Friday, March 18, 2005

Iraq's oil: Tony Soprano vs. Fredo

This is just weird, but it's Greg Palast, and he has proved pretty reliable in the past.

Apparently, the oil companies OPPOSED Bush's plan to privatize Iraq's oil because it could undermine OPEC and lead to a collapse in oil prices. Bush began to immediately implement his plan to privatize and sell off Iraq's oil wealth anyway, a move that was accurately interpreted by Iraqis and helped ignite the insurgency.

According to this, they are moving toward something closer to what the oil companies wanted, which would lead to more stability in Iraq.

The problem I have with this is if the big oil companies aren't really behind Bush, who is? Is the military industrial complex so big it can ignore real world power houses like oil? This seems like an episode of the Sopranos, when a more strategic thinking boss like Tony (the oil industry in this case) is somehow outflanked by by a stupid, hot-headed cousin (Bush). On the Sopranos, this would happen to Tony because his twinges of conscience cause him to hesitate and give his Fredos room to screw him.

Unlike Tony Soprano though, corporations have no soul that would explain their leniency toward a Fredo messing with their garbage routes. As a former Shell exec says in this story, "International oil companies, without exception, are very pragmatic commercial organizations. They don't have a theology."

It seems like there's a piece of this story still missing, but the pieces that are here are troubling enough. A couple of rich guys meet behind close doors to make policies that will affect not just our lives, but a big chunk of the Muslim world, and indirectly, the whole world, and regular people's votes and voices seemed to have NO place at the table whatsoever. That has to change.

As the world runs out of oil, which is finally being mentioned openly in Congress, the oil issue will grow in importance, and the more it is done in private, the more democracy is neglected and starved to death here.

Mr Aljibury, once Ronald Reagan's "back-channel" to Saddam, claims that plans to sell off Iraq's oil, pushed by the US-installed Governing Council in 2003, helped instigate the insurgency and attacks on US and British occupying forces.

"Insurgents used this, saying, 'Look, you're losing your country, you're losing your resources to a bunch of wealthy billionaires who want to take you over and make your life miserable,'" said Mr Aljibury from his home near San Francisco.

"We saw an increase in the bombing of oil facilities, pipelines, built on the premise that privatisation is coming."


Questioned by Newsnight, Ms Jaffe said the oil industry prefers state control of Iraq's oil over a sell-off because it fears a repeat of Russia's energy privatisation. In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, US oil companies were barred from bidding for the reserves.

Ms Jaffe says US oil companies are not warm to any plan that would undermine Opec and the current high oil price: "I'm not sure that if I'm the chair of an American company, and you put me on a lie detector test, I would say high oil prices are bad for me or my company."

The former Shell oil boss agrees. In Houston, he told Newsnight: "Many neo conservatives are people who have certain ideological beliefs about markets, about democracy, about this, that and the other. International oil companies, without exception, are very pragmatic commercial organizations. They don't have a theology."


Secret US plans for Iraq's oil
By Greg Palast
Reporting for Newsnight

The Bush administration made plans for war and for Iraq's oil before the 9/11 attacks, sparking a policy battle between neo-cons and Big Oil, BBC's Newsnight has revealed...

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