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Iraqi Oil Wealth Stays Locked Up

Chip Cummins and hassan Hafidh, Wall Street Journal via Rigzone
Foreign technology and capital are seen as vital to restoring Iraq’s crumbling oil industry. But as a draft petroleum law inches its way toward the Iraqi parliament, fresh opposition to the legislation is emerging, underscoring the difficulty that may still lie ahead for any move to invite in international oil companies.

A petroleum law could provide a significant political boost for Iraq’s shaky government, by setting down how money from newly developed fields would be shared among the country’s three dominant ethnic regions — the mostly Kurdish north, the Sunni center and the Shiite south. Reaching agreement on sharing Iraq’s energy resources, by far the nation’s major source of wealth, will be critical to achieving long-term peace in the war-torn country.

U.S. officials and petroleum experts have been advising Iraqi politicians almost from the start of the American occupation nearly four years ago about how to build a legal framework that would enable foreign oil-field development. International majors have been reluctant to venture into the country until violence subsides and before politicians endorse a law spelling out legal rights and financial terms for foreign firms.
(20 Feb 2007)

The view from Tehran

Hooman Majd, Salon
Iranians are fed up with the high price of tomatoes and their provocative president. But it would be dangerous for Bush and the West to overlook their national pride.
At the local greengrocer on the corner of Hedayat and Safi Alishah, in the decidedly unchic downtown section of Tehran where I’m staying, the fruits and vegetables are stacked high in perfectly formed pyramids. A dilapidated pickup truck parked in front and loaded with fruit stacked in boxes serves as a billboard for passing motorists as well as extra square footage for the store. Oranges are most visible, a plentiful and cheap winter fruit, but tomatoes, a virtual staple in Persian cooking, are practically out of sight. Tomatoes, it seems, have become a valuable commodity in Iranthese days, much to the dismay of everyone, including those in the corridors of power, for whom a kebab, salad or stew without tomatoes is an affront to the palate.

I was born in Tehran and speak fluent Farsi, though I largely grew up in Europe and the United States. I have been traveling to Iran over the past three years, returning again in mid-January for six weeks to continue researching a book I’m writing on Iran and Iranians.

Much has been made in the media of growing discontent inside Iran with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and in Tehran sentiments are indeed openly expressed against him and his administration in many quarters, including some of his own. It may be tempting, therefore, to imagine that the “Iranian people,” those to whom President Bush often refers as aspiring to the very same thing we do, i.e., “freedom,” are becoming as dissatisfied with their political system as they are with their president. However, it would be dangerous — and all the more so if the imagining is done by the White House — to make such a presumption.
(21 Feb 2007)

Iran: Unstable, troubled oil giant

Steve Hargreaves, CNNMoney
Country struggles with falling oil production, soaring domestic use as dispute over nuclear program drags on.
Iran just isn’t backing down.

The Bush Administration has accused the country of funneling explosives into Iraq for use against U.S. troops. Meanwhile, the diplomatic sparring over Iran’s nuclear program drags on.
(21 Feb 2007)

Abu Dhabi to build $350m solar power plant

Reuters via Arabian Business
The government of Abu Dhabi will build a $350-million solar power plant, the first of its kind in the world’s biggest oil exporting region, an investor in the project said on Sunday.

The 500 megawatt plant, expected to begin operations in 2009, is part of Abu Dhabi’s drive to cut dependence on hydrocarbon power generation, said Sultan al-Jaber, chief executive of state-owned Abu Dhabi Future Energy Co.

Future Energy, a subsidiary of government-owned Mubadala Development Co, and the Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Authority will fund the plant with other investors. .. The plant will be the first of its kind in the Gulf, home to oil and gas producers who supply a fifth of the world’s energy needs, al-Jaber said.
(18 Feb 2007)