UPDATE ON THE IRAQI OIL LAW – download our June 30 briefing on the Iraq Oil Law

The Bush/Cheney administration is prioritizing the passage of an Iraqi oil law before it leaves office. This renewed push began with Dick Cheney’s visit to Iraq in March 2008 and the next six months will be key to the future of Iraq’s oil. In the mean time, the Iraqi government plans to sign service contracts for development of the largest oilfields. The first six were due to be signed on June 30 with Shell, BP, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Total and four smaller companies, but were not for reasons that are not immediately apparent.

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Download and read Crude Designs, the November 2005 report on Iraq’s oil law – co-published by Oil Change International – authored by Greg Muttitt of PLATFORM.

Key Facts

Iraq has 115 billion barrels of known oil reserves – 10 per cent of the world total. There are 80 discovered oilfields, of which only 17 have been developed. Oil accounts for more than 70 per cent of Iraq’s GDP and 95 per cent of government revenue.

The proposed Iraq hydrocarbon law would take the majority of Iraq’s oil out of the exclusive hands of the Iraqi government and open it to international oil companies for a generation or more. The law is a dramatic break from the past. Foreign oil companies will have a stake in Iraq’s vast oil wealth for the first time since 1972, when Iraq nationalized the oil industry.

BearingPoint, a Virginia based contractor is being paid $240m for its work in Iraq, winning an initial contract from the US Agency for International Development (USAid) within weeks of the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. A BearingPoint employee, based in the US embassy in Baghdad, was hired to advise the Iraqi Ministry of Oil on drawing up a new hydrocarbon law.

BearingPoint employees gave $117,000 to the 2000 and 2004 Bush election campaigns, more than any other Iraq contractor.

The process of drafting the oil law has been particularly troubling. The timeline of which entities have seen the draft when suggests that Iraqi interests are not being considered first and foremost:

  • Draft shown to US government and major oil companies – July 06
  • Draft shown to the International Monetary Fund September 06
  • Draft shown to Iraqi Parliament: February 07

The Iraq National Oil Company would have exclusive control of just 17 of Iraq’s 80 known oil fields, leaving two-thirds of known — and all of its as yet undiscovered — reserves open to foreign control.

The law sets no minimum standard for the extent to which foreign companies would not have to invest their earnings in the Iraqi economy, partner with Iraqi companies, hire Iraqi workers or share new technologies.

The international oil companies could also be offered some of the most corporate-friendly contracts in the world, including what are called production sharing agreements. These agreements are the oil industry’s preferred model, but are roundly rejected by all the top oil producing countries in the Middle East because they grant long-term contracts (20 to 30 years in the case of Iraq’s draft law) and greater control, ownership and profits to the companies than other models. In fact, they are used for only approximately 12 percent of the world’s oil.

Iraq’s neighbors Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia maintain nationalized oil systems and have outlawed foreign control over oil development. They all hire international oil companies as contractors to provide specific services as needed, for a limited duration, and without giving the foreign company any direct interest in the oil produced

Iraqis may very well choose to use the expertise and experience of international oil companies. They are most likely to do so in a manner that best serves their own needs if they are freed from the tremendous external pressure being exercised by the Bush administration, the oil corporations — and the presence of 140,000 members of the American military.

The leadership of Iraq’s five trade union federations released a statement opposing the law and rejecting ‘’the handing of control over oil to foreign companies, which would undermine the sovereignty of the state and the dignity of the Iraqi people.’’ They ask for more time, less pressure and a chance at the democracy they have been promised.


Stop the Theft of Iraq’s Future – Iraqi Oil for the Iraqi People

February 23 marked the one-year anniversary of the Cabinet’s passage of the Iraq Oil Law. The Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions has called for an International Day of Action on Feb 22-23. People around the world held actions on these days in solidarity with the people of Iraq to say NO to the oil law and NO to foreign contracts under the occupation. Read more about the International Day of Solidarity Actions.
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TAKE ACTION to stop the US Congress from endorsing the Iraqi Oil Law!

