Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq

Overview


The departure of the last U.S. troops from Iraq at the end of 2011 left a broken country and a host of unanswered questions. What was the war really about? Why and how did the occupation drag on for nearly nine years, while most Iraqis, Britons, and Americans desperately wanted it to end? And why did the troops have to leave?

Now, in a gripping account of the war that dominated U.S. foreign policy over the last decade, investigative journalist Greg Muttitt takes us behind the ...

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Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq

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Overview


The departure of the last U.S. troops from Iraq at the end of 2011 left a broken country and a host of unanswered questions. What was the war really about? Why and how did the occupation drag on for nearly nine years, while most Iraqis, Britons, and Americans desperately wanted it to end? And why did the troops have to leave?

Now, in a gripping account of the war that dominated U.S. foreign policy over the last decade, investigative journalist Greg Muttitt takes us behind the scenes to answer some of these questions and reveals the heretofore-untold story of the oil politics that played out through the occupation of Iraq. Drawing upon hundreds of unreleased government documents and extensive interviews with senior American, British, and Iraqi officials, Muttitt exposes the plans and preparations that were in place to shape policies in favor of American and British energy interests. We follow him through a labyrinth of clandestine meetings, reneged promises, and abuses of power; we also see how Iraqis struggled for their own say in their future, in spite of their dysfunctional government and rising levels of violence. Through their stories, we begin to see a very different Iraq from the one our politicians have told us about.

In light of the Arab revolutions, the war in Libya, and renewed threats against Iran, Fuel on the Fire provides a vital guide to the lessons from Iraq and of the global consequences of America’s persistent oil addiction.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this provocative study, journalist and activist Muttitt, former co-director of the London advocacy group Platform and policy director for the antipoverty organization War on Want, weaves a narrative of “how the struggles for control of Iraq’s oil shaped events during the occupation.” Drawing on U.S. and U.K. government documents obtained under Freedom of Information statutes and interviews with government officials and “ordinary Iraqis,” the author claims that U.S. efforts in Iraq were tailored to “help the oil companies” at the expense of Iraqis. To that end, he charges that U.S. policy sowed the seeds of sectarianism among Iraqis—an “alien sectarian politics and discourse” that the “Iraqis quickly rejected.” Muttitt goes to great length to show that U.S. officials tried to shape a new oil law that favored international companies, although most Iraqis wanted to keep control of the country’s oil in the public sector. He also insinuates that Centcom Commander Adm. William Fallon resorted to strong-arm tactics to force Iraqi acquiescence. Whatever its merits and intentions, the American effort to secure an oil law failed. After repeated questioning of U.S. motives, Muttitt concludes that political psychology, not conspiracy, explains the U.S. approach: officials genuinely believed that what is good for America is good for Iraq. (July)
From the Publisher

"A painstaking piece of investigative reporting with 48 pages of footnotes, based on documents released under freedom of information legislation and interviews with Iraqis, [Fuel on the Fire] gives the best account yet of a hitherto under-reported story."
Financial Times
Kirkus Reviews
The former co-director of Platform, a London-based group devoted to combating the harmful influences of transnational corporations, unravels Iraq's oil politics. In this well-reported debut, Muttitt never insists that oil was the sole motive for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. As both an activist and freelancer, he makes his sympathies plain from the beginning, but he rejects crude conspiracy theories in favor of a more subtle take: that the occupiers genuinely saw themselves as liberators, never acknowledging their own self-interest in securing an energy supply. Still, the British and Americans acted in precisely the manner expected of imperial powers, particularly when it came to the oil sector, installing dubious allies in government and industry, starving domestic institutions of resources and authority, and stoking political divisions among the indigenous opposition. Muttitt relies on his own deep familiarity with the region, damning documents made available by the Freedom of Information Act, and interviews with numerous Iraqi oil experts and government officials to demonstrate the centrality of oil to the war's planning and execution, to explain the chaotic first months of occupation (ever wonder why the Ministry of Oil was the sole public building unlooted or unburned?), and the many missteps of the Coalition Provisional Authority. Follow the oil, Muttitt advises, to fully understand the years of sectarian violence, the tortuous formation of the deeply flawed permanent government, the thwarted attempt to privatize an oil industry 30 years nationalized, and the handoff from occupying powers to armed security forces of the big oil companies. Throughout, the author displays an exquisite sensitivity and a deep respect for the resilience of the Iraqis and the sophistication of their oil industry before its gutting by the occupation. He's contemptuous of today's scramble for profits among the likes of ExxonMobil, BP and Shell. No, the war wasn't only about oil, but as one State Department adviser asked, "What did Iraq have that we would like to have? It wasn't the sand." There will be readers who disagree with Muttitt's thesis. They will now be obliged to marshal similarly convincing evidence.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595588050
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 7/3/2012
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author


Greg Muttitt is the former co-director of the campaigning charity Platform and has served as the campaigns and policy director for the antipoverty organization War on Want. His articles have appeared in The Guardian, the Financial Times, and The Independent, among other publications. He lives in London.
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Table of Contents

Cast of Characters xi

List of Abbreviations xv

Arabic and Kurdish Words in the Text xix

List of Iraqi Political Parties xxi

Introduction xxvii

Part 1 Oil and War (1998-2003)

1 An Immense Strategic Advantage 3

2 The Human at the Center 11

3 Burning Ambition 23

4 Wiping the Slate 40

5 Emergent Iraq 48

6 The Coalition Authority 58

Part 2 Democracy and Violence (2003-2006)

7 Invasion of the Chalabis 73

8 The Advisers 85

9 Anti-Iraqi Forces 95

10 The Hands of Iraqis 105

11 Now It Becomes Legal 119

12 Iraq Divided 131

Part 3 The Oil Law Struggle (2006-2007)

13 A Law to End All Laws 145

14 The Pragmatist 158

15 The Laurel Lodge Plan 166

16 The Surge 177

17 A Line in the Sand 185

18 The Ticking Clock 195

19 Imposing the Law 208

Part 4 Oil Companies on the Front Line (2007-2011)

20 The New Iraq 227

21 Overwatch 242

22 Talking Business 255

23 Under the Hammer 272

24 A Dirty Business 282

25 Winter and Spring 295

26 Another Regime Changed 311

Conclusion 319

Acknowledgments 331

Notes 335

Index 385

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