Iraq's Odious Debts

Discussions and protests at Iraq petroleum conference

Another Iraq
June 29, 2005

Around 50 protestors dressed as pirates beat drums and gongs and blew whistles in a demonstration outside the Iraq Petrolem conference held in the Hilton Hotel in London today.

“We are hoping to make us much noise as possible so they cannot make their nasty deals,” a spokesman for the demonstrators said. The protest was organised by Corporate Pirates, a London-based campaign group working to expose the corporate plunder of Iraq.

A leaflet handed out by the protestors claimed that debt relief in Africa, as in Iraq, is only granted in exchange for certain “conditionalities”; in most cases this means privatisation. The G8 countries have burdened Iraq with a odious debt accrued by Saddam’s tyranny. His debt is now likely to be used as leverage for the privatisation of Iraq’s oil reserves. As the illegal occupation of Iraq continues and Iraqis continue to suffer without clean water, electricity or food it is crucial that Iraq’s national resources are not used to line the pockets of multinational oil companies.

The two-day conference has been organised by Reading-based Entrac Petroleum Ltd., a training and knowledge transfer experts company. The sponsors include BP, The Arab British Chamber of Commerce, and Middle East Monitor.

A number of speakers from the Iraqi Oil Ministry and international oil companies gave their insights on the current status of the Iraqi oil industry and its future needs.

On the first day Dr. Sabah Muhmed, from the Iraqi Oil Ministry presented a historical review of the geophysical exploration activities in Iraq and future prospects of work required. Dr. Sigurd Heiberg, Farouk Al-Kasim and Leif Magne Meling, spoke about maximising reserves: experiences from Norway. Dr. Mohammad Al-Gailani of Geo Design Ltd. spoke about the Halfaya Field: A Twenty-First Century Super Giant – Not Yet Developed.

The conference was also addressed by Dr. M. Taki Al-Kamil, Supervisor of Chemical & Mechanical Engineering programs, Abu Dhabi Men’s College who detailed the man power requirements of Iraq’s oil industry and Dr. Hussain Ahmed of Halton College, UK who spoke about the environmental aspects of Iraq’s southern reservoirs.

Despite the clamour outside which attracted the interest of passers-by the conference was not disrupted by the protestors. The police sealed off street and police vans formed a cordon outside the entrance to the hotel.

The protest was organised in solidarity with the General Union of Oil Employees (GUOE) in Iraq who are resisting attempted privatisation by the occupying forces and supported by Iraq Occupation Focus, Voices in the Wilderness UK and the Stop the War Coalition.

When US-appointed governor Paul Bremer departed Iraq in June 2003, he left behind a series of ‘orders,’ which had been enacted during the previous year and which formed the basis for law-making in that time. On 19th September 2003, Bremer issued Order 39, under which foreign investors can own 100% of Iraqi firms and remove all subsequent profits from the country, exempting only the oil and gas industry and banking. Described by the Economist as a “capitalist dream,” the order proposed the privatisation of 200 state companies.

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