Cheney Enrages Iraqis with Demands for New Laws

“This Law Is a Bomb that May Kill Everyone”

Dick Cheney wants the Iraqi government installed by the U.S. occupation to sign a “security pact” with Washington by the end of July. (The pact, including a status-of-forces agreement, would be signed by the U.S. president but not constitute a treaty requiring Congressional approval.) U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker has been feverishly struggling to meet the deadline and to commit the next administration to the agreement’s terms. But that may be a tall order. Prime Minister Nour al-Maliki says negotiations are only in a beginning stage; public opinion is opposed to the pact based on leaked information about its content; and a majority of members of the Iraqi parliament have endorsed a letter to the U.S. government demanding U.S. withdrawal as the condition for “any commercial, agricultural, investment or political agreement with the United States.”

Few Americans are familiar with the proposed treaty. If they were, they might be shocked at its provisions, ashamed about its naked sadism. It:

   * grants the U.S. long-term rights to maintain over 50 military bases in their California-sized country
   * allows the U.S. to strike any other country from within Iraqi territory without the permission of the Iraqi government
   * allows the U.S. to conduct military activities in Iraq without consulting with the local government
   * allows U.S. forces to arrest any Iraqi without consulting with Iraqi authorities
   * extends to U.S. troops and contracters immunity from Iraqi law
   * gives U.S. forces control of Iraqi airspace below 29,000ft.
   * places the Iraqi Defense, Interior and National Security ministries under American supervision for ten years
   * gives the U.S. responsibility for Iraqi armament contracts for ten years

Humiliating, right? The sort of conditions most Americans can’t imagine themselves accepting from a foreign occupying power.

What self-respecting people would ever agree to such provisions? Especially after their country’s been illegally invaded and occupied, on the basis of lies. Perhaps a million have been killed by the invaders and the civil strife they’ve unleashed. Two million have been driven into foreign exile, two million internally displaced. Thousands have been humiliated, terrified and tortured by the invaders. Millions’ electrical and water supply still lags behind Saddam-era levels. Millions’ personal security and enjoyment of human rights has deteriorated as a result of the invasion. Why should their leaders sign such an agreement?

No doubt some key figures in the Bush administration have asked themselves that, and here’s what they come up with. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York holds $ 50 billion of Iraq’s foreign exchange reserves as a result of the UN sanctions dating back to the first Gulf War. These include virtually all oil revenues that under UN mandate must be placed in the Development Fund for Iraq “controlled” by the Iraqi government. $ 20 billion of this is owed to plaintiffs who’ve won court judgments against Iraq, but a presidential order gives the account legal immunity. Bush can threaten to remove the immunity and wipe out 40% of Iraq’s foreign reselves if Baghdad doesn’t cooperate. At the same time, Bush can tell al-Maliki that if Iraq enters into a ‘strategic relationship” with the U.S., the U.S. will arrange for Iraq to finally escape those lingering UN “Chapter Seven” sanctions. Perhaps Bush and Cheney are confidant that this carrot and stick approach will force the Iraqi government to sign the deal.

But Iranian political leader Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani hardly exaggerates in saying the proposed deal is designed “to turn the Iraqis into slaves of the Americans” and to create “a permanent occupation.” Many Iraqis use similar language. “The agreement wants to put an American in each house,” claimed a supporter of Shiite cleric and nationalist firebrand Mutada al-Sadr. “This agreement is poison mixed in poison, not poison in honey because there is no honey at all.” “Why,” he asks, “do they want to break the backbone of Iraq?”

The mainstream Shiite cleric and politician Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC; formerly the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq or SCIRI), agrees that the proposed agreement would “violate Iraq’s national sovereignty.” He claims a “national consensus” against it has developed. (President Bush in December 2006 met with al-Hakim, calling his “one of the distinguished leaders of a free Iraq,” and he is sometimes mentioned as Washington’s first choice for prime minister if al-Maliki doesn’t adequately put out. So his opposition is especially significant.)

Al-Hakim is close to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most widely respected Shiite cleric in 60% Shiite Iraq. The ayatollah is thought to oppose the pact but has not yet made a pronouncement about it. Meanwhile the Association of Muslim Scholars, the largest Sunni political group in the parliament, warns that the pact paves the way for “military, economic and cultural domination” by the Americans.

Al-Sadr’s followers staged rallies around the country after prayers last Friday and plan to continue weekly peaceful demonstrations demanding that the Baghdad government hold a national referendum on the security treaty issue. The U.S. opposes such a referendum, aware that pact opponents would surely win.

