Exposed: British government pushing oil interests in Iraq

The British government has been using its position as a military occupation power to push the interests of oil corporations in Iraq, according to PLATFORM, a founding member of Hands Off Iraqi Oil. Documents it obtained through the Freedom of Information Act reveal extensive efforts since at least 2004 to push for companies such as BP and Shell to receive long-term contracts, which would give them exclusive rights to extract Iraq’s huge oilfields. British diplomats in Baghdad and civil servants in Whitehall have worked with oil company lobbyists, helping them obtain direct contact with Iraqi decision-makers, and have been closely involved in shaping the oil law, which was approved by the Iraqi cabinet last week. The findings will be revealed this evening in a documentary on al-Jazeera’s English-language channel, as part of its ‘People and Power’ series.

Six oil companies – BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Total and ENI – worked through a lobbying organisation known as the International Tax and Investment Centre (ITIC), which has pushed for production sharing agreements. The UK government documents that PLATFORM has obtained show that:

  • Foreign Office and Treasury officials advised ITIC in late 2004 on their strategy for influencing the Iraqi government.
  • The British Ambassador to Iraq formally sent ITIC’s lobbying document “Petroleum and Iraq’s Future: Fiscal Options and Challenges” to the Iraqi Finance Minister.
  • A British diplomat helped organise a meeting in Beirut in January 2005, at which the oil companies put their case directly to ministers and officials of the Iraqi Ministries of Oil, Finance and Planning.
  • The Foreign Office hired a former BP executive to lead its work on Iraqi oil policy in 2003 and 2004. He wrote a ‘Code of Practice’ for the Iraqi Oil Ministry, which called for multinational companies to play the major role in developing Iraq’s oil, and for the Ministry’s policies to be compatible with those of BP.

Greg Muttitt of PLATFORM commented: “That Iraq’s oil law was shaped by outside interests, bypassing even members of the Iraqi parliament, gives the lie to the claims that the US/UK agenda was to bring democracy to Iraq. But it also raises serious questions about our own democracy: whether the government is representing British citizens, most of whom opposed the decision to go to war, or whether in Iraq it is in fact representing a few wealthy oil corporations”.