by Saadallah Al Fathi on 26-03-2013
Iraq crude oil production has increased but is still short of any promised target or a past record
I have been trying hard to write this column and I am almost certain that I will not be able to do justice to an occasion so loaded with pain for millions of Iraqis, Arabs and all decent people around the world.
The readers of Gulf News are aware that I write about matters related to oil and energy in general. Although I will touch on those here, I cannot allow the tenth “anniversary” of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, falsely called “operation Iraqi freedom” pass without having my say.
The internet is full of articles in all languages about the occasion and I must have read more than a hundred of these and although the greater majority of them are critical of the war and its impact on the Iraqis and the region, they fall short of outright condemnation though some call it a crime and illegal. Iraqis are disappointed with those still discussing the technicality of the decision to go to war on flimsy evidence about weapons of mass destruction and connections to Al Qaida that turned out to be purported and totally false without the slightest shame on those who claimed them. Personally, I am most incensed by those who call it a mistake after ten years of analyses and disastrous results and hundreds of thousands of dead and injured and the destruction of a functioning country.
I do not intend to quote from the reports, articles and analyses I read about the occasion as it is becoming well known that Iraq is suffering from intense violence and serial murders by silent guns. Only a few days ago, as if to remind the Iraqis of the occasion, twenty explosions mostly in Baghdad rocked the country and claimed two hundred and fifty casualties. I do not believe there are many Iraqis who have not been affected terribly by the mayhem of the last ten years. Open the subject and hear the stories of the loved ones that are no more, the friends that disappeared without a trace, the doctors, engineers, officers, university professors, advocates and judges and all professionals that were killed in broad day light to empty the country of its most needed power and make it dependent on others.
Talk about services and ten years after the “freedom” and billions of dollars spent, Iraqis get intermittent supply of clean water and 25 per cent of them do not get it at all. As for electricity, “here the tears pour” as the Iraqis would say where in 2012 Iraq did not generate half the electricity it needed. In 2010, the economic losses due to the shortage of electricity were estimated at $40 billion (Dh146.8 billion) apart from the enormous human suffering. The health and education systems are no better and unemployment is about 30 per cent especially among university and institutes graduates. One wonders where the hundreds of billions in oil revenue earned in the last few years have gone?
The country is fragmented by sectarian strife, nonexistent before 2003 and ethnic differences are threatening violence more than resolution. Hundreds of thousands of people have been on the streets in some governorates in the last three months demanding justice for thousands of men and women who are detained without charges or trials, some of them for many years. Human rights are not observed neither by the occupation or the governments and institutions that followed and democracy and the rule of law have become strictly slogans without substance.
So where is the bright spot of the “operation Iraq freedom”? The multitude of conferences and the majority of their distinguished speakers are suggesting falsely that the oil industry of Iraq may be the success story among a sea of failures. But is this true?
Yes Iraq crude oil production increased from about 2.0 million barrels a day (mbd) in 2002 to 2.94mbd in 2012 but still short of any promised target or a past record. Production was 2.5mbd in 2001 and was constrained by the whims and wishes of the sanctions committee of the UN. The increase therefore came at a great expense and after the wholesale of the oil fields to the international oil companies and the curtailment of Iraq own operating companies. Iraq natural gas production in 2012 was 21.3 billion cubic meters but only half of it was used and the rest went up in smoke while power stations are crying out loud for it and using expensive liquid fuel instead. The refineries are barely working at 70 per cent and Iraq had to import almost 100,000 barrels a day of light products in 2012. The Iraqi oil industry has a long way to go before it can be counted as a success story.
The only success story is that the occupation forces were not received by the Iraqis with sweets and roses and forced to leave well before they intended and now is the turn of Iraqis to correct their awful legacy.