Iraq belongs to the US now


Image by The U.S. Army via Flickr

The US will not be withdrawing from Iraq in the foreseeable future. Despite promises made by the Obama administration, and declining public support for the occupation, it is becoming increasingly clear that US control over Iraq is there to stay. A cynical person might suggest that this was pretty clear from the start, but I suppose there are those who genuinely believed in their government’s promises for withdrawal.

On Thursday (June 9th) the current CIA Director, Leon Panetta, told the Senate Armed Forces Committee that Iraq will request US military presence to remain in the country.

Panetta said: “It’s clear to me that Iraq is considering the possibility of making a request for some kind of (troop) presence to remain there (in Iraq).

“I believe that if Prime Minister al-Maliki – the Iraqi government – requests that we maintain a presence there, that ought to be seriously considered by the President” as the situation in Iraq remained “fragile,” he added.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in April that soldiers could stay in Iraq even after the withdrawal date, provided Baghdad made a request which is becoming a possibility.

The US currently has about 47,000 troops in Iraq, none in a combat role. Under a 2008 deal, they are expected to leave by 31 December 2011.

The BBC stated that it is likely that the US has offered Iraq some inducements to maintain its troop presence. This should come as no surprise given US commercial interests; last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton opened a business forum attended by senior executives from major US corporations that focused on discussing business opportunities in the “new Iraq”:

According to the IMF, Iraq is projected to grow faster than China in the next two years. Now, let me repeat that, because when I read it I said, okay, are you sure because we always think of China as being the juggernaut? But no, indeed, Iraq is projected to grow faster than China,” Clinton stated.

Clinton also stated that “President Obama and I and our government believe strongly that expanding economic opportunity is as essential as building democratic institutions

The video of the Clinton speech can be found here or the transcript can be read here.

Not only are there business opportunities in war-torn Iraq (no better opportunities for growth than in a country decimated by years of war, eh? – Clinton and co. generally sound enthusiastic about the money to be made there), but Iraq is already sitting on the world’s third-largest oil reserves. No wonder the US is not keen to withdraw.

Even if there was a withdrawal of US soldiers (which is looking increasingly unlikely), the US would still maintain a powerful presence in Iraq, potentially controlling the power there still. As states:

“There are thousands of U.S. employees stationed in Iraq at the largest U.S. embassy in the world. Over 100,000 U.S. contractors are still present in the country. Many of these are armed mercenaries who have routinely killed Iraqi citizens. In addition, Iraq is surrounded by a massive U.S. military presence in nearby countries and seas. This includes air and naval armadas and tens of thousand of troops stationed within striking range of Iraq.”

Iraq dossier was… a work of fiction?

Collage of images taken by U.S. military in Ir...

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The UK government has had a hard time convincing the public of the necessity of the Iraq War in recent years. In 2003, over 1,000,000 people marched against the proposed military action Iraq, yet the government ever since has stuck by the rhetoric that the war was necessary for national and international security.

The public was told time and again that Saddam Hussein had WMDs (weapons of mass destruction), though these WMDs have never been found. The UK government has been accused of entering an ‘illegal’ conflict and of spinning the truth to convey the need for military intervention. Even now, there are still debates as to whether or not the UK was justified in the drawn-out war, which has resulted in the deaths of thousands of Iraqis and the displacement of many innocents.

The Chilcot Inquiry was convened in 2009 as a public inquiry into the UK’s role in the Iraq War, to determine the what happened in the run-up to conflict and to establish the way decisions were made. Newly released evidence submitted to the Chilcot Inquiry suggests contradictions between what the Blair government told the public, and what actually happened. Particular focus is on Alastair Campell, the former chief spin doctor for Blair, who stated that the purpose for the Iraq Dossier was not to make the case for war. Now it is emerging that the dossier was intended for exactly that purpose. The dossier has been contested in recent years and the previous government has been accused of ‘sexing up’ the document to make the case for war seem more legitimate.

Major General Michael Laurie, a military intelligence official, has submitted secret evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry which has recently been made public. Laurie has suggested that the dossier on Iraq’s weapons programme was primarily drawn up to “make the case for war”, contradicting previous claims by the Blair government.

