We call on those states responsible for the invasion and occupation of Iraq to terminate their illegal and immoral war, and express our solidarity with the Iraqi people in their struggle for peace, justice and self-determination.

In particular, we demand:

  1. An immediate end to the US and UK-led occupation of Iraq;
  2. Urgent action to fully address the current humanitarian crises facing Iraq’s people, including help for the more than three million refugees and displaced persons;
  3. An end to all foreign interference in Iraq's affairs, including its oil industry, so that Iraqis can exercise their right to self-determination;
  4. Compensation and reparations from those countries responsible for war and sanctions on Iraq;
  5. Prosecution of all those responsible for war crimes, human rights abuses, and the theft of Iraq's resources.

We demand justice for Iraq.

This statement was adopted by the Justice for Iraq conference in London on 19th July 2008. We plan to publish this more widely in future. If you would like to add your name to the list of supporters please contact us.

Sunday 29 May 2011

Gates applies more pressure to extend deadline

US Defense Secretary Gates urges post-2011 occupation of Iraq

WSWS reports (May 26th): Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged in a speech that the US occupation of Iraq be continued beyond a December 31, 2011 deadline for the withdrawal of all American forces. He argued that the US military must remain on Iraqi soil to counter Iranian influence and maintain US power both within the country and the broader region.

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera reports: 

Sadr supporters rally over US troops in Iraq

Al Jazeera reports (May 26th): Thousands of supporters of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have rallied in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, in a show of force against any extension of US military presence in the country past a year-end deadline.
According to our correspondent, the cleric's loyalists staged a peaceful protest, marching without carrying weapons, but this was no cause for relief.
"They have a message aimed at Americans: if you stay beyond the deadline set by the SOFA agreement, the security agreement signed between the US and Iraq - if they stay beyond that date which is 31 of December, the end of this year, the Mahdi army will resume its military activities and they will battle US forces," Al Saleh said.

Sunday 22 May 2011

But will the US leave?

The Christian Science Monitor reports:

US troops in Iraq: US, Maliki weigh possible extension

CSM reports (May 17th): On paper, the future of the US military in Iraq is clear-cut. US and Iraqi officials say there are no plans and no negotiations to extend the troop presence here past the agreed Dec. 31 deadline – a major political priority in both Washington and Baghdad. But faced with that rapidly approaching date in a newly volatile Middle East, the US, at least, seems to be having second thoughts.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has expressed an openness to keeping a US military presence in Iraq past December.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said on May 11 that he was open to an extended US stay if there was enough backing from Iraqis.
The US plans a large civilian presence in Iraq regardless of whether US forces stay. USAmbassador Jim Jeffrey recently told reporters that the US embassy here, already the biggest in the world, plans to double in size next year to about 16,000 people. 

There's little chance of Iraqis wanting the Us forces to stay, if this report is typical: 

Iraqis Overjoyed at Withdrawal of US Forces from Karbala
FNA reports (May 16th): The Iraqi people in the holy city of Karbala expressed overwhelming joy as they celebrated withdrawal of the United States' occupying forces from their Southern province.
Amaleddin al-Hor, the governor of Karbala described the day as "a national and historic event", and told FNA, "It is a great honor for the people in Karbala province that their province is named as the first clean province in Iraq." 

But reports like this may be promoting a different agenda:

US troops face increasing dangers in southern Iraq

AP report (May 17th): American forces are facing an increasingly dangerous environment in southern Iraq, where Shiite militias trying to claim they are driving out the U.S. occupiers have stepped up attacks against bases and troops.
The uptick in violence serves as a warning about what American forces could face if U.S. and Iraqi officials come to an agreement about keeping more U.S. troops in the country past Dec. 31.

And of course, as official forces withdraw, there is plenty of scope for corporate contractors:

As U.S. military exits Iraq, contractors set to enter

NPR reports (May 17th): A U.S. Army helicopter brigade is set to pull out of Baghdad in December, as part of an agreement with the Iraqi government to remove U.S. forces. So the armed helicopters flying over the Iraqi capital next year will have pilots and machine gunners from DynCorp International, a company based in Virginia.
On the ground, it's the same story. American soldiers and Marines will leave. Those replacing them, right down to carrying assault weapons, will come from places with names like Aegis Defence Services and Global Strategies Group — eight companies in all.

