Welcome to Kalamna, the student blog of the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at NYU.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Iraqi Oil Issues

This past week has marked quite a flurry of activity for the Iraqi Oil ministry, as foreign militant forces allegedly took control of one eastern oil field, another group sabotaged a western pipeline and all throughout new deals were being struck with foreign companies for the rights to Iraq’s abundant black resource. While reports on the three events are still coming in, it appears as though the recent contract negotiations with foreign companies have precipitated the other violent acts. Let’s take a closer look at each incident below.
Along the eastern border of Iraq in the Maysan Province, there exists the Fakka oil field. This past week, the oil field was taken by what Iraqi officials described as an armed Iranian group, who subsequently raised the Iranian flag above the oil field’s tallest tower. Clearly a matter of disputed territory, many have attributed the events to the unclearly defined border between Iraq and Iran. Since the end of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, the border both countries share and its lack of definition has been a matter of continuous tension. On Friday, CNN reported that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki publicly denounced the incident and headed to a meeting with his National Security Council to determine the next course of action (http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/12/19/iran.iraq.oil.well/index.html). As of Sunday morning, the seizure was still taking place, but a committee had been established by the Iraqi government to facilitate negotiations with the armed group.
As for the sabotage issue: despite an eighteen month furlough on attacks (which had been common since the beginning of the war in 2003), attacks against Iraqi pipelines resumed this past autumn, according to a report by al-Jazeera (http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/12/2009122013166878529.html). Regardless, the most recent attack occurred just this past week against a pipeline controlled by the Northern Oil Company which leads to the Turkish port city of Ceyhan. Currently, the investigation is still pending on the attack, but it was released that a 55km section of the pipe was damaged and that it took place approximately 325km north of Baghdad.
What’s the point of citing these events? Well I doubt its mere coincidence that both of these incidents occurred on the same week as the finalization of ten oil deals with foreign companies to begin their extraction of Iraqi oil. The influence of the new companies on Iraqi exports will be massive. Reports have stated that the foreign companies, including Europe’s Royal Dutch Shell, will increase the production of oil from 2.5 million bpd (barrels per day) to 12 million bpd, rivaling Saudi Arabia’s production. However, as al-Jazeera notes, not everyone has endorsed the deals and even former Iraqi oil minister, Issam al-Chalabi, has stated that the deals may not be entirely legal since Iraq law requires parliamentary consent on such contracts that was not obtained. So is it possible that many people this week viewed the deals as an exercise in selling out to foreign exploitation, and consequently carried out the incidents above in protest? Maybe; of course they could also be totally unrelated. Not enough is known yet to say with any certainty. But the potential for protest of these deals is something worth considering, for us as students and for the Iraqi government alike.

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