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(en) DA #26 - Solidarity Federation magazine - In Pursuit of Empire

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Tue, 15 Apr 2003 07:22:54 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

The facts speak for themselves. In all the countless hours
of "coverage" (i.e. propaganda) of the Bush administration's
lies and deceit about Iraq, a simple and
crucial fact is almost never addressed. For almost a century,
US policy towards Iraq has been focused on taking control of
its oil.
The roots of US intervention in Iraq lie in the aftermath of
the First World War. Before this, it was the European powers
that sought control over the region ruled by
the Ottoman Empire. The discovery of oil at the end of the
19th Century made Iraq desirable. In 1904, when the British
Navy shifted from coal to oil for its fleet, Britain
sought direct control of the area. It already supplied 65% of
the Mesopotamian market and controlled much of the trade
in the region and, in March 1917, the British army
took Baghdad. With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in
1918, Arab lands were shared out among the Western powers
- despite previous promises of independence after the
war. Under the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the entire Middle
East was carved up between France and Britain. France got
Syria, Greater Lebanon and some of northern Iraq, while
Britain got Iraq and Palestine.
The French and British argued over who would get Mosul
province, in the north of present-day Iraq. According to the
Sykes-Picot accord, it was part of the French
"sphere of influence". However, the British were determined
to add Mosul, this mainly Kurdish area, to its Iraq colony.
Duly, the British army occupied Mosul four days
after the Turkish surrender in October 1918. In 1921, the
British decided to prevent Iraqi access to the Persian Gulf, so
they simply drew a line across Southern Iraq, thus
creating Kuwait.
Mass revolts broke out in the Mandated Territories, and
the British brooked no dissent in their rule. Winston
Churchill argued 'in favour of using poisoned gas against
uncivilised tribes' and, in 1925, they did just that, when
planes dropped poison gas on the Kurdish town of
Sulaimaniya in Iraq: the first time that gas was deployed in
this way. In a counter-insurgency war against an emerging
independence movement, whole villages were pulverised by
artillery, suspected ringleaders shot without trial, and
malicious weapons, such as phosphorus bombs, and metal
crowsfeet, designed to maim livestock, were introduced.
The US had not helped Britain and France in the First
World War for nothing. Their conditions included various US
post-war economic and political objectives, including
access to new sources of raw materials, particularly oil. The
importance of Mosul to the big powers was based on its
known, but then largely undeveloped, oil resources. In
the face of British-French domination of the region, the US
first demanded an "Open Door" policy; i.e. that US oil
companies should be allowed to freely negotiate contracts
with the puppet monarchy of King Faisal, who was installed
on the throne in 1921 by the British. The result of this was
that Iraq's oil was split five ways: 23.75% each to
Britain, France, Holland and the US, with the remaining 5%
going to an oil baron named Caloste Gulbenkian, known as
"Mr. Five-Percenter", who had helped negotiate the
In 1927, the huge deposits were confirmed in Mosul, and,
within two years, the Iraqi Petroleum Company was set up,
comprising of Anglo-Iranian (now called British
Petroleum), Shell, Mobil and Standard Oil of New Jersey
(Exxon). These went on to totally monopolise Iraqi oil
production. During the same period, the al-Saud family, with
Washington's backing, conquered much of the neighbouring
Arabian Peninsula. Hence, Saudi Arabia came into being in
the 1930s as a neo-colony of the US. The US embassy in
Riyadh, the Saudi capital, was located in the ARAMCO (Arab
American Oil Company) building.
In 1933, King Feisal I died and was succeeded by his son
Ghazi I, whose nationalist sympathies made him the target of
several attempted coups. In 1938, General Nuri
al-Said seized power, aided by an army faction known as the
Seven. The staunchly pro-British Nuri crushed all political
dissent. In April 1939, Ghazi was killed in an
automobile accident (some believe assassinated by the
British), and was succeeded by his infant son Feisal II under a
regent. In March 1940, the anti-British agitator
Rashid al-Gilani became Prime Minister and saw a German
victory in the Second World War as the way of ridding his
country of British domination. On 28th April 1941, he
signed a secret agreement with German and Italian forces in
Baghdad. However, German support never materialised, and
British troops soon reached Baghdad. Churchill cabled
congratulations and noted that the 'immediate task is to get
a friendly Government set up in Baghdad' (some things don't
Once again, post-war, the US wanted payback for its
involvement, and the payback was the same as in the First
