Real Deal — Oil and Permanence

June 18, 2008

Up comes two seemingly unrelated, underhanded, heavy-handed deals, cutting like odorous, fart-splitting flatulence across the landscape, coupling together the future of Iraq to the entrails of the US.

War for oil.
Old fart-head Alan Greenspan should have stuck to his gumption.
He said last fall that Decider George went into Iraq for the Texas tea underneath. (The White House raised hell about it, and old Al back-tracked a bit).
Even before the 2003 ‘shock and awe’ invasion sequence was the quiet of surprise performed by US Navy SEALS in securing the Mina al-Bakr and Khor al-Amaya oil loading terminals in the Persian Gulf.
Even as the National Library of Iraq, the National Archives and the National Museum of Antiquities were looted and burned after the glorious US forces reached Baghdad, the oil ministry was safe and sound — secured by US GIs and equipment.

After no WMD and no democracy, Decider George decided to tell one-13th of the truth that the invasion of Iraq was indeed about the oil.
Blubbering out in an October 2006 press conference about some high-minded action to combat terrorism, Iraq “…in the heart of the Middle East with large oil reserves…” must be protected by US GIs and equipment.
No matter the cost to life and treasure.

A New York Times story set for publication on Thursday reports a contractual-agreement is near being completed between Iraq’s Oil Ministry and some giant oil companies from the west, including Exxon Mobil, Shell and BP.

This news about another no-bid contract sealed the deal.

  • The no-bid contracts are unusual for the industry, and the offers prevailed over others by more than 40 companies, including companies in Russia, China and India.
    The contracts, which would run for one to two years and are relatively small by industry standards, would nonetheless give the companies an advantage in bidding on future contracts in a country that many experts consider to be the best hope for a large-scale increase in oil production.
    There was suspicion among many in the Arab world and among parts of the American public that the United States had gone to war in Iraq precisely to secure the oil wealth these contracts seek to extract.
    The Bush administration has said that the war was necessary to combat terrorism. It is not clear what role the United States played in awarding the contracts; there are still American advisers to Iraq’s Oil Ministry.
    ..
    The Iraqi Oil Ministry, through a spokesman, said the no-bid contracts were a stop-gap measure to bring modern skills into the fields while the oil law was pending in Parliament.
    It said the companies had been chosen because they had been advising the ministry without charge for two years before being awarded the contracts, and because these companies had the needed technology.

    — Andrew E. Kramer, nytimes.com/2008/06/19/world/middleeast, (6/19/08)

The second deal, or maybe the first part of the whole deal, has been in the works since at least last fall, maybe longer.
Decider George and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki glad-handed each other at the great Annapolis summit in a special “relationship” to be bonded between the US and Iraq’s oil deposits.
And this “relationship” was part of oil security.
Also from the above Times story:

  • Any Western oil official who comes to Iraq would require heavy security, exposing the companies to all the same logistical nightmares that have hampered previous attempts, often undertaken at huge cost, to rebuild Iraq’s oil infrastructure.
    And work in the deserts and swamps that contain much of Iraq’s oil reserves would be virtually impossible unless carried out solely by Iraqi subcontractors, who would likely be threatened by insurgents for cooperating with Western companies.

Nearly in secret, this “relationship” was in actual scroll a tax-payer security operation, and didn’t come to a real-bright light until just earlier this month in a report from probably the best foreign journalist covering Iraq, Patrick Cockburn of UK’s The Independent.
The so-called “status of forces agreement” was at first an open-ended deal to keep the status quo.
The US would operate out of 58 bases, move without legal repercussions from Iraqi law and the 160,00 private contractors, thousands of them armed-to-the-teeth security operatives would also continue to be immune to local law.
The negotiations hit a raw nerve, both in the US Congress and in Iraq.
Al-Maliki, after getting flak from his own countrymen about it, said last Friday the talks on the agreement were “at a dead end” because the sovereignty of Iraq was in dispute.

The prime minister, however, backtracked a bit as Cockburn reported today the US conceded private contractors would no longer operate outside Iraq law, which might gain some ground.
However, the Iraqi people want the US completely out as soon as possible.
Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has also been calling for boycotts, even creating a militia arm to fight only US troops.
The agreement might not take hold, and then again, it might.
This historical, and somewhat cynical assessment:

  • But Iraq is now so thoroughly broken that al-Maliki may not have any choice but to sign. It doesn’t matter what the Iraqi people might want, any more than it matters what the American people want.
    “Do you know what you call a country in that part of the world with no real air force or army?” asks John Pike, a military expert with globalsecurity.org. “You call it a protectorate.
    “Americans are the Republican Guard now,” says Pike, referring to the Iraqi special contingent that was responsible for protecting Saddam Hussein. “As long as they are in Baghdad, nobody is going to try to steal the government when no one is looking.
    “How many fighter aircraft did Saddam have? Hundreds. How many does al-Maliki have? None. How many tanks did Saddam have? Thousands. How many does al-Maliki have? Dozens.”
    To Pike, Iraqi unhappiness with the continuing American presence is very nearly irrelevant.
    “They’re just going have to get used to it,” he says. “There’s a lot of people on this planet who’ve gotten used to a lot of things they didn’t like.”

    — Neil MacDonald, CBC News, cbc.ca/world/story, (6/11/08)

Oil and a permanent US presence in Iraq: The Real Deal.

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