The Puppet Regime in Baghdad and the Administration’s Rhetoric of “Sovereignty”

by Brendan Lalor

Although U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell claims that after the June 30 “transfer of power,” “[t]he Iraqi people will … see that their destiny is in the hands of their own leaders,” George Gedda reports,

The interim Iraqi government that takes power then, however, will be more caretaking than autonomous, unable to do basic functions such as make laws or control military forces.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to former President Carter, says … No government can be fully sovereign while its country is “still being occupied by a foreign army, 140,000 men, subject to our authority.” … “The transfer of nominal sovereignty to a few chosen Iraqis in a still-occupied country will brand any so-called sovereign Iraqi authority as treasonous,” Brzezinski says. (Associated Press, 2 June)

The present secrecy with which the U.S. is handling Iraq oil revenues is unsustainable. As Ahmed Janabi reports:

The [Iraqi] delegation [seeking to recover control of Iraq’s oil revenues from the US] has been in New York in a bid to petition the UN to exert pressure on US occupation authorities, who currently preside over Iraq’s oil output….

In New York since last week its members have so far failed to get an audience with UN officials.

The control of Iraq’s oil revenue has been controversial ever since the US-led occupation of Iraq in 2003.

The US has imposed secrecy on oil deals, exportation, and use of revenues. Iraqi officials have previously asked for access to oil revenues, but have been turned down by the occupation Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) headed by Paul Bremer. (Al-Jazeera, 1 June)

But “sovereignty” is the cornerstone of sustainability — even pretended sovereignty. A “sovereign” government can sign away Iraq’s oil. This is borne out in Amy Goodman’s interview with UN-based Global Policy Forum’s Jim Paul on DemocracyNow!:

AMY GOODMAN: The US running the show in Iraq has been very costly for Bush. Many believe that the reason he wouldn’t hand it over to the UN was precisely because of oil, though it might have solved things politically, it would have meant giving up control of the oil. Do you believe that?

JIM PAUL: I absolutely do. I think that is really the only way to understand why Bush and company are hanging onto Iraq with such tenacity in spite of the huge political costs that they evidently are facing here, and with the upcoming election. They could have brought in some of the other powers. They could have shared out the situation in Iraq. The US companies might still have done moderately well, but they’re going for the big prize. It’s quite clear. The big prize is very, very substantial control over this enormous prize of 300 billion barrels. That means 9 to 12 trillion dollars in profits. It’s a profit that is just inconceivable.

As Peter Symonds argues,

Dominance over the country’s vast oil reserves remains one of Washington’s chief objectives in Iraq. A primary reason for pressing ahead with the June 30 handover is to ensure that a ?fully sovereign? regime is in place that can legitimately sign oil contracts, represent Iraq in the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and engage in other financial transactions, including privatisation and investment. The interim government is to provide the needed fa?ade for this economic plunder.

[The U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council’s choice for Prime Minister, Ayad] Allawi?s government will remain completely under the US thumb?both directly and indirectly. A US-British draft resolution to the UN Security Council, aimed at legitimising the charade, ensures that US-led military forces remain in the country, that the Iraqi security forces are under US command and that the economy, particularly the oil industry, stays under US supervision….

The British-based Economist pointed to one of the concerns of France and other countries who had made substantial loans to the ousted Hussein regime. ?Another controversial issue, of great concern to Mr Allawi?s government,? the magazine observed, ?is how much of the country’s debt will be written off. America is thought to be seeking to write off 80-90 percent of Iraq’s national debt, whereas France is said to be suggesting only 50 percent.?

Whatever the outcome of the UN Security Council deliberations, the US has already established its effective control over much of the Iraqi administration and economy through the interim constitution and laws enacted by the CPA. After June 30, the CPA will be dismantled but the US will continue to exert its influence through a huge staff of officials stationed at what will be the largest US embassy in the world. In addition, between 110 and 160 US advisers will remain embedded in Iraqi ministries, overseeing and directing their operations. The US intends to fully exploit the period until December 2005 to ensure that economic and administrative measures are put in place to protect its long-term interests. (World Socialist Web Site, 3 June)

Hence the Bush Administration’s rejection of Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman’s April phrase, “limited sovereignty.” Without “full sovereignty,” the Administration’s plunder would be wide open to future challenges.

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