Friday 20 May 2011

Book launch

23 May, 7-9pm: Launch of 'Fuel on the Fire - Oil and Politics in

Occupied Iraq'. Author Greg Muttitt in conversation with Guardian

columnist Madeleine Bunting. Khalili Theatre, SOAS, Thornhaugh Street,

London WC1H 0XG. Organised by War on Want and PLATFORM. Map:

http://bit.ly/lAtG72 More info: http://www.fuelonthefire.com/

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Blair envoy lobbied Iraq Prime Minister for BP 3 months after leaving post

New documents show holes in revolving door regulation

New documents released today show that Tony Blair’s Iraq envoy, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, lobbied the Iraqi prime minister on behalf of BP just three months after leaving Iraq. On joining BP as special adviser in June 2004, Greenstock was ordered by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments not visit Iraq on business, nor have dealings with companies there, for six months [1]. Just three months later however, he met Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi on BP business in London [2]. The meeting was also attended by then BP chief executive Lord Browne.

Greenstock, who as UK Ambassador to the United Nations had made the case for war in 2002, served as UK Special Representative to Iraq from September 2003 to June 2004.

At the September 2004 meeting, the BP team including Greenstock are believed to have pushed for a contract to study the Rumaila field near Basra, Iraq’s largest oilfield. Documents released today also reveal that in August 2004 UK Ambassador Edward Chaplin lobbied the Iraqi Oil Minister to award the deal to BP [3]. In January 2005, BP won the contract. The company’s subsequent studies of the field are believed to be what gave it the advantage to win a 20-year deal to manage it, at an auction in June 2009. Under the contract, BP and its partner CNPC are set to receive returns of up to $660 million per year after tax [4].

The documents were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Greg Muttitt, author of the book Fuel on the Fire – Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq, which was published last month. Muttitt said:

“In June 2004, Jeremy Greenstock dealt with Iraqi politicians as Tony Blair’s envoy, while nearly 9,000 British troops occupied the country. Three months later, he met Allawi on behalf of BP. His lobbying weight so soon after leaving will have been immense, and demonstrates again how BP operates at the very heart of government. No wonder BP is doing so well out of Iraq.”

The revelations will give further weight to calls by campaigners Transparency International in a report on Tuesday for replacing the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments with a tougher system.

Muttitt added:

“The ruling that Greenstock could not do business within Iraq shows up how limp the regulatory system is. All business at the time was being done outside Iraq, for security reasons. And the Committee must have known that BP’s most important business dealings are with governments, not other companies. The Committee allowed Greenstock to comply with the letter of its ruling, while abusing his previous position in exactly the way the Committee was supposed to prevent.”

Greenstock twice gave evidence to the Iraq Inquiry chaired by Sir John Chilcot, but was not quizzed on his BP role.

Sunday 15 May 2011

New Book – Route Irish

Paul Laverty's screenplay of the new film directed by Ken Loach is now available from Route Books.

ROUTE IRISH is a fast-paced conspiracy thriller that delivers a fresh insight into the moral and political corruption at play in Iraq. As well as exploring the actions of private security firms on the ground in Iraq, Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty examine the effects of combat on security contractors – the new ‘soldiers’ of modern warfare – who witness the horrors of combat and are subject to post-combat stress yet receive little support from the state upon return home.
The book of the film features the full screenplay, an introduction from Paul Laverty, the backstory for principle characters Fergus and Frankie, production notes and photographs from the film, plus three key background essays that provide extended context to the film:
Aftermath by Mark Townsend looks at the legacy of the war in the minds of returning British soldiers and the serious consequences for our own communities with the ticking time bomb of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Private Security Contractors in Iraq: the lifeline of neo-colonial rule 
by Haifa Zangana illustrates the how the occupation of Iraq continues its brutality in increasingly private hands.
Justice for Iraq by Mike Phipps calls for justice for a country ravaged by war and occupation in the face of a political establishment with a will for collective amnesia.
Route Irish is available in paperback and for Kindle. 

