Reidar Visser informs us today that the independent-minded US “free-lance diplomat” Peter Galbraith reportedly, from 2004 through 2008, held a five-percent share in the production-sharing agreement concluded between the small Norwegian private oil company DNO and the Kurdish Regional Government.
Galbraith, a longtime supporter of Kurdish (and before that Croatian) independence, was most recently working as deputy to Kai Eide, the head of the UN’s mission in Afghanistan. Eide fired him last week for, essentially, insubordination.
Back in 2003-05, Galbraith was an influential adviser to the US occupation authorities as they drew up Iraq’s new, heavily decentralized Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) and Constitution, and to various Kurdish political leaders. He was also hailed– and published– by major western news organizations as a credibly neutral (and presumably disinterested) analyst of Iraqi constitutional affairs.
But now it appears that, instead of being the idealist and the brave proponent of the rights of embattled minorities that he had always portrayed himself to be, in reality he was acting as a one-man East India Company, consorting with compliant “locals” (= “natives”) to rip off their country’s resources.
- Norway’s most respected financial newspaper, Dagens Næringsliv (DN), has been focusing on the operations of DNO,… especially reporting on unclear aspects concerning share ownership and its contractual partnerships related to the Tawke field in the Dahuk governorate. One particular goal has been to establish the identity of a hitherto unknown “third party” which participated with DNO in the initial production sharing agreement (PSA) for Tawke between 2004 and 2008, but was squeezed out when this deal was converted to a new contract in early 2008, prompting a huge financial claim of around 500 million US dollars against DNO which has yet to be settled. Today, DN claims to present proof that one of the two major “mystery stake-holders” involved in the claim was none other than Peter Galbraith, who allegedly held a five-percent share in the PSA for Tawke from June 2004 until 2008 through his Delaware-based company Porcupine… DN has published documents from Porcupine showing Galbraith’s personal signature, and today’s reports are complete with paparazzi photographs of Galbraith literally running away from reporters as they confront him in Bergen, where he is currently staying with his Norwegian wife. He refused to give any comment citing potential legal complications.
If proven correct, the implications of this revelation are so enormous that the story is almost unbelievable. As is well known, DNO has been criticised for the way its operations in the Kurdistan region interfere with Iraq’s constitutional process. To their credit, though, DNO are at the very least perfectly forthright about their mission in the area: They are a commercial enterprise set up to make a maximum profit in a high-risk area currently transitioning from conditions of war. Galbraith, however, was almost universally seen as “Ambassador Galbraith”, the statesmanlike former diplomat whose outspoken ideas about post-2003 Iraq were always believed to be rooted in idealism and never in anything else. Instead, it now emerges, he apparently wore several hats at the same time, and mixed his roles in ways that seem entirely incompatible with the capacity of an independent adviser on constitutional affairs.
Visser then notes the multiplicity of “hats” that Galbraith was wearing as he strode around post-invasion Iraq in the early years of the US occupation– including “ABC News consultant” (a generously compensated gig, that one usually is), and a compensated consultant for “Kurdish clients”, as well as a constitutional adviser in general and a fairly prolific author of pro-partition analyses.
Visser gives an excellent, detailed analysis of the influence Galbraith claimed he had, and the influence he almost certainly did have, on the drafting of the ‘Transitional Administrative Law’ (TAL) that was imposed on Iraq by Bush appointee Jerry Bremer in March 2004– quoting Galbraith’s own words from the book he published in 2006 that was notably titled The End of Iraq:
- Galbraith urged the Kurds to be maximalist about their demands: “The Bush administration might not like the Kurds insisting on their rights, I said, but it would respect them for doing so (163)”. Then, leading up to the TAL negotiations in the winter of 2004, Galbraith worked specifically for the Kurds in framing their demands. It is very easy to see how the Kurdish gains in the TAL and not least in the 2005 constitution are based on this contribution from Galbraith. Galbraith writes, “On February 10 , Nechirvan [Barzani] convened a meeting at the Kurdistan national assembly of the top leaders of the PUK and KDP. I presented a draft of a ‘Kurdistan chapter’ to be included in the interim constitution [i.e. the TAL]… Except for a few matters assigned to the federal government (notably foreign affairs), laws passed by the Kurdistan national assembly would be supreme within the region. The Kurdistan Regional Government could establish an armed force…The Kurdistan Region would own its land, water, minerals and oil. Kurdistan would manage future oil fields (and keep revenues) but the federal government in Baghdad would continue to manage all oil fields currently in commercial production. Because there were no commercial oil fields within Kurdistan as defined by the March 18, 2003 boundaries, this proposal had the effect of giving Kurdistan full control over its own oil…The permanent constitution of Iraq would apply in Kurdistan only if it were approved by a majority of Kurdistan’s voters (166–67).” Subsequent achievements noted by Galbraith as personal successes include staging the informal 2005 referendum on Kurdish independence (171).
