Memos: Oil Companies Pushed Britain Over Iraq War in 2002

Trade Minister Lobbied for BP Oil Deals as 'Reward' for UK Backing War

BP (formerly British Petroleum) has made much of the earnings potential of its deals in Iraq over the past two years, but new reports from the Independent show that the company’s path to a presence in Iraq started months before the 2003 invasion.

Incredibly, leaked memos from October and November 2002 show that BP, Shell, and BG (formerly British Gas) all met with then-Trade Minister Baroness Symons, emphasizing how important the acquisition of assets in Iraq was.

Minister Symons told BP in October that it was the Blair Government’s position that British oil companies should be given a share of Iraq’s enormous oil reserves as a “reward” for Tony Blair’s outspoken support for the war. This is, it must be remembered, five months before the war began.

A November 2002 meeting involved BP apparently saying they were “desperate” to get into Iraq and were concerned that “political deals” might keep them out. At the time of the invasion, officials insisted BP had “no strategic interest” in Iraq – yet they were clearly telling the Blair government the opposite.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.