Iraqi Oil Fields: Let Me Tell You a Story…

One of the major items that came out of last night’s Commander In Chief Town Hall on NBC/MSNBC was Donald Trump’s repeating his oft stated position that the US should have taken Iraq’s oil. I will leave the lively discussion of the logistics of this to others, and just briefly acknowledge that this would have been a war crime even for an officially UN recognized occupying power. What I really want to talk about about in regard to Iraqi oil is where Iraq’s oil is. Almost every map that I saw linked to, tweeted, posted, and/or referred to last night looked something like this:

iraq_oil_map

(Map 1: Iraq Oil Map)

There is only one problem with this map, and the similar ones that were shared/referred to last night: they’re incomplete! This is the accurate map of where Iraq’s oil actually is:

Iraqi_Oil_Exploration_Blocks

(Map 2: Iraq Oil Field Map with Exploration Blocks)

Interestingly enough Judicial Watch FOIAed Vice President Cheney’s Energy Working Group back in 2002 and before Vice President Cheney shut the release of records off this was one of the items released. I first heard about this map in 2003 or 2004 when Greg Palast was interviewed by Keith Olbermann.  Palast is a forensic accountant and had, himself, been looking into VP Cheney’s Energy Working Group. He came across the map as a result and eventually wrote the whole thing up as a chapter in his book Armed Madhouse.

But what’s really important about this map is its history. So let me tell you a story… In the early part of the 20th Century, around 1912 or so, a young Armenian citizen of the soon to be defunct Ottoman Empire was becoming a major player in the early petroleum industry. His name was Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian, but he is better know as Mr. Five Percent. Gulbenkian basically established what would become the Iraqi petroleum sector – his fee/reward for doing so was a 5% stake, hence his nickname. The map above is a representation of the estimates of where Iraq’s oil was, updated to include where exploration has happened. But compare it to Map 1 – you’ll notice the exploratory blocks are missing. There’s a reason for that. And that, my friends, is where the story really gets interesting.

Gulbenkian got 5% and the Seven Sisters Oil Company and their early controlling interests, which would eventually evolve into OPEC, got 95% of the rights to exploration. This was all part of something called the Red Line Agreement and Map divvying up the Middle East’s oil. Part of the little known history is that a decision was made, based on the exploratory blocks in Map 2, to keep Iraq’s oil in the ground. Palast details this history in his book, but the decision was made to treat Iraq like a strategic oil reserve.

When my teammates and I were getting ready to deploy to Iraq, but before we left training and attached to our Brigade Combat Team (BCT), we went through three different initial cultural preps of the operating environment. This was because they kept moving where they were sending the BCT (third time was the charm!). Initially we were going to Salah al Din Province, near some of the denoted oil fields in Map 1. And this is where I started paying attention to Map 2 as something other than a curiosity. One of my research managers had found an expatriate Iraqi, now a US citizen, with PhDs in agricultural and civil engineering who had worked for Saddam Hussein as the lead on various projects, including some dealing with the petroleum sector. He ran afoul of Saddam, was imprisoned, then Saddam – being capricious – changed his mind and rehabilitated him. Our source, smartly, made plans to flee as soon as he could. And he did so successfully. He graciously agreed to meet with the team so we could pick his brain. One of the questions we were able to ask was about Map 2. Was it legit? Was the bulk of Iraq’s oil really along the western border with Saudi Arabia? Was the history of Mr. Five Percent accurate? Things like that. Our source informed us the map was accurate, that the Iraqi Oil Ministry had always known that the bulk of their reserves were along the western border, and that was not where any of the actual exploitation of the resources were being done. He also confirmed that the decision to use Iraq’s oil as a strategic reserve from before it was an independent state (and before there was an OPEC) was also correct and that OPEC did, indeed, limit Iraq and Iran to not producing more oil than the other in any given year. This last requirement was supposed to tamp down the historic rivalry, but seems to have made it worse.

