All the neat deadlines set by the Obama administration by which each stage of US ‘drawdown’ from Iraq was to reach completion have turned out to be so many coffin nails in Washington’s imperial ambitions, and the much-trumpeted transition from ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ to ’Operation New Dawn’ was no exception.
“Tonight, I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country.” So declared US President Barack Obama on 31 August.
Iraq war far from over
Of course, this ‘end of combat operations’ is not accompanied by an end of military occupation; indeed, the number of troops withdrawn alongside the announcement is a measly 6,000 (down to 50,000 troops who will now stay in Iraq to “advise and assist” the Iraqi army and police). A string of 14 permanent US superbases remains in Iraq.
Obama assured the world that the US would remain a “friend and partner” to Iraq, and that a new relationship based on “mutual interests and mutual respect” would be built.
“As our military draws down, our dedicated civilians – diplomats, aid workers, and advisers – are moving into the lead to support Iraq as it strengthens its government, resolves political disputes, resettles those displaced by war, and builds ties with the region and the world,” Obama added.
Anyone familiar with the term ‘neo-colonialism’ will not be under any illusions as to what these ‘dedicated civilians’ will be doing. The people of Asia, Africa and South America are only too familiar with the ‘civilian’ assistance offered by the US. The US force will be reassigned to ‘special operations’ – that is, targeting the resistance.
Hundreds of thousands of military and civilian contractors will remain, working closely with the Iraqi state to ensure that US interests are properly protected. The 14 military superbases will be used in pursuance of ongoing US military and geo-strategic policy needs – for example, potentially to launch strikes against Iran and Syria.
Week one of the New Dawn
Oddly, nobody seems to have told the Iraqi resistance about the end of the war. Either that or they’ve chosen to ignore it. Only a week after Obama’s announcement, the first two US soldiers were killed in this strange ‘non-war’.
Moreover, far from marking the successful transfer of power from the colonial administration to a stable comprador regime, the ‘New Dawn’ shines down upon a rabble of quisling stooges, who for months have proved incapable of mounting even the pretence of a government.
And so far from marking the establishment of a well-trained indigenous police and military willing and able to act as efficient proxies for Anglo-American imperialist ambitions in the region, it must by now be dawning on even the dimmest in Washington that the incompetence of their hand-reared security forces is only rivalled by their treachery – to the Stars and Stripes at least.
A bald timetable of events in Iraq just in the first week of the New Dawn makes the situation pretty clear.
On 1 September, caretaker prime minister Maliki proclaimed it to be a “bright day for the people of Iraq”, “a day that Iraq gained back its sovereignty”. Warming to his theme, he announced that “Iraq is now its own master”, boasting that “Our forces will take the lead and command combat operations after this withdrawal.”
On 5 September, the high-security HQ of the eastern Baghdad military command, also serving as an army recruitment centre, came under sustained bomb and rifle attack. Despite the fact that only two weeks earlier the same base had already suffered a deadly assault that left dozens of Iraqi army recruits and soldiers dead, this second attack went ahead in broad daylight, included four more soldiers among the casualties, involved a two-hour gun battle and was only finally repelled when US ‘non-combat’, ‘advise and assist’ troops opened fire, backed up by US choppers and drones.
On 7 September, two US soldiers were slain and another nine wounded by a maverick Iraqi soldier in an army compound near the Iraqi city of Tuz Khurmatu in Salaheddin province, reportedly after an argument erupted on the sports field. The Iraqi soldier was himself slain. Attempting to explain away this own goal for imperialism, Major General Tony Cucolo declared implausibly that this “was an isolated incident and is certainly not reflective of the Iraqi security forces in Salaheddin”.
On 8 September, there were attacks against Iraqi police and military targets both in northern Iraq and in Baghdad. Two police were among those wounded by a bomb attack on a Kirkuk police station. Less than an hour later, a second bomb in a nearby location killed three police and a member of the collaborationist Awakening militia. In Mosul, an army checkpoint was attacked by mortar fire. Back in Baghdad, two blasts near a bus terminal left 10 members of the ISF wounded.
