The Independent: Secret Memos Show Iraq Invasion Linked To Big Oil Companies
The Independent reports that government documents reveal that plans to exploit Iraq’s oil reserves were discussed between the British government and big oil companies in the run-up to the war.
The papers, revealed here for the first time, raise new questions over Britain’s involvement in the war, which had divided Tony Blair’s cabinet and was voted through only after his claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
The minutes of a series of meetings between ministers and senior oil executives are at odds with the public denials of self-interest from oil companies and Western governments at the time…
In March 2003, just before Britain went to war, Shell denounced reports that it had held talks with Downing Street about Iraqi oil as “highly inaccurate”. BP denied that it had any “strategic interest” in Iraq, while Tony Blair described “the oil conspiracy theory” as “the most absurd”.
But documents from October and November the previous year paint a very different picture.
Britain’s trade minister, Baroness Symons, agreed to lobby the Bush administration on behalf of BP because the oil giant was worried it was being locked out of deals the U.S. was making with energy firms and other foreign governments.
The Foreign Office invited BP in on 6 November 2002 to talk about opportunities in Iraq “post regime change”. Its minutes state: “Iraq is the big oil prospect. BP is desperate to get in there and anxious that political deals should not deny them the opportunity.”
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.”
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”.
Note that these deals were being discussed months before the Iraq invasion, and while we were being told it was not about oil.
Tony Blair, 6 February 2003: “Let me just deal with the oil thing because… the oil conspiracy theory is honestly one of the most absurd when you analyse it. The fact is that, if the oil that Iraq has were our concern, I mean we could probably cut a deal with Saddam tomorrow in relation to the oil. It’s not the oil that is the issue, it is the weapons…”