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Colonizing Iraq: The Obama Doctrine? July 9, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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Published on Thursday, July 9, 2009 by TomDispatch.com by Michael Schwartz
Here’s how reporters Steven Lee Myers and Marc Santora of the New York Times described the highly touted American withdrawal from Iraq’s cities last week:

“Much of the complicated work of dismantling and removing millions of dollars of equipment from the combat outposts in the city has been done during the dark of night. Gen. Ray Odierno, the overall American commander in Iraq, has ordered that an increasing number of basic operations — transport and re-supply convoys, for example — take place at night, when fewer Iraqis are likely to see that the American withdrawal is not total.”

Acting in the dark of night, in fact, seems to catch the nature of American plans for Iraq in a particularly striking way. Last week, despite the death of Michael Jackson, Iraq made it back into the TV news as Iraqis celebrated a highly publicized American military withdrawal from their cities. Fireworks went off; some Iraqis gathered to dance and cheer; the first military parade since Saddam Hussein’s day took place (in the fortified Green Zone, the country’s ordinary streets still being too dangerous for such things); the U.S. handed back many small bases and outposts; and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki proclaimed a national holiday — “sovereignty day,” he called it.

All of this fit with a script promisingly laid out by President Barack Obama in his 2008 presidential campaign. More recently, in his much praised speech to the students of Egypt’s Cairo University, he promised that the U.S. would keep no bases in Iraq, and would indeed withdraw its military forces from the country by the end of 2011.

Unfortunately, not just for the Iraqis, but for the American public, it’s what’s happening in “the dark” — beyond the glare of lights and TV cameras — that counts. While many critics of the Iraq War have been willing to cut the Obama administration some slack as its foreign policy team and the U.S. military gear up for that definitive withdrawal, something else — something more unsettling — appears to be going on.

And it wasn’t just the president’s hedging over withdrawing American “combat” troops from Iraq – which, in any case, make up as few as one-third of the 130,000 U.S. forces still in the country — now extended from 16 to 19 months. Nor was it the re-labeling of some of them as “advisors” so they could, in fact, stay in the vacated cities, or the redrawing of the boundary lines of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, to exclude a couple of key bases the Americans weren’t about to give up.

After all, there can be no question that the Obama administration’s policy is indeed to reduce what the Pentagon might call the U.S. military “footprint” in Iraq. To put it another way, Obama’s key officials seem to be opting not for blunt-edged, Bush-style militarism, but for what might be thought of as an administrative push in Iraq, what Vice President Joe Biden has called “a much more aggressive program vis-à-vis the Iraqi government to push it to political reconciliation.”

An anonymous senior State Department official described this new “dark of night” policy recently to Christian Science Monitor reporter Jane Arraf this way: “One of the challenges of that new relationship is how the U.S. can continue to wield influence on key decisions without being seen to do so.”

Without being seen to do so. On this General Odierno and the unnamed official are in agreement. And so, it seems, is Washington. As a result, the crucial thing you can say about the Obama administration’s military and civilian planning so far is this: ignore the headlines, the fireworks, and the briefly cheering crowds of Iraqis on your TV screen. Put all that talk of withdrawal aside for a moment and — if you take a closer look, letting your eyes adjust to the darkness — what is vaguely visible is the silhouette of a new American posture in Iraq. Think of it as the Obama Doctrine. And what it doesn’t look like is the posture of an occupying power preparing to close up shop and head for home.

As your eyes grow accustomed to the darkness, you begin to identify a deepening effort to ensure that Iraq remains a U.S. client state, or, as General Odierno described it to the press on June 30th, “a long-term partner with the United States in the Middle East.” Whether Obama’s national security team can succeed in this is certainly an open question, but, on a first hard look, what seems to be coming into focus shouldn’t be too unfamiliar to students of history. Once upon a time, it used to have a name: colonialism.

