Dramatic new evidence has been released of high-level lobbying for Iraqi oil contracts, on behalf of oil companies BHP Billiton and Shell. New documents show that Malcolm Rifkind, the former British Foreign Secretary, lobbied Dick Cheney for Shell and BHP Billiton to obtain a major Iraq oil contract, just weeks after the 2003 invasion.

Rifkind, who was director of international strategy at BHP Billiton, made the promise when he met with oil company executives and the Australian Foreign Minister in London in May 2003. The minutes of the meeting have now been published by Australia’s Cole Inquiry into corruption in the Oil for Food Programme. The minutes can be seen here.

Greg Muttitt, a specialist in Iraqi oil policy with the London-based research group Platform argues that “these documents are the clearest evidence yet that the occupation forces are calling the shots, allowing their oil companies to take control of Iraq’s oil. The oil belongs to the Iraqi people, and it is outrageous that multinational companies should ask the US government for access to it – this is pure colonialism.”

This new information could not come at a worse time, as the US has stepped up its efforts to influence Iraqi oil policy.