Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cheney Dream Of US Oil Companies In Iraq Down The Tubes

Late reports made it clear that indeed former VP Cheney was conforming to all those reports about certain US leaders wanting to invade Iraq at least partly so that US-based oil companies could get their mitts on Iraqi oil. Well, now the central government of Iraq has held auctions on the major outstanding fields, and the only US company to get a major concession was Exxon Mobil. Doing much better than any US company were Dutch-British-based Royal Dutch Shell, Russia's Lukoil, along with several companies out of China and France. Juan Cole reported on this on Monday at, claiming that oil production there will be limited because of ongoing security concerns (which scared off publicly held US oil companies). Cole disagrees with Ben Lando at, who forecasts that after these deals, Iraqi oil production could rise to compete with Saudi Arabia's, thereby helping to hold down the price of oil.

There remains an ongoing dispute between the Iraqi central government and the Kurdish regional government over oil concessions, with the Kurds cutting their own separate deals not recognized by the central government, with more fly-by-night companies banned from the central government's auction. The most important US company in Kurdistan is that run by some of the Hunt family, who had inside information from intel sources during the Bush administration. In any case, the idea that US oil companies would dominate Iraqi oil production in the long run, now looks to have pretty much gone down the tubes.


John Thacker said...

In any case, the idea that US oil companies would dominate Iraqi oil production in the long run, now looks to have pretty much gone down the tubes.

Which is good, since I never supported the war for that reason, and I would have been annoyed if US oil companies won for political reasons. I'm happy with this result. I'm also awaiting apologies from those who claimed that the invasion was done for US oil companies.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps, one step back , two steps forward!

Concessions to muzzle China and Russia?

Iran must be very anxious by now said...

For the record, I was one of those who long downplayed the idea that the US went into Iraq for oil, or at least primarily so. I saw oil being in the backdrop, that is, we fought the first Gulf War over oil, and to the extent that ultimately Bush saw himself besting his daddy by "finishing the job" (and I think there was a lot of that, and Cheney definitely played to that with him), then it was indirectly. Then later this evidence came out more specifically about Cheney's machinations, although there were many other things going on, such as neocons worried about Israel, revenge for 9/11, and so on.

Peter H said...

John Thacker,

I never thought invading Iraq was done for the benefit of oil companies - although that doesn't make the invasion any less idiotic, IMO. However, intent & results are two separate things: the fact that American oil companies aren't dominating Iraqi oil production doesn't disprove the notion that the US went into Iraq for oil. It could just be the case that Cheney et. al wanted to take over the oil fields but were simply unable to

Anonymous said...

I've never seen any reason to think the Iraq war planners invaded Iraq primarily, or even secondarily, for oil. I just don't think it's plausible that the most powerful military on earth would invade a weak country, and then not do one of their primary, or secondary, motives for invading. If the US military wanted to take, or control, Iraq's oil, would anyone on earth be able to stop them? If US has now failed to either take, or control, Iraq's oil, shouldn't this make us reject the notion that the US ever planned to? If the US had planned to, who would have been able to stop them? Muqtada al-Sadr?

When explaining the motives, I think we should restrict ourselves to the things that the US actually did after invading. There's no shortage of things on that list: democratization (Sharansky/Wolfowitz ideology), capture and kill Saddam Husain, eliminate a funding source of anti-Israel violence, put military bases in Iraq, attract terrorists to a non-US location (this would be the "foreign battleground for the war on terror" or "we'd rather fight terrorists in Iraq than on American soil" idea), eliminate possibility of Saddam ever getting major weapons, show US military strength and perhaps intimidate other adversaries. said...

Clearly there were several motives going on behind the invasion of Iraq, but it must be kept in mind that immediately after 9/11, Cheney and others in the administration were pushing for an invasion of Iraq and were falsely arguing a link with 9/11. This has been confirmed within the past few weeks by reports that Tony Blair received a phone call from Bush within days of 9/11 talking up a possible invasion of Iraq.

Now, given that the invastion was unpopular and that there were multiple motives, those who were operating for the oil companies, and the main person in this was clearly Cheney, who was very powerful indeed, would want to do it "properly." So, we are indeed at the moment when this should have happened, a legal government we support in place, opening the place up for bidding with our oil companies presumably primed to get in there. Except, they didn't.

