Missing Iraq cash ‘as high as $18bn’

Al Jazeera reports:

Osama al-Nujaifi, the Iraqi parliament speaker, has told Al Jazeera that the amount of Iraqi money unaccounted for by the US is $18.7bn – three times more than the reported $6.6bn.

Just before departing for a visit to the US, al-Nujaifi said that he has received a report this week based on information from US and Iraqi auditors that the amount of money withdrawn from a fund from Iraqi oil proceeds, but unaccounted for, is much more than the $6.6bn reported missing last week.

“There is a lot of money missing during the first American administration of Iraqi money in the first year of occupation.

“Iraq’s development fund has lost around $18bn of Iraqi money in these operations – their location is unknown. Also missing are the documents of expenditure.

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Former US diplomat holds secret stake in Kurdish oil field

Former US diplomat holds secret stake in Kurdish oil field

It is widely known that the former US diplomat Peter Galbraith has been one of the most prominent figures in shaping the state structure of Iraq in the period after 2003, especially with his vocal advocacy of various forms of radical decentralisation and/or partition solutions for Iraq’s political problems that are reflected in his books and numerous articles in the New York Review of Books, especially in the period from 2004 to 2008. Until now, though, it has generally been assumed that Galbraith’s fervent pro-partition propaganda was rooted in an ideological belief in national self-determination and a principled view of radical federalism as the best option for Iraq’s Kurds. Many have highlighted Galbraith’s experience as a former US diplomat (especially in the Balkans in the 1990s) as key elements of his academic and policy-making credentials.

Today, however, it has emerged that the realities were probably rather different. For some time, Norway’s most respected financial newspaper, Dagens Næringsliv (DN), has been focusing on the operations of DNO, a small Norwegian private oil company in Kurdistan, especially reporting on unclear aspects concerning share ownership and its contractual partnerships related to the Tawke field in the Dahuk governorate. One particular goal has been to establish the identity of a hitherto unknown “third party” which participated with DNO in the initial production sharing agreement (PSA) for Tawke between 2004 and 2008, but was squeezed out when this deal was converted to a new contract in early 2008, prompting a huge financial claim of around 500 million US dollars against DNO which has yet to be settled. Today, DN claims to present proof that one of the two major “mystery stake-holders” involved in the claim was none other than Peter Galbraith, who allegedly held a five-percent share in the PSA for Tawke from June 2004 until 2008 through his Delaware-based company Porcupine. Galbraith’s partner was the Yemenite multi-millionaire Shahir Abd al-Haqq, whose identity was revealed by the same newspaper earlier this month. DN has published documents from Porcupine showing Galbraith’s personal signature, and today’s reports are complete with paparazzi photographs of Galbraith literally running away from reporters as they confront him in Bergen, where he is currently staying with his Norwegian wife. He refused to give any comment citing potential legal complications. [continued...]
(H/t to Helena Cobban.)

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NEWS & ANALYSIS: Iraq’s plundered heritage; tribal conflict

‘Ancient civilization . . . broken to pieces’

He works as a blacksmith in one of Baghdad’s swarming Shiite slums. But at least once a month, Abu Saif tucks a pistol into his belt, hops into a minibus taxi and speeds south.

His goal: to unearth ancient treasures from thousands of archaeological sites scattered across southern Iraq.

Images of Baghdad’s ransacked National Museum, custodian of a collection dating back to the beginning of civilization, provoked an international outcry in the early days of the war in 2003.

The ancient statues, intricately carved stone panels, delicate earthenware and glittering gold are now protected by locked gates and heavily armed guards. But U.S. and Iraqi experts say a tragedy on an even greater scale continues to unfold at more than 12,000 largely unguarded sites where illegal diggers like Abu Saif are chipping away at Iraq’s heritage. [complete article]

Tea and tribal conflict in Iraq

The meeting between the Marines and the power brokers of this border region began with pleasantries, an exchange of gifts, and the drinking of small cups of tea, very hot and very sweet.

But within a few minutes the subject turned to one of crucial importance to both sides: the possible rise of militias among Sunni tribes who feel disrespected and shut out of the mild economic upturn the region is enjoying.

The power brokers — the mayor, the sheiks, and the local Iraqi army general — are from the Albu Mahal tribe, the most powerful in the region.

The Mahals were the first of the tribes to join with the U.S. in fighting the insurgency while lesser tribes stayed neutral or assisted the insurgents.

Now that the insurgency has been largely suppressed, Mahal leaders feel it is their right to share in the benefits of peace, such as the flourishing downtown market in Husaybah and the recently opened port of entry that allows a free flow of goods to and from Syria. [complete article]

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OPINION: Greenspan’s oil claim in context

How the Bush administration’s Iraqi oil grab went awry

Here is the sentence in The Age of Turbulence, the 531-page memoir of former Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan, that caused so much turbulence in Washington last week: “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.” Honest and accurate, it had the resonance of the Bill Clinton’s election campaign mantra, “It’s the economy, stupid.” But, finding himself the target of a White House attack — an administration spokesman labeled his comment, “Georgetown cocktail party analysis” — Greenspan backtracked under cover of verbose elaboration. None of this, however, made an iota of difference to the facts on the ground.

Here is a prosecutor’s brief for the position that “the Iraq War is largely about oil”:

The primary evidence indicating that the Bush administration coveted Iraqi oil from the start comes from two diverse but impeccably reliable sources: Paul O’Neill, the Treasury Secretary (2001-2003) under President George W. Bush; and Falah Al Jibury, a well-connected Iraqi-American oil consultant, who had acted as President Ronald Reagan’s “back channel” to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein during the Iraq-Iran War of 1980-88. The secondary evidence is from the material that can be found in such publications as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. [complete article]

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OPINION: Murky oil deals for Bush cronies

Iraq oil deal gets everybody’s attention

The oil deal signed between Hunt Oil and the government in Iraq’s Kurdish region earlier this month has raised eyebrows, in no small part because it appears to undercut President Bush’s hope that Iraq could draft national legislation to share revenue from the country’s vast oil reserves. Making the deal more curious is that it was crafted by one of the administration’s staunchest supporters, Ray Hunt.

Hunt, chief executive of the Dallas-based company, has been a major fundraiser and contributor to Bush’s presidential campaigns. He also serves on the president’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, putting him close to the latest information developed by the nation’s intelligence agencies.

If Hunt is signing regional oil deals in Iraq, critics ask, what does he know about the prospects for a long-stalled national oil law that others don’t? [complete article]

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FEATURE: Robbing the world of its past

It is the death of history

In a long and devastating appraisal to be published in December, Lebanese archaeologist Joanne Farchakh says that armies of looters have not spared “one metre of these Sumerian capitals that have been buried under the sand for thousands of years.

“They systematically destroyed the remains of this civilisation in their tireless search for sellable artefacts: ancient cities, covering an estimated surface area of 20 square kilometres, which – if properly excavated – could have provided extensive new information concerning the development of the human race.

“Humankind is losing its past for a cuneiform tablet or a sculpture or piece of jewellery that the dealer buys and pays for in cash in a country devastated by war. Humankind is losing its history for the pleasure of private collectors living safely in their luxurious houses and ordering specific objects for their collection.” [complete article]

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