “They have said they are frustrated that he has done nothing to oust the Sadrists, that the oil law has not moved forward, that there is no genuine effort on reconciliation and no movement on new regional elections,” the source says. Al-Maliki fears that without American support his government will be ousted. [Associated Press, 3/13/2006]

Entity Tags: Nouri al-Maliki, Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

Congress passes a $124 billion supplemental appropriations bill that would provide funds for the continued occupation of Iraq, but require that a majority of the troops be withdrawn by the end of the year. The bill, if signed into law by President Bush, will set a number of benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet, including the creation of a program to disarm militias, the reduction of sectarian violence, the easement of rules (see May 16, 2003) that purged the government of former Baath Party members, and the implementation of a law that would govern the development of the country’s oil sector (see February 15, 2007). If the Iraqi government fails to meet these requirements, the US would begin pulling out its troops on July 1. If it does meet the benchmarks, the withdrawal would be delayed until October 1, with the pull-out being completed no later than April 1, 2008. Some troops would remain in Iraq to protect US facilities and diplomats, fight US-designated terrorist groups, and train Iraqi security forces. [Washington Post, 4/26/2007; US Congress, 4/26/2007 pdf file] President Bush will veto the bill on May 1. [Washington Post, 4/26/2007]

Entity Tags: US Congress

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi says he opposes the oil law (see February 15, 2007) because it gives too many concessions to foreign oil companies. “We disagree with the production sharing agreement,” he tells reporters attending an international conference in Jordan that is hosted by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum. “We want foreign oil companies, and we have to lure them into Iraq to learn from their expertise and acquire their technology, but we shouldn’t give them big privileges,” he explains. [Associated Press, 5/21/2007]

Entity Tags: Tariq al-Hashemi

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

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