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 30 December 2012

5 journalists killed in Iraq in 2012

Xinhua reports (December 29th): Five journalists were killed in Iraq's violence during 2012, bringing the number of the journalists killed in the country to 373 since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, an Iraqi journalists' body said.
"The ongoing violence against journalists indicates that media work in Iraq is still dangerous," said a report made by the Iraqi Journalists' Syndicate.

Sunday 23 December 2012

From The Guardian

Baha Mousa doctor Derek Keilloh struck off after 'repeated dishonesty'
The Guardian reports (December 21st): A former army doctor found guilty of misconduct by medical watchdogs over the death of an Iraqi man who was tortured to death by British soldiers has been struck off the register.
Derek Keilloh was found to be unfit to continue to practise after a panel concluded that he acted in a dishonest way after the death of Baha Mousa in September 2003, and had failed to protect other men who were being mistreated at the same time.
MoD pays out millions to Iraqi torture victims
The Guardian reports (December 20th): The Ministry of Defence has paid out £14m in compensation and costs to hundreds of Iraqis who complained that they were illegally detained and tortured by British forces during the five-year occupation of the south-east of the country.
Hundreds more claims are in the pipeline as Iraqis become aware that they are able to bring proceedings against the UK authorities in the London courts.

Sunday 16 December 2012

Iraq abuse inquiry was a 'cover-up', whistleblower tells court

The Guardian reports (December 11th): A former investigator into allegations that British troops abused Iraqi prisoners resigned because she did not want to be implicated in "a cover-up", the high court has heard.
Louise Thomas, 45, left the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) in July because she thought it was not a genuine investigation but a "face-saving inquiry", she told the court.

Sunday 9 December 2012

U.S.-U.K. Genocide Against Iraq 1990-2012 Killed 3.3 Millions

OpEd News reports (December 3rd): Approximately 3.3 million Iraqis, including 750,000 children, were "exterminated" by economic sanctions and/or illegal wars conducted by the U.S. and Great Britain between 1990 and 2012, an eminent international legal authority says.
The slaughter fits the classic definition of Genocide Convention Article II of, "Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part," says Francis Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois, Champaign in an address last Nov. 22 to The International Conference on War-affected Children in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Sunday 2 December 2012


‘Iraqis cannot forget what Americans have done here’
Cathy Breen writes (November 29th): I sat in on a lecture, given in English, to maybe fifty or more young men and women at a college in Ramadi.
An impassioned young woman from the middle of the lecture hall spoke up. It was obviously not easy for her. “It is not,” she said, “about lack of water and electricity [something I had mentioned]. You have destroyed everything. You have destroyed our country. You have destroyed what is inside of us! You have destroyed our ancient civilization. You have taken our smiles from us. You have taken our dreams!”
Someone asked, “Why did you this? What did we do to you that you would do this to us?”
“Iraqis cannot forget what Americans have done here,” said another.

Sunday 25 November 2012

5.3 m Iraqi children deprived of basic rights: UN

AFP report (November 21st): More than five million children in Iraq are deprived of "basic rights," the United Nations said in a statement, calling for urgent action.
"One in every third child in Iraq, 5.3 million children, is still currently deprived of many of their fundamental rights," it quoted Marzio Babille, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Iraq representative, as saying.

Sunday 18 November 2012


Hundreds workers demonstrate in Tahrir Square to demand their rights
NINA reports (November 17th): Hundreds of workers protested in Tahrir Square in central Baghdad, to demand their rights and prosecute corrupt officials.
The head of the General Federation of Trade Unions Qasim Al Shammari told NINA : "The goal of the demonstration is to eliminate corruption , prosecute corrupt officials , approval of the Unified Retirement Law, and enactment of the new social security system".
Protest on the decision of cancelling the ration card starts
Shafaq News reports (November 12th):A  Shafaq News reporter said that "more than 300 people came out today in a demonstration in front of Basra provincial council, demanding the federal government reverse its decision to cancel ration card items. The demonstrators held up banners saying that the government is targeting the poor people in this decision."

Sunday 11 November 2012

A Legacy of the U.S. War in Iraq

Cathy Breen writes for Voices for Creative Non-Violence (November 4th): If anyone thinks that the war is over in Iraq, I have only to open my “At a Glance” calendar where I have tried to note the number of Iraqi casualties each day over the last nine plus years: deaths due to explosions, bombs, assassinations.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Blair video

Blair says it would be 'tragic' if British businesses lost out in Iraq's reconstruction
The Guardian reports (November 5th): Former prime minister Tony Blair warns of a danger that UK companies will lose out to European competitors in rebuilding Iraq. Speaking at a conference in central London, Blair claims Iraq is 'set to be one of the fastest-growing economies in the world' over the next decade, noting that last month's oil exports of Iraq surpassed that of Iran over the same period.

Sunday 28 October 2012

More on the toxic aftermath

The victims of Fallujah's health crisis are stifled by western silence
Ross Caputi writes for The Guardian (October 25th): Four new studies on the health crisis in Fallujah have been published in the last three months. Yet, one of the most severe public health crises in history, for which the US military may be to blame, receives no attention in the United States.
Ever since two major US-led assaults destroyed the Iraqi city of Fallujah in 2004, Fallujans have witnessed dramatic increases in rates of cancers, birth defects and infant mortality in their city. Dr Chris Busby, the author and co-author of two studies on the Fallujah heath crisis, has called this "the highest rate of genetic damage in any population ever studied".
American bombing of Iraq left legacy of deformed babies
Haroon Siddiqi writes for The Star (October 20th): Remember Falluja? That city in central Iraq was the scene of two furious attacks in 2004 by American Marines. That spring, they went on a bombing, shooting rampage to avenge the murder and mutilation of four American mercenaries. Instead of targeting the estimated 2,000 insurgents, the Marines almost levelled the city of 300,000, without conquering it. Seven months later, they attacked again with artillery and bombs in what was described as the bloodiest urban warfare involving Americans since the Vietnam War.
Remember Basra? That southern Iraqi city has been suffering since the first Gulf War, in 1991. Radioactive residue from the 800 tons of bombs and 1 million rounds of ammunition used was soon showing up in babies born with huge heads, abnormally large eyes, stunted arms, bloated stomachs and defective hearts. Later in the 1990s, Basra was hit as part of maintaining the American no fly zone on Saddam Hussein. It was attacked yet again in the 2003 American-British invasion and subsequent occupation.
Now we see that the children of Falluja and Basra are suffering a staggering rise in birth defects, primarily from the metals released by bombs, bullets and shells — the dust that gets into food, water, air, soil and crops.

