Always about the Oil
The documents, revealed for the first time, show that how British Petroleum (BP)’s concerns over losing lucrative contracts in Iraq were addressed by then Trade Minister, Baroness Symons, the daily Independent reported.
According to the papers, Baroness Symons had assured BP, five months before the 2003 invasion, that British energy firms would be given their shares of Iraq’s enormous oil and gas reserves as a reward for Tony Blair’s commitment to US plans for regime change in the country.
British oil giant, BP, had voiced concerns that then US government under George W. Bush was quietly striking deals with US, French, and Russian energy firms, the papers say.
Accordingly, Lady Symons agreed to lobby the Bush government on BP’s behalf, as registered by the minutes of a series of meetings between ministers and senior oil executives.
“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”, read minutes of a meeting with BP, Shell and BG (formerly British Gas) on 31 October 2002.
The minister then promised to “report back to the companies before Christmas” on her lobbying efforts.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Office invited BP in on 6 November 2002 to talk about opportunities in Iraq “post regime change”.
“Iraq is the big oil prospect. BP is desperate to get in there and anxious that political deals should not deny them the opportunity”, it’s minutes state.
After another meeting, this one in October 2002, the Foreign Office’s Middle East director at the time, Edward Chaplin, noted: “Shell and BP could not afford not to have a stake in [Iraq] for the sake of their long-term future… We were determined to get a fair slice of the action for UK companies in a post-Saddam Iraq.”
These highly critical documents were not offered to as evidence in the ongoing Chilcot Inquiry into the UK’s involvement in the Iraq war.
This is while that, in March 2003, just before the US and UK invaded Iran, another giant oil company Shell lashed out at reports that it had discussed with Downing Street the Iraqi oil issue, denouncing the reports as highly inaccurate.
Meanwhile, BP claimed at the time that it had no strategic interests in Iraq, while Tony Blair described the oil conspiracy theory as the most absurd.
Whereas BP was insisting in public that it had “no strategic interest” in Iraq, in private it told the Foreign Office that Iraq was “more important than anything we’ve seen for a long time”.
The giant oil company told the government it was willing to take “big risks” to get a share of the Iraqi reserves, the second largest in the world.
Blair had only succeeded to force his divided cabinet to vote for Iraq invasion after he claimed that executed dictator Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, a claim that never materialized after the invasion of the country.
Over 1,000 documents were obtained under Freedom of Information over five years by the oil campaigner Greg Muttitt. They reveal that at least five meetings were held between civil servants, ministers and BP and Shell in late 2002.
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.
“Before the war, the government went to great lengths to insist it had no interest in Iraq’s oil. These documents provide the evidence that give the lie to those claims”, said Muttitt, whose book Fuel on Fire is published next week.
“We see that oil was in fact one of the government’s most important strategic considerations, and it secretly colluded with oil companies to give them access to that huge prize.”
- Documents reveal talks between Government and oil giants before Iraq invasion (dailymail.co.uk)
- The Independent: Secret Memos Show Iraq Invasion Linked To Big Oil Companies (alan.com)
- Secret memos expose link between oil firms and invasion of Iraq (redantliberationarmy.wordpress.com)
- Iraq war documents reveal talks between Government and oil giants BP before invasion (dailymail.co.uk)
- Secret memos expose link between oil firms and invasion of Iraq (independent.co.uk)
- “British Government Memos Tie Iraq Invasion to Big Oil” and related posts (thehollywoodliberal.com)
- Memos: Oil Companies Pushed Britain Over Iraq War in 2002 (news.antiwar.com)
- Britain, oil firms held talks before Iraq invasion, paper says (theglobeandmail.com)
- Leading article: How the wheels of this misadventure were oiled (independent.co.uk)
- Iraqi oil supply was considered to be ‘vital’ to British interests (independent.co.uk)