Royal Dutch Shell's successful bid for the potentially highly lucrative Majnoon oil field in relatively stable southern Iraq is bound to be viewed with scepticism. Going back to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, opponents of the war painted Iraqi Freedom as a simple asset grab of a limited and declining resource by America and its coalition of allies. It is true that Shell probably wouldn't have gained access to Majnoon under the Hussein regime, though French firm Total had been in talks with Iraqi leaders about it's development in the past. It is also true that the partially British firm stands to earn a high return on its investment; otherwise it, and nearly 30 other oil companies would not have bid on the field. Finally, some followers of the process have been less than impressed with what they describe as a secretive bidding process.
However, oil is Iraq's main asset, and a valuable one at that. Many of the fields being auctioned off were not being properly developed by Iraq prior to the invasion. Additionally, technological improvements over the past decade have increased the likelihood that yields of the fields in question can be maximized. The end result of this is that Iraq will not only be able to meet its own energy needs, but also that it will produce enough surplus to become an export powerhouse to rival Russia for status as the world's second largest producer. The resulting proceeds will be critical if Iraq is to ever to develop a self-sufficient security force and viable economy and ultimately, gain control of its own affairs.
America's problem in Iraq, insurgency issues notwithstanding, has never been the military operation in and of itself, but rather the subsequent rebuilding process. Proper development of oil assets is a critical component of any plan for Iraqi reconstruction that has a chance for success. Therefore, despite faults, recent developments in the country's oil sector should be viewed positively by a nation rightly trying to regain control of its own destiny.