World War; US economic and political objectives. This
time, they wanted complete control of Middle East oil, and
saw their chance, given the greatly weakened British Empire.
In the latter stages of the Second World War, the
Roosevelt and Truman administrations, dominated by big
banking, oil and other corporate interests, had been planning
a restructured post-war world to ensure the dominant
position of the United States. The key elements in their
strategy were: 1) US military superiority in nuclear and
conventional weaponry; 2) US-dominated corporate
globalisation, using the International Monetary Fund and
World Bank, created in 1944, and the establishment of the
dollar as the world currency; and 3) Control of global
resources and, particularly, oil. The US leaders were so intent
on taking over Iran and Iraq that alarm bells rang in British
ruling circles - but there was nothing they
could do. Within a few years, the British ruling class had
adapted to the new reality, and accepted its new role as the
US's junior partner.
The US had made it clear that it would give substantial
aid to any Middle Eastern state that would toe the US line.
With the oil industry flourishing, profits were
being invested in ambitious national projects. Iraq - like
many Third World nations in the Cold War era - was forced to
choose between Western powers and the Soviet Union.
In 1953, following the CIA coup that put the Shah (king), in
power, the US took control of Iran. By the mid-1950s, Iraq was
jointly controlled by the US and Britain.
Washington set up the Baghdad Pact in 1955, which included
their client regimes in Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and Iraq, along
with Britain. The Baghdad Pact, or CENTO-Central
Treaty Organization, had two purposes; the main one being to
oppose the rise of National liberation movements in the
Middle East and south Asia. The second was to act as a
military alliance, mirroring NATO, to oppose the Marxist
regimes of Russia and China.
In 1958, King Feisal, his son, and General Nuri Al Said
died in a coup led by the Iraqi army. Brigadier Abd al-Karim
Kassem was named Prime Minister and
Commander-in-Chief. 20,000 US Marines were immediately
landed in Lebanon and 6,600 British paratroopers were
dropped into Jordan. While another upheaval that took place
just six months later in Cuba is better remembered today,
Washington regarded the events in Iraq as far more
threatening to its interests at the time. In 1963, Kassem
himself fell victim to a military coup when he was shot and
replaced by General Aref, who in turn was exiled in a
bloodless coup in 1968 and replaced by General Ahmed
Hassan al-Bakr. Open hostilities with the Kurds broke out in
1974, but the US, who provided them with weapons, failed to
come to their aid when Iraq unleashed a massive
In July 1979, the Ba'ath Party came to power, and Saddam
Hussein became President. The continuing dispute in the
south with Iran over the Shatt Al-Arab waterway led to
the Iran-Iraq War. The US domination of Iran had been ended
by the Islamic revolution in 1979, and both the US and the
USSR assisted and armed Iraq. In reality though, the
aim of the US in the Iran-Iraq war was to weaken both
countries. Henry Kissinger revealed the real US attitude
about the war when he stated, "I hope they kill each other."
The Americans provided Iraq's air force with satellite photos
of Iranian targets. At the same time, as the Iran-Contra
scandal revealed, the US was sending anti-aircraft
missiles to Iran. In a major atrocity, Iraq launched a poison
gas attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja, in which 6,800
Kurds perished. It has been shown since that,
although the US were fully aware that Iraq carried out the
attack, they accused the Iranians of being responsible. More
than a million people had died by the time the war
ended in July 1988.
Iraq-Kuwait disputes over oil and land issues became
increasingly tense, leading to the invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi
forces and then the Gulf War. In July 1990, US
Congress voted to impose sanctions against Iraq. An alliance
of 33 nations launched a six-week long attack in which about
250,000 people died and much of Iraq's
infrastructure was destroyed. Following this, there were
uprisings among the Shi'a population in the south and the
Kurds in the north, in the vain hope of Western military
support. The Kurds were able to gain a UN-sanctioned 'safe
haven' from Iraqi forces presided over by a US-enforced no-fly
zone. The Shi'a revolt was brutally suppressed.
Twelve years of sanctions followed. More than a million
deaths can be traced to their effects. The current US rhetoric
is about "weapons of mass destruction" and
"human rights." The reality is that Washington is neither
concerned about Iraq's military capacity, which has actually
been diminished, nor are they concerned about human
rights anywhere in the world. What is moving US policy
toward Iraq in 2002 is the same objective that motivated
Washington 80 years ago - oil.

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