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Iraq’s Oil, First Come, First Serve

by JOSH FRANK

United States relations with Russia may be spicing up for the holiday season. On Monday December 22, Russian officials offered to forgive $8 billion dollar’s of Iraq’s debt if the country reinstituted the oil contracts Russia had during Saddam’s evil reign.

The old Soviet Republic surely knows that the $8 billion will be made up in a matter of years; as profits from rich Iraqi oil fields pump into the lifeline of Russia’s weak economy.

Welcome back to the global market, Iraq.

Time will tell whether or not this bold move is an action that the oil boys in DC are willing to tolerate. The US has put pressure on countries to step in and help relieve some of Iraq’s $125 billion dollar debt. However, just one week ago the Defense Department stated that countries who did not support the illegal war like France, Germany and Russia, were not welcome to reap the avails of US’s new colonial state.

Iraq’s crude oil rate is currently running at 2.5 million barrels of crude oil per day, and it hopes to bump that up to 5 million within the next two years.

And this war wasn’t about oil?

Russia’s entrance back into the Iraq market may signal the next phase of “Operation Profit Iraq,” where countries other then the US may be on the verge of cashing in on the war as well. Bush admittedly is not pleased; he’s openly criticized certain nations that are attempting to move their corporations into Iraq in hopes of turning over a profit. However, Bush recently sent former secretary of state James Baker to hearten major creditors, in hopes to pen down the country’s outstanding debt.

The Russia deal also shows the earnest effort of Iraqi officials to exonerate the country’s dues, while buying into the free-market protocol the IMF and WTO have made illustriously famous. But could this bang-up deal have gone down behind the back of George W. Bush? You bet.

In a meeting at the Kremlin, President Vladimir Putin and the head of the Iraqi Governing Council Abdul Aziz al-Hakim were said to have sealed the contract behind closed doors. Al-Hakim is the head of the US backed council, but it is likely that the US was unaware of Russia’s secret agreement with the Interim Council.

“Putin has made an offer of Russia exempting Iraq from 65 percent of their debts. That is a decision made by Russia,” said Samir Sumaidy a member of the Iraqi Governing Council. One can honestly speculate that the decision may not have come from Bush’s White House, put from Putin’s government.

Russia is also openly admitting that much can be gained from capitalist ventures in Iraq. “Russian companies are ready to be active in Iraq,” said Sumaidy.

Nobody doubts that the main reason Russia opposed the war in Iraq was due to their strong economic ties to Saddam Hussein’s government. However, Russia is attempting to rekindle that corporate spirit right where they left off last year. “Russia will help Iraq restore its economy and support the Iraqi people in their aspiration for sovereignty, and termination of the occupation,” said Al-Hakim.

Russia’s exploration of oil may come with contention from the US, who is waiting patiently in the wing for their big take on the contracts. But like the Gold Rush of California in the mid-1800s, Iraq oil seems to be on a first come, first serve basis. Russia is already looking to explore the Western Qurna oil fields; supposed home of billions in untapped barrels.

Despite the President’s call on James Baker, Bush still must fear a battle could erupt over Iraqi oil. These reserves were surely earmarked for Bush’s large campaign contributors, not countries like Russia who opposed the war. Of course this illegal debacle has already benefited a few of Bush’s fat patrons-with many of the spoils lining the pockets of his buddies at Bechtel and Halliburton.

Nevertheless, the real bucks are to be made from the yet unleashed oil reserves-which are patiently awaiting their discoveries in western Iraq. Somebody should get a Federal search warrant for the White House, and seek out Bush’s hidden oil maps. Time to arrest the war criminal before he wins next year — because with a Bush triumph, it is a certainty that Republican backers will be drowning in Iraqi oil. In the meantime, Russia can only hope to siphon some of that black gold their way.

And President Bush wants us continuing to believe this war was only about WMDs? Which apparently are harder to locate than a spaced-out dictator, bunkered down in a hole out in rural Iraq.

Would the person who believes oil had nothing to do with this war, please stand up?

 

JOSHUA FRANK is managing editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, co-edited with Jeffrey St. Clair and published by AK Press. He can be reached at joshua@counterpunch.org. You can follow him on Twitter @joshua__frank

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