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An open letter to the international oil companies operating in Iraq, a decade after the U.S. invasion of Iraq

Ten years after the U.S. invasion of  Iraq, which was undertaken ostensibly to overthrow the former dictator and to promote human rights and democracy, we see that a more essential, long-term goal was for international oil companies to acquire control over Iraq's newly privatized oil resources, creating a  "liberated" Iraq that would serve as an economic model for a "New Middle East" and spread neo-liberalism throughout the region.

The project has been a failure on all fronts.

Those who suffer the consequences are Iraq's citizens. Their country is wracked by violence and mounting sectarian conflict. Their rights are violated. Vital services – water and electricity – are unavailable, while international oil companies receive priority access to these scarce resources, and operate under long-term contracts to develop Iraqi oil fields, that were signed while Iraq was still occupied.

All this comes at the expense of Iraq's national oil companies. It has further aggravated an already troubled relationship between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the central Government of Iraq. And, with their narrow focus on increasing production and profits, international oil companies have shown little regard for public accountability or the rights of workers in Iraq.

These companies' frenzied quest to extract ever greater quantities of oil has led to an acceleration of the rampant corruption that now afflicts Iraq. Since the arrival of the companies, bribery and irregular accounting practices have become the norm in the Iraqi oil industry. The companies have not carried out proper planning and resource management but rather are overseeing wasteful policies that deprive future Iraqi generations of their birthright.

And, these companies are working without a national Iraqi Labor Law that would protect Iraqi workers' rights to join unions, bargain collectively, and organize strikes, protests and demonstration. Their policies punish workers and deny them rights that are internationally recognized and guaranteed in many of the nations in which the international companies are incorporated.

Therefore, we strongly urge that all international oil companies operating in Iraq:

1 – Respect the sovereignty of the Iraqi people over their natural resources, and noting the lack of legitimacy of their contracts, to relinquish any claims to rights over Iraqi oil.
2 – With oil companies now having taken the place off foreign troops in compromising Iraqi sovereignty, set a timetable for their withdrawal, while transferring technology to Iraq's national oil companies.
3 – Stop exacerbating tensions between the Kurdistan Regional Goveernment and the central Government of Iraq, by ceasing to exploit oil until a stable national accord has been achieved, supported by all Iraq's citizens.
4 – Promote transparency in the oil sector in Iraq, by publishing details of all contracts and ensuring Iraqi citizens' access to information about Iraqi oil resources and their development. This is vital to end the corruption that has become rampant as a result of the presence of international oil companies in Iraq.
5 – Support the passage of an Iraqi Labor Law that guarantees all Iraqi workers rights that are in accord with the highest, international standards and that protects their freedom of association and their right to strike.
6 – Adopt clear policies to protect the Iraqi environment and agree to utilize appropriate, advanced equipment to monitor the effects of your companies' activities on the soil, water and air in Iraq.
7 – Agree that the security and protection of personnel and equipment in all Iraqi oil fields should be exclusively under the authority of national Iraqi security forces. These responsibilities should not be assigned to private security companies that are based in other nations and that undermine the sovereignty of Iraq. 

 15th of February 2013  

The Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative and Iraqi unions:

Adnan Al-Saffar for the General Federation of Iraqi Workers (GFIW) and its oil&gas union
Abdulla Malik for the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU)
Abbas Kadhim for the Engineering Professions Union (Electricity Section-Baghdad)
Abdullatif Abdul Rahman for the Federation of Salahaddin Unions


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