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Iraq Occupation Focus Newsletter

Iraq Occupation Focus
www.iraqoccupationfocus.org.uk
Newsletter No. 1
July 2, 2004

This is the first of what we hope will be regular IOF Newsletters featuring useful information for all those campaigning to end the occupation of Iraq. Please feel free to circulate to anyone interested.



IOF Factsheet on the “handover” – available now

Iraq Occupation Focus has prepared a Factsheet on the bogus "handover". It is two sides of A4, accessibly written and handsomely designed.

Click here to download the PDF (60KB).

Please reproduce and circulate the Factsheet. It is vital that we explain to people why this "handover" does not provide real self-determination for Iraqis - and that the occupation has certainly not come to an end.  We will be producing more Factsheets on occupation-related issues in the near future.




EXPOSE THE WAR PROFITEERS IN CENTRAL LONDON THIS SUMMER!

'Every corporate house that has been awarded with a contract in postwar Iraq should be named [and] exposed' - Arundhati Roy, May 2003

Would you like to help organise a colourful, theatrical tour of corporate war profiteers with offices in central London (see below) this summer? If so a group of activists -- supported by No Sweat and Voices in the Wilderness UK -- have called a meeting on Thursday 8 July to plan such an event.

WHERE: London Action Resource Centre, 62 Fieldgate Street, E1 (nearest tube: Aldgate East)
WHEN: 7.30pm, Thursday 8 July

For more on UK war profiteers, see below (The War On Your Doorstep).
For more info contact Voices: voices@voicesuk.org or 0845 458 2564 (local rate call).



AFTER THE “HANDOVER” …

Detentions to continue
On June 14, the U.S. military in Baghdad said that the United States will continue to detain without charge thousands of Iraqi prisoners even after the declared transfer of sovereignty on June 30. Human Rights Watch has condemned the decision as breach of international law. "The Bush administration can't have its cake and eat it too," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "If the occupation is over, so is the U.S. authority to detain Iraqis without criminal charges." Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt claimed that the United States has the "authority and the responsibility to remove and to detain imminent security threats here in Iraq" even after the declared transfer of sovereignty.

Occupiers remain in control of Iraqi army, police
The US will remain in charge of recruiting, training and supplying all Iraqi forces, both military and police. Their budget will come from the Pentagon. US administrators told New York Times reporters John F. Burns and Thom Shanker that if there was ever disagreement over military policy, ''The American commander would only have to say, 'OK, we're out of here,' and the Iraqis would back down.''

Who controls the oil?
The UN resolution gives nominal control over oil revenues to the interim authority. But these revenues will not be nearly enough to cover government costs, as Juan Cole recently pointed out: "It would take about $30 billion a year in income for the Iraqi state to run the country properly and repair everything that needs to be repaired, as well as servicing its debts and paying reparations. In the past year, Iraq has only been able to generate about $10 billion from petroleum, and I doubt the government is able to collect much in taxes. It is not enough to keep things going. If sabotage goes on being this effective, Iraq looks likely to get only half that in oil income in the coming year…"

Even when (or if) the flow of oil reaches higher levels, Iraqi administrators will exercise little discretion in its disposal. After the fall of Saddam Hussein, management of oil revenues was placed in the hands of the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI), a group 10 foreigners and one Iraqi appointed by Bremer. The UN resolution called for this group to continue its work for five more years.

Even if the interim administration were to wrest control of the DFI from its current incumbents, it is legally prohibited from making changes in oil policy "until such time as an internationally recognized, representative government of Iraq is properly constituted." This will occur, at the earliest, at the end of 2005 (since the January 2005 elections will create a constitutional-writing body only).”

Andrew Cockburn documents in an article for Salon.com the institutional limits on Iraqi decision making: “Now, whatever President Bush or his officials may spout in public about the transfer of power being a "central commitment," there is absolutely no intention in Washington of changing the arrangement concerning oil revenues. Queried on this crucial topic, the CPA has stated that it will continue to control the revenues beyond June 30 "until such time as an internationally recognized, representative government of Iraq is properly constituted." Whatever entity is unveiled for June 30, it apparently will not fit these requirements, so the hand-over date is, essentially, meaningless.

