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The Paradise of Investment

Mark Urban | 17:32 UK time, Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Basra - Last night I attended a highly unusual event.


Lord Mandelson and 25 suited and booted captains of British industry flew in for an investment conference at the airport here. It was described as the highest ranking British trade delegation to Iraq in more than 20 years.

In the terminal's function hall generals, businessmen and imams mingled. It looked a little like some Chomsky-ite nightmare of Middle Eastern oil, armies and politics coalescing into a seamless web of common interest. But I suspect the attitude of many people in the UK to chasing business opportunities in Iraq is more complex than some ideologists would allow.

Should not the sacrifice of 179 British lives, hundreds seriously wounded and billions of pounds buy the UK some kind of consideration from the Iraqis? If you believe strongly that it shouldn't, then should British companies be at some kind of disadvantage to those of other countries that contributed nothing to stabilising the post-Saddam mayhem or creating the mood of cautious optimism that now prevails in this great trading city? Should Britain get nothing at all for its trouble?

The Governor of Basra, Mohammed al-Waeli, launched the conference by describing his province as the "Paradise of Investment". Leaving aside hyperbole that may strike many at home as comical, it's remarkable to see this man, who was once one of the British army's loudest critics, roll out the red carpet for Lord Mandelson and his delegation. Talking to the governor afterwards his attitude might be paraphrased as, "let's let bygones be bygones - now we'll do business".

Some people here feel that the locals and Brits are not quite on the same page - that essentially many Basrawis expect Britain to come in and re-build their neglected infrastructure, including paying for it, as a further act of generosity or perhaps penance for invading. British businessmen on the other hand have grasped that Iraq is a major oil state with tens of billions of dollars in cash that can afford to pay foreign companies to upgrade everything from oil pipelines to ports or railways.

At the official level though there is a common understanding that if Iraq wishes to secure its future and put the estimated 30% unemployed in this province to work, it will have to start laying out lots of cash. For recession-hit western economies it is therefore an attractive opportunity.

The real issue for those in Britain whose jobs might be under threat might not then be whether the UK is going to get some grubby payback from a "war for oil" but whether the government is doing enough to seize its chance. Hence Britain dispatched this week's trade delegation.

One of the presentations was on the modernisation of Umm Qasr port. We heard that Japan had provided $500m in soft loans, that Turkey had won a contract to clear sunken ships from the shipping lanes, and that French and US companies were now getting to work modernising some of the jetties. Hearing discussions like this, I and others wondered not whether Britain was right to be seeking such contracts, but whether it has actually been slow out of the starting blocks, with various countries already stealing a march in the competition for business?


  • Comment number 1.

    most 'british' business is run by non british concerns. is there a British 'bechtel' with the skills to run a major engineering project?

    how much british engineering is there? we employ french , americans, italians, portugese, and even russians [gas storage] to build our infrastructure.

    we could sell them weapons. but they seem to have enough to be going on with and might seem counter productive to securing peace?

  • Comment number 2.

    'LOOK INTO MY EYES - TRUST ME' (photo)

    British interests could not be in better HANDS. Ah - there might be a snag. . .

  • Comment number 3.

    Mark - the countries you claim "contributed nothing" may well be the countries who were opposing the continued cruel sanctions UK/USA imposed for nearly 13 years. Sanctions that were so harsh on the civilian population it caused a number of UN officers to resign in protest. (5000 children dying every month)

    You've also referred to the trade delegations in the 80's. Are you referring to the period when we were arming Saddam with the weapons of mass destruction that caused the sanctions, that gave Saddam the means to slaughter Shi'ites in the south and Kurds in the north - and that ultimately led to their homes being bombed in 2003?

    Then there's the share in profits Iraq was to receive from Anglo Persian Oil, which some devious accounting ensured they'd never receive.

    Why should Iraq ever trust Britain or USA again?

  • Comment number 4.

    why should ANYONE trust Britain or America again?

  • Comment number 5.

    I doubt there is much interest from british companies, most are so tied up with health and safety culture that they would never dream of looking at work like this, even if it was given to them on a plate with huge profits in the offing. The risk assessments just would not stack up..

  • Comment number 6.


