There has been much debate over the motives for a new war with Iraq. The US administration claim that a possible war with Iraq is vital for world peace and that Saddam Hussein has not only biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction but links with Al Qaeda. However many have argued that oil is the motive for a US-led war with Iraq. This report by Dan Bjarnason for NWI, considers both sides to the argument through interviews with Phyllis Bennis from the Institute of Policy Studies and Charles Krauthammer, a conservative columnist of the Washington Post.
In hisng remarks, Bjarnson documents the hundreds of thousands of people attending the recent anti-war protests around the globe. In New York City for example, he acknowledges that there were masses of protestors, often shouting the familiar slogan, "NO BLOOD FOR OIL". The consensus of many seems to be that the war is about Iraq's oil, says Bjarnson. According to Phyllis Bennis from the Institute for Policy Studies, this view is correct and any invasion of Iraq will be for empire and oil and not about weapons of mass destruction.
In his interview with Bennis, Bjarnson asks,
"What would this administration have to do to convince you that it's not about oil?"
Bennis replies there is basically nothing they could do. She asserts that this war is about oil but it is not unique to this administration, policy in the Middle East was about oil under President Clinton, George Bush and Jimmy Carter. Rather than trying to avoid the topic of oil, she believes the US administration needs to talk about what is their oil policy?
Bjarnson mentions that when the Bush Administration was confronted with the premise that the potential war with Iraq was about oil, it revoked such an idea. If a war was about oil they declared, they would just, "lift the sanctions", a much easier option to gain oil than going to war.
In agreement, Charles Krauthammer from the Washington Post argues that the US actions in the Gulf war in 1991 demonstrate that "If the United States was oil hungry he would've stayed in Kuwait and used that oil, claimed it for itself and gotten very rich."
Continuing his analysis, Bjarnson asserts that there was a time that the US could meet its oil supplies independently without the need for foreign imports. Now however the US depends upon foreign supplies for half of its supply of oil to heat the US. This has increased dramatically since 1985 when this figure was a third. By 2020, it is estimated that foreign oil will account for as much as two thirds of US oil. Even with conservation and the development of alternative fuel sources, Bjarnson maintains, the US will still remain heavily reliant on oil.
Bob Tippie, Editor of the Oil and Gas Journal reaffirms this, remarking that the US uses a lot of energy with its "vigorous economy" and "mobile population" and that it simply doesn't have enough oil to meet these needs.
With this in mind, Bjarnson postulates that at present Iraq is an unlikely answer for the US energy needs. It is allowed to export oil under the UN oil for food program but production remains low as Iraq is still recovering from the last Gulf war over 12 years ago and the consequent crippling sanctions. He conveys that, according to anti-war activists, it is the future that is the stimulating a possible new war; when in fifteen years it is estimated that two-thirds of the world's oil will come from the Gulf Region. Iraq has the second biggest reserves of oil in the world with only Saudi Arabia above Iraq in the amount of oil it possesses.
Bennis asserts further that a possible war is to ensure not simply oil but the control of oil. That is, who is setting the pricing policies? Which oil companies are going to profit? Who has control of the oil supply? Which nations have the power to act as a guarantor? And it is about the relationship of the US not only with the countries of the Middle East but also between the US and its allies in terms of oil. Bennis asserts that the US wants to remain as the guarantor.
Bjarnson brings to the table the fact that France, Russia and China all have existing contracts with Iraq to further oil production, and asks the question, is the US invasion about preventing these other nations asserting a stronghold on the oil in Iraq?
Krauthammer responds that France, Russia, and China have a real interest in keeping Saddam in power as they want to ensure these contracts are fulfilled and the massive amounts of money owed to them are paid back. They are acting in self-interest.
With respect to the oil revenues which have maintained Saddam's dictatorship, Krauthammer contends that with this Saddam has built dozens of palaces, acquired vast supplies of weapons, whilst much of his country remains in stark poverty and malnutrition instead of benefitting from Iraqs vast wealth of resources.
Bjarnson asserts that since the Gulf War in 1991, the policy has been to keep Saddam out of Saudia Arabia and Kuwait. However, he emphasizes, that since September 11th, the relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia is less secure particularly with Saudi Arabia being the home to Bin Laden and 15 of the other September 11th terrorists.
With respect to this, Bennis proposes a possible scenario whereby following a war a pro-American regime will come to power in Iraq. This Bennis believes could diminish Saudi Arabia's influence in OPEC and furthermore it would be feasible that the 'new' Iraq could even leave OPEC, which would lessen OPEC's power tremendously. Ironically she points out, another war in the Middle East is likely to destabilize the region entirely.
Krauthammer provides a complete different possible outcome whereby a regime change could equate to the building of a decent democratic society in Iraq and this in turn might begin a "revolution in the Arab world" based on democracy and modernization.
In summary, Bjarnson recalls the devastation of the Kuwaiti oil fields following the Gulf war of the nineties. Another war in the region could have similar affects no matter how hard the US tries to avoid such an outcome, and to increase oil production as well as undertake further exploration of Iraqi oil will undoubtedly incur billions of dollars, concludes Bjarnson.
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