Highlights

 
Quotable
If there is no sufficient reason for war, the war party will make war on one pretext, then invent another.
Robert M. LaFollette
Original Blog US Casualties Contact Donate

 
April 29, 2004

Foreign Firms Continue to Try to Do Business in Iraq


by Jim Lobe

As violence rocked Iraq in Fallujah and Najaf, major international companies gathered in London this week to figure ways of doing business in Iraq without getting their hands burnt.

The magic formula was offered at a three-day Iraqi procurement conference held at Hilton hotel in central London from Monday to Wednesday this week.

"Across all the main industry sectors there exists an excellent opportunity to do business in Iraq without having to visit the country," the website for the conference promised in its invitation to companies.

The promise worked at least for purposes of the conference, organized by the British PR firm Windrush Communications in partnership with The Arab-British Chamber of Commerce. The main sponsor for the conference was the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation.

The violence and unrest within Iraq seemed not to have deterred investors. Participation was limited to 300 companies, and was sold out a month ago.

Participating companies included Raytheon, the U.S. manufacturer of smart bombs, many of which were dropped on Iraq, and at least some of which went lethally astray. Other companies included the oil companies Shell, ChevronTexaco and ExxonMobil, and from the pharmaceuticals firm Pfizer to the Swedish car and truck manufacturer Volvo.

"The conference is a carve-up of Iraq's assets, minerals and wealth," Ghada Razuki from Stop the War Coalition told IPS. "The Stop the War Coalition has said all along that one of the reasons for going to war was so that big business, mainly in the United States could profit from Iraq's wealth."

But Razuki pointed out that "the resistance movements in Iraq are making it very difficult for any foreign company to operate in Iraq. We demand that Iraq's wealth is given to Iraqis. Iraqis are more than capable of running their own affairs."

The conference was held with the clear backing of the British government. The procurement conference followed persistent and growing complaints that Britain is being left out of the reconstruction business.

British Trade and Industry secretary Patricia Hewitt released figures ahead of the conference to show that British firms have been nominated prime contractors on less than a third of the contracts awarded.

Liberal Democrat MP David Chidgey, member of the foreign affairs select committee said "it is unacceptable for the UK to be treated as the poor relation when it comes to reconstructing Iraq."

Strong British participation at the procurement conference was intended in part to network with leading US companies to negotiate sub- contracting. But officials and organizers remained tight-lipped about specific negotiations through the three-day event.

Heavy security was placed outside the hotel. The venue of a gala dinner at the New Connaught Rooms in central London was kept under wraps for weeks, and only a few protesters managed to turn up outside to protest.

Windrush Communications remained incommunicado through the conference. Officials declined to comment. Iraqi representatives and representatives of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) responsible for the administration of Iraq remained unavailable.

But the weight of the conference was clear from the presence of former US Rear Admiral David Nash who is leading the program for the awarding contracts worth 18.6 billion dollars up to the handover of some power from the CPA to a new Iraqi government due June 30.

Brian Wilson, British Prime Minister Tony Blair's special adviser on trade and investment addressed the conference. Wilson dropped broad hints about the virtues of doing business remotely.

"The Foreign Office's travel advice for Iraq is clear," he told the conference, according to an officially released statement. "It recommends that even the most essential travel to Iraq should be delayed, if possible."

But he added that "throughout these difficult security problems we cannot lose sight of the longer-term objective of helping Iraqis to rebuild the infrastructure and their economy. So it is all the more important that you use this event to build relationships and sow the seeds of a long-term commitment to Iraq and its people."

The signal was to set up joint ventures with the visiting Iraqi delegates or to appoint them as local managers for enterprises controlled from the outside by the Western multinationals.

A large delegation of Iraqi businessmen and members of the US appointed governing council and cabinet attended the conference to pick up lucrative offers. Most of the Iraqis were invited to London with their families in order to promote strong personal ties within a short period.

The Iraqi delegates included Judge Wael Abdulatif, governor of Basra, Dr Barham Salih, prime minister of the Kurdistan regional government, ministers for agriculture, communication, housing and construction, health, industry and water resources. DR Sinan Ridha al-Shabibi, governor of the Central Bank of Iraq accompanied the team.

For three days it was virtually the whole of the appointed Iraqi government that had come to London. The event itself became an illustration that Western business executives do not need personally to go to Iraq.

They have the resources to call the Iraqi government to them. They are looking at reconstruction projects that could be worth anywhere between 100 billion dollars and 500 billion dollars in what Windrush called "one of the biggest projects to have been undertaken in over 50 years."


comments on this article?
 
