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Daily Column
US Papers Thu: Saddam Woried Most About Iran
BP-Led Oil Consortium Faces Challenges in Iraq
By DANIEL W. SMITH 07/02/2009 10:00 AM ET
Not a great deal of news from Iraq today, but we really can’t complain. There’s been plenty lately. Declassified accounts of FBI interviews with Saddam Hussein shed light on the questions of WMD and links to al-Qaeda, and a British/Chinese partnership will be a test case for foreign oil companies in Iraq.

Saddam Hussein
Glenn Kessler reports stateside for the Washington Post, about FBI summaries of 20 formal interrogations and five "casual conversations" it held with Saddam Hussein in 2004, before he was handed over to Iraqi custody and hanged in 2006. They were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the National Security Archive, an independent non-governmental research institute.

According to the transcripts, Hussein told FBI interviewer George L. Piro that he allowed the world to believe he possessed weapons of mass destruction because he did not want to appear weak to Iran, and that he believed Iran was planning to annex south Iraq. He also said he had no dealings with al-Qaeda, and called Osama bin Laden a “zealot.”
Hussein noted that Iran's weapons capabilities had increased dramatically while Iraq's weapons "had been eliminated by the UN sanctions," and that eventually Iraq would have to reconstitute its weapons to deal with that threat if it could not reach a security agreement with the United States.

Piro raised bin Laden in his last conversation with Hussein, on June 28, 2004, but the information he yielded conflicted with the Bush administration's many efforts to link Iraq with the terrorist group. Hussein replied that throughout history there had been conflicts between believers of Islam and political leaders. He said that "he was a believer in God but was not a zealot . . . that religion and government should not mix." Hussein said that he had never met bin Laden and that the two of them "did not have the same belief or vision."

When Piro noted that there were reasons why Hussein and al-Qaeda should have cooperated -- they had the same enemies in the United States and Saudi Arabia -- Hussein replied that the United States was not Iraq's enemy, and that he simply opposed its policies.
Oil
The Wall Street Journal’s Gina Chon in Baghdad and Guy Chazan back home write that the BP and PLC-led consortium that has won the rights to rehabilitate Iraq’s Rumaila oil field, one of the world’s largest, has yet to clear what could be its biggest hurdles. Though Iraq's cabinet officially approved the offer on Wednesday, future uncertainties include the fact that an Iraqi hydrocarbon law has still never been passed.
Other major oil concerns, such as Exxon Mobil Corp., ConocoPhillips and Italy's Eni SpA, walked away from the bidding round this week, saying the ministry's terms -- in some cases payouts of as little as $2 per barrel of oil pumped -- weren't acceptable. Still, big oil companies, eager for new frontiers, will likely remain interested in Iraq, home to some of the world's largest reserves. India's ONGC; China's CNOOC and China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., or Sinopec; Korea Gas Corp., or Kogas; and Russia's OAO Lukoil and OAO Gazprom all were involved in the failed bids on Tuesday.

...The project won't have a big impact on the value of BP's global portfolio, with the rates of return marginal and the upfront costs high, said Alex Munton, an Iraq specialist at oil consultancy Wood Mackenzie.
"But this is still a viable project economically," he said. "And where else in the world can you access an opportunity on this scale?"

Opinion
Wall Street Journal op-ed contributor Karl Rove writes about the Krissoff family, which he calls remarkable for exemplifying “the best in the American spirit of courage and sacrifice.” He first met them while accompanying President Bush in a meeting with them in 2007, after their son, a serviceman, died in Iraq.
We entered a small room in the back of the convention center to find the Krissoffs waiting -- the father in a black suit with his arms crossed and the mother in a plain dark outfit. Their dress contrasted with their son Austin's Marine dress uniform. Like his older brother, Austin had volunteered for service after college. He was to be deployed to Iraq in March 2008.

...When stories had been told, tears wept, and grief expressed, Mr. Bush asked if he could do anything. At that, Bill Krissoff spoke. "Yes," he said. "I'm a pretty good orthopedic surgeon. When my younger son is deployed to Iraq next March, I would like to be working as a Navy medical officer, but they won't let me because I am 61 years old. Will you give me an age waiver, Mr. President?"
Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, New York Times, no Iraq coverage.

Comments on the US Papers roundup are welcome at dwsmithemail@yahoo.com


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