Why is any of this important? Quite simply its because the actual bulk of Iraq’s oil is in the western areas of Iraq. Specifically in Anbar Province. The Sunni tribes, who first fought us, then allied with us after the Sawha/Awakenings, control Anbar. The other western provinces of Iraq – Najaf and Muthanna are primarily Shi’a – including the holy sites and religious academy in Najaf. The people of these three provinces are sitting on a (black) gold mine. Given that there is virtually no active exploitation in the exploratory blocks along Iraq’s western border, taking Iraq’s oil isn’t just a matter of putting the entire operational US Army on the ground to protect the petroleum workers that are going to pump it out and then the oil’s transport out of Iraq. It would require building an entire new set of extraction infrastructure in a hostile environment – both physically and societally hostile to such efforts. And that is provided Map 2, after 100 years, is still accurately indicating where Iraq’s oil is. An additional concern is that a lot of Iraqi oil is not suitable for gasoline production as it is not light sweet crude. Rather it has large amounts of sulfur and other compounds in it that make it expensive to convert to anything but heating/fuel oil. This is largely what the refinery at Baiji is producing when its running.

71 replies
  1. 1
    Gin & Tonic says:

    Adam, two questions: do you read these people’s work? Just idly curious since I am socially acquainted with one of them.

    And OT, which I asked in a dying thread downstairs, probably while you were preparing this: do you have an opinion you’d care to share about John Abizaid, who was just appointed as a special adviser to the armed forces of Ukraine?

  2. 2
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    When one cites the old aphorism, “Amateurs talk tactics, professionals talk logistics”, Teh Donald doesn’t even qualify as the former. The latter is totally right out.

  3. 3
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Now a listen to a story ’bout a man named Jed

  4. 4
    El Caganer says:

    The Donald seems to have confused the US military with the Golden Horde.

  5. 5
    Dadadadadadada says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: I’ve always heard it as “Idiots talk tactics; amateurs talk strategy; professionals talk logistics.”
    Or maybe that was just my own personal spin on an old saying.
    Trump talks fantasies. He’s about 20 levels below idiot with this take-the-oil nonsense.

  6. 6
    catclub says:

    I see all those exploratory blocks in the second map, but I don’t see any oil fields in them.

    If most of the oil is in the exploratory regions, and this is was accurate, there would be much less squabbling about the oil in the Kurdish regions.
    The Sunnis could align with Saudi money to develop the oil in their regions.

    I am not seeing it.

  7. 7
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Gin & Tonic: Just answered you downstairs. I’ve seen there stuff. I’m not a petroleum engineer or SME. I know just enough to understand the socio-cultural components. That said, feel free to put your friend in touch.

  8. 8
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Dadadadadadada: Logistics is the ways and means, especially the means portion, of strategy.

  9. 9
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @catclub: A decision was made over a hundred years ago to keep that oil in the ground. And a lot of those blocks are not on Sunni tribal land, but on Shi’a land in Najaf. The latter will not ally with the Saudis.

  10. 10
    Miss Bianca says:

    Our source informed us the map was accurate, that the Iraqi Oil Ministry had always known that the bulk of their reserves were along the western border and that was not where any of the actual exploitation of the resources were being done.

    This is one of those…”wait, WHAT?!” moments when I can feel my brain threatening to explode.

  11. 11
    Tilda Swinton's Bald Cap says:

    So what you’re really saying is that the orangutan doesn’t know shit about shit and neither does any one in the media.

  12. 12
    lollipopguild says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Who barely kept his family fed.

  13. 13
    Mike J says:

    Why would anybody want to drill exploratory wells when oil is <$50/bbl?

  14. 14

    And an ‘exploration block’ is and they are relevant because…?

  15. 15
    catclub says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Let me copy the comment I just made in the other thread. It is relevant!

    @Roger Moore: noted

    We must not forget the most important part of the project: massive windfall profits for the oil companies.

