In the months leading up to the March 2003 Iraq invasion, British government officials had "at least five meetings" with energy company executives and promised them access to oil concessions in post-Saddam Iraq, according to documents obtained by The Independent.
According to the documents, BP, British Gas, and Shell executives met with British ministers multiple times in October and November of 2002 and expressed concern that American, French, and Russian energy firms would lock up all the oil contracts in the country without assistance from the government. Former British trade minister Baroness Symons agreed. From the minutes of an October 31 meeting Symons held with all three companies read: "Baroness Symons agreed that it would be difficult to justify British companies losing out in Iraq in that way if the UK had itself been a conspicuous supporter of the US government throughout the crisis." That same month, Foreign Office Middle East director Edward Chaplin privately said, "Shell and BP could not afford not to have a stake in [Iraq] for the sake of their long-term future... We were determined to get a fair slice of the action for UK companies in a post-Saddam Iraq" after BP confessed that Iraq's oil concessions were "more important than anything we've seen for a long time."
Days before the war, BP maintained it had "no strategic interest in Iraq," while Shell said it had "neither sought nor attended meetings with officials in the UK Government on the subject of Iraq." The British and American governments have emphatically stated Iraq's oil and natural gas reserves did not influence the decision to invade the country. These revelations would seem to disprove that.
Saddam Hussein first nationalized Iraq's oil industry in 1972. BP bought the development rights to Iraq's Rumalia field at auction in June 2009. That December, Shell secured a 20-year-contract to develop the Majnoon field. British Gas was in the bidding for numerous contracts before announcing they weren't interested in developing fields in Iraq last month.
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