Last founding delegate of Opec has died

Abdullah Ismail worked for decades in the oil industry

The last surviving delegate from the conference that founded Opec has died at his home in Abu Dhabi.

After the July 17 Revolution brought hard-line members of the Ba’ath party to power in 1968, he left Iraq for Abu Dhabi, using his expertise to assist in the setting up of the new national oil company in 1971.

Abdullah Ismail was Iraq’s deputy minister of oil and part of his country’s delegation to the historic 1960 Baghdad Conference that resulted in the formation of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Opec was established as a response to the price manipulation carried out by oil firms, which disregarded the interests of oil-producing countries and their people, the rightful owners of the resource
Abdullah Ismail

Interviewed for the 60th anniversary of Opec last year, he explained that the organisation had been set up “as a response to the price manipulation carried out by oil firms which disregarded the interests of oil-producing countries and their people, the rightful owners of the resources".

Concerned that prices were being driven down by a cartel of oil companies, the Iraqi government invited Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela — the major oil producers at the time — to Baghdad on September 10, 1960.

The result was a decision to find ways to co-ordinate prices in a way that benefited the producers, with a second meeting in 1961 that agreed to set up the headquarters of Opec in Vienna and with Iran’s representative, Dr Fuad Rouhani, as the first Secretary General.

“The organisation … has played a key role in safeguarding the interests of oil-producing countries and embracing many legitimate rights that were impossible or difficult to acquire before Opec,” Mr Ismail said.

Abu Dhabi joined Opec in 1967, expanding to UAE membership after the creation of the union on December 2, 1971.

By then events had led to Ismail's relocation to Abu Dhabi, where he was able to offer his services to Sheikh Zayed, Ruler of Abu Dhabi and future first President while he was preparing to unite the seven emirates as the UAE.

There he joined diplomat Adnan Pachachi, another Iraqi exile, who was advising on foreign policy. Ismail's expertise in the oil industry made him a valued adviser to Mana Saeed Al Otaiba, who would become the UAE’s first Minister for Petroleum, with Ismail as undersecretary at the ministry.

Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan arriving for the inauguration ceremony of the construction of the liquefied natural gas plant of Abu Dhabi Gas Liquefaction Company Limited on Das Island, 3rd December 1973
Source: BP Archive 
National Archives images supplied by the Ministry of Presidential Affairs to mark the 50th anniverary of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan becaming the Ruler of Abu Dhabi. *** Local Caption ***  26.jpg

The creation of the UAE required a national strategy for management of the new country’s energy resources, with Adnoc eventually raising its share of the offshore and onshore concessions to a majority 60 per cent by 1974.

In his role as undersecretary Ismail gained the respect of all who dealt with him, with a visiting delegation of British members of parliament in 1975 noting that he “spoke with complete frankness and lucidity".

In an interview for the Ministry of the Interior magazine 999 in 2014, he told of being asked almost on arrival in 1968 to represent Abu Dhabi for a meeting of the economic council of the Arab League in Cairo.

Explaining that he was still technically employed by the Iraqi government, he recalled that Ahmed bin Suwaidi, Sheikh Zayed’s foreign adviser and future Foreign Minister of the UAE, immediately ordered a telex “to the Baghdad government and [to] tell them that Abdullah Ismail has resigned from the Iraqi Oil Ministry".

ABU DHABI - UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - 06NOV2015 - Adnan Pachachi, 92 years old is one of the oldest Iraqi statesmen around, during an Interview at his residence in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National (to go with Rym story for News) *** Local Caption ***  RK0611-historyproject09.jpg

A decree from the Ruler followed, making Ismail a citizen and confirming his member of the circle that would forge the new country.

Abdullah Ismail Bachi passed away on Tuesday evening, November 16, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, and was buried at Baniyas Cemetary.

Condolences will take place from 6pm to 9pm on Saturday November 20 at Al Thuraya Hall of the Beach Rotana Hotel.

He is survived by his wife Tamima Toufiq Al Dabbas and children Firas, Inas and Ahmad.

Updated: November 20th 2021, 7:00 PM