The murder of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani shone a strobe light on ‘independent’ Iraq, and what we saw was not pretty, writes Eric Margolis
WHAT ever happened to Iraq? Is it not an independent country with a democratic government thanks to the 2003 US invasion? So says Washington.
The murder of the senior Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani suddenly shone a strobe light on ‘independent’ Iraq, and what we saw was not pretty.
Welcome to the new Imperialism 101.
Iraq’s population is estimated about 39 million. The pre-war Iraq of 2003 was broken into three parts by the US-British invasion: the Shia majority; the Kurds in the north; and the Sunnis, with scatterings of other ethnicities. Iraq still remains fragmented into hostile groups.
Its Shia are confusingly allied to the US and Iran. The killing of general Soleimani by the Americans has thrown this alliance of convenience into confusion. Iraqi Kurds are close to the US Central Intelligence Agency and Israel’s Mossad. The Sunnis are left adrift, without any foreign patrons except for other feeble Arab states.
The US maintains a modest garrison of 5,000 infantry in Iraq and three to five air bases, as well as the gigantic fortified US embassy in Baghdad’s heavily guarded Green Zone which contains one of the world’s largest CIA bases. Angry mobs demonstrating in front of the embassy triggered off the chain of events that led to Trump’s murder of general Soleimani. That an impeached president should be murdering foreign figures is a question that Congress must ask.
Before he was murdered, Osama bin Laden called this monstrous Baghdad embassy and its twin in Kabul, ‘crusader fortresses.’ That is indeed their role, and also to serve as the nerve centre for all Mideast operations run by the US. Iraq enjoys some of the world’s largest oil reserves. Where the profit from Iraq’s mammoth oil exports go remains a closely guarded secret.
Combined with Saudi Arabia — also controlled by the US — Iraq gives Washington control of the bulk of Mideast oil. The US no longer relies on oil from the Mideast, being self-sufficient — at least for now. But dominating the Mideast gives the US huge influence over China, Japan, India and Europe, all of whom import oil from there. This is the main pillar of US world power and the supremacy of the dollar.
Returning to Iraq, Washington has imposed an air exclusivity zone there. The real control of flat, largely barren Iraq comes from the air. US war planes based there and in Qatar can blast anything that moves in Mesopotamia. Imperial Britain ruled Iraq the same way, using the Royal Air Force to smash all opposition to the British-installed puppet ruler in Baghdad. In the 1920s, Churchill even authorised the RAF to use poison gas against rebellious Iraqi Kurds as well as Afghan Pashtun tribes.
US-ruled Iraq is not allowed to have a real air force, only a handful of light aircraft. The same ban applies to Afghanistan. Iraq’s so-called army, a mob of unruly militias of the type the Ottomans used to call ‘bashi-bazouks,’ is of little military value though partly equipped by US weapons. They are increasingly being attacked by US warplanes.
The US really runs Iraq from three large air bases that were the target of the recent bloodless Iranian missile attacks. Iraq’s current US-approved prime minister Abdul-Mahdi and its feeble parliament have voted for the ouster of all US forces from Iraq. Good luck to them. Washington will likely ignore Iraq’s supposedly ‘democratic’ government and continue to act as the sultan of Iraq.
Iraq has become the central military base and inexhaustible oil reservoir for the US that was envisaged by the Bush administration and its neocons. That is a major step in the total US domination of the Mideast and its energy resources.
Israel has achieved its long sought goal of removing Iraq from the confrontation over Palestine. With Egypt under a US-imposed dictator, that leaves only demolished Syria to stand up to Israel. The Saudis are gleefully stabbing their ‘brother’ Arabs in the back, as they always have done.
Never in the past half-century have we seen the Arab states so pathetically feeble. Never have we seen Israel so strongly guiding US Mideast policy, including the murder of general Soleimani.
CommonDreams.org, January 11. Eric Margolis is an author, columnist and a veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East.
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