December 13, 2005

Iraqi Poster Wars: Chalabi's Crude Strategy


If you’re an American politician and you’ve got an interest in (or designs on) big oil, you certainly would not play it up — especially during the closing days of a campaign.  In Iraq, on the other hand, it seems the opposite is true.

Consider this flier for the Chalabi campaign (courtesy of iraqivote).  The photo was taken on May 29, 2005, on a daylong tour of Kirkuk area military bases and oil installations by Deputy Prime Ministers Ahmed Chalabi, Abed Multluq-Al-Jibouri, Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr-Ul-Ulloum and Chief of the Iraqi Army General Staff, General Babkar Zebari.

The most interesting thing about this piece of campaign literature is that it was graphically manipulated.  It was not done so, however, to include or exclude any particular figures.  It was also not altered to play down the oil setting.  Instead, it was cosmetically combined with the image of another oil or industrial facility to creating the impression Mr. Chalabi was touring a much larger (or, at least, more impressive looking) petrol installation.

How do I know this?  Because the original photo was taken by photographer and BAGnewNotes contributor Alan Chin.  For comparison sake, you can inspect the original shot below.


When you combine the flier above with the billboard just below, it seems clear candidate Chalabi is trying to associate himself in the minds of Iraqi voters with the oil industry. The questions is, how come?


On the western side of the fence, the association makes perfect sense.

According to Global Policy Forum, Giant U.S. and U.K. oil companies have been shut out of the Iraqi oil market since 1972.  According to provisions of the U.S. scripted constitution, however, Production Sharing Agreements can be offered to these companies after the election allowing foreign companies to gain control of dozens of Iraqi oil fields, some that are quite large.   It also should be noted that Chalabi — who, up until a few months ago, had been serving as Iraq’s interim Oil Minister  (although there was nothing in his background that lent him expertise in that area) — has recently renewed ties with the Bush Administration.  In his trip to Washington a few weeks ago, Chalabi met with the likes of Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice.  Details of the discussions were not disclosed, but a defense official was quoted as saying that talks included protection of Iraq’s oil and electricity infrastructure.

Even if Chalabi is part of a U.S. – Iraqi oil play, however, that still doesn’t explain the campaign strategy.

Although it’s unclear what his real intentions are, the election material seems to relate to Chalabi’s promotion of an Alaska-style plan in which oil revenue would be distributed directly the the Iraqi people.  As Dermot Cole, a journalist in Fairbanks, Alaska writes, there is actually only one line in the Iraqi constitution which alludes to such a plan.  Nonetheless, it seems that Chalabi — having paid lip service to the concept for years — now seems to be pumping it for all it’s worth.

image 1: courtesy image 3: Ali al-Saadi/AFP. December 3, 2005. Baghdad. Via YahooNews.

(Image #2 by Alan Chin/Gamma.  May 29, 2005. Near Kirkuk, Iraq.  Posted by permission. For more on Alan Chin, see: Portfolio. Kosovo Diary. Contact:

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Michael Shaw
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