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Context of 'June 14, 2005: Iraq Oil Ministry Aims to Have Foreign Oil Companies Working In Iraq before End of 2006'

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The Oil and Energy Working Group, one of 17 such groups working under the US State Department’s “Future of Iraq” project (see April 2002-March 2003), meets to discuss plans for the oil industry in a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. The only known member of the 15-member group is Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum, who will become Iraq’s oil minister after the invasion. Other people likely involved include Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress, Sharif Ali Bin al Hussein of the Iraqi National Congress; recently defected personnel from Iraq’s Ministry of Petroleum; the former Iraqi head of military intelligence; Sheikh Yamani, the former Oil Minister of Saudi Arabia; and unnamed representatives from the US Energy Department. The responsibilities of this working group include: (1) developing plans for restoring the petroleum sector in order to increase oil exports to partially pay for a possible US military occupation government. (2) reconsidering Iraq’s continued membership in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and “whether it should be allowed to produce as much as possible or be limited by an OPEC quota.” (3) “consider[ing] whether to honor contracts made between the Hussein government and foreign oil companies, including the US $3.5 billion project to be carried out by Russian interests to redevelop Iraq’s oilfields.”] [Oil and Gas International, 10/30/2002; Observer, 11/3/2002; US Department of State, 12/19/2002; Financial Times, 4/7/2003; Financial Times, 9/5/2003; Muttitt, 2005] By April 2003, the working group will have met a total of four times. One of the policies they agree on is that Iraq “should be opened to international oil companies as quickly as possible after the war” and that development of Iraq’s oil fields should be done through the use of Production Sharing Agreements (PSAs). Under a typical PSA, oil ownership remains with the state, while exploration and production are contracted to the private companies under highly favorable terms. [Muttitt, 2005; Los Angeles Times, 12/8/2006]

Entity Tags: Ahmed Chalabi, Sheikh Yamani

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Hamid Bayati, spokesperson for the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), tells the Washington Post: “If [Bremer] is going to appoint an administration, we can’t be part of that. We will only be part of an administration selected by the Iraqi people. There are certain lines which we cannot cross.” [Washington Post, 6/8/2003]

Entity Tags: Hamid Bayati

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Iraq under US Occupation

At the Asia Oil and Gas Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Natik al-Bayati, director general of Iraq’s Oil Exploration Company, tells reporters that Iraqi officials are hoping that foreign oil companies will return to Iraq and begin working by the third quarter of 2006. “Hopefully by the first quarter of 2006 the companies will come back. Maybe by mid-year or the third quarter [of 2006]. This is what we have in mind,” he says. He explains that the objective is to increase production to 3.5 million-4 million barrels per day by 2010. To meet this goal, Iraq’s exploration sector will need between $15 billion and $20 billion, he says. [International Oil Daily, 6/15/2005] Iraq will have to begin negotiating with the oil companies this year in order to make that deadline. As one observer notes, this would be taking place “before a legitimate Iraqi government is elected and in parallel with the writing of a Petroleum Law. This time frame means that contracts will be negotiated without public participation or debate, or proper legal framework.” [Muttitt, 2005]

Entity Tags: Natik al-Bayati

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

Iraq’s new oil minister, Hussein al-Shahristani, says that Iraq will need international assistance and billions of dollars in investment to develop its oil sector. “There is need to pass an oil and gas law to guarantee the right conditions for international companies to help develop the Iraqi oil sector,” he says. [Dow Jones Newswires, 5/23/2006]

Entity Tags: Hussein al-Shahristani

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

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

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