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War for Oil? Yawn



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The Guardian is trying to whip up a controversy over an Iraqi oil auction in London today:

The biggest ever sale of oil assets will take place today, when the Iraqi government puts 40bn barrels of recoverable reserves up for offer in London.

BP, Shell and ExxonMobil are all expected to attend a meeting at the Park Lane Hotel in Mayfair with the Iraqi oil minister, Hussein al-Shahristani.

Access is being given to eight fields, representing about 40% of the Middle Eastern nation’s reserves, at a time when the country remains under occupation by US and British forces.

Two smaller agreements have already been signed with Shell and the China National Petroleum Corporation, but today’s sale will ignite arguments over whether the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was a “war for oil” that is now to be consummated by western multinationals seizing control of strategic Iraqi reserves.

Apparently something very obvious bears repeating here: Oil and national security aren’t mutually exclusive. If Saddam were still in power today, the sale of Iraq’s oil (through the corrupt oil-for-food program) would be funding weapons programs, palaces, and checks to the families of suicide bombers. Instead, the profits from the sale of that oil will be distributed to the owners of publicly held oil corporations — mutual funds, pension funds, and investors from all over the world — after the Iraqi people take their share. The big state-owned oil companies such as CNPC will also bid for and receive access to Iraq’s oil, and that’s a downside. But even with some of the profits flowing to China, the world is a safer place without them flowing to Saddam Hussein.



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