The Stability of Iraq

Iraqi civilians killed as a result of acts of war since May 1st, 2003. Source: Brookings Institution. July data is incomplete.

[editor's note, by Prof. Goose] please, do hit the reddit button above (the one just below the story furthest to the right) if you are so inclined.

Courtesy of The Carpetbagger, I came across this superb Brookings Institution Report on the situation in Iraq. This is my kind of report - almost solid graphs and tables. You can read it for an hour and have a far better idea of the situation than reading the newspaper for a year, and I highly recommend you do so.

[editor's note, by Prof. Goose] Stuart also asked me to slip this article in from the NYT about the recent instability through the war-torn country.

As we've discussed before, there's almost certainly a lot of untapped oil reserves in Iraq, and whether they ever get produced or not is primarily controlled by whether the country stabilizes. So, while I should stress that the human and political dimensions to the situation are very important, the main way it interacts with Oil Drum concerns is whether or not the energy can be counted on in the world's supply budget or not.

In short, is the overall trend of recent years in this next graph going to continue? Or is the improvement in the last few months the start of a real turnaround?

Average Iraqi daily oil + condensate production, by month, January 2000-April 2006. The US and allies invaded in March 2003. Click to enlarge. Source: EIA International Petroleum Monthly Table 1.1a. Trend line is linear least squares fit to all the data.

Let's start with the good news. The likely cause of the improvement is that the number of attacks on oil and gas infrastructure has been dropping of late:

Number of attacks on Iraqi oil and gas infrastructure each month. June 2003 - June 2006, but last month is incomplete. Source: Brookings Institution

Other good news is that the number of US troops killed and wounded each month is also dropping, though very slowly.

Number of US troops wounded in action each month, March 2003-July 2006. July 06 data is incomplete. Source: Brookings Institution

Still, there's room to wonder if troop casualties are dropping because the insurgency is better controlled, or because we are giving up sizeable areas to effective insurgent control. The casualties in the Iraqi government forces are dropping also:

Number of Iraqi military and police killed monthly, Jan 2005 to July 2006, with longer term averages from March 2003-December 2004. July 06 data is incomplete. Source: Brookings Institution

However, it's hard to take these trends as cause for real optimism, as opposed to a signal that we are shifting from an insurgency against the US occupation to a civil war between the Sunni and the Shia. Certainly the civilian death toll is trending ever more tragic:

Iraqi civilians killed as a result of acts of war since May 1st, 2003. Source: Brookings Institution. July data is incomplete.

The totals of people killed and wounded in multiple fatality bombings is really striking, and the trend here is terrible:

Monthly totals of people killed or wounded as a result of bombings with at least three fatalities (including IEDs/roadside bombs). Source: Brookings Institution. July data is incomplete.

Iraqis are losing hope:

Answers to poll question "Thinking about the future, do you feel that things will be better, the same or worse in six months?". Source: Brookings Institution.

But perhaps the most alarming thing is the extreme degrees of polarization that polling reveals. The next two charts come from data from a poll of Iraqis taken Jan 31st, 2006. The first question was "Do you think that Iraq today is generally headed in the right direction or wrong direction?". The chart shows "right direction".

Answers to poll question "Do you think that Iraq today is generally headed in the right direction or wrong direction?" by ethnic group. The chart shows the percentage who answered "right direction".

Has it all been worth while? Depends who you ask:

Answers to poll question "Thinking about any hardships you might have suffered since the US-Britain invasion, do you personally think that ousting Saddam Hussein was worth it or not?" by ethnic group. The chart shows the percentage who answered "worth it".

How are these groups ever going to agree on terms to stop fighting?

To put some color on the statistics, here's a quote from a New York Times story the other day:

Iraqi soldiers backed by American troops and military aircraft stormed a building in a Shiite slum here early today, killing or wounding between 30 and 40 gunmen and capturing a high-level Shiite militia commander who is accused of attacking Iraqi and American troops, the American military command said.

American and Iraqi authorities did not disclose the name of the captured man they said was a militia commander. But residents of the neighborhood said the building that came under attack was a base of operations for a man known as Abu Deraa, a top commander of the Mahdi Army, the restless and potent Shiite militia that answers to the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr.

In a concurrent operation today, Iraqi police officers captured Adnan al-Unaybi, who, according to the American military command, is in charge of a wing of the Mahdi Army operating in Babil Province, south of Baghdad. A military news release said that he was accused of weapons smuggling, bankrolling terrorism, attacking American troops, inciting sectarian violence and "spying for two foreign governments."

and another incident recorded in the The Independent
Sunni fighters operating from an area called al-Muheet, a district of old brick factories now used for residential housing, have killed many Shia from nearby farming districts. "One of them was a man called Hussein who used to sell me melons," said a local informant. "They cut his head off." In the past few days three women were allegedly raped and killed.

This provoked a backlash in the heavily Shia al-Khadamiyah, the site of one of the holiest Shia shrines. Some 400 local people joined with the Mehdi Army yesterday to launch an attack on al-Muheet, starting a gun battle which lasted much of the day. The Shia claim that US troops intervened to stop them eliminating sectarian killers.

Can anyone see any way that this is not going to continue sliding into an ever more violent civil war?

Well, our sunny optimist friends over at the EIA are unconcerned, of course. They're projecting 3.3 mbpd of oil production by 2010. Given that the investments required to do that would need to be started right around now, it's extremely hard to see how that figure could be reached by then.

"Can anyone see any way that this is not going to continue sliding into an ever more violent civil war?"

Only one. If there were no more Iraqis left, none at all, there would be no civil war and no attacks on oil facilities.
Now, if we start down the back side of Hubbert's Curve and the USA, China and the EU all need the Iraqi oil bad enough ? Who knows how far one or all three might go to preserve the economic status quo ?

Iraq has to be partitioned into three independent countries in a manner similar to India in the 40's.  It's not a perfect solution but it's about the only one that has a chance of creating some stability.
Right except for the Kurds in the North who would have no oil money and still living in the hillsides.
Much of the Iraqi oil lies in the North and the South - so the Kurds would be OK - apart from they are left with the daunting problem of exporting oil either N through Turkey - who are kind of hostile to the overall concept of Kurdistan - or South through what is currently Iraq.  I'm not sure that the Sunnis actaully get left with anything - which may be one of their current concerns.
Turkey worries that an independent Kurdish state on their border would attempt to incite separatist Kurds inside Turkey. That's a bit of a political hot potato there.
I don't think Iran would like to see an Independent Kurdistan either.


And the Iranians with their sizeable minority. But the Kurds did secure some oil for themselves.


  The Kurds have place themselves with opportunity to take Kirkuk and it's oil fields.  The Sunni's feel like the ones left out in the cold (no oil) in the west.  But if they got their act together and listened to the posters here, they would probably be on the largest amount of "undiscovered" oil in the ME out there.  That is of course if it did not follow the pattern of the Empty Quarter.

In a partition of Iraq, the Kurds would probably take the town of Kirkuk and its oilfields. The Shiites would get the southern fields around Basra, and the Sunnis the northern fields around Mosul. I agree that Turkey would probably not let the Kurds export oil through their territory, so it would most likely pass to the south through Shia territory.

If Turkey came down hard on the Iraqi Kurds, they likely lose any chance to join the EU, although I am not sure how big a disincentive that would be for the Turks.

Well, then, if we're going to go to all that effort, let's also adjust the U.S./Mexico and U.S. Canadian borders, too. CA goes back to MX, and "54-40 or fight," wasn't that the chant?


It seems logical to assume that a reduction in attacks on teh pipelines by insurgents, and reduced deaths by US and Iraqi forces, have a strong correlation.  The simple assumption is that the insurgency, and its indiscriminate attacks on infrastructure, is weakening. If oil wealth is distributed with a reasonable formula, it seems likely that increasing amounts will flow... but, flow will be limited to existing wells; new investments are not likely any time soon.

OTOH, civil strife is increasing. Sunnis remain very unhappy at losing control, and so far look little appeased. The gov seems to be trying to rein in the militias, including Sadr's, clearly a prerequisite to any peace.

I was quite surprised to see polls showing a solid majority of Iraqis happy with the result so far.  Maybe they are more hopeful than we are.

Is there a publicly known agreement for the US to have some kind of 'Participation' in the output of the Iraqi oilfields?  There's still that sort of 'Preemptive Campaign Promise' that the cost of the war would be paid for in Oil revenues.

