War for Oil

I was going to say something about this on another thread, but I think this is big enough to have its own thread.

Basically, I want to get your take on why–or why not–the war and Iraq policy generally serve US/UK oil interests. It’s not enough to say that oil is crucial to the economy and Iraq has alot of it. It’s not enough to concede that it’s not “all” about oil.

To start off, I’ll post a few points:

The US had a congenial relationship with Iraq before the Gulf War. Why wouldn’t it have looked the other way if all it were interested in is oil?

If Hussein had to be driven from Kuwait for oil-related reasons, why did the coalition not press further and secure a regime change at that time?

Why did the US and its allies not try to claim colonial possession of the oil fields they liberated, or in some other way try to secure long term control over them? Why didn’t they force the Kuwaitis to give “sweetheart” deals to petroleum companies based in the US or allied states?

If securing a steady and large flow of oil is the main objective of US policy, why has the US pressed for UN resolutions and other measures that greatly limited Iraq’s incentive, ability, and permission to export much of its oil?

That should be enough to get things going.

I think you might find the following thread interesting, as it touches on the oil issue.

The UN Suffers…

That’s exactly where I was going to post this, but I felt the oil issue was tangential to your main point about the weakening of international institutions. I’m still chewing over what you had to say over there…

Ture, thanks, as your post might have sent the thread off topic.

I believe the war is about repositioning and acquiring resources, which will be needed in the future. A good manager knows one should not leave things to the last minute, so plans well in advanced to make sure that they will always have a steady supply of needed resources. This added time also allows for better bargaining, as you are not in a position of weakness, due to a lack of the required resource. I think its fair to say that Oil to first world countries is the most important resource they need. So when all developed countries are vying to gain the most access. Having friends who control the source is always advisable.

The world was a different place 12 years ago, as Russia was still an unknown, only just emerging from the aftermath of the Cold War. Times are now different; America is in a much stronger world position. It has the ability to make demands that previously it couldn’t. Back then the balance of world power was different. Terrorists had also yet to strike, so it would be seen as shaking the hornet’s nest and America would end up getting stung. Now that this has happened and the unfortunate events of Sept. 11 have occurred, fixing such problems could now be seen as the wisest decision.

Quite simply it’s a tactic. If you can’t gain a valuable resource, you have to make sure that your opponent doesn’t acquire it. Sanctions allow the Americans to play the political game. Politics is the polite face of war, never anything else. A good example of this was seen yesterday [size=75](7th of March)[/size], when France delivered a very powerfully worded call for peace, to keep the status-quo, and England’s Jack Straw lost his cool, as he tried to rebut the French argument. France is trying to stop US/UK interests getting control of the oil. The shoe is on the other foot, once it was America calling for peace and stalling. But now its Russia, France, Germany and China. Politics is a fascinating game to watch, when it’s played by master diplomats. But it’s a pity that the common man always ends up the sacrificial pawn.

P.S. As a side note, any one who likes politics or is interested in the mechanics of war should play a game called Civilisation. As you have to fight for world resources, and you see by how your country fairs when it gains and is denied access. While it is only a very simple game, it can teach some useful lessons which can be applied to the real world we live in. Like the expression “Art reflects Life”, so do computer games.

You cite oil and terrorism as reasons. Though I don’t feel this way, many I’ve read would dismiss the idea that terrorism has anything to do with it. In this view, terrorism is a mere cover for greed. You have any comments?

And I don’t see how either of these rationales can make any sense of the 1991 war, though then, as now, people were calling it a war for oil. Why did the US not simply do business with Hussein, co-opt him? Or, if that was too dangerous an option, why didn’t the US+co take him out then and there? It seems to me the aftermath of that war is the best possible disproof of the strong ‘war for oil’ thesis.

Now, as for the control of resources… Since in any scenario, the oil would be the property of sovereign states free to do what they wish with it, how is the US “getting control of the oil” by taking out Hussein? The oil will be sold on the world market, through OPEC most likely, and the US/UK will have to stand in line like everybody else.

Yes, I know that sanctions would be lifted–but the US is the one who pressed for them in the first place! The usual conspiracy theory is that big US oil companies are begging Bush to invade and then give them preferential treatment. This does not work for so many reasons that I don’t have the stamina to explain right now.

A cover yes, just for greed, no. It’s all part of local politics and International politics is always driven by local needs. Bush must be seen to be fighting terrorism locally in America. That’s why there is a new Homeland security agency. Which is also used to show the people the same mistakes that happened between the FBI and CIA / NSA won’t happen again. It’s not the whole truth, but it’s enough for the people to back Bush. International politics is about telling your populace whatever is needed to gain their support for your agenda. It’s also vital when winning local support you don’t give your opponents any clues as to what your real goals are.