    One piece of news that global climate change, reductions in CO2 pollution, and the renewable energy revolution (coming via wind and solar) mean,
    is that HUGE amounts of oil reserves, which those oil companies treat as assets, will NEVER come out of the ground.
    When this realization dawns, oil stocks will not be good things to own. Time scale ? I have no idea, but given what folks are saying about electric cars and solar and wind power getting cheaper, less than 15 years. Maybe less than 8.

  16. 16
    Hoodie says:

    All very interesting, but Trump and his supporters don’t care about such details because the “take the oil” is just like Mexico paying for the wall; it’s all just howling id.

  17. 17
    themann1086 says:

    @Hoodie: Speaking of howling id, Trump just claimed he would have gotten OBL before 9/11. I literally starting cursing in front of my prim and proper boss, who joined me shortly afterwards

  18. 18
    The Czar of All the Stupids says:

    It would require building an entire new set of extraction infrastructure in a hostile environment – both physically and societally hostile to such efforts.

    There you go w/ your fancy ‘facts’ and ‘logic’ and ‘rational thought’ again…

    You’re ruining a perfectly good narrative here…

    Drumpf will just take their oil and stomp on ISIS and cozy up w/ Vlad and America will be great again…

    See? it’s so much more satisfying if you just don’t actually think about it…

  19. 19
    Mike J says:

    @catclub: Remember a few years ago when North Dakota was touted for having the most robust economy in the US? Then Saudi Arabia increased production, and now Iran’s oil is on the market. Parts of the US that depend on extraction industries were booming and now they’ve gone bust.

  20. 20
    David Fud says:

    @Mike J:

    Why would anybody want to drill exploratory wells when oil is <$50/bbl?

    If it were Saudi-like oil for $5/barrel, then whoever was lucky enough to stick a straw in the ground. Apparently it is heavy and sour and infested with hostiles, so… nobody, thankfully. Just what the world would have needed, more oil pumped.

  21. 21
    David Fud says:

    @Mike J:

    Parts of the US that depend on extraction industries were booming and now they’ve gone bust.

    And in Oklahoma, for instance, they reduced the taxes and made themselves more dependent on rich oil producers. This then crashed the state budget when they all stopped pumping and stopped employing people on exploration projects/drilling rigs. Now, they have to plug a billion dollar shortfall with no taxes from the boom days collected.

    One would think that boom and bust extraction economies would learn. But, one would be wrong.

  22. 22
    Mike J says:

    @themann1086:

    Speaking of howling id, Trump just claimed he would have gotten OBL before 9/11.

    The first president Clinton damn near did. The only reason we missed was that drones didn’t carry weapons and the flight time from the missile frigate offshore was 45 minutes. Republicans scoffed at the missile strikes, saying it was ridiculous to use a million dollar missile against a tent. Ultra liberal Hollywood made a movie about the missile strike.

  23. 23
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Mike J:

    People didn’t realize at the time that David Mamet is a raving conservative loon. They should have after Oleanna, but they didn’t.

  24. 24

    My favorite part of Trump’s comments about Iraq’s oil came when he said many people didn’t realize Iraq had big oil reserves. I believe he got Iraq’s ranking wrong, but it made me laugh. At the time of the Iraq invasion, everyone I knew said it was about oil.

  25. 25
    Jacel says:

    @Mike J: At least the exploding oil trains from North Dakota are no longer in the news — not that many reporters besides Rachel Maddow were paying attention to that phenomenon at the time.

  26. 26
    Peale says:

    @Mike J: Other things alternative history Trump would have done:

    1) Had someone assassinate Hitler in 1919
    2) Flown the hindenberg 30 feet to the left
    3) Made polio vaccines available five years quicker
    4) Warned the navy to get their ships out to sea on December 6.
    5) Got a man on the moon and back again before Kennedy finished his promise

  27. 27
    Mike J says:

    @Jacel: Senator Cantwell tweeted her opposition to exploding trains just today (many of those oil trains are headed for the ports on Puget Sound).

