Those who claim that the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 to get control of the country’s giant oil reserves will be left scratching their heads by the results of last weekend’s auction of Iraqi oil contracts: Not a single U.S. company secured a deal in the auction of contracts that will shape the Iraqi oil industry for the next couple of decades. Two of the most lucrative of the multi-billion-dollar oil contracts went to two countries which bitterly opposed the U.S. invasion — Russia and China — while even Total Oil of France, which led the charge to deny international approval for the war at the U.N. Security Council in 2003, won a bigger stake than the Americans in the most recent auction. “[The distribution of oil contracts] certainly answers the theory that the war was for the benefit of big U.S. oil interests,” says Alex Munton, Middle East oil analyst for the energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie, whose clients include major U.S. companies. “That has not been demonstrated by what has happened this week.”
In one of the biggest auctions held anywhere in the 150-year history of the oil industry, executives from across the world flew into Baghdad on Dec. 11 for a two-day, red-carpet ceremony at the Oil Ministry, broadcast live in Iraq. With U.S. military helicopters hovering overhead to help ward off a possible insurgent attack, Oil Minister Hussein Al-Shahrastani unsealed envelopes from each company, stating how much oil it would produce, and what it was willing to accept in payment from Iraq’s government. Rather than giving foreign oil companies control over Iraqi reserves, as the U.S. had hoped to do with the Oil Law it failed to get the Iraqi parliament to pass, the oil companies were awarded service contracts lasting 20 years for seven of the 10 oil fields on offer — the oil will remain the property of the Iraqi state, and the foreign companies will pump it for a fixed price per barrel. [continued…]
Sheik Abdul-Rahman Munshid al-Assi has been making up for the time he lost in an American prison, aggressively diving into Iraqi politics after being held nearly a year on charges of aiding the insurgency.
After his release last year, he formed the Arab Political Council to represent Sunni Arabs in Kirkuk. He recruited Sunni candidates to run in the coming national elections. He is forging a political bloc with Arab nationalists, other tribal leaders and former members of Saddam Hussein’s outlawed Baath Party as a counterweight to Kurds in the province.
At first glance, the fact that a vehement opponent of the Shiite-led government in Baghdad and Kurdish leaders next door is embracing democratic politics may seem to be a purely positive sign. After all, much of the American security effort of the past few years has been to channel Sunnis into just such a course.
But for Sheik Abdul-Rahman the political action is far from a concession. Rather, it is an attempt to tap into the simmering rage he says is still rampant among Sunni Arabs in Iraq. And he and many of his peers are far from becoming fully reformed democrats: he has yet to renounce the insurgency, though he denies directly supporting it, and warns that more violence could come. [continued…]