Archive for the ‘Iraq’ Category
Xinhua, April 26, 2011
The Iraqi government is preparing to accept the presence of more than 15,000 U.S. servicemen in Iraq to protect the U.S. interests after the deadline of U.S. troops’ pullout by the end of 2011, an Iraqi newspaper reported on Tuesday.
“The Iraqi government will arrange a special status that would allow more than 15,000 U.S. servicemen to stay in Iraq beyond the end of this year,” al-Mashriq newspaper quoted well-informed sources as saying.
It also said that thousands of employees working for foreign security firms will stay in the country to protect the U.S. embassy staff, American civil contractors, engineers and investors.
“The full U.S. troops withdrawal will be announced as scheduled (by the end of 2011) and the remaining of thousands of U.S. troops will be attributed to protect the embassy staff, foreign diplomatic corps and international companies in the country,” the newspaper said.
Maliki is planning to send a delegation headed by Abdul-Haleem al-Zheiri, a leading figure in Maliki’s Dawa part, to the neighboring Iran to explain his move and to give assurances to Tehran that the remaining U.S. troops will not be used against Iran, it added.
“The delegation will also ask Tehran to put pressure on Moqtada al-Sadr to accept the new arrangements and not to unleash his Mahdi Army militiamen,” the paper said.
On April 9, anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr threatened to resume activities of his Mahdi Army militia against the American troops if they stay in the country after the end of 2011.
Earlier, Maliki ruled out signing a new security pact with the United States to extend the presence of its troops in the country.
“The Prime Minister ruled out possibility for any new security agreement to prolong the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq, because the (current) document of the strategic agreement (SOFA) is clear in this respect,” Maliki said in a statement.
However, Maliki noted that not signing another security agreement doesn’t mean that Iraq will not cooperate and coordinate with the United States in the fields of training and arming Iraqi troops, the statement said.
In mid 2010, U.S. troops in Iraq had been reduced to below 50, 000 soldiers. Washington said that the remaining U.S. troops in Iraq are conducting support and training missions.
U.S. military forces are to pull out completely from Iraq by the end of 2011 according to the security pact named (Status of Forces Agreement, or SOFA) signed late in 2008 between Baghdad and Washington.
Aswat Al Iraq, April 24, 2011
Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has informed the visiting U.S. Chief of Staff of the U.S. Armed Forces, Admiral Mike Mullen, that the remaining American troops were to leave Iraq by the end of 2011, according to the Security Agreement, signed between the two countries in 2011, an Iraqi Legislature said on Sunday.
“There is an Agreement, concluded between Iraq and the United States, reiterating that the U.S. forces must leave Iraq by the end of 2011,” National Coalition MP, Ali al-Allaq, told Aswat al-Iraq news agency, adding that “the Prime Minister had informed the U.S. Chief of Staff of the U.S. Armed Forces, Admiral Mike Mullen, that the American forces must leave, according to the said Agreement, because there is no need for their presence, as the Iraqi forces are able to execute the security dossier.”
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The US military praises Iraqi security forces as they crack down on press freedom.
Nick Turse, Al Jazeera, April 23, 2011
The first months of this year have been grim for free speech in Iraq.
As revolts swept across the Middle East and North Africa, they spread to Iraqi cities and towns, but took on a very different cast.
In February, in places like Baghdad, Fallujah, Mosul and Tikrit, protesters took to the streets, intent on reform – focused on ending corruption and the chronic shortages of food, water, electricity and jobs – but not toppling the government of prime minister Nuri al-Maliki.
The response by government security forces, who have arrested, beaten, and shot protesters, leaving hundreds dead or wounded, however, was similar to that of other autocratic rulers around the region.
Attacks by Iraqi forces on freedom of the press, in the form of harassment, detention, and assaults on individual journalists, raids of radio stations, the offices of newspapers and press freedom groups have also shown the dark side of Maliki’s regime.