I just wonder how the deals are getting worked (as I assume they are) so 'we' get a piece..

I think this is a must-read, on civilian casualties:

Some back-story on the author's position on American Militarism, and "blood for oil" is here:


I have many problems with this post. What one can never forget it is that Iraq is a country that was invaded (by ours) for no purpose other than to control its oil. In this regard it is no different than any country invaded by Nazi Germany.

Civil war is the only hope of the invaders and is therefore instigated and incited by them (US!). The only alternative is a united resistance to kick out the invaders. This same gambit was played in Vietnam where it was sold (and framed) as a civil war between North and South.

There is something macabre about our counting as good news our ability to extract oil from Iraq. Is it good news if the resistance subsides and we get more oil? Would it have been good news if any of the nations the Germans had assaulted had weakened and permitted a greater flow of resources back to the motherland?

All the worse because the rampage is not yet complete. There are new adventures is the brewing (Iran). This will further impact the oil situation and all else.

My point is that we dasn't allow ourselves to become simply technicians who measure the horrors the unfolding in front of us. Crimes are being committed, US and Iraqi lives are being destroyed. We must measure, but never lose sight of what it is we are measuring.

It is quite possible that if we worked our way high enough in the US government .. perhaps all the way to the top (Cheney) we'd find someone who amorally went to war for oil.  I think though, what really made it work is that underlings (Bush) and the general population were given plausible denialability.  They were allowed to say (and often believe) that they were fighting for a higher ideal - freedom, democracy.

Perhaps because the German example is lodged in our minds and history, it wouldn't work unless the stated goal was a "good" for the conquered.  In this case, the good was freedom and democracy for the Iraqis.

It's a tragedy that worked, and that the "blood for oil" folks, pre-war, were made to look around the bend.  I mean, it was about Saddam, and WMDs, and freedom .... right?

Invade to bring democracy?

Take a look at U.S. allies and see if it has anything to do with democracy.  Pakistan is a military dictatorship with the worst nuclear proliferation debacle yet known.

It is also not about religion.  Allies and enemies cover all religions (and government) types.  The answer for what makes an ally or enemy (or target for invasion) lies elsewhere (pun intended).

Lastly, I am skeptical of some of the poll results - I am familiar with survey methods and would be interested to see the actual questions posed and the sampling method

"Invade to bring democracy?"

I think a lot of voters believed it, or at least accepted it as the best face to be put on the invasion, and that was one of the things that helped reelect George W. Bush.

Agreed.  I am in Canada but grew up in the U.S. - the propaganda is very potent as we are taught to listen and not question or look at evidence that contradicts the official line.  I am glad you, and many others at TOD are critical thinkers and we need more of this.
It's painful.  I'll paste just one more thing befor I go for a hike to break in my new boots.

We shouldn't forget the cute name given to the Irai plan at the start:

Operation Iraqi Liberation

as in O.I.L.  I guess they realized we weren't completely stupid, so they gave us that deniability.  It became Operation Iraqi Freedom with an "F."

"oil" became "freedom"


I remember Greenspan wrote an article linking Gold to economic freedom.
(see )

Well Black Gold is also appears to be "Freedom".

(And for the record, I think "Freedom" was, and still is, a rather compelling reason for a bit of regime change in Iraq, Saddam was a weak leader afterall...)

.. and just another word for 'Nothing left to lose'

I think this line of thinking is as simplistic and blindered as the thinking of Bush and co. that you are so critical of. There have been hundreds of marches and thousands of editorials, news articles, blogs, etc. opposing the Iraq war. You make it sound as if there is a small daring minority that questions authority. In fact, the majority of Americans doubt the Iraq war and large percentages doubt the Bush storyline.

Quotes such as this one from the post above are hardly examples of critical thinking:

"What one can never forget it is that Iraq is a country that was invaded (by ours) for no purpose other than to control its oil. In this regard it is no different than any country invaded by Nazi Germany. "

"War for oil" is a meaningless slogan that is as common as other advertisements and the comparision with Nazi Germany is absurd. The UN passed more severe resolutions against Saddam's regime than any other in history. How did oil motivate that? And if the U.S. really wanted Iraqi oil why did Cheney just negotiate to get Haliburton contracts. Saddam would ahve been happy to agree.

Of course oil played a major role is the U.S. decision to invade Iraq. But it played a major role in Russia and France's opposition to the war. Oil is the main reason for Chinese support of Iran, Sudan, etc. Do you see the genocide in Darfur as China spilling blood for oil?

The reality is that highly opinionated individuals on both sides of this issue are spinning the story to suit their view of the world. Critical thinking is a two-sided sword that questions all storylines. I think what you really mean is "I am glad you agree with me."

  Amen Jack,  Although I also believe there was a little of revenge for the attempted assasination of Papa George. Only because I would think that way. Also I have never thought the oil in iraq was the ultimate goal but rather the military presence in the whole region, ala the Truman/Carter doctrine. Kunstler put it well in talking about the gross hypocricy of many dissenters who moan and groan about oil as the spoils of war and then run off in their Lexus to get the latest concoction at Starbucks.  You can't have the lifestyle if your not willing to pay, militarily, for it. I'm not justifying the decision, just putting it in the perspective that the average Nascar afficionado would understand.
This war would make more sense if the children and grandchildren of GOP congressmen and senators were over there fighting for "freedom". The freedom argument rings hollow when it's somebody else's children who die. Iraq has the only large oilfields in the world not being used to the full potential and Bush should admit that this is what its all about.
For what it's worth, Andrew J. Bacevich titled Chapter 7 in his book The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced By War as "Blood for Oil."

I wrote my reaction after skimming that chapter here:

Yeah, "Blood for Oil" is a slogan.  But I think saying it makes us face the question.  More than, you know, speaking just the motivations we are more comfortable with.


I actually did not comment on what the reasons were.  I do comment that facts do not support the reasons that were put forward by the Bush administration - WMD, support terrorists and finally to bring democracy.  If they were true, Pakistan would be a target based on the first and third counts and could probably be spinned for the second (harboring terrorists).

I am also impressed with the TOD in general regarding critical thinking whether I agree with what is said or not (this does not come from any single statement).  I did not target the American people but institutions that bombard you, me and others with stories that have little basis on fact - the main stream media have often been complicit and this observation has been a running theme in TOD.

In fact, my sense of why the U.S. invaded has and still is being shaped in many ways by what I read here and elsewhere (it is far from simple).  Treeman's comments on having a military presence is one of the most intriguing and may have been a key reason but it also may have evolved to being the reason to remain in Iraq (with it becoming clear that the security situation makes oil production and export a difficult affair) - this would imply that Israel does not provide, as a US ally, sufficient military presence in these times (role of Israel is a very complex issue so pardon my brevity).  Your comment on why China and others opposed the war because of oil has a lot of support from what I have read.  

By the way, I have not studied the situaion in detail regarding Sudan, China and Darfur and all that.  Perhaps you could begin a thread that debates that situation - it certainly merits debate.

You make it sound as if there is a small daring minority that questions authority. In fact, the majority of Americans doubt the Iraq war and large percentages doubt the Bush storyline.

Yes, now that is the case, but before the invasion the jingoism and 9/11 fear were heavy in the air.

Quotes such as this one from the post above are hardly examples of critical thinking:

"What one can never forget it is that Iraq is a country that was invaded (by ours) for no purpose other than to control its oil. In this regard it is no different than any country invaded by Nazi Germany. "

"War for oil" is a meaningless slogan that is as common as other advertisements and the comparision with Nazi Germany is absurd.

Why is it meaningless beyond the fact you say it is so? Let us look at the pattern of US policy towards the 'axis of evil'

Iraq -- oil, no nukes, weak
Iran -- oil, working on nukes, relatively strong
NK -- no oil, nukes, relatively strong

Who got invaded? Saddam.

The Iraq war was many things to many people -- and one of them was oil.

The UN passed more severe resolutions against Saddam's regime than any other in history. How did oil motivate that?

Because the US/UK strongarmed them into doing it. Plus, oil was relatively abundant so there were other readily available sources of supply. Furthermore, the sanctions were a legacy of Saddam's past aggression against Kuwait.

Remember, Saddam only became a 'bad guy' when he invaded Kuwait. We were happy to arm him and provide intel when he was busy merrily butchering Iranians.

And if the U.S. really wanted Iraqi oil why did Cheney just negotiate to get Haliburton contracts. Saddam would ahve been happy to agree.