Laurie said: “We knew at the time that the purpose of the dossier was precisely to make a case for war, rather than setting out the available intelligence, and that to make the best out of sparse and inconclusive intelligence the wording was developed with care.”

According to the Guardian, this is “the first time such a senior intelligence officer has directly contradicted the then government’s claims about the dossier.”

Laurie said in evidence to the inquiry: “I am writing to comment on the position taken by Alastair Campbell during his evidence to you … when he stated that the purpose of the dossier was not to make a case for war; I and those involved in its production saw it exactly as that, and that was the direction we were given.”

“Alastair Campbell said to the inquiry that the purpose of the dossier was not ‘to make a case for war’. I had no doubt at that time this was exactly its purpose and these very words were used.”

Major General Michael Laurie was director general in the Defence Intelligence Staff, and was responsible for commanding and delivering raw and analysed intelligence, the Guardian reports. Laurie said that Air Marshal Sir Joe French, the chief of defence intelligence, was “frequently inquiring whether we were missing something” and was under pressure. “We could find no evidence of planes, missiles or equipment that related to WMD [weapons of mass destruction], generally concluding that they must have been dismantled, buried or taken abroad. There has probably never been a greater detailed scrutiny of every piece of ground in any country“, the Guardian continues.

Other Chilcot documents include top secret MI6 reports, “warning of the damage to British interests and the likelihood of terrorist attacks in the UK if it joined the US-led invasion of Iraq.” However, on the flip-side to this, it appears as if the the UK was worried that the US would “feel betrayed by their partner of choice”, Britain, if we did not join them in the invasion, according to Sir Kevin Tebbit, then a top official at the Ministry of Defence, in a warning to the defence secretary Geoff Hoon in January 2003.

It seems as if Britain was torn between damaging British interests and increasing terrorists attacks in the UK, or “betraying” the US opinion of Britain. Hmmm… tough choice.

MI6 also allegedly told ministers before the Iraq invasion that removing Saddam Hussein “remains a prize because it could give new security to oil supplies”.

Tony Blair called in to face Iraq Inquiry

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. Blair was...

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Former Prime Minister Tony Blair is to face the Iraq Inquiry for a second time as the committee desires “more detail” in some key areas.

Branded by some as a war criminal, Tony Blair led the UK into the Iraq War which has been claimed by many to be an “illegal” war. A number of former government lawyers have also argued that it was an unlawful act, and the UN security council did not support the invasion.

Blair is one of a number of individuals who have been asked to re-appear before the committee; other key figures asked to give evidence include former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell, former Chief of Defence Staff Lord Bryce, Lord Turnbull and Lord Wilson.

The committee has questioned many members and former members of the Labour Cabinet, as well as senior military commanders, civil servants, and diplomats. However, the Inquiry requires “further evidence” on certain matters and key areas, as there are gaps or certain aspects that need clarifying. It has been revealed that Tony Blair will appear before the committee on 18 January 2011.

It is interesting to note that WikiLeaks has released a cable that shows that the UK was resorting to measures to protect “US interests” during the Iraq Inquiry. Released on 22 September 2009, the cable shows how Jon Day, the MOD’s Director General for Security Policy, promised US diplomats that the UK had “put measures in place to protect your interests during the UK inquiry into the causes of the Iraq War”. Day explained that while “Iraq seems no longer to be a major issue in the US”, it would soon become a big issue – a “feeding frenzy” – in the UK “when the inquiry takes off.”

It is clear, therefore, that on some level the UK government deliberately intervened in the Iraq Inquiry to protect US interests, however it is not clear whether the diplomatic cable has had any effect on the decision by the Inquiry to call in key governmental figures and witnesses once more.

Sir John Chilcot, Chairman of the Iraq Inquiry, has stated that the final report will be “full, thorough, evidence-based and frank”, and said he is “committed to taking the majority of this evidence in public.”

The report is to be published sometime in March. Sir Chilcot stated that the committee is “independent of government and will not shy away from criticising if we find fault or if we conclude that errors have been made. We are determined to produce a report that will be useful to future governments”