Sunday 21 October 2012

Stories from Azzaman

Commission orders arrest of Iraqi Central Bank Governor on corruption charges
Azzaman reports (October 15th): In a surprise move, the Commission of Integrity has ordered the arrest of Central Bank Governor Sinan al-Shabibi, his deputy Mudher Aref and 15 other officials, the Central Bank has revealed.
The commission says the arrest orders come following its investigations which have shown that the governor, his deputy and the other officials are implicated in corruption.
Iraq relying more and more on foreign medical doctors
Azzaman reports (October 14th): Iraq, a country which used to export medical personnel to other states, is relying more and more on foreign doctors.
The health system, despite massive allocations, has still not recovered and in certain specializations and consultancies there are not enough Iraqi medical specialists to support the system.

Sunday 14 October 2012


Iraq records huge rise in birth defects
The Independent reports (October 14th): It played unwilling host to one of the bloodiest battles of the Iraq war. Fallujah's homes and businesses were left shattered; hundreds of Iraqi civilians were killed. Its residents changed the name of their "City of Mosques" to "the polluted city" after the United States launched two massive military campaigns eight years ago. Now, one month before the World Health Organisation reveals its view on the legacy of the two battles for the town, a new study reports a "staggering rise" in birth defects among Iraqi children conceived in the aftermath of the war.

High rates of miscarriage, toxic levels of lead and mercury contamination and spiralling numbers of birth defects ranging from congenital heart defects to brain dysfunctions and malformed limbs have been recorded. Even more disturbingly, they appear to be occurring at an increasing rate in children born in Fallujah, about 40 miles west of Baghdad.

There is "compelling evidence" to link the increased numbers of defects and miscarriages to military assaults, says Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, one of the lead authors of the report and an environmental toxicologist at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health. Similar defects have been found among children born in Basra after British troops invaded, according to the new research.

Thursday 11 October 2012

Iraq executes 23 despite international calls to stop

Xinhua reports (October 8th): The Iraqi Ministry of Justice announced that it has executed a total of 23 convicted prisoners during the past five days over terror and criminal charges.
"The number of prisoners who have been executed for terror and criminal charges so far in this year reached to 102, including five female terrorist," it added.

Sunday 7 October 2012

U.S. stole archives and refuses to return them to Iraq

Azzaman reports (October 6th): U.S. occupation troops had stolen more than 20,000 documents and their government now refuses to hand them over to Iraq, the head of Iraqi National Archives Saad Iskander said.
Iskander, in a telephone interview with the newspaper, said the Iraqi Jewish archives were among the treasures U.S. troops had removed from the country.

Sunday 30 September 2012

More daily life

In postwar Iraq, housing is scarce and pricey
Washington Post reports (September 23rd): As Iraq’s economy rattles awake after years of war, the country is experiencing a real-estate boom, with choice properties in Baghdad or in towns such as Karbala or Irbil selling for $500,000 to more than $1 million.
Years of violence, sectarian tensions and international sanctions have left the country with an acute housing shortage that is driving up prices, experts say. The growing country of 30 million needs about 2 million housing units, according to a United Nations estimate.
Historic Baghdad Book Market Bulldozed in Late-Night Raid
Al Monitor reports (September 24th): Iraqi police raided Mutanabi Street in Baghdad, a vital hub of cultural activity in the country, and destroyed the book-fair stalls on the street.
On September 17, bulldozers guarded by armed soldiers stormed the street late at night and smashed the wooden stalls used by booksellers for displaying and selling their books.
The vendors said they did not receive a warning to evacuate the area.
Iraqi night clubs under attack by mysterious agents
Al Arabiya reports (September 22nd): While human rights groups increasingly voice frustration at a wave of assaults on nightclubs and other alcohol-serving venues in Iraq, parties behind the raid and the destruction of some of these places remain shrouded in mystery, at least officially.
“The office of the commander-in-chief of the armed forces issued a statement saying that the orders to close these clubs came from the judiciary, but judicial spokesman Abdul Sattar al-Beer Qadar denied issuing any orders of this sort,” Ali Yazid, manager of alcohol-serving Al-Marshreq Social Club, told Al Arabiya.
Iraqi officials say jailbreak assisted from inside
AP report (September 29th): Iraqi officials said that a jailbreak where al-Qaida-linked militants escaped death row had help from inside, further tarnishing state authority and raising new concerns over corruption.
A day after the escape in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Baghdad, scores of prisoners are still at large.

Sunday 23 September 2012

Anti-war news

Don’t deport war resister Kimberly Rivera
Desmond Tutu writes in the Globe and Mail (September 17th): When the United States and Britain made the case in 2003 for the invasion of Iraq, it was on the basis of a lie. We were told that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, and that these weapons posed an imminent threat to humanity.
 But those who were called to fight this war believed what their leaders had told them. The reason we know this is because U.S. soldiers such as Kimberly Rivera, through her own experience in Iraq, came to the conclusion that the invasion had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, the presence of U.S. forces only created immense misery for civilians and soldiers alike.

Ms. Rivera, who is from Texas, joined the U.S. Army when she was 24 and was stationed in Baghdad. Disillusioned by the reality of civilian casualties, she came to Canada in 2007 and applied for refugee status. She felt she could no longer participate in a war where she was contributing to causing harm and death to innocent people.

