Friday, July 20, 2012

Exxon, Chevron and Ramadan

Yesterday, Nouri al-Maliki attempted to seize control of the news cycle but, as is so often the case with Nouri, lost instead.  He insisted that the White House had conveyed, in a letter, their support for his attempts to cancel the October contract the Kurdistan Regional Government signed with ExxonMobil.  No such thing happened.  But some outlets live to be sucker-punched.  Let's note one of the few who realized that journalism involves skepticism of official statements.  Here's Kristin Deasy (Global Post) on those claims:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki claimed late Thursday to have received a message from US President Barack Obama indicating that the US sided with Baghdad in its deepening row with Kurdistan over the management of the northern region's oil resources, reported Reuters.
The message from Baghdad -- which did not quote the alleged Obama letter directly or provide any copy of it -- welcomed the "positive" US position on the matter, which it said was "in the same manner as the Iraqi government is seeking," said Reuters.

To repeat, in the United States, there is no state control over oil companies.  In Iraq, Nouri's lies can fly somewhat because that country has a history of nationalized oil companies.  As a result, a casual news consumer would hear of Nouri's claim and think nothing of it.  But in the US, where it's far more likely that a multi-national oil company will control the government than the goverment ever control an oil company, that claims is laughable on its face.

In October, ExxonMobil and the KRG signed their contract.  Nouri's Baghdad-based government played angry, spurned lover sending one letter after another to ExxonMobil, each basically screeching, "How could you!  After all we've been through!"

As Iraq's Minister of Oil confirmed in early 2012, ExxonMobil elected to ignore those letters and not respond.  And Nouri had nothing else to offer.  So last month he began making noise that the US government -- specifically the White House (Nouri has always been hugely unpopular in the US Congress) -- should break ExxonMobil's contract.

Which again demonstrates how stupid and not ready to be prime minister Nouri actually is.  The White House has no control over ExxonMobil.  And this was conveyed to Nouri -- as the Iraqi press noted.  But with US Vice President Joe Biden's National Security Adviser Antony Blinken in Iraq, Nouri decided to spin the visit.  It would have been laughable on any day but it was especially laughable yesterday when another major multi-national oil corporation elected to bypass Baghdad and sign with the KRG.  David R. Baker (Fuel Fix) notes:

Chevron Corp. will hunt for oil in northern Iraq’s Kurdish region — the company’s first major effort in the volatile country since the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
The deal, made public Thursday, lands Chevron squarely in the midst of post-war Iraq’s bitter oil politics, with rival regions and ethnic groups fighting over how to develop the country’s vast petroleum reserves. Chevron faces significant risk, and the potential of great reward.

As the Washington Post notes, kicks off the holy day of Ramadan is arriving.  Kitabat notes that there are calls for the government to grant leave for employees on days when the temperature reaches 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit).  While the sun is up, those observing the Muslim holiday are supposed to fast.  Before sunrise and after sunset, those observing the holiday can eat.  However, food prices are rising in Iraq.  Alsumaria is the latest this week to report on the sharp increase in prices for basic items such as lentils.  The Ministry of Commerce is insisting that they got materials to the stores in time so any increase in prices is not their fault.  The article also notes that the high prices might make Ramadan slowly disappear as a part of Iraqi life -- as other habits have been forgotten in Iraq.  It seems unlikely that Ramadan could disappear from Iraq but then come reports about how hard it is for some to observe it.   Al Mada notes that unemployment is also a huge issue during the holy month and only more so when the food prices increase.  They speak with Hani Rseg who is a construction worker and tells the paper that he didn't get any wages for four months because contractors rarely get paid on time and when money did come in, there was electricity, gasoline, water and other things to pay for and only now is he able to shop for Ramadan.  Police officer Ahmed Radhi al-Hleaj states that he's paying a car loan and wouldn't be able to afford Ramadan except that he's taken on a second job working as a taxi driver.

Alsumaria notes that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is calling on Iraqi Muslims to watch the crescent moon this evening to determine whether Ramadan is starting.

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