Oil Only Reason Behind Iraq Invasion: Report

New York, April 15:  The US claims it invaded Iraq owing to its disinclination to abandon weapons of mass destruction. Could it be the unfulfilled American commercial interests that were at the heart of the invasion?

According to a declassified state department document, defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld had visited Iraq in 1983 as a special envoy to seek president Saddam Hussein’s sanction for the San Fransisco-based Bechtel Corporation to build an Iraq-Jordan pipeline. But Saddam outrightly rejected the American proposal.

George Shultz was the president of the company before joining the Reagan administration as the secretary of state.

“Now 20 years later, Shultz (who is currently on the board of Bechtel) and Rumsfeld are among the fiercest of the war hawks. Their philosophical flights in favour of the war would seem more graceful, and much less unsavoury, if they weren’t flying with the baggage of Bechtel and other large commercial interests that have so much to gain from the war,” columnist Bob Herbert says in an article based on the dossier in The New York Times.

Indicating that the US has taken pipeline rejection as a prestige issue, the report says, “Shultz wanted to withdraw from the project. But the state department joined hands with Bechtel to push the project”.

“The ouster of Saddam have given the hawks and their commercial allies a carte blanche in Iraq and the company with perhaps the sleekest and most effective of all the inside tracks, a company that is fairly panting with anticipation over oil and reconstruction contracts worth scores of billions of dollars, is of course the Bechtel group,” the article concludes.

During his meeting with Saddam and the then foreign minister Tariq Aziz, Rumsfeld had realised that Iraq was concerned about the proximity to Israel as the pipeline would enter the Gulf of Aqaba,” according to the article. The Iraqis were afraid the Israelis might destroy the pipeline.

Rumsfeld said he could understand that there would need to be some sort of arrangement that would give those involved confidence that it would not be easily vulnerable. The US then planned to raise the issue with Israel at an appropriate time.

It was known by the fall of 1983 that Iraq had used chemical weapons against Iran. Even that did not prevent the US from pursuing improved relations with Saddam, or curb the enthusiasm for the Aqaba pipeline, says the article.