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Monday, April 30, 2007

Rice: Bush Didnt Want War!

Someone forgot to brief Rice or else she is just an inveterate liar as are some other members of the Bush administration. This is from Juan Cole.


Monday, April 30, 2007

Rice: Bush didn't Want War

Condi Rice on Sunday denied allegations by former CIA director George Tenet that Bush came into office determined to have a war against Iraq. This is the interview by Wolf Blitzer of CNN:


QUESTION: Because you remember Paul O'Neill, the first Treasury Secretary, where he wrote in his first book, The Price of Loyalty with Ron Suskind, and what Ron Suskind later wrote in his own book, The One Percent Solution, that the Bush Administration came in with a mindset to deal with what they called unfinished business with Saddam Hussein.

SECRETARY RICE: That is simply not true. The President came in looking at a variety of threats. We then had the September 11th events. The September 11th events led to a kind of reassessment of what the threats were. But in the entire period after the President became President, he was trying to put together an international coalition that could deal with Iraq, first by smart sanctions, smarter no-fly zones, then by challenging Saddam Hussein before the Security Council to meet the just demands of the Security Council, and ultimately by having to use military force. But this was an evolution of policy over a long period of time. Of course the President came in concerned about Iraq. President Clinton had used military force against Iraq in 1998. We had gone to war against Iraq in 1991. But the idea that the President had made up his mind when he came to office that he was going to go to war against Iraq is just flat wrong. '


But here is what Bush's ghost writer Mickey Herskowitz reports Bush saying during an interview when Bush was still governor of Texas in the late 1990s:


' “He was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999,” said author and journalist Mickey Herskowitz. “It was on his mind. He said to me: ‘One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.’ And he said, ‘My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.’ He said, ‘If I have a chance to invade….if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I’m going to have a successful presidency.” '



So that was 1999.

Then we have this account from May, 2000, by journalist Osama Siblani, who met with Bush in Troy, Michigan when he was campaigning for the Republican nomination:


' OSAMA SIBLANI: I met with the President, and he wanted to go to Iraq to search for weapons of mass destruction, and he considered the regime an imminent and gathering threat against the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: You met with the President of the United States?

OSAMA SIBLANI: Yes, when he was running for election in May of 2000 when he was a governor. He told me just straight to my face, among 12 or maybe 13 republicans at that time here in Michigan at the hotel. I think it was on May 17, 2000, even before he became the nominee for the Republicans. He told me that he was going to take him out, when we talked about Saddam Hussein in Iraq. . .

And then he said, ‘We have to talk about it later.’ But at that time he was not privy to any intelligence, and the democrats had occupied the White House for the previous eight years. So, he was not privy to any intelligence whatsoever. He was not the official nominee of the Republican Party, so he didn't know what kind of situation the weapons of mass destruction was at that time. '


Then let us come to January, 2001, when the Supreme Court had installed Bush in power. Former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill wrote in his memoirs of the very first Bush cabinet meeting:


'"The hour almost up, Bush had assignments for everyone ... Rumsfeld and [Joint Chiefs chair Gen. H. Hugh] Shelton, he said, 'should examine our military options.' That included rebuilding the military coalition from the 1991 Gulf War, examining 'how it might look' to use U.S. ground forces in the north and the south of Iraq ... Ten days in, and it was about Iraq."


O'Neill specifically said that Bush instructed Rumsfeld to look at military options and how it might look to use US ground forces in the north and the south of Iraq.

How much clearer could it be that Tenet is absolutely right that there was never any serious debate about the merits of 'taking out Saddam' in Bush's inner circle?

For more evidence that the fix was in with regard to Bush and action against Iraq, see my "The Lies that Led to War" in Salon.com.

posted by Juan @ 4/30/2007 06:35:00 AM 1 comments

US troops raid Sadr Office

This is liable to cause trouble. It does not sound as if there were any provocation from Sadr's supporters inside. Note that the report mentions only US troops. This may have been done without any co-ordination or authorisation from the Iraqi govt. Not only is the US causing problems for Maliki it will cause difficulties for itself. Perhaps it want's a confrontation in Sadr City to show who is supposed to be boss but that could be a grave error. It would only show who was boss in the short term. This report is from a Kuwaiti news source.


US forces storms Sadr''s office, arrest those inside

Military and Secuity 4/29/2007 8:46:00 PM



BAGHDAD, April 29 (KUNA) -- Armed clashes broke out in Kadhmiya district in northern Baghdad Sunday after an American force stormed Shiitte cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr's office and arrested some of the people inside.
A source at the Iraqi police told KUNA US forces exchanged fire shots with the guards of Al-Sadr's office. He said the guards resisted the American troops.
American army vehicles surrounded the office and the forces started shooting at it then stormed it and arrested the people inside, said the source.
Locals at Khadmiya and eyewitnesses said the exchange of fire lasted for some an hour.
They reported that warnings, through loud speakers of mosques, to the citizens that the American forces were surrounding Al-Sadr's office. (end) mhg.bs KUNA 292046 Apr 07NNNN

Iraqi government purges army and national police

The US doesn't mind purges. It is just that the wrong people are being purged! The US would like to have its own advisor in the purge deparment!


Maliki's Office Is Seen Behind Purge in Forces
Some Commanders Had Pursued Militias

By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, April 30, 2007; A01



BAGHDAD, April 29 -- A department of the Iraqi prime minister's office is playing a leading role in the arrest and removal of senior Iraqi army and national police officers, some of whom had apparently worked too aggressively to combat violent Shiite militias, according to U.S. military officials in Baghdad.

Since March 1, at least 16 army and national police commanders have been fired, detained or pressured to resign; at least nine of them are Sunnis, according to U.S. military documents shown to The Washington Post.

Although some of the officers appear to have been fired for legitimate reasons, such as poor performance or corruption, several were considered to be among the better Iraqi officers in the field. The dismissals have angered U.S. and Iraqi leaders who say the Shiite-led government is sabotaging the military to achieve sectarian goals.

"Their only crimes or offenses were they were successful" against the Mahdi Army, a powerful Shiite militia, said Brig. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard, commanding general of the Iraq Assistance Group, which works with Iraqi security forces. "I'm tired of seeing good Iraqi officers having to look over their shoulders when they're trying to do the right thing."

The issue strikes at a central question about the fledgling government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki: whether it can put sectarian differences aside to deliver justice fairly. During earlier security crackdowns in Baghdad, Maliki was criticized for failing to target Shiite militias, in particular the Mahdi Army, which is led by hard-line Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, one of Maliki's political supporters. Before the most recent Baghdad security plan was launched in February, Maliki repeatedly declared he would target militants regardless of their sect.

Iraqi government officials denied that security force commanders have faced political pressure and said that Maliki is committed to targeting all criminals equally.

Sadiq al-Rikabi, a political adviser to Maliki, said the first two months of the Baghdad security plan show that Maliki "is not working on any agenda but the national agenda."

"The Baghdad security plan is working on a military and professional basis without any regard for any sect or ethnic group or any political factors," he said.

But some U.S. military officials say politics remains among the greatest hindrances to the development of the Iraqi security forces -- a top priority for Americans in Iraq. Col. Ehrich Rose, chief of the Military Transition Team with the 4th Iraqi Army Division, who has spent several years working with foreign armies, said the Iraqi officer corps is riddled with divergent loyalties to different sects, tribes and political groups.

"The Iraqi army, as far as capability goes, I'd stack them up against just about any Latin American army I've dealt with," he said. "However, the politicization of their officer corps is the worst I've ever seen."

At the national level, some U.S. officials are increasingly concerned about the Office of the Commander in Chief, a behind-the-scenes department that works on military issues for the prime minister.

One adviser in the office, Bassima Luay Hasun al-Jaidri, has enough influence to remove and intimidate senior commanders, and her work has "stifled" many officers who are afraid of angering her, a senior U.S. military official said. U.S. commanders are considering installing a U.S. liaison officer in the department to better understand its influence.

"Her office harasses [Iraqi commanders] if they are nationalistic and fair," said the U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity out of concern over publicly criticizing the Iraqi government. "They need to get rid of her and her little group."

A senior Iraqi army official said he plans to seek assistance from Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, in limiting the office's interference in the daily duties of the military. "We need his help to stop these noises," the official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity.

Officials close to Maliki denied that Jaidri or her office were influencing or removing leaders in the security forces. Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said no political pressure was being placed on any military or police officers, and that U.S. military officials were "exaggerating" Jaidri's role in the government. "She has no connection with the Ministry of Defense," he said.

Jaidri could not be reached for comment Sunday.

But according to documents and U.S. officials, political interference appears to have affected some of the most senior Iraqi officers.

Maj. Gen. Abdulla Mohammed Khamis al-Dafi is a Sunni who commands the 9th Iraqi Army Division, based in Baghdad, and is responsible for eastern Baghdad, home to such predominantly Shiite districts as Sadr City. On April 23, he told U.S. military officials he was determined to resign because of repeated "interference" from the prime minister's staff, according to portions of a report on the situation that was read to The Washington Post.

Maj. Gen. Husayn Jasim Abd al-Awadi is a Shiite who was "assessed as combating militia influences" in his work with the national police, but three Iraqi generals said he would be replaced and all "agreed that Dr. Bassima played a role in the decision to fire" him, according to a separate U.S. military document marked secret.

Another national police battalion commander, Col. Nadir Abd Al-Razaq Abud al-Jaburi, has been "known to pass accurate and actionable intelligence" about the Mahdi Army, the report said, adding that U.S. military officials describe him "as professional, non-sectarian, and focused on gaining support of the populace."

Yet he was detained April 6 under an Interior Ministry warrant for allegedly supporting Sunni insurgents, the document said.

