Multinationals grab Iraqi oil

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Since the height of the violence in Iraq in 2007, both civilian and US casualties have fallen by over 90%. There is, however, no peace for the Iraqi people. In the northern Kurdish areas around Kirkuk and Mosul tension remains high because Kurdish aspirations for an autonomous government controlling its own oil are being thwarted by central government and Sunni political advances in the region. Car and suicide bombs in the latter part of last year aimed at Iraqi government and US targets in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad killed more than 500 people. Sadi Piri of the Kurdish PUK said ‘This proves that the Iraqi forces are not able to control their own cities and borders’.

US General Petraeus admitted that what he called ‘Iranian-backed militias’ still posed a threat to Iraqi security.  Some of these groups, such as the Badr brigade, had been used by the imperialist forces in the early years of the occupation and came to dominate the Iraqi police. It has been claimed that Peter Moore, the British computer expert released in January, had been kidnapped by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard because he was installing a system that could track how international aid for Iraq had been diverted to pro-Iranian militia groups. In October 2007, Judge Radhi Hamza Al Radhi told the US Congress that Iraqi government corruption amounted to $18 billion. The only records of transactions were destroyed in a fire at the Iraqi Central Bank.

Moore was released in exchange for Qais Al Khazali, who had been captured by the SAS in 2007. Al Khazali had been a spokesman for Moqtada Al Sadr, a former forceful opponent of the imperialist occupation with strong support among the Shia poor. He is now prominent in the pro-Iranian Iraqi Righteous League, expected to take a large share of the vote in the forthcoming Iraqi elections.

In December, the Iraqi parliament passed a new election law, after pressure from the US, reducing representation for Sunnis. In January, the Iraqi government threatened to bar 14 Sunni parties from the election and banned over 500 Sunni candidates, including Saleh Al Multah of the National Dialogue Front, which seeks to reconcile Sunnis, Shias and Kurds. More violence could follow if Sunni and Kurdish aspirations are not met by the Shia dominated government.

Oil contracts signed

On 17 December, Iranian troops occupied the Iraqi Al Fakkah oil field in the disputed border region of Maysan Province. The Iranians also have claims to the Abu Gharb field in the same area. Anglo-Dutch Shell has interests in both fields. Despite the continuing uncertainty, however, multinational oil companies consider the security situation in parts of Iraq steady enough to grab new contracts.

Iraq has the third largest known oil reserves in the world. There are very few opportunities elsewhere in the world for the oil companies to extend production. So, in the first auction, Shell and Exxon/Mobil took the West Qurna field, while BP and the Chinese CNPC took Rumaila, the largest field. In the second auction on 11 December, Shell and the Malaysian company Petronas outbid Total for the Majnoon field, and a consortium of CNPC, Petronas and Total took the Halfaya field.

Significantly, there were no bids for fields in the less secure regions east of Baghdad. The Iraqi government plans to raise total output from the present 2.5 million barrels per day (mbpd) to 10 or even 12.5 mbpd in the next ten years. Such an output would match that of Saudi Arabia and could cause other countries to cut production or face a fall in prices.

Bloody role of mercenaries

On 1 January, a US Federal Judge dismissed charges against five guards employed by private security firm Blackwater. The guards, on contract to the US military, were accused of murdering 17 Iraqi civilians during a wild shooting spree in Baghdad in September 2007. The judge ruled that the guards’ confessions were inadmissible. He did not, however, call any local witnesses or families of the victims. Rahab Abdul Karim, whose nephew was killed, said ‘They (the guards) were arrogant with the power they had. They thought they answered to no one. And with this verdict, maybe they were right’.

Since the incident Blackwater has been re-named Xe Services. It employs many ex-CIA and military personnel and has close links with both services. Its turnover is around $1bn a year. Blackwater mercenaries have accompanied US forces on raids in both Iraq and Afghanistan and are believed to be involved in a secret programme to assassinate members of Al Qaida throughout the world. Blackwater mercenaries have been accused of a number of murders in Iraq.

A former British mercenary told the BBC World Service how they worked with complete anonymity in Iraq. They could shoot someone dead or beat up prisoners with no repercussions. The mercenary spoke of displacing refugees from their temporary homes with no concern for how they would survive. Any mercenary guilty of a crime that might cause difficulties was flown to safety out of the country the same day. The security companies make millions of pounds profit from each contract.

The British security company Control Risks recently announced a big increase in demand for their services, particularly by multinational oil companies in Iraq.

Jim Craven

FRFI 213 February / March 2010

 

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