VIENNA, March 8 (UPI) — If the looming war on Iraq was structured purely as a business initiative, would you invest in it? Would it be a financially-viable business venture? What would its assets and liabilities entail? And what would be the likely risks from an investment perspective?
For starters, the corporation, let’s call it War on Iraq Inc., would enter the market with huge assets. It is backed, after all, by the Treasury of the United States of America, the Bank of England, Kuwait’s ruling al-Sabah family and their petro-dollars, the emir of Qatar and a few other mega-businesses in corporate America such as Exxon, Mobil Oil, Northrup Aviation, Boeing and Raytheon — the makers of Patriot missiles — and others.How could it go awry, you could well ask? Fair enough, but what are the liabilities involved in such a joint venture?
Well, two of the corporation’s largest assets, oil and stability, risk being lost to sabotage and internal dissent. One of the principals in the venture, Iraq, has a prior history of destroying oil fields, as it did in 1992 in Kuwait, which can affect the future earnings of the corporation. Not to mention the ill effects such an act would have on the ecology, which would cost millions of dollars, and could take years to clean up.Furthermore, according to some energy analysts, the price of oil, currently hovering around $35 per barrel, could shoot up beyond $50.If such a thing were to occur, the corporation would likely lose some of its principal collateral, and investors would stand to lose much of their investments.
Let’s look at some of the assets and liabilities.
Asset: Liberating a land from tyranny and installing a democracy friendly to big business.
Liability: If one was to judge by prior and similar types of ventures, such as Desert Storm Ltd., a principal was indeed liberated from a very hostile takeover, but democracy has yet to materialize. Kuwait still has not implemented all the steps it promised to take after liberation. Women, for example, still have no voice in running the government.
Asset: In the northern part of the corporation lives a people yearning to enjoy a free market economy, yet the company’s history, again, shows this has failed to materialize, and that Free Kurdistan Inc. time and again, has failed to win approval of all board members.
Asset: A liberated Free Iraq Inc., would offer enormous business opportunities to investors. Companies such as Coca Cola, Nike, MacDonald’s and the Intel Corp. would do brisk business in a country such as Iraq, once it becomes democratized.
Liability: The country has no prior record or experience in dealing with democracy, nor do any of its neighbors for that matter. The dangers of the investors being forced to remain in-country, and hands-on for an extended period of time in order to guarantee their initial investment could outweigh the investment cost/return factor.
Asset: Removing potential weapons of mass destruction from the hands of a fanatic dictator with a prior history of attempting hostile takeovers.
Liability: Initiating a potential new wave of terrorism on the investors. Certain individuals opposed to the concept of War on Iraq Inc., such as Fanatical Islam Ltd., could unleash a counter program aimed at disrupting War on Iraq Inc.’s business plans. Attacks similar to, or even surpassing those of Sept. 11, 2001, could occur with devastating effect on the economies of participant member countries.
Bottom line: If you had to invest your savings and/or risk your company’s investments in such a hazardous venture, what would your vote be?
From a business perspective, it is indeed a difficult call. The White House and the Pentagon — two of the majority shareholders — refuse to divulge the complete business plan, or even put forward financial estimates for the venture. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, in fact the chief operating officer in the War on Iraq Inc. project, refuses to advance figures. Says Rumsfeld, “The cost of the war is impossible to predict due to a number of variables.”
In fact, there is still no properly formulated business plan for the post hostile takeover period. It remains unclear if local directors will be identified to replace the current proprietor, or if War on Iraq Inc. plans to name a director from outside the company’s norms and customs.
Then, there is always the risk of the company’s breakup into several smaller competing corporations. For example, the Shiites in the South & Co. do battle with the Sunnis in the Middle Corp., while Kurds in the North Ltd. try to establish a rival corporation using some of the oil assets as operating funds. A move to establish itself as an independent entity by the Kurds in the North Ltd., would be negatively received by neighboring Turkey, who could attempt a hostile takeover of its own.
In short, all this could lead to a huge plunge in the corporation’s stocks and end up with unforeseen problems for its shareholders.
For more information, write to:
War on Iraq Inc.
G. W. Bush, chairman and chief executive officer
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Saddam Hussein, proprietor (temporary)
One of 16 Presidential Palaces
(Claude Salhani is a senior editor at United Press International)