Colonialism in Iraq

Traditional colonialism was characterized by three features: ultimate decision-making rested with the occupying power instead of the indigenous client government; the personnel of the colonial administration were governed by different laws and institutions than the colonial population; and the local political economy was shaped to serve the interests of the occupying power. All the features of classic colonialism took shape in the Bush years in Iraq and are now, as far as we can tell, being continued, in some cases even strengthened, in the early months of the Obama era.

The U.S. embassy in Iraq, built by the Bush administration to the tune of $740 million, is by far the largest in the world. It is now populated by more than 1,000 administrators, technicians, and professionals — diplomatic, military, intelligence, and otherwise — though all are regularly, if euphemistically, referred to as “diplomats” in official statements and in the media. This level of staffing — 1,000 administrators for a country of perhaps 30 million — is well above the classic norm for imperial control. Back in the early twentieth century, for instance, Great Britain utilized fewer officials to rule a population of 300 million in its Indian Raj.

Such a concentration of foreign officialdom in such a gigantic regional command center — and no downsizing or withdrawals are yet apparent there — certainly signals Washington’s larger imperial design: to have sufficient administrative labor power on hand to ensure that American advisors remain significantly embedded in Iraqi political decision-making, in its military, and in the key ministries of its (oil-dominated) economy.

From the first moments of the occupation of Iraq, U.S. officials have been sitting in the offices of Iraqi politicians and bureaucrats, providing guidelines, training decision-makers, and brokering domestic disputes. As a consequence, Americans have been involved, directly or indirectly, in virtually all significant government decision-making.

In a recent article, for example, the New York Times reported that U.S. officials are “quietly lobbying” to cancel a mandated nationwide referendum on the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) negotiated between the United States and Iraq — a referendum that, if defeated, would at least theoretically force the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from the country. In another article, the Times reported that embassy officials have “sometimes stepped in to broker peace between warring blocs” in the Iraqi Parliament. In yet another, the military newspaper Stars and Stripes mentioned in passing that an embassy official “advises Iraqis running the $100 million airport” just completed in Najaf. And so it goes.

Segregated Living

Most colonial regimes erect systems in which foreigners involved in occupation duties are served (and disciplined) by an institutional structure separate from the one that governs the indigenous population. In Iraq, the U.S. has been building such a structure since 2003, and the Obama administration shows every sign of extending it.

As in all embassies around the world, U.S. embassy officials are not subject to the laws of the host country. The difference is that, in Iraq, they are not simply stamping visas and the like, but engaged in crucial projects involving them in myriad aspects of daily life and governance, although as an essentially separate caste within Iraqi society. Military personnel are part of this segregated structure: the recently signed SOFA insures that American soldiers will remain virtually untouchable by Iraqi law, even if they kill innocent civilians.

Versions of this immunity extend to everyone associated with the occupation. Private security, construction, and commercial contractors employed by occupation forces are not protected by the SOFA agreement, but are nonetheless shielded from the laws and regulations that apply to normal Iraqi residents. As an Iraq-based FBI official told the New York Times, the obligations of contractors are defined by “new arrangements between Iraq and the United States governing contractors’ legal status.” In a recent case in which five employees of one U.S. contractor were charged with killing another contractor, the case was jointly investigated by Iraqi police and “local representatives of the FBI,” with ultimate jurisdiction negotiated by Iraqi and U.S. embassy officials. The FBI has established a substantial presence in Iraq to carry out these “new arrangements.”

This special handling extends to enterprises servicing the billions of dollars spent every month in Iraq on U.S. contracts. A contractor’s prime responsibility is to follow “guidelines the U.S. military handed down in 2006.” In all this, Iraqi law has a distinctly secondary role. In one apparently typical case, a Kuwaiti contractor hired to feed U.S. soldiers was accused of imprisoning its foreign workers and then, when they protested, sending them home without pay. This case was handled by U.S. officials, not the Iraqi government.

Beyond this legal segregation, the U.S. has also been erecting a segregated infrastructure within Iraq. Most embassies and military bases around the world rely on the host country for food, electricity, water, communications, and daily supplies. Not the U.S. embassy or the five major bases that are at the heart of the American military presence in that country. They all have their own electrical generating and water purification systems, their own dedicated communications, and imported food from outside the country. None, naturally, offer indigenous Iraqi cuisine; the embassy imports ingredients suitable for reasonably upscale American restaurants, and the military bases feature American fast food and chain restaurant fare.

