UK: Blair government helps Shell, BP, grab at Iraqi oil

Bush, oil, and Iraq war, cartoon

From Al Jazeera:

UK in ‘murky Iraq oil deal

A social justice group has obtained documents showing that the British government tried to influence a new Iraqi oil law in favour of UK businesses.

The London-based Platform group said on Friday that the documents showed British diplomats tried to exclude Iraqi oil firms in favour of firms such as BP and Shell.

Greg Muttitt, an oil campaigner with Platform, told People and Power programme aired on Al Jazeera on Friday, that the British government was “using their position as a military occupier to influence and shape the future of the country’s economy in the interests of powerful companies“.

British diplomats have been involved in “extensive efforts since at least 2004 to push for companies such as BP and Shell to receive long-term contracts, which would give them exclusive rights to extract Iraq’s huge oilfields“, Platform said in a press release on Friday.

The group said they were able to prove this using documents obtained under Britain’s freedom of information act.

Muttitt said Iraqis have been “excluded” from the oil law while the British foreign office played a “central role in supporting the efforts of the oil companies to lobby the Iraqi government”.

Contentious legislation

Iraq has proven oil reserves of 115 billion barrels, with billions more thought to be as yet undiscovered, but since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq the country has been in chaos and unable to adequately exploit its own resources.

New legislation, drafted by Iraq’s fledgling government, is aimed at reviving the country’s oil revenues, but critics say the majority of the money will be going to multinationals.

Shell is not just a British, but also a Dutch corporation.

What dirty tricks may the Dutch Rightist Balkenende administration have been up to in Iraq?

Iraq war and oil in the USA: here.

Costs of the Iraq war in the US: $2.5 trillion, just for several decades of care for the wounded.

Bush, Blair, and Iraq war, cartoon by Steve Bell

29 thoughts on “UK: Blair government helps Shell, BP, grab at Iraqi oil

  1. Iraq experts say draft oil industry law fraught with problems

    18/03/2007 04h15

    A soldier walks on a platform at the Basra Oil Terminal
    ©AFP/File – Thaier Al-Sudani

    AMMAN (AFP) – Some Iraqi oil experts and politicians are aghast over their government’s approval of a bill that many fear will deliver the country’s oil wealth to international firms on a platter.

    In February, capping months of bitter wrangling, the Baghdad government approved a draft law that aims to distribute revenue from crude oil exports equitably across Iraq’s 18 provinces and open the sector to foreign investors.

    The multi-party government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki sees the legislation as a key plank in moves to reunite a country torn apart by sectarian violence, and hopes that parliament will ratify the bill in May.

    But former Iraqi oil industry officials, experts and lawmakers gathered in Jordan to debate the bill have warned that the timing is wrong, and expressed strong concerns that Iraq would lose control of its own “black gold.”

    “There are many question marks hanging over this draft law,” said Dhia al-Bakaa, former president of the Iraqi State Oil Marketing Organisation (SOMO).

    “Why the timing? Why the hurry when we still lack political, economic and security stability,” Bakaa asked a recent conference organised by the non-governmental Iraqi Centre for Strategic Studies.

    “The Iraqi National Oil Company should have been restructured before the government endorsed the draft law, to allow INOC to develop the giant oil fields so that they would not face pressure and extortion in the future.”

    Issam Chalabi, an oil minister under executed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, said the bill did not take “into account our greater national interests.”

    It was adopted “to satisfy US President George W. Bush,” who called on the newly installed Maliki government last June to restore electricity in Iraq, adopt a new investment law and restructure the oil industry, he said.

    Chalabi also charged that Iraqi oil exports over the past four years have gone “unchecked and unaccounted for.”

    Iraq’s proven oil reserves, estimated at 115 billion barrels, are thought to be the third largest in the world, behind Saudi Arabia and Iran.

    Since the US-led invasion in 2003, Iraqi production has tumbled from 3.5 million barrels per day to around two million. Chalabi said Iraq has been exporting around 1.5 million bpd.

    Faleh al-Khayat, a former head of planning at the oil ministry, warned that “major foreign oil firms are greedy and will covet Iraq’s oil wealth” if the bill is adopted.

    “If Iraq’s giant oilfields are developed they would yield 80 percent of Iraq’s proven reserves estimated at 115 billion barrels,” he said.

    MP Saleh Mutlak of Iraq’s National Dialogue Front echoed him: “We have no need for foreign companies. We are experienced enough to reap the fruit of our wealth.”

    Mutlak also said he feared the bill may not live up to government hopes that it will unify Iraq.

    “We don’t want a new law that will further divide us. We need a law that will unite the Iraqi people,” he said.

    Most oil production is in the Shiite south, with the best prospects for new finds centred on the Kurdish north. The northern oil hub of Kirkuk is disputed between Kurdish and Arab leaders.

    Motlak said parliament in Baghdad should not ratify the bill “until we reach the appropriate climate for investments in Iraq.”

    MP Ali Mashhadani agreed.

    “Our oil wealth is black gold that must be kept underground until security conditions are appropriate to take advantage of it. It has been entrusted to our safekeeping by the people we represent,” he said.

    According to Mashhadani “Iraq has sold 125 billion dollars worth of oil since the start of the US-led occupation.”

    The Iraqi people have not benefited from this revenue and “are eating garbage,” Mashhadani said, suggesting that income from oil sales be given to the people in the form of state-subsidised “monthly rations cards.”


  2. Tue Apr 17, 2007

    By Yereth Rosen

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) – Five environmental groups and an Alaska native organization said Tuesday they were challenging the U.S. government’s decision to allow Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSa.L: Quote, Profile, Research) to explore for oil off the northern coast of Alaska this summer.

    The groups asked the federal Interior Department to reverse the Minerals Management Service’s (MMS) February approval of Shell’s plans to drill up to four exploration wells in the Beaufort Sea this summer.

    The groups also filed a motion in federal court, seeking to have the MMS’s decision overturned.

    An MMS spokeswoman declined to comment and Shell officials were not immediately available.

    Waters near the proposed well sites are home for part of the summer to bowhead whales, which are listed as an endangered species. Polar bears and other Arctic wildlife live nearby.

    Shell’s opponents say the MMS failed to carry out an adequate environmental impact assessment in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.

    “There have been oil spills at exploration stages in other places,” said Eric Jorgenson, an attorney with Earthjustice, the environmental law firm representing the groups.


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