Thursday, June 02, 2005

 

1. Control of Iraqi Oil


Possible Undeclared Motives for the Invasion of Iraq

It may be difficult to over-emphasize the strategic importance of oil in the present and near future world economy and balance of power.

Security of the world’s major sources of oil and the prevention of their domination or control by other powers had certainly been a central, a constant and an openly stated foreign US policy for over 50 years. There is every reason to believe that it still is.

As to the significance of the ‘oil component’ in the invasion of Iraq, much has been written about this subject, especially outside the USA. There certainly is a strong case for the USA to gain some control over the sources of finite and indispensable world oil. This is different from simply trying to steal Iraq’s oil money as some people have been suggesting. It is noteworthy that the word ‘steal’ is used more frequently by pro-administration war advocates in an obvious attempt to trivialize the issues involved.

Millions of people around the world seem to believe that oil is the prime reason for the invasion of Iraq. “No Blood for Oil” has been their motto.

This thesis is substantiated by the US army securing only the Iraqi Ministry of Oil immediately after the fall of Baghdad and leaving all other public departments and ministries to the mob and to looters.

It is also supported by many of the decrees and regulations of Ambassador Paul Bremer during the first year of the invasion.

On the other hand, it is not compatible with the policies that ‘encouraged’ and provided fuel to chaos and to the insurgency (unless of course we assume total, gross and criminal incompetence): disbanding the army and the police, leaving the borders open, alienating and antagonizing the Iraqi people, etc. The insurgency and the associated chaos are not conductive to restoring and running the oil business quietly and smoothly; not in the short term anyway.

It can therefore be concluded that this factor must have been present in the minds of strategic US planners (and there is every reason to believe that it was) mainly as a longer term objective. But the relative importance of this particular motive (i.e. whether it was a prime motive or a useful by-product) is unknown at this stage.

Hence, long term control of the Iraqi oil fields was one of the undeclared motives of the invasion of Iraq.

In that case, it would not be incompatible with ‘short term’ instability and lack of security.


Comments:

I do not believe control of Iraqi oil is compatible with the support by Bush for democracy in Iraq. It is much easier to negotiate with a dictator, as is done with the KSA goverment, than it is to deal with the leaders of a goverment which must respect the wishes of their citizens to keep their jobs. However, security between nations is strengthed through democracy.
 
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Hello Abu Khaleel,
Bush and Cheney were both oil industry executives, so they have a special interest in Iraq's national resource. Americans don't want to recognize that our civilization is on a precipice. All this easy talk about democracy and freedom is grounded on an energy addicted technology, based on oil and natural gas which are rapidly becoming exhausted. This year may be the year of 'peak oil', when worldwide oil/gas production begins to decline every where.(Gas situation may be even more serious). There are no substitutes(our cars can't run on coal, or homes heated by coal, which will run out soon as well). Nuclear fusion is a pipe dream, nuclear fission is a terrorist/environmental threat(and uranium is limited as well). What will happen to a mass consumer society without oil and gas? In pre-industrial civilizations, the only answer was slavery (of most people). Now, what happens when people realize that the party is over? They will turn back to the style of the 'sole leader' and away from democracy. US administrations from long before Bush have worried about the orderly supply of oil, but now that oil supplies are on the decline maybe the strategy has changed to a non-cooperative one.
Therefore it would be essential to put Iraq's oil fields into production as soon as possible and if possible control them to regulate the prices, or so the 'logic' would seem to dictate.
 
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Dear Abu Khaleel,
control of oil was for sure one of the undeclared reasons for the invasion, but only if one qualifies it.
The Marxist - economicistic 'No blood for oil' view seems to have more faults than confirmation for the present US military adventures; and there was little oil in Vietnam in the Fifties, Sixties & Seventies, and none in Somalia, 1992-94.
I do not believe that money is the undeclared reason behind all human history; but, for sure, you can sell the rightness of your crazy plans for power (a much stronger reason) to greedy people (like the US corporations & oil companies supporting Bush & his team) putting in front of their eyes the chances of big economical gains, real or fake.
In this way Hitler sold his madness to the German industrialists & businessmen; people who would have done anything to stop him if they had had an inkling of his real aims.

I honestly believe that the invasion of Iraq had very little to do with 'stealing Iraqi oil'; and that Bremer's decrees had more to do with what they call, with one of those anodine terms redolent of Nazism, 'nation-building', i.e. with creating anew an Iraq being economically, legally & socially a little US of A (so mad free-market, economic power to the big international corporations, little or no social guarantees & social security, no planning functions for the State).

The oil of Iraq (and of neighbouring countries) entered the power-driven US calculations, in my opinion, in another way: the aim was for sure to gain control of oil, but mainly, for the next few lustres or decades, in the form of a power of interdiction, i.e. of being able to cut out, or to blackmail, other oil consuming countries (countries like China or the EU, for instance), and to control the entire international market of the commodity.
The aim being not economical gain, but strategical advantage, on the world scale.
 