The report also outlines the case of Lt. Col. Ahmad Yousif Ibrahim Kjalil, a Sunni battalion commander in the 6th Iraqi Army Division, based in Baghdad. He was allegedly fired by Jaidri but reinstated with another general's help. "He eventually resigned after at least five attempts on his life and one attempt on his children," the report said.

Col. Ali Fadil Amran Khatab al-Abedi, a Sunni who leads the 2nd Battalion, 5th Brigade of the 6th Iraqi Army Division, was ordered arrested by the prime minister's office on April 17, the report said. Lt. Col. Emad Kahlif Abud al-Mashadani, a Sunni commander with the 1st Iraqi National Police Division, was detained April 15, the report said.

After the massive bombing in Baghdad's Sadriya market this month, Maliki ordered the arrest and investigation of a Shiite army battalion commander responsible for security in the area. A U.S. official said the commander was subsequently released and has fled.

A spokesman for the Interior Ministry, which oversees the national police, said his agency removes only officers who have committed crimes or whose political and sectarian leanings influence their work. An estimated 14,000 Interior Ministry employees have been purged for criminal behavior or ties to insurgents or militias, according to the spokesman, Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf Qanani.

"Any officer whose allegiance to a political party or sect we have proved will be kicked out of the ministry," he said. "Working for a Sunni or Shiite sect, this is not appropriate at the Ministry of Interior. One should work only for Iraq."

Special correspondent Saad al-Izzi in Baghdad contributed to this report.



iq

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Kurds will block Iraq oil law.

This article confirms what the Kurdish oil minister said in the earlier article I posted. It seems that there could be more wrangling and discord over the draft bill and it is unlikely to pass before the end of May.


Kurds to 'block' Iraq oil law





The battle is on for control of Kurdish oil [GALLO/GETTY]



Iraq's Kurdish region has said it will try to block a draft oil law in parliament, raising the stakes in a row with the central government.

The Kurdistan autonomous region backed the draft law in February but has disputed annexes to it that would give control of oilfields to a new state-run oil company.




Ashti Hawrami, minister of natural resources in Kurdistan, said: "These annexes are unconstitutional and will not be supported by the Kurdish regional government in the federal parliament."

The Kurdistan autonomous region could be on a collision course with Baghdad over the US-backed draft.






The threat to fight the bill in Iraq's national parliament comes just days after the oil ministry in Baghdad warned regions against signing contracts until the law was passed.

'Old regime'

Officials from the Iraqi government and Kurdistan have clashed over the annexes, raising the prospect of delays that have already dogged the lengthy drafting of the legislation.

Hawrami repeated a threat that his oil-rich region would implement its own oil laws if no agreement was reached on the dispute over the annexes.

And Kurdish officials have already signed deals with foreign oil companies.

"The annexes must recognise that the Kurdish regional government has already allocated exploration and development blocks in the Kurdistan region under Production Sharing Agreements pursuant to the Iraq Constitution," he said.

In a reference to Saddam Hussein, Hawrami said the newly created Iraq National Oil Company (INOC) would be a return to "old regime methods".

"The concentration of power in the hands of INOC will represent a return to method of petroleum management of previous Iraqi regimes.

"Where centralised oil power was ... used to fund violent campaigns by elites against neighbouring countries and against our own Iraqi citizens," he said.

Officials from the central government and Kurdish regional officials have said they would meet to settle the disputes, but Hawrami said sending a delegation to Baghdad was "futile".

A US government official in Baghdad said on Sunday Washington was confident the law would pass.

"I think that the government is committed to getting the oil law through. I know various bodies have expressed concern about the hydrocarbon law given the stakes involved," the official said.

"The government has a majority in parliament."

Kurds object to oil law annexes

Quite a bit of detailed information here. The general press has almost nothing on the Dubai meetings. I can't imagine that the annexes make the law unfriendly to foreign investment since the revisions according to another article are supported by the US. Perhaps some parts are toned down to avoid rejection in the Iraqi legislature. The Kurds are most concerned that they should be able to write their own contracts--as they already have. They do not want the central govt. to have as much power as the law seems to give it.

Statement From Minister Of Natural Resources Kurdistan Regional Government - Iraq
Sunday, April 29, 2007
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The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) clarifies its position regarding the latest developments on the Draft Oil Law

In the light of the recent developments, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) expresses serious concerns regarding the draft Annexes to the proposed Oil and Gas Law that were recently circulated, and that were discussed last Wednesday at a conference in Dubai (“the Dubai Annexes”).

These are concerns that should be shared by all Iraqi citizens. In summary, the Dubai Annexes are inconsistent with the overriding policy goal of maximizing economic returns to the Iraqi people, and inconsistent with Iraq’s federal Constitution. The Dubai Annexes are inconsistent with the proposed Oil and Gas Law that was agreed by the Council of Ministers on 15 February 2007.

As a member of the Federal Oil and Energy Committee, I urge the Committee to address these concerns, and consider the merits of the attached KRG-proposed amendments to the Annexes. Until our concerns are addressed, the KRG cannot support any Oil and Gas Law package of legislation in the Council of Representatives.

Our concerns with the Dubai Annexes are as follows:

1. Concentration of unaccountable power: The Dubai Annexes attempt to allocate almost 93 per cent of Iraq’s proven petroleum reserves to a new “Iraq National Oil Company” (INOC), leaving barely 7 per cent for Regions and other entities to use for inward investments. Furthermore, the majority of the fields included in the 7 per cent remainder are marginal or not commercial. Massive power will be concentrated in the hands of INOC without any clear investment and production targets, and without clear accountability to the people of Iraq. With this level of concentration, the proposed Oil and Gas Law, and any regulatory apparatus, will become irrelevant.

The Board of INOC must be entirely separate from the Oil Minister and the Oil Ministry: INOC must be a regulated, not a regulatory, body. Because it is supposed to be a federal institution, INOC must be accountable to the Federal Oil and Gas Council, and not to the Council of Ministers. INOC must not be given almost the entirety of Iraq’s oil and gas reserves.
The proposed Federal Oil and Gas Council, an intergovernmental institution, will recognise to the fact that Regional rights over petroleum have paramountcy in the Constitution over federal rights (Article 115) and the right of Regions to be represented in federal decisionmaking (Article 105).

2. Return to old regime methods: The concentration of power in the hands of INOC will represent a return to method of petroleum management of previous Iraqi regimes, where centralized oil power was a corrupting influence, and used to fund violent campaigns by elites against neighbouring countries and against our own Iraqi citizens.

Iraq’s petroleum regime must be modern. The KRG is well aware that all successful oil producing federations have a decentralized petroleum sector, with some level of national cooperation, and all are open to private investment. Iraq’s Constitution, in Article 112, mandates just such a petroleum sector, and the Constitution must be honoured.

3. Breach of constitutional rights of Regions: The allocation of petroleum to INOC as proposed in the Dubai Annexes is unconstitutional. Specifically:
(a) The Dubai Annexes purport to give to INOC petroleum fields that are undeveloped, including fields that must be managed by future Regions in Iraq, including a future southern Region or Regions. These fields must be under the management control of Regions and Governorates pursuant to Article 112 of the Constitution. Undeveloped fields over which no Region or Governorate asserts jurisdiction should be allocated, temporarily, to the Oil Ministry, and open to bidding.

(b) The Dubai Annexes give to INOC currently producing fields, but do not place INOC under an obligation to manage those fields jointly with Regions and Governorates. Article 112 of the Constitution is clear on this point also, but the INOC law, as drafted, does not acknowledge the role of Regions and Governorates as joint partners in management decisions, but rather refers only to a diluted consultation mechanism.

(c) The Dubai Annexes do not clearly recognize KRG authority to contract in the Kurdistan Region, and indeed propose exploration and development blocks in the Kurdistan Region that differ from those which are already the subject of KRG contracts with private investors. Annexes 3 and 4, in particular, must recognize the fact that the Constitution itself, in Article 112, allocates fields other than currently producing fields to the Regions and Governorates, including the Kurdistan Region. The Annexes must recognize that the KRG has already allocated exploration and development blocks in the Kurdistan Region under Production Sharing Agreements pursuant to the Iraq Constitution. The Annexes must clearly acknowledge that fields and blocks in the Kurdistan Region are under the KRG’s jurisdiction, that it is for the KRG to define the coordinates of the fields and blocks, and that the KRG will be contracting authority for those fields and blocks.

The KRG considers that, in the unlikely event the proposed Law with the Dubai Annexes were presented to the Council of Representatives and approved by the Council, the law would be immediately void as unconstitutional by virtue of Article 13 of the Constitution.

4. Breach of constitutional revenue sharing rules: It is also unclear whether the Dubai Annexes will require INOC’s revenues to be shared throughout Iraq according to population. Article 112 of the Constitution is very clear on this requirement.

With these Dubai Annexes, Iraq is in great danger of losing its main source of revenue to an unaccountable entity that will absorb funds for alleged reinvestment and expansion but without returning funds to the people of Iraq. The KRG has advanced several discussion drafts of a revenue sharing law for Iraq that would pool all petroleum revenue, wherever that revenue is raised, for sharing throughout Iraq according to the Constitution. We have received no response.

5. Failure to maximize revenue for Iraq: The legal obligations of INOC to develop Iraq’s petroleum are unclear in the Dubai Annexes. Article 112 of the Constitution requires oil production in Iraq to maximize returns to the peoples of Iraq. The Dubai Annexes provide Iraq with no assurance that INOC will be any better than the current bureaucracy in increasing petroleum revenue for Iraq. Many of the fields which are proposed to be allocated to INOC have been discovered for up to 30 years, without any development. With no accountability or contractual requirements to produce, why should we expect the performance of INOC to be any better than that of the Oil Ministry in past years and decades?

