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February 15, 2003

DAVE WINER, NO WARBLOGGER, ISN'T BUYING THE "IT'S ABOUT OIL" ARGUMENT:

And we all know what he does with the oil money -- he uses it to build nukes, missiles to deliver them, etc etc. He is one major asshole, a dangerous one. Why anyone would stand up for him is beyond me. Yet that's what the French, Germans, Russians and Chinese (and others) are doing. This makes no sense. (Unless you consider the possibility that they have conflicts of interest.)

You know, I've been getting email from antiwar folks claiming that they've got the momentum now. But I'm seeing more, not less, skepticism toward their claims from people who have been paying attention. (If you missed it, see Thomas Nephew's lengthy post on how he's reluctantly decided in favor of war).

French obstructionism and guys on stilts don't translate into a moral or intellectual case in favor of leaving Saddam alone.

UPDATE: Reader Allen S. Thorpe emails:

"It's all about oil." is the right answer to the wrong question. The correct question is "Why is France being obstructionist in the U.N. and NATO?"

Indeed. Another reader sends this link, from which we learn:

In recent weeks and months, Iraq reportedly has signed a flurry of deals with companies from Italy (Eni), Spain (Repsol YPF), Russia (Tatneft), France (TotalFinaElf), China, India, Turkey, and others. According to a report in The Economist, Iraq has signed over 30 deals with various oil companies, offering generous rates of return ("on the order of 20%") as part of its "Development and Production Contract" (DPC) model. Iraq introduced the DPC in 2000 to replace the previous "Production Sharing Contract" (PSC) arrangement. . . .

The largest of Iraq's oilfields slated for post-sanctions development is Majnoon, with reserves of 12-20 billion barrels of 28o-35o API oil, and located 30 miles north of Basra on the Iranian border. French company TotalFinaElf reportedly has signed a deal with Iraq on development rights for Majnoon. Majnoon was reportedly brought onstream (under a "national effort" program begun in 1999) in May 2002 at 50,000 bbl/d, with output possibly reaching 100,000 bbl/d by the end of 2002 (according to Oil Minister Rashid). Future development on Majnoon ultimately could lead to production of up to 600,000 bbl/d at an estimated (according to Deutsche Bank) cost of $4 billion. In July 2001, angered by France's perceived support for the U.S. "smart sanctions" plan, Iraq announced that it would no longer give French companies priority in awarding oil contracts, and would reconsider existing contracts as well. Iraq also announced that it was inclined to favor Russia, which has been supporting Iraq at the U.N. Security Council, on awarding rights to Majnoon and another large southern oil field, Nahr Umar.

TotalFinaElf apparently has all but agreed with Iraq on development of the Nahr Umar field. Initial output from Nahr Umar is expected to be around 440,000 bbl/d of 42o API crude, but may reach 500,000 bbl/d with more extensive development. The 2.5-4.6 billion-barrel Halfaya project is the final large field development in southern Iraq. Several companies (BHP, CNPC, Agip) reportedly have shown interest in the field, which ultimately could yield 200,000-300,000 bbl/d in output at a possible cost of $2 billion.

I guess Thorpe's right -- it really is all about oooiiiilll -- but it's a matter of what the meaning of "it" is. . . .