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U.S. Labor Against War news
Source USLAW Coordinator
Date 07/07/24/20:29

* Statement of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers (GFIW) on the draft Oil and Gas Law
* Kurdistan petroleum law gets first reading in Kurdistan's parliament
* Iraqi Lawmakers Split on Oil Law
* Maliki raises oil worker wages
* Oil Law Sparks More Conflicts Among Iraqis

Translation of the Statement issued by the
General Federation of Iraqi Workers (GFIW)
on the draft Oil and Gas Law

To our great Iraqi people .. and the masses of the Iraqi working class ..

Iraq is rich with a variety of natural resources, in the forefront of which is the enormous oil wealth, that is the real nerve centre of the political and economic life of both Iraq and the world.

Iraq was among the founders of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in Baghdad in 1960, and issued Law No. 80 of 1961. Under this law, 95.5% of Iraqi territory, that had been under the control of foreign companies according to concession agreements, was expropriated. It lay the proper foundation for protecting the historic gains obtained by the Iraqi people through prolonged battles to regain control of their oil wealth. This law was the solid foundation that ensured success for oil nationalization in 1972.

The covetous designs of major industrial countries therefore continued, in particular American and British oil monopolies that were the first to obtain concession agreements in the Arab region more than 80 years ago. After our country had rid itself of such dominance over the past decades, these multinational corporations and oil monopolies are attempting to regain control of this important oil wealth under various pretexts and flimsy arguments.

Taking into consideration the great importance of oil and gas for the Iraqi economy, and in order to avert the fall of our economy in the trap of oil, it is necessary to adopt a strategy for national development, and to reconfigure the role of the oil sector in this economy through the effective application of coherent policies driven by a socio-economic strategy with clear objectives. This is achieved through linking the present to the future, so as to preserve this national wealth which belongs to all the Iraqi people. It is therefore is right of the Iraqi people to see the draft Oil and Gas Law, and to refuse to allow the fate of this national wealth; the wealth of future generations, to be decided behind closed doors.

The Iraqi public opinion, spearheaded by Iraqi workers, strongly oppose handing over the control of oil and gas to the multinational corporations whose goal is profit. This will have negative economic consequences for our national wealth at the expense of the Iraqi people, and will result in plundering this wealth under unjust long-term contracts.

Having seen the draft law, the Iraqi working class and trade union movement are very concerned about this law as it raises big problems and a host of issues that need to be tackled and reviewed in accordance with the national interest.

The General Federation of Iraqi Workers is putting forward the following points of view as part of its contribution to the debate about this draft law, to make it possible to develop proper Iraqi oil strategy and policies during the coming period, in the light of the nature of the current stage experienced by the oil industry:

First: To avoid hastiness in passing the Oil and Gas Law, so as to give more time for studying and discussing it in a technical and professional manner. The public opinion, civil society organizations, workers and vocational unions, and experts must be allowed to examine the draft law, along with oil cadres specialized in this area, in order to study it and improve it before being forwarded to the Parliament to consider its legislation.

Second: We demand that representatives of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers Iraq and vocational unions attend the discussions of the draft law for the purpose of enriching ideas and opinions relevant to legal items in this law. This is particularly so with regard to the provisions that require contracts to adhere to the Labour Law, the regulations and conditions for employing and developing Iraqi human resources, the proportion of Iraqi participation in these companies, regulating the importation of foreign labour, the responsibilities of investing companies to preserve the rights of individuals and workers, the compensation systems, and the relationship with the courts in the event of various conflicts arising.

Third: We reject, adamantly, the privatization of our oil national wealth and the Production Sharing Agreements (PSAs), and call for direct national investment in oil and gas by the Iraqi National Oil Company. We also call for supporting and developing the Ministry of Oil and its institutions in a comprehensive manner, and to benefit from international expertise and technology on the basis of service and administration agreements with companies that are technically efficient and capable, as needed.

Fourth: To re-establish the Iraqi National Oil Company and to give it preference in the award of contracts. Its tasks must not be confined to producing fields, but should be able to invest in the remaining fields: those discovered but not developed, or those partially developed. It should be granted the new exploration contracts. Law No. 80 of 1961 must not be repealed through handing over the oil fields that are not exploited to foreign companies on the basis of long-term contracts.

Respect for sovereignty and national wealth, including oil wealth, is to respect the laws of the country that serve the interests of its people politically, socially and economically, safeguard its future and the rights of individuals and groups, and preserve the assets of the state and the people.

Long live our great Iraqi people .. Long live the Iraqi working class that is fighting for free dignified life

Executive Bureau
The General Federation of Iraqi Workers

10 July 2007

Published in "Tareeq al-Shaab" (People's Path), the central organ of the Iraqi Communist Party, p.3, Sunday 15 July 2007.


