The war in Iraq was not for oil.
After five grueling years of war, Iraq's most cherished prize — its mammoth hydrocarbon reserves — might finally be within reach of Western oil companies. Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP appear set to win no-bid contracts allowing them to work in some of Iraq's rich oil fields. The negotiations between Iraqi officials and those companies, first reported in Thursday's New York Times, are for "technical support agreements" for two years and renewable for a third, rather than for lucrative contracts to pump oil out of the ground. Under the envisaged deals, the companies would help Iraqi oil managers overhaul decrepit operations and modernize their equipment in the hope of boosting Iraq's output by about 500,000 barrels a day — an increase of nearly 20% over the best days the Iraqi industry has had since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. At the current sky-high oil prices, that could bring in billions more every week for the Iraq government, which sorely needs funds to rebuild the country. And the companies, which had for decades been partners in the Iraq Petroleum Corporation before Saddam Hussein nationalized the industry, would tentatively return to some of the biggest oil fields on the planet. Such arrangements, the corporations hope, will position them to seek long-term access to proven reserves that are second only to Saudi Arabia's.
That is all.