‘Act of Terror’ if Saddam Destroys Iraq’s Oil Fields


Destruction of the oil fields truly would be an act of terror, the US Department of Defense said Friday during a briefing and graphic slide presentation with background information on Iraqi sabotage. The DoD is saying that Saddam has in the past demonstrated his intent to use terrorist kinds of tactics against his own people. And certainly using the oil fields as a hostage to the economic future of the country would be a terrorist act against his own people. It cost coalitions partners and Kuwait partners over $20 billion to recraft the oil infrastructure that was destroyed by Saddam during the Gulf War. And it’s believed that it would cost $30 (billion) to $50 billion to repair and reconstruct the Iraqi oil infrastructure.

"Currently we estimate that the potential income to the Iraqi people as a result of their oil could be somewhere in the $20 (billion) to $30 billion a year, and obviously, that’s money that is used for their well-being. That makes up about 90 or 95 percent of their foreign exchange right now in Iraq. And it’s known that the bulk of that does not go to the Iraqi people, it goes into the Saddam regime coffers.

"Some of Iraq’s northern oil fields, where there’s a very high concentration of hydrogen sulfide, burning that will cause a significant environmental and health hazard for the countries in the region and as well as the Iraqi people.

"We know from historical records that the Kuwait oil fields caused both near-term symptoms — eye irritation, dizziness, et cetera — and we are still seeing that there are long-term impacts of that that we have not yet determined the depth or extent of. We know that the World Health Organization talks about increase in death rates, but if you look at, for example, the personal injury on — of a smoker, you may not understand the impact of smoking for 10 or 15 or 25 years. The same is true for any inhaled toxin. And so we’re still understanding what has happened to the people in the region in terms of health impact from the Gulf War.

"Saddam doesn’t gain anything by destroying those fields, except to penalize his people. And we feel it’s important to preserve those fields so that there is a potential for very rapid development of the economy in Iraq if the conflict goes on and subsequent to those operations.

"The bottom line really of all this is that the oil is a natural resource to the country of Iraq. It gives them the ability to improve their own welfare. Obviously, it provides commerce, it gives them money for education, obviously, infrastructure, and it really is the future of the people in Iraq. And destruction of that would be an act of terrorism in the most significant degree."

Kathleen T. Rhem of the AFPS recently reported on how U.S. Central Command and the DoD have the ability to fight if Saddam destroyed the Iraqi oil fields, but that such an act would destroy the lives of the people in the country.

American Experts: Saddam Could Destroy Iraq’s Oil Fields

By Kathleen T. Rhem, AFPS

WASHINGTON, Jan. 24, 2003 – Iraqi troops destroyed Kuwait’s oil fields during the 1991 Gulf War, and American officials are concerned Saddam Hussein will cause even more damage in Iraq if he feels threatened enough.

Bush administration officials are quick to remind that no decision has been made on possible military action to disarm Iraq, but military planners are working up plans for every scenario. A U.S. Central Command official told reporters here today, without going into specifics, that the Defense Department is working up contingencies to try to prevent such an oil field crisis.

When Iraqi troops fled from Kuwait with American soldiers on their heels, Saddam Hussein ordered them to destroy the country’s oil fields on their way out. The economic, ecological and medical disaster this caused cost Kuwait billions of dollars to remedy. And the damage isn’t 100 percent corrected today.

The American government wants a post-Saddam Iraq to be economically viable. For this to be possible, the Iraqis need the estimated $30 billion in annual revenue they can draw from their oil fields.

The United States has credible evidence Saddam Hussein has both the means and the intent to blow up his own country’s oil fields if he is deposed. "We see this as a real potential crisis," the official said.

At the same time they were setting fire to Kuwait’s oil wells, Saddam’s troops dumped about 5 million barrels into the Persian Gulf. U.S. experts estimate the environmental impact from this to be 20 times that of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska.

Should he follow the same path in Iraq, and U.S. intelligence sources suggest he may, Hussein has the capacity to dump 2 million to 3 million barrels of oil into the Gulf per day. In just a few days, this could bring about a disaster 40 times worse than the Exxon Valdez spill.

Hussein’s sabotage in Kuwait cost the Kuwaitis roughly $20 billion to remedy. Similar actions in Iraq could cost up to $50 billion, based on the size of the two countries’ oil fields, the official said.

Medical issues are a serious concern, as well. When crude oil burns, it releases a toxic substance called hydrogen sulfide. Its ill effects resemble those of cyanide, the official said. This is specifically a problem in northern Iraq, where the oil fields naturally have a very high hydrogen sulfide content.

Short-term problems include eye and skin irritation, dizziness, and respiratory difficulties. Experts still aren’t sure how long lasting these respiratory problems can last.

World Health Organization officials believe Kuwait’s annual death rate has gone up 10 percent since the Gulf War, which they attribute to the heavy smoke and toxic chemicals in the atmosphere.

Oil spilled on the ground can contaminate ground water supplies, while oil dumped in the Gulf can put desalinization plants at risk throughout the region. In arid climates such as Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, anything that threatens water supplies can become a disaster.

The CENTCOM official said such actions would have little effect on any military actions – U.S. and coalition troops have the ability to maneuver around any hazard – or on the world’s oil supply – currently Iraq only accounts for 3 percent of the oil pumped around the world in a day.

It would, however, devastate the Iraqi economy and that county’s chances of success. The official said 95 percent of Iraq’s income comes from oil.

"The bottom line really of all this is that the oil is a natural resource to the country of Iraq," the official said. "It gives them the ability to improve their own welfare. Obviously it provides commerce. It gives them money for education (and) infrastructure, and it really is the future of the people of Iraq. And destruction of that would be an act of terrorism in the most significant degree."