Oil for Blood in Iraq: How much is enough for U.S. oil companies?


KPFA Evening News, 07.05.2014

Oil and energy investigator and analyst Antonia Juhasz, however, says, that US and UK-based oil corporations' determination to gain access to Iraq's oil was decisive in the lead-up to the 2003 US/UK invasion Iraq, but not now, in President Obama's deliberations.  


KPFA Weekend News Anchor Anthony Fest: Continuing with our coverage of Iraq, Fortune Magazine recently reported that Iraq is the world's sixth largest oil producer, and that China's four oil companies buy more Iraqi oil than corporations based in any other nation in the world. Some U.S. oil executives, officials and pundits have complained that the US fought the Iraq War but China won the spoils. As the current conflict in Iraq escalated and President Obama deployed hundreds of U.S. Special Forces to Iraq, headlines pointed to China's concern over its Iraqi oil stakes. 

Oil and energy investigator and analyst Antonia Juhasz, however, says that US and British-based oil corporations' determination to gain access to Iraqi oil was decisive in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but not now, in President Obama's deliberations. KPFA's Ann Garrison spoke to Antonia Juhasz spoke to KPFA's Ann Garrison. 

KPFA/Ann Garrison: In 2009, Texas oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens complained that "we," meaning the people of the United States, had sacrificed 5,000 lives, 65,000 wounded soldiers, and one and a half trillion dollars in Iraq, and that "we," meaning U.S. oil corporations, were therefore entitled to Iraq's oil, but that the oil contracts were all going to China. Oil and energy investigator and analyst Antonia Juhasz said, on the contrary, that the Iraq War served US and UK based oil companies very well. 

Antonia Juhasz: I certainly do not think that they had any reason to complain. American and British oil companies did remarkably well. Prior to the invasion, U.S. oil companies were totally shut out of operating within Iraq, and following the invasion, all of the major American and British oil companies were given incredible access to one of the largest pots of oil remaining in the world.

KPFA: Prior to the Iraq War, Yuhasz said, Iraq's oil fields were neither privatized nor open to foreign investment, but Saddam Hussein was negotiating oil contracts with China, Russia, and France, in hopes of winning their support for lifting the punishing financial and trade embargo that it had imposed on Iraq four days after the 1989 invasion of Kuwait, and then for the next fourteen years.  

Antonia Juhasz: Certainly the Chinese also got contracts, but really it's best to step back a little bit to understand why that is still a victory from the perspective of the U.S. oil companies. If you go back to the period of time when the decision making around the Iraq War was taking place, at the very beginning of the Bush Administration, we know that the Cheney energy task force was meeting and that was the oil guys within the Bush Administration and the oil guys from outside of the Bush Administration holding meetings, right at the very beginning of 2001, and one of the things that they did was look at a series of maps and lists of countries and companies that Saddam Hussein was starting to negotiate oil contracts with, and basically, what they realized was that if the sanctions against Hussein were lifted . . . and at that time there was an incredible amount of organizing going on to try and get those sanctions lifted from a humanitarian perspective, due to the humanitarian costs. . . if the sanctions were lifted, then Saddam Hussein was prepared to sign contracts, oil contracts, for the first time with foreign companies and these were companies that very much did not include American and British oil companies. So this huge oil pile was about to be opened up and American and British oil companies were about to be completely shut out.

Fast forward through the invasion, and following the invasion, and instead what we have is essentially American and British oil companies given the opportunity to move in on those contracts, get contracts of their own, and partner with the Chinese, partner with the Russians, partner with the French, in contracts Saddam Hussein had already signed. So, really, from an American and British oil company perspective, they mooched in on contracts that were already being signed and got their own contracts for Iraqi oil, so I would say they did remarkably well, and from the rest of our perspective, tragically well. Really the outcome of this war was that Iraq has been pitched into incredible suffering and instability, the Iraqis have suffered, obviously, Americans have suffered, the world has suffered tremendously but Western oil companies have really come out on top.  

KPFA: Yuhasz does not think that the Obama Administration's military deployment is motivated by U.S. oil companies dissatisfaction with their share of Iraqi oil, or with China's.

Antonia Juhasz: The current instability in Iraq and the current upheaval in Iraq isn't about the United States or the Europeans trying to get China's oil in Iraq. That is certainly not what's happening. From the perspective of western oil companies, they're doing great in Iraq. That doesn't mean that they wouldn't want more but they're certainly not, I would say, willing to risk further instability in Iraq at this point to try and get more oil. From their perspective, I would say they're doing great with what they got in Iraq.

In the current conflict, however, ISIL, is certainly. . . one of thing things that motivates its activities in Iraq . . . is gaining greater access to Iraqi oil. ISIL took over oil fields in Syria It's one of the things that's fueling, literally fueling, that movement, and they targeted oil fields and refineries and pipelines in Iraq. It's certainly been a focus of what they've been doing. But is a motivator for the Obama Administration sending military into Iraq right now to try and get the Chinese out of Iraq? I would say absolutely not. 

KPFA: And that was Antonia Juhasz, author of The Bush Agenda and the Tyranny of Oil. For Pacifica, KPFA Radio, I'm Ann Garrison.


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