Sunday, 30 September 2007

Is Iraq a sovereign state?

The recent scandal surrounding the Blackwater USA Security Company in Iraq once again highlighted a question that many observers say is the very essence of the problems – and the ultimate solution – to the instability and violence in the war torn country. It’s a simple enough question: Is Iraq a sovereign country?

And the equally simple answer to that question is no, Iraq is essentially a vassal or client nation of the United States.

All the evidence suggests that every action of the Bush administration, from manufacturing an excuse to invade, to the distribution of the nation’s natural resources, was to create a satellite state with all the trimmings of democracy, sovereignty and independence – but one where the United States basically controls everything.

Brian Becker, co-founder of the Answer Coalition in Washington says there is no doubt that the U.S. government has absolute control over Iraq's sovereignty, making Baghdad’s sovereignty a mockery.

“You can't really have freedom when you have tens of thousands – or in the case of Iraq – 160,000 foreign troops that occupy your soil. Troops that have the capacity to go wherever they want, arrest whoever they choose, who shoot and kill whoever they choose – and on top of that – you have another 100 to 150-thousand contractors who are not subject to Iraqi law, they cannot be prosecuted in Iraq when they commit crimes,” he said.

In June 2003, Coalition Provisional Authority chief Paul Bremer promulgated the CPA Order 17, a decree that exempted coalition staff, both military and civilian contractors from Iraqi legal action.

“It’s a truism of political philosophy,” said New York based political analyst Stephen Eric Bronner, ” a sovereign state has a monopoly control over the means of coercion. Which means it has monopoly control over the army, over the police and the like. This is obviously not the case for the government in Baghdad.”

The inability of the Iraqi government to investigate, bring prosecutions or even order a halt to the operations of Blackwater USA has resulted in a situation where you have a state that is recognized by other states – so it has external sovereignty if you like – but has no internal sovereignty, he said.

Eight Iraqi civilians were killed and more than a dozen were wounded when Blackwater security guards opened fire on a Baghdad street in early September. The Blackwater guards were accused of firing randomly at innocent citizens after mortar rounds had landed near their convoy.

The Iraqi government ordered Blackwater, which has more than 1,000 employees in the country, to cease operations. The company was then told to get out of Iraq, an order that was later countermanded by the U.S. embassy.

“There is no doubt about who is the most powerful man in Iraq,” said Sabah Jawad of the London-based Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation, “its Ryan Crocker, the American ambassador.”

Brian Becker said the Blackwater incident was a clear indication of the lack of sovereignty enjoyed by the administration in Bagdad, “It was a dramatic revelation of the lack of authority of a government to control private hired guns who are killing its own people and who – as the government rightly said – killed those people in cold blood. “

He said, “The Blackwater company is only accountable to itself and its own relationship with the Bush administration. They've basically been given a license to kill.”

By some estimates there are as many as 180,000 security contractors currently working in Iraq, and all of them have the same level of protection from prosecution under Order 17 as that enjoyed by the Blackwater employees.

Another clear indication of who is actually making the strategic decisions in Iraq, analysts say, was last week’s non-binding resolution passed in the U.S. Senate to divide Iraq into three distinct federal districts based on religion and ethnicity.

“There is the same sort of imperial arrogance where the Senate votes to partition Iraq as if that's somehow in the domain of U.S. elected lawmakers to decide the fate of Iraq's future,” Becker said.

The partition resolution came as no surprise to Sabah Jawad, “Its one of those things that makes you extremely irritated that the United States talks about partition,” he said, “The Bush administration has been at it since day one of the occupation. It’s a plan of divide and rule against the Iraqi people. “

In his address to the United Nations General Assembly last week, an outraged Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki described the partition plan as a catastrophe for Iraq and said the idea had absolutely no popular support in the country.

Political analyst Bronner agreed, “You can make an argument that this might be the best plan to split up Iraq into Sunni, Shia and Kurdish states, the problem is, there is no support for this in Iraq itself among its parties.

“So what happens is another attempt at imperialist arrogance to assert itself – the United State will decide what happens to Iraq without reference to the Iraqi people. “

Becker pointed out other examples that he says are clear examples of Baghdad’s lack of authority, notably the arrest of Iranian officials and businessmen on suspicion of aiding insurgent groups in Iraq.

“I think the arrest of the Iranian officials is particularly egregious and revealing. How is it that guests of the Iraqi government can be arrested by the occupying forces?” he asked. “If you look at all these incidents put together we can see that what's really happening to Iraq is the destruction of a nation.”

Bronner said the invasion and occupation of Iraq has crippled the country, and isn’t optimistic.
“You cannot talk of genocide in Iraq, but you can talk about societcide – the destruction of a society – and that has happened in Iraq. We're talking about hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead, millions wounded, two and a half million in exile abroad, two million in exile internally. A situation has resulted in which one third of the country is completely incapacitated. “

He said the al-Maliki government is completely paralyzed – and its paralyzed in the first instance because it cannot guarantee security.

The purpose of creating what is essentially a failed state, Jawad claims, is and always was economic hegemony. “We have seen the Americans moving in on the Iraqi economy, and their obvious plan is to loot the Iraqi economy and place it in the hands of foreign multinational companies and banks.”

Becker said the process has already begun and is fairly well advanced.

“The oil companies – like Hunt Oil – are now signing independent contracts with the Kurdish authorities in the northern part of the country as a prototype for what the United States wants to do to Iraq – and if they could – to all the countries in the Middle East.

“Iraq really has no sovereignty and can never really have sovereignty,” he said, “until the U.S. occupation forces in their entirety – both the official military and the private contractors – have been removed from Iraq. “

(The above is based on the transcript of PressTV's "Middle East Today" hosted by Chris Gelken and first broadcast on Saturday, 29th September)

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Lillian said...

Thanks for posting the summary of that edition of "Middle East Today", which I missed due to poor reception. My take is that there’s no knowing when sovereignty will return to Iraq, if the current trend continues. It seems that the toppling of Saddam’s tyranny has not made much difference to the Iraqi people.

Chris Gelken said...

The economic and security situation for the average Iraqi has certainly deteriorated since the invasion of 2003.

Lillian said...

You are absolutely right. That’s what I meant to say.