Crude Intentions?

July 02, 2008

The news that no-bid contracts for oil production in Iraq were to be awarded to a number of U.S. oil companies sent keyboards tapping in the blogosphere (the contracts have been put on hold). A sampling of the commentary:

"The U.S. government dictated terms that are set to bring back ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Total and Chevron, the very same multinational energy giants that dominated Iraqi oil production before Baghdad nationalized the sector 36 years ago. They, along with a consortium of smaller firms, have been offered no-bid contracts by the Iraqi government. These so-called technical support agreements, worth $500 million each, represent the foot in the door for the major Western oil firms, giving them a decisive advantage over rival companies from Russia, China, India and elsewhere. ... The U.S. occupation of Iraq has opened up the potential for an unparalleled profit bonanza for Big Oil. That this was the principal aim of the U.S. invasion in the first place is becoming increasingly impossible to deny. Behind all of the lies about 'weapons of mass destruction' and supposed ties between Baghdad and al-Qaida, the U.S. war was about reinstating the domination of the U.S.-based oil giants over the world's third-largest petroleum reserves and blocking access to them by their foreign rivals."


"What is so troublesome is that an Iraqi government (and proper parliament) has not been established, even after a reasonably successful surge. And where there is no government, there is no authority who can justly decide this. The oil money NEEDS to go back to rebuilding the country and, in my opinion, be Iraqi state-owned. They need some to get the oil out, though, which is where the American companies can help, but only as contractors. I don't think we went in to make money in Iraq. I think we went in because we were not successful enough in Afghanistan, because we couldn't or didn't dare to take on Iran, and because we wanted to control the oil-money-power. (Certainly a few details are left out, so pardon the overly simple conclusion.) But not to make money per se. But the oil companies involved in Iraq are not there for humanitarian reasons, and they should be watched closely to avoid war profiteering that will steal the natural resources away from its people."


"I think it would be an error to assume that simply because the U.S. military conducted the war and also advised the government on the contracts there is some sort of causal connection. Even in the absence of such a connection, for decades, the Iraqi oil industry has operated a nationalized industry, and the Iraqis have scant experience in structuring such contracts in a private market. I refuse to jump to the conclusion that the terms of the contracts were simply dictated to the Iraqi government; they absolutely needed some outside guidance. In short, while it's reasonable to be suspicious of what is occurring in the Iraqi oil industry, it does not prove a grand conspiracy."


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