Many journalists have been prevented from covering protests or have curtailed their reporting in response to brutality, raising the spectre of a return to the days of Saddam Hussein’s regime when press freedom was a fiction.
Maliki’s US allies, however, have turned a blind eye to the violence and repression, with the top spokesman for the US military in Iraq praising the same Iraqi units which eyewitnesses have identified as key players in the crackdown while ignoring the outrages attributed to them.
In addition to providing training to these units, the US military is currently focused on upgrading the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces, including the creation a national intelligence and operations centre and more sophisticated use and understanding of social media, which some fear may further increase state repression.
Jamal al-Badrani, Reuters, April 24, 2011
Thousands of Iraqis rallied in the northern city of Mosul Sunday in one of the biggest protests yet against any extension of the U.S. military presence in Iraq.
Protests have swelled in the city since April 9 — the eighth anniversary of the day U.S. forces toppled Saddam Hussein’s statue in Baghdad — but remain peaceful.
Sunday, around 5,000 people, including provincial council members and tribal leaders, rallied in the main square against extending the U.S. troops presence beyond the year-end deadline.
“We are trying to put pressure on the government to not even think about extending the presence of Americans (in Iraq), who brought havoc to our country,” said Sheikh Barzan al-Badrani, chief of the Badrani tribe in Mosul.
“The second demand is for the release of detainees held in Iraqi prisons … and the other is to make reforms in the Iraqi government. We do not accept corrupt officials and regret that we voted for them.”
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Two disclosures expose what we knew in 2002: the Iraq War was about oil (or at least a significant part of it)
Secret memos expose link between oil firms and invasion of Iraq
Paul Bignell, The Independent, April 19, 2011
Plans to exploit Iraq’s oil reserves were discussed by government ministers and the world’s largest oil companies the year before Britain took a leading role in invading Iraq, government documents show.
The papers, revealed here for the first time, raise new questions over Britain’s involvement in the war, which had divided Tony Blair’s cabinet and was voted through only after his claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
The minutes of a series of meetings between ministers and senior oil executives are at odds with the public denials of self-interest from oil companies and Western governments at the time.
The documents were not offered as evidence in the ongoing Chilcot Inquiry into the UK’s involvement in the Iraq war. In March 2003, just before Britain went to war, Shell denounced reports that it had held talks with Downing Street about Iraqi oil as “highly inaccurate”. BP denied that it had any “strategic interest” in Iraq, while Tony Blair described “the oil conspiracy theory” as “the most absurd”.
But documents from October and November the previous year paint a very different picture.
Five months before the March 2003 invasion, Baroness Symons, then the Trade Minister, told BP that the Government believed British energy firms should be given a share of Iraq’s enormous oil and gas reserves as a reward for Tony Blair’s military commitment to US plans for regime change.
The papers show that Lady Symons agreed to lobby the Bush administration on BP’s behalf because the oil giant feared it was being “locked out” of deals that Washington was quietly striking with US, French and Russian governments and their energy firms.
Minutes of a meeting with BP, Shell and BG (formerly British Gas) on 31 October 2002 read: “Baroness Symons agreed that it would be difficult to justify British companies losing out in Iraq in that way if the UK had itself been a conspicuous supporter of the US government throughout the crisis.”
The minister then promised to “report back to the companies before Christmas” on her lobbying efforts.
The Foreign Office invited BP in on 6 November 2002 to talk about opportunities in Iraq “post regime change”. Its minutes state: “Iraq is the big oil prospect. BP is desperate to get in there and anxious that political deals should not deny them the opportunity.”
After another meeting, this one in October 2002, the Foreign Office’s Middle East director at the time, Edward Chaplin, noted: “Shell and BP could not afford not to have a stake in [Iraq] for the sake of their long-term future… We were determined to get a fair slice of the action for UK companies in a post-Saddam Iraq.”
Whereas BP was insisting in public that it had “no strategic interest” in Iraq, in private it told the Foreign Office that Iraq was “more important than anything we’ve seen for a long time”.
