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Commentary Last Updated: Jan 9th, 2007 - 00:54:21

The "Surge" to screw Iraq out of its oil
By Jerry Mazza
Online Journal Associate Editor

Jan 9, 2007, 00:51

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It took an article from the distant New Zealand Herald (via a reader) to tell me Oil giants to profit from law change. That is, the third largest reserves in the world are about to be fed to the Western oil lions under another sell-out law that the Iraqi Parliament will vote on in days. Of course, the US government had a grease-stained hand in drawing up the law, a draft of which the NZ Herald got to see early on. God forbid the New York Times or Washington Post should know . . .

But Big Oil�s Boyz, BP, Shell and Exxon will get 30-year contracts to suck up the crude and permit the first large-scale operation of foreign oil hands on Iraq since the industry was nationalized in 1972. And you were wondering if they really were bombing Iraq into the Stone Age for oil. This should put an end to your suspicions.

But then the Herald reminds us Vice President Dick Cheney said in 1999, while still chief exec of oil services company Halliburton, "that the world would thirst for an additional 50 million barrels a day by 2010." So where would the oil come from? Prophetically, he announced, "The Middle East, with two-thirds of the world�s oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies." Thus spake the Cheney, spouting oil wells in the reflection of his outsize glasses.

Naturally, the oil executives claim that the "law" to permit Western companies to loot up to three-quarters of the profits in the early years is the only way to get Iraq�s oil industry back on its feet, before we kick it down with sanctions, more war and loss of technical expertise. Ah, but don�t go away feeling like The Ugly American, like your country is nasty.

We will move forward through �production-sharing agreements� (PSAs), unusual in the Middle East, where the oil business in Saudi Arabia and Iran, the world�s two biggest producers, is state controlled. At least, theirs is a semblance of autonomy, even though the Saudis are in our bag, the latter, who knows, on the way.

PSAs permit a country to hold on to legal ownership of its oil, but hands out a share of profits to foreign companies that invest in infrastructure as well operation of wells, pipelines and refineries. Of course, we�ve invested, according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, some $2 trillion in the cost of the Iraq war, all things on and off the books counted.

Critics say that Iraq, where oil sustains 95 percent of the economy, is being held up, forced to give up an unacceptable (illegal?) share of sovereignty. What do you think?

Yet, let us remember those dark days of 2003, when Tony "the mouthpiece" Blair said nay to the "false claim" that "we want to seize" Iraq�s oil income. He wanted the money put into a trust fund. What like our Social Security? Well, it would be run by the UN, but the idea went nowhere.

That same year, then Secretary of State Colin Powell said, "It cost a great deal of money to prosecute the war." [I love the verb]. "But the oil of the Iraqi people" [speaking of prosecution], "belongs to the Iraqi people; it is their wealth, it will be used for their benefit. So we did not do it for oil." That�s okay, CP, the check is in the mail.

I remember, if I may inject a personal anecdote, asking guest speaker Mario Cuomo at the 92nd Street Y, if indeed Iraq wasn�t about seizing it�s oil, and he gave me a huge "ohhhh nooooo," and filibustered for 10 minutes, till it was safe enough to ask for the next question. By then the audience had fallen asleep. And he�s a Democrat.

Anyhow, the provision�s backers say the 75 percent take on the profits will go on until drilling costs have been recouped. Err, that could take a couple of years right? After that, the Oil Boyz would skim about 20 percent of the profits. But that will double the industry skim for such deals. Tony Soprano would whip you up a frying pan of sausage and peppers for an offer like that.

But Greg Muttitt, a researcher for Platform, one of this nagging human rights and environmental groups which sticks its wise nose in the oil biz, said in so many words Iraq was being screwed, i.e., asked to pay an enormous price over the next three decades for the very instability we created. And they get screwed because, basically, they don�t have the clout to really bargain for the terms of any deal, including being let the hell alone.

Remember, the placement of Saddam as Iraq�s gangsta leader came from GHW Bush, as well as leading him to believe he could steal Kuwait to fill his coffers after the eight-year Iran/Iraq War. We also fed money in that war to both sides so they�d kill each other quicker. Bonking Iraq with Gulf War I really came when Hussein got to feeling his oats and started fluctuating OPEC supplies and prices. A decade later, this triggered Junior's going back for Hussein�s literal head, lying about him having Weapons of Mass Destruction to create Operation Shock and Awfulness.

