Shell 'stealing Iraq's future' protest

21 May 2007 - 6:15pm
Press release

Oil giant Shell will face accusations on Tuesday that it is seeking to steal Iraq's economic future, in a protest by Iraqi and British campaigners at its annual shareholder meeting.

The campaigners, from the Hands Off Iraqi Oil coalition [1], argue that since the start of the Iraq war in 2003, the company has been at the forefront of efforts to influence Iraqi oil policy. The protest comes as an oil law is being considered by the Iraqi parliament, proposing that multinational companies take the lead role in developing Iraq's oil, under contracts of up to 30 years.

Sabah Jawad, of Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation, said: "The proposed oil law is designed to occupy Iraq economically after its military occupation by the United States and Britain. 'No Blood for Oil' was one of the main slogans of the anti-war movement. The war has already claimed the lives of over 650,000 Iraqis. How many more Iraqis must die for Shell, BP and other oil companies to make even more super-profits?"

If the oil law is passed, it could allow Shell to return to the country after more than 35 years' absence. Shell and other foreign companies were thrown out in the 1970s, after 45 years of extracting oil on what Iraqis saw as the unfair terms of the colonial era.

Campaigners accuse Shell of using the clout of UK and American forces to shape Iraq's oil future:

 

  • In March 2003, just days before the bombs started falling on Baghdad, senior company managers met officials at 10 Downing Street to insist there should be a "level playing field", that Iraq's oil should benefit not just US companies, but European companies too. [2]
  • From February to September 2003, the former head of Shell USA was hired by the Coalition Provisional Authority to begin restructuring the Iraqi oil industry. [3]
  • In 2004, the company hired an Iraq lobbyist with a job description which called for "a person of Iraqi extraction with strong family connections and an insight into the network of families of significance within Iraq". [4]
  • Shell is one of six oil companies sponsoring a lobbying effort, supported by the British government, pressuring the Iraqi government to grant long-term contracts that would give them exclusive rights to extract Iraq's oil, along with potentially unlimited profits. [5]
  • Shell first saw, and gave its comments on, the new law last July - eight months before members of the Iraqi parliament. Since then, the UK government has worked hard to influence the law, consulting with Shell and BP on the type of contracts they would like to obtain. [6]

 

War on Want Chief Executive Louise Richards said: "Iraqi trade unions have stated that the contracts Shell seeks are a 'red line' they will not allow to be crossed. They completely oppose foreign control over their oil, and the loss of Iraq's national wealth to company profits. It should be for the Iraqi people to decide the future of their oil. Yet, while Shell has been commenting on the draft oil law since July, Iraqi civil society has been excluded from the drafting process, and has not even been consulted."

Jonathan Stevenson, of Iraq Occupation Focus, said: "Iraq's economy is totally dependent on oil revenue. The real tragedy is that even while Iraqis are enduring enormous suffering, Shell hopes to remove their hope of future economic development. As long as Iraq remains occupied by British and American troops, it is absolutely unacceptable that multinational companies should seek to exploit that situation, by signing long-term contracts. Decisions about Iraq's natural resources should be made only when Iraq is fully sovereign, and able to defend its own interests".


Notes for journalists

[1] Hands Off Iraqi Oil is a UK coalition which opposes any foreign exploitation of Iraq's oil reserves that rips off the Iraqi people. It comprises: Corporate Watch, Iraq Occupation Focus, Jubilee Iraq, Naftana, PLATFORM, Voices and War on Want. It is also part of an international coalition which includes sister campaigns in the US and Italy. In Britain the campaign is targeting BP and Shell. See www.handsoffiraqioil.org.

[2] Financial Times, 11/3/03, 'Oil groups eye stake in wake of conflict'

[3] Phillip Carroll was hired as senior oil adviser

[4] Advertisement published by recruitment agency Glenn Irvine International, August 2004. See http://www.carbonweb.org/showitem.asp?article=141&parent=9

[5] The lobbying effort is being carried out by the International Tax & Investment Center. See its report 'Petroleum and Iraq's Future', at http://www.iticnet.org/publications/Iraq-book.pdf

Documents obtained by PLATFORM under the Freedom of Information Act and from other sources show that:

 

  • Foreign Office and Treasury officials advised ITIC in late 2004 on their strategy for influencing the Iraqi government.
  • The British ambassador to Iraq formally sent ITIC's lobbying document to the Iraqi finance minister.
  • A British diplomat helped organise a meeting in Beirut in January 2005 at which the oil companies put their case directly to ministers and officials of the Iraqi Ministries of Oil, Finance and Planning. See http://www.carbonweb.org/showitem.asp?article=257&parent=39

[6] Foreign Office minister Kim Howells told Parliament on 19 February 2007 that the British government has worked on Iraq's oil law, having consulted with multinational oil companies on what type of contracts the companies think should be available (answer to parliamentary question by Alan Simpson MP).

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