Iraq's continued occupation and suffering

July 4, 2009

June 30 was declared "National Sovereignty Day" by the Iraqi government to celebrate the withdrawal of US occupying troops from Iraqi urban areas into military bases.

A full withdrawal is meant to take place on December 31, 2011.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki described the day as a "great victory" for Iraq.

This "victory", however, falls well short of genuine sovereignty — and an end to the foreign occupation that has killed more than 1 million people and devastated the economy.

No less than 131,000 US soldiers remain in Iraq — more than three years ago.

Nor is it expected that these troops will remain confined to barracks. US President Barack Obama said on February 27 that the US's "combat mission" will officially end on August 31, 2010.

By this time, there is expected to be 35-50,000 US soldiers. This "transition force", according to Obama, is "to carry out three distinct functions: training, equipping, and advising Iraqi Security Forces as long as they remain non-sectarian; conducting targeted counter-terrorism missions; and protecting our ongoing civilian and military efforts within Iraq".

How this is different from combat operations is unclear.

Obama said all troops will leave by the end of 2011, as outlined in the security pact signed by the US.

AFP said on June 30 that US commander General Ray Odierno explained that "a small number" of US troops "will remain in cities to train, advise, coordinate with Iraqi security forces, as well as enable them to move forward".

When asked by journalists how many that small number is, he said: "To let me give a number would be inaccurate and I just don't want to do it."

Associated Press said on July 1 that US forces would also work "securing Iraq's borders" and "keeping insurgents on the run in rural areas".

The June 30 New York Times said the US military had "order(ed) soldiers to remain in garrison for the next few days to give the Iraqis a chance to demonstrate that they are in control".

So at this stage, the much vaunted withdrawal amounts to US soldiers remaining in their Iraq garrisons "for the next few days".

In an example of creative thinking, the Iraqi government's definition of "urban", from which US troops are to be withdrawn, manages to exclude parts of Baghdad.

An April 26 NYT article said "there are no plans to close the Camp Victory base complex, consisting of five bases housing more than 20,000 soldiers, many of them combat troops.

"Although Victory is only a 15 minute drive from the center of Baghdad and sprawls over both sides of the city's boundary, Iraqi officials say they have agreed to consider it outside the city. "

In addition, Forward Operating Base Falcon, which can hold 5000 combat troops, will also remain after June 30. It is just within Baghdad's southern city limits.

Iraqi officials have classified it as outside Baghdad.

Obama has said he will fully withdraw troops by 2011. However, in a February 27 NBC news report, Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski said: "And in fact military commanders, despite this Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government that all US forces would be out by the end of 2011, are already making plans for a significant number of American troops to remain in Iraq beyond that 2011 deadline, assuming that Status of Forces Agreement would be renegotiated.

"And one senior military commander told us that he expects large numbers of American troops to be in Iraq for the next 15 to 20 years."

A spokesperson for John McHugh, a Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said Obama had "assured [McHugh] he will revisit the tempo of the withdrawal, or he will revisit the withdrawal plan if the situation on the ground dictates it ... The president assured him that there was a Plan B."

The most quisling wing of the Iraqi establishment are already trying to justify an extension of the occupation. The Kurdistan Regional Government's representative in Washington, Qubad Talabani, said the status of forces agreement which states that the US must withdraw by the end of 2011 was a "living document that can be and will most likely be modified".

A July 1 CQPolitics article quoted Talabani as saying: "U.S. military forces will likely be needed in Iraq past the end of 2011."

Revealing the truth about the supposed sovereignty Iraq has now gained, AP said one of the first acts of the Iraqi government since the "end" of the occupation was to open up oil production to foreign companies.

"In a televised ceremony, international oil companies were invited to submit bids for six oil and two gas fields, a process that marked their return to the country over 30 years after Saddam Hussein nationalized the oil sector and expelled the foreign firms."

The oil deals are controversial, especially as they do not need to be ratified by the Iraqi parliament, only the cabinet.

The damage to the Iraqi economy by six years of foreign occupation has left the country broke. This has increased pressure on the puppet government to open up Iraq's oil industry to foreign multinationals — one of the war's key aims.

Anti-occupation Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr criticised the US partial withdrawal. He said: "The withdrawal should include all the occupation forces: army, intelligence, militias, and security companies and others. Otherwise, the withdrawal will be uncompleted and useless."

Iraq's nightmare is far from over. In order for Iraq to enjoy genuine sovereignty, not only should all occupation troops be withdrawn as quickly as possible, but the US and other nations that participated in the occupation must pay war reparations for the damage done.

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