Successful politics always has an element of misdirection. Just like a good magician he distracts the audience with a pretty assistant while he’s slipping cards from the deck. The agenda for international politics is to strengthen and consolidate your position, and undermine your opponents. So it might be interpreted as follows: Right, in 10 years will need more oil and we’re currently having problems with the threat of Middle Eastern terrorism. Lets kill the two birds with one stone. We can be seen to fight terrorism locally, when in reality will be doing little to stop it directly. But we’ll be positioning Iraq so in 8 years will easily be able to get access to their oil reserves. The last thing we need is Saddam Junior getting into power and stopping us, or even helping one of our opponents by giving them access to the oil we’ll need.

The truth of why America didn’t finish Saddam off might never be known. But I guaranty you it must have been the only viable option at the time. Things where different, as world power was balanced in a different way then it is today. The war was about oil, anyone who tells you otherwise either doesn’t know what they’re talking about, or is blatantly lying. But like the current prospect of war, oil wasn’t the sole issue on the agenda.

Saddam hates America and doesn’t want to deal with them. The Iraqi leadership could choose to sell oil to America at lets say $50 a barrel, while Russia might get it for $25. Now if Iraq had a leader that depended on America to stay in power then he would be obliged to give America preferable treatment. This type of scenario is currently happening in some countries. The CIA has helped many a foreign leader get into power.

Not all the oil in the world goes through OPEC. It’s possible to get deals done directly with the countries supplying the oil. While these deals aren’t secret, they’re not news headlines. Believe me if anyone understands the oil business its, Bush Jr and Cr, Dick Chainy, and Condaliza Rice.

I think you might have missed my point about playing politics, if not what do you think the cause is?

Begging to invade is both unfair and a misinterpretation. Any good businessman would look for Bush to resolve the issues with Iraq, as this would free up the oil companies to set about acquisition of new oil contracts in the region. They’re not calling for war, just the removal of sanctions that are affecting their current and future business needs for oil. It just so happens war might be a part of the solution. Yes, I know wars take vast amounts of oil to fight, so they wouldn’t look disfavourably on a war if it meant more profit. But it would take a psychopathic oil company director to deliberately seek out war. Bush knows he must get re-elected which takes both financial and public support. So it’s not a coincidence that he is currently in a position to kill two birds with one stone. None of the above is a conspiracy, its just good management.

Forgive me but

The cost of 1 human life is cheaper than 75$ a barrel.

The TRUE reason we are to be at war is because of the american Economy. True oil is part of it. american economy is the Root of most of the problems we are facing, Due to one thing leading to another.

If the american economy was not based on war and the social problems facing america and its infastructure was reconstructed The need for this war and many others would not be a problem.

BUT if the reason IS for terrorism and wanting to destroy Rogue states then yes the war would have happend.

Honestly In my mind we are about to enter into a Vietnam style world war. Mainly because we have greater force but no moral ground to stand on.

That’s definitely worth keeping in mind, Blutgi, however, this discussion is trying to determine the credibility of the war-for-oil thesis.

You mentioned that trade in oil can take place outside the OPEC structure. Quotas have not been set for Iraq since the first Gulf War, however, they have remained a member, and Opec plan to reintroduce quotas to Iraq following the war and any subsequent regime-change, assuming the new government favours renewing its membership of Opec.

One suggestion I have heard in Westminster, is that the US government’s post-conflict commitment to Iraq will constitute taking the reins at the start, under the guise of a UN protectorate. With the US government leading the effort to ensure Iraq’s new political system is secure, any new government, elected or otherwise, will need an American seal of approval. And here comes the bombshell I have heard, from a prominent Labour backbencher whose anonymity I have promised to maintain (sorry about that).

That the US government, whilst drawing attention to the success of their war, the liberation of the Iraqi people, and to ensuring that all information channels necessary for a active democracy are kept open and free (I suspect this will be forced by the international community), will actually be planning not to take over Iraqi oilfields, but planning bilateral trade agreements with the Iraqi federal government, so as to ensure a steady flow of oil for a ‘new American century’.