BP was concerned that if Washington allowed TotalFinaElf’s existing contact with Saddam Hussein to stand after the invasion it would make the French conglomerate the world’s leading oil company. BP told the Government it was willing to take “big risks” to get a share of the Iraqi reserves, the second largest in the world.
Over 1,000 documents were obtained under Freedom of Information over five years by the oil campaigner Greg Muttitt. They reveal that at least five meetings were held between civil servants, ministers and BP and Shell in late 2002.
The 20-year contracts signed in the wake of the invasion were the largest in the history of the oil industry. They covered half of Iraq’s reserves – 60 billion barrels of oil, bought up by companies such as BP and CNPC (China National Petroleum Company), whose joint consortium alone stands to make £403m ($658m) profit per year from the Rumaila field in southern Iraq.
Last week, Iraq raised its oil output to the highest level for almost decade, 2.7 million barrels a day – seen as especially important at the moment given the regional volatility and loss of Libyan output. Many opponents of the war suspected that one of Washington’s main ambitions in invading Iraq was to secure a cheap and plentiful source of oil.
Mr Muttitt, whose book Fuel on Fire is published next week, said: “Before the war, the Government went to great lengths to insist it had no interest in Iraq’s oil. These documents provide the evidence that give the lie to those claims.
“We see that oil was in fact one of the Government’s most important strategic considerations, and it secretly colluded with oil companies to give them access to that huge prize.”
Lady Symons, 59, later took up an advisory post with a UK merchant bank that cashed in on post-war Iraq reconstruction contracts. Last month she severed links as an unpaid adviser to Libya’s National Economic Development Board after Colonel Gaddafi started firing on protesters. Last night, BP and Shell declined to comment.
Not about oil? what they said before the invasion
* Foreign Office memorandum, 13 November 2002, following meeting with BP: “Iraq is the big oil prospect. BP are desperate to get in there and anxious that political deals should not deny them the opportunity to compete. The long-term potential is enormous…”
* Tony Blair, 6 February 2003: “Let me just deal with the oil thing because… the oil conspiracy theory is honestly one of the most absurd when you analyse it. The fact is that, if the oil that Iraq has were our concern, I mean we could probably cut a deal with Saddam tomorrow in relation to the oil. It’s not the oil that is the issue, it is the weapons…”
* BP, 12 March 2003: “We have no strategic interest in Iraq. If whoever comes to power wants Western involvement post the war, if there is a war, all we have ever said is that it should be on a level playing field. We are certainly not pushing for involvement.”
* Lord Browne, the then-BP chief executive, 12 March 2003: “It is not in my or BP’s opinion, a war about oil. Iraq is an important producer, but it must decide what to do with its patrimony and oil.”
* Shell, 12 March 2003, said reports that it had discussed oil opportunities with Downing Street were ‘highly inaccurate’, adding: “We have neither sought nor attended meetings with officials in the UK Government on the subject of Iraq. The subject has only come up during conversations during normal meetings we attend from time to time with officials… We have never asked for ‘contracts’.”
Patrick Cockburn: They denied it was about Iraq’s resources. But it never rang true
Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, April 19, 2011
The supposed disinterest expressed by international oil companies in the outcome of the invasion of Iraq in the year before it was launched never quite made sense. Iraqis used to ask ironically if the rest of the world would have been quite so interested in the fate of their country if its main export had been cabbages.
Oil companies are intensely interested in what happens in Iraq because it contains some of the world’s largest unexploited and under-exploited oilfields. This includes nine “super giants” around Basra each with 5 billion barrels of exploitable crude.
In 2002 many British companies were suspicious that they might be locked out by US oil companies in the event of the US becoming the dominant power in Iraq. This was not a paranoid suspicion; early non-oil contracts awarded by the US-dominated administration in Baghdad in 2003 went to American corporations.
