From the Washington Post today:
BAGHDAD -- Chinese, Russian and European companies won the right this weekend to develop major oil fields in Iraq, while U.S. firms made a paltry showing at auctions that represent the first major incursion of foreign oil companies into Iraq in four decades.
Just let that sink in a little. After six-plus years of flowing blood and treasure, exhaustive focus and plain exhaustion, not only did US MRAPs never get to fill up for free (for the great privilege of clearing out Iraqi viper nests), but now not even our lousy oil companies get a consolation prize at the big Iraqi oil party.
China's state-owned oil company has a major stake in two contracts. Russian firms are parties in two others.
European firms made a strong showing. Royal Dutch Shell, Italy's Eni, British Petroleum and Norway's Statoil got deals.
Companies from Malaysia and Angola were parties to five winning bids.
Is there a pattern here?
Oil analysts say the outcome was surprising, considering that U.S. oil companies have long yearned to work in Iraq.
I sure wish they'd yearn to work in the USA. Oh, I forgot -- they do; but the US is the only nation in the world that doesn't develop its own natural resources. Then, when we help develop another country's resources -- a country soaked in US blood, not at all incidentally -- rival nations get the contracts.
After the invasion, the United States paid oil executives to advise Iraq's Oil Ministry and set up large military and civilian task forces to boost the country's ailing energy sector.
That means you and I paid.
"American oil executives provided free training to the ministry," said Ben Lando, bureau chief of Iraq Oil Report, a trade news outlet. "It is quite strange that after wanting access to Iraqi oil for so long, U.S. companies have largely remained on the sidelines."
Strange? What was really strange was that the US Embassy in Iraq was ready to draw happy faces all over America's empty tin cup.
"The results of the bid round should lay to rest the old canard that the U.S. intervened in Iraq to secure Iraqi oil for American companies," said Philip Frayne, a spokesman at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
This notion, which the media are hammering on, is beside the point. What is significant about the auction results is the apparent willingness of the Iraqi government to humiliate the United States by showing both favoritism to hostile nations who sacrificed nothing in Iraq's war, and willful disregard for America's strategic interests in the war's (supposed) aftermath. Of course, my conservative brethren would see in these same results further evidence of the "success" of the Iraq surge, but they will probably ignore the results altogether.
The US ambassador to Iraq, on the other hand, couldn't duck the question:
U.S. Ambassador Christopher R. Hill called the opening of Iraq's oil industry to foreign investment an achievement of "historical significance" and said he was encouraged by --
um, um, um, um ... --
how transparent the process had been.
Hill said the embassy advised U.S. companies as they weighed the pros and cons of doing business in Iraq, as diplomats do around the world.
Just any old diplomats, you see. Nothing special about a diplomat from a country whose young people died and were wounded by the thousands there.
"I'm not in a position to express disappointment," he said of the American showing at the auctions.
No, he's not. The Iraqis might try to bar him from the parliament -- again. Prediction: That won't be happening to China.
The state-owned Chinese National Petroleum Corp. bid on more contracts than any other company.
In marked contrast to the Americans, Chinese diplomats in Baghdad have kept a low profile in recent years, working out of a hotel and drawing little public attention. But Iraqi officials say they have been struck by the caliber of Chinese diplomats, many of whom speak flawless Arabic and have developed a nuanced understanding of Iraqi politics.
"We all know that China is on track to become a major economic as well as technological power," said Assam Jihad, a spokesman for the Oil Ministry.
What else did the Iraqis have to say about the auction? Reuters reports:
Iraqi officials said this proved their independence from U.S. influence and that their two bidding rounds this year for deals to tap Iraq's vast oil reserves, the world's third largest, were free of foreign political interference.
The Oil Ministry on Saturday ended its second bidding round after awarding seven of the oilfields offered for development, adding to deals from a first auction in June that could together take Iraq up to a capacity to pump 12 million barrels per day.
"For us in Iraq, it shows the government is fully free from outside influence. Neither Russia nor America could put pressure on anyone in Iraq -- it is a pure commercial, transparent competition," said government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh.
"No one, even the United States, can steal the oil, whatever people think."
Problem is, people don't think.