Why don't mobsters just obey the rules and pay market prices? Protection rackets are profitable, that's why organized crime and power politics will always be with us. Which would you rather have running Iraq? Saddam, or a plaint client-state president who knows his role is to put up and shut up?

Of course oil played a major role is the U.S. decision to invade Iraq. But it played a major role in Russia and France's opposition to the war. Oil is the main reason for Chinese support of Iran, Sudan, etc. Do you see the genocide in Darfur as China spilling blood for oil?

Sure. Oil revenues are supporting Sudan's ability to tell the UN to fuck off. It's also giving it the ability to arm the Janjaweed and outfit its military. No one is saying these countries AREN'T doing what they are doing because of oil politics. What's we dispute is that war supporters don't want to admit America's hands are dirty too.

The reality is that highly opinionated individuals on both sides of this issue are spinning the story to suit their view of the world. Critical thinking is a two-sided sword that questions all storylines. I think what you really mean is "I am glad you agree with me."

This is just post-modern 'there is no objective truth, just different points of view' BS that conservatives have stolen from Queer-Studies professors to justify ideological positions they agree with and benefit from.

"President Bush Discusses Freedom in Iraq and Middle East"

Our commitment to democracy is also tested in the Middle East, which is my focus today, and must be a focus of American policy for decades to come. In many nations of the Middle East -- countries of great strategic importance -- democracy has not yet taken root. And the questions arise: Are the peoples of the Middle East somehow beyond the reach of liberty? Are millions of men and women and children condemned by history or culture to live in despotism? Are they alone never to know freedom, and never even to have a choice in the matter? I, for one, do not believe it. I believe every person has the ability and the right to be free. (Applause.)

Nice of the Whitehouse website to let us know that got "(Applause.)"

It's a script, tou see, and the "(Applause.)" was in the script.  All of the actors in the audience no doubt played their parts well.
Invading a nation to bring supposed democracy and stability sounds a lot like "War is Peace" (Orwell, 1984).
It did work with Japan and Germany, and we did not need to invade the former.
Yes it is true, we did invade to bring them "Peace".

Peace of the kind found in R.I.P.

Hrm... I am not going to debate which reason that US invaded Iraq help sway the American public more, but I do know that technically, the US went to war with Iraq over Iraq government not being in compliant with UN security council resolutions.  The US and Great Britain were practically the only ones paying and enforcing the UN resolutions with French, Russia, and China wanting to weaken the UN resolution or simply lift the resolutions.  With this perspective, it is a lot easier to figure out why France was so against the invasion and why Great Britain was so for it.  They had material interests.
Nth, I also found it extremely interesting to read the numerous postings by TOD members who behave as if it is a  commonly known fact that the war in Iraq was originally a mission of democracy. My recollection of the build up to invasion was that Iraq was a clear and present danger, possibly including a mushroom cloud and the twin towers.  It was only after the dearth of WMD finds that the democracy  marketing scheme was cooked up by revisionist spin-meisters.  Just goes to show how effective the propaganda has been.
That's true.  There was "remove Saddam for the Iraqi people" early on, but back then the threat to us was definitely the primary justification for "preemptive" war.  I mean, if there wasn't a threat, what was there to preempt, right?

For some reason my mind was centered on the mood around/following the last election.

Yes remove Saddam because Bush felt that containment is not sustainable and Saddam have a track record of being a menace in Middle East.  With US being almost the sole bearer of providing oil trade protection in the Middle East, it gives lots of incentive for US to remove Saddam.

Democracy was a bonus thing.
Yes, WMD and offensive weapons were the main thing.

Hello Davebygolly,

I wrote a long essay several years ago on the Yahoo energy forums called, "The Porridge Principle of Metered Decline in Iraq".  Basically, the Iraqis will be whittled down until the headcount is sufficiently reduced, and the price of oil rises sufficiently high enough that profit maximization and political control is achieved.  Not too fast, not too slow, but a fluid program that is real-time adjusted to all operant processes and forces, both inside Iraq and around the globe.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

All information coming out of any war zone should be met with enormous scepticism.
Does anyone here know how the oil production figures are compiled and how trustworthy they are?
Everything else the Brookings folks put their fine numbers on is unknowable in time of war. I'm surprised anyone keeps a straight face when polling data is presented.
Personally I like the reportage from Nir Rosen and Dahr Jamail and the steady slog of Juan Cole's blog. And I will be utterly unsurprised if one day I learn that one or more of those three was a paid agent or fabricator. Most of what you can find to read about Iraq is patent obvious propaganda and there is such a stream of it, it wears you down. Until you don't know how it is you know what you think you know.
It's a war. No precise metrics. Precious little honesty.
Re: skepticism, precious little honesty

Yes. Really, no one knows the level of oil production in Iraq. We know about stuff like Iran, Iraq may agree on swap plan (6/21/2005).

Minister of Oil Bijan Namdar Zanganeh noted that Iran has agreed to build a pipeline from Bandar Imam to Iraq's Basra port in order to carry Iraqi crude oil to Abadan refinery and transfer oil products back to that country.

Once the two countries reach a final agreement on swapping Iraqi oil, the plan would be implemented. He told Petroenergy Information Network that the two countries have been discussing cooperation in energy sector for more than one year, adding, "We have offered a proposal for receiving about 370,000 barrels crude oil from Iraq to feed Abadan refinery."

The minister stated that Iran has agreed to build a pipeline from Bandar Imam to Basra (which is an import and export terminal for Iraq's crude and crude products) and the proposal will be brought up before the expected visit to Iran by Iraqi prime minister.

Zanganeh stated that the two countries are also considering a swap plan according to which Iraq will send its crude oil to Abadan refinery and an equivalent amount of crude is sold on its behalf at Iran's Kharg terminal.

He said Iraqi officials are very interested in purchasing Iran's oil products and Iran is able to supply them with kerosene, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), and fuel oil produced by Abadan refinery.

How many people know this? Don't know what "stage" the project is at, however. Iran is now planning to ration gasoline Of course Iraq has chronic severe shortages and a thriving black market. And again...

By the way, did I see any mention of Iraq Body Count?
"We don't do body counts"
General Tommy Franks, US Central Command
Also, Leanan had a good catch the other day Iraq's oil production could reach nine million barrels a day.
Iraq's oil production could reach 9.0 million barrels a day in 2016, up from around 2.4 million barrels currently, the head of international oil producer Heritage Oil, said.

But the lack of a clear development strategy for Iraq's oil resources is delaying the much-needed foreign investment required to reach this level of production, Micael Gulbenkian warned in an interview with Portugal's Lusa news agency.

"Iraq expects its daily oil production to reach 6.0 barrels per day by 2012 and be challenging Saudi Arabia as the world's largest producer by 2015, Iraq's Oil Minister Hussein Shahristani said last month." This is picture worthy as well.

Why is this man laughing?

Perhaps you detect a cynical tone in these various observatons.

The numbers are rather low. For example the British Medical Association counted 100 000 Iraqi civilians killed with many in Falujah. Remember Falujah where all males of military age were confined to the town and then bombed with white phospherous and High Explosive. That was a fearful war crime. Not all the world will agree that falling US casualties are a good thing. This might simply prolong the occupation and lead to many more total deaths. The US Govt lies that the US will leave. Hugh permanent camps are being built, staffed by non-Iraqi Asians, as well as military-only roads so that US forces can stay and move in Irag without coming into contact with Iraqis. The Irag Constitution is AFAIK the only Constitution in the world that states how oil will be marketed - "by modern methods". In all the wars of the last 100 years, the agressors have finished up losing. I hope the same thing happens in Irag and everyone develops a real respect for the UN charter and International law.
Stuart is on vacation in the mountains and not seeing what you people are saying. He "pre-posted" this article.

But let's get all our facts straight, shall we?

  • The British created Iraq in 1921 to control the oil there.
    The land between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers was once known as Mesopotamia, much of which is now modern-day Iraq. There, in the 4th millennium BC, the Sumerians developed what was probably the earliest urban civilization.

    Mesopotamia formed part of Turkey's Ottoman Empire for three centuries until World War I. British forces invaded in 1914, and Iraq was created in 1921 as a kingdom under British Mandate. Iraq was given independence in 1932, but Britain intervened during World War II to overthrow a pro-Nazi nationalist leader who had taken power. A republic was established in 1958, and this has been governed by a succession of military regimes.

