So the war is over – for the British at least. The Iraq war formally ended for British forces yesterday as British forces handed control of the oil-rich Basra area to U.S. commanders and prepared to ship out most of its remaining 4,000 troops.

The end came early, but of course the end of combat operations was really only the beginning of something else.

During a handover ceremony, the commander of Britain’s 20th Armored Brigade in Basra, said troops would continue to work with the coalition. “It does not mark the end of the U.K.’s relationship in Iraq,” said Brigadier Tom Beckett. And the reason for the continuing relationship is, of course, oil.

The war may have ended but the reason for the war – oil – has not. Britain still wants to get involved in protecting oil supplies from Iraq after its combat role there comes to an end, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced  after meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

“We hope to sign an agreement with the Iraqi government about the future role that we can play in training and in protecting the oil supplies of Iraq and that will be an agreement between our two governments rather than any new United Nations resolution,” Brown told a news conference.

Maliki was also in London to attend a conference exploring possible investment deals. It was attended by Shell amongst others. Shell and the other international oil companies need security to exploit the reserves.

Ahead of the conference, Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani told Iraq’s Al-Sharqiya TV channel that his country will need $50 billion of investment over the coming 5 years to repair and upgrade the oil industry.

The investment funds would allow Iraq to increase its oil output to 6 million b/d from its current production levels of 2.4 million b/d, while also repairing and modernizing existing production facilities and infrastructure.

In the short-term U.S. and British forces will continue to help protect the al-Basra oil terminal, which produces 80 percent of Iraq’s crude exports.

A war for oil? Surely not, but then why else are the British staying when they say the war is over?