April 18, 2011

Iraq: Oily "Evidence"

Hatched by Dafydd

Shocking news:

Secret documents prove that the Iraq war really was all about stealing their oil!

Well... not really; a close reading of the Independent (U.K.) article discloses far less than meets the eye. Let's have a look, shall we, and see what the memos say -- and more important, what they don't say.

All the "secret memos" appear to come from a single source: Elizabeth Conway Symons, Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean, who was Trade Minister in the United Kingdom from 2001-2003, including when the invasion began. Here's the juicy lede:

Plans to exploit Iraq's oil reserves were discussed by government ministers and the world's largest oil companies the year before Britain took a leading role in invading Iraq, government documents show.

The papers, revealed here for the first time, raise new questions over Britain's involvement in the war, which had divided Tony Blair's cabinet and was voted through only after his claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

Secret plans -- exploitation -- clandestine meetings -- claims of WMD. The obvious conclusion to which most readers will leap (or be pushed) is that the evil George W. Bush and his lapdog Tony Blair conspired to loot Iraq of its oil, and that that was the real reason for our invasion. But read a bit deeper, and you find the specifics that debunk the lurid implication.

There were indeed meetings between the government of the United Kingdom and various oil companies, mainly British Petroleum and Royal Dutch Shell; but what they actually discussed was the feasibility of "lobbying" the United States to open oil sales in Iraq -- not theft, sales -- to companies other than France's TotalFinaElf; under Saddam Hussein, TFE enjoyed a virtual monopoly... primarily because France cheerfully bribed the bloodthirsty dictator, cutting him in for a personal percentage under the table:

The papers show that Lady Symons agreed to lobby the Bush administration on BP's behalf because the oil giant feared it was being "locked out" of deals that Washington was quietly striking with US, French and Russian governments and their energy firms.

Minutes of a meeting with BP, Shell and BG (formerly British Gas) on 31 October 2002 read: "Baroness Symons agreed that it would be difficult to justify British companies losing out in Iraq in that way if the UK had itself been a conspicuous supporter of the US government throughout the crisis."

The minister then promised to "report back to the companies before Christmas" on her lobbying efforts.

The Foreign Office invited BP in on 6 November 2002 to talk about opportunities in Iraq "post regime change". Its minutes state: "Iraq is the big oil prospect. BP is desperate to get in there and anxious that political deals should not deny them the opportunity."

After the invasion and overthrow of the Hussein regime, the monopoly contracts were indeed nullified, allowing oil companies from many countries other than France to bid on the oil, including Dutch, Chinese, and of course British companies. The Iraqis retained ownership of their own wells, oil, and natural gas; and of course they reaped the benefit of the free-market bidding between the companies:

The 20-year contracts signed in the wake of the invasion were the largest in the history of the oil industry. They covered half of Iraq's reserves -- 60 billion barrels of oil, bought up by companies such as BP and CNPC (China National Petroleum Company), whose joint consortium alone stands to make £403m ($658m) profit per year from the Rumaila field in southern Iraq.

Last week, Iraq raised its oil output to the highest level for almost decade, 2.7 million barrels a day -- seen as especially important at the moment given the regional volatility and loss of Libyan output. Many opponents of the war suspected that one of Washington's main ambitions in invading Iraq was to secure a cheap and plentiful source of oil.

Note the completely unsourced, vague, and gratuitous non-sequitur at the end of the paragraph above; that is literally the only reference in the story to the pro-Hussein and anti-American conspiracy theory to which the first two paragraphs slyly allude.

To boil a long story down, Bush was urging the Coalition of the Willing to help invade Iraq and oust Saddam Hussein; and the foreign governments, while signalling their willingness, were also saying that they did not want to be "locked out" of bidding for Iraq's oil.

During the long, criminal reign of Hussein, only the corrupt were allowed access; why should countries like the Netherlands, who had no direct connection to Iraq, fight to liberate that country if they would still be frozen out of normal trade relations? Great Britain felt the same way: "Yes, we'll help... but it's a bit thick to ask us to spill British blood and treasure just to benefit the French."

To me, it seems a reasonable request.

So that's the poop on the insidious Iraqi document-dump drama. How much you want to bet that the usual suspects will rewrite the story to try to vindicate the most insane charges by the loony Left, International ANSWER, anti-war radicals... and somehow blame it all on George W. Bush.

And probably on the Koch brothers as well -- the current bête noire of Progressive-obsessive magpie media, such as the Hufflepuffington Post, Daily Kos, Think Progress, and the New York Times. Birds of an oily feather.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 18, 2011, at the time of 11:42 PM

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