UK Memos Reveal Iraq Invasion, Oil Industry Ties
Open acknowledgment has yet to surface quite the same way in the US, but the UK has now readily exposed — in over 1,000 Freedom of Information documents — that, at a minimum, five meetings between UK public officials and BP and Shell representatives took place in 2002. In a series of post-invasion contracts, 50 percent of Iraq’s 120 billion barrels of oil reserves were snapped up by industry participants including China National Petroleum Company and BP.
According to The Independent:
“Five months before the March 2003 invasion, Baroness Symons, then the Trade Minister, told BP that the Government believed British energy firms should be given a share of Iraq’s enormous oil and gas reserves as a reward for Tony Blair’s military commitment to US plans for regime change. The papers show that Lady Symons agreed to lobby the Bush administration on BP’s behalf because the oil giant feared it was being ‘locked out’ of deals that Washington was quietly striking with US, French and Russian governments and their energy firms.
“Minutes of a meeting with BP, Shell and BG (formerly British Gas) on 31 October 2002 read: ‘Baroness Symons agreed that it would be difficult to justify British companies losing out in Iraq in that way if the UK had itself been a conspicuous supporter of the US government throughout the crisis.’ The minister then promised to ‘report back to the companies before Christmas’ on her lobbying efforts. 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’.”
Despite indications to the contrary throughout the build up to the Iraq war, the UK was clearly making a concerted effort “to get a fair slice of the action for UK companies in a post-Saddam Iraq.” That the reality of the situation differs so fully from the party line comes as no surprise, but the indifference for the truth reminds us of another not-so-convincing set of press briefings…
You can read more details in The Independent’s coverage of how secret memos have exposed a link between oil firms and invasion of Iraq.