There was one particularly significant comment in Tim Spicer’s interview with the Guardian at the weekend:
I don’t subscribe to the view that there is a civil war going on, but if the coalition left it could very easily disintegrate into one. The Iraqi security forces are not ready to take control. And therefore there would be a very significant increased role for private security – protecting critical infrastructure like oil, power station and water supplies, otherwise the insurgents will blow them up. (Guardian)
This sounds a lot like the EO/Sandline business model devised by Spicer’s old patron, Heritage Oil director Tony Buckingham. I’ve quoted Madelaine Drohan’s description of that model before, but it’s worth repeating:
Through my investigation, I learned that Tony Buckingham had been making a practice of introducing Executive Outcomes to weak and unstable governments in need of armed support. These governments often hired the mercenaries to retake prime resource areas in their countries — diamond mines in particular — from rebel forces. Once these areas were back in a government’s control, mineral concessions were awarded to multinational corporations. When it was revealed that some of these corporations were associated with Buckingham, he was accused of employing armed force to acquire mineral riches, much as the imperial chartered companies had done a century before. Buckingham never talked to the media, but his spokespersons insisted that there was no connection between the introductions Buckingham had made to the governments of Angola and Sierra Leone and the subsequent arrival of DiamondWorks in those countries. (Random House Canada)
Heritage, of course, has an oil deal in Iraqi Kurdistan, a prime resource area if ever there was one. Interestingly, a Lebanese news service called Tactical Report has been reporting that this contract is embroiled in a dispute between the Kurds and Baghdad, and the FT has now picked up the story.
Sources close to Oil Minister Husayn Al-Shahrastani says he does not want to provoke any problems with the Kurds. He rather prefers to leave the matter to the Iraqi government to decide about it.
But he thinks the Kurds should not make any deals that do not meet the terms, conditions already set by the Oil Ministry in Baghdad.
He intends to respect all the rights of oil companies if their deals with the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) meet the required conditions. But in the meantime, he confirms that all contracts will remain illegal until they are approved by the Oil Ministry in Baghdad. He is confident that Kurds will cooperate with him to sort out the matter. (Tactical Report)
Iraq’s newly appointed oil minister said on Tuesday that the central government should handle all contracts related to petroleum exploration and production, putting him on a potential collision course with the autonomous Kurdish region which has recently begun to develop its own oil resources.
Hussein al-Shahristani also said at a Baghdad news conference that the country hoped to pass an investment law soon to bring in foreign investment to upgrade the country’s battered oil infrastructure. (Financial Times)
Spicer’s comments suggest a scenario with foreign mercenaries fighting it out for control of oil fields may not be far away. The real model for the new Iraq may be Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.