More on Galbraith; Boston Globe runs the story

Reidar Visser has a new report up on his blog, that summarizes the latest revelations about Galbraith and Kurdish oil made in today’s Dagens Næringsliv, from Oslo.
DN (and from them, Reidar) have reproduced a document attesting that the Connecticut-registered company in which Galbraith has, I believe, a half-share did indeed have a 5% interest in the production-sharing agreement for Kurdistan’s new Tawke oil field.
The Boston Globe has a version of the Galbraith story today, too.
They have a quote there from Juan Cole, even though he hasn’t blogged anything about the Galbraith affair. (Unlike yours truly.)
They also, more importantly, have a quote from Galbraith himself, in which he says,

    “The business interest, including my investment into Kurdistan, was consistent with my political views… These were all things that I was promoting, and in fact, have brought considerable benefit to the people of Kurdistan, the Kurdistan oil industry, and also to shareholders.’’

The Globe reporter, Farah Stockman, then immediately makes this somewhat strange comment:

    It is not illegal or unheard of for former US officials to do business with people they worked with during their time in government. But ethical questions often arise when such dealings become public.

It is, of course, illegal for people who are currently in government jobs to engage in business affairs that might in any way be affected by the decisions they make in an official capacity; and in the US there are well-known regulations regarding how long a person must be out of office before s/he can engage in such business affairs. This is basic to the integrity of government functioning, anywhere.
In 2003-05, when Galbraith was rushing round Iraq and the world arguing passionately for a radical form of Kurdish separation from the central Iraqi state, he was not in fact on the US government payroll. He had been, in late 2002, when he taught at the Naval War College in Newport, RI. But in the 2003-05 period, he was presenting himself as (a) a constitutional affairs specialist, and (b) an adviser to the Kurdish leaders, who was providing his advice to them on a contract or sometimes even “expenses-only” basis because of the depth of his commitment to their cause.
In all the articles he published in the US media in and since those years, arguing for the radical devolution of Iraqi governmental powers to the country’s various ethno-sectarian groups (including the Kurds), not once do I recall having seen it say in the tag-line that he had business interests related to the topics he was writing about.
All those editors just took him at his word when he claimed to be this idealistic, quite disinterested “expert.” He was everyone’s favorite liberal hawk.
Stockman also has this about Galbraith:

    Galbraith said yesterday his role in the [Iraqi] constitutional negotiations was unpaid and informal, and therefore he was under no obligation to disclose his business interests to the US or Iraqi governments. He also said confidentiality agreements prevented him from publicly disclosing details of the business.

Galbraith is, of course, far from the only well-placed US citizen who sought to make some fast money from all the “business opportunities” that the US occupation of Iraq opened up to them. But he seems to have realized that the extremely scuzzy nature of this deal would not look good if held up to the light of day. I’m assuming that it was him, himself, whom the “confidentiality agreements” in question were designed to protect.
Anyway, he should now be asked to abrogate those agreements and come quite clean. I mean, Peter Galbraith does believe in good government, doesn’t he?

12 thoughts on “More on Galbraith; Boston Globe runs the story”

  1. in the 2003-05 period, he was presenting himself as (a) a constitutional affairs specialist, and (b) an adviser to the Kurdish leaders, who was providing his advice to them on a contract or sometimes even “expenses-only” basis because of the depth of his commitment to their cause.
    Then he entitle not to say any thing about his money making as he working for himself. may be just for tax purposes he need to dealer his payments for that period’

  2. According to RV’s article, there is confirmation that the 5% share was indeed a kickback to Galbraith, for ‘introducing’ DNO to the Kurdish Regional Government.
    I am still not clear on how or why Galbraith’s company was excluded from the deal in 2008. Perhaps something to do with his run for the governorship of Vermont last year.

  3. Yes Alex, I too have been wondering the same.
    Helena, you say that he was only one among many who went to Iraq to make a profit but how many of those were able to so profoundly affect the political landscape in a manner that benefitted their business interests?

