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Profile: Farouk al-Qassem
Farouk al-Qassem was a participant or observer in the following events:
A draft for a new Iraq oil law is completed. The proposed law was drawn up by three Iraqis—Tariq Shafiq, Farouk al-Qassem, and Thamir al-Ghadban—who have been working on it for three months. Shafiq is the director of the oil consultant firm Petrolog & Associates and was the founding director of Iraq’s National Oil Company in 1964. Ghadban recently served as the country’s oil minister (see June 2004). [United Press International, 5/2/2007] One provision in the draft law lists production sharing agreements (PSAs) as one type of contract that could be used to govern private sector involvement in the development of Iraq’s oil sector. Under PSAs, oil companies would claim up to 75 percent of all profits until they have recovered initial drilling costs, after which point they would collect about 20 percent. These terms are more favorable to investors than typical PSAs, which usually give about 40 percent to the company before costs are recovered and only 10 percent afterwards. Even when the price of oil was as low as $25 per barrel, the lower paying PSAs were profitable for companies. Critics say that the oil companies want to negotiate and sign the PSAs with Iraq before the country is stabilized so they can argue that the political risk of doing business in Iraq warrants higher profit shares. But then they would wait until after the situation has improved before moving in. Iraq would be the first Middle Eastern country with large oil reserves to use PSAs. Other countries have avoided PSAs because they are widely thought to give more control to companies than governments. James Paul of the Global Policy Forum will tell the Independent: “The US and [Britain] have been pressing hard on this. It’s pretty clear that this is one of their main goals in Iraq.” The Iraqi authorities, he says, are “a government under occupation, and it is highly influenced by that. The US has a lot of leverage… Iraq is in no condition right now to go ahead and do this.” Critics also suggest the companies’ shares of profits should be lower than typical PSAs, if anything, since Iraq’s oil is so accessible and cheap to extract. Paul explains: “It is relatively easy to get the oil in Iraq. It is nowhere near as complicated as the North Sea. There are super giant fields that are completely mapped, [and] there is absolutely no exploration cost and no risk. So the argument that these agreements are needed to hedge risk is specious.” [Independent, 1/7/2007] Immediately after this draft is completed, it is shared with the US government and oil companies (see July 2006). In September it will be reviewed by the International Monetary Fund (see September 2006). Iraqi lawmakers will not see the document until early 2007. The provision mentioning PSAs will be axed from the final draft due to Iraqi opposition (see February 15, 2007).
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