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A Weak Attempt at Rebuttal: Galbraith (2009) Is Contradicted by Galbraith (2006)

Posted by Reidar Visser on Monday, 16 November 2009 10:03

GalbraithNYT2006

The NYT has previously been generous in offering space to Peter Galbraith and may have felt it had some explaining to do to its readers. The above example is from 9 July 2006

“Innuendo.” “Absurd.” “Offensive.” Those are the words employed by Peter Galbraith over the weekend in an attempt to dismiss the charge that he had an impact on the shape of Kurdish demands in Iraq’s constitutional negotiations back in 2005. After a front-page, above-the-fold story in the New York Times last week, the Tawke-gate saga has for the first time attracted the attention of US mainstream media in a big way and Galbraith is gradually becoming more talkative.

Galbraith now maintains that his role for the Kurds back in 2004 and 2005 was that of a mere facilitator who had no impact on the formulation of Kurdish goals and ambitions as such – which in his view means that it was also unproblematic for him to simultaneously have a consultancy contract with the Norwegian oil company DNO, which began operating in the Kurdish areas of Iraq at the time. He has added that the fact that his “business arrangements” were known to the Kurdish leadership meant it was unproblematic for him to sit in on key meetings related to the constitutional process in the summer of 2005. Galbraith stresses that he “did no drafting”.

The fundamental problem for Peter Galbraith is that there exists a detailed published account that tells a very different story. Moreover, this source is authored by someone who was extremely close to those events back in 2004 and 2005 and probably knew a lot about what was going on – Peter Galbraith himself. In his book The End of Iraq, published in 2006, Galbraith recounts in considerable detail how he not only made an impact through shaping Kurdish demands, but also how almost all of his suggestions were verbatim inserted in the Kurdish negotiating proposal of February 2004 that later was to have such a great impact on the Iraqi constitution that was eventually adopted in 2005.

On p. 160 of his book, Galbraith describes his own arrival on the scene in 2003 as follows: “While they had secured support from the Iraqi opposition for federalism, the Kurds had yet to think through some practical issues. What powers would belong to Kurdistan and what to the central government in Baghdad…Who would control the police and security forces? And there was the all-important issue, who would own the oil of Kurdistan?”

Galbraith then goes on to bemoan the “conceptual problems” of the Kurdish leaders before he describes the liberating effect of memos written by himself from the summer of 2003 onwards. His choice of verbs tells the whole story: “I urged”… “Kurdistan should”… “I argued”. Among his demands was the following: “Kurdistan should, I argued, own and manage its own oil resources”. Summing up his contribution, Galbraith remarks on p. 161: “These ideas [referring to his own proposals] eventually became the basis of Kurdistan’s proposal for an Iraqi constitution”. The reader clearly gets the impression that Galbraith’s role was a decisive and even a transformative one – an interpretation that makes sense also on the basis of a comparison with the previous and much less radical constitutional proposal by the Kurdish leadership from 2003 (where in article 59.4 Baghdad was given control of “all kinds of armed forces”, and in article 59.11 the oil sector was similarly described as the prerogative of the central government).

Galbraith2006

In his own words: Galbraith describes his influence on the constitutional process in Iraq in his book from 2006

Later, on pp. 166–67 of his book from 2006, Galbraith describes how his own more detailed proposal in early 2004 was more or less copied wholesale by the Kurds to form their negotiating position as defined in February 2004. He summarises his paper Special Provisions for the Kurdistan Region of Iraq which is also reproduced in toto in an appendix to the book on pp. 225–29. These proposals – which included the key distinction between existing and future oil fields that would later enable stronger regional influence over new oilfields in the 2005 constitution and which forms the basis for the current dispute between Baghdad and the Kurds over oil – were “accepted” by the Kurdish leadership, and then forwarded to the CPA, “as a submission by the Kurdistan National Assembly”! According to Galbraith, his own proposals became the Kurdish proposal in all its details save for one extremely minor “amendment”: “Kosrat Rasul…wanted to clarify that deployment of the Iraqi Kurdistan National Guard should not only be approved by the Kurdistan National Assembly, but should only occur a the request of the federal government in Baghdad”. All the rest had been penned by Galbraith.

