Iraq takes step closer to landmark oil law
Iraq's cabinet approved changes to a draft hydrocarbon law on Tuesday and sent it to parliament for immediate debate, taking a big step towards meeting a key political target set by the United States.Yeah, sure. Fair to whom?
Washington has pushed Iraq for months to speed up passage of the law and other pieces of legislation, which are seen as vital to curbing sectarian violence and healing deep divisions between majority Shi'ites and minority Sunni Arabs.
The law is intended to ensure a fair distribution of the world's third largest oil reserves, which are located mainly in the Shi'ite south and the Kurdish north of the country.
That's the rub, isn't it?
The stories we see in the press tell us the law would ensure "fair distribution", meaning "fair distribution" of Iraq's revenue among the various parts of the country.
What they don't say is even more important: the corporations would be raking in 87.5% of the revenue! And that's why the proposed law says:
ARTICLE 34: ROYALTYJust cut that pie in eight parts and we'll take seven! That's what they mean when they say "fair distribution".
A - INOC and other holders of an Exploration and Production right shall pay a royalty on Petroleum produced from the Development and Production Area, at the rate of 12.5% of Gross Production measured at the entry flange to the Main Pipeline.
Mission Accomplished, indeed!!
"The law was approved unanimously (by the cabinet) ... it was referred to the parliament which will discuss it tomorrow," Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told a news conference, calling it the "most important" law in Iraq. [...]One could make a case that the word "attracting" is a bit of an understatement! They're giving away a license to print money -- as well as a huge geopolitical control-point. Attracting! That's a good one!!
Besides deciding who controls the country's oil reserves and setting up a new oil firm to oversee the industry, the law aims to provide a legal framework for attracting foreign investment.
Other major laws also need to be passed that set provincial elections by the end of the year and that allow some members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party to return to government and the military. Maliki said these would be discussed next week.And there you have it, plain as day even in the midst of this finely spun yarn:
But parliament is running out of time to debate and approve the series of laws. It has already extended its current session to the end of July, before legislators take a month off.
That leaves little time before the U.S. military commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker have to present a report to Washington in the middle of September on Iraq's security and political progress.
The report is being viewed as a political watershed, with U.S. President George W. Bush under mounting pressure to show his Iraq strategy is working and with campaigning in the 2008 U.S. presidential race already well under way.
The Iraqi parliament must pass certain laws by a certain date so an American general can provide a rosy progress report which would provide a certain amount of political cover for the notion that the current extension and escalation of the ongoing war-crime is a good move, because this will help not only the president's party but also the most warlike of those who are vying to replace him.
All the president needs from the general in September is reasonably plausible assertion that Iraq is now a sovereign independent nation in which the parliament makes the laws and the democracy America planted there is taking root. That's all. Just another little fib to throw into the echo machine.
The problem is this: the natives are restless. Even in the elephant party the president's support is slipping away. And even though it runs quite well on sheer spin, every now and then the echo machine needs a little bite of reality to chew on.
Iraqi government's signature on the Hydrocarbon Law would serve quite nicely in this regard, because it would allow the president and his supporters to say: What do you mean, the war is going badly? We've got them to sign the Oil Law, didn't we? And therefore,
Bush spoke separately by telephone to Iraq's top leaders on Tuesday including Maliki, the country's president and the two vice presidents, the White House said.I'm not enough of a Middle East scholar to know whether Iraq's parliamentarians are used to being spoken to as if they were young children who needed to be reminded to work well together. If they aren't used to it yet, they will be soon.
Spokesman Tony Snow said Bush encouraged all of them to move "not only aggressively forward" on political reforms but to "work well with one another".
But they really don't have to worry about any of that. All they really need to do is forget about all the deaths and all the injuries, all the fear and violence, all the radiation and rape and torture and destruction and every other facet of the violence that America has brought to their country. They just need to forget all of that, and show some gratitude for a change, and sign seven-eighths of their most precious national resource over to a consortium of foreign corporations. That would qualify as "moving aggressively forward", wouldn't it? I'll bet that would even count as "working well with one another".