5 June 2008

Revealed: Secret plan to keep Iraq under US control

The Independent today reports on the continuing wonders of the drive for democratisation and civilisation in Iraq in a frontpage piece sub-headlined:

"Bush wants 50 military bases, control of Iraqi airspace and legal immunity for all American soldiers and contractors"

By Patrick Cockburn

Thursday, 5 June 2008

A secret deal being negotiated in Baghdad would perpetuate the American military occupation of Iraq indefinitely, regardless of the outcome of the US presidential election in November.

The terms of the impending deal, details of which have been leaked to The Independent, are likely to have an explosive political effect in Iraq. Iraqi officials fear that the accord, under which US troops would occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations, arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, will destabilise Iraq's position in the Middle East and lay the basis for unending conflict in their country.

But the accord also threatens to provoke a political crisis in the US. President Bush wants to push it through by the end of next month so he can declare a military victory and claim his 2003 invasion has been vindicated. But by perpetuating the US presence in Iraq, the long-term settlement would undercut pledges by the Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama, to withdraw US troops if he is elected president in November.

The timing of the agreement would also boost the Republican candidate, John McCain, who has claimed the United States is on the verge of victory in Iraq – a victory that he says Mr Obama would throw away by a premature military withdrawal.

America currently has 151,000 troops in Iraq and, even after projected withdrawals next month, troop levels will stand at more than 142,000 – 10 000 more than when the military "surge" began in January 2007. Under the terms of the new treaty, the Americans would retain the long-term use of more than 50 bases in Iraq. American negotiators are also demanding immunity from Iraqi law for US troops and contractors, and a free hand to carry out arrests and conduct military activities in Iraq without consulting the Baghdad government.

The precise nature of the American demands has been kept secret until now. The leaks are certain to generate an angry backlash in Iraq. "It is a terrible breach of our sovereignty," said one Iraqi politician, adding that if the security deal was signed it would delegitimise the government in Baghdad which will be seen as an American pawn.

The US has repeatedly denied it wants permanent bases in Iraq but one Iraqi source said: "This is just a tactical subterfuge." Washington also wants control of Iraqi airspace below 29,000ft and the right to pursue its "war on terror" in Iraq, giving it the authority to arrest anybody it wants and to launch military campaigns without consultation.

Mr Bush is determined to force the Iraqi government to sign the so-called "strategic alliance" without modifications, by the end of next month. But it is already being condemned by the Iranians and many Arabs as a continuing American attempt to dominate the region. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the powerful and usually moderate Iranian leader, said yesterday that such a deal would create "a permanent occupation". He added: "The essence of this agreement is to turn the Iraqis into slaves of the Americans."

Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is believed to be personally opposed to the terms of the new pact but feels his coalition government cannot stay in power without US backing.

The deal also risks exacerbating the proxy war being fought between Iran and the United States over who should be more influential in Iraq.

[...]

Hmm. Of course, nothing to do with oil.

Nothing to do with the fact that Saudi oil reserves have already peaked and are now in decline, with production declining year after year, according to former Bush administration energy adviser Matthew Simmons.

Certainly nothing to do with the finding last month, based on geological surveys and seismic data compiled by several international oil companies exploring Iraqi oil reserves, that Iraq "has the world's largest proven oil reserves, with as much as 350 billion barrels", significantly exceeding Saudi Arabia's 264 billion barrels.

If truth be told, the new figures were probably estimated by the oil majors, and the US State Department, several decades ago, but deliberately repressed from public understanding both in Iraq and beyond.

And certainly, none of this has anything to do with the Iraqi oil law that has been stalled for a year, which is set to privatise Iraqi oil reserves and dump them exclusively in the hands of Western corporate multinationals, despite objections from Iraqi trade unions which of course represent the demands of the majority of Iraq's labourers. "Iraqis will never accept this sellout to the oil corporations", says Kamil Mahdi, an Iraqi academic based at the University of Exeter. But who cares what the Iraqi people want anyway? It's not like these barbarians really understand anything about freedom and democracy anyway.

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