“Troubles for the Oil Deal” – TIME Magazine

An excellent article by Vivinnee Walt for TIME reports that “parliamentarians and Iraq’s oil unions have already begun mobilizing against the draft legislation, arguing that it is a desperate attempt by al-Maliki’s government to satisfy Western demands, which could damage Iraq’s economic future and speed the country’s ultimate disintegration.” She points out where the pressure is coming from: “Iraq’s major creditors have made clear they expect a working oil industry, as a precondition for forgiving billions of dollars in Iraqi debt incurred largely by Saddam Hussein’s wars against Iran and Kuwait and by his mega-splurging at home.” It continues by interviewing Iraqi MP Salah al-Mutlaq “[he] says he is certain he will find allies among his colleagues, who he says believe that the law is geared to the needs of Western oil companies rather than Iraqis. There has been no public hearing on the draft, whose details have largely been kept secret. Iraqi lawmakers fumed last July when U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman discussed the draft during a trip to the region, “when hardly a single parliamentarian had seen it,” says Kamil Mahdi, an Iraqi who is senior lecturer in Middle East economics at the University of Exeter in Britain, and who spent Tuesday discussing the law by phone with several parliamentarians. He said several believe that the government should wait until the war ends before locking Iraq into long-term deals with foreigners.” Finally it notes: “Iraq’s biggest oil unions, which could potentially disrupt production, have been among the law’s strongest opponents. Hassan Jum’ah Awwad Al-Asadi, head of Iraq’s Federation of Oil Unions, the largest union group, says he intends to mobilize his 23,000 or so members against the draft. “We want a new, different law, which will be in the interests of Iraqis,” he said by phone from Basra on Wednesday. “If there is no solution we can stop production, stop exports.” In a more threatening tone, he told union members at a conference on the law in Basra in early February: “We strongly warn all the foreign companies and foreign capital in the form of American companies against coming into our lands under the guise of production-sharing agreements.””