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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 67/No. 18June 2, 2003

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lead article

U.S. rulers grab spoils
of Iraq occupation
UN resolution codifies blows
to Washington’s imperialist rivals
10,000 Iraqi Shiites protest in Baghdad May 19 to oppose U.S.-British occupation.

The U.S. and British governments have moved to consolidate their control of Iraq and its oil wealth by securing United Nations Security Council agreement for the lifting of UN-sponsored sanctions against that nation. While making a few concessions to neutralize objections by Paris, the latest Anglo-American initiative registers the blows they have dealt their imperialist competitors in taking over Iraq.

Washington and London have put off earlier proposals to set up a figurehead “government with an Iraqi face,” as they have gone about the business of running an occupation regime, with aggressive military policing of Baghdad and other cities.

The U.S. government has also continued its threats and actions directed at Iran and forces within Iraq that look to the Iranian government for political direction (see Washington pushes to brand Iran in violation of nuclear treaty). It has also sent FBI agents to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to direct a “joint investigation” of the May 12 bombings that killed 34 people, including eight U.S. citizens.

On May 19 U.S. officials introduced an amended version of a resolution to the UN Security Council that would end economic sanctions on Iraq. The embargo has been enforced by Washington, Paris, London, and other imperialist powers since it was instituted in 1990 during the buildup to the U.S.-led Gulf War.

One aspect of the sanctions, which have strangled Iraq’s economy and contributed to widespread malnutrition among children there, is the “food-for-oil” program allowing Iraq to sell petroleum and purchase food and other essentials under tight restrictions.

The principal beneficiaries of commercial contracts with Iraq under the sanctions regime of the last 14 years have been Paris and Moscow.

While Russia is not an imperialist power but a workers state, the bureaucratic regime there has relied on lucrative trade with Iraq to help survive its economic crisis.

The March-April invasion of Iraq further shifted the relationship of forces in the Mideast among the imperialist powers to the detriment of Paris and other rivals of Washington. But to enjoy the spoils of war unhampered by UN restrictions, particularly on the sale of oil, the U.S. rulers now have to discard the sanctions. These facts have guided the diplomatic moves and countermoves in the UN arena.  
Power rests with Washington
Under the new resolution, introduced by Washington and co-sponsored by its junior partners in London and Madrid, “Most of the real political power in Iraq—as well as the billions of dollars from Iraq’s oil revenues—would be transferred to an authority under the exclusive control of the U.S. and British,” reported the Canadian broadcaster CBC. The United Nations would be assigned an advisory role. From their position of strength, the U.S. rulers have made a few minor concessions to eliminate objections by Paris and Moscow. The amended resolution accepts the fact of Washington and London as the occupying powers, but states that they will cede power when an “internationally recognized, representative government is established.” A proposed UN envoy is upgraded from “special coordinator” to “special representative.” This advisor would play some role—as yet undefined---in the formation of a new imperialist-dominated Iraqi government.

Paris, Moscow, and Berlin were particularly concerned about the future of $10 billion in contracts for industrial goods, food, and medicine approved by the United Nations before the war. The resolution will allow a partial payout of those deals, with the UN secretary general permitted to review these arrangements.

U.S. treasury secretary Jack Snow did not wait for UN approval to suspend U.S. sanctions, however. His May 6 announcement opened the way for U.S. corporations to begin exporting goods to Iraq.

German officials accepted the crumbs thrown to them. After meeting with U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell on May 16, German chancellor Gerhard Schröder declared himself “of the opinion that the sanctions that were leveled no longer make sense in light of developments and should be lifted as soon as possible.”

Powell expressed his satisfaction with Schröder’s decision. At the same time, he dismissed speculation that the German chancellor would be granted a private audience with President George Bush at the June summit of the Group of Seven major imperialist powers—now dubbed the G-8 with the Russian government’s inclusion as an observer. “There is not a lot of time for bilateral talks at the G-8 summit,” he said.

