The significance of oil in relation to Iraq rumbles on as an unresolved argument. I was under the impression that access for foreign companies was not currently an issue. According to an article by J Steele in The Guardian this is not the case.
"Glad tidings from Baghdad at last. The Iraqi parliament has gone into summer recess without passing the oil law that Washington was pressing it to adopt. For the Bush administration this is irritating, since passage of the law was billed as a "benchmark" in its battle to get Congress not to set a timetable for US troop withdrawals."
The emphasis in relation to the oil law in the western press has been on revenue sharing between Kurds, Shia and the Sunnis. According to the article:
"The law that Washington and the US oil lobby really want would set the arrangements for foreign companies to operate in Iraq's oil sector. Independent analysts say the terms being proposed are far more favourable for foreign oil companies than those of any other oil-producing state in the region, including Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. They all impose some safeguards for the national interest, whether it is having a national company that controls production; specifying in contracts the maximum level of foreigners' profits; limiting foreigners to a small number of fields; or insisting that disputes are arbitrated in local rather than international tribunals. Other big oil countries, including Russia and Venezuela, insist on parliamentary approval for contracts covering "strategic" fields or for joint ventures.
Platform, an oil industry watchdog, warns that the Iraq oil and gas law could "sign away Iraq's future". Greg Muttitt, its co-director, says: "The law is permissive. All of Iraq's unexploited and as yet unknown reserves, which could amount to between 100bn and 200bn barrels, would go to foreign companies.""
Let us forget about the 200 billion barrels, the Iraqis will be carefully watching the 49 billion that they know they have - perhaps until this oil law is passed.
Together with sacking the army and the police, allowing looting, the US plans for Iraqi oil have always been a major candidate as a cause for the present mess in Iraq. It appears that pressure to allow access to an Iraqi resource continues.
"Whether the issue came up in Camp David this week is unclear, but the British government's role - like that of most western governments - has not been good. Working closely with the Americans, British officials in Baghdad saw drafts of the law before the Iraqi parliament. Britain supports the IMF line that Iraq's final tranche of Saddam-era debts cannot be forgiven until Iraq has a law permitting foreigners a role in the oil industry."
That sounds very much like "you must give away your oil industry before we will forgive the debts that Saddam incurred" - a strange way to bring liberation to a downtrodden population?