  28. 28
    Cacti says:

    Okay, so Donald Trump thinks the U.S. military should be used to plunder the natural resources of other countries.

    On the other hand, emails.

  29. 29
    Mai.naem.mobile says:

    Jeezus, you guys don’t understand. Trumpsters classified briefing people told him how the sunny muslin country of Kamistan was going to pack all the Iraqi oil into a suitcase(Jeannie was going to shake her head to miniautirize the oil) and the Major was going to take it to Sangala where Genovia, a good American ally from New Europe, was going to monetize on it and help us pay for our further military adventures.

  30. 30
    themann1086 says:

    @Mike J: I remember. Clinton’s administration also drew up a full “disrupt and destroy al Qaeda” plan after the Cole bombing, but opted not to start it during his lame duck session. They handed it off to the Bush Administration, and… well, we’ll never know if it could have either gotten OBL or prevented 9/11, but it certainly had a better chance than “do nothing”.

  31. 31
    Tripod says:

    Occam’s razor. There just not that much oil out there.

    Based on these extensive regional efforts and exploration results, the indications are clear that this vast region (extending from northwest Saudi Arabia through eastern Jordan and Syria, and western Iraq) is not very prospective for oil. In fact, to discover 100 billion bbl of crude oil in the western desert of Iraq, as suggested by the IHS report, would require discovering and delineating the equivalent of 3,000 Risha-sized oil fields. Clearly if this was a realistic possibility, many similar prospects would have been drilled and oil or gas discovered decades ago in Syria, Jordan, and northwestern Saudi Arabia.

  32. 32
    joel hanes says:

    Trump is a blithering idiot.

    Cheney was not, and taking Iraq’s oil was a big part of his objectives for that war.
    For years after we invaded, we demanded that the Iraqi Parliament pass an “Oil Law” with provisions that would allow US-based oil companies to lead in the re-development of Iraq’a oilfields, and in marketing the resulting crude.
    The neocon “plan” was that a grateful Chalabi-led government would of course be glad to do so.

    In the event, the actual Sadr-oriented Pariiament told the occupying Americans to pound sand and GTFO of their country.

    But Cheney’s plan was “take their oil” — he just had a better grasp on how to accomplish that end.

  33. 33
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @themann1086: Well, that plan had “Clinton taint” all over it, and the deserting coward and the Dark Lord didn’t think that Al Qaeda was a good enough substitute for the defunct Soviet Union, so the plan was to make China the new “existential threat” to use as cover for a plundering of the treasury by defense contractors.

  34. 34
    Cacti says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    Well, that plan had “Clinton taint” all over it, and the deserting coward and the Dark Lord didn’t think that Al Qaeda was a good enough substitute for the defunct Soviet Union, so the plan was to make China the new “existential threat” to use as cover for a plundering of the treasury by defense contractors.

    I also remember back in 2000, candidates Bush and Cheney were very much in favor of reviving Reagan’s star wars program based on the mortal danger of North Korea. Not a peep about Islamist terror orgs.

  35. 35
    jl says:

    @Tripod: Are these western regions the long promised vast untapped Iraqi oil ‘reserves’ I’ve read about from time to time? There is a difference between possible oil resources and proven, or even potential, economic reserves. Is the gap especially wide in this case?

    Adams story is the first time I have heard any detail about this western Iraqi oil, or its history.

  36. 36

    Apparently the intelligence briefers aren’t happy with Trump:

    Current and former U.S. intelligence officials who asked that their names not be disclosed told NBC News that many members of the current intelligence community — leadership rank and file — were angered by Trump’s comments Wednesday night, and the possibility that he may have disclosed details of his intelligence briefing or attempted to politicize it.

  37. 37

    @catclub:
    One of the things that scares me about this is what’s going to happen to the countries in the Middle East that have depended heavily on oil revenues. It’s pleasant to think of them being put in their place and no longer having such an outsized influence on US foreign policy, but it’s scary to think about what’s going to happen to them internally. They’re going to be like Venezuela, but without Venezuela’s level of democratic norms and with economies that are even less well developed outside the oil sector. It’s the kind of thing that should keep planners up at night.

