The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Killing children for Oil $$

More evidence that the 23 million people in Iraq are held hostage to oil

         Layton, president of Equinox Oil Co. in The Woodlands, Texas, said
        the oil-for-food program must be stopped. "I certainly understand
        the logic in helping the Iraqi people,"  he said. "But the price
        to the world's security of helping the Iraqi people the way we are
        doing it now is far too great a price to pay." 


-Rania Masri,


U.S. producers say Iraq to blame for world oil glut 
   The Clinton administration and some industry experts strongly
   disagree. Low prices threaten the producers. 

                       By John Donnelly
                       February 21, 1999

WASHINGTON -- Stephen Layton, a Texas oilman, has laid off 60  workers in
the last year, a third of his workforce. Bob Nance of Billings, Mont., did
not drill a new well in 1998, the first time that has happened in 31 years.
Danny Biggs no longer pumps oil from a quarter of his rigs in Kansas.

Gasoline is cheap, the U.S. economy purrs along, but this is the Great
Depression if you live off oil in America. And with the price at historic
lows, increasingly desperate oil producers have decided their best fight
is to take on America's biggest demon, Saddam Hussein.  They want
to cut off his oil.

The reason: Iraq is being allowed to pump much more oil at a time
when the market is swimming in it, which America's independent
producers contend is keeping down the price per barrel.

The Clinton administration strongly disagrees with the producers, saying
Iraq is not to blame for the global oil glut.  U.S. officials have even
proposed removing all limits on Iraq's oil production, as long as
 the United Nations controls the money from such sales.

Congress, however, has grown increasingly hostile to the administration's
Iraq policy, forcing it to fund Iraqi opposition movements last year. 
Analysts say lawmakers now have an additional incentive to take aim -- a
domestic constituency demanding help. 

"There's a depression going on in the oil industry now . . . and this
administration is partly responsible for that," said Sen. Don Nickles (R.,

The only way to bring Saddam Hussein to his knees is to cut off his cash
flow," added Sen. Frank Murkowski (R., Alaska), chairman of the Energy and
Natural Resources Committee.

"I recognize the humanitarian concerns of the people of Iraq, but the
sooner that Saddam Hussein is out of there, the better for them," said
 Murkowski, whose committee will hold a hearing next week.

After the Gulf war, the United Nations imposed economic sanctions that
prevented Iraq from freely selling its oil. In 1996, Iraq agreed to a U.N. 
plan that controlled the oil proceeds, and Baghdad began to pump more oil. 
Iraq now may sell up to $10.5 billion in oil a year, with two-thirds of
the proceeds going toward humanitarian programs. 

 Iraq cannot pump anywhere near that much oil because its rigs are old and
need spare parts. It is producing roughly 2 million barrels a day, up from
1.2 million a year ago, and up from 887,000 in December 1996. But in a
recent six-month period, Baghdad fell $1 billion under its U.N. allowance. 

What is Iraq's effect on the global oil market? How is money from oil
sales being distributed? And how much can Iraq sell in the future? The
answers paint a picture of today's not-so-simple politics of oil,
connecting Saddam with U.S. producers such as Texas oilman Layton,
exposing greedy market grabbers, raising national security questions, and
providing glimpses into the wealth of trouble inside Iraq. 

Outside of Saudi Arabia, Iraq has more known reserves of oil than
any other nation.

Before the Iran-Iraq war that began in 1980, the Iraqis pumped nearly 3.5
million barrels of oil a day, funding a huge military buildup and vast
social and educational programs. Before invading Kuwait in 1990, Baghdad
pumped about 2.9 million barrels a day. 

The Gulf war collapsed Iraq's market. In 1991, production dropped to about
300,000 barrels a day, not enough for the country's own needs. Iraq, once
a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, saw other
OPEC countries take its share. Saudi Arabia took the most, jumping from 5
million barrels a day in 1989 to 8.1 million in 1991, a level it retains

Kuwait, given a three-year exemption from OPEC limits, quickly built back
its production, going from 190,000 barrels a day in 1991 to 2 million in

 Since December 1996, when Iraq reluctantly agreed to the oil-for-food
plan, the Iraqis have distributed $3.7 billion worth of food with high
efficiency, keeping about a three- to six-week supply in warehouses, said
John Mills, spokesman for the U.N. program. 

