By Dick Morris
April 22, 2003
In 1997, Saddam Hussein hit on a bright idea for obstructing American efforts to interrupt his grand design for regional domination. Needing United Nations approval to lift sanctions and allow unrestricted oil sales, he passed out oil bribes to France, Russia, and China so that they would vote his way in the Security Council.
The bribes were in the form of a contingent right to develop the major oil fields in Iraq. Sitting on top of the second largest reservoir of oil reserves in the world - after Saudi Arabia - Saddam gave companies from the three nations contracts letting them develop the fields once the sanctions were lifted.
Now the main beneficiaries of this dictatorial largesse are demanding that the new management in Baghdad honor these contracts made with the corrupt dictator for an evil purpose. TotalFinaElf, France's biggest oil company, which got contracts for two of the four oil fields, is fighting hard, in the words of Thierry Desmarest, its chief executive "in order to have the best chances for participating in the reconstruction of the country's [Iraq's] oil industry."
Marching in lockstep is Lukoil, the Russian oil company that secured contracts to develop some of Iraq's biggest petroleum fields. Leonid Fedun, the company's vice-chairman was quoted in The Financial Times as saying "From a legal point of view, those are our reserves. If Lukoil is squeezed out we will go to the arbitration court in Geneva, which will then immediately freeze the reserves."
His reserves? By what act? Are the contracts passed out of Saddam Hussein to parcel up Iraq's patrimony in return for Security Council support for his corrupt regime truly to be honored under international law?
The United States and the United Kingdom should announce that these contracts are null and void as are all other contracts entered into by Saddam Hussein's corrupt regime. We must start from scratch in allocating oil development rights and be guided by one basic principle: those who helped Saddam stay in power in their craven attempt to profit from his oil should not share in the fruits of his dethronement. In other words, we should tell the French, Russian, and Chinese oil companies that entered into these contracts to take a hike.
On the other hand, President Bush must take great care not to be seen passing out spoils to his Texas oil cronies as souvenirs of his Baghdad invasion. To reward Republican Party stalwarts with oil goodies would demean the deaths of the brave Americans and British who fell, not to enrich Texas oil companies, but to free the people of Iraq and to liberate the world from Saddam's threats.
The U.S. and the U.K. should also make quick work of the ridiculous position of France, Russia, and co. that they will not co-operate voting to lift U.N. sanctions against the sale of Iraqi oil. Now that Saddam is done, there is obviously no rationale for these sanctions. If Paris and Moscow persist in their posturing, the U.S. should simply confirm the irrelevance of the U.N. and sell all the oil we want to whoever we want - providing, of course, that the Iraqi people benefit from the money.
In a broader sense, the United
States has a chance to show a doubting world how little money
and oil mattered in our decision to invade Iraq. By refusing
to regard Iraq's oil as patronage to be passed out to American
companies and, equally, declining to honor Saddam's corrupt contracts,
we can demonstrate a degree of selflessness which will stand
in sharp contrast to the corrupt diplomacy of France and her