    Iraq has a population of around 24 million. About 20 per cent are Kurds, who see themselves as a separate nation. Other smaller groups include Persians, Turkmens, Assyrians, Sabaeans, and the "Marsh Arabs".

    The first thing the British did in 1914 was to take control of the oil fields so the Germans were shut out. This was necessary because prior to the war Churchill had switched the navy over to oil away from coal. This unheralded event is probably among the most important drivers in the history of the 20th century and now beyond that in the 21st century.
  • The US invaded Iraq based on false pretexts (lies) about weapons of mass destruction.
  • The real reason the US invaded Iraq was to establish a police station in the Middle East to keep the oil flowing. Cheney was studying that map of the oil sources in Iraq for years prior to the invasion. He told Bush to do it after 9/11.
  • Saddam was a bad man but that's no excuse after the fact.
  • In fact, the oil is not flowing and probably will never flow at EIA's fantasy levels. The fields in the south (Basra complex) are probably damaged beyond repair. Interestingly, this occurred in the first Gulf War after Saddam invaded Kuwait and George the 1st kicked him out.
  • The Kurds are generally happy because they've got oil (Kirkuk) and are pretty much autonomous at this point. However, they are split into two competing groups.
  • The Shia' are really happy, especially in the south, because they too have oil (Basra) and are also pretty much autonomous. Since they the largest group in the "country" by far, they know that they have the power.
  • The Sunnis are really unhappy because they used to be in charge, are a minority group and have no oil.

Now that we have established the premises upon which any argument must be built, go for it. And, just for fun...

Abdul Aziz Ibn Sa'ud, Sir Percy Cox,
and Gertrude Bell, Basrah, 1916.

From here. You can look up Percy yourself.


I thought I might add this peice. The British through T.E. Lawrence (AKA Lawrence of Arabia)and others convinced the indigineous Arabs to rise up against the Ottoman Turks based on promises that were to be utterly broken by the implemetation of the Sykes-Picot Agreement (negotiated in secret).  From Wikepedia;

"The agreement is seen by many as a turning point in Western/Arab relations, as it negated the promises made to Arabs through T.E. Lawrence for a national homeland in the Syrian territory in exchange for their siding with British forces against the Ottoman Empire"

T.E. Lawrence, was horrified once he learned of the betrayal and it deeply affected him (he was not aware of the Sykes-Picot negotiations until after the arab uprising began) - my impression of Lawrence was that he was a man of honour as he fought for adherence to the original promises, albeit in vain.

Consider this breathtakingly revisionist version of events below as it is a perfect example of historical re-engineering and apologetics for what was a shameful episode.  Note also that many of these arguments are used today for our policies in the middle east in that the arabs are culturally backwards and unable to tend to their own affairs and thus need our guidance (and all that crap) - It should be no wonder why the arab world distrusts us.


[this starts off accurately and then...]

"Employing bags of gold, the diplomacy of Lawrence of Arabia, and promises of Arab independence, the British had encouraged an Arab uprising in 1916 against the Turks. Although the Hashemite Arabs were rewarded with considerable territory, they and other Arab nationalists believed that they had been 'robbed' when the British did not fully deliver on their pledges of independence. They believed that the western powers, especially the British, had acted with arrogance, drawing borders and creating nations with little or no regard for the wishes of the local inhabitants

The fate of Palestine, occupied by the British, especially provoked Arab frustration and anger. (In 1917 the British Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour, had supported a Jewish home in Palestine.)

But in important respects the Arab view of the peace settlement (which is supported by many western historians) is a caricature of what actually happened. In a revisionist work, Efraim Karsh and Inari Karsh have made a convincing argument that many forces, both local and foreign, were at work at the time the settlement was agreed. In their words, 'even at the weakest point in their modern history, during the First World War and its immediate wake, Middle Eastern actors were not hapless victims of predatory imperial powers, but active participants in the restructuring of their region.'

They argue, for example, that Iraq and Trans-Jordan were not simply British inventions, but owed their existence to a compromise between Hashemite imperial greed and well-intended British efforts to meet local needs and allay the fears and suspicions of their allies.

It is perhaps only proper to note that if Germany had won the war, the Ottoman Empire would have been expanded, subjecting many Arabs and other nationalities to its rule. And if the French and British had granted 'self-determination' to the inhabitants of this region it is possible that the result would have been the balkanisation of the area, with fragile and often antagonistic fiefdoms and kingdoms prevailing. It seems likely that, no matter how this war in the Middle East had been resolved, the region was destined to suffer instability and conflict in the years ahead"

Note this peice says that the views are supported by "western historians".

Note also the racism:

"owed their existence to a compromise between Hashemite imperial greed and well-intended British efforts to meet local needs and allay the fears and suspicions of their allies"


So the British are well intentioned (common imperialist argument) and the arabs are greedy (a common stereotype of arabs going way back - note this is often how the peace process regarding Palestinion and Israeli conflict is framed - Israeli good intentions but palestinion greed hampers a solution)...

I think enough said...

Thank you for this information and commentary. All good.

I am SO happy to see that I am not the only commenter who much desires a historical perspective to see current events more clearly and in better proportion to what has gone before.


You are not alone.

Probably one of the best treatments of the Sykes-Picot episode is in Professor David Fromkin's The Peace to End All Peace
Thanks, I will try to find the time to read that
But let's get all our facts straight, shall we?


Now that we have established the premises upon which any argument must be built, go for it.

These are not facts, they are in almost all cases your opinion based on either a shaky reading of the facts or on outright falsehoods. But maybe you were kidding - I'll let you explain that.

I'll start with this one. And I'll make clear that this is based on my reading of history, and if I'm wrong we can argue how good my reading is:

The British created Iraq in 1921 to control the oil there.


The first thing the British did in 1914 was to take control of the oil fields so the Germans were shut out.

There were no oilfields to take control of in 1914. The British invaded, with the intention of taking Baghdad. It was thought that there oil in Baghdad and in Mosul, which as you know is north of Baghdad. But even then it isn't clear that the invasion was about oil. Regardless, they suffered defeat in their initial expedition and did not reach Baghdad until 1917. Mosul remained in Ottoman hands until the end of the War in 1918.

Oil was first discovered near Kirkuk in 1927.

Oil was not discovered in Basra until 1948.

Previous to this time Basra and its port facilities led the world in the export of dates. Yes, dates.

...prior to the war Churchill had switched the navy over to oil away from coal. This unheralded event is probably among the most important drivers in the history of the 20th century...

I have seen this discussed in most good histories of World War I, and of Churchill's involvement in World War I and World War II, and in biographies of Churchill, and definitely in almost every book I've ever read about oil. Maybe I don't understand what `unheralded' means.

The fields in the south (Basra complex) are probably damaged beyond repair. Interestingly, this occurred in the first Gulf War after Saddam invaded Kuwait and George the 1st kicked him out.

I don't know whether this is or isn't the case. But what I don't understand is the `interestingly' part.  How exactly did this happen? And what exactly is the importance of it happening in the first Gulf war? What about the Iran-Iraq war? I'll give you the benefit of the doubt on that one.

The British were trying to corner the international date market.

When the Ottoman Empire entered in to World War I, the British feared for the safety of the Persian Gulf oil facilities. To protect their facilities the British decided to capture to Ottoman-controlled section of the Persian Gulf coast. The Fortress of Fao was the main Ottoman fortress of the Persian Gulf coast, and was the most likely point or origin for an Ottoman attack on the British oil facilities.

... snip ...

With Fao captured, the Ottomans no longer controlled the any part of the Persian Gulf, and the British facilities were safe. However, the British felt that their facilities would not be truly safe until they managed to capture Baghdad. This led to several campaigns against Baghdad that would result in the capture of that city by the British in 1917. The city of Fao was used as a starting point for many early British Mesopotamian campaigns.


As I have brought up earlier, the British were exploring from 1908-1914 in Iran because of the oil-fields present there, hence the reference above about oil as "Persian Gulf oil facilities." They were involved in defining the border between the Ottoman Empire and Persia at the time too.

Admiral John Fisher while leading the British Navy had the Dreadnought built, hence the term, and it was built in 1906 and was the largest warship of its day to use oil as its main fuel. Churchill did not go to the Admiralty until 1912. Coal was still used by all nations for sometime, but oil, because of its efficiency and taking up of less room, was the future.

