Promised Spoils of U.S. War in Iraq—Its Oil—Go to China

Wednesday, June 05, 2013
Rumaila Oil Field, Iraq (photo: Al Jazeera)

The United States fought the war in Iraq, but China got the spoils—oil that is.


After the George W. Bush administration launched the 2003 invasion, officials promised that access to Iraq’s oil supplies would result in the war paying for itself.


That hasn’t happened, in large part because most of the Iraqi petroleum is flowing east—to China.


Almost half of the country’s oil supply is bought by Chinese companies, which intend to purchase even more in the near future. They currently have their eyes on one of Iraq’s largest oil fields, which is owned by Exxon Mobil.


“We lost out. The Chinese had nothing to do with the war, but from an economic standpoint they are benefiting from it,” former Pentagon official Michael Makovsky, who worked on Iraqi oil policy during the Bush administration, told The New York Times.


It was following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein that Chinese companies began investing $2 billion per year in Iraq, placing hundreds of workers in the country and winning oil contracts, even if it meant—unlike its Western counterparts—accepting lower rates of profit.


One upshot of the Chinese buying so much of Iraq’s oil is that the Asian giant needs less from other suppliers, which should result in cheaper petroleum elsewhere for American companies, Max Fisher wrote at The Washington Post.


China is the world’s biggest oil importer, having invested $12 billion in global oil and gas fields in 2011, with 50% of its oil coming from the Middle East.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

Why It’s Good News for the U.S. that China is Snapping Up Iraq’s Oil (by Max Fisher, Washington Post)

China Is Reaping Biggest Benefits of Iraq Oil Boom (by Tim Arango and Clifford Krauss, New York Times)

Chinese Government Buys $2 Billion Share of Texas Oil and Gas Fields (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

The Iraq Payoff at Last: Halliburton and Others Line Up for Oil Contracts (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)         

The Battle for Iraq’s Oil Contracts (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov) 

Iraq’s Oil: Ready at Last (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

China on a Global Shopping Spree (AllGov)


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