The Canadian government has notified Ms. Rivera that she is scheduled for deportation to the U.S. on Sept. 20. Her lawyer says she faces a prison sentence of two to five years on her return. Ms. Rivera lives in Toronto with her husband and four children (two of whom were born in Canada); these are people of courage and peace, and they should be granted asylum.

Sunday 16 September 2012

More bad news from Iraq

Baghdad bans beer: why new Iraqi prohibition is an ominous sign
Niqash reports (September 13th): Unexpected raids on Baghdad’s bars, as well as beaten customers, shocked locals. But it’s not just drinkers who are upset. Activists say it’s the government’s latest plan to curb personal freedoms while MPs pondering re-election in the mainly-Muslim nation haven’t said a word.  
One eyewitness told NIQASH that the raiders had been violent. “They were brutal,” he said. “They entered and told us all to get out immediately. They then went around smashing everything up, including tables and chairs. And then those who were guarding the entrance started beating the people who were trying to leave with sticks and their rifle butts.”
Witch-hunt in Iraq
BBC reports (September 12th): In post-Saddam Iraq, gay men and women have been systematically targeted for death by extra-judicial militias - with the co-operation of the democratically elected government, says Ali Hilli, founder of the London-based group, Iraqi LGBT.
Ex-minister slams Iraq PM for tolerating graft
AFP reports (September 15th): The first minister to quit Iraqi premier Nuri al-Maliki's unity government criticized the prime minister for turning a blind eye to worsening corruption among his loyalists, in an interview with AFP.
Former communications minister Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi, who resigned on August 27, added he was holding documents pointing to graft within the government, but declined to give details, insisting instead they would be released at an unspecified future date.

Tuesday 11 September 2012

We Are at War

Common Dreams reports (September 11th):
On a single day in Iraq there were 29 bombing attacks in 19 cities, killing 111 civilians and wounding another 235. On September 9th, reports indicate 88 people were killed and another 270 injured in 30 attacks all across the country. Iraq continues in a seemingly endless death spiral into chaos. In his acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination for President, Obama claimed he ended the war in Iraq. Well… not quite.
The city of Fallujah remains under siege. Not from U.S. troops, but from a deluge of birth defects that have plagued families since the use of depleted uranium and white phosphorus by U.S. forces in 2004. No government studies have provided a direct link to the use of these weapons because no government studies have been undertaken, and none are contemplated.
Dr. Samira Alani, a pediatric specialist at Fallujah General Hospital, told Al Jazeera,
"We have all kinds of defects now, ranging from congenital heart disease to severe physical abnormalities, both in numbers you cannot imagine. There are not even medical terms to describe some of these conditions because we've never seen them until now."

Sunday 9 September 2012

Daily life

Iraq only producing one third of its electricity needs
Azzaman reports (August 28th): Iraq’s national grid churns about one third the country’s needs for electricity estimated at nearly 15000 megawatts, the Ministry of Electricity said in a statement.
The ministry said Iraq’s current power output was estimated at 5852 megawatts but output was not steady due to unexpected interruptions.
The current level of production, despite investments of billions of dollars, still hovers at rates that were available to Iraqis prior to the 2003-U.S. invasion, and despite the fact that the country then was reeling under punitive U.N. trade sanctions.
Still no clear policy to tackle displacement
IRIN reports (September 4th): A dusty settlement on the outskirts of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, Al-Rustumiya is more a collection of rags, rubble and garbage than a neighbourhood - and yet its residents wish for no more than to be able to stay here.
Squatting illegally on government land, they are under constant threat of eviction, but say they cannot return to their places of origin.
"You can't just leave us in this instability," Abu Ahmed, a representative of the settlement, told a delegation from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) which visited the settlement in July. "We don't want anything from you - just stability." The most important thing, he said, was permanent housing - "anywhere".
Iraq forces raid Baghdad nightclubs
AFP report (September 5th): Owners and employees at Baghdad nightclubs and bars voiced frustration after their establishments were raided by troops who allegedly beat customers and staff.
The raids, the first of their kind in several months, come as the Iraqi capital takes tentative steps to emerge from years of conflict and violence, with a limited nightlife having slowly returned.
Army special forces carried out raids of venues serving alcohol at around 8:00 pm  "at dozens of nightclubs in Karrada and Arasat, and beat up customers with the butts of their guns and batons," said an interior ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Young Iraqis face religious fashion crackdown
AP report (September 3rd): For much of Iraq’s youth, sporting blingy makeup, slicked-up hair and skintight jeans is just part of living the teenage dream. But for their elders, it’s a nightmare.

A new culture rift is emerging in Iraq, as young women replace shapeless cover-ups with ankle-baring skirts and tight blouses, while men strut around in revealing slacks and spiky haircuts. The relatively skimpy styles have prompted Islamic clerics in at least two Iraqi cities to mobilize the “fashion police” in the name of protecting religious values.
Some women have been handed tissues at Kazimiyah checkpoints and told to wipe off their makeup before entering the market, said resident Hakima Mahdi, 59.
Iraq reports looting of 37000 artifacts from southern province
Azzaman reports (September 5th): The southern Iraqi Province of Dhiqar, Iraq’s richest in Mesopotamian artifacts, has reported the looting of nearly 37000 archaeological pieces from ancient sites within its demonstrative borders, according to the  Antiquities Department.

Monday 3 September 2012

Haifa Zangana in The Guardian

Why is Iraq now immune from criticism over appalling 

human rights record?

Three women were among the 21 people executed within one day in Iraq, last Monday. It was followed, two days later, by the reported execution of five more people. The number of people executed since the start of this year is now at least 96 and they are not the only
 The UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, said: "I am appalled about the level of executions in Iraq. I deeply deplore the executions carried out this week, and am particularly alarmed about continuing reports of individuals who remain at risk of execution."

