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Context of 'October 2006: Committee of Iraqis Begin Working on Oil Law under Pressure from US'

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June 2004: New Iraqi Oil Minister Appointed

Thamir al-Ghadban is appointed as Iraq’s minister of oil. Al-Ghadban is a British-trained petroleum engineer and former senior adviser to Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum, Iraq’s previous oil minister under the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council. [Muttitt, 2005]

Entity Tags: Thamir al-Ghadban

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, 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

The US government and major oil companies are given the opportunity to review the latest draft of a new oil law for Iraq (see July 2006). The draft has yet to be seen by Iraqi lawmakers. [Independent, 1/7/2007]

Entity Tags: United States

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

The International Monetary Fund is reportedly given the opportunity to review the latest draft of Iraq’s proposed oil law. The draft was sent to the US government and oil companies in July (see July 2006). [Independent, 1/7/2007]

Entity Tags: International Monetary Fund

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

A committee made up of ministers and politicians from the main Shiite, Sunni Arab, and Kurdish blocs begins final negotiations on a proposed oil law that will govern the development of Iraq’s oil sector. The latest draft of the oil law was completed several months ago (see July 2006). While Iraqi legislators have yet to see law, it has already been reviewed by the US government and major oil companies (see July 2006), as well as the International Monetary Fund (see September 2006). According to the New York Times, “Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the senior American commander here, and Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador, have urged Iraqi politicians to put the oil law at the top of their agendas, saying it must be passed before the year’s end.” The major issue of contention concerns how oil revenue will be distributed. Most Sunni communities are located in provinces where there is little or no oil. Consequently, they are arguing that revenue should be controlled by the central government and then distributed equitably among Iraq’s provinces. Their position is supported by the Shiites. But the Kurds, who live in the oil-rich north, strongly disagree arguing that the constitution guarantees the regions absolute authority in those matters. [New York Times, 12/9/2006]

Entity Tags: George Casey, Zalmay M. Khalilzad, Iraq

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

British MPs debate the Iraq oil law that was recently approved by the Iraq Oil Committee (see January 16, 2007).
Jeremy Corbyn says: “News was leaked out last week of a proposed new oil law that the Iraqi Parliament is to be invited to approve in a few weeks’ time. This is a mysterious piece of legislation, and I hope that the Minister will be able to throw some light on the matter when he responds to the debate. Apparently, the drafters of the new law were not in Iraq but in Washington, and they were assisted by people in London. The proposed law bears an uncanny resemblance to the British-imposed oil law in Iran in 1952, after the shah was imposed on the people of that country. BP and other oil companies made massive amounts of money from that arrangement in the succeeding years. There is deep suspicion that the oil law that is now being proposed for Iraq is the reward for the invasion, and that it will involve the privatization of oil production and the sale to certain oil companies of cheap oil that ought to be for the benefit of the Iraqi people…. It would be illegal [for 15 or 20-year oil contracts to be signed while the country is still under occupation], because Britain and the United States are, in law, occupying forces. They do not therefore have the legal authority to make fundamental changes to what is happening in that country. Those are the terms of the Hague convention, and that ought to be understood.”
Michael Meacher says: “It is also immensely important and significant that… a new draft law is about to be pushed through the fledgling Iraqi Parliament by the United States that will set up contracts to allow major US and British oil companies to extract substantial parts of the oil profits for a period of up to 30 years. No other Middle Eastern producer-country has ever offered such hugely lucrative concessions to the big oil companies. OPEC—the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries—has, of course, always run its oil business on the basis of there being tightly controlled state companies. Only Iraq in its current dire situation, with US troops propping up its Government—without them the Government would not survive—lacks the bargaining capacity to be able to resist. If this new draft law is conceded by the Iraqis under the intense pressure that is being put on them, it will lock the country into a degree of weakness and dependence for decades ahead. The neo cons may have lost the war, but my goodness, they are still negotiating to win the biggest chunk of the peace, when and if it ever comes…. This rearguard attempt to pre-empt the lion’s share of the remaining oil and the massive future profits over a 30-year period—there is no authority to extract it from another country without its agreement—can only intensify the insurgency. It is bound to foster much-increased resentment… and increase the violent resistance, even when the occupation has come to an end. Above all, this policy is utterly short-sighted, because it is diametrically opposed to the policy into which the whole world will ineluctably be forced by the accelerating onset of climate change.” [House of Commons, 1/24/2007]

Entity Tags: Jeremy Corbyn, Michael Meacher

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

Hasan Jum`ah `Awwad al-Asadi, head of the Federation of Oil Unions in Basra, condemns the draft oil law (see January 16, 2007) and argues that Iraqis are fully capable of managing their own industry. “They have the experience in the field and the technical training, have overcome hardships and proven to the world that they can provide the best service to Iraqis in the oil industry,” he says. “The best proof of that is how after the entry of the occupying forces and the destruction of the infrastructure of the oil sector the engineers, technical staff and workers were able to raise production from zero to 2,100,000 barrels per day without any foreign expertise or foreign capital. Iraqis are capable of further increasing production with their present skills. The Iraqi state needs to consult with those who have overcome the difficulties and to ask their opinion before sinking Iraq into an ocean of dark injustice. Those who spread the word that the oil sector will not improve except with foreign capital and production-sharing are dreaming. They must think again since we know for certain that these plans do not serve the sons and daughters of Iraq.” [General Union of Oil Employees in Basra, 2/6/2007]

Entity Tags: Hasan Jum`ah `Awwad al-Asadi

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

On June 4, oil workers in Basra go on strike, shutting down a number of oil and gas pipelines. They want better working conditions, pay, land for homes, lower fuel prices, and a role in the drafting of the controversial oil law (see January 16, 2007). [General Union of Oil Employees in Basra, 6/4/2007] Hasan Jum`ah `Awwad al-Asadi, president of the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions, which represents more than 26,000 workers, says the union is against the oil law because it will give foreign companies too much control over Iraq’s oil. “First of all, we are against the production sharing agreements,” Awad told United Press International several days earlier. [United Press International, 5/24/2007] In response, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki orders the arrest of Awwad and other union leaders on June 6 for “sabotaging the economy” and sends Iraqi troops to surround the strikers. [United Press International, 6/6/2007] Soon after, a delegation sent by Maliki agrees to form a government committee to address the workers’ complaints about labor conditions, wages, and the oil law. The two sides come to a tentative agreement and on June 11, the strike is called off. [United Press International, 6/11/2007]

Entity Tags: General Union of Oil Employees in Basra, Hasan Jum`ah `Awwad al-Asadi, Nouri al-Maliki

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

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