To be sure, there are a couple of other important things - being the crossroads between ol' Persia and the rest of the Middle East, and having important water resources (which the neo-theo-cons will be starting wars over in 2020) but for right now, the big big big thing is the oil.
And not just Iraqi oil - it's having the troops nearby in case we need to, say, prop up the Saudis, or assist the poor struggling real-live-atrocities-as-seen-on-TV Iranian Resistance Fighters, or once again make Kuwait safe for western interests.
The total absence of oil politics in the current discussion of Iraq is one of the Big Lies of the Middle East. (The imbalance of power created by Israeli nukes is one of the other ones.) But the debate in the corporate media is like a two-legged stool. The Democrats, of course, won't bring it up if they don't have to, since so much of their party is based on the old 'multi-lateral' imperial system. This means instead of the US using it's military to wage aggressive war (that's the neo-con model) , the US and Europe and Japan get together and thug around the rest of the world, and just threaten to use military force. So when they talk about 'over the horizon' military force, about a pliant Iraqi government that can sustain and defend itself, they all mean 'we still get to call the shots on oil.'
The Iraqis know it's about their oil. From a post on the Booman Tribune:
"I love Americans but hate your military," says a college professor turned insurgent. "Americans have come here because you want our oil and because of your support of Israel. You bring democracy, but the Iraqi pays the price."The Acting President, Dick Cheney, knew it was about oil. His secret energy meetings detailed our imperial interests down to the letter. From an old post on Counterpunch:
Judicial Watch... along with the Sierra Club, had argued that both the membership of the Energy Task Force chaired by Vice-President Cheney and the proceedings of its meetings should be made public and had sought the information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) since April 19, 2001. The Vice President had vigorously opposed this opening up of its activities and so a lawsuit was filed. On March 5, 2002 the US District Judge ordered the government to produce the documents, which was finally done by the Commerce Department just recently.For a long while, I've wondered what it would be like were there to be peace plans that included an honest discussion of oil. The issue is skirted in the partition plans, when people point out that the poor middle province would not have any oil, and that you need a strong central government to ensure the oil profits are spread around. George Bush made reference to the oil a couple months ago, when he said we don't want 'the terra-rists' to control the oil. But do Murtha, or Pelosi, or any of those folks talk about it? Nope. We get the Iraq Oil Lies, is what we get.
The Judicial Watch press release states that these released documents "contain a map of Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, refineries and terminals, as well as 2 charts detailing Iraqi oil and gas projects, and "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts." The documents, which are dated March 2001, are available on the Internet at: www.JudicialWatch.org."
The press release continues: "The Saudi Arabian and United Arab Emirates (UAE) documents likewise feature a map of each country's oilfields, pipelines, refineries and tanker terminals. There are supporting charts with details of the major oil and gas development projects in each country that provide information on the projects, costs, capacity, oil company and status or completion date."