THE PLANK JANUARY 18, 2007
In his radio address last Saturday, President George W. Bush described "benchmarks" that "the Iraqi government must meet...or lose the support of the Iraqi and American people." Second on the list after "taking responsibility for security in all of Iraq's provinces" was "passing legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis." That sounds pretty good: a guaranteed annual income for all Iraqis. But that's not exactly what the oil law is about.
Earlier today, the Iraqi Oil Ministry announced that the law had been drafted and would be submitted to the cabinet next week. While the entire draft was not made public, details of it have leaked out. The law contains two parts: one, which Bush was referring to, distributes oil revenues among Iraq's provinces and central government; the other revokes nationalization of Iraq's oil industry, which dates from 1972, and opens it up to investment by foreign companies. White House spokesman Tony Snow confirmed that the new law would "no more [create] a nationalized oil industry [in Iraq] than the hydrocarbon law in Alaska makes Alaska a fiefdom of petrosocialism."
According to the British newspaper, The Independent, the law, which an American consulting firm BearingPoint helped to draft, would establish "production sharing agreements" by which companies would receive 60-70 percent of revenues until they recoup their investments and 20 percent afterwards. That would make Iraq just about the best deal in the world for an oil company. There's only one trouble: the Iraqi government that signs the agreement may not be around to enforce.
--John B. Judis