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US Papers Fri: Biden Back in Iraq
Iraq Moves Up Bids For Next Oil Fields
By DANIEL W. SMITH 07/03/2009 10:00 AM ET
Biden and oil made the news - not a lot of background information needed on those items. Also, another story about recently-released summaries of FBI interrogations of Saddam Hussein (both articles have been nice enough to point out that the interrogations took place before Hussein’s execution).

From Baghdad
In the New York Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Timothy Williams write that Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. landed in Baghdad on Thursday, beginning a two-day diplomatic mission that he said was intended to “re-establish contact” with Iraqi leaders, intended to, as they say, “prod them toward settling internal disputes over oil revenues and political power-sharing.” Biden is called “a kind of unofficial envoy to the country.”
The trip is unusually long for such a high-level official; when Mr. Obama visited Iraq, he spent just a few hours here, and President George W. Bush did not spend more than a day. But Mr. Biden said Iraq was at a pivotal moment, “the moment where a lot of Iraqis cynically believed we’d never keep the agreement.” He said the White House wanted to send a message to Iraqi leaders that it was engaged at the highest levels.

In putting Mr. Biden in the role of unofficial envoy, Mr. Obama may have recognized that he needed to pay greater attention to Baghdad. Mr. Biden said the job was Mr. Obama’s idea: “The president said, ‘Joe, go do it.’ ”
The article also focuses on a deal recently reached between France and Iraq, in which the former will supply the latter with armaments, training, and reconstruction.

Jane Arraf of the Christian Science Monitor writes about the Biden visit, but from a more Iraqi perspective, interviewing Foreign Minister Hoyshar Zebari. "My message to them is ... you lost Afghanistan in 2001, 2002, and 2003 because you turned your attention to Iraq from Afghanistan – now you are redirecting your attentions of Afghanistan and if you disengage with Iraq, it could be another failure. The situation is not that solid," said Zebari.
Now that violence has declined in most of the country, reconciliation between the Shiite-led government and Sunni factions, between Kurds and Arabs, and among a wide range of extremists who could potentially be persuaded to disarm and join the political process is seen as the key to building on the country's fragile stability.
"Iraq is no longer a priority, definitely," says Zebari. "In a way it is a good thing that the situation is moving but in another sense the situation still needs more attention, more focus, more engagement."

Gina Chon, your go-to gal for Iraq oil stories in the Wall Street Journal, writes that the Iraqi oil ministry announced it will move up a second round of licensing bids for 11 oil and natural-gas fields. They were to happen at the end of the year, but with the coffers not quite as flush as had been expected after the bidding earlier this week. A date hasn’t been set yet, but it could be as early as a few months.

Unlike the first round this week, the oil fields on offer for the second round haven't yet been developed or are only partially developed. The new round could also include the five oil fields that were offered but not awarded this week. The oil ministry said the two natural-gas fields that were part of the first round won't be reoffered. Instead, they will be developed by a new national oil company the ministry intends to set up.

This week's round disappointed oil executives and many industry observers, who were surprised by the ministry's tough pricing. The oil ministry typically set a $2 per-barrel payout for any new production the oil companies were able to squeeze out of the fields beyond current levels.
Stateside
The New York Times’ Scott Shane writes about the summaries of 20 formal interviews and five additional “casual conversations,” an FBI interrogator held with Saddam Hussein, after his capture. It is about the same as the article in yesterday’s Washington Post, and a day later.

USA Today, Washington Post, no Iraq coverage.

Comments on the US Papers roundup are welcome at dwsmithemail@yahoo.com


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