-- Two recent news stories,
taken together, could signal an ominous turn in the invasion of Iraq. The first
story appeared on the Time website on February 28.  It discusses Iraqi
opposition to government plans to privatize the oil industry and sell it off to
foreign investors under very lucrative terms.
The new law would allow foreign companies to cut long-term
deals for exploration and development. This is the first time foreign oil
companies will be allowed to have a stake in Iraq�s energy wealth since 1972,
when the oil industry was nationalized.
While the potential profits for oil companies are enormous,
they will also have to deal with resistance fighters (yes, the media persists
in calling them insurgents) blowing up pipelines and equipment and murdering
contractors. Over the long years of strict sanctions, the oil infrastructure had
deteriorated to the point that the oil fields were being damaged by harmful
Prior to the invasion, a U.N. report in June 2001 said that
Iraqi oil production capacity would fall sharply unless technical and
infrastructure problems were addressed. And former U.N. Secretary General KofiAnnan warned of a possible �major
breakdown� in Iraq�s oil industry if spare parts and equipment were not
forthcoming.  Prior to the invasion, the US blocked any attempts to remedy
Solving these problems will require major investment from a
consortium of international oil companies. It will take at least a decade to
double output, providing there is no further damage done. It will take at least
$7 billion worth of investment to bring Iraq back to its 3.5 million b/d
production level. Pushing past that level to 5.5 million b/d will require at
least $20 billion of investment.  These estimates were made prior to the
invasion, and so do not incorporate additional costs due to more recent damages.
It would appear that the company poised to enjoy the largest
short-term profit from the rebuilding and policing of the Iraqi oil
infrastructure would be Dick Cheney�s Halliburton.
After the long Iraq-Iran War, two previous incursions led by
the US, more than a decade of harsh sanctions, and finally this latest invasion
and civil war, the Iraq economy and infrastructure are in a shambles. Virtually
the only source of income that Iraq has with which it can repair all of this
damage comes from its energy wealth. And now the government is poised to give
the greatest percentage of this wealth to foreign investors.
Dissatisfaction with the new law has been expressed by some
politicians. Yet it is to be wondered what they can do to stop legislation the details
of which are being kept secret from parliament until time for a vote.
Interestingly enough, the entire deal was known to US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, who discussed it during a trip to the region in
July of 2005.
The strongest opposition to the new law comes from the Iraq
unions. HassanJum�ahAwwad Al-Asadi, head of Iraq�s
Federation of Oil Unions, has stated that if the law is not redrawn to protect
Iraqi interests, then the unions will stop production. He has explicitly warned
foreign oil companies against coming to Iraq under the guise of
At a December 14 meeting, senior officials of the General
Federation of Iraqi Workers, the Federation of Oil Unions, the Federation of
Workers� Councils and Unions in Iraq, the Kurdistan General Workers Syndicate
Union and the Iraqi Kurdistan Workers Syndicate Union met to discuss their
opposition to the new oil law. In a joint statement, the unions likened the new
law to a red line that they would not allow to be crossed. 
And this is where the second news item mentioned at the
beginning of this essay gains added importance. According to labor sources,
twice in the past week, US and Iraqi forces have raided the headquarters of the
General Federation of Iraqi Workers (GFIW), the country�s largest national
trade union. They destroyed furniture and confiscated a computer and fax
machine. One union security officer was arrested and later released unharmed.
 No reason has been given for the raids.
If Iraqi labor remains opposed to the privatization of Iraqi
resources, will they increasingly become a target of coalition and Iraqi
forces? Trade unionists in Iraq have long been victims of violence and
assassination. Members of the Iraqi Federation of Worker�s Trade Unions (IFTU)
have been targeted in particular for assassinations and kidnappings, due to
their strong stance against privatization and rigged elections. 
Should Iraqi unions back up their position against the new
oil law by bringing Iraq oil production to a halt, is there any doubt that the
violence against them will escalate. The raid on GFIW headquarters indicates
that US forces would take action against striking workers. It is likely that in
such a situation, the unions will be denounced as a hotbed of terrorists, and
they will probably be accused of having ties to Iran and Syria.
If this happens, then the US public and US soldiers need to
be aware that these are not terrorist insurgents we are fighting against, but
workers struggling to protect their livelihood and their country. Should the
invasion and occupation lead to an overt military campaign against striking
unions, then this venture will be shown up for what it truly is: a conquest of
1. Troubles for the Iraq Oil Dea1, Walt,
Viviane. Time.com, February 28, 2007.
2. Iraq Country Analysis Brief, EIA,
3. Iraqi Oilfields, Dev George. Oil
& Gas International, 1/22/03.
4.Iraqi Unions Reject
Foreign Control of Oil, People�s World Weekly Newspaper, December 21, 2006.
5. Iraq: raid on trade union offices. Labourstart,
March 1, 2007. http://www.labourstart.org/cgi-bin/solidarityforever/show_campaign.cgi?c=202
6. Disunity Threatens
Iraqi Labor�s Resistance to Occupation, Bacon, David. US Labor against the
War, December 31, 2005.Dale Allen Pfeiffer is a science journalist, a
geologist, a novelist, and a noted authority on energy and related geopolitical
issues. His 2003 article, Eating Fossil Fuels, has been read by hundreds of
thousands throughout the world, and has been proclaimed as one of the most important
journalistic pieces of the decade. His follow-up articles, Learning from
Experience; North Korea and Cuba, have also been widely read. Recently,
information provided by Mr. Pfeiffer has been used in presentation before the
US Congress, and the French and Australian Parliaments. His epic novel, Giants
in Their Steps, has been praised as a compelling portrayal of human compassion
and bravery, and a poignant plea for the protection of our remaining