The influence of Galbraith can be discerned already in the 2004 Transitional Administrative Law (where the principle of residual powers for the provincial entities was put in place), even if Galbraith was dissatisfied with the relatively long list of powers accorded to Baghdad and blamed the “centralising” policies of Paul Bremer and the Bush administration generally for this “defect”. But his hand is even more evident in the 2005 constitution, which combines residual powers for the regions with the supremacy of local law (albeit not if it contradicts the constitution, a “shortcoming” Galbraith later tried to gloss over), and which also specifically mentions the regional right to local armed forces…
While he was advising the Kurds on the principles of federalism and trying to persuade an American Democratic audience about the virtues of partition as an alternative to the Bush administration policies in Iraq, Galbraith supposedly held a 5 per cent stake in an oil field whose profit potential was directly governed by the constitutional and US policy decisions Galbraith was seeking to influence (his suggestions also included the idea of a permanent US airbase in Kurdistan).Under any circumstances, this new development is likely to strengthen the tendency among Iraqis to be more critical about the details of the 2005 constitution and not least the historical context in which it was conceived – a criticism that even Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki articulated during the run-up to the last local elections. Seemingly, Maliki’s ideas of rectifying this towards greater centralism (i.e. removing some of Galbraith’s pet projects from 2005) have met with success among voters so far.
Another problem related to this issue is the close association in the past between Galbraith and the apparent Iraq tsar of the current Obama administration, Vice-President Joe Biden…
Visser concludes by noting,
- It is of course somewhat ironic that these revelations should come at a time when Galbraith seems to possess the high moral ground in another controversy also involving Norwegians and Middle Eastern conflicts: The ongoing dispute with UN diplomat Kai Eide over Afghanistan’s elections result.
Personally, I don’t think that Galbraith does occupy the moral high ground in his dispute with Eide. It was a matter of insubordination– by an arrogant American– to his boss within a duly authorized and well-run UN mission. If he disagreed with Eide (as he evidently did) there were things he could do other than try to make end-runs around him.
Anyway, do go read all of Visser’s excellently argued piece there at Historiae. You cannot leave any comments there– but you can at the linked post on his blog. Or, of course, you can leave them here, with a very good chance that Reidar will read them here, too.
By the way, Dagens Næringsliv is apparently going to be publishing follow-up pieces on this matter.
26 thoughts on “Peter Galbraith, oil contracts, and Kurds”
Norway being a small country one wonders what more there is to the relationship between Eide, the Kurds, the Oil Company and the Ambassador (not to mention the Bremer regime or the possibility of an Israeli connection).
Lots of chickens, lots of eggs…lots of questions.
Oh, and lots of money (belonging to a people who need every cent they can find) too.
Galbraith is married to a Norwegian woman, fwiw. But you’re right it’s a small country– what, four million people? Half the size of my home-state, Virginia.
Anyway, I am glad we have Reidar on the job for us there, providing all those of us who don’t speak Norwegian a timely window into this big development.
Back in 2006 I had the displeasure of speaking on a public panel with the famous American ambassador, son of the more famous Canadian-American economist, when he was still pushing his “End of Iraq” idea. At the time Galbraith the Son tried to promote himself as an expert on the WMD controversy in Iraq, and on the future composition of Iraq’s 3 ethnic states: Kurdistan, Shiastan, and Sunnistan. By no means did his political connections seem entirely neoconservative, as the event at which we spoke was sponsored by a Florida Democrats group with ties to John Podesta’s Center for American Progress in DC. Today too many people forget that in 2003 the Iraq invasion was a bipartisan affair in the US Congress, and it was championed by the NyTimes, CNN, MSNBC, and other elements of the US “liberal” media.
