Iraq Oil Law May Fail

But we’ve got a $20 that says Junior and/or Big Dick (and their little army) will intervene to make sure it doesn’t. Remember, they’ve made some pretty big promises to their buddies in the US oil industry.

Iraqis resist U.S. pressure to enact oil law
By Tina Susman, Times Staff Writer
May 13, 2007

Foreign investment and Shiite control are the primary concerns. A White House deadline for passage is in doubt.

BAGHDAD — It has not even reached parliament, but the oil law that U.S. officials call vital to ending Iraq’s civil war is in serious trouble among Iraqi lawmakers, many of whom see it as a sloppy document rushed forward to satisfy Washington’s clock.

Opposition ranges from vehement to measured, but two things are clear: The May deadline that the White House had been banking on is in doubt. And even if the law is passed, it fails to resolve key issues, including how to divide Iraq’s oil revenue among its Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni regions, and how much foreign investment to allow. Those questions would be put off for future debates.

The problems of the oil bill bode poorly for the other so-called benchmarks that the Bush administration has been pressuring Prime Minister Nouri Maliki’s government to meet. Those include provincial elections, reversing a prohibition against former Baath Party members holding government and military positions and revision of Iraq’s constitution.

Republican leaders in Washington have warned administration officials that if the Iraqi government fails to meet those benchmarks by the end of the summer, remaining congressional support for Bush’s Iraq policies could crumble. Their impatience was underscored Wednesday by Vice President Dick Cheney during a visit here.

“I did make it clear that we believe it’s very important to move on the issues before us in a timely fashion, and that any undue delay would be difficult to explain,” Cheney told reporters.

But Iraqi lawmakers show little sign of bending to accommodate Bush on an issue as crucial as oil.

“We have two clocks — the Baghdad clock and the Washington clock — and this is a perfect example,” said Mahmoud Othman, a lawmaker from the semiautonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. “This has always been the case. Washington has been pushing the Iraqis to do things to fit their agenda.”

Iraq is believed to have some of the world’s largest oil reserves, about 115 billion barrels. The country’s 2007 budget is based on predictions that oil proceeds will reach $31 billion, 93% of the government’s revenue.

But war and political instability have kept production down. Just before the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, production was 2.6 million barrels per day. U.S. officials predicted a rapid rise to 3 million barrels. Instead, Iraq often has struggled to push the daily total to 2 million barrels because of obsolete equipment and security problems.

The oil law is supposed to change this by opening the industry to foreign investors who could modernize equipment and increase production. U.S. officials hope that spreading oil profit fairly across the country would cause instability to ebb.

Iraq’s cabinet, the Council of Ministers, approved a draft oil measure in February. From there, it was to go to parliament. U.S. officials predicted passage would be quick, but it has stalled.

The objections are as vast and technical as the measure itself and reflect the wider problems facing Iraq: regional distrust of the Shiite-led central government; wariness of foreign interest; and anger toward the United States, which many Iraqis believe invaded Iraq solely to get its hands on the oil.

Read the rest here.

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