INOC must be clearly defined as a contract-holder for each of the particular fields allocated to it, like any other contractor in Iraq, with contractual obligations to the Iraq federation to develop fields and generate revenue for Iraq-wide sharing. This was the intent of the 15 February Draft Oil and Gas Law. Each field for which INOC is the contractor must, depending on the particular nature of the field, have a mandatory program for field development. If the mandatory program is not met, the field should be put on the market for open bidding, to obtain maximum timely returns to the Iraqi people. INOC should be given a mandatory target of increasing Iraq’s petroleum production to 4.5 million barrels per day within 5 years, and should lose some of its contractual rights if individual field targets are not met.

6. Deters investment: The Dubai Annexes will deter investment in Iraq’s petroleum sector. The Annexes, and the comments conveyed by some of the presenters at the Dubai conference, send a clear message: Iraq is closed for business. This message is obviously designed to undermine the 15 February proposed Oil and Gas Law with respect to private sector opportunities in Iraq, and to stir up anti-foreign and reactionary sentiment. This was the message that the organizers wanted to convey through their hand picked speakers.

The authors of the Dubai Annexes announced to the conference that INOC will not enter into any contractual arrangements with the private sector, including Iraqi companies. They also announced that the earliest possible bidding round for the very small number of non-INOC fields will be December 2008. One Iraqi expert who had been originally invited to speak at Dubai was at the last minute barred from addressing the conference when the organisers realised that he would be supporting private sector participation in Iraq’s oil and gas sector. The authors of the Dubai Annexes also announced that the Annexes had been made available for discussion “three months ago”, a statement was blatantly false.

This is an obvious effort to return, by the back door, to the early anti-investment negotiating drafts of the Oil and Gas Law that the Oil and Energy Committee rejected as long ago as August last year. The principle underpinning the 15 February 2007 draft Oil and Gas Law approved by the Council of Ministers was that private sector investment under Production Sharing Agreements would be at the center of Iraq’s petroleum strategy, with the additional use, if necessary, of risk-reward service contracts. This principle was agreed in the draft Law. The principle is inscribed in strong terms in Article 112 (2) of the Constitution itself, which obliges the federal government, with Regions and Governorates, “to develop the oil and gas wealth in a way that achieves the highest benefit to the Iraqi people using the most advanced techniques of the market principles and encouraging investment”. One of authors of the Dubai Annexes, himself serving under a Constitution adopted by nearly 80 percent of Iraq’s voters, denigrated key provisions of the Constitution. As our Prime Minister has repeatedly stressed, the people of Kurdistan are only willing to remain part of the Iraqi Federation on the basis of full implementation of Iraq’s Constitution.

The Dubai Annexes are unconstitutional, against the interests of the Iraqi people, and contrary to the 15 February agreement and Draft Oil and Gas Law. The undeveloped fields to be listed in Annex 3 and the blocks to be listed in Annex 4, must be clearly stated as fields and blocks which will be developed using Production Sharing Agreements.

KRG-proposed amendments to the Annexes:
I understand that some members of the Federal Government wish to maintain firm Iraqi control over Iraq’s petroleum sector. That wish is understandable. However these draft Annexes will not give control to the Iraqi people: it will create a new oligarchy in which Iraq’s oil is left in the ground and the interests of Iraqi citizens are once again ignored.

The overriding goal of the Oil and Gas Law must be to maximize returns to the people of Iraq in all the Regions and Governorates, consistent with the Constitution of Iraq. The KRG has proposed Annexes which I believe will achieve this goal, and which strike a fair balance between the interests of the Federal Government, the Regions, and Governorates. Even under the KRG proposal, INOC will receive almost 58 per cent of Iraq’s proven petroleum reserves, including INOC’s carried interest on four projects. This will enable INOC, under a clear mandatory program, to raise its share of production to around 4.5 million barrels per day, but still to allow reasonable scope for the private sector and inward investment to boost Iraq production levels to approximately 8 million barrels per day. The result with be a united and prosperous federation.

Outstanding matters:
In these circumstances, I note the outstanding matters that must be agreed before there is a serious oil and gas package for the Council of Representative’s consideration:

1. Annexes: The Oil and Energy Committee must agree the Annexes to the Law.

2. Model Contracts: The Oil and Energy Committee must agree model production sharing and service contracts. I note that the KRG has seen no proposed model contracts of any sort from the federal government. We once again strongly urge the federal government representatives on the Oil and Energy Committee to adopt model contracts that are similar to the Model Production Sharing Agreement that the KRG has adopted and will continue to use in the Kurdistan Region.

3. INOC and Ministry of Oil Laws: The Oil and Energy Committee must agree laws for the structure and organization of INOC and the Oil Ministry. The KRG has received from the federal government representatives no official draft of a proposed INOC law or Ministry of Oil Law, though they have been promised for some time. These draft laws must be consistent with the Constitution and the principles of the draft Oil and Gas Law.

4. Revenue Sharing Law: The KRG has to date received no response to its proposed Federal Revenue Sharing Law, which we circulated in early March. The KRG draft proposes that all petroleum revenues, defined as broadly as possible, should be received and shared by an intergovernmental entity pursuant to Articles 106 and 112 of the Constitution, so that all Iraqis, and all levels of government, may benefit from Iraq’s petroleum assets. To date there has been no response and not one single meeting regarding a Federal Revenue Sharing Law.

The time has come for a serious discussion on revenue sharing. The KRG still awaits the Federal Government to authorize its representatives to meet with the KRG at the earliest opportunity to discuss the draft Federal Revenue Sharing Law. This is obviously a critical piece of legislation without which the Oil and Gas Law cannot progress.

Finally, I express the hope that all these matters can be concluded as quickly as possible. The KRG has at every point in these discussions worked diligently and honestly to solve the difficult problems that face Iraq’s oil sector. We have done so not only in the interests of the Kurdistan Region, but also in the name of the Constitution of Iraq and, we believe, in the interests of all the Iraqi people. We remain available to the Federal Oil and Energy Committee to agree the remaining issues. In the meantime, the KRG remains open to business and will continue to exercise its full authority under the Constitution of Iraq, including the negotiation of competitive Production Sharing Agreements with experienced international investors, for the benefit of all Iraqi people.

Dr. Ashti Hawrami
Minister for Natural Resources, Kurdistan Regional Government

Cleared Guantanamo Inmates with no place to go!

You would think that the US would take responsibility for giving cleared inmates refugee status in the US. It is the least that the US could do after holding these people for years without charge. Part of the problem is that some captives such as the Uighurs are classifed as members of a terrorist group. If they are deported to China they may very well be tortured and jailed. However, if the US gives refuge to members of terrorist groups all hell would break loose among US commentators! Of course people who belong to anti-Cuban terrorist groups are a different story. They have never been classified as terrorists! The US just recently let out on bail a wanted terrorist who is accused of being involved in a plot that blew up a Cuban airliner.



82 Inmates Cleared but Still Held at Guantanamo
U.S. Cites Difficulty Deporting Detainees

By Craig Whitlock
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, April 29, 2007; A01



LONDON -- More than a fifth of the approximately 385 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been cleared for release but may have to wait months or years for their freedom because U.S. officials are finding it increasingly difficult to line up places to send them, according to Bush administration officials and defense lawyers.

Since February, the Pentagon has notified about 85 inmates or their attorneys that they are eligible to leave after being cleared by military review panels. But only a handful have gone home, including a Moroccan and an Afghan who were released Tuesday. Eighty-two remain at Guantanamo and face indefinite waits as U.S. officials struggle to figure out when and where to deport them, and under what conditions.

The delays illustrate how much harder it will be to empty the prison at Guantanamo than it was to fill it after it opened in January 2002 to detain fighters captured in Afghanistan and terrorism suspects captured overseas.

In many cases, the prisoners' countries do not want them back. Yemen, for instance, has balked at accepting some of the 106 Yemeni nationals at Guantanamo by challenging the legality of their citizenship.

Another major obstacle: U.S. laws that prevent the deportation of people to countries where they could face torture or other human rights abuses, as in the case of 17 Chinese Muslim separatists who have been cleared for release but fear they could be executed for political reasons if returned to China.

Compounding the problem are persistent refusals by the United States, its European allies and other countries to grant asylum to prisoners who are stateless or have no place to go.

"In general, most countries simply do not want to help," said John B. Bellinger III, legal adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. "Countries believe this is not their problem. They think they didn't contribute to Guantanamo, and therefore they don't have to be part of the solution."

A case in point is Ahmed Belbacha, 37, an Algerian who worked as a hotel waiter in Britain but has been locked up at Guantanamo for five years. The Pentagon has alleged that Belbacha met al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden twice and received weapons training in Afghanistan. His attorneys dispute the charges and say he was rounded up with other innocents in Pakistan in early 2002.

On Feb. 22, without explanation, the Pentagon notified Belbacha's lawyers in London that he had been approved to leave Guantanamo. Despite entreaties from the State Department, however, the British government has refused to accept Belbacha and five other immigrants who had lived in the country, because they lack British citizenship.

This month, Clint Williamson, the State Department's ambassador for war crimes, visited Algiers to discuss possible arrangements for the return of two dozen Algerians who remain at Guantanamo, including Belbacha, but no breakthroughs were reported. That country has been slow to accept its citizens.

Zachary Katznelson, a lawyer who represents Belbacha and several other prisoners who have been cleared, said defense attorneys have tried to speed up the process by contacting foreign governments to see if there are any specific obstacles to the return of their clients. In many cases, he said, the prisoners and officials in their home countries are willing to approve the transfer, but the delays persist.

