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Strategika 51

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Iraq: Still All About the Oil ..and gas!- By Steve Brown

US-State motives are always financial even when shrouded in ideological nonsense. The US military occupation of Iraq and its embassy there is not just for show. Problematic Key Leader Engagements happen for reasons. The end result being in US dollars* — or Emirati dirham — or GBP sterling. Unfortunately many people have lost their lives over many years as a result of that pursuit.

The US business motivation for its occupation of Iraq is not unique. Recall that the bin Zayed family (al Nahyan) of the United Arab Emirates profits mightily from liquified petroleum gas production in Iraq. One example is Brothers Gas which operates in some of the most dangerous regions in the world (besides Iraq) including Tanzania, Saudi, Yemen, and Turkey. Another United Arab Emirates company, Al-Iraqia Shipping, develops and ships liquified petroleum from Iraq to Africa. UAE’s Crescent Petroleum and Dana Gas manage LPG gas operations from the Khor Mor field in Iraqi Kurdistan. Those UAE operations have recently experienced setbacks as rival factions in Erbil squabble over production from the Khor Mor field.

Another big UAE operator in the region is Sultan bin Sulayem’s Dubai Ports World which is perhaps most famous for its business association with George W Bush. UAE/Dubai’s fate in Iraq is thus directly linked to the US occupation of Iraq. As such the United Arab Emirates operates its oil and gas business in direct intersection with US-State ambitions for the distribution of liquified petroleum gas globally. The US-State LPG operation in Iraq is of course opposed by Iran, and the United States competes with Russian petroleum interests which have been shut out of US-led oil and gas operations in Iraq so far.

From Iraqi Kurdistan to Kirkuk the recent protests in Iraq encompass a threat to much more than just the US military occupation. The economic occupation extends to the usual players: Royal Dutch Shell, British Petroleum and Mitsubishi. The US of course has its own recent (2018) contracts in Iraq, for example the Nahr Bin Omar field project with Orion Energy.

The many US-State corporate-related oil and gas deals in Iraq are too numerous to list here. Let’s just highlight that the protests in Iraq may have far greater long-term financial significance – and consequence — than the cost of the US military occupation should those contracts be lost. So when Trump says Iraq must pay back the US for its embassy in Iraq his bluster is simply to divert from the importance of US oil and gas interests there, and profits already taken.

The trouble in Kirkuk has been enough to see the withdrawal of British Petroleum (BP) from its operations. The departure of BP from its proposed development of the massive Kirkuk oil field is far more troubling to Washington than the alleged fight versus ISIS. US-State still selectively arms terror groups when it suits the State agenda and US-State hopes to divert from its true interest by focusing on its non-existent battle versus ISIS. The true Washington concern is the loss of major corporate oil and gas contracts in Iraq due to protests which have now gone badly wrong for the US.

Washington’s original idea with the 2019 Iraq protests was to destabilize the Adel Abdul-Mehdi regime since al-Mahdi was considered a tad too comfy with Iran. Since Iraq’s Shia leader Moqtada al Sadr is firmly in US Central Intelligence Agency control, Beltway analysts believed that Adel Mahdi could be toppled… and he was. (Mohammed Allawi is apparently the successor to Adel Mahdi.)

But then with the US political assassination of Iran leader Suleimani — and political assassination it was — State engaged in a huge tactical error and strategic mis-step. Washington was ill-prepared for what came next with protests vs the US occupation persisting. By assassinating Suleimani, Trump only hoped for short-term political gain. Trump had no idea that the consequences of that political assassination will be long-term and ongoing.

Meanwhile, renewed Iraq protests have hit the southern oil field of Nasiriyah too where Shell’s Basrah Gas Company operates. If the threat to operations in Iraq’s north and south persists, the economic damage to Iraq and the region will be severe. Not only Iraq and Washington will suffer from new protests and strikes… all major players in the economic and military occupation will be affected, whether the Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, London, and even Italy.

Potentially benefitting from Iraq’s unrest may be China which already has one major operation in Iraq. Reports exist that Iraq has approached Russian oil companies too about closer cooperation on development of resources. But like ending the military occupation in Iraq, there is no way that Washington will allow its economic occupation to end. The US Federal Reserve has already threatened to shutdown Iraq’s bank account should the people of Iraq act on their promise to oust the US occupation. And so it goes with gweilo’s ‘Art of the Deal’… when the deal is enforced by threat of arms and bankruptcy.

Who is the loser in all of this? Iraq has been losing under US military occupation since 2003. All of seventeen years now. Some military friends have argued that what happened in 2003 is irrelevant now. That’s not true. The ongoing protests versus the United States presence there attests to that. The US lost in Iraq too — thousands of soldiers by its occupation. And the US has lost standing in the eyes of the world. Because the US occupation and invasion of Iraq was not only unjustified, but criminal… even if very profitable for the US political class.

How Iraq’s unrest will develop is unknown. Iraq’s Parliament has decided on Mohammed Allawi as the successor to al Mehdi, and Allawi has allowed the protests and strikes to continue for now. Whether he will sign into law the resolution passed to oust the US invader from his country is unclear and unlikely. That’s because, as we have seen, there is far far more at stake for the US occupation of Iraq than just providing a few bases for grunts and military contractors to enjoy their Burger King.

*or sometimes in death.

Steve Brown

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