09-04-07 by dugan
The media’s Iraq focus this week is on Gen. David Petraus’s predictable one-hand, other-hand report on the progress of the "surge." Yet there’s little Western-media reporting from Dubai and Istanbul, where a series of oil industry-sponsored conferences (here, here and here) is cementing ties between oil executives and Iraq’s chief energy ministers. Chevron, Shell and other "gold-level sponsors" can hit all three meetings on one first-class airfare and the hotels are certainly more comfy in the UAE and Turkey than in Iraq. Plus you don’t get shot at while landing.
It’s hard to blame editors in the U.S. for taking a pass on covering these conferences. The Iraqi Parliament may never get around to passing a law that governs development of vast oil reserves. As an Iraqi government spokesman at the Dubai conference ending today told the AP , "Security is not stopping investors coming to Iraq, (it is because) they have no laws to protect their investment."
Iraq’s fractured Parliament is rightly suspicious of the central government’s proposed giveaway of oilfield control to Big Oil. But the government itself is more a collection of warring factions and graft collectors than a cabinet, failing even to protect the shoddy oil infrastructrure that remains.
Yet, why three oil conferences right now? It may be that when they were planned, everyone assumed the Iraqi oil law would be passed. But with or without the law, relationships–and promises and "advisory payments"–are being developed out of sight of public reporting. Americans should take a look at the violence and corruption of the oil business in Nigeria to see what’s all too likely in store.