"The holdup is a mystery to me, frankly," said Katznelson, senior counsel for Reprieve, a British legal defense fund. "If the U.S. has cleared these people and they want to go back, I don't understand why they can't just put them on a plane."

Other prisoner advocates said the Bush administration has made its task more difficult by exaggerating the threat posed by most Guantanamo inmates -- officials repeatedly called them "the worst of the worst" -- and refusing to acknowledge mistaken detentions.

Foreign governments have also questioned why U.S. officials should expect other countries to pitch in, given that Washington won't offer asylum to detainees either.

"This is a problem of our own creation, and yet we expect other countries to shoulder the entire burden of a solution," said Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. "There needs to be a worldwide solution here. The U.S. has to bear some of that burden. It can't simply expect its partners and allies to absorb all its detainees."

The 82 cleared prisoners who remain stuck in limbo come from 16 countries in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, according to defense attorneys who have received official notification of their clients' status.

The 17 Chinese Muslim separatists make up the largest contingent. Other countries with multiple prisoners awaiting release include Afghanistan, Sudan, Tunisia, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

The Pentagon has reduced the population at Guantanamo by roughly half since the peak of 680 people in May 2003, generally by sending prisoners back to their native countries. But U.S. officials said progress has slowed because of the complexity of the remaining cases.

Of the roughly 385 still incarcerated, U.S. officials said they intend to eventually put 60 to 80 on trial and free the rest. But the judicial process has likewise moved at a glacial pace, largely because of constitutional legal challenges.

Only two people have been charged under a military tribunal system approved by Congress last year. One of those cases has been adjudicated. David M. Hicks, an Australian citizen, pleaded guilty in March to lending material support to terrorists. He was sentenced to nine months in prison and is scheduled to be transferred to Australia in May to serve his time there.

Defense lawyers for some of the 82 cleared prisoners whose release is pending said Hicks received a better deal than did their clients who were not charged with any offenses. "One of the cruel ironies is that in Guantanamo, you've got to plead guilty to be released," said Wizner, the ACLU attorney. "It's the only way out of there."

Complicating the return process is that virtually all the prisoners at Guantanamo come from countries that the State Department has cited for records of human rights abuses. Under U.S. rules, a pattern of abuses in a country does not automatically preclude deportation there. Rather, U.S. officials must investigate each case to determine whether an individual is likely to face persecution.

The investigations are time-consuming and often meet with resistance from the prisoners' home countries, which can be sensitive to suggestions that they allow torture, U.S. officials said. In cases where there is a risk of mistreatment, U.S. policy is to obtain a written promise from the host government that the prisoner will not be abused and that U.S. officials will be allowed to monitor the arrangement.

"It often takes us months and months, or even years, to negotiate the human rights assurances that we are comfortable with before we will transfer someone to another country," said Bellinger, the State Department's legal adviser.

Human rights groups have criticized the written assurances as unreliable. In March, the New York-based group Human Rights Watch issued a report on the fate of seven Russians who were released from Guantanamo three years ago, asserting that three of the men have been tortured since their return.

The watchdog group urged the U.S. government to find third-party countries willing to take Guantanamo inmates who are judged to be at risk for political persecution. U.S. officials countered that they have tried to do that for years, with virtually no success.

Only one country has been willing to accept Guantanamo prisoners who had never previously set foot inside its borders. Last year, after prodding by the State Department, the Balkan nation of Albania agreed to take five Chinese separatists who belong to an ethnic group known as Uighurs.

The men were captured in late 2001 after they crossed the Chinese border into Afghanistan and Pakistan. Their attorneys said they were mistakenly taken into custody and had not taken up arms against U.S. forces. U.S. officials said dozens of countries refused to grant asylum to the Uighurs for fear of angering China, which considers them terrorists for leading a secession movement in the western province of Turkestan.

Seventeen other Uighurs who were caught in similar circumstances have been cleared for release but remain in Guantanamo because the State Department has been unable to find a home for them. Human rights groups have pressed the U.S. government to offer the men asylum, to no avail.

A senior U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the Bush administration had considered granting the Uighurs asylum but that the idea was nixed by the Department of Homeland Security. The Uighurs would be rejected under U.S. immigration law, the official said, because they once trained in armed camps and because their separatist front, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, was labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. government in 2002.

Attorneys for the Uighurs said their predicament has been compounded by the Pentagon's unwillingness to say they don't pose a national security risk to the U.S. government or its allies. In announcing that the Uighurs had been approved to leave Guantanamo, military officials made a point of noting that they had not been exonerated and were still classified as enemy combatants.

"It's not a distinction that makes sense at all," said Michael J. Sternhell, a New York lawyer whose firm represents four of the Uighurs. "It's a caveat that the Defense Department is offering to cover itself."

Some human rights advocates said the Bush administration could speed things up by asking the United Nations or another international body for help.

Manfred Nowak, an Austrian law professor who serves as the U.N. special monitor on torture, said European allies and other countries would continue to duck requests to accept released prisoners as long as the U.S. government approaches them separately. An international commission responsible for finding a solution, he said, might carry more weight.

"If the U.S. is willing to do something to close down Guantanamo, then it should be done in a cooperative manner with the international community," Nowak said. "It's a question of burden-sharing. Otherwise, every individual country that the U.S. approaches says, 'Why us?' "

Staff researcher Julie Tate in Washington contributed to this report.

Basra factions gear up for fight

Interesting that this article speaks of a coalition of 5 Islamist groups against the Fadhila faction and the reigning governor. Other articles speak of the battle as being with this faction and Al Sadr. If things really blow up in Basra this will be one more problem for the US and UK. In the north trouble is also brewing in Kirkuk.This is from this site.
Basra factions gear up for fight



By Marsi Abutaug



Azzaman, April 28, 2007



Rival factions in the southern city of Basra have mobilized their armed militias for what many residents expect to be a ferocious fight over control of the provincial council.



Residents are hoarding essentials with sporadic clashes between the factions intensifying in the past three days in which various weapons were used.



As armed groups fortify positions in major streets and amid heavily populated areas the occupying British troops charged with security have so far shown little concern.



The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has not move a finger to contain the spiral of violence in the city which could easily spread to other areas.



The Basra Islamic Front, an umbrella for five Islamist groups, is reported to have deployed nearly 7,000 armed men in the city in a bid to force current governor Mohammed al-Waili to quit.



Waili belongs to the rival Fadhila faction whose armed men are guarding the governor’s headquarters in the city and vowing to fight off the attackers.



Basra is the capital of the predominantly Muslim Shiite province of the same name. There are fears that the growing tension may adversely affect the country’s oil output.



Basra oil fields are crucial to the country’s exports with output form the northern oil fields of Kirkuk shrinking.



The Fadhila party of governor Waili is reported to be in control of Iraq’s Southern Oil Company which administers the province’s oil output.



Fadhila supporters hold key positions in the industry and analysts say the current feud is more over control of oil than the provincial council.

Dubai Summit: Iraq Oil Law

Fight rages over Iraq oil law

By Ben Lando Apr 28, 2007, 1:11 GMT

COMMENT:
No one seems to remark on the irony that the Iraq oil law discussions seem to go one outside of Iraq. I suppose the big oil people are not too comfortable with the security situation in Iraq although they could always find a bunker in the Green Zone!
There is little coverage of the Dubai meetings in the mainstream press. Articles only appear in specialist journals that deal with oil matters. There is to be another big gathering the end of May. It seems as if the oil law will not make it through parliament in time for the meeting.


WASHINGTON, DC, United States (UPI) -- Discussions turned contentious among the more than 60 Iraqi oil officials reviewing Iraq`s draft hydrocarbons bill last week in the United Arab Emirates.

But the dispute highlighted the need for further negotiations on the proposed law that was stalled in talks for nearly eight months, then pushed through Iraq`s Cabinet without most key provisions.

Tariq Shafiq, one of three authors of the law, said he attended the Dubai summit 'reluctantly,' at the request of Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani.

'I thought it would help,' Shafiq said, hoping all Iraqi sides in the debate over its oil law would meet and iron out their differences. 'Apparently it did not.'

Petroleum Intelligence Weekly reports talks in Dubai led to 'heated exchanges.'

Instead, the voices of those who disagree with the law or, like Shafiq, oppose what it has become since the initial draft and how it was kept from the public, were not given part of the platform.

'Had there been genuine interest in having consensus,' Shafiq said, 'the two differing parties should have sat -- not publicly in front of the television -- to discuss with an open heart how you can reach a compromise. But this apparently was not their aim.'

Most of the law, which is better referred to as a regime, or a set of interworking laws, has yet to be finalized. But the main sticking points have the central government and Kurdistan Regional Government at loggerheads still.

Although the Bush administration, led by former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and now U.N. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, praised passage of the framework law when Iraq`s Cabinet approved it late February, it doesn`t quite qualify as one of the benchmarks he has set for success in Iraq.

'To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country`s economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis,' Bush said in a national address Jan. 10. But neither the KRG nor the central government has agreed on the percentage of oil revenue to be shared. The KRG wants an automatic mechanism to redistribute the funds, while the central government wants it collected to the central bank, to be doled out by the Iraqi finance minister.

Before any more development of the oil sector, struggling to produce 2 million barrels per day, both sides must agree on which of the 116 billion barrels worth of fields will be under the control of the central government -- most likely via the reconstituted Iraq National Oil Co. -- and which fields the regions and governorates will control. The Iraqi constitution, passed in 2005, was written vaguely to garner enough support, but fueled the current disagreement over control of oil reserves, the world`s third-largest.

Shahristani told reporters on the sidelines of the Dubai meeting that Parliament would take up the law this week -- which didn`t happen -- while Ashti Hawrami, the KRG`s oil minister, vowed Kurdish parliamentarians would veto it as written.