    Troops in Iraq, free-marketeers in their wake, peddling their wares with Mandelson's approval. Troops on Iran's East flank in Afghanistan, soon to be increased. Regime change in Pakistan with threats to further sort them out. A bit of friction to the North late last year in Georgia with Russia making her SCO stance clear, and how long before 'Somali pirates' force the USA to station forces to Iran's South to keep the Chinese/SCO at bay there? It's currently be nice to Turkey though after Israel upset its PM over Gaza which means if Turket gets into the EU, we'll get lots more Turkish migrants.

    Not a good game for what's left of Britain I suggest, but great for Israelis at home and abroad.

  • Comment number 7.

    I share barriesingleton's (#2) distrust of Mandy. I'd rather deal with a secondhand car salesman than Lord M any day.

    AND YET, he's very good at what he does. And he's out there batting for the UK.

    Is there anyone else who could head up such a delegation as effectively ?

  • Comment number 8.


    I recently posted the suggestion that one would not hire a known pyromaniac as a baby-sitter, no matter how good their CV in the latter skill.

    Now I have to wonder, newsjock!

  • Comment number 9.



    The Monroe Doctrine is the formal written document defining The United States of Americas Sphere of Influences as the New World, the Western Hemisphere and the Cuban Crisis and embargo were (extension of politics by other means: Karl von Clausewitz) The Obama administration has already stated that it does not recognize spheres of influence, a direct reference to Russian Federation ambitions within Eurasia. Spheres of influence exist and the Imperial Media Messiah President, of the (AIE) American Israeli Empire, can choose to deny the truth at his own peril. The (BRIC), Brazil, The Russian Federation, India, The Peoples Republic of China, the German & French Axis, and the British Commonwealth all are in fact spheres of influence, and they are in fact flexing their collective muscles geo-politically-economically-militarily, and by simply choosing to not recognize the reality shows naïveté at best.

    (AIE Manager State)

    The basic idea was for the (AIE) American Israeli Empire to be the manager state over the global economics of the world with the (NYSE) New York Stock Exchange the center of economic investments and trading with other world branch markets of the (NYSE), the (IMF) International Monetary Fund, and World Bank, made up of member countries representing around (90%) Ninety-Percent of global gross nation product, (80%) eighty per-cent of world trade and (66%) Sixty-Six Percent of the world’s population is based in the (AIE) with the entire monetary system based upon the (AIE) dollar. Along with providing the base world currency, center or economic trade, the (AIE) would be the World Police Officer, drawing on military assets, provided from member countries, with no restraint upon its authority, with over (300) Three-hundred military bases, located within (130) One-hundred-thirty countries scattered around the globe, financed by the (AIE) taxpayer, and every country that holds, treasury bonds, government securities, and short term treasury bills, at a cost of (€1.14B) One-Point-Fourteen-Billion Euros per day to keep its military installations and personnel functioning not only at home, but abroad. The (AIE) would have Global Domination, as a benign Manager State. But, instead of the (AIE) benign Manager State, Global Domination, as the (AIE), divested itself of its industrial base using (NAFTA) the North American Free Trade Agreement as its vehicle of creating an industrial base of cheep labor outside the geo-military-economic center of the Global Economic System, with the power to maintain control of that state.


    Taking the short term view of it is suggested that Eastern European nations, Eurasian countries ultimately will do business with partners of their own choosing and not the Russian Federation, they will make pragmatic decisions based on their own long term development, (WHICH IS UTTER NONSENSE), faced with the reality that the (AIE) is fast failing, and the Geo-political and military power within the immediate region will once again exert dominate power, it is in the long term interests of any vassal state to work within that orbit of influence. The idea that only one item within a set will be the only one to determine what is in the national best interests of a state, is a short sighted view, the Underdeveloped countries need investment but the flagrant double standards set by the (AIE) Federal Reserve which is not bound to the harsh terms set the (IMF), International Monetary Fund and are NOT forbidden to print more cash to support internal demand, fueling inflation and undermining not only the financial stability of the (AIE) but currency of underdeveloped nations, as underdeveloped countries assets denominated in ($ Dollars), bonds, treasure notes, bonds, short term treasury bills, and government securities, devalue. And, that is why the (BRIC) countries have been selling off ($ Dollars) moving to diverse currency bases, the Pound, Euro, and National currency. The combining of the (EU) European (GDP) Gross Domestic Product with that of the (AIE) a falling economy, is based upon the Global Economic Theory and not upon the Sphere of Influence Reality. The ($ Dollar) and the (AIE) are both in decline and a new monetary system is on the horizon major investments will flow between spheres of influence not from a manger state.


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