Alternet’s Joshua Holland reported recently, “If passed, the Bush administration’s long-sought ‘hydrocarbons framework’ law would give Big Oil access to Iraq’s vast energy reserves on the most advantageous terms and with virtually no regulation.” The framework law proposes to hand over effective control of as much as 80 percent of the country’s oil wealth.
A recent poll showed that all Iraqi ethnic and sectarian groups across the political spectrum oppose the principles enshrined in the oil law, and 419 Iraqi oil experts, economists and intellectuals recently signed their names to a statement expressing grave concern over the bill. The head of the Iraqi Federation of Union Councils said recently, “If the Iraqi Parliament approves this law, we will resort to mutiny.”
While the Bush administration has prodded the Iraqi government to pass the oil-sharing agreement, few members of Congress have voiced alarms over the details in the current bill. Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) recently told ThinkProgress that more attention needs to be paid to the oil legislation. “Who knows what’s in that,” he said. Sestak continued:
The indications from a draft of several months ago that the Kurds were using, is that…there is an undue ability of our oil companies to control the Iraqi profits by controlling the infrastructure and the wells that are there.
I mean they [U.S. oil companies] are going to get much more, if the draft is correct, of profits than we would under a normal oil sharing agreement, of these oil companies to a country like Saudi Arabia or others. Heaven forbid that at the end of this time, after all this, if we find out that there’s undue advantage given to our oil companies.
In the interview, Sestak also distanced himself from the opinions of Michael O’Hanlon and Ken Pollack. “Even though I have great respect for Michael O’Hanlon and Ken Pollack and their article in the New York Times, I disagree,” said Sestak. He said the security improvements that are being made in Anbar actually pre-date the escalation. Moreover, he argued these improvements in one part of the country don’t mean much if political success can’t follow:
The political situation is the absolute end game. Because even though you might be able to have an improvement in the military security, how long do we have to be there to change the minds, to the change the hearts of the Iraqis?
REP. JOE SESTAK (D-PA): Who has set the metrics of what success is, that, for example, General Petraeus will come back and report, as we heard him give an update two to three weeks ago at the Pentagon via VTC on how we’re doing there. We at Congress should help establish those benchmarks, so what we’re listening to are very sound metrics that can be compared against benchmarks or trends. Take the weapons that you bring up. At one time, we just thought that there might be, which is still a lot, 30,000 missing. Now, 197,000 missing. I don’t think anyone who understands Iraqi society is very surprised that these weapons, which often we have to give to Iraqi citizens, be found to be missing. But the fact that you can’t even track it with proper serial numbers, so that if we find that this Iraqi militia strike, you find a number of weapons there, there’s no serial numbers or others to follow it up, is dismaying. There are so many pieces, so many complex pieces to this Iraqi situation, that I say this tragic misadventure has so many misadventures within it, and this shows the failure of accountability. And that, in my mind, begins at the very top, from the president, who has changed the reasons why we went into Iraq, right through to our senior policy makers, and even those who are our senior leaders of our military, that have to step back and say “how did we permit ourselves not to protect the armed services from bad judgement, from the failure to be accountable,” as General Shenseki did, and as he said it would take 200,000 troops to bring about this issue. Take just one other example. The oil sharing, the hydrocarbon sharing law, that’s trying to be worked through parliament. Who knows what’s in that. Many people believe we might have gone into this war for oil. I think we went in for a variety of reasons. But the indications from a draft of several months ago that the Kurds were using, is that while we’re pushing, even as the Democratic Party is pushing, to say that progress made on the hydrocarbon sharing law, is something that will be a positive benchmark, if we make it. What’s involved in that power sharing. Is it just to make sure the right revenues were there, or as the draft the Kurds were using, actually shows that there is an undue ability of our oil companies to control the Iraqi profits by controlling the infrastructure and the wells that are there. I mean they’re going to get much more, if the draft is correct, of profits than we would under a normal oil sharing agreement, of these oil companies to a country like Saudi Arabia or others. Heaven forbid that at the end of this time, after all this, if we find out that there’s undue advantage given to our oil companies. As I mentioned just earlier, there is the power of our military and the power of our economy that we’re respected for. But the power of our ideals is where we’re admired. That lady sitting in New York harbor means something. C’mon in and believe in these ideals. That’s what I fought for, for 31 years, and I’ll be dismayed if we don’t do that more. And that’s why this issue that you bring up on arms is important. What kind of accountability do we put in. Could we do it, because they didn’t listen to Gen. Shinseki to have the right amount of troops there, if you were to do this, to have the ability, the manpower, to make sure the things were implemented appropriately.[...]