The French rulers have been notably subdued in the current debate. Before the invasion of Iraq they had vociferously objected to U.S.-British war tactics, pushing for more reliance on sanctions in order to protect their slipping foothold there. French officials have called for a greater UN role in occupied Iraq, but are not expected to veto the U.S.-sponsored resolution.

The underlying tensions continue to flare up, however. On May 15 French officials laid a formal complaint with the White House that their government was the target of a Bush administration campaign to feed “repeated disinformation” to the media. French officials said the disinformation included allegations that Paris and Berlin sold Iraq military equipment and nuclear-compatible technology; that the French government has stockpiled prohibited smallpox strains; and that Iraqi leaders had found refuge in Europe using French travel papers.

“We have decided to count the untrue accusations which have appeared in the U.S. press,” said French foreign ministry spokesperson Marie Masdupuy.

U.S. defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld brushed off the accusations, saying “there’s no such campaign” coming out of the Pentagon.

U.S. officials have engineered another rebuff to Paris and Berlin by announcing that officers in the Polish armed forces will command the imperialist-led occupation forces in one of the four as-yet-undefined sectors of occupied Iraq. The assignment is a reward to the bureaucratic regime in Warsaw for joining the Iraq invasion. Some 200 Polish Special Forces helped U.S. and British soldiers secure the southern oil fields, placing Warsaw in a distant fourth place in the deployment by the “coalition of the willing,” after Washington, London, and the government of Australia.

Warsaw announced that the Polish armed forces will send between 1,500 and 2,000 troops to join the occupation. In early May the country’s defense minister invited Berlin to provide troops to the Polish-led sector. His German counterpart, Peter Struck, reportedly turned him down flat.

“It is ironic and perhaps therefore annoying to Berlin that Poland today is playing the role” of a trusted ally of Washington, “that Germany itself assumed up until recently,” noted the German newspaper Die Welt.  
Plans for Iraqi figurehead are ditched
In another move to stabilize their occupation, Washington and London have unceremoniously dropped plans to erect a figurehead Iraqi national assembly and “interim government” by the end of May.

U.S. and British officials delivered the news to a group of Iraqi capitalist politicians on May 16. The disappointed politicians, opponents of the overthrown Saddam Hussein regime, had been part of a U.S.-British-sponsored gathering of 300 on April 28 that had called for a national conference to select a “transitional government.”

Seven days later, U.S. general Jay Garner, the initial head of the occupation authority, had announced the imminent creation of “a government with an Iraqi face on it that is totally dealing with the [U.S.-UK] coalition.” Representatives of the Iraqi National Congress, the Iraqi National Accord, the Kurdish Democratic Party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq would be part of this “temporary government,” he said.

At the May 16 gathering, U.S. and British officials said such proposals had been put on ice. The Associated Press reported that John Sawers, a representative for British prime minister Anthony Blair, told the meeting, “It’s quite clear that you cannot transfer all powers onto some interim body, because it will not have the strength or the resources to carry those responsibilities out.”

One alert Iraqi political figure commented to the New York Times, “I don’t think they trust this group to function as a political leadership.”

The meeting made it clear that U.S. and British officials “would remain in charge of Iraq for an indefinite period,” the Times article noted.

Protests against the imperialist occupation have continued to flare up periodically. Some 10,000 people marched through the streets of Baghdad May 19 to “reject what they feared would be a U.S.-installed puppet regime,” the Associated Press reported. The demonstration, organized by Shiite Muslim forces, rallied in front of a Sunni Muslim mosque in a show of unity. Some protesters carried portraits of the former Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a leading figure in the 1979 revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed shah.  
Occupiers go about their job
The occupation forces have continued to carry out aggressive policing actions in Baghdad and other cities. Hundreds of Iraqis were arrested during these patrols in mid-May.

