This is from an Australian newspaper. The author fails to notice that one sign of the importance of oil is that a new oil law is a benchmark for progress in Iraq and that law gives foreign oil companies a large role in development and generous production sharing agreements.
Let's be honest: signs in Iraq all point to oil
July 16, 2007
It IS truly bizarre that Defence Minister Brendan Nelson has taken such a pasting, politically and in the media, for being honest about the Iraq war and oil.
As the ghastly toll of dead Iraqis has risen steadily over the past four years, all of the "coalition of the willing" governments have carefully avoided linking energy supplies to their invasion or occupation of Iraq.
In 2003, Prime Minister John Howard vehemently rejected the very suggestion, saying: "No criticism is more outrageous than the claim that US behaviour is driven by a wish to take control of Iraq's oil reserves."
The idea that the war, with its awful human cost on both sides, has anything at all to do with securing energy supplies is one the American, British and Australian governments have never been comfortable selling to their publics.
But we all have a responsibility to work out why we chose to invade Iraq and whether it was worth the present carnage.
That's why it was significant that when Mr Howard made a major speech on Australia's strategic future last week, he talked of a range of strategic trends converging in the Middle East, including "energy demand".
Early in his speech, Mr Howard said globalisation could bring a range of events affecting Australia's strategic circumstances that would potentially require military responses.
He said globalisation would facilitate terrorism and other forms of transnational crime, and he went on to say: "It could also spur a resurgence of protectionism and increasing rivalry over globally traded resources, particularly oil."
He said Australia could not wait until security threats reached its shores before doing anything about them.
Then: "Events in the Middle East have long been important to Australia's security and broader interests and this will remain the case.
"Many of the key strategic trends I have mentioned, including terrorism and extremism, challenging demographics, WMD aspirations, energy demand and great power competition, converge in the Middle East," he said.
"Our major ally and our most important economic partners have crucial interests there.
"The region will see further turbulence and Iran's nuclear and wider regional ambitions remain a point of particular concern.
"In these circumstances, it is all the more critical that the coalition succeed in establishing a stable, democratic Iraq that is capable of defending itself against al-Qaeda and the internal enemies that wish to tear it apart, and against potential external enemies."
That all pointed directly to Iraq and oil.
Australia's only significant strategic involvement in the Middle East is in and around Iraq, whose only energy source worth fighting over is oil.
Dr Nelson said in a radio interview that there were many priorities for Australia's defence and security, and resource security was one of them.
"And obviously, the Middle East itself, not only Iraq but the entire region, is an important supplier of energy, oil in particular, to the rest of the world, and Australians and all of us need to think well what would happen if there were a premature withdrawal from Iraq," Dr Nelson said.
It has been suggested that those references to "energy demand" and Dr Nelson's comments about oil were made by accident. But not a lot finds its way into carefully crafted prime ministerial speeches by accident.
A more likely scenario is that the Government's plan was to put the energy issue on the Iraq war agenda "under the radar", to subtly link reasons to stay there with petrol prices in Australia. That would explain why Dr Nelson was happy to discuss oil supplies when the ABC asked him to respond to The Age's report last Thursday about what Mr Howard would say in his speech.
That was widely seen as a "blunder" by the forthright Dr Nelson, and it had the PM leaping onto the airwaves later in the day to stress that the war had nothing to do with oil.
The reality is that at this stage none of the original reasons for invading Iraq holds water. There were no weapons of mass destruction, and while Iraq was not a hotbed of terrorism before the invasion, it certainly is now. The war has turned the country into a massive technical college for terrorists who've used the internet to share their considerable bomb-making skills with their brothers in Afghanistan and as far away as South-East Asia.
The US-led coalition's only clear goal now is to stabilise the country and that is becoming a more forlorn hope each day.
If oil was a serious factor in the decision to invade, or to stay, might the hundreds of billions of dollars the war is costing not have been better spent finding alternative energy sources? That could, in the long term, make the Middle East much less of a strategic interest to the world's defence planners — and probably a safer place for all concerned.
Brendan Nicholson is defence correspondent