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Interested parties should check this earlier discussion on this same site for analysis and discussion on the oil angle : http://iraquna.blogspot.com/2005/05/invasion-of-iraq-declared-motives.html#111765870823571703 .

There is still a little to-and-fro going on there.

Of all the positions here, I think An Italian is closest to my view. Immediate economic benefits of Iraqi oil, yes; an Iraqi oil rich client state yes; turning possible enemy oil resources into a friend’s oil resources , yes … but the “soft power” afforded by control of petroleum resources is to my mind the primary reason for invading. The costs saved by simply substituting “soft power” achieved by controlling oil flow for “hard” military alternatives against major rivals like China are enormous.
 
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Another factor that sometimes pops up is the fact that Saddam wanted to start trading oil in Euros and not dollars. Given that the US Dollar is essentially underwritten by oil, that decision by Iraq could have been the start of a domino effect affecting the value of the US currency. I'm not advancing this as a "main" reason, but certainly it could not have made the US very happy.
 
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Abu Khaleel,
Oil, its production, distrobution, and profits were, without a doubt a concern of the US in determining its actions in Iraq. The reserves under that nation alone make the point moot. As far as a "reason for invasion", I'm not sure I agree. When the UN (not the US) established "No-fly Zones" in the nation of Iraq, a majority of the Oil lay under the Southern No-fly Zone. In effect, the oil could have been "annexed" without the risk of continuous conflict that we are involved in at this point.
However, I appreciate your logic-based approach, and your open-ness to alternative posibilities.
Many of us here in the States realize we may have gone of "Half-cocked" on this, but now, the United States and the Coalition are stuck there, and the best we can do is try to provide the Iraqi people with something worth the violence that is occuring.
 
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Hello,
I´ll agree with the "soft power" advocates. 'Stealing' the oil is not the issue, but 'leveraging' it. In this context, the US has an interest in gaining direct control over a 'swing capacity' which is today uniquely owned by Saudia Arabia and forms the core of OPEC power.
If the US succeed in gaining control over a flexible oil capacity that can approach SA´s swing capacity they can effectively dissolve OPEC as the cartel has no more use when it cannot influence the price range by itself. To reach this, the US would need to significantly increase the amount of oil coming out of Iraq over the pre-war rate, but the numbers that the war planners were throwing around in 2003 - expecting to quikcly reach 5mbpd - would have come close. And maybe they were expecting to add Iran soon...
Now the question is, what would the US want with control over the swing capacity, besides undermining OPEC, and securing themselves against possible turmoil in Saudi Arabia? The intent is *not* to enforce significantly lower oil prices as an end in itself, as the US economy does perfectly well with prices as they were before the Iraq invasion and even runs acceptably well at a $50 level. Instead, US-dominated control of the oil price as others have observed gives an option to blackmail and punish China (much less so the EU). From the US position, it would be extremely desirable to exert fine tuned control over Chinese growth. The US *want* economic growth in China but at a level they have an emergency brake on. China is useful as an extended workbench, and long-term growth at levels similar to the US economy are acceptable. However longer periods of unchecked growth are a strategic risk to the US. If the Chinese economy grows at 3 times the rate of the US, say 9-10 percent vs the already good 3%, do the math where this puts China in a number of years. Anyone who even read the Sept. 2002 national security strategy slightly between the lines knows that the US have recognized as the central strategic threat to their dominance, of course not terrorism, but uncontrolled economic prosperity of other nations.
Besides putting the Chinese in a pen, swing control also gives the US some nice new implements for the 'big stick' toolbox. Take Russia. The biggest devastation to Russia in terms of power potential was not the collapse of the Soviet union, but the wholesale annihilation of its economic potential through the Yeltsinite 'reforms' through Gaidar et al. and the 'Harvard hyenas'. All that is behind Putin´s policy and the Khodorkovsky trial is the reassertion of control over vital economic interests such as the oil business. The capital inflow from the consolidated oil sector has Russia for the first time in almost 15 years given the chance to actually expand investment into space and military spending. Now guess what happens if the oil price goes on a controlled decline, the first country to lose profitability is Russia. Saudi Arabia can still make a profit at $10 per barrel, the Russians will be blue in the face at $20.
Other possible targets would be Venezuela. The frustrating thing for the US right now is that, whatever one thinks of him, Chavez is now in the situation that he can finance social programs for the poor *without* having to pressure the economy with unbearable taxes. However, if the oil price gets fouled up, the situation changes. So besides being able to control decisions of *oil-consuming* nations like China, it is also possible to very strongly influence many *oil-producing* countries. Any country that depends for almost all of its income on oil, is extremely vulnerable to manipulations of the oil price.
Now one can ask, if having direct control of a swing capacity is such a nice thing, why havent the US done this years or decades ago? Well, there are a number of factors. Go back to the 40´s/50´s and almost all the oil was totally in the hands of US and British companies. Governments that tried to change it were easily toppled (Iran, Mossadegh). Then came the wave of nationalisation in many Arab countries that could not so easily be countered as before, as they were backed by the USSR and just trying to regime-change them all carried a high risk of all out war. The 1980s and 90s brought concomitantly the deterioration of Soviet power and the Arab nationalist states. Bush I or CLinton could have carried out the same policy as Bush II but didn´t, due to a different philosophy of American hegemony.
In this context it´s clear that the American strategy is embarassed much more by not having a greater flow of oil out of the occupied territories, than by any question of 'democracy' or 'stability' or even finding WMD.
Iraq has very simply been the victim of extremely cynical strategic maneuvering. As the slips by Perle et al regarding the true meaning of the WMD excuse show, Iraq was chosen because the US felt it was the target were they could propagandistically easiest get away with this strategy. Regardless of whether the terrorists really came from Saudi Arabia or the real WMD proliferation threat is Pakistan or whatever.
However in my opinion the strategic leverage over oil isn´t the only motivation behind the attack, and possibly even one of the less sinister ones.
 