The United States has even created the rudiments of its own transportation system. Iraqis often are delayed when traveling within or between cities, thanks to an occupation-created (and now often Iraqi-manned) maze of checkpoints, cement barriers, and bombed-out streets and roads; on the other hand, U.S. soldiers and officials in certain areas can move around more quickly, thanks to special privileges and segregated facilities.

In the early years of the occupation, large military convoys transporting supplies or soldiers simply took temporary possession of Iraqi highways and streets. Iraqis who didn’t quickly get out of the way were threatened with lethal firepower. To negotiate sometimes hours-long lines at checkpoints, Americans were given special ID cards that “guaranteed swift passage… in a separate lane past waiting Iraqis.” Though the guaranteed “swift passage” was supposed to end with the signing of the SOFA, the system is still operating at many checkpoints, and convoys continue to roar through Iraqi communities with “Iraqi drivers still pulling over en masse.”

Recently, the occupation has also been appropriating various streets and roads for its exclusive use (an idea that may have been borrowed from Israel’s 40-year-old occupation of the West Bank). This innovation has made unconvoyed transportation safer for embassy officials, contractors, and military personnel, while degrading further the Iraqi road system, already in a state of disrepair, by closing useable thoroughfares. Paradoxically, it has also allowed insurgents to plant roadside bombs with the assurance of targeting only foreigners. Such an incident outside Falluja illustrates what have now become Obama-era policies in Iraq:

 

“The Americans were driving along a road used exclusively by the American military and reconstruction teams when a bomb, which local Iraqi security officials described as an improvised explosive device, went off. No Iraqi vehicles, even those of the army and the police, are allowed to use the road where the attack occurred, according to residents. There is a checkpoint only 200 yards from the site of the attack to prevent unauthorized vehicles, the residents said.”

It is unclear whether this road will be handed back to the Iraqis, if and when the base it services is shuttered. Either way, the larger policy appears to be well established — the designation of segregated roads to accommodate the 1,000 diplomats and tens of thousands of soldiers and contractors who implement their policies. And this is only one aspect of a dedicated infrastructure designed to facilitate ongoing U.S. involvement in developing, implementing, and administering political-economic policies in Iraq.

Whose Military Is It?

One way to “free up” the American military for withdrawal would, of course, be if the Iraqi military could manage the pacification mission alone. But don’t expect that any time soon. According to media reports, if all goes well, this isn’t likely to occur for at least a decade. One telltale sign of this is the pervasive presence of American military advisors still embedded in Iraqi combat units. First Lt. Matthew Liebal, for example, “sits every day beside Lt. Col Mohammed Hadi,” the commander of the Iraqi 43rd Army Brigade that patrols eastern Baghdad.

When it comes to the Iraqi military, this sort of supervision won’t be temporary. After all, the military the U.S. helped create in Iraq still lacks, among other things, significant logistical capability, heavy artillery, and an air force. Consequently, U.S. forces transport and re-supply Iraqi troops, position and fire high-caliber ordnance, and supply air support when needed. Since the U.S. military is unwilling to allow Iraqi officers to command American soldiers, they obviously can’t make decisions about firing artillery, launching and directing U.S. Air Force planes, or sending U.S. logistical personnel into war zones. All major Iraqi missions are, then, fated to be accompanied by U.S. advisors and support personnel for an unknown period to come.

The Iraqi military is not expected to get a wing of modern jet fighters (or have the trained pilots to fly them) until at least 2015. This means that, wherever U.S. air power might be stationed, including the massive air base at Balad north of Baghdad, it will, in effect, be the Iraqi air force for the foreseeable future.

