Four Western oil companies — Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total, and BP — are in the final stages of “talks with Iraq’s Oil Ministry for no-bid contracts to service Iraq’s largest fields.” The New York Times writes:
The no-bid contracts are unusual for the industry, and the offers prevailed over others by more than 40 companies, including companies in Russia, China and India [...]
There was suspicion among many in the Arab world and among parts of the American public that the United States had gone to war in Iraq precisely to secure the oil wealth these contracts seek to extract. The Bush administration has said that the war was necessary to combat terrorism. It is not clear what role the United States played in awarding the contracts; there are still American advisers to Iraq’s Oil Ministry.
These current contracts are reportedly a “foothold” in Iraq for companies striving for more lucrative, longer-term deals.