Global Intrigue: The Wackiest Rig in Texas

When Bahrain's rulers awarded a high-stakes oil deal to shaky Harken Energy, were they also trying to win favors from the White House?

Few ventures in the oil industry have ever produced such a gusher of speculation. Early next month, engineers will drill a 14,000-ft. well near Jarim Reef off the island of Bahrain, a tiny Persian Gulf nation not far from the world's richest oil deposits. If the exploratory pipe hits crude, it will enrich a cast of investors that includes the Bass brothers of Texas, the Rupert family of South Africa, the Harvard University endowment fund and George W. Bush, the President's eldest son. If the well is dry, the episode will prompt shareholders to wonder why they ever put faith in...

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