Blood, Big Oil, and Iraq met in a back room in Houston somewhere, and agreed that no-bid contracts to drain Iraq of its oil would be a good thing for American taxpayers to fund. I’m sure the Iraqis are thrilled.
BAGHDAD — Four Western oil companies are in the final stages of negotiations this month on contracts that will return them to Iraq, 36 years after losing their oil concession to nationalization as Saddam Hussein rose to power.
Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP — the original partners in the Iraq Petroleum Company — along with Chevron and a number of smaller oil companies, are in talks with Iraq’s Oil Ministry for no-bid contracts to service Iraq’s largest fields, according to ministry officials, oil company officials and an American diplomat.
The deals, expected to be announced on June 30, will lay the foundation for the first commercial work for the major companies in Iraq since the American invasion, and open a new and potentially lucrative country for their operations.
The no-bid contracts are unusual for the industry, and the offers prevailed over others by more than 40 companies, including companies in Russia, China and India. The contracts, which would run for one to two years and are relatively small by industry standards, would nonetheless give the companies an advantage in bidding on future contracts in a country that many experts consider to be the best hope for a large-scale increase in oil production.
There was suspicion among many in the Arab world and among parts of the American public that the United States had gone to war in Iraq precisely to secure the oil wealth these contracts seek to extract. The Bush administration has said that the war was necessary to combat terrorism. It is not clear what role the United States played in awarding the contracts; there are still American advisers to Iraq’s Oil Ministry.
The Big Oil companies didn’t even make an attempt to seem equitable. There is also suspicion in the non-Arab world that George Bush and Dick Cheney went to war in Iraq precisely to secure the oil wealth these contracts seek to extract.
The first oil contracts for the majors in Iraq are exceptional for the oil industry.
They include a provision that could allow the companies to reap large profits at today’s prices: the ministry and companies are negotiating payment in oil rather than cash.
“These are not actually service contracts,” Ms. Benali said. “They were designed to circumvent the legislative stalemate” and bring Western companies with experience managing large projects into Iraq before the passage of the oil law.
A clause in the draft contracts would allow the companies to match bids from competing companies to retain the work once it is opened to bidding, according to the Iraq country manager for a major oil company who did not consent to be cited publicly discussing the terms.
Blood for Oil, in other words.