Anyone else hear an echo?
Isn't it a compliment to be echoed?
I'd rather be complemented.
I'd rather be supplemented.
I did simplify for brevity. Please read Great Power Conflict over Iraqi Oil: the World War I Era. In fact, they attempted to take control of the areas where the oil was thought to be.

As to your other points. Re: Rumaila From here:

The U.S. considered such contingency planning necessary because of Saddam Hussein's actions in Kuwait in 1991, when Iraqi forces damaged 750 wells. That destruction resulted in an environmental disaster as well as a tremendous blow to Kuwait's oil production capability. The U.S. had grounds to believe Saddam was planning to destroy Iraq's own oil infrastructure in the event of hostilities. Such destruction, especially if it extended beyond oil wells to pipelines, pumping stations, or other elements of the infrastructure, could have drastically reduced the Iraqi oil industry's capability to produce income on which the Iraqi people depend. Destruction of the oil fields would result in potential loss of $20 to $30 billion a year in oil revenues for Iraq, as well as an estimated cost of between $30 and $40 billion to recreate the infrastructure.

When the [current] war began, some wells were sabotaged and set ablaze by Saddam Hussein's forces, but coalition forces were successful in securing most oil fields and infrastructure before major damage could occur. The Department put its planning to use immediately, and the well fires were extinguished and the associated environmental damage was limited. The results of ongoing assessments of the condition of oil facilities throughout the country will determine what actions need to be taken to repair and restore the oil infrastructure. These activities may include extinguishing oil fires; assessing the condition of oil-related infrastructure; cleaning up oil spills or other environmental damage at oil facilities; engineering design and repair or reconstruction of damaged infrastructure; assisting in making facilities operational; distribution of petroleum products; and assisting the Iraqis in resuming Iraqi oil company operations....

The fact that the Department was planning for the possibility that it would need to repair and provide for continuity of operations of the Iraqi oil infrastructure was classified until March 2003. This prevented earlier acknowledgement or announcement of potential requirements to the business community.

Kuwait was doing slant drilling into the Rumaila basin. It is all the same oil deposit. Damage to those Kuwaiti fields in the north of the country, which was considerable, is believed to have also damaged the Iraqi fields. They were on fire for a long time. This burns off oil in the deposit and lowers pressure there.

Rumaila Oil Field -- Click to Enlarge

Also, check out The Gulf War Battlefield: Still "Hot" with Depleted Uranium. As you know, radiation gets into the ground. Finally,

It is very obvious that much rehabilitation must be undertaken to reverse the effect on the oil sector of three wars and years of sanctions. For example, the Basra representative of the Iraqi Oil Ministry has estimated that just 25 percent to 30 percent of the Rumaila oil field is in good condition. Any industry, neglected and underfunded for more than 20 years, bearing the impact of three wars and 12 years of UN sanctions, would suffer greatly, and the oil sector is no exception.
From testimony by Mr. Robert Ebel Director of Energy and National Security Center for Strategic and International Studies Washington, DC.
I'm not done yet. Oil in Iraq: The Byzantine Beginnings
During the war, Sir Maurice Hankey, secretary of the War Cabinet, advised Foreign Secretary Arthur Belfour in writing that control of the Persian and Mesopotamian oil was a "first-class British war aim." Britain captured the towns of Basra, Baghdad and Mosul, capitals of the provinces bearing the same names, in November 1914....
That is, the provinces that were thought to contain oil.

On my use of the term "interestingly" in my original post -- I thought it was ironic that W's father helped to set out the ground work for the poor state of Iraq's southern oil fields. Obviously, Saddam Hussein was the primary cause. However, the subsequent economic sanctions, which did great harm to the Iraqi people and were abused (malfeasance).

Finally, without your quibbles, none of the statements I made in my original post can be disputed in any serious way, especially my talking about be lied into war, the real reason for the war and the happiness/unhappiness of the major religious sects/ethnic groups in the region.

If you have a different point of view, state it. Don't just criticize my laying out of the facts. Always fun to get into a tussle with you, OilCEO.

best, Dave

Fair enough, Dave. I appreciate your responses and the civilized manner in which you are approaching this. Since I believe it to be a complex topic, I chose the expedient tactic of attacking your premise that you were laying out the facts rather than your actual arguments. I freely admit this. While I agree that some of the outline of your argument has merit, I still basically disagree. I'm tired and just want to read my TOD now. I haven't had the opportunity to read as much here lately and have only been skimming through posts the last few days(but obviously not yours). I hope you will understand and forgive me. I will write some more on this tomorrow.

Remind me to mention something I read in Confessions of an Economic Hitman regarding Iraq, should I forget. The Brookings report as well. Kagan in NR as well.(just notes to self).

And I always enjoy mixing it up with you as well.

Also, "unheralded" means "without warning or announcement" as you know. In my sense, for those who know little history, which is almost everyone, it means "not announced to" (unnoticed by) the hoi polloi.
Oil in Iraq was not discovered until the inter-war years.  But Iran's oil (production began in 1908) was very much part of British imperial calculus during WWI.  And most of that oil was exported through the Shatt-al-Arab river to the Persian gulf.  Since the western banks of the Shatt-al-Arab were Ottoman Iraq, there was always a threat of oil flow disruption were Iraq to fall under enemy control.
Absolutely. Point well taken. I was simply keeping focus on Iraq specifically.

I'm glad everybody(so far) has understood my last sentence about dates as a joke. The story of modern Iraq is about oil - but only partially. More later.

Stuart, the chart that catches my eye from the technical point of view is that showing Iraqi production from 2000.  This seems to show a trend of falling tops (parallel to your average line) which from a chartists point of view may suggest a bear market in Iraqi production.

Any idea what the latest Iraqi production figures are?

Here's an Iraq graph I drew the other day:

Click to enlarge
This is an intriguing graph.  Anyone know why it is seasonal?  The lows appear to coincide with February/March.  Coldest part of the year?
If that trend line simply follows the totals of casualties then it can do nothing but go up, making it rather useless for discussion. So what is that trendline tracking anyway? Some explanation may be in order, please.
Obviously it is not.
It's just a linear trendline of the monthly data. Nothing to do with the cumulative total that stands at a little over 2,700 now.
  1. Thank you more than I can say for your efforts on behalf of TOD.
  2. You are way smarter than I am. To do lattice guage theory without four years of intensive tutoring would be completely beyond me. I estimate your Stanford Binet I.Q. at 186.
  3. However, it seems to me that you have committed a huge fallacy of lack of proportion.


What is the news today?

150+ people killed in India.

Killed by whom?

By Muslim terrorists, a.k.a. Kashmiri "freedom fighters."

Taliban, al Qaida, Saddam Hussein, the revolutionary regime in Iran, do we begin to see a pattern here. Hmmmmm?

Pretty please with sugar on top, extend your graph back to 1940, when I was born and therefore history began:+)

What do we see?

Hitler races for Baku.

Stalin stops him.

Cost in lives? Who knows? Five to ten million? Who knows?

War between Iraq and Iran started and continued mostly by the madman, Saddam. Cost in lives? Three million? Four million? More?

To me, what is now going on in Iraq is rather small potatoes compared to what has gone on before in quest of the oil fields.

I question the validity of focusing on one small slice of "instant history" to the exclusion of the bigger picture.

BTW, how many were killed today in Nigeria by the institutionalized violence of an utterly corrupt kleptocratic regime? 100? 300? Who knows? Does anybody care?

Please let us try to keep some perspective.

We can rant all we like at Yergin. His Pulitzer Prize winning book was a masterpiece.


May we live to see it.

Don -

I too have a keen appreciation of history. But by the same token, I also realize that history can provide only so much perspective on what is happening today, and no more.  Who said, "History doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes." (?)  It is just as much a trap to use historical events in an attempt to  predict the present as it is to ignore them.  No two events are ever exactly the same.

Yes, worse has gone on in Iraq before this current mess. But I think you have to look beyond that and realize that what we have here are the makings of a truly global conflict over oil. It's no longer just the Brits giving some wogs a taste of the grape; it's major global powers converging on the Middle East to fight over oil.  This time, they all have much more nasty toys with which to play.

So, in my opinion the situation in Iraq is not just more of the same Middle East unpleasantness, but rather the first round in a long and bloody global fight over oil.

Muslim extremists are merely a sideshow to the main event, and I think that down deep you know that. In fact, they are highly useful to the US, as they give the American people somebody to hate.

As far as 'peace' goes, the question is: whose peace?