I am not surprised at all that Galbraith the Son had a plan to skim 5% off the top of Iraqi oil production around Kirkuk and areas north toward Mosul. Also no doubt that he has ties to America’s Israel lobby, as does Florida’s Democratic Party more generally. Through the Kurds of Iraq Galbraith was certainly advancing an ethnic agenda which served Israeli interests. I remember that he made one blatantly racist anti-Arab statement at the Florida forum when he tried to explain why Americans should support the Kurdish cause: (I paraphrase) “remember the Kurds are not Arabs (wink, nod), they are not like the troublesome Muslim population to the south which is giving American troops so much difficulty. The Kurdish people are culturally and ethnically more like us in the West (meaning “us” Americans of European descent).”
My sense is that Galbraith views the Middle East through the Orientalist lens of Bernard Lewis, which is originally a liberal perspective on western imperial goals to “liberate” minority groups of the Middle East. Galbraith’s thesis about the “end of Iraq” fits perfectly in the tradition of liberal Americans/Europeans at post-war Versailles and in the fledgling League of Nations, drawing new lines in the sand and carving up the Middle East into mini-states defined along ethnic lines.
What was so absurd about Galbraith back in 2006, during the mid-term election campaign, is that he pitched his thesis on Iraq as a Democratic response to the “failed policies” of the Bush-Cheney administration. According to Galbraith, the GOP failed in its mission to create a united democratic Iraq, so the only reasonable policy open to the Democrats in 2006 was allegedly to support the break up of Iraq into three ethnic mini-states. On this point Galbraith once allied with other liberal proponents of breaking up Iraq, including Les Gelb at the Council on Foreign Relations, Sen. and now VP Joseph Biden, and Florida’s Senator Bill Nelson.
The liberal Galbraithian plot to dismantle Iraq was certainly a plot which found support across the political spectrum in Israel, since during 2004 and 2005 both Likudniks and Labor elites envisioned re-establishing the British era oil pipeline which connected the port of Haifa on the Med coastline with Kurdish areas of northern Iraq near the Turkish border. I imagine that even inside the Obama administration today, there remain liberal imperial hawks who would like to advance the Galbraithian plot.
I would think there’s more to come out about Galbraith’s financial involvement with the KRG. I’ve known others whose strong support for the Kurdish position was reflected in financial benefits.
Five percent may or may not be much. Reidar Visser doesn’t give us an absolute figure. My guess is that it is a kick-back, compensation for services rendered, that is, for arranging the deal through his Norwegian wife. Five percent is the right figure for a kick-back.
That could well be illegal under Norwegian law. Curiously enough, RV has since added two photos to his column, one of the signature, and the other of Galbraith running away from journalists who wanted to interview him in Bergen. Now why would he want to run away, if he had made a perfectly legal investment?
I did a Google Translate on the Norwegian version of the two DN articles on the topic that i found. (The online versions were very short and didn’t have the photo. I’ll need to go to reidar’s blog to see it.) I don’t have them now but my recollection is the amount one of them mentioned was NOT small.
Alex, I have answered a bit more fully over at my blog, but briefly, if my conversion is correct, I think we are talking around USD 250 million for Galbraith alone
The issue is not so much the sum, but whether it is legal. The photo of Galbraith running away from journalists speaks volumes.
Actually, I doubt that Galbraith has really obtained 250 million dollars from the deal. That is the potential. I doubt that the Norwegian company, DNO, has yet 250 million profits, let alone that being 5 percent.
Just to clarify, the 250 million refers to a claim, not to actual money. It refers to the lawsuit mentioned earlier in the article.
So far as money is concerned, the point is that, given the right conditions, including the cession of Kirkuk to the Kurds, that 5% could balloon into very large sums.
