Why Bob Schaffer’s Iraq oil deal matters

I continue to be amazed that former Colorado Congressman Bob Schaffer, who is currently running for the U.S. Senate, fails to recognize that his actions and those of his most recent employer, Aspect Energy, undermined U.S. policy in Iraq. The facts speak for themselves.

First, in late 2006, Schaffer joined a delegation from Aspect Energy that worked to negotiate an oil exploration agreement with members of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), which represents the semi-autonomous and oil-rich section in the northern part of the country. He remained a part of this effort until the agreement was signed in late 2007. Schaffer’s self-described role was advising Aspect Energy about the political environment.

Second, the Bush administration’s opposition to separate oil deals with the Kurds as opposed to the central government dates from the early days of our invasion.

Third, after President Bush proposed the so-called surge in January 2007 — just two months after Schaffer made his Iraq trip — Congress, with the concurrence of the White House, laid out 18 benchmarks for measuring progress in Iraq. Passing an oil revenue-sharing law, designed to distribute Iraq’s oil wealth equitably among its various factions, was and remains one of the key benchmarks. Oil revenue-sharing has always been seen as an essential ingredient for the goals of political reconciliation and the establishment of an effective central government in Iraq. It ranks right up there with holding elections and training Iraqi security forces.

Fourth, Kurdish separatist impulses, while constrained now, have a significant potential for totally undermining U.S. policy, and revenue from Kurdish oil in Kurdish pockets is the driver for the Kurdish separatist movement, the economic basis for independence. And Kurdish independence risks war with Turkey and conflict with Iran.

Fifth, President Bush and his administration, following the September 2007 Hunt oil deal with the Kurds, criticized that deal and reiterated strong opposition to separate oil deals with the Kurds. This public criticism occurred two months before the Aspect Energy deal.

The political importance of achieving a national oil law cannot be understated. It remains a linchpin to stabilizing Iraq and preventing the Balkanization of the country.

Developing Kurdish oil resources outside of a national oil law undermines that goal, which is why the U.S. State Department, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and President Bush himself have publicly disavowed deals like the one arranged by Schaffer’s ex-employer.

For his part, Schaffer maintains that the State Department, Rice and the President were “ambiguous” and that the Aspect Energy investment in Kurdistan “ought to be the highest priority of America’s diplomatic policy.”

Excuse me, I thought former members of Congress knew that the Constitution said that the President of the United States was responsible for executing our foreign policy, not American business or private citizens. And excuse me, I thought Schaffer was hired to advise about the political environment.

A red flag is a red flag. Our national security policy is about our national interests and not about private profit.

Rand Beers served as the National Security Adviser to the Kerry-Edwards 2004 campaign and was for 35 years a civil servant. Beers served on the White House National Security Council Staff and was a special assistant to President George W. Bush for combating terrorism at the National Security Council from 2002-2003.

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