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Abu Khaleel and All other Oil Control Theorists:

Please state something other than the obvious. The only reason Iraq has global strategic significance is its large oil reserves, access to the Persian gulf, and location next to the even larger reserves and production capacity of Saudi Arabia. Thus, it is absolutely obvious that “control” of oil was a factor in the U.S. invasion (as it will be in nearly all important international and domestic political issues concerning Iraq for the next fifty years).

There are several fundamental flaws in your collective “oil control” conspiracy theories. First, if Iraq increases oil production at the behest of the U.S., the others in OPEC can agree to commensurately cut production to stabilize prices. In other words, oil is a fungible commodity. The OPEC countries are far better off selling a small percentage less oil per participant at higher prices than pumping at maximum capacity for significantly lower prices. In the long term, prices will be set by global forces effecting supply and demand. Any increases in Iraqi production are not likely, standing by themselves, to be sufficient to drive world prices (although they will have some affect). If Indian and Chinese demand for oil continues to increase at anywhere near their current rate, there will be more than enough demand to stabilize prices with a zone comfortable to OPEC no matter how high Iraq can crank up its production levels. Thus, control of Iraqi production would not give the U.S. the ability to manipulate prices.

On the other hand, if the U.S. could control Iraqi, Saudi and Kuwaiti production, then it would have control over enough of the global production capacity to have a significant effect on pricing. However, such a plan would require invasion and occupation of those other countries as well. The massive cost of such long term occupations, assuming active local resistance, is unlikely to be covered by oil revenue, particularly if one also assumes a sustained period of local sabotage to the oil infrastructure.

Second, the U.S. already controls China’s access to oil. China’s oil supply largely is shipped via tanker. The U.S. navy controls the sea lanes and could drastically reduce China’s oil supply, at will, if it wished. Overland pipelines will reduce Chinese dependence on tankers somewhat, but even those are vulnerable to attack during times of conflict. Further, the U.S. is also China’s primary export market. Thus, China’s industrial expansion requires relatively robust U.S. demand to sustain it. For all of these reasons, economically, China’s fait is likely to be tied to the U.S. for the foreseeable future.

Third, your American “oil control” theories suffer from that lack of a realistic mechanism for it to control the Iraqi government's oil decisions. Even if Iraq could, single handedly control price through its production levels, no Iraqi elected official is going to commit political suicide by over producing in an attempt to significantly lower world oil prices. Assuming a compliant general could be found, the U.S. would have to arrange a coup. Then, the problem would become, how the U.S would hope to hide its manipulations of Iraq's decision to commit economic suicide (at a time of great financial need). The answer is that this is simply impossible.

Then, the final question becomes, assuming a successful coup, how long would it take before there is a general revolt joined by all of Iraq's citizens, not just disaffected Sunnis? The only way to put down such a rebellion would be with totalitarian measures (slave labor camps, mass executions) that would make even Saddam blush. As the U.S. public would be the neo-con's cannon fodder in such a scenario, we would need to support such totalitarian measures all in the name of transparent neo-con manipulation of energy prices. This is an absolutely ridiculous premise since current U.S. polls show that, even now, support for the Iraq Invasion continues to decline.

