Good reporting from RFE/RL on Galbraith/DNO

Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty is a relic of the Cold War that in the mid-1990s got rebranded by Tom Dine (as you can read in my Nation piece) as a very serious lever of US soft power in the Muslim world.
What RFE/RL does is technically termed “surrogate broadcasting.” The current director-general says what they aim to produce is “something like the same National Public Radio station we have here in the US”– but produced by nationals of the countries to which RFE/RL broadcasts.
Which is another way of saying that though RFE/RL is funded by the S government, it aims to provide quality news coverage to the countries it broadcasts to. Unlike, for example the Alhurra t.v. channel or the Iraq-only Radio Sawa, which were established (under a single, and for-profit umbrella) during the Bush administration: Those latter two provide “news” that is much more propagandistic and/or ill-considered.
So today, I’m following Reidar Visser’s tip and looking at the RFE/RL coverage of the Galbraith affair… And yes, it is very good .
The writer, Charles Recknagel, gives us a concise description of the legal-affairs backstory for last week’s revelation by the Norwegian daily Dagens Naeringsliv that Peter Galbraith had a very significant material interest in the Kurdish Regional Government’s achievement of control over exploitation of new oil fields within its boundaries– at the very same time he was arguing strongly, as a supposed constitutional “expert”, that the new, post-invasion “regional governments” in Iraq (of which the KRG is thus far the only one) should gain exactly that and other new rights, at the expense of the central government.
The RFE/RL account of “Galbraithgate” seems to clearly give the lie to those (like Laura Rosen and others) who argue that last week’s revelation of Galbraith’s strong financial interest in the devolution of powers inside Iraq was timed to embarrass him at a point when he has just had gotten into a very public spat with the (as it happens, Norwegian) head of the UN mission in Afghanistan.
Recknagel writes,

    The financial news editor of “Dagens Naeringsliv,” Terje Erikstad, says the discovery of Galbraith’s name was completely unanticipated.
    “We started out the investigation looking at the fine levied against a mid-sized Norwegian oil company, DNO,” Erikstad said. “It is often in the news because it was a pioneer in northern Iraq and its shares on the Oslo stock exchange go up and down with developments there. We were not looking for Galbraith’s name at all, so finding it on [Porcupine’s] founding documents in Delaware was quite a surprise for us.”

Recknagel also gives an estimate of how much money is at stake in the current litigation between Galbraith’s company, Porcupine, and DNO:

    The paper [DN] published a document from 2006 that lists the partners in the Tawke field and shows Porcupine as having a 5 percent interest in it.
    The paper estimates that the total amount of compensation being sought jointly by Porcupine and the Yemeni businessman is some $525 million. A ruling is expected in the first half of next year.
    DNO has the capacity currently to export roughly 43,000 barrels per day from Iraqi Kurdistan [presumably, all of this from Tawke field], worth approximately $30 million annually. However, exports are currently blocked as the KRG and Baghdad continue to dispute the same kind of issues Galbraith once tried to resolve.

Yes, isn’t that the crux of the story: That Galbraith was actively working for the KRG to acquire these kinds of revenue-producing powers that were previously in the sovereign domain of Iraq’s central government– at exactly the same time, 2004-2006, that he was already in a business relationship with both the KRG and DNO whereby he stood to reap considerable personal benefit from the new arrangements he was arguing for.
Good job, RFE/RL.
So when will we see some similarly hard-headed reporting in organs of the US mainstream media other than the Boston Globe? The Globe did have a piece about “Galbraith-gate” in today’s paper– but it was not nearly as well researched and written as the one in RFE/RL.

8 thoughts on “Good reporting from RFE/RL on Galbraith/DNO

  1. JohnH

    Good to hear that foreigners can get some good reporting from a US government outlet. I wish the same could be said for Americans listening to NPR. I stopped listening to NPR as a result of their shameless boosterism of the US invasion of Iraq.

  2. Sd

    Another issue concerning said “Yemeni businessman,” Shaher Abdul-Haq: see this background.
    Inside Yemen, Abdul-Haq has a reputation as one of the most corrupt businessmen in this most corrupt country. Abdul-Haq serves at the pleasure of the man who has ruled Yemen for the last 31 years as a military dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh. In other words, Abdul-Haq is the equivalent of the worst Egyptian pseudo-capitalist entrepeneurs who serve at the pleasure of Gen. Hosni Mubarak. Perhaps Abdul-Haq is worse than Mubarak because the social-economic environment in Yemen is far worse than the environment in Egypt.
    Yemeni Pres. Ali Abdallah Saleh has served corruptly in power over this poorest Arab Muslim country longer than any other Arab Muslim leader except Libya’s Muammar al-Gadaffi and Sultan Qaboos of Oman. The corruption of a figure like Shaher Abdul-Haq is one of the primary reasons for Saleh’s continued existence in power. Thus the question which begs to be answered is: what is a dignified “humanitarian” US ambassador of good-will (all satire is entirely intended) like Peter Galbraith doing in business association with a figure like Shaher Abdul-Haq?

