US intended to seize oil fields in 1973… and 2003

The United States considered using force to seize oilfields in the Middle East during an oil embargo by Arab states in 1973, according to British government documents just made public.

The papers, released under the 30-year-rule, show that the British government took the threat so seriously that it drew up a detailed assessment of what the Americans might do.

It was thought that US airborne troops would seize the oil installations in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and might even ask the British to do the same in Abu Dhabi.

The episode shows how the security of oil supplies is always at the forefront of governments’ planning.

And thirty years later…

The US military has drawn up detailed plans to secure and protect Iraq’s oilfields to prevent a repeat of 1991 when President Saddam set Kuwait’s wells ablaze.

The US state department and Pentagon disclosed the preparations during a meeting in Washington before Christmas with members of the Iraqi opposition parties.

Iraq has the second biggest known oil reserves in the world producing, in their current run-down state, about 1.5m barrels a day. But experts contacted by the Guardian predict this could rise to 6m barrels a day within five years with the right investment and control.

At the meeting, on the future of a post-Saddam Iraq – details of which have been disclosed to the Guardian – the state department stressed that protection of the oilfields was “issue number one”.

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1 Response to “US intended to seize oil fields in 1973… and 2003”


  1. 1 JDsg January 5, 2008 at 3:13 am

    Actually, the fact that the US considered seizing Saudi oil fields in 1973 has been publicly known for a few years now, since at least 2004. Apparently, Henry Kissinger was the chief proponent of that plan.


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