While tactical details may shift around in the run-up to the US offensive against Iraq – one month hence – the key to the strategic picture is emerging as regards the objectives of the conflict and its immediate post-war goals.
The Bush administration has determined finally that US forces will occupy Iraq’s oil fields and oil cities, including the oil port of Basra, in the initial stage of the offensive – both as protection from torching or other sabotage, and to retain a hold onto them for the foreseeable future – one to two years for starters or until orderly government is installed in Baghdad.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell cited no dateline when he spoke of the leadership of the coalition fighting in Iraq taking control of its oil as custodian for the Iraqi people. In any case, it is hard to see when the war is over who else can be trusted to protect and preserve this resource for the future. Restoration of order and the setting up of responsible government in Baghdad is likely to be a drawn-out process given the deep historic divisions among Iraq’s communities.
Certainly, there is no intention to lay the fields open to such claims as those of Turkey, whose rights may be presumed to have expired with the passing of the Ottoman Empire two centuries ago. Having fought for regime-change in Baghdad, the US will not let the oil fields fall into the hands of Saddam’s heirs and secret supporters or be at the mercy of extremists and terrorists.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources in Washington outline the immense implications of the decision to commandeer the third biggest (after Saudi Arabia and Canada) known oil reserves in the world – and not just with respect to the world’s oil industry.
The United States will have armed itself with a whirling sword to brandish over the heads of the rulers of Iran, the Gulf Emirates and, most importantly, Saudi Arabia. This vital resource will be backed by the greatest accumulation of military might seen in decades, lodged in the throat of the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula and capable of striking at almost zero notice at any point in the region. Washington will have its hand on the oil lever and the ability to make
Iraq’s neighbors dance to its plan for reshaping the national borders and governments of the Middle East.
Moreover, if Europe lets America to go into battle unsupported by a coalition of allies, the international treaties Saddam Hussein signed, extending to foreign governments investment, exploration and other concessions, will be discarded as scraps of paper in the new post-Saddam era. The Bush administration will deem powers like France and Russia to have forfeited their claims by obstructing the war effort. Indeed, forced to fight and foot the war bill alone, President George W. Bush may well buy vice president Dick Cheney’s argument that Iraq’s oil revenues should be used as war reparations to defray part of the costs of war and lengthy occupation.