high-level corruption—are resisted or quietly ignored by the country’s ruling elite. Still others —such as its efforts to strengthen democratic institutions and the rule of law—it holds in common with foreign govern- ments and key international organizations. Yet despite these differences in levels and sources of internal and external support, most of these interests have some sort of security dimension. Indeed, it is their security implications that raise them to the level of strategic im- portance. They have grown in both number and rela- tive significance over the past few years.
To begin with, Nigeria is now one of the world’s main oil producing countries. Under the terms of its agreement with the other members of the Organiza- tion of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), it is allowed to pump up to 2.2 million barrels of oil per day. This represents around 3 percent of the total amount extracted daily worldwide, and even though it struggles to meet its quota allocation because of the everyday violence in the Delta, Nigeria remains one of Africa’s largest oil producers.6 Its importance as an en- ergy supplier is raised still further by the quality of the oil it extracts. Described by industry experts as light and sweet, it is ideally suited for refinement into motor fuels.7 Furthermore, the country’s geographic location gives it excellent access to the Atlantic sea-lanes and refineries in both the United States and Europe.
These factors alone would be sufficient to prick U.S. strategic interest, for like its allies in Europe and the rest of the world, the United States is committed to keeping the notoriously volatile global oil market as stable as possible. This means making sure that the flow of oil into it is kept open. And this task is especial- ly important at the moment, given the ongoing insta- bility in Iraq—another major oil producer—and other