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"It's All About the Oil"
Filed October 28, 2002 By Jeremy Scahill
 
An Iraqi oil production facility.

BAGHDAD▄The Director General for Planning at the Iraqi Ministry of Oil has accused the Bush administration of plotting to seize the country's oil resources, saying "these people from Texas who rule the American administration want to send us to Armageddon▄just to get their hands on the fields in Iraq."

In an extensive interview with Iraqjournal.org, Dr. Faleh Al-Khyat detailed what Washington would have to gain by bringing down the Iraqi government and replacing it with a puppet regime. He highlighted two largely untapped oil fields in the south of Iraq, saying they constitute "the greatest prizes of the oil industry in the world."

The two fields in question lie southern Iraq: Majnoun and West Qurna (known here as "The Giant). A Russian oil consortium led by Lukoil signed contracts with Baghdad to exploit the 15 billion barrel Qurna field, but in June the Iraqi Oil Minister Amir Mohammed Rashid accused the Russians of "slackness" and bowing to US pressure not to begin work on the site. Similarly, he said that the French had slowed negotiations on the 20 billion barrel Majnoun fields.

Since then, Al-Khyat says that Iraq has begun exploiting the fields on its own. He said that Qurna is currently producing 200,000 bpd, while Majnoun is pumping out 30-50,000 bpd. He says that Washington is well aware of the potential of these two sites.

"We're talking about a half a million barrels each, at least," he said. "Together they'll make about a million barrels a day, and that is as big as many OPEC countries. Now, we're talking about giant fields at the tip of the Gulf, on flat ground▄not in the wilderness of Alaska or in the isolation of the Caspian Sea. In the Caspian Sea, platforms, drillings, pipelines to the Mediterranean going through countries and mountains and whatever▄all that is to exploit 15 billion barrels of oil. Now, 15 billion barrels of oil is equivalent to the reserves of the West Qurna field second stage."

Al-Khyat said that Iraq continues to negotiate joint-venture contracts with foreign investors and that Washington's policies are cutting American companies out of the deals. But, he says, that is precisely the point. "The United States principally would be very stupid not to exercise pressure," he says. "Especially in the Administration which is led by the oiligarchs."

Iraq is second only to Saudi Arabia in oil reserves. The country has some 112 billion barrels in proven reserves and more than 200 billion in potential reserves. In addition Iraq contains some 110 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Al-Khyat says that with world oil consumption on the rise, oil-producing countries are being pushed to increase their capacity. "Where do you get the oil from? Saudi Arabia is approximately producing to capacity. It tried to produce more oil. It cannot," he says. "The only potential country that could increase its capacity quickly, cheaply and satisfactorily is Iraq. It is not only it has the second largest reserve in the world, but potentially it has the largest reserves in the world."


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Jeremy Scahill is an independent journalist, who reports for the nationally syndicated Radio and TV show Democracy Now! He is currently based in Baghdad, Iraq, where he and filmmaker Jacquie Soohen are coordinating Iraqjournal.org, the only website providing regular independent reporting from the ground in Baghdad.


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