There is also news of another 196 people on death row. According to Iraqi officials, they have all been convicted on charges "related to terrorism," but there is little information about their names, what crimes they committed or whether they have access to lawyers or not. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have previously documented theprevalence of unfair trials and torture in detention in Iraq. Confessions under torture are often the only evidence against a person who has been arrested following a secret informant's report. Parading the accused with their tortured, empty looks on Al Iraqiya, the official TV channel, is the norm. It took a court in Baghdad only 15 minutes to sentence Ramze Shihab Ahmed, a dual Iraqi-UK national, to 15 years' imprisonment after being found guilty of "funding terrorist groups".
Amnesty has obtained and examined court documents and said it believes the trial proceedings were "grossly unfair". Ahmed was held in a secret prison near Baghdad, during which time his whereabouts were completely unknown to his family. During this period Ahmed alleges he was tortured – with electric shocks to his genitals and suffocation by plastic bags – into making a false "confession" to terrorist offences.
So what kind of human rights are observed in the "new Iraq"? Hardly any. The list of abuses is long and the tip of the iceberg is waves of arbitrary arrests (over 1,000 monthly), torture and executions. All are barely noticed by the world media and the US and British official silence is rather convenient to cover up the crimes and chaos they created. From time to time, they break their silence but only to justify their act of aggression. Recently, when Archbishop Desmond Tutu pulled out of a seminar in protest over the presence of Tony Blair, a statement was issued by Blair's office to justify the morality of his decision to support the United States' military invasion of Iraq.
The statement reiterated the plight of Iraqis under Saddam's regime with no mention whatsoever of the hundreds of thousands of victims of the war and endemic abuses of human rights since 2003.
The Nouri al-Maliki government in Iraq with its human rights outfits is following the same path. Its human rights concerns remain focused on the crimes of the previous regime. So do most of the intellectuals and politicians involved in the scramble for seats and favours in Baghdad. People who for years before the invasion of 2003 were highlighting human rights abuses as a reason to invoke war as a prelude to democracy and transparency are now either totally silent or actively covering up the current abuses, despite glaring evidence from international human rights organisations.
The so-called "war on terror" reformulated many aspects of world politics and state accountability has become the first victim of that war. It has acquired variable meanings with highly selective application. Therefore, some governments have "enjoyed" immunity, no matter how brutally they have behaved against their own or other people. The Iraqi regime is one of them.

Saturday 1 September 2012

Press release

Birth Defects study in Fallujah Iraq
A study published today in the Journal of the Islamic Medical Association of North America (1) finds rates of congenital anomaly at birth in Fallujah Iraq to be 11.5 times higher than the comparable rate in Kuwait. In a prospective study begun at the start of 2010, each case of congenital malformation was examined at birth at one of three clinics at Fallujah General Hospital together with details of the type of malformation and parental information on possible causes (e.g. consanguinity, smoking, drugs during pregnancy, age of mother etc). There were 291 CA cases registered at birth in the 11 month period at the study’s clinic. The total number of births recorded in the hospital over the period was 6015.
The CAs included 113 heart and circulatory system cases, 72 nervous system cases, 40 digestive system cases, 9 genitourinary cases, 6 ear, face and neck cases, 7 respiratory cases and 30 Down syndrome cases.
The authors concluded that the many anecdotal reports of unusually high levels of congenital malformation in Fallujah were supported by this study. Discussing the findings, the authors regard the findings as proof of the exposure of the population of Fallujah to some genetic mutagen employed during the 2004/5 USA led attacks on the city. On the basis of earlier work (2) where measurement was made the concentration of 52 elements in the hair of the mothers of children with birth defects the authors concluded that the most likely exposure was to Uranium which was present in the mothers at unusually high concentrations and which was found, through studies of long hair which could be used as a historic exposure record, to be much higher at the time of the attacks on the city.
Prof Christopher Busby said: This study has been difficult to get published. The World Health Organisation contacted me last year following our initial report (3) and my presentation at the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Their representative asked me to collaborate on a study in Iraq, both of Fallujah and in other parts of the country, and I agreed. But after I told them I had to be closely connected with the data collection so I could be sure of the results, I heard no more. The present paper was sent to four different journals, including The Lancet, and all refused to publish it, in one case even refused to look at it. The authors have been subject to continuous attacks on their credibility. If independent science dies, through threats, funding cuts and fear, then there is no hope for the human race. Scientific truth will be controlled by political power. The Islamic Doctors in the USA are to be congratulated for their brave decision to publish this important study.
Malak Hamdan added: The World Health Organisation promised to conduct a pilot study to find the rates of congenital anomaly in Iraq including fallujah - where is this report?. These babies, these children and their mothers need our help, the doctors in Fallujah are helpless, they need equipment, experts, they are desperate for governmental support. Why is the world so silent?
Christopher Busby: +44 1970 630215; +447989428833
(1) Alaani Samira, Al-Fallouji Mohannad A.R., Busby Christopher* and Hamdan, Malak (2012) Pilot Study of Congenital Anomaly Rates at Birth in Fallujah, Iraq, Journal of the Islamic Medical Association of North America 44(1), 1-5 (http://jima.imana.org/article/view/10463/44-1-10463)
(2) Alaani Samira Tafash Muhammed, Busby Christopher*, Hamdan, Malak and Blaurock-Busch Eleonore (2011) Uranium and other contaminants in hair from the parents of children with congenital anomalies in Fallujah, Iraq Conflict Health 5, 1-15
(3) Busby, Chris*; Hamdan, Malak; Ariabi, Entesar. (2010) Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005–2009. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 7, no. 7: 2828-2837.

Friday 24 August 2012

More Muttitt

Mission Accomplished for Big Oil?

Greg Muttitt reports for Znet (August 24th): Here, as a start, is a little scorecard of what’s gone on in Iraq since Big Oil arrived two and a half years ago: corruption’s skyrocketed; two Western oil companies are being investigated for either giving or receiving bribes; the Iraqi government is paying oil companies a per-barrel fee according to wildly unrealistic production targets they’ve set, whether or not they deliver that number of barrels; contractors are heavily over-charging for drilling wells, which the companies don’t mind since the Iraqi government picks up the tab.
Meanwhile, to protect the oil giants from dissent and protest, trade union offices have been raided, computers seized and equipment smashed, leaders arrested and prosecuted. And that’s just in the oil-rich southern part of the country.

