The US military has drawn up detailed plans to secure and protect Iraq’s oilfields to prevent a repeat of 1991 when President Saddam set Kuwait’s wells ablaze.
The US state department and Pentagon disclosed the preparations during a meeting in Washington before Christmas with members of the Iraqi opposition parties.
Iraq has the second biggest known oil reserves in the world producing, in their current run-down state, about 1.5m barrels a day. But experts contacted by the Guardian predict this could rise to 6m barrels a day within five years with the right investment and control.
At the meeting, on the future of a post-Saddam Iraq – details of which have been disclosed to the Guardian – the state department stressed that protection of the oilfields was “issue number one”.
One of those at the meeting said the military claimed that a plan to protect the multibillion oil wells was “already in place”, hinting that special forces will secure key installations at the start of any ground campaign.
Despite mounting international opposition to a war on Iraq, the Bush administration says it is confident it will have international support if it opts for force to disarm Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
“I don’t think we will have to worry about going it alone”, American Secretary of State Colin Powell said, expressing the hope that differences could be overcome.
France and Germany have expressed strong resistance to military action, and China and Russia on Thursday both voiced deep reservations.
Amid the unease over Iraq, the US Government is stepping up its case for tougher action against Saddam.
In a key speech in New York, US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz recited a long list of instances in which, he said, Iraq was still lying about and concealing its weapons programmes.
“Today we know from multiple sources that Saddam has ordered any scientist who cooperates during interviews will be killed, as well as their families,” Mr Wolfowitz said.
Photo: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz briefs reporters at the Pentagon about the on-going campaign against the al Qaeda terrorist organization and the military capability of Taliban regime in Afghanistan (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)