Confidential Document on Iraq Oil Lobbying
by James Paul, Global Policy Forum
(Continued from previous thread) 10. At this point, the minutes refer to the comments of Mr. Downer, the Australian Foreign Minister, who warns that “the question of oilfields would be a sensitive one in Iraq,” because it “played into sensitivities over the war.” Downer also insists that the Australian government “has said sincerely that it had not joined the Coalition forces on the basis of oil” and he says that it is “the Iraqis themselves who should be awarding the contracts.” [Downers comments are ironic, given the context of the secret meeting in London that he is attending, but we can assume that the comments are stated grandiosely for the record, since he soon agrees to do his part in the scheme.]11. Downer goes on to agree that he will lobby for the company’s Halfayah interest, both in Washington and with US proconsul Paul Bremer in Baghdad. He does not refer further to the Iraqi interest, though he does say of BHP’s bid that he “would have it raised” (presumably by others) “with the Oil Ministry in Baghdad.”
At this point, the discussion about Iraq ends. The players have agreed to their lobbying strategy and assignments. After brief reference to other matters, the meeting adjourns.
The document suggests that many other discussions of the same type were being held then (and have been held since) – particularly in London and Washington, involving Exxon, Chevron, Shell, BP and other players. In fact, we specifically learn about negotiations between “the French” (presumably the company Total) and the US company Chevron. It would be extraordinarily interesting to see reports of those other meetings and to learn about what was decided and when.
The Iraqi insurgency has seriously set back the timetable of these companies and changed the political equation. The eventual outcome is more in doubt than the players in this document originally imagined. But it’s likely that the Coalition companies still expect to take over Iraq’s huge oilfields. And Washington doubtless has already decided which company will get what. When Sir Malcolm said that Washington “would seek to protect its commercial interests in Iraq” he was speaking in a subtle code. But given the hundreds of billions of dollars in oil company profits at stake, he certainly was not exaggerating.