Corporate takeover

Two Security Firms Win Big Iraq Contracts

Iraq Business News reports (May 6th): Two more security firms have won contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars to build the State Department a private army in Iraq, according to a report from Wired’s ‘Danger Room’.

Contractors Triple Canopy and newcomer Global Strategies Group will contribute to the State Department’s planned protection force of 5,500 contractors.

US doles out billions to mercenaries in Iraq

Press TV reports (May 6th): Private security firms stand to earn at least $3 billion guarding diplomats in Iraq.

In September, the State Department announced a list of eight security companies that will be allowed to bid on a range of "task orders" for security jobs around the world.

Triple Canopy is in line to make $1.53 billion protecting State Department personnel at work, at home and when they travel, while SOC has a deal for $973 million to guard the Baghdad embassy itself. The British firm Global Strategies Group has been hired to protect diplomats at the consulate general in the southern city of Basra for $401 million.

This week's protests

Iraqi oil workers protest over pay, threaten to strike

Reuters report (May 10th): About 300 Iraqi oil workers staged a brief walkout in the southern oil hub of Basra, protesting a lack of financial benefits and threatening to halt production if their demands were not met.

The demonstrators were engineers, technicians and workers at the state-run South Oil Co., which has some 18,000 employees developing some of Iraq’s big oil fields. They protested for three hours at the company’s headquarters in Basra and at another location near an oil field west of the city.
They warned they could shut down production in some oil fields if they were not given financial bonuses similar to those given their peers working in fields that are being developed by international oil companies.


Iraqi protesters demand better services, jobs

AP report (May 13th):  More than 500 Iraqi protesters have gathered in downtown Baghdad, demanding better government services and more jobs.
The demonstration Friday at Baghdad's central Tahrir Square was one of the largest in Iraq in recent weeks.

How flexible is that deadline?

Too flexible suggest three stories from the press this week:

Withdrawal Date For U.S. Troops May Be Pushed Back Beyond 2011

Huffington Post reports (May 11th): The Obama administration is evaluating whether to keep troops in Iraq beyond the planned withdrawal date, a decision that would extend an unpopular war that the American public expected to end this year.
The Status of Forces Agreement signed by Iraq and the United States during the Bush administration says all U.S. troops must leave Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011. But the contract also leaves the door open to further negotiations that would delay withdrawal.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said members of the Iraqi government have indicated they are "very open to a continuing presence" by the United States

Iraqi prime minister weighs possible extension of U.S. forces

CNN reports (May 12th): Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said he will meet with Iraqi political leaders by the end of the month to get their opinions on whether some U.S troops should remain in the country after December, when they are slated to leave.

The 46,000 U.S. troops in Iraq represent about a fourth of the peak force of 171,000 in 2003. Under an agreement with the Iraqi government that was signed by the Bush administration in 2008, all U.S. forces are to be out of Iraq by the end of the year.

US wants to remain in Iraq another 25 Years – MP

Aswat al-Iraq reports (May 13th): (The U.S. has the desire to extend its military presence in Iraq for another 25 years, until the Islamic rule in Iran is toppled, an Ahrar MP declared.

Amir Al-Kinani of Ahrar bloc, affiliate with  the Sadrist Trend, told Aswat al-Iraq that the majority in the Iraqi Cabinet and Parliament support the extension of U.S. military presence.

Wednesday 11 May 2011

So it was all about oil!

Mike Phipps reviews Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq, by Greg Muttitt, published by The Bodley Head, price £14.99 pbk.

Was the invasion and occupation of Iraq the first of a series of new “resource wars”? To answer this, argues Greg Muttitt, we have to rethink our ideas. Forget loading up your ships with as much plunder as they can carry. “A far more valuable prize can be carried in a briefcase or on a laptop computer: contracts, laws and policies that ensure the flow of resources over decades.”

It has been high oil prices, often caused by a shortage of supply, that has caused most recent recessions in the western oil-importing countries. By the end of the 20th century, most oil-rich countries were producing as much as they could. Iraq was the exception. Due to the sanctions imposed after the 1991 Gulf War, only about one-third of its known oilfields were actually producing.

