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Unravelling the Carbon Web is a project by PLATFORM. We work to reduce the environmental and social impacts of oil corporations, to help citizens gain a say in decisions that affect them, and to support the transition to a more sustainable energy economy.

Iraqis oppose oil development plans, poll finds

Further setback for US / UK as Iraqis reject oil privatisation

PRESS RELEASE from War on Want, Oil Change International and PLATFORM
Monday 6 August

(Full poll results below)

Iraqis oppose plans to open the country’s oilfields to foreign investment by factor of two to one, according to a poll released today. Iraqis are united in this view: there are no ethnic, sectarian or geographical groups that prefer foreign companies.

The poll also finds that most Iraqis feel kept in the dark about the oil plans – with fewer than a quarter feeling adequately informed about aproposed new law to govern Iraq’s oil sector.

This poll is the first time ordinary Iraqis have been asked their views on the contents of the oil law, which has been debated by Iraqi politicalparties for over a year. The US government is pressing Baghdad to pass the oil law by September, as one of their “benchmarks”. [1]

At the centre of the oil law is a proposal to give multinational oilcompanies such as BP, Shell and Exxon the primary role in developing Iraq’soilfields, under contracts of up to 30 years.

Yet 63% of poll respondents said they would prefer Iraq’s oil to be developed and produced by Iraqi public sector companies rather than foreigncompanies, with 32% of those indicating a strong preference. Only 10% strongly preferred foreign companies, and 21% moderately.

Only 4% of Iraqis feel they have been given ‘totally adequate’ informationfor them to feel informed about the oil law. A further 20% describe information provision as ‘somewhat adequate’, and 76% as inadequate.

According to the analytical report, by US-based Custom Strategic Research[2]:

“The lack of credible information on the content and consequences of the draft Oil Law and on the debate surrounding the future of Iraq’s oil resources is likely to undercut the legitimacy of both the process and any law that it ultimately produces”.

he lack of information is especially significant, given that those most informed about the oil law plans are the strongest opponents. Last month, more than 100 of Iraq’s most senior oil experts wrote to the parliament, calling for changes to the oil law. Meanwhile, workers in the oil sector have been consistently critical of the law. [3]

The survey was commissioned by a group of development and human rightsorganisations, including War on Want, Oil Change International and PLATFORM. [4]

Louise Richards of War on Want commented,

"The British government maintains our troops invaded and occupy Iraq to free its people from dictatorship so that they can decide their own future. But the government and UK companies plan to plunder its oil despite opposition from the great majority of Iraqi citizens. David Miliband says the Foreign Office is there to help use British assets to build a better world. Now he should match his words with action to heed this clear message from Iraqis."

While critics suspect the USA’s real motivation is the contracts for American and international companies, US officials have stated that they see the law as a reconciliation measure, designed to unite Iraq’s ethnic and sectarian groups in a common vision of how to develop their oil. Ironically, the law has indeed united Iraqis – in opposition to theprivatisation proposals.

* The poll was carried out in June and July by KA Research, and coordinated and analysed by Custom Strategic Research. It was based on face-to-faceinterviews with 2,200 Iraqis in all 18 provinces.

Notes for editors

1: In President Bush’s new strategy, announced in January 2007, he set a number of political benchmarks, to be achieved by the Iraqi government, inparallel to the surge in US troops. Progress on these benchmarks will be reported to the US Congress in mid-September. US officials have strongly emphasised the oil law benchmark, on repeated visits to Baghdad – including Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and head of Central Command Admiral William Fallon.

2: The report is available at:http://priceofoil.org/iraqi-oil-law-poll-june-july-2007/

3: The experts – all with many decades of experience in the Iraqi oil sector, and including four former ministers – have criticised the rushing of the oil law. They have called for the law to be delayed until after thereview of the constitution; they state that now is not the time to sign long-term contracts, due to the security situation; they insist that (contrary to the law) any contracts should be reviewed by the parliament; and they warn that the law may create a fragmented and ineffective oil industry.

The Iraq Federation of Oil Unions represents 26,000 workers in the oilsector: more than half of the workforce in the southern four provinces of Iraq. They have consistently criticised the oil law for handing control to foreign companies, and undermining Iraq’s sovereignty.

4: The poll was sponsored by:

UK: Iraq Occupation Focus; Jubilee Iraq; PLATFORM; War on Want; Voices

USA: Global Policy Forum; Institute for Policy Studies; Oil Change International

 

Poll results

Iraq: Public Opinion Survey, June/July 2007

1. Iraq holds 10% of the world's proven reserves of crude oil, and possibly much more. Do you believe that wise use of Iraq's oil resources can provide Iraqis and your children with prosperity?
1. Yes 81%
2. No 7
3. Don't know 12

2. In the coming decades would you prefer Iraq's oil to be developed and produced by Iraqi state-owned companies or by foreign companies?
1. Strongly prefer Iraqi state 32%
2. Moderately prefer Iraqi state 31
3. Moderately prefer foreign companies 21
4. Strongly prefer foreign companies 10
5. Don't know / none of the above 5

3. In February the Iraqi Council of ministers approved a draft Oil Law concerning the future development of Iraq's oil sector. This law is currently before the Iraqi Parliament. How much information has the Iraqi Government provided you regarding the contents of this law:
1. A lot 9%
2. A little 33
3. Not very much 30
4. None at all 28

4. Has the level of information provided by the Iraqi government on this law been adequate for you to feel informed on this issue?

1. Yes, totally adequate 4%
2. Yes, somewhat adequate 20
3. No, somewhat inadequate 36
4. No, totally inadequate 40

Methodology and analysis available at:http://priceofoil.org/iraqi-oil-law-poll-june-july-2007/