Perspective: Pumping Iraq
What does a war for oil look like? American troops going into battle with tanks waving "Exxon Mobil" and "Chevron" flags right behind? Are the flags then planted squarely in the ground and the oil beneath officially declared war bounty? Well, some members of the Bush administration and U.S. oil companies may have favored such an approach. But the device ultimately chosen to win this war for oil is only slightly more subtle: a law, to be passed by the Iraqis themselves, which would turn Iraq's oil over to foreign oil companies.
The U.S. State Department Iraq Study Group began laying the foundations for the new law prior to the invasion of Iraq. Its recommendations, released only after the invasion, were quickly enshrined in a draft oil law introduced to the interim Iraqi government by the U.S.-appointed interim prime minister of Iraq, Ayad Allawi (a former CIA operative).
The Bush administration has spent four years trying to force successive Iraqi governments to pass the law, referred to as either the "hydrocarbons" or "oil" law. While it has gone through several permutations, the basics have remained the same and have followed the original prescriptions set out by the State Department.
The law would change Iraq's oil system from a nationalized model -- all but closed to U.S. oil companies -- to a privatized model open to foreign corporate control. At least two-thirds of Iraq's oil would be open to foreign oil companies under terms that they usually only dream about, including 30-year-long contracts.
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