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Friday, October 08, 2004


The linked commentary is the perfect example of how the oil industry gets a bad name. Norm Dixon claims that it was the U.S. that softened the Sudan sanctions a couple weeks ago, so that U.S. oil companies could get in on the oil production action. Nothing could be further from the truth. As was blogged here on the day the watery sanctions were passed, the U.S. has no oil interests in the region, nor is it an attractive place for American companies to throw their investment dollars. Even Canadian company Talisman, which had invested in Sudanese development, pulled out in the face of human rights abuses. The Chinese are by far the largest corporate investors in the industry there and undoubtedly the reason why the sanctions were so weak.

Oil companies -U.S. and Chinese alike- often tread a thin line between honest business and immoral enabler of abusive regimes. It is something that needs alwyas to be a part of the oil security dialogue, but always with a close and balanced attention to the facts of the matter.

"In May, the two sides agreed that oil revenue from the southern oil fields would be split between the SPLM-dominated southern regional government and the central government in Khartoum. All that remained was for further talks, which were scheduled to begin on June 22, to finalise procedures for an internationally monitored cease-fire agreement and a timeline for implementing the peace deal. However, the escalating crisis in Darfur stalled the process.

When the Darfur rebellion erupted, Washington did not "dither", it simply ignored the government-directed atrocities being inflicted on the people of Darfur because it did not think they would seriously impact on the main game. It was only when Khartoum's brutal treatment of the Darfuris threatened to derail the north-south peace deal and prevent the opening of Sudan's lucrative oilfields to greater Western exploitation - not any misty-eyed concern for the people of Darfur - that Powell moved to apply pressure on Khartoum through the Security Council."


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