Documents reveal talks between Government and oil giants BEFORE invasion of Iraq

Tony Blair’s government discussed plans with British firms to exploit oil opportunities in ‘post Saddam Iraq’ five months before joining the invasion of the country.

Secret papers reveal that then international trade minister Baroness Symons told energy firms back in November 2002 that they should be given a share of the country’s huge oil reserves.

The Labour peer also lobbied the Bush administration on BP’s behalf amid fears the firm was being locked out of lucrative deals it believed the U.S. was striking with other countries.

The revelations, in minutes of meetings between oil executives and the Labour government in late 2002, appear to be at odds with their insistence Iraq’s vast oil reserves were not a consideration ahead of the March 2003 invasion.

After one meeting, in October 2002, Edward Chaplin, then Foreign Office Middle East director, is quoted as saying: ‘We were determined to get a fair slice of the action for UK companies in post-Saddam Iraq.’

As premier, Mr Blair dismissed suggestions oil was a motivating factor as an ‘absurd conspiracy theory’. Shell described suggestions it held talks with Downing Street ahead of the war as ‘highly inaccurate’ while BP denied it had a ‘strategic interest’.

But minutes from an October 2002 meeting with BP, Shell and British Gas said: ‘Baroness Symons agreed it would be difficult to justify British companies losing out in Iraq if the UK had itself been a conspicuous supporter of the U.S. government throughout the crisis.’
The real cause for war? Reports of 2002 meetings between the government and oil firms show the role oil played in the decision to invade

The real cause for war? Reports of 2002 meetings between the government and oil firms show the role oil played in the decision to invade

In November 2002, BP told an advisor of Mr Blair’s: ‘Iraq is the big oil prospect. BP is desperate to get in there and anxious that political deals should not deny them the opportunity.’

The papers were not given to the Chilcot Inquiry into Iraq. Greg Muttitt, co-director of oil campaign group Platform, secured them using Freedom of Information requests.

He said: ‘They provide evidence of what many of us suspected: that oil was at the centre of the Blair government’s thinking on Iraq.’ BP and Shell declined to comment last night.

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The notion that the Iraq war was really about oil is far beyond speculation — it floats somewhere in that ambiguous realm between generally accepted and assumed-to-be-fact. So the breaking news that a newly exposed secret memo reveals that national governments actually negotiated with oil companies before invading Iraq should surprise a total of about six people worldwide. It should, however, infuriate many more than that — the internal papers, which document the British government’s role in the pre-invasion negotiations, reveal a startling portrait of the Bush administration awarding oil contracts to companies in cooperative foreign governments. And it reveals those companies and governments actively vying for a cut of the loot. Let me note upfront that this is absolutely disgusting stuff. The memo should clue us all in to just how disturbingly ordinary the process of divvying up a sovereign nation’s oil stores is to the parties involved. The Independent reports:

Plans to exploit Iraq’s oil reserves were discussed by government ministers and the world’s largest oil companies the year before Britain took a leading role in invading Iraq, government documents show … Five months before the March 2003 invasion, Baroness Symons, then the Trade Minister, told BP that the Government believed British energy firms should be given a share of Iraq’s enormous oil and gas reserves as a reward for Tony Blair’s military commitment to US plans for regime change.

The papers show that Lady Symons agreed to lobby the Bush administration on BP’s behalf because the oil giant feared it was being “locked out” of deals that Washington was quietly striking with US, French and Russian governments and their energy firms. Minutes of a meeting with BP, Shell and BG (formerly British Gas) on 31 October 2002 read: “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.”

Fair enough, right? Lend public and military support to a war justified on (at best) dubious grounds, and you get a sweet slice of the oily pie. And they did!

The documents reveal that “at least five meetings were held between civil servants, ministers and BP and Shell in late 2002.” And after the invasion, the “20-year contracts signed in the wake of the invasion were the largest in the history of the oil industry. They covered half of Iraq’s reserves – 60 billion barrels of oil, bought up by companies such as BP and CNPC (China National Petroleum Company), whose joint consortium alone stands to make £403m ($658m) profit per year from the Rumaila field in southern Iraq.”

This disturbing collection of anecdotes does a fine job of illustrating (yet again) how inextricably and slavishly tethered to oil world governments are, and how pernicious that reliance is to global geopolitical affairs. It’s a reminder that the stuff that generates the majority of the energy in our economy pollutes not only our skies but the political process — and that the companies that sell it are as powerful as some of the world’s leading politicians. Maybe this is all ho-hum stuff, but these notions have become so commonplace that we tend to ignore them — sometimes we need cold, hard reminders that yes, this is actually how the world works.

As climate action and clean energy supporters work to break our addiction to oil, these are the kinds of things we have to keep in mind — we’re up against not just the richest, but the most powerful forces in the world. And it’s going to be one hell of a fight before we’re somewhere close to evening the score.


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