The idea of military action to guarantee oil production doesn’t look so far-fetched, when you look at the west’s bombing of Libya. In 2008, NATO’s Secretary General said NATO’s role in energy security should include helping to coordinate the actions of energy-importing countries. In 2010, Hillary Clinton suggested energy disruptions should be considered grounds for military action.

The overlap between oil executives and policymakers was well-noted in the Bush Administration, with Bush, Cheney and Rice all having been on the boards of oil companies. Less well-known is the degree of pressure oil companies here were putting on the British Government before 2003 and how, post-invasion, the Government pressurised the puppet Iraqi regime on their behalf. This is in stark contrast to Tony Blair’s insistence that an oil motive was “absurd”.

The invasion itself has been well-documented. Over 6,000 civilians were killed by US-led forces in the first three weeks. Some 60% of the national archives were destroyed and all public buildings, with the exception of the Ministry of Oil, were burned, looted or destroyed. This included half the country’s secondary schools, 84% of higher education institutions and most hospitals - despite Blair’s false claim that it was only those that served the political elite. Far from intervening to stop the looting, it is now clear that US troops had explicit orders not to. The US even opened the army arsenals, allowing people to collect weapons without restrictions. Na├»ve error, or deliberate policy?

While the US threw millions of dollars at phoney NGOs, often created in Washington, ordinary Iraqis realised they had to organise themselves to defend their rights. Two months into the Occupation, Basra oil workers had still not received their wages. They blocked off the road and when Coalition troops threatened to shoot, the workers prepared to set fire to the oil tankers. Hasty negotiations ensured they got their pay within 24 hours - a clear lesson in what a union could achieve.

But such independent protests did not fit into the Occupiers’ plans. As Iraqis called for free elections, an internal memo warned “elections could create a legitimate counter authority to the Coalition Provisional Authority.” Instead, an advisory body of Iraqis was appointed, with religious affiliation - something Iraqis traditionally considered unimportant - being a key determinant. Henceforth, politics would not be about ideas, but sects and ethnicities - a recipe for chaos, but convenient for rebranding the Occupation in the western media as a neutral arbiter between warring factions.

Meanwhile, newly revealed documents now show how western oil companies pushed hard for lucrative contracts to be signed by Iraqi puppets appointed by the Occupation. Only the legal shakiness of such deals held them back.

As opposition to the Occupation mounted, the US meted out repression, often brutal, as in Najaf. Some of Saddam’s most vicious Ba’athist agents were recruited to a new intelligence service. Detainees were routinely tortured at Abu Ghraib. Evidence surfaced of the training of “death squads” by the Pentagon.

Fallujah was razed to the ground, men between the ages of 15 and 55 having been denied exit from the city. Banned white phosphorous munitions were used, although the US lied about this at first.

It was in these circumstances that the Occupation held its first “free election” - boycotted by most Sunni parties in protest against Fallujah’s destruction. The newly elected parliament was unrepresentative in other ways, as Iraqis were increasingly coerced to adopt sectarian identities against their will.

Hassan Juma’a, leader of the Basra oil workers union, affirmed that such distinctions were artificial. “If the US did not whip up divisions, they could not divide and rule.” But, as Muttitt notes, “Feeding off the new politics of communal self-interest, sectarian violence escalated” - often to the point where nobody knew who was responsible.

But what of the oil? Just eight days after Iraq’s election in December 2005, the country, crippled by the previous regime’s debts, was obliged to adopt stringent IMF conditions for a loan. In the small print, the IMF imposed a deadline for an oil law, opening Iraq’s energy resources to multinational companies. This was the cue for an army of corporate lawyers to descend to push for watertight contracts that could be enforced in international courts - a robbing of Iraq’s sovereignty.

Muttitt gives a fascinating and detailed account of this process. At one point, he was asked by the UK Foreign Office to “help sell the oil law to Iraqis”. Instead, he travelled to the region to explain its implications to Iraqi trade unionists.

As oil workers began to campaign against the new law, the Iraqi Government clamped down. But the attempt to arrest Hassan Juma’a and others in Basra was thwarted when the general in charge met the union leaders and was won over by the justice of their case! A precarious stalemate ensued, but the campaign against the oil law gathered momentum, reviving a sense of Iraqi nationalism.