  38. 38
    Eric U. says:

    @Iowa Old Lady: it’s funny that people don’t pay more attention to the left blogisphere. We could have warned them he was going to be an ass if it wasn’t obvious to them. Still think feeding him bad info is a good idea.

  39. 39
    MomSense says:

    @Iowa Old Lady:

    I personally loved Trump’s “oil in various sections”. It reminded me of Rumsfeld’s the WMD are in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad to the east, west, south, and north. Seems like accurate locations would be something to figure out before you go to war.

  40. 40
    RareSanity says:

    Adam, I’m not sure if I’m just being dense, but for whom were these blocks to serve as a strategic oil reserve?

    The U.S.?

  41. 41

    @Mike J:

    Ultra liberal Hollywood made a movie about the missile strike.

    Your timeline is off. The movie came out before the missile strike, and it involved a much more elaborate deception. It was the Republicans who made fun of Clinton’s efforts, claiming that he was trying to distract attention from the Lewinsky business. Of course they later blamed him for failing to get Bin Laden when he had a chance, but consistency has never been their forte.

  42. 42
    hovercraft says:

    Trump is so mad about the fact that the dishonest media is calling him on his lies about opposing intervention in Iraq and Libya, he’s trying for a new distraction. Let’s see if the media trots off after this latest shiny new object, and stops calling him a liar.

    From TPM
    In a 15-minute effort to set the “terribly dishonest” media straight before a speech on school choice in Cleveland, Donald Trump claimed that with him at the helm, Osama bin Laden would’ve been captured even before the Sept, 11, 2001 terror attacks.

    “I would’ve been tougher on terrorism. Bin Laden would’ve been caught a long time ago, before he was ultimately caught, prior to the downing of the World Trade Center,” Trump said during an aside about his record on Iraq.

    The GOP nominee went on to say that if he had been in Congress at the time, he would have cast a vote opposing the invasion.

    Trump also claimed he gave statements “much closer” to the invasion of Iraq saying he was against the war. He said those statements “superseded” his earlier, much-cited interview with shock jock radio host Howard Stern, where Trump said he did support the invasion.

  43. 43
    catclub says:

    @Jacel: Pipelines are much safer than trains for carrying oil. But somehow, those are opposed with equal furor.
    Result: Trains keep running and exploding.

  44. 44
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    VERY OT, but, in the words of Joe Biden, nevertheless, a big fuckin’ deal:

    50 years ago today the first episode of “Star Trek” was aired on the NBC Television Network, which used to have some actual integrity in its News Division.

  45. 45
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @catclub: Pipelines have this bad tendency to cross someone else’s property, in the case of this thing in the Dakotas, across longstanding sacred tribal land for which the pipeline companies have been notoriously insensitive.

  46. 46
    Trollhattan says:

    @Peale:

    Other things alternative history Trump would have done:

    1) Had someone assassinate Hitler in 1919
    2) Flown the hindenberg 30 feet to the left
    3) Made polio vaccines available five years quicker
    4) Warned the navy to get their ships out to sea on December 6.
    5) Got a man on the moon and back again before Kennedy finished his promise

    This could be the best meme since #TweetLikeTrump

    6) Steer the Titanic south, to the tropics
    7) Arrange for Hinkley to date Jodie Foster
    8) Get The Joker a comedy gig at one of his ca$1nos
    9) Show the Jets and Sharks that Democrats are the real enemy
    10) Buy off Judas with twenty-five pieces of silver*
    11) Get Abe hooked on Pokemon Go

    *Experts differ on on whether that’s a net plus.

  47. 47
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @hovercraft: So, he’s saying that he would NOT have petulantly ignored the Al Qaeda threat as the deserting coward and the Dark Lord did? Interesting.

