Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Closer Look At Adnan Janabi, The New Head Of Iraq’s Oil Committee

Adnan Janabi meeting with Pres. Talabani in 2009 (Iraqi National News Agency)
On February 10, 2011 Adnan Abdul-Munim Rashid Janabi was named the head of the oil committee in the new Iraqi parliament. Janabi received his chairmanship as part of a deal between his Iraqi National Movement and the Kurdish Coalition who received control of the legal committee in return. This was actually the second time that Janabi held this position, as he was a Baathist, and leading petroleum official in Saddam Hussein’s government.

Adnan Janabi’s family is the head of the Janabi tribe in Babil. The Janabis were favored by Saddam, who turned towards tribes for support and internal security during the Iran-Iraq War and again after the Gulf War. Adnan was actually an urban technocrat, who had little say in his tribe’s affairs.

Janabi was western educated, and rose up the Baathist ranks under Saddam. He went to school in England, where he received a degree in economics. In the 1970s he became the head of marketing at the Oil Ministry, and then the head of its foreign relations in the 1980s. He became the Iraqi representative to OPEC in their Vienna offices as a result. In 1996 he was elected to the Iraqi parliament, where he was appointed the head of the oil committee for the first time. During that period he also received oil vouchers from Saddam, which was a means for the regime to break United Nations sanctions and restrictions on their oil sales. With the vouchers, Janabi and others could receive oil at discounted prices, and then resell it for a profit

After the 2003 invasion, Janabi became part of Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National List. In 2004 Janabi was named Minister of State in Allawi’s interim government. The next year he was named to the deputy head of the committee drafting the new Iraqi constitution, and helped include more Sunnis in that body. At the end of 2005, he was a candidate for the Iraqi Nationalist List, and ran Allawi’s election campaign where he was accused of attempting to bribe reporters. Janabi, along with 90 others, was then banned by the deBaathification Commission. The deBaathification law said that officials could be barred for enriching themselves under Saddam, which Janabi did by receiving the oil vouchers. He was then cleared.

A similar series of events happened to him in 2010. Again, he ran as part of an Allawi led list, the Iraqi National Movement, and again he was barred by the Accountability and Justice Commission that replaced the deBaathification Commission. He was still on the ballot however, and received just over 6,000 votes in Baghdad. Afterward, Janabi was cleared, barred again, and then cleared once more for his Baathist past. That led to the confirmation of his election to office, and his eventual return to the powerful oil committee.

Adnan Janabi has had a charmed life. He rose through the ranks of Saddam’s Iraq, and spent nearly thirty years in the oil industry, both with the Oil Ministry and the oil committee in parliament. The fall of the former regime, was not as much of a setback as one would expect for an ex-Baathist. By joining Allawi’s Iraqi National List, he was able to gain new prominent positions, such as being the deputy head of the constitutional committee. Even when he was twice targeted for his Baathist past in 2005 and 2010, he was able to be cleared due to his close connections to Allawi. He is now back to being the head of the oil committee fifteen years after his first stay as chairman. Rather than being a sign of redemption or political reconciliation in the new Iraq, Janabi represents the political compromises and backroom deals between the country’s powerful elite that really characterize the country today.


BBC, “Iraq aide quits over US conduct,” 1/12/05

Danly, James & Sullivan, Marisa Cochrane, “Iraqi Candidate Disqualification Update,” Institute for the Study of War, 4/29/10

Kazimi, Nibras, “Gesture Towards Ba’athists,” Talisman Gate, 11/30/05

Lando, Ben, “Iraqiya nets Parliament oil committee leadership,” Iraq Oil Report, 2/10/11

Mosher, Andy and Fekeiki, Omar, “Accord on Sunni involvement in constitution,” San Francisco Chronicle, 6/17/05

Oppel, Richard, “Iraqi Court Bars at Least 90 Candidates,” New York Times, 12/25/05

Otterman, Sharon, “IRAQ: The interim government leaders,” Council on Foreign Relations, 6/2/04

Raghavan, Sudarsan, “New Leaders Of Sunnis Make Gains In Influence,” Washington Post, 1/8/08

Smith, R. Jeffrey and Lynch, Colum, “Hussein used oil to erode sanctions,” San Francisco Chronicle, 10/9/04

Visser, Reidar, “Maliki vs Lami, Maliki/Lami vs Allawi(Update),” Iraq And Gulf Analysis, 4/29/10

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