So Al-Maliki is between a rock and a hard place. He can sign the agreement and continue to receive U.S. support, strengthening the popular perception that he is a U.S. puppet. Or he can submit to the referendum demand, alienating and embarrassing his country’s invaders, revealing to the world the depth of Iraqi antipathy to the occupation. That way he loses U.S. support. Either way he seems headed towards the door.

In January 2007 Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told Congress that if al-Maliki didn’t cooperate with U.S. forces in suppressing Shiite militias in Baghdad, “he has to face is the possibility that he’ll lose his job.” At the same time U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and President Bush were both threatening to end support for al-Maliki if he didn’t “follow through on his promises” to the U.S. In August 2007, after al-Maliki publicly praised Iran for its “constructive role” in Iraq, Bush warned him. “My message to him,” he told the press, “is, when we catch you playing a non-constructive role, there will be a price to pay.”

For his part al-Maliki has indicated there are limits to his servility. He sent forces against al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army in Baghdad in February of this year, but they fought poorly and had to be saved from embarrassment by the mediation of a commander of Iran’s vilified Quds Force friendly with both al-Sadr and al-Maliki. He has refused to break his strong ties with the Iranian government and politely asked the U.S. to leave his country out of its quarrel with Iran. He does not seem wedded to his post or determined to retain it at any cost; “I wish I could be done with it even before the end of this term,” he told the Wall Street Journal in January 2007. “I didn’t want to take this position. I only agreed because I thought it would serve the national interest, and I will not accept it again.” Doesn’t sound like a man who wants to go down in history as the man who sold Iraq to the Americans in the summer of 2008. Likely successor Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim has opposed the deal so far.

Meanwhile, there’s this other Iraqi item on Cheney’s urgent to-do list: the passage of the Iraq Hydrocarbon Law by the Iraqi Parliament. This was drafted by BearingPoint (a McLean, Virginia-based management consulting provider listed by the Center for Corporate Policy as the number 2 top war profiteer of 2004) in February 2006 and then presented to the newly-appointed Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein Al-Shahristani. Shahristani then met in Washington DC with representatives of Shell, BP, ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco and ConocoPhillips to get their comments on the draft. He promised the International Monetary Fund that the Iraqi parliament would pass the law by the end of 2006, but its members hadn’t even seen the 33-page draft law yet. Months earlier an Oil Ministry official had said that Iraqi civil society and the general public would not be consulted at all on this matter.

A secret appendix to the draft law, according to London-based Iraqi political analyst Munir Chalabi, “will decide which oil fields will be allocated to the Iraqi National Oil Company (INOC) and which of the existing fields will be allocated to the IOCs [international oil companies]. The appendices will determine if 10% or possibly up to 80% of these major oil fields will be given to the IOCs.” This, in other words, is another national humiliation in the offing. As six women Nobel Peace Prize recipients wrote in September 2007, it “would transform Iraq’s oil industry from a nationalized model to a commercial model that is much more open to U.S. corporate control. Its provisions allow much (if not most) of Iraq’s oil revenues to flow out of Iraq and into the pockets of international oil companies.”

It is one of those “bench marks” the Bush administration has imposed on Iraq, with Congressional support, as conditions for U.S. withdrawal, but even the most recent revised version, hammered out between Kurdish representatives and the Maliki cabinet, faces tough political opposition. Cheney was hoping this would be a done deal—done quickly on the sly—as of last summer. But al-Maliki still hasn’t delivered, and as a State Department report to Congress in April 2008 notes, labor opposition is formidable: “The 26,000 member Iraq Federation of Oil Unions has voiced its members’ strong opposition to the current draft of the hydrocarbon framework legislation and has demonstrated a capacity to disrupt oil production and refinery operations with strikes.” Last year union chief Subhi al-Badri declared, “This law cancels the great achievements of the Iraq people. If the Iraqi Parliament approves this law, we will resort to mutiny. This law is a bomb that may kill everyone. Iraqi oil. … belongs to all future generations.” Even the Iraqi minister of planning and development, Ali Baban, has vowed to “resign one hour after [the] passing [of the] oil and gas draft law.” And the Sadrists of course are bitterly opposed.

Add the globalization of the oil industry to the security treaty provisions listed above. Imagine how Iraqi public opinion will react if Cheney and the neocons succeed in forcing this package of laws through the Iraqi parliament. Everybody knows the “return of sovereignty” is a sham, and claims of “democracy” a cover for continued occupation. The “benchmark” capitulations the Americans demand add insult to injury, inscribing in law and veneer of multilateralism that which has been seized by brute force. They oblige those under the boot to kiss it.

