Saturday, December 12, 2009

The greedy diva






Anthony DiPaola and Maher Chmaytelli (Bloomberg News) report Shell Oil (Royal Dutch Shell) has been given the power "to develop the 12.6 billion barrels of oil reserves in Iraq's Majnoon field" beating out China National Petroleum Corporation and Total. Al Jazeera explains it's a joint-contract, a joint-'win' for Shell and Petronas Oil of Malasyia , while CNPC has been given the power to develop the Halfaya oilfield. Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) explains CNPC was in a consortium "with Petronas and France's Total" on that bid. Missy Ryan and Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) add, "Despite the anticipation, no one bid for one of the supergiants, the 8.1-billion barrel East Baghdad field, part of which lies under the sprawling Sadr City slum in the Iraqi capital. Baghdad is still wracked by periodic bombings and oil executives considered it unsafe to invest in the field." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports, "Iraqi police and soldiers sealed off roads leading to the Oil Ministry, where the auction took place while [US] helicopters hovered overhead." If you are interested in details on the contracts, please read Jane and not another US outlet which appears confused as to what was bid on or, as they put it, "sold." Meanwhile Ayla Jean Yackley (Reuters) reports that the Kurds are concerned the bidding has been rushed and that the issues of the hydrocarbon laws (never passed) and the disputed territories (oil-rich Kirkuk) should have been resoloved first. The KRG's Minister of Natural Resources, Ashti Hawrami, states, "Anything that is rushed in this manner is not in the interests of Iraq. It's rushed for political purposes."

Moises Naim also noted the Ba'athists issue. Ba'athists were expelled from the government following the start of the illegal war -- expelled by the US. This was addressed yesterday in the Iraq Inquiry which is taking place in London and is chaired by John Chilcot. Offering testimony was M16 head John Sawers -- John "SAWERS," not John "Sawyers" as I wrongly dictated yesterday -- that was my mistake and my apologies for the error. Roderic Lyne is one of the committee members of the Inquiry. He asked Sawers about de-Ba'athification and other issues.

John Sawers: When I arrived in Baghdad on 8 May, one of the problems that ORHA were facing was that they had been undiscriminating in their Iraqi partners. They had taken, as their partners, the most senior figures in the military, in -- not in the military, sorry, in the ministries, in the police, in institutions like Baghdad University, who happened to be there. And in several of these instances, Baghdad University was one, the trade ministry was another, the health ministry, the foreign ministry, the Baghdad police -- the working level were in uproar because they were being obliged to work for the same Ba'athist masters who had tyrannised them under the Saddam regime, and tehy were refusing to cooperate on that basis. So I said, in my first significant report back to London, which I sent on the Sunday night, the day before Bremer came back, that there were a number of big issues that needed to be addressed. I listed five and one of those five was we needed a policy on which Ba'athists should be allowed to stay in their jobs and which should not. And there was already a debate going on among Iraqi political leaders about where the line should be drawn. So I flagged it up on the Sunday evening in my first report, which arrived on desks on Monday morning, on 11 May. When Bremer arrived late that evening, he and I had a first discussion, and one of the first things he said to me was that he needed to give clarity on de-Ba'athification. And he had some clear ideas on this and he would want to discuss it. So I reported again early the following monring that this was high on the Bremer's mind and I needed a steer as to what our policy was. I felt that there was, indeed, an important need for a policy on de-Ba'athifciation and that, of the various options that were being considered, some I felt, were more far-reaching than was necessary but I wasn't an expert on the Iraqi Ba'ath Party and I needed some guidance on this. I received some guidance the following day, which was helpful, and I used that as the basis for my discussion with Bremer -- I can't remember if it was the Wednesday or the Thursday that week but we had a meeting of -- Bremer and myself and our political teams, where this was discussed, and there was very strong support among the Iraqi political parties for quite a far-reaching de-Ba'athification policy. At the meeting itself, I had concerted beforehand with Ryan Crocker, who was the senior American political adviser, and I said to him that my guidance was that we should limit the scope of de-Ba'athification to the top three levels of the Ba'ath Party, which included about 5,000 people, and that we thought going to the fourth level was a step too far, and it would involve another 25,000 or so Iraqis, which wasn't necessary. And I thought Crocker was broadly sympathetic to that approach but at the meeting itself Bremer set out a strong case for including all four levels, ie the top 30,000 Ba'athists should be removed from their jobs, but there should be a policy in place for exemptions. I argued the alternative. Actually, unhelpfully, from my point of view, Ryan Crocker came in in strong support of the Bremer proposal, and I think he probably smelled the coffee and realised that this was a policy that had actually already been decided in Washington and there was no point getting on the wrong side of it. I was not aware of that at that stage and, in fact, it was only when I subsequently read the very thorough account by the Rand Corporation of these issues that I realised there had been an extensive exchange in -- between agencies in Washington.

Commitee Member Roderic Lyne: Just to pause on that, this crucial decision, not just to take the top 5,000, which probably was not a matter of argument, but to add 25,000, sweeping up a lot of professionals, teachers, doctors people like that, who had been obliged to become members of the Ba'ath parties, had been stiched up between agencies in Washington but without any consultation with the number 1 coalition partner, Britain, who were going to be vitally affected by that?

John Sawers: I cannot vouch for that because I wasn't in London, I wasn't involved in those exchanges.