The plan has had a dramatic effect on the average daily rations given to
all Iraqis, from 1,200 calories a day in 1996 to about 2,000 a day now,
said Mills. "Before oil-for-food, it was at near-starvation levels,"  he

 The distribution of medicine has been much poorer, with more than $250
million worth of drugs and equipment now held by thegovernment. Mills
blamed a host of reasons, including lack of proper equipment, but others
suspect the medicine is being sold for profit on the black market. 

 At the United Nations, there is no move to curtail Iraq's ability to sell
oil. In fact, Russia and China have been pushing to lift the nine-year-old
sanctions entirely.  The debate in the U.S. Congress, though unlikely to
immediately influence the issue of sanctions, raises a new problem for
President Clinton's Iraqi policy. For now, the administration wants the
ceiling on oil sales lifted as a way of showing concern for the Iraqi
people. "The oil-for-food program is designed to lock down Saddam's money
and force him to spend it on humanitarian goods, food that his people
wouldn't get otherwise," National Security Council spokesman David Leavy

In addition, Leavy said, "I don't think anyone familiar with the situation
can argue that Iraq has fueled this oil glut." 

 Oil analysts back him up. "The Saudis took all the Iraqi production," 
said Fereidun Fesharaki, director of the Program on Resources at the
East-West Center in Honolulu. "The demand has gone up, but a lot of
countries have added capacity, and to say they [ Iraq ] are now the forces
behind the disaster on the market is a bit unreasonable." 

 Henry Linden, director of the Illinois Institute of Technology's Energy
and Power Center, believes, however, that the Iraqi oil is helping to
reduce prices. 

 "It's simple arithmetic," he said. "Just as OPEC countries cut production
by something like 2.6 million barrels a day, it's almost offset by the
increase in Iraqi oil production. It may be unintended, but it was readily

Fesharaki isn't so sure. In his view, oil producers historically have a
difficult time holding back production, especially when the price falls. 
Take Iraq's oil off the market tomorrow, he said, "and someone will
immediately fill the production." 

"The world," he said, "is one big swimming pool in oil, and if you take
one part away, it will go back to being full anyway."

Oil stays cheap because demand has not increased, largely because
Asia's economies began collapsing in mid-1997. Two consecutive
warm winters also cut into demand.

Producers worldwide feel the effect. U.S. producers, who pump more than 6
million barrels a day, second only to Saudi Arabia, cut some 30,000 jobs
in 1998, according to the American Petroleum Institute. 

 If wells are not pumped, many will dry up, say producers. Layton,
president of Equinox Oil Co. in The Woodlands, Texas, told the Senate
Energy and Natural Resources Committee last month that a prolonged slump
could close U.S. wells. That would force greater reliance on foreign oil,
which now accounts for 55 percent of consumption. 

 "We would submit that Iraq now controls world oil prices," said Layton,
who spoke as a representative of 8,000 independent oil and natural gas

 Later, in an interview, Layton said the oil-for-food program must be
stopped. "I certainly understand the logic in helping the Iraqi people,"
he said. "But the price to the world's security of helping the Iraqi
people the way we are doing it now is far too great a price to pay." 

 Nance, head of Nance Petroleum in Billings, which has wells in Montana,
Wyoming and North Dakota, felt a little less strongly.  Perhaps, he
suggested, Iraq could be moved back under OPEC control. 

 Iraq, meanwhile, is having its own difficulties. U.N. Secretary-General
Kofi Annan sent four oil experts from Saybolt Nederland, a Dutch
consulting firm, to evaluate Iraq's producing capabilities last March and
December. The group returned with alarming news. 

A "significant" number of wells had stopped production, and about 20
percent of them were irreparably damaged because of the lack of
water-removal facilities, they said. Overall, they predicted a 4 to 8
percent decline in Iraq's oil-production capability. Spare parts were
urgently needed, they said.  The Security Council has authorized $600
million for spare parts. So far, Iraq has received less than $15 million

Oil experts predict that Iraq over the next year will continue to produce 2
million to 2.5 million barrels of oil a day.  It has had no trouble finding

The single largest consumer is the United States, which bought 38 percent
of Iraq's output from May to November last year.  "What's frustrating for
us is that one day you read about us bombing Iraq, and the next day you
find out we're the largest purchaser of Iraqi oil," said Biggs, 62,
co-owner of Pickrell Drilling Co. of Great Bend, Kan. "That doesn't make
much sense to me." 

This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To be removed/added, email, NOT the
whole list. Archived at

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]