Lando on Oil Insecurity in Basra
Ben Lando of UPI gives us a 2-part report on oil security [part 1 here] in Iraq, or rather the lack thereof. This problem is often ignored in the press, but it is at the center of the inability of the new government to establish itself. You don’t need 20,000 troops in Iraq, you need 20,000 accountants.
In part 2, Lando looks specifically at the paramilitary factions and Marsh Arab tribes that are contending for a slice of the lucrative petroleum smuggling trade in Iraq’s southern port city. Hmmm. 100,000 barrels a day are smuggled, worth $62 a barrel on the open market. Aren’t we talking about $6.2 million a day? Isn’t that $2.26 billion a year? Imagine what criminals and militiamen can do with that kind of money. And, don’t kid yourself that it stays in Basra. Also note the sectarian implications– these resources are going in the main to Shiite paramilitaries and clans. Note that the Shiites also dominate the government, which gets the revenues from petroleum not embezzled or smuggled.
Note also that the petroleum smuggling is a double-edged sword. It weakens the central government by bleeding it of resources. And it strengthens paramilitaries and criminal elements against the central government. Iraq will never amount to anything unless this hemorrhaging of national resources can be halted.