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November 28, 2007

Kurdish Oil
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

So, not only is the Kurdish Regional Government undermining any chance of a national oil sharing agreement by signing a bunch of contracts with foreign companies, their doing it with the help of a whose who of former Bush Administration officials.

Two top Kurdish leaders are a long way from the mountains of northern Iraq this week.

On Monday night, Omer Fattah Hussain was the toast of a dinner held at the 10,000-square-foot McLean mansion of Ed Rogers, a Reagan White House political director and current chairman of the lobbying firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers. In an opulent living room just off an art-filled entryway with a curved double stairway, the deputy prime minister of the Iraqi Kurds' autonomous region mingled with such luminaries as former assistant secretary of defense Richard Perle, former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby and former White House press secretary Tony Snow.

This is actually very important because it significantly decreases the chance of ever getting a national oil deal and essentially signals to the Iraqi Central Government that the Kurds have given up on ever getting this done.  The Iraqi Oil Minister has declared these deals illegal and threatened to exclude any company that is doing business with the Kurds from getting any contracts in the rest of Iraq.  To which the Kurdish Oil Minister responded, "We don't need his approval, every time we hear the word 'illegal,' we sign two more contracts."

Meanwhile, the company that started this latest round, against the objections of the State Department, is Hunt Oil.  Naturally, the company's CEO is on the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and a major Republican contributor.

Also the Iranians and Turks might not be too happy about this bit:

According to one person at the meeting, the officials warned that some of the blocs being offered by the Kurdish government lay outside its territory and might extend into Turkey or Iran.


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The Kurds want to move beyond the Shia-Sunni rift, which shows no indication of ever being resolved, so they go off on their own with oil contracts. The Kurds will send 83 percent to Baghdad and keep 17 percent, which are the same terms as under the proposed national law which is currently stalled. Those percentages are after expenses, which in a corrupt society at war can be substantial. That's the rub, besides the sovereignty and control issues. Who gets to rake 'commissions' off the top.

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The Kurdish regional government said yesterday that revenues would be held centrally and distributed throughout the country, according to a formula agreed in the Iraqi Constitution.While the big oil companies waited for Baghdad to agree rules for foreign investment, smaller independent companies flocked to the Kurdish region, attracted by the local authorities’ willingness to do exploration deals on profit-sharing terms.

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