  4. Adam Silverman had a wonderful piece about Iraq sectarianism over at Juan Cole’s site:
    “Virtually all the individuals we interviewed, whether sheikhs, internally displaced Iraqis, or average Iraqis, told us that tribes tended to be mixed religiously. Even if a tribe in Mada’in where we were conducting interviews was completely Sunni, it typically had a branch elsewhere in Iraq that was Shiite. Likewise, the Shiite tribes had Sunni branches. Moreover, all the sheikhs indicated that their tribe’s people intermarry with members of other local tribes regardless of sectarian orientation. When asked, about 2/3rds of tribal leaders insisted that “sectarian” conflict was really about resources.”
    So Galbraith, the former ambassador to Iraq, was running around trying to promote partition, when many of the tribes were of mixed religion! Either he had an agenda, which he obviously did, or he was totally oblivious to the Iraqi mixed-religion reality. This is entirely possible, given the general obliviousness Americans operating in Iraq. Nonetheless is would be shocking to think that an ambassador would be ignorant to that extent.
    Either way–opportunist or ignoramus–Galbraith comes off looking really bad.

  5. who went to Iraq to make a profit
    What About Sheikh Paul Bremer III with his $US9.0Billions?
    Or the Reconstruction of Iraq money that US reserved billions of dollars apparently nothing major done on the ground for the reconstruction in Iraq worth those billions reserved or spent for that project, isn’t same of make a profit, although we do know most of them were able to so profoundly affect the political landscape

  6. There are additional reports on the story now by Foreign Policy (The Cable), Radio Free Europe and Iraq Oil Report, among others. The Foreign Policy one includes the following gem: “Many also see the revelations of Galbraith’s involvement in DNO, which were detailed in a harsh manner on the Norwegian Web site, as part of a retribution campaign following Galbraith’s public and scathing criticism of his former U.N. boss Kai Eide, the Norwegian diplomat who stands accused of helping to ignore massive election fraud in Afghanistan.” Anyone who thinks this is a rapid reaction conspiracy should look at the RFE/RL story which offers some interesting details on the background of the investigation by Dagens Næringsliv.
    I have commented on the Iraq Oil Report story over at my own blog. It contains some interesting additional Galbraith quotes.

  7. Virtually all the individuals we interviewed, whether sheikhs, internally displaced Iraqis, or average Iraqis, told us that tribes tended to be mixed religiously…all the sheikhs indicated that their tribe’s people intermarry with members of other local tribes regardless of sectarian orientation. When asked, about 2/3rds of tribal leaders insisted that ‘sectarian conflict’ was really about resources.
    And I suppose they are presenting this as if it were big news – as if I and numerous others have not been trying to tell people this for years and years. All of Iraq’s major Arab tribes are religiously mixed, and so are most of the smaller ones. Only rarely is sect a concern when choosing a marriage partner. Tribal ties trump sectarian ties every time. The urban population is not much different in that regard.
    And how fascinating, given Juan Cole’s determinedly sectarian orientation, that this appears on his blog, of all places.
    And yes, the supposedly “sectarian” conflict is about resources, but more than that I believe it is about power. Juan Cole is right about one thing when he refers to it as “political violence”. In fact, some of the bloodiest conflict has not been between Sunnis and Shi`as, but power struggles between different Shi`a factions.

