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Iraqis reject foreign control of national oil assets

An opinion poll released in August found that Iraqis oppose plans to open the country's oil fields to foreign investment - by a factor of two to one.

The poll, conducted by US- based Custom Strategic Research, found that there are no ethnic, sectarian or geographical groups that prefer foreign companies.

Oil democracy

The poll also found that most Iraqis feel kept in the dark about future oil plans. Only 4% of respondents felt the information they'd been given about the oil law was “totally adequate”; 76% described the information as “inadequate”.

63% of respondents said they would prefer Iraq's oil to be developed and produced by public sector rather than foreign companies, with 32% indicating a strong preference. Just 10% strongly preferred foreign companies.

The poll, commissioned by a coalition of US and British NGOs including PLATFORM, Iraq Occupation Focus, Jubilee Iraq, War on Want and Voices in the Wilderness UK, is the first time ordinary Iraqis have been asked their views on the contents of the oil law, which has been debated by Iraqi political parties for over a year.

For a generation

The US government is pressing Baghdad to pass the oil law this month, as their top “benchmark”. The law would see multinational oil companies such as Shell, BP and Exxon take the primary role in developing Iraqi oil for a generation.

The law, represented as a reconciliation and revenue-sharing measure, would actually exacerbate existing sectarian tensions by regionalising economic policy and empowering forces which seek to redraw the political and religious map of the country.

Oil accounts for 95% of all government revenue - it is the economic future of the country.

Opposition

Opposition to the law is widespread. Last month, more than a hundred of Iraq's most senior oil experts wrote to the Iraqi parliament, calling for changes to the oil law.

Workers in the oil sector have been protesting and threatening strikes over the oil law.

July saw hundreds of workers from the Iraqi Pipeline Company take to the streets of Basra.

Organisers the 26,000-strong Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU) said the passing of the law “would abolish sovereignty and hand over the wealth of this generation and the generations to come as a gift to the occupier”.

On 18 July, the Minister of Oil ordered the IFOU's Basra HQ to be shut down, and ordered Iraqi oil companies not to recognise or negotiate with the federation.

Hands Off Iraqi Oil: 07749 421 576; http://www.handsoffiraqioil.org/

Topics: Iraq