IRAQ: US still calls the shots


Doug Lorimer

The selection of Iyad Allawi as prime minister of the Iraqi "interim government" is a clear demonstration that Washington has no intention of relinquishing its control over Iraq on June 30.

Allawi was selected as Iraq's new PM on May 29 by Lakhdar Brahimi, UN secretary-general Kofi Annan's special envoy to Iraq. Brahimi had previously collaborated closely with US officials to give UN endorsement to the US puppet regime in Afghanistan, following the ousting of the Taliban regime in late 2001.

Born into a wealthy Shiite family, Allawi is the head of the Iraqi Nationalist Accord (INA), an organisation of former Iraqi military officers formed in 1990 that has been backed for more than a decade by the US State Department, the CIA and Britain's MI6 intelligence service.

Other than a failed CIA-backed military coup against Saddam Hussein in 1996, Allawi is best known for being the source, via MI6, for British PM Tony Blair's claim that Hussein's (nonexistent) weapons of mass destruction could be deployed, battle ready, in 45 minutes.

A member of the US-controlled Iraqi Governing Council who has worked closely with the US occupation officials on "security matters", Allawi is a cousin of IGC member Ahmad Chalabi. Chalabi was US Vice-President Dick Cheney and defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld's favourite to head an Iraqi puppet government, but has now been accused by the CIA of being an agent for Iranian intelligence.

The selection of Allawi as PM and fellow IGC member Sheik Ghazi Yawar as Iraqi's new, ceremonial, president, indicates that Brahimi's original plan to select a government made up of "non-political technocrats", rather than members of the highly unpopular IGC, has been overridden by Washington.

The May 31 New York Times reported that while US officials maintain that Allawi was Brahimi's choice, "people close to Brahimi say he reluctantly endorsed him only after US officials aggressively recommended him.

"One person conversant with the negotiations said Brahimi was presented with 'a fait accompli' after President Bush's envoy to Iraq, Robert D. Blackwill, 'railroaded' the Governing Council into coalescing around him."

The dictator of Iraq

Asked at a June 2 Baghdad press conference what role US occupation officials had in the selection of Allawi and other members of the interim government, Brahimi responded: "I sometimes say, I'm sure he doesn't mind me saying that, [Paul] Bremer [head of the US-run Coalition Provisional Authority] is the dictator of Iraq. He has the money. He has the signature. Nothing happens without his agreement in this country."

Newspaper editorials and analysts across the Arab world described the outcome of the selection process as changing nothing. "Nearly nothing has changed. It can be assumed without hesitation that the American maestro will continue to lead the [Iraqi] orchestra", wrote Lebanese political analyst Rajeh Khoury in Beirut's leading An Nahar daily.

Indeed, US occupation officials moved well before the interim government selection charade to ensure that they will continue to call the shots after the nominal June 30 "handover of sovereignty".

Headlined "Behind the scenes, US tightens grip on Iraq's future", an article in the May 13 Wall Street Journal reported that Haider al Abadi, appointed last year by Bremer as Iraq's provisional communications minister, "no longer calls the shots there. Instead, the authority to license Iraq's television stations, sanction newspapers and regulate cellphone companies was recently transferred to a commission whose members were selected by Washington. The commissioners' five-year terms stretch far beyond the planned 18-month tenure of the interim Iraqi government that will assume sovereignty on June 30.

"The transfer surprised Mr Abadi, a British-trained engineer who spent nearly two decades in exile before returning to Iraq last year. He found out the commission had been formally signed into law [by the CPA] only when a reporter asked him for comment about it. 'No one from the US even found time to call and tell me themselves', he says."

The WSJ reported that Bremer has set up a series of these commissions "that effectively take away virtually all of the powers once held by several ministries". The members of these US-staffed commissions, the WSJ added, "will serve multiyear terms and have significant authority to run criminal investigations, award contracts, direct troops and subpoena citizens".

These commissions will in practice be directed by the new US embassy that the CPA, which currently has 1500 employees, will be transformed into on June 30. Staffed, according to the WSJ report, by 1300 US officials and 2000 Iraqi employees, the massive new US embassy in Iraq — the largest in the world — will operate out of the current CPA headquarters — ousted dictator Saddam Hussein's Republican Palace complex, "seen by many Iraqis as a symbol of Iraqi sovereignty".

The US embassy will have branches in every major Iraqi city to, as Bush stated in his May 24 speech to the US Army War College, "to work closely with Iraqis at all levels of government".

Not only will Iraqi ministries continue after June 30 to be under the supervision of several hundred US "technical advisers", the interim constitution that the CPA has decreed the new "fully sovereign" Iraqi government will operate under forbids alteration of any of the edicts enacted by the CPA.

In his May 24 speech, Bush singled out one of these edicts — falsely attributing it to the IGC — for particular praise: "Iraq's Governing Council approved a new law that opens the country to foreign investment for the first time in decades."

Opening up Iraq's economy, particularly its nationalised oil industry, to be sold off to US corporations was the unstated central objective behind Washington's invasion and occupation of the oil-rich Middle East country.

Using the US military forces to "extend free trade and free markets to every corner of the globe" is an explicit part of the Bush administration's National Security Strategy, presented to Congress in September 2002.

Following on from this, and in preparation for its invasion of Iraq, in December 2002, the Bush administration announced the launching of its Middle East Partnerships Initiative. The stated purpose of the MEPI is "to link Arab, US, and global private sector businesses, non-governmental organizations, civil society elements, and governments together to develop innovative policies and programs" focused "on region-wide economic and employment growth driven by private sector expansion".

A family affair

According to the US State Department website, the MEPI is coordinated by the department's deputy secretary Richard Armitage, while its "daily responsibilities" are directed by US deputy assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs Elizabeth Cheney-Perry, Dick Cheney's 38-year-old daughter.

Prior to being appointed to this post in the State Department, she worked at Armitage Associates, the corporate consulting firm founded by her current boss Richard Armitage. Among Armitage Associates' major clients were the Rockefeller family's JP Morgan Chase investment bank and Dick Cheney's Halliburton oil services company.

Under the US occupation regime, JP Morgan Chase has been contracted to "reconstruct" Iraq's banking system, including managing the country's oil export earnings, and Halliburton has been awarded $9 billion in contracts to "reconstruct" its oil industry and to provide logistical services for the US occupation army.

Washington's moves to "handover sovereignty" to Iraqis, and to bring them "freedom" and "democracy" are nothing more than a public relations charade to disguise what is really going on — the installation of a puppet regime that will provide an Iraqi face to the US corporate takeover of the Iraqi economy.

From Green Left Weekly, June 9, 2004.

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