US uses Saudi Arabia to expand influence in Iraq

Since its occupation of Iraq in 2003 began to turn sour, the United States has led rearguard action against Iran, cementing its influence in the neighboring state, with opportunistic help from the United States. Russia initially, then China as well. This rearguard action initially involved the United States granting Iraq tens of billions of dollars in financial aid, most of which ended in offshore bank accounts of various officials and did nothing to stop Iran’s extension of its power to all levels of Iraq’s political and economic infrastructure. Then the United States tried to tie financial aid to specific goals, including Iraq by halting its long-standing imports of gas and electricity from Iran, but this had no effect. neither, Iraq having recently accepted huge funding on the grounds that it stop these imports from Iran, then sign the longest agreement ever signed with Tehran to continue them. Now, however, the United States is looking to expand on an idea that came years ago from its own State Department, which is to continue to provide financial assistance to Iraq but critically tie it to Iraq by allowing large American companies to participate in key in-depth projects. in the country’s oil and gas and related infrastructure. Complementing this is getting on-the-ground support from Saudi Arabia, still pretty much an ally of the United States and Iran’s archenemy in the region, which is the origin of the announcement last week of a series of Saudi plans to be rolled out. out in Iraq.

Generally speaking, Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the United States is a much less secure on both sides than it was before the Kingdom launched the first oil price war in 2014 aimed at destroying or at least seriously deactivating the then nascent American shale oil industry. Nonetheless, from a Saudi perspective, the United States is proverbially the only game in town when it comes to stopping Iran’s plans for regional domination, so much media fanfare has been generated that the Saudi oil giant , Aramco, is in talks with various Iraqi ministries for billions. in energy, electricity, water and petrochemical contracts dollars. According to Iraqi Petroleum Minister Ihsan Ismail, one of the elements of this initiative is that Aramco concludes an agreement to explore and develop gas fields in the western desert of the country. understands that the provisional agreement for these gas contracts was concluded more than a month ago and that, within this framework, the Ministry of Petroleum also started at that time serious 2D and 3D exploration work at Anbar and in Nineveh. Additional contracts between Saudi Arabia and Iraq, Ihsan said last week, could be made with the Kingdom’s ACWA Power to build clean energy, solar and water desalination plants in the country. Since Saudi Arabia itself has only recently made it known that it is interested in receiving offers with local and international companies for the construction of its own desalination plants, we can deduce that the contracts carried out by ACWA Power in Iraq are likely to also include a strong participation of American companies.

In establishing why the United States thinks it is necessary to use Saudi Arabia in such a way as to wrest Iraq from Iran, rather than doing everything itself, it is essential to note two policy points. interior. First, the electorally powerful ultranationalism practiced by the de facto Iraq’s leader, the radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, is particularly fierce when it comes to the United States, having spent years leading a bloody counterinsurgency against the American “occupation.” let him see her. Although al-Sadr clearly knows that the United States is behind Saudi Arabia’s sudden desire to invest in Iraq, he can still tell his supporters of the “Sairoon” faction (“Marching Forward That the money comes from another Arab state. In addition, ahead of the 2018 parliamentary elections, al-Sadr visited the Sunni Islamic State of Saudi Arabia, as well as a longtime U.S. ally, the United Arab Emirates. Second, there has been a drastic change over the past three or four years, especially in the prospects of at least one of the sons of the very influential Hakim family in Iraq – namely, the second son, Ammar. Contrary to his family’s pro-Iran stance, led by his iconic father, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who headed the Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council before his death in 2009, Ammar al-Hakim stepped down from the council in 2017 and created a new political party, the National Wisdom Movement. This party was, and remains, based on non-sectarian values ​​and, as al-Hakim said at the time: because Iraq should be at peace with itself.

In tandem with Saudi Arabia’s initiatives are a host of new agreements from the United States itself. These include completed or pending transactions for Schlumberger and Halliburton, analyzed here by Oil chauffage, and before that, a series of intermittent agreements related to the development of the Iraqi gas sector, and aimed specifically at ending the country’s dependence on Iranian power, analyzed here by Oil Octobers. It remains to be seen whether any of them will ultimately succeed in driving Iraq away from Iran, China and Russia, although historical precedents do not support it. In fact, the success of the current US initiative in Iraq is inversely correlated with whether or not a new nuclear deal is concluded with Iran. As it stands, without a deal, Iran’s ability to influence Iraq is severely constrained by its lack of dollars or gold to “encourage” the pro-Iranian activities of Iraqi politicians and to pay them off. pro-Iranian paramilitary groups in the country. However, with a new nuclear deal, Iran would see a rapid influx of cash, the flow of “influence money” would resume in Iraq, and the United States would again be ostracized.

By Simon Watkins for OilUSD

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