CREW Calls On State Dept. To Probe Galbraith Over Kurdish Oil Dealings

November 19, 2009 1:30 p.m.

A good government group is calling on the State Department to investigate the role of former ambassador Peter Galbraith in drafting Iraq’s constitution in 2005 while he held a lucrative stake in a Kurdish oil field.

The letter from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington to the State Dept. Inspector General asks whether State approved Galbraith’s activities, and cites a recent New York Times exposé that built off work of the Norwegian newspaper Dagens Naeringsliv.The Times reported that Galbraith, advising the Kurds during the 2005 constitutional talks, helped secure “clauses that he maintains will give the Kurds virtually complete control over all new oil finds on their territory.”

In 2004, Galbraith, ambassador to Croatia during the Clinton Administration and longtime friend of the Kurds, secured what the Times calls an “enormous stake” in a Kurdish oil field. He also worked for Norwegian oil company DNO in 2004 and 2005, including on an oil deal with the Kurds. Galbraith stands to make millions off his stake, the Times reported.

Galbraith, for his part, has denied wrongdoing and told the AP Saturday that “I had no affiliation, no association, received no assistance from the U.S. government at the time these activities took place.” He says he took part in “appropriate business activities” that have benefited “the people of Kurdistan.”

But the Times reported that Galbraith’s role could be detrimental to U.S. policy in Iraq:

As the scope of Mr. Galbraith’s financial interests in Kurdistan become clear, they have the potential to inflame some of Iraqis’ deepest fears, including conspiracy theories that the true reason for the American invasion of their country was to take its oil. It may not help that outside Kurdistan, Mr. Galbraith’s influential view that Iraq should be broken up along ethnic lines is considered offensive to many Iraqis’ nationalism. Mr. Biden and Mr. Kerry, who have been influenced by Mr. Galbraith’s thinking but do not advocate such a partitioning of the country, were not aware of Mr. Galbraith’s oil dealings in Iraq, aides to both politicians say.

Some officials say that his financial ties could raise serious questions about the integrity of the constitutional negotiations themselves. “The idea that an oil company was participating in the drafting of the Iraqi Constitution leaves me speechless,” said Feisal Amin al-Istrabadi, a principal drafter of the law that governed Iraq after the United States ceded control to an Iraqi government on June 28, 2004.

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