Communist China has done it again. Desperate for new sources of energy, the Chinese are moving into an oil-rich nation eschewed by others. In this case, however, the country in question is not a state-sponsor of terror or other pariah state. Rather, it is Iraq, a country the United States has gone to great lengths to make a member in good standing of the Free World – free, among other things, of the influence of those like PRC who had close ties to Saddam Hussein.
Yet now, according to the Financial Times, the Iraqi government last Friday “revived a contract signed by the Saddam Hussein administration allowing a state-owned Chinese oil company to develop an Iraqi oil field.” The deal to develop the al-Ahdab field in Iraq was signed with China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) in 1997 and was valued at the time to be worth $1.2 billion. What is more, the FT reported that Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani announced that “Baghdad welcomed Chinese oil company bids for any other contract in the country through a ‘fair and transparent bidding process’ to be laid out in the new oil law under discussion in Iraq’s parliament.”
Part of the impetus behind the free Iraqi government embracing CNPC – the PRC’s largest state-owned oil company and an instrument for its partnerships with the world’s most odious regimes – is a harsh reality: China is one of all too few investors who appreciate the strategic opportunities inherent in securing a foothold in Iraq today and are able to accept and mitigate the risks associated with doing business there.
Another consideration, however, has to do with the matter of Iraqi sovereign debt to Communist China dating from Saddam Hussein’s time and estimated to be worth as much as $10 billion. The PRC has insisted that the successor government in Baghdad is responsible for its predecessor’s liabilities. The Financial Times noted Friday that a seeming breakthrough occurred during a visit to China last month by Iraq’s president, Jalal Talabani. Beijing announced that “a ‘large margin’ of Iraqi debt would be canceled, although no specific figures were released.” As the Communists are fond of observing, this is hardly a coincidence, comrade. China used the leverage of a promise to forgive what is, as a practical matter, uncollectable Iraqi debt to secure renewed access to Iraqi oil.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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