Even the simplest policing functions of the military might prove problematic without the American presence. Typically, when an Iraqi battalion commander was asked by New York Times reporter Steven Lee Myers “whether he needed American backup for a criminal arrest, he replied simply, ‘Of course.’” John Snell, an Australian advisor to the U.S. military, was just as blunt, telling an Agence France Presse reporter that, if the United States withdrew its troops, the Iraqi military “would rapidly disintegrate.”

In a World Policy Journal article last winter, John A. Nagl, a military expert and former advisor to General David Petraeus, expressed a commonly held opinion that an independent Iraqi military is likely to be at least a decade away.

Whose Economy Is It?

Terry Barnich, a victim of the previously discussed Falluja roadside bombing, personified the economic embeddedness of the occupation. As the U.S. State Department’s Deputy Director of the Iraq Transition Assistance Office and the top adviser to Iraq’s Electricity Minister, when he died he was “returning from an inspection of a wastewater treatment plant being built in Falluja.”

His dual role as a high official in the policy-making process and the “top advisor” to one of Iraq’s major infrastructural ministries catches the continuing U.S. posture toward Iraq in the early months of the Obama era. Iraq remains, however reluctantly, a client government; significant aspects of ultimate decision-making power still reside with the occupation forces. Note, by the way, that Barnich was evidently not even traveling with Iraqi officials.

The intrusive presence of the Baghdad embassy extends to the all-important oil industry, which today provides 95% of the government’s funds. When it comes to energy, the occupation has long sought to shape policy and transfer operational responsibility from Iraqi state-owned enterprises of the Saddam Hussein years to major international oil companies. In one of its most successful efforts, in 2004, the U.S. delivered an exclusive $1.2 billion contract to reconstruct Iraq’s decrepit southern oil transport facilities (which handle 80% of its oil flow) to KBR, the notorious former subsidiary of Halliburton. Supervision of that famously mismanaged contract, still uncompleted five years later, was allocated to the U.S. Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

The Iraqi government, in fact, still exerts remarkably little control over “Iraqi” oil revenues. The Development Fund for Iraq (whose revenues are deposited in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York) was established under U.N. auspices just after the invasion and receives 95% of the proceeds from Iraq’s oil sales. All government withdrawals are then overseen by the U.N.-sanctioned International Advisory and Monitoring Board, a U.S.-appointed panel of experts drawn mainly from the global oil and financial industries. The transfer of this oversight function to an Iraqi-appointed body, which was supposed to take place in this January, has been delayed by the Obama administration, which claims that the Iraqi government is not yet ready to take on such a responsibility.

In the meantime, the campaign to transfer administration of core oil operations to the major oil companies continues. Despite the resistance of Iraqi oil workers, the administrators of the two national oil companies, a majority bloc in parliament, and public opinion, the U.S. has continued to pressure the al-Maliki administration to enact an oil law that would mandate licensing devices called production-sharing agreements (PSAs).

If enacted, these PSAs would, without transferring permanent ownership, grant oil companies effective control over Iraq’s oil fields, giving them full discretion to exploit the country’s oil reserves from exploration to sales. U.S. pressure has ranged from ongoing “advice” delivered by American officials stationed in relevant Iraqi ministries to threats to confiscate some or all of the oil monies deposited in the Development Fund.

At the moment, the Iraqi government is attempting to take a more limited step: auctioning management contracts to international oil companies in an effort to increase production at eight existing oil and natural gas fields. While the winning companies would not gain the full discretion to explore, produce, and sell in some of the world’s potentially richest fields, they would at least gain some administrative control over upgrading equipment and extracting oil, possibly for as long as 20 years.

If the auction proves ultimately successful (not at all a certainty, since the first round produced only one as-yet-unsigned agreement), the Iraqi oil industry would become more deeply embedded in the occupation apparatus, no matter what officially happens to American forces in that country. Among other things, the American embassy would almost certainly be responsible for inspecting and guiding the work of the contract-winners, while the U.S. military and private contractors would become guarantors of their on-the-ground security. Fayed al-Nema, the CEO of the South Oil Company, spoke for most of the opponents of such deals when he told Reuters reporter Ahmed Rasheed that the contracts, if approved, would “put the Iraqi economy in chains and shackle its independence for the next 20 years.”