Back during the invasion, those who were pushing the "it's all about oil" line, pointed to the weird fact that the first place that was secured in Baghdad by the US military once they got there, was the Ministry of Oil. However, it has since been realized that what was apparently intended was that we thought Iraq was going to do a Kuwait and pay us for the war with their oil revenues (the US actually made money on the First Gulf War). So, taking the Oil Ministry was seen as a prelude to a nice payoff, rather than as a prelude to a giant waste of over a trillion dollars.

Anonymous said...

During the 1990's, PNAC and CLI, the Iraqi National Congress, and Ahmed Chalabi, put together petitions and plans favoring an overthrow of Saddam. Paul Wolfowitz was perhaps the most enthusiastic advocate, and he apparently was an aggressive promoter of the Iraq invasion immediately after 9/11, before Cheney or Bush became enthusiastic about the project. Cheney and Bush both became enthusiastic about the project years later than some other influential people did. Bill Kristol is another example of someone who favored this before 9/11. All of the people who signed those petitions in the 1990s supported invading Iraq before 9/11, presumably would have favored it even if 9/11 hadn't happened. Wolfowitz told congress that Iraq's oil would pay for postwar reconstruction, and the decision to guard the Ministry of Oil immediately was consistent with this. If you're trying to explain why the US military would immediately guard the oil, a likely explanation is that they wanted this oil to not be stolen or burned, and for the money to be spent in Iraq, and on Iraq, by the new democratic Iraqi government designed with US guidance-- which is what has happened with the oil. I still don't see why the US would go in *hoping* that someone would *choose* to give them a payoff derived from Iraqi oil. If they wanted Iraqi oil, nobody could stop them from just taking it. There's nobody in Iraq who could stop the US military from doing anything.

What I've read is that the war planners were expecting to be out of Iraq within a couple of years, having spent tens of billions only. I've also read that they had much more faith in Ahmed Chalabi, and in his credibility among Iraqis, than was justified. They thought that they would be able to mostly turn the country over to Ahmed Chalabi, and then would be out quickly. They were very incompetent and didn't have a feel for real conditions and popular sentiments in Iraq, and I think they believed they could stabilize Iraq with a small number of troops and then be out quickly and inexpensively.

According to Stephen Walt's most recent book, which has a chapter about the Iraq war, the Oil lobbyists were not lobbying for the Iraq war. The same chapter has documentation that AIPAC and Zionist pro-Israel lobbyists were, instead, lobbying for it. said...


Generally agree with most of this and even brought up the public position of the oil lobbyists when I first posted on the war a long time ago and criticized the "it's all about oil" position.

However, I think you underplay the role of Cheney. He was for the war in Iraq from very early on. Both he and Wolfie were around in the first Gulf war and advocated "going to Baghdad," only to be overruled by Powell and Bush Senior. Woodward reports that shortly after Bush Jr became prez, Cheney took him to the basement of the Pentagon and showed him the room where they monitor the planes that were flying over Iraq, and complained how from time to time one was shot down, and how they really needed to end that once and for all. Also, many of the oil companies may not have been all that eager, but it has since come out that those secret panels with them that Cheney held did involve talk of taking over the Iraq oil fields, or at least opening up access to them. And nobody should forget how during the Bush first term, Cheney aides sat in on important interdepartmental meetings and would overrule Secretaries. He was very very powerful, a fourth arm of government, and Bush Jr did reign him in somewhat in the second term, finally figuring out how much damage he was causing.

I also think there was a lot of sheer incompetence, with Wolfie very much part of that, although Cheney also. This idea the Iraqis would pay us for invading them was totally delusional, although it was also clear that the US leaders and military thought we would win quickly, in which case the idea of getting the US oil companies in on some deals early on was not quite as stupid as it turned out to be.

There was also an older issue, dating all the way back to the Red Line Agreement of 1928. Then Iraq along with Iran was given to what are now Shell and BP, British or Dutch-British companies, while the US got Saudi Arabia. After the Project Ajax coup in Iran in the early 50s put the Shah back in, US oil companies were allowed in to have some concessions as a payoff for the US assistance, whereas previously BP (then Anglo-Iranian Oil) had held a monopoly on the concessions. So, getting US companies into Iraq was to be like that, an undoing of that old 1928 deal.