The privatization of Iraq

The privatization of Iraq

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By Sami Naïr

After destroying the main infrastructure, rebuilding Iraq is like manna for the United States: the cost is estimated at 100 billion dollars. It is also reported that the Bush administration has already assembled a dozen working groups to plan for Iraq's transformation from agriculture to banking.

Some maintained, including myself, that the US military intervention in Iraq had as its sole objective the conquest of oil. We were wrong… The Americans want to take over the entire country, make it the test bed for ultra-liberal privatization that even the most fanatical supporters of the WTO (World Trade Organization) would not have dared to dream of. In early May, the Wall Street Journal revealed that BearingPoint Inc., an advisory firm, had been tasked with executing a secret US plan entitled "For the Iraqi economy to move from rebirth to sustained growth."

This document clearly shows the intentions of the United States. It is, neither more nor less, to sell public industries, especially those of the oil sector, create a Stock Exchange and implement a tax regime similar to that of the United States to favor foreign investment. Most of the public companies in which the population counted to obtain a job will be declared insolvent and liquidated. Those that are considered potentially profitable will be sold under what the plan calls the "great program of massive privatizations." Thus, after having destroyed the main infrastructures, the reconstruction of Iraq is like manna for the United States: the cost is estimated at 100,000 million dollars. It is also reported that the Bush administration has already assembled a dozen working groups to plan the transformation of Iraq from agriculture to banking.

Iraq has oil reserves that reach 112,000 million barrels. Before the war, Iraqi wells produced 2.5 million barrels a day. It is estimated that with an investment of a few billion, they could generate seven million barrels a day in the coming years, which would provide annual revenues of 60,000 million, according to the current price of oil.

UN resolution 1,483 (passed on May 22) created a fund for the development of Iraq that will be financed by oil and that will actually be under the control of the United States and the United Kingdom. Both countries will decide alone how to use the resources, through the next Iraqi provisional government. Philip Carroll, former president of Shell Oil, has been appointed supervisor of the Ministry of Petroleum.

It appears that the so-called "oil well fire contracts", secretly awarded to a Halliburton branch during the war, will not be limited to this role, but will also be responsible for "operations and distribution. of the products ". This means that the company that US Vice President Richard Cheney led from 1995 to 2000, and still earning him almost a million dollars a year today, will manage the wells and control all of Iraq's crude production. The subsidiary Kellog Brown & Root (KBR) has obtained a contract without prior competition that does not contain limitations regarding the duration or the amounts involved.

The contract for the management of the port of Um Qasar (worth 4.8 million dollars) has been awarded to the American company Stevedoring Services of America. Another contract for technical assistance for reconstruction has gone to International Resources Group, which will share the task with a British subcontractor, Crown Agent, a British development aid agency, which was also the subject of a privatization at the time. The US Agency for International Development, which coordinates the reconstruction plans, has already granted half a dozen large US-based civil engineering companies the exclusive right to bid for the main contract for infrastructure works (roads, bridges… to the printing of school manuals). According to various press articles, the main applicants for this contract are Bechtel Corp and Parsans Corp.

The latter would have subcontracted to Kellog Brown & Root, belonging to Halliburton, after the latter was eliminated from the candidacy due to a controversy over the ties that unite it to Vice President Cheney.

The US Administration cuts foreign companies out of major contracts, but also tries to choose subcontractors from among the countries that supported it during the war: "Officially, Washington guarantees that the selection processes for subcontractors will be fair. But, privately, American officials show a very different attitude, "says the Wall Street Journal. One official even said that Bechtel has instructions to exclude "all French companies."

And the Iraqis in all this? A deplorable economic situation, lack of security, a parody of the political reappropriation of their country with the "creation of a transitional Governing Council" that reflects the ethnic and confessional politics that the Americans want to prevail. This Council includes 14 Shiites (in order to control them), four Sunnis, a Turkmen, a Christian and five Kurds. In addition to a representation consistent with their wishes, the Americans have also ensured that, among these members, those who return from exile can serve as spokespersons for the regimes in the region that have accepted or supported the conquest of Iraq: Saudi Arabia, the oil monarchies and Iran.

According to the American vision of the future Iraq, this Council should only have an advisory role. But the pressure of the Iraqi resistance on the US Army (the number of Americans killed has continued to grow since the end of military operations in May 2003) has forced the Paul Bremer Administration to give up some crumbs of power: the Council he may appoint ministers and must prepare the new Constitution. However, Paul Bremer retains the right of veto over all decisions of this body and can dissolve it at any time.

This very particular concept of "democracy" to the US does not seem to attract the support of the Iraqi people. This is demonstrated by the rapid advances of the Iraqi resistance. On the other hand, the Shiite Muslim community, glad to have got rid of

Saddam Hussein does not want to see the Americans occupy and divide up his country (most of the civilian victims of the American and British bombs were Shiites, especially around Nasiriyah and Hillah). In Masul, northern Iraq, as in Basra and its region, bloody clashes occur every day.

Chaos has settled in the country. The occupation troops appear to be stalling faster than anticipated. For this reason, the US Government has decided not to undertake the initially planned repatriation of the Third Infantry Division. These 9,000 soldiers, who were due to return to the US in September, will remain in Iraq indefinitely. But in the US, for the moment, they prefer to ignore the questions of a public opinion destabilized by the increasing number of deaths and the manipulation of the supposed "weapons of mass destruction". New York Times top foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman writes: "We now have a 51st state of 23 million people. We just adopted a baby named Baghdad." Even more provocative, Max Boot, a right-wing commentator and spokesman for the Bush coalition, wrote a text published in USA Today titled 'American Imperialism? This label must not be rejected. '

For him, any armed opposition in Iraq is doomed to fail, since, to his delight, "more than 125,000 American soldiers occupy Mesopotamia. They are supported by the resources of the world's richest economy. In the race for control. from Iraq, the US can overcome and crush any opponent. "

Therefore, from the occupation to the colonization of Iraq, the way is open.

* Sami Naïr

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