Who Owns Iraq?

In 2007, Alan Greenspan, former head of the Federal Reserve, told Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward that “taking Saddam out was essential” — a point he made in his book The Age of Turbulence — because the United States could not afford to be “beholden to potentially unfriendly sources of oil and gas” in Iraq. It’s exactly that sort of thinking that’s still operating in U.S. policy circles: the 2008 National Defense Strategy, for example, calls for the use of American military power to maintain “access to and flow of energy resources vital to the world economy.”

After only five months in office, the Obama administration has already provided significant evidence that, like its predecessor, it remains committed to maintaining that “access to and flow of energy resources” in Iraq, even as it places its major military bet on winning the expanding war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. There can be no question that Washington is now engaged in an effort to significantly reduce its military footprint in Iraq, but without, if all goes well for Washington, reducing its influence.

What this looks like is an attempted twenty-first-century version of colonial domination, possibly on the cheap, as resources are transferred to the Eastern wing of the Greater Middle East. There is, of course, no more a guarantee that this new strategy — perhaps best thought of as colonialism lite or the Obama Doctrine — will succeed than there was for the many failed military-first offensives undertaken by the Bush administration. After all, in the unsettled, still violent atmosphere of Iraq, even the major oil companies have hesitated to rush in and the auctioning of oil contracts has begun to look uncertain, even as other “civilian” initiatives remain, at best, incomplete.

As the Obama administration comes face-to-face with the reality of trying fulfill General Odierno’s ambition of making Iraq into “a long-term partner with the United States in the Middle East” while fighting a major counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan, it may also encounter a familiar dilemma faced by nineteenth-century colonial powers: that without the application of overwhelming military force, the intended colony may drift away toward sovereign independence. If so, then the dreary prediction of Pulitzer Prize-winning military correspondent Thomas Ricks — that the United States is only “halfway through this war” — may prove all too accurate.

Copyright 2009 Michael Schwartz

A professor of sociology at Stony Brook State University, Michael Schwartz is the author of War Without End: The Iraq War in Context (Haymarket Books), which explains how the militarized geopolitics of oil led the U.S. to dismantle the Iraqi state and economy while fueling a sectarian civil war. Schwartz’s work on Iraq has appeared in numerous academic and popular outlets. He is a regular at TomDispatch.com. (An audio interview with him on the situation in Iraq is available by clicking here.) His email address is ms42@optonline.net.

ANSWER Coalition Responds to President Obama’s Iraq Speech of Friday, February 27 February 27, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Iraq and Afghanistan, Peace, War.
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With his speech today, President Obama has essentially agreed to continue the criminal occupation of Iraq indefinitely. He announced that there will be an occupation force of 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq for at least three more years. President Obama used carefully chosen words to avoid a firm commitment to remove the 50,000 occupation troops, even after 2011.

The war in Iraq was illegal. It was aggression. It was based on lies and false rationales. President Obama’s speech today made Bush’s invasion sound like a liberating act and congratulated the troops for “getting the job done.” More than a million Iraqis died and a cruel civil war was set into motion because of the foreign invasion. President Obama did not once criticize the invasion itself.

He has also requested an increase in war spending for Iraq and Afghanistan, and plans to double the number of U.S. troops sent to fight in Afghanistan.

President Obama has asked Congress to provide more than $200 billion for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars over the next two years, in addition to increasing the Pentagon budget by four percent.

Based on President Obama’s new budget, the Pentagon would rank as the world’s 17th largest economy—if it were a country. This new budget increases war spending. Total spending in 2010 would roughly equate to an average of $21,000 a second.

This is not the end of the occupation of Iraq, but rather the continuation of the occupation.

There is only one reason that tens of thousands of troops will remain in Iraq: It is because this is a colonial-type occupation of a strategically important and oil-rich country located in the Middle East where two-thirds of the world’s oil reserve can be found.