In the event Iraq has held three rounds of bidding for contracts to manage and develop Iraqi oilfields since 2008. BP along with China’s CNPC is heavily involved in Iraq’s largest oilfield, Rumaila, in the far south on the Kuwaiti border. Royal Dutch Shell with Petronas of Malaysia has the contract for the Majnoon field on the border with Iran. Exxonmobil and Royal Dutch Shell are developing West Qurna 1.
It has never seemed likely that the US and Britain invaded Iraq primarily for its oil. Reasserting US self-confidence as a super-power after 9/11 was surely a greater motive. The UK went along with this in order to remain America’s chief ally. Both President Bush and Tony Blair thought the war would be easy.
But would they have gone to war if Iraq had been producing cabbages? Probably not.
Iraqi oil supply was considered to be ‘vital’ to British interests
Jonathan Brown, Paul Bignell and Andy McSmith, The Independent, April 20, 2011
The British Government saw Iraqi oil as “vital” to the UK’s long-term energy security, and the effective privatisation of its oil industry was central to the post-invasion plan for the country, according to previously unseen Whitehall documents.
The UK was already working behind the scenes to ensure British companies did not lose out to competitors in the region, reveal strategy papers that were discussed at the highest level across Whitehall just days after President George W Bush declared “mission accomplished” in May 2003.
Despite Tony Blair and his ministers’ public insistence that Iraq’s vast oil reserves – then estimated at 112 billion barrels – were a matter for the Iraqis alone, officials warned a meeting of the “inter-departmental Oil Sector Liaison Group (OSLG)” that appearing “gratuitously exploitative” in its policy goals – which included the aim to “maximise benefit to British industry and thus British employment/economy” – could “backfire politically”.
Minutes of a meeting held on 12 May 2003 starkly spell out the importance of the issue, stating: “The future shape of the Iraqi industry will affect oil markets, and the functioning of Opec, in both of which we have a vital interest.”
The latest disclosures follow the publication yesterday of minutes of meetings held between senior oil-industry executives and government ministers in the run-up to the war – despite official claims that no such talks occurred. The first of three documents assessing the situation in the immediate aftermath of the invasion sets out what is described as “required action” resulting from a meeting attended by representatives from key government departments including the Foreign Office, the then Department of Trade and Industry, the Department for International Development and the Treasury.
Officials cite the oil industry as the “first main target” when asked to establish “where specific prospects for British industry exist and ensure we are properly placed to take them”. The group was also urged to consider when a “senior British oil industry person should go out to Iraq to survey the ground and, if appropriate, participate in [for example] the emerging Oil Advisory Board”.
Two weeks later, London officials outlined a “desirable” outcome for Iraqi’s crippled oil industry as “an oil sector open and attractive to foreign investment, with appropriate arrangements for the exploitation of new fields”.
The paper concluded “foreign companies’ involvement seems to be the only possible solution” to make Iraq a reliable oil exporter. But the document recognised that would be “politically sensitive”, and would “require careful handling to avoid the impression that we are trying to push the Iraqis down one particular path”.
The disclosures are among 1,000 documents obtained by the campaigner Greg Muttitt whose new book, Fuel on the Fire, is published by Random House tomorrow. Mr Muttitt said: “These documents demonstrate again the central importance of oil to Britain’s thinking on Iraq.” A Foreign Office spokesman denied that oil interests had driven policy. “It is normal to consider the commercial risks and opportunities presented by geopolitical events,” he said. “But this is not to say that those risks and opportunities directed our policy on Iraq.”
One leading Tory MP, who asked not to be identified, said yesterday that the revelations “come as no surprise to me”. He added: “In May 2002… a serving officer in the Ministry of Defence said to me: ‘We’re planning for ground operations to start on 19 March next year.’ He [said]… they couldn’t give a damn about the politics. There is no question that the armed services knew it as a racing certainty when the war would start.”
The deal-makers – where are they now?