  8. The import of Galbraith’s involvement with constitutional processes leading to Iraq’s “federal” structure is primarily related to the Arab-Kurdish distinction in Iraqi society, not the Sunni/Shia Arab distinction which Adam Silverman via Juan Cole refers to in the region of Mada’in near Baghdad where Arab tribes inter-marry across the Sunni-Shia divide.
    Galbraith was clearly serving Kurdish interests in Iraq. To the extent he showed concern for the rivalry between the Arab Shia parties close to Sadr, Hakim and Sistani on the one hand, and the Arab Sunni parties configured around former Ba`thists and various fedayeen in the resistance, it was only to ensure that the Ba`thists did not return to power to threaten the Kurds. Later as the political process moved forward, following the establishment of the parliament in the wake of Dec. 2005 elections, it is possible that Galbraith grew concerned about the possible forging of a united Arab front against the Kurds, and to that extent he perhaps advocated a “federal-style” partitioning of the southern Shia Arab regions, in order to weaken Arab bonds and keep the Arabs fighting against one another. But the important point from Galbraith’s perspective was always to defend the Kurdish interest.
    This is the element of recent news revelations which is most critical to how this story plays out in Iraq’s domestic arena. As mentioned in an earlier thread, Galbraith expressed “racialist” views about the Arab and Kurdish issue in Iraq. My sense, when I heard him speak in late 2006, is that this man’s orientalist romance with the Kurds (fueled, of course, by his greed for the 5% of oil revenues) was accompanied by a racist dislike of Arabs. He seemed to me a pathetic figure who spoke with an orientalist disposition toward “Eastern exotics” — a kind of latter day “Lawrence of Kurdistan.”
    What is important to know is that after the first Gulf War Galbraith assisted in the Kurdistan region when Gen. Jay Garner led American forces to expand a protection zone for the Kurds in the north. This was after the first Bush-Cheney administration (Cheney was not VP, rather the inconsequential Dan Quayle; but Cheney was Pentagon Chief) signaled to Saddam in the late spring 1991 that the US would allow Iraqi forces to crush the incipient uprising throughout most provinces of the country. When Saddam launched his counter-attack, primarily against Kurds in the north and Arab Shia in the south, this created a humanitarian crisis in the country. Galbraith toured the Kurdish refugee camps in the northern mountains, and he likes to reminisce orientalistically about Barzani’s men shielding him during one barrage from Saddam’s forces.
    The upshot of this is that going back to 1991 (if not earlier) “Peter of Kurdia” has had a romance with what he views as “the suffering Kurdish people.” This is true of both he and Gen. Jay Garner who was the first American viceroy in Iraq before Bremer arrived on the scene in early May 2003. These dual personal associations with the Kurdish cause (primarily, I think, Barzani’s Kurds) led in both cases to business deals in late 2003 or 2004. Galbraith in oil, and Garner in various business fields. Between the two men Galbraith clearly played the greater role in forming the post-war Iraqi political system, tilting it in favor of the Kurds. Based on Thomas Ricks’s and Charles Ferguson’s accounts of the 2003 US invasion, Garner seemed more sympathetic (compared to Bremer, as well as Galbraith) to bringing Sunni Arab officers in Saddam’s army back into the political fold once US troops moved into Baghdad. I doubt Galbraith would have lobbied for this. More than likely he favored, if not advocated, the three famous decrees which Bremer issued one week after landing on Iraqi soil: disbanding the Ba`th and the Iraqi army, and announcing a formal US occupation force.
    What bears deeper investigation is the extent to which Galbraith’s pro-Kurdish biases and profiteering interests shaped Iraq’s post-war constitution in ways detrimental to the interests of the vast majority of the Iraqi population, 80-83% of whom are not Kurdish, but rather Arab and Turkmen, Muslim and Christian. The result of Galbraith’s interventions in post-war Iraqi politics is that the present system of government in the country resembles more of a confederation, than a federation. This is true because regional representatives of the Kurdish population in the north effectively carry out their own foreign and security policies (as well as economic and social policies), independent of PM al-Maliki in Baghdad. And this is done in complete agreement with Galbraith’s constitution in Iraq. The fact that the Kurdish Hoshyar Zebari has held Iraq’s Foreign Ministry portfolio since the US invasion (he has been on the job, in way way or another, since the first Iraqi Governing Council was formed in late 2003) has meant that Kurdish interests are doubly protected within the confederal system because the Kurds are able to behave as free actors, relying on the US and outside interests with no check from the Iraqi central government under PM al-Maliki.
    In short, Galbraith’s influence on the Iraqi constitution (along with a few others whose roles in Iraq’s constitutional formation bear looking into, including NED Chair Larry Diamond in DC, Harvard law professor Noah Feldman in Boston, and former American Viceroy Paul Bremer, not to mention Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc.) cemented a Kurdish-Arab division of powers in the country. For obvious reasons, the 80-83% of Iraqis who are Arab or Turkmen, Muslim or Christian, would like to know why any American with obvious personal interest in one narrow minority segment of this ethnically fractious country should have held such power to determine the new Iraqi political order along confederal lines. Galbraith’s role resembles the role of earlier western orientalists who “drew lines in the sand” after the 20th century’s first inter-European war, dividing Middle East territory according to what they perceived as ethnic or sectarian divisions. Western interventions along these lines have always fomented more conflict in the Middle East than they have resolved conflict.
    It is often suggested that Western style federalism (with various degrees of strong or weak federal ties) can assist the management of politics in multi-ethnic states like Iraq. But what Galbraith presented to the Iraqi people is a dysfunctional form of confederalism, not federalism. As a result his constitutional intervention in Iraq, on behalf of Kurdish interests, left unsettled many problem areas, such as the claims to oil in the Arab-Kurdish border region around Kirkuk. This is obviously an issue which is central to Galbraith’s profiteering. The result of Galbraith’s influence in post-war Iraq has arguably instigated and fomented Kurdish-Arab rivalries over land and resources. If Iraq had a strong federal system of government, where real power resides in Baghdad, then there would be no ground for the Kurds to contest the oil under the ground of Kirkuk. As long as the Kurds can rely on US or Norwegian or some other outside intervention, a fact which is legitimated and activated by Iraq’s confederal constitution, then the oil of Kirkuk remains a contested issue. And of course, Mr. 5%, Peter Galbraith can look forward to vastly higher sources of income.

