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Preparing the Battlefield
Seymour M. Hersh, New Yorker
The Bush Administration steps up its secret moves against Iran.
Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program.
Clandestine operations against Iran are not new. United States Special Operations Forces have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with Presidential authorization, since last year.
(7 July 2008)
Amy Goodman interviews Hersh on Democracy Now.
U.S. Advised Iraqi Ministry on Oil Deals
Andrew E. Kramer, New York Times
A group of American advisers led by a small State Department team played an integral part in drawing up contracts between the Iraqi government and five major Western oil companies to develop some of the largest fields in Iraq, American officials say.
The disclosure, coming on the eve of the contracts’ announcement, is the first confirmation of direct involvement by the Bush administration in deals to open Iraq’s oil to commercial development and is likely to stoke criticism.
In their role as advisers to the Iraqi Oil Ministry, American government lawyers and private-sector consultants provided template contracts and detailed suggestions on drafting the contracts, advisers and a senior State Department official said.
It is unclear how much influence their work had on the ministry’s decisions.
(30 June 2008)
Iraq's Oil Ministry to Decide
On Technical-Service Contracts
Gina Chon, Wall Street Journal
Iraq's oil ministry said Monday that companies chosen to participate in bidding for technical-service contracts include major energy firms, but those deals pale in comparison to the most lucrative prizes for oil exploration and new production, which are being awarded to major western oil companies.
Those technical-service contracts are separate from shorter-term, controversial consulting contracts that the ministry is negotiating with companies like Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC. The oil ministry said such consulting agreements are needed in the interim because it will take about a year for the bids for the technical-service contracts to be rewarded.
These consulting contracts have drawn criticisms that American advisers steered the Iraqi government toward these companies and has fueled sentiment in the region and in Iraq that the U.S. invasion was based on oil interests.
(30 June 2008)