As Trade minister, told BP five months before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq that the Government believed British energy firms should be given a share of Iraq’s oil and gas reserves as a reward for Tony Blair’s military commitment to US plans for regime change. Papers show that Lady Symons agreed to lobby the Bush administration on behalf of BP. She later took up an advisory post with investment bank MerchantBridge, which profited from post-war Iraq reconstruction contracts. She is an international consultant to lawyers DLA Piper, and for Consolidated Contractors Oil and Gas.
Veteran oilman and formerly BP’s group vice-president in Russia, Caspian, Middle East and Africa. He led a BP delegation to the Foreign Office on 6 November 2002, in which civil servants and oil executives discussed oil-drilling prospects for British companies in Iraq. BP insisted before the war it had “no strategic interest” in Iraq, but in documents disclosed in this newspaper yesterday, it can be seen telling the Foreign Office at that meeting it regarded Iraq as “vitally important” and it would be prepared to take “big risks” in pursuit of business there. Paniguian left BP in 2008.
Since leaving office in 2007, he has made a reported £20m through business engagements. Consultancies he accepted included those with JPMorgan and the Kuwaiti royal family. Has also advised South Korea’s UI Energy Corporation, one of the biggest investors in Iraq’s oil-rich Kurdistan region. Currently serves as a Middle East peace envoy.
Sir Michael Arthur
As the Foreign Office’s senior economic adviser, he hosted a presentation there for BP on Iraqi oil prospects on 6 November 2002. He went on to become British High Commissioner in New Delhi, and then went to Berlin as British ambassador in 2007. Retired from the Diplomatic Service last year.
Iraq: tens of thousands protest, al-Sadr threatens to reactivate Mahdi Army over continued US miliary occupation
Tim Arango and Khalid D. Ali, The New York Times, April 9, 2011
A day after Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates suggested that American troops could remain here for years, tens of thousands of protesters allied with Moktada al-Sadr, the radical anti-American Shiite cleric, flooded the streets demanding an end to the American military presence.
The protests were scheduled before Mr. Gates’s comments — made on Friday during a visit to troops in northern Iraq — although his statements may have fueled some of the day’s fervor. The protesters were whipped up by comments drafted by Mr. Sadr, who is continuing his religious studies in Iran but who sent a message to the crowd threatening to reconstitute his militia, the Mahdi Army, if the American military did not leave this year.
“The first thing we will do is escalate the military resistance activity and reactivate the Mahdi Army in a new statement which will be published later,” Mr. Sadr’s representative, Salah al-Obaidi, told the crowd. “Second is to escalate the peaceful and public resistance through sit-ins.”
A demonstration against the American invasion is held each April 9, the anniversary of the fall of Baghdad in 2003 and the date when Iraqis, with the help of American Marines, pulled down a statue of the dictator Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square in Baghdad.
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+View full text of “Human Rights Record of the United States in 2010”+
Stop preaching on rights: China to US
Indianexpress.com, April 11, 2011
China has asked “preacher” US to stop interfering in its internal affairs “under the pretext” of raising human rights issues, close on the heels of an annual State Department report slamming it for trying to limit freedom of speech and “arbitrarily” detaining activists.
“China and the US have disagreements on human rights issues, about which we are willing to engage in dialogue based on equality and mutual respect,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said, reacting to the State Department’s report. “But we are firmly against interfering in our internal affairs under the pretext of human rights issues,” Hong said.
With continuing economic growth, constantly improving democracy and law system, all ethnic groups in China enjoy extensive rights, Hong said. He urged US to reflect more on its own human rights issues rather than acting as a “preacher of human rights”.
China savages ‘poor’ US rights record
AFP, April 11, 2011
US society is plagued by violent crime, poverty, race and gender discrimination and a host of other ills, Beijing said in a scathing rebuttal of a US report criticising China’s human rights record.
The report released late Sunday by China’s government also lamented the bloodshed of US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, reports of waterboarding and other harsh treatment of US enemy combatants, and said the American political system was in thrall to moneyed interests.
“The United States has turned a blind eye to its own terrible human rights situation and seldom mentions it,” said the report, which is issued each year to rebut an annual US State Department report on human rights around the world.