As I said at the outset, the invasion was related to oil, just not "control" in the sense that other commenters have posited. The long term threat of Saddam having the ability to disrupt world energy markets by acquiring nuclear weapons was the most likely scenario that animated the Bush administration to action. The thought of having the world economy subject to Saddam's irrational whims was probably more than they could bear. Thus, in a sense, the invasion was about control of oil, but not its control by the U.S. Instead, it was about preventing Saddam from eventually acquiring control over the oil of his neighbor’s oil production through some combination of nuclear blackmail or military conquest. Such a thesis was set forth prior to the war in the book, The Threatening Storm, by Kenneth Pollack, a former Clinton Administration Official, one of the few foreign policy analysts who predicted Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, and a director at the center-left Brookings Institute. The link for a detailed review of his book is http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2001/0211.marshall.html .
Mark-In-Chi-Town
 
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If we wanted Iraq's oil for cheap, we would have kept saddam in power and bargained with him for it. Proof? oil is no $50 a barrel, vs $20 2 years ago.

We take a country then give it back to the people - how is that 'taking' something? That is giving Iraq a gift. ... Deposing saddam was proof we had *higher* motives than oil. Namely, we knew our security long-term was better off with a democratic Iraq than with a saddam-led Iraq.

"Bush and Cheney were both oil industry executives, so they have a special interest in Iraq's national resource. "

silly comment as silly as: Bush and Cheney are baseball fans and Bush was a baseball team manager ... so obviously they invaded Iraq to start another baseball franchise.
 
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"Another factor that sometimes pops up is the fact that Saddam wanted to start trading oil in Euros and not dollars. Given that the US Dollar is essentially underwritten by oil,"

Spoken like someone who is completely ignorant of international economics.

Oil is traded on the spot market - it doesnt matter what currency its traded in, our trade deficits and accounts would be exactly the same, since Euro and dollar are indepent floating currencies. Money is a unit of value, is all, and every day oil is quoted in both dollars and Euros (and Yen) on various oil exchanges (New York, London, Tokyo, etc)
 
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The general flaw in these conspiracy-theories is that Iraq is becoming a democracy ... IRAQ FOR IRAQIS.

There is no US control there, nor ownership.

"As I said at the outset, the invasion was related to oil, just not "control" in the sense that other commenters have posited. The long term threat of Saddam having the ability to disrupt world energy markets by acquiring nuclear weapons was the most likely scenario that animated the Bush administration to action. The thought of having the world economy subject to Saddam's irrational whims was probably more than they could bear. Thus, in a sense, the invasion was about control of oil, but not its control by the U.S. Instead, it was about preventing Saddam from eventually acquiring control over the oil of his neighbor’s oil production through some combination of nuclear blackmail or military conquest."

This is the only sensible comment I've seen that ties one to the other.

The US felt that irrational+evil+dictator+ terrorist-supporting+WMD-pursuing
+ oil-controlling ... was too potent a combination to have in the post 9/11 era.
 
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Patrick --


[Bruno] "Another factor that sometimes pops up is the fact that Saddam wanted to start trading oil in Euros and not dollars. Given that the US Dollar is essentially underwritten by oil,"

[Patrick] “Spoken like someone who is completely ignorant of international economics.”


Well now, I’m not an economic genius by any stretch of the imagination, however, there are certain facts that I felt pretty sure of, such as the fact that oil is traded in dollars. But, of course, if a self-proclaimed Adam Smith like Patrick comes along and refutes me as a complete ignoramus, it tends to shake one’s confidence a little. Being a person that likes to be sure of his facts and likes to learn from his errors, I did a spot of research on the matter. I mean, it’s always *possible* that I got it wrong, isn’t it?

These are a few results:


Oil price increases of 2004 and 2005
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
“[…] It should, however, be noted that the $50-$60 range is still well below the all-time inflation-adjusted high of $90 reached in 1980.
This spike was largely without the immediate causes of the fall of 2004. During this period the Bush administration was expanding the Strategic Petroleum Reserve at a rate of 250,000 barrels per day. Analysts vary in their explanations of the price increases. One factor cited is that winter in the US was colder than usual, though this became less relevant as spring approached. Another reason is the continued growth in world demand, helped by the stellar growth of India and China. Finally, the dollar continues to slump against the euro. Since oil is traded in dollars, the price must increase for OPEC to maintain buying power in Europe. Some analysts conclude from this that the increases are permanent and prices may go much higher. Goldman Sachs released a report predicting that prices could hit $100 at some unspecified date. […]”

Hmm, so Wikipedia seems to think that oil is traded in dollars. But hey, it’s a free encyclopedia, so perhaps it may be advisable to get a second opinion?


Falling bombs & falling dollars
By Bill Cecil - Workers World

“ [...]
What Snow actually said was that the strength of the dollar depended on "investor confidence," not its rate of exchange. He implied that the U.S. would no longer buy dollars to keep the currency strong. It was a major shift. When Snow was nominated for the Treasury post in January, he said he wanted a strong dollar. What changed in four months' time? It's simple. U.S. troops grabbed the world's second-largest oil reserves.

