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Thursday, Dec 02, 2021
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Opinion

Defeat in Iraq? Au Contraire

A heated discussion presently rages in the American media. The United States faces a 'defeat' in Iraq, granted, but how big is that defeat going to be? As the great American sage Yogi Berra once reminded us, "It ain't over till it's over."

Defeat in Iraq? Au Contraire
Defeat in Iraq? Au Contraire
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

A heated discussion presently rages in the American media. The United States faces a ‘defeat’ in Iraq, granted, but how big is that defeat going to be? And what can be done to turn it into a success of some sort in terms of the repeatedly stated goal of making Iraq into a functioning democracy? Many wait with bated breath for the Iraq Study Group, set up by the Congress, to wave the magic wand of its report and put everything right. ‘But according to Robin Wright in Washington Post, no matter what the group advises, no big changes should be expected. ‘With the Iraq Study Group report due on Wednesday,’ she writes, ‘the Bush administration has notified allies that it will not budge on certain aspects of Iraq policy, whatever recommendations are put forth by the independent panel of 10 prominent Republicans and Democrats…. At a private briefing for diplomats this past Wednesday, State Department and National Security Council officials said they do not expect any major policy shifts to emerge from either a White House review or the bipartisan panel…. The officials also said any recommendations for policy shifts would have to fit in with long-term U.S. strategic objectives for Iraq, including ensuring that the nation can govern and defend itself and that it is stable, not a threat to neighbors, and an ally in the fight against terrorism.’

In other words, the report at best can only be expected to put forward one more fig leaf, perhaps called a ‘roadmap’—a favorite word currently in Washington—for a safe and quick extraction of the bulk of the American forces from Iraq, and to make the best of what much of the public is beginning to think of as a major defeat for the ambitious neo-cons in Washington. (I explain my emphasis later.) 

Looking at the situation from a different perspective, however, it may be argued that the Bush administration has accomplished what it had actually wanted, while denouncing Iraq’s alleged WMD, al-Qaeda contacts, and nuclear ambitions. As those alleged reasons for a pre-emptive war were proven false, one after another, people took to blaming the war on an alleged desire on the administration’s part to gain control of the Iraqi oil. It was the oil, stupid—said so many. They were only partly right. In the complex matrix of factors, oil was perhaps definitely one of the factors, but more so was the currency in which the oil was to be paid for. An exclusive focus on American consumers’ easy and sustained access to Iraqi oil, I believe, takes us away from what arguably was the more urgent reason in 2003—a potentially serious threat to the hegemony of the American dollar in the oil market.  

Beginning perhaps in 2000, but certainly by 2002, Saddam Hussein had started using the Euro for Iraqi oil transactions. His intention clearly was to incrementally enhance the role of the Euro in the oil market, thus obtaining a new kind leverage in the oil market while also striking back at the United States. Hussein’s move was noticed in Venezuela, and by Spring 2003, Hugo Chavez had publicly expressed a desire to shift to the Euro. It is inconceivable that Washington did not know about Chavez’s intentions when the attack on Iraq began in March 2003. The pre-emption, in other words, was to protect the value of the dollar in the oil market, and not the access to the oil. And in that sense it was as much pre-emptive against Venezuela and other oil-producing countries as Iraq. 

Consider the consequences if first Iraq and then Venezuela had exclusively denominated their oil sales in Euros, followed predictably by Iran. Together the three countries produce as much oil—roughly nine million barrels per day—as do Canada and the United States combined, though still less than what Saudi Arabia alone does. At only $65.00 per barrel, for example, that comes to 213 billion dollars. A huge amount in itself, it is only a small fraction, some would argue, of the total monetary value of the global oil market. But such a major shift has not happened before, and, more importantly, it could justifiably be expected to produce some ripple effect, reducing the dollar’s strength in the oil market, while making similar shifts possible in other areas of the global market. It was this far grimmer threat, many argue, that the Bush administration and corporate America faced in 2002, and led them to launch their pre-emptive war.

A similar threat now from Iran, argued William Clark of the Center for Global Research, Canada, in October 2004, may well be the chief reason for the sustained bellicosity against that nation: ‘…. a potentially significant [new] development was reported in June 2004 announcing Iran’s intentions to create . . . an Iranian oil Bourse.... This announcement portended (sic) competition would arise between the Iranian oil bourse and London’s International Petroleum Exchange (IPE), as well as the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX)…. [B]oth the IPE and NYMEX are owned by U.S. corporations…. The macroeconomic implications of a successful Iranian Bourse are noteworthy. Considering that Iran has switched to the euro for its oil payments from E.U. and ACU customers, it would be logical to assume the proposed Iranian Bourse will usher in a fourth crude oil [market] denominated in the euro currency. Such a development would remove the main technical obstacle for a broad-based petroeuro (sic) system for international oil trades.’  

More than eighteen months ago, Bradley Graham reported in the Washington Post (May 22, 2005) that the US military commanders envisaged any withdrawal from Iraq as a process in which the reduced forces will slowly be consolidated in four major, strategically placed bases within Iraq. Sizable funds were spent, and are regularly earmarked, to make those bases ‘enduring’—the word ‘permanent’ being carefully avoided. The stated official position is that these bases will eventually be turned over to the Iraqi authorities, and that the US military will keep itself exclusively confined to the bases it now has in Kuwait. The latter—apparently considered rather permanent and not merely enduring—will provide the ‘strategic overwatch’ that the Pentagon intends to have in the region.  

But what if the Kuwaitis balk at openly supporting a pre-emptive strike against Iran, particularly if the US does it in coordination with Israel?

The fact of the matter seems to be what Peter Spiegel pointed out in the Los Angeles Times (March 24, 2006), ‘…. the seemingly definitive administration statements mask a semantic distinction: Although officials say they are not building permanent U.S. bases, they decline to say whether they will seek a deal with the new Iraqi government to allow long-term troop deployments.’

Let us not take lightly the new embassy compound either, whose size and security measures seem to astound every reporter. According to the USA Today, it will cover 104 acres—‘the size of about 80 football fields.’ It would certainly require both sizable and proximate permanent protection in order for it to perform the strategic function expected of it. Will it likely also house portions of the US Central Command? For that will finally provide the Central Command the regional base it failed to obtain when it was originally set up in the Fifties—on the same lines as NATO—as a part of the short lived Central Treaty Organization, which included Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan. Recently the Pentagon lost one of the two strategic bases it had quickly set up in Central Asia, and its present use of Pakistani bases, as alleged in the Pakistani press, can end any time General Musharraf should find it necessary to save his own regime. Also, the Pakistani bases just might be too risky for any military action in Iran, even if they remain covertly available as now. In other words, so long as Iran remains targeted for a ‘regime change,’ a major military base in Iraq—whether enduring or permanent—will continue to be a top-priority must for the Pentagon. And where Iran is concerned the Democrats are not any different from the Republicans. 

As the great American sage Yogi Berra once reminded us, "It ain't over till it's over." 


1. Robin Wright, Officials Expect No Big Changes, No Matter What Panel Advises.

2. William Clark, The Real Reasons Why Iran is the Next Target: The Emerging Euro-denominated International Oil Marker.

3. Bradley Graham, Commanders Plan Eventual Consolidation of U.S. Bases in Iraq

4. Peter Spiegel, Bush's Requests for Iraqi Base Funding Make Some Wary of Extended Stay

5. A useful site on the subject of permanent American military bases in Iraq is at www.comw.org

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