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Focus on Islamism
Thursday 28th January 2010
War for Oil?


Tomorrow, a rag-tag army of poorly informed students, unemployed people, members of fringe Socialist parties and Islamists will descend upon Westminster in what may be their final chance to call Tony Blair a liar when he arrives to give his testimony to the Chilcot inquiry.

Rather ironically, this mass of dreadlocked unemployed people may well prevent me from getting into my office, which sits just a stone's throw away from the QE II Conference Centre.   Less ironic - but even more annoying - will be the slogans that will either be emblazoned on their t-shirts or on the plaques they will be waving.  One of these is likely to be something like ‘no war for oil', ‘no blood for oil' or ‘Blair loves oil' (granted, the last one is probably not that likely).  Ignoring for a moment that it is probably a good thing that one of the world's best oil reserves are no longer under the sole ownership of a despot, the claim that the Iraq war was orchestrated by American oil companies is now demonstrably false.  In mid December last year Reuters reported the following news about the Iraqi Oil Ministry's auction for oil deals:

The Oil Ministry on Saturday ended its second bidding round after awarding seven of the oilfields offered for development, adding to deals from a first auction in June that could together take Iraq up to a capacity to pump 12 million barrels per day.

[...]Russia's Lukoil on Saturday clinched a deal to develop Iraq's supergiant West Qurna Phase Two oilfield after having failed to convince Iraq to bypass the auction and revive an old Saddam Hussein-era deal for the field.

[...]Only one U.S. firm bid in the second round, and of the four fields bid on by U.S. firms in the first round, only Exxon Mobil won a major prize, leading a group to clinch a deal for the supergiant West Qurna Phase One field.

U.S.-based Occidental came away with a quarter stake in a consortium that won a contract for the giant Zubair field.

By contrast, Chinese state oil firms were involved in every first round bid and made a strong showing in the second.

[...]"We haven't really seen U.S. companies, and that is because of intense competition ... The issue is financial and technical and not at all political. This confirms Iraq can manage its oil policy and activities without politicization," said Thamir Ghadhban, a prime ministerial advisor and former oil minister.

Not only have private US oil firms failed to land any major contracts, but Russia, a country that vehemently opposed the toppling of its business partner Saddam Hussein, has secured one of the most lucrative contracts.  Will we now see a noble climb-down by the Stop the War Coalition/Muslim Brotherhood alliance? Not likely.

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March 15th, 2010
1:03 PM
just because it all went horribly wrong for american and british big oil doesn't mean that getting control of iraqi oil was not one of the original reasons for the war. One reason, not the only reason. If Iraq had no oil do you seriously think for a moment there wold have been a war? Look around the world. How many vicious dictators do you see who are left to themselves because they have no oil?

Alexander Melea...
February 2nd, 2010
11:02 AM
Ratty, Saying that 'the issue is financial not political' is not a reference to the economic downturn, which all countries have suffered from, including the ones that won Iraqi oil contracts. the 'financial' reference simply means that the decisions made by the Iraqi oil minsitry were based on money rather than politics - ie, other companies offered better deals. There is absolutely no specific reference to the economic downturn.

January 30th, 2010
5:01 PM
The article says the following: 'We haven't really seen U.S. companies, and that is because of intense competition ... The issue is financial'. If that isn't a reference to the financial situation of the US firms - and thus of the US economy, i don't know what is. You also must take into consideration that the USA forced the nascent Iraqi govt to privatise the oil industry, when they wanted to keep it state-run. This might not have entirely been a war for oil, but the USA did insist on that privatisation - that much is a fact.

January 29th, 2010
10:01 PM
Its interesting that the 'oil' claim seems somewhat to have evaporated, and was not a feature of today's mob kvetching. Also worth noting how the shifty losers waved Saddam era Iraqi flags, proving yet again they neither know nor care about the country in question. I also particularly liked how the BBC reported (without irony) that 'a large number of the' pathetic assembly left during the course of the day 'due to the cold weather'. Such was the strength of their convictions (pun intended).

Alexander Melea...
January 29th, 2010
12:01 PM
I'm afraid that there is no mention at all in that article about the US economy. Simply that the decisions made were financial and not political - ie, the best bidders won and the US if the US had invaded Iraq in order to 'steal' its oil, it would have certainly gotten a better deal than this. Of course the fact that Saddam treated the oil fields as his own personal playground as his people starved was a consideration, but not, as you say, the primary one. Mty argument was simply that those who constantly bleat about the 'war for oil' should now go away.

January 29th, 2010
10:01 AM
the article you quote is pretty clear in its statement that the reason for US lack of success is the state of the US economy. This isn't a very persuasive argument that the war had nothing to do with freeing up the US oil market. as david radlett says, the US forced postwar Iraq to privatise its oil markets against the then govt's wishes (a govt whose leader would sson be removed by, er, george bush). Oil wasn't the primary motivation for war, but it's clear that it was part of the thinking behind it - that much is apparent from the analysis of people like Alan Greenspan. It's just unfortunate that at the time the contracts were going, US companies were in the shit.

David Radlett
January 28th, 2010
5:01 PM
On 19th September 2003 the US-led Provisional Authority imposed laws that had the effect of imposing the full privatisation of public enterprises and full ownership rights by foreign firms of Iraqi businesses, and of course profit repatriation thereafter. Who owns the successful bidders?

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About Focus on Islamism

Focus on Islamism is a blog dedicated to analysing and exposing the modern ideological phenomenon known as Islamism.

Shiraz Maher is a writer and broadcaster.

Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens is a PhD student at King's College, London.  He has contributed to various online and printed publications including, The Daily Telegraph, Lebanon's Daily Star, Standpoint and NOWLebanon. 

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