Obama’s speech was a major disappointment for anyone who was hoping that Obama would renounce the illegal occupation of Iraq. Today, the U.S. government spends $480 million per day to fund the occupation of Iraq. Even if 100,000 troops are drawn out by August 2010, that means the indefinite occupation of Iraq will cost more than $100 million each day. The continued occupation of Iraq for two years or three years or more makes a complete mockery out of the idea that the Iraqi people control their own destiny. It is a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and independence.

It is no wonder that John McCain came out to support President Obama’s announced plan on Iraq. McCain was an supporter of former President Bush’s and Vice President Cheney’s war and occupation in Iraq.

Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld—the architects of regime change in Iraq—never had the goal of indefinitely keeping 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. They wanted to subdue the Iraqi people and exercise control with a smaller force. The Iraqi armed resistance prolonged the stationing of 150,000 U.S. troops.

Bush’s goal was domination over Iraq and its oil supplies, and domination over the region. This continues to be the goal of the U.S. political and economic establishment, including that of the new administration.

President Obama decided not to challenge the fundamental strategic orientation. That explains why he kept the Bush team—Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Generals Petraeus and Odierno—on the job to oversee and manage the Iraq occupation. They will also manage the widening U.S. war in Afghanistan and the aerial assaults on Pakistan. There have been over 30 U.S. bombing attacks in Pakistan in the last two months.

We are marching on Saturday, March 21 because the people of this country are fed up with the status quo. They want decent-paying jobs, and affordable health care and housing for all. Students want to study rather than be driven out by soaring tuition rates. The majority of people want a complete—not partial—withdrawal of ALL troops from Iraq. They want the war in Afghanistan to end rather than escalate. They are increasingly opposed to sending $2.6 billion each year to Israel and want an end to the colonial occupation of Palestine.
Don’t miss the important announcement about the

Dramatic Action Planned for the March 21st Pentagon

March:

On March 21, 2009, March on the Pentagon
and the Corporate War Profiteers

Get Involved

Go to http://www.pentagonmarch.org for more information.

In Final Days, Bush Pushes for Iraq’s Oil November 11, 2008

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by: Maya Schenwar, t r u t h o u t | Report

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Many Iraqis fear that the Bush administration’s last-ditch efforts to gain control of their oil will leave their resources in the hands of the US for decades to come. (Photo: Nabil al-Jurani / AP)

   

 

 As the Bush administration rumbles to an end, it is pushing with increasing urgency for a commitment to a long-term US presence in Iraq. Though the military aspect of this “commitment” has garnered substantial publicity, the administration is equally invested in the economic aspect: securing US control over Iraqi oil before Bush leaves office, according to experts in the field.

    A leaked version of the US-Iraq status-of-forces agreement (SOFA), supplied and translated for Truthout by American Friends Service Committee Iraq consultant Raed Jarrar, states that the US will indefinitely “continue to protect Iraq’s natural resources of gas and oil and protect Iraq’s foreign financial and economic assets.”

    According to Jarrar, the Bush administration and the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki are in basic agreement on the SOFA, probably because an American presence in Iraq would keep Maliki in power. However, the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi Parliament and the Iraqi people oppose the pact and reject US control over Iraq’s resources.

    In October, just as the Bush and Maliki administrations were attempting to finalize the SOFA’s terms – under the wary gaze of Parliament – the Iraqi cabinet dropped another big one in Parliament’s lap: the Iraq oil law. The law would set the rules for foreign investment in Iraq’s oil industry, and determine how oil revenues are shared within Iraq. Many in Parliament say both the SOFA and the oil law would prolong the US occupation, allowing American control over both its people and its resources. Parliament will debate the oil law this week.

    Cleric Hashim al-Ta’i, of the Iraqi Islamic Party, captured the sentiments of many in a late October sermon on the Baghdad Satellite Channel, saying, “There is a unanimous Iraqi voice which says: No to an agreement that consolidates the occupation and prolongs its life; no to an agreement that consolidates sectarianism and racism and fragments the country into groups and cantons; no to an agreement that mortgages the country and its resources for many decades.”

