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Crude Truths About Iraq

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From Jim Holt in the LRB (via the Daily Dish)

Iraq has 115 billion barrels of known oil reserves. That is more than five times the total in the United States. And, because of its long isolation, it is the least explored of the world's oil-rich nations. A mere two thousand wells have been drilled across the entire country; in Texas alone there are a million. It has been estimated, by the Council on Foreign Relations, that Iraq may have a further 220 billion barrels of undiscovered oil; another study puts the figure at 300 billion. If these estimates are anywhere close to the mark, US forces are now sitting on one quarter of the world's oil resources. The value of Iraqi oil, largely light crude with low production costs, would be of the order of $30 trillion at today's prices. For purposes of comparison, the projected total cost of the US invasion/occupation is around $1 trillion.

Who will get Iraq's oil? One of the Bush administration's "benchmarks" for the Iraqi government is the passage of a law to distribute oil revenues. The draft law that the US has written for the Iraqi congress would cede nearly all the oil to Western companies. The Iraq National Oil Company would retain control of 17 of Iraq's 80 existing oilfields, leaving the rest — including all yet to be discovered oil — under foreign corporate control for 30 years.

"The foreign companies would not have to invest their earnings in the Iraqi economy," the analyst Antonia Juhasz wrote in the New York Times in March, after the draft law was leaked. "They could even ride out Iraq's current 'instability' by signing contracts now, while the Iraqi government is at its weakest, and then wait at least two years before even setting foot in the country." As negotiations over the oil law stalled in September, the provincial government in Kurdistan simply signed a separate deal with the Dallas-based Hunt Oil Company, headed by a close political ally of President Bush.

How will the US maintain hegemony over Iraqi oil? By establishing permanent military bases in Iraq. Five self-sufficient "super-bases" are in various stages of completion....

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