Oil has been the centre of attraction and a dangerous temptation for world leaders. It has led to quite a few wars during the last century. Some of these wars brought disasters as the countries were wrecked in the process of conquering oil fields.
The Pacific war
Japan went into a war against the United States in December 1941 - famously known as the Pacific War. Oil was the immediate catalyst. Japan lacked oil production capabilities despite having an industrial economy and a large naval and air force.
They destroyed the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor and took control of the Asian oil fields. However, it did not solve Japan's oil problem.
The Japanese badly mismanaged their limited resources of oil, and Japanese tankers were not adequate to bring back the oil tankers to Japan. The last tanker from Southeast Asia reached Japan in March 1945.
Attacking the US ultimately brought destruction in the form of two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities – Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6, 1945, and August 9, 1945, respectively.
The Tanker War
Iraq wanted to seize control of the rich, oil-producing Iranian border region of Khūzestān, and this is how the eight-year long Tanker War started. However, Iraq began attacking Iranian oil facilities and vessels in 1984.
Both nations afterwards engaged in air and missile attacks against each other, destroying cities and oil installations. They also attacked each other's oil tanker shipped in the Persian Gulf, and a total of 450 ships were destroyed from both sides.
The war also led the US into direct hostilities with Iran as Iran destroyed an American destroyer named USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58). The US then hit back and destroyed Iranian ships and naval facilities. Though the Tanker War ended in 1988, the hostility kept growing and continues to date.
Iraq's Invasion of Kuwait
Saddam Hussein invaded neighboring oil-rich Kuwait in August 1990. Iraq's invasion of Kuwait was largely motivated by its desire to seize Kuwait's vast oil reserves.
In early 1990, Iraq accused Kuwait of stealing USD2.4 billion worth of Iraqi oil through slant drilling from the Rumaila Oil Field. Also, Iraq was bothered by Kuwait's overproduction of oil.
According to JOC, by the eve of the Iraqi invasion, Kuwait had set production quotas to almost 1.9 million barrels per day, exceeding their quota of 1.5 million barrels a day. This coincided with a sharp drop in the price of oil.
The UN instantly gave Iraq an ultimatum to withdraw their troops from Kuwait, but Saddam refused. The US, with the help of the UK, deployed 500,000 US troops in Saudi Arabia and urged other countries to do the same. This ultimately led to the famous Gulf War and the devastation of the Iraqi military power.
Iraq eventually left Kuwait. According to NASA, before withdrawing their forces, Iraq set fire to over 650 Kuwaiti oil wells and damaged almost 75 more.
This led to less oil production and resulted in a sudden price hike of crude oil. According to Econlib, the average monthly price of oil suddenly rose from USD17 per barrel in July to USD40 per barrel in October.
According to history.com, The Gulf war saw around 50 thousands Iraqi and more than 4,000 Kuwaitis being killed. 110 Iraqi aircrafts were destroyed while 19 ships were sunk and six were damaged. Kuwait, too, lost 57 aircrafts and saw 17 ships being sunk.
It is a matter of debate whether the US was motivated by oil. But anyone would hardly believe that the US would deploy half a million troops anywhere else, had it been any other country invading its neighboring one.
And the presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia ultimately helped spur the rise of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.
The 2003 US-Iraq War
For the US, the 2003 US-Iraq War was driven by a number of reasons, one of which was oil.
"Of course it's about oil; we can't really deny that," said General John Abizaid, the former head of the US Central Command and Military Operations in Iraq, in 2007.
As reported by CNN, the former US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in 2007: "People say we're not fighting for oil. Of course we are."
Iraq's domestic oil industry, which was fully nationalised and closed to Western oil companies, is now largely dominated by foreign firms.
West's largest oil companies have an open shop there, and they are reaping massive profits by exploring and producing oil from some of the world's largest oil fields in Iraq.
Thousands of Iraqis died during the war, causing massive destruction in Iraq and regional instability to a weakened world economy. This also destroyed Iraq's cultural heritage and exposed it to the looters.