Nevertheless, Khaled Salih, spokesman for the Kurdish Regional Government, a party to the negotiations, said the so-called Iraqi government plans to have the skim on the books by the Ides of March. Hail Caesar!

Several oil majors sent teams to Iraq to lobby for deals before the law is rubber-stamped. The big names are not likely to invest until the violence in Iraq calms down. Don�t worry, fellas, the cavalry is on the way.

Meanwhile, James Paul, executive director of the Global Policy Forum, an international government watchdog, bow-wowed, "It is not an exaggeration to say that the overwhelming majority of the population would be opposed to this. To do it anyway, with minimal discussion within the (Iraqi) Parliament is really just pouring more oil on the fire."

Liberal Democrat's Treasury spokesman Vince Cable, former chief economist at Shell, said it was crucial that any deal would guarantee funds to rebuild Iraq. Who would that be: Halliburton, Brown & Root, Robber and Barons?

Cable added, "Although it does make sense to collaborate with foreign investors, it is very important the terms are seen to be fair." Yes, illusion is all. Remember "I reminded the government that that oil belongs to the Iraqi people and the government has the responsibility to be good stewards of that valuable asset and valuable resource." That was our own George Bush on June 14, 2006.

Then there was Paul Wolfowitz, March, 2003: "Oil revenues of Iraq could bring between US $50 billion and US $100 in two or three years . . . Iraq can finance its reconstruction. And thus . . .

We have the "Surge"

And I am reading in the New York Times Bush Plan for Iraq Requests More Troops and More Jobs. David Sanger writes, "President Bush�s new Iraq strategy calls for a rapid influx of forces that could add as many as 20,000 American combat troops to Baghdad, supplemented with a jobs program costing as much as $1 billion intended to employ Iraqis in projects including painting schools and cleaning streets, according to American officials who are piecing together the last parts of the initiative."

One billion dollars billion for painting schools and cleaning streets, jobs for Iraqis, uh huh. And 20,000 more combat troops to keep the peace and close the oil deal.

Of course, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki agreed to it all, including matching five American combat brigades that would go in at a rate of about one a month. He would send three more Iraqi brigades to Baghdad over the next month and a half. He likes the present placement of his head between his shoulders. Shades of Vietnam and ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam South).

Two-thirds of the promised Iraqi force are Kurdish pesh merga units from northern Iraq. Doubts prevail as to whether they would show up in Baghdad and/or would quell the civil war (sectarian fighting).

This also would put Bush head-to-head with the new Congress. Will House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stand up against Big Oil and Bush Junior? How will Bush continue to con the American people this is about democracy? Will he call the Democrats traitors if they shut the money spigot? Who will believe we should get in the middle of the Shiite/Sunni slicing/dicing machine?

What�s more, Sanger tells us the plan calls for more than doubling "Provincial Reconstruction Teams," small groups of "State Department officials empowered to coordinate local reconstruction efforts, chiefly hiring Iraqi companies." What a novel thought. Is Bechtel busy? The teams will be "embedded with combat brigades," in an attempt to show Iraqis that American forces were not just occupiers. We�re pacifiers, too.

This is the "greater sacrifice" in Mr. Bush�s speech, which he will make in his last-ditch effort "to salvage our mission in Iraq," which is to keep Big Oil rich.

Let�s hope, after the speech that the Dems pick apart the details of the plan to save lives, billions of dollars, and the neglected United States economy, which is operating in the blood red. Bush will also want to "increase our resolve" concerning "adventurism by regional adversaries, especially Iran," Iraq�s former enemy in the eight-year war of the 80s.

Condi Rice will go off "to shore up confidence among Washington�s Islamic allies in the region as well as to warn its adversaries," leaving "for the Middle East by next weekend."

Bush is also planning to increase the number of American military trainers working with Iraqi security forces. Where have we heard that before? Mr. Maliki is going to renew efforts to rid the Army of sectarian influences. He didn�t say too much about the beef-up of American forces. He assured us "no outlaws," like Iraqi freedom fighters, could "expect protection."

In fact, his last words were, "The Baghdad security plan will not provide safe haven for all outlaws, regardless of their political or sectarian identities." Uh huh. At least, they won�t have Saddam Hussein to kick around anymore. We may be soon wishing he was still there.

Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer living in New York City. Reach him at

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