Sunday 12 August 2012

Patrick Cockburn on Missing Billions in Iraq and Soaring Cancer & Infant Mortality Rates in Fallujah

In Iraq, an official audit by the US Special Investigator for Iraq Reconstruction found that the Pentagon cannot account for almost $9 billion taken from Iraqi oil revenues between 2004 and 2007 for use in reconstruction. Meanwhile, a new medical study has found dramatic increases in infant mortality, cancer and leukemia in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which was bombarded by US Marines in 2004. We speak with Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent for the London Independent. [includes rush transcript]

Wednesday 8 August 2012

The Unfinished Story of Iraq's Oil Law: An Interview with Greg Muttitt

“No Blood For Oil” was a slogan featured on many a sign in demonstrations during the run up to the US-led invasion of Iraq, and throughout the early years of the occupation as global opposition to it grew. But as Iraq faded from the headlines in 2009, the struggle over its oil continued. In the following interview, Greg Muttitt, investigative journalist and author of the groundbreaking Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq (2012), discusses the attempts by occupying forces, multinational oil giants, and newly minted Iraqi “leaders” to privatize Iraq’s oil. Having worked directly with Iraq’s oil unions, Muttitt also describes the heroic role that Iraqi civil society played in challenging these efforts, how it all shook out and where it might be headed today, at an especially sensitive moment when the Iraqi labor movement is facing a series of fresh attacks. The audio interview was conducted on 13 July 2012, and what follows is an edited transcript.
Ali Issa (AI): Based on the hundreds of US/UK documents you have unearthed, what were your findings about the role of oil in the Iraq War?
Greg Muttitt (GM): Unsurprisingly, the documentary record shows that oil was a central part of the strategic thinking behind the war, and consistently shaped the conduct of the occupation. My book is primarily about what happened during the occupation. The United States, Britain, and the “international community” were keen to see Iraq’s oil developed through foreign investment. It was not so much about helping out their own corporations—that was a secondary concern for them. What they wanted was to see foreign investment in Iraq as a starting point for opening up the other nationalized industries, especially of the region, so as to get oil flowing more quickly. Iraq’s oil sector had been nationalized since the 1970s. The nationalization took place mostly in 1972, and the final phases of it continued until 1975. Essentially, what they wanted to do was to reverse that: put multinational oil companies back in the dominant role in the Iraqi oil sector.

AI: You place the struggle over Iraq’s “oil law” at the center of Iraq’s recent history. What is the oil law, how has it evolved, and what is its present status?
GM: The oil law was drafted in 2006, after the first post-Saddam permanent government was formed. Then the Bush administration pushed it especially hard through 2007.
The law had three purposes. The first was to create a framework in which multinationals would have a primary role in developing Iraq’s oil industry, and to determine exactly the extent of that role, what rights they would have, and the extent of their powers. The second element was to clarify how that would work in an emerging federal system in Iraq. To put it simply: With whom would they sign contracts? Was it with the central government in Baghdad, or was it with regional governments—in particular, the only one that exists so far, the Kurdistan regional government?  
The third element of the law was to essentially disempower parliament in relation to decisions around oil. . . . Since 1967 Iraq has had a law in place, No. 97, which said if the government were to sign contracts to develop oil fields and run them, the parliament would have to sign a specific piece of legislation to approve them. [In other words,] the parliament would have to say, “We support and agree with this contract and we give it validity in law.” That was still in force in 2003, and indeed in 2006. The government could legally sign contacts with foreign companies. But if it did so, it would have to get the OK from parliament for them to have any force. Therefore, the most important role of the oil law of 2006/2007 was not [so much] to allow contracts to be signed by multinationals, as that was already possible. It was to allow them [i.e., the contracts] to be signed without parliament having any oversight.
Incidentally, the importance of parliamentary oversight is that oil accounts for over ninety-five percent of government revenue. So it is quite reasonable for parliament to have some say in how that works.  
So this was the oil law. The United States, Britain, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and other financial institutions wanted to see it passed as soon as possible once the permanent post-Saddam government was formed in May 2006. As soon as that happened, the United States and the Britain started to say, “your priority is going to be to pass the oil law.” I have documents from that period which make this very clear. They moved very quickly to draft an oil law in August 2006, and it basically delivered those three asks of it. Getting this law passed in parliament became the major political priority of the United States.
AI: But the law did not pass. What prevented its passage?
GM: There were two barriers to it passing. Only one of them was recognized. First, there were disputes between Iraq’s politicians—primarily, between Kurdish politicians and everyone else. The dispute was over the degree of decentralization. Essentially, it was a squabble between politicians – who thought only about their own interests, or about their ethno-sectarian groups’ interests – about which of them would get the right to sign contracts and thereby control revenues. This dispute over decentralization slowed down the law’s progress, and people on either side of that debate leaked it to their allies.
This led into the second factor, which was the overwhelming opposition within the Iraqi population to giving multinationals such a central role. I think this was very well known by those in the US administration and those in the Iraqi government. So the way they planned to deal with that was by not telling anyone that this oil law was going through. But it leaked in October 2006.

