Cablegate: Iraq Likely to Gain Eiti Candidacy

DE RUEHGB #0082/01 0130813
R 130813Z JAN 10 ZDK



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Iraq Likely to Gain EITI Candidacy

REF: (A) Baghdad 3135, (B) Baghdad 2214, (C) Baghdad 1134

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1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Iraq's political leaders renewed their support
for improved transparency of oil export revenues and the country is
now poised for candidacy status in the Extractive Industries
Transparency Initiative (EITI). During a conference January 10-11,
the Ministry of Oil Inspector General (who is leading the Iraqi
EITI) got agreement on a workplan and organizational structure for
managing the EITI process among government and civil society
stakeholders. Iraq's candidacy will now go to the EITI Board of
Directors for a vote in February, with Iraq likely to become the
35th and EITI's largest oil producing candidate. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Prime Minister al-Maliki (committed the GOI to oil
revenue transparency, paving the way for Iraq's formal admission
into the EITI, as part of a major conference convened in Baghdad by
the Ministry of Oil (MOO) on January 10-11. Other key leaders
including Deputy Council of Representatives Speaker Khalid
al-Attiya, and Oil Minister Shahristani, and Ministry of Industry
and Minerals Fawzi Hariri, also attended the conference and pledged

Civil Society Focus

3. (SBU) MOO Inspector General Ala' Mohie al-Din, supported by
EITI International Secretariat Director Jonas Moberg and officials
from Revenue Watch Institute and the World Bank (both organizations
play a supporting role in the process), convened a working session
with approximately 20 civil society organizations (CSO's) on January
11. These CSO's elected four representatives from among their ranks
to serve on the EITI stakeholder council (SC). The GOI also secured
the group's buy-in to a proposed workplan and organizational
structure. This CSO election and the workplan agreement complete
Iraq's four-step process to submit an EITI candidacy bid, a process
the GOI formally launched in February 2008. (Reftels provide
additional background). The CSO monitoring and related public
awareness efforts - together with oil export audits - constitute the
main elements of EITI transparency. Explaining the concept for
Iraq, Revenue Watch director in New York, Karen Lissakers, noted on
January 11 that "the EITI standard of government partnership with
citizens in revenue management will be a powerful tool in Iraq's
struggle for political stability. This . . . is a commitment to
government collaboration with an independent civil society, which in
turn builds public trust in government."

4. (SBU) The four CSO representatives who will now serve on the
EITI stakeholder council are: Laith Hassan Shamsa, Economic and
Business Forum (Najaf); Ahmad Abdul Razaq Al-Khafaji, Pro-Integrity
Organization (Babil); Dr. Bushra Karim Al-Janabi, Sofouh
Organization for Women and Child Development, (Erbil); and Salah
Hanun Alawi, Iraqi Bar Association (Baghdad). Most of the 20
organizations that participated in the January 11 launch had been
working with the GOI during previous discussions of the workplan;
however, it was clear from their own deliberations (which ACCO was
allowed to observe, after GOI and EITI officials had withdrawn) that
they had not yet developed deep familiarity with either EITI or one
another. Included among the organizations was at least one labor
union from Basra, which voiced concerns about workers' rights and
the need for labor to be present in the EITI process. (Comment:
the CSO's and the individuals who were nominated are unknown to the
Embassy. They are also unknown to the IG of the Oil Ministry
Inspector General. End comment.)

5. (SBU) According to three of the CSO representatives we spoke
to, the stakeholder selection process was not open to tribal
sheikhs, religious figures or media, as these are registered
separately from CSO's (or NGO's). This was confirmed by MOO staff
who helped organize the event. Comment: EITI Iraq staff indicated
that CSO's had been invited through media announcements, but the low
turnout indicates either some limitations on outreach or, as one CSO
participant and ACCO contact told us, "a lack of interest in
initiatives that don't come with immediate financing." There was no
CSO representation from Anbar or other largely Sunni provinces. In
previous engagements with the Embassy, the GOI had committed to
including KRG civil society and made an effort to invite one CSO
from Erbil, but no Kurdish media were invited, and no senior Kurdish
leaders were there to offer "buy-in" on the first day of the
conference. That said, MOO IG Mohie al-Din promoted the KRG
representative by urging NGO participants to consider including a
purely humanitarian group, along with those who could offer
technical and professional expertise for the SC. When it was
announced that two of the elected CSO reps were actually serving
members of the GOI, and thus disqualified from the EITI NGO group,
the CSO participants then voted in the KRG CSO representative.
Those who attended the event acknowledged that they expected some
pushback when other civil society groups came to realize the
importance of the EITI role in good governance.