Who controls the cash?
International banking organizations, notably the IMF and the World Bank, will continue to exercise "accounting authority over the spending" of all Iraqi oil revenues. This oversight, which originated in the Oil for Food Program during the sanctions era, will continue until a $110 billion Iraqi foreign debt is resolved, a process that promises to take many years.

Iraqi reconstruction is to be funded largely out of the $18.4 billion aid promised by the US - of which slightly over $16 billion remained unspent as the June 30 transfer deadline approached. Dispersal of this money is wholly at US discretion. The US will therefore control the resources necessary to rebuild and maintain the country's economy for years to come.

One US aid told the New York Times: "American troops will act as the most important guarantor of American influence. In addition… the $18.4 billion voted for Iraqi reconstruction last fall by the United States Congress -- including more than $2 billion for the new Iraqi forces -- will give the Americans a decisive voice."

Who runs the country?
CPA officials have set in place an elaborate system that will allow the new Ambassador, John Negroponte, to oversee and control the developing Iraqi administrative apparatus. The most dramatic evidence of this is the well publicized fact that in his "embassy" Ambassador Negroponte will have the largest staff in US diplomatic history, variously estimated at between 2000 and 3000 people.

Details of US plans to control Iraq’s administrative apparatus were outlined in the the Wall Street Journal: "As Washington prepares to hand over power, U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer and other officials are quietly building institutions that will give the U.S. powerful levers for influencing nearly every important decision the interim government will make. In a series of edicts issued earlier this spring, Mr. Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority created new commissions that effectively take away virtually all of the powers once held by several ministries. The CPA also … put in place a pair of watchdog institutions that will serve as checks on individual ministries and allow for continued U.S. oversight.

Meanwhile, the CPA reiterated that coalition advisers will remain in virtually all remaining ministries after the handover…. The authority to license Iraq's television stations, sanction newspapers and regulate cell phone companies was recently transferred to a commission whose members were selected by Washington. The commissioners' five-year terms stretch far beyond the planned 18-month tenure of the interim Iraqi government that will assume sovereignty on June 30."

Torture – a matter of policy
The torture and mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison was the predictable result of the Bush administration's decision to circumvent international law, Human Rights Watch said in “The Road to Abu Ghraib,”, a 38 page report issued on 9th June. The report reveals how the Bush administration adopted a deliberate policy of permitting illegal interrogation techniques – and then spent two years covering up or ignoring reports of torture and other abuse by US troops.  “The horrors of Abu Ghraib were not simply the acts of individual soldiers,” said Human Rights Watch. “Abu Ghraib resulted from decisions made by the Bush administration to cast the rules aside.”

Polls show Iraqis want US out
A poll conducted by the CPA showed 92 percent of Iraqis consider the United States an occupying force and more than half believe all Americans behave like those portrayed in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse photos. 81 percent of Iraqis said they had an improved opinion of al-Sadr in May from three months earlier, and 64 percent said the acts of his insurgents had made Iraq more unified. However, only 2 percent said they would support al-Sadr for president, even less than the 3 percent who expressed support for the deposed Saddam Hussein.

Ghali Hassan writes: “Most Iraqis consider the [new government] appointees as irrelevant traitors serving U.S. interests. Recent public opinion polling has showed a dramatic increase in grassroots hostility toward the American occupation. Between October and April, the percentage of Iraqis viewing the United States as an occupier rather than a liberator more than doubled, from 43% to 88%, according to the Centre for Research, an Iraqi polling firm that works for several U.S. contractors. The majority of polled Iraqis want the occupiers to leave Iraq immediately and allow the Iraqis to manage their own affairs. Only 1% of those polled Iraqis agreed that the goal of the US was to establish democracy in Iraq.”

Mercenary goldmine
Big money is being made in Iraq by US and British security firms. Among those who sign up as security personnel are drug and arms dealers, as well as former servants of dark regimes of the past. In the Israeli daily Ha’aretz www.haaretz.com Zvi Bar'el reports: “There are no accurate figures on the number of individuals employed by private security firms in Iraq, but it is estimated at between 40,000 to 51,000 people, mainly foreign nationals and Iraqi minority groups.

