In 2003, proponents of the invasion of Iraq insisted it was not a “war for oil.” Instead, they referred to the dictator Saddam Hussein’s story of invading his neighbors, supporting terrorism and pursuing weapons of mass destruction. President George W. Bush condemned “sixty years in which Western nations apologized and made up for the lack of freedom in the Middle East, [which] has done nothing to make us safe, because stability cannot be bought in the long run at the expense of freedom. “
But whether or not the Iraq war was a war for oil, it is undeniable that it was a war for oil. One of the neighbors Iraq invaded was Kuwait, a leading oil-producing country. In the months before the invasion, he had threatened Saudi Arabia – the world’s oil superpower at the time. And the exploits of Iraq brought threats to the Persian Gulf, the super-highway for the world’s oil supplies.
Not to mention Iraq itself. At the time, Iraq was flooded with rich oil reserves – the Department of Energy (DOE) estimated in 2003 that the country had 112 billion barrels. In contrast, the United States was a relatively small player in the energy sector in international markets.
So whether the cause was radical Islamic terror or nation-state military expansion or simply the threat of chaos in the Middle East, in 2003 America – and the West – had to keep the oil flowing.
Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan wrote in his 2007 memoir, “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is mostly about oil.” That same year, the Republican and former said Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, speaking to Catholic University law students, “People say we don’t fight for oil. Of course we are, “while General John Abizaid, former head of US Central Command and Iraqi military operations, agreed that” it’s about oil, of course; We can’t really deny that. “
Fast forward to 2019. Thanks to the fracking revolution, America was now the largest oil producer in the world. US production is more than double what it was a decade ago when US involvement in Iraq “boomed” with more than 135,000 boots on the ground. It wasn’t until 2018 and 2019 that America’s own shale boom reached unprecedented heights, with West Texas Intermediate (WTI) trading at a comfortable $ 53 to $ 72 a barrel.
Although rig and frac prevalence numbers have decreased due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, they are still a symbol of energy success compared to the previous decade.
“US oil and natural gas production has made a significant contribution to US and global energy security over the past decade. It has added liquidity to the oil and gas markets, ”said Brenda Shaffer, a research fellow at the US Naval Postgraduate School and senior advisor on energy for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) in Washington, DC. “The surge in US production in the first half of the last decade has enabled the Obama administration and the Trump administration to take Iranian oil off the market without causing a huge surge in oil prices.”
This shift in petroleum power had led to a shift in foreign policy. Would America today intervene in the Middle East as it did two decades ago? If the proxy war currently waged in Yemen between Iran and Saudi Arabia threatened the Saudi oil fields directly, would 100,000 American soldiers be deployed?
“In my opinion, 80 percent are the reason for joining [in 2003] had to do with oil and the war machine ”, says Carsten Pfau, economist and founder of the Agri Terra Group. “The Iraq invasion would not have happened if America had been energy-dependent back then.”
Trisha Curtis, president and CEO of consulting firm PetroNerds, says the Iraq war would have “happened or not in 2003 if the US oil industry was booming and production was at the levels we see today.”
“Nations usually don’t go to war for a reason or a simple reason as oil,” claims Curtis, pointing out that US corporations in Iraq did not do well and did not have a strong or exclusive presence. “Western intervention, but more importantly, political stability, which does not always come with intervention and in this case does not happen, usually creates a more stable ground for Western companies, but not exclusively US companies, to come on board.”
Still, it is hard to ignore the fact that US foreign policy has been relieved of the burden of energy dependence. America has more leverage to deal with a breakaway Iran whose threats to oil supplies and the Persian Gulf have been minimized; or an aggressive Russia, whose gas pipeline policy can be countered with LNG tankers filled with products from Pennsylvania.
For this reason, some foreign policy experts raise an eyebrow at the domestic energy policy of the Biden administration: the blockage of the Keystone XL pipeline, the issuing of executive orders to limit US production to states, and the declaration that the US will cut CO2 emissions. Reduce emissions by 50 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. It is also noteworthy that President Joe Biden deliberately avoided taking action to sanction Putin’s North Stream 2 pipeline while Russia rattles its saber on the Ukrainian border.
“Oil and gas are still used and extracted, but the rhetoric against it is so strong that there is a risk that investors will withdraw too quickly and global investment gaps will arise. This means that there will be unilateral production around the world and that the US as well as Western and Asian countries will most likely increase their imports from the Middle East and Russia, ”suggested Curtis. “The broader geopolitical problems for global oil production are the increasing likelihood that stable, institutional and rule-of-law nations will end up reducing oil and gas production, diminishing global energy security, and increasingly relying on imports from less stable and predictable regions of the world.” . ”
And Curtis adds that spending trillions on renewable energy in the US is in many ways an energy asset transfer to China.
“Increasing imports of renewable energies across the entire solar, wind and battery supply chain are also exposing the US to global energy uncertainty and confrontations with China. China controls a large part of the raw material input for these renewable products, most of the metal and mineral processing (which is very harmful to the environment) and the final exports of these products. “
This does not mean that the US will go to war for oil. However, it does mean that peace and stability, and potentially increasing fragility in the Middle East and other parts of the world, could impact the US and global energy security.