The U.S. State Department has played an integral role in advising oil deals between five major western oil companies and the Iraqi government, reports Andrew E. Kramer for The New York Times. According to Kramer, “the disclosure, on the eve of the contracts’ announcement, is the first confirmation of direct American involvement in deals to open Iraq’s oil to commercial development.” The small advising committee of the U.S. State Department, comprised of American government lawyers and private sector consultants told the Times “that their involvement was only to help an understaffed Iraqi ministry with technical and legal details of the contracts and that they in no way helped choose which companies got the deals.” However, democratic senators led by Charles E. Schumer of New York said that the oil contracts to be awarded Monday to Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, Total, and Chevron could “deepen political tensions in Iraq and endanger American soldiers.”

The BBC also reported on the U.S. and other nations’ interests in investing in the six Iraqi oil fields: Rumaila, Kirkuk, Zubair, West Qurna, Bai Hassan and Maysan, and “officials’ hope that the presence of multinational oil firms in Iraq will stimulate more foreign investment.”

>> Read about daily life in Iraq on the Baghdad Bureau blog of The New York Times.