We invade and occupy Iraq and now it’s a petrol station for us all

What we gave Iraq.


The former chief executive of a British chemical company faces the prospect of extradition to the US after the firm admitted million-dollar bribes to officials to sell toxic fuel additives to Iraq.

Paul Jennings, until last year chief executive of the Octel chemical works near Ellesmere Port, Merseyside, and his predecessor, Dennis Kerrison, exported tonnes of tetra ethyl lead (TEL), to Iraq. TEL is banned from cars in western countries because of links with brain damage to children. Iraq is believed to be the only country that still adds lead to petrol.


The map of the world’s main energy suppliers is about to change as Iraq’s oil output quadruples over the next 10 years according to new forecasts. Iraq will eventually displace Saudi Arabia as the world’s biggest exporter, experts predict, giving Baghdad crucial influence over the future price of oil.

The rush to exploit Iraq’s “super-giant” oilfields, of which it has the largest concentration in the world, has gathered impetus with unexpected speed in the wake of BP’s disaster in the Gulf of Mexico which has raised fears over deep-sea drilling. Iraq’s oil has the advantage of being both onshore and cheap to develop.

The intensifying political isolation of Iran, and the latest moves by the UN Security Council to target the Islamic regime with increasingly tough sanctions in a bid to prevent its development of nuclear weapons is a second key factor influencing Iraqi production. Iran may have unexploited reserves, but its oil output is expected to fall significantly as its old oilfields are depleted and not replaced.

Iraq, by contrast, aims to raise its crude production from 2.5 million barrels a day today to 9.5 million in 2020 under contracts signed with the world’s biggest oil companies over the last 12 months. This development should be feasible, experts believe, because the rise in production will come from improved exploitation of oilfields already discovered rather than from the discovery of new ones.

The outcome of what is being called “the great Iraqi oil rush” will inevitably transform the balance of power between oil-producing states with Iraq the winner, Saudi Arabia and Iran the losers.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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