Sunday, 19 January 2003

This looming war isn't about chemical warheads or human rights: it's about oil

by Robert Fisk

click here to visit his website Along with the concern for 'vital interests' in the Gulf, this war was concocted five years ago by oil men such as Dick Cheney

I was sitting on the floor of an old concrete house in the suburbs of Amman this week, stuffing into my mouth vast heaps of lamb and boiled rice soaked in melted butter. The elderly, bearded, robed men from Maan – the most Islamist and disobedient city in Jordan – sat around me, plunging their hands into the meat and soaked rice, urging me to eat more and more of the great pile until I felt constrained to point out that we Brits had eaten so much of the Middle East these past 100 years that we were no longer hungry. There was a muttering of prayers until an old man replied. "The Americans eat us now," he said.

Through the open door, where rain splashed on the paving stones, a sharp east wind howled in from the east, from the Jordanian and Iraqi deserts. Every man in the room believed President Bush wanted Iraqi oil. Indeed, every Arab I've met in the past six months believes that this – and this alone – explains his enthusiasm for invading Iraq. Many Israelis think the same. So do I. Once an American regime is installed in Baghdad, our oil companies will have access to 112 billion barrels of oil. With unproven reserves, we might actually end up controlling almost a quarter of the world's total reserves. And this forthcoming war isn't about oil?

The US Department of Energy announced at the beginning of this month that by 2025, US oil imports will account for perhaps 70 per cent of total US domestic demand. (It was 55 per cent two years ago.) As Michael Renner of the Worldwatch Institute put it bleakly this week, "US oil deposits are increasingly depleted, and many other non-Opec fields are beginning to run dry. The bulk of future supplies will have to come from the Gulf region." No wonder the whole Bush energy policy is based on the increasing consumption of oil. Some 70 per cent of the world's proven oil reserves are in the Middle East. And this forthcoming war isn't about oil?

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