As to the influence of this “proposal” on the constitution of 2005, Galbraith is once more an excellent source. On p. 168 of The End of Iraq, he explains, “Masud Barzani took the initiative to organise a Kurdish delegation and negotiating position that would achieve each objective outlined in their February 11 proposal [which Galbraith had formulated in its entirety] and then some.” Galbraith’s book is also informative when it comes to his own role in radicalising the Kurdish position during late 2004 and 2005, especially on p. 171: “In September 2004, the Referendum Movement organisers [who campaigned for a referendum for Kurdish independence] asked me to meet with them… As we sipped Turkish coffee, we discussed how other independence movements had promoted their own causes. I recalled that at least one independence movement conducted an unofficial referendum on the same day as the country’s general election, setting up informal polling places near the official ones. The Referendum Movement leaders thought this was an interesting precedent but doubted that the Kurdish authorities would allow it. I explained that in a democracy the authorities could not prevent such expression of free speech as long as the organisers did not interfere in the official voting”.  As is well known, the referendum was indeed held along the lines suggested by Galbraith. Not bad for an “adviser”?

In a key paragraph of his book on p. 169, Galbraith summarises the way in which multiple elements of the “Kurdish” proposal of 11 February 2004 actually found their way into Iraq’s 2005 constitution. For example, he writes, “as the Kurds proposed in February 2004 the regional governments have exclusive control over future oil fields.” Note, however, how different this sentence looks if we insert in brackets additional information provided by Galbraith elsewhere: “As the Kurds proposed in February 2004 [entirely on the basis of my own proposal] the regional governments have exclusive control over future oil fields [in one of which I hold a business interest through DNO].” But even though all the information in the brackets above has been confirmed by Galbraith personally on separate occasions (elsewhere in his 2006 book and in newspaper interviews in 2009 respectively), he today dismisses the juxtaposition of the facts as “innuendo” and instead tries  to describe exactly the same relationship using very different words: Three days, ago, on 13 November, he told The Brattleboro Reformer (a local newspaper in Vermont) that “I gave them advice and the end result that they achieved was identical to what was already proposed in February 2004 [emphasis added]”. What Peter Galbraith does not admit in 2009 is what he boasted of in 2006, namely that 99% of the February 2004 proposal was his own work and not that of any Kurdish leader.

Galbraith2006a

Private citizen, access all areas: Galbraith prevented a last-minute discussion about the taxation power of the central government in October 2005 (source: Galbraith 2006, p. 199)

In retrospect, it may seem odd that Galbraith should have chosen to publish a book in 2006 that would implicate him so clearly in an unacceptable mixing of roles in business (DNO), constitutional consultancy (for the Kurds) and Iraq policy advocacy (at home in the United States). However, the book from 2006 was a reflection of its time. Iraq seemed to be heading downhill back then, and Galbraith was probably convinced the country would break apart (as per his suggestion). Accordingly, he was not only extremely forthcoming with information concerning his own role; he actually appeared to be glowing with the pride of a would-be Kurdish T.E. Lawrence. What he failed to realise was that Iraq was a little more resilient than the pessimistic title of his book suggested.

In other respects, there is not much that is new in Galbraith’s latest attempts at rebutting the NYT article. He still has the audacity to suggest that the fact that he informed “Kurdish leaders” somehow exonerated him from any possible conflict of interest! What about the rest of the Iraqis who participated in the negotiations, did they know everything as well? And what about those in the drafting committee who did not belong to KDP/PUK and SCIRI/Daawa and were excluded from the “leadership meetings” in early August 2005, where key decisions were made, and where Galbraith himself participated repeatedly? Iraq’s former ambassador to the UN, Feisal Amin al-Istrabadi has said it best: “You don’t let Firestone draft the constitution of Liberia. You don’t let Shell draft the constitution of Nigeria. We shouldn’t have had an oil company [i.e. Norway’s DNO] drafting the Iraqi constitution.”

