Iraq: was it all about the oil?
Five years after the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, Iraq is throwing open its oil sector to foreign oil firms in a way Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and others in the region are reluctant to. Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani says no company will have any special privilege.
Some analysts take a different view. They reckon U.S. and British oil majors are in a strong position to help develop the world’s third-largest oil reserves. Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell and BP head the queue. They have already built up a relationship with Iraq’s oil officials by negotiating short-term technical deals.
Now Iraq is inviting bids for long-term development contracts at its biggest fields, the “backbone of its industry” in the words of Shahristani. He believes Iraq could become the world’s second- or third-biggest oil producing country, rivalling Saudi Arabia and Russia.
Are U.S. and British firms obvious choices as partners because of their expertise? After all, before the U.S.-led invasion Iraq often preferred Russian firms. Or are U.S. and British firms reaping the benefit of their governments’ policies?