In an interview with Newsweek last fall, the former chief executive of Exxon, Lee Raymond, praised Iraq’s potential as an oil-producing country and added that Exxon was in a position to know. “There is an enormous amount of oil in Iraq,” Mr. Raymond said. “We were part of the consortium, the four companies that were there when Saddam Hussein threw us out, and we basically had the whole country.”"...the whole country." Gentle reader, hear in that phrase the lacrimose longing of a dream deferred. "The Whole Country," when it comes to Iraq, represents perhaps the largest un-tapped oil reserves in the world. Untold black gold, lying beneath the sands -- wasted, if you happen to value it (word is, some do).
As conservative commentator Kevin Phillips has detailed,
From the 1930s to the 1960s, in the words of oil historian Anthony Sampson, the reorganized Middle East had "two kinds of maps: some showing the names and outlines of nations, most of them comparatively new; and others showing the region cut up into squares along the coast, marked with the initials -- IPC, KOC, ARAMCO, AOC -- representing the consortia of oil companies, nearly always including some of the Seven Sisters. To the companies, it was these squares which were the real geography: Saudi Arabia was Aramco-land; Iran meant all seven; Kuwait was Gulf and BP."The whole country." Rivers, oceans of oildollars, buried treasure in the sand, now obscured by the clamour of war. Yet fear not, o countryman, for the honor of our purpose. There's no chance whatsoever that we're there to get the oil. As Donald Rumsfeld has said:
The oil maps, in short, had long been the ones that mattered. For the US and British oil companies, losing these concessions to the nationalizations of the 1970s was infuriating. The irony with respect to Iraq was that for one reason or another, the 1970s were the only decade of heavy pumping and large oil revenues. Production had been kept low during the glutted thirties, and it then stagnated during WWII. ...Over the last decade or so this chronology of Iraq's surprisingly limited oil production had become relevant again for a simple reason: given that relatively little of Iraq's oil has been pumped, most of it is still in the ground. "American Theocracy, pp. 75-76
if anyone looks at the history of the United States of America, they would know that we don’t want Iraqi oil. That oil belongs to the Iraqi people. ... Our interest is not the oil, and it will be clear that that is the case. The money and revenues from that oil belong to Iraqi people and they will have that.
the one thing I can assure you of is that it will be held in trust for the Iraqi people, to benefit the Iraqi people. That is a legal obligation that the occupying power will have.Rummy again:
The President has also requested funds ... to help with emergency fire fighting and repair of damage to oil facilities. It is important that we have these resources available.Paul Wolfowitz exercising strong message discipline:
But let me be clear: when it comes to reconstruction, before we turn to the American taxpayers, we will turn first to the resources of the Iraqi government itself and the international community. ...Once Saddam Hussein is gone, the U.S. will work with the Iraqi Interim Authority that will be established to tap Iraq’s oil revenues...
the oil revenues of that country could bring between $50 and $100 billion dollars over the course of the next two or three years. ... We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction and relatively soon.
...like 5 or 6 years...
June 19, 2008:
Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP — the original partners in the Iraq Petroleum Company — along with Chevron and a number of smaller oil companies, are in talks with Iraq’s Oil Ministry for no-bid contracts to service Iraq’s largest fields, according to ministry officials, oil company officials and an American diplomat.That story also says:
The revenue would be used for reconstruction, although the Iraqi government has had trouble spending the oil revenues it now has, in part because of bureaucratic inefficiency.See if you can find the missing phrase. Here's a hint: It goes between "reconstruction," and "although" and it goes like this: "after paying the contract fee to these western oil companies.
It could be argued that these contracts are simply the thanks of a grateful Iraqi nation. After all, these companies had been providing (free of charge!) "advice" to the Iraqi government (still peopled with American policy-makers) on how to develop the very fields for which they were awarded contracts. Well, at least for most of the fields for which they were awarded contracts:
In all cases but one, the same company that had provided free advice to the ministry for work on a specific field was offered the technical support contract for that field, one of the companies’ officials said.The exception is the West Qurna field in southern Iraq, outside Basra. There, the Russian company Lukoil, which claims a Hussein-era contract for the field, had been providing free training to Iraqi engineers, but a consortium of Chevron and Total, a French company, was offered the contract. A spokesman for Lukoil declined to comment.Russian Go Home! Your charity will not be rewarded here!
These no-bid contracts are simply to help the Iraqis to extract the oil. They are not a license to the oil itself. But it is as plain as the sun that the "free advice" was never free--that it was, in fact, merely the nose of the camel. Soon, the entire dromedary, and its spit and its shit, will be inside the tent.
“The bigger prize everybody is waiting for is development of the giant new fields,” Leila Benali, an authority on Middle East oil at Cambridge Energy Research Associates, said in a telephone interview from the firm’s Paris office. The current contracts, she said, are a “foothold” in Iraq for companies striving for these longer-term deals."Giant new fields." Actually, they're ancient. They're waiting for us -- well, some of us. Derrick Z. Jackson of the Boston Globe made many of these connections in his editorial of today, linked in the headline, and inspired me to dig up the old quotes from Phillips' book. I don't know why. I've written about this before, extensively. It's pretty clear that the camel has been inside the tent for some time now. I guess I'm still seduced by the crazy liberal notion that you can put 1,2 and 3 in order next to 5,6 and 7, and expect people to see that #4 is in the middle.