  48. 48
    jl says:

    @MomSense: You forgot that Rummy did add ‘or thereabouts’, IIRC.

    Anyway, I remember watching that unbelievable performance, and thought it was unbelievable, in several ways.

  49. 49
    jl says:

    @Trollhattan: Saved the dinosaurs!

  50. 50
    Jacel says:

    @catclub: I recall Rachel’s reports pointing out that the railroad oil tanks were designed to carry typical oil from Texas oilfields, which had been scrubbed of most volatile gasses. The scrubbing systems weren’t yet provided or required in North Dakota, so tanks loaded there had far more explosive gasses than the safety design could handle. Thus, trains loaded in North Dakota could explode readily from an accident anywhere along the route to a refinery.

  51. 51
    Jacel says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Also, oil was being pulled out of North Dakota faster than pipelines could be put in, even if approved. And faster than safety requirements could be enacted in that state (compared to Texas).

  52. 52
    hovercraft says:

    @catclub:
    Pipelines are “safer” only in the sense that the damage they do is less spectacular since it tends to occur far away from prying eyes. It usually occurs underground where it contaminates land and water and renders it both toxic and barren. The damages caused by pipelines is longer lasting, and harder to clean up. The trains would be safer if the oil companies hadn’t been fighting the adoption of safer tanker trains, the Cheney administration also dismissed calls to require the switch. The Obama administration is finally making the switch, but at a much too slow rate. Obviously the best thing would be to reduce the use of fossil fuels, but we’re not there yet. Big Oil is fighting every safety feature that is proposed, and since they own one of our two major parties, and parts of the other one, we will be stuck with the exploding trains and contamination of our ground water for a long time.

  53. 53
    Trollhattan says:

    @hovercraft:
    A-yup, and the ugly fact is every pipeline eventually has failures and leaks, frequently with potential for vastly larger amounts introduced into the environment. Bakken crude is unique in having an unusually high gas (butane, propane) component, which is why it’s more likely to meet an ignition source and then explode so spectacularly. Bunker-oil type crude is far less likely to ignite.

  54. 54
    gorram says:

    @catclub: If Sunnis in western Iraq aligned with the KSA, you’d bring the unthinkable into being: Iranian and and Iraqi governments seeing eye to eye on an issue for once.

  55. 55
    mike in dc says:

    Even modest inroads to the global vehicle market by electrics would have a dramatic impact on demand for oil and consequently lower prices permanently. The replacement of coal-fired power plants by wind, solar, geothermal and hydroelectric power moves this further along. I have no idea what fresh hell will break loose in the M.E. once oil is effectively no longer a “cash crop” for them.

  56. 56
  57. 57
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Mike J: This is now. When VP Cheney and his team were looking at this stuff the price of oil was on a slow climb upwards to the eventual spike and plateau.

  58. 58
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Major Major Major Major: An exploration block is where they think the oil is. And its important because the vast majority of those blocks, based on the original assessments from 100 years ago are on the other side of Iraq from where they’re drilling. The original agreement, which I once saw referred to as Iraq’s Red Line, was that that everything where the drilling is exists on one side of the map. Everything where the exploratory blocks are outside. All the oil outside is to remain in the ground as a strategic reserve.

  59. 59
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @srv: That is a good question that I cannot answer. The closest Saudi oil facilities are much farther south along the Kuwaiti border and they are in the area where Saudi’s Shi’a population lives.

  60. 60
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @jl: From everything I’ve read and been told, including from my source, these are the untapped reserves. How much is there? I cannot say. But what’s interesting is that if you look at Map 2 it is clear that where the Iraqi oil infrastructure is (as of 2002) was handjammed onto the existing map with the exploratory blocks. Someone who was in attendance at VP Cheney’s Energy Working Group produced the map – so someone knew about the 100 year old agreements and exploration – and added the contemporary material to it, then copied it and handed it out.

