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Regional powers react to proposed U.S. invasion of Iraq
Posted: Saturday, February 8, 2003

by Erich Marquardt

(PINR) -- The Bush administration's proposed war in Iraq is testing how much regional powers across the globe are willing to lose in their stand against U.S. global hegemony. As the talk of war in Iraq was still building late last year, France and Russia spoke out critically against the idea. They were especially concerned with the U.S. furthering its influence in the Middle East via war in Iraq and the creation of permanent military facilities there. France and Russia also knew that any attack on Iraq would put their lucrative oil contracts with the Hussein regime in jeopardy.

Yet at the beginning of 2003, the United States has ignored opposition and instead intensified their war plans. Washington has warned Russia and France that if they do not support or at least remain neutral in a U.S. intervention in Iraq, their oil contracts with the Hussein regime may be cancelled and redistributed in part to U.S. companies. Russia, for example, has been granted tremendous contracts by the current Iraqi government. LUKoil, the largest Russian oil company, has signed a multi-billion dollar oil production deal with Saddam Hussein, giving it a majority stake in West Qurna, a gigantic Iraqi oil field holding 11 billion barrels of oil. TotalFinaElf, the French oil giant, was granted a deal giving it rights to Iraq's largest oil field, Majnoon, holding 30 billion barrels of oil. However, these deals will not become active until the U.N. sanctions on Iraq are lifted.

The Bush administration has several goals in Iraq. The most vocalized one is ridding the Middle East of Saddam Hussein, whose expansionist history has threatened U.S. interests. The other major goal is ending the economic sanctions that prevent Iraq from producing oil at full capacity; by replacing Hussein with a U.S.-friendly government, the sanctions will end bringing more of Iraq's oil to the global market, alleviating the economic downturn in oil dependent countries such as the United States. Iraq has 10.8 percent of the world's total oil resources, and the U.S. Department of Energy has claimed that Iraq could actually have 20 percent of the world total due to unexplored regions that may hold vast oil resources inside the country .

Much of the U.S. oil industry would benefit after an invasion of Iraq. Several U.S. oil companies -- ExxonMobil Corp., ChevronTexaco Corp., Conoco Phillips and Halliburton -- have been in discussion with the Bush administration over rehabilitating Iraq's damaged oil infrastructure which is in a state of disrepair largely due to the sanctions.

But the most important motive for the United States is increased influence in Middle Eastern affairs. Iran, Libya, Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia have all posed problems for U.S. interests. The first Gulf War gave the United States its first major foothold in the Middle East: most notably its bases in Saudi Arabia that remain to this day. However, after September 11, the United States was given a window of opportunity to further its influence in the Middle East.

Following the model used in Afghanistan, the United States would aim to remove Saddam Hussein from power and then attempt to create a U.S. friendly government in Iraq; in addition, the U.S. would establish military bases in strategic locations around the country. The hope is that, like Afghanistan, the new Iraqi regime would have no qualms about the U.S. using the country for a military staging ground. The new regime would also be more sympathetic to Washington's concerns about global oil production, should the United States want to interfere with quotas set by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Companies (OPEC).

Removing Hussein would also sandwich Iran, part of the "axis of evil," between U.S. military bases in Afghanistan to the east and Iraq to the west. If the United States were to have its military poised on both sides of the Iranian border, Tehran would have to become very careful about taking actions that could threaten U.S. interests. In addition to threatening Iran, the U.S. would send a strong signal to other countries in the area opposed to U.S. influence in the Middle East.

These actions do not bode well for other global powers. Russia and France both have extensive oil relationships with the Hussein regime. European nations have also been increasing investment in Iran's oil and gas sector. U.S. companies are banned from investing in Iranian industries due to ongoing U.S. government commercial sanctions against Tehran to punish it for alleged links with international terrorism. Any such attempt by the U.S. to destabilize or change the current Iranian government would be in direct opposition to European interests. Iran is well aware of this threat; Tehran has not offered support to the United States in its proposed invasion of Iraq, but it has not spoken out strongly against it for fear of U.S. reprisals.

The question now is how long global powers will stand in direct opposition to U.S. plans in Iraq. The Bush administration has not backed down, warning that a new Iraqi government may cancel all existing oil deals between Baghdad and nations hostile to U.S. interests. The administration has said that if it receives support from nations such as Russia and France in the Security Council, Washington and the new Iraqi government will honor their current deals signed with Saddam Hussein.

For these nations, they have to make a choice about what they are willing to sacrifice. Will they stand against U.S. global hegemony and risk economic losses? Or will they allow the United States to spread its influence where it likes, participating in U.S strategy in order to preserve some economic benefits. Indeed, Russia's oil industry is already nervous. Last week, the president of the Russian Oil and Gas Producers' Union, Yuriy Shafranik, stated that, "Russia should cooperate more closely with Western countries ... to protect its interests in Iraq."

[The Power and Interest News Report (PINR) is an analysis-based publication that seeks to, as objectively as possible, provide insight into various conflicts, regions and points of interest around the globe. PINR approaches a subject based upon the powers and interests involved, leaving the moral judgments to the reader. PINR seeks to inform rather than persuade. This report may be reproduced, reprinted or broadcast provided that any such reproduction identifies the original source, All comments should be directed to]

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