[NOTE: It appears that the Kurds are not waiting for the Iraqi Parliament to adopt a Hydrocarbon Law. It may be they are seeking to place facts on the ground in order to preempt any limitations a federal law might impose. It also may be that they are acting with the encouragement of the U.S. in light of the resistance the draft Oil Law is encountering elsewhere in Iraq. It certainly signals that the Kurds do not believe an Oil Law will be adopted by the national Parliament before the summer recess.] >, 12:32:33 09 Jul. 2007

Kurdistan petroleum law gets first reading in Kurdistan's parliament

Erbil, Kurdistan-Iraq ( - Today Mr Adnan Mufti, the Speaker of the
Kurdistan National Assembly (parliament), announced the first reading of the
draft Kurdistan Region Petroleum Law. The law was transmitted from the
Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) Council of Ministers to the Kurdistan
National Assembly early last week.

"The Kurdistan National Assembly clearly understands the significance of
this long-awaited draft law", said the Speaker, after the first reading. "It
is vital to the future of the Kurdistan Region that we have a modern,
transparent, investor-friendly petroleum law that maximises returns to all
the peoples of Iraq."

The Speaker noted that the Secretary of the National Assembly confirmed last
Friday that the draft Law is consistent with the Kurdistan Region's rights
and obligations under the Iraqi Constitution, and is consistent with the
rights of the Kurdistan Region recognised in the draft Iraq oil and gas law
agreed in February and the draft Iraq revenue sharing law agreed in June.

The Iraqi Constitution, in Articles 111, 112, 115, and 121, specifies that
petroleum management is a Regional power, with Regional law taking priority.
The draft Iraq oil and gas law, agreed by the federal council of ministers
in February 2007, recognises the Kurdistan Regional Government's authority
to regulate petroleum operations in the Kurdistan Region. The draft Iraq
revenue sharing law, agreed in June 2007, provides for the equitable
distribution of all Iraqi petroleum revenues, including Kurdistan Region's
revenues, with a guaranteed allocation of 17% of those revenues to the
Kurdistan Region.

The Speaker confirmed the commitment of the Kurdistan National Assembly to
the Iraqi Constitution. "The Iraq Constitution was approved by more than 99
per cent of voters in the Kurdistan Region, and by nearly 80 per cent of
voters throughout Iraq", he noted. "It establishes a federal system that is
the only way forward for Iraq. It is clear from this draft Petroleum Law
that the Kurdistan Regional Government is committed to cooperating with
Baghdad and sharing all revenues from Kurdistan petroleum with the rest of

Mr Mufti also noted that the draft law had been the subject of a year of
hard work and consultations between the Assembly, the KRG Ministry for
Natural Resources, and the KRG Ministry of Justice. "I know how much care
has gone into this draft. The level of public consultation, including with
international experts, NGOs, and potential investors, both in the Kurdistan
Region and abroad, is particularly commendable. We look forward to further
discussions in the Assembly of this important Law."

After the first reading today, the Speaker referred the draft Petroleum Law
to the Legal Committee and the Financial and Economic Committee of the
Kurdistan National Assembly. Those committees will prepare a report on the
draft for the coming session of the Assembly, on a date to be determined,
for the Assembly to consider and vote upon it.

July 22, 2007
Iraqi Lawmakers Split on Oil Law

BAGHDAD, July 22 — Efforts to achieve national reconciliation in Iraq received a double blow on Sunday.

Lawmakers acknowledged that there were still many differences on a proposed law to manage the country’s oil, its most lucrative resource, making it unlikely they would approve a law before September, when the Bush administration must report to Congress on Iraq’s progress toward meeting certain legislative benchmarks. The report is expected to have an impact on whether Congress continues to support the Iraq war.

In addition, a suicide truck bombing north of Baghdad was apparently aimed at a meeting of Sunni tribal sheiks, who recently agreed to oppose extremists allied with Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a Sunni Arab group with some foreign influence. Five people were killed in the attack and 12 were wounded, Interior Ministry police officials said.

The group of tribal sheiks, called the Awakening Council, is similar to a group of tribal sheiks known by the same name in Anbar Province who had decided to turn against the extremist Sunni Arab elements on whose side they had fought in the past. Such attacks have become more frequent as the tribal sheiks have turned against the Sunni Arab extremists. An attack at the Mansour Hotel in Baghdad on June 25 killed four tribal sheiks from Anbar who were involved in a similar effort.

In Parliament on Sunday, several lawmakers outlined aspects of the oil measure on which lawmakers have yet to reach consensus. The law is one of a package of measures aimed at bringing together Iraqis from different sects and ethnicities, by sharing the country’s power and income. The lawmakers indicated that it would be difficult to complete work before Parliament left for its monthlong summer break at the beginning of August.