 
Archives

  • US Jews Open to Palestinian Unity Govt
    3/26/2009

  • Bipartisan Experts Urge 'Partnership' With Russia
    3/17/2009

  • Obama Administration Insists It's Neutral in Salvador Poll
    3/14/2009

  • NGOs Hail Congressional Moves to Ease Embargo
    3/12/2009

  • Call to 'Resist and Deter' Nuclear Iran Gains Key Support
    3/7/2009

  • Washington Ends Diplomatic Embargo of Syria
    3/4/2009

  • Diplomatic, Aid Spending Set to Rise Under Obama Budget
    2/28/2009

  • Many Muslims Reject Terror Tactics, Back Some Goals
    2/26/2009

  • Lugar Report Calls for New Cuba Policy
    2/24/2009

  • U.S.-Israel Storm Clouds Ahead?
    2/20/2009

  • Calls Mount for Obama to Appoint 'Truth Commission'
    2/20/2009

  • Washington's Praise of Venezuelan Vote Suggests D├ętente
    2/19/2009

  • Rightward Shift in Israeli Polls Creates New Headaches
    2/13/2009

  • US Advised to Back Somalia Reconciliation Efforts
    2/12/2009

  • Hawks Urge Boosting Military Spending
    2/5/2009

  • More Troops, More Worries,
    Less Consensus on Afghanistan
    2/4/2009

  • Report: Most Citizens Kept in Dark on Govt Spending
    2/2/2009

  • Obama Raises Hopes of
    Mideast Experts
    1/28/2009

  • Obama Picks Israel-Arab, Afghanistan-Pakistan Negotiators
    1/23/2009

  • Rights Groups Applaud Move to Halt Gitmo Trials
    1/22/2009

  • Obama Offers Internationalist Vision
    1/21/2009

  • Around the World, High Hopes for Obama
    1/20/2009

  • Liberals, Realists Set to Clash in Obama Administration
    1/19/2009

  • Obama Urged to Take Bold Steps Toward Cuba Normalization
    1/15/2009

  • Clinton Stresses 'Cooperative Engagement,' 'Smart Power'
    1/14/2009

  • Bush Foreign Policy Legacy Widely Seen as Disastrous
    1/14/2009

  • Networks' Int'l News Coverage at Record Low in 2008
    1/6/2009

  • Amnesty Calls on Rice to Drop 'Lopsided' Gaza Stance
    1/3/2009

  • Israeli Attack May Complicate Obama's Plans
    12/30/2008

  • Report: Recognizing Hamas Could Help Peace
    12/19/2008

  • Business Groups Support Dismantling Cuba Embargo
    12/8/2008

  • Mumbai Massacre Seen as Major Blow to Regional Strategy
    12/5/2008

  • Obama Urged to Quickly Engage Iran, Syria
    12/3/2008

  • Diplomacy, Multilateralism Stressed by Obama Team
    12/2/2008

  • Obama Foreign Policy: Realists to Reign?
    11/28/2008

  • Hemispheric Group Calls for Major Changes in Americas Policy
    11/25/2008

  • Greybeards Urge Overhaul of Global Governance
    11/21/2008

  • Intelligence Analysts See Multi-Polar, Risky World By 2025
    11/21/2008

  • Obama Urged to Strengthen Ties with UN
    11/20/2008

  • Obama-Tied Think-Tank Calls for Pakistan Shift
    11/18/2008

  • Obama Advised to Forgo More Threats to Iran
    11/17/2008

  • First, Close Gitmo,
    Say Rights Groups
    11/11/2008

  • Obama's Foreign Policy:
    No Sharp Break From Bush
    11/11/2008

  • Coca Cultivation Up Despite Six Years of Plan Colombia
    11/7/2008

  • Obama to Seek Global Re-engagement, But How Much?
    11/6/2008

  • Two, Three, Many Grand Bargains?
    11/3/2008

  • Moving Towards a 'Grand Bargain' in Afghanistan
    10/19/2008

  • Top Ex-Diplomats Slam 'Militarization' of Foreign Policy
    10/16/2008

  • Bush Set to Go With a Whimper, Not a Bang
    10/15/2008

  • Pakistan 'Greatest Single Challenge' to Next President
    10/8/2008

  • Senate Passes Nuke Deal Over Escalation Fears
    10/3/2008

  • Brief Talks With Syria Spur Speculation
    10/1/2008

  • Iran Resolution Shelved in Rare Defeat for AIPAC
    9/27/2008

  • Bipartisan Group Urges Deeper Diplomacy with Muslim World
    9/25/2008

  • White House Still Cautious on Georgia
    9/6/2008

  • US' Somalia Policy Likely to Bring Blowback
    9/4/2008

  • Iran Could Reap Benefits of U.S.-Russian Tensions
    8/28/2008

  • A Really Bad Couple of Weeks for Pax Americana
    8/24/2008

  • Success of Attack on Iran's Nuclear Program Doubtful
    8/9/2008

  • US Gets No Traction in the Middle East
    8/5/2008

  • Gates Strategy Stresses Unconventional Warfare
    8/1/2008

  • Air Force Think Tank Advises Against Iran Attack
    7/31/2008

  • Pakistani PM May Be Pincushion for U.S. Frustration
    7/26/2008

  • Realists Urge Bush to Drop Iran Precondition
    7/23/2008

  • McCain Knee-Capped by Maliki
    7/22/2008

  • Jim Lobe, works as Inter Press Service's correspondent in the Washington, D.C., bureau. He has followed the ups and downs of neo-conservatives since well before their rise in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

    Reproduction of material from any original Antiwar.com pages
    without written permission is strictly prohibited.
    Copyright 2003 Antiwar.com