Finally, in a welcome development, the editorial board of the NYT has ruled that Galbraith did indeed have a conflict of interest which should have been disclosed when he wrote op-eds in the paper in favour of the soft partition policy in Iraq. This should make it clear once and for all that there is more to this case than the primitive Norwegian “conspiracy” alleged by some Vermont newspapers, according to which the whole affair has been fabricated by all-powerful Norwegian trolls bent on revenge for the Eide/Galbraith dispute in Afghanistan.

Posted in Iraq and soft partition, Iraqi constitutional issues, Oil in Iraq | 7 Comments »

Galbraith Was Paid by DNO when He Sat In on Sensitive Constitutional Drafting Sessions in 2005

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 12 November 2009 10:27

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.

Posted in Iraq and soft partition, Iraqi constitutional issues, Oil in Iraq | 15 Comments »

New Information in the Tawke-Gate Affair: Galbraith Was Also a Paid DNO Consultant

Posted by Reidar Visser on Monday, 19 October 2009 13:33

The Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) has continued its investigations concerning the multiple roles of US former diplomat Peter Galbraith in Kurdistan in the period 2004–2008. So far, this has been confirmed as involving simultaneous business interests in the Tawke oil field, consultancy for the Kurdish regional authorities in the Iraqi constitutional process, and loud advocacy of a partition of Iraq as a policy alternative for the United States. Today, a fourth dimension has been added through the confirmation that Galbraith was also a paid consultant for the Norwegian oil company DNO.

DN has today revealed that in the period from May to November 2004, Galbraith received at least GBP 125,000 (USD 200,000) from DNO through the London-based company Pinemont Securities as payment for consultancy work. The information is based on company records and accounts. Attempts by the newspaper to obtain further comments from Galbraith were unsuccessful. Pinemont was owned by Endre Røsjø, a Norwegian investor and prominent advocate of investment in Kurdistan who himself at times did consultancy work for DNO and has recently been identified as a previous stakeholder in the Tawke PSA, possibly the five per-cent share currently claimed by a Yemeni businessman.

The significance of the new information is that it emphasises once more the multi-faceted nature of Galbraith’s involvement in Iraq. Earlier revelations have shown that Galbraith through his Porcupine company had obtained a business interest in the Tawke oil field, but it remains unclear exactly how he became a stakeholder, and in particular whether his share was primarily a reward from DNO, the Kurdish regional authorities, or both. The new information makes it clear that Galbraith was considered vital enough for DNO to be hired as a well-paid consultant.

This in turn highlights the question of whether Galbraith was really serving Kurdish interests or Western investors. Of course, Galbraith has openly declared that his actions benefited both, and this is also the official line of the two dominant Kurdish parties, who pursue a pro-investment policy towards foreign companies. However, the renewed focus on Galbraith’s dealings – and especially the confirmation that he was also a paid consultant of oil companies investing in Kurdistan – should give occasion to increased scrutiny of the way he influenced the Kurdish stance on oil issues towards a position that gradually became ever more irreconcilable towards Baghdad. In particular, there is a stark contrast between the approach to oil as reflected in the draft constitution prepared by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in the 1990s and confirmed in 2002 – where the administration of the oil sector is the exclusive prerogative of Baghdad, full stop – and the ideas about local control of oil as articulated in the “Special Provisions for the Kurdistan Region of Iraq”, authored by Galbraith less than two years later. More broadly speaking, whereas early Kurdish constitutional proposals around 2003 ultimately aimed at coexistence (even if the they involved some pretty tough bargaining positions), Galbraith saw the 2005 constitution, to which he contributed, primarily as an instrument for the controlled dismantling of Iraq (“the constitution is an Iraqi solution to an Iraqi problem…The Kurds and Shiites concluded that Iraq cannot function as a single state and have worked out arrangements to divide it amicably”).

