Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 August 2011
The estimated $50 billion to $70 billion in debt currently owed by Iraq to foreign creditors, as reduced by the late 2009 Chinese deal of debt for oil, and other possible reductions not widely reported in the news media, eventually may be repaid, negotiated downward, entirely forgiven, or remain the subject of controversy and, ultimately, various legal actions. The objective of this study was to survey the background regarding the nature of that debt, the contentions that it is legally escapable under the theory of odious debt, and the provisions of Iraqi law – adopted by both the federal government and the KRG – that could precipitate additional claims as a consequence of Iraqi efforts to escape the strict terms of oil and gas contractual arrangements negotiated since 1992. The intricacies and complexities of the specific language of article 141 of the Iraqi Constitution and article 54 of the KRG oil and gas law (No. 22) were explored. In addition, those provisions of the Iraqi Constitution that serve to safeguard contractual rights and thereby constrain any Iraqi exercise of authority to walk away from commitments were examined. Surveyed as well were the details of apposite provisions of law designed to protect Iraqi oil and gas assets from creditor action. Especially relevant in that respect are the terms of paragraph 22 of Security Council resolution 1483 (as extended and reaffirmed by Security Council resolutions 1859 of December 2008 and 1905 of December 2009) and the language of various national implementing measures, such as U.S. Executive Order 13303 as extended by Presidential Notice of May 20, 2009.