A cheaper dollar is in effect a wage cut for U.S. workers. It makes U.S. goods cheaper on the world market and imported items like autos more expensive here. It gives U.S. companies a bigger return on their overseas investments.
[...]
About 26 percent of U.S. corporate profits come from overseas operations. That figure is expected to rise.

But a cheaper dollar is fraught with risks for the U.S. ruling class. Soldiers can be ordered to advance, halt or retreat. Capital, on the other hand, has a life of its own. The fall of the dollar could change from an organized retreat into a rout. Why should people buy stocks and assets valued in dollars when the dollar is losing value? "When you're the world's banker, you really need to maintain the world's confidence in you and your currency," Northern Trust senior economist Paul Kasriel told CNNMoney. "If you start telling creditors you're going to pay them back in currency that doesn't buy as much, they won't want to bank with you any more."
[...]
Foreign investors now have claims on the United States amounting to about $8 trillion of its financial assets," the April 20 New York Times reported. They also "hold about two-fifths of the federal debt in private hands." To finance its deficit, the U.S. needs $1.5 billion in new outside investment every day. Talk about foreign aid!

A lot of that money comes from oil-producing countries in the Middle East and elsewhere. Their economies are bound to Wall Street because oil is traded in dollars. Saudi Arabia alone is estimated to have nearly $1 trillion invested in the U.S. That was last year. It's probably worth a lot less now. The fall in the dollar is, among other things, a giant rip-off of these international investors.

So why don't the Saudis and others take their money out? Why don't they sell oil for euros instead of dollars? Iraq got UN permission to do that in 2000. Iran, Libya and Venezuela have said they might do the same.

Iraq won't be selling oil for euros anytime soon. It's under U.S. occupation. Iran has moved up on the Bush regime's hit list. And should Saudi Arabia start pulling funds out of the U.S., it won't take long for Donald Rumsfeld to "discover" an "al-Qaeda"cell in the royal palace in Riyadh. The U.S. occupation of Iraq is a gun to its head. It not only puts a massive U.S. military force next door. It gives Corporate America power over the price of oil. That's a gun to the head of the world.
[...]"


Wow, so not only does the author confirm that oil IS traded in dollars, but he also probes a little more deeply into the mechanics and advantages of brute military force used to coerce economic relationships. But, of course, the author DOES write for a publication that seems awfully, you know, COMMUNIST sounding, so perhaps a third opinion is advisable?


Here's why gas prices are so high
By Kevin G. Hall - Apr. 10, 2005 - Knight Ridder News Service

“The potential for scarcity drives up the price of oil. The weak U.S. dollar is another reason that gasoline costs more. Oil is traded in dollars, and the dollar has lost 15 to 20 percent against most major currencies. Oil companies and producing nations have raised prices to compensate for the dollar's slump.

Big profits

Your loss at the pumps is the gain of oil-rich nations and global oil giants. Big oil companies posted record profits last year and should grow even richer this year.”


It seems as though yet a third source believes that oil is traded in dollars, and that there is a connection between the currency and the commodity. Of course, this is Knight Ridder that the news comes from, which is possibly a suspect source, given that they have criticized the Iraqi invasion in the past. Perhaps a FOURTH source would nail down the issue? Like this:


Oil_World.com - OUTLOOK 2004: United States
John McCaughey, Contributing Editor, Washington

"All commodity prices are volatile, of course, and normally this doesn't matter much. But oil is different because it is so pivotal to Western (and especially the American) economies. Partly, OPEC oil price increases can be traced to the decline in the value of the dollar (oil is traded in dollars). Add to that an economic recovery in the US that stimulates demand and the current cold snap that stimulates demand for heating oil, especially in the Northeast. Additionally, global demand for OPEC oil is soaring.
[...]
"In short," says Irwin Stelzer, one of America's most-respected energy economists, "world demand for oil is likely to increase steadily, while supplies lag....and [OPEC] is a cartel not famous for showing consumers any mercy." Good news for the Arabs and for some investors. Bad news for oil consumers."


Alright, I know that this is overkill, but let’s have the opinion of a FIFTH source on the subject, shall we?


Demand Squeezes Oil Again
Paul Maidment - 03.17.05 - Forbes

"In the rest of the world, the rise in oil prices has been softened by the fall in the value of the dollar against local currencies, notably the euro, yen and pound. Most oil is traded in dollars."


Patrick, I’m afraid that if I’m completely ignorant of international economics, then you by comparison must be a gasping vacuum of intellectual scarcity, given that you dispute a point that is public general knowledge in such an authoritative manner. By all means, though, feel free to take up the point with Forbes et al. We’ll wait.

Oh, you also mentioned this:

[Patrick] “Bush and Cheney were both oil industry executives, so they have a special interest in Iraq's national resource. " - silly comment as silly as: Bush and Cheney are baseball fans and Bush was a baseball team manager ... so obviously they invaded Iraq to start another baseball franchise.