Today, Kurdish interests are suffering from the maximalism and contradictive policy stances that resulted from this process of radicalisation. This is seen above all in the oil sector, where the involvement of foreigners like Galbraith has created a certain Klondike mentality and unrealistic expectations in a regional administration that has very limited experience with the energy sector historically. This in turn has alienated it from Baghdad and created an impasse in negotiations about how to proceed with exports from fields that involve foreign companies. Over the weekend, Asri Musa of the Iraqi oil ministry in Baghdad repeated its standard position that it cannot pay the foreign companies involved in Kurdistan since it does not recognise their contracts. While the foreign companies need money and now have started to sell the oil locally instead, Baghdad is more focused on progress in its technical-service contracts with foreign companies for the supergiant fields in the far south, like Rumayla (which dwarf the Kurdish fields in terms of production potential: the contract for Rumayla involves a production boost from 1 million to 2,9 million barrels per day, for example). Additionally, technical service contracts are a lot less controversial among ordinary Iraqis than are the PSA contracts in Kurdistan, reflecting yet another example of how Galbraith’s “consultancies” have actually served to drive a wedge between the two biggest Kurdish parties and the rest of Iraq.

With the exception of articles in the Boston Globe and the Financial Times, Western mainstream media and in particular US newspapers have so far appeared relatively reluctant to cover this story. One possible explanation relates to the extent to which Galbraith’s ideas were considered acceptable and indeed progressive among high-ranking US Democrats. Less than one year ago, Richard Holbrooke provided the following endorsement of Galbraith’s thoughts about Iraq on the blurb of Unintended Consequences: “In this angry and passionate book, Peter Galbraith lays out the disastrous consequence of the Bush years. The next president will inherit the mess, let’s hope he absorbs the lessons of Galbraith’s work, and acts on them”. Pretty frightening stuff! Earlier, in 2004, the indebtedness of another Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry, to Galbraith’s ideas was recounted by Holbrooke in the New York Times as follows: “He attacks the material, he questions things, he tries to get it right …[During a recent conversation about Iraq, he recounted] Mr. Kerry interrupts me and he says, ‘Have you read Peter Galbraith’s article in The New York Review of Books? You’ve got to read that, it’s very important.’”

The leading pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat is already using the term “Tawke-gate” for the Galbraith saga. Iraqis who know their history are pointing out the obvious parallels to Calouste Gulbenkian, the Armenian also known as “Mr. Five Per Cent” for the personal shares he obtained in exploitative contracts that gave Western companies a foothold in Middle Eastern oil, including in the Iraq Petroleum Company, in the early twentieth century.  “Oil for Consultancy” screams a headline in today’s Al-Bayyina, a newspaper affiliated with “Hizbollah in Iraq” which is a part of the new Shiite-led alliance in Iraq.  If President Obama’s administration is to improve its credibility in the Arab and Islamic worlds, it is issues like that of Galbraith’s dubious involvement in Iraq that require crystal clear positions.

Posted in Iraq and soft partition, Iraqi constitutional issues | 2 Comments »

Galbraith Confirms Oil Interests in Kurdistan

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 15 October 2009 9:18

Document from December 2006 listing Porcupine as a 5 per cent stakeholder in the Tawke oilfield

Document from December 2006 listing Porcupine as a 5 per cent "partner" in Tawke

In comments to the US newspaper The Boston Globe today, Peter Galbraith appears to admit his relationship to the Delaware-based Porcupine company as well as having “interests” in the Kurdish oil sector. At the same time, however, a statement from his Porcupine company fails to clarify the exact nature of his contractual relationship with DNO, the Norwegian oil firm involved in the affair, although for the first time the existence of some kind of economic relationship is publicly acknowledged.

That Galbraith did have an economic interest in the Kurdish region is now perfectly clear. Galbraith told the Boston Globe, “The business interest, including my investment into Kurdistan, was consistent with my political views. These were all things that I was promoting, and in fact, have brought considerable benefit to the people of Kurdistan, the Kurdistan oil industry, and also to shareholders”. Also for the first time, DNO comments publicly on its role in the Boston Globe story. The paper quotes Ben Willey, a company spokesman, who explained how “[DNO was] ‘introduced to the Kurdistan opportunity back in 2003 and 2004 by a third party’ he declined to name. He said the Kurdistan Regional Government gave that third party a 5 percent stake in the DNO deal in 2004, but that the contract was renegotiated last year and ‘somebody lost out’. Now, Willey said, that third party is asking for compensation from DNO.” Just to confuse matters somewhat, in the Norwegian press today, a press release from Porcupine has been reproduced, to the effect that Porcupine “confirms the existence of a contractual relationship to DNO” while at the same time saying the company “does not have and has not had any third party interests in DNO’s PSA in Iraqi Kurdistan”. However, Dagens Næringsliv today also reproduces a full document from 2006 explicitly showing Porcupine listed as a 5% partner in the Tawke oilfield project. The document relates to the approval of expenses for test drilling.