    However, that unified voice clashes with another, very powerful voice in Iraq: American and British oil companies, which share the interests of the Bush team, according to Antonia Juhasz, a fellow with both the Institute for Policy Studies and Oil Change International.

    “US and British oil companies and the Bush administration have been circling their wagons in Iraq over the last few months to bring both the SOFA and the Iraq oil law to a conclusion before Bush’s term in office officially comes to a close,” Juhasz told Truthout. “The Bush administration, US oil companies and the al-Maliki government are all on the same timeline for trying to lock in the continued presence of the US military in Iraq, which is the al-Maliki government’s only hope of holding on to power – and US oil corporations’ only hope of securing their long-sought control over Iraqi oil.”

    The large oil companies seek long-term contracts that would give them control over much of Iraq’s oil and oil production, according to Juhasz. Although Kurdistan has entered into several contracts with foreign oil companies, Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein Al Shahristani declared that any contract signed before the passage of the oil law is void.

    In addition to pushing the international SOFA and Iraq’s oil law, the Bush administration is attempting to unilaterally carve a place in US law for a takeover of Iraqi oil, according to Jim Fine, legislative secretary for foreign policy for the Friends Committee on National Legislation. In a signing statement tacked on to the 2009 Defense Authorization Bill, Bush excused himself from a provision intended to rein in US power of Iraq’s oil.

    The statement – if one accepts it as authoritative – would allow Bush to use defense funds “to exercise United States control of the oil resources of Iraq.” Bush wrote that prohibiting such a use of funds “purport(s) to impose requirements that could inhibit the president’s ability to carry out his constitutional obligations.”

    Experts view this latest expansion of Bush’s powers in Iraq as a kind of rush to the finish line: an attempt to accomplish as many of the administration’s oil-control goals before it steps down and the Obama administration – which may well have different ideas – steps up. Bush’s signing statement could forebode a weighty US push for Iraq’s oil in the next two months, whether or not the SOFA passes, according to Fine.

    “The signing statement is in effect a corollary to the Bush doctrine of preventive warfare, which he is now extending to military action to seize control of natural resources in a foreign country,” Fine told Truthout. “The logic of the signing statement is inescapable and extremely dangerous. Absent repudiation by a future president, this and other authorities that President Bush has asserted in signing statements constitute a foundation for draconian unilateral action by the US.”

    However, the US’s next president seems to have a very different interpretation of the US’s relationship to Iraq’s oil. In fact, Juhasz took the title of her book, “The Tyranny of Oil,” from a line in President-elect Barack Obama’s Iowa Caucus victory speech. Obama emphasized his hopes for a transition away from oil and toward sustainable energy sources throughout his campaign. He has also promised a drawdown of troops in Iraq.

    The next two months will measure just how far President Bush is willing to go to fulfill the objectives that, many say, underlie his occupation of Iraq. Erik Leaver, Foreign Policy in Focus’s policy outreach director, says that the administration’s last-ditch efforts – the signing statements, the SOFA, the oil law pressure – demonstrate that Bush has not taken his eye off Iraqi oil.

    “Although Bush has verbally assured the Iraqi people that we are not occupying their country for oil, the actions of the United States indicate otherwise,” Leaver told Truthout. “The language calling for the protection of Iraq’s oil resources in the long term agreement between Iraq and the US is another strong indication of what the US intent is inside of Iraq – gaining long-term access to Iraq’s oil.”

Bush Iraq Puppet Maliki Rebels October 25, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in George W. Bush, Iraq and Afghanistan.
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by: Roy Gutman, McClatchy Newspapers

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In demonstrations in Baghdad last week, Shiite Iraqis protested against a proposed US-Iraq security agreement. Lawmakers say that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki will not sign the agreement. (Photo: Getty Images)

    Baghdad – Fearing political division in the parliament and in his country, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki won’t sign the just-completed agreement on the status of U.S. forces in Iraq, a leading lawmaker said Friday.

