Producers: Interests in Common
O ne of the first public statements from Baghdad, after the Iraq government in December 1961 produced legislation seizing 99 per cent of the concession areas of the Iraq, Basrah and Mosul oil companies, was to ask the co-operation and support of its OPEC partners. In particular, these were asked not to benefit at its expense. This came before any proposal to restrict or to cease the increase in output had been announced by the companies concerned. But it was inevitable that Iraq should remember how effective a boycott of Iranian oil had proved after nationalization in 1951, largely because the oil companies were able to step up output in other Middle East countries and Venezuela. These countries, at the first meeting of OPEC in 1960, had agreed not to benefit in this way at the expense of any fellow-member in dispute with an oil company: Iraq was now seeking implementation of this resolution, which the members had reiterated as recently as November 1961. Whether the issue would in practice openly arise in quite this way was not clear at the time this book was completed. The countries concerned would in any case be expecting a continued increase in production. The appeal to a formal organization for support showed in principle, at least, how the formation of OPEC might eventually affect all disputes between governments and oil companies. But it was also symbolic that Iraq did not attend the next OPEC meeting: it was laying claim to Kuwait, and unwilling by any co-operation to acknowledge its fellow-member's independence.
Concerted action among the people in control of the oil supplies entering into world trade is not a new idea, as we have seen in earlier chapters. Some degree of marketing co-operation between major companies, American and British, existed up to the end of the Second World War, though it was not perhaps entirely effective. That was abandoned at the end of the war, partly in response to public and governmental