  9. Either he had an agenda, which he obviously did, or he was totally oblivious to the Iraqi mixed-religion reality.
    I have absolutely no doubt that he was, and is, oblivious and completely clueless to the realities of Iraqi history and society, and I doubt he cared.
    This is entirely possible, given the general obliviousness Americans operating in Iraq. Nonetheless is would be shocking to think that an ambassador would be ignorant to that extent.
    Not to me.

  10. opportunist or ignoramus
    It’s not an either or situation. The guy is an opportunistic ignoramus. And that puts him in some pretty elevated company.

  11. Sd notes that Galbraith was primarily focused on Kurdistan-Iraq, not the Sunni-Shi’a nexus. While true as far as it goes, it should be remembered that there was a strong movement to divvy up Iraq. Joe Biden was a key US advocate. Both power and oil were to be devolved. Ill-prepared officials in the provinces and governates were presumed to be easy pickings for foreign oil companies and their production sharing agreements. While Galbraith worked on a general fragmentation policy for his personal benefit, the outcome would have impacted all of Iraq, Kurd or Arab, Sunni or Shi’a. Apparently Galbraith concluded that the whole rest of the country could go to hell in a handbasket, as long as the Kurds got what they wanted and Galbraith got his piece.

  12. Although I mostly agree with both SD and JohnH on Galbraith’s primary focus being on the Arab/Kurd issue I would add that internal problems with the Arabs were also envisaged and at a very early stage. As these post-2002 London Conference quotes from Kurdish officials (including a mis-spelt Zebari) show, the strength of Iraqi nationalism among the Arabs of all sects was a major concern of the Kurds. I doubt these fears would not have been shared with Galbraith and the necessity of a divisive policy toward the Iraqi Arabs would have been clear to all.
    “Some Kurdish officials think that a federal constitution would be ratified by the Iraqi people, 60 percent of whom are Shia who have suffered for decades under Sunni-dominated central governments. One official underlined that the Shia will compose about 75 percent of the population of the envisioned Arab region. “If federalism is implemented, the Shia will have the power in their region. So we must play the Shia card.
    “But most Kurdish leaders are convinced that the majority of the Arab population of Iraq, yielding to nationalist feelings, would reject a federal constitution. “The Iraqi Arabs are far too chauvinistic,” says one. “We cannot take our proposal to an Iraqi assembly. It would be killed off,” asserts Hoshyar Zibari. From among the ranks of the PUK, Nour Shirwan categorically states: “I will never put the federal issue on a referendum. I will not discuss it with the Arabs! The Shias support us, until now. But if they seize power, I do not know.”

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