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#7 - JRL 7130
April 3, 2003
"This is Not A War for Oil"
Alexander Vershbow
U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation

On March 20, the United States and a number of its coalition partners initiated a military campaign to forcibly disarm Iraq and bring down Saddam Hussein's repressive regime. We took this action 12 years after the Iraqi regime had agreed to voluntarily and verifiably disarm as a condition of the Gulf War cease-fire of 1991. In early November, the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1441 calling for Iraq's full and immediate disarmament and promising serious consequences if it failed to do so. In the intervening five months Saddam has continued to ignore Iraq's obligations under this and 16 other UNSC resolutions and has used delays, deception and false declarations to sow dissent within the international community about how those resolutions should be enforced. The coalition not only believes Saddam has not disarmed, but that the obstacle to disarmament is Saddam himself; and that his regime must be brought down by force to liberate the Iraqi people.

The first two weeks of the conflict have made clear to the world what we knew all along: Saddam is vicious and will use any tactic to gain advantage. He uses schools, hospitals, cultural treasures and the bodies of innocent men, women and children to shield his military forces. He uses hospitals as military bases, burns his own oil fields, and lays mines in harbors where humanitarian aid is waiting to be distributed. His troops hide in civilian clothes, place human shields between themselves and coalition forces and pretend to surrender in order to attack the coalition in clear violation of the laws of land warfare. The true character of Saddam's regime has been further exposed by its use of terrorist tactics: his death squads have resorted to suicide bombings, and his vice president has exhorted militants everywhere to turn the world into a battlefield. This is our foe, who has for months been trying to deceive the world into believing this is a war to take control of Iraq's oil.

This claim defies common sense: if we wanted Iraq's oil, we would ask for the economic sanctions to be lifted so we could make a deal with Saddam and avoid a military campaign that will cost over $75 billion and an unknown number of lives of our military servicemen and women. Instead of this, we enforce sanctions that prevent oil profits from financing Saddam's weapons program. As Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith pointed out, the record of the United States in military conflicts is well known. We do not covet any other country's property and we do not steal from other nations. We helped rebuild Germany and Japan after World War II, and we made no attempt to control the oil resources of the Persian Gulf region after Desert Storm.

Some have argued that our hidden profit motives were exposed last week when a contract was awarded to an American company to put out oilfield fires set by Saddam. This is simply not the case. The contract was awarded to the company that has the experience, equipment and ability to mobilize quickly to extinguish oilfield fires and prevent Saddam's sabotage from destroying oil that will be the engine of the economic recovery for the Iraqi people.

We are fighting not for oil, but for a just cause - the removal of an aggressive regime that has launched two wars against its neighbors and refuses to give up weapons of mass destruction; and the establishment of a united and prosperous democratic Iraq that can serve as a stabilizing model for the region. We are certain of the necessity and legitimacy of military action to remove the Iraqi regime and the threat posed by their weapons. Once the Iraqi regime is removed, the transfer of political authority will unfold in three phases, beginning with a military coalition led by the United States, followed by an interim Iraqi authority, and ultimately the establishment of a permanent and democratically elected government.

The disarming, stabilizing, rebuilding, and democratizing of Iraq will require American leadership and resources, as well as assistance from coalition allies and the international community. We believe the UN Security Council has a role to play in Iraq's transition to self-government. Right now there is an urgent need to deliver humanitarian aid. We call upon all nations to support this effort. Last week's UN resolution to release more than $10 billion in humanitarian aid under the oil-for-food program is the first cooperative step in a process through which the UN will work with the coalition for the sake of the Iraqi people, one of the declared goals from the Summit in the Azores. We welcome the support of the Russian government in this important UN decision.

Further international cooperation and assistance will be crucial in reconstructing Iraq's post-war economy. Iraq's oil reserves, second largest in the world after Saudi Arabia's, will be the engine of Iraq's economic recovery and growth. If reconstruction is to succeed, many companies and many countries around the world will be needed to help the Iraqis develop and modernize their energy sector. It will not be for the United States to provide guarantees regarding which international companies should participate in this effort, and on what terms. These are decisions that must be made by Iraq's future, legitimate government on behalf of the Iraqi people. However, we fully expect that the Iraqi leadership will seek assistance and investment from diverse sources, not only from the United States, United Kingdom, and other coalition partners.

We recognize that Russian energy companies have significant economic interests in Iraq. We understand Russia's concern about the effect that regime change will have on existing petroleum contracts and Iraq debt repayments to Russia. We encourage Russia to participate in discussions on post-war strategy for Iraq and in providing humanitarian relief to the Iraqi people. This could serve to enhance Russia's role in post-war reconstruction.

Russia and the United States have had their disagreements over Iraq and over the best way to disarm the Iraqi regime. But I believe the bilateral relationship between Russia and the United States can weather this disagreement. There is much that unites us, including our common interest in fighting terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, our shared interest in promoting U.S. investment in Russia, and our mutual interest in expanding energy cooperation. Both President Bush and Putin have expressed their determination to keep the relationship moving forward.

The first two weeks of conflict have proven that our adversary is ruthless and will manipulate the media to confound and confuse, to malign our cause, and to incite hatred against us. We will also prevail in separating fact from fiction and in restating our true purpose in this endeavor. As President Bush said in announcing the start of military action against Iraq, this is a war against an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder. The coalition is meeting that threat now, so that we will not have to meet it later with armies of fire fighters and police and doctors on the streets of our cities.

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