They will guarantee this, by supplying Iraq with financial and technical aid to revive the failing oil infrastructure - the refineries, wells and pipelines to the Red Sea, and also through Kuwait. This will actually give Iraq a competitive advantage over other Opec members, providing an incentive for Iraq to not renew its membership to Opec, and set its own quotas. This will, without doubt, cut the costs of many American (and European) businesses, large and small, freeing micro-economic resources to kickstart a world economy in need profit innovation and, ultimately, more consumption. Sweeping my generalisations may be, when those buyers on the world oil market know how to ensure oil prices do not waver too wildly, one has to question whether the desperate short-term need for oil is a major direct reason for seizing Iraqi reserves, or even whether the ‘greed’ and ‘profit-mongering’ of American oil companies is directly responsible for the Bush administration’s plans.

Were Iraq to undercut Opec prices, the ‘knocking-off’ of Middle-Eastern autarkies would become easier, as ground movement against these governments would seem likelier, so the logic goes. What cards do these regimes hold on the international stage, without significant profit’s from oil? [Few, if any, other than weapons, hence the many signs of armament from Iran and others]. What “guarantees the stability and harmony of the world oil market by adjusting their oil output to ensure a balance between supply and demand”? [Opec]. Reliant on oil revenues for the economic development of these nations, distorting the very foundations Opec relies upon, with a local founding member (Iraq) substantially undercutting their prices, would (as is planned) see the calculated ‘flood of Iraq’ drown the Middle-East with democracy and social movement?

True, you may point out that OPEC’s eleven members collectively supply about 40% of the world’s oil output, so the short-term economic craving from the West, can be satisfied by the rest. However, the volume of investment required to adapt industry and transport (and all else reliant on oil) to new sources of power, whilst staying efficient and above the operation line, is currently beyond the reach of most western planners - in government and in the private sector. Opec members possess more than three-quarters of the world’s proven crude oil reserves. Weaken Opec, and the Project for new American Century (outlined next) has some breathing space.

This war is a key part of ‘The Project for a New American Century’ (PNAC), a strategic paper with recommendations for defence spending and political approach, devised by the American Enterprise Institute and the Hudson Institute. The PNAC was founded by Dick Cheney, Donald
Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis Libby (Cheney’s chief of staff), William J Bennett, (the Reagan administration’s education secretary), and Zalmay Khalilzad, the Bush administration’s ambassador to Afghanistan. Under the cloak of freedom democracy and peace, it is designed to assert American influence around the world - economic and political. This in itself, I think comes from a sincere belief held by the named characters (plus possibly some others in the current Washington consensus) in the United States as capable of delivering an economic and political system which can be of benefit to any People, and which demands and instils a work ethic which will favour humanities’ prospect of survival and progress. Institutions such as the United Nations and Opec only slow down the process towards achieving the desired position on the world stage. Their use of the UN now, seems to serve the political interests of their ally Tony Blair. Plus, that a UN mandate for war, will help minimise the short-term political damage caused by operating outside any UN ‘process’.

There is, after all my deliberations, a strategic case (albeit weak, given the quality of security in the US and UK at least) that the present-day Iraqi regime will make his weapons available to terrorists, and that since they will be used against western interests, ‘doing something’ (as considered outside of the tablet of the PNAC) is an option. However, the doctrine of pre-emption establishes a precedent which is difficult to swallow in the new economy/new world disorder, only defendable within a multilateralist framework.

Regardless of how questionable the plans for war are - and the damage it will do world government, to international relations, and to the root causes of the terrorism – if the anti-war side were to succeed in stopping the drive to war, but fail to achieve a consensus between the two sides, and some sort of regime change in Iraq, a clear message would be sent out to all that the PNAC has its eyes on – that the US are a paper tiger, pliant even. A message even the Chinese and Russian leadership would never have realistically aimed for.

Russia’s involvement in the Iraq crisis is, for me, understated by a media under the illusion that the American-Russian alliance is still fresh and strong. Igor Ivanov (the Russian foreign minister) and his secret meetings with Saddam Hussein, imply enough. The last-minute Russian oil contracts, in addition to the Russian-Iraqi trade agreement made late last year, are all designed for a scenario where the current Iraqi regime are not toppled, or are replaced by a Russia-phile which is prepared to agitate US interests in the region by not co-operating in trade negotiations as was planned. The Iraq issue truly becomes a crisis, when the new regime is installed, and the US and/or UN build the foundations of a new political and economic order in Iraq. At this point, the conflict of interests between Russia and the US will come to the fore, especially if there still persists an angry division between ‘old’ Europe and America, and the climate of international politics provides enough leeway for Russia to compete for Iraqi hearts, government and oil.