Yet the British Government continued to parrot the official Occupation line. “The Government of Iraq is tackling illegal trade union activities within the South Oil Company,” said Minister Kim Howells.

Eventually of course, western oil companies got their contracts, although, without the approval of the Iraqi parliament, they are actually illegal. As production increases, the price will fall, reducing the revenue Iraq gets. If the Government asks the companies to produce less, it has to compensate them, the contracts stipulate. And with Iraq ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, there is likelihood that the ordinary Iraqis will benefit from the sell-off of the country’s natural resources.

Still the deals give far less to investors than would have been the case without the massive campaign against the oil law, led by trade unions and grassroots organisations. This campaign played a unifying role and helped repudiate the sectarian politics imposed by the Occupation. The same spirit was evident in last summer’s demonstrations, fiercely repressed, against power outages and the recent ‘Iraqi spring’ - protests across the country against government corruption and incompetence.

Greg Muttitt has done a brilliant job, both in bringing to life the key players in this story and in detailing how Iraq was deprived of its assets. Fuel on the Fire really is the secret history of the war on Iraq.

Sunday 8 May 2011

The past is always with us

Fallujah, Iraq 2004 - Misrata, Libya 2011

Media Lens report (May 4th): In November 2004, the UN's Integrated Regional Information Network reported the impact of Operation Phantom Fury, a combined US-UK offensive, on Iraq’s third city, Fallujah:
'Approximately 70 per cent of the houses and shops were destroyed in the city and those still standing are riddled with bullets.' ('Fallujah still needs more supplies despite aid arrival,' http://www.irinnews.org, November 30, 2004)
An Iraqi doctor, Ali Fadhil, reported of the city:
'It was completely devastated, destruction everywhere. It looked like a city of ghosts. Falluja used to be a modern city; now there was nothing. We spent the day going through the rubble that had been the centre of the city; I didn’t see a single building that was functioning.' (Fadhil, ‘City of ghosts,’ 


Tugging at Threads to Unspool Stories of Torture

NY Times reports (May 2nd): he first time the Iraqi Army arrested him, he said, soldiers burst into his shop in Baghdad, dragged him out in handcuffs and a blindfold, and took him to a filthy, overcrowded prison. Beatings, rape, hunger and disease were rampant, and he expected at any moment to be killed. He was held for four months, until December 2008.
During an interview here, the shopkeeper, 35, a balding, stocky man wearing a T-shirt and slacks, was calm and soft-spoken at first, but grew increasingly loud and agitated as he told his story. He described enduring episodes of torture, threats by captors to go to his house and rape his wife, and daily horrors like the suicide of a young prisoner who electrocuted himself with wires from a hot plate after being raped by soldiers.
The interview took place at a treatment center that opened in northeast Amman in December 2008 to help Iraqis who were tortured in their own country or who suffer from other war trauma. It is a branch of the Center for Victims of Torture.

Sunday 1 May 2011

Protests latest

Iraqis rally against extending US troop presence
Reuters report (April 24th): Thousands of Iraqis rallied in the northern city of Mosul in one of the biggest protests yet against any extension of the U.S. military presence in Iraq.
On 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.

Iraqi protests met with deadly force

Al Jazeera TV reports (April 26th): Security forces opened fire on protestors in Mosul city's Ahrar Square. In light of the events, the Ninawa provincial council suspended its official duties in the province for one day in protest at the security forces' attack on Mosul demonstrators. 

Iraqi Army force surrounds Mosul’s al-Ahrar square
Aswat al-Iraq reports (April 25th): An Iraqi Army force surrounded al-Ahrar (Liberals) Square in central Mosul, to prevent demonstrators from reaching the square that witnessed a sit-in demonstration over the past few days, a Ninewa security source said.

Activists claim Iraqi agents torturing, intimidating protesters

The National reports (April 28th): Demonstrators in Iraq are being tortured and intimidated by the security services into stopping anti-government protests, political activists say.
In recent weeks, those organising public rallies claim to have been targeted in a campaign of repression by security units, carrying out illegal arrests and abusive interrogations.
Among the allegations made by civil-rights activists are that government forces have beaten, shocked with electrical devices and fabricated criminal evidence against protesters involved in peaceful street rallies.