The political situation is the absolute end game. Because even though you might be able to have an improvement in the military security, how long do we have to be there to change the minds, to the change the hearts of the Iraqis? So that is, you redeploy, like we saw in the papers today, as the British did in Basra, sectarian violence is still there significantly. What is it that will attract parties, leaders in Iraq, not to agitate their militias to violence. What is the incentive to bring in regional nations that have influence, like Iran, not to have undue, destructive influence, but constructive influence. That’s why I believe a date certain. Much like Samuel Johnson said, although it’s not a great quote at times perhaps, “there’s nothing like the prospect of a hanging to focus the mind.” We need to ensure that as the Iraqis, who have had 32 ministries, by which they’re able to pursue their personal fiefdoms, their personal ambitions, under cover of US military security and political security. And those fiefdoms, and their fights and personal ambitions, are being reflected now in the south, in Basra, those three armies there, fighting among themselves and their issues. When do we say, “wait a minute, you have to understand we won’t be here to permit you to do this, stand up and take responsibility.” So, even though I have great respect for Michael O’Hanlon and Ken Pollack and their article in the New York Times, I disagree. Not that, I disagree that there hasn’t been some improvement, particularly in Anbar province in security, which actually began last fall, not, not just since the surge. But that enough should have been brought out, even though it was mentioned at the end of the article, that what does this really bode for political accomdation. The concern I have, is that we’ve abdicated to a four star general, the whole tone of the debate in September. He’s to come in, where it’s supposed to be a president, president’s report, to say “here’s what happened in the military situation.” Where’s the template, the context, for the political measures of success, as Sunnis withdraw from the government. Or as when i was there with Sen. Hagel, and we went to Anbar province several months ago, saw the improvements in security, in the Sunni part, but as they looked to the East, and wanted to be part of the government. We went to the East because the Baghdad government was saying “nah nah no, ” and we asked them, what about the re-Baathification law, that’s supposed to bring them back into the government, the unified government. And the highest levels, after meeting with Prime Minister Maliki and other senior levels, the highest levels of government told us, it was only appeasement to the Sunnis and not important. How long do we keep our men and women there, until we change the incentives to make them say “whoa whoa whoa,” we’re not going to have you have your only personal feelings, believes run a government while our men and women are dying for you. We’re going to set a date – it’s gonna take us a certain amount of time, and it will take a certain amount of time, I’ve gone through the plans, the planning aspects of it, you know, minimum probably 15 up to 24 months, but to say, we’re going to set a date. Here’s your incentive to begin to step to the plate. And Iran, you don’t want, as our National Intelligence Council said, a failed, fractionalized government, or Iraqi state, because you don’t want that instability to overthrow. And bring them together with confidence, by we remain in the region, in our bases we have in several countries there, and on our carrier battle groups and things they do, and deal with confidence in the political,diplomatic sphere. That’s the change in strategy. The last arrow in the arsenal that for some reason we have not used. The road out of Iraq is through Tehran. We need to deal with confidence with that country, we can do it. And when I say engage with them, I mean with consequences for bad behavior on the diplomatic and economic side. You saw the riots that ensued, just last year, early July. That came out because they had raised the gas prices from 25 to 38 cents. We’ve got a lot of ability to influence their behavior. And we should be about that business so the behavior becomes positive. Because the incentive that they want, we won’t be in that country.