Once it leaked out, it started to spread into civil society. In December 2006 I attended a meeting of Iraq’s trade unions in Amman. They were discussing the law and decided that they were going to campaign against it. Their strategy, which began in early 2007, was basically just to get it known about: to tell people about it. So they produced pamphlets, which they handed out to their members and to the general public. They also organized conferences, public meetings, demonstrations, etc. The more this was done, the more people knew about it, the more anger there was that in secret this government — that had a fairly limited mandate given the circumstances of an election under occupation — was trying to push something through that the occupation powers were demanding, and that looked like it would do considerable damage to Iraqi interests and the Iraqi economy. Iraqis feel very strongly that oil should remain in Iraqi hands, not least because of their historical experience with foreign companies. So during the course of 2007 this opposition spread. One after another, new groups and new constituencies got involved in it.
AI: What did the Bush administration do?
GM: At the same time that opposition to the oil law was spreading, through the first half of 2007, the Bush administration was ramping up the pressure on the Iraqi parliament to get it passed. They were very frustrated and angry that it had not been passed at the end of 2006. All the time, they claimed publicly that it was the dispute with the Kurds over decentralization that was holding things up. They then claimed that the law was about the sharing of revenues between different groups, which it was not at all.
The surge, which was announced in January 2007, sending an extra thirty thousand troops to Iraq was very clearly one side of a two-part strategy. You can read this in the documents published by the Bush administration at the time. It was called “The New Way Forward,” and its two parts were . . . to send thirty thousand troops, to control and pacify the country, and . . . to use that control delivered by the extra military force to push Iraqi politicians to deliver what they called benchmarks—markers of political progress. By far the foremost among these was passing the oil law. It was all they ever talked about. In meetings with members of the Maliki government, US administration officials kept saying, “When are you going to pass the oil law, where is our oil law?”  
Also during this period there were very strong indications from the US military that if the oil law was not passed, the Maliki government would no longer have the support of the United States. . . . Maliki very clearly understood it as a threat to remove him from his job. So through the course of 2007 you had pressures increasing on both sides. On one side you had pressure from Iraqi civil society started by the trade unions, but spreading into broader civil society—religious and secular, also the professionals who ran the oil industries since nationalization—all of them were saying, "this oil law is bad news for Iraq, do not pass it." At the same time you had the Bush administration applying more and more pressure to get it passed.
AI: What was the outcome?
GM: The popular opposition to the oil law grew so great that it started to spread into parliament. And members of the Iraqi parliament started to see a political opportunity in opposing the oil law, and a political threat in supporting it, a threat to their future political careers. . . . By around July 2007, the majority of the Iraqi parliament was against it. The US administration had set a deadline for passing the oil law, September 2007, and this was when General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker were going to report to Congress on how the surge was going, and they were very clearly saying to the Iraqi government, “give us the benchmarks, give us the oil law by September, otherwise you will face all of these consequences that we warned you of.” But by that stage it was a majority of the parliament that was against the oil law; they could not therefore get the oil law approved by parliament. The September deadline arrived, and there was no oil law. Today there is still no oil law.
To me that is quite a remarkable story, and it is an untold story. It is remarkable in that Iraqi civil society was able to prevent the United States from getting this absolutely vital objective, in which they had invested so much political capital, simply through talking about it. It was partly a measure of the distance between what the United States was demanding — and absolutely desperately wanted — and what the vast majority of Iraqis really passionately felt should happen But I think the consequence beyond that is that having invested all that political capital and failed to get the oil law, September 2007, I think, marked the beginning of the decline of US influence in Iraq. We saw that much more clearly through the course of 2008, in particular the failure to get the treaty to keep US troops indefinitely, the Status of Forces Agreement had a three-year term limit. But I think it was this moment, having thrown all that political capital into getting something and then failing, which marked the shift in Iraqi politics from being absolutely dominated by the United States to having a rising Iraqi voice.
AI: Why then are multinational oil companies are in Iraq now?
GM: In the latter half of 2009 the Iraqi government awarded several contracts to foreign companies – BP, Shell, Exxon, and so on – even without the oil law, and without showing them to parliament. They are a hybrid form of contract, not the production sharing agreements the companies really wanted, and importantly they are technically illegal, since Law 97 is still in force and they have not been approved by parliament.
AI: The challenge to oil law succeeded, so the contracts could be declared illegal in a future Iraqi government. What are the conditions necessary for a second challenge, a second wave to come up against these contracts that have been signed? 

