Thursday, November 05, 2009

The price of oil

Oil revenue accounts for more than 90 percent of Iraq's annual budget, and much of the future planning was made when oil prices hit record highs in 2008, [United States Institute of Peace's Sam] Parker says. Now that crude prices have fallen, Baghdad feels new pressure to ramp up production: The Oil Ministry hopes to be pumping 6 million barrels a day by 2017.
This week has finally seen the first steps toward significant foreign investment. The winners of the June auction, U.K.'s BP and China's state-owned CNPC, signed a 20 year-contract worth $50 billion in investments Tuesday. Iraqi officials hope to increase production at Rumaila, a large oil field in the south, from 1 million barrels per day to around 2.8 million within six years. In a separate deal, Italy's Eni SpA formalized an agreement Monday to develop Zubair, another, smaller field in the south.
But [Eurasia Group's Greg] Priddy warns that even if elections in January go smoothly, "things don't fall apart" because of sectarian violence and Baghdad drives a softer bargain with foreign oil companies, it will still be five or more years before Iraq sees any major increases in production.
Even with more investment, Iraq still doesn't have enough engineers or institutional experience. While Saudi Arabia has half a century of oil expertise under its belt, brain-drain robbed Iraq of plenty of talent under Saddam Hussein and scared off more talent during the turbulent aftermath of the 2003 invasion.

The above is from David Gauvey Herbert's "Whatever Happened To Iraqi Oil?" (National Journal) and some of 'whatever happened' was noted in yesterday's snapshot:

Meanwhile Iran's Press TV informs, "Iraq has signed its biggest oil deal since the US 2003 invasion with Britain's BP and China's CNPC to develop the giant Rumaila oilfield. The 20-year contract is expected to triple production at the southern oilfield, from the current one million barrels per day (bpd) to around 2.8 million bpd within a six-year period." British Petroleum and China National Petroleum Company formed a consortium earlier this year during bidding on Iraqi oil fields and, unlike many other oil companies, they didn't bail out on the bidding right before it started. However, now other companies are rushing to get their hands on Iraqi oil despite the fact that the terms are the same ones so many foreign coporations found hard to swallow earlier this year. Stanley Reed (BusinessWeek) explains, "The big oil companies are reconsidering Iraq because they realize this may be among their last opportunities to get large volumes of crude. Britain's BP (BP), for instance, typically turns up its nose at anything below roughly 700 million barrels of reserves; Rumaila, about 30 miles west of Basra, may have 20 billion barrels of recoverable oil, BP estimates. Another field in the same class is West Qurna, located north of Basra, where a group including Exxon Mobil and Shell is competing against a partnership of ConocoPhillips and Russia's Lukoil (LKOH.RTS) for production rights."

This morning AFP reports that the Iraqi Oil Ministry announced today the awarding of a contract to Exxon Mobil for West Qurna 1 field: "West Qurna 1 currently produces about 279,000 bpd and has reserves of around 8.5 billion barrels, according to oil ministry figures." Away from the big dollar figures tossed around -- 'oh, so impressive' -- what's it like? Owen Fay (Al Jazeera) investigates (link is video, transcript to video follows):

Owen Fay: Children play on a street filled with sewage, live in homes surrounded by rubbish and grow up in villages displaying all of the signs of abject poverty. This is southern Iraq, just outside Basra and, by any measure, one of the wealthiest pieces of land on earth. Iraq has the world's third largest reserves of oil and the bulk of it is located right here. The government in Baghdad is in the middle of signing a series of deals with major oil companies from around the world worth billions and billions of dollars but people here have seen none of it.

Female Resident of Basra: We have not benefited from anything, we have nothing to show for it at all.

Own Fay: Instead, what they do have is widespread unemployment, intermittent electricity and wells filled with septic water.

Male Resident of Basra: Is this Iraq? This is an oil rich country? It is true that there is security now and that's much improved. Security is there but what's the use of that? It is true this is an oil country but as you can see can anyone live in this sewage water?

Owen Fay: Local government officials are circumspect about the major new deals being announced in Baghdad. They say they're not opposed to the oil companies coming here but they do have conditions.

Jabaar Amin (Head of Basra Provincial Council): If the contracts are beneficial to Iraq, we welcome them. If they subjugate us and take Iraq's oil wealth, we do not.

Owen Fay: Another set of oil auctions is due to take place next month. Big names like Exxon will get a chance to invest billions and right now assurances are being made that one of the conditions for any successful bid will be local and regional investment.