The Cheney cabal (exuding Islamophobia and contempt for poor and working people everywhere) seems to actually suppose it will be able to win that degree of slavishness, and to celebrate such crowning imperialist triumphs in Iraq, by the end of the Bush term. They also seem to think they can attack Iran, expanding the “Long War” before handing it over to the next administration. But that would mean provoking the outrage of the overwhelming majority of Iranians and Iraqis simultaneously. Seems just too stupid to believe, even from a rational imperialist’s own point of view. But aside from Rep. Dennis Kucinich, few in Congress have made issues of the security treaty, hydrocarbon law, or plans for a strike against Iran. The mainstream media is for the most part unquestioning, subdued, as the Bush administration continues to subject the Muslim world to unbearable provocations.

Gary Leupp is a Professor of History at Tufts University, and author of numerous works on Japanese history. He can be reached at: gleupp@granite.tufts.edu. Read other articles by Gary.

14 comments on this article so far ...

Comments RSS feed

  1. bozhidar balkas said on June 7th, 2008 at 6:42am #

    i remember writing a letter to editors ca 15 yrs ago positing the question, Why US doesn’t go fascist? i thought at the time that if the need arises, US’ ruling class can easily resort to fascism and if amers would refuse to fight for the rich people, these could easily hire aliens to do the fighting and at much less cost.
    nat., the letter wasn’t published nor others dealing w. the same issues.
    now that we have zionism/americanism, i’m nostalgic for paleo-fascism.
    the neo-fascism appears much worse than the old one; may be worse than nazism. at least nazis have picked on just a few peoples; the neo-fascist r picking even on amers.
    i am not stunned by the probability that the plutocrats may enslave all workers. for all time? who knows?! danke/thanx/spasibo

  2. sk said on June 7th, 2008 at 7:48am #

    Occupied life under foreign power is no walk in the park. Here’s a documentary (in French, but compiled by a master director with great editing) that shows how a proud European nation–of a type most Americans can empathize with, as opposed to benighted nations in the global South–made the best out of a bad situation (with some even “enjoying obscene happiness”).

  3. John Hatch said on June 7th, 2008 at 4:24pm #

    The Iraqis would be insane to agree to such a ‘treaty’ whatever the pressure. What’s more, it’s unlikely that any Iraqi ‘leader’ would long survive the signing of such an a suicidal pact. America is demanding Iraqi complicity in its own slavery. Cheney is truly demented if he thinks they’re that stupid, or that they’ll sign a seperate agreement that would give away up to 80% of their oil. America is like a rapist who demands his victim sign a consent form. Evil!

  4. Edwin Pell said on June 7th, 2008 at 6:00pm #

    I do not understand it used to be the case if a puppet leader did not do everything the US wanted the CIA killed them and tried again. What’s wrong with the CIA?

  5. Roger said on June 8th, 2008 at 5:15am #

    As a westerner whose country has been subjected to military usurpation by a foreign power twice in the same century this is -deeply- offensive.

    The US has no right whatsoever to force the Iraqi people to the kind of colonial slavery it thinks it is entitled to.

    As an Iraqi I would have all my people go to every American they can see and demand again and again and again and again ad infinitum ad nauseam to leave the country now, this very moment.

    Any oil executive who came to claim his rights to the natural resources of my country I would have people lining up to physically kick him out of the country, from where he was standing at the time to the border of the country. Physically kick him in the buttocks and continue doing this in relay form. Until they were out of the country and the very idea of ever returning was soundly removed from them.

    The US purports to promote freedom, liberty and democracy until they show their real face in the way they want to foist cruel contracts and covenants on people who never asked for them to be there.

    It is unconscionable. And more so that the American Congress allows this breathtaking crime against humanity to persist unopposed [save for the very few like congressman Kucinich, Paul and others].

    This is simply outrageous.

    I have long been a great fan of the US but right now I am disgusted to the core by them.

  6. Lloyd Rowsey said on June 8th, 2008 at 5:16am #

    Godalmighty

  7. Don Hawkins said on June 8th, 2008 at 6:26am #

    Carbon Tax and 100% Dividend
    1. Tax Large & Growing (but get it in place!)
    - tap efficiency potential & life style choices
    2. Entire Tax Returned
    - equal monthly deposits in bank accounts
    3. Limited Government Role
    - keep hands off money!
    - eliminate fossil subsidies
    - support technology development (no Manhattan projects!)
    - change profit rules and motivation for utilities
    - watch U.S. modernize & emissions fall!!!! James Hansen

    Let’s look at this a little more closely. Tap efficiency potential & life style choices. To make a long story short you can’t always’ get what you want but if you try sometime you might find you get what you need. Support technology development (no Manhattan projects!) Solar thermal, wind, electric cars and remember those life style changes. To make those changes is not easy hard work and imagination thinking is required. How about the weather here in the United States the last month. Those temperatures right now on the East coast a tad bit hot. We watched the dark side hard at work last week on the climate change bill that got shelved. Now we see this security pack as the dark side is strong and moving forward or a better way to put it deeper into the rabbit hole. To watch the Senate last week was Like watching children at play.

