Iraq struggles

IssueJuly - August 2008
News by Andrea D'Cruz

President Bush wants the Iraqi government to seal a “status of forces”agreement cementing the US military presence in Iraq without seeking the approval of the Iraqi parliament, unsurprising given that a majority of members of the Iraqi parliament have written to the US congress rejecting a long-term security deal with Washington if it is not linked to a requirement that US forces leave.

Deportations increase

Forced deportations of Iraqi asylum seekers are accelerating under Brown; 60 Iraqis, whose asylum applications had failed, were rounded up for deportation in the space of a few days in early June.

A recently published Amnesty report on Iraq stated: “the time is not right for returns of any kind to Iraq”, as the security situation “has deteriorated in recent months and Iraq remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world.”

Amnesty criticised the inadequate response of the international community and condemned Britain for its failure to offer protection to Iraqis who had worked for UK forces, unless they had done so for a continuous period of twelve months or more.

Haditha exonerations

Of the eight marines originally charged in connection with the Haditha massacre of 24 Iraqis in November 2005 only one man currently faces prosecution. Charges were dropped against five, one has been acquitted, and one has had the charges against him dismissed.

Activist blogger, Rahul Mahajan wrote of the case: “The hearings have been a circus. First of all, they were held in California, so the Iraqis who witnessed the events couldn’t testify. Second, the families of the victims refused requests by military interrogators to exhume the bodies for forensic evidence. Third, Lt. Col. Paul Ware, who presided over the hearings, has been both excessively sympathetic to the defendants and excessively concerned with the effect that the verdicts will have on future Marine operations. Fourth, some rather odd plea bargains have been made.”

Oil grab update

By the end of June, Shell, BP, Exxon Mobil and Total will sign agreements with the Iraqi government for technical support in the country’s oilfields. These represent a lucrative stepping-stone towards clinching highly exploitative, long-term (25- to 40-year) “production sharing agreements”.

There is also renewed push to get the oil law (that would entail Iraqis relinquishing control of much of their oil to foreign hands) signed before Bush leaves office.

The strategy is three-pronged: attempt to broker an agreement between Kurdish and Shia political parties on the issue of the decentralisation of oil policy; neutralise Iraqi opposition to the oil law, especially by cracking down on unions; and offer political inducements to MPs to ensure a majority in the Iraqi parliament.

Topics: Iraq, Refugees