Correct. Not specifically baseball, but to open up Iraq to Western economies, and especially the US economy. This is borne out by the fact that the vast bulk of the so called reconstruction work in Iraq is being done by US / British companies. In other words, the basis is being laid for Iraq to become a US client state, and thus tying it and its vast oil wealth even more closely to the US through other links.


Conclusions to be drawn from this series of articles are what? Namely: Iraq needed to seek UN permission to be allowed to sell oil in Euros instead of Dollars. And that the Dollar is thus tied to petroleum. And that the people benefiting the most from oil revenues are the companies that extract the commodity, as well as their investors … which would be, in Iraq’s case, US oil companies, given that the US awarded itself the contract for managing the Iraqi oil sector.

Iraqis are however, not stupid, as this article extract shows:


Iraq's other resistance - Oil workers in Basra are ready to fight privatisation
Greg Muttitt - Friday June 3, 2005 - The Guardian

“Last week Basra saw its first conference on the threat of privatisation, bringing together oil workers, academics and international civil-society groups. The event debated an issue about which Iraqis are passionate: the ownership and control of Iraq's oil reserves.

The conference was organised by the General Union of Oil Employees (GUOE), which was established in June 2004 and now has 23,000 members. Focused as much on the broader Iraqi public interest as on members' concerns, its first aim was to organise workers to repair oil facilities and bring them back into production during the chaos of the early months of occupation.
[...]
The occupation forces and their allies in the Iraqi government see things differently. Plans are now afoot for sweeping changes to Iraq's oil sector, to give western oil majors access to its reserves for the first time since 1972.”
 
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Mark –

[mark] “On the other hand, if the U.S. could control Iraqi, Saudi and Kuwaiti production, then it would have control over enough of the global production capacity to have a significant effect on pricing.”

As a matter of fact, the Saudis are already tied intimately up with the US, a small manifestation being Bush’s “special relationship” with the House of Saud. I seem to recall quite clearly that just before the US elections Bush asked the Saudis to raise production, and they did so with zest. Kuwait already has extensive links with the US as well.

[mark] “Then, the final question becomes, assuming a successful coup, how long would it take before there is a general revolt joined by all of Iraq's citizens, not just disaffected Sunnis?”

Well, in Iran it took them from 1953 to 1979 to organize a coup. You do the maths.

[mark] “Thus, in a sense, the invasion was about control of oil, but not its control by the U.S. Instead, it was about preventing Saddam from eventually acquiring control over the oil of his neighbor’s oil production through some combination of nuclear blackmail or military conquest.”

I don’t want to offend you, but you are making several BIG assumptions here that simply don’t add up.

(1) Saddam was not some nut bent on world domination. The wars initiated by Iraq during his reign had a definite basis to them, and (despite the fact that I thought he was wrong to embark on them) he did have legitimate reasons. The US has subverted and attacked countries for less.

(2) You are assuming that sufficiently motivated neighbours would be unable to stop him, or otherwise make any such invasion prohibitively costly without US intervention. The fact that Israel, with a relatively tiny population, is able to not only fend off its neighbours but dominate them to boot puts paid to that assumption.

(3) As it turns out, economic sanctions of weapons making materials were MORE than sufficient to prevent any nuclear program. War was not necessary at all.

(4) That the US would simply attack, liberate and rebuild a country without expecting remuneration because it was “the right thing to do”. This seems a little naïve.
 
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Bruno:

No offense taken, I truly believe in unfettered exchange of ideas and opinions, as long as it is done in a civil manner.

Your analysis of my alleged “four assumptions” contains serious flaws (I also hope that you are not offended by my tendency to be blunt). As to the first assumption, it was not that Saddam was a “nut,” but that he was a habitual military gambler who was excessively ambitious. You are correct in your tacit assumption that his military ambitions were regional, not global. However, it was his ambition, strategic location, access to substantial oil wealth to purchase or build weapons, and almost complete lack of concern for the suffering those ambitions might cause others, that combined to make him a very dangerous man. His long term plan to develop nuclear weapons (along with missile technology) to dominate his neighbors (excluding Iran, which would simply have develop its own) had a realistic hope of success. With A.Q. Khan selling nuclear technology on the cheap to Middle Eastern regimes, Iraq could have developed a bomb very soon after it managed to get sanctions lifted. Thus, he was no “nut,” just a very, very dangerous despot.

2. The combined Saudi and Kuwaiti armies are a joke. They would have no hope against a rearmed Saddam (even absent an Iraqi nuclear capability). The only neighboring military power of real substance, Iran, would be unlikely to be drawn into such a fight to defend those two relatively hostile Sunni regimes, unless it did so to "liberate" persecuted Shia minorities in Saudi Arabia. Assuming that Iranian troops took possession of any Saudi oil field, I doubt they would ever leave.