Predictably, perhaps, Galbraith’s comments are focused on clearing his name in an American context and from a legalistic point of view. According to the Boston Globe, “Galbraith said yesterday his role in the constitutional negotiations was unpaid and informal, and therefore he was under no obligation to disclose his business interests to the US or Iraqi governments. He also said confidentiality agreements prevented him from publicly disclosing details of the business. Galbraith said he did make a full disclosure to the UN before his recent job in Afghanistan.”

From the ethical and above all the Iraqi point of view, however, what must be more significant is the role of Galbraith in shaping the new political structure of Iraq in the years between 2003 and 2005, in particular with regard to the highly decentralised constitution. Today’s explicit admission by Galbraith that his American shareholders received economic “benefits” from his work to push the Iraqi constitution in a certain direction may perhaps not incriminate him before American courts, but it will certainly add to the growing confusion about where some of the more unusual aspects of Iraq’s highly decentralised post-2003 institutions of government really came from. It remains somewhat unclear whether it was Galbraith, the Yemeni businessman, or both who were originally given interests in the PSA by the KRG back in 2004 as a reward for having introduced the Norwegian company to the “Kurdistan opportunity” as Ben Willey called it, but the fact that the two are now involved in arbitration against DNO in London makes it perfectly clear that some kind of economic interest does exist, and that the stakes are high.

The full Boston Globe story is here.

Today’s story in Dagens Næringsliv is not yet available online.

Posted in Iraq and soft partition, Iraqi constitutional issues | 14 Comments »

More on the Galbraith Story: Translated Text of the DN Article about the Tawke Oilfield

Posted by Reidar Visser on Monday, 12 October 2009 20:53

Photo of Peter Galbraith in Bergen from Dagens Næringsliv, 10 October 2009

Photo of Peter Galbraith in Bergen from Dagens Næringsliv, 10 October 2009

There have been quite a few requests for translations of the original Dagens Næringsliv (DN) article on Peter Galbraith, Porcupine and the Tawke oil field which was published in the hard-copy edition of Saturday’s newspaper. Below is a quick and approximate translation of the meatiest parts of the story. General background facts about Galbraith’s past career (including the ongoing quarrel concerning the Afghanistan election results) and about DNO’s activities in Kurdistan have been left out, as have a couple of quotations by yours truly that have already been paraphrased in English in the previous story on this subject at historiae.org.

One piece of additional background information may be of interest. The arbitration proceedings mentioned in the article refer to a claim by Porcupine (Galbraith’s company) and a Yemenite multimillionaire, both of whom were squeezed out when the PSA for the Tawke oilfield was converted to a new contract by the Kurdish authorities in early 2008. That was when Galbraith lost his stake in the oilfield and instead became party to an arbitration dispute with DNO. The new relationship is recounted in the annual report of DNO for 2008 as follows: “Following the review of DNO’s PSCs in Kurdistan in March 2008, DNO is involved in arbitration proceedings related to third party assignments. A formal award, if any, may only be completed in 1–2 years. However, DNO does not consider the claims to be justified and thereby not likely to become payable. No provision has thereby been made in the financial accounts for 2008.” In the second quarter report for 2009, there is a similar reference:  “Also as recorded in the 2008 Annual Report, the Company is involved in arbitration proceedings related to certain third party interests in Kurdistan. The third party interests were not approved by the authorities as part of the PSC review which was completed in March 2008. The first part of the arbitration has ruled that the third party interests had the right to seek compensation for damages from DNO Iraq AS. The arbitration proceedings are therefore continuing and a final award with respect to possible compensation for damages is expected in the second quarter of 2010.”

This makes it clear that the relationship between Galbraith and the Kurdish authorities probably had soured considerably by early 2008, since it seems it was the KRG and not DNO that decided to leave his company out of the revised contract. The fact that the legal dispute has been ongoing since 2008 should hopefully also serve to quash the conspiracy theory already seen in the US blogosphere to the effect that this whole affair is a concoction by Norway to support its UN diplomat Kai Eide in his ongoing spat with Galbraith over the Afghan elections! (That conflict only became publicly known last month.)

