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Hydrocarbon Law for Dummies

30 March, 2007

By Anwaar Hussain

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Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, who was in Japan last week for a four-day official visit, says U.S.-led coalition forces should be able to withdraw from his country in a year and half at the latest, a Japanese newspaper reported on Saturday.

“Personally, I think Iraqi security forces will complete reforms and training in a year or a year and a half. After that, the coalition troops will no longer be needed.” Hashemi was quoted as saying.

No longer needed, huh! Personally, I think that the Iraqi Vice President’s IQ and shoe size are about the same.

One hates to puncture the heartwarming, optimistic naivete of the Iraqi Vice President but the truth is that the U.S.-led coalition forces are not going any where, not for the next about 30 years at the minimum.

How, pray, has the scribe arrived at this conclusion, one may ask.

That, sirs, is a no-brainer. Read on.

Invisible in the smoke screen of civil war in Iraq, the current US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad has been working feverishly on Iraq’s first post-invasion Hydrocarbon Law.

The fancy name not withstanding, the law is simply about Iraq’s 112 billion barrels of proven, close to the surface and easily extractable oil reserves, the second largest in the world after Saudi Arabia, along with roughly 220 billion barrels of other probable and possible resources. Add to this another fact of equal importance. Iraq’s true potential is said to be far greater than this as the country has remained relatively unexplored due to years of war and sanctions.

The above mentioned two facts alone require an on-station presence of decades of some if not all four of the western oil giants i.e. Exxon, Chevron, Shell and BP.

Simple thus far, eh? Let us proceed onwards.

Khalilzad’s untiring efforts were rewarded recently by the passing of the proposed law by the puppet Iraqi government. The lolly in the law is hidden in some of its provisions that are said to be a “radical departure from the norm for developing countries”. And that is that under the new law oil majors such as BP and Shell in Britain, and Exxon and Chevron in the US, would be able to sign deals of up to 30 years to extract Iraq’s oil, a kind of contract which other oil producing countries do not want to touch by a mile long pole.

Zalmay Khalilzad is an interesting character. One recalls that Khalilzad was once an advisor to Unocal (Union Oil Company of California). A diehard Neocon, he keeps getting sent to places where the oil scent is up in the air. He was appointed as a special envoy to Afghanistan immediately after the invasion and occupation of that country along with another ex-employee of Unocal, Hamid Karzai. Karzai, though, made it to the President of that same country.

Together they drew up a risk analysis of a proposed gas pipeline from the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan across Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Indian Ocean. Previously too Khalilzad had participated in similar talks between Unocal and Taliban officials in 1997. What is relatively unknown is that while that project remained a ‘pipe dream’, Unocal quietly merged with Chevron Corporation on August 10, 2005, and became a wholly owned subsidiary.

So the gist of the story so far is that Iraq’s Hydrocarbon Law, passed recently by a weak Iraqi government, gives long term concessions to Western oil giants, among them not just Khalilzad’s but many Neocons’ former employers. These oil giants, however, cannot operate on their own in Iraq and need protection from ‘overzealous’ national and regional forces that tend to unbalance the gravy train.

That brings us to Anwaar’s First Universal Law of Hydrocarbon. It states, “Hydrocarbon at rest tends to stay at rest and Hydrocarbon in motion tends to stay in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by unbalancing forces.”

Something clearly needed to be done regarding the unbalancing forces.

Now here is a map of Iraq oil fields turned over by the Commerce Department, under a March 5, 2002 court order as a result of Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit concerning the activities of the Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force. (Click here for another map if the earlier link does not work).

And here is an interactive map of the dozen or so permanent American military bases coming up in Iraq with billions of dollars of US tax payers’ money. As of mid-2005, the U.S. military had 106 forward operating bases in Iraq, including what the Pentagon calls 14 “enduring” bases (twelve of which are located on the map) – all of which are to be consolidated into four mega-bases.

Please juxtapose Iraq’s oil map with that of the upcoming permanent American military bases, keep in mind the 30 years provision of Iraq’s Hydrocarbon law, tie it in with the other little fact of these bases being called ‘enduring’ military bases by Pentagon and try calculating a time frame for American forces’ withdrawal from Iraq.

Still not there? Ok here is one more modest piece of information that would surely lead the reader in the correct direction. And that is the little matter of the construction of the largest embassy of any country in any country the world has ever seen.

America’s largest existing embassy, covering 10 acres and consisting of five buildings, is in the world’s most populous nation China. With a population of around 25 million, Iraq’s headcount is just twice that of the state of Illinois. However, this fortress-like compound rising beside the Tigris River will be the largest of its kind in the world, “the size of Vatican City, with the population of a small town, its own defense force, self-contained power and water, and a precarious perch at the heart of Iraq’s turbulent future.”

The designs aren’t publicly available, but the embassy is rumored to be a self-sufficient and “hardened” domain able to house a staff of 8000 people, having its own water wells, electricity plant, wastewater-treatment facility, twenty-one buildings including two major diplomatic office buildings, homes for the ambassador and his deputy, apartment buildings for staff, a swimming pool, gym, commissary, food court and an American Club.

The embassy’s 104-acre parcel is “six times larger than the United Nations’ compound in New York and two-thirds the acreage of the Mall in Washington. Protected by 15ft thick walls, its security, overseen by U.S. Marines, will be extraordinary with setbacks and perimeter no-go areas that will be especially deep structures reinforced to 2.5-times the standard, and five high-security entrances, plus an emergency entrance-exit.”

Doesn’t look like the Americans are going any where any time too soon…not to the scribe at least.

The Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi needs to be reminded of Anwaar’s First Universal Law of Hydrocarbon. The invaders knew that all along but chose not to inform the gullible Iraqi Veep.

Thirty years are the minimum that are required to ensure that most of Iraq’s Hydrocarbon, if not to the last drop, stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction wherefrom came the invasion without being acted upon by unbalancing forces. The Barak Obamas, the Kucinichs, and the Nancy Pelosis of this world can climb the nearest trees, their public chest beating on the issue not withstanding. They all work for the same employers any way.

Any one out there that thinks otherwise?

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