Thursday, April 21, 2011

To the Brits, the Iraq war was about oil

Oil activist Greg Muttitt and The Independent has set the topic since Tuesday's breaking-yet-hardy-surprising Secret memos expose link between oil firms and invasion of Iraq. Quotes in chronological order:

Pre-war, in private
"Shell and BP could not afford not to have a stake in [Iraq] for the sake of their long-term future... We [are] determined to get a fair slice of the action for UK companies in a post-Saddam Iraq."
- Then Foreign Office's Middle East director Edward Chaplin, October 2002

"Baroness Symons agreed that it would be difficult to justify British companies losing out in Iraq in that way if the UK had itself been a conspicuous supporter of the US government throughout the crisis. [Trade Minister Symons agree to] report back to the companies before Christmas [on lobbyist progress in Washington]."
- Minutes of a meeting with BP, Shell and UK government, 31 October 2002

November 2002 the British Foreign Office invited BP to discuss opportunities posed by 'regime change':
"Iraq is the big oil prospect. BP are desperate to get in there and anxious that political deals should not deny them the opportunity to compete. The long-term potential is enormous..."
- Foreign Office memorandum, 13 November 2002

Pre-war, in public
"Let me just deal with the oil thing because... the oil conspiracy theory is honestly one of the most absurd when you analyse it. The fact is that, if the oil that Iraq has were our concern, I mean we could probably cut a deal with Saddam tomorrow in relation to the oil. It's not the oil that is the issue, it is the weapons..."
- Tony Blair, 6 February 2003

"We have no strategic interest in Iraq. If whoever comes to power wants Western involvement post the war, if there is a war, all we have ever said is that it should be on a level playing field. We are certainly not pushing for involvement."
- BP, 12 March 2003

"It is not in my or BP's opinion, a war about oil. Iraq is an important producer, but it must decide what to do with its patrimony and oil."
- Lord Browne, the then-BP chief executive, 12 March 2003

"We have neither sought nor attended meetings with officials in the UK Government on the subject of Iraq. The subject has only come up during conversations during normal meetings we attend from time to time with officials... We have never asked for 'contracts'."
- Shell, 12 March 2003

Post-leak

"Before the war, the Government went to great lengths to insist it had no interest in Iraq's oil. These documents provide the evidence that give the lie to those claims. We see that oil was in fact one of the Government's most important strategic considerations, and it secretly colluded with oil companies to give them access to that huge prize."
- Oil activist Greg Muttitt

Greg Muttitt is publishing a book on Iraqi oil business, Fuel on the Fire, and has a Twitter account named after the book.

This story elsewhere: Reuters / UK held talks with oil firms before Iraq invasion -paper, The Sydney Morning Herald / Memos show oil motive in Iraq war and France 24's YouTube (first 1½ minutes):



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