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IRAQ - Decision Makers.

There has been no change in the decision-making mechanism in Iraq since the UN imposed a total embargo on this country in August 1990, when Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait. This is despite all the difficulties faced by Iraq after its defeat in late February 1991, when Kuwait was liberated by a US led-coalition of forces from 28 states. Now the UN embargo has several cracks, with flights into and out of Baghdad airport getting more frequent and Iraq threatening to stop oil exports whenever it demands a change in the oil-for-aid programme to create further cracks. The US, meanwhile, is bracing for a worsening of its energy crisis and will be critically short of oil during this summer.

The ruler and Baath Party boss, President Saddam Hussein, continues to personally monitor all developments in and around Iraq. He has been the first among Baathist leaders in the early 1970s to head a follow up committee on oil contracts. Saddam is as much of an oilman as King Fahd of Saudi Arabia has been since the early 1970s. He is the first leader in the world to have survived more than ten years of isolation. He survived the world's first high-tech war which liberated Kuwait from Iraq in early 1991. That followed eight years of war between Iraq and Iran (1980-88).

The darling of the West as he fought Iran, Saddam was more than once praised by then US President George Bush Sr. until Aug. 2, 1990, when the former took Kuwait in less than 24 hours and the latter began calling him the worst dictator since Adolf Hitler. Saddam has since become convinced that, no matter how much he co-operates with UN, the US will not let the Security Council end Iraq's isolation as long as he is in power.

George Bush Jr., now the ruler in Washington, seems to believe the situation might change. As he promised during his electoral campaign, Bush Jr. is more committed to getting Saddam overthrown. But even if Saddam is put out of the way - the only way out for him is the grave - the Baathist regime in Baghdad will survive. The US Vice President, Dick Cheney, was Halliburton's CEO from 1995 until August 2000 and was secretary of defence during that dramatic period of 1990-91. Halliburton and other leading US oil service companies have lately made millions of dollars of business with Iraq in UN-approved sales of spare parts supplied through European subsidiaries. US oil companies which put their weight behind the Bush-Cheney campaign want to secure a place in Iraq before their European and other competitors have taken up the major oilfields, which Cheney's energy task force now reviewing all sanctions against oil states (see OMT No. 19).

Despite its problems, Iraq remains a most important prospect for oil firms. This country has the second largest oil reserves in the world and huge opportunities, with the foreign companies barred from Saudi oil E&P.

Below Saddam Hussein and the political hierarchy (see profiles in DT & Gas Market Trends), there are only decision executioners in Iraq, a fact to be taken into account for the petroleum sector and for any other matter.
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Publication:APS Review Oil Market Trends
Date:May 14, 2001
Words:529
Previous Article:IRAQ - The Logistics.
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