In its headlines for December 14, Democracy Now followed the report on Blair’s confession about his committment to regime change in Iraq regardless of the absence of WMDs, with this:
Iraq Signs Oil Deals with 10 Foreign Companies
Blair’s comments come just as Iraq has signed a series of major oil deals. A two-day auction ended Saturday with ten foreign companies winning access to Iraq’s massive reserves. The oil giant Royal Dutch Shell won the rights to the Manjoon oilfield near Basra, one of the world’s largest. The US-based Exxon Mobil and Occidental Petroleum also submitted winning bids.
The wording is careful: it appears to suggest a connection between what Blair said and the Iraqi oil contracts. The war in other words was for oil. That is a remrkable conclusion to draw from news about an auction in which US companies were the big losers (hence DN’s careful choice of the words ‘foreign companies’). Unless Democracy Now is suggesting that the US waged a war for Russia, Norway and China — biggest winners in the auction — it is not clear why it continues to insist on the discredited “war for oil” argument? Why is it so difficult to admit who actually conceived the war?
But some could argue that this may be a mere reflection of the changing balance of power: that US oil majors are unable to secure contracts doesn’t necessarilty mean that the war wasn’t for oil.
Consider this excerpt from the news report about the auction:
The 10 deals the Iraqi Oil Ministry reached with foreign oil companies suggest that China, Russia, and European oil firms are poised to play a major role in refurbishing Iraq’s oil industry, crippled by decades of war and sanctions.
American companies walked away with stakes in just two of the 10 auctioned fields. Seven American companies had paid to participate in the second auction, which began Friday. The only one that submitted a bid lost. Two American companies reached deals for fields auctioned in June.
The meager representation of American oil giants in Iraq’s opening oil industry surprised analysts.
“Iraq finally opened its doors after six years of war, and instead of U.S. companies, you have Asians and Europeans leading the way,” said Ruba Husari, the editor of Iraq Oil Forum, an online news outlet. “It will be a long time before anything else will be on offer in Iraq.”
Concerns over security, underscored by massive coordinated bombings Tuesday, and political instability as the U.S. military withdraws, likely kept American oil companies from venturing more forcefully in Iraq, which has the world’s third-largest proven crude reserves, analysts said.
Now compare it to this piece by Anthony Sampson from December 2002:
While Washington hawks depict a war against Iraq as achieving security of oil supplies, Western oil companies are worried about the short-term danger and the supposed long-term benefits of intervention…
Oil companies dread having supplies interrupted by burning oilfields, saboteurs and chaotic conditions. And any attempt to redraw the frontiers could increase the dangers in both Iran and Iraq, as rivals seek to regain territory.
I hope you get my drift? So much for ‘war for oil’.