Invasions need to be self-financing and, ultimately, successful wars need to be profitable enterprises. This is axiomatic in big-power politics. This is also what distinguishes big powers from not-so-big powers like India (with its liberation war in East Pakistan or its IPKF war in Sri Lanka).
The Iraq war is no exception. Maybe, Big Oil has to share Iraq’s oil with China or Russia to an extent but the low-hanging fruits belong to the US. No two ways about it.
Petrodollar recycling is as important as control of oil fields and the manipulation of prices. The downstream activity is actually much more lucrative because it is one hundred percent opaque - where exactly are the petrodollars stacked away by the Persian Gulf oligarchies, in which banks, in which currencies, in which countries of the western world exactly, as also how those monies are wisely spent. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE - they are all part of the supply chain led by the West. (Remember, British PM David Cameron rushed to Kuwait when the Arab Spring appeared?)
Now, Iraq is being brought into the supply chain for the first time. Iraq has been successfully persuaded that it needs a “very robust capability” in the military field. The pliant regime of Nouri al-Maliki is all too willing to be persuaded. And what better way to create this military capability than to have first-rate war planes! And what better fighter planes there could be on the planet than the ‘Fighting Falcon’ made by Boeing? So, Iraq just placed an order for 18 F-16 aircraft.
The deal is worth 3 billion dollars. And iraq is probably going to buy another 18 of the magnificent flying machines. That makes it a neat 6-billion dollar deal. Plus the spares and service and repair contract and the training contract (which also become a good justification for the permanent American military presence in Iraq.) Most important, as time passes, Iraq will enjoy ‘inter-operability’ with the USAF (and NATO) and will be weaned on the US-made equipments.
Why does Iraq need all these fighters? Because, it has the great misfortune to be surrounded by an array of hopelessly wicked neighbours with predatory instincts - Syria, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia. (Never mind that two of them also happen to have airforce equipped with F-16 and one of them is a NATO power.) The chief US military spokesman in Iraq, Maj.Gen.Jeffrey Buchanan thinks Iraq needs many more F-16s than the projected number of 36. Besides, F-16s are worth little without a robust air defence system backing them. So, B says, negotiations are under way for the US to provide it those missiles and radars and guns as well.
Iraq can afford all this because oil is selling at over 100 dollars per barrel and the government in Baghdad, according to Buchanan, had an ‘unexpected windfall’ of 14 billion dollars. What is good money worth if it can’t be spent? Of course, there is the delicate choice to be made between guns and butter. Most Iraqis live on food rations. However, according to B, Iraqi government “decided to go back and see how they were prioritizing their money.” Recognizing that they still needed combat aircraft, as B put it, “they allocated money to it.”
Our lobbyists in Delhi and Gurgaon should ask Buchanan where they went so horribly wrong on India’s mammoth M-MCRA Fighter Competition. US indeed helped Baghdad make up its mind about its national priorities. Read the McClatchy dispatch from Baghdad on the wonderful story
on the top-notch machines from Boeing that the descendants of Saladdin will soon be flying.