One final remark: The article sometimes refers to “licenses” and “ownership”. It may possibly be more precise to speak about a stake in the Tawke PSA from 2004 to 2008 as basis for Galbraith’s claim. Whereas the oil itself presumably remains in Iraqi ownership (even the legal framework in force at the time, the TAL, concedes that much), the stakeholder in this case probably owns a share (in this case 5 per cent) of the economic surplus after the deduction of operating costs.

Senior Diplomat Demands [NOK] 1,500,000,000

[Translated excerpts from the Norwegian version. Originally researched and written by Kristin Gyldenskog, Trond Sundnes and Harald Vanvik and published in Dagens Næringsliv, Oslo, 10 October 2009, pp. 6–8.]

In secret, senior diplomat Peter Galbraith has economic interests in a Kurdish oilfield. Galbraith, who was recently sacked by the UN in Afghanistan, through his Porcupine company demands more than NOK 1,500,000,000 [approximately USD 250,000,000] from DNO for losing his oil licenses in Iraq […]

“I cannot comment on this because I want to avoid legal complications”, Galbraith said. He ran away when DN journalists tried to get in touch with him in Bergen on Thursday […]

On 29 June 2004, DNO signed an exploration deal for a territory within the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq. DNO was the first Western company to enter into an agreement with the Kurdish regional authorities. Whereas other international oil companies chose to liaise with the central government in Baghdad, DNO secured rights to the proceeds of 40 per cent of future oil discoveries in the Tawke field. DNO failed to reply to queries from DN yesterday. When the deal was signed, Kurdish authorities retained rights to a substantial part of the oilfield. However, five per cent went to Galbraith.

The day after DNO had signed the deal with the Kurds in 2004, Peter Galbraith founded the Porcupine company in Delaware. Delaware-based businesses are protected by a high level of confidentiality. DN has identified documents relating to the foundation of Porcupine signed by Peter W. Galbraith and dated 30 June 2004.  Porcupine is one of the parties involved in the lawsuit currently pending in London [relating to the marginalisation of the Porcupine company in 2008 by the Kurdish authorities as described in the introduction above]. DN is also in possession of documents from December 2006 showing that Galbraith’s company still held a five-percent ownership share at that point.

“This dog is very aggressive”, Galbraith said when DN journalists confronted him in Bergen early Thursday morning […] DN have made repeated attempts to obtain comments from Galbraith on his involvement in Porcupine. When he saw DN’s photographer and journalists he first ran away. Later he replied to a few questions after having been confronted with company documents showing he is the manager of Porcupine.  “It is well known that I have worked for companies that invest in Iraq. I have pledged to maintain confidentiality concerning these relationships and cannot provide any more information”, Galbraith told us.

“What did you do in Iraq between 2004 and 2006?”

“You should have read my book, The End of Iraq. Everything is explained there”, Galbraith said, walking briskly. When he noticed DN’s photographer he started to run.

Later in the day, Galbraith contacted us. “I don’t want to be difficult. But I was surprised that you brought a photographer along. Actually, I thought things worked out well; I needed some exercise anyway. I have been thinking about your questions. I should have been able to provide answers to you.”

Galbraith said he had advised the Kurds for many years, but never in a capacity as a formal adviser. “I have worked with companies investing in Iraq and of course the Kurdish authorities know about my relationships to my clients. That is all I want to say”, Galbraith commented.

“What is your relationship to Porcupine?”

“I am in a situation where my business undertakings are subject to confidentiality agreements. I tried to get in touch with my lawyers to find out what information I might be able to provide to you without breaching my pledges of confidentiality, but I couldn’t reach them”, Galbraith said […]

DN agreed with Galbraith to call him again later yesterday. However, when we did so, Galbraith said he did not want to make any further comment and hung up while we tried to ask him questions. “Go ahead and write whatever you want to write. This is your story. Good bye”, Galbraith said.

