IRAQ: US accelerates creation of puppet regime

Issue 

BY DOUG LORIMER

With disaffection with the US occupation of Iraq having driven voter support for US President George Bush to its lowest level since his election, the Bush administration has been forced to accelerate plans to formally hand Iraq's "sovereignty" to a pro-US puppet regime.

With indecent haste, the White House summoned its Iraq administrator, Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) boss Paul Bremer, to Washington for an emergency two-day session of the National Security Council (NSC) on November 10-11. Bremer had to cancel a meeting with the Polish president to make the meeting.

While the NSC was meeting, a memo from the CIA's station chief in Baghdad, concluding that ordinary Iraqis are increasingly siding with the anti-occupation insurgency, was presented to the White House. Parts of the November 10 report were leaked to the Philadelphia Inquirer by "two senior administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the document is classified", the newspaper said.

According to the November 12 Inquirer: "The report, one official said, warned that aggressive US counterinsurgency tactics could induce more Iraqis to join the guerrilla campaign that has killed at least 153 US soldiers — 35 of them this month — since Bush declared an end to major combat operations on May 1.

"The report also added to concerns about the [US-appointed] Governing Council. The group, which is dominated by former Iraqi exiles with little popular support, has failed to convince ordinary Iraqis that the occupation is temporary and will lead to a unified, sovereign Iraq, the report said."

Indeed, according to the November 12 Washington Post, a Gallup poll of Baghdad residents taken in September found that "three-quarters of those polled said they believed the policies and decisions of the Iraqi Governing Council ... were 'mostly determined by the coalition's own authorities', and only 16 per cent thought the council members were 'fairly independent'."

Forty-three per cent of Iraqis polled said the US had invaded to steal Iraq's oil, while only 5% thought the US had invaded to "assist" the Iraqi people.

According the Philadelphia Inquirer: "One senior administration official said the [CIA] report warned that the coalition's inability to crush the insurgents is convincing growing numbers of Iraqis that the occupation can be defeated, bolstering support for the insurgents."

According to other accounts of the CIA report, an estimated 50,000 Iraqis are actively involved in the rapidly growing armed resistance movement.

The NSC meeting decided to instruct US commanders in Iraq to intensify their "counterinsurgency tactics" in Iraq by returning to mass tank and artillery assaults on towns and villages, supplemented by bombing from the air — precisely the course of action that the CIA report warned will increase Iraqis' support for the guerrillas.

'Sovereignty' con job

At the same time, in order to give the impression to war-weary US troops in Iraq and the voters back home that it has a rapid "exit plan" from the Iraq quagmire, the Bush regime announced that it intends to hand "sovereignty" to a US-appointed Iraqi "provisional government" by July 1.

Previously, Washington had insisted that a constitution be drafted and elections held before "sovereignty" would be transferred from the CPA to an Iraqi administration. US officials had hoped that such a process would give the resulting pro-US Iraqi regime a veneer of "democratic" legitimacy.

Under Washington's new plan, a hand-picked "provisional government" will be installed and elections for a new government put off until 2006.

The US-appointed provisional government — like the US-appointed government in Afghanistan — will then "request" that US troops remain in Iraq to provide "security" and the US civilian administrators remain as "advisers".

"Our presence here will change from an occupation to an invited presence", Bremer told reporters upon his return to Baghdad from Washington on November 16. "I'm sure the Iraqi government is going to want to have coalition forces here for its own security for some time."

Another objective of the plan to create a pro-US puppet regime is to head off support among US voters for an alternative plan being put by Democratic Party congressional leaders and nearly all the contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination — handing control of civilian affairs in Iraq to a UN commissioner.

The Democrats see this as the only way to get France and Germany to commit troops to Iraq, thus enabling the US to reduce the size of its occupation force. Arguing for this proposal on CNN on November 9, senator Joseph Biden, the senior Democrat on the US Senate foreign relations committee, said: "What would compel [France and Germany] is their naked self-interest, because what's dawning on [them] ... is that if the peace is lost in Iraq, they're in real trouble... They're worried about everything from oil to immigration more than we are... The bottom line is, we need more forces in there, and they're either going to be more American forces, or they're going to be more international forces."

Rivalry

Handing control of civilian affairs in Iraq to a UN administrator would mean Washington giving Paris and Berlin an equal say in the corporate carve-up of state-owned industries, above all, the oil industry. This would defeat the purpose of the US invasion, which was to install a pro-US regime that would "legalise" the takeover of Iraq's oil resources — the second largest in the world — by US corporations.

In his 1917 book, Imperialism — the Highest Stage of Capitalism, the Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin pointed out that the essence of imperialism is "monopoly capitalism" — the domination of the separate economies of the industrialised countries by giant national capitalist associations (corporations) that monopolise advanced industrial technology and which strive to monopolise control over sources of raw materials and energy, as well as markets, across the world.

Prior to the invasion of Iraq, US and British corporations were almost totally excluded by Saddam Hussein's capitalist regime from investing in Iraq in favour of their French and German rivals. For example, the French-owned TotalFinaElf oil company, the world's fourth largest (after ExxonMobil, BP and Royal Dutch Shell), had negotiated deals that would have given it control over 25% of Iraq's huge oil reserves.

Prior to its nationalisation by the Baath Party regime in 1972, Iraq's oil industry was controlled by a consortium dominated by Exxon, Mobil, BP and Shell.

French companies had signed almost 800 contracts to supply parts and equipment for Iraq's oil industry and, according to a report in the February 20 Washington Times, German corporations were "the market leaders in supplying Iraq, even in the decade after the [1991] Gulf War".

Having invaded Iraq and put itself in the box seat to loot Iraq's enormous oil wealth, Washington and its US corporate masters have no desire to share the spoils of war with their imperialist rivals in France and Germany. As an unnamed senior US state department official told the Baltimore Sun on September 3: "Any kind of broader UN role that would put France and Germany on a par with the US in getting reconstruction contracts is pretty much a no-go."

NATO role?

One proposal floated by the Democrats for "internationalising" the Iraq occupation — turning over military operations to NATO control — is being entertained by the Bush regime. According to the November 17 British Independent, "the US accepts that to avoid humiliating failure in Iraq it needs to bring its forces quickly under international control and speed the handover of power, Javier Solana, the European Union foreign policy chief, has said".

"I would be delighted to see a larger NATO role in Iraq", US war secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on November 19. However, this was unlikely, he said, because NATO was preoccupied with its command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul.

The ISAF has 5700 — mainly Canadian and German — troops stationed in Kabul. The city remains a wreck of rubble, rubbish and grinding poverty. It has left the rest of the country to various warlord armies and the resurgent Taliban militias.

"If the alliance does not step up to the plate, in five years we will be back here fighting again because this place will go to hell", US Lieutenant-Colonel John Tibbetts, chief planner at the NATO's ISAF headquarters in Kabul, told Reuters on November 18.

His remarks were reinforced by the UN refugee agency's decision the same day to pull its international workers out of the south and east of Afghanistan and suspend all aid to refugees returning from Pakistan. The decision followed the killing of a French aid worker and the explosion of a bomb beside a UN vehicle on November 16.

From Green Left Weekly, November 26, 2003.
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