Negotiations continue on other aspects, such as the contract models allowed to sign with much-needed investors and the exact roles the federal oil and gas council, Iraq Oil Minister and INOC will play.

All this is supposed to be done by May 31, a deadline set by a Bush administration that needs a progress marker for Iraq, a fragile Iraqi central government that is falling apart and the KRG that is ready to continue development in its semi-autonomous and relatively peaceful northern region.

'I just don`t see that. It`s just too much,' said Frank A. Verrastro, director and senior fellow of the energy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a centrist Washington think tank. The framework is important, he said, but it has no value standing alone.

He said at least in Dubai they realized there are 'significant issues' to resolve still.

There are many who oppose the law. Iraq`s oil unions have threatened to shutdown production if foreign companies are allowed too much control. Many political and sectarian blocs also feel that way. And Sunnis, a minority group without oil land and the power wielded while Saddam Hussein reigned, fear they`ll wind up without if the central government is weak.

'If the law does not state a precise formula for that distribution, then the law is fairly meaningless,' said Thomas Mowle, an associate political science professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy who served in the Strategy, Plans, and Assessment Division, Headquarters Multinational Force-Iraq, Baghdad, from August to December 2004.

'If the law includes the distribution of revenue from future oil projects, then the Kurds are likely to reject it as unconstitutional,' he said. 'If the law does not include such revenue, then it will accomplish little toward national reconciliation.'

Shafiq said 'the majority of the oil technocrats are against' the law as written. He said the eight months negotiators took after the drafters were finished was too long. And it was kept secret from the public and parliamentarians, which then added to the politicization.

'The weak thing about their procedure is they never published the draft,' Shafiq said. 'They should have had teams to explain this to unions, to intellectuals, to nongovernmental organizations, to the parliamentarians, and then get the gist of their reactions before they start finalizing a draft.'

And then, with the Bush administration needing results, officials leaned on negotiators to pass something. Out came the framework. Khalilzad announced its passage, and the KRG sent out a news release.

'That was a big mistake,' Shafiq said.

(Comments to energy@upi.com)

Copyright 2007 by United Press International

WSWS: Analysis of Democractic Candidates Debate

I have always been completely dumbfounded by the manner in which most Americans who have much interest in politics manage to drum up so much partisan support and interest in the two main parties. Mainstream US political discourse and media coverage is framed in terms of Democracts versus Republicans and liberals versus conservatives. The commentators on the scene, even the WSWS(World Socialist Web Site) as in this article, are driven by a virtual market mechanism: what has appeal on the political market is to be covered and yacked about endlessly whereas less popular parties and positions are marginal or fringe, out in left field or right field.
The article demonstrates how on some key issues the two main parties really differ little in their aims or even in their overall policy of intervention. Those in the Democratic Party who oppose militarist policy are marginalised and serve as a sort of escape valve that allows activists and further to the left to see working within the party as an option.
Of course there are differences between the parties. Generally the Democrats are vaguely more pro-labor and more "liberal" on social matters. See there I am using that distinction between liberal and conservative!


Democratic presidential candidates debate where to wage war next
By Jerry White
28 April 2007
In the first debate between candidates for the Democratic Party’s 2008 presidential nomination, the leading contenders made clear that whatever their differences with the Bush administration’s handling of the war in Iraq, they are all committed to maintaining the US occupation of the oil-rich country and that, if elected president, they would not hesitate to use US military power anywhere in the world to defend the geo-political interests of American imperialism.

The debate, which was broadcast by MSNBC television from South Carolina State University, included ostensible front runners New York Senator Hillary Clinton, Illinois Senator Barack Obama and former North Carolina senator and vice presidential candidate John Edwards, as well as Delaware Senator Joseph Biden, Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. Also included were Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich and former Alaska senator Mike Gravel.

The debate was overshadowed by the deep crisis over the war in Iraq and the growing popular hatred of for the war—particularly among Democrat voters, who according to a poll released this week are 78 percent in favor of total withdrawal and 54 percent in favor of immediate withdrawal.

While all of the candidates did their best to feign opposition to the war, the debate began just hours after the Senate approved a supplemental spending bill that will provide the White House with an additional $124 billion to continue the fighting and occupations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of those on the platform sought to cast the funding bill as an “antiwar” measure because of the toothless and non-binding timetable in the bill for the withdrawal of some troops from Iraq. “The Congress has voted, as of today, to end this war,” Clinton declared.

Echoing the comments of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid earlier in the week, Senators Clinton, Biden and Obama made it clear they were against “this” war—i.e., opposed to the way the Bush administration is conducting the occupation of Iraq, not “the” war itself. Clinton set the tone by claiming the US had done everything to help the Iraqi people to have “freedom” and “their own country” but now it was time for the Iraqis to decide whether they would “take that chance.” Blaming the Iraqi people for the devastating civil war that has resulted from the US invasion and the shattering of Iraqi society, Clinton said the Iraqi government had to provide “security and stability without our young men and women in the middle of their sectarian civil war.”

These comments parallel previous statements by Clinton who has indicated that if elected she would keep large numbers of US troops in Iraq for the foreseeable future—not to protect the civilian population against sectarian reprisals,but to defend America’s “vital national security interests”: first and foremost, oil.

In his remarks, Biden criticized Bush’s “fundamentally flawed policy” in Iraq, which he defined as the “notion of being able to set up a strong, central government in Baghdad that will be democratic.” The way forward, Biden said, was to “decentralize Iraq” and have a “limited central government” to “share their oil wealth.” Biden has been the most strident proponent of partitioning Iraq into ethno-religious statelets, dividing Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis. Such a proposal is a prescription for ethnic cleansing and mass killings on a scale not seen since the partitioning of India in the 1940s. Governor Richardson endorsed this reactionary proposal, calling for the US to establish a “political framework” to “divide oil revenues” and possibly “set up three separate entities.”

Illinois Senator Barack Obama said he had opposed the war from the start and then attempted to justify his repeated votes to fund it as hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and more than 3,300 US soldiers have been killed. He claimed that the troops needed the best military hardware possible in order to “come home safely.” In reality, Congress has the power to assure the safe return of the troops by cutting off funding, something the Democratic leadership refuses to do.

Representative Dennis Kucinich pointed out this anomaly, saying every time the Democrats voted to fund the war they were “reauthorizing the war all over again.” The Democrats, he said, “have the power to end the war right now, and that’s what we should do.” Criticizing the Senate war-spending bill, Kucinich said he had proposed a bill that called for the United Nations to provide peacekeepers and security forces that “will move in as our troops leave.”

Gravel—a Vietnam-era senator who opposed the Nixon administration on the military draft and the war—also denounced the war-spending bill, saying he was “embarrassed” by what was going on in Congress. Because Bush is determined to continue the war, the Democrats should pass a law, he said, making it a “felony” to keep the troops in Iraq.

Neither Kucinich nor Gravel enjoys any support from the Democratic Party leadership, let alone from the Wall Street investors and other corporate backers who are pouring millions of dollars into the campaigns of the top contenders. Nevertheless, they play a central role in fostering illusions that the pro-war and pro-big business Democratic Party can be pressured to stop the war and defend the interests of working people. Kucinich in particular presents himself as the “voice of conscience” in the Democratic Party and living proof that there is an antiwar, progressive faction within it.

In the 2004 elections, the Ohio congressman also sought the party’s presidential nomination. After the Democratic Party leadership smothered the Howard Dean campaign—around which significant antiwar sentiment had gathered—it took measures to suppress antiwar opposition within the party and to make sure the elections were not turned into a referendum on Iraq. This campaign culminated in the nomination of a pro-war candidate—Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. Kucinich immediately dropped his campaign and called for “unity” behind Kerry, thus attempting to confine the opposition to the war tightly within the borders of a pro-war party.

Earlier this week Kucinich introduced three articles of impeachment against Vice President Cheney for the campaign of lies about WMDs and Iraqi-al-Qaeda ties that was used to justify the war against Iraq, as well as similar fabrications used to prepare another war against Iran. These are indeed grounds for impeaching Cheney. However, there is zero support for this within the Democratic Party leadership, which is averse to any serious struggle that might bring masses of working people into a political confrontation with the Bush administration. For that reason, when the debate moderator asked for a show of hands from the Democratic candidates on who supported Kucinich’s action against Cheney, not one hand was raised.

In the end, Kucinich and Gravel functioned as foils during the debate so that the leading Democratic contenders could re-assert their commitment to defending the interests of corporate America with military force. This point was noted by the Washington Post, which said that Kucinich and Gravel “provided a counterpoint of left-wing ideas that drew rebukes for a lack of seriousness from Biden and Obama. The challenges from the liberal flank allowed almost all the others to assert that, despite their criticisms of President Bush’s Iraq policy, they are ready to use military force to retaliate against future terrorist attacks.”

Fully embracing the “global war on terrorism,” the leading Democratic candidates singled out as potential future targets of US military action not only Iran and North Korea, but also Russia and China. Biden also specifically raised the possibility of intervening in Darfur, which leading Democratic think tanks hope will be a launching point for defending US interest in Africa, while at the same time selling it to the American people as a “good, humanitarian” war.

Kucinich pointed out that Obama and Clinton had told pro-Israeli lobby groups that “all options were on the table with Iran” and that this was a thinly-veiled threat to use nuclear weapons. Obama justified his remarks by saying a nuclear-armed Iran “will be a major threat to us and to the region.” Calling Iran “the largest state sponsor of terrorism” because of its support for Hezbollah and Hamas, Obama repeated the same threats made by Bush and Cheney in the run-up to the war with Iraq, saying Iran could “place a nuclear weapon into the hands of terrorists,” posing a “profound security threat for America.”

