How will the U.S. control Iraq's oil?

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Advising the Bush administration on how to deal with the Iraq fiasco, the report of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group urges the president to clarify that Washington does not seek to control Iraq's oil.

It then gets down to business and sets out exactly how Washington should take control of Iraq's oil.

The report calls for Iraq to pass a Petroleum Law — to be drafted with U.S. help — that would allow foreign oil companies to develop Iraq's vast and largely undeveloped oil reserves (which, the report notes, are the second-largest in the world).

It's hard not to feel exasperated reading the report. Released in the wake of the Republican trouncing in the U.S. mid-term elections, it generated excitement that George Bush's imperial adventure was finally coming under sharp attack, and that senior figures from both parties would force the president into line.

Instead, the report reveals the extent of the imperial mindset — shared by both Democrats and Republicans — that is the very heart of the problem of American foreign policy in Iraq, and elsewhere.

Yes, the report acknowledges the extent of the Iraq debacle, and outlines a strategy for getting U.S. troops out.

But it's essentially the strategy of the Bush administration: Create an Iraqi army strong enough to handle security — within the context of a U.S.-controlled Iraq.

One senses the impatience inside the White House and the Iraq Study Group. For heaven's sake, it's almost four years since the invasion! How long does it take to get a competent puppet government and army up and running?

The report sets out a vision for extending U.S. control over Iraq. U.S. officials will be embedded everywhere: U.S. soldiers inside the Iraqi army, American trainers inside the Iraqi police, FBI agents inside the interior ministry, CIA agents inside intelligence operations.

The report even specifies that Iraqi consumers must pay more for oil, and that the Iraqi Central Bank must raise interest rates to 20 per cent — before the end of this month.

All this is in line with Bush's contempt for meaningful Iraqi self-government, as illustrated by the massive, new $1 billion U.S. embassy he's built in Baghdad, which has 1,000 employees, only six of whom speak fluent Arabic. Six! Presumably the other 994 employees are busy bringing democracy to Iraq — by talking to each other or to Washington.

The reluctance to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq has nothing to do with fears of a bloodbath, which is already underway.

Washington contributes to the bloodbath, through its own violence and by allowing death squads, operating within the Iraqi army, to murder enemies of the U.S.-sponsored regime.

U.S. troops are only worsening the situation. They should leave. But that would involve giving up control over a country Washington has already spent $400 billion trying to subdue. And then how would America get control of all that oil?

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