|Filed October 28, 2002 By Jeremy Scahill
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."
|An Iraqi oil production facility.
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."
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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