Gravel pointed out that the US has carried out sanctions against Iran for 26 years, while constantly threatening the country with military strikes. “Tell me, Barack,” he said, “who do you want to nuke?” Obama shrugged the question off, responding, “I’m not planning to nuke anybody right now, Mike, I promise you.”

Biden was even more forceful, calling on Kucinich and Gravel to “stop all this happy talk here about the use of force doesn’t make sense. The use of force in Afghanistan is justified and necessary; in Darfur, justified and necessary; in the Balkans, justified and necessary. You guys can have your happy talk, there’s real life.”

The debate made clear that the Democrats’ chief criticism of the war in Iraq is that it has placed an enormous strain on the fighting capacity of the US military and diverted attention from other threats to US interests throughout the world. The plan for “strategic redeployment” advocated by the Democratic candidates is aimed at maintaining colonial control in Iraq—by waging a bloody counter-insurgency with fewer troops, primarily US Special Forces and the Air Force—and freeing up troops for Afghanistan and interventions in other global hot spots.

This support for militarism stems from the fact that the Democratic Party speaks for the same financial oligarchy as the Republicans. This truth was reiterated throughout the debate, as Clinton, Obama and Edwards went out of their way to praise the multi-millionaire and multi-billionaire hedge fund managers and Wall Street speculators who have enriched themselves at the expense of the great mass of working people. Clinton praised the people willing to invest their money in the “free market system” and the “entrepreneurial economy,” many of whom have poured some of that money into her multi-million-dollar campaign war chest.

After repeating his refrain about being brought up poor and humble in a South Carolina textile mill town for the one thousandth time, John Edwards responded to a question about being hired by the $30 billion hedge fund Fortress Investment Group with the absurd claim that “those people in New York who work in financial markets understand—in some ways, at least—what can be done and can play a significant role in trying to lift people who are struggling.”

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Pulling the Trigger on Iran

No doubt many neo-cons would like a military confrontation with Iran but the idea that this would be a success for them is quite doubtful. Any attack on Iran would have repercussions in Iraq, especially in the Shia south and Iran may be able to do considerable damage before it is incapacitated. Restive Shias in moderate Arab countries might rise up and cause problems throughout the so-called moderate Arab states. Talk of an Iran attack seems to have cooled down a bit during the last few weeks.

Pulling the Trigger on Iran
Posted by Patrick Foy on April 26, 2007
The casus belli for “Operation Iraqi Freedom”, the invasion of Iraq, was a fraud. We know that now. Even though there was no threat whatever to the United States from Iraq, the decision was made by Richard Cheney in consultation with his junior associate, George W. Bush, to invade and occupy Iraq, a country which had been decimated by an economic embargo and whose army had been cut by two-thirds since 1991. Once the predatory decision had been made, it was necessary to fabricate a plausible justification for it, to “fix the intelligence around the policy”, to use the British phraseology. This required months of a carefully calibrated propaganda campaign to misinform the American public and pressure the U.S. Congress and Senate for the authorization to attack. At the UN in the Security Council, a similar mendacious strategy was underway. At the same time, the White House was suggesting that it did not actually need authorization from the Congress or the UN to initiate hostilities. Why not? Because G.W. Bush is POTUS 43, the commander-in-chief, and as such he can do as he pleases when it comes to national security affairs. The same argument will be made if and when the U.S. attacks Iran.

Let’s be clear. Oil-rich Iraq had nothing to do with the national security of the United States. From the very start, going back to Saddam’s attempted annexation of Kuwait in 1990, Iraq was and remains a political football. What has been done to Iraq by successive Administrations in the name of the American people--beginning with H.W. Bush and “Operation Desert Storm” in 1991 and continuing with Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright and the murderous economic sanctions on Iraq throughout the 1990’s, and highlighted by the bizarre 1998 “Iraq Liberation Act” of Congress, which passed 360-38 in the House of Representatives and by unanimous consent in the Senate, and finally in 2003, the invasion of Iraq itself, endorsed by the Democratic leadership on Capital Hill--all of this was based upon American domestic politics and constant pressure from the U.S. Israel Lobby, and not on the legitimate national security concerns of the the United States. What is happening now in 2007 is more of the same, to wit, more politics: the Democrats, many of whom were cheerleaders for the war when it began, are trying to make whatever political mileage they can from the obvious disaster this war has become. There are some intellectually honest individuals, like Congressman John Murtha and Senator Chuck Hagel, but they are the exceptions.

Meanwhile, Dick Cheney and what is left of his dwindling gang of “neocons” want to attack Iran, in a last gasp of recklessness and myopia. Bush Jr. is on board, as before, for reasons which remain unclear and unimportant. But the scenario employed to take out Iraq will not work. Why not? Because Cheney and Bush have been exposed as duplicitous. They have hardly an ounce of credibility left. “Operation Iraqi Freedom” has degenerated into a nightmare and many of the “neocon” operatives who carried it out from the Pentagon and from the White House have wisely fled the scene of the crime. One of them, I. “Scooter” Libby, Cheney’s chief of staff as well as a counselor to the President, has been convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with covering up the White House disinformation campaign. In short, the same dog won’t hunt.

Still, attacking Iran is on Tel Aviv’s wish list, as clearly evidenced by AIPAC’s “Policy Conferences” in Washington from the last 3 or 4 years, so something has to be worked out before Cheney and Bush leave office. Actually, the situation is not looking all that bad on Capital Hill for reinstating “the clash of civilizations”, despite the Iraq fiasco. The me-too Democrats, in particular those running for President in 2008, and especially the Republicans running for President, are on record that “all options are on the table” when it comes to Iran. To translate, under the right circumstances, Democratic leaders, and all Presidential contenders, will go along with a U.S. attack on Iran. It just requires the right setup. The White House has only to prepare the bogus circumstances, like it did prior to “Operation Iraqi Freedom”. Fine and dandy. Once again, the Democrats are enabling Cheney and Bush to launch another unprovoked war. It was your country.

But there may be an unforeseen problem for the war party. Two months ago, on April 25th, the London Sunday Times reported (”US generals ‘will quit’ if Bush orders Iran attack” by Michael Smith & Sarah Baxter) that a handful of generals and admirals would not obey White House orders to attack Iran, but would resign in the face of such an order. This is astonishing and unprecedented, if true. It appears that a significant number of U.S. military officers have concluded that the two gentlemen in charge at the White House are not playing with a full deck. What does it mean for the warmongers? How will the White House, in cooperation with their “neocon” brain trust, railroad America into another unnecessary war? The largely overlooked and unheralded article in the London Sunday Times provides a good clue. “A second US navy aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS John C Stennis arrived in the Gulf last week, doubling the US presence there. Vice Admiral Patrick Walsh, the commander of the US Fifth Fleet, warned: ‘The US will take military action if ships are attacked or if countries in the region are targeted or US troops come under direct attack.’” Read that again. The scenario is in place.

Taking the vice admiral’s statement at face value, this indicates that the White House has ordered the U.S. fleet to attack Iran in the event Iran takes action against any country in the region. An instant war trigger. No need for Congress to act. The me-too Democrats and the brain dead Republicans can relax, sit back and enjoy it. There is no alliance, formal or informal, and no treaty which would require the U.S. to attack Iran in the event Iran “targets” other countries in the region. The only reason Iran would target anybody would be in the event Iran had been targeted first, and Iran was attempting to launch a counter-attack, in other words, defending itself. Get the drift? It is entirely possible that a nuclear-armed Tel Aviv, acting “on its own” but in coordination with Dick Cheney, Elliot Abrams, David Wurmser and maybe even with George W. Bush, will initiate hostilities with a bombing run and/or cruise missile attack on Iran. Then, as soon as Iran attempts to react, Iran will get clobbered with a massive “shock and awe” blitzkrieg carried out by the U.S. air force and navy, which attack will virtually destroy the Iranian military and the Iranian nuclear energy program as well. The final mission accomplished. Cheney and Bush will be back on top in Washington. The shameful and shameless me-too Democrats will be out maneuvered yet again. Life is beautiful. The revenge of the neocons will be complete.

Patrick Foy is author of The Unauthorized World Situation Report

Bush's Non-Argument

This is from the Tehran Times via way of the Washington Post. It is interesting that this should be reprinted in an Iranian paper. The criticism of Bush is timely and much of it is quite sharp. The analysis of an "artificial timetable" and the point that obviously Bush in effect tells generals how to do their job or at least what to do.


Bush's Non-Argument

By E. J. Dionne Jr.
President Bush and Vice President Cheney cannot make the case that their Iraq policies have succeeded, so they are doing one thing they do very well: taking a serious argument over the future of American foreign policy and turning it into a petty partisan squabble.

This is not really an argument over the "surge" of troops into Iraq. It is a fight over whether we want to make an open-ended commitment to keeping combat forces in Iraq for many years or whether we anticipate pulling most of them out within a year or two.

Even if the surge succeeds in a narrow sense -- by reducing the number of Iraqis killed in sectarian violence in Baghdad -- there is no guarantee that the overall situation in Iraq will be any better, no guarantee that Iraqi leaders will take the political steps necessary to end the internecine killing and create a stable government, no guarantee that we will make progress against al-Qaeda. Although he conveniently appeared in Washington as Congress was voting on war appropriations, Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, did not play politics Wednesday in assessing the situation there. He spoke, rightly, of progress in Anbar province, a Sunni stronghold, but added: "The ability of al-Qaeda to conduct horrific, sensational attacks obviously has represented a setback and is an area in which we are focusing considerable attention." The president's comments this week were less measured. "I will strongly reject an artificial timetable withdrawal," Bush said, "and/or Washington politicians trying to tell those who wear the uniform how to do their job."