The ordinary people of Iraq need every penny they can get and to extract profits from their resources is to mark down tens of thousands for premature deaths, hundreds of thousand to lives without medical care and lives malnourished.
And there is no trick in pumping oil out of the ground there: it is easily done, the only premium to be paid would be related to the crime of the invasion.
There is lots of disgrace here to go around: this is stealing from the bowl of the beggar whose legs you broke in the first place.
I always took Peter Galbraith for a self-appointed “expert” of the shamefully opportunistic kind, but this takes it to whole new levels. Thanks to Reidar for exposing this.
And yes, his ideas reflect a Bernard Lewis orientalist-imperialist at work. The very idea that it is up to the West to create any kind of Iraq, united, divided, democratic or non-democratic is so very White Man’s Burden, and of course imperialism is not very deeply hidden under that supposed concern for the welfare of the targeted brown people.
Makes you wonder why Galbraith so adamantly opposes the election results in Afghanistan? Didn’t Karzai cut him in? Or did he do a deal with Abdullah?
And it makes you wonder how many others are pursuing “public policy” for private gain. Halliburton and Blackwater spring to mind…
Peter Galbraith certainly sticks his hands into a lot of pots and apparently takes some of the choicest morsels for himself: Who Killed Benazir Bhutto?.
If you don’t want to click on the link, here is the critical paragraph.
[In the article below, Fatima worries that Benazir would tie Pakistan to a Neocon agenda. Her fears are probably correct. Benazir’s advisor Hussain Haqqani works at the Neocon Zionist Hudson Institute. See Poverty Fuels Extremism by Husain Haqqani (War on Terror in Pakistan). Her other prominent advisor, friend and lobbyist Mark Siegel is more of a Zionist Ziolib, which puts him in the same category as Alan Dershowitz and Martin Peretz. Peter Galbraith, who was a Clinton ambassador, introduced Benazir to Mark Siegel. Galbraith is currently pursuing the longstanding Zionist agenda in Iraq by working for the dissolution of the Iraqi state into separate ethnoreligious enclaves. Galbraith is a longtime associate of Harvard Kennedy School Carr Center Professor Samantha Power, who is an academic prostitute serving extremist Zionists in their program to destroy Sudan. Power’s book, A Problem from Hell, provides a specious analysis of genocide and almost certainly won the Pulitzer Prize because it supports and conforms to Zionist genocide discourse.]
I’ve held off commenting on this for a couple of days to see whether the story has been picked up by any of the English language papers. Nothing!
Isn’t that shocking?
Galbraith’s involvement in Iraq has always been an issue that should have attracted the close attention of newspapers beyond the op-ed pages (which gave him space aplenty). Alarm bells should have been ringing for years and investigative journalists should have been aching to get their teeth into the circumstances underlying his over-zealous promotion of the country’s partition.
I’m not so much concerned about the money involved – or even whether the deal done by Galbraith is legal; I’m sure it is – but that this would motivate him to press so hard for the highly destructive federalist articles of the 2005 constitution and the related articles on state finance and resources.
If you hold to the belief that federalism has been – and remains – the primary engine of civil war violence in Iraq, then much higher crimes are suggested by these revelations.
RV also quotes Galbraith bragging about having taken aside the British treasury official at the last minute before the signing of the constitution. I recall that when I first read this in his book I thought it was an act so cynical I found it difficult to believe he would confess to it without being waterboarded.
Apart from Galbraith’s association with Biden and Gelb (who was writing about the need to partition Iraq as early as November of 2003 – http://www.cfr.org/publication.html?id=6559), he was also full of praise for Khalilzad just before Jafaari was given the axe for not supporting the federalist plan. From Jon Lee Anderson’s 2005 piece on “The Viceroy”, ““Khalilzad was absolutely part of the neocon cabal that brought the war to Iraq,” Peter W. Galbraith, a former U.S. Ambassador to Croatia, who has written extensively on Iraq and the Kurds, said. Still, he added, “I credit him with bringing the first dose of realism I’ve seen in this Administration since they came to Iraq.””
Bear in mind that it was Khalilzad who convened the 2002 London conference in which Iraq’s federalist future was decided by the Kurds and SCIRI.
