Four years ago this week, American tanks headed into Baghdad. At the time critics of the war said it was about oil. But those voices were dismissed. Then came Iraq’s Oil Law which essentially hands control of much of its oil wealth to foreign multinationals.
Opposition to the controversial law continues to grow. Former Iraqi oil industry officials, experts and lawmakers have just gathered in Jordan to debate the bill, expressing grave concerns over the Law.
“There are many question marks hanging over this draft law,” said Dhia al-Bakaa, former president of the Iraqi State Oil Marketing Organisation (SOMO). Why the timing? Why the hurry when we still lack political, economic and security stability.”
Issam Chalabi, an oil minister under executed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, said the bill did not take “into account our greater national interests” but was adopted “to satisfy US President George W. Bush.”
Faleh al-Khayat, a former head of planning at the oil ministry, warned that “major foreign oil firms are greedy and will covet Iraq’s oil wealth” if the bill is adopted. MP Saleh Mutlak of Iraq’s National Dialogue Front echoed him: “We have no need for foreign companies. We are experienced enough to reap the fruit of our wealth.”
MP Ali Mashhadani also agreed. “Our oil wealth is black gold that must be kept underground until security conditions are appropriate to take advantage of it. It has been entrusted to our safekeeping by the people we represent. Iraq has sold 125 billion dollars worth of oil since the start of the US-led occupation.”