US´s battle for oil
energy policy report submitted to Vice-President Dick
Cheney five months before 11 September advocated using force
against Iraq... to secure control of its oil. Neil Mackay
reports on the document that reveals that oil is one of
the central issues fuelling the war against Iraq.
is a document that fundamentally questions the motives behind the
desire to take out Saddam Hussein and go to war with Iraq.
Energy Policy Challenges For The 21st Century describes how America
is facing the biggest energy crisis in its history. It targets Saddam
as a threat to American interests because of his control of Iraqi
oilfields and recommends the use of ‘military intervention’
as a means to fix the US energy crisis.
report is linked to a veritable who’s who of US hawks, oilmen
and corporate bigwigs. It was commissioned by James Baker, the former
US Secretary of State under George Bush Snr, and submitted to Vice-President
Dick Cheney in April 2001 a full five months before 11 September.
Yet it advocates a policy of using military force against
an enemy such as Iraq to secure US access to, and control of, Middle
Eastern oil fields.
of the most telling passages in the document reads: ‘Iraq
remains a destabilising influence to ... the flow of oil to international
markets from the Middle East. Saddam Hussein has also demonstrated
a willingness to threaten to use the oil weapon and to use his own
export programme to manipulate oil markets.
would display his personal power, enhance his image as a pan-Arab
leader ... and pressure others for a lifting of economic sanctions
against his regime. The United States should conduct an immediate
policy review toward Iraq including military, energy, economic and
United States should then develop an integrated strategy with key
allies in Europe and Asia, and with key countries in the Middle
East, to restate goals with respect to Iraqi policy and to restore
a cohesive coalition of key allies.’
the moment, UN sanctions allow Iraq to export some oil. Indeed,
the US imports almost a million barrels of Iraqi oil a day, even
though American firms are forbidden from direct involvement with
the regime’s oil industry. In 1999, Iraq was exporting
around 2.5 million barrels a day across the world.
US document recommends using UN weapons inspectors as a means of
controlling Iraqi oil. On one hand, ‘military intervention’
is supported; but the report also backs ‘de-fanging’
Saddam through weapons inspectors and then moving in to take control
of Iraqi oil.
an arms-control programme is in place, the US could consider reducing
restrictions [sanctions] on oil investment inside Iraq,’ it
reads. The reason for this is that ‘Iraqi [oil] reserves represent
a major asset that can quickly add capacity to world oil markets
and inject a more competitive tenor to oil trade’.
however, may not be as effective as simply taking out Saddam. The
report admits that an arms-control policy will be ‘ quite
costly’ as it will ‘encourage Saddam Hussein to boast
of his ‘victoryÓ against the United States, fuel his
ambition and potentially strengthen his regime’. It
adds: ‘Once so encouraged, and if his access to oil revenues
was to be increased by adjustments in oil sanctions, Saddam Hussein
could be a greater security threat to US allies in the region if
weapons of mass destruction, sanctions, weapons regimes and the
coalition against him are not strengthened.’
document also points out that ‘the United States remains a
prisoner of its energy dilemma’, and that one of the ‘consequences’
of this is a ‘need for military intervention’.
the heart of the decision to target Iraq over oil lies dire mismanagement
of the US energy policy over decades by consecutive administrations.
The report refers to the huge power cuts that have affected California
in recent years and warns of ‘more Californias’ ahead.
says the ‘central dilemma’ for the US administration
is that ‘the American people continue to demand plentiful
and cheap energy without sacrifice or inconvenience’. With
the ‘energy sector in critical condition, a crisis could erupt
at any time [which] could have potentially enormous impact on the
US ... and would affect US national security and foreign policy
in dramatic ways’.
main cause of a crisis, according to the document’s authors,
is ‘Middle East tension’, which means the ‘chances
are greater than at any point in the last two decades of an oil
supply disruption’. The report says the US will never be ‘energy
independent’ and is becoming too reliant on foreign powers
supplying it with oil and gas. The response is to put oil at the
heart of the administration ‘a reassessment of the role of
energy in American foreign policy’.
US energy crisis is exacerbated by growing anti-American feeling
in the oil-rich Gulf states. ‘Gulf allies are finding
their domestic and foreign policy interests increasingly at odds
with US strategic considerations, especially as Arab-Israeli tensions
flare,’ says the report. ‘They have become less inclined
to lower oil prices ... A trend towards anti-Americanism could affect
regional leaders’ ability to co-operate with the US in the
energy area. The resulting tight markets have increased US vulnerability
to disruption and provided adversaries undue political influence
over the price of oil.’
is described as the world’s ‘key swing producer
... turning its taps on and off when it has felt such action was
in its strategic interest’. The report also says
there is a ‘possibility that Saddam may remove Iraqi
oil from the market for an extended period of time’, creating
a volatile market.
the report alone seems to build a compelling case that oil is one
of the central issues fuelling the war against Iraq, there are also
other, circumstantial pieces of the jigsaw that show disturbing
connections between ‘black gold’ and
the Bush administration’s desire to wage war on Saddam. In
1998 the oil equipment company Halliburton,
of which Dick Cheney was chief executive, sold parts to Iraq so
Saddam could repair an infrastructure that had been terribly damaged
during the 1991 Gulf war. Cheney’s firm did £15 million
of business with Saddam a man Cheney now calls a ‘murderous
dictator’. Halliburton is one of the firms thought by analysts
to be in line to make a killing in any clean-up operation after
another US-led war on Iraq.
five permanent members of the UN Security Council Ð the UK,
France, China, Russia and the US Ð have international oil companies
that would benefit from huge windfalls in the event of a regime
change in Baghdad. The best chance for US firms to make
billions would come if Bush installed a pro-US Iraqi opposition
member as the head of a new government.
of foreign oil firms have already met with leaders of the Iraqi
opposition. Ahmed Chalabi, the London-based leader of the Iraqi
National Congress, said: ‘American companies will
have a big shot at Iraqi oil.’