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Commentary Last Updated: Feb 28th, 2007 - 00:41:54

Vultures circle overhead to feast off Iraq�s carrion
By Linda S. Heard
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Feb 28, 2007, 00:40

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Do you recall in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq how sceptics who suggested the Bush administration was after oil were generally written off as anti-American conspiracy nuts?

At that time those paragons of virtue inhabiting the White House were thought to have no such grasping motives. They were instead committed to ridding the planet of nasty weapons and evil-doing dictators in the name of democracy, freedom and the spread of Starbucks.

It turns out those sceptics, who insisted Iraq wouldn�t have been invaded if its only export commodity were bananas, were on to something after all.

According to last Sunday�s Observer, �Baghdad is under pressure from Britain and the US to pass an oil law which would hand long-term control of Iraq�s energy assets to foreign multi-nationals.�

One prominent doubting Thomas was former South African President Nelson Mandela, who said this in 2005, �George Bush wants to get hold of the Iraqi oil� and �we must expose this as much as possible.�

Another is the former Malaysian leader, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who earlier this month stated his belief that the US wants to control Iraq�s oil to prevent it from fuelling the rise of China. �Containing China is the American dream,� he said.

As far back as 2005, BBC�s Newsnight revealed that the big oil grab was planned within weeks of Bush taking office, long before the 9-11 attacks.

The original plan, drafted by neoconservatives, involved the privatisation and sell-off of Iraq�s oil fields. In this way it was hoped the Opec pricing cartel could be smashed.

However, this was opposed by oil industry executives, who have every interest in keeping oil prices high and who, in any case, will stand to benefit handsomely from the new deal.

When America�s viceroy in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, suggested the seizing of Iraq�s oil fields in the early days of the invasion, this was quashed by the US State Department no doubt eager to deflect accusations that this was the administration�s intent all along.

The Bush camp, which includes foreign oil companies and the IMF, insists the Iraqi government needs to sign off on the new hydrocarbon law as soon as possible to encourage energy company investors to upgrade wells and pipelines, and to seek out new oil and gas fields.

Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki and president of the Kurdish administration. Massoud Barzani, have disgracefully agreed to the draft.

In other words, the Iraqi government plans to relinquish control of Iraq�s oilfields for up to 35 years (extendable for another 30) to foreigners, who will not be obliged to employ Iraqis or invest a percentage of their profits into Iraq�s economy. Further, foreign oil executives may be offered seats in the Iraqi Federal Oil and Gas Council that is responsible for handing out lucrative contracts.


This is a rich prize indeed for foreign oil giants. Iraq boasts the second largest sweet crude reserves in the world, which have the added bonus of being near the surface and, thus, inexpensive to extract.

While it�s true that Iraq�s oil industry does require a massive injection of cash after years of being the target of saboteurs and neglect, what�s stopping the World Bank, the IMF or the US, for that matter, from providing loans to the Iraqi government to do the job itself with the help of oil companies on usual terms?

Given the country�s rich natural resources and the real prospect of new untapped fields, repayment of any such loans would be guaranteed.

There is also the question of whether the current Iraqi government has the legal right to sign off on the proposed law at a time when the country is still under occupation. It certainly does not possess the moral right. Obviously its members� arms are being twisted and there is nothing they can do about it even if they wanted to.

One might also legitimately wonder what kind of sweetheart deals have been entered into encouraging Iraqi politicians to hand over their nation�s wealth to international companies. Could this be a pre-condition to Iraq�s eventual split into three when both the Kurds in the north and the Shiites in the south would be flush with oil revenue leaving the Sunnis pleading for handouts?

When one couples this proposed theft with billions of Iraq�s oil-for-food cash flown in to the country under Bremer�s watch and distributed like candy from the back of trucks -- which remains unaccounted for -- we�re looking at the greatest heist in history.

Yet unlike Britain�s train robbers who were pursued by Scotland Yard as far as Australia and Brazil, the perpetrators of this mega scam are getting away with it.

Iraq as a unified entity could be on its last legs. A victim of occupation, sectarian violence and terrorism, hundreds of thousands of its people have been killed, maimed, widowed and orphaned. Hundreds of thousands more have been displaced or live in fear.

This is an unparalleled crime in that it has been sanctioned by Congress and retroactively rubber-stamped by the United Nations.

As the bloated vultures circle overhead to feast off Iraqi carrion, the international community should be deeply ashamed of its silent collusion. I�ll say it loud and clear: The war in Iraq was a straight exchange. Blood for oil.

Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at

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