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The Spoils

When the US invaded Iraq nearly four years ago, there was one justification for the war that no one, especially those in the Bush administration, wished to discuss: oil. This rationale lay just beneath the surface (no pun intended) and anyone who broached the subject would be chastised and called a conspiracy nut for thinking we went to war for something as petty as a mere commodity. But as the other rationales for the war melted away, even President Bush and others have had to fall back on this much maligned rationale of protecting access to Iraq's vast oil fields as reason to stay.

And when we learn of delevopments like this, it does nothing to allay concerns over how much that precious crude played in determining the need for war.
Iraq's massive oil reserves, the third-largest in the world, are about to be thrown open for large-scale exploitation by Western oil companies under a controversial law which is expected to come before the Iraqi parliament within days.

The US government has been involved in drawing up the law, a draft of which has been seen by The Independent on Sunday. It would give big oil companies such as BP, Shell and Exxon 30-year contracts to extract Iraqi crude and allow the first large-scale operation of foreign oil interests in the country since the industry was nationalised in 1972.

The huge potential prizes for Western firms will give ammunition to critics who say the Iraq war was fought for oil. They point to statements such as one from Vice-President Dick Cheney, who said in 1999, while he was still chief executive of the oil services company Halliburton, that the world would need an additional 50 million barrels of oil a day by 2010. "So where is the oil going to come from?... The Middle East, with two-thirds of the world's oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies," he said.

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