The oil law, which would set up a system for managing and developing Iraq’s oil resources and would have a companion revenue-sharing law that would apportion the oil income among the various groups, had been considered the most likely to be passed before the September report to Congress on progress in Iraq. But by the time the Iraqis return to Parliament in September, it is highly unlikely that they could meet the American mid-month deadline for reporting to Congress.

“The fact is that the political blocs haven’t reached an agreement,” said Ayad al-Sammaraie, one of the leaders of Tawaffuk, the largest of the Sunni Arab blocs in the Parliament. “What the government is doing can be described as dodging — the governmental bodies have not agreed among themselves,” he said referring to differences within the Iraqi leadership, which includes Shiites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds, about aspects of the law.

But there is a growing sense among a number of Iraqi leaders that all of the measures that constitute reconciliation should be handled as a package so that tradeoffs can be made among the political groups. “The Kurds want to approve a certain group of laws, like a national revenue-sharing law and a law to allow former Baath Party members to hold government jobs,” said Haider al-Abadie, a Shiite Parliament member.

The Sunni Arabs are also interested in addressing the laws as a package, Mr. Sammaraie said. “Today, we made a suggestion to invite the political blocs to discuss this with the presidency,” he said. They would discuss the laws as a political package and make a deal on all of them once. The proposals involved are the oil and revenue-sharing measure, a new de-Baathification law widening access to government jobs to members of Saddam Hussein’s former ruling party, which was dominated by Sunni Arabs, and a law scheduling provincial elections to choose representative governments so that Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds would be equitably represented.

In recent weeks, Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker has sought to play down the importance of completing benchmark legislation by September and has asked Congress instead to keep its eye on overall trends by Iraqi political leaders in their efforts to reach agreements.

“As I look at the legislative benchmarks, hydrocarbons and reconciliation, they are important, but my goodness they are very complicated,” he said in an interview two weeks ago. “And, frankly, I’m just not sure that it’s reasonable to expect they are going to bang these things out in a relatively short time frame. We’ve had a few difficulties of our own with things like health care, social security, immigration reform.”

“These are arguably of the complexity of those and may exceed them in the case of de-Baathification,” he said.

The Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, said Sunday that an anticipated new round of talks between the United States and Iran focusing on the security situation would be held on Tuesday in Baghdad, news agencies reported.

Violent attacks on Iraqis working for the United States government and its contractors has prompted the American Embassy in Baghdad to make a strong effort to find a way to help those people immigrate to the United States.

As reported in The Washington Post, Mr. Crocker has pressed the State Department to work on a legislative solution to the problem as well as to expand some regulations to make it easier for people to immigrate.

“The overriding effort is to be sure there’s a way to accommodate anybody who wants to immigrate,” said a Western diplomat in Baghdad, speaking on the customary diplomatic condition of anonymity.

Various programs allow Iraqis to enter the United States. It is possible to obtain refugee status, but that can take several years. A special immigrant visa program is available to people who work for the United States. Broadening that measure is what is under consideration.

Thousands of Iraqis are expected to want to move to the United States with their families because they have a credible fear of persecution, especially if the United States were to reduce its presence in Iraq.

In Baghdad, 16 bodies were found Sunday, said Interior Ministry officials. In Babil Province, southwest of Baghdad, the police said they found five bodies scattered over the northern area of the province where there has been fighting between Sunni Arab extremists and Shiite militias.

In Kut, a mostly Shiite city southeast of Baghdad, a translator who worked for the American military was shot to death, and in a separate attack, a local policeman was killed.

Wisam A Habeeb and Sahar Najeeb contributed reporting.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Maliki raises oil worker wages
Posted : Fri, 20 Jul 2007 18:54:56 GMT

BAGHDAD, July 20 Embattled Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is currying favor with oil workers, needed support from a faction that went on strike last month.

Maliki's Shiite and Kurd dominated coalition is weakening as violence increases and the Parliament struggles to hold sessions. Political parties are taking hold of the controversial oil law as a spear in Maliki's rule. It's stuck in negotiations between factions that want either a strong regional/local control over the important oil sector or a strong federal hand.

The oil unions are warning against allowing too much foreign access to the oil. They have demanded a seat at the law negotiation table, as well as improved worker conditions, and in early June stopped oil production to leverage their power.

Maliki reached a tentative agreement with the unions last month, and this week he gave the workers in the oil industry a raise of around two-fold.

"However, his clout within the Iraqi oil industry is limited," wrote Rochdi Younsi, an analyst for the business risk firm Eurasia Group, "and union leaders will continue to follow orders emanating from their respective religious and political leaders."

Younsi noted a threat by Planning Minister Ali Ghaleb Baban to resign if the Parliament moves forward with the oil law.