The 'peace' the Israelis are trying to impose on the Palestinians (with the help of the US)?  Or maybe the  'peace' some other dominant group is trying to impose on some less powerful group?

Peace is relatively easy if there is a power imbalance. The Romans had peace by defeating everybody in the Mediterranean and subjegating them. Justice, however, is much more difficult and an entity in very short supply.  

I lived through World War Two.

The first game my mother played with me was "Refugee."

You know, hiding, like Anne Frank.

BTW, both my parents were Jews.

Because my mother was one, that makes me semitic.

I consider myself a brother to Palestineans as much as a brother to Israelis.

As Disraeli said:

"What is an Arab, but a Jew on horseback?"

He had a good point there.

Worse atrocities have been committed in the past - that doesn't make the ones happening now any better, and the things in the past are finished, their outcomes determined and unchangeable.  What is happening now is as yet unfinished.

The fact that the world is full of people doing terrible things to other people does not make this issue any less important, and this issue is relevant because of it's relationship to oil, as well as the points joule makes about coming oil wars.  There may well be others.

Why is it that Americans can't get the basic facts about Muslims and M.E. politics straight so that they won't get so easily manipulated by the Neo-Cons and their Fox News "experts" again?  Here is the one minute lesson of why the following "bad Muslims" have nothing to do with each other.

  1.  Arab nationalists or Nasserites -- this includes ex-Iraqi leader Saddam, and the Syrian government.  They are extremely secular (i.e. against "Islamists") and "revolutionary" in the anti-colonialist sense of the word.  This category used to include Qaddafi of Libya.

  2.  The Muslim Brotherhood -- these are the original "Islamists" and date back to before Nasser.  They have been brutally suppressed by Arab Nationalists everywhere from Algeria to Syria.  As Sunni Islamists, Hamas can be considered ideological heirs.

  3.  Wahabi Islamists -- here is your new wave Islamists whose Egyptian side may have its roots in Muslim Brotherhood but are really the product of the CIA/Saudi/Pakistani effort to fight Russians in Afghanistan.  Here is your al-Qaida, and the Islamist side of the Chechen and Kashmiri separatist movement.  It is unlikely that these groups would survive without support from the only Wahabi country in the world, Saudi Arabia.  The Wahabis consider Shiites heretics.  So even implying a Hezbollah/Iran connection with Wahabi groups is rediculous.

  4.  Islamic republic of Iran -- the theocracy is Shi'ite.  It's much more liberal than the Wahabi theorcracy of Saudi Arabia (e.g. women vote, can be lawyers, and most leaders are elected). They have been supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon since the early 80's.  In Afghanistan, they supported the Northern Alliance against the Taleban.  Tweleve of their diplomats in Afghanistan were massacred by al-Qaida when their consulate in Mezar-e-shareef was over run in 1998, and a few others in Karachi, Pakistan, in the mid-90's.  Iran could rightly make the case that it was one of the first victim of al-Qaida.

Okay, so not a complete analysis, but that's what libraries are for.  But you don't need to learn too much more to know lumping all Muslims together is stupid.
Are you by implication suggestiong that I made the mistake of "lumping all Arabs together"?

Them's is fighting words!

Horse manure at twenty paces?

Fire Temple

Thanks for this post - do you have some good sources on these differences to recommend for reading?  I feel that a good working knowledge of the differences will be important in helping to understand how/why events are, and will, unfold as they do in the Middle East.

Note: Lumping together is not all that uncommon a problem; consider the term 'Indo-Pakistani' - this was in the past a standard demographic marker (less so today) - obviously they are culturally/ethnically very distinct and treating them as a single entity was rather rediculous.

Sure, there are a lot of good books on this topic.  

Bernard Lewis's THE MIDDLE EAST is an easy read and quite informative for its size.  Sandra Mckey's first book titled THE SAUDIS, and her second book THE IRANIANS are also good.  

But if you really want to get into the head of the Iranian men of the Iran-Iraq war generation, i.e. people like Ahmadinejad who fought in it, read Christopher de Bellaigue's IN THE ROSE GARDEN OF MARTYRS.

On the Web, search for articles by Robert Fisk (Independent's Beirut correspondent) and Patrick Cockburn (same paper's Baghdad reporter) for excellent news and analysis filled with historic facts.

By and large, the consensus here at TOD seems to be that the real reason the US is in Iraq is to secure a strategic outpost in the heart of the Middle East so as to be in a position to control the future flow of oil in a manner favorable to the US and unfavorable to our rivals (read China). I fully agree with that.

However, I no longer believe that creating a stable government is necessarily the Bush regime's first priority in Iraq. Rather, I think the overriding goal is to establish a permanent, sustainable military presence of sufficient size so as to deter any other country's involvement in Iraq and to eventually secure the oil production infrastructure. The former is probably easier than the latter.

The very nature, size, and expense of these military bases as well as the grotesquely huge 'embassy' in the Green Zone clearly puts the lie to Bush regime claims that we will only stay in Iraq as long as it takes to get the job done. The Bush regime plans for us to be there for good, come hell or high water.

Now, there is the little problem of trying to reduce US casualties down to an 'acceptable' level and to reduce the steady erosion of men and matériel. So, it appears that the US is trying to reduce its presence in 'the street', so to speak and to stay  more in the background. Where military force is required, air power seems to be the preferred method of choice despite the inconvenience of civilian casualties.  A main priority is to create the perception among the American public that things are winding down as far as American military involvement. Therefore it's essential that American casualties show a decline, particularly in the run-up to the November congressional elections. Sort of a holding pattern.

So, I am beginning to think that maybe Bush-Chenney-Rumsfeld actually feel a certain amount of relief that Sunnis are fighting Shiites instead of both strongly united against the occupation.

It is sort of a modern version of the  British colonial attitude during the Victorian period: 'Let the bloody wogs kill each other; makes it easier for us!'  I think it has already been taken into account that Iraq will be chaos for many years, but as long as a US garrison can hunker down in its various 'Fort Apaches' in a reasonable stable manner and not incur too many casualties, Bush et al are willing to be in it for the long haul.

That's my read on the situation.  Now, I'll be the first to say that I don't believe it will work. It is very difficult and extremely expensive to maintain a permanent garrison in a country that is overtly hostile. Whereas insurgents might lack military might, they can be extremely resourceful when it comes to making life miserable for the occupiers.

 However, while all this chaos is taking place, I don't see a chance of Iraq's oil production infrastructure being built up. Who is going to be crazy enough to invest billions in an active war zone? Who's going to want to work in Iraq?  But I don't think that bothers the Bush regime, as  they probably view Iraq's oil as good as money in the bank, a vast asset that can be tapped at some later date when things eventually settle into some semblence of stability, be it a decade from now, or even two.

As I said, this is not about oil now; it's about oil well into the future. It is also about a critical move in our ongoing chess game with China. The US has landed a rook on a critical square and is going to play it for all it's worth.

For these reasons, I don't think there is the slightest possibility that the US will  leave Iraq. We might draw down our troop strength, but we are going to be planted there for better or worse. (It will be for worse.)  



Note that the Democratic Party plan is to base our troops "just over the horizon", be it at sea or friendly Gulf States and/or both.

Jack Greene -

Yes, I think the Democratic plan and the Republican plan are essentially the same.  It's just that the Democrats want to make it appear that we should be getting out, when in actual fact the people really pulling the strings have nothing of the sort in mind. It's all going to get mired in election-year politics. All we will see from here it out are illusions and lies.

That is why you hear little if any noise from the those considered to be presidential contenders about getting out of Iraq. 'We will get out when the job is done.'  Well, they all know that the job is never going to get done, so therefore we will be there forever.

Just over the horizon is better than being in the hornet's nest, but still the basic idea is the same; control access to Iraq because it has lots of oil.

In this global chess game, look for a clever gambit by the Chinese, who are, if nothing else, subtle and patient. If only the energy expended on all these machinations was put to good use!

I think the Chinese don't have a clever gambit.
Basically they blew it by hanging onto communism way to long.
They should have modernized year ago but did not.

Sure in the US in a powerdown scenario our population is going to split into the have and have not ( and more important never will )

But this is going to happen to everybody and countries like china and india with huge internal populations are not going to far well at all.

In a weird kinda of way we are all going to become like Brazil
for a long time. With a relatively small middle/upper class and a large poor population.