I first came across Galbraith when I covered the ethnic cleansing of Krajina in 1995. As bloody a weeks work as that was it pales in comparison to his efforts in Iraq.
There is much to investigate here but – judging from my own experience – no journalistic organization in the US or UK has any desire open that box.
DNO’s revenue entitlement from the Tawke test production
The revenue entitlement from Tawke test production is reported as follows:
The April revenue entitlement from the Tawke test production has been in line with the first quarter figures. The Tawke test production volumes have over time shown significant variations, which is also expected going forward.
As previously reported, on 10 May DNO received formal notice by KRG to commence export of crude oil from the Tawke field on 1 June, 2009. The Company is in the final stages in the preparations to ensure safe and smooth operation on the commencement date.
DNO International ASA
20 May, 2009
Thanks Steve. You always have something of value to offer.
I had an immediate and very visceral negative reaction to Peter Galbraith right from the beginning. I learned long ago to trust those reactions when I have them because in the end they always turn out to have a good basis even if I don’t fully understand it right away. Of course, his passion for partition must be anathema to anyone who cares about Iraq, so that by itself is enough for me, but I always had a sense that there was something there that I could not identify, but that was bordering on evil. Now I know what it was.
How is it that the people who are most often recognized as “experts” on the Middle East in general, and Iraq in particular are people like him while the people who have the real knowledge and comprehension – mainly the Iraqi epople themselves – go completely unnoticed?
Personally don’t have much truck with Galbraith. My reaction to his dummy spit with Eide was exactly the same as HC’s. But I’m not sure how it is that he can be blamed for the croation ethnic cleansing of Serbs in Krajina in 1995?
There was more than enough ethnic cleansing from both sides to go around in the years leading up to 1995, Steve. The perpetrators from both sides eventually having their day being prosecuted for their war crimes.
Galbraith is a (ultimately self serving egomaniac) but am not surprised at the kickback. He did a great service to the Kurds in 03/04 and also, ironically, (since he obviously didn’t care about it) to the prospects of a future united Iraq . That is, of course, if one acknowledges that Kurds are also Iraqis and one wishes them to remain so?
Steve, thanks for the feedback. I posted a longer comment over at my blog, at the new entry where a translation of the original article is also given:
My main point is that part of the problem could be the way the decentralisation issue in Iraq is so systematically associated with the Democratic camp. I think this could make certain analysts reluctant to engage in criticism, simply for partisan reasons. I wish Democrats could have distanced themselves more clearly from the whole soft partition idea.
The ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia was pretty much all over and done with by the end of 1992 (though there was a smaller scale surge in Eastern Slavonia in early May of ’95 with the Croats taking back Okucani – lost to them in 91). Those of us who covered the Krajina saw a different kind of battle to those we’d previously witnessed.
The Croatian forces had clearly been armed and trained by the US and with nobody to actually fight (Serb forces had withdrawn) they were pretty much free to work at terrorising the civilian population. The only Serbs not put out onto the roads in massive refugee columns were those who had been put to death in their homes. However, the most striking element of the Krajina offensive was the closure by Croatian troops of every road and goat track leading into the region preventing the media from witnessing what was going on inside. This was a major part of the planning for the operation.
Of course, when it became time to call people to account, the US role in this suddenly became kind of fuzzy, if you know what I mean. Just like Galbraith and his friends in Iraq, I suppose!
To say that Galbraith was doing a great service to the Kurds in 2003/4 is to stunt history. This situation and the results of his role in it are far from played out and I doubt the Kurds will be celebrating Peter Galbraith day in decades to come.
Galbraith, with his influence on the TAL and Iraqi constitution has set the Kurdish people on a collision course with their neighbours for the foreseeable future. He has made or held out promises to them which can never be fulfilled. Who will guarantee the sovereignty of this Kurdistan, against Iraqi Arabs, Turks and other Kurdish groups? Will the United States really be willing to bleed there for them?
To say that Galbraith did a service to Iraqi unity is, if I may say so, a logic so Byzantine that I don’t even have the time in my day to unravel it.
Yes, I see your point, though I make a somewhat harsher judgment.