A security person's salary can run from $500 a day to as much as $1,000 a day for a complex security operation involving private helicopters and armoured cars … according to reports from Iraq, a "Western underworld" is developing on the streets of its cities under the guise of security firms... Security personnel from Chile operating in Iraq served in the private army of General Pinochet, security personnel from South Africa swagger down the streets of Baghdad and Basra like cowboys, in fact breaking the laws of their own country designed to limit the phenomenon of mercenaries. … A rough calculation shows that of the $70-80 billion cost of rebuilding Iraq, $51 billion will line the pockets of security firms; from there, some will flow to the senior management of parent companies like Carlyle. …

Since the announcement of the appointment of the temporary government, it has become clear that its security mission will be beyond the capability of the Iraqi military to fulfil. Not only will they be unable to even partially forgo the services of the coalition forces, they will have to continue using private security personnel. American firms that have won contracts to develop infrastructure in Iraq will continue to operate, and they are unlikely to replace their private security personnel with Iraqi soldiers, whose level of skills and loyalty is uncertain.

Negroponte: Washington’s new man in Baghdad
The appointment of John Negroponte as US ambassador to Iraq is a frightening portent of US intentions. Negroponte, who will succeed Paul Bremer as US proconsul in Iraq, was US ambassador to Honduras in the 1980s. During that time he turned Honduras into the major base for the murderous and brutal Contra campaign against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

In Honduras itself, Negroponte covered up systematic human rights abuses. On his watch, the CIA organized, trained, and financed an army unit called Battalion 316 which kidnapped, tortured, and killed hundreds of Hondurans.

Under Negroponte’s direction, U.S. military aid to Honduras grew from $4 million to $77.4 million. So crammed was the tiny country with US bases and weapons that it was dubbed the USS Honduras.

In a 1982 letter to 'The Economist' magazine, Negroponte asserted it was ''simply untrue to state that death squads have made their appearance in Honduras''. He repeated that lie to the US Congress. We now know that US embassy employees were told to censor their reports about rights abuses, even as the military's role in the killings and disappearances became widely known -- and reported by Honduran newspapers.

Honduras was only one of many hot spots where Negroponte served. He spent four years as a political officer in the U.S. Embassy in Saigon during the height of the Vietnam War. As an aide to then National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger at the Paris Peace Talks, he fell out of favor with his boss, wrote Mark Matthews in a 1997 article in the Sun, "by arguing that the chief U.S. negotiator was making too many concessions to the North Vietnamese." Negroponte also served in the Philippines, Panama and Mexico, where he was a strong booster for NAFTA.

The occupation is the problem, not the solution
A thorough and useful report on violations of international law by the US-UK occupying forces has been issued by the US-based Center for Economic and Social Rights at www.cesr.org.

“The Bush Administration is committing war crimes and other serious violations of international law in Iraq as a matter of routine policy. Beyond the now-infamous examples of torture, rape, and murder at Abu Ghraib prison, the United States has ignored international law governing military occupation and violated the full range of Iraqis’ national and human rights—economic, social, civil and political rights. The systematic nature of these violations provides compelling evidence of a policy that is rotten at its core and requires fundamental change. The occupation of Iraq is not leading to greater respect for rights and democracy, as promised by the Bush Administration, but rather entrenching a climate of lawlessness and feeding an increasing spiral of violent conflict that will not end until the occupation ends and underlying issues of justice are addressed. The question is: how long will it take, and how many lives will be lost, before Iraqis are able to exercise genuine self-determination and control their own destiny?”

The report concludes by calling for an end of the occupation. “A policy declaration to this effect, followed by concrete actions, would almost certainly result in a sharp reduction in violence, facilitate increased participation by international and regional mediators and peacekeepers, and create favorable conditions for an agreement on free and fair elections negotiated by Iraqi factions based on their actual support in the country rather than the strength of their foreign sponsors. While no course of action, even one based on full respect for international law, can guarantee peace, stability, and democracy, it would be difficult to do more damage to these values than present U.S. occupation policy.