Your point about Israel actually supports, rather than refutes the Pollack hypothesis. To wit, Israel has nuclear weapons; its neighbors do not. Thus, the Israel example demonstrates that a nuclear armed Saddam could likewise dominate his non-nuclear neighbors. Also, Israel could not be counted on as a regional power that would rebuff Saddam's march across the gulf since it would not risk nuclear war with Saddam to serve as a proxy for Western Oil interests. This because Saddam's nuclear threat would not be merely economically troubling to the Israelis, but rather, would be an existential threat.

3. This time your just plain wrong (again, the bluntness thing). Pollack correctly points out in great detail why international support for the Iraqi sanctions regime was crumbling (I suggest you buy the book). The extensive French, Chinese and Soviets commercial ties with Saddam had turned them largely into his advocates for lifting sanctions. Saddam had correctly surmised that time was on his side, if he kept his sanctions violations (he was always pushing the envelope, even after he decided to be the “good Saddam” until sanctions were lifted) to an internationally acceptable level. Once the broad economic sanctions were lifted, any residual "arms embargo" on Iraq would have been ineffectual. In any event, once Saddam was no longer motivated to be the “good Saddam” in order to get the U.N. sanctions lifted, A.Q. Khan's group could have easily supplied nuclear weapons technology as neither of them would have been dissuaded by any “arms embargo.” As we know from the Iranian and Libyan situation, it is relatively easy to hide a clandestine nuclear weapons program from international inspectors.

4. This one doesn't really make sense to me (this time, really, really blunt). As I have stated before, the U.S. is basically a status quo, free trading economic power. Providing security so that Middle East oil production is readily and steadily available to world energy markets is in United States interest to keep prices stable. It also, happily, happens to be in the best interest of the rest of the world, including the OPEC producers (M.E. regional insecurity = artificially high prices that suppress demand and make alternative energy sources more attractive). Both the U.S. and international economy are at their most efficient when supply is steady and prices are moderate. This raises the standard of living world wide.

As to assisting in rebuilding a war ravaged country of an enemy state, the U.S. has also done the same in Germany and Japan. There was also an element of self-interest in those situations since the U.S. viewed them both as potential long-term strategic allies and trade partners. Since a healthy, stable and prosperous Iraq (thereby ensuring steady oil exports) is important to the world economy, helping to rebuild both its economy and government institutions are also in the U.S. self interest.

Mark-In-Chi-Town
 
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Mark --

Generally I do agree with your overall assessment of the character of Saddam Hussein. However, on the “megalomaniac” aspect that everybody seems to harp on, I tend to disagree somewhat. This for example:

[mark] “As to the first assumption, it was not that Saddam was a “nut,” but that he was a habitual military gambler who was excessively ambitious.”

Yes and no to this. If one takes a look at the invasion of Iran, for example, the initial Iraqi assault went very well, but the problems occurred when Saddam ordered Iraqi forces to stop. Why stop? Well, because he wanted to negotiate a settlement with the Iranians, and wanted a display of force with which to strengthen his hand. The conquest of Iran was never part of the plan.

Yes, I agree that he was a dangerous man. But then, so are many people that the West, and the US have backed before. I still feel a strategy of containment coupled with a diplomatic settlement would have been the best solution. You dispute this. Let us revisit the points in question.


(2). [mark] The combined Saudi and Kuwaiti armies are a joke. They would have no hope against a rearmed Saddam (even absent an Iraqi nuclear capability). The only neighboring military power of real substance, Iran, would be unlikely to be drawn into such a fight to defend those two relatively hostile Sunni regimes


Um. I feel that I have to point out that you are comparing a putative “rebuilt” Iraqi army with the *current* Saudi et al armies, which are hardly the same things. We are talking apples and oranges here. My assertion is that if the Saudis and the other Gulf countries WANTED to, they could build up a serious military capability with which to dissuade a resurgent Hussein.

Secondly, the other Gulf countries hardly possess negligible militaries. Saudi Arabia has expanded its military dramatically, for example. Current active force is around 160 000 regular army troops; it disposes of around 1000 MBT’s, 1000 light tanks and 3000 APC’s. There are an additional 18000 air force members manning over 400 combat aircraft. True, Iraq in 1999 could field an active military of 400 000, together with 2700 MBT’s, and around 2000 APC’s. This seems overwhelming unless one looks at the details and realizes that the tanks are a hodge podge of different and mostly obsolete designs, and that the bulk of the force was out of commission due to lack of spares. The Saudis dispose of a homogenous force of M1’s. BIG difference. Not to mention the air power, where the Iraqis were sadly outclassed, able to put up only 300 mostly obsolescent combat aircraft.