Read our blog posts on Iraq and oil

Examine the poll we commissioned of Iraqi citizens

Watch our latest Iraq Oil Law video, set to the Clash’s Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Check out Stop the Iraqi Oil Law, a coalition site with the latest news on the Iraq Oil Law

Download a factsheet on the Iraqi Oil Law

Read the Letter to Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid

Listen to or read a transcript of Oil Change’s Antonia Juhasz on NPR’s Diane Rehm show, April 26

Politico writes on the beginnings of Democratic Opposition to the Iraq Oil Law Benchmark.

Great article in American Lawyer magazine on US behind the scenes involvement in the crafting of Iraq’s oil law.

General Union Of Oil Employees, Basra, Iraq

Hands Off Iraqi Oil – a UK Coalition

Watch the hilarious Jim Hightower flash video: Why We’re in Iraq

Draft of the Iraqi Oil Law – 15 February 2007

Detailed critique of the Oil Law from PLATFORM -27 February 2007

Listen to Oil Change’s Antonia Juhasz on Democracy Now! (February 20th, 2007)

The following pieces were written by Antonia Juhasz, the Ida Tarbell Fellow at Oil Change International:

Whose Oil Is It, Anyway?, New York Times, March 13, 2007 Op-Ed by Antonia Juhasz

Iraq’s five trade union federations, representing hundreds of thousands of workers, released a statement opposing the law and rejecting “the handing of control over oil to foreign companies, which would undermine the sovereignty of the state and the dignity of the Iraqi people.” They ask for more time, less pressure and a chance at the democracy they have been promised.

New Oil Law to go Before Iraqi Cabinet
by Antonia Juhasz 2007-01-19 TomPaine.com

For more than four years, the Bush administration and its oil company cohorts have worked toward the passage of a new oil law for Iraq that would turn its nationalized oil system over to private foreign corporate control. On Thursday, January 18, this dream came one step closer to reality when an Iraqi negotiating committee of “national and regional leaders” approved a new hydrocarbon law. The committee chair, Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih, told Reuters that the draft will go to the Iraqi cabinet next week and, if approved, to the parliament immediately thereafter.

Spoils of War: Oil, The U.S.-Middle East Free Trade Area, and The Bush Agenda

by Antonia Juhasz In These Times, December 19, 2006

Cover article by Antonia provides the latest information on the status of The Bush Agenda in Iraq and the Middle East.

It’s Still About Oil In Iraq

by Antonia Juhasz > 2006-12-08 > The Los Angeles Times

A centerpiece of the Iraq Study Group’s report is its advocacy for securing foreign companies’ long-term access to Iraqi oil fields.

Oil for Sale: Iraq Study Group Recommends Privatization

by Antonia Juhasz > 2006-12-07 > AlterNet

The Iraq Study Group may not have a solution for how to end the war, but it does have a way for its corporate friends to make money.

Bush’s Ace in the Hole in Iraq?

by Antonia Juhasz > 2006-05-23 > The Huffington Post

In this piece from The Huffington Post, Antonia discusses the importance of Iraqi vice president Adel Abdul Mahdi to the economic goals of the Bush Administration.

In Iraq, “it’s the oil, stupid”

Opinion Editorial

by Antonia Juhasz > 2006-01-21 > Topeka Capital Journal

Op-Ed written by Antonia for MinutemanMedia.org, picked up by the Topeka Capital-Journal, in which Antonia discusses the Bush administration’s oil agenda in Iraq.

Bush’s Economic Invasion of Iraq

Opinion Editorial

by Antonia Juhasz > 2005-08-14 > The Los Angeles Times

Constitutional drafting process appears unlikely to slow the march of U.S. corporations into Baghdad, at the expense of Iraqi self-determination.

Iraq’s Oil Timeline

by Antonia Juhasz, Left Turn Magazine

May 1st, 2006

Amid all the talk of training Iraqi soldiers, heading off a civil war, and protecting Iraq’s fledging democracy, one overriding agenda has been ignored in the debate over the time-table for bringing US troops home: President Bush will not withdraw US forces until US oil companies have secure access to Iraq’s oil.

Of Oil And Elections

by Antonia Juhasz, AlterNet

January 27th, 2005

Remember when we used to talk about how the war in Iraq was about oil? Remember the banners that read “No blood for oil?” Oil has fallen out of the discussion lately, but it’s time to bring it back in light of the Iraqi elections scheduled for this Sunday.

For a complete archive of Antonia’s work, please see her site.