Let's parse that statement. The notion that Congress has an "artificial timetable" suggests there must be such a thing as a "natural timetable." But what would that be? Presumably, the president would reply: when we achieve victory. But what is the definition of "victory" in the murky mess we're in? The administration offers only generalities that lead us nowhere. And it's beyond chutzpah for a politician who has lived at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. for more than 2,280 days to attack "Washington politicians." Didn't Petraeus get his orders to pursue the surge from a certain Washington politician otherwise known as the commander in chief?

Or take Vice President Cheney's statement on Tuesday: "Some Democratic leaders seem to believe that blind opposition to the new strategy in Iraq is good politics." Cheney assumes that opposition to the administration's policies must be "blind" rather than a considered, rational response to four years of failure. And the opposition must be rooted in "politics" and not in principle, presumably because reasonable people cannot possibly have good cause for disagreeing with the administration.

What Bush and Cheney are doing is not just wrong. It's dangerous. If they were interested in success in Iraq, they would have turned down the partisan rhetoric long ago. A substantial majority now opposes their policies. The last thing the administration needs is more polarization, which clearly has not worked in its favor. The president needs to convince Americans that a decent result in Iraq is still possible. Above all, he needs to answer the essential question: If we shouldn't have timetables now, how long does he think we'll need to keep combat forces in Iraq? Two years? Five years? More? And to what end?

With the president set to veto the supplemental spending bill that includes calls for withdrawal, the whole burden of proof in this debate should change.

The burden should no longer be on those who say we are reaching the limits of what military force can achieve in Iraq -- partly because we never sent enough troops in the first place and also because our military is stretched to the breaking point, limiting how many forces the Washington politician in the White House can offer Petraeus. Instead, the burden of proof should be on those who have offered years of bravado and false optimism. Why are Americans supposed to believe Bush's current claims? Why shouldn't Congress continue to pressure the president to bring our combat troops home on a reasonable schedule? And why doesn't the president start talking seriously to Congress instead of just shouting at Democrats?

Pretending he is in the middle of an electoral campaign will do nothing for Bush if what he wants is to rally the country behind a sensible way forward in Iraq. Petulance isn't working, and before long many Republicans who have stuck with the president so far will run out of patience. (Source: Washington Post)

Friday, April 27, 2007

US Urges Iraq "Reforms"

THe problem is that major groups such as the Shias and Kurds will not consider reversing the de-Baathification process as a reform, and the same is true of giving the Sunnis more clout. Also, many groups are against the new oil law. Interesting that this is called a reform when what it does is allows exploitation of Iraq oil by foreign interests in ways that no other Middle East country could stand for!
At least if the "reforms" do not go through the US has an excuse for leaving but it is doubful that it will.


U.S. urges Iraq reforms at critical time
By ROBERT H. REID
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER


Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, April 27, 2007. The Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate adopted House-passed legislation calling for U.S. troops to begin leaving Iraq by Oct. 1. U.S. President George W. Bush pledged to veto the measure, and neither body passed the measure with enough votes to override a veto. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
BAGHDAD -- With Congress demanding the troops come home, pressure is mounting on Iraq's prime minister to deliver on reforms or lose U.S. support - a key pillar of his shaky government.

In the coming weeks, parliament is expected to take up legislation on such issues as regulating Iraq's oil industry, relaxing the ban on government jobs for members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party and amending the constitution to satisfy demands by disaffected Sunni Arabs.

The U.S. has identified those steps as "benchmarks" for Iraq to guarantee continued American support.

All those draft bills, however, face substantial opposition in the Shiite Muslim-led parliament, where Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's nominal supporters hold a majority but cannot agree on steps to expand common ground with Sunnis and Kurds.

On a recent visit to Iraq, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told al-Maliki that Iraqi legislators should not take their summer recess, set for July, until they approve the measures.

Without U.S. backing, al-Maliki's chances of political survival are doubtful and could send Iraq into another political tailspin.

"There is no doubt that we are going through a critical and dangerous period," Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh said. "We need to pay great attention to the political process to achieve national unity to face these terrorist challenges."

But Shiite politicians are resisting any move to bring back large numbers of Baath members into the civil service or the security forces. The head of the government committee that screens former Baath members, Ali al-Lami, has said the draft bill is unconstitutional.

Shiite and Kurdish leaders are also not keen on major amendments to the constitution, which was ratified in an October 2005 referendum but opposed by many Sunni Arabs who felt it favored the other communities.

The oil bill won Cabinet endorsement in February after the Kurds accepted a compromise giving them a major say in awarding contracts to foreign oil companies. But many lawmakers believe the measure grants foreign companies too great a role in Iraq's oil fields, most of them in the Shiite-dominated south and the mostly Kurdish north.

Although the bill would guarantee Sunni Arabs a major share of oil revenue, key Sunni leaders believe it gives away too much authority to regional authorities, especially the Kurds.

U.S. authorities have said little about what they would do if the Iraqis fail to approve the measures by the summer. However, it is clear American patience with al-Maliki's government is running out.

Close associates to the prime minister told The Associated Press last month that al-Maliki fears the Bush administration will withdraw its support if the oil bill and other key legislation is not in place soon. The associates spoke on condition of anonymity because the issue is sensitive.

The political showdown is taking shape as the Iraq war enters a decisive stage. American casualties are rising, and violence is raging across the country.

The U.S. troop increase announced by President Bush in January brought a momentary drop in civilian slaughter in Baghdad. But even the U.S. commander, Gen. David Petraeus, acknowledges the arrival of thousands more American soldiers has not curbed violence nationwide.

Success, Petraeus said Thursday in Washington, will require "an enormous commitment" by the United States - perhaps requiring even more troops than the 30,000 reinforcements that Bush already approved.

U.S. death tolls have surpassed 80 every month since December, when 112 U.S. personnel were killed. So far this month, the toll stands at 90, making five consecutive months American deaths have topped 80 - they never before reached that high for more than two straight months.

The challenge of the Iraq war is its complexity - several conflicts raging in parallel, all within the umbrella of a giant struggle for power among the country's religious and ethnic groups now that Saddam is gone.

Sunni and Shiite extremists battle not only coalition forces but fight among themselves, often turning their fury on civilians from the rival communities.

To the north, Kurds and Arabs compete for control of the oil-rich area around Kirkuk. In the south, armed Shiite groups - some believed aided by Iran - square off for domination in Basra, center of the vast southern oil fields.

In such a free-for-all, politics and violence are intertwined.

The goal of the troop buildup is to reduce violence in Baghdad so Iraqi leaders can reach political compromises. But without compromise, combatants have no incentive to lay down their arms.

Petraeus has described the Iraq war as "the most complex and challenging I have ever seen." His predecessor, Gen. George Casey, referred to the "Pillsbury Doughboy effect" - press the extremists in one area and they step up attacks somewhere else.

U.S. forces have achieved some measure of success against al-Qaida in Anbar province, which stretches from near Baghdad to the Syrian and Jordanian borders. Now the extremists have shifted eastward to Diyala province, which was seemed relatively secure 18 months ago.

American commanders warn it will take months, not weeks, to determine if their new strategy can succeed.

But among Iraq's long-suffering people, trust is wearing thin.

Security forces set up checkpoints in Baghdad to stop suicide bombers, and Iraqis complain of traffic jams. Plans are drawn up for protective walls around neighborhoods to keep out death squads, and residents cry they are being herded into prisons.

"The security plan has added many problems for Iraqis - traffic jams in the streets, random gunfire day and night, abuse by Iraqi security forces" said Kadhim Habeeb, a Shiite lawyer. "This is not a security plan. It is security chaos."

Meanwhile, residents say that Shiite militias, whose pullback early in the latest U.S. buildup was largely responsible for a drop in sectarian murders, are slowly reappearing in Baghdad.

"They are still there," said Abdul-Qader Jamal, a Sunni Arab. "They're still roaming the streets with their weapons, launching attacks against security forces and threatening Sunnis."

---

Robert H. Reid is correspondent-at-large for The Associated Press and has reported frequently from Iraq since 2003.

UK think tank blasts Ethiopia, US, over Somalia

Reports today indicate that the provisional govt. is proclaiming victory in Mogadishu and urges people to return. We will see. This may be a lull before another storm. I wonder how many African peacekeepers can be recruited to serve in Somalia! Ethiopia seems to be carrying the fight against the insurgents. This will hardly sit well with Somalis.


British think-tank blasts Ethiopia, US over Somalia Wed Apr 25, 3:10 PM ET



LONDON (AFP) - US and Ethiopian military intervention in Somalia has hampered international efforts to bring peace to the war-torn country, an independent British report said Wednesday.



"Genuine multilateral concern to support the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Somalia has been hijacked by unilateral actions of other international actors -- especially Ethiopia and the United States -- following their own foreign policy agendas," the report from the Chatham House foreign affairs think-tank said.

The installation of a new Somali government in early 2007 with Ethiopian backing and US support to counter a rise in Islamism, plus the arrival of African Union peacekeepers, was "highly provocative", it said.

Eight days of ongoing violence between Ethiopian forces and Islamist guerillas in the Somali capital Mogadishu has claimed at least 329 lives, according to a tally from a human rights group.

Similar battles at the end of last month claimed at least 1,000 lives and thousands of civilians have now been displaced.

Chatham House researchers Cedric Barnes and Harun Hassan said support for the brief Islamic Courts regime that came to power in Mogadishu in 2006 is likely to re-emerge.

"This experience (the unrest) dramatically underlines the benefits of the brief period of 'Islamist' authority in southern Somalia which already begins to seem like a 'Golden Age'," they said.