Daily news coverage on Iraq in liberal newspapers such as the New York Times, which are critical of the Republican White House, has typically portrayed such measures as a sign that Washington and London are facing problems in their takeover of Iraq. Their reporting suggests there is a more sophisticated way to conduct an imperialist occupation, and their editors have offered their advice. “Lack of U.S. goals leads to chaos” was a typical headline in the Newark, New Jersey, Star-Ledger.

Nonetheless, the ongoing turmoil, as well as the pragmatic moves taken by the Anglo-American forces to keep a firm grip on the rudder, are what can be expected to unfold for the foreseeable future.

Up to 20,000 U.S. troops are en route to reinforce the 140,000 already stationed in Iraq, 49,000 of whom are in Baghdad. In contrast to earlier forecasts of a relatively rapid cutback in the U.S. presence, Gen. Thomas Franks, the military commander of the occupation, said May 8, “there could be a reduction in U.S. forces but it’s not time to predict that because there’s too much instability in the country right now.”

At the same time, Washington is organizing a “full court press” to impose “security” in Baghdad, said Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. U.S. forces, he said, “will be using muscle to see that the people who are trying to disrupt what’s taking place in that city are stopped and either captured or killed.”

Paul Bremer, the new U.S.-imposed “civilian administrator” of Iraq, told reporters on May 15 that in the previous two days U.S. and British forces had arrested 300 people. On the night before alone, he said, “allied forces” had detained 92 Iraqis in the course of mounting 300 patrols through Baghdad. Bremer, a member of the White House Homeland Security Council, has replaced retired lieutenant general Jay Garner as Washington’s man in Baghdad. An editorial in the May 16 Wall Street Journal endorsed Bremer’s appointment, saying that “a stronger hand is clearly in order” and that Garner was “too timid about asserting control.” The big-business daily applauded the initial “law-and-order” methods of “Lord Bremer of Mesopotamia.”  
New York top cop appointed ‘advisor’
Bernard Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner, is another civilian appointee. Pentagon officials have named him as a “senior policy advisor” in Iraq’s Interior Ministry. Kerik brings plenty of experience to his new job. As police commissioner, he refused to punish four New York City cops who, in a hail of 41 bullets, killed Amadou Diallo in front of his apartment building in 1999.

In the name of cracking down on crime, Bremer says the occupying forces are seeking to re-arrest the tens of thousands of people who had been released from prison by the former regime in October. He described the military rules of engagement covering the activities of U.S. troops as “robust,” while denying previous reports that he had instituted a “shoot to kill” policy toward individuals caught looting. U.S. officers say their policy is now to hold those arrested as looters for at least three weeks instead of a couple of days.

Bremer said that up to 30,000 “top-ranking” Baathists would be banned from “future employment in the public sector.” The Baath Party was the sole governing party for more than three decades before the U.S.-British overthrow of the Hussein regime.

At the same time, U.S. officers are incorporating cops from the former Baathist police force in their patrols.

As U.S. troops stepped up their patrols in Baghdad, more than 500 soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division, backed by Apache helicopters and armed boats, launched a predawn raid on a village near Tikrit in the north. They seized around 260 people in the house-to-house sweep, releasing most later in the day. U.S. officers claimed that four of the 30 men still in custody are former high-up officials.

In nearby Baqubah, the Washington Post reported May 15 that U.S. forces arrested more than 100 people, asserting that most of them were from the Badr Brigade, the military wing of the Iran-backed Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

“Badr forces have been streaming back into Iraq” from Iran, the Post stated, echoing one of the propaganda themes of the U.S. administration.

In neighboring Saudi Arabia, U.S. officials have used the May 12 bombings in Riyadh to pressure the regime there. FBI agents were sent to that country to carry out a “joint investigation” with Saudi cops. On May 20, Saudi officials said that a police sweep resulted in the arrest of three people they accused of being members of Al Qaeda. U.S. officials have sometimes expressed a hostile stance toward the Saudi government, under the pretext that it is not cooperating enough with Washington in “fighting terrorism.”

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