Thirdly, the Saudis and the rest of the Gulf countries largely saw Hussein as their protector, which is why they supported him against Iran in the 80’s. He did their fighting for them. Their ideological outlook is generally similar. Barring disputes like the Kuwaiti dispute, there is really no compelling reason for a Hussein regime to pick fights with his neighbours, other than Israel.

[mark] “Your point about Israel actually supports, rather than refutes the Pollack hypothesis. To wit, Israel has nuclear weapons; its neighbors do not. Thus, the Israel example demonstrates that a nuclear armed Saddam could likewise dominate his non-nuclear neighbors.”

Your statement is correct, but not really relevant. I say this because it has been demonstrated quite clearly by Israel in its succession of victories against seemingly overwhelming odds, that nuclear weapons are not the deciding factor in Israeli military superiority in the region. It has been able to assert conventional dominance decisively.

The real question is whether (a) Iraq under Saddam would be able to acquire nuclear weapons under sanctions (b) whether the neighbours of such an Iraq would fear it enough to motivate them to develop their own NBC capability and (c) What Iraq would DO with such weapons. History and common sense suggest that nuclear / chemical strikes against an opponent able to reply in kind would be out of the question.


(3) [mark] “Pollack correctly points out in great detail why international support for the Iraqi sanctions regime was crumbling (I suggest you buy the book). The extensive French, Chinese and Soviets commercial ties with Saddam had turned them largely into his advocates for lifting sanctions.”

I don’t doubt that he was leveraging these governments to try to eliminate the sanctions regimen. However, one must recall that a very strong reason that the sanctions were crumbling was the fact that they were being used as a tool to punish the Iraqi people along with denial of military equipment. The countries misusing the sanctions were – you guessed it – the US and Britain. The global outrage at this action was helping Saddam’s cause immensely. Keeping possible weapons materials out of SH’s hands, I can agree with. Preventing the import of water treatment equipment I cannot. The US has only itself to blame for this.

[mark] “As we know from the Iranian and Libyan situation, it is relatively easy to hide a clandestine nuclear weapons program from international inspectors.”

As we know from the Iraqi situation, it is quite difficult to hide or even build a clandestine nuclear weapons program from international inspectors, especially under a sanctions regimen targeting the importation of these technologies.



(4) [bruno] “(4) That the US would simply attack, liberate and rebuild a country without expecting remuneration because it was “the right thing to do”. This seems a little naïve.”

[mark ] “This one doesn't really make sense to me (this time, really, really blunt). As I have stated before, the U.S. is basically a status quo, free trading economic power. Providing security so that Middle East oil production is readily and steadily available to world energy markets is in United States interest to keep prices stable.”
[…]
“As to assisting in rebuilding a war ravaged country of an enemy state, the U.S. has also done the same in Germany and Japan. There was also an element of self-interest in those situations since the U.S. viewed them both as potential long-term strategic allies and trade partners.”

Your position, of course, implies that one trusts the US completely as an intrinsically altruistic entity, which unfortunately I, and much of the rest of the world, do not.

Where you say “Providing security so that Middle East oil production is readily and steadily available…” I say: Market forces dictate that the un-diversified Gulf economies continue the sale of oil to the world, and that providing “security” is really the business of those that live there. I have made this analogy before, it’s like South Africa sending troops to Silicon Valley in order to ensure the continued supply of Microsoft products, or to Monsanto HQ to ensure that the latest shipment of genetically sterile GM seed is delivered on time.

The “strategic partner” angle I can appreciate. However, the US views such a partner as being ideologically (if not culturally) similar. Hence the need for a drastic remoulding of Iraqi society, achieved handily through the shock tactics used on the Iraqi economy. Perhaps it is for the best, I don’t know. But … are YOU allowed to decide it? Would it not rather be an Iraqi choice?

Unfortunately our paradigms through which we see the world are quite different in important respects. I see Iraqi oil as the sole business of the Iraqis that live there. If they want to keep it buried under the sand for another thousand years, well, it’s their SOVEREIGN RIGHT to do so. Just because the rest of the world has not taken the time and money to reduce energy dependence on oil is not their problem. It’s our problem. The actions of the US in Iraq have essentially dictated to a nation what they may or may not do with their resources, and that in itself is staking a claim of ownership on that resource.

To me, that is stealing.

It becomes even more sinister when the companies selected BY the invader to “develop” and run the Iraqi oil sector are FROM the invader’s country, with ties to the highest management of the invading country, and are legally indemnified from suits resulting from wrongdoing via the fiat of the invading country.

You are asking me to blindly trust the US, and I’m sorry, but I don’t.
 
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Hi, I've been checking out sites and just thought I would stop for a minute to place a comment. There sure is a lot of blogs to look at to get some good ideas on . One site I was interested in was at http://www.studiotrafficautosurf.com but think I will continue researching. Thank you for your time. Have a great day :-)
 
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America are stoogez
 
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