GM: After the first contracts were signed in 2009, there was a member of the Iraqi parliament – Shatha al-Musawi – who challenged the first of the contracts, which was with BP, in the Iraqi Supreme Court. Her challenge was unsuccessful, but not on substantive legal grounds. It was rather stopped on process grounds. The Supreme Court has been quite problematic over the last few years in that the Maliki government has had increasing influence over its decisions, and that has been seen in a number of decisions that have gone the way that Maliki wanted them to, in contradiction to where the law as written should have pushed it. That was seen especially after the 2010 election when Maliki was given the right to form the government rather than it being given to Allawi. That decision was the Supreme Court’s. There are strong indications that he has channels of influence. In the case of Shatha al-Musawi’s challenge to the BP contract, what happened was that the court ordered her to pay a deposit of three hundred million Iraqi dinars, which was about 225,000 dollars at the time. She was ordered to pay that, and it would be returnable if she won. She did not have that kind of money, so the case collapsed. So in order to carry out a legal challenge in Iraq, I think what would be needed would be some means of containing government influence over the Supreme Court. A way of containing that might be a set of institutions that are backing the case financially, institutionally, and politically, such that it becomes difficult for the Maliki government to steer the court or for the court to side with the Maliki government. But that is the major block there.
On the other hand, I think that where such a challenge could come from is most likely the government itself. This is traditionally where challenges to contracts come from in oil-producing countries. A government says, this is not in our interest, we are going to change the terms, or we are even going to cancel it. This has happened a lot over the past decade around the world. Now companies use legal mechanisms in the contracts to prevent governments from doing that—to get the contracts judicable in international investment tribunals, rather than in the courts of the country. . . .
The fact is that these contracts are not validated within Iraqi law. That Iraqi law requires parliamentary approval, and parliamentary approval has not been sought or given, means that if a future Iraqi government were to change the terms of the contracts or even tear them up, and if the companies concerned went to an investment tribunal, in Europe or in the United States, the government could argue, and I believe it would have a very strong case, that these contracts are not legal, because look: here is the law No. 97 of 1967, it is still in force, it says you have to get parliamentary approval, you did not; therefore, they are void. Now the conditions for that to happen would be a government that believed there was a problem with the contracts, and probably it means a different government from the current one. It would be politically embarrassing to say the least for the current government to argue that they are illegal on the basis of what this same government did not do—take it to parliament. So a change in the government could drive this.
But Iraqi politics strikes me as very fluid at the moment. I could not predict what the nature of the Iraqi political system will be in a year’s time. I think it is hard to say whether Maliki will still be there; it is more likely that he will than he will not, but I would not put a great deal of money on it.
AI: In their rejection of the oil law, did you get a sense for what unions and civil society was positively hoping for? Are their concrete visions much like the nationalization of pre-1990 Iraq, or do they differ?
GM: When you look at the history of the Iraqi oil industry, the most successful period, of which Iraqis in the oil sector field are very proud, is the period immediately after nationalization. So from 1972 to 1979, for instance, production increased from 1.5 million barrels a day to 3.5 million. . . . They were finding greater quantities of reserves each year than were found in the whole of the rest of the world put together. What I heard, especially from the senior managers and technicians in the oil industry, was that if you want to run a technically successful oil industry in Iraq—and that was what they were interested in since they were technocrats—then the way to do it is to keep it in the public sector. The only reason you would privatize it and bring in foreign companies is for ideological reasons. . . .
I think the only problem with keeping the oil industry in the public sector was that Iraq was behind on technology as a result of the sanctions period. But many people recognize that technology is something you can buy. You can hire a company like Schlumberger to come and install some if its new separators, or pumps, or whatever it is. They can install them, they can train the Iraqis how to use them, and they can even operate them for a couple of years until the Iraqis have got the hang of it—quite straightforward. But that is very different from signing a twenty-year contract that gives a company like BP or Exxon control over the oil field, management of it.
I think where there was some debate was exactly how far you would go in terms of letting foreign companies in. There were varying degrees of pragmatism towards that. Some said, Well maybe it is OK to have BP for five years. Or maybe it is OK to have BP as long as they are in a junior role. The absolute objection was to the idea of putting a company like BP in control, having the primary management and decision-making role for a long period, like twenty years. Especially when there was homegrown Iraqi expertise. So that’s what I was hearing. . . .
AI: You have written that the decimation that the sanctions caused triggered a kind of slow rebuilding of the oil industry by many of the technicians that remained, and all of that then played an important role in a sense of ownership over that rebuilding. So the other side of the reaction to sanctions seems to have been a maintenance and even a strengthening of a national consciousness that then played an important role in Iraqi civil society’s response to the oil law.
GM: The way one of the oil workers in Basra put it to me was, Look—we Iraqis have rebuilt our oil industry three times. We rebuilt it in the late 80s after the war with Iran. We rebuilt it after the Gulf War, and we did so then under sanctions, when it was especially difficult. And we rebuilt it after 2003. Well Halliburton was getting paid for doing it but essentially doing nothing. We have rebuilt our oil industry three times, and that gives us a sense of ownership over, and belief in, our oil industry. This is something we rebuilt. It is very different from when you pay someone to come in and rebuild it for you. And that is not something we will willingly hand over.

Thursday 26 July 2012

Amnesty alert

Iraq Urged to Halt Executions after Court Upholds 196 Death Sentences
AI report (July 24th): Amnesty International urged Iraqi authorities to commute all pending death sentences and impose a moratorium on executions with a view to abolish the death penalty after the chief of police in the Iraqi governorate of Anbar announced on Monday a Court of Cassation decision to uphold 196 death sentences in the region.

Sunday 22 July 2012

More MoD obstruction

MoD accused of withholding evidence of 'shocking' treatment of Iraqi civilians
The Guardian reports (July 19th): The Ministry of Defence has been accused of withholding evidence of "truly shocking" treatment of civilians in an incident involving the most serious allegations made so far against British forces in Iraq.
Interrogations by British military personnel involved "young men of 18, 19, and 20, some seriously injured with gunshot wounds, being stripped naked, forced to stand, not given appropriate medical treatment, and threatened with violence whilst still under the shock of capture in the middle of the night", said Patrick Connor QC, counsel for the Iraqi detainees.
He was addressing a hearing relating to the public inquiry into allegations that British soldiers murdered a number of Iraqis and abused others in May 2004 after the soldiers had been involved in a fierce gun battle.

Monday 25 June 2012

Journalistic freedom further threatened

Iraqi authorities order closure of 44 news organisations
AP reports (June 24th): An Iraqi press freedom group has condemned authorities for ordering the closure of 44 news organisations, including a US-funded radio station.

No media outlet is reported to have been forced to close so far but critics say the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is sending a warning to the media.

The dispute calls into question the future of Iraq's fledgling democracy, nine years after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and six months after the last of the US troops who overthrew him withdrew.

Ziyad al-Aajely, the head of the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, called the move to shut down media offices "a setback to the freedom of journalism in Iraq."

Sunday 17 June 2012

More on Baba Mousa

Scots doctor accused of covering up Iraqi abuse
Herald Scotland reports (June 6th): A Scots-trained doctor could be struck off by his professional body next week over allegations he covered up the abuse of Iraqi civilians by British soldiers.
The General Medical Council (GMC) will convene its Fitness to Practise Panel in Manchester to consider the role played by Dr Derek Keilloh in the death of Baba Mousa and the treatment of other Iraqi detainees in Basra over two days in 2003.
Baha Mousa death: army doctor 'ignored cries of tortured men'
The Guardian reports (June 13th): A British army doctor present at the death of hotel worker Baha Mousa was a criminal who ignored the cries of men who were being tortured, a tribunal has heard.
Dr Derek Keilloh is appearing before the medical practitioners tribunal service in Manchester, the judicial arm of the General Medical Council, accused of a cover-up over the death of Mousa, who was beaten to death by British soldiers in September 2003.
The tribunal heard from Ahmed al-Matairi, who said he was taken to see Keilloh after he had undergone days of beatings by soldiers who would kick him in the kidneys, legs and in the location of a hernia. He was in a "bad state" and "between life and death" when he was finally taken to the medical centre.
Naked from the waist down, he was handcuffed when Keilloh examined him, he said. He claimed the doctor warned soldiers not to hit him any more or he could die. "He just had a look at my hernia, leg, kidney and said to them don't hit me. He is a criminal. He should not be a doctor."

