March 30, 2007

George Bush's Land Mine

If the Iraqis get revenue sharing, Exxon gets their oil

by Richard W. Behan

George Bush has a land mine planted in the supplemental appropriation legislation working its way through Congress.

. . . Buried deep in the legislation and intentionally obscured is a near-guarantee of success for the Bush Administration's true objective of the war-capturing Iraq's oil-and George Bush will not casually forego that. . . .

One of the President's benchmarks, however, stands apart. This is how the President described it: "To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country's economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis." A seemingly decent, even noble concession. That's all Mr. Bush said about that benchmark, but his brevity was gravely misleading, and it had to be intentional.

The Iraqi Parliament has before it today, in fact, a bill called the hydrocarbon law, and it does call for revenue sharing among Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds. For President Bush, this is a must-have law, and it is the only "benchmark" that truly matters to his Administration.

Yes, revenue sharing is there-essentially in fine print, essentially trivial. The bill is long and complex, it has been years in the making, and its primary purpose is transformational in scope: a radical and wholesale reconstruction-virtual privatization-of the currently nationalized Iraqi oil industry.

If passed, the law will make available to Exxon/Mobil, Chevron/Texaco, BP/Amoco, and Royal Dutch/Shell about 4/5's of the stupendous petroleum reserves in Iraq. That is the wretched goal of the Bush Administration, and in his speech setting the revenue-sharing "benchmark" Mr. Bush consciously avoided any hint of it.

The legislation pending now in Washington requires the President to certify to Congress by next October that the benchmarks have been met-specifically that the Iraqi hydrocarbon law has been passed. That's the land mine: he will certify the American and British oil companies have access to Iraqi oil. This is not likely what Congress intended, but it is precisely what Mr. Bush has sought for the better part of six years.

It is why we went to war. . . .

The "global war on terror" is bogus. The prime terrorist in Afghanistan and the architect of 9/11, Osama bin Laden, was never apprehended, and the President's subsequent indifference is a matter of record. And Iraq harbored no terrorists at all. But both countries were invaded, both countries suffer military occupation today, both are dotted with permanent U.S. military bases protecting the hydrocarbon assets, and both have been provided with puppet governments.

And a billion dollar embassy in Baghdad is under construction now. It will be the largest U.S. embassy in the world by a factor of ten. It consists of 21 buildings on 104 acres, six times larger than the United Nations compound in New York city, larger than Vatican City. It will house a delegation of more than five thousand people. It will have its own water, electric, and sewage systems, and it is surrounded by a fortress wall of concrete fifteen feet thick. For an Administration committed to fighting terrorism with armies and bombs, that's far more anti-terror diplomacy than a tiny country needs. There must be another purpose for it.

In the first two months of the Bush Administration two significant events took place that preordained the Iraqi war. Vice President Cheney's Energy Task Force was created, composed of federal officials and oil industry people. By March of 2001, half a year before 9/11, the Task Force was poring secretly over maps of the Iraqi oil fields, pipe lines, and tanker terminals. . . .


Enver Masud, "A Clash Between Justice and Greed, Not Islam and the West," The Wisdom Fund, September 2, 2002

Ed Vuillamy, "Israel Seeks Pipeline for Iraqi Oil," Observer, April 20, 2003

Enver Masud, "Iraq: Divide and Rule, 'Ethnic Cleansing Works'," The Wisdom Fund, October 10, 2006

Danny Fortson, Andrew Murray-Watson and Tim Webb, "Future of Iraq: The Spoils of War," Independent, January 7, 2007

Robert Fisk, "Bush's New Strategy - The March of Folly," Independent, January 11, 2007

Ed Crooks, "Iraq may hold twice as much oil," Financial Times, April 19 2007

["If the United States leaves Iraq things will really get bad."

This appears to be the last remaining, barely-breathing argument of that vanishing species who still support the god-awful war. The argument implies a deeply-felt concern about the welfare and safety of the Iraqi people. What else could it mean? That the US military can't leave because it's needed to protect the oil bonanza awaiting American oil companies as soon as the Iraqi parliament approves the new written-in-Washington oil law?--William Blum, "The Last Argument of Fools: How America Has Changed Iraq,", May 5, 2007

[The oil law proposes giving multinational companies the primary role in developing Iraq's huge untapped oilfields, under contracts lasting up to 30 years. Oil production in Iraq, like in most of the Middle East, has been in the public sector since the 1970s.--Steve Kretzmann, "Iraqi Union Set to Strike over Oil Law,", May 9 2007]

[The PFC study shows political factors are limiting capacity increases in Mexico, Venezuela, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and Russia. Saudi Arabia is also limiting capacity expansion but because of a self-imposed cap, unlike the other countries. These seven account for 65 per cent of the world's reserves and 45 per cent of crude oil production. . . .

