Posted by Reidar Visser on November 12, 2009
In many ways, today’s story in The New York Times on Tawke-gate serves to corroborate the account of events already conveyed earlier by Norway’s Dagens Næringsliv (DN). In particular, the impression that it was the Norwegian oil company DNO (rather than the KRG) that awarded a stake in the Tawke oilfield to Peter Galbraith back in 2004 is strengthened in the article, and there are interesting remarks by Abd al-Hadi al-Hassani, one of the few officials close to the Maliki administration who has had the courage to comment publicly on the affair so far. Also, it is refreshing that the NYT, which in the past has given ample space to Americans advocating a soft partition of Iraq, has chosen to publish this kind of critical perspective on one of the leading intellectuals of the soft partition crowd.
Perhaps the single most significant piece of new information in the story is the confirmation that Peter Galbraith, whose consultancy work for DNO in 2004 has previously been revealed by DN, also received payment from DNO in 2005, “throughout the constitutional negotiations in 2005 and later.” On this aspect, Iraq’s former ambassador to the UN, Feisal Amin al-Istrabadi comments to the NYT as follows: “The idea that an oil company was participating in the drafting of the Iraqi Constitution leaves me speechless”. Istrabadi emphasises that DNO in practice had “a representative in the room, drafting.”
It is often not realised how secretive and closed those final negotiations of the Iraqi constitution in August 2005 really were. A good description has been offered by Jonathan Morrow of the USIP:
“After August 8, constitutional negotiations took place in a series of private, ad hoc meetings between Kurdish and Shiite party leaders – the “Leadership Council,” as it was termed by the international press, or more informally by Committee members, “the kitchen” (matbakh). In its basic form, the Leadership Council consisted of SCIRI leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, Shiite Dawa party leader Prime Minister Jaafari, Kurdish PUK party leader President Jalal Talabani, and Kurdish KDP party leader Masoud Barzani. These meetings took place at irregular intervals at a number of private residences and compounds in the International Zone. These were meetings at which the Sunni Committee members had no right of attendance, to which they frequently requested attendance, but were not often invited. The expectation was quite clear: the Shiite and Kurdish parties would agree to a constitutional text, which would then be presented as a fait accompli to the Sunni Arabs, who would be asked to take it or leave it.”
Someone who was admitted to these meetings, however, was Peter Galbraith, the paid DNO consultant and stake-holder in the Tawke oilfield. Again, according to Morrow, “the Kurdish parties were able to invite into the ad hoc meetings experienced non-Iraqi international negotiators and constitutional lawyers, including former U.S. diplomat Peter Galbraith and University of Maryland Professor Karol Soltan, to advance the Kurdish case.”
It seems Galbraith was doing more than just “advancing the Kurdish case”: The Iraqi constitution adopted in October 2005 for the first time establishes a regional role in administering the country’s oil sector, more or less on the lines advocated by Galbraith in a policy paper from early 2004. It is noteworthy that the KDP draft constitution for Iraq from 2003, by way of contrast, accorded exclusive sovereignty to Baghdad in administering the oil sector. Today’s revelation that Galbraith also received payment from DNO, a foreign oil company, when he was sitting in on those sensitive Iraqi constitutional meetings in August 2005 where the regional role in the oil sector was established, takes the whole Tawke-gate affair to unprecedented levels of scandalousness.