Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Save the drama

When Iraqi outlets get the story wrong on yesterday's State Dept press briefing -- and they are getting it wrong, they have the excuse that Iraq has been a model of state oil, meaning the oil companies were run and owned by the government prior to 2003.  So they can be excused for not grasping just how different that system is with what the US, France or England (to list only three) have.

There is no excuse for news outlets -- international ones or US ones -- to get it wrong.  The headline of UPI's article is both melodramatic and confusing to those who are not used to anything but state oil companies "U.S. warns oil majors of risks in Iraq."  As the article starts the melodrama of the headline quickly evaporates but it's already done the damage and some are left with the image of the US government taking oil companies to the wood shed.

That never happens.

It can be, and has been, argued that the US government is so at the mercy of the oil companies that they would start and continue an illegal oil for war. 

Here's the pertinent section of yesterday's State Dept press briefing -- Nuland is spokesperson Victoria Nuland:

MS. NULAND: I mean, our position on this has not changed. We've spoken about it many times here. We speak about it in Iraq. With regard to our own companies, we continue to tell them that signing contracts for oil exploration or production with any region of Iraq without approval from the federal Iraqi authorities exposes them to potential legal risk, and we continue to tell them --  obviously, they'll make their own business decisions, but unless and until we have federal legislation in Iraq governing these things, something that we've been urging, that there are risks for them. So that's our message to our companies.
QUESTION: Did you raise this issue with the companies directly?

MS. NULAND: We do. When they come to us and ask what we think, then we raise this issue with them, yes.

When they come to us and ask what we think?  How often do you think that is?  How often do ou think Shell Oil is in the middle of a business decision and says, "Wait, wait!  Hold everything!  Get DC on the phone! Find out what the White House thinks!"

When the US and international press resort to hyperbole it can be very confusing to people who have not spent years living under the US system.  We've even allowed here before that Nouri, despite all his years in exile, may himself be confused by what it is the White House is promising to do.

Pretend for a moment that multi-national oil companies wrongly considered to be "US oil companies" actually were.  Even were it trure that they were located in the US, that they paid full taxes to the US government, they still would not be controlled by the US government under the US system.

The press has a role: To inform.  Entertain?  Not really.  The US  broadcast networks try to pass off entertainment as a core principle of journalism to justify the happy talk that eats away at their morning infotainment shows.  When your entertainment can potentially misinform, you need to choose a career: Journalism or entertainment.  (And here's a little hint to the press, most of you do not have the looks for a career in entertainment.)

AFP would do well to grasp that and to stop opening supposed news reports with statements such as this, "The United States said Monday that oil companies should not bypass Iraq’s central government after authorities in the autonomous Kurdish north signed dozens of deals with foreign energy firms."  The US government doesn't get to "should" business anything unless business breaks the law (and even then, as Wall Street and the current administration have demonstrated -- or Blackwater for that matter, the government just looks the other way).  There were no "should"s in Nuland's statements.

Geraldine Amiel (Marketwatch) reports on Total's latest buy-in in the KRG oil market and notes, "The French oil company hopes the current situation will simply deflate, allowing it to remain in Halfaya and keep its assets in Kurdistan, said the person familiar with the matter. They have adopted a wait-and-see stance, hoping that the Baghdad authorities, after much outcry, will leave things as they are, the person said."

On the subject of oil Mayada Daood (Niqash) reported last week:

In a country where the unemployment rate has caused mass demonstrations, one local economist believes that Iraq lacks thousands of skilled workers for the oil industry – and that this is preventing progress in the all-important oil industry.

It is the lack of skilled local labour in Iraq’s oil and gas industries that is preventing this all-important industry from progressing the way it should. At least, that is the opinion of Iraqi economist, Abdul Rahman al-Mashhadani, who heads the Mustansiriya Centre for Arab and International Studies, part of Mustansiriya University in Baghdad.

Al-Mashhadani estimates that, in order for Iraq to reach its much vaunted target of 12 million barrels of oil a day by 2017, the country needs another 150,000 skilled workers for the oil industry.

“We cannot achieve our great ambitions with the number of workers we have now,” al-Mashhadani told NIQASH. “The difference between the number of skilled workers needed and the actual number of skilled workers Iraq has accounts for the many foreign labourers here. There are hundreds of foreign workers in places like Basra and Amara, where much of Iraq’s oil is being produced.”

The following community sites -- plus LAT, Black Agenda Radio, Adam Kokesh, Watching America, IVAW, Jane Fonda, Pacifica Evening News and Susan's On The Edge -- updated last night and this morning:

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.