These casualty figures, for the most part as reported by the puppet authorities themselves, must surely be the tip of an iceberg. Yet even based on these suspect figures alone, there has been a clear rise in the struggle over recent months. Already, July and August had seen the highest monthly death tolls since the middle of 2008, and if anything it seems that the New Dawn is to be marked by yet more furious resistance to both the occupiers and their proxies.
Failure to form a puppet government
It is under these circumstances that Washington is frantically pulling strings and twisting arms in an effort to secure a new government in Baghdad that looks even halfway credible.
Given the narrow personal ambition animating most of the players, with neither Allawi nor Maliki willing to cede the job of Washington’s top lapdog to the other, Washington’s latest wheeze is to tinker around with the constitution so as to weaken the authority of the prime minister, stripping him of the power to approve army appointments and decide security policy. These powers would instead be transferred to a new committee, which presumably would be more amenable to US diktat.
Vice President Joe Biden, who according to the New York Times is floating this scheme, apparently hopes thereby to make palatable to Allawi the continued premiership of Maliki, his wings suitably clipped.
Whatever comes of this latest gamble, it is clear that even the sectarian divisions which imperialism has striven to cultivate in its bid to divide and rule Iraq are in practice only further aggravating the problem of trying to shape an arms-length comprador regime capable of asserting either the monopoly on control of oil resources which the US craves or the geopolitical domination on which it has been banking.
US hegemony under threat
Despite all the pressure from US oil companies to secure the right to carve up future production rights on Iraq’s vast untapped supply of mineral wealth, they have failed in this and are now obliged to jostle with everyone else in the queue to conclude limited service agreements.
China’s national petrol company CNPC has dashed hopes of an Anglo-American monopoly by obliging BP to share its development rights on the Rumaila oil field, whilst CNPC is also leading the consortium that is to service Halfaya field.
In a crowning irony, Russia’s Lukoil, which was involved in the first phase of developing West Qurna in Basra province before the country was occupied, has now simply picked up where it left off. In a consortium including the Norwegian Statoil, the Russians plan to begin pumping oil from this ‘supergiant’ field by 2013.
As journalist Eric Margolis noted in a piece in the online [i[Huffington Post, “The US does not yet need Iraq’s oil, but controlling it gives the US potent influence over its importers, such as China, India, Japan and Europe. Control of Mideast oil remains a pillar of US geopolitical world power.”
Given the vigorous efforts by the US to encircle and isolate both Russia and China, it will be understood that Washington’s humiliation over Iraqi oil is not solely a matter of resource hunger or even of economic rivalry. It is but part of the much greater humiliation being visited upon imperialist arrogance by the resistance in Iraq, as in Afghanistan and in Palestine.
In a hole and still digging
It is not confidence but desperation that obliges the Obama administration, whilst continuing to recite the mantras about ‘drawdown’, to be preparing the ground for the permanent military occupation of Iraq on a gigantic scale. The 50,000 rebranded US troops that will remain in place, armed to the teeth and housed in 94 military bases across Iraq and backed up by 168,000 private mercenaries, are a projection of military strength and a demonstration of political weakness.
In 2006, former president Bill Clinton no less let slip his view that, were it not for the fact that the US army was tied up in Iraq, it would have invaded other countries.
Indeed, a pressing reason for the attempted scaling down of combat operations in Iraq has precisely been to release greater fire-power upon the heads of the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the possibility of an assault on Iran by no means ruled out. Yet all imperialism has achieved is to wade deeper into the quagmire of its own making, recruit millions more of its own gravediggers and get itself yet deeper into debt.
Does Washington suppose that by an endless multiplication of such colonial garrisons around the world it can reverse the historic decline in its authority? Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.
Victory to the Iraqi resistance!