Move to control Iraqi
oil warps altruistic motives


The Bush administration seeks sweeping authority over Iraq's oil fields and their revenues.

A RESOLUTION offered to the U.N. Security Council that would grant the United States broad authority over Iraq's oil industry and financial resources undermines the credibility of repeated assertions by the Bush administration that it has no interest in gaining control of the lucrative oil fields.

Absent stronger roles for the United Nations and for Iraqi representation, the U.S. resolution risks further division in the international community and at home. However, the administration has shrugged off such concerns before, not allowing its attention toward revamping Iraq to be diverted.

The resolution, which also seeks elimination of international sanctions on Iraq, would remove control of the country's oil wealth from the U.N. and turn it over to the United States and its coalition allies. An international advisory board, which would include the U.N., would be allowed oversight, but little power, while a transitional Iraqi government would be granted a mere consultative role.

Under the administration's plans, all of Iraq's current and future oil revenue would be placed in a trust fund, with the United States and its allies having the sole power to spend it until an "Iraqi government is properly constituted," the determination of which may take years. Although the money is to be used for "purposes benefiting the people of Iraq," the resolution leaves open the possibility of the United States tapping the revenue to finance the war.

The resolution moves far beyond the administration's previous statements affirming that the oil and revenues "belong to the Iraqi people." In addition, it fuels suspicions among America's critics that U.S. purposes for going to war encompassed more than the altruistic goals of freedom and democracy for an oppressed nation. Although gaining control of Iraq's resources does not negate America's political benevolence, the administration's deep ties to the U.S. oil industry and its recent awards of lucrative sole-bid contracts to companies with administration connections paint a darker undertone.

The resolution could face opposition if France and Russia resist approval, which they see as lending validity to a war outside U.N. sanctions. If so, the administration is not likely to lose any sleep over it.

The United States has acknowledged that the U.N. should play a "vital role" in rebuilding Iraq, but the hallmark of the administration has been to "go it alone." Although bearing solely the cost of restoring a government and a viable economy for the conquered nation would have been tremendous, it appears President Bush has found a way to finance it. Still, it is important for the United States' position in the global community to repair damaged relationships, and this resolution may not help.



Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Frank Teskey, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor, 529-4791;
Michael Rovner, Assistant Editor, 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor, 529-4762;

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4748;

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