Commitee Member Roderic Lyne: But you would have been aware of if we'd been (inaudible), somebody would have told you.

John Sawers: When I was doing my calls in London on the previous week, this was not an issue that had been raised with me. So I don't know in the embassy in Washington or people in Whitehall were plugged into the debate. I would just say, though, Sir Roderic, that we do need to keep this in context, that a lot of parallels are drawn about Iraq in 2003 with Germany in 1945, and I have to say that was the intellectual mindset that Bremer brought with him, there was a parallel with the reconstruction of Germany in 1945. In 1945, the Allies excluded 2.5 per cent of the German population from jobs because of their links with the Naxi party. What Bremer was proposing was excluding 0.1 per cent of the Iraqi population, ie 25 times fewer, proportionately, than was the case in Germany. And in that context he was looking for a policy of -- a scope for giving exemptions.

That was one of the key moments in yesterday's hearing (the Iraq Inquiry did not hold a public hearing today, they resume public testimony on Monday with five witnesses scheduled, Lt Gen John Kiszely, Lt Gen Robin Brims, Lt Gen Jonathon Riley and Gen Peter Wall). Michael Evans (Times of London) reports of Sawers' testimony, "He said that the de-Baathification programme and the disbandment of the Iraqi Army, which many critics claim triggered the Sunni insurgency, had been agreed in Washington -- apparently without prior consultation with Britain. Sir John said that the Government had supported plans to remove the top three tiers of the Baathist regime -- 5,000 officials -- but not the 25,000 lower-grade Iraqis on the fourth tier of the regime, many of whom were teachers. He told the inquiry that he had argued against the decision but that Paul Bremer, the US official in charge of the civilian effort in Iraq, ignored him." Con Couglin (Telegraph of London) emphasizes the exchange and provides context on the decision:

As the Chilcot inquiry heard yesterday from Sir John Sawers, the new head of MI6, who was in Iraq immediately after Saddam's overthrow, the "de-Baathification" policy implemented by the US-led coalition resulted in tens of thousands of Sunnis being thrown out of their jobs because of their support for Saddam's regime, and for his Baath political party. During the insurgency that followed, hundreds of thousands of Sunnis fled Baghdad and other areas to seek sanctuary in Syria. When Saddam was in power, there were an estimated five million Sunnis living in Baghdad. Today, that figure has declined to just a few hundred thousand: Baghdad is now a Shia city, where many prominent politicians are in the pay of their co-religionists in Iran.

Couglin also reminds readers of the benchmarks George W. Bush set with his 'surge' which did include de-de-Ba'athification. Benchmarks? They're meaningless. (Remember that as it relates to Afghanistan.) They were never followed. The White House benchmarks were supposed to take place by the end of 2007. They didn't. Then began the spin of "oh, we wanted progress on these benchmarks." No. Those benchmarks were how the Congress and the American people were supposed to be able to measure 'progress.' There was not supposed to be, "Well, they moved a little towards this . . ." Many of the benchmarks related to things the Iraqi Constitution already mandated. They weren't met in 2007, they weren't met in 2008. Coughlin feels they're forgotten by the Obama administration. At the end of November, Steven Lee Myers showed the honesty that the GAO has refused to show when he wrote a thought piece for the New York Times (he's a reporter for the paper but the piece linked to is an opinion piece which appeared in the Sunday opinion section, the Week In Review). If you drop back to the September 16, 2008 snapshot, you can see US House Rep Lloyd Doggett grill Joseph Christoff of the GAO on the benchmarks. Bremer started the de-Ba'athification process. Ending it (parts of it) was a 2007 benchmark. In January of 2008, Solomon Moore (New York Times) reported on the much-trumpeted 'progress' on that: the Parliament passed a law -- "a document riddled with loopholes and caveats to the point that some Sunni and Shiite officials say it could actually exclude more former Baathists than it lets back in -- particularly in the crucial security ministries that U.S. officials have called the key to their plans for eventual withdrawal from Iraq." Back in November of 2004, Jon Lee Anderson (New Yorker) reported on some of the fallout from de-Ba'athification:

[Stephen] Browning recalled a meeting that he and other officials had with Bremer before the announcement. "Bremer walked in and announced his de-Baathification order. I said that we had established a good working relationship with technicians -- not senior-level people -- of the Baath Party, and I expressed my feeling that this measure could backfire. Bremer said that it was not open for discussion, that this was what was going to be done and his expectation was that we would carry it out. It was not a long meeting>'
The order had an immediate effect on Browning's work: "We had a lot of directors general of hospitals who were very good and, with de-Baathification, we lost them and their expertise overnight," he told me. At the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, which was another of his responsibilities, "we were left dealing with what seemed like the fifth string. . . . Nobody who was left knew anything."

The illegal war was both illegal and a disaster from the start. Built on that, there was little chance that 'good' would bloom. It did not. Among the many bad decisions after the illegal war started was the decision to force out the Ba'athists.

Today the US military announced: "CAMP VICTORY, Iraq -- A Multi-National Corps-Iraq Soldier died Dec. 10 from non-combat related injuries. Release of the identity of the Soldier is being withheld pending notification of the next of kin. The name of the deceased service member will be announced through the U.S. Department of Defense Official Web site at The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incident is currently under investigation." The announcement brings to 4369 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
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