Of those few Iraqis who have even heard of the important oil legislation currently being considered in the Iraqi parliament, more than 75% oppose it (over 90% of Sunnis are in angry opposition). The Iraqi Oil Workers union vehemently opposes it, staging protests, despite threat of jail (and worse) from the Interior Ministry. Many Iraqi lawmakers claim not to have even seen the entire bill. Of course, the Bush Administration supports it, and holds its passage as one of the key benchmarks for Iraqi governmental success, so the Iraqi Prime Minister and President both claim to support it as well, and have put ever-increasing pressure on the under-informed legislators to pass it.
And the big multinational oil companies? Well, they love it. We presume so, anyway, since they wrote it.
Platform, an economic and democratic justice organization from London, has recently written a report which states that, before the majority of Iraqi parliamentarians were even allowed to see the draft legislation, it was sent to the United States Secretary of Energy to review. In return, he sent it to Conoco/Phillips, Exxon/Mobil, BP, Shell and Chevron/Texaco. Only after the US Government and the world’s biggest multinational oil companies were allowed to review the draft and make comments and suggestions was it shown to the bulk of the Iraqi Parliament.
There’s a lot at stake, for the Big Oil, the ever-oil-hungry United States and, oh yeah, the Iraqi people. The current proposed legislation basically gives no power over oil reserves to the Iraqi central government, deferring instead to regional governments, who stand to make a killing in long-term deals with Big Oil, deals which would benefit only the region which made them, and not the nation as a whole. In addition, it advocates Production Sharing Agreements over the nationalization standard, which the rest of the Middle Eastern oil producers and others (indeed, pretty much all of the oil producing nations in the world now, save the United States) have adopted. In the rest of the Gulf, Big Oil companies have multiple, specific short term oil contracts with fixed risk and royalties, and the governments have total control over all the oil still in the ground. With PSAs, the Iraqi government would maintain the appearance of control, but the big oil companies could list Iraq’s oil reserves on their books as assets, and reap huge profits—much larger than they would get anywhere else in the Gulf.
About PSAs, the Financial Times says:
"Production-sharing deals allow oil companies a favorable profit margin and, unlike royalty schemes, insulate them from losses incurred when the oil price drops. For years, big oil companies have been fighting for such agreements without success in countries such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia."
The insistence on PSAs, the fact that Big Oil had a hand in crafting the legislation, the well-known fact that the "Future of Iraq" planners in the State Department (whose ranks included, by the way, the current Iraq Oil Minister) were making plans for Iraq’s oil as early as 2002, and the pressure the Bush Administration is putting on the Iraqi government to pass the legislations despite the fact that the Iraqi people oppose it should boldly and baldly show that we are far less concerned about democracy in Iraq than we are about profit and securing our gas-guzzling future.
This is, of course, no huge revelation, even to those of us who are not foreign policy or Middle East experts. CSP wrote about the real cause for our war in 2002 and 2003, as did The Onion. Neither of us are exactly bastions of intellectual superiority. Eminem rapped about it in 2004, for chrissake. And yet, in spite of all of the evidence, the Bush Administration still leans heavily on democracy and liberty as the supposed goals of "Operation Iraqi Freedom."
And who suffers? American soldiers. American taxpayers. And, oh, yeah, again, the Iraqi people (we keep forgetting about them, don’t we?), some 75,000 of whom have been reported dead since we invaded in 2003, according to Iraq Body Count. (The British medical journal the Lancet thinks this figure is actually over half a million). That’s a helluva lot of blood for oil.
Let’s hope Exxon/Mobil and its friends at least send the Iraqis a nice thank-you card. After all, whether or not the current legislation they wrote passes through the Iraqi Parliament, they can afford to send the very best.
Thanks to Kate Evans for the startling but appropriate image.