  3. Sd

    Reidar Visser and the Norwegian press might be interested in the story provided in the previous post. Scroll down on the linked webpage to the story about the murder of a beautiful young Norwegian woman living in Britain.
    The Yemeni suspect who fled Britain shortly after the murder is none-other-than the son of Shaher Abdul-Haq. See this story, too.
    What is Galbraith thinking when he associates with gross abusers of the global public trust like Shaher Abdul-Haq?

  4. Sd

    Also this.
    I apologize for all the hyperlinking, but this last link clarifies the connection between Abdul-Haq’s son and the murdered Norwegian woman.

  5. Sd

    Here is what Leila Abu-Saba blogged in September 2005. Her reference to a Bob Dylan song could easily apply to Peter Galbraith or Paul Bremer or Donald Rumsfeld or George Bush aka Dick Cheney:
    A Song We Need Now
    Bob Dylan is my mother’s age. While he finger-picked in Greenwich coffee houses, my mother was sitting in at a lunch counter in Lynchburg, VA., trying to get a cup of coffee for her African American sister in the movement. Mom went to jail, then married my dad after she got out, went on to protest the Vietnam war and try to change this world we live in.
    I grew up hearing about Dylan. He wasn’t God in my house – J.S. Bach was – but I knew my parents’ friends worshipped him. All the more reason to ignore him when I hit my teens. I liked Patti Smith, the Talking Heads, the Slits, James White and the Blacks, sometimes the Ramones, always the Stones. Also worshipped George Clinton, and swam in a sea of early hiphop in my days on the Lower East Side, 1980-84. Dan Zanes and the original Del Fuegos were my pals in college. I had no idea why Dylan was so important – his style didn’t appeal to me in those days. The myopia of youth.
    Watching the PBS documentary last night I was struck by several things. One of them was how much the punky mannerisms of my generation owe to Dylan in 1966 – the twitching, hand flapping, downcast eyes, head thrown back with eyes still looking away, a glance at the audience and then a scowl into the distance. And how much our late 70s shouters owed to his growl.
    Another thing I realized, not last night but three years ago at a Tikkun conference in New York just after 9/11, is how Dylan’s songs last. We sang “Blowin in the Wind”, a congregation of progressive Jews, Christians & Muslims, holding hands at the Society for Ethical Culture, and I wept because the lyrics and the music were so right.
    So this morning as I fry onions for my Arab literature class (long story), I put on Dylan’s Biograph. “Masters of War” came on and I began weeping. It wasn’t just the onions:
    Come you masters of war You that build all the guns You that build the death planes You that build the big bombs You that hide behind walls You that hide behind desks I just want you to know I can see through your masks
    You that never done nothin’
    But build to destroy
    You play with my world
    Like it’s your little toy
    You put a gun in my hand
    And you hide from my eyes
    And you turn and run farther
    When the fast bullets fly
    Like Judas of old
    You lie and deceive
    A world war can be won
    You want me to believe
    But I see through your eyes
    And I see through your brain
    Like I see through the water
    That runs down my drain
    You fasten the triggers
    For the others to fire
    Then you set back and watch
    When the death count gets higher
    You hide in your mansion
    As young people’s blood
    Flows out of their bodies
    And is buried in the mud
    You’ve thrown the worst fear
    That can ever be hurled
    Fear to bring children
    Into the world
    For threatening my baby
    Unborn and unnamed
    You ain’t worth the blood
    That runs in your veins
    How much do I know
    To talk out of turn
    You might say that I’m young
    You might say I’m unlearned
    But there’s one thing I know
    Though I’m younger than you
    Even Jesus would never
    Forgive what you do
    Let me ask you one question
    Is your money that good
    Will it buy you forgiveness
    Do you think that it could
    I think you will find
    When your death takes its toll
    All the money you made
    Will never buy back your soul
    And I hope that you die
    And your death’ll come soon
    I will follow your casket
    In the pale afternoon
    And I’ll watch while you’re lowered
    Down to your deathbed
    And I’ll stand o’er your grave
    ‘Til I’m sure that you’re dead
    -Bob Dylan
    Why, forty years later, do we still have masters of war?
    Men and women dying for oil?
    Old people drowning for want of a dollar for the levee, while their grandsons ship out to kill “sand niggers”?
    Bob Dylan has lit me up this morning. I’ve had one foot in bourgeois America for the last decade and I am ready to turn my face away. The America I love is under attack from the right. I don’t know what I’m going to do but this rag-head half-Arab ain’t gonna be a complacent housewife no more.
    You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows…

  6. Steve Connors

    I met Recknagel some years ago in Afghanistan. He’s an excellent reporter who, along with a few other post-cold war RFE/RL journalists really push the boundaries of the organisation’s mandate.

  7. Reidar

    Today, this story finally made its way into the Arabic press, if somewhat tentatively. There is now a story out at a relatively small Iraqi-Kuwaiti news outlet, here:
    http://www.aljeeran.net/wesima_articles/reports-20091017-158258.html
    It is mostly based on today’s story in the Financial Times. The same story is also paraphrased in al-Qabas, one of the biggest Kuwaiti newspapers.
    Steve and Alex, sorry I forgot to answer your queries about what happened in 2008. I still don’t know the answer but have postened some conjectures over at my blog.

  8. Steve Connors

    Yes, thanks Reidar.
    All that conjecture must have been very painful for you:) I appreciate it.

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