Monday, May 07, 2007

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- May 7th edition

May 7, 2005: A suicide car bomb targeting a passing civilian contractor convoy explodes, killing 22. Among the dead: 5 Iraqi school girls who had been boarding a school mini-bus a dozen yards from the massive blast

May 7, 2002:

Oil tumbles on news from Iraq

Crude oil prices tumbled yesterday after Iraq declared that it would stick to its plan and begin producing oil again on Wednesday after a month-long hiatus.

The resumption of exports signals an end of Iraq's protest against what it considered Israeli hostility against Palestinians in the West Bank. Iraq had dangled the prospect of continuing its hiatus if hostilities continued in the region.

By early afternoon in New York, Nymex WTI crude June futures had slipped 85 cents to Dollars 25.77 a barrel. A UK bank holiday meant Brent crude did not trade.

Even so, analysts considered yesterday's crude price relatively high - especially when weighed against unusually high US inventories, said Jan Stewart, head of research for global energy futures at ABN Amro Inc...

Iraq's announcement also rocked US energy company share-prices - including ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco and Halliburton - which fell across the board yesterday morning on the New York Stock Exchange.

From the Financial Times

May 7, 2003:

Cheney oil firm widens Iraq role

Halliburton, the company formerly run by the US vice-president, Dick Cheney, has been granted a far broader role in Iraq than previously disclosed and is already operating oilfields in the country, the US army admitted yesterday.

Kellogg Brown and Root, a Halliburton subsidiary, is pumping up oil despite earlier claims that its contract with the American government was for fighting oil fires, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers told the Guardian.

The bigger role, said corps spokesman Scott Saunders, was being exercised "due to the needs of the Iraqi people". About 125,000 barrels a day were produced, he said, for domestic purposes only.

The revelation came after Henry Waxman, a Democratic congressman, published correspondence in which the army said KBR's emergency contract allowed for its involvement in "operation of facilities and distribution of products". The existence of the contract, awarded with no competition before the war, was made public only in March.

But General Robert Flowers' letter also disclosed that similar terms could be included in a follow-up contract, reported to be worth $600m (£375m).

Wendy Hall, a Halliburton spokeswoman, said the company had made the scope of the contract clear in March. Yesterday she added: "We are proud to help restore Iraq's oil infrastructure."

Read the rest at the Guardian

May 7, 2004:

Indians call U.S. job sites in Iraq 'slave camps'

VELICHAKKALA, India – Last summer, an agent for an Indian recruitment company offered what seemed like the chance of a lifetime to Abdul Aziz Hamid and his younger brother Shahjahan.

For an $1,800 fee, the recruiter promised to get the two young south Indian men jobs as butchers on a military base in Kuwait for two years, they said. With salaries of $385 a month, a small fortune by Indian standards, they would join more than 3 million Indians already working in the Persian Gulf and enriching their families back home.

They mortgaged a relative's house and land, paid the fee and flew to Kuwait in August with two of their friends.

What they say they encountered when they got there exploded across the front pages of Indian newspapers this week, with one headline declaring "Indians Abused in Iraq" in "U.S. Slave Camps."

Within days, the brothers said, they and the others found themselves on a U.S. military base in northern Iraq working for a subcontractor of Kellogg, Brown & Root, or KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton. They said their supervisor, who had taken their passports in Kuwait, told them they were obligated to work on the base for six months and could not leave.

Working alongside 200 other laborers, from India, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, they first cleaned American latrines and then washed American dishes, the brothers said. Their pay was roughly $150 a month, they said, less than half of what the recruiter had promised.

"We were in hell," said Shahjahan, who returned here with his brother last week.

Read the rest at the San Diego Tribune

May 7, 2005:

Pentagon Revises Contractor Rules

The Pentagon issued new regulations this week governing the conduct of civilian contractors who accompany soldiers overseas, including thousands providing security, fixing equipment and cooking meals in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In explaining changes in the rules, which were proposed in March 2004, the Pentagon said there was an "urgent need" for them. Pentagon and industry officials said yesterday that the rules codify existing policies and informal practices but disagreed about whether they will be enough to address all the difficult issues that have arisen with the increased number of civilians, many of them armed, working in a war zone.

The final regulations, published Thursday in the Federal Register, state, for example, that military "combatant commanders" will establish a plan to protect the civilian workers, unless the company's contract says otherwise. It is also up to the military commander to decide whether the contractors can carry government-issued or privately owned weapons and wear military clothing.

For the first time, the rules will allow the military to track the number of contractors accompanying troops overseas. Some of the provisions do not apply to foreign employees hired by the defense contractors, the explanation of the rule noted. They take effect June 6.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

May 7, 2006:

Rise of private security companies in Iraq creates regulatory quandary

BAGHDAD (AP) — A half-dozen armored sport-utility vehicles with guns pointed out the windows careen onto Baghdad's busy airport highway, bringing traffic to a screeching halt.

Iraqis have learned to keep a wary distance from the convoys of foreign guns-for-hire in mirrored sunglasses and bulletproof vests, who have a reputation of firing at any vehicle that gets too close because of the ever-present danger of suicide bombers.

Iraqi officials accuse many of the companies providing protection in violence-plagued Iraq of being a law unto themselves, prompting a flurry of attempts to better regulate an industry that is expanding rapidly around the world.

South Africa and Britain are proposing tough new laws governing the participation of their nationals in foreign conflicts. Humanitarian groups are trying to identify gaps in international law. And the industry itself is pushing greater self-regulation.

Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, who oversees the activities of private security companies, accuses them of being "militias." Some companies counter that Jabr, who has himself been linked to a private Shiite force accused of widespread abuses against Sunni Muslims, is contributing to the problem by refusing to register security contractors.

Since militaries were slashed at the end of the Cold War, private companies have been a growing presence on the world's battlefields, performing jobs conventional forces can no longer handle. It is a hugely competitive, multibillion-dollar industry, with clients ranging from governments and blue-chip corporations to warlords, drug cartels and terror groups.

In Iraq, at least 20,000 contractors — local and foreign — are guarding coalition bases, protecting U.S. officials, training Iraqi security forces and interrogating detainees. They also protect businessmen, journalists and humanitarian workers, among others.

Read the rest at USA Today