HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON, N.Y., April 8 (UPI) -- Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Multi-National Force-Iraq, needs to answer some oil questions as he testifies before Congress this week, coinciding with Wednesday's fifth anniversary of the U.S. occupation of Iraq's Oil Ministry.
Speaking at a news conference in Iraq with Vice President Dick Cheney on March 17, Petraeus said Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had asked him to call "large Western corporations" to get them to invest in Iraq's oil, according to United Press International.
Since the world knows how eager the likes of ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Total and others are to get into Iraq, Petraeus' calls were apparently necessary to give them some strong military assurances that their investments and people will be safe there.
"We have made a few initial inquiries on (Iraq's) behalf," Petraeus' military spokesman said in a coyly disingenuous statement, refusing to tell UPI the companies the general had contacted. "Rest assured," he said, "it would be companies that have the capability and reach to take on projects of the size and scope that Iraq needs to continue to progress forward."
The general needs to be asked which companies he talked to and what military information he may have imparted when he made these extraordinary calls, which may well violate military regulations, trying to clinch the deal that U.S. troops staked out when they chased looters out of the Oil Ministry five years ago and surrounded it with barbed wire.
Petraeus also needs to be asked whether his apparent security assurances to the oil majors had anything to do with the disastrous attempt by Maliki's troops starting in late March to try to get control of the oil center of Basra in southern Iraq. This military fiasco and human-rights atrocity was launched only a few days after Cheney "held one-on-one meetings with Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders in Iraq to speed passage of a law opening Iraq's enormous petroleum reserves to more efficient production by global oil companies," according to the Wall Street Journal.
Petraeus should also be questioned on whether he has endangered his troops by being so willing to work publicly with the oil companies, given the resistance of the Iraqi people to losing practical control of their oil to the oil firms. This is the goal of the oil law that Cheney was pushing in Baghdad, and many Iraqis, including the oil workers in Basra, know this very well and have condemned the proposed law.
With Iraqis refusing to fight each other to capture Basra for Maliki and his U.S. sponsors, U.S. airstrikes and British troops have had to be used to save Maliki's bacon. This may portend the United States setting up oil protection zones for drilling, production, pipelines and shipment of oil out of Iraq, assuring oil flow -- and big oil profits -- regardless of how much violence may be wracking the country.
Did Petraeus promise this?
(Nick Mottern is director of ConsumersforPeace.org, an educational and organizing entity that focuses on the struggle for control of oil in Iraq and promotes the ExxonMobil, Shell, BP War Boycott.)
(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)