Democrats, with a few notable exceptions, were in favour of invading Iraq and only parted ways with the Bush administration on the issue of incompetent handling of the occupation. To read the likes of George Packer or see Ferguson’s “No End in Sight”, the conclusion is there for us all to see.
Democrats and Republicans are not separate species. The sectarian narrative of the exiles was not adopted by the American (and British) media because it was a good fit with the facts but because it dovetailed with their own self image.
We are seeing the same kind of squirming going on in Afghanistan right now in the aftermath of the elections and the widespread fraud and corruption by the very people we installed. Is it an accident that we invade Afghanistan and demand the centralization of an historically federal political system then invade Iraq and desire the opposite?
I think have heard some of this before, but it seems Galbraith published an oped in Time as late as yesterday (two days after the DN revelations), still showing an interest in advising other nations about their constitutional affairs. Among his ideas is this one: “The Obama Administration should focus on persuading Karzai to adopt some of the opposition’s program, including arrangements for genuine power-sharing by Afghanistan’s diverse ethnic groups.”
Elsewhere, I have seen him referring to his concerns about the exclusion of a certain “segment” of the Afghan population because of the election fraud. I think he has the Tajiks as an ethnic group in mind. One sincerely hopes no secret hydrocarbons or precious metals hide beneath the surface in this case! The full story at
“Former UN DSRSG Peter Galbraith had suggested to Kai Eide to convince Hamid Karzai and Dr Abdullah Abdullah to accept a transitional government headed by Dr Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.”
I’d seen this elsewhere but it seems that Galbraith was attempting to circumvent the political process to install Ashraf Ghani. I don’t know whether this support was in place in the lead up to the election (is there a Galbraith – Carville connection?) or if it was just an idea resulting from the election fraud. Whatever, AG won only 3% of the vote so to try to empower him was hardly in the interests of the democratic agenda.
The plot thickens.
I see from Reidar’s link that Galbraith was only in Afghanistan four months. So obviously he’s an expert on the country.
Well Alex, if one’s main tool of diplomacy is a wrecking ball I suppose expertise comes very easily.
“AG won only 3% of the vote so to try to empower him was hardly in the interests of the democratic agenda.”
It worked in Palestine. The fewer votes the better in one sense: it indicates the
a-political, technocratic nature of the candidate.
It also prevents either of the major players from garnering enough power to wipe his rivals out.
Finally it ensures that, when in doubt, the candidate will get in touch with the US Embassy.
That is why he must speak good English. If he can communicate in the local language(s) that’s a plus.
Basically where Galbraith gave the Kurds the key insight into the meaning of federalism, ie:
“They were thinking in terms of devolution of power – meaning that Baghdad grants them rights. …..
..”‘Federalism is a “bottom-up” system. The basic organising unit of the country is the province or state. The state or province is constituted first and then delegates certain powers (of its choice) to the central government…In a federal system residual power lies with the federal unit (i.e. state or province); under an autonomy system it rests with the central government. The central government has no ability to revoke a federal status or power’.”
Once the Kurds were protected by the Iraqi constitution itself, and crucially, not treated differently to other Iraqis who have the same residual powers available to them if they choose to exercise them, then it follows that the extreme nationalist Kurds have far less argument for the forseeable future to quit Iraq altogether.
That’s what I mean by saying that Galbraith actually did a service to Iraqi unity, even though this was not his intention. But only if one believes that Kurds are Iraqis too, of course.
Reidar, quoting Galbraith:
“The Obama Administration should focus on persuading Karzai to adopt some of the opposition’s program, including arrangements for genuine power-sharing by Afghanistan’s diverse ethnic groups.”
Actually Galbraith has a point here, don’t you think? One of the glaring weaknesses of the Afghan political system, as compared to Iraq, is that it is not based on a transparent system of proportional representation. In fact, as I read it, they don’t even have official political parties contesting elections? And add to that the fact they have a presidential system, the vote for which is extremely easy to rig or corrupt. It’s hard to see how ordinary Afghans could develop a stake in their political process under the present arranagements and I’m surprised the UN didn’t do a better job of it.
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