Iraqi people resist oil theft

In August Iraq overtook Iran as the second largest oil producer in OPEC. It had not been in this position since the 1980s. Although the result reflects the dwindling sales from Iran because of the international sanctions, Iraqi production has nevertheless increased to more than three million barrels per day (mbpd) in recent months. This follows the signing of major contracts with international oil companies between late 2008 and early 2010 to develop a dozen oil fields. The companies include Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Total, Russian Lukoil and the Chinese CNPC. In addition, Total, Exxon Mobil and Russian Gazprom signed deals with the Kurdish regional government. The Iraqi government has a target to produce 12 mbpd by 2017 (more than Saudi Arabia), though a more realistic estimate would be 4.5 mbpd because of the lack of pipeline infrastructure. The oil companies, however, are being paid per barrel produced regardless of whether or not they meet government targets. This is far more profitable than simply being paid for the services they provide, although oil drilling contractors are receiving above rate fees from the Iraqi government.

On the face of it, the oil multinationals have achieved a major stake in Iraqi oil, one of the main aims of the imperialist war on Iraq. However, this would be to ignore the strength of the Iraqi people. One of the reasons the imperialist occupiers wanted to impose the fiasco of ‘democratic elections’ on Iraq, and then impose a settlement when those elections ended in prolonged stalemate, was because the big oil companies were refusing to invest in Iraq without a ‘legitimate’ government to authorise their fraud. But when the relevant legislation finally came before the Iraqi parliament, there was such determined opposition by the Iraqi people to the theft of their national assets that most Iraqi politicians were forced to join the opposition for the sake of their own electoral skins. That legislation has never been passed. The contracts signed by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki are illegal and may fail if his corrupt and dictatorial government falls. Also, the contracts awarded by the Kurdish regional government fall outside their jurisdiction. They have been transferring their own (up to 25%) stake to private companies and smuggling oil abroad.

Much of the people’s opposition to the international oil deals has been led by the oil workers’ unions. At the beginning of the imperialist occupation, the Coalition Provisional Authority refused to rescind Saddam Hussein’s law prohibiting unions and collective bargaining in the public sector, which comprised 80% of the Iraqi economy. Al Maliki has continued Saddam Hussein’s oppression. Oil union treasuries and offices have been seized; Iraqi troops have been mobilised against strikers and key union leaders have been arrested and prosecuted. Two years ago, Al Maliki ordered a crackdown on the electrical workers’ union. Recently, he ordered local oilfield managers to stop informal bargaining with unions. The resistance continues.

A further problem for the multinationals is the continuing rise in attacks by Sunni groups attempting to reclaim areas they lost in the sectarian battles that had been encouraged by the imperialist forces as a means of dividing opposition to their occupation. Early this year, the oil pipeline from Kirkuk into Turkey was damaged by two bombs. In July, the Sunni group ‘Islamic State of Iraq’ (ISI) launched at least 30 attacks in 18 towns and cities, mainly against state security forces, government buildings and Shia areas. Another wave of attacks followed in August, killing more than 120 people. ISI leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi said ‘We are starting a new stage. The first priority in this is releasing Muslim prisoners everywhere, and chasing and eliminating judges and investigators and their guards’.

The rise of ISI and other Al Qaeda inspired groups in Yemen and parts of Africa demonstrates once again the false nature of the imperialists’ so-called war on terror.

Jim Craven

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 229 October/November 2012

 

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