Reuters: Chalabi takes over Iraq oil ministry amid "crisis"

BAGHDAD, Dec 30 (Reuters) - Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi has assumed direct control of the powerful oil ministry as crude exports ground to a halt due to sabotage attacks and logistics problems, officials said on Friday.

Chalabi, who has been improving his relations with Washington after falling out with the U.S. administration, was appointed acting oil minister after the incumbent Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum was given leave, the officials said.

Uloum told Reuters he was "intent on resigning". Aides to Chalabi confirmed that he had been appointed acting oil minister.

A ministry spokesman allied to Uloum said the country was facing what he called an impending oil supply crisis. "Production in the north, centre and south is about to suffocate," he said.


Also, go check out John Robb's pieces on resource disruption in Iraq here.

How does Chalabi get in the middle of everything?
He is a liar and a cheat. In the race he was in the last election, he got about 1% of the vote.
Anything he has touched has turned to crap.  At least the Iraqi oil situation can't get any worse....or can it?
Just a suggestion: Never, EVER say that a situation involving politics and/or international relations can't get any worse.  If there's a way to mess up that situation even worse than it already is, Chalabi will surely find it.

As for the issue of how he manages to keep popping up--I suspect it's a case of his having "low friends in high places".

Happy New Year to all my fellow TODdlers!

Maybe the Iraqi oil is just secretly being exported to the US and the claim that the oil prodution in Iraq is down is just a cover up to justify the unbelievable shortages for the civilians over there in the midst of one of the biggest oil-reserves in the world ;-)
Ah, Chalabi, another US funded ally gone bad, they do seem to have a way of choosing ill. But ill is as ill finds.

Just another money / power grab by Chalabi, he will be kicked out soon enough I hope. Liked Roger's conspiracy theory.

Iraq is doomed to unzip, it never was nor ever became a real country. The only question is how soon and how bloodily. The US would want to be out before it happens so shall we take a date of mid 2007 for unzipping? Circumstnces might force it sooner, much sooner, and Iran and Turkey could get messily involved. I'll weep again for the poor sods before too long, I think.

I think the only way to get rid of Chalabi is a wooden stake through the heart.
In Iraq, Chalabi is known as "Ahmad the Thief."

No wonder he got so many votes.

My guess is that Chalabi knows many secrets that important people in Washington would rather not have disclosed. Thus, his unbelievable ability to keep rising from the dead.

The NY Times says the old guy was sacked for complaining about the gas price increases:

 BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 30 - A fuel crisis in Iraq deepened today as the oil minister was suspended for objecting to steep government-imposed gasoline and cooking fuel price increases. Drivers caused quarter-mile lines at gasoline stations in Baghdad, spurred by fears of more price increases, electricity failures that have forced them to siphon gas for use in power generators, and talk of refinery shutdowns in Bayji and Baghdad.

The oil minister, Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum, had been outspoken in opposition to the decision to triple prices for the most common type of gasoline while increasing diesel prices ninefold. He said that while some increases are needed, a change of that magnitude would put far too heavy a burden on most Iraqis.

But upon returning from vacation outside of Iraq this week, Mr. Bahr al-Uloum found a note waiting for him in which Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari ordered him to give up his post for the next 30 days, according to an Oil Ministry spokesman.

Stuart -- checking in from random wireless network in a NO restaurant.  Man - the food down here is amazing, hurricanes or no.

Also, check out this Knight Ridder story about how the Kurdish Peshmerga in the "Iraqi" army are figuring that at some point they'll need to turn on their Arab coregimentarians, sweep down on Kirkuk to get the oil, and declare an independent Kurdish republic.

 Five days of interviews with Kurdish leaders and troops in the region suggest that U.S. plans to bring unity to Iraq before withdrawing American troops by training and equipping a national army aren't gaining traction. Instead, some troops that are formally under U.S. and Iraqi national command are preparing to protect territory and ethnic and religious interests in the event of Iraq's fragmentation, which many of them think is inevitable.

The soldiers said that while they wore Iraqi army uniforms they still considered themselves members of the Peshmerga - the Kurdish militia - and were awaiting orders from Kurdish leaders to break ranks. Many said they wouldn't hesitate to kill their Iraqi army comrades, especially Arabs, if a fight for an independent Kurdistan erupted.


 American military officials have said they're trying to get a broader mix of sects in the Iraqi units.

However, Col. Talib Naji, a Kurd serving in the Iraqi army on the edge of Kirkuk, said he would resist any attempts to dilute the Kurdish presence in his brigade.

"The Ministry of Defense recently sent me 150 Arab soldiers from the south," Naji said. "After two weeks of service, we sent them away. We did not accept them. We will not let them carry through with their plans to bring more Arab soldiers here."

One key to the Kurds' plan for independence is securing control of Kirkuk, the seat of a province that holds some of Iraq's largest oil fields. Should the Kurds push for independence, Kirkuk and its oil would be a key economic engine.

The city's Kurdish population was driven out by former Sunni Arab dictator Saddam Hussein, whose "Arabization" program paid thousands of Arab families to move there and replace recently deported or murdered Kurds.

"Kirkuk is Kurdistan; it does not belong to the Arabs," Hamid Afandi, the minister of Peshmerga for the Kurdistan Democratic Party, one of the two major Kurdish groups, said in an interview at his office in the Kurdish city of Irbil. "If we can resolve this by talking, fine, but if not, then we will resolve it by fighting."

From Informed Comment, by Juan Cole:

Iraq Petroleum Production "Suffocating": Bahr al-Ulum

Having little to add to the comments on this thread, all of which I agree with--and given my rant and those of others on the Iraq cuts fuel subsidies thread and also my suspicion after yesterday's report about IMF's demand that Iraq raise fuel prices, that the shit was finally going to hit the fan in Iraq, my only comment is this.

The Thief of Baghdad

Fellow Traveler Paul Wolfowitz

Our Commander In Chief
What a crew this is ... and so far they've all gotten away with it.

So far ...

This is an interesting recent speech by Chalabi, about Iraq, made at AEI. There's a lot about the Iraqi economy in it, including this price rise.
Iraq's history of oil production is long and convoluted, and apparently remains so.  In 1912 the Turkish Petroleum Company (TPC), was established to explore for Iraqi oil.  No oil was discovered unil 1927, and significant exports only started in 1938.  Exports dropped dramatically during WWII due to lack of shipping.  After WWII the Iraqi Petroleum Company (successor to TPC) put only .5% of its total concessions into production. Meeting Iraq's domestic needs was an ongoing concern:
One particularly sore point among the Iraqis concerned IPC's contractual obligation to meet Iraq's domestic requirements for gasoline and other petroleum products. An IPC subsidiary operated a small refinery and distribution company based near Kirkuk that supplied two-thirds of Iraq's needs. But IPC imported the remaining third from a large refinery in Abadan, Iran. Iraq considered this arrangement politically imprudent, a judgment that was vindicated when, in the early 1950s, Iranian production was cut during that country's oil industry nationalization crisis. In 1951 the Iraqi government took over, with compensation, the small Kirkuk refinery and hired a United States contractor to build a refinery near Baghdad. This represented Iraq's first concrete step toward taking control of the oil industry.

Reminds me of an old saying from my navy days: same shit, different day.  Anyway, in 1960 the Iraqi government convened a meeting of oil-producing nations leading to the creation of OPEC, and started a troubled process of nationalization which only completed in 1973.  Here's a series of articles on Iraqi oil development.

Another series of articles on oil in Iraq, from the Global Policy Forum.  Apparently the US is pushing Production Sharing Agreements.  Anybody know how Iraq oil is currently contracted?