Page 1 of 3 THE ROVING EYE US staying the course for Big Oil in Iraq
By Pepe Escobar
Washington at large and President George W Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney
in particular may apply every contortionist trick in the geopolitical book to
save their skins in Iraq - and the reasons are not entirely political.
In addition to the recently released report by the Iraq Study Group, any other
Washington establishment report - Pentagon, State Department, think-tanks -
considered by the White House
cannot deviate from much of the ISG. There can be no firm timeline for a
complete US withdrawal because it all depends on Iraq's new oil law being
passed and US troops being able to defend Big Oil's investment.
Once again, it's the oil. The Bush-Cheney system by all accounts went to Iraq
to grab those fabulous reserves. The only way for an overall solution to the
Iraqi tragedy would be for the Bush administration to give up the oil - with no
preconditions, turning the US into an honest broker. Realpolitik practitioners
know this is not going to happen.
Instead, the ISG is explicitly in favor of privatizing Iraq's oil industry - to
the benefit of Anglo-American Big Oil - after the impending passage of a new
oil law that was initially scheduled to be passed this month by the Iraqi
For Big Oil, the new oil law is the holiest of holies: once the exploitation of
Iraq's fabulous resources is in the bag, "security" is just a minor detail.
Enter the ISG's much-hyped provision of US troops remaining in Iraq until an
unclear date to protect not the Iraqi population, but Big Oil's supreme
interests. This is really what ISG co-head James Baker means by "responsible
According to reports, the draft law, Iraq's first postwar draft hydrocarbon
law, proposes allowing - for the first time - local and international companies
to carry out oil exploration in Iraq.
Dow Jones Newswires reports that the draft law stipulates that the Iraqi Oil
Ministry "should set up a committee consisting of highly qualified experts to
speed up the process of issuing tenders and signing contracts with
international oil companies to develop Iraq's untapped oilfields".
The law as drafted by a government committee also says that all matters
concerning oil and gas exploration, production and transportation should be
handled by the federal government - something Kurdish officials in northern
Nechirvan Barzani, the Kurdish region's prime minister, has been quoted as
saying that talks he held with the Baghdad government had failed to produce an
agreement on his demands for control of oil resources in the region. "We demand
that the signing of contracts to develop oilfields in Kurdistan should be
handled by the Kurdistan region," he said.
Iraq needs international companies to invest as much as US$20 billion to
increase crude-oil production to 3 million barrels a day from below the 2
million at present.
Meanwhile, back in the zone
When the ISG stressed that "the ability of the United States to influence
events within Iraq is diminishing", it was a sterling understatement at best.
The US does not control much in Iraq apart from the Green Zone. The gruesome,
daily accumulation of death proves the US Army provides no security and is
distrusted by all parties. The troops don't even know whom they are supposed to
be fighting (apart from Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army). At the same time, the
Pentagon's aerial bombings - with scores of "collateral damage" victims -
remain as relentless as counter-insurgency run amok.
The Proactive, Preemptive Operations Group implemented by the Pentagon is
regarded by Sunnis and quite a few Shi'ites as being the mastermind of some of
the car bombings, assassinations, sabotage, kidnappings and attacks on mosques
fueling the civil war. The "Salvador option" has developed into the
"Iraqification option". US-trained death squads in Iraq are not much different
from the death squads in El Salvador during the 1980s - subordinated to the
same "divide and rule" tactics. This is the "civil war" dirty secret: let the
Arabs kill one another with the US posing as "victims".
Although the House of Saud's Interior Ministry will deny it, the ISG had to
admit that Sunni Arab guerrillas are being financed - to the tune of tens of
millions of dollars - by wealthy, private Saudi and, to a lesser extent, Gulf
state donors, following instructions of powerful Wahhabi clerics. Thirty-eight
of these have just released a statement on Saudi websites calling on Sunnis
worldwide to "mobilize" against Iraqi Shi'ites. This has stopped short of being
a formal declaration of jihad not only against Shi'ites in Iraq but also
Shi'ites in Iran, as well as US troops. The guerrillas' Russian Strela
anti-aircraft missiles in Iraq have been paid for by Saudi money (according to
Khudair al-Murshidi, a Ba'athist spokesman based in Damascus, "We have
stockpiles of Strelas.") There's no US pressure capable of reverting the
situation: this is a matter of Arab tribal solidarity - not a state affair.
There can be no direct negotiation with the Sunni Arab muqawama (resistance)
because in essence what they want is