Before 1961 the industry could invest almost anywhere except the Soviet Union and Mexico. Then it was pushed out of the Middle East and Venezuela. Investment by international companies shifted to the North Sea, north slope of Alaska and offshore. But the North Sea and Alaska are maturing even as output in key producers is declining.--Sheila McNulty, "Politics of oil seen as threat to supplies," Financial Times, May 9 2007]

[The continuing occupation of Iraq and the allocation of Iraq's resources -- especially its massive oil and natural gas deposits -- are the defining issues that now separate an increasingly restless bloc of nationalists in the Iraqi parliament from the administration of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose government is dominated by Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish separatists backed, so far, by the United States and Britain.--Raed Jarrar and Joshua Holland, "Majority of Iraqi Lawmakers Now Reject Occupation,", May 10, 2007]

[If the Iraqi Parliament refuses to pass the privatization legislation, Congress will withhold US reconstruction funds that were promised to the Iraqis to rebuild what the United States has destroyed there.--Ann Wright, "What Congress Really Approved: Benchmark No. 1 - Privatizing Iraq's Oil for US Companies,", May 26, 2007]

VIDEO: Antonia Juhasz, "As the U.S. Discusses Staying in Iraq For 50+ Years, the Bush Administration & Congressional Democrats Push For Iraq to Open Its Oil Fields to Foreign Oil Companies,", June 6, 2007

Matthew Rothschild, "Bush Pushes Iraq Oil Law for ExxonMobil," Progressive, June 14, 2007

Qin Jize, "China invited to explore Iraqi oil," China Daily, June 19, 2007

[Sadr's supporters said they would not support any law that would allow firms "whose governments are occupying Iraq" - a reference to the United States, Britain and their coalition allies - to sign Iraqi oil deals.--Joseph Krauss, "Sadr bloc joins Sunnis in rejecting Iraq oil law," AFP, July 5, 2007]

VIDEO: "Founder of Iraq Oil Workers Union Rejects U.S.-Backed Oil Law as 'Robbery',", July 6, 2007

"Assessing Iraq Benchmarks," Associated Press, July 12, 2007

[Cheney commissioned a 2000 report by the neoconservative Project for a New American Century, which said "the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein. "A document for Cheney's secret energy task force included a map of Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, refineries, charts detailing Iraqi oil and gas projects, and a "Foreign Suitors for Iraq Oil Contracts." It was dated March 2001, six months before 9/11.

On April 19, 2003, shortly after U.S. troops invaded Baghdad, the New York Times quoted senior Bush officials as saying the United States was "planning a long-term military relationship with the emerging government of Iraq, one that would grant the Pentagon access to military bases and project American influence into the heart of the unsettled region." They discussed "maintaining perhaps four bases in Iraq that could be used in the future."

Indeed, Bush is building mega-bases In Iraq. Camp Anaconda, which sits on 15 square miles of Iraqi soil, has a pool, gym, theater, beauty salon, school and six apartment buildings. To avoid the negative connotation of "permanent," Bush officials call their bases "enduring camps." Our $600 million American embassy in the Green Zone will open in September. The largest embassy in the world, it is a self-contained city with no need for Iraqi electricity, food or water.

The motive for a permanent presence in Iraq has been obvious from day one. It's the oil. The oft-mentioned benchmark for Iraqi progress, touted by Bush and Congress alike, is the so-called Iraqi oil law. The new law would turn over control of most oil production and royalties to foreign oil companies. The Iraqi people are opposed to the oil law.

The biggest impediment to the privatization of Iraq's oil is the unions.--Marjorie Cohn, "Iraqis will be the Deciders,", July 20, 2007]

[Dick Cheney - and the oil lobby are enraged that the oil law is stalled. The main reason is not that the Iraqi government and parliament are a lazy bunch of Islamist incompetents or narrow-minded sectarians, as is often implied. MPs are studying the law more carefully, and have begun to see it as a major threat to Iraq's national interest regardless of people's religion or sect.--Jonathan Steele, "Good news from Baghdad at last: the oil law has stalled," Guardian, August 3, 2007]

"Hundreds of experts discount Iraq oil law," UPI, August 9, 2007

"Oil giants are poised to move into Basra," Guardian, February 24, 2008

Jonathan Stearns and Glen Carey, "Iraq to Open Oil-Field Bidding: Big Companies to Compete for Exploration, Production Rights," Washington Post,April 17, 2008

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