Posted in Iraq and soft partition, Iraqi constitutional issues | 12 Comments »

New DNO Revelations: While He Was Influencing the Shape of the Iraqi Constitution, Peter Galbraith Held Stakes in an Oilfield in Dahuk

Posted by Reidar Visser on Saturday, 10 October 2009 10:12

It is widely known that the former US diplomat Peter Galbraith has been one of the most prominent figures in shaping the state structure of Iraq in the period after 2003, especially with his vocal advocacy of various forms of partition solutions for Iraq’s political problems that are reflected in his books and numerous articles in the New York Review of Books, especially in the period from 2004 to 2008. Until now, however, it has generally been assumed that Galbraith’s fervent pro-partition propaganda was rooted in an ideological belief in national self-determination and a principled view of radical federalism as the best option for Iraq’s Kurds. Many have highlighted Galbraith’s experience as a former US diplomat (especially in the Balkans in the 1990s) as key elements of his academic and policy-making credentials.

Today, however, it has emerged that the realities were rather different… Full story here.

Posted in Iraq and soft partition, Iraqi constitutional issues | 27 Comments »

Hakim Still Dreaming about Regions

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 8 October 2009 13:34

He has lived in the country less than half of his life but the 37-year old Ammar al-Hakim, the new leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), continues to spend time contemplating radical changes to the state structure of Iraq. In a recent interview with Iraqi television, he made it clear that he still envisages the creation of multiple federal regions in Iraq south of Kurdistan.

In the period between 2005 and 2007 Hakim was perhaps the single most vocal spokesperson for the idea of a single, Shiite sectarian region to be established from south of Baghdad to the Gulf. While he no longer pushes that particular configuration of governorates to form a new region, the recent interview makes it clear once more that he has no qualms about future changes to Iraq’s administrative map: One governorate, three governorates or nine governorates in a single federal region, that is for the people to decide, says Hakim. Iraq may perhaps be the cradle of civilisation with a millennia-long tradition of centralised government but to Hakim this historical legacy simply seems irrelevant.

While legalists will point out that Hakim is finally moving closer to the 2005 constitution, a more meaningful interpretation of the significance of his statement emerges when it is contrasted with what other Iraqi politicians are saying these days. Just within the past weeks, representatives for the Daawa party (Abd al-Hadi al-Hassani), Iraqiyya (Maysun al-Damluji), Hiwar (Mustafa al-Hiti) and the Sadrists (Talib al-Kurayti) have all expressed scepticism to the creation of any new federal entities. Several have hinted that restrictions on federalism may be a subject for the upcoming constitutional review. In other words, when most Iraqi politicians finally seem to respond to recurrent popular demands for an end to federalisation and a greater focus on more pressing issues of security, health and the economy, Hakim makes a point of keeping such options open.

This in turn highlights potential contradictions inside the newly created Iraqi National Alliance, where Hakim is playing a key role. In a recent interview with the Christian Science Monitor that has been widely reproduced in the Iraqi press, another leading ISCI figure, Adil Abd al-Mahdi, weighed in on the issue of state structure. Although some of the translations of the interview have clearly been garbled in the Iraqi press, the one by the Furat television channel based on an ISCI press release is probably an authoritative account of what Abd al-Mahdi intended to say. Put briefly, in his view, the goal of the new coalition is to create a unified government without ideological contradictions: “It is impossible to have a centralist view within a government that believes in decentralisation”.

Seen in isolation, this is clarifying: The Iraqi National Alliance confirms its decentralisation ideology and emphasises its differences with others in the Maliki government, such as the premier himself, on the issue. Alas, the problem, of course, is the presence of certain arch-centralists – in particular the Sadrists – as a key element in the new Shiite-led alliance. Clearly, if Abd al-Mahdi were to follow through on his own logic, the obvious next steps would be as follows: Firstly, to cut all contact with the centralist Iraqiyya (with whom negotiations supposedly still go on). Secondly and, more importantly perhaps, to ditch the Sadrists, who also reject the creation of more federal entities.

