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Crude politics

Rows over Iraqi oil are scaring off investors and threatening the country's fragile stability

By Derek Brower   August 2009

US soldiers began leaving Iraq’s cities on 30th June—the same day that Iraq’s oil ministry began to sell off the rights to drill its lucrative oil and gas reserves. It was a victory, of sorts, for a sovereign Iraq. But western oil companies, with one exception, spurned the auction. The politics of the country’s oil wealth now threaten to undermine its limited political progress—and the economic designs of western business.

Three forces are conspiring to keep the west away from Iraq’s 115bn barrels of oil— the world’s third largest reserve. Violence is one. On the day of the auction a…

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