Friday 8 June 2012

The corporate capture of Iraq

 Jacket image for Making the World Safe for Capitalism   

A review of Making the world safe for capitalism: How Iraq threatened the US economic empire and had to be destroyed, by Christopher Doran, published by Pluto, price £17.99 pbk.

Why did the US invade Iraq? Christopher Doran’s new study argues that the policy has been a success, if the true motivations behind the Occupation are considered.

First, the US sought to demonstrate that there is no alternative to the debt-ridden, IMF-dominated, neoliberal model of “development” favoured by the US. The best educated country in the Middle East, with free health care and the highest level of female participation in public life, would not be permitted to exemplify an alternative model.

Beyond this, the US wanted to create the first real free market state in the region. The protection of the oil ministry by occupying forces soon after the invasion, while Iraq’s cultural heritage was looted was not a “mistake”. Nor was the sectarian constitution or the institutionalisation of terror - all part of a Shock Doctrine that facilitated the introduction of a deregulated, privatised economy. The result is social devastation, but an Iraq open for business.

Secondly, oil - not just as a material resource, but because of the leverage it confers. Iraq alone has oilfields that rival Saudi Arabia’s and can challenge that country’s accommodation to the US - affordable oil and the recycling of petrodollars into the US economy, to the tune of $1 trillion between 1973 and 2000.

“There are only two credible reasons for invading Iraq,” wrote a former top British civil servant in 2004. “Control over oil and preservation of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.” “If anything put the final nail in Saddam Hussein’s coffin,” agreed banker Richard Benson, “it was his move to start selling oil in euros.”

If other countries followed this lead, then the dollar would cease to be the world’s oil-trading currency and dollar investments that get recycled into the US economy would reduce drastically. It is these investments that allow the US to be $15 trillion in debt - without them the US empire would simply crumble. Continuing to price oil in dollars, which the Saudis have agreed to, allows the US Treasury to run up unpayable debts, print money and buy oil, something no other country could do.

These concerns about Iraq were expressed within the Bush Administration well before 9/11. Immediately after, the Administration made a series of false allegations, widely repeated, about Iraq’s non-existent al Qaeda links and weapons of mass destruction. The 2003 invasion allowed the US to impose its economic doctrines on a defeated people and sell off the country’s industries to foreign corporations at prices set by the occupiers. The money raised went into a Development Fund that helped pay for the Occupation. Tariffs were scrapped, throwing the Iraqi economy open to subsidised imports that wrecked domestic production.

None of these measures were seen - let alone discussed - by Iraqis before being decreed. And awarding contracts almost exclusively to US companies increased Iraq’s dependence on the Occupation itself.

Unsurprisingly, fraud and corruption were extensive. Popular protests were fiercely repressed, nowhere more so than in Fallujah, a city almost totally destroyed by Coalition forces in 2004. The effects of chemical weapons used in the onslaught are still being felt in the city’s alarming rates of cancers and birth defects.

But in one important respect, the Occupation suffered a setback. The successful mobilisation of Iraqi civil society, led by its independent trade unions, defeated the US’s proposed oil law that would have expropriated Iraq’s vital natural resource.

It doesn’t stop with Iraq. The creation of a Middle East Free Trade Area is opening up other economies in the region to US penetration. But it has also led to skyrocketing food prices, a key factor in triggering the “Arab spring” - most impressively in Bahrain. In February 2011, 200,000 people out of a population of 1.2 million protested. With US collusion, Saudi troops entered the country to mete out repression.

The book contains rare coverage of the impact of the US Occupation on Iraqi agriculture - in short, the abolition of price supports, the opening up of the sector to US agri-business conglomerates and the introduction of GM crops. The results have been catastrophic: Iraq’s wheat yield in 2010 was 1.86 million tonnes - a stunning drop from the 2.6m Iraqi farmers produced under sanctions in 2002. But it was not so disastrous for the US: agriculture-related products dominate US exports to Iraq, averaging $1.5 billion a year.

So was the conquest of Iraq a success? Yes, concludes Doran, but only according to the twisted logic of neoliberalism, where “the role of government is no longer to ensure its citizens have food, shelter, water and health care; these are now things to be commodified from which new corporate profit can be extracted.”

Sunday 3 June 2012

So now we know

Oil Output Soars as Iraq Retools
NY Times reports (June 2nd): Despite sectarian bombings and political gridlock, Iraq’s crude oil production is soaring, providing a singular bright spot for the nation’s future and relief for global oil markets as the West tightens sanctions on Iranian exports.
Energy analysts say that the Iraqi boom — coupled with increased production in Saudi Arabia and the near total recovery of Libya’s oil industry — should cushion oil markets from price spikes and give the international community additional leverage over Iran when new sanctions take effect in July.
“Iraq helps enormously,” said David L. Goldwyn, the former State Department coordinator for international energy affairs in the Obama administration.

Sunday 20 May 2012

Challenging immunity

Lower courts to hear Iraqi civilians' claims of beatings, forced nudity, broken bones, and rape
Center for Constitutional Rights reports (May 15th): Today, a federal appellate court dismissed the appeals of two private military contractors who had argued they were immune from litigation when they engage in torture. The corporate defendants, CACI and L-3, have argued that they should receive the same protections as the United States government and that, therefore, any of their wartime activities - including torture - are similarly beyond review of the courts.
The corporate defendants in the consolidated cases, who were hired to provide interpretation and interrogation services, are alleged to have subjected the plaintiffs to electric shocks, rape and other forms of sexual assault, forced nudity, broken bones, and deprivation of oxygen, food and water. The two cases were brought on behalf of 76 Iraqis who were subjected to brutal, sadistic acts in detention centers Iraq by employees of the corporate defendants.