There is a great temptation to speak of the Cold War having ended, and there being a new world order up for grabs, of the context of American foreign policy having changed considerably. Whilst it is certainly true that the war has a strong element of power politics to it, with there being more diplomatic room for manoeuvre (hence the current division in the international community), I am inclined towards a thesis that reveals, if not states the extent to which this conflict is implicitly between the USA and Russia. Whilst there are many prisms within prisms and a complex fragile cobweb of alliances to be fully considered when observing the international political scene, the fact that American and Russian interests in and around Iraq overlap as they do, is endemic, standing out like a wart on the eyelid of the international community. It is not a Cold war, and it is not based on ideology. Russia’s late entrance to the Franco-German opposition was based on an ambivalence as to whether opposing the US stance was in their interests, whether it was politically feasible. Circumstance (given the domestic politics of France and Germany) had played Russia a sweet card - a final window of opportunity for Russia to defy the United States on a matter of international importance. To defend their interests at the expense of American interests, even if these interests do not concern the sweep of humanity’s history (as with the ideological war), but merely (without understating its importance) the access to a key resource – oil - which at some point within the middle to long-term, may be in short supply.

Pangloss, fascinating post. I read it the other day and I’ve been chewing over the Russia vs. US angle. I remember, too, that Russia was adamantly against the Kosovo war… they even, as I recall, put a military presence in the region as the NATO actions were to begin.

Strategically, the goal of the Bush administration had been to strengthen ties with Russia and India in order for them to serve as a check on the influence and power of China and to a lesser extent North Korea. I don’t think the administration realized the extent to which ditching the ABM treaty would alienate Russia. I’ve detected alot of simmering and barely-concealed anger in Putin’s dealings with the USA in recent days. Particularly in his statement about Iraq when Bush visited St. Petersburg to get support for the Iraq resolution… he seemed to give the resolution some weak support and then erupt into a some more passionate statements about how little of threat Iraq is and that kind of thing. It was obvious his arm was being twisted, or at least that he was making a calculated decision that went against his real feelings. Diplomacy has not been the Bush administration’s strong point.

Now a question, and correct me if I am factually off. Russia is an oil exporter, and its government is largely dependent on oil sales since they have not been too successful getting tax revenue. Why would they need “access to. . . oil” in Iraq? If anything, their interest would be to keep Iraq’s oil off the market altogether. This would naturally also lead them to oppose the war, but the geopolitical scenario would be very different.

Just thought I would add a point from Primeministers question time today. Maybe its not about oil after all… But, “Why is America only accepting American contractors to help in the rebuilding of Iraq?”

It’s all about the building industry! Didn’t see that coming. :laughing: I laugh but its not funny.

Pax, :frowning: , I frown, but I’m very happy.

The point you raise about the Americaan contractors to rebuild Iraqi infrastructure is significant for those who percieve it as a clear and public sign of the American plutocracy at work, with the ‘insider’ firms behind the pressure for war. As tempting as it is to be cynical about these contracts being having been offered to already influential businesses, or solely to American businesses, I am loth to hold such cynicism. The contracts are only worth $900m, which in contrast to the hundreds of billions spent on the war and general security alone, seems to be very little. I doubt however, that those rewarded firms will forget the faovur in too much of a hurry at the next presidential elections. It would be wrong however, to be too critical of American plans to rebuild Iraq after a blitzkreig military strike. Anything that shows a commitment to post-conflict ‘nation-building’ has to be welcomed.

Blaubord, Russia is indeed at present an oil exporter and have substantial oil and gas reserves, as their mature fields have been running dry. Given the trade package available to Iraq, and the strategic benefits Russia could gain from Iraqi dependence on Russia, particularly set in the context of PNAC doctrine on the ABM treaty and other areas of international concern, Putin’s behaviour is, if unusual, understandable. Russia have rushed into capitalism far too quickly, with many of their markets not really forming the desired interdependent web of suppliers producers and consumers, but just huge inefficient monopolies, once in the state’s hands, now in private. Gazprom, Russia’s gas behemoth, was recently renationalised, to help guarantee their advantage in global markets, and exploit the current ‘uncertainties’ in the Middle East. Many in Russia fear that Gazprom being back in state ownership will see its gas and oil sold too cheaply on foreign markets, minimising further the money ending in Russia’s already strained public purse. The untapped fine-grade potentially-cheap oil well that is Iraq, will be a sore point to whoever fails to either control it, or at least the prices it goes at the barrel.

Haha, that post was meant to be taken as sarcasm, hence the smiley. I’ll use the :sarcasm: face next time :wink:

I know the war is not being fought because America needs building contracts in Iraq, but their choice is limiting free trade. It would do a lot more good to Iraq if they could use local Iraqi building contractors. I know the argument could easily be put; the locals don’t have the level of skill required. And that America is already investing vast sums of money, if it has to be rebuilt Iraq then the money should only go to American companies.