  8. Don Hawkins said on June 8th, 2008 at 6:37am #

    PERRIS, Calif. — As California faces one of its worst droughts in two decades, building projects are being curtailed for the first time under state law by the inability of developers to find long-term water supplies.
    Water authorities and other government agencies scattered throughout the state, including here in sprawling Riverside County, east of Los Angeles, have begun denying, delaying or challenging authorization for dozens of housing tracts and other developments under a state law that requires a 20-year water supply as a condition for building.
    California officials suggested that the actions were only the beginning, and they worry about the impact on a state that has grown into an economic powerhouse over the last several decades.
    The state law was enacted in 2001, but until statewide water shortages, it had not been invoked to hold up projects.
    While previous droughts and supply problems have led to severe water cutbacks and rationing, water officials said the outright refusal to sign off on projects over water scarcity had until now been virtually unheard of on a statewide scale.
    “Businesses are telling us that they can’t get things done because of water,” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, said in a telephone interview.
    On Wednesday, Mr. Schwarzenegger declared an official statewide drought, the first such designation since 1991. As the governor was making his drought announcement, the Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside County — one of the fastest-growing counties in the state in recent years — gave a provisional nod to nine projects that it had held up for months because of water concerns. The approval came with the caveat that the water district could revisit its decision, and only after adjustments had been made to the plans to reduce water demand.
    “The statement that we’re making is that this isn’t business as usual,” said Randy A. Record, a water district board member, at the meeting here in Perris. NEW York Times

    We need to start making plans for what we can’t stop to late. There is still time and easy has nothing to do with it.

  9. Edwin Pell said on June 8th, 2008 at 7:59pm #

    Roger if you had written your post in the US you would be under arrest. It is in violation of several US laws. Roger the US federal government serves the interests of the owning class not the people. Iraq has oil, Afghanistan has the SoCal (Southern California Petroleum Corporation) pipeline, and Iran has oil and gas. These people are ruthless killers they have no interest in what you say nor what anyone else in Iraq, US, EU, Russia, China has to say. The only way Iran will escape is if a UN member state lives up to the UN charter and defends a fellow nation under attack by a rouge state. There are only two strong enough Russia and China. One hopes they have made credible statements of support for Iran privately and war can be avoided. But the folks in power are sick with their lust for power they may do the irrational. G-d save us all.

  10. Edwin Pell said on June 8th, 2008 at 7:59pm #

    Roger if you had written your post in the US you would be under arrest. It is in violation of several US laws. Roger the US federal government serves the interests of the owning class not the people. Iraq has oil, Afghanistan has the SoCal (Southern California Petroleum Corporation) pipeline, and Iran has oil and gas. These people are ruthless killers they have no interest in what you say nor what anyone else in Iraq, US, EU, Russia, China has to say. The only way Iran will escape is if a UN member state lives up to the UN charter and defends a fellow nation under attack by a rouge state. There are only two strong enough Russia and China. One hopes they have made credible statements of support for Iran privately and war can be avoided. But the folks in power are sick with their lust for power they may do the irrational. May G-d save us all.

  11. Edwin Pell said on June 8th, 2008 at 8:03pm #

    Don, I thought the PTB were killing off the natives in the Canadian Northwest and were going to be selling the massive amounts of water from there at a huge profit to the US Southwest. Is that on schedule? If not maybe they need more Blackwater guys.

  12. Lloyd Rowsey said on June 9th, 2008 at 4:33am #

    Edwin, you’re an idiot or a provocateur. Get some rest.

  13. Edwin Pell said on June 9th, 2008 at 10:33am #

    Hi Lloyd I guess one of my politic position has made you angry but I do not know which one. Can you tell me?

  14. Tony S. said on June 9th, 2008 at 1:21pm #

    I think the Iranians are correct when they say that this pact will enslave the Iraqi people. Basically what Cheney wants is to bring slavery back in Iraq and rub it in their faces, so they have to sign the documents to agree to it.