As the situation in Iraq continues its tragic decline, the war’s advocates have reduced expectations for “progress” to one item: if the Iraqi government can just pass a new law that would privatize most of its oil production, then its American masters would proclaim a huge victory for the surge. But it’s hardly a sure thing that Iraqi lawmakers will enact the new law since it means signing over their country’s primary resource to foreign corporations:
The law would transform Iraqâ€™s oil industry from a nationalized model closed to American oil companies except for limited (although highly lucrative) marketing contracts, into a commercial industry, all-but-privatized, that is fully open to all international oil companies.
The Iraq National Oil Company would have exclusive control of just 17 of Iraqâ€™s 80 known oil fields, leaving two-thirds of known â€” and all of its as yet undiscovered â€” fields open to foreign control.
The foreign companies would not have to invest their earnings in the Iraqi economy, partner with Iraqi companies, hire Iraqi workers or share new technologies. They could even ride out Iraqâ€™s current â€œinstabilityâ€ by signing contracts now, while the Iraqi government is at its weakest, and then wait at least two years before even setting foot in the country. The vast majority of Iraqâ€™s oil would then be left underground for at least two years rather than being used for the countryâ€™s economic development.
This has been the main reason for the war from the very beginning. Way back before 9/11, Dick Cheney was convening secret meetings with energy bigwigs in which Middle Eastern oil was understood as not just a prize, but an imperative. Give Cheney some credit for recognizing that if the American Way were to continue mindlessly motoring on, it would need absolute control of the world’s major petroleum resources.
So it was that within hours of the attacks on 9/11, Bush and his supporters were already planning the invasion of Iraq. Too bad about the non-existent WMD, too bad that the “wave of liberating democracy” thing didn’t work out, but the point was always getting control of Iraq’s oil and that mission is almost accomplished.