Barnes, from London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), and Hassan, from the Somali Media Centre, said people do not trust the government and it does not represent the powerful interest groups in Mogadishu.

"Whatever the short-term future holds, the complex social forces behind the rise of the Islamic Courts will not go away," they said.

"Indeed, while warlords and secular governments have come and gone, the Islamic Courts have enjoyed relatively consistent support for over a decade.

"They have tended to garner support when the populace are fed up with insecurity and ineffectual and corrupt politicians.

"For these reasons alone, as well as the likely long-term failure of the Transitional Federal Government's reliance on foreign protection and unwillingness to reconcile with armed opponents, the forces behind the Islamic Courts -- in one form or another -- are likely to rise again."

Putin Freezes Defence Pact.

This is not surprising. If everyone knows that the defence system is not a threat to Russia why is Russia reacting so strongly. I think that the opposite is closer to the truth that everyone knows that the system is directed against Russia and not Iran. It seems that the US and NATO are bound to restart the Cold War and there will be a renewed arms race as well. This will do nothing for European security.


'Grave concern' as Putin freezes defence pact

27apr07

A DISPUTE over US plans to station anti-missile bases in eastern Europe escalated dramatically today following Russia's call for a freeze of a key European defence treaty.


In heated NATO talks in Oslo, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that Russia was to halt its application of the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty and could even pull out if the allies did not endorse it.

"It means that we will halt the compliance of our obligations under the treaty," he told reporters, after launching what was described by a US official as a 20-minute "diatribe" against NATO.

His remarks came after Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a state of the nation address, called for the freeze in response to the US missile shield plans.

The CFE treaty was signed in 1990 in Paris by the countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the former Warsaw Pact to limit troop and hardware deployments in Europe.

It was adapted in Istanbul in 1999 following the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, in order to limit deployments on a country-by-country basis.

NATO states have refused to ratify the new pact on the grounds that Moscow has failed to honour commitments made in Istanbul to withdraw Russian forces from the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Moldova.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that Russia's involvement in the CFE was a treaty obligation "and everyone is expected to live up to treaty obligations."

She had earlier complained that Russia was applying Cold War logic to the missile defence issue, and said any suggestion the system was directed at Moscow was "ludicrous".

In Washington, a White House official who refused to be named, said: "We regret President Putin's comments today on the CFE Treaty which inaccurately portray US and NATO adherence to the treaty."

Mr Lavrov insisted that "the balance has been impaired for a long time and seriously in favour of NATO. The CFE was a very valuable treaty and that has been made valueless".

He expressed hope that the allies would eventually ratify the adapted pact, but said: "I didn't hear today any kind of desire for the urgency of that.

"All I heard today was the same old tune about the Istanbul commitments, about the situation of Moldova and Georgia."

Mr Lavrov said that Russia, one of only four countries to have ratified the adapted CFE, found itself "in a position where we don't want to be the only actors in a theatre of the absurd."

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who described the two-hour session of the informal NATO Russia Council as lively, said the allies were deeply concerned by Moscow's move to place a "de facto moratorium" on the treaty.

"That message was met by concern, grave concern, disappointment and deep regret because the allies are of the opinion that the CFE treaty is one of the cornerstones of European security," he said.

US officials said Lavrov had railed against NATO over issues ranging from enlargement to the planned missile shield extension, which will see 10 interceptors based in Poland and a radar tracker in the Czech Republic.

"He listed a litany of complaints about NATO," a senior official said, but added that the remarks may have backfired on Russia by consolidating support among the allies for the shield, meant to counter "rogue states" like Iran.

Mr Lavrov noted that the shield left gaps in its coverage of Europe, with Bulgaria, Greece, Romania and Turkey undefended.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Lavrov tried to use this gap as proof that Washington was not interested in defending Europe, but he was met with "universal" opposition from NATO representatives.

Earlier today, Dr Rice urged Moscow to "be real" about the system and reiterated that it posed no threat to Russia.

"Let's be real about this," she said.

"The idea that somehow 10 interceptors and a few radars in eastern Europe are going to threaten the Soviet strategic return is purely ludicrous and everybody knows it."

AFP

Thursday, April 26, 2007

US and the Iraq oil law

Even in the funding Bill the Iraqi Oil Law appears. As the article notes US media absolutely ignores this. Never mention oil and Iraq except to say that the war is not about oil. But then why have the oil law as a benchmark?


From Kathy Gill,
Your Guide to U.S. Politics: Current Events.
FREE Newsletter. Sign Up Now!
Congress Ties Iraq Deadline To Funding; Bill Endorses US-Drafted Iraqi Oil Legislation
On Wednesday, Congress set the stage for an explosive confrontation with the White House by passing an appropriations bill that also sets a deadline of 1 October for the President to begin pulling troops from Iraq.
The House passed (218-208) the HR1591 conference report on a partisan vote, with 13 Democrats voting "no" and 2 Republicans voting "yes." It now moves to the Senate, where it is expected to pass on Thursday.

The President has promised a veto; the Senate does not have the votes to override. But everyone can use their vote as a chit come November 2008.

It seems ironic that Congress came one step closer to a showdown with the White House over Iraq on the same day that the Bill Moyers-produced show, "Buying the War," indicted Beltway media for their role in setting the stage for war.

Mainstream media are also failing to report the scope of this bill. For example, it explicitly endorses a US-orchestrated plan to restructure Iraq's oil industry, which is 70 percent of its economy. The beneficiaries? Global oil companies.

SEC. 1904. (f) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, 50 percent of the funds appropriated by title I of this Act for assistance to Iraq under each of the headings "Economic Support Fund'' and "International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement'' shall be withheld from obligation until the President has made a certification to Congress that the Government of Iraq has enacted a broadly accepted hydro-carbon law... As I reported earlier, the proposed Iraqi legislation is not "broadly accepted." (It's not even been introduced in Parliament.) And it's one of the benchmarks the White House has put forth for the al-Maliki government.

This law would reverse 35 years of state-control over Iraq's primary natural -- and economic -- resource. As Antonia Juhasz reported in the NY Times earlier this year, today more than three-quarter of the world's oil is owned and controlled by governments. But before the '70s oil crisis, seven western predecessor companies to today's big four -- ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell and BP -- controlled most of the world's oil. They want it back, and Iraq's oil fields are seen as prime.

White House Oil Ties
America has had no Administration with deeper ties to oil than this one. President Bush claims Texas heritage and was, for a short time, head of an oil company.

Vice President Cheney led the National Energy Policy Development Group, which developed a new national energy policy. The group released a report in May 2001. It (pdf) devoted more pages to recommendations for securing foreign oil than for encouraging conservation or expanding domestic production. Before accepting the Vice Presidency, Cheney headed up Halliburton, a firm that sold oil equipment to Iran, Iraq and Lybia during his tenure. And Cheney was Secretary of Defense in the prior Bush Administration, where he spearheaded the first Iraq War.

Yet US media make no mention of this US-sponsored bill, White House benchmark or Congressional complicity in their coverage of Senate and House debate over the appropriations bill. Heck, they barely talk about the (domestic) pork included in the bill.

"Radical Departure"
This law would be a "radical departure" for Middle Eastern or developing countries, the Independent (UK) reported in January. "Saudi Arabia and Iran, the world's number one and two oil exporters, both tightly control their industries through state-owned companies with no appreciable foreign collaboration." Iraq, at number three, would be giving 30 years leases to firms like the big four.

And although the US says that the new law is needed to ensure that all Iraqis profit from the exploitation of the resource, that's not how they game is currently being played. The US and Britain co-sponsored UN Resolution 1483, "which gave the US and UK control over Iraq's oil revenues ... [and which] continued to make deductions from Iraq's oil earnings to pay compensation for the invasion of Kuwait in 1990."

MSNBC is running a WaPo story that mentions the law in the context of Iraqi "benchmarks" -- but with no analysis of how the law would change the status quo. The language used to introduce it follows the Administration rhetoric: it's a new way to "share" oil resources. Halfway into the story, the WaPo notes it's a US-drafted bill.

Ten weeks into the security plan, even as U.S. lawmakers propose timelines for a U.S. troop withdrawal, there has been little or no progress in achieving three key political benchmarks set by the Bush administration: new laws governing the sharing of Iraq's oil resources and allowing many former members of the banned Baath Party to return to their jobs, and amendments to Iraq's constitution...

In February, Iraq's cabinet passed a U.S.-backed draft law that would give the central government control over Iraq's oil reserves, the third largest in the world. President Bush and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a presidential contender, cited it as a sign of political progress.

But the legislation has yet to be introduced in parliament... One wonders what the people at Voice of America are thinking (drinking? smoking?) with this blurb:

By the end of this month, the Iraqi parliament is expected to decide on a new oil law. If passed, the legislation will allow Iraq to sign contracts with foreign companies for the exploration and production of the country's vast untapped reserves. Hello? There are four days left in the month and the legislation has not been introduced in Parliament. There's not a snowball's chance in you-know-where for this legislation to be passed by 1 May. Iraqi leaders are talking a minimum of two months debate, once legislation is introduced.

Pre-War, Oil Was Savior
Of course, it's not the first time that media have been wrong about Iraq (as Moyers detailed) or Iraqi oil. Remember the pre-war run-up? When Iraqi oil was going to pay for reconstruction costs? If you've forgotten, try Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Fleischer.

Last week, CBS called the Iraqi oil bill a "hotly debated draft" and said it was going to be introduced this week. The author (unnamed) alleges that the law is "perhaps the most important piece of legislation for Iraq's American patrons."

On that last point, I believe they've hit the nail on the head.

Thursday April 26, 2007 | comments (1)
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