But it wasn't about the oil. Not at all.
On blogs where the Bush administration's proposed "security framework agreement" with Iraq has been discussed, the question has come up of why the July 31st deadline. My answer has been electoral politics: An agreement that extends the U.S. military presence indefinitely is the "victory" and "success" that the regime would like to show for its policy, and that McCain can run on.
But if it's not politics, it's business, Bush's base. Today's New York Times business section brings the news that four oil majors are close to returning to Iraq, having almost wrapped up negotiations on no-bid foothold contracts:
Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP — the original partners in the Iraq Petroleum Company — along with Chevron and a number of smaller oil companies, are in talks with Iraq’s Oil Ministry for no-bid contracts to service Iraq’s largest fields, according to ministry officials, oil company officials and an American diplomat.
The deals, expected to be announced on June 30, will lay the foundation for the first commercial work for the major companies in Iraq since the American invasion, and open a new and potentially lucrative country for their operations. [emphasis added]
So there'll be plenty for President Obama's residual force to do:
Any Western oil official who comes to Iraq would require heavy security, exposing the companies to all the same logistical nightmares that have hampered previous attempts, often undertaken at huge cost, to rebuild Iraq’s oil infrastructure.
And work in the deserts and swamps that contain much of Iraq’s oil reserves would be virtually impossible unless carried out solely by Iraqi subcontractors, who would likely be threatened by insurgents for cooperating with Western companies.