6. (SBU) Revenue Watch indicated it had raised some concerns with
the GOI, but ultimately noted it was "their" process and that
external players could only have so much influence. Revenue Watch

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also told ACCO staff that the problems with NGO legislation in
Ethiopia had derailed the EITI process there, as it was judged the
NGO's could not be sufficiently independent of the government.
(Comment: Those concerns bear watching as the process unfolds in
Iraq, where there is few independent sources of income for civil
society or media. MOO IG told us he was not concerned that
"interested parties" would try to intervene with the CSO
participants; this will be the key to judging EITI progress here.
End Comment.)

EITI Purview

7. (SBU) EITI, working with Revenue Watch, told conference
participants it will recommend that the GOI seek external audits of
both proceeds of oil export sales to the government and government
declared receipts for the same transactions. These audits would be
compared, and the reports made public. This cross-check and public
dissemination would provide transparency in export sales income
(over 80% of the GOI' revenue in 2009). Indeed, Iraq's EITI launch
prompted Revenue Watch to declare on January 11 that "by joining the
voluntary global initiative it has established itself as the Middle
East's most important champion of the principles of transparency and
accountability in the management of oil and gas resources."

8. (SBU) Nonetheless, Iraqi media and civil society
representatives posed several questions about the process, showing
some degree of skepticism and voicing concerns about the GOI
controlling corruption and managing Iraq's oil wealth more
efficiently. One journalist and three CSO representatives pressed
the MOO IG on better management of contracts, better management of
oil assets (i.e., oilfield management) smuggling, and monitoring of
oil products used domestically. Mohie al-Din indicated that these
issues fell under his jurisdiction to monitor and audit as the
Inspector General, and that they were not part of the EITI mandate,
which would cover only oil export revenues.

Next Steps

9. (SBU) Updating us on the SC membership (see also ref A) Mohie
al-Din indicated the business representatives that have been
"pre-selected" are Exxon-Mobil and another company whose name the IG
did not provide but which markets Iraqi oil mainly in Asia, Statoil
(oilfield developers), and the Northern Oil Company (representing
Iraqi National Oil Companies). These members of the Stakeholder
Council will be formalized now, and Iraq will submit its candidacy
request to Oslo. The EITI board will then meet in February to vote
on Iraq's candidacy. EITI International Secretariat Director Moberg
told us that the Board is likely to agree on the candidacy, while
Revenue Watch indicated there were lingering concerns about
legislation stalled in the Council of Representatives to formalize
the operations of Non-Governmental Organizations. Mohie al-Din
indicated the CSO groups would next meet with the other members of
the SC in April, presumably after the candidacy status is formally
approved and announced.

10. (SBU) MOO IG told us that he would contact us to request
financial and other support. The World Bank is also working with
the MOO on EITI.

Diplomatic and Commercial Buy-In

11. (SBU) World Bank Mideast Director told Embassy's Assistant
Chief of Mission for Assistance Transition on the margins of his
visit for the conference that he was very pleased with the EITI
conference. According to EITI's Moberg, Norway will soon open a
full-fledged embassy in Baghdad and will provide strong support to
(Oslo-based) EITI, as will other Scandinavian countries and the UK.
Q(Oslo-based) EITI, as will other Scandinavian countries and the UK.
(NOTE: ACCO will coordinate with UK and Scandinavian reps in
Baghdad on support for the Iraqi efforts. END NOTE.) Revenue Watch
noted that it had been in touch with companies who are working in
oilfield development, telling us that all were "fully on board with
the reporting requirements" that will be incumbent on them as part
of EITI.

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