But they are not going to do that, are they? After all, the Sadrist votes for the Iraqi National Alliance are badly needed. For his part, Ammar al-Hakim has already declared that he will not subject himself to the unpredictable whims of voters by running as a candidate. And whereas ISCI earned one third of its members of parliament in 2005 not on the basis of actual votes for candidates but in post-election distribution of so-called compensatory seats at the national level, the Sadrists are holding a kind of primaries these days, with a reported turnout of 16,000 in Dhi Qar. The Sadrists, in turn, are under instructions from Muqtada al-Sadr to select only non-clerical independents, making it even less likely that ISCI would benefit from the Sadrist vote under an open-list system.

This illustrates a more widespread dynamic related to the ongoing debate on the elections law. In public, all the parties except the two Kurdish ones agree that an open-list system should be used. ISCI supported closed lists in the past but has been pressured into accepting an open-list system after persons close to the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani increasingly have expressed a strong preference for this. (In fact, for this reason Sistani is almost portrayed as something of a nationalist hero on normally unsympathetic television stations like Sharqiyya these days, so don’t say Iraqi politics isn’t changing!) In theory, then, the only remaining problem with the elections law should be what to do with Kirkuk, and even here a compromise should be possible after a very helpful proposal two days ago by Hasan Turan, a Turkmen representative, to make provisions for a re-examination of the voter register for that province – an idea that received public support yesterday also from Usama al-Nujayfi, another powerful voice from the north.

However, it is reported that several parties are unsecure about their real standing among voters and secretly prefer the closed-list system for that reason. The motive is that with a closed list the big vote-getters (such as the Sadrists) can enhance their electoral prospects by creating a “ticket” in a very literal sense – i.e. by giving others, less popular politicians, a free ride to parliamentary seats that would otherwise be at risk (that is, if voters were given a chance to intervene in the selection of candidates). As if to underline the lack of respect for Iraqi voters, with all these issues pending, the parliament has announced it will not reconvene until 13 October, only two days before the deadline for completing changes to the electoral system.

Posted in Iraq and soft partition, Iraqi constitutional issues, Shiite sectarian federalism, UIA dynamics | 9 Comments »

Identity Carved: How the Policies of Iran and the Obama Administration Converge in Surprising Ways in Northern Iraq

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 10 September 2009 10:22

In an op-ed published in August, the Washington Post columnist David Ignatius – whose work is often a bellwether of prevailing moods in Washington – expressed concern over his recent discovery that the government of Iraq was “desperately vulnerable to pressure, especially from neighbouring Iran”. Citing defected Iraqi security officials who believe that Iran secretly orchestrated the recent bombings in Baghdad to put pressure on Nouri al Maliki, Ignatius went on to suggest that Maliki was so firmly in the hands of the Iranians that “the prime minister uses an Iranian jet with an Iranian crew for his official travel”.

There are good reasons to scrutinise the Iranian role in Iraq, but any serious discussion of Tehran’s influence must also acknowledge the ways that American actions have helped open the door for Iran, whether deliberately or not… Full story here.

Posted in Iranian influence in Iraq, Iraq and soft partition, Iraqi constitutional issues, Iraqi nationalism, Kirkuk and Disputed Territories | 35 Comments »

Biden, US Policy in Iraq and the Concept of Muhasasa

Posted by Reidar Visser on Monday, 6 July 2009 15:58

On 27 February this year, President Barack Obama held one of the best speeches on Iraq delivered by a US senior official for a long time. Obama congratulated the Iraqis for having resisted the forces of partition, and while he noted the need for political reconciliation, he pretty much refrained from imposing his own interpretation of what the relevant problems were and how they should be solved… Full story here

Posted in Iraq and soft partition, Sectarian master narrative | Comments Off on Biden, US Policy in Iraq and the Concept of Muhasasa

The End of Soft Partition

Posted by Reidar Visser on Monday, 20 October 2008 17:54

The last time Peter Galbraith wrote a book about Iraq, the title summed up the problems of the entire volume: based on his own, highly idiosyncratic reading of Iraqi history, Galbraith prematurely announced “The End of Iraq”. However, in his new book on Iraq, the title is nothing short of brilliant: “Unintended Consequences: How War in Iraq Strengthened America’s Enemies”. That is by all accounts a crisp summary of some of the main problems that have afflicted US policy in Iraq ever since 2003. So does it mean that Galbraith’s latest offering is an improvement on his previous one? Full story here.

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