THE WAR ON YOUR DOORSTEP

Thanks to Voices in the Wilderness for this list of UK companies making profits out of the occupation:

  • AEGIS DEFENCE SERVICES LIMITED, 118 Piccadilly London W1J 7NW. Private "security" company headed by Col Tim Spicer, the key figure in the Sandline arms to Africa affair. Recently won the contract 'for security on all major Iraqi government projects following the June 30 handover' (Daily Telegraph, 29 May 2004) - awarded by the US Government and worth $293 million. See http://www.warprofiteers.com/article.php?id=11350
  • Private "security" companies: ARMOURGROUP, 25 Buckingham Gate, London, SW1E 6LD; CONTROL RISKS GROUP, 83 Victoria Street, London SW1H OHW; GLOBAL RISK STRATEGIES, 6 Stratton Street, London W1J 8LD; ICP GROUP LTD, 2 Old Brompton Road, London SW7 3DQ; GENRIC, Hereford House, East Street, Hereford, UK HR1 2LU; and OLIVE SECURITY, 2 Charles Street, Mayfair, London, W1J 5DB. All are currently working in Iraq. See http://travel.state.gov/iraq_securitycompanies.html  for more info.
  • SHELL has its UK corporate headquarters at the Shell Centre (SE1 7NA). It recently announced that it 'intends "to establish a material and enduring presence in Iraq" in an attempt to rebuild the firm's depleted reserves and foster the long term future of the country's energy sector' (Guardian, 4 May). "We are interested in building a long term relationship with Iraqis", a spokesman told the paper.
  • HSBC, over 20 offices in Central London (list available at www.hsbc.co.uk). Head office at HSBC Holdings plc, 8 Canada Square, London E14 5HQ. Together with STANDARD CHARTERED (1 Aldermanbury Sq, London) one of the three foreign banks to have been granted a licence to operate in Iraq. HSBC also owns 46.5% of the British Arab Commercial Bank which is looking to collect $100 million from Iraq in debt repayments (www.mtcp.co.uk/debtcollector/dgb.php). The new UN resolution on Iraq grants the unelected Iraqi Interim Government 'authority to conclude and implement' agreements regarding Iraq's debts - agreements which will presumably be binding on a future elected government, should such a thing ever materialise (AP, 2 June 2004).
  • AMEC: 65 Carter Lane, London, EC4V 5HF. Amec's joint venture with the US-based FLUOR (Holborn House, High Holborn, WC1V 6JQ) has been awarded three contracts - in the sewage, water and electricity sectors - worth up to $1.6bn. See voices newsletter, #35 for more info (http://www.voices.netuxo.co.uk/library/letter_may2004.html#Amec).
  • BECHTEL.The US construction giant has two offices in London: 245 Hammersmith Road, London, W6, 8DP; and Pilgrim Street Office, 11 Pilgrim Street, London, EC4V 6RN. Closely linked to the Bush administration, Bechtel has thus-far received several billion dollars worth of contracts - most recently garnering a $1.8bn contract to repair Iraq's infrastructure. Merchant Bridge, 6 Eaton Gate, SW1W 9BJ. Corporate finance. Appointed lead adviser to the Iraqi Ministry of Industry and Minerals for their lease of industrial factories programme earlier this year.

See www.warprofiteers.com for more info on the role of corporations in Iraq.



Finally, from Le Monde Diplomatique

“Relations between international firms and Iraqis were marked by mistrust from the start. The best illustration is Kellogg, Brown Root; this over-billing subsidiary of Halliburton relies on Saudi subcontractors to cater for the troops, and much of their workforce is imported from India and Bangladesh. Why do they not employ Iraqis? Because they fear Iraqis may try to poison the troops.“



Next IOF organising meeting:

Tuesday, 13th July, 7:15pm.

Guest speaker: Sami Ramadani on latest developments in Iraq
(for Sami’s articles on Iraq see www.guardian.co.uk)

Conference Room, Indian YMCA
41 Fitzroy Square, London WC1
(Warren St and Goodge St tubes)

The meeting will begin with Sami Ramadani’s presentation, followed by questions and discussion. We will then move on to planning and implementing practical campaigning work.