  61. 61
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @RareSanity: Originally the Seven Sisters oil companies. Then, presumably Iraq and since it was a member OPEC. My understanding is that during the Cold War the contingency plan, should the Soviet Union try to move out of Central Asia and into the Middle East was to, at the least, hold the line at the Iran/Iraq border, locking down Iraq’s oil as both a strategic reserve to be tapped later and to prevent the Soviets from getting it. The preferred outcome was to hold Iran and their fields. Supposedly this contingency plan became the inspiration for Tom Clancy’s novel Red Storm Rising.

  62. 62
    David Stearns says:

    Adam, long time Balloon Juice Reader, first time response. Regarding the fascinating report on Western Iraq oil reserves, an inquiry. If Iraq splits into parts (very possible), what’s the possibility of Sunni Saudi Arabia “annexing” those untapped fields. Keeping them from the Shia Iraqis/Iranians. And the US still supplying arms to the Saudis for their little escapade in Yemen?

  63. 63
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @David Stearns: Cole’s going to be thrilled, we’re talk radio now!

    More seriously, I doubt Saudi will try. The only really effective Saudi ground force, for lack of a better term, is the National Guard, which is not the same as our National Guard. These are the descendants of Ibn Saud’s Ikhwan (Brotherhood). They were originally desert fighters that enthusiastic adopters of Ibn Wahhab’s concept of tawheed (radical unity of the Deity). There are not enough of them to mount the type of ground campaign necessary to take the western provinces. And I would expect that the Sunni tribes in Anbar and the Shi’a in Najaf and Muthanna would not simply accept this. Especially the Shi’a as they and the Wahhabist muwaheedun (adherents of the radical unity of the Deity) of Saudi Arabia are at religious odds. Ibn Wahhab’s tawheed dictates that the Shi’a are not Muslims and to be killed wherever they’re found. While the Kingdom has kept this in check because they’ve had to, just this past week one of the most senior Saudi clerics and a descendant of Ibn Wahhab came out and declared the Shi’a not even human. This is rhetoric from a dispute between Saudi and Iran, but the Shi’a know what they face. And to return to the Anbari tribes – their version of Sunni Islam is tribally structured. It is not compatible with Saudi tawheed.

  64. 64
    David Stearns says:

    I realize an error here mate, on my part. I think I intended any religious designation more as an “opposite side” indicator. I did that clumsily. I apologize. Thank you for the extensive reply. You are a large reason for my visiting. Good on ya, lad!!

  65. 65
    David Stearns says:

    Sorry, this internet thing, how does it work again? Ugh. Adam, I apologize. I cited religious aspects, and it really doesn’t apply. I asked my question poorly. But again, thank you for your reply. Always been fascinated by the Middle East, the history and the desert. You are an excellent complement to Juan Cole for me.

  66. 66
    PIGL says:

    Regarding Maps 1 and 2, the thing I would do were I serious about understanding this is to map the Saudi deposits. That would tell you, given the obvious spatial structure, if there were likely any deposits in the Iraqi (suspiciously) empty quarter.

  67. 67
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @David Stearns: Juan Cole is a national treasure. He was very gracious with his time to me, who he did not know personally, when I would occasionally email him with a question from Iraq. I wrote several guest posts for him as a thank you when I got back. Truly a class act, a scholar, and a gentleman.

  68. 68
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @PIGL: The major Saudi oil fields are along their eastern border with Kuwait. They start just south of where the Iraqi/Kuwait border is on the Iraqi/Kuwait side of the line.

  69. 69
    PIGL says:

    @Adam L Silverman: But if that’s the case, I don’t understand on what basis “Iraq has always known that most of it’s oil was” in that area along the Saudi border? How could that have been determined in 1920 or whenever?

  70. 70
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @PIGL: My understanding from both what I’ve read and what I was told by my Iraqi source is that the initial petroleum surveying done by the Seven Sisters oil company engineers in the 1910s and 1920s determined it was there/most likely there. I do not know of anyone who has done any surveying in those areas since.

  71. 71

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