Shiltag Aboud (Governor of Basra): These companies will not only be contributing to the oil sector but will contribute to the economic, cultural and environmental situation in Basra too. They're not just going to be based at the fields far from everyday life. The impact on the city will be felt.

Owen Fay: If that does happen, it will be warmly welcomed but people here say they'll believe it when they see it. For now, they're deeply skeptical because as they look around what they see are international companies far more interested in what lies beneath this land than in the people who have to live on it. Owen Fay, Al Jazeera.

Iraq War veteran John LaBossiere died Sunday. Jackson Holtz (Everett's Herald) reports the 26-year-old's father, Phil LaBossiere, explained that his son "was fatally shot during a confrontation with a Lake Stevens police officer" and quotes the father stating, "We all loved him, and he did not understand that. He didn't understand that anymore. Unfortunately, when life ends like that it's too late to fix anything." Along with his father, John LaBossiere's survivors include his mother, his wife, their three kids and a brother Tim and the "memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at the Hope Foursquare Church, 5002 Bickford Avenue, Snohomish."

Meanwhile Missouri Governor Jay Nixon's office released the following yesterday:

Jefferson City, Mo. - Gov. Jay Nixon has ordered that the U.S. and Missouri flags on all state buildings in Platte County be flown at half-staff from Nov. 5 to Nov. 11 to honor the bravery and sacrifice of Major David L. Audo, age 35. Major Audo's immediate family resided in Platte City. Major Audo was a soldier in the United States Army who died on Oct. 27 while serving his country in Baghdad, Iraq.
In addition, Gov. Nixon has ordered that the U.S. and Missouri flags at state buildings in all 114 counties and the city of St. Louis be flown at half-staff for one full day on Thursday, Nov. 5, the day of Major Audo's funeral.
Major Audo was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 22nd Military Police Battalion, 6th Military Police Group, stationed out of Fort Lewis, Wash. His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal 2, the Meritorious Service Medal 3, the Army Commendation Medal 2, the Army Achievement Medal 4, the National Defense Service Medal, the Kosovo Campaign Medal with Bronze Service Star, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Bronze Service Star, the Iraq Campaign Medal with Bronze Service Star, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon 5, the NATO Medal, the Right Side Award - Navy Presidential Unit Citation, and the Air Assault Badge.

David died last week, two US service members' deaths were announced yesterday and US troops continue to deploy to Iraq. The war is not over. Robert Norris (Daily Times Staff) reports that the "Maryville-based Howitzer Battery, 1st Squadron" ("Tennessee's largest combat unit") is readying for their deployment to Iraq in February. WVLT speaks with 1st Sgt Mike Miller who states that the deployment has an effect on family dinners, "You certainly cherish it more. You build on those memories and take with you." Matt Lakin (Knoxville News Sentinel) explains "Iraq keeps getting closer for the soldiers of the Knoxville-based 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment" and that the service members first go to Camp Shelby December 5th for additional training before deploying to Iraq (and for some members, it will be their second tour of Iraq).

The following community sites updated last night:

And Marcia's "Equality," Trina's "The economy continues to be bad news," Ruth's "Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose," Elaine's "The Big Insurance Give Away," Ann's "Battle for Seattle" and Kat's "Janis Ian, Dennis Kucinich."

With Aimee Allison, David Solnit authored the must read Army Of None. David Solnit has now teamed up with his sister Rebecca Solnit, of Courage to Resist, for a new book and there's a new action.

Two things I'd like to tell you about:
ACTION: A Global Day of Action for Climate Justice on the ten year anniversary of Seattle WTO shutdown, Nov 30, 2009. Yesterday African delegates walked out of pre-Copenhagen trade talks in Barcelona demanding the US and rich countries commit themselves to deeper and faster greenhouse gas emission cuts and European activists blockaded the talks. The key fight over the future of the planet is taking place right now around climate; corporate market solutions are the new WTO and the US and the rich countries are undermining any efforts at climate solutions to avert even more catastrophic impacts. What could shift things right now is people in the US (doing what we did ten years ago) showing mass resistance to the US government and corporate capitalism's obstruction and false solutions. Please join one of the regional actions being planned in SF and around the US (details here soon) and sign up to take or support direct action and get your folks together now!

