Professor Zedalis Publishes Groundbreaking Book on Iraqi Oil and Gas

Friday, October 01, 2010

Rex Zedalis, the Phyllis Hurley Frey Professor of Law and a Director of the Comparative and International Law Center at The University of Tulsa, has authored the first and only comprehensive examination of the legal issues surrounding international debt recovery on claims against Iraqi oil and gas.

zedalis news releaseHis book, Claims Against Iraqi Oil and Gas: Legal Considerations and Lessons Learned, was released in August. It is the second of a trilogy concerning Iraqi oil and gas law. The first book was The Legal Dimensions of Oil and Gas in Iraq: Current Reality and Future Prospects. Both were published by Cambridge University Press.

Zedalis is a long-time scholar in international energy law and has authored several journal articles and a 2000 book on international energy law. He is a Fellow of the Sustainable Energy and Resources Law Program at TU. This background, combined with two decades of study about issues involving Iraq, led to his beginning the trilogy.

“I was naturally drawn to some of the important questions like those associated with oil and gas in Iraq,” Zedalis said. “The book that was recently released attempts to examine the important subject of recovering on legal claims owed by Iraq through looking to Iraqi oil and gas assets, and revenues from the sales of such.”

Zedalis said there are a series of challenges to going after Iraqi oil and gas or the sale of oil and gas to pay off the roughly $50 million to $70 million of debt Iraq owes to foreign creditors.

“Some of these challenges are procedural in nature,” Zedalis said. “They are the same kinds of legal obstacles faced by any creditor when attempting to recover on an obligation owed by a non-paying foreign debtor. The focus of my recent book, however, is on the challenge relating to obstacles established by UN Security Council resolutions, the provisions of Iraqi law, and provisions of various legal instruments adopted by the United States and other nations where creditors might be interested in prosecuting cases.”

Zedalis noted there are many lessons to be learned from Iraq’s situation, but three are particularly relevant.

“First, care must be taken regarding the scope and language of international instruments purporting to grant protection to certain debtor-state assets, lest untoward confusion be generated regarding debt recovery efforts,” he said. “Second, domestic law measures of the debtor-state that are designed to permit existing contract modification can raise serious legal questions, and should be avoided or carefully tailored. And third, national measures adopted by governments of nation-states where creditors reside or are interested in prosecuting claims should carefully draft those measures so as not to create unintended inconsistencies with or divergences from relevant corresponding international instruments.”

These lessons learned from Iraq can be utilized in other nations, Zedalis said.

“Unfortunately, it seems that many nations that are resource-rich suffer from inadequate and inept business and managerial acumen, to say nothing of governmental competence,” Zedalis said. “This means that, as with Iraq, there is a great likelihood that others will wind up owing substantial sums to foreign creditors who may be interested in pursuing efforts to make legal recovery on those debts, when at the same time both the international community and interested individual nation-states may seek to insulate certain debtor-state assets from those efforts.”

Cambridge University Press is considering Zedalis’ proposal for the final book of the trilogy, which he is already developing. The next volume will deal with oil and gas in Iraq’s disputed Kurdish territories.

Scott Been