What peak oil represents to the masses once its understood is that
1.) Some of the have will become have nots
2.) Most peopel will become never will's

I think you will find the effect of billions becoming never will's will have a dramatic and negative effect on world politics.

Growth underpinned by cheap oil has kept a lot of potential problems at bay once everyone knows the party is over ?


You make a good point. But I am not as cynical as you. Call me naive.

If I was running for President, Senator, or possibly even Dog Catcher,  I would NOT want to say that I, as your (whatever), helped raise the price of gas and/or lose the source of oil for our (our is really not USA - READ world, certainly the 1st world, unless you are Russia or Canada) economy.

TOD people might want to look at THE FIRST WORLD WAR, vol. I, by Hew Strachan, specifically pages 774, 777-780. It is when the Turks woke up to the fact that Germany wanted to displace Britain in the oil-fields, not destroy them.

P.S. An error of fact on my part. Churchill did indeed push oil as a fuel harder with the Warspite class of battleships/DREADNOUGHTS in 1912. BUT Admiral Fisher was known as an "Oil Maniac"as far back as the 1880's. In 1913 the Brits secured a contact with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company to supply oil for the British, in large part for the all oil fueled Warspite class battleships, that did good service in both World Wars.

Oil was supplemental in the Dreadnought and other battleships in the 1906-1911 interlude.

That reminds me. Strachan's Vol.I is my next Great War read. Would you happen to know if he has published Vol. II? and I believe there was Vol.III planned as well, but I don't know what's doing. BTW, if you like WWI history, I mentioned Professor Fromkin earlier. He has written an excellent book, Europe's Last Summer, presenting his theory on the cause of the war. Fast read. He counts down the final 100 days to whatever it was - August _th. What day did it start? We know when it ended.
Oil CEO,

Only volume one of the three volumes is out so far. It is excellent though dense.

I am an old follower of GUNS OF AUGUST. One nice thing about history in this era is that some classics/excellent tomes are available on most any topic. My specialty being naval history has been particularly blessed and with ABEbooks and Amazon you can get just about anything.

I like that idea, actually.  It's worth a shot.

Clearly, we are not going to just walk away from the Middle East.  It's also pretty clear that what causes terrorism is occupation.  The Iraqis were never suicide bombers until we invaded.  It was U.S. military bases on Saudi soil that turned Osama into our enemy, when he used to be our ally.  And the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza has made Israel Terrorism Central.  

Maybe "just over the horizon" is the way to go.  What we're doing now sure ain't working.

What causes terrorism is occupation?


You mean the occupation of part of Kashmir by India?
You mean the nonoccupation by Israel of Lebanon?
You mean  "      "          "   "     "  Gaza after they withdrew?

I find your statement questionable.

{Even Homer nods.}

I agree, I think the real enemy in Iraq is China.  Of course, that requires little insight from me (I read their book).  

In general, people are capable of incredible cruelty (call it evil if you want), and that goes for everyone.  The powerful don't give a crap how much suffering is caused, either for their own people or to other, as long as it serves their interests.  They will do exactly whatever they can get away with, period - no rules, no laws no morals.  We will leave Iraq only when we are forced to.  We will attack Iran if we can get away with it.  Israel will stop what they are doing to the Palestinians when they are forced to.  This is the way things have always been, because that's how humans behave if societies don't make limits.  

However, a society can control those with the worst behavior (the Cheneys and Bushes that show up in every society) by a system of rules and laws.  With a reasonable filtering system, such people should never be able to get into power - but our system has collapsed.  It was a decent system for a while, at least for some groups, and it was being expanded to include more and more people, but it was always under attack from within by the powerful and moneyed.  Now we have given up, and we are just like every other group of powerful despots.

This is what's really going to happen:


Rats, 2007 is the beginning of my prime earning years.


The sad truth is that we will be distracted from the two issues that really matter (global warming and peak oil) with the various sideshows of Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, etc. ad nauseum, in other words the typical and constant drumbeat of resource wars.

If we should be so unlucky as to create the techno-utopia better known as glow and go, or Nukeville to some, we will just make the whole problem that much more interesting and stupifyingly worse.

I am afraid that the planetary self-correcting mechnisms are just now kicking in and all of the petty squabbling will become really high pitched as the majority of the population dies off in a festival of starvation, war, and disease. The only people left will, like cockroaches, be the engineers who sit around arguing about the best way to get rid of four billion corpses.

God bless the twits who believe that governments go to war for abstractions like "democracy" or "freedom." Without them, who would watch the constant parade of talent shows and reality programming?

The cockroaches will probably help with those 4 billion corpses... Munch, munch...

And the engineers can work on many cockroach-based recipes to suppliment a diet of aging MREs and canned soup. Cocroach clusters come to mind. ;o)

So engineers are cockroaches now is it?  Pretty broad brush, don't you think - do you really think all engineers are the same?  In all of your negative, accusatory comments, I cannot recall ever reading about your plan.  I'm sure you must have one, and I'd like to hear it.  

What shall we do, as a species and a society, to survive as the fossil fuels we grown dependant on are depleted?  How can this be done with no technology input from the dreaded cockroaches, and yet without massive dieoff?

I'm curious how you've come to the conclusion that engineers will be the last ones standing?  It's absurd on the face of it, as engineers are not highly valued or respected in today's society, and never were as far as I know.  We're just workers, no more important to the wealthy than English instructors, journalists, or oil field workers.  Certainly a step below managers, or anyone who works with money.

Can you honestly say that the things you've done in your life so far have not been more damaging to the environment than the things I've done?  How do you know?  For what it's worth, I believe that it's not the things I've done as an Engineer that have been the big contributor to climate change and environmental damage, but rather the simple acts of living as an American - all the energy use and the problems that creates.  What exactly is it that YOU have done, or are doing, that gives you the moral standing to cast stones?  

Aye, Twilight, I understand your misreading...

I meant that the cockroaches would be eating the corpses, and the engineers would likely be eating the cockroaches (as there would be little available food). A bit of dark humor.

I am close friends with many professional engineers (electrical and aeronautical). I meant no disrespect. Sorry...


Woilf, I had no problems with your comment (I can recognize humor!), my reply was to Cherenkov's original.


On a related note, my feelings about what will really happen in the near future are somewhat simply put:

Since Peak Oil is a geologically-based natural calamity (catastrophe, disaster), factors that determine who lives and dies during the expected Peak-Oil-triggered "historical dislocation" will be largely random. One can be well-prepared, and succumb to a new disease, or a nuclear blast. There's also dealing with all the potential civil unrest as people go hungry. I think things have the potential to get very, very ugly, and those who make it through the dislocation will be a strongly varied bunch, due to a strong random element to who lives and dies. Fortune does not present gifts according to the book.

I think, among those who are thoughtful about the potential disruptions involved with Peak Oil, those who are rich or poor, prepared or unprepared, armed or unarmed, etc., are almost certainly equally worried. There are no guarantees.

Speaking of Cockroaches;

Meanwhile, a cockroach watches, thinking to himself, "What a shame, because at the height of their culture these guys made a damned good peanut butter sandwich."

Dang!!! The above post got in to far down thread to make any sense.  

This stupid browser is trying to load something it just keeps on running, making it hard to post.  

anybody know what is? that's whats keeping it running.

For a great many people around the world, of whom I am one, the US will be a pariah state until its troops leave Iraq.
Did you mean you are one of the people who believes "the US will be a pariah state" or that you are one of the people from "around the world".

This statement is extremely vague regarding your own views. As far as people around the world viewing the US as a pariah state. What else is new? The sky is blue, too.

China, Russia, Iraq, Iran... Afghanistan are such fine places. God knows we wouldn't what those people thinking badly of us.

Does anybody know if illegal immigration to the United States from the rest of this world that views us as "pariahs" is actually down since these people started viewing us as pariahs. Or are you just going to skip to the tired economic argument. That people flock here in droves so that they can feed their families. Try me. Try a new argument. Try anything.

Damn! I told myself I was going to ignore you. Oh well.

Exactly. International relations is not a popularity contest. Smekhovo's fuming is not going to bother a single American.

It is interesting to see what gets some people worked up. If the U.S. or six million Jews in Israel do anything in their best interest they are pariah states. If the Chinese support genocide in Darfur, Russian flatten Chechnia, or North Koreans terrorize anyone they can the U.S. also must be to blame somehow.

The funniest part is at the end of these silly rants, they often say "And why isn't anyone listening to me."

