Middle East

Iraq: US troop withdrawal conceals continuing occupation

On Tuesday August 31st 2010 at 23:59, the US mission officially ended in Iraq. On the evening of Tuesday 31st August Barack Obama gave a televised address from the Whitehouse, hailing the end of the War in Iraq. Echoing Obama, the Iraqi Prime Minister claimed Iraq was now independent. Maliki said: “Iraq today is sovereign and independent; our security forces will take the lead in ensuring security and safeguarding the country and removing all threats that the country has to weather, internally or externally.”

The last brigade reportedly crossed over the Iraqi border into Kuwait over two weeks ago in a televised broadcast with much fanfare. Obama’s speech comes at a time when support not just for the Iraq war, but even for Obama is at its lowest. With this in mind the following points should be remembered regarding this whole disastrous episode:

  • – As the war has dragged on for years, the reasons for the invasion have been lost. US reasons for invading have constantly changed over these years as each justification has been disproved. The alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction was the pretext for war, the infamous claims of mobile chemical units and the ability to launch a WMD in 45 minutes all came to pass as mere fantasies. The Iraqi government’s human rights abuses against its citizens was presented as a justification for occupation soon after it became clear WMD’s would never be found. Saddam Hussein’s harbouring and supporting of al-Qaeda was even presented as a justification. The spreading of democracy to a people who lived under a dictator for decades was also used as a justification and eventually, as the US was marred in an insurgency, the war was justified on the basis that Iraq would collapse if the US was to leave.
  • – The so-called stability the US has constructed is tenuous at best. After removing the Ba’athist’s from power the US cobbled together a political architecture based on ethno-sectarian lines, which many opportunists have joined to line their own pockets and protect the interests of their own factions. The March 2010 parliamentary elections saw Kurdish, Shi’ah and Sunni factions fight to gain power in the US constructed political system, yet the divisions the US has created are so deep that after five months since the elections parliament has still not been formed. The rising level of violence also continues as literally hundreds of Iraqis have been slain in the last two weeks as the US departs.
  • – As early as 2005 the US was drowning in an insurgency and comparisons were made with the US invasion of Vietnam. The US had massively underestimated Iraq’s unconventional forces. The US could never have stemmed the insurgency or constructed a post-Saddam regime were it not for the help it received from certain nations in the region. It was this help that was central to stemming the insurgency that gripped the US army. It was Iran’s patron the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), a group created in Tehran in 1982 that gathered the Shi’ah factions to join in the US constructed political system. This then allowed US forces to concentrate on the insurgency in central Iraq. Through promises of positions in government, bribes and rewards the US co-opted pro-Iran elements into its solution for Iraq. It was Sayyid Ali as-Hussayni al-sistani, who brought Sadr, SCIRI and da’wah factions together to form the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) that gained a large number of parliamentary seats in the 2005 elections. This is how the insurgency was stemmed.
  • – The Iraq war has undermined the US forever, whatever its rhetoric regarding the end of operations. The US has been exposed for throwing aside international law in a colonial pursuit and then concocting lies in order to justify invasion. During the invasion the US violated human rights as well as the rights afforded to prisons in Guantanamo Bay and in the infamous Abu Gharib prison. The Haditha killings, the use of White phosphorus, the Mahmoudiyah incident, the torture and killing of prisoners of war and the Mukaradeeb incident where 42 civilians were bombed and shot in a wedding party are publicly known war crimes. These state-crimes in fact symbolise American’s invasion and brutal occupation and not exaggerated claims of mission accomplished. Alongside this more than 100,000, quite possibly 200,000 or more innocent Iraqi civilians lost their lives under US watch. US policies after the invasion to disband the Iraqi army caused a vacuum, which was then filled with violence.
  • – Iraqi oil is firmly under US control. Whilst US companies may have missed out to other companies on developing oil fields, the deals struck are markedly different to what is the standard in the oil industry. Governments generally agree to ‘production sharing Agreements,’ (PSA’s) where governments give companies a share in the oil. The Iraqi contracts however were ‘Service Contracts,’ (SC) where a company is paid for pumping oil and in no way gains any ownership of the produced oil. In this way Iraqi oil remained within the control of the US sponsored Iraqi government that is dependent on the US.
  • – Obama in effect gave the same speech as Bush did in May 2003, when the war ended. Whilst Bush spoke about the end of the war to take Iraq, over seven years later Obama has given the same speech to shore up weakening US public opinion. Bush and Obama both took such positions in order to improve their political ratings. The reality on the ground is 95,000 contractors are in Iraq doing the work traditionally done by the US military. Whilst 50,000 US troops will remain although their definition has been changed from combat troops to transition forces. Obama made a number of promises in his election campaign and this apparent withdrawal of the US is critical with the upcoming Mid-term elections in November, where Obama and the democrats are expected suffer significant losses.

The US has today replaced a dictator with a system built upon ethno-sectarian differences which is institutionalised for decades to come. As the US attempts to extricate itself from this conflict which has gone well beyond what the US contemplated, the US is finding a resurgent Russia reclaiming back the former Soviet Republics and a confident China expanding its supply lines across South-East Asia all the way to Africa. The US position is considered untenable and overstretched and this has led Russia and China to be much more confident in challenging US prowess around the world. We also find that the US today is more and more reliant for the help and cooperation of Muslim rulers in the world whether it is in Iraq or Afghanistan, in order to achieve its aims. Their treachery has given the US the much needed support it required in its time of need. Whilst Obama may claim Iraq as his victory, globally US prowess has been permanently damaged.