Iraq: State, Society and the Evolution of the Petroleum Sector
Public debate about the petroleum sector in Iraq is—perhaps surprisingly—vibrant and dynamic, with numerous actors expressing diverse views. However, due to the divisions and violence in Iraqi society, these views are at times so divergent that it is difficult to reconcile them. This chapter describes how a nascent public sphere has emerged in post-Ba’athist Iraq, allowing for greater debate on the country’s management of its petroleum resources. Since 2003, Iraq’s petroleum sector has reconstituted itself, with the arrival of new international oil companies, leading to robust public debates that invoke discourses on resource nationalism and the resource curse. The primary public concern is the development of a legislative framework to govern foreign investment in the petroleum sector and the distribution of hydrocarbon rents within the country. Political parties are the most vocal and influential participants in this debate, partly as a result of their control over most of the Iraqi media. As a result of these interconnected relationships, and given that parties run for election every four years, public debate influences petroleum policy more than it does in most other states in the region, such as Saudi Arabia or the UAE. However, trade unions, NGOs, academic institutions and powerful individuals do not have much influence on petroleum matters in their own right—only through the political parties or by appearing on state-controlled media or media affiliated with specific political groups.
KeywordsIraq Natural resources Oil Gas Petroleum governance Democracy Authoritarianism Civil society Public debate Media Political parties Sectarianism
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