Few people value your attention, trolls, and I am certainly not one of them. We'll see how your national narcissism works out for you in the future.
If you want to contribute to the discussion, please list the sovereign states that China, Russia or North Korea have attacked in the last fifteen years.
Aha. The troll card. The first refuge of those that fear a contrary opinion.
You valued the attention. So much so, you responded. Jack's not a national, and I just live here. I'm a citizen of the world. You live in St. Petersburg. You've claimed not to be a Russian. I don't know what you are. I suspect a bored KGB analyst on a Gazprom payroll. How close?
You people get your satisfaction from having elicited a response, without making any contribution to the debate. That's what trolls are all about.
Hello Smekhovo,

I, for one, am an American, who greatly fears for the '3 Days of the Condor' Scenario-- a disaster for the Planet.

Americans, if truly honest with themselves, have a moral obligation to lead the world in proactive Detritus Powerdown.  5% of the world pop. burning 25% of the FFs is untenable-- tantamount to us purposely leaving the global house's front door open during a bitterly cold winter while we safely bask in the luxuriant heat of a large indoor jacuzzi spa.

My many speculative postings on Foundation provide a possible mechanism to drive mitigation.  I believe predictive collapse and directed decline can be harnessed to the general benefit of all, and help preclude much violence.  ASPO's Energy Depletion Protocols is an excellent starting point for all world leaders to rally around as we go postPeak.  Hopefully, it will come up at the G8 Conference.

Americans should gladly embrace conservation and reform our institutions, policies, and lifestyle designs for the inevitable paradigm shift.  This induced progression, to when we ultimately achieve FF burning of only 5% of the world total or less, can allow huge energetic benefits to other countries around the globe to ease their own Powerdown transitions.  Americans moving from burning 20 millions barrels/day to 4 million barrels/day could be easily accomplished if we really put our collective hearts and minds into this endeavor, and it should be preferable to having Nature and/or other exporting countries impose it upon us at some later date.

Dieoff will be a global phenomenon; virtually no country will escape.  Natural Justice will be evenly applied by immutable entropic processes, we don't need to make it worse by primitively resorting to resource wars, or the full-on nuclear gift exchange.  Foundation can provide a prescriptive roadmap to anticipating and harnessing entropy to justifiably ease the coming natural suffering of Billions.

Yeast are all equals inside the bottle, and all equally suffer the same fate.  Foundation, properly applied, would collapse the detritus-driven humanimal ecosystem back into the natural ecosystem, re-equalizing us as much as possible, yet still allow the maximum sustainable growth of biosolar Powerup, knowledge retention, and the protection of other lifeforms.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Two recent polls gave a disturbing insight into the psychology of too many Americans. In one, 40% thought they - they themselves - would by the end of their lives be among the richest 1% of the population! In the other, 20% thought they - they themselves - would be killed in a terrorist attack!  Put those two groups together, and the majority of people in the US seem to be suffering from a form of narcissistic personality disorder. No wonder there are so many trolls.
Sounds like you've bought into armed unilateralism.

Certainly shrewd multilateralism, in a country's own best interest, builds on international respect.

When you can't get that ... you can complain that international relations is not a popularity contest, and expand the military budget.

I think you are reading an awful lot into my post that isn't there. I merely said that doing what is best for the U.S. and doing what they world supports may not always be the same thing. The U.S., like every country on the planet, would be wrong design a foriegn policy by global referendum.

I think armed unilateralism is at very best a last resort. In that sense it represents a failure to develop better options. I did not complain nor suggest any expansion of the military budget.

I think you are falling into a common trap at TOD, interpreting a small argument with a point as all out advocacy of the opposite point.

If I say the U.S. isn't the sole evil in the entire world, it doesn't imply that I think the U.S., or its policies, is all good.  

It is not a binary world.


I had a hard time with the paragraph, to be honest:

It is interesting to see what gets some people worked up. If the U.S. or six million Jews in Israel do anything in their best interest they are pariah states. If the Chinese support genocide in Darfur, Russian flatten Chechnia, or North Koreans terrorize anyone they can the U.S. also must be to blame somehow.

I mean, where were you going with "anything in their best interest"?

Sorry if I got it wrong.  Consider my post a flag for anyone out there who interprets "anything" as "anything" ;-)

The point is that the world disproportionately reacts to activities of the U.S. (and Israel). Perhaps I should have written that the two countries are held to different standards than others.

I am not a lawyer and am posting here for fun. I don't print and proof read every post as I would if I were publishing a book. I think by concentrating on the one word rather than the clear intention of my posts you are trying to be oppositional, rather than trying to see if there is agreement to be reached. :)

It's hard to track who's who.  I was going by that one post, sorry.
Thanks. The points I am struggling to make are:

  1. There are times when the interests of the US (or any other country) diverge from the global concensus of what is right. In other words no country could be run by a referendum of other countries.

  2. The level of public/media interest in a given event is not perfectly correlated to the importance of that event. Just because the world focusses on something doesn't mean it is the most important event going on.

I am not trying to defend all of the activities of either the US or Israel, or to claim that they are without fault. Rather I am trying to say that all countries have good and bad points and all should be judged on an equal criteria. Actually I only brought Israel into it because I do think that Israel's wrongs are disproportionately noticed, not to claim they are without wrong.

I do think that the US comes in for a lot of blame for its pursuit of oil, much deserved. However, I think an equal level of scrutiny applied to China, France, Russia and others would show that they are no cleaner, except perhaps in scale.

I agree.  Maybe I see the "popularity contest" as a useful signal though.  It isn't the end measure.  It isn't the goal.

But when we fall in the eyes of other liberal democracies ... we should at least ask ourselves "is the ol' moral compass still pointing in the right direction?"

I agree both as a broad principal and in relation to the current state of affairs. I do think the poor showing of the US in the current "popularity contest" is indicative of an errant moral compass.  I shouldn't have implied that that global support, particulary from other liberal democracies, is not important.
Hmm - I get pissed off at what the US is doing because IT'S MY COUNTRY!  Of course there are other countries doing horrible things, always have been.  But that excuses nothing about what we do.  Explain how what the Chinese are doing in Darfur, or the Israelis are doing in Gaza justifies what we are doing in Iraq.

You can argue that the decline in our international reputation is not real or means nothing, but that is hogwash.  In real terms, it means we are less likely to prevail through diplomacy (i.e. talking and bargaining) and therefore more likely to resort to force.  Or just lose.

Twilight said: "I get pissed off at what the US is doing because IT'S MY COUNTRY!"

Excellent point. This is fair. No wrongs that China is engaging in justify U.S. wrongs, which I agree exist.

I do think that the decline in the U.S. reputation, caused by Bush's personality and politics, is meaningful and bad.

Much criticism of the U.S. is right and fair. However much is not.

Americans ignore criticism in part because they (we) are arrogant and self-righteous. But Americans also ignore citicism because they perceive it is unbalanced and holds the U.S. to far higher standards than any other country.

The U.S. is dragged through the coals for things that other countries don't even get slapped on the wrist for.

A future government of the U.S. will hopefully abandon much of self-destructive idiocy of the Bush administration. But they will still have to take some unpopular stands to protect U.S. interests - like every country does.

I know two Canadians (sure that there are many more) who refuse to visit the US (one passed on a conference that I had seen him at in years past) since the Iraw invasion and for "as least as long as Bush, or Cheney, is in office".

Lost $ for our Balance of Trade and economy.

I don't know Stuart but from his posts he seems a sensitive bloke and I think his aim was just to provoke discussion about realistic assessment of future Iraqi oil production.
I believe he is fully aware of the suffering.
What makes me uneasy is the confidence of posters that they have solutions or think they know the likely course of events.
I agree that history may give us some guide but I think Americans might listen a little more to people from nations that have actually lived this history.
I find it hard to believe that a Brookings poll will provide much illumination.
Methinks that not too many people were interviewed in Al Anbar or even East Baghdad.
One thing we do know is what happened to some of Iraq's oil after the invasion.
Mar 03 prod 1370kbd US imports 681kbd
Apr 03 prod 53kbd US imports 739kbd
May 03 prod 292kbd US imports 128kbd
The US sucked them dry.
Also when the poor people of the US were having difficulty
in maintaining their lifestyle after Katrina the people of Iraq shipped 10kbd of refined product to the US in Sept 05
and 14kbd in Oct 05.
If oil production does rise in Iraq and people are still queueing for petrol and paying many multiples of pre-war price how much stability are we likely to have then?