By Joseph Choonara
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 1908

Try telling them that the occupation is now over

This article is over 20 years, 0 months old
"Let freedom reign," wrote George Bush, but he’s keeping a tight grip on Iraq and its wealth
Issue 1908

“THE ENORMOUS oil wealth of Iraq is there for the Iraqi people, which is why we have said it should go in a trust fund for the Iraqi people—not for America, not for Britain, not for any outside power—but for the Iraqi people.”

That was the promise given by Tony Blair in an interview with Abu Dhabi Television in April last year.

Two months earlier Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary, said, “Iraq, unlike Afghanistan, is a rather wealthy country. Iraq has tremendous resources that belong to the Iraqi people.

“And so there are a variety of means that Iraq has to shoulder much of the burden for their own reconstruction.”

But now a very different picture is emerging.

Billions of dollars of Iraqi oil revenue have vanished and billions were spent in a last-minute spree before the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) was dissolved in the fake “handover” of power to the interim government.

The charity Christian Aid has revealed that the audit into the CPA’s use of Iraqi oil revenue will be suppressed until mid-July. No one from the CPA will ever be held to account.

The Christian Aid report, “Fuelling Suspicion: The Coalition and Iraq’s Oil Billions”, estimates that up to $20 billion in oil revenues is unaccounted for.

Some of the money has gone into the Development Fund for Iraq, which is run by ten foreigners and one Iraqi appointed by Paul Bremer. The CPA plundered over $2 billion from this fund in the run-up to the “handover” to fund “reconstruction projects”, rather than use funds that the US government promised.

The CPA refused to reveal which companies are benefiting from this robbery, but most reconstruction is being carried out by US-based multinationals, many of which have close links to the Bush cabinet.

US companies are charging up to ten times more than Iraqi companies for reconstruction work.

The new Iraqi government will be obliged to honour these contracts. And, according to Svetlana Tsalik, Iraq Revenue Watch’s director, “With so much money available for cash give-aways, and so little planning on how the process will work, it will be all but impossible to avoid corruption and waste.”

$1 billion of Iraq’s money has been spent on “increased security”. Half of this was used to help equip the new Iraqi security forces. The CPA has never revealed what the other $500 million was used for.

Over $600 million in oil revenues have been handed over to the Kuwaiti government—a royal dictatorship which presides over one of the wealthiest Middle Eastern states—in compensation for the 1991 invasion.

It is not clear how much money has been made from oil sales. Two different CPA documents give figures that differ by $1.5 billion.

Christian Aid believes that the CPA’s figures might underestimate the amount made by as much as $3 billion.

The US troops are staying

THE FAKE “handover” of power has done nothing to abate the fury of the overwhelming majority of Iraqis who oppose the occupation.

More than 100 Iraqis have died in the past week as violence continues to grow across the country. In a sign of the increasing sophistication of the resistance fighters, a US transport plane was forced to return to Baghdad airport after being hit by gunfire.

Iraqi fighters have already partially cut the airport off from Baghdad, closing the main road for most of the day. Last week they organised coordinated attacks on police stations across central Iraq killing dozens of Iraqis.

The US now hopes to see Iraqi security forces do much of the fighting and dying in Iraq. But the US government has no intention of removing its troops from Iraq.

They have created a huge fortified embassy in the heart of Baghdad, known as the “Green Zone”, effectively a military base.

The hundreds of staff at the new embassy, which will be the biggest ever created, will hide behind two metre high blast barriers.

The US stooges who’ve been imposed on the Iraqi people

Ayad Allawi

The new prime minister of Iraq was chosen by the Iraqi Governing Council—an appointed body—at the urging of US administrator Paul Bremer.

Allawi was born into a wealthy family and joined the ruling Ba’ath Party at an early age. He remained a member until 1976, when he fell out with Saddam Hussein.

While in exile in Britain he formed a close relationship with MI6 and later the CIA. In 1979 he started organising ex-Ba’athist generals into the Iraqi National Accord (INA).

After the 1991 invasion of Kuwait, when Saddam Hussein fell out with Washington and London, money began pouring into the INA. In return Allawi fed the spooks on both sides of the Atlantic with information about the regime.

This information included the infamous claim that Saddam Hussein could launch weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes, which was used in the case for war.

He returned to Iraq as US troops captured Baghdad and argued against the disbanding of the Iraqi army. It is likely that he will restore many of the former generals who served under Saddam Hussein in an attempt to stamp out the resistance in Iraq.

According to the Economist magazine, “In recent months he has also been busy creating a new version of the secret police… Mr Allawi’s rivals have accused him of recruiting former torturers for a new apparatus of oppression.”

A survey carried out by the Iraqi Centre for Research and Studies found he was the least popular of 17 prominent Iraqi political personalities. Nearly 40 percent of Iraqis polled were “strongly opposed” to Allawi.

Falah al-Nakib

THE NEW minister of the interior was born into a family with close ties to the Iraqi military.

He trained in the US as a civil engineer. He recently threatened to impose martial law across Iraq to restore order, saying, “If we need to do it, yes, we’ll do it. We won’t hesitate.”

Hazem Shaalan

THE DEFENCE minister was a manager of the Iraqi Real Estate Bank before falling out with Saddam Hussein.

He also favours using strong-arm tactics to bring order to Iraq.

He says, “A decision to impose martial law could be taken if the attacks continue.”

After one bomb attack by resistance fighters he told reporters, “We will cut off the hands of those people. We will slit their throats if it is necessary to do so.”

Laws US left behind

AS WELL as continuing to dominate Iraq’s economy, and leaving around 140,000 troops, the US has placed strict curbs on the interim government.

Paul Bremer has rushed through 97 new laws, described as “binding instructions or directives to the Iraqi people”, to control the new administration.

The most controversial gives a seven-member commission the power to disqualify political parties and any of the candidates they support from any elections in Iraq.

Other laws cap tax rates at 15 percent and prohibit piracy of intellectual property. The laws also include an order that car horns should only be used in “emergency conditions only” and another instructing drivers to “hold the steering wheel with both hands”.

Dead soldier ‘deceived’

THE FATHER of a British soldier killed in Basra has given an insight into the atmosphere among troops in Iraq.

A year ago Lance-Corporal Thomas Keys, who was just 20 years old, was killed along with five other military policemen.

According to his father, Reg Keys, he died feeling that he had been “completely deceived” by the government’s arguments for war.

Before he died he told his family that morale in the army “was on the floor”.

Reg Keys said, “I only have one other son and he’s serving with the Royal Engineers. But we’ve told him in no uncertain terms that if he ever gets the call to go to Iraq, he’s to jump in the car and come straight home.”

Topics ,

Sign up for our daily email update ‘Breakfast in Red’

Latest News

Make a donation to Socialist Worker

Help fund the resistance