Copyright 2007 by UPI

Oil Law Sparks More Conflicts Among Iraqis
Walid Khadduri Al-Hayat - 22/07/07//

The draft Oil Law is sparking new conflicts among Iraqis, which is of course the last thing they need under the country's terrible political and security conditions. Three types of objections are at play: legal-constitutional, political, and professional-sectoral.
The opponents emphasize that Parliament should have dealt first with constitutional amendments, which include hydrocarbon-related items, before acting on a draft Oil Law. This is because of the contradiction and vagueness in constitutional articles about the prerogatives of Iraq's regions and governorates regarding the creation of laws and oil policies that take precedence over state laws regarding the sector.

Meanwhile, the political party groupings that participate in the political process are more divided than ever before about the seriousness of the draft legislation and the extent to which it will benefit Iraq. Many of these groups cite US pressures, both overt and covert, to enact the law as quickly as possible. In fact, according to the announced American agenda, it was supposed to have been passed at the end of May. The current debate in Washington is over whether Parliament's vote on the draft should take place before or after the legislature's summer recess, especially since Washington considers the issue one of fundamental importance, one of 18 benchmarks for the Iraqi government.
In fact, the government of Nouri al-Maliki endorsed the draft Oil Law on 3 July and referred it to Parliament. American pressure shifted from the Cabinet to the parliamentary blocs, to obtain their endorsement as well.

The overwhelming majority of Iraqi oil experts oppose the draft law because they see it as a document that reflects the country's current domestic political situation, which is based on "dividing up the political cake," and factionalism, rather than reflecting a modern system for promoting the oil industry. They believe it will harm Iraq's international standing when it comes to petroleum, since oil revenues might be much higher, and costs lower, than they are according to the proposed draft. This majority also criticizes the law's preference for supporting the interests of foreign oil companies over the national interest.

Meanwhile, Iraqi oil and legal experts fear the contradictions and vagueness regarding the federal government's role in drawing up an oil policy, the potential for divided policies among regions and governorates, and the negative impact on the industry's future natural growth, especially under the country's current situation in which corruption, theft and bribery are flourishing. One example of the vagueness and contradictions in the Constitution and the draft Oil Law is the lack of specified responsibilities in negotiating and concluding contracts with foreign firms. Are regions or governorates responsible for this? What about the Oil Ministry, the National Oil Company, or the Federal Council?

Another example of vagueness in the draft involves the nature and quality of contracts that will be signed with foreign oil firms. Although participatory production is not mentioned in the draft, there has been criticism of this practice, which is one means of concluding contracts in areas where oil fields have yet to be discovered. The goal here involves seeing foreign firms share risks and receive a certain percentage of the reserves if a new field is discovered, in addition to the already-fixed percentage of profits. These types of agreements exist in many oil countries, but in Iraq, there are fears, even though these types of contracts are not specifically mentioned, that agreements of this kind will be signed for around 80 fields that have been discovered, but that have not been developed or become productive. Foreign companies will thus obtain very high profits for fields that have already been discovered. The fear is that these fields will not be exempted from participatory production contracts. This debate could have been avoided had the draft law been clear regarding discovered fields, which some consider to be gigantic, containing huge reserves estimated at tens of billions of barrels.

The controversy over the law is expected to continue, in the absence of clear legislation. Washington's growing interest in enacting a law of this sort - as quickly as possible - is also strange, at a time in which security is lacking in the country, and in which Iraq is becoming a key arena of conflict in the war between the US and the al-Qaida movement (a world war into which Iraq was dragged by force, without its knowledge or consultation, but after its military and security institutions were dismantled). This was has produced dozens of casualties on a daily basis; more than 2 million Iraqis have emigrated or been displaced, equal to about 10 percent of the population. The Americans expect this war to last for a long time, meaning the possibility of even more destruction for Iraq's people and petroleum facilities. If foreign companies begin to invest more kidnapping and extortion is expected to occur, not to speak of attempted murder and destruction. Also, there are questions about the quality of the oil industry that can be built under such circumstances, and the foreign investment that can be attracted if the war and lack of security continue.

Iraq is certainly in dire need of a modern oil law, one that sees the country optimally exploit its huge level of available oil reserves, and increase its financial revenues from this vital resource, after a quarter century of wars, destruction and absence of oil investment. However, America's rushed dealings with the draft Oil Law, at a time in which Iraq has been dragged into a world war against terror, will not let the country develop its oil industry on modern foundations, and at a reasonable cost. This decision reminds us of the series of mistakes by the occupation in the spring of 2003, which began with the dissolution of the Iraqi Army, brought the country to the tragic security conditions that it sees today, and handed a defeat to US policy in Iraq, as well as the Middle East in general.

*An expert in energy affairs.

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