    The new accord’s demise would be a major setback for the Bush administration, which has been seeking to establish a legal basis for the extended presence of the 151,000 U.S. troops in this country, and for Iraq, which won notable concessions in the draft accord reached a week ago.

    “No, he will not” submit the agreement to the parliament, Sheikh Jalal al Din al Sagheer, the deputy head of the Shiite Muslim Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, told McClatchy. “For this matter, we need national consensus.”

    Instead, Sagheer said, Iraq’s political leaders are considering seeking an extension of the United Nations mandate for the presence of U.S. troops, which will expire on Dec. 31. Russia, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, has assured Iraq that it wouldn’t veto an extension, he said, adding that one was likely to last between six months and a year.

    Ali al Adeeb, the chief of staff of Maliki’s Dawa party, said Wednesday that the Iraqi parliament “cannot approve this pact in its current form.”

    Top U.S. military officials have warned of serious consequences if the agreement isn’t signed. Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said earlier this week that Iraq’s forces “will not be ready to provide for their security” after the current U.N. mandate runs out. “And in that regard there is great potential for losses of significant consequence,” Mullen said.

    Army Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, told USA Today: “Without (a security agreement), we would potentially have to cease all operations.”

    Iraqis, however, are adamant that the accord must be open to further amendments if they’re to approve it.

    “The problem is that when we were given the latest draft, we were told the American negotiators will accept no amendments to it, and the Iraqi government has more requirements,” said Sagheer, an Islamic cleric who later led the Friday prayers broadcast on national television.

    He said that Maliki had come to the Political Council for National Security, a top decision-making body, and said the new accord was the best he could obtain, but it didn’t include everything that Iraq wanted.

    If Maliki signed the accord and turned it over to the parliament, “I’m sure that the agreement will not be approved for 10 years,” Sagheer said.

    The cleric said the draft accord was “good, in general,” but its timing was bad. If an Iraqi negotiator accepted the agreement, “he will be taken as an agent for the Americans,” and if he were to reject it, “he will be taken for an agent for Iran.”

    A second factor is that the accord comes just before the U.S. elections, and an Iraqi negotiator had to ask whether it was best to negotiate with the lame-duck Bush administration or wait for its successor. More important, Sagheer said, are the approaching provincial elections in Iraq, which could be held early next year.

    “Iraqi politicians don’t want to give their competitors the chance to use this agreement to destroy them,” he said.

    The accord contains a number of American concessions, calling for U.S. troops to withdraw to their bases by June 2009 and to leave Iraq by the end of 2011 – both dates subject to extension, but only if the Iraqi government requests it.

    The accord also would allow Iraq to prosecute U.S. troops except when they’re on U.S. bases or on military operations, strips private military contractors of U.S. legal protection and reclaims control over Baghdad’s “Green” zone, the location of the U.S. Embassy and military headquarters and much of the Iraqi government’s headquarters.

    Sagheer said that setting a timetable for a U.S. troop withdrawal was a “historic” accomplishment.

    He also acknowledged that an extension of the current U.N. mandate might not reflect the gains made in the status of forces draft.

    “For everything there is a price,” he said. “And although (the accord) has many advantages, it also has many disadvantages, as it does for the coalition forces.”

    The problem for Iraqis, he said, was “the feeling with some of the parties that America has no intention of withdrawing within the timetable.” Iraqis, he said, had so many negative experiences while a British mandate under the League of Nations from 1920 to 1932 that they fear a written agreement. “We have the feeling that if the Iraqi government accepts the demands, it will give a legal right to be occupied, so we don’t have any kind of sovereignty.”

    Other politicians said that if Washington agrees to extend the negotiations, the talks will never end.

    “This is all a game to win time. When the current issues are settled, they will just find new ones…. They are delaying to appease Iran,” said Mithal al Alusi, a secular Sunni legislator whos’ critical of the current Shiite-led government.

    ——–

    Corinne Reilly of the Merced, Calif., Sun-Star, and McClatchy special correspondents Hussein Kadhim and Mohamed al Dulaimy contributed to this article.

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