I think their logic goes, that to bomb a people, then order them to rebuild, would seem a little unfair. Regardless of these trivialities, the US military should avoid the finest buildings anyway - the Palace, mosque (under construction) and Iran-Iraq war memorial included. They are central to any future tourist trade Iraq may benefit from.

I’m going to be controversial and say that it’s not all about oil (I know that’s not what you wanted to hear!)- what I believe is that the wider economic considerations are inseperable from politico-ideological ones in matters of foreign policy- an idea first put forward by the historian William Carr.

What George W Bush wants above all is stability in Iraq and the Middle East so that it no longer poses any kind of a threat, either by acting as a focal point or symbol for anti-Americanism/ terrorism among muslims/Arabs, or by acting outside the American global economic sphere- i.e. by trading almost exclusively with France and Russia.

Unfortunately, he and his administration are adopting an extremely simplistic and arrogant approach to this desire, assuming that war and aggression (which some might consider to be sinking to Saddam Hussein’s level) are the only answer.
That Iraq continues to exist successfully is what spurs America on. That America is able to proceed in this manner is the result of the collapse of the Soviet military counter-balance.

The sanctions that were imposed at the end of the Gulf War were founded on a just principle, that a dictatorship should not be propped up or condoned by other nations.
With this as the current Bush regime’s starting point (please remember that there is discontinuity in the governing regimes of America, UK, France, etc), there is no way that sanctions could be dropped to improve economic linkages and thus reduce Iraq’s independence and defiance of the USA (a process which only Russia and to a lesser extent France were willing or able to take).
Thus to America the only solution is to attack Iraq’s political independence, which military action would certainly achieve.

To summarise, oil is integral to and symbolic of the wider problem, but not the paramount consideration.

Why does he want stability? Need to change the emphasis on stability to make that argument stand.

Hi FRJJ. Hope you’ve been well and things.

I agree that

I also agree that it is not all about oil, though I do think that oil is the prize at the centre of this political storm. The US government are indeed pursuing a very specific political doctrine in their approach to foreign policy and broader international relations. I pretty much agree with your analysis. Sorry! You may be interested to see the website of the PNAC: newamericancentury.org/

I am amused by your description of France and Russia’s defiance of the USA as a ‘process’. Are you familiar with Robert Kagan’s ‘Power and Paradise’?

Incidentally Sam, do you favour the US-UK approach to achieving regime-change and disarmament of the Iraqi regime, or does your ‘historian’ status demand you watch events rush past your eyes, ripe for analysis, not manipulation. I only ask because a history student at Cambridge last week, told me that he ‘abrogates all opinion to opinion-makers’, ‘who am I to play god?’.

Considering that God shows up very seldom these days, so seldom that His very existence is a matter of much debate, I think it might be better to say that the one who watches silently and has no opinion is precisely the one “playing god.” :wink:

I agree with Red about the US seeing sanctions as impossible to lift without the removal of Hussein from power. The Clinton administration had come to this stance after Iraq kicked UNSCOM out. Unfortunately, as someone pointed out recently, this was a huge disincentive to disarmament. But they never pursued disarmament in good faith, anyway. It’s amazing how a leader will cling to power, even against a prospect of war, when it is obvious to the world and his people that he is a massive liability, an unstaunched wound. The sanctions regime has been brutal, and the major long-term benefit of the departure of Hussein will be their removal.

The only point I’ll even quibble with you on–and I’m obligated to find something, after all–is where you write, “That Iraq continues to exist successfully is what spurs America on.” It’s just Hussein’s regime, not Iraq as a nation, which the US plans to keep intact anyway. And “successful” is a strange adjective to use for it, unless you mean merely that Hussein is alive and in power, which only means that there are at least few Iraqis left for him to live at the expense of. Had Hussein been a good boy and complied in good faith to the terms of surrender, there would not be a problem today. I can not believe the original Bush administration imagined otherwise, or, like I’ve said, they would have “regime changed” him in 1991.

I agree with what you say about politics, ideological, and economic being inseperable. The position I have a problem with is the various shades of Marxist-style critique which see everything as a conspiracy and everyone who disagrees as “in on it.” Even if I accept arguments that the WMD stuff is a smokescreen (and I do not think this), one cannot escape the fact that Hussein’s record of compliance has been dismal, even under the new resolution. If one wants to find an unjustly US-persecuted underdog to root for and have faith in, Hussein is just not the guy.