No representative government in future Iraq
Posted: Tuesday, April 8, 2003
By Firas Al-Atraqchi, YellowTimes.org
Leading Democrat on the U.S. Foreign Relations Committee Delaware Senator Joe Biden warned America that the Bush administration's post-war Iraq scenario is "a prescription for disaster."
On ABC's This Week, Biden criticized the current Bush administration plan to install Iraqi National Congress (INC) leader Ahmad Chalabi as an influential player in a future Iraq. Reports have circulated indicating that the Pentagon may have promised Chalabi the role of Prime Minister in a future Iraq.
"The word was that Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress would be 60 percent or so [of a future Iraqi government] and they would pick the remaining 40 percent," Biden warned sternly.
For his part, Chalabi yesterday alarmed Iraqi opposition forces in and outside Iraq when he told MSNBC that he believed the U.S. Army should remain longer than proscribed and continue to maintain a strong military presence in Iraqi cities.
The worry among the Iraqi community and some U.S. senators is that any government led by Chalabi will appear to be a puppet regime and not representative of the Iraqi people. Chalabi's INC has received a $97 million aid package from Washington and maintains strong commercial ties with U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and other power-brokers, including the powerful oil lobby.
Other Iraqi opposition groups, namely the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), have refused U.S. influence and support, although they are heavily supported by Iran's Shiite ruling clergy.
On Monday, Chalabi told MSNBC that he is not a candidate for any official position in Iraq and his role ends with the liberation of Iraq.
However, a day earlier, Chalabi announced that he would immediately reverse Iraq's oil nationalization policies and mete out all contracts to U.S. and U.K. firms.
The two statements have worried many in the Iraqi community who believe that Chalabi is lying about not seeking an official position and will operate as a de facto proxy "middle-man" for U.S. and U.K. strategic oil interests.
It is of particular note to mention that Cheney was former CEO of Halliburton, which is thought to be positioning itself (or through third-party affiliates) to rebuild Iraq's ailing oil infrastructure. U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice also maintains strong ties with the Texas-based Chevron oil company, which has named a super tanker, The Condoleezza, in her honor.
There have also been allegations that the INC is supported by the AIPAC, a dominant pro-Israeli lobby in Washington. According to Ha'aretz writer Nathan Guttman, "[Head of the Washington office of the Iraqi National Congress] Intifad Qanbar's invitation to the conference reflects a first attempt to disclose the links between the American Jewish community and the Iraqi opposition, after years in which the two sides have taken pains to conceal them."
Ultimately, Qanbar did not attend the conference and was replaced with another Iraqi opposition figure, Kana Makiya, author of The Republic of Fear.
The presence of an Iraqi opposition member at an AIPAC meeting will surely produce adverse reactions throughout the Middle East and likely incense accusations that the invasion of Iraq was to consolidate Israel's security and ensure vital oil interests.
With powerful oil conglomerates vying for lucrative black goldmines in Iraq, powerful oil interests entrenched in the White House, and Chalabi's alleged role as a middle-man for the aforementioned, Iraqis and some CIA officials are beginning to feel that the new government in Iraq will be run by non-Iraqis -- Iraqis who have not been in Iraq in decades and are out of touch with the Iraqi populace. Chalabi himself has not been to Iraq proper in 45 years.
The CIA has come out opposed to the INC because of what it terms "faulty intelligence claims." This writer has previously written about the alleged document linking Iraq and Niger to illegal uranium shipments, which turned out to be fabricated by an "unknown entity." Many in the intelligence community believe that the sloppy fabrication may lead to INC operatives.
The INC has also come under scrutiny, albeit silently, for providing U.S. forces with erroneous information that their forces would be "greeted with flowers and rice" in the opening days of the war.
The question of legitimate Iraqi representation, or lack thereof, is also playing out in mainstream media.
Last Friday, Iraqis living in the U.S. and the U.K. met with President George Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, respectively, and expressed their support for the current Anglo-American invasion of Iraq.
"We have to stop the atrocities that are going on even now," said one woman on the White House lawn.
There are several inconsistencies and telling signs that dismiss the legitimacy of these self-fashioned Iraqi groups who seem well versed in waxing rhetorical about their "homeland" Iraq.
One thing that is particularly telling is the demeanor of one Iraqi woman. She was asked about her impression after meeting with Bush and hearing his commitment to "freeing" the people of Iraq.
She continuously made reference to Eye Rack, not Iraq, repeating over and over "liberating Eye Rack," "freeing the Eye Rackie people." On and on about Eye Rack. An Iraqi may be puzzled as to the exact meaning of Eye Rack.
Calling Iraq Eye Rack is as demeaning and insulting as referring to Qatar as Gutter. No Iraqi ever referred to this nation as Eye Rack. Moreover, Iraqis find it abhorrent that Iraq is referred to in this way. It makes them feel humiliated and low.
An Al Jazeera reporter asked the woman claiming to be an Iraqi from Illinois a question in very clear Arabic. Before the revealing lenses of world television she said, "I don't speak Arabic."
Granted, not all Iraqis are of Arab origin, but they all speak Arabic, the official language of Iraq. The Kurds speak Arabic and Kurdish; so do the Turkomen who speak in Turkomen (an offshoot of Turkish), the Assyrians, who speak Aramaic (the language of the Bible), the Sabeans, the Chaldeans (Iraqi deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz is a Chaldean), the Jews (who speak Hebrew and Aramaic) of Iraq.
They all speak Arabic.
CNN's Anchorwoman Judy Woodruff interviewed an Iraqi who had not been in Iraq in 25 years. When asked if he was in touch with family in Iraq, he said he not been able to contact them but that he was in touch with "other sources and that all Iraqis were happy about the war and removal of Saddam."
Iraqis may be happy about the removal of Saddam, but they are certainly unhappy and enraged about the war and the toll on civilian life and infrastructure.
[Firas Al-Atraqchi, B.Sc (Physics), M.A. (Journalism and Communications), is a Canadian journalist with eleven years of experience covering Middle East issues, oil and gas markets, and the telecom industry.]
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