BOOK: AK Press asked me to make a book reflecting on the Seattle WTO shutdown from an organizers view. With my sister Rebecca Solnit, Kate and the AK Press collective workers, designer Jason Justice and contributions from fellow organizers we did it just in time for the ten year anniversary. Please support by buying a book , get ten at half-off, and pass on the announcement below.

hope and resistance, David Solnit

"To many mass movements in developing countries that had long been fighting lonely, isolated battles, Seattle was the first delightful sign that people in imperialist countries shared their anger and their vision of another kind of world." -- Arundhati Roy

AK Press is pleased to announce the release of a new book in honor of the tenth anniversary of the Seattle WTO protests: November 30, 2009

By David Solnit & Rebecca Solnit
with Anuradha Mittal, Chris Dixon, Stephanie Guilloud, and Chris Borte

From dawn to dusk on November 30, 1999, tens of thousands of people shut down the World Trade Organization meeting, facing cops firing tear gas and rubber bullets, the National Guard, and the suspension of civil liberties. An unexpected history was launched from the streets of Seattle, one in which popular power would matter as much as corporate power, in which economics assumed center-stage, and people began envisioning who else they could be and what else their economies and societies might look like.

The Battle of the Story of the Battle of Seattleexplores how that history itself has become a battleground and how our perception of it shapes today’s movements against corporate capitalism and for a better world. David Solnit recounts activist efforts to intervene in the Hollywood star-studded movie, Battle in Seattle, and pulls lessons from a decade ago for today. Rebecca Solnit writes of challenging mainstream misrepresentation of the Seattle protests and reflects on official history and popular power. Core organizer Chris Dixon tells the real story of what happened during those five days in the streets of Seattle.

Profusely illustrated, with a reprint of the original 1999 Direct Action Network's "Call to Action" broadsheet-- including key articles by Stephanie Guilloud, Chris Borte, and Chris Dixon -- and a powerful introduction from Anuradha Mittal, The Battle of the Story of the Battle of Seattle is a tribute to the scores of activists struggling for a better world around the globe. It's also a highly-charged attack on media mythmaking in all its forms, from Rebecca Solnit’s battle with the New York Times to David Solnit’s intervention in the Battle in Seattle film, and beyond. Every essay in this book sets the record straight about what really happened in Seattle, and more importantly why it happened. This is the real story.

David Solnit lived and organized in Seattle in 1999 with the Direct Action Network, a group co-initiated by the Art and Revolution Collective, of which he was a part. He has been a mass direct action organizer since the early ’80s, and in the ’90s became a puppeteer and arts organizer. He is the editor of Globalize Liberation: How to Uproot the System and Build a Better World and co-author with Aimee Allison ofArmy of None: Strategies to Counter Military Recruitment, End War and Build a Better World. He currently works as a carpenter in Oakland, California and organizes with Courage to Resist, supporting GI resisters, and with the Mobilization for Climate Justice West.

Rebecca Solnit is an activist, historian and writer who lives in San Francisco. Her twelfth book, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster, came out this fall. The previous eleven include 2007’s Storming the Gates of Paradise; A Field Guide to Getting Lost; Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities;Wanderlust: A History of Walking;As Eve Said to the Serpent: On Landscape, Gender and Art; River of Shadows, Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West (for which she received a Guggenheim, the National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism, and the Lannan Literary Award). A contributing editor to Harper’s, she frequently writes for the political site She has worked on antinuclear, antiwar, environmental, indigenous land rights and human rights campaigns and movements over the years.

Available now in electronic galleys. Contact Kate Khatib ( to request a copy for review. Please consider scheduling articles to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the Seattle WTO protests on November 30, 2009.


The Battle of the Story of the Battle of Seattle
is now available for preorder at the AK Press website, and will ship in mid-November. Individuals can get a 25% discount on the cover price (a modest $12) by ordering in advance. If, however, you or your organization is interested in buying copies in bulk at a wholesale rate, to sell or give away at upcoming events or convergences, we have a special deal for you!

Order 10 or more copies of The Battle of the Story of the Battle of Seattle by November 20, and get 50% off the cover price. Books will be shipped to arrive by N30. (Orders must be prepaid, and are non-returnable, except in the case of damaged books. Shipping fees vary based on location.)

Email for more information or to place an order, or simply place your order for 10 or more copies on our website, note *Special 50% off deal* in the comments box during checkout, and we'll apply the 50% discount before we charge your card.

Questions?, or call the warehouse at (510) 208-1700.

Battle of Seattle Cover


ISBN: 978-1-904859635

November 2009

5.5 X 8.5, 128 pages
40+ B&W Illustrations


AK Press

For more information or to request a review copy, please contact:

Kate Khatib
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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends