It is oil consumers, not producers, that matter; and even they will be just one factor in the war. The US can't simply take Iraq's oilby David Buchan / March 20, 2003 / Leave a comment
Anti-war demonstrators in the US and Europe wave “No Blood for Oil” placards. But oil is only a background factor in the conflict. It is true, of course, that if Saddam were not sitting on 11 per cent of the world’s oil reserves and within striking distance of much of the rest, there would be less western concern about him. Questions of long-term supply and price are of vital interest to the western world but it does not follow that the war is being fought on behalf of “big oil.” Notwithstanding the personal connections of senior US politicians to the oil sector it is oil consumers not oil producers that matter. And even they are just one factor in the Iraq conflict. The middle east is now more important than ever to the US because it exports terrorism as well as oil. And the US administration’s main motive is roughly what it says: to pre-empt the possibility of weapons of mass destruction being used by a man with a proven record of hostility to the US.
It is a common mistake to underestimate the importance of ideology, or political values, in US foreign policy. These factors trumped commercial considerations during the cold war, when successive US administrations were far stricter in curbing trade with the Soviet Union than the Europeans. In 1978, for instance, Jimmy Carter tightened export controls on the sales of US oil and gas technology to the Soviet Union, in protest at Moscow’s treatment of its dissidents. He delayed a $144m contract by Dresser Industries of Texas to sell oil drill-bit technology to the Soviet Union. Carter reacted to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan by restricting US grain sales to Moscow in 1980. Ronald Reagan reversed this ban a year later, but then went on to ban any US involvement in the building of a new Soviet gas pipeline to western Europe. This lost Caterpillar of the US a contract that went to Komatsu of Japan. Reagan tried to extend the boycott to European companies but ran up against Margaret Thatcher’s strong resistance.
The same pattern has been evident since the cold war, and it has been the US oil industry that has borne much of the commercial brunt. Despite having two former oilmen in the White House -the president and vice-president-US oil companies have failed to get the administration to relax the ban on them investing…